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Posted on Dec 29, 2008
AP photo / Craig Ruttle

By Chris Hedges

The corporate forces that are looting the Treasury and have plunged us into a depression will not be contained by the two main political parties. The Democratic and Republican parties have become little more than squalid clubs of privilege and wealth, whores to money and corporate interests, hostage to a massive arms industry, and so adept at deception and self-delusion they no longer know truth from lies. We will either find our way out of this mess by embracing an uncompromising democratic socialism—one that will insist on massive government relief and work programs, the nationalization of electricity and gas companies, a universal, not-for-profit government health care program, the outlawing of hedge funds, a radical reduction of our bloated military budget and an end to imperial wars—or we will continue to be fleeced and impoverished by our bankrupt elite and shackled and chained by our surveillance state.

The free market and globalization, promised as the route to worldwide prosperity, have been exposed as a con game. But this does not mean our corporate masters will disappear. Totalitarianism, as George Orwell pointed out, is not so much an age of faith as an age of schizophrenia. “A society becomes totalitarian when its structure becomes flagrantly artificial,” Orwell wrote, “that is when its ruling class has lost its function but succeeds in clinging to power by force or fraud.” Force and fraud are all they have left. They will use both.

There is a political shift in Europe toward an open confrontation with the corporate state. Germany has seen a surge of support for Die Linke (The Left), a political grouping formed 18 months ago. It is co-led by the veteran socialist “Red” Oskar Lafontaine, who has built his career on attacking big business. Two-thirds of Germans in public opinion polls say they agree with all or some of Die Linke’s platform. The Socialist Party of the Netherlands is on the verge of overtaking the Labor Party as the main opposition party on the left. Greece, beset with street protests and violence by disaffected youths, has seen the rapid rise of the Coalition of the Radical Left. In Spain and Norway socialists are in power. Resurgence is not universal, especially in France and Britain, but the shifts toward socialism are significant.

Corporations have intruded into every facet of life. We eat corporate food. We buy corporate clothes. We drive corporate cars. We buy our vehicular fuel and our heating oil from corporations. We borrow from corporate banks. We invest our retirement savings with corporations. We are entertained, informed and branded by corporations. We work for corporations. The creation of a mercenary army, the privatization of public utilities and our disgusting for-profit health care system are all legacies of the corporate state. These corporations have no loyalty to America or the American worker. They are not tied to nation states. They are vampires.

“By now the [commercial] revolution has deprived the mass of consumers of any independent access to the staples of life: clothing, shelter, food, even water,” Wendell Berry wrote in “The Unsettling of America.” “Air remains the only necessity that the average user can still get for himself, and the revolution had imposed a heavy tax on that by way of pollution. Commercial conquest is far more thorough and final than military defeat.” 

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The corporation is designed to make money without regard to human life, the social good or impact on the environment. Corporate laws impose a legal duty on corporate executives to make as much money as possible for shareholders, although many have moved on to fleece shareholders as well. In the 2003 documentary film “The Corporation” the management guru Peter Drucker says: “If you find an executive who wants to take on social responsibilities, fire him. Fast.”

A corporation that attempts to engage in social responsibility, that tries to pay workers a decent wage with benefits, that invests its profits to protect the environment and limit pollution, that gives consumers fair deals, can be sued by shareholders. Robert Monks, the investment manager, says in the film: “The corporation is an externalizing machine, in the same way that a shark is a killing machine. There isn’t any question of malevolence or of will. The enterprise has within it, and the shark has within it, those characteristics that enable it to do that for which it was designed.” Ray Anderson, the CEO of Interface Corp., the world’s largest commercial carpet manufacturer, calls the corporation a “present day instrument of destruction” because of its compulsion to “externalize any cost that an unwary or uncaring public will allow it to externalize.”

“The notion that we can take and take and take and take, waste and waste, without consequences, is driving the biosphere to destruction,” Anderson says. 

In short, the film, based on Joel Bakan’s book “The Corporation: The Pathological Pursuit of Profit and Power,” asserts that the corporation exhibits many of the traits found in people clinically defined as psychopaths.


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By cann4ing, January 1, 2009 at 10:13 am Link to this comment

By prgill, December 31, 2008 at 5:13 pm #

The last time there was really a “progressive movement” in the United States it was in the 1890s with the election of William McKinley.
_______________________

The McKinley administration and Mark Hanna were the ideological predecessors of George W. Bush and Karl Rove.  The progressive movement did not end with the election of McKinley though it did change significantly from an agrarian-based movement in the 1890s into a more diverse set of players amongst unionists, socialists, etc.

Henry Wallace was the “Progressive Party candidate in the 1948 U.S. presidential election. His platform advocated an end to segregation, full voting rights for blacks, and universal government health insurance. His campaign was unusual for his time in that it included African American candidates campaigning alongside white candidates in the American South, and that during the campaign he refused to appear before segregated audiences or eat or stay in segregated establishments.”

His campaign was severely damaged “when several prominent journalists, including H.L. Mencken and Dorothy Thompson, publicly charged that Wallace and the Progressives were under the covert control of Communists. Wallace’s subsequent refusal to publicly disavow any Communist support cost him the backing of many anti-Communist liberals and socialists, such as Norman Thomas.”

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Henry_A._Wallace

Although Wallace, who had been FDR’s VP prior to the 1944 election, was trounced, Truman sought to advance Wallace’s single-payer health care plan but was stymied not only by the AMA but by Southern Democrats who feared that a national health care system would spell the end to segregated hospitals.

In the U.S., race and immigrant bashing has always provided a convenient tool to divide and conquer the working class.

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By Anarcissie, January 1, 2009 at 8:06 am Link to this comment

greenferret:
’... Today, it’s radical to belong to an international political party based on nonviolence, justice, grassroots democracy and sustainability. Anyone else want to be radical?’

All the political parties I know of claim programs like that.  But the state and the administration of justice so-called are based on the use of force, so they are incompatible with nonviolence.  If one wants to be radical, it seems one must take a step beyond partisan competition for state power.

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By Anarcissie, January 1, 2009 at 7:55 am Link to this comment

‘The idea that there’s something over here called “the government,” and something else over there called “the market,” is nothing but a mass delustion that’s an article of faith on the right. Markets are created, shaped and facilitated in every way by political means: the union of governments and markets is seamless.’

That implies that government regulation is useless: since the markets and the government are one, the government’s regulators will tend to make the same mistakes the market’s regulators do.  In fact, they will often be the same people.

I guess I have to concede that one often observes just that.

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By Anthony Rose, January 1, 2009 at 7:36 am Link to this comment

@ whyzowl1, December 31, 2008 at 4:11 pm

I agree with you that a republic is good and needed. But because of human nature, you cannot give that government the power over money to do good. Because that government will go bad.

The best we can do is to have a limited government which punishes theft and damage.

You cannot even elect that government democratically, it needs to be constitutional to be limited in its power to grab the money. (Though sadly even that did not work.)

The goal of full employment and living wages cannot be achieved by force, unless you have a morally incorruptible government. It can only be approached, when human greed is acknowledged and catered for.

That is why we need to let people keep their own earnings and property. Then everybody strives for more, and has more. Even the poor are fewer, and are less poor.

But when we give government the power over our money, to give to the poor because we won’t ourselves, corporations and unions step in to buy that power, and your ideal of living wages for all is lost. Has this ever worked? No. It’s human nature.

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By oldog, January 1, 2009 at 7:29 am Link to this comment

What is the purpose of government? In democracy, the purpose of government is to protect all of its citizens from all dangers, foreign and domestic, and Law is the foundation of its governing system.

Corruption generally arises from the reality that, to paraphrase George Orwell, some citizens are more equal than others. The rich and powerful will always enjoy better treatment than the poor from life and from government, unless strict guidelines are instituted…like the Bill of Rights.

As society becomes more sophisticated, so too must our government grow and evolve. The rich and powerful have influenced this process over the years to tip the scales in their favor. This is a natural desire, to want special treatment. It is also ‘natural’ for humans to be greedy, selfish, and be corrupted by power. Obviously, not all things that are natural are to be preferred in a civilized society. We are witnessing today the results of a natural (free market) economy at work.

To remain true to its primary purpose of protecting ‘all’ citizens from danger, democratic government must protect the week from the strong. This function has been corrupted especially by the recent economic policies of government officials whose elections are dependent on the campaign contributions from the rich and powerful. Under our current election system, where politicians need millions of dollars to compete for election, corruption is inevitable.

The Founding Fathers hoped to protect the citizens by dividing power between three branches. The Judiciary, arbiters of the Law and considered by our founders the most important branch, were protected by a lifetime appointment to free them from the temptations of competition for advancement. The framers of our constitution could not think of everything though, and so provided mechanisms for the amendment of Law as the growth and evolution of society demanded.

Unfortunately, greed has managed to corrupt the executive and congressional branches, and marginalize the judiciary. If we hope to elect public servants that are indebted primarily to their constituents, who have an equal voice at the polls, and not, as now, whose loyalty is inevitably tied to the apron strings of their financial contributors.

Current campaign finance reform efforts through government funding does not address the fundamental equation where ‘increases in campaign funds = increases in elect-ability’ so some way must be found to provide equal media exposure (perhaps provided as a public service by media outlets grateful for having their license renewed) and grass roots campaigns funded by donations limited to what a normal citizen could afford, say $100.

No doubt constant surveillance for new instances of corrupt campaign practices by Homeland Security is possible, once they have been relieved of the burden of targeting certain cultural groups for political rendition.

I think it’s time for another revolution, not by force, but by law enacted by majority vote.

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By Anthony Rose, January 1, 2009 at 7:06 am Link to this comment

@ Anarcissie - December 31, 2008 at 4:26 pm

That was brilliantly clear - thank you, I’ve saved your reply.

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By Anthony Rose, January 1, 2009 at 6:40 am Link to this comment

@ whyzowl1
Nice reply, thanks.

I guess I differ from you essentially in this:

We both agree that we need regulation, but you want more and I want less. If I understand you correctly, you feel that the more powerful corporations get, the bigger a government we need. Whereas I feel that the bigger a government we create, the more powerful corporations get, and corrupt, and integrated with government.

Government is indeed seamless with big corporations - when government controls the money. It is precisely this SEAMLESSNESS which would, in my opinion, make a democratic socialist government the biggest, meanest, ugliest, most corrupt CORPORATION with all power we’ve ever seen - with no appeal.

That is why I would rather not take the money out of the people’s hands and put it under government control. It is much more difficult to gain and retain de-centralised power when all you have is your own business profits to do it with (unassisted by government contracts), and the people in general are also prospering with their own profits. But when you can take property via eminent domain, divert the people’s money through corruption of government channels, oppress your opponents with government regulations, etc. - when, in short, all the eggs are in one basket of government power and the government is corruptible - you can buy that power.

The corporations have corrupted our guards, our guards favour the corporations - now who will guard the guards? A guard to end all gaurds? No, that would be the ultimate corruption. It has to be the people governed. By an electoral college, by denying government the right to take property or money, by diversifying government into separate but equal branches, it will be very difficult to corrupt it. But as the people grow corrupt, so will their government, and so will their corporations. And that’s where we are today.

The framers of the constitution were well versed in the trickery of men and suffered the abuse of government power. They spent a long and wise time setting it up so that government did not tax the way we do today, nor have the powers we have given it. I believe we would do best by realising the error of our misplaced kindness and reverting to the smallest government possible to retain justice, law and order.

The only guards who can best guard the guards, are the guarded - the people themselves. Government of the people, by the people, for the people. That is why I feel sure that we should not give government the end of our power by giving it our money to share around.

Not because I don’t want to share. But because in the corrupted end, such a government won’t share it around equally - and there won’t be anything to share, anyway.

Due to human nature the choice we have is either:
have-a-lots, haves and have-nots, with some of the haves giving to the have-nots, OR:
a few have-alots (the government) and the masses of have-nots.

What was the most prosperous nation in human history? What was its governing philosophy? When did that prosperity start slipping? What did they do wrong? I say, let’s copy their success but not their failures. Let’s not let government touch the banks or our money. But we can agree to differ. grin

Thanks for your reply.

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By Alex Mason, January 1, 2009 at 5:14 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Chris, I think your problem is a fundamental misunderstanding of what free market capitalism actually is. Time and time again in this article you appear to confuse the free market with the regulated market. Today in both the United States and Britain we are not living in a truly capitalist state; in a true capitalist state the government and the economy are not only separated, they are kept in entirely different rooms from each other.

In the state in which we live the government consistently interferes with the Free Market, imposing arbitrary regulation and stopping the free market from functioning properly. The cause of the current economic mess is not, as most socialist smugly assume, the fault of free market capitalism; it is the fault of regulation. The following example applies to the UK, but a similar thing happened in the US as well. In 1998, Gorden Brown removed the right of regulation from the Bank of England, however the Bank remained a ‘Lender of Last Resort’. Until then the regulation of the banking sector had worked pretty well; the banks were regulated by the Bank of England and in return the Bank of England secured their assets and promised to lend them money if they needed it. However, when the Bank of England lost the right to regulate, it lost it’s stick, all that remained was a carrot. Regulation lapsed, but the Bank of England Remained a lender of last resort; in effect the banks were given freedom without responsibility.

This resulted in an irresponsible binge on the behalf of the banks, the bill for which the government is now being given. So the Banks are not ‘looting the Treasury’ as you put it, rather the Treasury is paying up for a massive mistake in regulation.

