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The one thing that the banksters, the theocrats, and the ignorant, racist, hyper-macho, armed-rebellion crowd have in common is a push for a return to a medieval society.

A society where a wealthy aristocracy shall be granted a rakeoff on the peasants hard work, while not paying any taxes themselves. A society where taxes shall be levied (only on the poor) only to payoff the expenses of wars. A society where women shall be chattel, whose value shall be measured by their ability to give birth. A society where slavery (or prison labor) shall not be uncommon. A society where the slightest deviation from religious orthodoxy (including hard scientific data) shall get you put in front of an Inquisition.

As I watch the gush of raw political sewage on display daily (in no particular order):

- no action (but still denial) on climate change even as catastrophes mount,
- a hostage-taking minority in a gerrymandered US House,
- religious freedom for corporate people,
- 24/7 screaming gun-nuttery,
- the war on women,
- algebra is a communist plot,
- the ongoing free pass for Wall St. criminality,
- the downplaying of the last-place statistics for US healthcare
- the continuing failure of the War on Some Drugs
- the criminal waste of resources that is our bloated military establishment...

the only thread I can find in common here is an atavistic desire by victimizers and victims to turn the clock back to a medieval society. (That's my point. The rest of the diary is just commentary on it.)

It makes sense for Wall St. to want to legalize and forever entrench their fraudulent Grand Heist of 2008. It makes sense for theocrats to continue to exploit Freedom of Religion as an avenue to power, ala the Wahabiists of Saudi Arabia. And, if you are an ignorant, white, male loser, it makes sense to call for the overthrow of democracy so that white men go back to being able to boss around and control women and minorities, even as they remain dirt-poor and exploited in a blighted post-industrial landscape. "You can have the women" is an age-old bargain offered to mercenary soldiers.

But the crooks are 1% and the last-ditch nutters are not more than 30% (scary enough). So, how did we get to this point, so soon after FDR?

(If you care, please see my footnote explaining the title of this diary. I moved it there because it broke the flow.)

How can Americans, who have benefitted for 80 years from FDR's New Deal and for 45 years from LBJ's Great Society, be somehow rushing to place the same greedy banksters (a.k.a. rentiers) back in charge of a society they have spent the last thirty years ruining.

How many examples of failure are enough? The IMF admits its Greek policies were disastrously wrong. Estonia is financial wreckage. Ireland is being crucified. Spain is next on the list. All those countries followed the "austerity" pushed by the rentiers. The same suicidal austerity now being pushed by the lunatic right and the greedy rentiers on Wall St.


If you think "rentier" is a leftist word or even a 20th-century word, you would be wrong. It was a word used by Adam Smith and David Ricardo to describe the dead hand of feudal privilege that was strangling enterprise in England.

Adam Smith and his contemporary classical economists existed in a time where the noble families of medieval Europe were still the large landowners. The nobles had just turned into Rentiers. Because they owned the land, they were able to rent it out to capitalist and workers and claim some of it as their profits and wages by charging “rent”. They were able to do this without ever working. It was unearned income.

Much of the work done by economists from Adam Smith until the late Nineteenth Century was all about finding and identifying “rent-seeking.” These classical economists didn’t want to overthrow capitalism, they wanted to free it from the “rent-seeking” parasites.

Neoclasical econ

A simple definition of rent seeking is spending resources in order to gain by increasing one's share of existing wealth, instead of trying to create wealth. The net effect of rent-seeking is to reduce total social wealth, because resources are spent and no new wealth is created. It is important to distinguish rent-seeking from profit-seeking. Profit-seeking is the creation of wealth, while rent-seeking is the use of social institutions such as the power of government to redistribute wealth among different groups without creating new wealth.

rent seeking

Paul Krugman has no problem with the term, nor does the NYT have a problem with publishing it.
the policy prescriptions of the Pain Caucus all have one thing in common: They protect the interests of creditors, no matter the cost.

Who are these creditors I’m talking about? Not hard-working, thrifty small business owners and workers, although it serves the interests of the big players to pretend that it’s all about protecting little guys who play by the rules. The reality is that both small businesses and workers are hurt far more by the weak economy than they would be by, say, modest inflation that helps promote recovery.

No, the only real beneficiaries of Pain Caucus policies (aside from the Chinese government) are the rentiers: bankers and wealthy individuals with lots of bonds in their portfolios.
Rule by Rentiers (Paul Krugman, 6/10/2011)

To me, the whole political "debate" in our country boils down to modern vs medieval. (If you want to soften that phrasing, you can reference the Retro vs Metro blog from ~2004.) And when you reduce it to that, you can see there cannot be compromise between two conflicting worldviews.

