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Why I Am a Socialist

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Posted on Dec 29, 2008
AP photo / Craig Ruttle

By Chris Hedges

(Page 2)

Psychologist Dr. Robert Hare lists in the film psychopathic traits and ties them to the behavior of corporations:

  • callous unconcern for the feelings for others;
  • incapacity to maintain enduring relationships;
  • reckless disregard for the safety of others;
  • deceitfulness: repeated lying and conning others for profit;
  • incapacity to experience guilt;
  • failure to conform to social norms with respect to lawful behavior.

And yet, under the American legal system, corporations have the same legal rights as individuals. They give hundreds of millions of dollars to political candidates, fund the army of some 35,000 lobbyists in Washington and thousands more in state capitals to write corporate-friendly legislation, drain taxpayer funds and abolish government oversight. They saturate the airwaves, the Internet, newsprint and magazines with advertisements promoting their brands as the friendly face of the corporation. They have high-priced legal teams, millions of employees, skilled public relations firms and thousands of elected officials to ward off public intrusions into their affairs or halt messy lawsuits. They hold a near monopoly on all electronic and printed sources of information. A few media giants—AOL-Time Warner, General Electric, Viacom, Disney and Rupert Murdoch’s NewsGroup—control nearly everything we read, see and hear.

“Private capital tends to become concentrated in [a] few hands, partly because of competition among the capitalists, and partly because technological development and the increasing division of labor encourage the formation of larger units of production at the expense of the smaller ones,” Albert Einstein wrote in 1949 in the Monthly Review in explaining why he was a socialist. “The result of these developments is an oligarchy of private capital the enormous power of which cannot be effectively checked even by a democratically organized political society. This is true since the members of legislative bodies are selected by political parties, largely financed or otherwise influenced by private capitalists who, for all practical purposes, separate the electorate from the legislature. The consequence is that the representatives of the people do not in fact sufficiently protect the interests of the underprivileged sections of the population. Moreover, under existing conditions, private capitalists inevitably control, directly or indirectly, the main sources of information (press, radio, education). It is thus extremely difficult, and indeed in most cases quite impossible, for the individual citizen to come to objective conclusions and to make intelligent use of his political rights.”

Labor and left-wing activists, especially university students and well-heeled liberals, have failed to unite. This division, which is often based on social rather than economic differences, has long stymied concerted action against ruling elites. It has fractured the American left and rendered it impotent.

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“Large sections of the middle class are being gradually proletarianized; but the important point is that they do not, at any rate not in the first generation, adopt a proletarian outlook,” Orwell wrote in 1937 during the last economic depression. “Here I am, for instance, with a bourgeois upbringing and a working-class income. Which class do I belong to? Economically I belong to the working class, but it is almost impossible for me to think of myself as anything but a member of the bourgeoisie. And supposing I had to take sides, whom should I side with, the upper class which is trying to squeeze me out of existence, or the working class whose manners are not my manners? It is probable that I, personally, in any important issue, would side with the working class. But what about the tens or hundreds of thousands of others who are in approximately the same position? And what about that far larger class, running into millions this time—the office-workers and black-coated employees of all kinds—whose traditions are less definite middle class but who would certainly not thank you if you called them proletarians? All of these people have the same interests and the same enemies as the working class. All are being robbed and bullied by the same system. Yet how many of them realize it? When the pinch came nearly all of them would side with their oppressors and against those who ought to be their allies. It is quite easy to imagine a working class crushed down to the worst depths of poverty and still remaining bitterly anti-working-class in sentiment; this being, of course, a ready-made Fascist party.”

Coalitions of environmental, anti-nuclear, anti-capitalist, sustainable-agriculture and anti-globalization forces have coalesced in Europe to form and support socialist parties. This has yet to happen in the United States. The left never rallied in significant numbers behind Cynthia McKinney or Ralph Nader. In picking the lesser of two evils, it threw its lot in with a Democratic Party that backs our imperial wars, empowers the national security state and does the bidding of corporations. 

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. The failure by the left to offer a democratic socialist alternative will mean there will be, in the eyes of many embittered and struggling working- and middle-class Americans, no alternative but a perverted Christian fascism. The inability to articulate a viable socialism has been our gravest mistake. It will ensure, if this does not soon change, a ruthless totalitarian capitalism.


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By Ben Bramble, December 4, 2010 at 3:59 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

I suppose I’m somewhat critical of this explanatory essay because it doesn’t really provide an answer to the question “Why is Chris Hedges a socialist?”

I think it provides quite a bit clarity to the problems of individualism. Individualism without any attention to community ethics or social consciousness basically defines greed. Greed, I would define as, the pursuit of your own self-interest without regard to others. As a critique and criticism of unfettered selfishness, I think the article is quite good. But it doesn’t really answer or address the qualities of socialism that need to be fundamental propagated throughout society to make society better. Nor does it even hint why he’s a better person as a socialist.

Unprincipled individualism has problems I’ll let Chris’s words stand as a testimony of that… he says it much better than I can, however I don’t see socialism as providing a guarantee against totalitarian agendas or improving community ethics and character. Fundamental socialism stands as a testament of empathy, compassion and altruism; a willingness to abandon or compromise personal agendas for the good of the community. The problem I have with that idea, is most of the individuals that make up a community are either idiots, ignorant, or apathetic, and as a whole humans tend to love scandal and intellectual sloth and vice. Individualism at it’s worst is a practice of greed. Socialism at it’s worst is an exercise where people are willing to abandon their principles to whatever their local community dictates is ‘right’; become sycophants to mob-mentality, puppets to community leaders and agendas.

I’d like to see “Why I’m a socialist!” defend and champion socialism rather than provide a counterpoint to why he is not a corporate satrap. To be honest, I still don’t understand why Chris Hedges is a socialist.

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By Doug Plumb, March 9, 2010 at 10:54 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

The biggest illusion of our society is that the evil forces within it originate in capitalism. They do not, we live in a veiled Marxist state that we have been lead to believe is capitalism.

I outline the tenets of Marxism and compare them with our society to show that we are in fact Marxist.

The giant corporations are owned by governments and this is why they do not speak out against this tyranny. The governments are the majority shareholders in all corporations and media. See my post called “Joe Stack”.

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By n g, March 7, 2010 at 8:44 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

becoming a socialist seems an odd (and rather petulant) reaction. why not pledge your allegiance to the constitution ( read the declaration of independence as well) and then simply become a patriot!

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By Ed Flanagan, March 2, 2010 at 9:55 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Mr. Hedges You are meddling with the primal forces of nature, Mr. Hedges, and I won’t have it! Is that clear? 

The Arabs have taken billions of dollars out of this country, and now they must put it back! It is ebb and flow, tidal gravity! It is ecological balance!

You are a man who thinks in terms of nations and peoples. There are no nations. There are no peoples. There are no Russians. There are no Arabs. There are no third worlds. There is no West.

There is only one holistic system of systems, one vast and immane, interwoven, interacting, multivariate, multinational dominion of dollars. Petro-dollars, electro-dollars, multi-dollars, reichmarks, rins, rubles, pounds, and shekels.

It is the international system of currency which determines the totality of life on this planet. That is the natural order of things today. That is the atomic and subatomic and galactic structure of things today!

And YOU have meddled with the primal forces of nature, and YOU…WILL…ATONE!

Am I getting through to you, Mr. Hedges? You get up on your little blog and howl about America and democracy.

There is no America. There is no democracy. There is only IBM, and ITT, and AT&T, and DuPont, Dow, Union Carbide, and Exxon. Those *are* the nations of the world today. What do you think the Russians talk about in their councils of state, Karl Marx? They get out their linear programming charts, statistical decision theories, minimax solutions, and compute the price-cost probabilities of their transactions and investments, just like we do.

We no longer live in a world of nations and ideologies, Mr.Hedges. The world is a college of corporations, inexorably determined by the immutable bylaws of business. The world is a business, Mr. Hedges. It has been since man crawled out of the slime.

And our children will live, Mr. Hedges, to see that . . . perfect world . . . in which there’s no war or famine, oppression or brutality. One vast and ecumenical holding company, for whom all men will work to serve a common profit, in which all men will hold a share of stock.

All necessities provided, all anxieties tranquilized, all boredom amused.

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By KDelphi, March 30, 2009 at 4:03 pm Link to this comment

g-dog—What is the diff between what you are describing (and the world is experiencing) and fascism?

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By g-dog, March 28, 2009 at 2:32 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

@ Anarcissie, January 9 at 3:52 pm #

Marx had considerable admiration for capitalism, or at least he did when he wrote the Communist Manifesto wherein he witnesses to its revolutionary effect.  For Marx, the capitalist phase was necessary to give birth to socialism, and the socialist phase to bring forth the paradise of communism.  While capitalism has certainly been revolutionary, the rest of his theory does not seem to have been proved out in history.  However, some Marxists think that the prosperity of the capitalist states in the last half of the 20th century was dependent on colonialism, and that once the world has been fully organized and exploited by Capital, predictions like the immiseration of the working class and the consequent collapse of the capitalist system will begin to come true.

For more about this theory, see your friendly neighborhood Marxist.
—————————————————-
I am NOT your friendly neighborhood Marxist.
To use a familiar metaphor, call me Marx-curious.

Anyhow, love the debate here.

Marxists seem to argue—and provide evidence from capitalist press and statistics—that the heyday of capitalism was postwar Industrial.  The profit margins began to peter out on this as it reached it’s seeming peak of perfection, in America, in the 1960s or so.

Gradually, investments in industrial stocks started looking shabby, military spending like for the Vietnam War helped some stocks (while hurting lots more).  Not to forget that stocks are claims on wealth, not wealth.

Anyhow, a tendency ensued, supported more and more by government, to invest in banking, lending, credit, instead of industry. Eventually, what we call FINANCE CAPITALISM (i.e. debt-based riches, oxymoron) came into being and then into fruition with computerized trading, derivatives, and de-regulation.

Being what that is, a Ponzi scheme by design, it hit the gas and drove off a cliff, because all it took to create wealth was manipulating computer models, plus some secret agreements to commit fraud.

By the fact that it’s debt-based, not real wealth, all a successful institutional investor can do is make a fast buck, then scram.  Use insider deals, phone calls, deception, bribing govt officials, anything needed to clear the way.

Scams exist in carnivals and by mail order, human greed and sin abounds, but for supercharged high-octane scamming of the entire global economy, it took Wall Street, Washington, and also London, and Hong Kong etc.

However, Marxists say that Marx ALSO predicted this rise and collapse of finance capitalism, fairly accurately.  I’ve not ploughed through Marx, so I have to take Marxists at their word on this at this time.

If it was not clear that advances in capitalist modes of production would lead to falling rates of profit, due to competition and automation, and the pressure to compete via increased outsourced labor exploitation (girls living in pig pens in Sri Lanka, no real hope for promised improvement), it must be abundantly clear that finance capitalism can only mean the creation of credit bubbles, and credit bubbles MUST pop.

I think this is true.

This would mean that those capitalists—maybe small moms and pops can still make it but probably very few—major capitalist corporations MUST either rely on government bailouts and protections, or else go bankrupt and close.  Resulting in a cascading series of bankruptcies and consolidation such that the “free market” grows to STARKLY resemble Stalinism or living one’s life from cradle-to-grave INSIDE the Corporation, and subject to management decisions and workplace rules.

Given the number of new rules and controls, isn’t this already happening day-by-day?

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By g-dog, March 27, 2009 at 11:11 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

@ Christine on Jan 2

Corporations eschew Love, Charity, Dreams, Truth, Consciousnesses, Liberty, and Personal Responsibility.

They are NOT Persons and can have no personal responsibility, they are only legal persons.

Corporations are “collective” instruments (anti-communists hate collectives except those kinds), which are programmed to produce capital accumulation.

Neither do they experience hate or greed, etc., per se, but since they are a tyrannical structure, their owner-operators often express the worst traits through them.  Greg Palast’s recent essay on the anniversary of the Exxon-Valdez—which was NOT an accident caused by a drunk skipper but a corporate executives choosing to slack on minor hardware costs, leading to an “externalization” of the oil—is a classic example.  The mess remains, the deaths forgotten.

The holy era of blessings of Liberty where businessmen and politicians acted with morality and conscience never existed, except maybe in old tv shows, though certainly *some* small individual businessmen, not driven by impersonal corporate investors, may have expressed the option of choosing morals over profits in various circumstances.

Anyone who sees sense in outlawing crack cocaine, should see that it’s many times more dangerous to permit deregulated corporations to run amok.

As a matter of fact, since EVERY CORPORATION represents Big Govt by virtue of the fact that incorporating means taking on govt protection, and every corporation exists in Law, not in fact, therefore all anti-govt anti-regulation fanatics must also promote the complete elimination of the corporate structure.

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By g-dog, March 27, 2009 at 11:04 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

to Christine on Jan 2

Corporations eschew Love, Charity, Dreams, Truth, Consciousnesses, Liberty, and Personal Responsibility.

They are NOT Persons and can have no personal responsibility, they are only legal persons.

Corporations are “collective” instruments (anti-communists hate collectives except those kinds), which are programmed to produce capital accumulation.

Neither do they experience hate or greed, etc., per se, but since they are a tyrannical structure, their owner-operators often express the worst traits through them.  Greg Palast’s recent essay on the anniversary of the Exxon-Valdez—which was NOT an accident caused by a drunk skipper but a corporate executives choosing to slack on minor hardware costs, leading to an “externalization” of the oil—is a classic example.  The mess remains, the deaths forgotten.

The holy era of blessings of Liberty where businessmen and politicians acted with morality and conscience never existed, except maybe in old tv shows, though certainly *some* small individual businessmen, not driven by impersonal corporate investors, may have expressed the option of choosing morals over profits in various circumstances.

