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Contents Bulletin Scripting in shell and Perl Network troubleshooting History Humor

Audacious Oligarchy and "Democracy for Winners"

Oligarchic "Quiet Coup" in the USA, "Greed is good" slogan and loss of trust in neoliberal governments

News Elite [Dominance] Theory And the Revolt of the Elite Recommended Links Quiet coup The Deep State National Security State / Surveillance State In Goldman Sachs we trust: classic example of regulatory capture by financial system hackers
Neoliberalism as a New Form of Corporatism Two Party System as polyarchy The Iron Law of Oligarchy The Pareto Law Media-Military-Industrial Complex Groupthink Bureaucracy as a Political Coalition
Corporatism Inverted Totalitarism US and British media are servants of security apparatus Casino Capitalism Ayn Rand and Objectivism Cult Amorality and criminality of neoliberal elite Corruption of Regulators
Neoliberal Brainwashing: Journalism in the Service of the Powerful Few The Guardian Slips Beyond the Reach of Embarrassment The importance of controlling the narrative New American Caste System The Essential Rules for Dominating Population What's the Matter with Kansas Big Uncle is Watching You
Nation under attack meme American Exceptionalism Neo-fascism Bureaucracies Military Bureaucracy Military Incompetence Bureaucratic Collectivism
Toxic Managers The psychopath in the corner office Female Sociopaths Office Stockholm Syndrome Quotes about Psychopaths Humor Etc


Introduction


There is an 'audacious oligarchy' of self-defined rulers who move freely between private industry and government, whose primary objective is preserving and furthering their own power and self-interest.

Jesse's Café Américain, Audacious Oligarchy

Audacious behaviour is often connected with the weakened self-preservation instinct, typical for sociopaths. So their audacity take the form of Chutzpah (shameless audacity; impudence, unmitigated effrontery or impudence; gall). It's inherently connected with the lack of empathy, which is a defining feature of sociopaths. The key question here is: to what extent the US elite became infected with substantial or even dominant number of sociopaths? Including female sociopaths as we saw recently in the reaction of behaviour of a wife of former president on killing Gaddafy (Hillary Clinton on Gaddafi: We came, we saw, he died ) ?

In fact this process of self-selection of sociopaths into neoliberal elite reached dangerous level was noted be many, including famous remark of Robert Johnson at Culture Project's IMPART 2012 Festival that essentially defined the term ("Legitimate if you can, coerce if you have to, and accommodate if you must."):

Oligarchy now is audacious. They don't really care if they are legitimate.

"Legitimate if you can, coerce if you have to, and accommodate if you must."

Robert Johnson serves as the Executive Director of the Institute for New Economic Thinking (INET) and a Senior Fellow and Director of the Global Finance Project for the Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt Institute in New York. Previously, Johnson was a Managing Director at Soros Fund Management where he managed a global currency, bond and equity portfolio specializing in emerging markets. Prior to working at Soros Fund Management, he was a Managing Director of Bankers Trust Company managing a global currency fund.

Johnson served as Chief Economist of the US Senate Banking Committee under the leadership of Chairman William Proxmire (D. Wisconsin) and of Chairman Pete Domenici (R. New Mexico). Johnson received a Ph.D. and M.A. in Economics from Princeton University and a B.S. in both Electrical Engineering and Economics from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

As you can see this idea "Legitimate if you can, coerce if you have to, and accommodate if you must." does not differ much with the modus operandi of three-letter agencies, so the terms "audacious oligarchy" and "deep state" are closely related: deep state can be viewed as a social system in this audacious oligarchy rules the population.

We can also think about the term "audacious oligarchy" as the term related to the rise of neo-fascism, (be it neoliberal fascism or Inverted Totalitarism). For some details National Security State / Surveillance State: Review of Literature and a very interesting discussion of Robert Johnson remarks on financial oligarchy at “They’re All Standing on the Deck of the Titanic Looking in Each Other’s Eyes” (naked capitalism, April 21, 2013). That means the key elements of fascist ideology are preserved, with the replacement of Arian Nation for financial oligarchy, but without ruthless physical suppression of opposition which are replaced by financial instruments, blacklisting, economic sanctions and color revolutions in "deviant" countries. Like in Third Reich dominance is supported by relentless propaganda and brainwashing with mechanisms polished since Reagan to perfection. there is now no problem to create an "enemy of the people" when the elite wants and it does not matter which country or individual is selected as an enemy. The essence of elite politics in this area was best formulated by Hermann Goering, President of the Reichstag, Nazi Party, and Luftwaffe Commander in Chief

Naturally the common people don't want war: Neither in Russia, nor in England, nor for that matter in Germany. That is understood. But, after all, it is the leaders of the country who determine the policy and it is always a simple matter to drag the people along, whether it is a democracy, or a fascist dictatorship, or a parliament, or a communist dictatorship. Voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked, and denounce the peacemakers for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same in any country.

One interesting side effect of the dominance of financial oligarchy is loss of trusts in experts, especially economic expects, professors who now are nothing more then a prostitutes at the service of financial capital Ian Klaus in "Forging Capitalism: Rogues, Swindlers, Frauds, and the Rise of Modern Finance gives the following definition:

Trust, to be simple with our definition, is an expectation of behavior built upon norms and cultural habits. It is often dependent upon a shared set of ethics or values. It is also a process orchestrated through communities and institutions. In this sense, it is a cultural event and thus a historical phenomenon.

As Robert Johnson noted:

"People don't trust experts. If you saw 'Inside Job', you know why. People do not trust the private markets, and they don't trust government."

See also Neoclassical Pseudo Theories and Crooked and Bought Economists as Fifth Column of Financial Oligarchy.

In the case of neoliberal transformation of the USA the state to a large extent seized to defend the population. Instead the state became a predictor, defender of international corporations, as hostile to the US people as Bolshevik rule was to Russians and other nationalities of the USSR. In other word the USA population became hostages of the system much like population of the USSR was. In a way nothing is new in human history.

The most important side effect of neoliberal transformation of the US society is the destruction (or more correctly emasculation) of legal system, which effectively lead to the situation when like in monarchy, some people are above the law. And we can suspect, judging from recent the USSR nomenklatura experience that such a caste might quickly degrades. As Long Aston said "Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely". If you willfully and recklessly tear down the laws in the name of some misbegotten ideology the benefit to "chosen" few, blowback might come sooner or later. even if you successfully hide this in a smokescreen of sophisticated scam ideology (neoliberalism in case of current crony or casino capitalism, which replaced the New Deal "live and giver other chance to live" motto) the blowback eventually might knock the particular country down. In such system nobody trust anybody and the whole society gradually disintegrates becoming just extended version of a mafia clan. With typical for such clans deadly internal fights for power. Mexican drug cartels saying - plomo y plobo ('silver or lead'): either you accept our bribes or accept our bullets is perfectly applicable in this situation. And that's how "audacious oligarchy really operates at least of international scène. But the law of the jungle has one important difference with the regular law system: any more powerful group of states can became both a judge and executioner for less powerful, or competing group of states.

When you take some self-serving fairy tale and take it an extreme by sticking an 'ism' on the end of it, like is the case with neoliberalism, at the beginning everything is fine and population is carries by this lie with ease. But as soon as people discover this despite all the power of propaganda their standard of living is going down, some trouble appear on the horizon and there is no other way then to concert the state into national security state, as proponent of communism have found in the USSR. And under neoliberalism, the essence of which is redistribution of wealth in favor of the top 0.01% of the world population, this disillusionment in inevitable, unless we experience a new technological revolution, similar to computer revolution. it can't be hidden with fairly tales about "undemocratic nature" of poor state or corruption. People can only be suppressed by brute force. and the lead to overextension of the neoliberal empire.

