Tag Archives: capitalism

When Patriots Knew What They Were Talking About

I believe in the equality of man; and I believe that religious duties consist in doing justice, loving mercy, and endeavoring to make our fellow-creatures happy.
(Thomas Paine. The Age of Reason 1794)

restored scene from the musical 1776.

via Crooks and Liars, hat tip to Susie Madrak: ‘1776’ Revisited: The Conservatives Are Still ‘Cool, Cool Considerate Men’

This clip is aces, but you’ll have to click over to the original posting for the background.

On the cusp of July 4th, I’m reminded of how much entertainment value is available through observing what’s going on on the right side of the battle lines drawn by the Tea Party patriot movement. The way I look at it, or, rather, one way I look at it, is there is an array of half baked sentiments purporting to represent a true vision of what America is, and this vision is claimed against all others and all other comers, by an overwhelmingly white, baby boomer movement. In turn this movement has its long-ago roots in the silent majority given by Nixon’s Vice President Spiro Agnew during the campaign of 1972. Note, however, that the silent majority then was comprised of the parents of the silent majority of today.

All those ‘others’ are characterized in ways which are veritably time honored by Conservatives of all stripes: socialists, progressives, minorities, the professoriat, liberals, secularists, educated elitists, those with empathy, humanists, evolutionists, relativists, Marxists, cosmopolitans, utilitarians, collectivists, Ivy Leaguers. As a lumpen classification, all of the above are those who don’t get what America is about–so it is claimed.

It would be fair enough for the Tea Partyistas to stop there, because it’s the appropriation of historical facts, and their subsequent revision and mangling, that casts the entire movement over the edge. For laughs I sometimes listen to Glenn Beck during my fifteen minute commute. He can’t astonish me with his claim of well-read expertise when he seems to think Thomas Paine was the revolutionary era’s version of Newt Gingrich. On the other hand, that someone so blatently ignorant is a multi-millionaire and has the ears of millions does support the notion America is a great country for the entrepreneurial gas bagger, and self-avowed Libertarian friend of liberty.

It’s also delicious and ironic to watch the Club For Growth types and corporate ‘country club’ Republicans grapple with how to co-opt, for example, tenth Amendment tea baggers.
Say what you will about the ideological aesthetics of privatizing profits and socializing risks, those goals can’t be served by watering the tree of liberty with the blood of patriots; reverting to states’ rights; or elimination Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid. If you remember, back during the wave of Tea Party protests, there were signs reading, “Government Hands Off My Medicare!” Well, this is concerning of course! People other than my own getting benefits!

Still, a central tenet of Tea Partyism is that the socialization of persons’ risks, risks other than your own–see itemization above–is downright evil. As Nevada candidate Sharon Angle says, in an echo of Reagan era rhetoric Cadillac-driving welfare queens, ‘unemployment is a disincentive to work.’ President Obama, while campaigning, was pithy, “Yeah, the ownership society means you’re on your own.” There is an individualist, utopian, construct at work here in the idea that everybody is better off working on their own to realize their individual aspirations. But, this is a radically anti-conservative construct. Given a coherent, traditionalist cast, Conservatism is dead set against self-creation on individualized, ‘Libertarian’ terms. Duh!

This is why it is fascinating to observe the proponents of collectivist corporatism and corporate welfarism, (upon which the socialization of risk depends,) jockeying to reel in the inchoate and angry, sentimental, utopian collectives of the Tea Party movement. I believe it’s safe to say neither group would enjoy pursuing happiness in whatever utopia could be fashioned between their contradictory ideologies. Still…

Because the Tea Partyista, evidently, is unable to make sense of the differences rendered between Paine, Hamilton, Jefferson, Adams, Madison, et al, I’d recommend each take a gander at:

Equity Strategy: Buying Luxury, Explaining Global Imbalances. Citigroup Research; Kapur, MacLeod, Singh; October 5, 2005 DL). This document was brought to my attention by Michael Moore in his film, Capitalism: A Love Story. Written by analysts working for Citigroup, it specifies context and advice for sustaining holdings and wealth creation if one is a plutonomist; is super-rich citizen in a plutonomy–an economy configured for, and dominated by, the super-rich.

What’s it about? It’s about how the super wealthy can protect themselves and their assets from the rabble of all the have-nots; have-nots defined here as everybody but themselves. It identifies an obstacle:

Could the plutonomies die because the dream is dead, because enough of society does not believe they can participate? The answer is of course yes. But we suspect this is a threat more clearly felt during recessions, and periods of falling wealth, than when average citizens feel that they are better off. There are signs around the world that society is unhappy with plutonomy – judging by how tight electoral races are. But as yet, there seems little political fight being born out on this battleground.

A related threat comes from the backlash to “Robber-baron” economies. The population at large might still endorse the concept of plutonomy but feel they have lost out to unfair rules. In a sense, this backlash has been epitomized by the media coverage and actual prosecution of high-profile ex-CEOs who presided over financial misappropriation. This “backlash” seems to be something that comes with bull markets and their subsequent collapse. To this end, the cleaning up of business practice, by high profile champions of fair play, might actually prolong plutonomy.

