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A Businessman Occupies Wall Street

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Posted on Oct 22, 2011
Truthdig.com

David Intrator

NEW YORK—I met David Intrator during the fourth week of the Wall Street protests, the night before Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Brookfield Properties and the New York Police Department were due to clear the park and shut down the demonstration.

Dressed in a suit and tie and holding a sign that read “Harvard Men for Economic Justice,” he didn’t look like a typical protester, and when he opened his mouth to talk, he didn’t sound like one either. A few days later, we sat down for a conversation in his Midtown office on the east side of Manhattan. Here is some of what he said. —Alexander Reed Kelly

***

Truthdig reporter Alexander Kelly has been reporting on Occupy Wall Street from Liberty Plaza. For more, visit truthdig.com/dig/occupy_wall_street

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Shenonymous's avatar

By Shenonymous, October 25, 2011 at 4:26 pm Link to this comment

It was not Charles Darwin, just as you say, traynorjf, who coined
the phrase, and it was, as you said, Herbert Spencer.  Other names
associated with Darwinism are T. H. Huxley, whose work greatly
impressed Darwin, but Social Darwinism would find the names
Thomas Malthus, and Jean-Baptiste Lamarck, also August Comte
and his positivist philosophy, as well as Francis Galton who studied
and founded eugenics, who are all given credit in an effort to apply
the principles of Darwinian evolution to sociology and politics, as
chronicled in “Origins of the Myth of Social Darwinism” by Thomas
C. Leonard, that stressed competition between individuals in laissez-
faire capitalism but it is also connected to the ideas of eugenics,
scientific racism, imperialism, fascism, Nazism and struggle between
national or racial groups as analyzed and also as argued in a 2000
article in the Journal of the History of Ideas by Gregory Claeys.  It is, as
you also said, incumbent on those who are information dilettantes and
who bandy about terms and claims about them to at least get the facts of
the theories.  As an academic, I like to give readers resources to look up.

Report this

By traynorjf, October 25, 2011 at 3:40 pm Link to this comment

@Lafayette,

You and others who site Darwin as the originator of the phrase ‘survival of the fittest’ coined by Herbert Spencer irritate the hell out of me. Darwin would be, I’m certain, appalled by the association. I am a retired ecologist and wildlife biologist and, so, am outraged by this sort of ignorant nonsense. Darwin was a decent, humane man. His idea of fitness was differential reproductive fitness, not the dog eat dog of the capitalist market place.

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Shenonymous's avatar

By Shenonymous, October 25, 2011 at 10:31 am Link to this comment

Of course I wasn’t questioning your right to post on this topic, or
anyone on any topic.  That obvious pot shot shows an extremely
limited and provincial mindset.  I found your vantage point from
across the pond intriguing since you have such an articulate voice
unlike anyone else on the TD forums, yet from afar you use your
knowledge genuinely altruistically, again unusual.  Our country,
America, is in trouble.  But the trouble is founded on ignorance
and it is ignorance that must be exterminated.

France is frequently in the news so its political character is not
unknown at least to those who pay attention, less so, though, for
its health care program.  I am interested in social democracy as well
as socialized capitalism, thinking those governmental and economic
perspectives are the hope of the world and America in particular could
be renewed the more it heads in that direction.  While those who choose
to be ex-patriots to America have the ultimate right to skedaddle as they
see fit, and while I think your comments are extraordinary and always to
the point, I think it is far more courageous of those who stay and do
battle on the very ground where it needs to be.  Such was the energy
of those original patriots and why there even is a United States.  Still I
applaud what you do. 

The word socialize is used pejoratively by the conservatives to imply a
communistic flavor, where communism is seen as something pernicious
and toxic, and has been a dreadful failure for the most part, as a formula
of a society.  Among the mammothly large population nation groups,
China is still considered as being a communist state which is in transition
and is becoming more democratic more capitalistic, and is beginning to
educate its population; India, the US, Indonesia, India and Brazil and the
United States are federal republics, which is a state in which the powers
of the central government are restricted and in which the component
parts (states, colonies, or provinces) retain a degree of self-government;
ultimate sovereign power rests with the voters who chose their
governmental representatives. 

The US Constitution says, “The United States shall guarantee to every
State in this Union a Republican Form of Government, and shall protect
each of them against Invasion; and on Application of the Legislature, or
of the Executive (when the Legislature cannot be convened) against
domestic Violence.” Thomas Jefferson, a founding father wrote, “The
republican is the only form of government which is not eternally at open
or secret war with the rights of mankind.”  Where Alexander Hamilton,
debated that “Real liberty is neither found in despotism or the extremes
of democracy, but in moderate government.” Then in the Senate, said,
“It has been observed that a pure democracy, if it were practicable, would
be the most perfect government. Experience has proved that no position
is more false than this. The ancient democracies, in which the people
themselves deliberated, never possessed one feature of good
government. Their very character was tyranny: their figure deformity.”
John Adams, “Remember, democracy never lasts long. It soon wastes,
exhausts and murders itself. There never was a democracy yet that did
not commit suicide,” and James Madison, “...democracies have ever been
spectacles of turbulence and contention; have ever been found
incompatible with personal security, or the rights of property; and have
in general been as short in their lives as they have been violent in their
deaths.”  Such are the voices of our country’s founding fathers. It won’t
hurt to remember them every so often and to teach our young to
memorize their words

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Shenonymous's avatar

By Shenonymous, October 25, 2011 at 10:28 am Link to this comment

2.  Have you ever had a dream, Neo, that you were so sure
was real? What if you were unable to wake from that dream, Neo?
How would you know the difference between the dream world
and the real world?
- Morpheus in THE MATRIX Curiously
others have offered very similar subjective/objective questions,
Descartes and Kafka where Kafkas protagonist Gregor is unhappily
aware of his insect body, lacking mental control over it.  How much
control do each of us have over our subjective/objective world?

“The Constitution doesn’t work by itself.  It depends on active,
informed citizens,” Edward Rendell, former Pennsylvania governor.