Anyone who sees sense in outlawing crack cocaine, should see that it’s many times more dangerous to permit deregulated corporations to run amok.

As a matter of fact, since EVERY CORPORATION represents Big Govt by virtue of the fact that incorporating means taking on govt protection, and every corporation exists in Law, not in fact, therefore all anti-govt anti-regulation fanatics must also promote the complete elimination of the corporate structure.

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By David Andersen, February 12, 2009 at 6:50 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

No reasonable person now promotes or accepts the premise that ownership of another human being is acceptable, regardless of past practices. Neither do they promote or accept gender or race-based bias. That does not support the notion that the least capable among us to add value to our economy should be in a position to direct it.

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By middle.american, January 10, 2009 at 3:01 pm Link to this comment

May God or Man spawn
“THE COMMONWEALTH LABOR PARTY OF AMERICA”

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By TAO Walker, January 10, 2009 at 2:26 pm Link to this comment

Our Turtle Island Native People, and others around the world who remain grounded in the Living Arrangement of our Mother Earth, have understood clearly for tens of thousands of years that:  THE WAY TO KNOW IS TO GO AND SEE.  So this old Indian has no expectation of “convincing” cann4ing, who has perhaps yet to experience what happens when we shed these “robes,” or has maybe forgotten (under the pressure of the “cooker” he’s been born into here) earlier experiences of it, that it’ll be anything other than “....eternal nothingness in the dark.”

Anyhow, cann4ing’s “mysticism” is us surviving free wild Human Beings’ simple matter of fact, founded on thousands of generations of going-to-see….then returning to tell about it.  Of course people who know beyond doubt that it’s best to consider the consequences of their behavior seven generations along (on the high probability they Personally will BE among those generations) are not likely to be such suckers for the seductive sirens of civilization’s use-it-up-and-throw-it-away (and fuck future generations) “ethos” so vividly on-display here in these latter days.  Thus our tormentors’ ten-millenium “project” to domesticate as much of Humanity as they could corrall….and to CONvince ‘em they’ve got one chance at whatever inside the CONfines of the CONtraption most appeals to ‘em.

Whenever cann4ing next “....slips off (his) mortal coil,” this old Savage recommends he stay AWAKE for it.  Then he too will KNOW….f’r certain.

Meantime, while well-meaning people here remain all tangled-up in disputing “ideological definitions” and “institutional directions,” who’s “right” and who’s “wrong,” the juggernaut devouring them and their world lumbers-on unchecked….with their own selfs half-wittingly aiding-and-abbetting its relentless depradations.  If they could only SEE the pitiful spectacle they’re making of their selfs, they might recognize how “drastic” must be the CHANGE! they have to make in their assumptions, attitudes, and habits.  More-and-more-and-more-of the-same-old self-centered insanity just isn’t going to get them out of their self-inflicted predicament.

Your “problems” are NOT “out there,” Sisters and Brothers.  They are inside your heads. 

HokaHey!

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By KDelphi, January 10, 2009 at 12:34 am Link to this comment

Anarcissie—Yes, I am afraid…fat chance..

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By Anarcissie, January 9, 2009 at 4:41 pm Link to this comment

KDelphi:
’... So, what do you think that the US’s next step should be?’

Repent before the end is at hand.  Fat chance, eh?

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By KDelphi, January 9, 2009 at 2:02 pm Link to this comment

Anarcissie—I see! I guess it is the lack of inflection. I see what you are saying, and agree, for the most part. I do think that our prosperity is largely based on colonialism (well, was…)

I cannot really agree that Canada or the EU are “welfare” states, but, maybe I am being influenced by the US use of the word. The standard of living is higher, and, they live longer, are happier, etc. In my experience, this is all true.

I will re-read the Coimmunist Manifesto…I do that alot.

So, what do you think that the US’s next step should be?

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By Anarcissie, January 9, 2009 at 12:05 pm Link to this comment

ThnkUBush:
‘There will never be “war crimes” trials as these would have to include President Clinton and the 107th-8th and 9th Congress’. Such trials would produce, by law, over a thousand defendants. Not the handful you envision. ....’

Quite so.  But it is certainly a pleasant fantasy, given the arrogance and impudence of the perpetrators.

Indeed, by the standards of the Nuremberg Trials, Clinton and a good many of his policy-making appointees, and many in Congress, appear guilty of war crimes, as do Bush and his crew, to say nothing of the previous Bush and so on back.  See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nuremberg_Principles and draw your own conclusions.

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By Anarcissie, January 9, 2009 at 11:52 am Link to this comment

KDelphi—I was saying, or trying to say, that I more or less agreed with Marx’s and Lenin’s belief that capitalism led to imperialism, etc., and therefore I think the anti-war, anti-imperialist libertarian types are taking a self-contradictory position.  But many of them favor a kind of capitalism and social order that is nothing like what we observe around us anyway, so it is sort of hard to get anywhere arguing with them about it.

The difference between social democracy (or the welfare state) and the idea of socialism is more than superficial, it is fundamental.  The purpose of welfare is to keep the working class and the poor dependent and passive—domesticated, as our buddy TAO Walker might say.  In other words, welfare contradicts and opposes socialism; it is a way for the capitalist ruling class to maintain and extend its power.

Marx had considerable admiration for capitalism, or at least he did when he wrote the Communist Manifesto wherein he witnesses to its revolutionary effect.  For Marx, the capitalist phase was necessary to give birth to socialism, and the socialist phase to bring forth the paradise of communism.  While capitalism has certainly been revolutionary, the rest of his theory does not seem to have been proved out in history.  However, some Marxists think that the prosperity of the capitalist states in the last half of the 20th century was dependent on colonialism, and that once the world has been fully organized and exploited by Capital, predictions like the immiseration of the working class and the consequent collapse of the capitalist system will begin to come true.  For more about this theory, see your friendly neighborhood Marxist.

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By KDelphi, January 9, 2009 at 11:08 am Link to this comment

Anarcissie—LOL! Sorry, I think we are “talking past each other” somehow—you werent an economics major were you? Because, I continually have problems talking to them, although one of them is my “fav person in the world”.

How is saying that capitalism leads to Imperialism and war contradictory? If you believe that that is true, then, isnt it more contradictory to be a capitalist, anti-Imperialist?

Socialism (yes, there are many definitions) is quite a bit different from Social Democracy, in that SD retains the trappings of capitalism, and, supposedly allows for more mkt growth, greater porduction, blah, blah, blah. (sorry) I guess I would agree, but, I am just more concerned with people living decent lives than I am with “growth”. I suppose some say that growth is necessary for a country to provide for itself (not doing so well now), maybe…but unlimited growth (there cannot be such a thing), is killng the planet. It is certainly lowering our standard of living. Worse, false “growth” (only on paper) separated hundreds of thousands (millions??) of people from their life savings! (my sister had to take a seconde job and she is a prof!)

Maybe people just arent “hurting ” bad enough YET—

I understand what you are saying , about capitalism vs anarchic communism (that sounds pretty radical for a fan of capitalism!! lol!), but

Why not jut throw the “master” out of his fricking mansion and divide it into apartments?

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By Anarcissie, January 9, 2009 at 6:38 am Link to this comment

KDelphi—there are lots of anti-war, anti-imperialist fans of capitalism.  However, I think Marx and Lenin were right about the tendency of capitalism to foster imperialism and militarism, so I think their position is self-contradictory.  Of course they wouldn’t agree.

The reason I differentiate between socialism and social democracy—the welfare state—is that I think that the idea of the workers or the people owning and controlling the means of production is significant.  The capitalist states were willing to buy off—provide welfare for—the workers and the poor in the middle of the 20th century because they felt threatened by their competitors, but now that the competitors have been vanquished their ruling classes are rescinding the buy-offs.  They are also involving themselves in very dubious economic and military adventures, which are generally not very appealing pastimes to less elite types, but which they get dragged into anyway.  As the song goes,

Mama may have,
  Papa may have,
But God bless the child that’s got his own.

The big problem is that, thus far, no one has found a way to interest the preponderance of the workers in actually taking ownership and control of their means of production.

Ultimately I think the best arrangement for human beings would probably be some sort of anarchistic communism, but again, people have to want it.  As things stand, if you burn down the masters’ house and break open his prisons, the people will just go looking for other masters and other prisons, because that’s what they’re used to.

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By KDelphi, January 8, 2009 at 9:51 pm Link to this comment

Anaricissie—I’m afraid I just dont understand what you are talking about. But, as you say, you dont care. Ok. Anti-war, anti-Imperialist capitalist. Hmmmm…

“socialism” is hard to define, and one must be very careful not to mention Marx or Trotsky for fear of terrifying WW II participants, I guess. What Hedges and (I think) cann4ing are talking about, is more of a Social Democracy, the type that they have in the Eu, or , perhaps , Canada. I could give you MY definition, but, I would not expect that that would hold any weight, in the uS at all-not just yet. People will have to be much more miserable first.

While some “hope” for it—I just cannot. I guess I was in social work too long for that…I think that Obama’s speech today was designed to lower expectations, but, also gives a glimpse of what we are up against. The same old rules are not going to apply! I dont think (AT ALL!) that more tax cuts, nor cutting ss or Mecicare is the answer—in any way.

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By cann4ing, January 8, 2009 at 9:44 pm Link to this comment

By TAO Walker, January 8 at 3:03 pm #

What is certain, though, is that everybody who wears or ever wore the “robes” of a Human Being will one Day walk into The Light.
________________________

Hey TAO, you’ve gone mystic on me.  How do you know it simply doesn’t end with eternal nothingness in the dark?

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By Anarcissie, January 8, 2009 at 7:46 pm Link to this comment

KDelphi:
‘Anarcissie—Anything “compulsory” is socialism. YOu cannot have it both ways. Do you think that people didnt pay into unemployment or disability? ....’

Your meaning of socialism seems to be different from mine.  My idea of socialism doesn’t require anything compulsory beyond the standard liberal definitions of property we’ve all grown used to.

As for whether I am for things which don’t benefit me, I thought you said we were all connected.  If things benefit others, they should benefit me, and vice versa.  I don’t see what difference my personal interest relationship to my ideas makes, though.  My ideas are thrown out their for your delectation; I’m not making them up to fatten my bank account.  How could they?

In general I don’t spend a lot of time trying to think of how bourgeois institutions should be managed because I know the people in charge and those who think like them have no interest whatever in my ideas.  (I do agitate a bit for an end to war, imperialism and repression, and you can see how much good that does.)

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By TAO Walker, January 8, 2009 at 4:03 pm Link to this comment

This old Indian is not rying to “convince” cann4ing (or anyone else here) of anything at all.  It is entirely up to him to work-out for hisself the relative merits of a Way he praises for “....its compatibility with the environment,” set beside one even its biggest fans recognize has no such “compatibility” whatsoever….quite the contrary, in-fact.

Anyhow, no “proprietary interest” in what our Lakotah Cousins call the Tiyoshpaye Way is claimed by yours truly.  It is, rather, carefully presented as the natural organic FORM of Humanity within the Living Arrangement of our Mother Earth.  Maybe “community” would appeal more to cann4ing and others here, but the term is applied so promiscuously to every random collection of “individuals” around, that it’s been semantically inflated almost to the point of utter worthlessness.

It has also been this old Man’s consistent practice to note that our organic form, as Human Beings, is in-keeping-with the maintenance of the organic integrity necessary to the fulfilling of our function here.  That function is as a vital component of Her immune system.

Admittedly such a responsibility-based sense of our Human Nature is much at-odds with the domesticated peoples’ general view that we’re only here to suffer and satisfy some god-like entities’ demands, or to “develop” our sacred “selves,” or maybe on some sort of cosmic vacation full of fun-and-games….or maybe just to “go around once” and “grab all the gusto” we can, as the Schlitzians would have it.  All these “options” and more are no-doubt appealing to “individuals” isolated from their Native habitat, and cut-off from almost everything that might remind them of the “job” they’re so disastrously falling-down-on.

That none of these alternative “theories” of “the meaning of life” really accounts for our actual experience of her Sacred Song ‘n’ Dance is more a commentary on the gullibility of their believers than on the persuasiveness of one old Indian’s poor efforts to describe that Rhythm and Music to Sisters and Brothers intentionally blinded and crippled by a process they call “civilization.”  What is certain, though, is that everybody who wears or ever wore the “robes” of a Human Being will one Day walk into The Light.

HokaHey!

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By KDelphi, January 8, 2009 at 3:47 pm Link to this comment

Anarcissie—Anything “compulsory” is socialism. YOu cannot have it both ways. Do you think that people didnt pay into unemployment or disability?

We may need to reform them and cut out waste like Part D and Advantage—they are “free mkt” solutions for a taxpayer sponsored program.

I still think that you seem to be for “welfare” or socialistic programs, as long as they benfit you…dont you know how many people called Medicare and SS socialistic when they were passed? Hopefuly, we will be hearing the same things about universal health care, a guaranteed income for unemployed, etc, in a few years. And, realizing that it is, one again, hypocritical to criticize that it exists, while benefitting from it, especialy coming from people who have so benefitted from this countries’ wealth and the contributions of the working classes.

Which programs would you awnt to keep and which would you cancel? Are you for the tax cuts? Are you for anything that doesnt benefit you?

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By Anarcissie, January 7, 2009 at 10:33 pm Link to this comment

KDelphi—Social Security is not socialism.  It is not even Welfare.  At least in conception, it is compulsory old-age and disability insurance, which could be applied to any sort of economy where people were employed and paid wages, socialist or capitalist.  In general, though, I think its purpose is similar to that of Welfare: to blunt and deflect the demand of working people for ownership and control of their means of production, and thus preserve the traditional capitalist order.  And of course the workers are made to pay for it.  And even then, they’re robbed—the Social Security payments are folded into general taxation.