When the financial oligarchy is completely exempt from the law and in this particular area regulation is burned to the ground to serve the interests of financial oligarchy, strange things start to happen. The first glimpse on which we already saw in 2008. There was a demonstration of an immanent feature of neoliberal regimes which might be called financial sector induced systemic instability of economy. The latter which lead to periodic booms and busts with unpredictable timing, severity and consequences for the society at large, but so far all of those crisis work also as mechanism of redistribution of the society wealth toward the top . this time the US oligarchy managed to swipe the dirt under the rug.

This instability happens automatically and does not depend on the presence of "bad apples" in the system, because the financial sector under neoliberalism functions not as the nerve system of the economy of the particular country, but more like an autoimmune disease. In other words financial sector destabilizes the "immune system" of the country by introducing positive feedback look into economic (and not only economic, look at the USA foreign policy since 1991) activities.

What exactly is neoliberal oligarchy ?

When we say audacious oligarchy we essentially mean neoliberal oligarchy, and first of all financial oligarchy. Oligarchy is a form of power structure in which power effectively rests with an elite class distinguished by wealth, family ties, commercial, government and/or military positions. The actual literal translation from the Greek is the "rule of the few". The word oligarchy is derived from the Greek words "ὀλίγος" (olígos), "a few"[2] and the verb "ἄρχω" (archo), "to rule, to govern, to command".

Throughout history, most oligarchies have been tyrannical, relying on public servitude to exist, although some have been relatively benign. Plato pioneered the use of the term in Chapter Four, Book Eight of "The Republic" as a society in which wealth is the criterion of merit and the wealthy are in control.

However oligarchy is not always a rule according to the size of the wealth, as oligarchs can simply be a privileged group, and do not have to be distinguished from plebs by iether personal wealth or bloodlines as in a monarchy. Although often those two types of distinction are present too. For example, in the USSR the oligarchy was represented by special class of government and party servants (nomenklatura). The same is by-and-large true for Communist China. Those types of oligarchy has a lot of features in common with neoliberal oligarchy, although they are national in character. First of all in both system oligarchs are "working oligarchs". They actively participate in the their business or government activities. The second thing is that neoliberal oligarchy has very interesting connection with the idea of Communist International, and can be viewed as an interesting perversion of this concept ("Capitalism International") with some flavor of Trotskyism -- as it strives for and adopts Trotskyism central idea of permanent revolution as the method of reaching of the world dominance (see, neocons and color revolutions)

At the same time starting from 80th in the USA oligarchy by-and-large started to correspond to European aristocracy as vertical mobility became very limited and suppressed in the USA (actually more then in European countries, despite all the hype about the American dream).

The USA oligarchy by-and-large corresponds to European aristocracy, with substantial number of its members being children of oligarchic families. Vertical mobility, despite hype, is very limited and suppressed (actually more then in European countries). In no way the USA con be considered "the county of opportunities" anymore.

Russian oligarchy is very atypical in this sense, and is a pretty interesting case of a very high vertical mobility. As a country Russia is unique that in its history it several times wiped out its entrenched oligarchy. Two last "rotations" happened in 1917 then large part of old oligarchy lost their power and after neoliberal revolution of 1991 which brought into power the corrupt government of Boris Yeltsin. The drunkard, who imitated French proclaiming "enrich yourself" and launches (with gentle support from USA in a form of Harvard mafia) the most corrupt privatization of state wealth in human history.

But most members of the new, Post-Soviet Russian oligarchy did demonstrated tremendous level of upward mobility. Since the collapse of the Soviet Union on 31 December 1991, many directors and sometimes middle managers of state owned Russia-based corporations, especially producers of petroleum, natural gas, and metals managed to privatize their holdings and have become oligarchs. Criminal privatization under Yeltsin regime allowed them to amass phenomenal wealth and power almost overnight. In May 2004, the Russian edition of Forbes identified 36 of these oligarchs as being worth at least US$1 billion. And not of all them came from Nomenklatura. Many members of nomenklatura (even on the level of Politburo) did not fit in the new economic system and stopped being oligarchs.

All modern democracies should be viewed as oligarchies

Robert Michels believed that any political system eventually evolves into an oligarchy. He called this the iron law of oligarchy. According to this school of thought, modern democracies should be considered to be oligarchies. this is what his "iron law of oligarchy" is about. In other word when we speak the word democracy about such regimes as current exist in the USA or Western Europe, it is most self-deception.

That gives a pretty sinister meaning to the "promotion of democracy" and "support of democracy" activities, as in reality it is installation of more favorable to the promoter oligarchic group in power, often via coup d'état (with a specific neoliberal variant, which use developed by Gene Sharp political technology, called Color revolution), as recently happened in Libya and Ukraine.

In "modern democracies", the actual differences between viable political rivals are small, the oligarchic elite impose strict limits on what constitutes an acceptable and respectable political position, and politicians' careers depend heavily on unelected economic and media elites. Thus the popular phrase: there is always only one political party, the party of oligarchy.

This is especially true for winner takes all election systems, which create two party environment, with both party being a factions of the same elite. See Two Party System as Polyarchy

Quiet coup

The term "Quiet coup" which means the hijacking of the political power in the USA by financial oligarchy was introduced by Simon H. Johnson (born January 16, 1963). Simon Johnson is a British-American economist, who currently is the Ronald A. Kurtz Professor of Entrepreneurship at the MIT Sloan School of Management and a senior fellow at the Peterson Institute for International Economics. From March 2007 through the end of August 2008, he was Chief Economist of the International Monetary Fund.

The term was introduced in Simon Johnson article in Atlantic magazine, published in May 2009(The Quiet Coup - Simon Johnson - The Atlantic). Which opens with a revealing paragraph:

The crash has laid bare many unpleasant truths about the United States. One of the most alarming, says a former chief economist of the International Monetary Fund, is that the finance industry has effectively captured our government—a state of affairs that more typically describes emerging markets, and is at the center of many emerging-market crises. If the IMF’s staff could speak freely about the U.S., it would tell us what it tells all countries in this situation: recovery will fail unless we break the financial oligarchy that is blocking essential reform. And if we are to prevent a true depression, we’re running out of time.

The wealth of financial sector gave it unprecedented opportunities of simply buying the political power:

Becoming a Banana Republic

In its depth and suddenness, the U.S. economic and financial crisis is shockingly reminiscent of moments we have recently seen in emerging markets (and only in emerging markets): South Korea (1997), Malaysia (1998), Russia and Argentina (time and again). In each of those cases, global investors, afraid that the country or its financial sector wouldn’t be able to pay off mountainous debt, suddenly stopped lending. And in each case, that fear became self-fulfilling, as banks that couldn’t roll over their debt did, in fact, become unable to pay. This is precisely what drove Lehman Brothers into bankruptcy on September 15, causing all sources of funding to the U.S. financial sector to dry up overnight. Just as in emerging-market crises, the weakness in the banking system has quickly rippled out into the rest of the economy, causing a severe economic contraction and hardship for millions of people.

But there’s a deeper and more disturbing similarity: elite business interests—financiers, in the case of the U.S.—played a central role in creating the crisis, making ever-larger gambles, with the implicit backing of the government, until the inevitable collapse. More alarming, they are now using their influence to prevent precisely the sorts of reforms that are needed, and fast, to pull the economy out of its nosedive. The government seems helpless, or unwilling, to act against them.

Top investment bankers and government officials like to lay the blame for the current crisis on the lowering of U.S. interest rates after the dotcom bust or, even better—in a “buck stops somewhere else” sort of way—on the flow of savings out of China. Some on the right like to complain about Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac, or even about longer-standing efforts to promote broader homeownership. And, of course, it is axiomatic to everyone that the regulators responsible for “safety and soundness” were fast asleep at the wheel.