American literacy in civics is described as acute, chronic, and epidemic. 
One study of more than 2,000 people, 71% failed in a questionnaire of
36 relevant questions (“Our Fading Heritage:  Americans fail a Basic
Test on Their History and Institutions –Television—Including TV News—
Dumbs American Down,” Intercollegiate Studies. Institute.)
http://www.americanciviclitracy.org/2008/major_findings_finding4.html

Education, as you have sharply noted, Lafayette, is crucial towards
building a strong American society, but education, one that is an
objective and truthful education, is thwarted at every turn by the
religious Right-Wing whose agenda is to control the population and on
which to force its tyrannical agenda.  When this kind of partisanship is
excised, then and only then can America begin, yes, just begin, to
address it societal problems.

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EmileZ's avatar

By EmileZ, October 25, 2011 at 9:49 am Link to this comment

@ Lafayette

You’re completely insane aren’t you.

Just remember…

When you say “We the sheeple” you are speaking for yourself only.

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Lafayette's avatar

By Lafayette, October 25, 2011 at 9:27 am Link to this comment

TRY HARDER

<i><Ez: I could go on, but I really shouldn’t have to./i>

Yes, you should try harder - because your posts are superficial and provocative. Any argument that abridges or with calculation would bring down our democratic system is tantamount to treason.

For instance, you would replace it with what?

A NATION OF LAWS

All the advances in individual rights are codified in law, because we are nation of laws - which is our bedrock foundation.

Of course they may not go far enough and American labor remains in the Dark Ages compared to other developed economies. The simple fact that a person can be dismissed without redress is inherently unfair.

In some countries, a contract is a contract - which can be validly broken only in a court of law. When, for instance, a company argues that it must reduce its workforce in order to maintain solvency. Or when it can prove that a person committed a serious negligence/mistake/crime in the execution of their responsibilities.

The breaking of a contract is a matter of law, not the whimsy of a DHR prompted by management. When this hurdle as explained above is in place, believe me, management thinks twice about putting someone out the door.

AND YET

It is not bitching in a blog that will change anything. It is demonstrating in the streets followed by an electoral defeat of the Rabid Right Block in Congress - which means both the Republicans and the Dem BlueDogs who should be Republicans. 

From there, progressives will have the political strength to effect further regulatory laws based upon Egalitarian Values. We will then not be at the mercy of the Darwinian Consequences of a Free-Market system gone amok.

Regardless of what I say, however, is the obvious fact that passing progressive legislation is a distant objective that can only be reached by patience and endurance. There is no QUICK FIX.

POST SCRIPTUM

Btw, I believe profoundly in the Free Market system. I detest the way the Right has hijacked ours to obtain their despicably greedy ends.

And we, the sheeple, let it happen right under our collective noses.

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By ardee, October 25, 2011 at 5:50 am Link to this comment

Lafayette, October 25 at 4:40 am

I met my future wife in Cherbourg. I think it important to note that France is far from alone among industrialized nations having terrific health care, thus making our own system an unfunny joke.

I would only add that I find it curious that someone would question your right to post on any topic due solely to your nation of residence.

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Lafayette's avatar

By Lafayette, October 25, 2011 at 4:40 am Link to this comment

She: From your use of first person, Lafayette, and the collective “we,” I find it interesting that an expat takes such interest in this country’s economic/political situation.

Interesting comment.

I’ve lived in France for quite some time. France is first and foremost a fine example of social democracy in action.

But, it is a county at antipodes with the US in many, many ways. First and foremost is perhaps its long history of monarchic rule - which simply translates into a democracy with a deep concentration of power in its national leadership. 

Finally, when you come to live in France, you are expected to assimilate all the customs, habits and manners of the French “way of life”. Which is almost impossible for most Americans who are steadfastly independent. In fact, I know many French who live stateside because they feel less cosseted by “the rules” than in France. But, most Americans on assignment here go back after their three-year stint.

And yet, in terms of progressive politics, it has much to teach Uncle Sam. Two are well-worth mentioning:
* One of the finest National Health Services in the world, delivering universally state-of-the-art health care at one third the cost of the US . No one is forced to sell their house in case of a major illness.
* An educational system that costs one tenth that of the US for a four year university degree. Its vocational schools are also top-notch.

And I am not the only American who thinks of France in the above manner. We are about 110 thousand who live here full time.  I’ve met many an expat who would rather live here than stateside.

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EmileZ's avatar

By EmileZ, October 25, 2011 at 4:38 am Link to this comment

@ Lafayette

Civil rights change came from the ballot box?

The new deal came from the ballot box?

The forty hour work week came from the ballot box?

The EPA was a change that came from the ballot box?

I could go on, but I really shouldn’t have to.

This stuff is so obvious.

P.S. calling me a gadfly “s.o.b.” fits in so well with your pompous, pretentious, superiority-ness.

It also goes well with Burt Bacharach’s “Walk On By”.

Great song. I love Dionne Warwick.

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Lafayette's avatar

By Lafayette, October 25, 2011 at 4:16 am Link to this comment

EZ: BZZZZT… WRONG!

Instead of making a supercilious comment, you could try to offer a reasoned rebuttal.

That is, if you are capable - which seems doubtful. More likely, you are a blog gadfly.

Well worth placing on an SOB list. (SOB = Scroll On By)

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EmileZ's avatar

By EmileZ, October 25, 2011 at 4:08 am Link to this comment

@ Lafayette

RE: “...since change must come from the polling booths.

Which is is the way it should work in a democracy.”


BZZZZT… WRONG!

Speak for yourself when you say “We the sheeple”.

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Lafayette's avatar

By Lafayette, October 25, 2011 at 3:50 am Link to this comment

She: To implement it and from all appearances for it to work, the Agenda must be seen as a “whole” system where all the parts are needed. The fly in the ointment is that to implement it in this country, legislation is required.  Hence, isn’t it a pie-in-the-sky vision?

Yes, it could well be that difficult to implement it. But, there is a historical precedence. See here . So, this effort is certainly not the first time around.