I said at the beginning that you misunderstand the Free Market, so allow me to explain what I believe the Free Market to be. Capitalism is simply people trading for mutual benefit. Someone creates a product that other people want, they give them that product in return for something they want. No matter how much you scale this up, it is still the same; Microsoft merely make products that people want in exchange for what they want, which is always money in today’s society. There is nothing inherently exploitative are fraudulent about this relationship. People are rewarded for ingenuity and punished for incompetence. A capitalist society is one where people succeed or fail as a result of their individual ability. While unfortunately people do not begin on a even keel, they can still succeed no matter where they begin.

In a truly capitalist society, force and fraud are the evils that must be avoided at all costs. Once one starts to force someone to give them money, we abandon capitalism and enter into the world of theft. This is where a government should step in. The purpose of a government is to protect its citizens both from within and from the outside. It is not the government’s job to regulate the ‘Free Market’ in the name of the greater good, which is, but its very nature, undefined and arbitrary.

In a capitalist society people are rewarded for ability, in a socialist state it is just the opposite; the able live only to provide for those who are not able. People are not rewarded for success; they are punished for it. The more wealth one can create, the more wealth is taken from them and given to those who do not deserve it. In a socialist society, the government steals in the name of ‘the redistribution of wealth’. This is a stark contradiction of the very purpose of a government; to protect it’s citizens, not to steal from them.

And that is why I am a Capitalist.

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By Dave Schwab, January 1, 2009 at 3:05 am Link to this comment

Yes, Greens are radical. 250 years ago it was radical to say that people should determine their own government. 150 years ago it was radical to say that human beings shouldn’t be owned as property. 100 years ago it was radical to say that women should have the right to vote. Today, it’s radical to belong to an international political party based on nonviolence, justice, grassroots democracy and sustainability. Anyone else want to be radical?

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By cyrena, January 1, 2009 at 12:03 am Link to this comment

By whyzowl1, December 31 at 8:31 pm
Great post!! Even I knew this part
•  “The idea that there’s something over here called “the government,” and something else over there called “the market,” is nothing but a mass delustion that’s an article of faith on the right. Markets are created, shaped and facilitated in every way by political means: the union of governments and markets is seamless. Markets are never free, unless by “free” you mean free to defraud, free to commit usury, free to ruthlessly and cruelly exploit, free to profit by depriving others of their freedom, free to murder anyone who gets in your way. That’s the way free markets work in the real world.
Took me a little while to figure it out though.
Then this:
•  “..You just don’t get it. As long as the massive private tyrannies called corporations exist, a strong federal government must also exist (albeit, as a necessary evil), because it’s the only entity powerful enough to rein in and regulate said corporations. If the people fail to seize the levers of power and make government THEIR instrument… well, that’s their bad. The levers are there waiting for them.
I often wonder how or why it is, that people don’t seem to ‘get this’. Many people pay homage to this system of massive private tyrannies, presumably at some unconscious level, since they don’t seem to ‘get it’. It’s a pipe dream to anticipate the total extermination of these corporate entities, but we don’t have to operate under such conditions, considering the fact that we DO have these levers.
Finally,
•  “..Beyond that, government, the public sector, should own and run the natural monopolies such as electrical generation and distribution, public transportation and railroads, water, and etc…”

This is my own pipe dream for the US. We need to own and operate all of our natural resources. Subjecting the availability of sources needed for the survival of the species to ‘the market’, has sent us over the precipice, and the free fall is fatal if we don’t find a way to ‘save’ ourselves.

South America is sure moving along in this direction, except that I think Paraguay they should seize those thousands of acres of land that GW Bush has confiscated down there. Land intricately tied to a vast control of water rights.

So, what’s the likihood of exterminating THAT massive private corporate dynasty? (The Bushes that is?)

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By whyzowl1, December 31, 2008 at 9:31 pm Link to this comment

First of all, about Robert Pollin’s “Unregulated financial markets lead to crises. There is no historical exception to this rule.”:

There’s not enough space here, but three comments: 1. Yes, there is a need for some regulation. 2. There are always regulations. 3. The more regulations, the bigger the crisis when it finally comes, and the longer it lasts.
**********
Wouldn’t all of us bad boys like to get bigger and last longer?!

But, in fact, this crisis got a helluva lot bigger and will last a helluva lot longer because every attempt by the international debt house of cards to collapse, die, and clear itself in a timely fashion, was treated to the economic viagra of taxpayer-funded bailouts and easy money from Alan Greenspan’s Fed. In essence, the debt overhang from the collapse of one bubble was immediately rolled over into the next with the inflation pressure (so to speak) increased astronomically via interest rates approaching zero and the easing of leverage limits. The Greenspan/Chicago Boys’ neoliberal junk economics was responsible for the “securitization revolution” whose implosion launched the current global financial tsunami that is wrecking such terrible worldwide havoc as we speak.     
*****
Secondly, do you think Alan Greenspan ran a free market? Do you know where this latest crash came from? Regulatory lending to the poor with fiat money.
**********
Tell me you’re not talking about “required lending,” as in the Community Reinvestment Act? Please. That canard has been thoroughly and repeatedly debunked, and I really thought you were too smart to fall for the Right’s classic “the poor done it to themselves” propaganda line.

The idea that there’s something over here called “the government,” and something else over there called “the market,” is nothing but a mass delustion that’s an article of faith on the right. Markets are created, shaped and facilitated in every way by political means: the union of governments and markets is seamless. Markets are never free, unless by “free” you mean free to defraud, free to commit usury, free to ruthlessly and cruelly exploit, free to profit by depriving others of their freedom, free to murder anyone who gets in your way. That’s the way free markets work in the real world.
***** 

Finally, to reply to your assertion that “All you right wing libertarians really want is a free lunch at everybody else’s expense.” Actually, what I really want is to stop an elite having a free lunch at the masses’ expense. Now considering human nature, there always IS going to be an elite. You just have to choose which one:
- Corporations with government, tricking the people (what we have now)
- Government owning the people (what Chris wants)
- The people (what we had)
**********
You just don’t get it. As long as the massive private tyrannies called corporations exist, a strong federal government must also exist (albeit, as a necessary evil), because it’s the only entity powerful enough to rein in and regulate said corporations. If the people fail to seize the levers of power and make government THEIR instrument… well, that’s their bad. The levers are there waiting for them.

Beyond that, government, the public sector, should own and run the natural monopolies such as electrical generation and distribution, public transportation and railroads, water, and etc.

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By blueshift, December 31, 2008 at 8:37 pm Link to this comment

So you would be suggesting that the socialists aren’t running a con game? Or you could be stuck in the muddle (sorry, middle) and be a ‘social democrat,’ not altogether a bad place to be - except that model will be gutted by what is about to ensue, just like all the other cons - socialist, capitalist, democratic, or that other thing I just mentioned. It’s all one big con.

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By Folktruther, December 31, 2008 at 8:19 pm Link to this comment

Anarcissie’s analysis of the increase in credit, and debt, and the consequent debasement of the currency, was part of a massive assault by corporate leaders on the standard of living of the American working class the past thirty years.  This is detailed in Sharon Smith’s book SUBTERNIAN FIRE.

The enormous increase in class inequality under both the Dems and Gops made necessary, in ruling class eyes, the political counter revolution led by the Bushites.  Obama is going to consolidate this political counter revolution by rationalizing Bushite policies to the extent possible.

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By WannabeStalin, December 31, 2008 at 8:08 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

By and large, most of the comments here reflect the shallow logic of idiotic children arguing in the playground over who has the best game.  “Power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely”, or whatever the precise quote is.  The fact that the preceding statement is a well known axiom, does not detract from its truth.

Socialism is a sick joke that has been toutedto the more impressionable members of American society (read students) by liberal educators that dream of a golden ideal which doesn’t exist.  Socialism is a complete and utter failure as a viable approach to a governed society, only the ignorant continue to profess its “merits”. 

The ruling class will always be the ruling class for the inescapable reason that there has to be a ruling class in order to have Government.  A Democratic/Representative Republic society with documented rights and protections from the “ruking class” is the ONLY viable solution to achieving a reasonably free society - nomatter how flawed.  We already have this, and if the Stalin Wannabe Society wags on this site were honest about it, you would all recognize that wealth makes jobs, empowers “average” citizens, and helps the poor more, in the long run,  than ANY government socialist program.

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By Alice Lillie, December 31, 2008 at 8:08 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

The author said right off that either there will be socialism or a continuation of what he called “the free market and globalization.”

Problem is, there *is no* free market. The system we have now is as removed from a free market as socialism is. The system we have now is fascism or mercantilism.

I think what we need is a *truly* free market, where the rights of the individual are respected.

Study your economics! Go to mises.org and search Murray Rothbard or Ludwig von Mises. These are real free-market economists.

And visit my web site, where I am reviewing the works of Dr. Rothbard.

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By Dalmazio Brisinda, December 31, 2008 at 8:04 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

(...continued)

Many believe that capitalism results in inevitable wealth and power consolidation. This is not where capitalism takes us. This is where “disaster” capitalism takes us. True capitalism, à la laissez-faire capitalism, takes us in a very different direction. Wealth and power consolidation is not possible under laissez-faire capitalism, as the free market by its very nature would correct for this through greater competition, thereby spreading the wealth and power. Consolidation of wealth and power occurs only when the free market is inhibited in some way. That is, when capitalism is not functioning.

The problem is that many large companies that have lost the spirit of innovation and entrepreneurship have instead tried to change the rules of the playing field in lieu of competing. And when corporations succeed in changing the rules of the playing field, we are no longer operating in a free market system: true capitalism is no more. In our time, capitalism has been replaced with something that is ‘capitalism’ in name only.

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By Dalmazio Brisinda, December 31, 2008 at 8:02 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

While the article makes some very interesting points, the approach being offered I believe is wrong. I am reading in the main article, and in many of the comments of its supporting readers, a kind of capitulation to the growing consensus in the mainstream media that the source of all our current economic woes lies in the underlying economic philosophy of capitalism. The main problem with this diagnosis lies in our incorrect and faulty choice of words, which in turn is responsible for our incorrect and confused understanding. What we have today is not “capitalism,” it is “disaster capitalism.” The original intent behind capitalism in the U.S. which came with the American Revolution, was a free market, anti-mercantislist system. A laissez-faire system where the market would be left free to decide all business and economic activity, free from the intervention of government or any other institution. In fact, the role of government was negative: it was mandated that government refrain from being involved in the market in any way. Instead, their sole economic prerogative was to ensure that the market remained free. Government bureaucrats have since lost that noble free-market vision and instead insist on “fixing” everything. Here is a worthwhile quote from John DiLorenzo’s article Celebrating America’s Capitalist Revolution (http://www.lewrockwell.com/dilorenzo/dilorenzo72.html):

“Thus it was that in 1776, the year that Jefferson wrote the Declaration of Independence, so many of the acts of tyranny that King George III was accused of had as their objective the implementation of British mercantilism in the colonies. The American Revolution was at least partly a capitalist, or anti-mercantilist revolution. In the same year that the Declaration of Independence was written Adam Smith published his famous treatise, An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations. The ‘Wealth of Nations’ is a prolonged attack on the policy of British mercantilism and a defense of its opposite: free trade and the institutions of capitalism (even though the term ‘capitalism’ had not yet been coined).”

The argument more and more individuals are making, at its core, is the same argument former Fed Chairman Alan Greenspan made at one of the recent Congressional hearings. He spoke of the mistake he had made in trusting and believing in free markets. Paraphrasing, he said that his former world-view, that free markets work, was in error, and that now he admitted this error. The only problem with his admission, and the mainstream media’s superficial diagnosis, is there haven’t been any truly free markets in existence for the better part of a century! Free markets have become increasingly an extinct species since the early 20th century, and since then have increasingly gone down the path towards “disaster” capitalism: the kind of capitalism in which virtual monopolies run rampant under the guise of an interconnected and indecipherable web of subsidiary companies and power and wealth consolidation ad infinitum.

It’s not that capitalism doesn’t work. If it were real, as in laissez-faire capitalism, where elected representatives honorably performed their duty and ensured markets remained free, it would work. What we have in the U.S. and increasingly all over the world is what Buckminster Fuller called the Grunch of Giants, or to put it colloquially, corporatocracy or corporatism. In this diagnosis I agree with Chris Hedges. Large multinational corporations now control our governments and major institutions. But they didn’t come into being because of capitalism, but rather through the absence of free-market capitalism parading as capitalism.

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By cyrena, December 31, 2008 at 6:44 pm Link to this comment

re: By Anarcissie, December 31 at 4:26 pm
Anarcissie,

Thanks so much for this post. I (personally) found it very informative, and this presented a ‘break-thru’ in my own feeble attempts to understand this dynamic;

•  “..You could set up a poor person to act like a rich person for a day and buy a house on a mortgage; if he couldn’t pay the mortgage, the inflation of real estate prices made foreclosure profitable, so the usual checks into the financial viability of the mortgagors were bypassed. “
I’ve never claimed more than a rudimentary understanding of the market and the economy, so I’ve never been able to understand how foreclosures could be ‘profitable’.  (my logic has dictated the opposite in fact) This explains it in language simple enough for me to understand.

Meantime, on this:

•  “…I haven’t been able to construct a proof or even a solid argument yet, but I suspect the debasement of the currency (which is what we are talking about here) is driven by the needs of imperialism, as it was in ancient Rome and in several modern attempts at empire.  As Paul Kennedy has pointed out, imperialism usually ends with bankruptcy: sometimes-mere financial bankruptcy, as with Sweden and Great Britain, sometimes with total moral and physical bankruptcy, as with Germany.  The U.S. has been on that path, and it seems to be touching all the bases.”

