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The past week I have seen a welcome development on progressive blogs: attacks on the rich for their unremitting war to shape public opinion in favor of austerity. On DailyKos, jamess directly targeted Peter Peterson for fomenting a fear of deficits as a means of gutting Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security. A day later, Ray Pensador posted How Billionaires-Funded Propaganda is Unraveling The Country.

What the rich want to do is simply safeguard their investments made over previous years, or even previous generations. This is quite understandable: we all do it. We "sink money" into a house, or a vehicle, so we decide to "make it last a little longer." The problem for the rest of us arises from the fact that the rich largely control society's flows of credit and money. They will not invest in new technologies and new economic potential unless they know they can control those new things. So, this results in what economists call rent seeking behavior (tip o' the hat to maddagg, for what I consider one of the most important DailyKos diaries, ever. No exaggeration).


Michael Hudson has done extraordinary work explaining how the rich, over the past century, have deliberately corrupted the profession of economics to eradicate the concept of economic rent. For example, see Hudson's Simon Patten on Public Infrastructure and Economic Rent Capture:

America differed from England, as did Germany and other countries confronting British industrial competition. Free-trade policy was not appropriate for conditions that called for steering economic evolution along the most productive lines. And what British economists treated as universal actually reflected its class structure, especially its hereditary groundrent stemming from the Norman invasion. Free-trade economists attributed America’s high wage levels to the nation’s vast backwoods of available land on which to settle as an alternative to working in factories. Like other protectionists, Patten found this explanation insufficient.

American industrial labor had to be sufficiently productive to sustain higher living standards. This required investment in capital, which in turn required protective tariffs and public infrastructure investment. Patten recognized that rising productivity, public investment, and wage levels went together. That is what enabled well-fed, well-trained, and well-housed American labor to undersell “pauper labor.” American free traders who followed the lead of British economists in urging governments to stand aside bought the idea that market forces by themselves would produce the most efficient outcomes. But what are markets, reformers asked, if not carefully constructed arrangements shaped by tax laws, land and property tenure, government subsidies and price regulation, educational systems, and infrastructure? Would not a market without regulation or public services become “free” for predators?

The institutional and sociological economists who emerged from the American protectionist tradition and German Historical School were almost alone in retaining from classical political economic thought the concept of economic rent (the excess of market price over intrinsic cost-value) as unearned income. Defenders of property and opponents of tax reform found this focus on rentier revenue disturbing, above all its application to land ownership, and the monopolies and trusts created by Wall Street. These vested interests applauded the free-market marginalists who took property relations for granted, and especially endorsed John Bates Clark’s rationalization of property income as “earned.”

To call what the rich do a conspiracy - well, it is, but it misses the more important dynamic. I think the great religious texts, such as the Christian Bible, capture the essence of that dynamic when those texts discuss how an entire society is corrupted and destroyed by its own selfishness and hardheartedness - beginning with the people at the top of society, the rich and the powerful. The elites. Thorstein Veblen had, I believe, a more accurate analysis of this process than Karl Marx, when Veblen wrote about the effects of pecuniary culture.

This is the process the founders of our republic found, when they steeped themselves in the history of the ancient republics of Greece, Rome, Florence, Venice, Switzerland, and the Hanseatic city-states, for the express purpose of discovering and understanding what caused these republics to fail. What they found was that republics are most often destroyed, from within, by cabals of the wealthiest citizens. (Outside pressures, such as military invasions, only serve to kick in an already rotted door.) As Gordon Wood writes, in his magnificent 1969 tome The Creation of the American Republic 1776-1787, quoting from newspaper commentaries in 1775 and 1776:

History, as written by Sallust and Plutarch, only too grimly showed the fate of empires grown too fat with riches. While the Romans, for example, maintained their love of virtue, their simplicity of manners, their recognition of true merit, they raised their state to heights of glory. But they stretched their conquests too far and their Asiatic wars brought them luxuries they had never before known. “From a People accustomed to the Toils of War, and Agriculture, they became a People who no longer piqued themselves on any other Merit than a pretended fine Taste for all the Refinements of a voluptuous Life. They became obsessed with the “Grandeur and Magnificence in Buildings, of Sumptuousness and Delicacy in their Tables, of Richness and Pomp in their Dress, of Variety and Singularity in their Furniture.” That corruption “which always begins amongst the Rich and Great,” soon descended to the common people, leaving them “enfeebled and their souls depraved.” The gap between rich and poor widened and the society was torn by extortion and violence.” “It was no longer virtue that raised men up to the first employments of the state, but the chance of birth and the caprice of fortune.”
In the Federalist Paper "Number 10," James Madison warned that most political factions are caused by economic interests. In the notes he made as he prepared for the Constitutional Convention, Madison wrote: "If the minority happen to include all such as possess... the great pecuniary resources, one third only may conquer the remaining two thirds."

In other words, the founders understood that the rich can be as much as threat to republican self-government as a standing army.

Having pored over such books the past two years, trying to determine what economic policies were intended at the beginning of our republic - and what a republic is supposed to be - I have come to consider the left's typical dismissal of the founders as just a cabal of rich white men, intent on protecting their wealth and property from a democratic rabble, as a crippling mistake. It forfeits to the wrong-wing any claim to be acting in or motivated by the spirit of the founders and their Revolution. This erroneous view of the founders separates us from the truly remarkable radical effect of the American Revolution, an effect so powerful, its historical reverberations so enduring, that the United States today is still widely admired and emulated around the world despite over a century of acting like another empire, instead of a republic. As Lincoln warned, "We shall nobly save, or meanly lose, the last best hope of earth."

To fully understand Lincoln here, I think it useful to follow with this quote from Jefferson, from one of his last letters, to Roger C. Weightman, on 24 June 1826:

All eyes are opened, or opening, to the rights of man. The general spread of the light of science has already laid open to every view the palpable truth, that the mass of mankind has not been born with saddles on their backs, nor a favored few booted and spurred, ready to ride them legitimately, by the grace of God 
To which Jefferson added, "These are grounds of hope for others." I.e., the last best hope of earth.

Volunteers in the Union Amy fighting against the British-backed southern oligarchs who tried to destroy the Union understood this. From James M. McPherson's emotionally powerful 1995 book, What They Fought For, 1861-1865, a masterful survey and summary of private correspondence from Civil War soldiers and officers:

"I do feel that the liberty of the world is placed in our hands to defend," wrote a Massachusetts private to his wife in 1862, "and if we are overcome then farewell to freedom." If "traitors be allowed to overthrow and break asunder ties most sacred - costing our forefathers long years of blood and toil," agreed a Connecticut enlisted man in 1863, then "all the hope and confidence of the world in the capacity of men for self government will be lost. . . and perhaps be followed by a long night of tyranny." In 1863 on the second anniversary of his enlistment, a thirty-three-year-old Ohio private wrote in his diary that he had not expected the war to go on so long, but no matter how much longer it took it must be prosecuted "for the great principles of liberty and self government at stake, for should we fail, the onward march of Liberty in the Old World will be retarded at least a century, and Monarchs, Kings and Aristocrats will be more powerful against their subjects than ever." After Lee's surrender at Appomattox, a fifty-one-year-old New Jersey colonel who had fought the entire four years wrote to his wife that "we [can] return to our homes with the proud satisfaction that it has been our privilege to live and take part in the struggle that has decided for all time to come that Republics are not a failure."
Union infantry advances into the Cornfield, at the 140th anniversary  reenactment of the Battle of Antietam. Photo by Tony Wikrent, September 2002, outside Hagerstown, Maryland.
A line of Union infantry advances through morning mists into the carnage of The Cornfield, at the 140th anniversary reenactment of the Battle of Antietam, September 2002.

Keeping in mind the torrents of blood required to save the republic from the oligarchs of the mid-nineteenth century, let us now look at another excerpt from Hudson's Simon Patten on Public Infrastructure and Economic Rent Capture:

The rise of socialist reformers in the wake of Europe’s 1848 revolutions defined labor/capital relations as exploitative and called for nationalization of the means of production. As Patten observed, “If this new group of thinkers called themselves sociologists or historians they might be disregarded.” But the social reformers “openly claim to be economists, and the worst of the matter is, they have . . . the mass of the older economists on their side. Nothing pleases a socialist or a single taxer better than to quote authorities and to use the well-known economic theories to prove his case (Patten 1908a, in 1924: 219).

Meanwhile, the analysis of economic rent paid to owners of land, mineral resources, and natural monopolies—using the labor theory of value to isolate such rent as “empty” pricing that did not reflect production cost—flowered into a political movement to tax or nationalize and socialize land and monopolies outright. The vested property interests felt duly threatened. The new generation of economists, friendlier to the vested interests, “soon realized that their favorite authors were not so perfect as they supposed, and that economic doctrine must be recast” to exclude logic that implied an exploitative character of the “unearned increment” that landowners obtained in the form of rent and rising property prices, and even industrial profit as surplus value (employing labor to sell its products at as large a markup as possible).

Reacting to the policies of Marx and Henry George that urged nationalization or full taxation of land and natural resources, a post-classical orthodoxy arose to divert attention away from the analysis of economic rent as unearned income (prices and income without cost value). Clark in America and a marginal utility school in Europe tried to base their view of the economic system on consumer psychology, while treating all income as reflecting—by definition—the recipient’s contribution to production. The result was a circular reasoning to confirm their desired outcome and starting viewpoint: If all income was “earned,” there was no such thing as a free lunch. Wages were rising, paid out of productivity gains. Describing America as reflecting the dynamic of future evolution to a “pleasure surplus” economy, Patten showed how a growing surplus was available not just to landlords and owners of capital as in Ricardian theory, but also to workers in the form of rising wages and living standards. This means that rentier income is taken at the expense of labor’s high wage levels as well as industrial profits.

We went back to Hudson to see how the rich, the "vested interests," needed to corrupt economics. Note this is a very clever and insidious form of cultural warfare by the rich, or, to be as precise and deadly in our accuracy as possible, epistemological warfare. The rich, who extract economic rent, thus get a "free lunch." But, the rich have had their whores in the academy teach, for a century or more, that in economics there is no free lunch. This epistemological warfare has been so successful that "there is no free lunch" is now a cliche, even, god help us, the very foundation of movement conservatism economic beliefs. (If I had a dollar for every time I heard a wrong-wing talking head say "there is no such thing as a free lunch"....) If you begin with the firmly inculcated belief that "all income... reflect[s] by definition ”the recipient'™s contribution to production," you are never, ever, going to start sniffing around for the "free lunch" of rent seeking behavior.

And that observation - about the rich and their cultural warfare against the concept of economic rent - dear reader, brings us back to how the left makes a massive error in dismissing the Founders and forfeiting any claim to the heritage, and more importantly, the meaning, of the American Revolution and the formation of the United States as a self-governing republic. Professor James L. Huston argues that the founders developed a political economy of aristocracy, as he explains in ""The American Revolutionaries, the Political Economy of Aristocracy, and the American Concept of the Distribution of Wealth, 1765-1900" (The American Historical Review, Vol. 98, No. 4 (Oct., 1993), pp. 1079-1105):

The revolutionaries' concern over the distribution of wealth was prompted by a tenet in the broad and vague political philosophy of republicanism. In contrast to nations in which monarchs and aristocrats dominate the state, republics embodied the ideal of equality among citizens in political affairs, the equality taking the form of citizen participation in the election of officials who formulated the laws. Drawing largely on the work of seventeenth-century republican theorist James Harrington, Americans believed that if property were concentrated in the hands of a few in a republic, those few would use their wealth to control other citizens, seize political power, and warp the republic into an oligarchy. Thus to avoid descent into despotism or oligarchy, republics had to possess an equitable distribution of wealth....

The answer to how the social system of aristocracy generated wealth inequality was easily found. American political leaders applied the labor theory of property or value; an unjust distribution resulted when a few were able to transfer the fruits of other persons' labor to themselves. Aristocrats (non-workers and therefore non-producers) stole the fruits of labor from the masses of toilers (laborers and therefore producers). [Think corporate pirates like Mitt Romney looting pension funds.] Aristocrats effected the transference by political means. It was control of politics that enabled aristocrats to steal the fruits of labor, to enrich themselves and pauperize the multitudes. By the time of the writing of the Constitution, literate Americans had clearly voiced the idea that a misdistribution of wealth was almost entirely a political act.

(I have been injecting these ideas into the Wikipedia entry on U.S. economic history. I have rewritten most of the section entitled "New nation." This section includes a number of footnotes, referencing some of the books I've been studying. In case anyone is interested in pursuing this matter....)

What Peter Peterson does when he gives hundreds of millions of dollars to fund propaganda against the earned benefit programs of Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid; what Charles and David Koch does when they give billions of dollars to fund propaganda against government support for clean energy technologies; what Sheldon Adelson does when he gives tens of millions of dollars to Republican presidential candidates Newt Gingrich and Mitt Romney, U.S. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY); U.S. House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH); U.S. Senator Dean Heller (R-NV); U.S. Congressman Mark Amodei (R-NV); U.S. Congressman Joe Heck (R-NV) and former Florida House Speaker Adam Hasner, is what the rich have always done throughout all of recorded human history: buy political influence and power in order to impose their own will on a formerly self-governing republic. And thus destroy it from within.

In the Hall of Lilies (Sala dei Gigli), in the Palazzo Vecchio, Florence: Donatello's Judith, celebrating the overthrow of tyrants.

Originally posted to NBBooks on Mon Feb 25, 2013 at 07:16 PM PST.

Also republished by Community Spotlight.

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    A conservative is a scab for the oligarchy.

    by NBBooks on Mon Feb 25, 2013 at 07:16:32 PM PST

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    The corruption of democratic processes by oligarchic power in this country is so blindingly obvious that it takes a truly comprehensive propaganda effort to distract people from it.  Not only popular media, but also economic and historical academic scholarship must be unceasingly bent to the task of gulling the rubes so they can be quietly fleeced.

    My own educational emphasis went to harder sciences, and my cynicism about economics prevented me from delving too deeply into a discipline based on the preposterous notion of the rational economic actor.  It does not surprise me that you find truer and more honest analyses of economics from pre-20th century sources.  They were not yet bent to the task of serving the economic aristocracy.

    How economic rent differs from the more ancient concept of aristocratic power is a little mysterious to me, other than the dropping of primogeniture and a few other antique fripperies.  I suspect that when I am more alert, a closer rereading will illuminate this question.  

    Thank you for a clearly valuable and densely written diary.  I will learn much from it, and look forward to more.

    Citizens United defeated by citizens, united.

    by Dallasdoc on Mon Feb 25, 2013 at 07:38:11 PM PST

  •  I Don't See 1 Phrase in the Constitution Showing (15+ / 0-)

    that the framers understood any of this.