But these various policies—lightweight regulation, cheap money, the unwritten Chinese-American economic alliance, the promotion of homeownership—had something in common. Even though some are traditionally associated with Democrats and some with Republicans, they all benefited the financial sector. Policy changes that might have forestalled the crisis but would have limited the financial sector’s profits—such as Brooksley Born’s now-famous attempts to regulate credit-default swaps at the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, in 1998—were ignored or swept aside.

The financial industry has not always enjoyed such favored treatment. But for the past 25 years or so, finance has boomed, becoming ever more powerful. The boom began with the Reagan years, and it only gained strength with the deregulatory policies of the Clinton and George W. Bush administrations. Several other factors helped fuel the financial industry’s ascent. Paul Volcker’s monetary policy in the 1980s, and the increased volatility in interest rates that accompanied it, made bond trading much more lucrative. The invention of securitization, interest-rate swaps, and credit-default swaps greatly increased the volume of transactions that bankers could make money on. And an aging and increasingly wealthy population invested more and more money in securities, helped by the invention of the IRA and the 401(k) plan. Together, these developments vastly increased the profit opportunities in financial services.

Not surprisingly, Wall Street ran with these opportunities. From 1973 to 1985, the financial sector never earned more than 16 percent of domestic corporate profits. In 1986, that figure reached 19 percent. In the 1990s, it oscillated between 21 percent and 30 percent, higher than it had ever been in the postwar period. This decade, it reached 41 percent. Pay rose just as dramatically. From 1948 to 1982, average compensation in the financial sector ranged between 99 percent and 108 percent of the average for all domestic private industries. From 1983, it shot upward, reaching 181 percent in 2007.

The great wealth that the financial sector created and concentrated gave bankers enormous political weight — a weight not seen in the U.S. since the era of J.P. Morgan (the man). In that period, the banking panic of 1907 could be stopped only by coordination among private-sector bankers: no government entity was able to offer an effective response. But that first age of banking oligarchs came to an end with the passage of significant banking regulation in response to the Great Depression; the reemergence of an American financial oligarchy is quite recent.

He further researched this theme in his book 2010 book 13 Bankers: The Wall Street Takeover and the Next Financial Meltdown (ISBN 978-0307379054), coauthored with James Kwak. They also founded and regularly contributes to the economics blog The Baseline Scenario.

Financial oligarchy as an key part of modern neoliberal elite

Corporate oligarchy is a form of power, governmental or operational, where such power effectively rests with a small, elite group of inside individuals, sometimes from a small group of educational institutions, or influential economic entities or devices, such as banks, commercial entities that act in complicity with, or at the whim of the oligarchy, often with little or no regard for constitutionally protected prerogative. Monopolies are sometimes granted to state-controlled entities, such as the Royal Charter granted to the East India Company. In this regime people move freely from government posts to private industry and back.

In the USA the most rapidly rising part of national oligarchy is financial oligarchy. As Senator Dick Durbin noted referring to the US Congress Banks Frankly Own The Place. Moreover in many cases it is unclear who owns whom, for example whether Goldman Sachs owns NY FED or NY FED Goldman Sachs ( The Fed Under Goldman's Thumb - Bloomberg )

Senators questioned Dudley, 61, on issues ranging from whether some banks are too big to regulate to the Fed’s role in overseeing their commodities businesses.

Some of the criticism was pointed. Warren, a frequent critic of financial regulators, asked Dudley if he was “holding a mirror to your own behavior.”

Jeff Merkley, an Oregon Democrat, complained that bank employees involved in misdeeds haven’t been prosecuted and are “too big to jail.”

Dudley repeatedly disagreed with assertions that the New York Fed wasn’t doing enough to regulate banks and said lenders have become stronger and safer in the past few years.

... ... ...

Today’s Senate hearing follows reports that Goldman Sachs fired two bankers after one of them allegedly shared confidential documents from the New York Fed within the firm.

A junior banker, who had joined the company in July from the New York Fed, was dismissed a week after the discovery in late September, along with another employee who failed to escalate the issue, according to an internal memo obtained by Bloomberg News. Goldman Sachs confirmed the memo’s contents.

As Adair Turner noted in The Consequences of Money Manager Capitalism

In the wake of World War II, much of the western world, particularly the United States, adopted a new form of capitalism called “managerial welfare-state capitalism.”

The system by design constrained financial institutions with significant social welfare reforms and large oligopolistic corporations that financed investment primarily out of retained earnings. Private sector debt was small, but government debt left over from financing the War was large, providing safe assets for households, firms, and banks. The structure of this system was financially robust and unlikely to generate a deep recession. However, the constraints within the system didn’t hold.

The relative stability of the first few decades after WWII encouraged ever-greater risk-taking, and over time the financial system was transformed into our modern overly financialized economy. Today, the dominant financial players are “managed money” — lightly regulated “shadow banks” like pension funds, hedge funds, sovereign wealth funds, and university endowments—with huge pools of capital in search of the highest returns. In turn, innovations by financial engineers have encouraged the growth of private debt relative to income and the increased reliance on volatile short-term finance and massive uses of leverage.

What are the implications of this financialization on the modern global economy? According to Adair Lord Turner, a Senior Fellow at the Institute for New Economic Thinking and a former head of the United Kingdom’s Financial Services Authority, it means that finance has become central to the daily operations of the economic system. More precisely, the private nonfinancial sectors of the economy have become more dependent on the smooth functioning of the financial sector in order to maintain the liquidity and solvency of their balance sheets and to improve and maintain their economic welfare. For example, households have increased their use of debt to fund education, healthcare, housing, transportation, and leisure. And at the same time, they have become more dependent on interest, dividends, and capital gains as a means to maintain and improve their standard of living.

Another major consequence of financialized economies is that they typically generate repeated financial bubbles and major debt overhangs, the aftermath of which tends to exacerbate inequality and retard economic growth. Booms turn to busts, distressed sellers sell their assets to the beneficiaries of the previous bubble, and income inequality expands.

In the view of Lord Turner, currently there is no countervailing power (in John Kenneth Galbraith terms) able to deal with the consequences of neoliberalism, as he calls it "money manager capitalism.” The net result likely will be years more of economic stagnation and deteriorating living standards for many people around the world.

Finance is a form of modern warfare

As Michael Hudson aptly noted in Replacing Economic Democracy with Financial Oligarchy (2011)

Finance is a form of warfare. Like military conquest, its aim is to gain control of land, public infrastructure, and to impose tribute. This involves dictating laws to its subjects, and concentrating social as well as economic planning in centralized hands. This is what now is being done by financial means, without the cost to the aggressor of fielding an army. But the economies under attacked may be devastated as deeply by financial stringency as by military attack when it comes to demographic shrinkage, shortened life spans, emigration and capital flight.

This attack is being mounted not by nation states as such, but by a cosmopolitan financial class. Finance always has been cosmopolitan more than nationalistic – and always has sought to impose its priorities and lawmaking power over those of parliamentary democracies.

Like any monopoly or vested interest, the financial strategy seeks to block government power to regulate or tax it. From the financial vantage point, the ideal function of government is to enhance and protect finance capital and “the miracle of compound interest” that keeps fortunes multiplying exponentially, faster than the economy can grow, until they eat into the economic substance and do to the economy what predatory creditors and rentiers did to the Roman Empire.