Would you be willing to keep us (or me) up to date with your continuing ‘finds’? I’m in full agreement with Paul Kennedy in that, historically speaking, imperialism usually ends with bankruptcy..the mere financial that you mention, and the total breakdown as well. The RESPONSE to the bankruptcy (or ‘the end’ of the Empire) determines whether that failed Empire can ever operate at any other level than Empire.

Rome eventually reconstituted itself into a non-empire format, and now survives quite well. The same can be said of Sweden and Great Britain. The U.S. however, seems to be ignoring those already learnt lessons.

The bigger they are, the harder they fall.

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By prgill, December 31, 2008 at 6:22 pm Link to this comment

Great comments Whyzowl1 and Anarcissie.

The following is a rather poor quality, narrated PowerPoint presentation, but TD readers might find the discussion of Debt as Money interesting:

Money as Debt

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By prgill, December 31, 2008 at 6:13 pm Link to this comment

Where are the legal historians when you need them?

The last time there was really a “progressive movement” in the United States it was in the 1890s with the election of William McKinley. The mood was pro-America, pro-growth, and it was tempered by outrage at the unfair business practices in major industries, including transportation, oil and gas and steel and ruthless labor practices.

Among the many legislative innovations that followed in the period roughly from 1890 thorough the 1930s were income taxes, women’s suffrage, prohibition and the repeal of prohibition and the provision for direct election by the people of United States senators. The progressive movement peaked with FDR’s first administration and the enactment public works legislation and rural electrification.

One of the major developments of the period was the reinforcement of market regulations to ensure free and open markets. The Sherman Antitrust Act was passed in 1890 and the Clayton Antitrust Act in 1914. Other acts followed, including the Glass-Stegall Act which among other things, regulated the banking market place and the Federal Communications Commission (1934) to regulate interstate communications.

These were proper and necessary advances in American jurisprudence. It was only in the 1970s and 80s with the spectre of globalisation and the fear that American banks and manufacturing institutions could not compete in capital-intensive markets that the regulations were relaxed. This is true banking, of telecommunications and media ownership.

The tendancy has been, in view of competitive forces, to give corporate interests what they felt they needed to compete in an increasingly globalized world. These are the facts.

It is clear now, after the fact, that deregulation went too far. Only we don’t know how far we went beyond what was minimally necessary to ensure the competitivity of American manufacturers. If you add to corporate fears, America’s refusal to recognize higher-order common interests (environmental regulation, or the extra-territorial authority of the International Court of Justice, for instance) one can easily understand the difficulty in defining American corporate interests.

What does all of this have to do with socialism? Well not much except that “markets” are necessary and they are the best means of alocating scarce resources. A properly functioning marketplace is a matter of public interest; it is the American commons.

In America we have generally resorted to independent regulatory commissions to oversee markets and to enforce the “General Interest” as defined by Congress. Unfortunately, commissioners are appointed by the Executive Branch and are excessively prone to politicization as we saw with the Department of Justice.

We don’t need to destroy the capitalist system to build a better world. What we need is to harness the profit motive (capitalist system) by making markets more accessible and “user friendly” (competitive) while better insulating our interstate and regulatory commissions from political manipulation.

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By Anarcissie, December 31, 2008 at 5:26 pm Link to this comment

Anthony Rose:
’... Secondly, do you think Alan Greenspan ran a free market? Do you know where this latest crash came from? Regulatory lending to the poor with fiat money. ...’

You are correct in attributing a good deal of responsibility for the present “meltdown” to Bubbles Greenspan and his interventionist policies.  However, the problem did not begin with lending to the poor, and fiat money was not what was used.  You may recall that back in the crash of ‘87, the Federal government told the specialists that they could have all the money they wanted as long as they kept the market from cratering.  (The policy probably goes back further, but that was the first time I noticed it.)  While fiat money in the sense of currency was considerably expanded, the great expansion was in credit.  Although credit acts like currency, it is generally extended only to those who already have wealth, so that while there was a tremendous expansion in the price of the things the rich buy and sell (equities, real estate, collectibles) the CPI was fairly stable and the government could claim there was no significant inflation.  This served as an excuse to keep interest rates low, and thus facilitated huge increases in the Federal debt.

In capitalism, however, money has to go somewhere, and as the huge balloon of credit continued to be inflated, those who had it looked around for new places to push it.  One of these was the subprime mortgage market.  You could set up a poor person to act like a rich person for a day and buy a house on a mortgage; if he couldn’t pay the mortgage, the inflation of real estate prices made foreclosure profitable, so the usual checks into the financial viability of the mortgagors were bypassed.  There was also a political side to the issue: it was widely held that home ownership would make the home owner more conservative, so Republicans liked the process, and Democrats like to appear to be helping the poor.

I haven’t been able to construct a proof or even a solid argument yet, but I suspect the debasement of the currency (which is what we are talking about here) is driven by the needs of imperialism, as it was in ancient Rome and in several modern attempts at empire.  As Paul Kennedy has pointed out, imperialism usually ends with bankruptcy: sometimes mere financial bankruptcy, as with Sweden and Great Britain, sometimes with total moral and physical bankruptcy, as with Germany.  The U.S. has been on that path, and it seems to be touching all the bases.

I fear much of the talk from on high about increased regulation is intended merely to distract the people from the facts and facilitate further imperial adventures with further funny money.

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By whyzowl1, December 31, 2008 at 5:11 pm Link to this comment

Tony Rose,

Think of welfare state measures as a subsidy to business. Isn’t that what they are, really? Is it an accident that prospective Walmart employees along with their employment applications are also provided with forms to apply for food stamps? As if Walmart wasn’t capable of ekeing out a profit without chiseling its workers? How many Waltons are on the Fortune 400 billionaires list? For shame!

If our goal was—as it once was and should still be—full employment, and employers were required to pay their workers a living wage, then there wouldn’t be much need for welfare programs of any kind, now would there?

For all its faults, government in a democratic republic is at least accountable to the people, charged with serving the common good, and conducted with a healthy measure of transparency (or certainly should be). The same principles should apply to businesses. They should not be required by law, as they are today, to behave like perfect psychopaths.

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By Anthony Rose, December 31, 2008 at 4:16 pm Link to this comment

@ whyzowl1

First of all, about Robert Pollin’s “Unregulated financial markets lead to crises. There is no historical exception to this rule.”:

There’s not enough space here, but three comments: 1. Yes, there is a need for some regulation. 2. There are always regulations. 3. The more regulations, the bigger the crisis when it finally comes, and the longer it lasts.

Secondly, do you think Alan Greenspan ran a free market? Do you know where this latest crash came from? Regulatory lending to the poor with fiat money.

Finally, to reply to your assertion that “All you right wing libertarians really want is a free lunch at everybody else’s expense.” Actually, what I really want is to stop an elite having a free lunch at the masses’ expense. Now considering human nature, there always IS going to be an elite. You just have to choose which one:
- Corporations with government, tricking the people (what we have now)
- Government owning the people (what Chris wants)
- The people (what we had)

Anthony Rose

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By Anthony Rose, December 31, 2008 at 4:01 pm Link to this comment

@ Virginia777

Virginia, I do not expect even a majority of individuals to do what’s right in an unregulated environment. A minority will do well. (By the way, I said minimal intenvention, not none!) But if selfish and corrupt behaviour is the best you can expect from individuals, who are in charge only of their own businesses and families, what on earth do you expect from government, which is in charge of us all and makes up its OWN regulations?! If the individuals are corrupt, how much more corrupt must their government necessarily be?

And now on top of that corruption by power, if you take the individuals’ money away from their families and buinesses and give it to the government to hand out to those deemed worthy, in order to stop corruption by businesses, you should buy a bridge.

The most corrupt individuals will follow the money until they’re in power, and the money will be siphoned off in ever-increasing flow of taxes and corruption.

This is precisely why the American government was so carefully balanced and why the Constitution limited that government’s powers so severely. “By the people”. That balance and the Constitution are the reins and whip in the hands of the people to keep the dragon of government under control. This way, we can all watch each other. This way, and this way only, we prosper - in greed, yes, for most people’s part - but still, we prosper, and many do give.

This wise protection against corruption is also precisely why for the last two hundred years the balance of government and the Constitution have been under attack, on every side. And you want to hand it to those power-hungry, greedy would-be politicians on a platter.

I can sum it all up in one question: if you cannot trust an individual to do what’s right on his own, how can you trust him when he’s in power?

Anthony Rose

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By cann4ing, December 31, 2008 at 3:59 pm Link to this comment

By KDelphi, December 31 at 2:05 pm #

cann4ing—What do you mean by “economic democracy”? Do you mean a more classless society?

_____________________________

From an ideal standpoint, that is precisely what I mean, though “complete” elimination of class is probably not attainable.  Certainly the EU comes closer in many respects—chiefly in the field of nationalized health care.  But there are other areas in which they fall short, because these “mixed” economies have many instances in which the profit motive comes first.  Is the planet well served by the privately oil cartel or auto manufacturers like GM which chose to destroy the EV-1 and produce Hummers because the all-electric motors of the all too efficient EV-1 rarely required anything remotely resembling the expensive service required to maintain the internal combustion engine?  Were Hummers and SUVs a matter of democratic choice or even a rational choice?

In a truly democratic society, the needs of the many, the sustainabiliity of technologies and life styles would always outweigh the greed of the few because decisions would be based on co-responsibility.

In today’s America, more children are growing up in poverty than in any other industrialized nation.  The question is not simply the loss of equal educational and economic opportunity.  How can individuals whose participation in the economic sphere is reduced to subsistence offer any meaningful participation in the political sphere, especially when access is increasingly dependent upon wealth?

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By whyzowl1, December 31, 2008 at 3:59 pm Link to this comment

Virginia777,

I think it’s about class before race, but the fact that black and brown peoples are overrepresented among the ranks of the poor is clearly about race.

I fear that Swift may have been correct when he observed that, “We have just enough religion to hate each other, but not enough to love one another.” All the follower of any religion needs is his or her own tradition all the way; Love Your Brother (or even your enemy!), cut the next guy a little slack, and so on.

We put our gods to one side and defer to the representatives of wealth and power—our so-called leaders—when it comes to the question of whom we shall kill. We never ask ourselves how we might best conquer or defend ourselves against the world with love, but only with the sword. In murder we trust. Pity, isn’t it?

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By Anarcissie, December 31, 2008 at 3:55 pm Link to this comment

KDelphi:
‘Anarcissie—I think that you underestimate how sick to death people are of this crap…no offense, but, maybe if people would stop agreeing that it is “useless”, it might cease to be useless. ...’

Which crap in particular are you referring to?

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By KDelphi, December 31, 2008 at 3:05 pm Link to this comment

Anarcissie—I think that you underestimate how sick to death people are of this crap…no offense, but, maybe if people would stop agreeing that it is “useless”, it might cease to be useless.

“Just because it hasn’t been done doesn’t mean it can’t in the future, when we have a better understanding of power relations.”

Yes, folktruther—this is the real problem.

I think that the USAns are so obssessed with “electing” someone to “save them” , that they dont bother with changing the general structure of things. The MSM helps you do that. Over and over againk I heare"For now, we have to concentrate on getting Obaam elected”, as if all else had to be put on hold for it. It is a trick of the upper classes.

I am not saying that, I alone, have these answers. But, it sesms to me, that, in this duopoly, everytime someone brings up a REAL “change” idea, everyone insists that “it would never pass” or “it would never work”. The Wall St money mongers must be thrilled by it.

cann4ing—What do you mean by “economic democracy”? Do you mean a more classless society? If we are looking for that, many places in the EU would seem to come as close as any on the planet…but, maybe that is not what you mean..

If people here dont want regulation, national health care, fair working conditions, less disaparity between the classes, and, less spent on military—what was the “change” you wanted?

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By Anarcissie, December 31, 2008 at 1:06 pm Link to this comment

MBSS: ’.... anarcissie:  i dont see how you cant understand how chris hedges prescriptions would not relieve this crisis?  its obvious his solution is the only way possible aside from a more bloody and violent revolution. ....’

I didn’t see any solution.  CH proposes a series of items, to wit, an uncompromising democratic socialism—one that will insist on massive government relief and work programs, the nationalization of electricity and gas companies, a universal, not-for-profit government health care program, the outlawing of hedge funds, a radical reduction of our bloated military budget and an end to imperial wars.  Some of the items are welfarist and could just as well be implemented by a capitalist or fascist government.  I see no suggestion as to how the socialist and anti-imperial parts of his program are to be brought about in the face of ruling-class resistance, except at the end of the article, where he seems to imagine Mr. O—a conservative—can and will wave a magic wand and make it all happen for some reason.

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By whyzowl1, December 31, 2008 at 10:20 am Link to this comment

Sounds like it’s swell up there on the Big Rock Candy Mountain, Anthony Rose—but back to reality.

As economist Robert Pollin over at PERI (The Political Economy Research Institute) has pointed out, “Unregulated financial markets lead to crises. There is no historical exception to this rule.”

All you right wing libertarians really want is a free lunch at everybody else’s expense. Who are you trying to kid? We just gave your lunatic philosophy a whirl thanks to Ayn Randian nutbag Allan Greenspan, and just look at the mess you’ve made of things! Sorry, buddy, you’re off the island.

“Rats and roaches live by competition under the laws of supply and demand. It is the privilege of human beings to live under the laws of justice and mercy.” - Wendell Berry

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By cann4ing, December 31, 2008 at 10:09 am Link to this comment

By KDelphi, December 30 at 11:25 am #

“Democracy” is NOT an economic policy.