    I don't care what they argued off-campus. When they as a whole sat down and built the operating system of our nation, what they left us was something far better suited to the agricultural Natives than to the nation of their own present let alone ours in their distant future. It's completely ignorant of economic threats known for a century and more earlier.

    And that's why our economy has been wracked with panics, bubbles and depressions every few years from our founding till today, most of the time with concentration of wealth some of them feared, with one lone half century time-out under the New Deal Anomaly.

    No credit to the Framers for shoulda-coulda-woulda.

    We are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for victims of our nation and for those it calls enemy.... --ML King "Beyond Vietnam"

    by Gooserock on Mon Feb 25, 2013 at 07:51:07 PM PST

    •  Yep! I've been reading for two years now (40+ / 0-)

      trying to figure out what the founders intended in terms of economics. It's there, but you have to understand the economic terms of reference of the time. And, understand how successful the rich and their wrong-wing attack dogs have been in rewriting American history to fit their purposes. For example, that the Revolution was fought over "taxation without representation."

      The best book by far I have found so far is Frank Bourgin's 1989 The Great Challenge: The Myth of Laissez-Faire in the Early Republic. From pages 34-35:

      It may fairly be assumed that even if laissez-faire, in its later sense as a system of mechanical postulates for determining agenda and nonagenda of government, was known, it is extremely unlikely that the framers of the Constitution would have adopted it. Laissez-faire did not fit the purposes of the Constitution makers, for it was against the laissez-faire policy of the confederation that the Constitution was struck. In the words of James Wilson, one of the leaders of the convention, ‘The great fault of the existing Confederacy is its inactivity. It has never been a complaint against Congress that they have governed overmuch. The complaint has been that they have governed too little. To remedy this defect, we were sent here.” The manner in which the detailed powers of the national government were written into the Constitution, their number, their phrasing, and the circumstances attending thereto—all this indicates that the convention members were fairly of one mind to create a vigorous instrument of government capable of standing beside any foreign power in unity, stability, and power.”
      Bourgin does a masterful job at teasing out the meaning of key terms and concepts as the founders understood them at the time. For example, in the Constitutional Convention, when  Benjamin Franklin moved to include language for the “cutting of canals” to be included with the phrase on establishing post roads, Madison arose to move that it further include the power to grant charters of incorporation. Now, remember, the Revolutionaries were quite familiar with the corporate monopolies granted to favorites at the Court of St. James, such as the East India Company. Bourgin continues (page 42):
      Madison's motion immediately precipitated a discussion of granting "mercantile monopolies," an issue loaded with political dynamite. Did Madison's general proposition imply that Congress, by having the power to grant charters of incorporation, could grant "mercantile monopolies"? A bitter fight had been fought in Philadelphia and New York, recalled Rufus King, a delegate from the latter state, and he had no desire to jeopardize the acceptance of the Constitution by raising the issue again. King stated, furthermore, that it was unnecessary to include the power of granting charters of incorporation separately since he regarded it as being included within the powers already granted "to regulate commerce." Thus, when the convention voted against Franklin's motion "to include the power to provide for the cutting of canals where deemed necessary," it was not so much rejecting the power as avoiding having to make an explicit statement on a delicate subject, the desired result to be better attained by silence.

      It is worth noticing that the failure to include these subjects in the completed Constitution was not regarded by some of its most important makers as implying a rejection of the necessary powers. Surely Madison, popularly regarded as "the Father of the Constitution," should have been in the most authoritative position to interpret the will of the convention. He argued that the adoption of the Constitution would result in improving communications and intercourse throughout the Union.

      Or consider the question of enumerated powers (the interpretation favored by conservatives) versus implied powers. What was the national government's power relative to the economy? It is intricately tied up in the one word chosen to be used in the Constitution, "commerce." Bourgin explains on pages 44-45:
      No final answer can be given to the question of what the framers of the Constitution intended to include within the scope of the enumerated powers. As we have seen, it is a subject on which the evidence leaves something to conjecture. Yet, as we shall see, during the early period of affirmative government, it seems to have been assumed by a number of persons in high political authority that powers such as those over roads and canals, granting charters of incorporation, encouraging agriculture and manufactures, and establishing seminaries and schools were well within the scope of federal authority.

      Some light on the question of the intended scope of federal authority may be revealed by examining the meaning of the term commerce, included within the enumerated powers. It is
      possible, as a number of scholars have argued, that a generality of purposes was intended to be served by the use of this term. In their careful study of the contemporary uses of the term commerce, Hamilton and Adair [not Alexander Hamilton, but an early 20th century scholar] come to the conclusion that commerce was chosen advisedly as having the most comprehensive
      meaning of any of the alternative terms; commerce served the catholicity of uses that would be forced on it.                

      Thus in issue, incident, and implication the concern over commerce runs throughout the debates. Commerce proposals invite difference of opinion. Although detail may be avoided, there is no unanimity as to the concretions which are to be set down in the document. Yet there is everywhere in evidence an intent to endow the general government with the power to formulate a policy for the national economy, a power which is to extend to trade, manufactures, the staples of agriculture, internal improvements, and the creation of corporations. A broad grant of power was to be given to Congress in a clean-cut clause of the utmost brevity. If possible, a single key word must here  -as elsewhere in the Constitution - be made to tell the story. It was of no avail to bother with  manufacture or production, words of such narrow confine, even if set down in clusters, could only have made up an irregular verbal fragment. A more comprehensive term - such as business or industry - was not for many decades to become available. The choice was narrowed to traffic, trade and commerce. Traffic would not do; it was lowly in origin and clearly headed for vulgar verbal company. Trade was too specialized in meaning and too barren in larger implications to serve the occasion. Commerce excelled in the larger breadth and range, the greater dignity and prestige which attached to it. And commerce alone had competency for so high a verbal duty.

      A conservative is a scab for the oligarchy.

      by NBBooks on Mon Feb 25, 2013 at 08:28:08 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  what would you expect to see (5+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      walkshills, Whatithink, mrkvica, NBBooks, mkor7

      related to economics in a document which by and large created the skeleton of a government in the 18th century?  A limitation on private wealth or ownership of property?   Socialism as we know it hadn't been fleshed out and become part of the economic pantheon at that point, rejecting monarchy and the offices of aristocracy they rejected some of the older economic ideas, but what do you think they could have or should have put in?  And presume they would have been willing to put in something that didn't preserve the status quo of wealthy planters, shipping magnates and nascent industrialists because what we have that developed approaching the Civil War and what came from that really didn't exist and wasn't plausible in the late 1700's in America.   One of the tricks to historical analysis is to be able to forget what you know now and reinvent the world as it was then.  The sprouts may have been showing of the industrial changes, the extreme concentrations of capital unrelated to land ownership,  but the mighty oak tree wasn't really visible.  How prescient should we have expected them to be?

      •  I think that your question is answered by (11+ / 0-)

        pointing to "general welfare" clause as well as the the use of the term in the Preamble to the Constitution. The idea of the general welfare presumed the existence of a high level of civic virtue. Which simply meant that service in government meant caring for the interests of all citizens, not just a few family members or cronies, as was the case in monarchies and aristocracies. You really have to wrap your mind around the idea that previous to the American Revolution, a state and its government usually existed solely for the support of one particular individual, or family, or cabal of cronies. Try to imagine the fulminations of an oligarch against the idea that "the rabble will govern themselves." Absurd! Preposterous! Just a matter of time til the idea fails and they come crawling back beseeching us to restore order!

        Now think of how Wall Streeters think of workers and other people. Think of the energy traders of Enron laughing about grandmothers in California freezing to death. I even remember seeing comments here on DailyKos, before the 2007 financial crash forced some people to think more clearly about economics, about how "uneducated" auto workers had unions that got them more pay as "mere" workers than the commenters ever hoped to make.

        I don't think people understand this on a deep enough level. If they did, there would be an uprising of outrage over some of the hair-raising ideas that conservatives and libertarians have put out the past few years. Now that they've destroyed the idea of general welfare, they must feel they can get away with publishing books such as von Mises Institute scholar Hans-Hermann Hoppe's 2001 book, Democracy: The God that Failed: The Economics and Politics of Monarchy, Democracy, and Natural Order in which Hoppe actually argues that monarchy is a better system of government than democracy! You can't make this shit up! Or another  von Mises Institute scholar, Thomas DiLorenzo's 2003 The Real Lincoln: A New Look at Abraham Lincoln, His Agenda, and an Unnecessary War which argues that Lincolns was basically a totalitarian by retailing the lie that the founders created a government strictly limited by the enumerated powers, which Lincoln, of course, violated in his evil desire to built a strong, statist government.

        The other thing to look at is the legal standing of corporations, and how it evolved over time. The first fifty years or so, corporate charters were rather tenuous: state legislatures a number of times revoked a company's articles of incorporation when company officials violated the law, or, more often, were simply unwilling or unable to adhere to purpose of the company's charter. General Electric, for example, would never have been allowed to become a major financial operator in the leasing and other markets. It was not until the 1830s and 1840s that the first general incorporation laws were passed, an strict limitations of what a corporation could and could not do were lifted. (SeeIncorporating the Republic: The Corporation in Antebellum Political Culture, Harvard Law Review,  Vol. 102, No. 8 (Jun., 1989), pp. 1883-1903.) Until that time, the general attitude to corporations was that of Daniel Raymond (see my Daniel Raymond on Corporations and Banks, 1820):

        Every money corporation, therefore, is prima facie injurious to national wealth, and ought to be looked upon by those who have no money, with jealousy and suspicion. They are, and ought to be considered, as artificial engines of power, contrived by the rich, for the purpose of increasing their already too great ascendency, and calculated to destroy that natural equality among men which God has ordained, and which no government has a right to lend its power in destroying. The tendency of such institutions is to cause a more unequal division of property, and a greater inequality among men than would otherwise take plac,e which necessarily bring in their train as has already been shown poverty, pauperism, and misery on the rest of the community.
        The "smoking gun" so to speak, is to look at how the idea of "property rights" is introduced and expanded. Originally, property rights did not have the massive preponderance in legal weight that they have now. I believe this began to change with the slaveholders' moving away from the original expectation of slavery eventually dieing off as an institution, and beginning to fight to preserve "their property." Then there was the factor of the industrial revolution requiring larger and larger pools of capital to create and operate economic enterprises. Jeff Shesol, in his book a few years ago, Supreme Power: Franklin Roosevelt vs. the Supreme Court, provided a useful outline of some of this historical development of property rights:
        Pp 29-30
        American jurisprudence had been “long split over social and economic questions, and more fundamentally, over the role of the judiciary in a democratic system.
        “The principal weapon in these internecine wars was a single phrase in the Fourteenth Amendment denying states the power to “deprive any person of life, liberty, or property without due process of law.” At the time the amendment was adopted, in 1868, the due process clause struck the Congress and the courts as unambiguous. The word “process” made plain its concern with the procedures by which a government acted: how laws were enacted, how fairly they were enforced. The Fifth Amendment, part of the Bill of Rights, had placed the same constraint on federal power; now it was being applied to the states, with the aim of protecting newly freed slaves from oppression.
            “It was not long, however, before railroad lawyers, monopolists, and conservative thinkers, like Thomas M. Cooley, a prominent Michigan judge and legal professor, were arguing, – before increasingly receptive state and federal judges – that the guarantee of due process shielded individuals and corporations against the legislative restrictions of property rights. Reflecting this influence, and the sympathies of the elites, which were solidly behind the railroads and other new and massive corporations, courts in the 1880s began to scrutinize the substance of legislation, especially in the economic realm, Judges created standards by which to assess whether a challenged regulation was “just” and “reasonable” rather than “arbitrary” and “oppressive.”
        “This, as it emerged, was the doctrine of “substantive due process.” The Supreme Court was slower to embrace it than the state courts, but by the end of the nineteenth century took it up in earnest. Over the next three decades, if not with perfect consistency, it struck down an unprecedented number of state regulations on this basis. Between 1920 and 1926, the court voided more social and economic legislation on due process grounds than it had in the preceding half century. Judges had other tools to safeguard property rights among them the contracts and commerce clauses of Article I of the Constitutions and the takings clause of the Fifth Amendment. But it was only a slight exaggeration to suggest, as one legal scholar did in the 1930s, that substantive due process was “the hub around which the whole Constitution now revolves.” ”  Lochner v. New York, was the most notorious substantive due process decision.

        A conservative is a scab for the oligarchy.

        by NBBooks on Tue Feb 26, 2013 at 09:48:28 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  That is an excellent discussion (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          RiveroftheWest, Dallasdoc, NBBooks

          but, there is always a but, isn't there,  Gooserock's contention was that the founding fathers should have more explicitly addressed economic issues in the Constitution.  I asked what they could have put in,  and how much he or she thought the founding fathers could foresee of the very economic changes you have now pointed out in terms of growth of the status and pre-eminence of the corporate form of ownership and the privileges they have accumulated over time in their legal status.   Let's face it, 1840 is a long time after 1790.  In 1790 two cities had more than 20,000 population, by 1840 the immigration rush is on and population is both growing and urbanizing even though much of the west remained unpopulated at that point.  Industrialization boomed after the turn of the 19th century, picked up speed all century long, but the end of the 18th century was a far cry from the end of the 19th century when we have the robber barons.

          Again, as I pointed out, in 1790,  socialism isn't a major political economic theory, labor unions, etc. aren't a major factor as the huge manufacturies don't exist, child labor as well as slavery are still 'normal' in western civilization (and elsewhere).   So what were the founding fathers supposed to put in the Constitution.

          I think they did agree about a 'general welfare' that modern Republicans certainly eschew,  an idea that lost out throughout the 19th century to growing capitalism and regional violence between slave and non-slave states, etc.

          They gave Congress the power to regulate commerce.  Another idea that has grown radically under the courts, but may be seeing a retrenchment by conservatives trying to stop the federal government's regulatory powers.  

          It is one thing to point out that people are capable of evil and greed.  It is one thing to point out what happened in history post the time of the Constitution to say what went wrong.  It is quite another to say what the Founding Fathers should have said and done with the Constitution that could have prevented the evils of capitalism, kept greed from overcoming the general welfare, etc.  To account them as failures in drafting the Constitution, one has to point to something that was available in theory and/or practice, knowledge they should have had and failed to act on, and a practical means to incorporate that knowledge into constitutional provisions to prevent evil from winning. If one's viewpoint is cynical enough, one can try to point to facts that buttress an argument that the FF wanted evil to win out economically, that Government of the rich, by the rich and for the rich was the plan all along.

          But you can't use facts of what happened forty, fifty or more years after the time of the FF to say they should have known.  What they should know is what happened in the years preceeding the Constitution, that's the best we can hold them accountable for in terms of playing the woulda, shoulda, coulda game.