Political movements go in waves that are longer than just one generation. So, one should not be surprised that the word “progressive” is not the most catchy phrase in current political usage.

The intent of the Agenda was to gather some key programs all in one place as a political litmus-test. Present theory is that a Progressive Party must be formed. Historically, due to the ossification process of gerrymandering, third party movements are stillborn. 

So, tactically, it is more important that we, sheeple, find those in any party willing to support the cause of some key reformational programs that could change the landscape of national politics more than just cosmetically – for sure, when one looks at the content of that agenda .

Getting some serious attention to Income Unfairness will diffuse the present crisis in America. But any attempt to correct the unfairness by tax and spend methods - which is its cure – will only awaken the beast on the Rabid Right. So, rather than fixating on one part of the agenda, why not all of it? Why win just a battle, when we winning the war is the fundamental necessity?

Which is why it can work in the US – if we, the sheeple, would only wake up. (Sorry to keep using that phrase “we, the sheeple”, but it expresses most aptly what ordinary Americans are when it comes to politics. We stay away from elections, we don’t get involved in the process – and I say we because almost half the nation that does not vote.)

Fifty percent of eligible voters don’t give a damn about matters that affect their lives daily far more deeply than a sports game on TV. And if they are politically apathetic, then that becomes the key criteria of any movement to reform the system - since change must come from the polling booths.

Which is the way it should work in a democracy.

Report this

By Jim Senter, October 25, 2011 at 3:33 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

While I agree that this is in many ways a conservative movement, contrary to
what Mr. Intrator suggests, what is being conserved has never existed. The
capitalism he talks about exists nowhere in the world, has NEVER existed
anywhere outside of economic theory. The banksters of the 21st century are not
outliers. They are the latest in a long, mainstream tradition in western
capitalism that stretches from where we are now, back through the banksters
of the 1920s and 1930s, to the monopolists of the early 20th century, to the
Robber Barons and war profiteers of the 19th century to John Law’s land mania
all the way back to the Tulip Mania of the 16th century.

No, we are where we are not because people failed to be true capitalists, but
because they were too MUCH real capitalists. What I want to conserve is something that has never existed. [The reason A Smith made such a big deal about free markets is that they didn’t exist in his time either. He lived in a world of royal monopolies, like the East India Company that had its goods thrown into Boston Harbor.]  Having said that, I would agree
that anyone who calls themselves conservative, who is, as I am,
concerned about maintaining a functioning society, concerned about the rule of
law, and equal justice under the law, anyone with those concerns should join
us, but not as a call to return to some idealized past world. No, we are on the
road, back to the future.

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EmileZ's avatar

By EmileZ, October 25, 2011 at 2:27 am Link to this comment

Here is a fellow who is not likely to get arrested.

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EmileZ's avatar

By EmileZ, October 25, 2011 at 2:22 am Link to this comment

“Harvard men for economic justice”.

That is very amusing. Not that there haven’t been Harvard men for economic justice in the past, but how many have held up such a sign???

Actually it is an inspired strategy of engaging people. I hope it catches on.

Kudos to you buddy!!!

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Shenonymous's avatar

By Shenonymous, October 25, 2011 at 2:15 am Link to this comment

After visiting the Progressive Agenda and all the “here” links, it is
seen you make a stunning and convincing argument for public
activism.  To implement it and from all appearances for it to work,
the Agenda must be seen as a “whole” system where all the parts
are needed. The fly in the ointment is that to implement it in this
country, legislation is required.  Hence, isn’t it a pie-in-the-sky
vision?  It could be subject to domino-theory where if one part is
successfully legislated, then other parts are more likely to be also. 
But the fly is Congressional action.  It is a long slow slog with many
conservative foes in the ointment.

From your use of first person, Lafayette, and the collective “we,” I
find it interesting that an expat takes such interest in this country’s
economic/political situation.  Say all of the Agenda is achieved, would
you return as a resident?  And where you now live, is it as ideal as the
Agenda proposes?

In his article, “A Crime not a Crisis:  Why Philadelphia Health Insurance
Costs So Much - Six Ways to Fix It,” Temple University professor and
author of “Health Democracy,” Paul Glover’s preface quote says it all,
”Philadelphia’s favorite revolutionaries, Ben Franklin and Tom Paine,
would likely rebel against this city’s public health crisis. They were
businessmen who considered it un-American to profit from the misery
of Americans.”
 

This is to what all our legislative politicians needs to bow.  The article
on regulatory capture (we are grateful for the topic) highlights just one
piece, but a mighty one that stubbornly blocks progress.
http://ideas.repec.org/a/tpr/qjecon/v106y1991i4p1089-127.html
The 39-page paper at this link (available for free download if you have
academic access through JSTOR or may be purchased), develops an
agency-theoretic approach to interest-group politics and shows the
following: (1) the organizational response to the possibility of regulatory
agency politics is to reduce the stakes interest groups have in regulation.
(2) The threat of producer protection leads to low-powered incentive
schemes for regulated firms. (3) Consumer politics may induce uniform
pricing by a multiproduct firm. (4) An interest group has more power
when its interest lies in inefficient rather than efficient regulation, where
inefficiency is measured by the degree of informational asymmetry
between the regulated industry and the political principal (Congress).

I suggest those interested in national health care also read this article,
http://www.healthdemocracy.org/painsure.html
Scroll down to the section BLAME IN EVERY DIRECTION for insight.  Then
read on to through next section IMMEDIATE ACTION and you might be
intrigued enough to read the SIX WAYS TO FIX IT.

The problem for lay people, people with just a surface knowledge of
the economic mess not only this country is in but all the countries in
the world, is that it is a huge labyrinth whose unending pathways lead
to a massive amount of data and knowledge not at all understandable
even if accessible, which a lot of it is, but even more is not.  It is really
unfathomable unless one is an economist with a great deal of economic
history education who can understand deeply the social programs
needed for a healthy population while keeping simultaneously the
American liberal ideal of individual achievement and prosperity.