————————————-

There can be no political democracy without a measure of economic democracy.  Democracy is defeated when concentrated wealth controls not only the agenda but 95% of what the American people see, hear and read.

In the hands of the global ruling class, “democracy” and “freedom” are perverted into mechanisms of Orwellian newsspeak. 

One of the more remarkable feats of the corporate propaganda network is its ability to engender a collective amnesia; facilitating, for example, a dramatic shift in the rationale for invading and occupying Iraq from the threat posed by WMD and links to al Qaeda/Sept. 11 to spreading democracy and freedom; playing off the myth of America as the benevolent world’s policeman once the perfidy in the initial rationale for imperial conquest was exposed.  This, in turn, stems from a basic false assumption that links “free markets” to “freedom” despite overwhelming empirical evidence, such as that documented by Naomi Klein in The Shock Doctrine and by Jeff Faux in The Global Class War,  that the true meaning of “free markets” entails extending to a minute class of global economic elites the “freedom” to enslave the mass of humanity.  It is the essence of one of Orwell’s three major 1984 slogans, “freedom is slavery.”

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By Virginia777, December 31, 2008 at 9:51 am Link to this comment

re: whyzowl1 comment

Exactly!! All the longings for a contemporary German-style socialism will crash head-on with the hard reality of Racism being very much alive and well in America.

This is where the Obama presidency could be so important, if American racism could truly be suppressed from its current levels. This would be to the great benefit of us all.

But the concept of Racism would have to extend to ALL people of color and especially, to immigrants who have historically been vilified (no matter the color of their skin) in America (and elsewhere).

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By Paracelsus, December 31, 2008 at 9:30 am Link to this comment

@ Anthony Rose

The Constitution and the Bill of Rights worked for a time when most people could live independently off the land. Most of that Constitution disappeared with the New Deal as the TPTB (the powers that be) realized that they had to deal with large masses of angry industrial labor. The system bought peace for a period of time until the technology of security could advance sufficiently enough to ensure a scientific oligarchy. Whether the system is capitalist, socialist, fascist, communist or social democracy the end result is the domestication of the human species. Germany may be regarded as some sort of utopia, but the tyranny involved is at a deep subtle level. It is hard for Germans to think of themselves at a tribal level when it comes to uniting against an external threat. All the words and the terms are “bad”. Hitler was the cat’s paw of the world elites that created a nation-state that is hardly a nation or a state. These world wars have been used to discredit nationalism and tribalism. In essence war is a way to create a predetermined peace that uses global structures that are more unaccountable the people of this planet than any local dictator could be.

As to social benefits from government, there has been a long history of these benefits being used as Trojan horses to introduce eugenics and dysgenics. The Indian reservation comes uppermost to mind.

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By Anarcissie, December 31, 2008 at 9:22 am Link to this comment

Folktruther:
‘You have a good point, Anarcissie, that no one wants to bother supervising their work place.  Certainly I don’t.  I hate supervising people.  They complain so.

My thinking is that people could make the crucial power decisions and leave the day-to-day operations to professionals.  I know what you are thinking, that the professionals would take over. ...’

I wouldn’t say no one wants to supervise their workplace, but those who do probably go into business for themselves, or enter partnerships or cooperatives.  So the ones who want to be socialists (in my definition) do it, and the one who don’t, don’t.  Everyone should be happy.

But when people use the term “socialism” they seem to be talking about a lot of things other than the ownership and control of means of production.  It would help a lot to have some kind of well-understood vocabulary of political theory, but propaganda and bad journalism seem to have taken a fatal toll.

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By Virginia777, December 31, 2008 at 8:40 am Link to this comment

huh?? Anthony Rose, this is crazy!

Do you really STILL trust the individual to “do whats right” in an unregulated environment??

Sounds like yet more American brainless greed-speech from the Right to me.

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By Paracelsus, December 31, 2008 at 8:36 am Link to this comment

Which is more trustworthy: your own children or a social security check from the government? Which will keep you whole: an investment portfolio or a 140 acres of land? Which will defend you better: a gun or a 9-11 call? Civilization is such a fragile contrivance.

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By Anthony Rose, December 31, 2008 at 4:43 am Link to this comment

What “free market”? How can Chris think that we’ve been living in a free market? He’s damn right it’s a con game: it’s NOT a free market! It’s been suffering increasing corporate/political corruption, control and globalization for over a century. And as government intervention has increased, America’s prosperity has decreased. Government costs money, wastes money, steals money, and throws away money. Government never makes money.

The answer is not democratic socialism because that will create an even more powerful monster than a republic. Its one advantage that its sharing is fairer is undone by its causing the cake to grow much, much smaller, and taking the first slice for itself, and the next best slice for its voters. It eats itself up. It cuts off the branch it is sitting on.

This quoted Anderson line from Chris’s column says it all: “You can’t just take, and take, and take, and waste, waste, waste…”. Somewhere along the line you have to reward hard work and ingenuity if you want to have prosperity and productivity. Money doesn’t grow on trees, nor does it grow on super-taxed businesses. They weaken and die. The more you intervene on behalf of the poor, the less prosperity you have, the more poor you have. It’s a compassionate, vacuous, vicious cycle.

The answer lies in going back to what made America prosperous in the first place: limited, minimal, non-interventionist government. And when a country prospers, the poor prosper too. Firstly, by finding work. Secondly, by multiplied charity. And thirdly, by motivation.

I don’t think there is a country in world history which does not bear out in experience what I am saying.

We should end all aid to other countries. Stop funding the UN. End all government welfare, schooling and other socialist programs. Stop all government pork! And give America back to her people as the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution designed. Then we’ll see the same properity we had as at the first. We’ll see less poor. We’ll be so rich we’ll be able to take in more immigrants from countries with less sense. And they’ll join in the American dream, not leach it dry.

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By Folktruther, December 31, 2008 at 4:21 am Link to this comment

You have a good point, Anarcissie, that no one wants to bother supervising their work place.  Certainly I don’t.  I hate supervising people.  They complain so. 

My thinking is that people could make the crucial power decisions and leave the day-to-day operations to professionals.  I know what you are thinking, that the professionals would take over.

Well, it is true this is what has ususally happened historically.  But surely it is not beyond the mind of man to develop a power system where the people have effective control and yet are not bothered with day to day supervision. 

Just because it hasn’t been done doesn’t mean it can’t in the future, when we have a better understanding of power relations.

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By whyzowl1, December 31, 2008 at 3:10 am Link to this comment

Have we adequately considered the possibility that that mythical creature, the “Average American,” generally opposes socialism—in the sense of welfare statism, i.e., universal, single-payer health care, government-sponsored pension plans, child care programs, and the like—simply because he or she can’t stand the idea that it just means that multitudes of undeserving, lazy and sinful parasites (read dusky-hued people and illegal immigrants) will be getting a free ride from the government on their dime? How is one to convince people that cutting their own noses off to spite their face isn’t really such a great idea, despite the undeniable primitive satisfaction they gain in lashing out at the “parasites?” How do you sell love to people whose hatefulness is approved, even encouraged, by their cruel and avaricious leaders, serving in their role as the collective superego?

And consider the ramifications of this insight from Simone Weil, just in case you happen to be expecting the American masses to arise and shake off their chains in the wake of The Greatest Ripoff in World History:
“Oppression does not result in rebellion, but in obedience and apathy—even in the internalization of the oppressor’s values.”

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By MBSS, December 31, 2008 at 1:20 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

prgill:  globalization is worse than a con game.  its a con game and a third world exploiter.  a corporate monster creator, and a blight upon this earth.

purplegirl:  before you dismiss nader, please learn to spell his name correctly.  also spare me the nonsense rhetoric about how he was a spoiler for al gore.  al gores running mate was joementum liberman, and gore is the worst strain of centrist dem.  i voted for mckinney.  and it was far from wasted.  i announce my choice with pride and it is a seed of a new movement.  people like you are why the democrats are shite.

anarcissie:  i dont see how you cant understand how chris hedges prescriptions would not relieve this crisis?  its obvious his solution is the only way possible aside from a more bloody and violent revolution.

john k:  of course we have corporate socialism now.  you play with words.  chris hedges details explicitly the type of reforms and socialism he would like to see.  of course we need less government control.  but unless that is in conjunction with the populace reclaiming their power, then its not enough.

mike:  i dispute your claim that only with suffering does one turn to socialism.  i maintain that with enlightenment and compassion one turns to socialism as well.  although i will concede that most cannot reach compassion without a trip through suffering.

ive read enough of these comments.

everyone look truth in the eye and accept it.  chris hedges is a modern day fountain of knowledge.  i cannot find anyone that can dispute chris hedges, chomsky, ralph nader, and others of this ilk without resorting to the common internet arguments, namely, red herrings, false premises, distortion, outright lies, or just your common everyday internwebz nutjob bullshit. 

israel and the u.s. are terrorists states.  capitalism is a sham.  libertarianism aside from being absolutely correct with respect to civil liberties, is a way for selfish and immature people to pretend that the world isnt connected and that man is an island.  modern conservatism has gone beyond facism and sociopaths to a circus logic all its own.  democrats are simply the other head of the demonic capitalistic/militaristic beast and the differences between the parties are negligible(ive heard enough of the b.s. abortion nonsense, and the idea that gore wouldnt have invaded iraq.  wouldnt he have?)  american imperialism is drowning under the weight of its own lies, greed, and insanity.  just as it should be.  the captains reach for gold as the ship sinks, but forget that material goods cant save a dying man.  maybe they should have sought their reward in heaven with more just behavior.

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By Andy, December 31, 2008 at 1:01 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

This is very interesting; many of you fear the cleaning forces of the market and free, unregulated capitalism.

If socialism is the key; then the UAW and G.M is your future.

http://www.europac.net/Schiff-Bloomberg-10-28-08_lg.asp

Watch this, and comment..

My take: Government caused this mess. Less government and less regulation. Let people be responsible for themselves - NO Safety Nets…Force People to fight for survival…

“I believe that banking institutions are more dangerous to our liberties than standing armies . . . If the American people ever allow private banks to control the issue of their currency, first by inflation, then by deflation, the banks and corporations that will grow up around [the banks] . . . will deprive the people of all property until their children wake-up homeless on the continent their fathers conquered . . . The issuing power should be taken from the banks and restored to the people, to whom it properly belongs.”

—Thomas Jefferson, The debate over the recharter of The Bank Bill, (1809)

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By Tony, December 31, 2008 at 12:29 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

First off, let me just say that I agree that Capitalism has it’s abuses. It always has. There is not a single form of government or society that has ever been able to overcome a degeneration into Aristocracy of one form or other. Some will always rise to power and power will eventually be abused. There is no other conclusion. The US banned monopolies and we got a small break until the new monopolies learned to use different tactics. You cannot fix it with any form of government or laws. Someone has to administrate those laws, someone has to have the power, the power will be corrupted.

But that is beside the point. The absurdity of this article is shown in the opening. I find the attempt to propose the concept that government is corrupted by industry and therefore we must have government control of industry to be possibly one of the most convoluted and wrong theories I’ve ever heard. This is like saying that thieves break windows going into locked houses, so we should leave the door unlocked to prevent property damage. Powerful government is the problem, the solution is not a government with more power! The more aspects of our lives controlled by the government the less escape there is. When the cop at your door works for the government and your job is provided by the government and the food is distributed by the government, and your medicine is provided by the government, well then heaven help you if you ever piss off the government!

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By Ken De Vries, December 30, 2008 at 11:52 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

While I am no friend of big multi-national corporations, any evil attributed to corporations goes double for government(s).

You can keep your socialism.  I’ll keep my freedom, thank you very much!

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By cyrena, December 30, 2008 at 9:29 pm Link to this comment

By Jim C, December 30 at 4:27 pm

“…You may also notice that many people confuse and conflate leftist , communist , left wing , national socialist etc with socialism , none of them are . In fact , the current corporate structure is closer to communism than anything else . This is very much like those who claim to be ” conservative ” without understanding that ” conservatism ” is much more like communism and fascism than anything else . If you carry ” conservatism ” out to it’s logical conclusion you have corporate ownership of everything , including the government itself . Your corporate masters will then determine wages , lifestyle and every facit of your life , thats fascism in a nutshell . This confusion is the main problem , people spout off terms without understanding what they mean or that they are being manipulated . Again , simply read some of the posts and notice how socialism is confused with communism , stalinism etc etc . I firmly believe a good dictionary , or a study of history would help greatly…”

Thanks Jim C, for this excellent post. It’s helpful, (for some) and I’m hoping to share this with those who are actually willing to use a good dictionary, and engage in a study of history. Sadly, that applies to a small minority of our population these days.

Sheldon Wolin addresses this phenomena expertly in his book, “Democracy Inc. Managed Democracy and the Specter of Inverted Totalitarianism.”
From the jacket/cover:

“..Has America unwittingly morphed into a new and strange kind of political hybrid, one where economic and state powers are conjoined and virtually unbridled? Can the nation check its descent into what the author terms ‘inverted totalitarianism’?
“Wolin portrays a country where citizens are politically uninterested and submissive – and where elites are eager to keep them that way. At best the nation has become a ‘managed democracy’ where the public is shepherded, not sovereign. At worst it is a place where corporate power no longer answers to state controls.”

Chalmers Johnson did an excellent review of the book here on Truthdig, and I’ve highly recommended (multiple here) a full read.