          •  Well, I think the interesting thing is the fight (8+ / 0-)

            after the federal government is formed that breaks out between Hamilton on the one hand, and Jefferson and Madison on the other. I think both sides were right, and both sides were wrong. Who was more right or more wrong? Dunno. [shrugs shoulders]

            Hamilton was correct in foreseeing and planning for the transition from an agricultural to an industrial economy, and the need for large pools of capital to fund that transition, and economic activity and organization afterwards.

            Jefferson and Madison were correct in foreseeing and warning that those large pools of capital would create a new banking aristocracy that would eventually corrupt the republic. Hamilton was grievously incorrect in not also foreseeing that danger.

            Was Hamilton a monarchist or wannabe aristocrat? I vehemently answer NO. I think he was without doubt the most far-sighted of the founders. Which means that Jefferson and Madison were incorrect to oppose Hamilton's plans for a national banking system and for promoting manufactures.

            As for the "evils of capitalism": I don't think any of the founders, or anyone else of the period, for that matter thought of the issues in those terms. Honestly, they just did not use the word "capitalism" that much - and I've read more than my fair share of Franklin, Washington, Adams, Jefferson, Hamilton, Wilson, and Marshall. The founders certainly were not against private enterprise, but on the other hand, they were intensely familiar with, and hostile to, the type of crown-favored businesses as the East India Company. What we today would call "crony capitalism."

            What strikes me more than anything, is that the founders were hostile to concentrations of power, both political and economic. I think they would today be in the forefront of the government forcefully dismantling the Wall Street "too big to fail" banks. They believed any and all economic activity had to be judged by a moral construct of whether it helped strengthen the nation or not. What sounds particularly strange to my modern ear, is their constant harping on the danger of luxury. Only after reading some discussion of the topic a dozen times or so, and in the context of comparing America's agrarian economy with the old, corrupt economy of England, did I begin to understand it. England was reviled for its factories, in which pauperized workers were jammed in inhumane conditions, producing luxury goods to be bought and used by the upper classes. This conception of England's horrible factory towns full of workers just barely at the subsistence level, is the foundation of the Jeffersonian idolization of the agrarian economy. I don't how else to explain it, other than to assert that the terms of reference were quite different then than they are today.

            A conservative is a scab for the oligarchy.

            by NBBooks on Tue Feb 26, 2013 at 12:16:24 PM PST

            [ Parent ]

            •  I agree with your views (5+ / 0-)

              that the founding fathers didn't anticipate just how much the country would grow, how much capitalism would run amuck and change the agrarian/shipping/small manufactury with mostly hand worked goods type of country that they were familiar with.  I agree that concentrations of power would worry them.  I think that while many had great wealth, they had a kind of social awarenes and conscience that todays wealthy elites don't have as often.

              I think they were wary of the power of the masses, afraid of demagoguery (and with good reason) but missed horribly on how it would be used in the future, ie, to support the rich instead of supporting anarchy or something in the style of the French Revolution.

              And yes,  Hamilton did see and favor growth,  but maybe if there was a national bank, under political control directly of the government, private banking, banksters would be subject to more control.  Certainly governments are benign actors,  but who knows if the financial system could have turned out more egalitarian if controlled by people who answered to voters instead of being predominantly private.

    •  What Gooserock said nt (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      MrJersey
  •  The rich are scared (30+ / 0-)

    because the way they got their wealth, is something they can't replicate, or the circumstances will probably not repeat.

    Take Forbes Jr. he inherited. His father took all the risks and lived. Harleys, Liz Taylor, attempt to cross the Atlantic in a balloon. Junior wants to hoard his wealth in gold bullion.

    Just about all the billionaires are of the same fabric. They essentially got lucky. Granted some took the risk of going bankrupt or getting caught bribing before their wealth made them respectable, at least in the jet set.

    However many someones have to maintain the infrastructure, not to mention fight their dirty little wars.

  •  This is one of those topics that... (39+ / 0-)

    ...even children understand in terms of fairness, but that as soon as we let abstractions and "experts" begin to define our terms as we become adults, leaves us accepting a distasteful resignation as the way things are supposed to be.  That sick feeling of being ripped off and always given the short end of the stick is just "bad luck," or "what people like me deserve."

    If aliens observed our society with the Paris Hiltons of world doing absolutely nothing of value while lolling over tens of millions of dollars, but teachers and nurses and farmers who do the work that allows society to survive are always just one paycheck away from disaster, they would think we were all under some kind of brainwashing or spell.

    We are.  The idea that one person can own another's labor is not far removed from the idea of owning the other person outright: slavery.  When one small class of rapacious, insatiable greedheads have by hook or by crook stolen far more of their fair share of the national wealth that all of us and our forebears helped create, and then tell us that they need to take even more from us, that's when, in times past,  the tumbrils rolled out and the guillotine's blade was sharpened, and the heads of the former nobility were displayed on pikes at the city gates.

    We are so distracted by consumerism  and inane sports and entertainment, by the ridiculous politics of trivia that we never see that great overarching flow of value from the sweat of our brow to the coffers of Wall Street.  Our despair and hopelessness, our worries for our children's future is padding the featherbeds of those who already own thousands more featherbeds than they could ever sleep on in their entire lives.

    Like Hindu beggars with a bit or rice in our bowls or spare coin, we think ourselves lucky today and are not think what tomorrow might bring should we not be so "lucky."

    "Sometimes I wonder whether the world is being run by smart people who are putting us on, or by imbeciles who really mean it." ~ Mark Twain

    by wonkydonkey on Mon Feb 25, 2013 at 08:34:26 PM PST

    •  "The idea that one person can own another's (14+ / 0-)

      labor is not far removed from the idea of owning the other person outright: slavery."

      That's why it's been called "wage slavery".

      "We are so distracted by consumerism  and inane sports and entertainment, by the ridiculous politics of trivia that we never see that great overarching flow of value from the sweat of our brow to the coffers of Wall Street."
      Actually, I think it's because most of the more influential among "us"are compromised by personal ambition that they have torn allegiances. While ostensibly among "us", this class of Democrats will never lay a heavy hand on the status quo to effect real change. They are too invested in it.

      Hence the dubious incrementalism (and defense of it) that is so meager it not only has no chance of ever catching up, it is constantly falling further behind.

      Since the 10-20% are thus effectively with the 1%, it is up to the 80% to band together and line up the tumbrils and guillotines, even if only to make a point....

      p.s., GREAT sig.

      An infinite number of more and better Democratic legislators will make little substantive difference in the Class and Climate Wars.

      by Words In Action on Tue Feb 26, 2013 at 06:55:05 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  This is what conservative ideology hinges on: (8+ / 0-)
      That sick feeling of being ripped off and always given the short end of the stick is just "bad luck," or "what people like me deserve."
      To get your worldview down the throats of the masses, you first have to "sell" wronged people on their own culpability in their misery.

      It's here they got the range/ and the machinery for change/ and it's here they got the spiritual thirst. --Leonard Cohen

      by karmsy on Tue Feb 26, 2013 at 11:30:32 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  It's not often I'm educated, nauseated, (25+ / 0-)

    made hopeful, and distressed all from one essay.

    This kind of thing is what DKos used to have a lot more of. Thanks so much for this piece.

    I'm fuzzy on how this bit works:

    ...base[d] their view of the economic system on consumer psychology, while treating all income as reflecting—by definition—the recipient’s contribution to production.
    Why would anybody buy that definition? The preceding thinkers had established that was not the case. So somehow this "marginal utility school in Europe" set the baseline for what became our Establishment Economics. This would have to involve an awful lot of control over the educational system for economists. Plus there'd have to be exclusion from the Press of anyone who could illustrate in plain English why that wasn't true.

    Or what?
     


    We live in a nation where doctors destroy health; lawyers, justice; universities, knowledge; governments, freedom; the press, information; religion, morals; and our banks destroy the economy. -- Chris Hedges

    by Jim P on Mon Feb 25, 2013 at 10:31:20 PM PST

    •  That's why they needed to take over the press (14+ / 0-)

      Create an echo chamber and you can sell almost anything.

      And when you stop being able to sell it, when the people start disagreeing with you, what can they do about it? That's where we are now. A majority of the American people disagree with this stuff already. That's why I get so frustrated with liberal ideas of educating the masses, or how redneck Bubba is our main problem. The masses don't need to be educated right now, at least not much--they need to be empowered. Without a capacity for action, what good is information?

      The press is being used to create and reinforce a sense of inevitability, of hermetically-sealed discourse (so are Congress and the White House). Obama in particular has been used this way. That's why someone like Krugman can present his absolutely solid evidence over and over and over and neither the historical facts nor his reputation as a Nobel prize-winner can help him do more than tread water. Information, no matter how provably true, simply gets disregarded (usually contemptuously).

      if necessary for years; if necessary, alone

      by SouthernLiberalinMD on Tue Feb 26, 2013 at 07:03:01 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  great diary (16+ / 0-)

    human nature + capitalism - accountability + mortality x fear of losing accumulated resources = :(

    "Some of you are going to die... martyrs, of course, to the Freedom that I will provide!"

    by emperor nobody on Tue Feb 26, 2013 at 12:49:58 AM PST

  •  What a thoughtful, well-researched, provocative (20+ / 0-)

    diary. Thank you, NBBooks, for making so much sense in a country full of shallow explanations.

    "Every man has a right to utter what he thinks truth" Samuel Johnson

    by Brecht on Tue Feb 26, 2013 at 12:58:34 AM PST

  •  The greedy rich are idiots (5+ / 0-)

    Even from a thoroughly selfish persepective--all the money in the world can't gate them away from the turbulence of a broken economy full of misery. Not when the shit hits the fan.

    •  They'll be kings of the shit heap!!! (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      asym

      Somehow, they think of this as 'winning'.

      It is, indeed, a sickness.

      We ruthlessly cut out cancer from our bodies.

      What do we do about them?


      The Fail will continue until actual torches and pitchforks are set in motion. - Pangolin@kunstler.com

      by No one gets out alive on Tue Feb 26, 2013 at 08:14:33 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Excellent stuff. The greatest lie foisted by (28+ / 0-)

    rent-seeking economics is that capital is scarce and therefore, valuable while productive labor is plentiful and therefore, devalued.

    The reality is that capital is cheap and created by the stroke of a keyboard while labor is born, raised, educated and self-motivated.

    Our economic decline will not change until labor is valued over capital in our political and financial equations.

    ----- GOP found drowned in Grover Norquist's bathtub.

    When it all goes wrong, hippies and engineers will save us. -- Reggie Watts

    by JimWilson on Tue Feb 26, 2013 at 01:55:35 AM PST

    •  "Stroke of a keyboard" capital... (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      arendt, sidnora

      ...isn't capital.

      Capital is natural resources, machines, intellectual property, etc.

      (-5.50,-6.67): Left Libertarian
      Leadership doesn't mean taking a straw poll and then just throwing up your hands. -Jyrinx

      by Sparhawk on Tue Feb 26, 2013 at 05:53:35 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Those are assets that have a related capital value (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        JimWilson, marsanges

        The machine doesn't actually shrink when it depreciates.

        "Compassion is the radicalism of our time." ~ Tenzin Gyatso, 14th Dalai Lama -7.88, -6.21

        by Siri on Tue Feb 26, 2013 at 07:46:25 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

      •  The strict 'economic'definition of capital is just (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        mkor7, shaharazade, RiveroftheWest

        machinery that produce things. Land is referred to as 'land', resources are are referred to as 'resources', etc. The Madison quote in the diary refers to 'pecuniary resources' which means, of course, money.

        The diary is about valuing the deployment of the 'fiscal' definition of capital, money, over the value of living, breathing, humans in the pursuit of life, liberty and happiness.

        ----- GOP found drowned in Grover Norquist's bathtub.

        When it all goes wrong, hippies and engineers will save us. -- Reggie Watts

        by JimWilson on Wed Feb 27, 2013 at 02:06:47 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

  •  WOW! (4+ / 0-)

    The longest peek behind the curtain I've ever been allowed. Excellent writing, NBBooks.

  •  See, that's wrong. Congress has been tasked (8+ / 0-)

    with managing OUR currency. Congress has engineered this diversionary process wherin the Treasury releases money to the Federal Reserve Bank (a public/private partnership) and the Fed lends money to the banks, for a minimal fee, so they can deposit it with the Treasury for a substantially larger dividend. Then the Congress pretends it can only spend for public purposes what the people have either sent in as taxes or the Treasury has washed through the banks and other financial players.
    Why does the Congress do that?  Well, giving our money to the banks insures that the banks will be supportive of their re-election and rationing the money spent on public works serves as an opportunity to reward and punish the populace, as appropriate.  
    The banks, of course, go along with this charade because it is to their benefit. However, it seems that Congress has over-played its hand. The rationing seems to have had the effect it usually does -- i.e. prompted hoarding by those who have. So, the rate at which money courses through the economy has gotten really sluggish -- moving more slowly that at any time since the 1950s when the volume of money was much less. When we had less money moving faster people were better off, even though many transactions involved no money at all. Now that everyone is hooked on using money, rationing makes it possible to impose widespread privation, which is, of course, the point.

    Why is Congress being insubordinate and subverting the welfare of the people? Because Congress isn't powerful unless it hurts.

    We organize governments to deliver services and prevent abuse.

    by hannah on Tue Feb 26, 2013 at 03:21:49 AM PST

  •  Cause of a deep feeling of ENTITLEMENT. (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Words In Action, LucyandByron
  •  Do you know the work of Richard Wolff? (21+ / 0-)

    He is an economist who was interviewed by Bill Moyerslast Saturday, and he explained how our capitalist system is broken.  Too much to go into here and now, although I did more in a diary about FDR's proposing a marginal tax rate of 100%.

    But one thing Wolff points out is that many universities have two economics departments.  One for theory and the other for business people.  The theory gives people justification for what they do - "It's not my responsibility but that is just how the market works" - while the business school teaches them what to do.

    www.tapestryofbronze.com

    by chloris creator on Tue Feb 26, 2013 at 04:17:07 AM PST

  •  Its more than just propaganda though (21+ / 0-)

    The rich use all manner of tools to impose their will.  They use globalized labor to break the backs of unions.  They use groups such as ALEC to promote laws at the State level that are hostile to workers.  

    Houston we have a problem.  Its an all out overt war by the rich on everyone else.  We got a peak at it's ugliness with the Romney's 47% comment.  I think that sort of attitude is routine amongst the powerful.

    Be prepared for turmoil.  From it will emerge opportunities to make major changes.