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ghostofwatergate's avatar

By ghostofwatergate, October 25, 2011 at 12:57 am Link to this comment

@Layfayette: You write, in part, “There’s an easy remedy…It’s called regulatory legislation. (Like strengthening but also enforcing the Truth In Lending Act as an example.)”

Let’s turn the tables a moment and assign you an “easy”  task: read up on on “regulatory capture.”

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Lafayette's avatar

By Lafayette, October 24, 2011 at 11:59 pm Link to this comment

A CORRUPTED DEMOCRACY

DD: What makes you think that corporations won’t push the boundaries again? It may take a generation, but they’ll work tirelessly to achieve their goals, replacing each worn out executive with another that’s even more convinced that it’s the restraints that regulation places on them that prevents them from attaining the success they desire

There’s an easy remedy to all that. It’s called regulatory legislation. (Like strengthening but also enforcing the Truth In Lending Act as an example.)

We have corrupted democracy in America with rot in its electoral system that has accumulated across both Republican and Democrat administrations for decades. Which is why I have suggested that the present outrage and indignation of the OWS movement coalesce around a Progressive Agenda.

In my proposition of such an Agenda, accessible here, I ask that elected progressives propose legislation that will address our electoral dysfunction (see Item 6 of the Agenda). And the Supreme Court be damned!

Unfortunately, Americans expect a Quick Fix to a problem that has been festering for ages. I have grave doubts that we can focus their attention upon the fundamental reform of our democracy that is necessary. (Probably due to Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder that sets in around election time ... ;^)

We are a nation of people who are Fat, Dumb and Happy with the crumbs we get off the table.

POST SCRIPTUM

Which is also the reason I live in Europe.

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Lafayette's avatar

By Lafayette, October 24, 2011 at 11:39 pm Link to this comment

NOSTRA CULPA

So you must agree that the extensive post Great Depression era regulation was not only necessary, but vital to the gains the middle class experienced post WW2? I suspect we’re in total agreement.

I happen to agree.

I believe in Social Democracy that seeks to regulate market aberrancies to prevent harm - not discard key elements that we stupidly allowed to dysfunction. (Nostra culpa, nostra culpa, nostra maxima culpa.)

What happened was almost predictable when Reagan dropped taxation rates from 70 to 30% in the 1980s. We got what we deserved by putting too much faith in simplistic Ayn-Randian notions of man’s supremacy over his most vile motivations.

The fault is in ourselves, not the system. It is puerile to think the challenge is otherwise. I.e., that we throw it all out and start over again.

And yet that is what suggested far too often in the blogosphere.

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By Sun Worshipper, October 24, 2011 at 10:46 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Whatever the specific opinion of D. Intrator - it is apt to see beyond the labels of businessman, so on, to the common interests.  White or pink collar workers are in the same boat as many other Americans.  We need to build solidarity.  At Occupy Boston, they are presently joined at lunchtime by people from the suburbs, and also some white collar/pink collar workers from the financial district.  Also people wearing billboards looking for work, and standing off to the side of thelunchtime sing-along -n the roadway—and these are not manual labor jobs they’re looking for.  There are any number of avenues OWS can grow - in both Manhattan and other areas.  Ideas include including (a) white and pink collar job hunters, (b) homeless communities migrating from other non-protest locations, among others.  OWS may want to exclude politicians, but they should recognize common interests across demographics.  BTW I too have seen David;s Mantelbaum site - just a few clips with some cool stuff - I didn’t read it enough to peg his political views—I sawhim on the livestream at Wall Street interviewed and that’s how I heard about his “carnival of ideas.”  He;s very creative.  And this is not uncommon in the business community - a misunderstanding among som e about the peope resources there for economi and socila change (sorry about all the typos - i injured my hand).  ciao

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Duppy Durruti's avatar

By Duppy Durruti, October 24, 2011 at 10:45 pm Link to this comment

Wow- good stuff on here. The comments really are more interesting than the regurgitated articles. MC Hammer’s new search engine? Way to “Drill Beneath the Headlines”- that’s currently the laughing stock of the tech community.

But Lafeyette, seriously?

—“What happened is that markets were not sufficiently regulated. So, they dysfunction.”

So you must agree that the extensive post Great Depression era regulation was not only necessary, but vital to the gains the middle class experienced post WW2? I suspect we’re in total agreement.

So let’s suppose we could undo all pro corporate legislation that’s been pushed since Reagan- Citizens United and NAFTA, even the extensive body of law that guarantees corporate personhood (this goes way back to the mid 19th century, but you get the idea). As far as financial regulation, let’s pretend Obama takes a page from FDR’s playbook and rounds up all the Wall Street power players that orchestrated the recent crisis and demands that they not only fix the situation, but they must divulge all the secrets that conceal the games they play to get around legislation. We pass the appropriate bills to shore up all the loopholes and we’ve done our best to ensure another financial meltdown won’t happen again. So now we’ve achieved your perfect regulatory scenario, right?

What makes you think that corporations won’t push the boundaries again? It may take a generation, but they’ll work tirelessly to achieve their goals, replacing each worn out executive with another that’s even more convinced that it’s the restraints that regulation places on them that prevents them from attaining the success they desire- and they’ll be correct! It will be the regulations that are restraining their profits.

THAT is the point. The nature of the beast is to consume everything. Why are you defending a predatory system that you freely admit must be heavily regulated if it’s going to function properly for the majority of the populace?

Are you sticking to Adam Smith’s deprecated ideas because they seem to have been the best solution thus far? I completely understand that rationale, but don’t sell humanity short (pun intended), we really can do better.

I long for a reasonable alternative. Check out Parecon if you haven’t already- it’s the most comprehensive attempt I’ve come across as far as creating a just, sustainable economic system. I find it raises more questions than answers, but I know many intelligent people that believe it’s a good start.

Perhaps I can mine some fresh ideas from the vanguard of the revolution- I’m off to St. Paul’s and then over to Finsbury Square…

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By Danef, October 24, 2011 at 7:10 pm Link to this comment

UM,I dont trust this guy,wall streeters are against wall street?I could be wrong, but I smell a rat in this guy,I never heard of a middle class family who could afford to sent their kids to Harvard.