But, I honestly don’t know whether or not it would be helpful to the same collection of those who confuse and conflate these various terms.  What I’ve discovered (more so at this site than in most of my internet travels) a definite anti-intellectual flavor that has seemingly tripled in the public mentality over the past decade, despite the larger availability that we now have to access this information via the Internet.  I’m not buying Hedges argument about being controlled by the media, because the information is there for anyone who really wants to find it out – we’ve KNOWN for decades that the media puts out what they want us to know, so it should be a “given” that we need to look a bit deeper for what WE want to know.)

So there is truth in the description of a politically uninterested population..uninterested that is, UNTIL they begin to feel the effects personally. THEN they jump on the band-wagon of the shrill complainers, with ZERO knowledge of how things came to be this way, since that might mean acknowledging their own complicity in it.

That might apply to Chris Hedges himself, though at least we see he’s catching up. The information on the workings of “The Corporation” is at least 3 decades old, but admittedly I was a corporate slave for at least 5 years before I figured it out myself, and it took a whole lot longer than that to extricate myself from it, if for no other reason than the fact that corporations have not ALWAYS been as anti-social and anti-humanitarian as they are today.  The change (for me at least) came about so imperceptibly that it caught many by surprise.

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By Anarcissie, December 30, 2008 at 9:16 pm Link to this comment

KDelphi:
’“Democracy” is NOT an economic policy. The govt would like for you to think so—“no capitalism, no freedom”—but that is just a bunch of bullshit.

Some people here , obviously, do not know what socialism is. ...’

A good many people seem to think it means a liberal-capitalist welfare state.

I’ve been under the impression that socialism means “the ownership or control of the means of production by the workers, or by the people generally”.  That would make it actually different from capitalism, and not necessarily liberal or welfarist at all.

The big problem with socialism as I define it is not that it’s unattainable—far from it—but that a great majority of the people do not want to concern themselves with the burdens of owning and operating the means of production.  They want someone else to do it.  Capitalism supplies this want.  So would state socialism, and in practically the same form, too—a privileged elite giving everyone else orders—so I would define it as effectively a form of capitalism.

I don’t think there is much use in talking about socialism if hardly anyone actually wants to do it.

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By vincebodie, December 30, 2008 at 7:52 pm Link to this comment

... as long as it’s voluntary.

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By screamingpalm, December 30, 2008 at 7:00 pm Link to this comment

Oh and for the person who said he was proud he vote for Vader, you need to get real, what would you be saying if the vote was split three ways and McCain and Palin were in charge????Probably the same thing, but the reality of the situation is that people who are realistic knew that there were other candidates who were better, more idealist, but that a vote for them meant a vote for some radical war mongers, to be in power…
——————————————————————————-

If you vote for more of the same, knowing that there are better candidates out there, you have not done your civic duty. You have cheated yourself. You have cheated me, I rely on my fellow citizens to be informed and make an intelligent choice.

For you to say that a vote for Nader is a vote for McCain is political bigotry. This is not a monarchy and Obama is not entitled to anything. I can just as easily claim that submissive, mislead voters cost Nader the election.

Perhaps after 4 years of this blue dog Obama administration, the progressives will rally even harder than after the Clinton years.

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By Old Geezer Pilot, December 30, 2008 at 6:04 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Winston Churchill once remarked, “The inherent vice of capitalism is the unequal sharing of blessings; the inherent virtue of socialism is the equal sharing of misery.”

Since Reagan, the unequal sharing has gotten even more unequal. According to a recent UN report, the top one percent of the population in the US owns 32.7 percent of the wealth, trailing only Switzerland, where the top one percent owns 34.8 percent.

Is this really the society we want to live in?

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By cann4ing, December 30, 2008 at 5:59 pm Link to this comment

From the SWP last September:

“The business world has been struck by a man-made earthquake, and people will be paying for this economic disaster for years to come in a number of ways—higher prices for food and other necessities, millions of foreclosures and evictions, greater unemployment, growing poverty, government programs cut back or eliminated, and rising tensions throughout society.

“The claim will echo around the corporate media that this was the inevitable consequence of all Americans ‘living beyond their means.’ Don’t believe it. The vast majority of people who will have to pay the price for this disaster are blameless. They did nothing wrong.

“The crisis was caused by an irrational free-market system and the insatiable greed of a small class of rulers who continually seek greater wealth and power, without regard for the costs.  Wall Street’s meltdown is an indictment of the capitalist system…

“No one could possibly claim that Wall Street’s high-stakes casino contributed anything to the good of society as a whole. The entire world of credit default swaps, hedge funds, collateralized debt obligations and the rest of the alphabet soup concocted by Wall Street in this latest boom was directed toward one thing—make a tiny group of people rich beyond most people’s wildest dreams.

“The financial catastrophe unfolding on Wall Street is the product of blind greed and arrogance. And now that the house of cards is collapsing, the U.S. government’s series of rescues carry another lesson: The bigger the bet and the wider the potential damage if it loses, the more likely the Feds will have to come to the rescue to stop the whole game from coming to an end.”

http://socialistworker.org/2008/09/19/capitalism-on-trial

Democratic socialism offers the only real democracy.  Without it, capitalist wealth controls the flow of information, and since, as James Madison astutely observed, “knowledge will forever govern ignorance,” corporate control of the media will always translate into the preservation of the status quo for the ruling class.

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By Jim C, December 30, 2008 at 5:27 pm Link to this comment

KDelphi , why are so many americans afraid of socialism ? Because conservative plutocrats have spent much time and money to create that effect and confusion , thats why . All you have to do is read many of the posts on this thread to see that . Russia isn’t ” socialist ” it’s communist , Stalin wasn’t even close to being a socialist , he was a brutal dictator , he could have cared less about the welfare of his people ,. That attitude is anti socialist . With communism the state owns everything , democratic socialism simply means that the people are in control of their government and governments first duty is to the welfare of the people . Business can easily thrive in that system , it simply isn’t allowed to be preditory and must hold the interest of the citizens first and obey the rules they set . You may also notice that many people confuse and conflate leftist , communist , left wing , national socialist etc with socialism , none of them are . In fact , the current corporate structure is closer to communism than anything else . This is very much like those who claim to be ” conservative ” without understanding that ” conservatism ” is much more like communism and fascism than anything else . If you carry ” conservatism ” out to it’s logical conclusion you have corporate ownership of everything , including the government itself . Your corporate masters will then determine wages , lifestyle and every facit of your life , thats fascism in a nutshell . This confusion is the main problem , people spout off terms without understanding what they mean or that they are being manipulated . Again , simply read some of the posts and notice how socialism is confused with communism , stalinism etc etc . I firmly believe a good dictionary , or a study of history would help greatly . Do most people realize that minimum wage , workers rights , wage hour rules , 40 hr work week , child labor laws , the first work place safety rules were all enacted because of the early american socialist party ? I bet not , after an election in the early 1900’s in which the socialists received I believe 27% of the vote , the democratic party adopted those planks from the socialist platform . The american socialist party was then absorbed by the democratic party forming the modern democratic party and setting the stage for FDR . Before that , both partys were controled by big business and corporations . Have a good christmas KDelphi ?

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By PatrickHenry, December 30, 2008 at 3:13 pm Link to this comment

I hope the days of cowboy capitalism are over.

Besides tapping my phones and internet, monitoring my mail, making me take off my shoes at the airport, TPTB should be keeping a closer eye on the economic terrorists.

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By Volma, December 30, 2008 at 3:01 pm Link to this comment

Wow, everyone has such valid points….Great article and great comments…I do think that some words have such a negative connotation and propaganda campaign, that a large section of the population closes up to the word so much so that they refuse to even learn about it…Like what do atheists believe and why…Communism is like this…The Green party has too many radical factions for mainstream Americans to embrace…No one wants to be under fascist rules on the left or the right…I do not want to be forced to embrace a way of life because someone else thinks this is the right way to live…. To me religion is one of the most insane organizations bent on world destruction alive… And yet people need to have the freedom of religious beliefs, and Capitalism in terms of free enterprise needs to be allowed, but Capitalism enslaves and rules the world right now, it’s gone amok!...Boundaries need to be held, freedom in terms of a check or balance, where your rights end is when you are stepping on, destroying, the rights of others who are just trying to survive and live..There just aren’t enough humans who are evolved enough to see the simple truths about human kind…We have science, history, education and yet people still hold on to fanatic dysfunctional destructive beliefs that can be argued using common sense, and what we have collected in science and history…There is so much argumentative deceptions, outright lies on all sides of radical political religious agenda’s..People will kill and die for ideals that they really do not understand, are lies, stories, myths…And then you get people who insist that there is no right or wrong, it’s subjective, oh give me a break, killing for power, even if your lying to yourself is wrong, killing is generally bad, so is stealing, and there are many ways to do this on so many different venues…There is no love or respect for each other in terms of being fellow human beings…Poverty is not subjective, if you are homeless and starving or sick and unable to get health care…That’s the way it is generally and the way it has mostly been generally… I am going to check out the links for socialism and the other for the party that has formed that’s not as radical as the Green Party…Oh and for the person who said he was proud he vote for Vader, you need to get real, what would you be saying if the vote was split three ways and McCain and Palin were in charge????Probably the same thing, but the reality of the situation is that people who are realistic knew that there were other candidates who were better, more idealist, but that a vote for them meant a vote for some radical war mongers, to be in power…Whatever you think (to me it’s circular) that we were set up (maybe we were) to bring Obama in, the choices we had were so limited and lame, as usual that this was the lesser of two evils…Of course we could have thrown away our votes by using the unlikely idealism, that if enough people voted for Nader and the green party he would have won…Excuse me but all that would have done is to split the liberal vote, the republicans would still be in the majority…Idealism is nice but it’s a concept, something to hope and aim for, it’s usually never ever manifested as the original idealistic idea…Like the original Bill of Rights, idealistic for who, certainly not the slaves, the native American’s the indentured servants… America has never been free, it’s always been about making money off of the exploitation of the poor/less powerful and it’s all used up, bought up and sold…  Socialism is just as corrupt, as is Communism, it’s about the greedy power hungry, bully’s who will gain power over others, by hook or by crook under any form of government or religion…They manage to weasel their way in, getting support from the wannabe’s, the story of human kind…

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By Mike3, December 30, 2008 at 2:34 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

KDelphi: thanks for the complement, but I think that most people posting to Truth Dig, don’t need a Brit to tell them what is wrong with their country. They know what is wrong. And you said it yourself, most Americans are brainwashed. It’s a whole slew of things: the control of the media, lousy incompetent politicians, the military industrial complex, the greedy avaricious corporations, the banks, the unbridled greed, unresolved racial and social problems, the huge cost of maintaining the largest empire the world has seen, the fact that most Americans have forgotten they are sovereign, the destruction of what used to be called the Republic and its replacement with a national security state, the powers of the president enlarged to that of emperor, the destruction of the middle class. And a lot more I can’t think of right now.

In Germany our Finance Minister is a guy called Peer Steinbrück. He never liked the Anglo-American way of doing business – so when all the American and British banks collapsed, he though (and I think Merkel did too), that the British (Brown) and Americans (Bush) would start listening to the Germans for once. But all they did was go from an extreme monetarist to an extreme Keynesianism. I think Obama will be a Keynesian. But this is not 1945, we cannot recreate the Bretton Woods agreement, and we don’t know how far the American economy will collapse. Things do not look good.

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By Aafje, December 30, 2008 at 1:38 pm Link to this comment
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I wish I could be as hopeful as you on socialism in The Netherlands. Writing to you from Amsterdam, I am afraid I have to warn you that the Socialistische Partij has recently lost in the polls, while the Dutch Labor Party PvdA has won. On the other hand, the Green Left Party Groen Links has gained. As The Netherlands has no two party system, we are always governed by coalition cabinets in which the Christian Democrats dominate most of the time. Our chances on a socialist government are limited, because a majority of left parties cannot be gained without the more right wing Labor Party. Information on polls can be found here: http://www.politiekebarometer.nl/.

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By KDelphi, December 30, 2008 at 1:07 pm Link to this comment

Mike3—Very good points! Which leads me to another possible conclusion; why does it seem that, to really understand why , in the US, people are so “terrified” of anything resembling “socialism”, we need to hear from someone OTHER than an American?

Becuase, we, as a society, have been brainwashed. And, capitqalist war mongers are reaping the rewards.

We dont have to let them. People must have something to lose.,..oh, yes, capitol! How much is left? Is your 401k or IRA “up to snuff” yet? Will you lose half of it again?

We do not have to live like this…

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By KDelphi, December 30, 2008 at 12:25 pm Link to this comment

“Democracy” is NOT an economic policy. The govt would like for you to think so—“no capitalism, no freedom”—but that is just a bunch of bullshit.

Some people here , obviously, do not know what socialism is. I know no one will check them out, but, if you think that it is Mao or Stalin—you need to educate yourself.

World Socialist Website

http://www.wsws.org/

Democratic Socialism:
http://www.dsausa.org/about/index.html

Marx, (is Christianity Capitalist—for this week)
http://www.marxist.com/

Socialist Party -USA (Brian Moore was their pres. candidate this year):
http://socialistparty-usa.org/socialist/

Peace and Freedom Soc. Party:

http://peaceandfreedom.org/home/

What we are living now, is , basically, Naomi Klein’s “The Shock Doctrine”—Friedman-type capitalists see disasters (created disasters in Latin America, 9/11, Hurricane Katrina) as “opportunities”, to set up laboratories for disaster capitalism. Paulson scrwaming into dumbass Dubya’s office, that “the free martket is falling” and Rice’s “form of a mushroom cloud” are good examples.