    "The real wealth of a nation consists of the contributions of its people and nature." -- Rianne Eisler

    by noofsh on Tue Feb 26, 2013 at 04:17:13 AM PST

    •  And this war of the relative haves vs. have-nots (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Words In Action, mamamedusa, mrkvica

      has become socially normative - it is repeated daily in human affairs, especially in the workplace. It's bastard stepchild in local cronyism - rewards and punishments commensurate with toeing the management line, regardless of inefficiency or fairness.

      Courage is contagious. - Daniel Ellsberg

      by semiot on Tue Feb 26, 2013 at 06:32:53 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  We leftists don't uniformly dismiss the Founders. (18+ / 0-)

    Acknowledging that they were indeed a cabal of rich white men who didn't consistently put their ideals into practice in no way undermines their genius.  It simply illustrates that they, like us, were fallible human beings.  They, like us, should be judged by what they got right as well as what they got wrong.  Only then will we be able to take the foundation they left us and build an even better world on top of it.

  •  First we should probably firmly establish (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    annan, Words In Action
  •  On the subject of unearned income and (17+ / 0-)

    plutocracy, Juan Cole wrote this really good piece in response to the global financial crash of 2008: http://www.juancole.com/...

    I can't quite bring myself to use the word rentier because  it just doesn't convey enough information as far as I'm concerned.

    Like the term "rent seeking", it doesn't (to the average joe) differentiate between landlords who work hard to provide good lodgings and parasites who provide nothing in return for millions or billions of unearned income, Mitt Romney being a prime example.

    Reaganomics noun pl: belief that government (of, by, and for the people) is the problem and that we can increase revenue by decreasing revenue.

    by FrY10cK on Tue Feb 26, 2013 at 05:23:27 AM PST

    •  "Parasite" (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      howd, mrkvica

      I think that word describes the behavior pretty accurately, and is understood by almost everyone.


      The Fail will continue until actual torches and pitchforks are set in motion. - Pangolin@kunstler.com

      by No one gets out alive on Tue Feb 26, 2013 at 08:20:01 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  except we all disagree who the parasites are (2+ / 0-)
        "Parasite"  I think that word describes the behavior pretty accurately, and is understood by almost everyone.
        Some people think the parasites are at the top; others think they're at the bottom.  Some people think the parasites are in the private sector; others think they're in the public sector.  Some people think they work in finance; others think they work on the factory floor.
        •  I think I'll take the odds on this one. (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          shaharazade, bigjacbigjacbigjac

          Sure, there are plenty of zombie authoritarians out there, but they make up about 40% - on a good day.

          I think I make myself pretty clear to others who I think the parasites are.

          I think you prove my point.  It's a popular word.


          The Fail will continue until actual torches and pitchforks are set in motion. - Pangolin@kunstler.com

          by No one gets out alive on Tue Feb 26, 2013 at 01:43:15 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

    •  Also, I can't recommend the Juan Cole post (2+ / 0-)

      highly enough. That guy is incredibly smart and in one single page (you can read it in five minutes) he explains how we got to the 2008 global financial crash. The title is

      The Great Reagan Pyramid Scheme Comes Crashing Down

      Reaganomics noun pl: belief that government is bad, that it can increase revenue by decreasing revenue, and unregulated capitalism is the solution.

      by FrY10cK on Tue Feb 26, 2013 at 10:43:26 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  To be quite honest, it freaks me out (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      bigjacbigjacbigjac

      to dehumanize anybody. It is okay to abhor, or even hate, a certain class of self-centered takers, but I cannot condone calling them parasites or cockroaches. It is not who we are to take away someone's humanity. This is how some sick people were able to 'exterminate' (as we do parasites and cockroaches) millions of jews about 60 some years ago...it just makes me edgy to use these terms.

      •  It doesn't freak me. (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        shaharazade

        If sociopaths were the norm, like say the aliens in Independence Day, with a singular goal in exploitation for survival, our views might be different. But we are social animals, even a bit of an interdependent hive. Sociopaths are more like cancerous mutations that shouldn't be allowed to proliferate. Sociopaths are never satisfied and always rend the envelope. This is why we have revolutions and upheavals.

        Most people prefer a steady, measured and normal life, which includes a fair amount of work and accomplishment. They are not striving to be rich and lazy. Most people are fascinated with other people and their ideas and creativity, not that they need to own it, but observe it and experience it. Take parks for instance, they're wonderful, but not much good if not utilized by people who enjoy them. Parks may not be your thing, but there are so many of us with so many different interests there is definitely an intersection of common interests and enjoyment to be had, not necessarily owned, but shared. People aggregate around things they like, which is generally based on other people and the things that they do.

        Sociopaths don't care about other people. Now whether that is a feature or a bug, depends on your point of view as to survival efficiencies and evolution I suppose.

  •  I recently discussed economic rent, too. (21+ / 0-)

    The rent seekers are keeping us from addressing climate change and health care and banking corruption.

    The media, which benefits from unlimited campaign expenditures by the oligarchs, is part of the corruption.

    look for my eSci diary series Thursday evening.

    by FishOutofWater on Tue Feb 26, 2013 at 05:25:29 AM PST

  •  we could (12+ / 0-)

    start extracting our share of the "rent"

    ... our sweat equity.


    Workers take note:  ESOP ... it's just not for Fables anymore
    by jamess -- Jan 18, 2013


    by demanding our share.

    •  I think this is great except (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      jamess, mrkvica

      how do we finance it, when they've grabbed all the money?

      That's the question that brings me up hard against a wall on pretty much every issue I can think of.  

      I haven't clicked on all the links in your diary yet, so this question might get answered in there...I'm thinking about things like Kickstarter and crowdfunding (I'd love to do this for media, kind of like a media Green Bay Packers) but the question is, are there really enough loaves and fishes left around the crowd to feed us after the rich came through and did their best to leave us destitute?

      if necessary for years; if necessary, alone

      by SouthernLiberalinMD on Tue Feb 26, 2013 at 07:15:32 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Excellent. Informative and important! (6+ / 0-)

    The same old truths fought for then forgotten, over and over. and the same selfish, self justifying interests re-imposing control and garnering and unequal and increasing share of returns and wealth.

    Pogo & Murphy's Law, every time. Also "Trust but verify" - St. Ronnie (hah...)

    by IreGyre on Tue Feb 26, 2013 at 05:40:51 AM PST

  •  Excellent and Important! (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Words In Action, Siri

    Thank you for this thoughtful analysis. I am sending this around to all my fellows.

  •  In other words, the very rich are subversives. (16+ / 0-)

    Calling income derived from investments "earned", and thereby clothing the recipient with the mantle of moral right to that income (the recipient is earning it, therefore he must deserve it) is only one step away from declaring that divine providence has chosen such a recipient, apart from all others, to receive it.  This, in turn, is but one step away from declaring that some were chosen by God to lead, and others to follow--the mantra of the divine right kings.

    The road to Hell is paved with pragmatism.

    by TheOrchid on Tue Feb 26, 2013 at 06:10:54 AM PST

  •  Excellent, excellent work. (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    angry marmot, Words In Action, Siri

    Thank you for such an informative and thought provoking piece of writing.

  •  A very good read (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Words In Action, Siri, howd, mrkvica

    It gives a person a lot to think about. As for myself I believe that America stand at a precipice. The rich will push us off it and take from us as much as they can or enough people will wakeup before it is to late and stop it from happening. The choice could not be clearer 99% of us get our lives made much harder so that 1% can live like kings. or we stop the senseless attracts on our safety net and us in general and stand up to the rich and their paid whores, gigolo's and jackals in the Republican party and the media.

    •  The cliff-hanger, literally, is whether We the (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Siri, smiley7, mrkvica

      People respond before or after we are pushed off the cliff.

      Of course, there's a strong argument in saying that we have already been pushed off the cliff...

      An infinite number of more and better Democratic legislators will make little substantive difference in the Class and Climate Wars.

      by Words In Action on Tue Feb 26, 2013 at 07:01:50 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  I'd say we are past the precipice. (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      howd, mrkvica

      “And the banks — hard to believe in a time when we’re facing a banking crisis that many of the banks created — are still the most powerful lobby on Capitol Hill. And they frankly own the place.”  - Dick Durbin, April 2009

      The rich invest in politicians and lobbyists because it is the easiest way to get a big return. We are beyond the place that the Founders worried about: Washington has been captured by the rich. In 2007 Senator Obama offered that fixing Social Security was easy: simply raise the cap the cap to where it captured the percentage of income that it used to. Today Obama offers chained CPI. So it goes.

      The rich in this country are the aristocracy, the politicians, lobbyists, pundits and media the courtiers.

      In today's America, policies that have even 70 to 80% support of the public are not supported by Congress, don't get a vote, and may not even get a hearing. We have become what our founders feared for the exact reason that they feared.

  •  Thank you (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Words In Action, Siri, smiley7, sidnora

    For writing this.

    "It's never too late to have a happy childhood." - Tom Robbins - Political Compass sez: -8.25, -7.90

    by ARS on Tue Feb 26, 2013 at 06:28:26 AM PST

  •  There are biological components (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Words In Action, FG, Whatithink, sidnora

    to this. Human beings aren't wired to think we have enough. We're wired to think we need to be continually hunting for more, which is understandable considering our ancestral roots and the fact that for most of our history, we really didn't have enough.

    http://callatimeout.blogspot.com/

    by DAISHI on Tue Feb 26, 2013 at 06:29:20 AM PST

    •  understandable, yes. (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      bigjacbigjacbigjac

      The question is, do we understand it well enough to transcend it? We're not there yet evolutionarily, that much is plain.

      "The only thing we have to fear is fear itself."........ "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." (yeah, same guy.)

      by sidnora on Wed Feb 27, 2013 at 06:52:13 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Playing games with money (5+ / 0-)

    Is the phrase I use to think about this kind of thing. Moving money from one pile to another, charging fees for the service, selling "financial products" that have no basis in physical reality - all of that and more.

    Can anyone justify high speed computer-based trading as doing anything of real value? It's just algorithms crunching numbers, the equivalent of sitting just above event horizon of a black hole harvesting virtual particles as they erupt from the quantum foam.

    "No special skill, no standard attitude, no technology, and no organization - no matter how valuable - can safely replace thought itself."

    by xaxnar on Tue Feb 26, 2013 at 06:49:55 AM PST

    •  Over-securitization of the economy. (9+ / 0-)

      One of three common elements in the Fall of Empires, according to the research Kevin Phillips conducted and reported upon in "Wealth and Democray" and "American Theocracy".

      Over-securitization of the economy means too much of the real economy is out-sourced to other nations so that the citizens of the Empire can sit around making money off of money.

      The other two:

      - Military over-reach
      - Over-concentration of wealth

      Hmmm, this sounds familiar.

      An infinite number of more and better Democratic legislators will make little substantive difference in the Class and Climate Wars.

      by Words In Action on Tue Feb 26, 2013 at 07:05:44 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  Re (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      FG, nextstep
      Can anyone justify high speed computer-based trading as doing anything of real value?
      It provides liquidity and reduces bid/ask spreads, which reduces prices of stocks and commodities, and reduces market volatility.

      (-5.50,-6.67): Left Libertarian
      Leadership doesn't mean taking a straw poll and then just throwing up your hands. -Jyrinx

      by Sparhawk on Tue Feb 26, 2013 at 07:14:21 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Excellent Diary NBBooks (10+ / 0-)

    I remember playing Monopoly with my brothers and sisters a long long time ago. We learned early that in order to 'win' you had to buy up all you could. I loved to play the neighbor kids because they would always hold onto their meager amount of money and not buy anything. After owning everything and having drained all of their money, I would give them money if they would let me buy the jail, waterworks and luxury tax. I would pay them to change the rules so I could own everything! I was a little prick when it came to Monopoly.

    This is how I equate what has happened in America. It's like a never-ending Monopoly game that, generations ago, all the squares were bought up by a select few and we, the people just keep rolling the dice. Slowly and inevitably the 1% will drain every penny from the masses. Hell we're almost there now.  

    "If fighting for a more equal and equitable distribution of the wealth of this country is socialistic, I stand guilty of being a socialist." Walter Reuther

    by fugwb on Tue Feb 26, 2013 at 06:57:03 AM PST

  •  The Corruption of Economics (11+ / 0-)

    there is an exceptional book (free online here) called The Corruption of Economics by Mason Gaffney that shows the mechanisms that happened in board rooms and in the halls of academia and in capitol buildings that changed the thrust of common economic understanding about rent seeking, labor and capital from the Classical period - Smith, Ricardo, Locke, French physiocrats and perhaps most importantly Henry George who at the time was the leading light of the Classical world view.

    Neo-classcal economics was invented essentially as a tool to stomp down the ideas of Henry George - the man who invented the term progressivism. His ideas about rent capture and the morality of it were truly taking root around the world in the 1880's and 90's and the early 1900's.

    From The Progress Report:

    The Progress Report - In your latest book, The Corruption of Economics, you seem to be exposing an amazingly deep and long-standing scandal around the study of economics within the American education system. Sum it up for us. How, why and by whom do you think the teaching of economics in America has been corrupted?

    Mason Gaffney - Generically, it goes back thousands of years: every system that divides mankind into rentiers and proles requires a rationale. Those with leisure have time and resources to provide it: sometimes directly, but usually through hired guns.

    The need became more acute in the USA during and after the Progressive Era, with its development of the secret ballot and direct democracy. Voters could no longer be bought or intimidated directly; they had to be brainwashed. The device used was to replac e the older Classical Political Economy (Quesnay, Adam Smith, Ricardo, Mill, and Henry George) with "Neo-classical Economics," which blurred all distinctions between producers and rentiers.

    Henry George was the clear and present danger that triggered off the work of early neo-classicals, especially in America, but also around the world. He was not just an economic writer but a political force. He was nearly elected mayor of New York, a key p osition in US national politics. He communicated well with masses of people: a few who understood his reasoning, and a mass who got the general idea and resonated with his personality. He had an ethnic constituency, the Irish-Americans of New York, who ca rried his ideas into the Irish-English conflict, a springboard for a worldwide anti-colonial movement. He and they carried his ideas into Vatican politics, triggering off the 1891 Encyclical, "Rerum Novarum", a defining turning point in the social action views of the Catholic Church. His followers grew strong in the Radical wing of the Liberal Party in England, had a deep influence on Edwardian politics, culminating in the disempowerment of the House of Lords in 1911.TPR - So, it goes back farther than Henry George's detractors. Who would you say was the first "professional" economist?

    MG - Thomas Malthus was perhaps the first person to teach a subject of that name, although earlier writers, including church writers, said a lot about it. Thomas Aquinas had been highly influential; so had Aristotle.

    TPR - They were paid to keep quiet about the land question?