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Shenonymous's avatar

By Shenonymous, October 24, 2011 at 6:58 pm Link to this comment

A friend directed my attention to this article.  When Businessman
Intrator says there is a conservative nature to the Occupy Wall
Street movement, he misspoke.  So it behooves us to wonder
why?  The ‘return’ he spoke of was having a sense of returning
“to being a country as opposed to being just a market,” “to being
citizens as opposed to being consumers,” that “what is wanted is
law and order.”  These kinds of returnings are not necessarily and
not strictly a set of conservative creeds, but for the purpose of
sophistry, they can be appropriated that way.  He makes the
unqualified mistake that conservatism means a return. 

As an attitude, not genuinely a political philosophy, conservatism
emphasizes the importance of preservation, its tendency is to conserve,
to save, to prevent injury, decay, waste, or loss.  There is no notion of
return in the concept conservatism.  So Mr. Intrator confiscates an idea
that does not belong with the idea of conservatism in order for it to be
assimilated within the motives of the Occupy Wall Street movement thus
allowing Conservatives a reason to intrude and identify with a very
popular event.  Clever.

The bewailing of the 99%ers (the group in which, curiously, he
included himself) is to take the country’s financial structure back
from the financial barons who commandeered it, literally stole it
from the populous.  (Perhaps his worth is maybe not quite a million
dollars?)  I can’t find much fault if he wants to join the movement,
and sees the corporate world as having by stealth arrogated the
entire economy of our country.  Stealth meaning insidiously beyond
the ordinary attention of the population who usually are too busy eking
out a life to cognize that their country is being taken hostage by the
financial industry.  But the invitation to conservatives to join the
Occupy Wall Street movement is to invite them to participate in an
action entirely antithetical to their entire reason for living.

Another thing to keep in mind is that laws are made for those who
break them, not for those who keep them and that is why they need
enforced.

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By frodo t baggins, October 24, 2011 at 4:48 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Ha! I thought I recognized the center leaning Youtube brother of Carlos Mandelbaum!

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ghostofwatergate's avatar

By ghostofwatergate, October 24, 2011 at 3:43 pm Link to this comment

Duppy Durruti writes: “I strongly disagree! What we see today IS capitalism, pure and unadulterated, just as Marx predicted it would play out.” For those who don’t quite get it, it’s this: capitalism IS the government.

As observers such as Chris Hedges have pointed out, the corporations have pulled off a coup d’etat and are in complete control of the federal government; this is affirmed by the fact that one of their key agents - Timothy Geithner- is firmly ensconced in the Treasury Department. The federal government is a wholly-owned subsidiary branch bank of the FIRE sector of the US economy.

Protestations that regulators at the SEC and the like were asleep or that Milton Friedman did nothing to regulate the flow of money are red herrings (“who watches the watchers?”), and when looked at in the right light, show that the regulators (and Friedman) were in fact acting in accord with capitalist-corporate goals (the capitalist raison d’etre being the ownership of everything and the recipients of ALL profits, regardless of origin), because the government had effectively become just another bank/insurance company, whose primary function is not regulation, but just another source of funds. The Fed is called the lender of last resort, but they have recently become THE primary lender, and are the first place banks look to as a source of funds and insurance.

Further, by co-opting the federal government, and with the subsequent stripping of the economic rights of citizens (the Bankruptcy Reform Act of 2005, as a small example) the corporations now own a powerful weapon to enforce the collection of their rents, ie, the legal use of deadly force as the government is simply the bank branch with all the guns.

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By skimohawk, October 24, 2011 at 12:45 pm Link to this comment

re: Lafayette’s “But revenge is an ice cold plate, not very appetizing.”

Respectfully we must agree to disagree.

I not only look forward to it being cold, but will savor with relish every morsel.

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By Lafayette, October 24, 2011 at 12:17 pm Link to this comment

THE WHAMMY

DD: What just happened? “...mischievously or excessively to garner tremendous profit…” But you just told me there was nothing wrong with accumulating profits and wealth- even usury was fine. (see your first quote)

What happened is that markets were not sufficiently regulated. So, they dysfunction.

For instance, how did the SubPrime Mess get started if the Truth In Lending Act (TILA, passed in 1968) was being enforced? Of course, it wasn’t. Those responsible for regulating the mortgage market were looking the other way. Why?

Meaning the oversight agency had been neutered by a PotUS who had made promises ‘to friends” that he would deregulate Washington.

It’s like saying “Hey, you guys with Ferraris! Sixty miles an hour is for dorks! Let’s get rid of speed limits!” And then the whammy happens - people get killed.

If we raise marginal income and capital gains taxes then we tweak the motivation that propels some people to take shortcuts on their way to their first billion dollars.

Nobody, but nobody, needs a billion dollars. They are looking purely for the envy of others that is shown them. For which we have our sense of competition in overdrive.

SAY IT AGAIN, SAM

So, I say it again: There is nothing wrong with making profits. What is wrong is (1) How we make them, (2) How much we make and (3) How much we are allowed to keep.

The Replicants want that the state not interfere in any one of those three.

And we, the sheeple, are fools to let that happen.

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By Duppy Durruti, October 24, 2011 at 9:20 am Link to this comment

I almost forgot-

To doublestandards/glasshouses-

  I’ve never claimed to have a model for an ideal world so I have to pull a Chomsky on that- I don’t pretend to know how over 6 billion of us can live meaningful, comfortable lives.

  However, I do know many artists and I’m certain none of them are driven by financial success. Every one that I know seems to be motivated by the need to express themselves, often with the hope that they can generate something meaningful in others.

  If you’d like proof that people will innovate technically when it’s clear there’s no financial gain then I can point you towards the Linux development community- those guys spend endless hours doing amazing things. I suppose in those circles it’s just about recognition and credibility but there’s definitely no financial gain at all.

  That’s just off the top of my head but I’m sure you could find hundreds of people in 20th century American history alone who devoted their lives to improving humanity without any prospect of wealth. I don’t think Martin Luther King made a lot of money hanging around with garbage men on strike. Did Jonas Salk die rich? I honestly don’t know. He may well have been rich to begin with but I don’t remember profit being the motivator in his quest to cure polio.