Simon Johnson, former IMF Chief Economist, is coming out in May’s 2009 edition of The Atlantic with a fascinating, highly provocative article, on the collusion between the US’ “financial oligarchy” and the US government and how its persistence will contribute to prolonging the economic crisis. Here is the summary (hat tip to Global Conditions):

One thing you learn rather quickly when working at the International Monetary Fund is that no one is ever very happy to see you (…)

The reason, of course, is that the IMF specializes in telling its clients what they don’t want to hear.(…)

No, the real concern of the fund’s senior staff, and the biggest obstacle to recovery, is almost invariably the politics of countries in crisis. (…)

Typically, these countries are in a desperate economic situation for one simple reason—the powerful elites within them overreached in good times and took too many risks. Emerging-market governments and their private-sector allies commonly form a tight-knit—and, most of the time, genteel—oligarchy, running the country rather like a profit-seeking company in which they are the controlling shareholders (…)

Many IMF programs “go off track” (a euphemism) precisely because the government can’t stay tough on erstwhile cronies, and the consequences are massive inflation or other disasters. A program “goes back on track” once the government prevails or powerful oligarchs sort out among themselves who will govern—and thus win or lose—under the IMF-supported plan. (…)

In its depth and suddenness, the U.S. economic and financial crisis is shockingly reminiscent of moments we have recently seen in emerging markets (…).

(…) elite business interests—financiers, in the case of the U.S.—played a central role in creating the crisis, making ever-larger gambles, with the implicit backing of the government, until the inevitable collapse. More alarming, they are now using their influence to prevent precisely the sorts of reforms that are needed, and fast, to pull the economy out of its nosedive. The government seems helpless, or unwilling, to act against them.

Top investment bankers and government officials like to lay the blame for the current crisis on the lowering of U.S. interest rates after the dotcom bust or, even better—in a “buck stops somewhere else” sort of way—on the flow of savings out of China. Some on the right like to complain about Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac, or even about longer-standing efforts to promote broader homeownership. And, of course, it is axiomatic to everyone that the regulators responsible for “safety and soundness” were fast asleep at the wheel.

But these various policies—lightweight regulation, cheap money, the unwritten Chinese-American economic alliance, the promotion of homeownership—had something in common. Even though some are traditionally associated with Democrats and some with Republicans, they all benefited the financial sector. Policy changes that might have forestalled the crisis but would have limited the financial sector’s profits—such as Brooksley Born’s now-famous attempts to regulate credit-default swaps at the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, in 1998—were ignored or swept aside.

The financial industry has not always enjoyed such favored treatment. But for the past 25 years or so, finance has boomed, becoming ever more powerful. The boom began with the Reagan years, and it only gained strength with the deregulatory policies of the Clinton and George W. Bush administrations.

(…) the American financial industry gained political power by amassing a kind of cultural capital—a belief system. Once, perhaps, what was good for General Motors was good for the country. Over the past decade, the attitude took hold that what was good for Wall Street was good for the country. (…)

One channel of influence was, of course, the flow of individuals between Wall Street and Washington. Robert Rubin, once the co-chairman of Goldman Sachs, served in Washington as Treasury secretary under Clinton, and later became chairman of Citigroup’s executive committee. Henry Paulson, CEO of Goldman Sachs during the long boom, became Treasury secretary under George W.Bush. John Snow, Paulson’s predecessor, left to become chairman of Cerberus Capital Management, a large private-equity firm that also counts Dan Quayle among its executives. Alan Greenspan, after leaving the Federal Reserve, became a consultant to Pimco, perhaps the biggest player in international bond markets.

A whole generation of policy makers has been mesmerized by Wall Street, always and utterly convinced that whatever the banks said was true (…).

By now, the princes of the financial world have of course been stripped naked as leaders and strategists—at least in the eyes of most Americans. But as the months have rolled by, financial elites have continued to assume that their position as the economy’s favored children is safe, despite the wreckage they have caused (…)

Throughout the crisis, the government has taken extreme care not to upset the interests of the financial institutions, or to question the basic outlines of the system that got us here. In September 2008, Henry Paulson asked Congress for $700 billion to buy toxic assets from banks, with no strings attached and no judicial review of his purchase decisions. Many observers suspected that the purpose was to overpay for those assets and thereby take the problem off the banks’ hands—indeed, that is the only way that buying toxic assets would have helped anything. Perhaps because there was no way to make such a blatant subsidy politically acceptable, that plan was shelved.

Instead, the money was used to recapitalize banks, buying shares in them on terms that were grossly favorable to the banks themselves. As the crisis has deepened and financial institutions have needed more help, the government has gotten more and more creative in figuring out ways to provide banks with subsidies that are too complex for the general public to understand (…)

The challenges the United States faces are familiar territory to the people at the IMF. If you hid the name of the country and just showed them the numbers, there is no doubt what old IMF hands would say: nationalize troubled banks and break them up as necessary (…)

In some ways, of course, the government has already taken control of the banking system. It has essentially guaranteed the liabilities of the biggest banks, and it is their only plausible source of capital today.

Ideally, big banks should be sold in medium-size pieces, divided regionally or by type of business. Where this proves impractical—since we’ll want to sell the banks quickly—they could be sold whole, but with the requirement of being broken up within a short time. Banks that remain in private hands should also be subject to size limitations.

This may seem like a crude and arbitrary step, but it is the best way to limit the power of individual institutions in a sector that is essential to the economy as a whole. Of course, some people will complain about the “efficiency costs” of a more fragmented banking system, and these costs are real. But so are the costs when a bank that is too big to fail—a financial weapon of mass self-destruction—explodes. Anything that is too big to fail is too big to exist.

To ensure systematic bank breakup, and to prevent the eventual reemergence of dangerous behemoths, we also need to overhaul our antitrust legislation (…)

Caps on executive compensation, while redolent of populism, might help restore the political balance of power and deter the emergence of a new oligarchy. (…)

(…) Over time, though, the largest part may involve more transparency and competition, which would bring financial-industry fees down. To those who say this would drive financial activities to other countries, we can now safely say: fine”.

The predatory nature of financial oligarchy

The nature of financial oligarchy is such that the government’s capacity to take control of an entire financial system, and to clean, slice it up and re-privatize it impartially is almost non-existent. Instead we have growing, corrupt collusion between financial elites and government officials which is hall mark of corporatism in its most modern form -- neoliberalism.

Second probably is that institutions are more powerful them individuals and replacement or even jailing of corrupt current officials while a quite welcome move, can't by itself lead to drastic changes. You need to reinstall the whole system of government controls dismantled by Clinton-Bush regime. Otherwise one set of players will be simply replaced by the other, no less corrupt, hungry and unprincipled. As Daron Acemoglu pointed out recently, we are in a situation that attempt to fix the financial system will have to involve those same bankers (albeit in lower positions at the time of the crisis) that created the mess in the first place. To push the analogy a bit strongly, even in Germany post 1945 and Iraq post 2003 new governments still needed to work with some civil servants in the judicial and educational system from the previous regime as well as with tainted industrialists.

In theory, the best way to diminish the power of financiers is to limit the size (limiting the damage) and let them fail and crash badly. Also introduction of a tax of transactions (Tobin tax) can help to cool the frenzy of derivative trading. But there is nobody in power who can push those changes. That means the "silent coup" in which financial oligarchy got control of the state is complete.

Loss of trust led to conversion of the country into national security state

Paranoya of financial oligarchy after 2008 when most of the country wished them what was reflected in the slogan of the corner of Wallstreet (see the picture), led to speed up of creation of comprehensive network of spying over the citizens.

According to UN Human Right Council Report (17 April 2013) innovations in technology not only have increased the possibilities for communication and protections of free expression and opinion, enabling anonymity, rapid information-sharing and cross-cultural dialogues. They also simultaneously increased opportunities for State surveillance and interventions into individuals’ private communications facilitating to transformation of the state into National Security State, a form of corporatism characterized by continued and encompassing all forms of electronic communication electronic surveillance of all citizens.

Even if we assume that data collection is passive and never used it is like a ticking bomb or "skeleton in the closet" it is a powerful method of control of population, not the different from what was used by KGB in the USSR or STASI in East Germany.