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By Tiresias, January 7, 2009 at 7:45 pm Link to this comment
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Good debate! I am a democratic socialist for the same reasons as Hedges. Like Steven Daniel, I have read Scamming God, and contributors on both sides may want to read this inside look at not only Ponzi schemes, boiler rooms and the mind of a master con man, but also how for the last thirty-five to forty years corporate and Wall Street law firms have been deconstructing and shredding regulatory law. By the time Bear Stearns, Lehmann Bros. and Bernie Madoff came along, there was nothing left to stop them.  Like the Gadarene swine, the entire financial community has been possessed by Ayn Rand’s neo-Nietzschean demons, and raced over the edge of a cliff. Talk about psychopathology! Few writers even come close to showing it.

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By cann4ing, January 7, 2009 at 2:36 pm Link to this comment

By MikeL, January 7 at 9:16 am #
(Unregistered commenter)

Then I’ll leave you to wallow in your hatred and contempt. Good luck to you. I hope that you can find some peace in your life.

———————————-

From whence do you arrive at the conclusion that a rejection of the vice-into-virtue philosophy of neoliberal capitalism, which places the greed of the few above the needs of the many, amounts to “hatred and contempt?”  Or are you part of the “love it or leave it crowd” which distorts any and all criticism of the horrors unleashed by U.S. imperialism and the military-industrial complex amounts to “hating America?”

TAO, you ignore the essence of green technology, which is designed to maintain the many human beings you would simply write off as nature’s casualties precisely because green technology is designed to avoid exploitation of depleting resources, e.g., wind, solar and wave technology which harness nature’s power without imposing a burden on the environment.

As I have said many times in the past, I have the utmost respect for “The Way” and its compatibility with the environment, but I am unconvinced that this is the “only” means by which the human species can survive without destroying Mother Earth.  I am unconvinced because “you” have not made a compelling case that yours is “The Only Way.”

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By TAO Walker, January 7, 2009 at 1:27 pm Link to this comment

(C)ann4ing seems unwilling to contemplate the already compelling evidence that there simply is no “sustainable means of existence for the billions of (domesticated) people now living-(OFF) Mother Earth.”  They are even now devouring and destroying the very biological “capital” (breathable air, potable water, unpoisoned land, etc.) they cannot possible survive without.

The tamed Two-leggeds are certainly not going to be made to change their suicidal ways by anything us Indians would do.  The already erupting consequences of their own excesses will serve quite well for that.  As for a “primitive life style,” on-the-record there is nothing more clumsy, backward, and self-defeating than the motives and methods of this “global civilization.”

Paracelsus may or may not take comfort in the fact Humanity IS a component of Earth’s immune system….a part co-opted by an “invading” non-living form, and turned against their “Hostess.”  AIDS evidently operates in much the same way.

The rest of Her Living Arrangement is responding to runamok homo domesticus as best we can.  Her prognosis is nowhere near as bleak as that of our tormentors and their human agents.

Anarcissie’s “(f)ifty feet of bleeding meat….” just about has to be (by the “kill-or-be-killed” rule) the result of domesticated Humans “getting” all those cows and pigs and chickens, etc., before the “meat” could “get” them.  Now where in hell is the “professional courtesy” in that?

Folktruther may not yet see that people are “....stuck (IN) civilization,” rather than “with” it, since its captivating purpose and CONfining CONstruction remain pretty-much undetectable to him from inside the CONtraption.  “Forward” and “backward” are of course matters of local convention in-themselves quite vague and altogether relative.  What is reliably “f’r-sure,” however, is that those Human Beings, if any, who live-on will know better than to wage all-out war on the rest of our Mother Earth’s Living Arrangement.

It might be a good time for obviously well-meaning commentors here to consider at least the possibility that their wishes for perpetuating their energy-intensive lifestyles, however heartfelt and supposedly “reasonable,” just aren’t going to come true.  No blame, just fact….and one having absolutely nothing to do with what anybody, including this old Savage, has to say about it.

HokaHey!

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By KDelphi, January 7, 2009 at 1:07 pm Link to this comment

“I think we are already seeing the impact of the Summers choice in Obama’s decision to add a tax cut for businesses to the stimulus package when what is needed is an immediate repeal of the Bush tax cuts for billionaires.  Obama hinted he will simply allow the Bush cuts to lapse, which would mean that billionaires will not pay their share until at least 2010”

Good point, cann4ing!! I wondered where the hell it came from!Amazing stuff ala Kissinger, etc, too…good point about Klein! Youre just great!! LOL…kidding. But, good stuff..


Anarcissie—you are missing my point entirely. Social security is a “socialist democratic” based system! It is part of the New Deal, which needs to be expanded on now.If people want capitalism to survive. I do not, but, barring, getting rid of it any time soon…

“KDelphi—in regard to Social Security, I said only that I hoped the government would keep their end of the deal, or give me the money back.  And I would apply the same rule to all.  How is this hypocritical?

I suppose one might say it is simple-minded.”

I am simply saying that it is rather unfair to expect govt programs to help you out when you need them, and, then refuse to be there for others when they need them. I paid into social security, as well as a govt pension(civil service). I have nothing now. I am not even allowed to accumulate more than $2500 , nor marry anyone who makes over $9000 a year—I am not kissing.

People just do not realize…

I am NOT against social security, nor govt funded heatlh care, like Medicare at all. I think that we shoudl expand it!

Summers is s world class jerk…and “instrumental in setting up the present debacle.  We are all connected, but some are evidently more connected than others.”

You got it right there, buddy!

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By Folktruther, January 7, 2009 at 11:50 am Link to this comment

Goodness, Parcelsus, your post smacks of bleak dispair, one of the seven deadly sins. Cheer up, I know things are bad but they will probably get worse.  No reason to give up.  You have to take the long view.

Toujour gai, as Mihitabel said to Archie, toujour gai, Parcelsusus.

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By MikeL, January 7, 2009 at 10:16 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Then I’ll leave you to wallow in your hatred and contempt. Good luck to you. I hope that you can find some peace in your life.

Mike

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By cann4ing, January 7, 2009 at 9:12 am Link to this comment

By Anarcissie, January 7 at 7:45 am #

Yet instead of cleaning house, Mr. Hope’n’Change appointed the blockhead Larry Summers to the Treasury, a man who besides his many other defects was instrumental in setting up the present debacle.
________________________

Summers was not appointed to the Treasury but retained as Obama’s chief White House financial adviser.  But I am in total agreement with your take on Summers, an especially bad move given that Obama could have turned to a Paul Krugman or a Joseph Stiglitz.  I think we are already seeing the impact of the Summers choice in Obama’s decision to add a tax cut for businesses to the stimulus package when what is needed is an immediate repeal of the Bush tax cuts for billionaires.  Obama hinted he will simply allow the Bush cuts to lapse, which would mean that billionaires will not pay their share until at least 2010.

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By Anarcissie, January 7, 2009 at 9:05 am Link to this comment

Paracelsus:
‘I have seen through research the most nauseating vicissitudes of moral depravity….’

Well, we are territorial trooping primates, and as such are unfortunately thus subject to such endemic social diseases as leadership and war.  Were it not for our technological intelligence, we could have just gone on running through the woods naked and beating one another’s brains out from time to time, as our cousins the chimpanzees do.  This paradise is now closed to us because of the power of our weapons.  A few are trying to devise a way out of the trap, but maybe the future will have to be given to a different species, one a little less aggressive, a little more rational and sociable.  Hard to say.

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By Anarcissie, January 7, 2009 at 8:45 am Link to this comment

KDelphi—in regard to Social Security, I said only that I hoped the government would keep their end of the deal, or give me the money back.  And I would apply the same rule to all.  How is this hypocritical?

I suppose one might say it is simple-minded.  The money is not there, maybe has never been there.  The system has been seriously mismanaged.  The whole society has been seriously mismanaged, economically speaking.  A child with a newspaper route could do better. 

Yet instead of cleaning house, Mr. Hope’n'Change appointed the blockhead Larry Summers to the Treasury, a man who besides his many other defects was instrumental in setting up the present debacle.  We are all connected, but some are evidently more connected than others.

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By cann4ing, January 7, 2009 at 12:12 am Link to this comment

I am not impressed, MikeL, with Rothbard’s neoliberal musings.  Want to understand the real world, try reading Jeff Faux’s “Global Class War” or Naomi Klein’s “The Shock Doctrine:  The Rise of Disaster Capitalism.”

With respect to Klein’s book, Chalmers Johnson observes that Klein “rips away the ‘free trade’ and globalization ideologies that disguise a conspiracy to privatize war and disaster and grab public property for the rich few.  Klein’s is a long-needed analysis of our headlong flight back to feudalism under the guise of social science and ‘freedom.’”

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By cann4ing, January 7, 2009 at 12:03 am Link to this comment

By Paracelsus, January 6 at 9:23 pm #

In time socialism would later evolve to feudalism as would capitalism. Collective methods are used as systems of control and surveillance.
____________________

I believe you confuse Democratic Socialism with Stalinism.  Consider the astute observations of Naomi Klein in “The Shock Doctrine:”

“Democratic socialism, meaning not only socialist parties brought to power through elections but also democratically run work places and land holdings, has worked in many regions, from Scandinavia to the thriving and historic cooperative economy of Italy’s
Emilia-Romagna region.  It was the combination of democracy and socialism that Allende was attempting to bring to Chile between 1970 and 1973….The workers who founded Solidarity in 1980 pledge to struggle not against socialism but for it, with workers eventually winning the power to run their workplaces and country democratically.

“The dirty secret of the neoliberal era is that these ideas were never defeated in a great battle of ideas, nor were they voted down in elections.  They were shocked out of the way at key political junctures.  When resistance was fierce, they were defeated with overt violence—rolled over by Pinochet’s, Yeltsin’s and Deng Xiaoping’s tanks.  At other times, they were simply betrayed…

“Washington has always regarded democratic socialism as a greater threat than totalitarian Communism, which was easy to vilify and made for a handy enemy….A stark example…comes from…deep inside the classified Chile documents.  Despite the CIA-funded propaganda campaign painting Allende as a Soviet-style dictator, Washington’s real concerns about the Allende election victory were relayed by Henry Kissinger in a 1970 memo to Nixon:  ‘The example of a successful elected Marxist government in Chile would surely have an impact on…other parts of the world…the imitative spread of similar phenomena elsewhere would in turn significantly affect the world balance and our position in it.’  In other words, Allende needed to be taken out before his democratic third way spread.”

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By KDelphi, January 6, 2009 at 10:54 pm Link to this comment

Anarcissie—This is totally hypocritical . Everyone who has worked has paid into social security. Some of us also lost our pension (along with our ss. which we will never be able to collect, due to having to stay on Medicaid). Where is the justice in that? If you take my pension , to give me crappy Medicaid, I take yours—social security—deal?

Why should younger people be forced to pay SS, for you, when you arent willing to pay for anything for them? We are either inter-connected, or, we are not a society.

cann4ing—I got that source in a email—doesnt look right. Youre correct, I’m sure.

The gap between the haves and the haves-nost is greater than the 1920’s. If people want a so-called “democracy” at all, we have to do something about that. Hartio Alger lives in France now! There is only nepotism in the uS—no social justice.

As Krugman puts it, in “Conscience of a LIberal”:“The progressive agenda is clear and achiavable, but it wil face fierce opposition…the notion, beloved of political pundits, that we can pmake progress through bipartisan consensus is simply foolish,,,to be a progressive, then, means being a partisan,—at least for now…”

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By Paracelsus, January 6, 2009 at 10:23 pm Link to this comment

Beyond Socialism and Capitalism

I thought I would steal from Nietzsche in order to prove a point. In essence government is a method of power used to gain wealth at the expense of others. In time socialism would later evolve to feudalism as would capitalism. Collective methods are used as systems of control and surveillance. An early method of such organization was the Catholic church. Few people could escape the snitches and informers of the medieval church. The putative motivation of these snitches was to maintain the good morals and salvation of the community. Of course land confiscation with a percentage going to a well placed inquisitor made it very profitable to dispossess and kill heretics.

With industrialization and humanism, the utopias and heavens had to become more sophisticated and rational. Hegel motivated the idea of the state as the object reverence to the tiny monads of humanity. Of course the ideals of socialism, democratic socialism and anarchic socialism all sound so paradisaical. As to capitalism the ideals of yeoman entrepreneurs invested with rights, unrestricted title to property and access to firearms seem to be golden ideals. The problem is that over time these systems both converge toward monopoly, serfdom, crony politics, and unimaginable tyranny.

Having read much of Orwell, I had found that his experiences of the imperial capitalism of Britain and the Stalinist Marxism of the Spanish Civil War to offer difficult challenges to crystallizing clear thought on government. To every argument of a capitalist or a socialist, I can offer serious flaws, snares, and impediments toward freedom.

As to democracy, I offer the well trod argument that most do not know what it is, and that if they had to live under such a system they sooner or later come to regret it should the ostracons go against them in some personal way.

The solution most offered to unjust government is that we only have to elect good people to government. Sadly enough, only the depraved seemed the most motivated to tax populations to the profit of themselves and their fellows under the threat of violence. Hence they seem to crowd out the good in government.

The basic answer to the reason why we need government is that we have an organization of people who would protect us from bad people who would do us harm. This leaves us vulnerable to being as ill used as herd animals. What is a shepherd than some overlord with staff and a rod who protects us from wolves so as to live off our flesh and hides? Question is do you trust yourself and your familial clan to defend yourself from the wolves? Caveat emptor is the base reality. Ralph Nader can only do so much, and regulation is subject to getting good people in government. Is this possible in a system of extortion friendly, bribe friendly, and blackmail friendly rulership, a system of deep capture? All of my life I have experienced a system of misrule. JFK was shot when I was 6 months old. I have seen bloodletting, pillage, pimping, prostituting, and libertine takings all of my life. Can you forgive me for being a pessimist?