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By Duppy Durruti, October 24, 2011 at 9:08 am Link to this comment

lafayette-
  I used the term mercantilism in the sense that the primary purpose of all sanctioned or regulated trade would be to benefit the nation, state or monarch, which would usually have a societal benefit as well. Any secondary effect- like the investors in a particular trade conglomerate getting rich was well and good, but it was understood that the interests of the state actor took precedent. Mercantilism is historical in nature precisely because it’s in the past, just as capitalism will be for future generations. In any event, I knew we were going tip toeing through those infamous tulips when you mentioned Amsterdam so let’s bypass Business101 and let me illustrate where the logic splinters for me…

—“There is nothing intrinsically wrong with profits or the accumulation of profits (into wealth) and the use of money to return interest.”

ok- I’m listening…

—“We have learned, belatedly, that when capitalism functions mischievously or excessively to garner tremendous profit, then it can dysfunction.”

What just happened? “...mischievously or excessively to garner tremendous profit…” But you just told me there was nothing wrong with accumulating profits and wealth- even usury was fine. (see your first quote)

  Every business transaction has some level of mischief involved so is it about “tremendous” profits? Is there an invisible threshold that goes along with the invisible hand? Have you ever worked for a corporate juggernaut? The goal is to do things so well that you destroy the competition and amass all the wealth that’s available- 100% market share. I worked for the biggest online retailer for years before working for the company that’s dominated the PC operating system market for decades. I can assure you that I never sat in a meeting and heard, “We have such a big market share, let’s back off a bit and see if Linux or OSX can get a larger piece of the pie. That will probably yield a better product for the consumer.”
  Are you being purposefully naive to make a point? You’re obviously bright, so how can you believe this line of sloppy thinking?

—“How does it dysfunction? By accumulating in the hands of two few of the population, which creates not only social disharmony but can seriously harm the economy.”

  I assume you meant “too few”, but walk it down. The accumulation of wealth will always have a snowball effect, that’s how it works. Only once in my life have I had a conversation with a billionaire, and he brazenly proclaimed that, “If the government redistributed all the wealth in the US and didn’t alter the rules, those of us at the top would have it all back in one generation.” I’m certain he was being dramatic, but he absolutely believed it because he understood the mechanisms that turn millions into hundreds of millions and then on to billions. The more you have to invest the more you can afford to lose when competing in the market. And once you’re strong enough, others will never be able to compete.

  This notion that capitalism provides for all of us as long as it’s properly contained or regulated defies logic. It’s not healthy to depend on a predatory beast that will devour us if it manages to break its chains, especially when we know that the tethers slacken each time a corporation applies back room pressure on legislators to ease regulation.

  The sentiment shared by you and the “businessman” featured above seems to be growing amongst educated people- simply put, capitalism hasn’t failed the masses, the corrupted priests that have misguided the cult are to blame.

  Is it really that hard to conceded that a thesis conceived over 200 years ago in the midst of an agrarian society may not function well for us today, especially when no one at the time, especially Adam Smith, could imagine a world where anything peaked?

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By ardee, October 24, 2011 at 4:05 am Link to this comment

rumblingspire, October 23 at 4:35 pm

At the very least you are very confused. You simply cannot be a communist and a proponent of the politics of Rand and the Libertarians. Please study further.

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By Lafayette, October 23, 2011 at 11:18 pm Link to this comment

A QUICK MEGABUCK

sh: The corrective action, Mr. Lafayette, needs to go farther than revisions in tax codes. Part of that corrective action needs to be the indictments, trials, and incarceration

Yes, of course.

But revenge is an ice cold plate, not very appetizing. Justice will happen, but without either the expediency or the thoroughness that we would like.

I am more concerned with preventing the next calamity. What America fails to understand is that going to jail does NOT change human nature - but only postpones it. We have one of the highest per capita incarceration rates in the world and also a very high rate of recidivism - accompanied (unsurprisingly) by stubbornly high crime rates.

The rush to riches is a cultural phenomenon. Money is an over-sized metric amongst our societal values. Too many of us, in the wrong places, are genuflecting to the God of Mammon.

Why? Because of our education (at home or at school) that does not teach other more enriching values. Which is why we have so many peddlers of simplistic nostrums like “seek your inner self” - which is superficial nonsense.

Some look to religion for a deeper sense of morality - but that still leaves far too many without intrinsic values of morality and decency. One does not need to believe in God to be an upright person (that is, honorable, conscientious or ethical).

Or to have the simple ability to distinguish right from wrong. How many intelligent “Harvard men” (with an MBA) tumbled head over foot into the Maw of Finance blithely forgetting any sense of integrity in their rush for a Quick Megabuck?

Quite a few, I might imagine.

Which is why I argue that we must neuter the sort of motivation that produces excessive behaviour by means of taxation.

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By Lafayette, October 23, 2011 at 10:47 pm Link to this comment

SPARE THE ROD ...

rs: Capitalism demands the best of every man – his rationality – and rewards him accordingly. It leaves every man free to choose the work he likes

Bollocks to that notion.

Ayn Rand escaped from Communist Russia and came to a place where one could practice a profession with little official oversight.

She thought it was nirvana compared to Russia during the “roaring” 1920s when she arrived here.

She gobbled hook, line and sinker all the precepts of American Free Market Conservatism - and it seems that the Great Depression made no lasting impression upon her. Because those half-baked notions coincided with her view of how the world should be - one devoid of state oppression of the individual in whatever undertaking.

That notion is still the hallmark of the Rabid Right in America - who have learned nothing new since nor forgot anything.

FREE WILL

Greenspan became addicted to her writings and thus also was guided by a spirit of unbridled capitalism, the consequences of which we all know too well nowadays. He’s the one who claimed that “markets were self-correcting” because they were managed by intelligent beings. Yeah, right ...

Between Steinbeck and Rand is a universe of difference. I’ll go with Steinbeck. Left to their own devices, men will get it wrong every time.