So it does not really matter much what the data are collected for and what if official justification of such a collection. The mere fact of collection changes the situation to the worse, making opposition to the system practically impossible. The net result is what is matter. And the net result definitely resembles a move in the direction of a tyranny. US Senator Frank Church said in 1975:

"I know the capacity that is there to make tyranny total in America, and we must see to it that this agency [the National Security Agency] and all agencies that possess this technology operate within the law and under proper supervision, so that we never cross over that abyss. That is the abyss from which there is no return.".

Today his words sound even more true then in 1975 when computers were still in their infancy and mainframes dominated the computer landscape. With the proliferation of cheap electronic devices such as PCs and laptops, tablets and cell phones this really became "the abyss from which there is no return".

So the real, the key goal is not what is officially declared. Convenience of access to information has a side effect that it makes collection of information about you trivial and at the same time comprehensive. It is to keep the elite safe from common folks, not all those lies about national security. It is all about the security of the elite.

In other words 1984 dystopia materialized in slightly different, slightly more gentle form. The elite as a whole is not interesting in dismantling the tool that serve its interests so well even if it has some side effects on the elite members themselves. This is another confirmation of The Iron Law of Oligarchy

All-in-all it's a good time to smell the coffee and talk about the rise of a new mutation of totalitarism in the USA. That's exactly what this "Internet-inspired" flavor of total surveillance due to modern technical capabilities means. There is also distinct shadow of Stasi in all those activities. As countries of the USSR camp got into similar trap before, nothing is new under the sun. As Reinhold Niebuhr noted

"Communism is a vivid object lesson in the monstrous consequences of moral complacency about the relation of dubious means to supposedly good ends."

There is actually little difference between total surveillance as practiced by NSA and what was practiced by three letters agencies of Eastern block dictatorships. The key goal in both cases is protection and preservation of power of existing elite against the will of common people. So this is more about oppression of 99.9% from top 0.1% then surveillance per see.

Phone hacking and police corruption represent neoliberalism attempt to cling to life even entering in 2008 a zombie status. And we do not know if the change is possible (The zombie of neoliberalism can be beaten)

Poor growth figures put a "new" financial collapse back on the cards. The response from politicians, bankers and business leaders is more of the same – more of the same neoliberal policies that got us into this situation in the first place.

Neoliberalism no longer "makes sense", but its logic keeps stumbling on, without conscious direction, like a zombie: ugly, persistent and dangerous. Such is the "unlife" of a zombie, a body stripped of its goals, unable to adjust itself to the future, unable to make plans. It can only act habitually as it pursues a monomaniacal hunger. Unless there is a dramatic recomposition of society, we face the prospect of decades of drift as the crises we face – economic, social, environmental – remain unresolved. But where will that recomposition come from when we are living in the world of zombie-liberalism?

... ... ...

Neoliberalism, however, requires more than the internal realignment of a national ruling class. Every semi-stable form of capitalism also needs some sort of settlement with the wider population, or at least a decisive section of it. While the postwar Keynesian settlement contained an explicit deal linking rising real wages to rising productivity, neoliberalism contained an implicit deal based on access to cheap credit. While real wages have stagnated since the late 1970s, the mechanisms of debt have maintained most people's living standards. An additional part of neoliberalism's tacit deal was the abandonment of any pretence to democratic, collective control over the conditions of life: politics has been reduced to technocratic rule. Instead, individuals accepted the promise that, through hard work, shrewd educational and other "life" choices, and a little luck, they – or their children – would reap the benefits of economic growth.

The financial crisis shattered the central component of this deal: access to cheap credit. Living standards can no longer be supported and, for the first time in a century, there is widespread fear that children will lead poorer lives than their parents.

Conclusions

After 2008 the irresponsibility of the financial elites, the power and proliferation of special interest groups that defend interests of oligarchy, the paralysis of Congress and executive power to deal with challenges the financial oligarchy created have created atmosphere of public cynicism.

This correlated with withdrawal from public activity and elections. voter participation in the 1996 Presidential election reached similar to 1924 figure of 49%, less then half of eligible population. And with electronic surveillance reaching it zenith after 9/11/2001, the country quietly slid in the darkness of Inverted Totalitarism

Disillusionment with government and large corporation is a noticeable feature of contemporary America. There is a the widespread sense that big companies and those who run them are immune from prosecution and can't be held accountable by government for their crimes as that they are ... Too Big To Jail. Part of this leniency is connected with corruption of regulators. Which is an immanent part of neoliberal social order. There is also the issue off gaming the system. For very large and profitable multinationals paying some law firm or accounting firm a couple of million dollars to game the tax system in some sleazy way to park most of the income in tax havens represents a small fraction of their tax savings. So the big boys get away with this and middle market firms are the only ones who really pay corporate taxes.

The fact that no one has been imprisoned for the crime committed before 2008 is seen as outrageous by most Americans and large part of Main Street. At the same time, the multibillion-dollar fines and enforcement actions against financial institutions are providing large TBTF firms such as Goldman Sachs with wrong incentives. Paying with shareholders’ money as the price of protecting themselves is a very attractive trade-off. Punishment of individual executives who committed crimes or who failed in their managerial duty to monitor the behavior of their subordinates is short-changed because the principle that leaders should take responsibility for failure and resign contradicts neoliberal worldview.


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Old News ;-)

Neoliberalism Bulletin, 2014 Neoliberalism Bulletin, 2013 Casino Capitalism Bulletin, 2012 Neoliberalism Bulletin, 2011 Casino Capitalism Bulletin, 2010 Neoliberalism Bulletin 2009 Neoliberalism Bulletin 2008

[Oct 17, 2017] The Victory of Perception Management by Robert Parry

Highly recommended!
Notable quotes:
"... Thus, you have the current hysteria over Russia's supposed "aggression" in Ukraine when the crisis was actually provoked by the West, including by U.S. neocons who helped create today's humanitarian crisis in eastern Ukraine that they now cynically blame on Russian President Vladimir Putin. ..."
"... But these were largely ad hoc efforts. A more comprehensive "public diplomacy" operation took shape beginning in 1982 when Raymond, a 30-year veteran of CIA clandestine services, was transferred to the NSC. ..."
"... A slight, soft-spoken New Yorker who reminded some of a character from a John le Carré spy novel, Raymond was an intelligence officer who "easily fades into the woodwork," according to one acquaintance. But Raymond would become the sparkplug for this high-powered propaganda network, according to a draft chapter of the Iran-Contra report. ..."
"... But things were about to change. In a Jan. 13, 1983, memo, NSC Advisor Clark foresaw the need for non-governmental money to advance this cause. "We will develop a scenario for obtaining private funding," Clark wrote. (Just five days later, President Reagan personally welcomed media magnate Rupert Murdoch into the Oval Office for a private meeting, according to records on file at the Reagan library.) ..."
"... As administration officials reached out to wealthy supporters, lines against domestic propaganda soon were crossed as the operation took aim not only at foreign audiences but at U.S. public opinion, the press and congressional Democrats who opposed funding the Nicaraguan Contras. ..."
"... At the time, the Contras were earning a gruesome reputation as human rights violators and terrorists. To change this negative perception of the Contras as well as of the U.S.-backed regimes in El Salvador and Guatemala, the Reagan administration created a full-blown, clandestine propaganda network. ..."
"... Lost History ..."
"... My American Journey ..."
"... Secrecy & Privilege ..."
"... Rupert Murdoch's media empire is bigger than ever, but his neocon messaging barely stands out as distinctive, given how the neocons also have gained control of the editorial and foreign-reporting sections of the Washington Post, the New York Times and virtually every other major news outlet. For instance, the demonizing of Russian President Putin is now so total that no honest person could look at those articles and see anything approaching objective or evenhanded journalism. Yet, no one loses a job over this lack of professionalism. ..."
"... America's Stolen Narrative, ..."
"... America's Stolen Narrative ..."
"... Reagan actually has two sides as he was portrayed on SNL, the nice grandfatherly side, and the mafia boss warmonger side. He managed to use the media to display his nice side. ..."
"... Studies estimate that between 100K and 150K Nam vets have committed suicide since the war. There are many reasons why but I suspect a goodly number did so when they couldn't handle the knowledge of how they had been used. I'm careful about who in my "peers" I enlighten. ..."
"... It's painful to watch any western MSM. It's all through our sports and entertainment programming to the point of madness. The wreckage caused by our "leaders" across the earth's face, in our name, IS evil. ..."
"... Studies estimate that between 100K and 150K Nam vets have committed suicide since the war. There are many reasons why but I suspect a goodly number did so when they couldn't handle the knowledge of how they had been used. I'm careful about who in my "peers" I enlighten. ..."
"... Always follow the money. ..."
Dec 28, 2014 | consortiumnews.com

Special Report: In the 1980s, the Reagan administration pioneered "perception management" to get the American people to "kick the Vietnam Syndrome" and accept more U.S. interventionism, but that propaganda structure continues to this day getting the public to buy into endless war, writes Robert Parry.