Compromise on particular issues is not the way to win over the lunatics in the retro states that vote against Federal Medicare money, vote to ban Planned Parenthood - the major provider of healthcare to poor women, vote to drive the US into default again and again - even as their states are net recipients of Federal aid and their states lead in bad statistics like teenage pregnancy and divorce.

The mental gap here is about as wide as it was during the 1850s. Large parts of the country live in an alternate reality constructed by a corporate media that is the mouthpiece of big money. They have no idea America was founded by people whose grandfathers had lived through the "no quarter given" religious wars of the 17th century and wanted to make sure it could never happen here.

Lately, I have felt that some kind of crescendo of bombardment by BS is being reached - timed to coincide with the debt "crisis". (See my list of sewage in the intro.) We are being deliberately distracted here; being set up for Shock Doctrine Round 2.


So, when I watch Obama again, unilaterally throw away all the leverage he has (14th amendment, platinum coin) and stake it all on staring down these nutcases, I get this deja vu feeling. Why? Because I think he might fail? No, because I think he might succeed by giving away substantial parts of the Big Three (Soc Sec, Medicare, Medicaid) and calling it a compromise and a victory. (And then the Democrats lose big in 2014, and the GOP buy it all in 2016.)

And its not like there isn't a precedent for it:

...the century of free market economists who followed Smith would have said, “Tax away unearned rentier income. And do not pay creditors by selling off the public domain to rent-seeking privatizers erecting tollbooths on the economy.” That was precisely the legacy of feudalism that free-market theory was designed to reject, after all.

In view of the conspicuous absence of true free market conservatives, it is clear that President Obama selected members of the Bowles-Simpson commission to provide a rationale – or at least a rhetorical cover story – for turning the U.S. economy into a neofeudal economy increasingly indebted to creditors, enjoying their revenue and “capital” gains (mainly land-price gains that John Stuart Mill’s generation called the “unearned increment”) at the top of the economic pyramid. M. Hudson at ZeroHedge]


I've done my duty, I've voted Democratic. Now, I continue to do my duty by telling all my fellow Democrats to watch these weasels, Corporate Dems as well as GOP lunatics, as closely as you can. They will do another one of these dead-of-night, holiday weekend deals; and we will be screwed again faster than you can say Trans-Pacific Partnership (Oh, more on that some other diary.)

Even if you take away nothing else, this is nothing less than a fight against medieval rule. Every issue that real Democrats fight passionately for is an essential piece of the modern, pluralist, middle-class democracy created by FDR. Their opponents worldview is always reducible to one word: medievalism. The kind of attitude you might find in rural Afghanistan among the Taliban or the Wahabiist fanatics in Saudi Arabia who fund them.

And make no mistake, once the rentiers take all the rest of your money, you are out of options, because this kind of "Christian" does not believe in charity or helping the poor. So, you can vote for modernity or you can wait around to die younger than the rest of the civilized world from some preventable cause, while paying a mandatory tithe to the fundamentalist child-molester of the week.


If you know English history (unlikely), you know that the Restoration of the monarchy happened after the death of Oliver Cromwell and the end of his Protectorate. Nobility and royalty (Charles II) who had fled abroad returned home to re-claim their right to rule. And so they have done, to this day.

Now, Cromwell was a dour Puritan who got on everyone's nerves, and one can see how the people (the majority of non-Puritans) would be glad to see the back of his regime.

Today, America stands ready to welcome back the rapacious financial pirates even as they have spent thirty years impoverishing us.

Originally posted to ClassWarfare Newsletter: WallStreet VS Working Class Global Occupy movement on Tue Jan 15, 2013 at 02:14 PM PST.

Also republished by Anti-Capitalist Chat.

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Comment Preferences

  •  I've been thinking about this for some time (16+ / 0-)

    Over the past weekend there was a diary about mortgages. One of comments asked the very simple question: Why would the Right be against 30-year fixed-rate mortgages. I gave a partial explanation based on the likely beneficiaries of adjustable rate mortgages (mainly investors; less so the average home purchaser except under certain conditions). The piece I left out was how anyone would benefit from massive defaults and foreclosures.

    By resurrecting the concept of the rentier you've pretty much given the answer to that. When I was first learning how to be a real estate appraiser back in the 1970's, it was assumed as a matter of faith that banks really do NOT want to own properties, so it was a matter of self-interest not to issue a loan when there was a likelihood they'd end up owning the property. This presumes the idea that the ownership of assets should be widely distributed, resulting in a robust middle class.