Spare the rod and spoil the boy in all of us. Markets need diligent oversight, or they will go excessively wrong every time. It’s the nature of the beast driven by free will.

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By caped amigo, October 23, 2011 at 10:27 pm Link to this comment

What a brilliant piece. How encouragng. I would like to hear more from Mr. Intrator. Mr. Sheer, please get David to write a column for truthdig.

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By skimohawk, October 23, 2011 at 10:13 pm Link to this comment

I find the disproportionate number of “unregistered commenters” (10 out of 16 here in this thread) rather curious…

The corrective action, Mr. Lafayette, needs to go farther than revisions in tax codes.

Part of that corrective action needs to be the indictments, trials, and incarceration of:
- individuals responsible for and complicit in the shell game (commonly referred to as “big banking”) that brought about this economic disaster.
- any and all parties involved in the perpetuation of the perpetual “war on terror” (this should not be limited to politicians or “think tank” members, but should also include the collaborators and conspirators in the armament and defense industry.)
- any and all parties involved in the destruction of the environment and/or complicit in attempting to circumvent or gut environmental regulations. (the Koch brothers come immediately to mind.)

Seizure and forfeiture to the state of all property and assets must also be a requiste part of that correction.
And yes, that means hubby goes to prison, and wifey and kiddies are left penniless and homeless.
Ruthless, yes.
Effective nonetheless.

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By rumblingspire, October 23, 2011 at 4:47 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

as a red blooded communist i will put it simply; ayn rand can sit at the table anytime.

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By rumblingspire, October 23, 2011 at 4:35 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

I’m reminded of Ayn Rand.  This guy could be John Galt.

“Capitalism demands the best of every man – his rationality – and rewards him accordingly. It leaves every man free to choose the work he likes, to specialize in it, to trade his product for the products of others, and to go as far on the road of achievement as his ability and ambition will carry him.”  rand


well that is another way of saying
“from each according to his ability” and desire. 

all that remains to be understood is that each child born has equal access to natural resources and essential services.

“to each according to their” fair share.

in the spirit of “occupy” i bless miss rand and hug karl marx.
develop a solid socialism based on simple truths, practical and ethical.  then allow a free market to thrive with the remainder. 

the end of private ownership of land will NOT be the end of capitalism.

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By Lafayette, October 23, 2011 at 10:57 am Link to this comment

LOOKING FOR THE FAULT

DD: This “businessman” pines for that faux-capitalism that was easily defended. Perhaps future generations will come to see it as the last remnants of mercantilism mingling with embryonic capitalism.

And perhaps not?

Let’s distinguish between the system of capitalism and the way it functions. The former is historical in nature and latter is a very diverse entity.

Capitalism dates back to Merchant Capitalism of the Middle Ages. It flourished in Amsterdam and made of that city its headquarters for a good many years. It evolved from the use of money for commercial transactions – which generated profits. It was obvious that profits should not be kept under a mattress but lent out to return interest.

How the system functions is determined by professionals. If ours has wreaked havoc on our economy, it is not capitalism that is to blame, but those who practiced it.

There is nothing intrinsically wrong with profits or the accumulation of profits (into wealth) and the use of money to return interest. We have learned, belatedly, that when capitalism functions mischievously or excessively to garner tremendous profit, then it can dysfunction.

How does it dysfunction? By accumulating in the hands of two few of the population, which creates not only social disharmony but can seriously harm the economy. Remember also that the first historically recorded “bubble” was that for tulips in Holland in the 17th century. (See here.) When it burst it ruined many people stuck with tulips nobody wanted.

We’ve been through, for the second time, a Colossal Mess brought through our own fault and hubris. Anyone with a rudimentary understanding of history should remember the Great Depression resulting from the Stock Market Crash of 1929 – itself provoked by the same cupidity that gave us the Great Recession of 2009.

We elect supposedly intelligent politicians who hire smart government administrators, don’t we? Then how could they have let SubPrime Mess develop into a Great Recession?

Out of hubris, because they believed foolishly such nostrums as “the market is self-correcting”. Or that cheap money perpetuates high employment because of the magic of credit buying.

Shakespeare:

The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars,
But in ourselves, that we are underlings.

MY POINT

But are we ready to take the corrective action that will likely prevent future abuse? That is, disincentivize mischief by means of Much Higher marginal and capital gains taxation.

In America, with our fixation upon success as a Prime Virtue, that will be very, very difficult.

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By Michelle, October 23, 2011 at 10:28 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Keep talking Mr. Intrator. You’re making a lot of sense.

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By sharonsj, October 23, 2011 at 10:08 am Link to this comment

Duppy, true capitalism involves risk, including the risk of failure.  But today the banks have been guaranteed that failure won’t happen.  So it doesn’t matter how badly they function because taxpayers are footing the bills.  And the CEOs, even if they run a company into the ground, still get millions—if not billions—as a reward.

The system is completely fucked up and we, the people, are fucked.  Apparently the Wall Streeters think the ride is going on forever so it’s up to us to pull the emergency brake.

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By doublestandards/glasshouses, October 23, 2011 at 7:36 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Duppy Durruti,
What replaces the profit motive in your ideal world?
I don’t think it is possible to get rid of it.  Even
the artist is looking for financial success.

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By OzarkMichael, October 23, 2011 at 6:26 am Link to this comment

It’s true that Friedman and his cadre of free market cheerleaders would find it difficult to defend bailouts of private corporations with federal monies.

Than you for saying that.

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By Duppy Durruti, October 23, 2011 at 5:01 am Link to this comment

I strongly disagree! What we see today IS capitalism, pure and unadulterated, just as Marx predicted it would play out. I suspect that post-depression era regulation combined with New Deal benefits and strong trade unions temporarily impeded capitalism and the result of those forces was a burgeoning middle class that saw their standards of living rise throughout the ‘50s and ‘60s. A Harvard grad must realize that shortsighted, reckless legislation that took hold with Reagan and continued with each successive administration, especially Clinton, didn’t create some bastardized form of capitalism, it just removed the fetters and facade so that we now see the true nature of capitalism. There is no responsibility or loyalty to any nation, community, ecosystem or even species, only to the shareholders, and even that’s questionable judging from actions multinationals have taken in recent decades.