Yes the shepherd may provide us with a free medical system for which we exchange much of our personal data. We are branded, tagged, and observed at a very deep level for this benefit. The more optimistic among us would say just elect good and moral shepherds to govern this system; you can bet your life on it.

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By Paracelsus, January 6, 2009 at 10:23 pm Link to this comment

I have seen through research the most nauseating vicissitudes of moral depravity from Marxists to liberals to moderate conservatives to the ultra-right. It seems that all these factions are the far flung arms of some monstrous McCracken. They all seem to borrow pages from each other’s books. It seems that these groups are not autonomous, independent groups, but are the the gears of some awful machine, whose purpose is to grind humanity into utter debasement. I cannot explain in well defined detail this cryptic summation, but I cannot only say that I have read quite catholicly, and I can only suggest that you do the same.

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By Folktruther, January 6, 2009 at 9:12 pm Link to this comment

MikeL—In accusing Cann4ing that he has problems with the fact that political power is wielded by the powerful, you have put your finger exactly on my problem. That power is wielded by the powerful.  You, in the customary way, ignore that economic power dominates the political and electoral process, maintaining the customary liberal distinction between Government and Private Enterprise.

If, instead, one talks about polities or power systems and ignores this ideological distinction, it is easier to see how economic power dominates under capitalism, especially neoliberal capaitalism.  Money, among other things, is a power resource, and affects the behavior of people to win power conflicts.

You have to ignore the power of money to justify capitalism or liberarianisn.

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By MikeL, January 6, 2009 at 8:09 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

If your accusation is that I am an egalitarian and a proponent of democracy, I must plead guilty as charged.

Then I sentence you to an evening of reading Rothbard’s essay on “Freedom, Inequality, Primitivism, and the Division of Labor.”

http://mises.org/fipandol.asp

I promise that after reading you’ll feel less fear and loathing.

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By cann4ing, January 6, 2009 at 6:09 pm Link to this comment

By MikeL, January 6 at 10:10 am #

The rest of your post suggests that you have problems with the fact that political power is wielded by the powerful.
___________________

Not even close, MikeL.  My problem is with the development of a capitalist oligarchy which is at odds with the egalitarian principles enunciated in the Declaration of Independence and the mandate that government “promote the common welfare” as stated in the Preamble to the U.S. Constitution.  Democracy is defeated when the accident of birth into wealth creates multiple generations of privileged elites, whose wealth permits them to exercise political power over the less fortunate.

As FDR observed, “The test of our progress is not whether we add more to the abundance of those who have much; it is whether we provide enough for those who have too little.”

Democracy is also defeated when a small group of powerful corporations controls 95% of what people hear, see and read.

If your accusation is that I am an egalitarian and a proponent of democracy, I must plead guilty as charged.

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By cann4ing, January 6, 2009 at 5:56 pm Link to this comment

By KDelphi, January 6 at 11:46 am #

Gates estimates that “defense” spending, will be $69.7 billion this year.
__________________________

Source?  By February 4, 2008 the Bush administration was poised to request an unprecedented $515 billion military budget, a figure which “does not include supplemental funding for nuclear weapons or the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan which has already topped $600 billion.”  Robert Scheer estimates that the combined annual expenditure when the DoD budget, nuclear weapons and these two wars of choice are combined is $700,000 billion and that the “U.S. already spends more than the rest of the world combined on its military, without a sophisticated enemy in sight.”

Scheer’s $700 billion estimate may well be well below the actual costs given that Columbia Professor Joseph Stiglitz estimates that the actual cost of the war in Iraq through 2008 exceeds $3 trillion when hidden contractor costs, hidden costs for the disability and healthcare of wounded veterans and macroeconomics entailing the impact of the war on the price of oil are factored in.

As astutely observed by Jim Hightower, “The military budget is a massive wealth transfer program from ordinary taxpayers to major corporations, and it has proven easy over the years to wrap this transfer in the red, white and blue and have a portion of the American people burst out in a rousing chorus of the national anthem and applaud their own mugging.”
         
From an historical perspective, there are several analytical reasons for separating the military and economic sides of U.S. imperialism.  The economic side is essentially a beast which devours the resources, both natural and human, as well as the treasuries of the victim nations that are the objects of its imperial design.  It is destructive of liberty abroad.  The military component, irrespective of its design as a means to enforce economic imperialism, is a beast which devours the resources and treasury of the home country even as it attempts to annihilate those foreign nationals who would dare to obstruct the path of America’s economic Empire

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By cann4ing, January 6, 2009 at 5:44 pm Link to this comment

By MikeL, January 6 at 10:10 am #
(Unregistered commenter)

cann4ing- You need to get past the capitalist ideology that has you thinking on an “individual” basis, and think collectively as part of a community.

A capitalist asks himself what a community needs and then offers it.
_________________________

Naive to a fault, MikeL.  A capitalist asks what will sell?  How cheaply can I make it?  What type of deception will I employ in my advertising so as to convince people who don’t need it that they do.  He or she doesn’t give a damn about community, and if he or she can get away with it, a venture capitalist will sell smoke and mirrors—which is precisely what led our nation to now be staring into an economic abyss.

“The [current] 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…

“AIG got into trouble almost entirely because of an obscure part of its business—selling what are called ‘credit default swaps,’ which amount to an insurance policy on investments in bonds. Basically, AIG was selling financial protection to investors and companies that bought bonds—if the seller of those bonds defaulted on the promise to pay back the principal, plus interest, investors could cover their losses.

“Credit default swaps are pretty much an invention of the last 10 years. Yet these financial insurance policies today may cover as much as $62 trillion worth of debt…

“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

Corporations do not exist to advance the public good.  They exist to turn a profit.

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By Anarcissie, January 6, 2009 at 5:05 pm Link to this comment

MikeL—I am not and have not an-soc.  Hyphenating anarchism with some specification of a totalizing political, economic or social arrangement is self-contradictory.

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By Anarcissie, January 6, 2009 at 4:57 pm Link to this comment

KDelphi—“social democracy” is usually used to mean the welfare-state version of liberalism.  In such an arrangement, the means of production and the government remain in the hands of a capitalist ruling class, a situation which is radically different from socialism (as I defined it before).  Of course you can define social democracy as socialism and vice versa, but then you have no way of distinguishing verbally between these two very different polities.

My point about the comparison between the price of houses and the average capitalization per worker was merely to show that acquiring ownership and control of the means of production was within the financial range of at least some, probably a majority, of working- and middle-class people.  I am not saying the transition would have been easy—I don’t know, maybe it would have been—but it would certainly have been easier and more rewarding, I think, than the fetishization of personal consumption which actually ensued.  I can generate innumerable fantasies about how this kind of transition to socialism could have taken place, if you like, but again the question seems academic: the people would have to desire it, and they didn’t during the period when it would have been possible.  (It may still be possible but it’s hard to tell after thirty or forty years of the Federal government blowing ever larger credit bubbles into the equities and real estate markets.)

In reference to your question about Social Security, I do hope the government will pay it out, or at least give me back the money with interest and adjustment for real inflation; I am reaching the age where there is very strong age prejudice against me in any of the fields where I have talent or expertise.  I did give them the money, money which I wrung out of the capitalist system with no special privileges or credentials other than an apparently white skin and an ability to speak Standard English.  Right now, though, the money is still going the other way, and yet in spite of my earnest efforts I have been repeatedly told that the Social Security system is going bankrupt.  In any case the federal government is moving heaven and earth and several trillion dollars in an attempt to reinflate the housing and stock market bubbles, that is, to make whatever money ordinary people have or are entitled to worthless.  Do you consider all this to be social democracy?  It doesn’t seem to have much to recommend it.

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By KDelphi, January 6, 2009 at 12:46 pm Link to this comment

CQ just reported that , Congress will seek $24 billion in food stamp aid in the “stimulus”. Gates estimates that “defense” spending, will be $69.7 billion this year.

I guess it is just a matter of priorities.

What should US priorities and values be?

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By KDelphi, January 6, 2009 at 12:27 pm Link to this comment

The link between capitalist Imperialism and all war, specifically the “war” in Gaza:

http://www.marxist.com/israeli-barbarism-in-gaza.htm

“Collaborating democracy with imperialism”
“How do we explain a situation where the Israeli masses have been whipped up into such a state of mind of a vengeful and shortsighted focus of their political worldview on “getting back” at the Palestinians? What should not be underestimated here is the psychological warfare the Israeli ruling elite has been waging against the Israeli masses. The media, the military and the politicians have been collaborating to create the impression that the rocket launching from the Gaza Strip has made the surrounding Israeli settlements look like a war zone. In actual fact, since 2004 to just before the recent operation began, the number of Israelis killed by such rockets is less than 15. To put things in perspective, the number of Israeli workers that died because of accidents in their workplaces during this period, was over 10 times that number. This number also resembles the number of Israelis that die in traffic accidents in less than two weeks. So if Barak is really so eager to protect Israeli lives through military means, he should be mobilising the air force against the Israeli bourgeoisie and the state bureaucrats responsible for transport safety rather than against the Palestinian masses!”

I say Amen!!

All this horror show is designed with one aim in mind: to make ordinary Israelis support the continuity of Israel’s control over Gaza, and thus to pressure or to help democratically elected politicians to fall in line with imperialist interests.


cann4ing—I see what you are saying, and agree. But, Anarcissie seems to be referring to a more limited idea of “people just getting together, getting a loan (that is what mortgage borrowers did) and buying their factory” I just do not ses how that would work. I think that Congress ( as of the govt) SHOULD have deed (The People—but, that is another argument) to the banks, Wall St, and the Big Three—we are paying for them. I THINK that , perhaps, term limits, public financing, and such, could, if not SOLVE, at least, greatly IMPROVE the ethics of our govt. If 70% of USAns support calling for a ceasefire (Iraq and Gaza), 67% say that they would pay higher taxes for universal health care, 80% want MORE regulation—-why is Congress not doing it? Becuase they have incumbency protection—take it away!

Lets go by MY idea, and scale those %s back to 60% each—same/same.

MikeL says:

“A capitalist asks himself what a community needs and then offers it. If no one buys then the capitalist made a mistake; that is, he did not serve his community. And in a free market—-not what the US has now—-he has to live with his poor decisions without expecting others to bail him out. What is wrong with that arrangement? What else do you want?”

This is a joke, right? Trump, the Bush family, etc, were just “supplying what the community needed”. And,by the same token, what we apparently “need” is more and more JUNK, while others die in the streets.

What we “need’ is more Blackwater, more bombs, more F-16s.Right. We dont even have a SAY in what we “need’ anymore! Try buying clean food on a budget. Try buying a house, Just a “ding” in the mkt—hardly! It happens over and over again in an unregulated capitalist system.

since so many are without health care, food, shelter, etc, the moneyist is obviously NOT just “searching for a need” and “serving”. (They make shame of the word “service”) Did you go to Milton Friedman’s Chicago School of Economics?

What “more I want” is for my fellow citizens to NOT DIE IN THE STREETS! I want them to have health care. I want them to have decent housing, I want them to have food. I want them to have work, if they can. I want a civil, just,caring society. Unregulated capitalism, as we have seen, cannot or will not provide that.

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By MikeL, January 6, 2009 at 11:10 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

cann4ing- You need to get past the capitalist ideology that has you thinking on an “individual” basis, and think collectively as part of a community.

A capitalist asks himself what a community needs and then offers it. If no one buys then the capitalist made a mistake; that is, he did not serve his community. And in a free market—-not what the US has now—-he has to live with his poor decisions without expecting others to bail him out. What is wrong with that arrangement? What else do you want?

The rest of your post suggests that you have problems with the fact that political power is wielded by the powerful (who else would wield it, but anyway). But that’s not an argument against capitalism but rather against politics and the state. All political systems are corrupted by concentrations of power, even if power is concentrated in the hands of a proletariat. The enemy is the state, not the mechanism that individuals use to trade goods and services.

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By cann4ing, January 6, 2009 at 11:08 am Link to this comment

TAO’s insistence on “free & wild” as the “only” acceptable mechanism for human existence is dogmatic.  If a member of his family sustained a serious injury, I am sure that TAO would not reject the availability of devices like CAT Scans and MRIs which are the product of the “civilization” he rails against and the science that civilization has produced.

TAO is so focused on the negatives produced by exploitative capitalism (which he tars with the over broad brush of “civilization”) that he never sees the positives.

TAO, who describes himself as “an Old Savage” is quite set in his thinking; never open to questioning of any aspect of that thinking so that when someone, like myself, points out that “The Way” would not provide a sustainable means of existence for the billions of people now living on Mother Earth, he ignores it.  The reference by one poster to Pol Pot’s Cambodia seems apropos, not because TAO does not come to this site with the best of intentions, but because it provides a stark example of what would likely occur by an effort to require so many “domesticated two-leggeds” to return to a primitive life style.

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By cann4ing, January 6, 2009 at 10:48 am Link to this comment

By KDelphi, January 4 at 9:08 pm #

HOw in the world would you suppose that the average worker could “buy” the “means of production”?
________________________________________

You need to get past the capitalist ideology that has you thinking on an “individual” basis, and think collectively as part of a community.

For example, GM, whose common shares of stock had a value slightly under $3 billion sent its CEO to Congress, cap in hand, seeking a $15 billion bail out—ultimately receiving bailout monies from Treasury with strings attached, including a requirement that none of those monies go to executive compensation.