    MG - No more than anyone else. They lived in a society dominated by landowners. Adam Smith spent his life on the payroll of the Duke of Buccleuch, as tutor for His Grace's son. Landowners were so very secure, some of them could let their house int ellectuals tweak their noses with radical ideas - probably found it entertaining. It was later, after universal manhood suffrage, that the landowners got nasty and conspiratorial and defensive, and went about brainwashing the electorate. Ricardo and Von T huenen were independently wealthy, and could afford to indulge their passion for ideas, objectively. Mill was a prodigy who built an enormous reputation, and had civil service tenure, before he ventured radical ideas about land ownership. A.R. Wallace, to o, had a towering rep. as a biologist before venturing into public policy. Had he not done so, he would still be as famous as Darwin, as originally he was.

    All this time there was a large majority of small intellects who catered to the landed interest. Nassau Senior was one. The weight of their numbers was enough to offset their mediocre attainments, and cast Mill as an eccentric loner, an impractical ideal ist, as well as a sissy who favored women's rights.

    TPR - Do you believe this purchasing of economic theory still going on today, and if so, what well-known economists do you suspect of being involved with it?

    MG - It pervades the culture of the profession. Most members are looking for grants and promotions to put frosting on their cake. They call it, "Responding to the incentive structure," giggle nervously, and shuffle the blame onto "the system." The y abandon personal moral responsibility, and quickly become part of the system themselves. They rationalize their own dereliction by attacking those who expose it, turning themselves into a generation of vipers. Grants come from those with money. Follow t he money trail. Most administrators are even worse: they push faculty members to get outside grants, whatever the source. They only occasionally decline one when faced with embarrassing publicity.

    Look at the names and histories of major grantors and patrons of the past: Stanford, Rockefeller, Russell Sage, Carnegie, Hewitt, Cornell, Wharton ... Look at the governing boards of major private and public institutions. It's all there to see, for those that have eyes to see, minds to draw the obvious conclusions, and hearts to carry on the good fight for the public interest. Upton Sinclair spelled it out pretty well back in 1923 or so, in "The Goose Step: a Study of Education in America".

    It's partly a matter of coopting people by dangling money before them, and partly a matter of selecting and supporting those whose ideas are already more simpatico to the major grantors. It's hard to tell the difference, so it's hard to say who's been cor rupted, and who corrupted himself at an early age.

    TPR - How can my readers find out if what you're saying is really true? Name the most widely used economics textbooks in American universities right now and what they teach that is an obvious lie for the benefit of landed interests.

    MG - I no longer use textbooks much, but there are dozens available for the more common courses. Some are less bad than others.

    Strategies change over time. It is no longer common to attack George virulently, as was done in the period that my book covers, 1880-1930 or so. Today Georgism has receded as a political force, so modern strategies are less frantic and overt. Today, they trivialize, misrepresent, and brush off lightly.

    Paul Samuelson, Robert Solow, Peter Mieszkowski, Theodore Schultz, and Edwin Mills, for example, casually pronounce that land rent is only 5% or so of total income, so a single land tax could not support government as we know it. They offer no support for this except to echo each other, and to cite some transparently irrelevant data from the US Dept. of Commerce. They are, tragically, encouraged in this stratagem by work subsidized and influenced by the Lincoln Foundation, an outfit originally funded to p romote the ideas of Henry George, but soon coopted and diverted from its chartered purposes. They simply ignore the few careful studies of the matter, as by Michael Hudson, Allen Manvel, myself, and Steven Cord, that show much higher figures.

  •  The founder's economics (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    NBBooks, howd, mrkvica

    A neglected but crucial discussion of the Founder's outlook is Frank Bourgin's  THE GREAT CHALLENGE. (Braziller, 1989).
    He makes a compelling case for the Founders being mercantilist, an outlook that saw an active role for government to shape industrial and commercial policy. Free enterprise as an ideology didn't really exist in the late 18th century;after all WEALTH OF NATIONS wasn't published until 1776.  The book was Bourgin's Ph.D. thesis, originally wrtitten in the 1940s, but his university was too wiggy about such a radical notion to accept it.    

  •  Excellent. Aside from the question of how we (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    a2nite, howd, mrkvica

    assess the intentions of the Founding Father as they expressed in and around the Constitution, we still know one thing: the rich inevitably corrupt any system to funnel all the money to themselves.

    So the real questions are:

    1) Why do we let this happen?
    2) Why haven't our efforts to prevent and rectify worked?
    3) What are we prepared to do to prevent actual bondage disguised from us through a Matrix of disinformation and diversion?

    Given that 10-20% of us have torn allegiances and will never act to substantively change the status quo -- hence the dubious incrementalism and specious, self-serving defense of it -- it really comes down to whether 80-90% will answer these questions correctly.

    An infinite number of more and better Democratic legislators will make little substantive difference in the Class and Climate Wars.

    by Words In Action on Tue Feb 26, 2013 at 07:13:10 AM PST

  •  Alex Jones: (0+ / 0-)

    What a distraction.  It's so frustrating that he's trapped in his own right-wing, wealth-worshipping cocoon.  Progressives are the ones who should be railing about Their World and Our World.

    There is a conspiracy of the rich; an organic conspiracy based on false preconceptions floating around in a gilded bubble.  And it's destroying everything good about Western civilization.

    Their blithe dismissal of wind power is but one example of a conspiracy-by-default.

  •  Excellent. nt (0+ / 0-)

    You said the air was singing / it's calling you, you don't believe / These things you've never seen / Never heard, never dreamed.

    by CayceP on Tue Feb 26, 2013 at 07:51:37 AM PST

  •  Nice to see this brilliant diarist publishing... (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    jobu, mrkvica, sidnora

    ...their more important pieces here, once again!

    "I always thought if you worked hard enough and tried hard enough, things would work out. I was wrong." --Katharine Graham

    by bobswern on Tue Feb 26, 2013 at 07:55:28 AM PST

  •  Great Diary- Teevee, Journalism (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Azazello, WheninRome, mrkvica

    I am largely going off of a great book "amusing ourselves to death". (argues Huxley was right, written in the 80's, that TV is our Soma, now look at the internet etc.)

    I think that the founders believed that they provided for a more equal playing field with the 1st Amendment. Both in freedom of Speech and the Press. They probably never could've foreseen that news would become basically uninformative entertainment for profit.

    How could it? The public owns the airwaives right? When Corporations are allowed to "speak" (Citizens United) and in what we have seen in these mass-media for profit causes, their affect on the messages just was unthinkinable.

    When they wrote, people read. A lot. Everything they could. Certainly for entertainment and certainly even more threatening to each other than today, but the comprehension and level of what could be discussed was considerably higher.

    Amusing Ourselves IIRC talks about the Lincoln-Douglas debates. How people sat for 8 hours and listened. I mean that is nuts today, a network going to make money off of a politician actually discussing issues that people actually understand because they are informed about? We instead opt to watch the Superbowl and all it's commentary on who we are (we want to watch commercials? because they are entertaining?).

    I have some point. I think it is they could not have foreseen information being a commodity in the way that it is. Granted communities like this off-set. But, they're doing what they can to say it's not journalism (or in the past) etc. Imagine if the Press did their job? Even in snippets? That people knew about Bain, it was on most channels. And those it was not people were still highly informed knew it, got that what they read was BS, but BS to shout back.

    •  Press ownership (2+ / 0-)

      used to be regulated (there's that word again!) to prevent concentration of ownership. Without that concentration, there would be plenty of media outlets willing to "do their jobs".

      You can blame Ronald Reagan, who did his pal Rupert solid by loosening those restrictions for him, and Bill Clinton,who finished the job in 1996.

      "The only thing we have to fear is fear itself."........ "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." (yeah, same guy.)

      by sidnora on Wed Feb 27, 2013 at 07:02:06 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Where we are today (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    howd, mrkvica

    - large scale income disparity
    - increasing debt and wealth
    - economic rent and excess profits as the major model
    - Banks bailed out by being allowed historic "spreads", that is, we the people are continuously bailing them out, a situation purposefully design by those in power.
    - an economy that cannot and will not recover
    - a nation slipping into middling status
    - a political oligarchy bought and paid for
    - labor devalued by outsourcing
    - we buy cheap goods provided by third world slaves
    - which we don't pay for since we produce little that they want, empty containers back to China, Trillion dollar debt owned by China
    - we can't do anything big
    - we barely respond to the Global Climate Crisis
    - we summarily reject global treaties
    - we make wars of choice and avoid responsibility afterwards
    - we are going to blanket the world with drones, summarily executing anyone that might appear to be hostile
    - our financial capital is uninterested in taking risk to investing in manufacturing infrastructure to build an economy. We'd rather invest in your debt.  
    - for all of these reasons we believe in American exceptionalism

  •  Plus ca change etc. (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    NBBooks, mrkvica, shaharazade

    This passage is from Charles Dickens's Our Mutual Friend (1865). Paticularly striking is the passage concerning "centralization," and the sentiment "un-English."  Karl Marx would finish Das Kapital two years later. Dickens was unaware of Marx, though Marx and everyone else in the world was certainly aware of Dickens.

    ______

    'There is not,' said Mr Podsnap, flushing angrily, 'there is not a country in the world, sir, where so noble a provision is made for the poor as in this country.'

    The meek man was quite willing to concede that, but perhaps it rendered the matter even worse, as showing that there must be something appallingly wrong somewhere.

    'Where?' said Mr Podsnap.

    The meek man hinted Wouldn't it be well to try, very seriously, to find out where?

    'Ah!' said Mr Podsnap. 'Easy to say somewhere; not so easy to say where! But I see what you are driving at. I knew it from the first. Centralization. No. Never with my consent. Not English.'

    An approving murmur arose from the heads of tribes; as saying, 'There you have him! Hold him!'

    He was not aware (the meek man submitted of himself) that he was driving at any ization. He had no favourite ization that he knew of. But he certainly was more staggered by these terrible occurrences than he was by names, of howsoever so many syllables. Might he ask, was dying of destitution and neglect necessarily English?

    'You know what the population of London is, I suppose,' said Mr Podsnap.

    The meek man supposed he did, but supposed that had absolutely nothing to do with it, if its laws were well administered.

    'And you know; at least I hope you know;' said Mr Podsnap, with severity, 'that Providence has declared that you shall have the poor always with you?'

    The meek man also hoped he knew that.

    'I am glad to hear it,' said Mr Podsnap with a portentous air. 'I am glad to hear it. It will render you cautious how you fly in the face of Providence.'

    In reference to that absurd and irreverent conventional phrase, the meek man said, for which Mr Podsnap was not responsible, he the meek man had no fear of doing anything so impossible; but—

    But Mr Podsnap felt that the time had come for flushing and flourishing this meek man down for good. So he said:

    'I must decline to pursue this painful discussion. It is not pleasant to my feelings; it is repugnant to my feelings. I have said that I do not admit these things. I have also said that if they do occur (not that I admit it), the fault lies with the sufferers themselves. It is not for ME'—Mr Podsnap pointed 'me' forcibly, as adding by implication though it may be all very well for YOU—'it is not for me to impugn the workings of Providence. I know better than that, I trust, and I have mentioned what the intentions of Providence are. Besides,' said Mr Podsnap, flushing high up among his hair-brushes, with a strong consciousness of personal affront, 'the subject is a very disagreeable one. I will go so far as to say it is an odious one. It is not one to be introduced among our wives and young persons, and I—' He finished with that flourish of his arm which added more expressively than any words, And I remove it from the face of the earth.

  •  Do you actually know any "rich" people? (0+ / 0-)

    I know a few. They are nothing like you describe. Stereotype much?

    •  It seems to depend on how they made (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Leftcandid

      their money?

      "Since when did obeying corporate power become patriotic." Going the Distance

      by Going the Distance on Tue Feb 26, 2013 at 09:35:35 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  A few is anecdotal, not data. (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      The Jester, mrkvica, sidnora

      The system, the history, the results; that is data.

      Many participants can be kind & decent individuals, whose careers nonetheless involve the perpetuation of what is described here.  There is no purity in either direction.

      Sometimes I can't believe it; I'm movin' past the feelin'...

      by Leftcandid on Tue Feb 26, 2013 at 10:16:31 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Like I said (0+ / 0-)

        Do you actually know any rich people? You seem to think they wake each day eager to destroy people's lives, including those in their own families. Or they are too stupid to realize that is what they are doing. Ridiculous.

        •  Are you saying *none* do? #actuallyridiculous (4+ / 0-)

          What, did the plantation owner mentality vanish from humanity after the Civil War?  

          Hooray for your friends, but don't let them blind you.  I have a very wealthy relative who is a good person, a moderate Republican who has done a lot of good.  And I've heard from him about his fellow board members, who I will not hesitate to describe as terrifyingly shitty people.

          You put forward a ridiculous, straw version of the actual argument; of course the point of the activities of the wealthy is not to deliberately & solely destroy people's lives.  And certainly the point is to improve life for their familes.  But you have to admit that those who seek maximize profit for themselves & their own familes--without regard for the cost to their employees and THEIR families--are making the world worse rather than better.

          And yes, they can be too stupid to realize that that is what they are doing.  The corporate mentality is MAXIMIZE QUARTERLY PROFITS.  Individuals can dissent from this on their own time, but do they dare do so when it counts, at executive board meetings?  Not if they want to keep their highpaying positions, they don't.  The Koch brothers are probably intelligent men, but they clearly don't give a damn about worsening the growing climate crisis, something that will worsen the lives of most families on Earth.  

          Why do you believe your wealthy friends are more representative of all rich people than the Republicans?

           

          Sometimes I can't believe it; I'm movin' past the feelin'...

          by Leftcandid on Tue Feb 26, 2013 at 02:59:29 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  Are you saying they all do? (0+ / 0-)

            Of course I am not saying none do- but I dare say the diarist said they all do "the rich" with nothing more than his/her take on today's political and economic landscape- woven together with junior college psychology and a polished with idealogical rhetoric.

            I am sure there are some really crappy people who are rich. Just as there some really crappy people who are poor, tall, Mets fans etc.

            Of course a business wants to (usually) maximize profit. That usually translates to higher stick returns for stock holders, a more robust business, which employs people and pays taxes. Many business also try to create a better work environment to attract better workers. It isn't a zero sum game. you have just admitted that you know a wealthy person who isn;t at all what the diarist described. I know about 5 or 6 like that. I seriously doubt they are the only 7 in existence. The "hate the rich" diaries (guaranteed to get noticed) around here can be quite annoying as well as intellectually lazy, especially when they typically mean is "hate the conservative rich but not the liberal rich".

            I mean of Bill Gates doesn't care about his employees and their families and the country (even though he gives aways billions to charity) show it. But just saying "the rich" suck is infantile.