To understand how the American people find themselves trapped in today's Orwellian dystopia of endless warfare against an ever-shifting collection of "evil" enemies, you have to think back to the Vietnam War and the shock to the ruling elite caused by an unprecedented popular uprising against that war.

While on the surface Official Washington pretended that the mass protests didn't change policy, a panicky reality existed behind the scenes, a recognition that a major investment in domestic propaganda would be needed to ensure that future imperial adventures would have the public's eager support or at least its confused acquiescence.

President Ronald Reagan meeting with media magnate Rupert Murdoch in the Oval Office on Jan. 18, 1983, with Charles Wick, director of the U.S. Information Agency, in the background. (Photo credit: Reagan presidential library)

This commitment to what the insiders called "perception management" began in earnest with the Reagan administration in the 1980s but it would come to be the accepted practice of all subsequent administrations, including the present one of President Barack Obama.

In that sense, propaganda in pursuit of foreign policy goals would trump the democratic ideal of an informed electorate. The point would be not to honestly inform the American people about events around the world but to manage their perceptions by ramping up fear in some cases and defusing outrage in others depending on the U.S. government's needs.

Thus, you have the current hysteria over Russia's supposed "aggression" in Ukraine when the crisis was actually provoked by the West, including by U.S. neocons who helped create today's humanitarian crisis in eastern Ukraine that they now cynically blame on Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Yet, many of these same U.S. foreign policy operatives outraged over Russia's limited intervention to protect ethnic Russians in eastern Ukraine are demanding that President Obama launch an air war against the Syrian military as a "humanitarian" intervention there.

In other words, if the Russians act to shield ethnic Russians on their border who are being bombarded by a coup regime in Kiev that was installed with U.S. support, the Russians are the villains blamed for the thousands of civilian deaths, even though the vast majority of the casualties have been inflicted by the Kiev regime from indiscriminate bombing and from dispatching neo-Nazi militias to do the street fighting.

In Ukraine, the exigent circumstances don't matter, including the violent overthrow of the constitutionally elected president last February. It's all about white hats for the current Kiev regime and black hats for the ethnic Russians and especially for Putin.

But an entirely different set of standards has applied to Syria where a U.S.-backed rebellion, which included violent Sunni jihadists from the start, wore the white hats and the relatively secular Syrian government, which has responded with excessive violence of its own, wears the black hats. But a problem to that neat dichotomy arose when one of the major Sunni rebel forces, the Islamic State, started seizing Iraqi territory and beheading Westerners.

Faced with those grisly scenes, President Obama authorized bombing the Islamic State forces in both Iraq and Syria, but neocons and other U.S. hardliners have been hectoring Obama to go after their preferred target, Syria's President Bashar al-Assad, despite the risk that destroying the Syrian military could open the gates of Damascus to the Islamic State or al-Qaeda's Nusra Front.

Lost on the Dark Side

You might think that the American public would begin to rebel against these messy entangling alliances with the 1984 -like demonizing of one new "enemy" after another. Not only have these endless wars drained trillions of dollars from the U.S. taxpayers, they have led to the deaths of thousands of U.S. troops and to the tarnishing of America's image from the attendant evils of war, including a lengthy detour into the "dark side" of torture, assassinations and "collateral" killings of children and other innocents.

But that is where the history of "perception management" comes in, the need to keep the American people compliant and confused. In the 1980s, the Reagan administration was determined to "kick the Vietnam Syndrome," the revulsion that many Americans felt for warfare after all those years in the blood-soaked jungles of Vietnam and all the lies that clumsily justified the war.

So, the challenge for the U.S. government became: how to present the actions of "enemies" always in the darkest light while bathing the behavior of the U.S. "side" in a rosy glow. You also had to stage this propaganda theater in an ostensibly "free country" with a supposedly "independent press."

From documents declassified or leaked over the past several decades, including an unpublished draft chapter of the congressional Iran-Contra investigation, we now know a great deal about how this remarkable project was undertaken and who the key players were.

Perhaps not surprisingly much of the initiative came from the Central Intelligence Agency, which housed the expertise for manipulating target populations through propaganda and disinformation. The only difference this time would be that the American people would be the target population.

For this project, Ronald Reagan's CIA Director William J. Casey sent his top propaganda specialist Walter Raymond Jr. to the National Security Council staff to manage the inter-agency task forces that would brainstorm and coordinate this "public diplomacy" strategy.

Many of the old intelligence operatives, including Casey and Raymond, are now dead, but other influential Washington figures who were deeply involved by these strategies remain, such as neocon stalwart Robert Kagan, whose first major job in Washington was as chief of Reagan's State Department Office of Public Diplomacy for Latin America.

Now a fellow at the Brookings Institution and a columnist at the Washington Post, Kagan remains an expert in presenting foreign policy initiatives within the "good guy/bad guy" frames that he learned in the 1980s. He is also the husband of Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs Victoria Nuland, who oversaw the overthrow of Ukraine's elected President Viktor Yanukovych last February amid a very effective U.S. propaganda strategy.

During the Reagan years, Kagan worked closely on propaganda schemes with Elliott Abrams, then the Assistant Secretary of State for Latin America. After getting convicted and then pardoned in the Iran-Contra scandal, Abrams reemerged on President George W. Bush's National Security Council handling Middle East issues, including the Iraq War, and later "global democracy strategy." Abrams is now a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations.

These and other neocons were among the most diligent students learning the art of "perception management" from the likes of Raymond and Casey, but those propaganda skills have spread much more widely as "public diplomacy" and "information warfare" have now become an integral part of every U.S. foreign policy initiative.

A Propaganda Bureaucracy

Declassified documents now reveal how extensive Reagan's propaganda project became with inter-agency task forces assigned to develop "themes" that would push American "hot buttons." Scores of documents came out during the Iran-Contra scandal in 1987 and hundreds more are now available at the Reagan presidential library in Simi Valley, California.

What the documents reveal is that at the start of the Reagan administration, CIA Director Casey faced a daunting challenge in trying to rally public opinion behind aggressive U.S. interventions, especially in Central America. Bitter memories of the Vietnam War were still fresh and many Americans were horrified at the brutality of right-wing regimes in Guatemala and El Salvador, where Salvadoran soldiers raped and murdered four American churchwomen in December 1980.

The new leftist Sandinista government in Nicaragua also was not viewed with much alarm. After all, Nicaragua was an impoverished country of only about three million people who had just cast off the brutal dictatorship of Anastasio Somoza.

So, Reagan's initial strategy of bolstering the Salvadoran and Guatemalan armies required defusing the negative publicity about them and somehow rallying the American people into supporting a covert CIA intervention inside Nicaragua via a counterrevolutionary force known as the Contras led by Somoza's ex-National Guard officers.