Now, what would you pay to avoid (blank)?? We found out—apaparently, $850 billion +. “Freedom from want and debt” disappeared, for an entire generation of working classes..
(Never buy anything from a guy who is out of breath)

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By godistwaddle, December 30, 2008 at 12:02 pm Link to this comment

Most of the poor and working classes think they’re gonna be rich (harder work, luck, the lottery).  This Horatio Algerism is, of course, pure lunacy.  But so long as United Statesians disdain education, so long shall they believe this hooey.

An active democratic socialism would put lots of things right.

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By KDelphi, December 30, 2008 at 11:44 am Link to this comment

I would agree with dropping the WORD—but just because people in the US see “democratic socialism” as “the govt owning everything” doesnt mean that that is what it is. Part of the uS’s problem, I would submit, is its insistence on “exceptionalism”—-if recent behavior of our govt hasnt convinced you that, we are subject to the laws of the natural world, I dont know what to say.

USAns come from all over the world. We are just like everyone else. There is not one thing more “free” about letting capitalists use and abuse you, so that you can choose to shop at Wal Mart or K Mart. The USA Patriot Act, as well as the new FISA Amendments, would never pass in a more social democracies-and they would never give the “head of state” the power we give our presidents.

Our form of laissez-faire, unregulated “capitslism” is dealy to ourselvs and the rest of the world. It is one of the main reasdons we are so resented. Other countries see us as greedy, uncaring, and, that ‘Merkins will “do anything for a buck”....just ask them.

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By Roger Hollander, December 30, 2008 at 11:28 am Link to this comment
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Unfortunately, Chris Hedges is not a socialist but rather a social democrat.  There is a world of difference.  His critical analysis of capitalism is bang on, no one has said it better.  However, his proposed alternative is not genuine socialism: to wit, “massive government relief and work programs, the nationalization of electricity and gas companies, a universal, not-for-profit government health care program, the outlawing of hedge funds, a radical reduction of our bloated military budget and an end to imperial wars ...”

These are all worthy objectives,necessary but not sufficient.  Those who advocate mixed socialism and capitalism do not understand that they are mutually exclusive.  Democratic Socialism is not the kind of state capitalism we saw in the former Soviet Union and in today’s China; nor is it welfare state capitalism as we see to varying degrees in Canada and Scandanavia (and yes, to a large degree in the States even though it is under constant attack). As Hedges himself so aptly points out, especially with his Einstein quotes, corporate capitalsm inevitably trumps political democracy.  In Hegelian terminology, Hedges has made the first negation (of capitalism) but does not see the second negation,the destruction of capitalist productive relationshiips and replacement with genuinely democratic socialist ones. Under genuine socialism the despotic relationship between capital and living labor ceases to exist, because the economy is democratized, that is to say, capital dominating labor is replaced by worker democracy. This is radical, and this is revolutionary.  Capitalism is not manageable or reformable, it will either continue to thrive like a cancer and destroy the biosphere, or it will be replaced by an economic system that will allow for human values to be achieved.  All reformist strategies amount to re-arranging the furniture on the Titanic.  My position is essentially that of the Marxist Humanists and can be further explored at http://www.newsandletters.org

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By YY, December 30, 2008 at 11:19 am Link to this comment
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Mr. Hedges, you say that you’re afraid of big corporations because ‘Corporations have intruded into every facet of life.’ But what is a socialist goverment, but one where the gov’t ‘intrudes into every facet of life?’ I certainly don’t want be owning a government-made car or eating government-made food all my life. Instead of the government gobbling up corporations left and right, it would be better to let them fall and push for the creation of new ways of thinking. Like a phoenix rising from the ashes, we should instead be encourage the formation of new business and more competition to take the place of the old and not keep our sick old corporations on life support for the rest of their lives.

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By Mike3, December 30, 2008 at 9:45 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

We are indeed living in interesting times. (Isn’t that a Chinese proverb?) If you remember, it wasn’t so many Christmases ago that Chris Hedges was booed off a platform at an American university for making comments critical of the Iraqi war! At a Republican Convention or Fort Bragg I could understand – but at a university?

Please correct me if I’m wrong, but isn’t this, what makes America, so, well, you know, American?

And the Dixie Chicks: remember them? Does it not warm the cockles of your heart? And those images of a road roller crushing their vile, disgusting and unpatriotic CD’s. For verily, they did insult the imperator and must be punished. Don’t you just love Texans? How times have changed indeed – Texas of course never changes.

I have by some posts on this page, been mistaken for an expat living in Germany: well I am an expat, but of the British variety. And although my wife is German and I have first language, German speaking children, (who take a sadistic delight in correcting my German grammar), I still carry a British passport. I have however worked for an American firm for the past 25 years and most Americans take me for an American anyway. I have adapted well to both the German and American cultures.

So as my American boss likes to say: “here’s the deal”, with socialism. You don’t have to be a full-blooded socialist to reap the benefits of socialism. You can be like the Germans and take bits of it. And what has failed in America is not capitalism, but a certain kind of capitalism. Oil companies that make billions of dollars profit in a single quarter, has got nothing to do with capitalism, that’s just exploitation. And most Germans would never vote for Oskar Lafontaine and his Die Linke party. In fact in the state of Hessen where I live, the SPD did try to cohabit with the Left and were punished for doing so. The Scandinavian countries seem to have moved closer to a purer form of socialism. But man it would seem; is by nature a conservative beast and racism and fascism don’t require the same degree of intellectual effort.

For Americans, the main point is understanding, the unique nature of American history. A Peoples History of the United States, by Howard Zinn should be required reading for all Americans. Once that is taken care of, and Americans really know what has happened in the past, and how close to socialism organizations in their country once came. They will be in a better position to take on board and understand aspects of socialism today.

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By writerman, December 30, 2008 at 9:43 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Unfortunately I believe most evidence shows that democracy, even in a diluted, managed and controlled form, is only really possible, that it only works, in relatively small societies.

It’s important to realise that Athens, our first real attmept at democracy in civilised, uban setting, was a small city state, and even here only about 17% of the population was involved in the democratic process. Two thousand years later, the second great democratic experiment in the United States the ratio wasn’t all that different.

We cannot separate the concept of citizenship from democracy. Citizenship is arguably of far greater importance than voting or elections, which are, after all, only visible expressions of the rights of citizens, not a substitute for democracy.

For democracy to work one needs active and democratic citizens, that power in society is really in the hands of the people, not concentrated inside an economic elite.

Is democracy compatible with an impire? Is democracy compatible with massive economic inequalities? Is democracy compatible with capitalism?

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By whyzowl1, December 30, 2008 at 8:09 am Link to this comment

I think it’s a waste of time and entirely beside the point to continue to bat around the tiresome, timeworn Capitalism vs. Socialism arguments here. History has spoken. Mixed economies with elements of both capitalism and socialism have fostered the best social systems mankind has yet devised, and realizing such a democratic socialist vision here in America is our purpose. You’re either on the bus or off the bus.

Chris Hedges, speaking, as always, in the prophetic voice, is giving us fair warning. We must fight like hell, starting now, to establish a civilizing democractic socialist alternative in America, or we will surely end up fighting for our lives against devout, homegrown, red-white-and-blue fascists who do not argue or debate with those who disagree with them: they just kill them. Again, look to history, shudder, and be motivated.

Ironically, as a result of the multiple failures that have inevitably followed from its “success,” the Right is wounded, perhaps mortally wounded, and we all know a wounded animal is the most dangerous. What will—or perhaps more pertinently, what won’t—the Right do to revive its shattered fortunes? No, brothers and sisters, we must strike at the beast of unfettered capitalism now, while it is at its weakest.

Grassroots movements that are able to win substantive reforms, but fail to build powerful, ongoing institutions to defend them, are a waste of effort. It’s obvious than the institution that has to be both the engine of our reforms, and the remnant arsenal we leave behind to defend our legacy, will be our own Democratic Socialist Party, a political party that finally represents the interests of the majority of the American people.

Amen (and women, too, of course).

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By Susan, December 30, 2008 at 7:43 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

I disagree with nothing, except the word “Socialist,” which has a clear and ordinary meaning, in the U.S., of “everything owned by the government.”
  Our ideals actually are to put economic power in the hands of individual and small businesses and scaled-down corporations.  Public ownership of certain entities such as utilities has always been part of our tradition. 
    Let’s say we’re trying to return to FREE ENTERPRISE, versus multinational corporate domination, and we’ll get so much farther.

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By roman, December 30, 2008 at 5:55 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

baracks approval rating is 80%>. what does that tell you about the average american? a case of eyes wide shut.

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By KDelphi, December 29, 2008 at 10:09 pm Link to this comment

WriterOnTheStorm—I fear that you are correct. I find it hard to describe to people, that “cohesion” I felt in social democracies, like Norway. It is peaceful, and, pleasant. There is no loss of “freedom”, and, it is true. Capitalism= moneyism=-greed. That is all there is to it.

If Wall St doesnt prove it to these people, nothing will. Maybe they are just “comfortable”.

Duane, thanks for link. There are many other “socialist type” parties in US—but, like the Greens are saying, we are too divided up. If we could get progressives to leave the Democratic Party (which left them a long time ago!) we might get somewhere. There is not a free country in the world that has the duopoly we have. There is also not a country , that I can think of, that lives by a constitution written 250 yearas ago. It sure IS unique! Unique in its justification of serving the elites, who, at the time, were rich, landowning white guys! Wait…still are…

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By Anarcissie, December 29, 2008 at 9:52 pm Link to this comment

KDelphi—Forget Russia.  The question is what one means by democracy.

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By Tony Wicher, December 29, 2008 at 9:30 pm Link to this comment

“If Barack Obama does not end the flagrant theft of taxpayer funds by corporate slugs and the disgraceful abandonment of our working class, especially as foreclosures and unemployment mount, many in the country will turn in desperation to the far right embodied by groups such as Christian radicals.”
——————————————————————————
Obama certainly will have to do this for any kind of economic recovery to be possible. Since Obama is not an idiot, he obviously knows this as well as Hedges.

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By WriterOnTheStorm, December 29, 2008 at 8:53 pm Link to this comment

Having holed-up for a decade in Europe, and thus faced down the socialist bogeyman implanted in my true blue American subconscious, I would argue that in theory, social democracy is a best hope against the fascism and decline that results from predatory capitalism. But America lacks the requisite fraternity and sense of community that greases the wheels of social democracy in Europe.

Alexis de Tocqueville observed that America was unique among nations because its people were unified by ideas, rather than by culture. Unfortunately, the main idea is greed, and pure greed is inimical to community. Yet, in the absence of greed, one wonders if America would have any cohesion at all, but might split into ever smaller elements of creed, religion, and tribe in a spectacular nuclear explosion of the social construct.

Beyond the practical hurdles of a potential American socialist revolution, it’s impossible to imagine Americans surrendering that sexy exceptionalism—with all its fuzzy warm delusions of entitlement and invincibility—for the functional bureaucratic utilitarianism of say, Norway.

Hedges is right about this one, the parasite is poised to kill its host, the prognosis is dire. So take an outlier’s advice: always pitch your tent on the edge of town, learn to sleep with one eye open, and never, ever let your passport expire.

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By Louis Proyect, December 29, 2008 at 8:38 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

After having to put up with his snide reportage on Central America in the 1980s, I am amazed to see this article. It reminds me of what Karl Marx wrote in “The Communist Manifesto”:

Finally, in times when the class struggle nears the decisive hour, the progress of dissolution going on within the ruling class, in fact within the whole range of old society, assumes such a violent, glaring character, that a small section of the ruling class cuts itself adrift, and joins the revolutionary class, the class that holds the future in its hands. Just as, therefore, at an earlier period, a section of the nobility went over to the bourgeoisie, so now a portion of the bourgeoisie goes over to the proletariat, and in particular, a portion of the bourgeois ideologists, who have raised themselves to the level of comprehending theoretically the historical movement as a whole.

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By cognitive dissident, December 29, 2008 at 8:38 pm Link to this comment

Drucker was only echoing free-market fundamentalist Milton Friedman:

“…there is one and only one social responsibility of business – to use its resources and engage in activities designed to increase its profits so long as it stays within the rules of the game, which is to say, engages in open and free competition, without deception or fraud.” […] “Few trends could so thoroughly undermine the very foundations of our free society as the acceptance by corporate officials of a social responsibility other than to make as much money for their stockholders as possible.”
(Capitalism and Freedom, p. 133)

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By screamingpalm, December 29, 2008 at 7:53 pm Link to this comment

Excellent article Mr. Hedges. I was becoming disinterested with this site after reading? yawning from? some of the pieces from The Washington Post Writers Group wink.

BTW I am proud to have voted for Nader and not picked a lesser of two evils.

Thanks also to TD members for links on the Green Party. The toughest challenge facing the progressive left, is becoming united.

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By mill, December 29, 2008 at 7:47 pm Link to this comment

By cruxpuppy, December 29 at 2:04 pm #

I agree with cruxpuppy’s post - we’re hybrids based on a unique constitutional frame

one point, the Federal Reserve isn’t some evil thing - some of the banks that do business with it are though - where’s the oversight for the 350 billion in cash and credit we’ve doled out to banks?

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By Duane Campbell, December 29, 2008 at 6:00 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

There is a democratic socialist organization in the U.S. It is Democratic Socialists of America, the U.S. member of the the Socialist International.
There is a long discussion about our differences on parties with the Green’s.
If you wish to advance democratic socialism, go to
http://www.dsausa.org

Duane Campbell, Sacramento

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By KDelphi, December 29, 2008 at 5:04 pm Link to this comment

Anarcissie—Who is talking about “Russia”?? Do you meant the old USSR?