            •  The actions of the rich, as a group, suck. (3+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              mrkvica, sidnora, bigjacbigjacbigjac

              The problem is that the damage done by the "bad" rich is surpassing any good done by the good ones.  Political corruption, corporate personhood, ecological damage, opposition to single payer healthcare, that's all the doing of the wealthy.  Poverty is their decision; without their opposition, we wouldn't have it.  This is the framework within which this diary has meaning.

              Bill Gates is not innocent; he's responsible for job losses for Americans, by pushing the H-1B program to lower his labor cost & raise his profits.  He's also into busting teachers' unions.

              You remind me: I (kind of) know another decent rich person, my former Congressman Jared Polis.  Great liberal.  Even HE, though, balked at the idea of a surcharge on millionaires to help fund the ACA.  I let him have it.  

              I can't tell if you're deliberately missing the point here; there's no problem with rich people who aren't the problem, so it should be obvious those individuals aren't the topic.  We're not complaining about Redford, Turner, Soros, etc.   You have to know that.  But in case you're really sincerely making that argument, I agree with that point (although a bad rich person does much more damage than a bad poor person)(personally I'd like to see wealth as an aggravating factor in sentencing, rather than the ability to lawyer one's way out of any crime).

              Sometimes I can't believe it; I'm movin' past the feelin'...

              by Leftcandid on Tue Feb 26, 2013 at 07:23:10 PM PST

              [ Parent ]

              •  This is simply (0+ / 0-)

                denying reality:

                Poverty is their decision; without their opposition, we wouldn't have it
                .
                Poverty is, alas, a human condition. Working to minimize it is nobel. Denying it's permanence is naive.
                Political corruption
                Blame the politicians who are corrupted.
                corporate personhood
                Supreme Court decision.
                ecological damage
                Caused by the rich?
                opposition to single payer healthcare
                A LOT of people, like over half the country, oppose that.

                People can be rich and incorrect without being evil. You have a problem with certain rich people's politics and personal decisions. Fine. But "rich people" do not suck anymore than the rest of us.

                •  You really don't understand what has happened (1+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:
                  bigjacbigjacbigjac

                  and how it happened, who chose it.  Everything on your list above is true ONLY BECAUSE the solutions are vigorously opposed by the rich.  

                  Poverty is a human condition... that could now be solved if only the wealthy approved.  Instead they cry, "Socialism!"  Sure, some don't, but too many do.

                  The reason the Supreme Court has ruled for corporate personhood for 150 years is a corrupt sympathy with the rich in each case.   Corporate entities sought equal protection under the 14th Amendment, and the SCOTUS clerk who inserted a pro-personhood clause into the Santa Clara County Vs. Southern Pacific Railroad decision was previously a railroad executive.

                  The definition of corruption is the profit motive at work in government: the desire to get rich by serving the rich instead of the public.  This is the motive behind everything the Republicans do.

                  People oppose single payer only because of wealth-funded propaganda.  Once they understand you're talking about Medicare, they support it.

                  I see you left out environmental destruction.  This is something actually perpetrated by humanity at all wealth levels, but the worst of it--the most efficient, largest scale--is done by corporations, aka the rich.

                  Not all rich people are bad, but all the people who are causing our worst problems--and who are aware of and capable of implementing solutions instead--are rich.  All of them.  And it ought to be obvious that, morally, it is much worse to be a greedy rich person than a greedy poor person.

                  Sometimes I can't believe it; I'm movin' past the feelin'...

                  by Leftcandid on Wed Feb 27, 2013 at 05:23:59 AM PST

                  [ Parent ]

                  •  one question (0+ / 0-)

                    at a time.

                    How could the wealthy (although they are not some collective of single minded lockstep thinking auto bots) alleviate poverty " if only the wealthy approved."?

                    Names and solutions?

                    •  Alright, what alleviates poverty? (1+ / 0-)
                      Recommended by:
                      RockyMtnLib

                      In the US and other industrialized nations:
                      * livable Social Security benefits
                      * National health insurance
                      * Properly funded, properly run public assistance safety nets for all life circumstances, including unemployment, addiction, domestic violence
                      * Living wage + abolition of free trade to protect domestic labor from a surplus condition
                      * Rehabilitation-focused penal system
                      * Minimally corrupt political & legal system that distributes justice fairly & safely regulates the marketplace
                      * Tax code that provides proper government funding while reducing the wealth gap between top & bottom
                      * Education system focused on development of citizens capable of pull participation in economic & political life

                      In the developing world:
                      * Stabilized access to safe water, food, & medicine
                      * Minimally corrupt, democratically elected governments that are responsive to the electorate & create a stable regulatory environment for the conduct of a funtional marketplace
                      * Investment in the local development of, and ownership by, sustainable resources, agriculture, & industry
                      * Abolition of free trade for fair trade to protect domestic farming & labor
                      * Properly funded social safety net, and an education system geared toward a national recognition of long term challenges previously ignored by a population too focused on day to day survival (environmental concerns)
                      * Tax code to fund the above
                      * Where necessary, a public program to reconcile tribalism & similar corrosive cultural problems that threaten the stabilizing structures, if not a descent into outright civil war.

                      I'm sure I forgot a few elements.  But these problems all trace to imbalance of power, aka financial resources.

                      Sometimes I can't believe it; I'm movin' past the feelin'...

                      by Leftcandid on Thu Feb 28, 2013 at 06:55:02 AM PST

                      [ Parent ]

                      •  Now that is the stuff of which (0+ / 0-)

                        great diaries are made.

                        And every last one of these line items have been opposed by wealthy interests since time immemorial. The same wealthy interests have also financed propaganda to pull the wool over the eyes of those who would stand to benefit from implementing poverty-alleviating measures.

                        liberal bias = failure to validate or sufficiently flatter the conservative narrative on any given subject

                        by RockyMtnLib on Fri Mar 01, 2013 at 07:39:50 AM PST

                        [ Parent ]

                •  Just to take one of your points (2+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:
                  shaharazade, bigjacbigjacbigjac

                  Because I don't have time to deal with all of them:

                  Are you aware that when Obama originally outlined his health care reform program, something like 80% of the country was in favor of single payer healthcare?  It took the (oligarch-funded) Tea Party screaming for a year and the (oligarch-owned) media covering it like it was the second coming to change enough of their minds to allow the insurance companies to get the version they wanted.

                  I, too know some moderately rich people. Some of them are very decent people, and some of them are stupid, crass and selfish. But none of them are billionaires. Do you know any billionaires?

                  "The only thing we have to fear is fear itself."........ "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." (yeah, same guy.)

                  by sidnora on Wed Feb 27, 2013 at 07:13:24 AM PST

                  [ Parent ]

                  •  Perhaps (0+ / 0-)

                    you can provide me with evidence of that 80% figure? I knew health reform, in various forms has hovered around 50 60 for a quite a while.

                    I would hardly blame the media for shifts in opinions.

                    I do not any billionaires. Do you?

    •  I was wondering when this would come up (6+ / 0-)

      Generally, when I use the term "rich" I'm not thinking of people that have one or two million bucks. I'm thinking of people with hundreds of millions of dollars, even billions. The super-rich, so to speak. People who don't know or care what it's like to go through airport security, or sit in a traffic jam downtown, because they have their own jets and helicopters.

      And, see my comment on noblesse oblige and the Kennedys.

      And don't forget the real problem of the political muscle the rich can deploy and direct in the form of tens of millions of misguided and fearful wrong-wingers who believe Obama is a Kenyan socialist muslim anti-christ.

      A conservative is a scab for the oligarchy.

      by NBBooks on Tue Feb 26, 2013 at 11:29:35 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  I'm sorry (0+ / 0-)

        you take such a dim view of people you do not know. And if you look at the Forbes 400 you'll quite a few Democrats who send a lot of their money for their party along with the Kochs and Waltons.

        I would also add that all first generation 'rich" earned their money. And I suspect that most impart their work ethic to their kids.

        I don't think being rich is any more an indicator of poor character than being poor is an indicator of good character.

        •  Being rich is an indicator of the nature of money (5+ / 0-)

          An increase in money is an increase in power, which can be used to get further increases in money more easily. In mathematical sciences (and in physiology) this is known as a positive feedback loop. The result of this monetary positive feedback loop, unless it is regulated by negative feedbacks, is to concentrate all money in a few hands. But that situation is unstable and leads to collapse of the society.

          Progressive taxation and redistribution through welfare was the main negative feedback intended to regulate monetary positive feedback. But in practice, money corrupts regulation, and the result is that the regulation merely slows down the concentration of money for a while. Eventually, regulation is removed through corruption, money concentrates, and society collapses. This has been the basic cycle of Empire throughout history.

        •  My dear Mister T, I am writing this, not for you, (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          chakadog

          since I have little confidence you will think about it,
          with an open mind.

          I'm considering writing a diary on this,
          but I only get a handful of readers for my diaries,
          so maybe this comment in a popular thread
          will get just as many readers.

          No one earns anything.

          We humans are wild animals,
          we have no free will.

          Every event is an accident.

          Every human with great wealth,
          got it by accident.

          By accident,
          the wealthy,
          as a group,
          have been doing what this diary points out;
          it's in the historic record,
          it's not a debatable opinion.

          Some thinkers,
          by accident,
          are certain to write things like this diary,
          urging others to take action,
          to counter the harm to the working class.

          It's all accidents.

          There is no such thing as
          this or that wild human animal
          who has earned this or that pile of wealth.

          The nicest person on Earth
          should never get a penny of rent
          from any other human.

          Rent makes no sense.

          Seems to me.

          I reached this conclusion by accident.

          Thanks for reading.

  •  but why has democracy failed so badly recently? (5+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    karmsy, srkp23, howd, mrkvica, mkor7

    democracy was designed to fix or counteract the influence of money in politics. we've gone back and forth throughout history, moving slowly forward- until the last 25 years.

    after reagan's people stole that election and began the policies that would destroy the middle class the left lost all power to fix it. they deregulated, lied us into wars, and deified their 1%-loving heroes, and swiftboated (at least) good people and got away with it. they were successful because they created a talk radio monopoly and used it to dominate messaging all over the country while the left ignored it. the left couldn't read it so it was invisible- the perfect weapon.

    the difference the last 25 years is that the 1% created a monopoly of radio stations that their think tanks have been  using to short circuit the democratic feedback democracy depends on, allowing them to dominate messaging and create and manage made-to-order constituencies within days to enable and intimidate politicians and media for any occasion.

    that is the difference the last 25 years.

    and the left and its organizations and the democratic party has collectively failed miserably to recognize that fact and challenge that giant megaphone in real time.

    considering the time lost on global warming it is the biggest mistake in political history.

    This is a list of 76 universities for Rush Limbaugh that endorse global warming denial, racism, sexism, and GOP lies by broadcasting sports on over 170 Limbaugh radio stations.

    by certainot on Tue Feb 26, 2013 at 09:53:48 AM PST

    •  yes. and their most effective weapon needs fixing (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      a2nite, mrkvica
      is what the rich have always done throughout all of recorded human history: buy political influence and power in order to impose their own will on a formerly self-governing republic. And thus destroy it from within.
      a
      self-governing republic
      cannot coexist with the talk radio monopoly we have now.

      we can't have rational fact-based debates on a national scale on any topic as long as the left ignores talk radio.

      This is a list of 76 universities for Rush Limbaugh that endorse global warming denial, racism, sexism, and GOP lies by broadcasting sports on over 170 Limbaugh radio stations.

      by certainot on Tue Feb 26, 2013 at 10:00:46 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  You ask basically the defining (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      bigjacbigjacbigjac

      Progressive question of the Obama era: Why has the RW gone completely nuts?

      This part of your answer:

      the difference the last 25 years is that the 1% created a monopoly of radio stations that their think tanks have been  using to short circuit the democratic feedback democracy depends on, allowing them to dominate messaging and create and manage made-to-order constituencies within days to enable and intimidate politicians and media for any occasion.
      is only reasonable, and there is plenty in it to back you up and make you think. If the Right owes a lot of its current influence to talk radio, well, what about the inexorable-seeming demise of talk radio--and the rise of the internet? Wouldn't the latter serve to encourage the progressive grassroots in an unprecedented way? What would this do to the morale of those on the RW, used to dominating, and knowing it had a newly emboldened, organized, savvy opponent?

      It's here they got the range/ and the machinery for change/ and it's here they got the spiritual thirst. --Leonard Cohen

      by karmsy on Tue Feb 26, 2013 at 12:12:05 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  the singular advantage RW talk radio has over inte (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        bigjacbigjacbigjac

        internet is that their monopoly is dominates and is unchallenged. and it's messaging can be very well coordinated and scripted and loud.

        internet and tv and papers are still competitive- papers and TV within 'acceptable' limits. it's easy to change the page or channel to find political alternatives.

        not so with radio. it's still going strong in large areas with many senators/population.

        and internet really doesn't compete with talk radio in large segments of the population that don't have high speed, or only go to drudge and red state (even tho they have a choice their primary source may still be the radio while driving or working).

        and their talkers stay in the bubble or they know they will lose their jobs- high paying jobs with lots of sycophant fawning callers. the main local talkers often have close connections to the local GOP and the think tanks keep tabs on them- they may eventually be influenced by the internet too, but we can't wait for that.

        This is a list of 76 universities for Rush Limbaugh that endorse global warming denial, racism, sexism, and GOP lies by broadcasting sports on over 170 Limbaugh radio stations.

        by certainot on Tue Feb 26, 2013 at 12:40:55 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  Every poll out there, that I know of, (3+ / 0-)

          says the consumers of hate radio are, with few exceptions, aging, angry white men. Who are inexorably dying out. And hate radio, itself, is on some serious hard times, apparently due to a history of bad business decisions on the part of executives.

          It would be too soon to count AM out as a factor in shaping the political opinions of every-day people. But it clearly won't always be the bugbear that it is today.

          It's here they got the range/ and the machinery for change/ and it's here they got the spiritual thirst. --Leonard Cohen

          by karmsy on Tue Feb 26, 2013 at 12:53:50 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  it's on decline but i've been hearing that for yrs (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            bigjacbigjacbigjac

            i really want it to die but lately benghazi and sequestration (whatever the pol fallout) demonstrated to me it's still working well in obstructing and swiftboating. it's going to sell more voter suppression and more obstruction and bring in millions of voters for the GOP.

            it's not just old angry white men - it still completely dominates large areas of the country for politics, and those angry old white men influence a lot of people with little interest in politics until election time.

            i can't wait- it's stil enabling their global warming denial. how many more of obama's years will it minimize while we could be making real progress? how much will it help the GOP deflect blame for the sequestration, or divert with other issues, so they can hang onto the congrress?

            i think we have till 2014 to get this right.