    If on the other hand you would prefer to return to the middle ages, in which the ownership of most forms of property was limited to the privileged classes, then massive defaults, and the accompanying massive REO portfolio, would be a feature rather than a bug.

    •  Yes, I think the banksters understand... (7+ / 0-)

      that mortgages are just another mechanism for looting what liitle assets the middle class has left.

      But, you give me too much credit for "resurrecting" rentier. I am merely quoting Michael Hudson, who has been beating this drum for at least fifteen years. In fact, I fully expect to hear about my quoting Hudson to point out where Obama stands on this.

      But, thanks for reading and commenting.

      •  Well you mentioned it here (6+ / 0-)

        so you get credit anyway. :)

        I've been involved with real estate since 1977 always as an appraiser (and soon, I hope, to be retired). Every "innovation" in financing I've seen since I began my career seemed like the worst idea ever, until the next one came along.

        •  M. Hudson has a lot to say about R.E. (8+ / 0-)

          Namely that most money lent by banks is to buy property (i.e., real estate) that is already in existence. That the constant asset-inflation caused by easy credit for mortgages left anyone un-invested in R.E. behind - until the bust in 2008.

          But, of course, the FIRE sector has been generously bailed out by the US gov; and are now buying up piles of foreclosed properties on the cheap - actually outbidding real bargain hunters by substantial amounts of money - in order to restart the asset inflation cycle and fasten their rentier grip on the economy even tighter.

          They are in a no lose situation. They get to create credit to buy anything they want. When their over-easy credit blows up the market, the government steps in and hands them back their money.

          Begin rant

          Eric Holder is a worthless, Wall St fellating sellout. Someone like me, who knows nothing about finance or lawyering, could have prosecuted these crooks. He and Geithner and Obama let them all skate.

          When this country goes under, I am going to name a sewer system for Eric Holder because he is a man who kept the shit out of sight.

          End rant

  •  Medievalism - from another DKos thread (4+ / 0-)

    Anti-choice policies lead to widespread arrest of/forced interventions on pregnant women

    You just have to keep calling them out. This is barbarism. Charging women with murder for a miscarraige. Incarcerating a woman for refusing a doctor's treatment, then failing to give her that treatment while in jail.

    When will people see it all in focus. M-E-D-I-E-V-A-L.

    Its where we are going very soon unless the majority of formerly middle-class folks here wake up.

  •  Any comments re: crescendo of bombardment by BS (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Andrew F Cockburn, Nada Lemming

    Is it just me, or has the amount of irredeemable twaddle or outright propaganda being passed off as news taken a big jump since the election?

    Is it to keep the mouth-breathers who lost convinced that it was "stolen" from them? Or is it preparation for the next Great Heist of our Social Security?

  •  Henry George was pointing this out 150 years ago. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    Too bad we have forgotten.

    •  Hudson talks a lot about Mr. George. (2+ / 0-)

      I think he pointed out that after Mr. George, the neoclassical economists decided that land was just "another form of capital" and removed that distinction from the economics profession.

      Sort of convenient if you get to define away the major source of robbery in your system of economics. But, economics ceased to be a science long ago. Now it is just another feudal religion that worships money.

  •  All hail the King! (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    arendt, Cassandra Waites

    A strong monarchy, developing into the nation state, was the initial answer to the concentration of private power.  We just took it a step further and made the leadership elected instead of hereditary.  But the battle of public versus private continues.  I believe you are exactly right, the forces of private power today are effectively no different than the dukes and barons of old, constant state of war and all.

    There is truth on all sides. The question is how much.

    by slothlax on Tue Jan 15, 2013 at 03:49:57 PM PST

    •  We are already back to Robber Baron... (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      slothlax, isabelle hayes, Sunspots

      levels of inequality.

      Plus we are tearing up the Constitution: a surveillance state, no habeus corpus for "terrorists", minorities and women under siege, theocrats on the march, public education under assault, anti-scientism in ascendance.

      When we are done shredding the Constitution and the educational system, there will be no legal way to claw back what the rentiers have stolen. It will be debt peonage until climate change kills us all or revolution.

  •  Our society managed to transform (4+ / 0-)

    this, The Landlord's Game
    into this,Monopoly.

    Instead of an object lesson on the evils of the rentier we have a celebration of greed.