Anyone who has ever seen “Who killed the electric car?” also understands why GM is the poster boy for what is wrong with capitalist markets.  In the late 80s/early 90s GM fought off California’s requirement for a percentage of zero emission vehicles.  It produced the plug-in electric EV-1 but insisted there was no market for them and insisted on leases.  When their lobbying to end the zero emissions requirement succeeded, they mandated a return of the EV-1s when the leases expired, refused a multi-million dollar offer from the last leaseholders, trucked them out to the desert and demolished them, selling the patent to the EV-1 battery to Exxon Mobil; turned instead to the Hummer & gas guzzling SUVs.  Why?  Because the EV-1 electric motor did not require the maintenance of the internal combustion engine.  GM execs were more concerned with the replacement part/maintenance “market” than with producing what we need.\

Instead of a bail out, Congress could have simply purchased GM, sold off its foreign holdings, converted its plants to the manufacture of plug-in electrics aided by solar technology and high speed, all-electric commuter rail.  A new government-owned and democratically controlled “U.S. Motors” could never be outsourced, and, under Democratic Socialism the rights of all workers to collective bargaining would be maintained.

(Note: Toyota, always three steps ahead of U.S. mfg., just announced it will be developing solar vehicles).

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By KDelphi, January 6, 2009 at 10:47 am Link to this comment

“I’m glad you asked that question.  Throughout the last half of the 20th century, the average capitalization per worker was very approximately the same amount of money as the price of the average house.  Millions and millions of people bought houses.  With mutual aid or government assistance, millions more could have.  Or, they could have spent the same amount of money on acquiring the means of production.  Unions could have secured favorable terms for stock acquisition as part of their contracts.  No one seems to have even thought of this for most of the postwar period, although some (mostly phoney) ESOPs appeared in, I guess, the 1980s.  I’d say the acquisition of the means of production was well within the range of much of the working and middle class, but they weren’t interested.”

So it is a place to live OR a place to work? Where would those “acquisitions” be now? It just doesnt work, and, I just dont understand your philosophy. Sorry.

I honestly was just trying to understand where you are coming from on this. Maybe it is just not classifiable.

Take a look back at Dec 31—Jim C’s, and, consider your own social security and medicare in there. ( I was offline then)

Social Democracy, as practised in the EU, and other places, is not simply “ownership” of workplace. It is many things, as cann4ing has pointed out better than I could. It is a matter of making the govt work for the citizens, instaead of treating them like “consumers” in every way—even life or death matters. It is a matter of building a moral, civil society, where people who dont respect others, receive no respect themselves.

The EU is not ideal—but they have sure as hell come closer to class equality than anywhere else I know.(Well, anywhere else that I have been)

The situation , as it is, is just not acceptable, to the majority. YOu mentioned Hedge Funds in another post, I think. (could be wrong) Did you hear the scams they pulled, in the Hearing yesterday? So, you think the people who were scammed (in all of Wall St) should just be considered naive and suck up their losses?

HOw do you feel about the tax rebates? Extending unemployment? Do you realize that most of the programs that the majority of middle class depend(ed) on (until the elites stole them), are the remains of the old socialism of the early 20th Century, as well as the New Deal?

Would you seek to eliminate those, also?

I am afraid that the alternative is what we have now—are you propposing some type of change? I dont get it.

Are you speaking of Social Darwinism? Survival of the fittest? Please explain..

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By MikeL, January 6, 2009 at 10:24 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Millions and millions of people bought houses.  With mutual aid or government assistance, millions more could have.  Or, they could have spent the same amount of money on acquiring the means of production.  Unions could have secured favorable terms for stock acquisition as part of their contracts.  No one seems to have even thought of this for most of the postwar period, although some (mostly phoney) ESOPs appeared in, I guess, the 1980s.  I’d say the acquisition of the means of production was well within the range of much of the working and middle class, but they weren’t interested.

Anarcisse,
I think my an-cap is confused here by your an-soc. Are you suggesting that purchase of stock or other corporate liabilities transfers means of production (MOP) to stock owners? Isn’t that the situation we already have? That is, owners of shares in theory own a stake in the MOP and the profits (if they receive dividends). But in practice shareholders have little power over day-to-day management decisions. So I really don’t see how MOP is transferred in an meaningful way to shareholders. Please elaborate.

And btw, I am not defending the concept of owning the MOP. If someone wants to run a company according to his values he should just buy it outright and manage it as he sees fit. And then let the consumer decide how important it is to have a company run under a particular set of values.

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By Anarcissie, January 6, 2009 at 9:10 am Link to this comment

KDelphi: ’... As long as it benefits YOU…isnt that about the size of it, Anarcissie? Why in the world would you vote for anything but a Libertarian?’

Libertarians are the fundamentalists of liberalism.  You want my critique of liberalism?  That’s a big order.  I guess I would start with liberal notions of property and ownership.  It would be dreary reading.

As for any focus on self-interest, I think political philosophy starts at home.  Often, I figure if something doesn’t benefit me, it probably will not benefit other people, and vice versa. 

 
You never explained what “forget (fill in the blank) ” means.

It means ‘I am not interested in discussing (fill in the blank) at this time, possibly because I don’t think it’s relevant, or the case is unclear’ or something like that.

‘HOw in the world would you suppose that the average worker could “buy” the “means of production”?’

I’m glad you asked that question.  Throughout the last half of the 20th century, the average capitalization per worker was very approximately the same amount of money as the price of the average house.  Millions and millions of people bought houses.  With mutual aid or government assistance, millions more could have.  Or, they could have spent the same amount of money on acquiring the means of production.  Unions could have secured favorable terms for stock acquisition as part of their contracts.  No one seems to have even thought of this for most of the postwar period, although some (mostly phoney) ESOPs appeared in, I guess, the 1980s.  I’d say the acquisition of the means of production was well within the range of much of the working and middle class, but they weren’t interested.

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By cyrena, January 6, 2009 at 3:35 am Link to this comment

Well, that last non-comment just ‘submitted’ itself. I swear. I didn’t touch anything.

So, I was trying to say to TAO, that *I* do actually ‘get it’. Too lazy to try to translate into ‘domesticated peoples’ language right now, but I get it.

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By KDelphi, January 5, 2009 at 11:33 pm Link to this comment

cann4ing—Good points..

Everyone seems to want socialism for themselves and capitalism for everyone else.

I am beginning to think that it is really that simple.

Tax cuts are socialism. Extending unemployment, COBRA, or allowing more people to apply for Meidcaid is socialism. Medicare, social security—no one seems to be complaning about those. NOr willing to give up any of it for themselves..

As long as it benefits YOU…isnt that about the size of it, Anarcissie? Why in the world would you vote for anything but a Libertarian?

You never explained what “forget (fill in the blank) ” means.

HOw in the world would you suppose that the average worker could “buy” the “means of production”?

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By Folktruther, January 5, 2009 at 10:45 pm Link to this comment

TAO, I agree with Paracelsus.  I did not mean to be personally disrespectful but I simply can’t take your ideas sseriously for 7 billion people.  You criticisms of civilization are often quite penetrating, but we are stuck with it.  We have to go forward not backward, although in doing so we may regain the sense of community that we lost in primitave society.

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By Paracelsus, January 5, 2009 at 9:28 pm Link to this comment

@ TAO Walker

Is it possible for 1.2 billion Chinese to live as hunter- gathers, and still be at peace with mother nature? The problem is that vast numbers of humanity are dependent upon a system that requires high energy inputs to maintain their lives. You could try to put the toothpaste back into the tube. Pol Pot tried that. (This is not to imply that your way of life would as you see it impel you to advocate the ways of the Khmer Rouge to get back to nature in your well intentioned utopia. I take you for a gentle soul.) I have heard “new age” types call humanity an infection that mother earth’s immune system would kill off. I am not sure of the exact solution you offer. Should we eschew agriculture so as to rid ourselves of domestication?

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By Anarcissie, January 5, 2009 at 9:21 pm Link to this comment

TAO Walker: ’... Anarcissie indulges in the common conceit of homo domesticus that a walk in the woods equates with “knowing” the essential nature of NATURE.  One wonders how many actual personal “kill or be killed” encounters Anarcissie has really had hiking in some “wilderness.” ...’

I don’t need to go in the woods to see kill or be killed; the ordinary supermarket will do for that.  Fifty feet of bleeding meat on trays—where do you think it came from?

I’ve run into mountain lions and bears in the wilderness, in the Adirondacks, the Sierra Nevada, and the Kootenay Range, but they chose not to attack me and I chose not to attack them.  Professional courtesy among large predators, I guess.

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By Anarcissie, January 5, 2009 at 9:04 pm Link to this comment

MikeL: ‘My point was that a socialist state can only be realized through a strong central government. Who else will have the power to confiscate property from its rightful owners and transfer it to those who can lay no rational or moral claim to it? ...’

If a large number of people want to work in a socialist economy, they don’t need to confiscate anything; they can buy or build their means of production.  In fact, many do—every self-employed person, every partnership, cooperative and commune is in principle socialist.

Unfortunately (at least unfortunately for those who would prefer an entirely socialist economic environment) most people don’t want to own or control their means of production.  They want someone else to do it for them.  For this reason the question of a socialist state or polity is at this point entirely academic in terms of practical politics.

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By cann4ing, January 5, 2009 at 5:44 pm Link to this comment

Well, MikeL—which of those traits you listed does not apply to rapacious capitalists?  In a democracy a government is as good or as bad as the people want it to be—and a good democratic government entails responsible citizens who actively seek truth and actively participate in government. 

Democratic Socialism would strive for open government, the rule of law, empathy, and a non-exploitative relationship with nature and one’s fellow citizens.  This goes beyond Anarcissie’s simplistic formula regarding merely the ownership of the means of production.  It advances the notion that the needs of the many outweigh the greed of the few.  Where capitalism places a premium on the acquisition of individual and corporate wealth—with wealth converted to political power that secures greater wealth for the privileged few at the expense of the many, Democratic Socialism is egalitarian and recognizes certain basic human rights, including the right not to go hungry, the right of basic levels of shelter and health care, the right for all citizens to have equal access to a higher education—as opposed to the current system in the U.S. in which the accident of birth into wealth or poverty is far more determinative of one’s status for the remainder of life than ability or effort.

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By MikeL, January 5, 2009 at 4:38 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Anarcisse,
My point was that a socialist state can only be realized through a strong central government. Who else will have the power to confiscate property from its rightful owners and transfer it to those who can lay no rational or moral claim to it? Thus socialism is synonymous with a strongly coercive government.

But my primary question was which of these following psychopathic traits ascribed by Hedges and others to corporations cannot also be ascribed to virtually all governments that have ever existed?

  * callous unconcern for the feelings for others;
  * incapacity to maintain enduring relationships;
  * reckless disregard for the safety of others;
  * deceitfulness: repeated lying and conning others for profit;
  * incapacity to experience guilt;
  * failure to conform to social norms with respect to lawful behavior.

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By TAO Walker, January 5, 2009 at 3:17 pm Link to this comment

Folktruther finally resorts below to the last refuge of those who can’t offer a germane response to something….ad hominem sarcasm.  Sitting around an open fire is in-fact an enjoyable experience….one this old Savage has every chance that comes along.  Alot of domesticated people seem to feel a need to do that, too….trying to recover some feeling of belonging, maybe.  It’s a pity s/he has no sense of our Living World….not an unusual thing for those caught-up in the “zombie jamboree,” however. 

Those who keep carping here about “primitive lifestyles” are perhaps willfully ignoring this old
Man’s regular recommendations not to get confused by costumes and furniture and implements.  In particular, cann4ing continues to insist that sheer numbers means Humans can’t live free and wild anymore, without his ever being willing to come-to-grips with the actual effects on themselves and our Living Arrangement of all the electro-mechanical “enhancement” he is apparently convinced he, at least, can’t survive without.  As for a “balance” between humans and the rest of the world, there isn’t a scintilla of evidence so far to indicate the domesticated peoples have a clue about what that might look like.

Anarcissie indulges in the common conceit of homo domesticus that a walk in the woods equates with “knowing” the essential nature of NATURE.  One wonders how many actual personal “kill or be killed” encounters Anarcissie has really had hiking in some “wilderness.”  All that “red in tooth and claw” bullshit is scare-tactics….and kid-stuff, to boot. 

Others here seem able to concede the real need for some fundamental change in their behavior toward each other, our Mother Earth, and all our Relations, even while asserting adolescently that it’s only a matter of “style,” after all.  prgill seems willing to cut this old “primitive” some slack, but goes on to suggest that the “way” of the domesticated people, with its irrefutable record of destruction and degradation, deserves the same respect as one he concedes has done much better by our whole Living Arrangement.  Why he thinks commenting here about that is not appropriate to a discussion of socio/politico/economic systems is….well, not exactly clear.

No one here seems prepared to engage this old Indian’s suggestions that domestication as such, along with ALL its peculiar manifestations and accoutrements, is a deplorable and diseased condition no-matter the “species” subjected to it….or by what agency.  No one apparently wants to consider the implications of Humanity having an actual organic function within our Living Arrangement….one that is seriously, and deleteriously, interfered-with by the domestication of Humans. 

Few seem ready to consider jettisoning the CONtraption that is systematically depriving them of everything they need to live….even while rendering them addicted to things that are killing them.  Many seem to believe, contrary to all evidence, that this entirely artificial and CONtrived apparatus-of-exploitation is somehow no different than the weather or some other natural process here. 

How come, tame Sisters and Brothers?

HokaHey!

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By Anarcissie, January 5, 2009 at 12:03 pm Link to this comment

MikeL—socialism, as defined by the originators of socialist ideas, is the ownership or control of the means of production by the workers or by the people in general, not “government” or “the welfare state”.