            This is a list of 76 universities for Rush Limbaugh that endorse global warming denial, racism, sexism, and GOP lies by broadcasting sports on over 170 Limbaugh radio stations.

            by certainot on Tue Feb 26, 2013 at 02:49:05 PM PST

            [ Parent ]

  •  Charles A. Beard published the final word (0+ / 0-)

    on the economic motives of the Framers in his book, An Economic Interpretation of the American Constitution. I believe it was published in 1913, and for many years Beard's ideas were ascendant. Over time, historians who wanted to make a name for themselves have tried to defeat Beard's arguments, but it still stands like a rock. Here is his summary of the important conclusions that his analysis produced:

    •    At the close of this long and arid survey—partaking of the nature of catalogue—it seems worthwhile to bring together the important conclusions for political science which the data presented appear to warrant.
    •    The movement for the Constitution of the United States was originated and carried through principally by four groups of personalty interests which had been adversely affected under the Articles of Confederation: money, public securities, manufactures, and trade and shipping.
    •    The first firm steps toward the formation of the Constitution were taken by a small and active group of men immediately interested through their personal possessions in the outcome of their labours.
    •    No popular vote was taken directly or indirectly on the proposition to call the Convention which drafted the Constitution.
    •    A large propertyless mass was, under the prevailing suffrage qualifications, excluded at the outset from participation (through representatives) in the work of framing the Constitution.
    •    The members of the Philadelphia Convention which drafted the Constitution were, with a few exceptions, immediately, directly, and personally interested in, and derived economic advantages from, the establishment of the new system.
    •    The Constitution was essentially an economic document based upon the concept that the fundamental private rights of property are anterior to government and morally beyond the reach of popular [democratic] majorities.
    •    The major portion of the members of the Convention are on record as recognizing the claim of property to a special and defensive position in the Constitution.
    •    In the ratification, of the Constitution, about three-fourths of the adult males failed to vote on the question, having abstained from the elections at which delegates to the state conventions were chosen, either on account of their indifference or their disfranchisement by property qualifications.
    •    The Constitution was ratified by a vote of probably not more than one-sixth of the adult males.  It is questionable whether a majority of the voters participating in the elections for the state conventions in New York, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Virginia, and South Carolina, actually approved the ratification of the Constitution.
    •    The leaders who supported the Constitution in the ratifying conventions represented the same economic groups as the members of the Philadelphia Convention; and in a large number of instances they were also directly and personally interested in the outcome of their efforts.
    •    In the ratification, it became manifest that the line of cleavage for and against the Constitution was between substantial personalty interests on the one hand and the small farming and debtor interests on the other.
    •    The Constitution was not created by "the whole people" as the jurists have said; neither was it created by "the states" as Southern nullifiers long contended; but it was the work of a consolidated group whose interests knew no state boundaries and were truly national in their scope.
    I first read this book in 1959 as a recommended outside reading in a course on the Constitution that I took at Baylor University. I have recently read it again and I have read some criticisms of Beard's work. It is interesting to me that his critics cannot, and do not, dispute is scholarship. He got his facts right. The only quarrel is with his conclusions seen above. But in my view, Beard is unassailable. He was right.

    Might and Right are always fighting, in our youth it seems exciting. Right is always nearly winning, Might can hardly keep from grinning. -- Clarence Day

    by hestal on Tue Feb 26, 2013 at 10:10:19 AM PST

    •  I beg to differ, but I have not read Beard, just (4+ / 0-)

      some of the critiques.

      In a comment elsewhere, I discuss the question of property rights. I do not believe property rights originally had the weight and prominence they later achieved. I discuss how I believe property rights evolved in that other comment.

      I think the problem you have to explain is how it was that Hamilton and Madison could collaborate in getting the Constitution ratified, but then become such bitter enemies when Hamilton is the first Treasury of the Secretary. I don't think a strict economic interpretation captures the full import of the fight between Hamilton on one hand, and Jefferson and Madison on the other. To me, understanding that fight is impossible without understanding Jefferson's conception of why an agrarian society was the most virtuous, and therefore the process of industrialization should be held back as long as possible.

      And then you have to account for some of the clear shifts in history following the adoption of the Constitution. Was the establishment of the Morgan bank as a financial agent of London of no importance or effect? What of Morgan's later role in the trustification of the railroads, steel, and other industries? What of the emergence of the idea of states rights and nullification, leading to the secession crisis of the Civil War? I think a strictly economic interpretation of the Constitution so obscures the real issues of the infant American government, that these later developments become impossible to understand. Proper historic context, and all that.

      Most of all, while I think it absurd to deny that the founders were motivated to some extent by their own selfish economic interests - some much more so than others, no doubt - I think to focus solely on those economic interests is to lose sight of the what I consider to be much more important: the ideological and philosophical battle of establishing a self-governing republic able to survive and prosper against the intrigues and wiles of the hostile oligarchical powers of Europe. It just makes no sense to shove the founders into the same historic dustbin of "evil" with European oligarchs like the Windsors and the Hapsburgs.

      A conservative is a scab for the oligarchy.

      by NBBooks on Tue Feb 26, 2013 at 11:49:40 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  I remember an editorial (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        bigjacbigjacbigjac

        in the Wall Street Journal a long time ago that said Jefferson first wrote "life, liberty and property" in the Declaration of Independence but erased "property" for "pursuit of happiness." As I recall, the WSJ even said you can see the erased "property" under "pursuit of happiness."  But Jefferson said "I am an Epicurean" (quoted in a recent book about Lucretius' poem De Rerum Natura) so I rather doubt the WSJ finding.

        The spirit of liberty is the spirit which is not too sure that it is right. -- Judge Learned Hand, May 21, 1944

        by ybruti on Wed Feb 27, 2013 at 06:14:27 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

      •  "I think the problem you have is to (0+ / 0-)

        explain..." " And then you have to account for some of the clear shifts..."?

        I don't have to explain anything nor do I have to account for anything.

        But, on the other hand, you should explain how you have the temerity to criticize Beard when you haven't read him.

        I do recognize in your comment the knee-jerk thinking that some historians have whenever their political gods, the Framers, are criticized. But shooting from the lip is the favorite past time of a lot of folks.

        But if you want to talk about Beard's critics, let me help you:

        I find nothing to disagree with. In my view, Charles Beard was right: the Constitution was designed to protect and improve the economic interests of the Framers and others of their class. Many historians agreed with Beard, and for a while, his views were ascendant. But myths are often stronger than truth, and with the help of time and a few historians the myth finally prevailed. Henry Steele Commager was one of those historians, and he did not agree with Beard’s analysis. In December of 1958, he published an essay in American Heritage magazine entitled “The Constitution: Was It An Economic Document?” Like other critics, Commager did not challenge Beard’s data or most of his analysis. He said:
        The correctness of Beard's analysis of the origins and backgrounds of the membership of the Convention, of the arguments in the Convention, and of the methods of assuring ratification, need not be debated. But these considerations are in a sense, irrelevant and immaterial. For though they are designed to illuminate the document itself, in fact they illuminate only the processes of its manufacture.
        So, Commager, unable to puncture the thorough scholarship of Beard, looked for another way to defeat his thesis. He declared that Beard’s work was merely a sideshow, not really the main event of the constitutional convention. He dismissed the political philosophies of the delegates as well as their economic interests as “immaterial,” and he gave no weight to the uncontested fact that the bulk of America’s citizens had no representation at the convention or at the ratification proceedings. Commager was slipping into myth. The Framers were not saints, for as Madison said in Federalist 51, “If men were angels no government would be necessary.” Not only did the Framers think a new government was necessary, they were in a rush to put it in place. And, because they were merely human, it is safe to assume that they would take into account their own economic interests. It is impossible to believe that the delegates would create a government that would destroy their holdings and their futures. It is easy to believe that they thought very carefully about their personal economic welfare.

        Commager then tried to frame the question in the following way:

        Here are two fundamental challenges to the Beard interpretation: first the Constitution is primarily a document in federalism; and second, the Constitution does not in fact confess or display the controlling influence of those who held that “the fundamental private rights of property are anterior to government and morally beyond the reach of popular majorities."
        These two points are distinctions of no significance. In the first challenge, of course the Framers were concerned with federalism. But this concern was primarily created because of the economic tensions among the various sections, states, and groups. Each state, each section, each financially-connected group of the nation had economic interests and those interests were, in many cases, congruent with the interests of the Framers themselves. So, federalism included economic protections and benefits for each section, state, and each represented group, and those same protections and benefits accrued to the delegates from those states and sections. In fact, those delegates were actually the authors, the designers, the creators of those protections and benefits. In other words, federalism was merely a convenient structure for satisfying the economic interests of all involved.

        But, and this is an important but, Beard pointed out, and Commager did not challenge, that the economic interests of all citizens were not represented at the constitutional convention. Some citizens were disenfranchised. They were denied a seat at the table even though they were the majority of the People. If some of their interests happened to fall within the circle of the small group of men engaged in designing the Constitution, then so much the better, but if not, they had no recourse.

        Commager was willing to give some ground:

        Now it will be readily conceded that many, if not most, of the questions connected with federalism were economic in character. Involved were such practical matters as taxation, the regulation of commerce, coinage, western lands, slavery and so forth. Yet the problem that presented itself to the framers was not whether government should exercise authority over such matters as these; it was which government should exercise such authority—and how should it be exercised?
        He completely misstates Beard’s thesis. Beard did not say that the question was “whether the government should exercise authority over such matters.” Beard agreed with the Framers. He said that the question was how government would exercise authority over such matters. And, Beard’s answer to the question of how was to show that the methods chosen were those that protected and possibly improved the economic circumstances of the Framers themselves. The Framers had an economic problem—they wanted to protect their economic interests—and they designed a political solution to that problem.

        When Commager began to discuss his second challenge, that the Constitution itself does not show any sign that it was designed to protect economic interests, he said this:

        Mr. Beard makes amply clear that those who wrote the Constitution were members of the propertied classes, and that many of them were personally involved in the outcome of what they were about to do; he makes out a persuasive case that the division over the Constitution was along economic lines. What he does not make clear is how or where the Constitution itself reflects all these economic influences.
        But Beard did do what Commager said he did not do. Beard did show “how or where the Constitution itself reflects all these economic influences.” Commager must have overlooked Beard’s “Chapter 6, The Constitution as an Economic Document.” Beard devoted approximately 10,000 words to an explanation of the various ways in which the Constitution’s various articles and clauses were designed to protect the economic interests of the Framers and others of their class. He ended Chapter 6 with this paragraph:
        To carry the theory of the economic interpretation of the Constitution out into its ultimate details would require a monumental commentary, such as lies completely beyond the scope of this volume.  But enough has been said to show that the concept of the Constitution as a piece of abstract legislation reflecting no group interests and recognizing no economic antagonisms is entirely false.  It was an economic document drawn with superb skill by men whose property interests were immediately at stake; and as such it appealed directly and unerringly to identical interests in the country at large.
        In addition, Commager, never a businessman, failed to understand what has become all too clear in our era, and that is that businessmen, men of commerce, want to limit government intrusion into their dealings as much as possible. When there is an advantage to be gained by government intervention, the affected businessmen want to control the form and timing of that intervention—they want to write the necessary legislation to suit themselves. This process has become commonplace in our national and state governments, and it was made possible by the way that the Framers designed the Constitution.

        Finally, having left not even a mark on Beard’s edifice, Commager returned to myth—he summoned “American Exceptionalism” to his cause. He quoted “the dashing young Charles Pinckney of South Carolina,” who said:

        The people of this country are not only very different from the inhabitants of any State we are acquainted with in the modern world; but I assert that their situation is distinct from either the people of Greece or of Rome.
        Even if Pinckney was right, his words had nothing whatever to do with Beard’s argument. Beard did not belittle the People of America. He merely was trying to explain the motives of the Framers. It is not sinister to have motives. I have motives. You have motives.The Framers had motives and those motives led them to produce our Constitution, and that Constitution has produced varying effects upon the People.
        Commager's criticism is similar to several others that I have read. The most interesting ones involve statistical analysis of Beard's data, and none of them make a dent in Beard's facts or conclusions.

        Might and Right are always fighting, in our youth it seems exciting. Right is always nearly winning, Might can hardly keep from grinning. -- Clarence Day

        by hestal on Wed Feb 27, 2013 at 01:37:46 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

  •  Phenomenal analysis NBBOOKS!!! Thankyou. (0+ / 0-)

    You put into historical and practical perspective what is really wrong with the game we are all playing.

    We all know in our guts that the extreme benefits gathered by people and efforts that actually involve no real work and accomplish basically nothing, are wrong.

    But nailing this "feeling" down into facts and concepts, placed in historical perspective is very enlightening and educating.

    I am grateful for this effort.

  •  great read (6+ / 0-)

    The Land We Share by Eric Freyfogle

    ...for the drafters of the Declaration of Independence, it was collective liberty that was the primary issue of the day:  It was the power of the colonists as a people to govern themselves without interference, not the rights of individuals as such to resist constraint.  Of the many complaints lodged against George III in the Declaration of Independence, nearly all addressed perceived violations of the colonists' collective rights."
    The Land We Share: Private Property And The Common Good [Paperback]
    Is private ownership an inviolate right that individuals can wield as they see fit? Or is it better understood in more collective terms, as an institution that communities reshape over time to promote evolving goals? What should it mean to be a private landowner in an age of sprawling growth and declining biological diversity?

    ...

    Drawing upon ideas from Thomas Jefferson, Henry George, and Aldo Leopold and interweaving engaging accounts of actual disputes over land-use issues, Freyfogle develops a powerful vision of what private ownership in America could mean—an ownership system, fair to owners and taxpayers alike, that fosters healthy land and healthy economies.

    "Few ideas have bred more mischief in recent times, for the beauty and health of landscapes and communities, than the belief that privately owned land is first and foremost a market commodity that its owner can use in whatever way earns the most money." So begins a remarkable study of the changing views of private property throughout American history.
    Reading this book has made me probe the fundamental assumptions that I make about what it means to own land. This book presents a fresh and very well-sustained argument that private land ownership entails public responsibilities.
    In this book Freyfogle reminds us that views regarding property were very different at the time of the founding of America than they are now. For example, you were freely allowed to hunt on property owned by others for the benefit of the common good.  And if you did not use your property in a productive way, the state was justified in taking it away from you.  No hoarding for private benefit.