Hedges was talking about Democratic Socialism. Sure, Denmark and Germany are real totalitarian dictatorships. If they ever gave their prime ministers (or “monarchs”) the power we give our “Presidents”, they would have to rewrite the Magna Carta. They have more freedom (according to UN), their govt cares what happens to them, and, yes taxes are higher—-but the get alot more for it, and studies show that most would not give it up.(Read the posts here by Germans, and ex-pats)

If you are still thinking of socialism as Stalin and USSR—you are thinking ancient history

The paranoia about “socialism” and “communism” is evident all over the page…other countries think we are saps for putting up with what we do. I dont think people in Scandanavia feel that they are “clients”—-even if they are , it is a far sight better than being regarded by your govt as “consumers”! While corporations are regarded as “persons”! HOw ridiculous!

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By Anarcissie, December 29, 2008 at 3:36 pm Link to this comment

KDelphi: ’... NO, it would not be an “undoing” of the capitalist state, Anarcissie, but it would be a vast improvement, dont you think? ....’

It could well be far worse.  If it were efficient there would be no escape from it.  And we would still almost certainly have war, imperialism, racism, authoritarianism, private inequality of means, and so forth, or at least that’s what has been observed in previous attempts to construct state-based socialism.  The original function of the state was to secure and extend the interests of its ruling class through war and police power.  When and how is the big change going to come about?  Surely not by exchanging one elite for another, or, as in Russia, exchanging one set of elite pretenses for another while keeping the elite pretty much the same.

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By cruxpuppy, December 29, 2008 at 3:04 pm Link to this comment

expat in germany points out that terminology is a problem. What shout “socialism”, why provoke the clash of ideologies? In reality there is no “capitalism” or “socialism”.

Ideological bantering is counter productive. Before these isms were developed, statements such as the Preamble to the Constitution sufficed to establish the intent of government. “Promote the general welfare” is not socialist, or capitalist, right or left. It is simply the function of good government by and for the people.

Corporations were mistrusted early on until the manufacturing elite influenced Congress to empower them by granting them legal personhood and allowing them to be loosely chartered.

Depersonify corporations, legislate new chartering requirements. Regulate them, in other words, and legally require them to do no harm.

Our Constitution has a certain “socialist” character which has been systematically eliminated by descendants of monarchy, the authoritarian elite which has propounded the ideology of capitalism and radical individualism not inherent in the Constitution itself.

Alexander Hamilton privatized the monetary system and thwarted the will of the Constitutional convention that called for the money power to be invested in the Congress. The private Federal Reserve cabal of corporations is not Constitutional. And yet, to institute a public monetary system via the Treasury would be descried as “socialist” by “capitalist” ideologues. It is, in fact, merely Constitutional.

The privatization of everything is not what the Founders had in mind. We can promote the general welfare without becoming socialists, per se.

Socialism, per se, empowers the government, turning free citizens into clients. Capitalism, per se, empowers a wealthy elite, privatizing the commons and appropriating the common wealth. Neither is desireable.

We are best advised to study our own Constitution. But, alas, this is regarded as “right wing” by today’s “progessive” thinkers.

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By Margaret Currey, December 29, 2008 at 2:22 pm Link to this comment
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I once had a roommate who was Inuit and he said I hate Jane Fonda she wants everyone to stop killing seals and whales, but our people only took what we needed for immediate use, whereas the Europeans slaughtered the seals for their furs, to sell on the European market.

I also saw after WWII the throwaway society and I thought you will only be able to do that for so long.  Then came the recycling rage, but I look at recycling carboard as if it was not used in the packaging to begin with it need not be recycled.

The Native Americans saw what the Europeans were up to from the getgo.

Farming is great but there is such an overproduction of bread that the stores rather than sell it cheaper think it better to give to the seniors, but of course you can only comsume so much bread and pasry before it affects your health.

But I will just say that I completely agree with Tao Walker.

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By KDelphi, December 29, 2008 at 2:21 pm Link to this comment

People should carefully read the posts by ex-pats here—mostly in support of more social democracy.

The EU has a much higher standard of living. According to Human Rights Intl, they have the lowest degree of affronts to human rights, of any countries in the world. There is respect for the commons, old buildings are restored, not torn down and “malled” (for teh most part), and the good of the people (not corporation and “free trade”) comes first.

The “capitalism”
we live under now, is psychopathic, cruel, small-minded, and, Social Darwinism. For those who say it is a European import that has failed—you must not have visited there.

PurpleGirl—I did not mean that we should not participate. I just think that we need to respond TO the Dem Party. And not just excuse everything that they do, as the lesser of two evils. I know that you did not say that…too many just respond AS the Dem Party.

In a Socialist Democracy, the Dems would be the Conservative Party..

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By Sam, December 29, 2008 at 1:46 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

The only way we can avoid what’s coming is to duck. Learn stuff fast. Food is important. If (or should I say when?) the infrastructure that provides this crumbles, all this talk about education, healthcare, whatever, will become secondary to the rampant starvation. Do I sound like a Doomsday Prophet? Well ask yourself what you would have thought a year ago if I told you the American economy was ready to collapse.

We must become less dependant on the rapacious infrastructure that circumscribes our lives. Number one, again, on this agenda is food production. We build our own infrastructure, knowing what we know of technology, history, social relations (which is exactly what the rich elites have done under our noses, only for atavistic purposes, i.e. to further enslave the rest of the human and animal population) and so forth, we can build a sustainable society, cutting off the blood supply to these cancerous segments of this society at the same time.

The most important consideration to enable this wondrously joyful scenario is that YOU CANNOT WAIT FOR ANYBODY ELSE TO START THIS. YOU MUST ACT. How do you grow food in your climate? What are the light cycles, soil and water conditions, and native species of plants in your area? What are good staple crops for your climate, things that can be grown in large quantities and store well, as well as being highly nutritious (for instance, lettuce is not a staple). I suggest we all learn all of these things ASAP, and then put that knowledge into action.

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By Malcolm Martin, December 29, 2008 at 1:39 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

I hate to disabuse someone as smart as Chris Hedges of a warm and fuzzy idea that he hangs on to for the sake of his sanity in a period when capitalism is in full scale collapse. But socialism is an economic system that is ruled over by working people, the working class. As Marx said, it is run by a “dictatorship of the proletariat.”

This dictatorship would be the most profound form of democracy humanity has ever experienced but I doubt it conforms to Hedges’ idea. He seems to want what is best described as “capitalism lite”, a government run economy with the bourgeoisie still lurking around and having their “democratic” say about what goes on.

Much like Charles Darwin, who discovered immutable truths regarding of the origins and evolution of life, Karl Marx was a pioneering scientist. He guided humanity through the reasons capitalism was born, why it would thrive and dominate for a time, and how its inherent contradictions condemn it to death. Marx forecast capitalism, once dead and buried, would be replaced by a superior economic system. Under socialism the shots would no longer be called by a wealthy few but by all the productive people in society in a genuine democracy. For the sake of human survival, sharing rather than competition would be at the foundation of the new system.

After the American Revolution the old ruling class, the monarchists, were never again allowed to freely and openly advocate a return to the old system. Was that anti-democratic? Of course not. Just as when we leave capitalism’s rotting carcass behind, the old bourgeoisie, will never again be heard in the political arena. In time the idea of a George Soros will be as anachronistic as the idea of a King George is now.

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By expat in germany, December 29, 2008 at 1:38 pm Link to this comment
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As an American living in Germany, I read this with interest. My husband has a 3-year expat work contract here, which will expire in 2009. If we are able to stay here, he must take a local contract, which means our taxes will soar from about 33% (U.S.)to nearly 50% (German). Frankly,We would be happy to make that compromise, as that extra money helps to pay for an aging population and an excellent healthcare system, and none of it funds wars for profit. No, it isn’t a perfect system, but it mostly works, and even though the laws and rules are many here, they function to raise the quality of life for everyone (such as mandatory recycling). I think the label “socialist” or “socialism” is part of the problem. Many people have no idea what the different political and social movements stand for, and critical thinking is not encouraged or even always tolerated in the educational system, certainly not at the elementary levels. A passive, docile populace that gets its information from corporate-run media outlets is unlikely to shake up the status quo! I like to read Truthdig, but I can’t help but think it is part of the problem. Of what use is “the truth” without application? Talk is indeed cheap.(Mine included)

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By kevbk, December 29, 2008 at 1:31 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

we must not be afraid of ridicule the masses have been totally brainwashed and it will take great effort to undo this however if persistant they stop rolling their eyes when you try to educate them. but then comes the denial stage because the truth is too scary eventualy if you keep the dialoge going you can reach some

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By Ellis, December 29, 2008 at 1:12 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

G. Anderson….......so where is this wonderful place and are they taking Amerikan refugees ?? Last one out of the U.S. turn off the lights !!

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By tehpistolpete, December 29, 2008 at 1:03 pm Link to this comment

I agree, except the whole “Nader/Mckinney” part.  Progress in our country doesn’t happen through elections; they do through popular struggle, demonstrations, strikes, direct action, and civil disobedience.

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By Avid, December 29, 2008 at 12:50 pm Link to this comment

In order for Ideology to become ideology there has to be discourse. Your view point provides one part of this, however so to does extreme capitalism.

I feel that it is evident that as long as opposition is oppressed by groups in power no ideology can last because there is no discourse.  As of right now the capitalist elite is without a doubt oppressing oppositional forces (which is why I so admire this website).  If they continue to do so capitalism as an ideology is bound to crumble, indeed it is already happening as you have pointed out. 

I agree with “purple girl” in that in order to effectively change the conversation going on, you must participate.  Something I have heard and seen time and time again is that our generation is apathetic… perhaps that is changing, I certainly hope so, because capitalism tends to produce mini-capitalist-producers.  If we really want to get out of this exploitive system, the education system needs to be taken out from underneath the capitalist umbrella.  Ignorance is at the root of this problem, and the capitalist elite work hard at ensuring that we remain ignorant.

It is indeed the responsibility of the American people to inform themselves of what is really going on.  Yet this task is so enormous that far too many eschew this social responsibility.  And for that matter, how are people even going to know that there is another side of the story? Sadly our education system does not encourage thinking let alone critical thinking.  It is our job as the “marginally more informed” to do something about it. 

This has to be a grass roots movement, it has to happen through conversation between friends and peers, yet at the same time, there needs to be someway for people to see this. 

I will leave you with a scary thought… The other day I was telling my mom about what is really going on in Israel, and how the palestinians are being decimated at alarming rates (it has be argued that the Israelies are commiting genocide)... she didn’t believe me.  How the hell are we going to fix this??

My only answer is through a grass roots movement.

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By TAO Walker, December 29, 2008 at 12:44 pm Link to this comment

Chris Hedges and others here advocate what really comes to nothing but a “new deck” in a crooked poker game.  Even if some of those who “marked” the current cards might temporarily lose a little of their “advantage,” the mere fact they now own nearly all the chips (not to mention “the house” itself) will guarantee their continuing dominance.

Shift comes closest to suggesting a real remedy for what ails homo domesticus.  Nothing less than a complete “upgrade” in “values” will have any chance of arresting the gangster system now virtually running the virtual world-o’-hurt where all but the tip-toppers are total losers in the “global” pyramid scam.  Only by pushing away from the rigged “tables,” and leaving the toxic environs of the casino money-pits called “the marketplace,” can the suckers get free of the fleecers.

As “individuals” no one has a chance-in-hell of carrying-off such a break from captivity.  Only together will people have the wherewithall to make-good on an attempt to escape the contraption that exists only to do exactly what it IS doing.  Political “solutions” amount to nothing more than tinkering around with the apparatus of exploitation so as to render it lass blatantly vicious….some might mistakenly say more “humane.”

Corporations are in fact the non-living killing-machines of an “alien” invasion, and it’s utterly foolish to expect them to exhibit the least concern for the living forms upon which their “drivers” feed.  Sharks, on the other hand, are NOT the biological equivalent of corporations.  They must abide within a Living Arrangement with all of its inescapable requirements for reciprocity and balance.

Meantime, there seems to persist in many commentors here the belief that there is some institutional and technological “fix” by which they can continue to wrest from our Mother Earth and all our Relations a “standard-of-living” not too awfully “reduced” from the one they’ve come to expect during the last three or four generations.  That is certain to be a disastrously disappointed expectation.

Human Beings are not here to “maximize” there own comfort and convenience.  As components in Her natural immune system, if we are not quite literally feeling our Mother Earth’s pain, we are failing miserably in the fulfillment of our organic function within Her Living Arrangement.  So the more “insulated” they try to become, from the inevitable consequences of their own behavior, the more useless and dispensible domesticated Humans are.

What our tame Sisters and Brothers face today is not really so much the dead-end-anyway actions of a few ruthless privateers of their own kind, nor even the death-dealing mega-machine (called by its victim/perpetrators “civilization”) of our erstwhile tormentors.  It is, rather, the INternalization of the attitudes and beliefs that’ve driven the actions of their abusers.  As this old Indian suggested on this site some time ago, it as a “Stockholm Syndrome” of quite literally world-wide scope.

What’s needed here isn’t some mere adjustment in the dosage of the perfect storm of poisons doing you in, or a little better “bedside manner” from those administering it.  What ails you can be cured only by taking-in the whole Tiyoshpaye Way….staking your lives on unconditional surrender-to and engagement-with the free wild Song ‘n’ Dance of Life herownself.

Don’t knock it, Friends, since you’ve yet to actually try it.

HokaHey!