Granted, Chris Hedges and a lot of other people confuse these three very different concepts and the words which represent them, so that it becomes very difficult to discuss political theory in any coherent way.  I don’t know if this is the result of laziness or a deep, dark capitalist plot.  But with a little effort and a lot of annoying pickiness, we can probably get through the morass.

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By MikeL, January 5, 2009 at 10:13 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

I’m confused. Which of these traits do NOT apply to governments?

  * callous unconcern for the feelings for others;
  * incapacity to maintain enduring relationships;
  * reckless disregard for the safety of others;
  * deceitfulness: repeated lying and conning others for profit;
  * incapacity to experience guilt;
  * failure to conform to social norms with respect to lawful behavior.

And this is what socialists want more of? A stronger government? What are you thinking?

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By Anarcissie, January 5, 2009 at 8:57 am Link to this comment

KDelphi—I don’t think I’ve said anything about Reaganomics or hedge funds.  I’ve just pointed out what a market is and the logical implication of condemning markets.  It is similar to my criticism of the fascination with regulation.  Probably most succinct formulation is: Who will watch the watchmen?  Advertising the benefits of social democracy does not answer this question.

No one has explained to me why regulators will be any more wise and incorruptible than the people they regulate.  Indeed, as we’ve been observing with the SEC, they’re often as bad as or worse than the people they are supposed to regulate (when they are not the same identical people).

I think we need to get rid of the idea that there is some noble monarch out there who is going to make everything all right.  It seems very difficult to get people to come to grips with this truth, in spite of the fact that we pay a very high price for the monarch fantasies.

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By Folktruther, January 5, 2009 at 12:31 am Link to this comment

Now, Cann4ing, you can’t retreat to Nobel Prizers to refute Anarcissie on his last post becaue he is essentially right about WW2.  I would trust Anarcissie’s analysis more than a Nobel Prizer because no one is paying him or it is not part of his career to obfuscate the truth or suck up to power.

Just as the American population is deluded by what the learned and mass mdeid DOES NOT SAY, the Nobel Prize is delusive by who does NOT receive it, John Kenneth Gailbraith.

And Anarcissie DOES have a point that won’t go away;  people don’t want to supervise their firms or their power institutions.  How is socilism of any kind possible if people won’t think beyond their own personal lives.

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By KDelphi, January 4, 2009 at 10:08 pm Link to this comment

Anyone who is anti-social democracy, should immediately give up their social security, Medicare, and all other entitlement programs!

Pull yourself up by your bootstraps! Oh, you can keep what is left of you stock matket earnigns—isnt the “free mkt” grand?

Anarcissis—-well, for one thing—HEDGE FUNDS!(Is what people have had enough of) YOu seem reasonable, but, when it comes to finances, you fall back on Reaganomics—why??

You usually bring up Russia or the USSR—when people debunk that that is what is being advocated , you say, “forget it”? What does that mean?

You may have made money from them, but alot of innocent people lost their ass…maybe you dont care.But, if you think the number of USAns who have been lost to the middle class forever are going to just die in poverty—you are mistaken.

With the cost of college loans, do you think , with unemployenmbnt on the rise, who is going to pay for elderly and abandoned children? Disabled? Veterans?

YOu want a mkt “free” for you—it is people like you and the neo-cons that put us in the mess we are in.There is not another mkt on eatth as stupid as the uS!
YOu say, “forget Russia” “forget Krugman”, “forget Friedman”—but what do you meatn by it? Why is the general standard of living better in social democracies? Why do we seem to be always at war, and, they seem to be in peace, except when the uS drags them in? You decry the fre mkt , but, offer it as the only alternative…I am not sure what you are prosposing—“live miserable in a free mkt because we have to “”? Or what??

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By Anarcissie, January 4, 2009 at 7:57 pm Link to this comment

I am afraid I am hopelessly irreverent.  But to whom are you referring?  Milton Friedman? Oh, Krugman.  Well, Krugman this, Milton Friedman that.  The awarded the peace prize to Henry Kissinger!

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By cann4ing, January 4, 2009 at 2:33 pm Link to this comment

So now you know more about economics than a Nobel laureate, Arnarcissie?  P-l-e-a-s-e!

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By Anarcissie, January 4, 2009 at 9:43 am Link to this comment

Cann4ing—I’ve just pointed out the logic of condemning markets.  It is true the logic is rather simple, which should encourage you to engage it rather than recite the words of the prophet Krugman.

With whom I disagree on the “compression” issue, by the way.  What I think raised the relative income of the working class was the war, because big wars demand a lot of labor.  Increased demand, inelastic supply equals higher prices, i.e. wages.  But I said that already.  Krugman’s logic is that the middle class can be created only by state force.  I said that already, also.  Maybe he’s right, but I don’t see it.

In regard to this, the high taxes of the postwar era were income taxes and did not apply to existing wealth and unrealized capital gains.  The rich continued to be rich and get richer.  The ruling class was hardly going to tax itself out of existence, and of course it didn’t, it just made it a little bit harder for newcomers to join its ranks by working for the money (although there were ways).  But to fight World War 2 and the Cold War, they did have to buy labor and keep the workers on their side, and that’s what caused them to allow wealth to pass to the working class in the form of higher wages, tax exemptions on mortgages, and programs like free higher education.

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By cann4ing, January 4, 2009 at 8:56 am Link to this comment

What you describe as a “fantasy,” Anarcissie, is a regulatory scheme installed by the New Deal that was exceedingly effective for about 40 years—until it came under assault from movement conservatives who undertook to dismantle it.  These regulations and progressive taxation produced what Paul Krugman aptly refers to as “the Great Compression” in which the gap between rich and poor was substantially reduced.  The removal of that regulatory scheme, fundamental changes in the tax structure (the highest tax bracket for the wealthiest .1% is now 35% with hedge fund managers paying only 15% as compared to a 90% tax on the wealthiest .1% in 1960), an assault on unions and the outsourcing of the U.S. manufacturing base in search of cheap foreign labor have all served to restore income inequality to levels not seen since the Gilded Age along with the makings of a second Great Depression.

The fact that regulatory agencies have been perverted by the Bush regime, which placed individuals from the industries which the law sought to regulate in charge does not mean that it is not possible to appoint honest and knowledgeable regulators.

Your take is nothing short of weird.  You suggest that everyone should simply be “trusted” to do the right thing inside a so-called “free-market” irrespective of the financial incentive for those inside the market to manipulate the system and then turn around and suggest that if we have laws to prevent that manipulation, no one can be “trusted” to honestly enforce laws passed to prevent that manipulation.

It isn’t just that Folktruther is right in describing your concept of free-markets as “simplistic.”  The words “naive” and even “infantile” come to mind.

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By Anarcissie, January 3, 2009 at 10:23 pm Link to this comment

Folktruther:
‘Anarcissie- I hate to agree with Cann4ing again but your conception of markets is really simplistic.  people have to work for a living to get the goods to trade. If they compete for work in a Free Market, when unemployment abounds, they will be at the mercy of the owners of the corporations where they must work.  As we are. ...

Quite so, but is that oppression the result of markets?  I don’t think so.  The oppression of employment is much worse where unequal economic relations are not mitigated by markets, for example a company town (or a feudal polity, or a slave plantation.)

One may guess that oppression through employment could be mitigated by democratic control of the means of production, but as I have tediously noted before, it seems that the people do not want to control the means of production.  In any case it seems likely that if they are unable to take care of their own business they will be unable to choose others to manage it.

So what is left?  Kuttner no doubt imagines wise regulators, but I don’t see where these regulators are going to come from—being human, they will be susceptible to the same errors and crimes that market participants exhibit.  And I don’t know of any superior species which will handle the business which we decline.

The fantasy of regulation and of the wise monarchs who will perform it, it seems to me, is a way to avoid thinking about the necessity of revolutionary change.

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By Folktruther, January 3, 2009 at 5:13 pm Link to this comment

Anarcissie- I hate to agree with Cann4ing again but your conception of markets is really simplistic.  people have to work for a living to get the goods to trade. If they compete for work in a Free Market, when unemployment abounds, they will be at the mercy of the owners of the corporations where they must work.  As we are.

As to people not being trusted because we can’t be trusted in a Free Market, I can only say—Fooosh.  Whole societies are built on trust and could not function without it.  It is a matter of extending this trust between individuals, based on a ssense of decency, to groupings of people.

Except for the US, we now live in an age of state capitaalism.  The reason that US power is declining so rapidly is that it can’t compete with it.  US militarism is not a sign of strength but of weakness.

The question is now how to get from state capialism to some form of socialism.

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By cann4ing, January 3, 2009 at 10:53 am Link to this comment

By Anarcissie, January 2 at 7:53 pm #

However, a market per se is nothing more than a group of people voluntarily coming together to trade stuff.

If markets can’t be trusted, this implies that people can’t be trusted.
_______________________

Spare me the laissez faire mythology.  Markets are not simply places where people come together to trade.  They entail the exercise of monopoly power, the manufacturing of artificial consumer demand through deceptive advertising and the ability of a man like Bernard Madoff to swindle even the most sophisticated investors by appealing to greed.  And of course there are people who cannot be trusted, and they are usually the most rapacious business men, the ones like Ken Lay whose “success” is extolled by Fortune Magazine until their illegal schemes come crashing down, leaving many a ruined life in their wake.

Free-market ideology underscores what Kevin Phillips describes as the “vice-into-civic-virtue theology” that emerged in the 1960s and 1970s from Milton Friedman and the Chicago School of Economics, whose disciples make up the core of the supply-side economists of the successive Reagan and Bush administrations.  “To Friedman, greed was the basis of society.  The challenge of social organization, he said, was to ‘set up an arrangement under which greed will do the least harm: capitalism is that kind of system.’…He dismissed the idea of a res publica—a public interest apart from individual and group self-interests.”

Markets have no morality, do not care about the environment or about need.  The gap between the laissez faire myth and reality is as stark as the growing gap between the present wealthiest one percent of America and everyone else where, by 1999, the net worth of just three individuals, Bill Gates, Paul Allen and Warren Buffet, was larger than the gross domestic product of the world’s 41 poorest nations and their 550 million people. In today’s upside-down America, ostensibly “public” institutions have been increasingly perverted into tools of wealth disparity, as wealth has devised one scheme after another to insure that, from the perspective of the working and middle classes, things will only get worse. Thirty years ago, at $1.3 million, the average annual CEO compensation was 39 times that of the average worker.  Today, at $37.5 million, it is over a thousand times that of the average worker,  who experienced a ten percent loss of real wages during the same thirty years.

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By MBSS, January 3, 2009 at 7:48 am Link to this comment
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to everyone:  TAO seems to have raised an important point and some ire by his “return to nature” ideas and it seems that at a certain level we will never give up our “gadgets,” and return to the dirt, unless we bomb ourselves back into the dark ages and we cant help it.  but i see a future which combines the best of what weve left behind along with the best of modern technology.  i was watching a movie called “flow” the other day about water resources and someone was mentioning huge dams are often not necessary and they often displace millions and cause a considerable amount of environmental damage.  there was mention of rudimentary rain collection and water storage under houses and how that simple method was effective and less destructive.  look at modern agriculture and king corn.  can we really say that so called progress is advancing civilization?  modern agriculture is a travesty and our pesticide soaked soil and foodstuffs can attest to that.  in a number of areas i wouldnt mind regressing completely and taking my laptop and cellphone with me.  actually maybe i could even do without the cellphone and these gouging wireless companies feeding data to uncle sam to use for domestic spying as well

back to free markets.  with respect to free markets and robert kuttners quote and anarcissies response, it begs the question:  is there anything inherently wrong with markets or free markets or trading?  i dont know if im so much a socialist as i am an anarchist, and i would love to see free trade including bartering on a community level with local foods and services.  thats the kind of free market i could endorse with the exclusion of government almost entirely.  if some people have made mention of disabling gov’t almost entirely and this is what they mean, local communities talking back their power, then i’m all for it.  i would like states and the feds to have some power, but simply for the sake of infrastructure, and the courts, and yes even national defense, sigh, at maybe 5 percent its current capacity.  a socialist democracy federal structure with enough power at the state level to maintain balance, but with the real activity at the local level.

what is a free market?  why should it be a bad thing? its not.  a farmers market is a good example.  it is lightly regulated.  people are free to barter if they wish.  there is direct commerce without the drag of too many intermediaries.  it functions well.

look at wall st.  and consider free markets in that forum.  who are the players?  huge multinational corps. that receive tax breaks until they pay no taxes and receive federal aid in other ways including the direct infusion of capital.  what is the goal?  make the shareholders money or you can be sued.  employees dont matter, environment doesnt matter, nothing matters aside from the numbers on the ticker.

of course i simplify matters, but in essence this is the game.  sure the common man can buy in, but he is at the mercy of forces much larger than himself, and he watches helplessly as the ball rolls around and around.

a free market for wall st. simply opens up the floodgates for the huge corporations to do what they are built to do.  make money and continue there own existence through any means necessary.  nothing else matters, commodify everything.  air, water, oil.  sell it for what you can get for it.

is there anything wrong with “free markets?”  No

is there anything wrong with “free markets,” for the financial institutions we currently have in place?  Yes.  very wrong indeed.

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By prgill, January 3, 2009 at 2:10 am Link to this comment

It is too bad that TAO Walker’s comments are made in the context of a “civic and social” affairs forum where the subject is not “The Way” but “the relationship of the individual to the Civitas”.

You see, in our western tradition we distinguish between the private world of personal beliefs and practices and the public world in which we negotiate our individual and collective relationships to the public sphere.

In the abstract, spiritual sense, I share TAO Walker’s outlook one hundred percent:

“Life for us, as persons and as a people, as Two-leggeds among the children of our Mother Earth and SunFather, as natural born belongers-in (and -TO) the Living Universe, is growing from circle to circle….each seemingly “bigger” from one way of looking at it, but also more and more “distilled” to its essence looked at another way.” Hillary’s Calculations Add Up to War

Our lives would be meaningless without the deep truths of the Tiyoshpaye way. We are all part of the living arrangement of Mother Earth.

