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Present commentary concerning the conflict between Republicans and Democrats over taxes and the budget is takes place in a historical vacuum. It situates the struggle entirely in a contemporary context, when this is a very old contest wearing new ideological trappings. The Democrats are acting like serfs and pleading with the masters of the manor, the Republicans. Recent surrenders, including Ms. Rice and now the EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson's resignation are characteristic of Democratic "overtures", for peace. This struggle has a long history and without that knowledge behavior is impossible to judge.
The In the 19th century it was fashionable to
produce such situated analyses. British and French historians, Spanish and Russian, Austrian and Polish. One of the most elaborate was that by Lorenz von Stein who created a scenario for Frederick William IV, where he argued that Greece had lost its
leadership by the victory of the lower classes over the upper; Rome by
the triumph of the patricians over the plebeians. As Priscilla
Robertson notes in her history of the revolutions of 1848, the German
resolution of this contest was to prevent either catastrophe, with the
King as umpire to set a rational course between the classes. Our
current lack of historical framework undermines even a review of these
past efforts. As Dana Leibsohn states of such frameworks among the
pre-Columbian societies as they attempted to adapt to European
conquest, "In teaching people how things once were, histories also
structure what can occur." Most of these failed and the Russians reproduced the dictatorship of labor and the Germans that of capital. America's founders' use of history was, perhaps, more successful but it has not been sustained.
The political dance today between Obama,
Reid, McConnell and Boehner reproduces that of the Greek democrats and
aristocracy that left Athens in ruins and in the chaos of the Thirty
and the Civil War of 403 B.C. It mimics the road of crises in Rome
after the murder of Tiberius Gracchus. After more than 2,000 years we
should have learned something.
There must be reform of the fundamental
causes of inequality, if not, there will be disaster.