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By new cynic, December 29, 2008 at 12:43 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

John K, I would like to hear more about your “new ways” that do not use force—how they will come about, and how they will be enforced (no pun intended)?

Lofty ideals are good to keep in mind, but you forget human nature. While it is human nature that drives some people to seek the common good as you do, it is also human nature that drives some people to use force to aquire power.

Keep thinking about a time when humanity has evolved to a point where force is not a part of the equation, but we also have to deal with the here and now.

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By flow, December 29, 2008 at 12:00 pm Link to this comment

What we are witnessing is the demise and disintegration of our socio-economic system and institutions. This disintegration can be understood as an integral aspect of the process of creative destruction. There is never a time when creative destruction is not with us. Change is the only constant. Socio-economic systems need to be understood in terms of dynamics - as continually evolving. The capitalist system is transitional, its brilliance lies in its ability to reward innovation, to incent the release of raw materials and enhance the means of production. Unfortunately (or perhaps fortunately), it is inherently unstable, inequitable and subject to successive fluctuation of boom and bust cycles. Capitalism is a means not an end. Capitalism has demonstrated both its virtues and vice in a myriad of ways since the Age of Enlightenment (with the rise of the merchant class), and following the Industrial Revolution, the rise of the robber barons and later the corprotocracy.  Humanity has realized the benefits from a variety of technological innovations and we have witnessed unprecedented amounts of conflict (WWI, WWII, Korea, Vietnam, Iraq, etc) and destruction (ecological crisis). The ecological crisis (climate change) and the geopolitical instability manifesting as a host of conflict zones, failed states and humanitarian disasters all have roots in capitalism. Each is a unique eternality of capitalism. The only real question confronting us is what degree of catastrophe will be necessary to catalyze the will necessary to embrace radical change?

We can know with absolute certainty that there will be change, what remains to be seen is what will emerge to replace that which is currently in a state of decay. I think what Chris is advocating for is a more rational socio-economic system that is governed by more humane values. It is not without reason that avarice is regarded as one of the seven deadly sins. Sin in this instance should be understood in terms of physics. Actions have consequences. If the motivation for our actions are rooted in the vales of disintegration (avarice), the world produced by those actions will be inherently unstable and unjust. Just as Newton informed us: for each action there is an equal and opposite reaction.

“The main implication of recent growth theory is that policies which embrace openness, competition, change and innovation will promote growth. Conversely, policies which have the effect of restricting or slowing change by protecting or favoring particular industries or firms are likely over time to slow growth to the disadvantage of the community.” - wikipedia [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Endogenous_growth_theory]. Consider this in relation to the “bailout” fervor sweeping the capitol.

The solution to the circumstance we find ourselves in lies in a radical reorganization of the values that inform our motiviation giving rise to our action and thus producing our socio-economic systems. Our challenge is to discard the dominant paradigm we have inherited as a consequence of our social conditioning and re-imagine our way of seeing and thinking about the world.  Lets abandon the rehortic of the victim. We are not held captive by some conspiring band of elites. We are responsible for the world we create. If we wish to see the demise of the corprotocracy, we must withold our currency. Currency is the vital substance and sustencance of the corporate entity, without it it withers and decays.

To get up in the morning and go to work. Pay your tax. Shop for grocery at the local food chain. Shop for your clothes at the mall. Drive a car, fill your tank. Fly in an airplane etc, and then complain about the way things are is sheer hyprocracy. Instead, follow the advice of the great soul Gandhi, “be the change you wish to see in the world.”  Best wishes to all.

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By prgill, December 29, 2008 at 11:48 am Link to this comment

ExpatScientist, Mike3, I too live in Europe. I agree there is more equality and fairness. I also believe that Europe is essentially “liberal” in the sense advanced by Ron Paul, but only to a point.

That point is where we all differ: to what extent are we our brothers’ keepers? To what extent do we as Americans believe that the word “fraternity” is important to the proper conduct of the civitas? I use “fraternity” in the French sense of “Liberty, Equality, Fraternity”.

The common good must surely include adequate healthcare, a chance at a good education and minimal security against the predatory practices of profit maximizing capitalist intersts. We must continue to work to minimize the use of accumulated wealth as a filter for social access to public services. On that score we can learn much from our Canadian friends.

The Obama “revolution”, if one may call it that, is about reclaiming the Public Commons and the regulation of public spaces for the common good. Surely we want good urban planning, attractive downtowns, unpoluted natural spaces. The French call this “public service”. In America we call it “Civil Service”.

The Commons is worth fighting for. It is what makes us Americans and not merely, North Americans or Western-hemispherers. Thank-you Sheryl for reminding us that it is all about the “common good”.

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By Saddler, December 29, 2008 at 11:33 am Link to this comment

Thank you Chris. I’ve criticized some of your columns in the past for being too alarmist or idealistic, but your way of thinking regarding the importance of independent voices becomes crucial once we successfully elect Democrats. It’s going to be up to people like you to make sure they are held at least as accountable as Republicans when they enact similar policies to Bush and company.

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By Shift, December 29, 2008 at 11:19 am Link to this comment

Success in bettering our lives in the United States is through a full appreciation of LIFE.  The way the left loses is by holding on to the extreme view of abortion.  By holding on to that belief and to a lesser degree gay marriage, the left “pushes” large numbers of people who would otherwise vote with the left into the camp of Christian Fascism.  The moderate left must decouple from the extreme left, otherwise we run the very real risk of giving birth to American Fascism after the economic collapse.  Left wing extremists are just as dangerous as right wing extremists.  Left wing extremists will not even consider the validity of this effort, they are ideologues, therefore, decoupling is a necessity.

Rationale: My overarching concern is life.  Not just the limited view of life as often debated in the death penalty and abortion, but a full spectrum view of life that is basic to our very existence.  Environmental degradation is anti-life, human degradation is anti-life, spiritual degradation is anti-life.  Today America is in the grip of a death culture and ONLY a LIFE culture is strong enough to fix it. 

We are approaching a critical mass, life or death.  Global warming can lead to an extinction event,  nuclear war can lead to an extinction event.  ONLY an appreciation of life in it’s fullest sense,  and a collective determination to sustain it,  will move us away from the brink of extinction and restore a visible balance that benefits all things.  Life cannot be cherry picked.  Just as a paradigm shift in economics is needed, so is a social paradigm shift that respects and sustains life.  The New Left must support life.

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By KDelphi, December 29, 2008 at 10:47 am Link to this comment

Thank you, Chris. Your outlook has been “tending this way” for a long time.

NO, it would not be an “undoing” of the capitalist state, Anarcissie, but it would be a vast improvement, dont you think? Most Dems wont even admit that there is a problem, except that we need to “get rid of Bush” to “restore US leadership in the world” and “give the bourgeois a tax cut” (and retain those of the elites—-just until THIS “recession” is over)

Expat Scientist is right. I lived in a Dem Soc. country long enough to know. The difference in the entire population was amazingly less stressful, with a much stronger sense of themselves as “a people”, with a “common purpose”. I know that global capitaliam has intruded in some of these countries, but, their acceptance of many parties will never allow it the dominance it has here. We dont even HAVE a “non-capitalist” party!

greenferrett—“Already we’re seeing politicians from Obama on down trying to repackage their platforms in terms taken directly from the Green platform”
How so? Obama wants nothing to do with McKinney, Nader, havent heard him talking to Kucinich, Feingold, etc. He supports, “clean coal” and is talking to RICE (for christ’s sake!) about the Gaza situation—what could he possibly “learn” from this failed SOS?! I know, she is giving him info. Maybe you could tell me what it is that you see in Obama that is “leaning Green”.

Han has it right. The EU still has a “free mkt”, but the people run IT, to thei r benefit, not the other way around!

PurpleGirl—It certainly didnt take Obama to show me how ridiculous the duopoly was. Obama IS the duopoly, and , the Dems are the party of money. How can you say they “got rid of DLC”—Obama has decided to keep more Clinton advisors, etc. than just Hillary. He isnt starting a “Dept of Peace” (ala Kucinich) and, when I suggested it on the thread about Kucinich, it was totally ignored. I know that many thought that Obama was “an end to the DLC”. It just isnt going to happen. His views are too mainstream—I mean, “pragmatic”....

Brian Moore! There is ALREADY such a Party, people. Hell, there are many such parties, or similar parties. The Dems dont represent you, unless you are part of the bourgeois, neo-liberal classes.

PE Obama is THE ultimate bourgeois candidate.

I was, my entire life, alot more “comfortable” than I am now (except when I chose not to be).( Like Hedges mentioned Orwell, in the article) I would like to sees the working classes fight with the middle classes. But, even the furor over the Big Three Bailout (much louder among most of you than the Wall St Bailout!) showed them, once again, the priotities—and they see that “they” are not among them.  Big, bad Dodd, sitting there reaming the auto execs about corporate jets, when he took more money from the credit card industry than any other member,(which helped to promote the mortgage crisis), and Biden, who helped pass a bill to make bankruptcy = loss of home, than any other member of the Senate….

The Democrats are on the wrong side of this fight—they are with the GOP. The other side is the peopple. As the old song goes, which side are you on?

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By Sheryl, December 29, 2008 at 10:47 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Recently, I’ve heard the phrase “the common good” spoken out loud a couple of times! I think it’s revealing that we’re considering that concept again.
Ultimately, democracy is about providing for the common good. Each individual contributes what they can and receive what they need from the government that they form for their mutual protection and fulfillment. Governments which don’t provide protection or even fulfillment lose their legitimacy.
Our nation has come to the point where the term “democracy” means “capitalism”. Are we clever enough to mark the distinction between the two? I hope so, & for the first time since Reagan, I feel a stirring of hope.

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By Misfiteye, December 29, 2008 at 10:35 am Link to this comment

Buy local.

You get to vote with your $$$ every day.

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By Mike3, December 29, 2008 at 10:19 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Socialism is a European plant that has never thrived very well on American soil. And even with the collapse of the American banks, the automobile industry and corruption on a scale that would make a Sicilian green with envy, Americans are still putting all their trust in their new president, instead of looking to a new Weltanschauung.

It’s only through real suffering that one turns to socialism, and Americans have never really had to suffer. And as Hedges implies, if it does come to pass, that America really does hit the skids, (yes even worse than it is now), there is no mechanism, no tradition, and no path in place, that would lead them towards socialism, but there is one that would lead them to fascism.

Hedges is spot on when he writes about Germany, (I live there), there is a Green Party, a Left Party, both with not a lot of clout, but the left-leaning SPD is sharing power with the right-leaning CDU. Interesting is it not? Germany is by far and away, one of the most egalitarian countries in Europe today. The UK is moronic by comparison.

Germany has a solid industry, builds good cars, and unlike the US and UK, a very sound banking fraternity. It never bought into the Milton Friedman, ethics-free, monetarist, invisible hand, free market economy, let the banks be as adventurous as they please doctrine. It is not what an uninformed Texan (nothing against Texans you understand), may call “a socialist country”, but the young are protected and the elderly are treated with respect. And if you can say that in to-days world, you’re talking about a success story.

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By Bboy57, December 29, 2008 at 10:10 am Link to this comment

Re Felicity: I love that quote by G. Cleveland. It shows how much and how early in the post civil war US that the corporatization of politics swept in and made it’s home here in the land of the free to consume and the home of the manipulated brave. Of course the quote from Jefferson about natural aristocracy and it being inbred into the constitution and the office of the president has come full cycle with the Bush’s, but has been here from the beginning. It wouldn’t surprise me if thery’re made British noblility, as we haven’t really come all that far from the original rulers and the revolution , it seems. It just replaced one aristocracy for another closer to home. Now it’s all mutated anyway.

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By John K, December 29, 2008 at 10:00 am Link to this comment

The socialist vs. capitalist frame is false.  How about a frame between more government control and less? We have “socialism” now - it just happens to be for the wealthy.  Government control isn’t the answer. It is just a way to bully people “for their own good.”  Great wealth by itself doesn’t harm anyone.  It’s great wealth + THE LAW that makes people slaves.

Government is force and should be used as little as possible. 

We need a different way to organize and solve social problems.  We need new ways that don’t involve force.

The world has changed. Force doesn’t solve problems the way it used to.

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By Anarcissie, December 29, 2008 at 9:34 am Link to this comment

I don’t see how socialism, as usually defined, would end or even ameliorate the outstanding problems of capitalism, to wit, the alienation of labor, power and wealth from the working people and the control of the system by elites.  The state model of socialism prescribes not the replacement of capitalism but its reform by democratic political structures which are themselves poorly defined and seem likely to lead merely to the replacement of one elite by another.

I am glad to hear the Left is fighting the corporate state but at this point most of the Left has nothing to replace it or even criticize it with because it has been soaked through with liberal ideas of a natural aristocracy (as Thomas Jefferson put it).  Meanwhile the liberals themselves have become monarchists, currently looking toward King Obama and his loyal retainers to lead them out of the woods.  I trust you all remember what Eugene Debs said about that.

Serious criticism of the economic (and political system) requires more than reformist gestures; it requires criticism of concept of the state itself.

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By G.Anderson, December 29, 2008 at 9:23 am Link to this comment

I don’t believe for a moment that we have a free market in this country. Corporate elites have prevented that from happening, way back to the time of Nixon.

In spite of everything that has been sacrificed by the people of this country in the name of free market capitalism, we are all witnessing its decline and fall.

As Marx pointed out, competition between capitalists would ultimately cause an economic contraction, as unemployed workers could no longer afford to be consumers.

Countries in which this happens almost always turn to facism, in a last ditch effort to forestall collapse.

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