Our overall conclusion is that a backlash against plutonomy is probable at some point. However, that point is not now. So long as economies continue to grow, and enough of the electorates feel that they are benefiting and getting rich in absolute terms, even if they are less well off in relative terms, there is little threat to Plutonomy in the U.S., UK, etc.

But the balance of power between right (generally pro-plutonomy) and left (generally pro-equality) is on a knife-edge in many countries. Just witness how close the U.S. election was last year, [2004] or how close the results of the German election were. A collapse in wealth in the plutonomies, felt by the masses, and/or prolonged recession could easily raise the prospects of anti-plutonomy policy.

Wealth, Income, and Power
by G. William Domhoff

These two lines go bumpety-bump, back and forth, over many decades. I’m not sure what the Tea Party’s economic wishes for themselves are, but I reckon they’re not concerned with those chomping to become their bedfellows so as to depress the bottom line a bit more.

This speaks for itself. I’d like to add it a curve reflecting increase and decrease of the number of Union members. I continue to be amazed when I hear ditto heads decry Unions as socialist–this in the context of cartelism, corporate welfare and subsidies, and, corporate and financial collectives. The problem as I see it isn’t super wealthy people, it’s what happens when super wealth is to be preserved, but at the cost of 80% of the household’s economic hopes become mostly flattened, and some percent becoming doomed.

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David Brooks Fail

The milquetoast, kinder-and-gentler conservative NYT editorialist David Brooks delivered another brightly burning ideational bulb today. Man, I wish he had had the time to show it to the missus first!

It is all downhill after this tipping point, reached in the piece’s fourth sentence:

Politics, some believe, is the organization of hatreds. The people who try to divide society on the basis of ethnicity we call racists. The people who try to divide it on the basis of religion we call sectarians. The people who try to divide it on the basis of social class we call either populists or elitists.The Populist Addiction – NYT – 1/26:2010

Brooks wants to bracket his main point with, as it turns out, a nonsensical treatment of populism. He’s made this main point previously in a review Ron Chernow’s biography of Alexander Hamilton. This review, titled Creating Capitalism, was published in April 2004 in the NYT.

From the review,

But Hamilton dreamed of a vibrant economy that would allow aspiring meritocrats like himself to rise and realize their full capacities. He sought to smash the aristocratic fiefs enjoyed by Southern landowners like Jefferson and to replace them with a diversified marketplace that would be open to immigrants and the lowborn. Their vigor, he felt, would drive the nation to greatness. ”Every new scene, which is opened to the busy nature of man to rouse and exert itself, is the addition of a new energy to the general stock of effort,” he wrote.

He started a political tradition, dormant in our own day, in which energetic government doesn’t oppose market dynamism but is organized to enhance it. Today our liberal/conservative debates tend to pit the advocates of government against the advocates of the market. Today our politics is dominated by rival strands of populism: the anticorporate populism of the Democrats and the anti-Washington populism of the Republicans. But Hamilton thought in entirely different categories. He argued that ”liberty may be endangered by the abuses of liberty as well as by the abuses of power.” He wanted a limited but energetic government that would open fields of enterprise and give new directions to popular passions.

His editorial is a recycle job.

Hamilton championed capital markets and Lincoln championed banks, not because they loved traders and bankers. They did it because they knew a vibrant capitalist economy would maximize opportunity for poor boys like themselves. They were willing to tolerate the excesses of traders because they understood that no institution is more likely to channel opportunity to new groups and new people than vigorous financial markets.

In their view, government’s role was not to side with one faction or to wage class war. It was to rouse the energy and industry of people at all levels. It was to enhance competition and make it fair — to make sure that no group, high or low, is able to erect barriers that would deprive Americans of an open field and a fair chance. Theirs was a philosophy that celebrated development, mobility and work, wherever those things might be generated.

And what was the status and stature of the industrial revolution in the first decade of the 19th century in the U.S.? (Hamilton died in 1804.) What, at the time, was the normal range of ambitions for the average man? ‘open field’ indeed!

Then, having raced downhill, Brooks writes one of the most astonishing sentences of his career:

If they continue their random attacks on enterprise and capital, they will only increase the pervasive feeling of uncertainty, which is now the single biggest factor in holding back investment, job creation and growth.

I’m going to offer an opposing idea: people are certain about the current state of the economy. Many people are certain about who got bent over and who did the bending too.

Ironically, Brooks offers implicit advice, advice perhaps dear to the capitalist’s heart. Last implied by Phil Graham, remember?

Yup, suck it up you whiners–you’re the real problem. ‘Just let us make some more dough now that we’ve managed to eke out a bit more productivity from our lucky surviving workforce.’ After all, Al Hamilton says so, and, let’s face it, we’re really a country about the faction-less dynamism of marching capital.

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