    "The object of persecution is persecution. The object of torture is torture. The object of power is power. Now do you begin to understand me?" ~Orwell, "1984"

    by Lily O Lady on Tue Jan 15, 2013 at 03:54:19 PM PST

  •  The English put up with Cromwell because he was (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    arendt, Cassandra Waites, Sunspots

    competent - unlike the clueless and luckless Charles I who lost his head because he was such a pigheaded ass.

    Then Cromwell died and his incompetent son tried to take over - and that's when the English said, "All right, enough of that!"

    Charles II was both smart and competent (a rarity in the Stuart line), and a likable rogue whose vices (women, women and more women) didn't really harm anybody. The only problem was, he couldn't get a legitimate heir (illegitimate ones by the dozen, oh yes, but that didn't help), which meant that on his death the crown passed to his brother James - who was another pigheaded Stuart ass.

    That lasted three years; then the English had had enough of him and asked his daughter Mary and her husband William to take the crown. James bugged out to the Continent and was declared to have "abdicated". And Parliament sat down and codified the rights, responsibilities and limitations of the Crown in the (English) Bill of Rights.

    If it's
    Not your body,
    Then it's
    Not your choice
    And it's
    None of your damn business!

    by TheOtherMaven on Tue Jan 15, 2013 at 05:03:24 PM PST

    •  I doubt you were drawing parallels... (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      isabelle hayes

      but would you say that the FDR Democrats became an incompetent and corrupt bunch, who finally passed the legacy on to an ultramontane Third Way wing of Democrats?

      Just askin. :-)

      •  Well, I guess I better define "ultramontane" (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        isabelle hayes, Sunspots
        Ultramontanism is a religious philosophy within the Catholic Church that places strong emphasis on the prerogatives and powers of the Pope. In particular, ultramontanism may consist in asserting the superiority of Papal authority over the authority of local temporal or spiritual hierarchies (including the local bishop).


        The Third Way democrats strongly emphasize the prerogatives and powers of the unregulated market, over and above the authority of national governments. They are dangerous fundamentalists who are looting our country, selling it out to the foreign power of multi-national, tax-dodging corporations and third world tax havens like the Cayman Islands.

        It is no accident I chose a word that refers to some of the most bitter internecine conflicts in the history of Christianity. That is how I feel about the rentiers' latest grab for absolute power in the name of the almighty market and the sanctity of bondholders.

      •  Naaah, I'm just showing off (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        arendt, isabelle hayes

        The whole Restoration situation was a lot more complicated than your thumbnail sketch - the British monarchy has continued to this day, but not under the old rules. Good Time Charlie was the first to have to accept hard limits to his power - and he was real snarky about it, as witness the famous exchange:

        Snarky Restoration wit, giving a mock epitaph:
        Here lies our sovereign lord the King,
        Whose word no man relies on.
        He never said a foolish thing,
        nor ever did a wise one.

        Charles II: That is very true, for my words are my own and my actions are my ministers'.

        Probably a more comparable scenario was the attempt to re-establish the "Ancien Regime" in Europe at the end of the Napoleonic Era - the Congress of Vienna made a major, and ultimately futile, attempt to set the clock back in every possible way. It was later said of them that they had "learned nothing and forgotten nothing."

        If it's
        Not your body,
        Then it's
        Not your choice
        And it's
        None of your damn business!

        by TheOtherMaven on Wed Jan 16, 2013 at 09:48:48 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

  •  Recced for spotlighting "rentiers" (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    arendt, Nada Lemming, isabelle hayes

    A great many people perceive no meaningful difference between profit-seeking and rent-seeking.

    When you are right you cannot be too radical; when you are wrong, you cannot be too conservative. --Martin Luther King Jr.

    by Egalitare on Tue Jan 15, 2013 at 06:28:23 PM PST

    •  The fact no one recognizes Michael Hudson... (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Nada Lemming, isabelle hayes

      predicts the fact that no one knows the difference between profit-seeking and rent-seeking.

      The rentiers have spent 40 years buying the econ departments and staffing them with ghouls from the Chicago School. The result is an ignorance that serves our financial overlords.

      Very few people even know that "Nobel" Prize for economics is not awarded by the Nobel committee, but by the Bank of Sweden (hardly a disinterested observer); and that the prize was first awarded 1968. Just as the monetarist were ramping up their campaign to destroy Keynesianism (which had been highly successful up to that point).

      Nothing to see there. Move along.

  •  when, oh when (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    will it change?

    this diary is right on the nose, and furthermore, easy to understand

    but who's looking at it?

    who's doing anything but being gulled by the msm?

    oh well, the rentiers aren't going to survive the destruction of the planet as an environment supporting life, either

    that's all i can come up with as satisfactory

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