Reagan's task was made tougher by the fact that the Cold War's anti-communist arguments had so recently been discredited in Vietnam. As deputy assistant secretary to the Air Force, J. Michael Kelly, put it, "the most critical special operations mission we have is to persuade the American people that the communists are out to get us."

At the same time, the White House worked to weed out American reporters who uncovered facts that undercut the desired public images. As part of that effort, the administration attacked New York Times correspondent Raymond Bonner for disclosing the Salvadoran regime's massacre of about 800 men, women and children in the village of El Mozote in northeast El Salvador in December 1981. Accuracy in Media and conservative news organizations, such as The Wall Street Journal's editorial page, joined in pummeling Bonner, who was soon ousted from his job.

But these were largely ad hoc efforts. A more comprehensive "public diplomacy" operation took shape beginning in 1982 when Raymond, a 30-year veteran of CIA clandestine services, was transferred to the NSC.

A slight, soft-spoken New Yorker who reminded some of a character from a John le Carré spy novel, Raymond was an intelligence officer who "easily fades into the woodwork," according to one acquaintance. But Raymond would become the sparkplug for this high-powered propaganda network, according to a draft chapter of the Iran-Contra report.

Though the draft chapter didn't use Raymond's name in its opening pages, apparently because some of the information came from classified depositions, Raymond's name was used later in the chapter and the earlier citations matched Raymond's known role. According to the draft report, the CIA officer who was recruited for the NSC job had served as Director of the Covert Action Staff at the CIA from 1978 to 1982 and was a "specialist in propaganda and disinformation."

"The CIA official [Raymond] discussed the transfer with [CIA Director] Casey and NSC Advisor William Clark that he be assigned to the NSC as [Donald] Gregg's successor [as coordinator of intelligence operations in June 1982] and received approval for his involvement in setting up the public diplomacy program along with his intelligence responsibilities," the chapter said.

"In the early part of 1983, documents obtained by the Select [Iran-Contra] Committees indicate that the Director of the Intelligence Staff of the NSC [Raymond] successfully recommended the establishment of an inter-governmental network to promote and manage a public diplomacy plan designed to create support for Reagan Administration policies at home and abroad."

During his Iran-Contra deposition, Raymond explained the need for this propaganda structure, saying: "We were not configured effectively to deal with the war of ideas."

One reason for this shortcoming was that federal law forbade taxpayers' money from being spent on domestic propaganda or grassroots lobbying to pressure congressional representatives. Of course, every president and his team had vast resources to make their case in public, but by tradition and law, they were restricted to speeches, testimony and one-on-one persuasion of lawmakers.

But things were about to change. In a Jan. 13, 1983, memo, NSC Advisor Clark foresaw the need for non-governmental money to advance this cause. "We will develop a scenario for obtaining private funding," Clark wrote. (Just five days later, President Reagan personally welcomed media magnate Rupert Murdoch into the Oval Office for a private meeting, according to records on file at the Reagan library.)

As administration officials reached out to wealthy supporters, lines against domestic propaganda soon were crossed as the operation took aim not only at foreign audiences but at U.S. public opinion, the press and congressional Democrats who opposed funding the Nicaraguan Contras.

At the time, the Contras were earning a gruesome reputation as human rights violators and terrorists. To change this negative perception of the Contras as well as of the U.S.-backed regimes in El Salvador and Guatemala, the Reagan administration created a full-blown, clandestine propaganda network.

In January 1983, President Reagan took the first formal step to create this unprecedented peacetime propaganda bureaucracy by signing National Security Decision Directive 77, entitled "Management of Public Diplomacy Relative to National Security." Reagan deemed it "necessary to strengthen the organization, planning and coordination of the various aspects of public diplomacy of the United States Government."

Reagan ordered the creation of a special planning group within the National Security Council to direct these "public diplomacy" campaigns. The planning group would be headed by the CIA's Walter Raymond Jr. and one of its principal arms would be a new Office of Public Diplomacy for Latin America, housed at the State Department but under the control of the NSC.

CIA Taint

Worried about the legal prohibition barring the CIA from engaging in domestic propaganda, Raymond formally resigned from the CIA in April 1983, so, he said, "there would be no question whatsoever of any contamination of this." But Raymond continued to act toward the U.S. public much like a CIA officer would in directing a propaganda operation in a hostile foreign country.

Raymond fretted, too, about the legality of Casey's ongoing involvement. Raymond confided in one memo that it was important "to get [Casey] out of the loop," but Casey never backed off and Raymond continued to send progress reports to his old boss well into 1986. It was "the kind of thing which [Casey] had a broad catholic interest in," Raymond shrugged during his Iran-Contra deposition. He then offered the excuse that Casey undertook this apparently illegal interference in domestic politics "not so much in his CIA hat, but in his adviser to the president hat."

As a result of Reagan's decision directive, "an elaborate system of inter-agency committees was eventually formed and charged with the task of working closely with private groups and individuals involved in fundraising, lobbying campaigns and propagandistic activities aimed at influencing public opinion and governmental action," the draft Iran-Contra chapter said. "This effort resulted in the creation of the Office of Public Diplomacy for Latin America and the Caribbean in the Department of State (S/LPD), headed by Otto Reich," a right-wing Cuban exile from Miami.

Though Secretary of State George Shultz wanted the office under his control, President Reagan insisted that Reich "report directly to the NSC," where Raymond oversaw the operations as a special assistant to the President and the NSC's director of international communications, the chapter said.

"Reich relied heavily on Raymond to secure personnel transfers from other government agencies to beef up the limited resources made available to S/LPD by the Department of State," the chapter said. "Personnel made available to the new office included intelligence specialists from the U.S. Air Force and the U.S. Army. On one occasion, five intelligence experts from the Army's 4th Psychological Operations Group at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, were assigned to work with Reich's fast-growing operation."

A "public diplomacy strategy paper," dated May 5, 1983, summed up the administration's problem. "As far as our Central American policy is concerned, the press perceives that: the USG [U.S. government] is placing too much emphasis on a military solution, as well as being allied with inept, right-wing governments and groups. The focus on Nicaragua [is] on the alleged U.S.-backed 'covert' war against the Sandinistas. Moreover, the opposition is widely perceived as being led by former Somozistas."

The administration's difficulty with most of these press perceptions was that they were correct. But the strategy paper recommended ways to influence various groups of Americans to "correct" the impressions anyway, removing what another planning document called "perceptional obstacles."

"Themes will obviously have to be tailored to the target audience," the strategy paper said.

Casey's Hand

As the Reagan administration struggled to manage public perceptions, CIA Director Casey kept his personal hand in the effort. On one muggy day in August 1983, Casey convened a meeting of Reagan administration officials and five leading ad executives at the Old Executive Office Building next to the White House to come up with ideas for selling Reagan's Central American policies to the American people.

Earlier that day, a national security aide had warmed the P.R. men to their task with dire predictions that leftist governments would send waves of refugees into the United States and cynically flood America with drugs. The P.R. executives jotted down some thoughts over lunch and then pitched their ideas to the CIA director in the afternoon as he sat hunched behind a desk taking notes.

"Casey was kind of spearheading a recommendation" for better public relations for Reagan's Central America policies, recalled William I. Greener Jr., one of the ad men. Two top proposals arising from the meeting were for a high-powered communications operation inside the White House and private money for an outreach program to build support for U.S. intervention.

The results from the discussions were summed up in an Aug. 9, 1983, memo written by Raymond who described Casey's participation in the meeting to brainstorm how "to sell a 'new product' Central America by generating interest across-the-spectrum."