This is powerful stuff, but beyond defining fairness and justice, it does not advance our discussion of the Commons. It is through discussions such as this that we remind ourselves of the burden of materialism and private property and of the absolute need for fairness and equity.

This is our lot and we must live with it as part of our own living arrangement with Mother Earth. This is not quite the same as TAO Walker’s belief in Mother Earth’s living arrangement as a given which we must all respect.

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By donl51, January 2, 2009 at 9:46 pm Link to this comment

I think I’ve always had socialist leanings and as I’ve gone through life,,my education,my business,my thoughts have strenghened,not weak’nd… The unfortunate problem is that many in this country are so brainwashed concerning what Socialism is ,that it’s very difficult for many to think otherwise…I know someone who agrees that Socialism is what caused all our current problems,that it’s a failing onto itself….I read what one commenter,Alex Mason…who claims to be a true capitalist ,and its quite disconcerting,reading what he claims to be the problem…sorry!..in large part I agree w/Chris on this one,...all & all I enjoyed the comments[ pro & con] to the article,as for my own ideas? I feel that Socialism and Capitalism could co-exist…one being a form of check for the other,...my feelings!

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By Anarcissie, January 2, 2009 at 8:53 pm Link to this comment

Robert Kuttner:
’... So now we’re learning, painfully, for a second time a lesson that we never should have had to learn twice, that markets don’t regulate themselves. Markets, left to their own devices, create grotesque inequality, ruin the environment and ruin the economy. And we’re seeing that unfold. ...’

However, a market per se is nothing more than a group of people voluntarily coming together to trade stuff.

If markets can’t be trusted, this implies that people can’t be trusted.  Someone must govern them and their interactions.

But who?  The gods are on vacation and are not returning calls.  All we have are these same fallible people who were unable to manage themselves in a market.

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By Anarcissie, January 2, 2009 at 8:39 pm Link to this comment

MBSS: ’... and in nature you do find a survival of the fittest rulebook but you do not find a “torture chamber.” ‘

Think about how Evolution took place, is taking place.  It is not nice.

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By cann4ing, January 2, 2009 at 6:00 pm Link to this comment

Your faith in so-called “free markets” is fundamentally unsound, ChristineSmith.

Nearly a year ago, economic journalist, Robert Kuttner, presciently observed:

“I think the place to start is to recognize why this recession is different from all other recessions. This began and is continuing with a collapse in credit markets, and the collapse in credit markets is, in turn, the result of deregulation gone nuts. And it’s a repeat of a lot of things that happened in the 1920s, where there was too much speculation with too much borrowed money and a complete lack of transparency. The regulators, the public had no idea of what these bonds that had been created out of subprime mortgages really contained, what they were worth. The people who packaged them were not subject to any kind of regulatory scrutiny.

“This did not just happen. This was not an accident. This was the agenda of business, particularly Wall Street, going back thirty years. And if you look at the history of this, the Great Depression discredited free-market ideology, because it was such a colossal practical failure. Nobody in the 1930s could argue with a straight face that free markets worked. And so, we had a whole mixed economy, a regulatory structure invented during the New Deal, that really lasted thirty or forty years. By the ’70s, for a variety of reasons, big business had recovered a lot of the political power that it had lost in the Depression. And both parties, beginning with Carter, continuing with Clinton, became enablers of the kind of deregulation that finally has come home to roost in this crisis.

“So now we’re learning, painfully, for a second time a lesson that we never should have had to learn twice, that markets don’t regulate themselves. Markets, left to their own devices, create grotesque inequality, ruin the environment and ruin the economy. And we’re seeing that unfold.”

http://www.democracynow.org/2008/1/23/recession

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By ---, January 2, 2009 at 4:47 pm Link to this comment

I disagree entirely with the author.  It is a true free market which would begin to restore prosperity to our nation.

It’s not that capitalism has failed, nor that more government intervention is needed, but only a return to the values we as a nation once cherished: of love for one another, provision for our families and those in need through private charity, independence, and the liberty to pursue dreams. To choose love over fear means choosing truth over lies. It would mean a raising of the consciousnesses of society. All it requires is a return to individual liberty and personal responsibility.


I invite you to read my article:  Where Are The Blessings of Liberty?

http://www.alienlove.com/modules.php?name=News&file=article&sid=2795&mode=thread&order=0&thold=0

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By tunacan, January 2, 2009 at 4:23 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Mr. Martin states “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.” He should study his history. In the summer of 1787 a convention was scheduled to refine the Articles of Confederation that protected our new freedom by prohibiting the existence of an executive branch of government, even prohibiting state governors from serving in their respective state legislatures. What happened? The 55 wealthiest men in America - including the largest property owners - closed the convention doors to the public and the press and exceeded their mandate by creating a new Constitution with an Executive branch of government (think monarch). Afterwards, Alexander Hamilton (who, according to some, advocated a monarchy at the convention) continued his massage of the father of our country with one hand whilst with the other he was free to create the America we live in, replete with a national bank and the dream of empire, a standing army, a capitalist free market place, etc. For Hamilton, “democracy was a disease” and the (same) elite have ruled ever since, only with a new patriotism.

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By Folktruther, January 2, 2009 at 1:34 pm Link to this comment

TAo, you old Savage, I would tend to agree with Anarcissie who, with his costomary distinction of mind, expressed pithily the human condition. I never experienced Mother Earth as being alive, except maybe for a few earthworms. 

You do, and reverence Her, huddled around your campfire, writing your thoughts down on deerskin with a charred firestick.  I assume that you are three or four hundred years old to arrive at your present state of Wisdom, which you express so well.  As I stated before, I disagree with all of it, but admire how it’s styled.

Last week I went up the California coast to Monterey and Santa Cruz to check out colleges for my daughter. Sea lions were passing by and congregated in huge clumps of maybe 50 to hundred in the water, barking like exited dogs.  An old pelican who couldn’t fly very high any more was on the pier catching the entrails of the fish thrown to him as the fishermen cleaned them.  The coast was beautiful.

But TAO, it got dark at night and I couldn’t see so good.  It rained, and it got cold, and I needed a computer to do my work.  I could not hunt the wild computer in the woods, or grow it in Mother Earth.  Someone had to make it, in China as it happens.  But I won’t bore you further with the standard arguments.

You can’t go back to the future.  You have to go forward to regain the harmony of the past.

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By cann4ing, January 2, 2009 at 12:24 pm Link to this comment

By TAO Walker, January 1 at 11:17 pm #

The only thing the domesticated peoples must get, and keep, “in line” is their own unhealthy appetite for ruinous exploitation, rapacious consumption, and murderous assaults on each other and the rest of the Living World…
_______________________

No one questions the accuracy of that assessment, TAO, but the real question is whether a primitive life style is the “only” means through which “ruinous exploitation, rapacious consumption, and murderous assaults on each other and the rest of the Living World…” can be tempered or eliminated. It is the essence of green technology that it neither “exploits” natural resources nor reflects an effort to dominate nature.  It is the essence of a democratic socialism that rapacious consumption is abandoned in favor of a political/economic system that is based on the needs of the many, as opposed to the greed of the few, and it is that greed that is the driving force in the imperialistic conquest that have brought “murderous assaults.”

As I have mentioned elsewhere, civilization is as old as recorded history.  The tribal means of survival of the 19th Century Lakota were by no means the exclusive societal organization of even Native Americans, and you, yourself, TAO, partake in the products of civilization—the internet, the electrical grid that feeds it.

While there is much to be learned from the harmony between “The Way” and “Mother Nature,” you have “never” provided a satisfactory answer to the question as to whether an attempted return to a primitive lifestyle would result in the deaths of billions of the earths current human inhabitants.  You are so set in your own little microcosm that you simply are not open to the idea that “your” way of thinking may not be the “only” way.

As a fellow citizen of Mother Earth, I am interested in solutions that will provide a sustainable existence for the bulk of humanity while preserving the balance between man and nature.  Yours does not offer that.

Finally, you cannot assume that there is not a significant difference between man and all other species.  What other species depends on clothing, manufactured shelter?  What other species is capable of communicating in the manner in which you and I communicate?

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By MBSS, January 2, 2009 at 10:36 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

anarchissie:  i think you tend to make salient points in general but with regard to mother earth being “mean” or not i would say this:  nature has a certain spartan ruthlessness to it that some say man must emulate in order to survive.  but nature also has a cooperative aspect as well and has given until it hurts.  mother earth has given up all of her resources, or more accurately, it has been horded by man.  yet she gives willingly, until the last drop is gone.  mother earth provides us with the perfect atmosphere, environment, ecosystem, solar rays to exist, until we have disrupted that fragile balance and doomed ourselves.

and in nature you do find a survival of the fittest rulebook but you do not find a “torture chamber.”  life feeds on life necessarily, but only in the human animal do you find sadism and schadenfreude.  animals will kill one another and other scavenger animals will dispose of the remains and the earth herself will absorb what is left of that in a beautiful recycling of life.  a cat may toy with a mouse before it kills it out of curiosity, but you dont find a maliciously evil quality in other animals.  the joy of anothers pain.  it is simply par for the course to hunt if one is a hunter, to eat greens if one is a herbavore. instinct has embedded this drive in the animal.

chris hedges points this out in his more gloomy assessments of human nature.  human greed, avarice, sadism, cruelty, and so on, seems to be a special type of evil in the world.  personally i have a much more optimistic view of mankind.  there is evil in the human soul, sitting aside much beauty.  man acts with much kindness toward his fellow man every day; although those events dont get much airplay.  we must appeal to our better angels and come together in shared interests for the good of some kind of true civilizatation in order to displace the barbarism we are experiencing now.

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By Anarcissie, January 2, 2009 at 9:35 am Link to this comment

cann4ing: (quoting Krugman) ’... Middle-class societies don’t emerge automatically as an economy matures, they have to be created through political action….It took FDR and the New Deal to bring that society into being.’

I would say World War 2 and the Cold War, by creating a tremendous demand for labor—major wars are infinitely expensive—and by creating political conditions under which the loyalty and obedience of working-class people had to be courted rather than merely commanded by the ruling class.  Once the r.c. was pretty sure its last competitor (the Soviet Union and Communism) were not going to succeed, they began to rescind the old New Deal deal.  Now they have money only for war and bailouts for the rich.

If either Krugman’s theory or mine is correct, however, it means that under present conditions (semi-liberal capitalism) the “middle class” so-called can only be created by state power, that is, by military and police force; this class does not grow naturally out of voluntary economic and political relations.  That is most interesting if so.

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By Anarcissie, January 2, 2009 at 8:42 am Link to this comment

TAO Walker:
‘Folktruther asserts without any evidence at all (other than a lifetime exposed to a ceaseless barrage of homo-centric and anti-Nature propaganda) that our Mother Earth is “mean.” ...’

I’ve certainly experienced it that way, and I’ve traversed the wilderness as well as the cities.  It’s often kill or die.  The things you kill don’t want to be killed and run away or resist.  This is apparently the way the world was created; our evolution was a vast slaughter-house and torture chamber.  But regardless, humans stepped out of pre-human nature a long time ago; they ate the fruit of the tree of knowledge and were cast out of this Eden red in tooth and claw.  An angel with a flaming sword stands at the gate, and we are stuck with the world we began to create in defiance of the Creator.  We might as well try to do a better job.

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By prgill, January 2, 2009 at 2:06 am Link to this comment

Jim C, nobody ever suggested William McKinley was a “Progressive”. If anything he was the anti-progressive who blocked Progressive legislation and failed to prosecute business and industrial combinations that would have been illegal under the Sherman Anti-Trust Act.

The Progressive movement was a “grass-roots” movement born in the early 1890s of popular discontent. Congress passed the Sherman Anti-Trust Act in 1891 but it was not widely enforced before Teddy Roosevelt assumed the presidency in 1901.

At the core of the “progressive movement” were a number of popular movements to tax corporate property, regulate the money supply for the benefit of a cash economy and price stability, reform city administrations, improve public education and housing and reform labor practices. The Encyclopaedia Britannica is my source for this:

...progressivism was the response of various groups to problems raised by the rapid industrialization and urbanization that followed the Civil War. These problems included the spread of slums and poverty; the exploitation of labour; the breakdown of democratic government in the cities and states caused by the emergence of political organizations, or machines, allied with business interests; and a rapid movement toward financial and industrial concentration. Many Americans feared that their historic traditions of responsible democratic government and free economic opportunity for all were being destroyed by gigantic combinations of economic and political power.

Actually there was not, either in the 1890s or later, any single Progressive movement. The numerous movements for reform on the local, state, and national levels were too diverse, and sometimes too mutually antagonistic, ever to coalesce into a national crusade. But they were generally motivated by common assumptions and goals—e.g., the repudiation of individualism and laissez-faire, concern for the underprivileged and downtrodden, the control of government by the rank and file, and the enlargement of governmental power in order to bring industry and finance under a measure of popular control.
(source: Encyclopaedia Britannica Online, by subscription)

The “progressive movement” was first and foremost a local movement. It remained “local” pretty much through McKinley’s second term, that is until the Second Session of the 58th Congress. In 1904 reformers and “progressives” took over the Congress and sanctioned Teddy Roosevelt’s authority to pursue reform. The heyday of the progressive movement occurred between 1904 and 1912 (57th through 62nd Congress) under Republican leadership. The taste for reform continued through the Wilson presidency to be sure, but was overshadowed by other issues. The taste for “reform” resurfaced only in response to a national emergency brought on by the financial excesses (read “debt”) of the “roaring 20s”. 