    My heroes have the heart to live the life I want to live.

    by JLFinch on Tue Feb 26, 2013 at 11:19:45 AM PST

    •  we also should all learn more (6+ / 0-)

      aboutHenry George

      Henry George (September 2, 1839 – October 29, 1897) was an American writer, politician and political economist, who was the most influential proponent of the land value tax, also known as the "single tax" on land. He inspired the economic philosophy known as Georgism, whose main tenet is that people should own what they create, but that everything found in nature, most importantly the value of land, belongs equally to all humanity. His most famous work, Progress and Poverty (1879), is a treatise on inequality, the cyclic nature of industrialized economies, and the use of the land value tax as a remedy.
      Progress and Poverty asks the question - why does poverty accompany progress in society?  It doesn't make sense.  Progress should lift all boats. It doesn't.  George said this was because all the work and labor of the people goes to increase the value of the land held by a few.  They reap an enormous unearned benefit from the infrastructure and vibrant city built in proximity to their land, which they passively hold.  A land tax was his solution to redistribute these benefits back to the people who earned them.  This would also allow the elimination of taxes on productive activity.
      Henry George is best known for his argument that the economic rent of land should be shared by society rather than being owned privately. The clearest statement of this view is found in Progress and Poverty: "We must make land common property."[27] By taxing land values, society could recapture the value of its common inheritance, and eliminate the need for taxes on productive activity. George believed that this would provide disincentives toward land speculation, but would continue to incentivize development, as landlords would not suffer tax penalties for any industry or edifice constructed on their land.[28]
      Many environmentalists, such as Bolton Hall and Ralph Borsodi, have agreed with the idea of the earth as the common property of humanity. The US Green Party platform has endorsed the idea of ecological tax reform, including land value taxation and substantial taxes or fees on pollution as a replacement for "command and control" regulation.[29]

      My heroes have the heart to live the life I want to live.

      by JLFinch on Tue Feb 26, 2013 at 11:25:27 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  The Rich are afraid of being poor, very simple (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    bigjacbigjacbigjac

    so they hang on and rig the system so they stay rich, they may not mean to hurt the rest of us, but hey...

  •  no wonder this diary is as popular as it is: recs, (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    shaharazade, bigjacbigjacbigjac

    tips, comments . . . mine included :)

    great diary. very informative. thanks.

  •  Thanks for this diary. (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    shaharazade, bigjacbigjacbigjac

    I really found it informative and useful. This is something I've always wondered about and the reason my complete and utter support for the Democratic party has slowly eroded.

    "This site's unofficial motto used to be "more and better Democrats", but we've gradually evolved it to "better Democrats".- Kos,11/29/2011.

    by progressivevoice on Tue Feb 26, 2013 at 01:07:05 PM PST

  •  House of Cards (5+ / 0-)

    House of Cards is a fictional show based in Washington DC on Netflix and is a perfect example of behind the scenes betrayal of the public. By the end of the first season the oligarchy is in perfect control of their congress critters, even though the main character thinks he has some control. It's too complex to explain here but I highly recommend it if you have any interest in politics and good acting.

    "This site's unofficial motto used to be "more and better Democrats", but we've gradually evolved it to "better Democrats".- Kos,11/29/2011.

    by progressivevoice on Tue Feb 26, 2013 at 01:14:23 PM PST

  •  Love, love, love this excellent diary. Thank (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    SoonerG, 3goldens, bigjacbigjacbigjac

    you so much for your great work. I only hope you have a means to get this wider distribution so others might benefit from your succinct prose.

    "Too often we enjoy the comfort of opinion without the discomfort of thought." - John F. Kennedy -7.8., -6.6

    by helpImdrowning on Tue Feb 26, 2013 at 01:47:56 PM PST

  •  A recent related diary, perhaps? (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    bigjacbigjacbigjac

    Do you by chance recall seeing a short diary that explored the idea that bankers (or perhaps it was Wall Street workers) hate Obama specifically because he's taken away the moral veil they hid beneath, they can't strut around acting like they're the Good Guys because of all the recent 1%/47%/99% news.

    The diary also had a bit on the contrast that while these banker/wallstreeters can easily command respect, what they really crave is the moral high ground; in contrast, poorer people, who may be craving respect, have a much easier time of it being genuinely kind and moral.

    It was an interesting angle, but I can't find the diary, neither with google searches, nor with dkos searches.

  •  Thanks for the wonderful diary. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    bigjacbigjacbigjac

    and for yeoman's work over at Wikipedia.
    That is a brilliant move.  

    I have argued some of this from to to time when someone over at Huffington Post makes rr comment about returning to the founder's intent.

    To Goldman Sachs in according to their desires, From us in accordance with the IRS.

    by Bluehawk on Tue Feb 26, 2013 at 04:33:41 PM PST

  •  History is bunk, and in the end we're all dead (5+ / 0-)

    Heh.

    Seriously, excellent diary, and great points. I've been studying the founding era myself the past few years and agree that it wasn't just rich white men trying to protect their power. There were some true radicals among them, in different ways. Even Hamilton, hated by many on the left (unfairly I believe), believed in an aristocracy of MERIT, not title (which money is, effectively), and in equalizing opportunity for all to succeed to the best of their ability and to the extent of their ambition, though government investment in the sort of infrastructure that could make that possible, like roads, canals, schools and, yes, even banks. That their intentions were subverted is more a testament to human nature and their inability to foresee and guard against its avaricious and brutal nature, than to class self-interest on their part (not that there wasn't that too, of course, but people tend to be complex that way).

    The founders, by and large, believed in social responsibility and the common good, in addition to liberty and the pursuit of success and wealth. They did not believe in one vs. the other. They tried, as best they could, to create a balance between individual self-interest and freedom, and the collective interest and societal prosperity. They did not foresee the rise of a class of super rich people and corporations who could and would use their excessive money to buy power, that would be mainly used to further enrich and empower themselves (well, outside the evil of slavery, but there was no practical way to end it back then, sadly). They really did want a "more perfect union", even if they fell far short, and we're still trying to get there.

    "Liberty without virtue would be no blessing to us" - Benjamin Rush, 1777

    by kovie on Tue Feb 26, 2013 at 07:23:02 PM PST

  •  Core of Truth (4+ / 0-)

    I read "Wealth and Democracy", had read maddog's article in full when it first appeared, and now yours, and I am struck by how such revelations, once realized by the people, are so completely forgotten.

    I still remember Reagan railing against progressive income tax, how it stifles growth, and recall how that led ultimately (though it took its time during the Reagan years) to the Stockman economic "theory".

    What was so fucking wrong with our economy in pre-Nixonian days that we needed such a radical "fix"?

    I am amazed to this day how ordinary poor folk galvanized to Reagan.  I can only imagine that they liked him in a hat, and don't much think about all the rest.

    The steamroller of the wealthiest never rests.  Sometimes it bides its time, but it never ceases in its determined drive to steal all it can from our nation, our towns, our savings, our very lives.

    Perhaps this is a non-sequiter, but how do you think the lesson of Orwell's "Animal Farm" (essentially that power corrupts, I suppose), or even the Who's "Won't Be Fooled Again" - the the new bosses are always going to be just like the old bosses relates to this?

    I recall learning that in Colonial Days, there was a spirit among the people experiencing the nascent rebirth of humanity, and that there was agreement among the people (borne of the spirit of 76 and in common with the French Revolution) that the evils in this world are the cabals (in France, the Guilds).

    There are ideally only two principle interests to be considered in state governance:  what is good for the individual, and what is good for all.  What is good for this or that political group is what gives rise to the failure of government.  The Founding Fathers recognized this, this is why Washington and Jefferson et al eschewed political parties, by definition a band of self-interested collaborators.

    Great insights NBBooks, best of luck to you, and godspeed.  Do carry on!

  •  Yeah, that's why they wrote the progressive (0+ / 0-)

    income tax into the Constitution.  

    In other words, the founders understood that the rich can be as much as threat to republican self-government as a standing army.

    Many hands make light work, but light hearts make heavy work the lightest of all.

    by SpamNunn on Tue Feb 26, 2013 at 08:31:41 PM PST

  •  Sorry but the Rome statement... (0+ / 0-)

    ....is totally ridiculous. For example, building "great buildings" declined after the 3rd century.

    It's undoubtedly true the Roman Empire was an empire run by and for the protection of landed magnates, but this was a minor component in it's fall. Instead, look more carefully at the costs of the state imposed by the development of the Germanics on the border AND the threat posed by the Sassanian Superpower that required over half of state expenses to go to the army and perhaps a third of that army to be anchored to the Persian border no matter where they were needed.

  •  i can now see that the 1%ers... (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    bigjacbigjacbigjac, chantedor

    in their character and in their ethics are no different than the ones who fired the first shot at Ft. Sumter, S.C.

    Indeed, the current RICH are traitors to a Nation they often say they wish they could drown in a bathtub.

    Well. What's different?

    Ugh. --UB.

    "Daddy, every time a bell rings, a Libertaria­n picks up his Pan Am tickets for the Libertaria­n Paradise of East Somalia!"

    by unclebucky on Wed Feb 27, 2013 at 08:26:25 AM PST

  •  Something about this comment: (3+ / 0-)

    " the left makes a massive error in dismissing the Founders and forfeiting any claim to the heritage, and more importantly, the meaning, of the American Revolution and the formation of the United States as a self-governing republic."

    Makes me think of the problem of either former Catholics and former Christians in their rejection of the church or organization in which they grew up.

    See, most people, upon examining the Beatitudes, Parables, Lord's Prayer (up to but not incl. the doxology), related passages and the Letter of James, would agree with it. It's the Paulist notions of "holiness" and the phariseaic beliefs that go back to Leviticus selectively that most people, upon reflection, reject. We call thumpers and fundies on occasion "christianIST" (note the small "c") and then we leave the term followers of Jesus and perhaps "Christians" to those who have read and carry out the mandates of Jesus, at least the ones that survive.

    Likewise with those progressives/liberals/leftists of us who reject the image of the founders as redacted by current day and 20th century oligarchs, Birchers, Randists, Libertarians, Randists and Teabagguers. Theirs is NOT the true image of the founders. (They were at most Deists, not Theists. They were Revolutionaries, not Conservatives. Etc.)

    So, when we make these accusations, we should consider exactly WHY and WHAT people reject.

    Eh? :)

    --UB.

    "Daddy, every time a bell rings, a Libertaria­n picks up his Pan Am tickets for the Libertaria­n Paradise of East Somalia!"

    by unclebucky on Wed Feb 27, 2013 at 08:48:48 AM PST

  •  the great irony (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    bigjacbigjacbigjac, chantedor

    Is that this nation was specifically founded in opposition to an aristocracy that was neglecting its subjects, and yet the rentier class is quite busy implementing a new aristocratic structure.  Of course, there's nothing "new" about aristocracy, but the past few decades have seen the aristocrats growing more and more power, and a larger share of the nation's wealth.  

  •  really good dairy (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    bigjacbigjacbigjac, chantedor

    thanks. I saw it yesterday but did not open it and read it till this morning. I see now why it was so highly recced and participated in. I especially liked the part that dealt with the constant debunking of the founders and even FDR by many centrists who buy into the Clintonian DLC The Third Way, inevitable free market ala Milton Freed. It's amazing to me that ordinary people believe and think this is normal, inevitable and as Axelrod said  'the world as we find it'. No it's 'oligarchical collectivism' and there is nothing democratic, inevitable or even sustainable about it. It's also not too big to fail. It has failed 99% of us and is killing our planet.  

  •  Great Diary (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    bigjacbigjacbigjac, chantedor

    This is probably the best diary I've ever seen on DKos.

    If you combine your approach with the Modern Monetary Theorists, I think you have succeeded in throwing off the chains of modern economics.  I suspect that even the good guys like Krugman are stuck in an arbitrary paradigm that we need to break out of before we can really change things for the better.

    "[W]e shall see the reign of witches pass over . . . and the people, recovering their true spirit, restore their government to its true principles." Jefferson

    by RenMin on Wed Feb 27, 2013 at 11:06:43 AM PST

  •  The perspective of a moderate libertarian (0+ / 0-)

    I share the disdain the majority here has for unchecked greed, but I also understand that we are by nature dualistic from the perspectives of selfishness versus collectivism.  This tends to manifest in a cascading manner whereby we care about ourselves and those around us most and incrementally less as people become more distant as it relates to relatedness, value systems, etc, etc.  As an example, I would guess it is fair to surmise that most here don’t so much care about the well-being of people on the far right of the political spectrum, or certainly less so than those with whom they tend to agree politically.  So herein lays my struggle to reconcile what seems to be a utopian notion of socialism.  What I see missing from those advocating collectivist philosophies is the freeloader effects that arise in a redistributionist system.  There seems to be this notion that greed only exists within the capitalist, but that the type of greed associated with laziness is absent within the socialist and the tendency of those chosen to govern in a socialist system tend to hoard resources for themselves at the expense of the wealth AND freedom of those they govern.  

    For me, it is clear that there are varied degrees of selfishness and collectivist instincts across the spectrum of wealth distribution.  And the collectivist instincts that exist in an upper middle income person such as myself (certainly not rich) are rooted in the idea that a system that retards selfishness to too great an extent at the top has negative consequences for the overall wealth of society.  Average standards of living have undoubtedly increased across American society on a consistent basis despite greater wealth accumulation at the very top.  Clearly innovation tends to reward those doing the innovation along with the rest of society, and something like a 90% tax on very high incomes is going to retard the motivation of the innovators at the expense of all.  Is it the preference of the socialist for greater widespread poverty at the bottom so long as the gap to the very few at the very top is not as great?  This is the perspective of many fiscal conservatives- not purely selfish greed.  We should all be socialist if we weren’t inherently flawed by the set of instincts we developed in a primitive world, but until we become a different creature at our core, a trickle down system will yield the greatest wealth for society.  In that scenario, it becomes the role of government as it relates to social issues simply to ensure transparency, prevent monopolies, educate our population and encourage self reliance by providing only a basic safety net.  The alternative in my view is less wealth at the middle and the bottom, and less liberty for everybody.

  •  I don't disagree with the general sentiment (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    chakadog

    But I have to strongly take issue with the old Western myth of the supposed military "virtue" of ancient Rome, lost to decadent riches.

    While the Romans, for example, maintained their love of virtue, their simplicity of manners, their recognition of true merit, they raised their state to heights of glory. But they stretched their conquests too far... The gap between rich and poor widened and the society was torn by extortion and violence.
    Um, no.

    Roman love of virtue: crucifixion and genocide.
    Roman simplicity of manners: public torture for fun.
    Roman recognition of true merit: slavery.

    The "heights of glory" that  Roman conquest raised their state to was built entirely on extortion and violence. That's what Rome did. That was their entire national purpose.

    That the violence they trained and exported via their Imperial legions eventually, after many generations, came home to roost and tore the priviledged Italian citizenry apart - that wasn't some kind of a moral "fall" from a state of perfection. That was a direct consequence of the way they had accumulated power and riches from the beginning.

    Please, just stop spreading this idea that Julius Caesar's Rome was somehow a powerhouse of civic virtue and something to look back on fondly and use as a model for our society.  

    There's a word for that tendency to idolatory of Rome's conquest era in modern politics, and for once it's actually the correct usage: fascism.

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