  It’s true that Friedman and his cadre of free market cheerleaders would find it difficult to defend bailouts of private corporations with federal monies, but does corporate socialism really seem out-of-sync with a capitalist system that ensures that global economies are dependent on commercial credit and other financial instruments to deliver the necessities of life? The line between our wants and our needs has been completely eroded. The same mechanisms that deliver us new cars and ipods also bring us food, water, clothing and shelter. What government wouldn’t act to shore up the industries the entire populace depends upon?

  This “businessman” pines for that faux-capitalism that was easily defended. Perhaps future generations will come to see it as the last remnants of mercantilism mingling with embryonic capitalism. Beginning when corporate charters were granted by a monarch with the understanding that there would be a societal benefit and continuing on to modern times when banks loaned locally and financial institutions worked to build the factories and infrastructure that offered long term employment prospects for the community. But there’s no reason for those pretenses anymore when it’s accepted that immediate profit is the only motivation that deserves serious consideration. There’s no column on the balance sheet for morality. The 19th century concept of corporate personhood has finally progressed in American law so that corporate entities no longer need to placate the will of the masses. Why should corporations pretend to have any interests other than short term profit when they control every major decision that’s made in federal venues all the way down to local municipalities?

Make no mistake about it, we are experiencing the fruition of REAL capitalism and it seems likely that it will hasten the collapse of the environment we depend on as well as put an end to the post-Renaissance progression that western culture has enjoyed for the last five centuries. Beware the apologists- they’re as dangerous as the venture capitalists. The invisible hand never delivers relief to those in desperate need, it only ever enriches those that have the means to guide it.

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By go ows, October 23, 2011 at 1:14 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

From a recent article with an ex Australian Prime
Minister (printed in a News Corporation paper):

For Keating, the malaise in US politics is the
problem. He says: “The most compelling thing I’ve
seen in years is that in the great burst of American
productivity between 1990 and 2008, of that massive
increment to national income, none of it went to
wages. By contrast, in Australia real wages over the
same period had risen by 30 per cent.” Keating sees
this “as the breakdown of America’s national
compact”, the shattering of its prosperity deal. He
says American conservatives abandoned the middle
ground represented by Republican presidents such as
Dwight D. Eisenhower, Richard Nixon and Bush Sr and
became radicals. The derailment, he argues, began
under Ronald Reagan and reached its zenith under
George W. Bush.

With the goodwill gone the US “is not able to produce
a medium-term credible fiscal trajectory or get
agreement on rebuilding its infrastructure”. This
paralysis “is significant not just for the US but for
the world.”

Keating links the collapse of this “prosperity
compact” to the financial crisis. Too many Americans
were unable to sustain themselves from wages and
salaries.

How did they get by? They used the easy credit of the
banking system, thereby feeding the frenzy that ended
in bad loans and meltdown.

...

On the 2008 financial crisis, he says former US
Federal Reserve chief Alan Greenspan must bear “a
fair amount of responsibility”.

“Greenspan is someone I know and like,” Keating says.
“But if you are so naive to believe that institutions
with a balance sheet with assets geared at 45 to one
is not an accident waiting to happen then you don’t
deserve to be chairman of the Federal Reserve.”

He praises Obama for seeking a return to the “liberal
internationalism” that, in Keating’s view, made the
US great in the post-World War II age. This is the US
he loves but it is still in retreat.

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By Michael Thomas Hoyt, October 23, 2011 at 1:03 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

The I’ve got mine, screw you mentality is ruining the country.

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By Textynn, October 23, 2011 at 12:04 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Deep fundamental problem.

Yeah, sociopaths running our government for other sociopaths.

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By Norecovery, October 22, 2011 at 11:01 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Yes, we all “want our country back”. But “conservatism” totally has been co-opted by “corporatism”, because the pursuit of profits by a small number of individuals at the expense of the rest of the populace has replaced the former conservative values. These “labels” have been distorted and are meaningless.

This is foolish wishful thinking. They—the Conservatives—will NEVER “join us”. They rail against any popular uprising that questions the “rule of law” and the status quo. They blame all of the economic problems on the victims.

The only way to overthrow this tyranny is by rising up against the system and all of its stalwarts, which is what we’re seeing now with OWS. But let’s not kid ourselves—the Establishment is so entrenched that they would rather see our country descend into chaos, before they would allow any significant change that would minimize their profits.

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By 2011, October 22, 2011 at 10:00 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Great perspective.  Let’s also remember that corporations
are now awarded rights over and above individual citizens. 
This is a fundamental malpractice of law and order in any
country. 

Why would USA and other countries accept it? 

Why did our politicians betray us the citizens? 

It looks very much like a mega-international corruption
case.

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By sam baker, October 22, 2011 at 9:36 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

speaking of corporatocracy AND the US Government working against the needs of American workers, check this out:

http://abcnews.go.com/GMA/video/taxpayer-money-build-green-cars-overseas-US-loan-tesla-fisker-14785463?tab=9482931§ion=4765066

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By zonth_zonth, October 22, 2011 at 7:45 pm Link to this comment

Well said Mr Intrator.  Indeed in the 70’s when your folks put you through Harvard, you didnt finish with 160K debt. 

Everything has been corporatized, especially untouchable institutions like Harvard, whom (as a corporate individual) does not even pay real estate tax.

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By gerard, October 22, 2011 at 6:54 pm Link to this comment

Well, it’s about time!  Calling it “conservative” is accurate in the true meaning of conservative, so relax, lefties, and take a deep breath.  It’s also nonviolent, which is also conservative in that it conserves heads from being broken, faces from being bloodied, arms twisted, minorities from being hassled—that is, if the police remember that they are supposed to preserve “the peace.”
  It just takes a mild-mannered Harvard professor to say it, loud and clear. Thank you, David Intrator

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