Progressivism found national expression through Teddy Roosevelt’s enforcement of the Sherman Anti-Trust Act, which is how we come to this discussion in the first place.

Markets are inevitable as I feel we all agree. What counts is the control and direction of those markets so that they serve the public interest as defined by Congress. Markets operate most efficiently when free of barriers—national currencies, language, transport, etc. In the interest of fairness and the preservation of the public good certain barriers are necessary, essentially in the form of regulation. These are the “barriers” business suceeded in levying in the name of globalization.

But local governance reform in Louisiana and Pennsylvania or education reform in Indiana are not “market issues”, they are local issues, best addressed locally. Amen.

Finally, I like Whyzowl1’s Galbraith and Maynard Keynes citations, and especially like his/her farmer attribution. ;—)

Happy new year to all!

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By TAO Walker, January 2, 2009 at 12:17 am Link to this comment

Folktruther asserts without any evidence at all (other than a lifetime exposed to a ceaseless barrage of homo-centric and anti-Nature propaganda) that our Mother Earth is “mean.”  Then s/he compounds that folly by suggesting all the gadgetry that is in fact daily devastating his/her own domesticated kind, and rendering the bubble-world of their “civilization” increasingly uninhabitable, somehow serves to “....keep her in line”....again with nothing whatsoever to back-up such an arrogant presumption.

A sensible Person who has given some careful attention to what is actually occurring here might be less eager to make such grandiose claims about their capacity to, in-effect, “discipline” a Living Being who exceeds in every way the very limited reach and scope of their own tiny selfs….even when massed in national security states or religious congregations.  Those limits are well-illustrated here by Folktruther’s own wishfully thinking out-loud that it’s possible to have the desired gadgetry while getting-rid of the ideologically-driven and predatory institutional systems without which it wouldn’t exist and couldn’t continue to operate.

The only thing the domesticated peoples must get, and keep, “in line” is their own unhealthy appetite for ruinous exploitation, rapacious consumption, and murderous assaults on each other and the rest of the Living World apart from which they are themselves unable to get along for even three minutes.  Such a commonsensical realization is unfortunately difficult to reach for people enmeshed in the toils of their own immature and mistaken notions about how “powerful” and “intelligent” they are….this despite the obvious fact there isn’t a single bit of objective testimony to support these self-CONtrived and self-serving assumptions. 

In fact, the domesticated peoples’ well-documented penchant for behavior that is destructive of even their own selfish “interests” pretty much refutes their silly boasts about being “the brains” of this outfit.  It’s likely, though, these are all things that, however plain-to-see, Folktruther and other born-into-it inmates of the virtual “world-o’-hurt” that is the only world they know, will feel compelled to “disagree” with this old Indian who knows the outside of the contraption as well as its insides….something few if any of ‘em can honestly say.

No blame, just fact.

HokaHey!

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By cann4ing, January 1, 2009 at 7:51 pm Link to this comment

Jim C, when and where did you get the idea that I had suggested that McKinley was a “progressive”?  You are quite right when you note that unions were practically non-existent in the 1890s, which is why I referred to progressives of that earlier period as primarily an agrarian-based movement—small farmers challenging the railroad barons. 

In “The Conscience of a Liberal” Paul Krugman observes, “America was a vastly unequal society circa 1900—an observation that won’t surprise anyone.  Perhaps more suprisingly, the evidence suggests that the level of inequality remained almost unchanged through the twenties.

“...The persistence of extreme inequality right through the Jazz Age is the first piece of evidence for one of [Krugman’s] central points.  Middle-class societies don’t emerge automatically as an economy matures, they have to be created through political action….It took FDR and the New Deal to bring that society into being.”

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By MBSS, January 1, 2009 at 7:46 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

TAO: thats why i vote green.—

also im amused by everyones “free market” drivel.  “if only we had a truly free market then adam smith’s invisible hand would act as a regulating mechanism/equalibrium.”  a truly free market would act not much differently than bush/clinton/greenspan/rubins corporate welfare, insiders advantage market.  there is some overlap between the market and government necessarily through simple logistics, but the philosophy of those i referenced is that which loosens any choke or oversight of the market.  (why do people think regulation is bad?  should a sporting event have a referee?  should a court have a judge?  should a street have a cop?)  this is the same way a truly free market would work.  globilization would still be the name of the game, 3rd world states would still be exploited, power and capital would consolidate into oversized conglomerate entities for the sake of sustenance, corporations would still be beholden only to their shareholders and not to the earth or their employees or anyone else.

maybe i am naive and simply dont understand how a truly free market would not just consume itself in a self cannibalizing, capital thirsty rage just as our current economy has.

also those that dismiss socialism or green party values dont understand simple spiritual truths.  we are all connected spiritually.  “instant karma is gonna getcha.”  to strengthen our brother is to strengthen ourselves.  when the upper class completely has trampled the lower classes they find that they have unwittingly ruined their own consumer base and ruined their own businesses through an endless greed.  libertarians are at the opposite end of this spectrum with their “every man for himself,” credo hidden behind lofty rhetoric.

socialism adheres to these spiritual truths.  to empower another is to empower ourselves.  together we are mighty and when atomized we are weak, prone to be taken advantage of by more mighty entities.  why do you think that america has tried all through its history to destroy any real labor movement.  god forbid people come together and exponentially increase their power, political and otherwise.  (anyone here shop at a co-op?  i do)  socialism is a not a lost cause.  it is one of the few ways we can actually survive with out ripping each other apart.

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By whyzowl1, January 1, 2009 at 7:25 pm Link to this comment

“The contented and economically comfortable have a very discriminating view of government. Nobody is ever indignant about bailing out failed banks and failed savings and loans associations…. But when taxes must be paid for the lower middle class and poor, the government assumes an aspect of wickedness.”—John Kenneth Galbraith

“The decadent international but individualistic capitalism in the hands of which we found ourselves after the war is not a success. It is not intelligent. It is not beautiful. It is not just. It is not virtuous. And it doesn’t deliver the goods.”—John Maynard Keynes

I think we all subscribe to the Goldilocks Rule, Anthony Rose—isn’t it just so? Nobody wants government that is too big or too small, but just right. Nobody wants too much regulation of markets or too little, but hope to strike just the right balance.

The fact is, however, that you can’t run a complex modern society without a lot of government. Too much? Not enough? Let’s fight that question out in the political arena and let our successes or failures be our guide. Right now it’s obvious that we have some mid-course corrections to make.

Anarcisse and Anthony: Government regulation of markets is not bound to fail just because the two are inextricably intertwined. They have distinctly different roles. Government must strictly regulate markets because by their own logic they will devolve into cesspools of criminal fraud and abuse if left to their own devices. Are we there yet? Yes.

To read the libertarians and market fundamentalists in this thread, you might think government regulators were diabolic men and women who take their pleasure in sitting around the office all day thinking up ever more exotic ways to thwart and torture noble, virtuous businessmen. Hah! Government regulations are invariably the fruit of the sins of the past. While it’s true that markets evolve and change over time, often leaving the existing regulatory framework behind in their dust, and further that it takes a tremendous effort for regulators to try to keep up, it is an effort that must be made or it’s time for another dive into the cesspool.

Who can honestly call this global capitalist system a success, or claim that it ever was? Capitalism provides a very nice standard of living indeed for the 15 percent of the planet’s population who live primarily in the dominant imperial centers of North America, Western Europe and Japan. But what about the other 85 percent? What about the 50 percent of the earth’s population who live in poverty on an income of 2 dollars a day or less, or the third who suffer in deep poverty on an income of 1 dollar a day or less?

Capitalism is fantastically innovative and dynamic; wealth abounds! So it’s clear that we don’t have a wealth problem, we have a distribution problem. Imagine that for a fraction of what we in the United States pay for “defense” every year, every man, woman and child on earth could be provided with access to adequate food, shelter, and potable water. And what would doing that do to advance our individual and colective security? A helluva lot more than more bombs and more guns, I’d wager.

Let’s just do it. The top tax bracket was 90 percent when Dwight David Eisenhower presided over the Golden Age of American Capitalism, which lasted from about 1945 until about 1970, and nobody ever called Ike a commie or a socialist.

I hold with the old farmer wisdom that says money is a lot like manure. Spread it around and it makes things grow. Gather it all up into a big pile, and it just stinks.

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By Folktruther, January 1, 2009 at 6:42 pm Link to this comment

The earth, TAO, you old Savage, is a mean Mother.We need our gadgets to keep Her in line.  It’s our class- based power structurs that we can do without.  I really love the rhythm of your sentences. but primativism is not a viable option.

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By TAO Walker, January 1, 2009 at 6:18 pm Link to this comment

Seems like the endlessly tail-chasing character of the “politico/economic” argument here would be a clue to its essential futility.  At what point do people “get” that these are NOT the real “issues” facing the domesticated peoples in these latter days?

Shouldn’t it be at least suspected, by commenters as clearly capable of considering their circumstances as so many here are, that it is their fundamental assumptions about Human Nature, and its place in NATURE, that are in some specific way at-odds with the rhythms and balances of the actual Living Arrangement of our Mother Earth?  Even us primitive Savages understand that no species can declare and wage all-out war on its habitat, as the “civilized” peoples have done, and have any chance at all of living to tell the tale.

If well meaning Persons here want to devote their time and attention to matters much more pertinent to the condition their “condition” is in, try considering the organic function of Humanity, in Earth’s own “scheme-of-things,” as maybe much more worthy of examination and understanding than the endless variety of make-believe abstractions that serve so well to keep you at one anothers’ throats. 

Your ideologies are failing you because they are so woefully inadequate to the inescapable organic need you have to see and respond to Life’s requirements of you as Human Beings.  Your institutions are collapsing because they all share those fatal flaws in your belief systems, upon which they’re so haplessly “founded.”  Your gadgetry is failing you because it is absolutely superfluous (at best, and downright destructive for the most part) to what Humanity as such is given to do in-support-of a whole and healthy Living World.

All efforts to “salvage” this titanic “civilization” are doomed to failure, as well.  It is in the process even now of being destroyed by its own internal contradictions. 

Maybe it’s time, tame Sisters and Brothers, to “pay” your respects and your precious attention to the Living Being who has given birth to you, and who continues to care for you despite your vain and stupid attempts to “have dominion over” Her and your Relatives….Her other Children.  Or maybe it’s already too late, and your fate as a “sub-species” is already sealed by your own boastful perniciousness.

Us surviving free wild Human Beings, along with our Mother and all our Relations are waiting to see what becomes of you.

HokaHey!

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By Jim C, January 1, 2009 at 5:24 pm Link to this comment

Oh , one more point , Mckinley was about as progressive as george bush , he was a corporate shill through and through . The liberal or socialist democratic movement didn’t get traction for another ten or twenty years which then led to the modern democratic party .

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By Jim C, January 1, 2009 at 5:16 pm Link to this comment

Cann4ling , just a couple of quick comments on your post . In the 1890s unions were practically nonexistant as we know them . Workers were pretty much slaves to their corporate masters or boss . Mckinly was totally and completely in the pocket of big business , as were both major parties at the time . Business monopolies controled every aspect of commerce and there was no middle class as we know it , the middle class didn’t start forming for another 40yrs . In the late 1800s things were so bleak for the average american we almost had an insurrection . The oil companys and rail companys in particular were gouging the public to the point people were ready to revolt . If TR hadn’t stepped in and started trust busting and bringing robber barons under control we very well may have had a second revolution . Mckinley and Hanna were very much like bush and rove except Mckinley was smarter ( faint praise ) and a better orator ( again , faint praise ) , but he was nothing but a piece of excrement who frankly , got just what he deserved .

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By pragman, January 1, 2009 at 2:29 pm Link to this comment
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Great Discussion. Thanks to all for keeping it civil.  It seems that we’re in a world of hurt no matter which way we turn, but especially if we continue down the path we’re on. My principal interest is pragmatic. In the broadest sense, it would appear that we all believe that a truly democratic government is the only system anyone in this forum supports. I would appreciate some feedback on the premise that keeping corporate money out of elections is the single most important first step in a process that would return control of a government that is of the people, by the people, and for the people. Thanks

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By Anarcissie, January 1, 2009 at 1:25 pm Link to this comment

It is odd to see McKinley, fan of hard money and high tariffs, and a somewhat reluctant imperialist, associated with George W. Bush.  It is interesting too to look at the electoral map of 1896 versus, say, 2004: the two parties have exchanged states.

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By Folktruther, January 1, 2009 at 11:11 am Link to this comment

Good post, Cann4ing, especially for an Obamanite.  My uncle, who played the clarinet in the New York Ballet, supported Wallace in 1948, and I remember how amazed they were that he received less than a milliion votes.  You would think that Mencken, who was a reactionary politically, but a cultural progressive, would not oppose Wallace, since he siphoned votes awary from Truman, but he might not have been a good Gop man.

The CP that supported Wallace was at that time largely under the control of the USSR.  But it had quite a few public intellectuals and artists that were members and supported it until Truman began what is known as the McCarthy period. 

The consequent repression of marxism is responsible for the liberal ideology of the US as the progressive ideology, it being conservative in other capitalist power systems.  It is why the unions could be so easily destroyed, since their leaders expelled marxists and radicals from the unions.

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By steven daniel, January 1, 2009 at 10:36 am Link to this comment
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It is quite possible that the nightmare which Chris Hedges raises, the totalitarian world of Christian fascism, will never occur.  Why?  All of the trends, whether Hegelian or material dialectical, seem to point to just that outcome. But there’s a recently published, little-known novel, Scamming God, by Morgan Ibarra, which blows dogmatic Christianity to smithereens.  It also shows the “psychopathic” traits of capitalism and corporatism, incarnate in one charismatic criminal, the first lover of the novel’s heroine.

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