In the memo to then-U.S. Information Agency director Charles Wick, Raymond also noted that "via Murdock [sic] may be able to draw down added funds" to support pro-Reagan initiatives. Raymond's reference to Rupert Murdoch possibly drawing down "added funds" suggests that the right-wing media mogul had been recruited to be part of the covert propaganda operation. During this period, Wick arranged at least two face-to-face meetings between Murdoch and Reagan.

In line with the clandestine nature of the operation, Raymond also suggested routing the "funding via Freedom House or some other structure that has credibility in the political center." (Freedom House would later emerge as a principal beneficiary of funding from the National Endowment for Democracy, which was also created under the umbrella of Raymond's operation.)

As the Reagan administration pushed the envelope on domestic propaganda, Raymond continued to worry about Casey's involvement. In an Aug. 29, 1983, memo, Raymond recounted a call from Casey pushing his P.R. ideas. Alarmed at a CIA director participating so brazenly in domestic propaganda, Raymond wrote that "I philosophized a bit with Bill Casey (in an effort to get him out of the loop)" but with little success.

Meanwhile, Reich's Office of Public Diplomacy for Latin America (S/LPD) proved extremely effective in selecting "hot buttons" that would anger Americans about the Sandinistas. He also browbeat news correspondents who produced stories that conflicted with the administration's "themes." Reich's basic M.O. was to dispatch his propaganda teams to lobby news executives to remove or punish out-of-step reporters with a disturbing degree of success. Reich once bragged that his office "did not give the critics of the policy any quarter in the debate."

Another part of the office's job was to plant "white propaganda" in the news media through op-eds secretly financed by the government. In one memo, Jonathan Miller, a senior public diplomacy official, informed White House aide Patrick Buchanan about success placing an anti-Sandinista piece in The Wall Street Journal's friendly pages. "Officially, this office had no role in its preparation," Miller wrote.

Other times, the administration put out "black propaganda," outright falsehoods. In 1983, one such theme was designed to anger American Jews by portraying the Sandinistas as anti-Semitic because much of Nicaragua's small Jewish community fled after the revolution in 1979.

However, the U.S. embassy in Managua investigated the charges and "found no verifiable ground on which to accuse the GRN [the Sandinista government] of anti-Semitism," according to a July 28, 1983, cable. But the administration kept the cable secret and pushed the "hot button" anyway.

Black Hats/White Hats

Repeatedly, Raymond lectured his subordinates on the chief goal of the operation: "in the specific case of Nica[ragua], concentrate on gluing black hats on the Sandinistas and white hats on UNO [the Contras' United Nicaraguan Opposition]." So Reagan's speechwriters dutifully penned descriptions of Sandinista-ruled Nicaragua as a "totalitarian dungeon" and the Contras as the "moral equivalent of the Founding Fathers."

As one NSC official told me, the campaign was modeled after CIA covert operations abroad where a political goal is more important than the truth. "They were trying to manipulate [U.S.] public opinion using the tools of Walt Raymond's trade craft which he learned from his career in the CIA covert operation shop," the official admitted.

Another administration official gave a similar description to The Miami Herald's Alfonso Chardy. "If you look at it as a whole, the Office of Public Diplomacy was carrying out a huge psychological operation, the kind the military conduct to influence the population in denied or enemy territory," that official explained. [For more details, see Parry's Lost History .]

Another important figure in the pro-Contra propaganda was NSC staffer Oliver North, who spent a great deal of his time on the Nicaraguan public diplomacy operation even though he is better known for arranging secret arms shipments to the Contras and to Iran's radical Islamic government, leading to the Iran-Contra scandal.

The draft Iran-Contra chapter depicted a Byzantine network of contract and private operatives who handled details of the domestic propaganda while concealing the hand of the White House and the CIA. "Richard R. Miller, former head of public affairs at AID, and Francis D. Gomez, former public affairs specialist at the State Department and USIA, were hired by S/LPD through sole-source, no-bid contracts to carry out a variety of activities on behalf of the Reagan administration policies in Central America," the chapter said.

"Supported by the State Department and White House, Miller and Gomez became the outside managers of [North operative] Spitz Channel's fundraising and lobbying activities. They also served as the managers of Central American political figures, defectors, Nicaraguan opposition leaders and Sandinista atrocity victims who were made available to the press, the Congress and private groups, to tell the story of the Contra cause."

Miller and Gomez facilitated transfers of money to Swiss and offshore banks at North's direction, as they "became the key link between the State Department and the Reagan White House with the private groups and individuals engaged in a myriad of endeavors aimed at influencing the Congress, the media and public opinion," the chapter said.

The Iran-Contra draft chapter also cited a March 10, 1985, memo from North describing his assistance to CIA Director Casey in timing disclosures of pro-Contra news "aimed at securing Congressional approval for renewed support to the Nicaraguan Resistance Forces."

The chapter added: "Casey's involvement in the public diplomacy effort apparently continued throughout the period under investigation by the Committees," including a 1985 role in pressuring Congress to renew Contra aid and a 1986 hand in further shielding the Office of Public Diplomacy for Latin America from the oversight of Secretary Shultz.

A Raymond-authored memo to Casey in August 1986 described the shift of the S/LPD office where Robert Kagan had replaced Reich to the control of the Bureau of Inter-American Affairs, which was headed by Assistant Secretary of State Elliott Abrams, who had tapped Kagan for the public diplomacy job.

Even after the Iran-Contra scandal unraveled in 1986-87 and Casey died of brain cancer on May 6, 1987, the Republicans fought to keep secret the remarkable story of the public diplomacy apparatus. As part of a deal to get three moderate Republican senators to join Democrats in signing the Iran-Contra majority report, Democratic leaders agreed to drop the draft chapter detailing the CIA's domestic propaganda role (although a few references were included in the executive summary). But other Republicans, including Rep. Dick Cheney, still issued a minority report defending broad presidential powers in foreign affairs.

Thus, the American people were spared the chapter's troubling conclusion: that a secret propaganda apparatus had existed, run by "one of the CIA's most senior specialists, sent to the NSC by Bill Casey, to create and coordinate an inter-agency public-diplomacy mechanism [which] did what a covert CIA operation in a foreign country might do. [It] attempted to manipulate the media, the Congress and public opinion to support the Reagan administration's policies."

Kicking the Vietnam Syndrome

The ultimate success of Reagan's propaganda strategy was affirmed during the tenure of his successor, George H.W. Bush, when Bush ordered a 100-hour ground war on Feb. 23, 1991, to oust Iraqi troops from Kuwait, which had been invaded the previous August.

Though Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein had long been signaling a readiness to withdraw and Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev had negotiated a withdrawal arrangement that even had the blessings of top U.S. commanders in the field President Bush insisted on pressing ahead with the ground attack.

Bush's chief reason was that he and his Defense Secretary Dick Cheney saw the assault against Iraq's already decimated forces as an easy victory, one that would demonstrate America's new military capacity for high-tech warfare and would cap the process begun a decade earlier to erase the Vietnam Syndrome from the minds of average Americans.

Those strategic aspects of Bush's grand plan for a "new world order" began to emerge after the U.S.-led coalition started pummeling Iraq with air strikes in mid-January 1991. The bombings inflicted severe damage on Iraq's military and civilian infrastructure and slaughtered a large number of non-combatants, including the incineration of some 400 women and children in a Baghdad bomb shelter on Feb. 13. [For details, see Consortiumnews.com's " Recalling the Slaughter of Innocents ."]

The air war's damage was so severe that some world leaders looked for a way to end the carnage and arrange Iraq's departure from Kuwait. Even senior U.S. military field commanders, such as Gen. Norman Schwarzkopf, looked favorably on proposals for sparing lives.

But Bush was fixated on a ground war. Though secret from the American people at that time, Bush had long determined that a peaceful Iraqi withdrawal from Kuwait would not be allowed. Indeed, Bush was privately fearful that the Iraqis might capitulate before the United States could attack.

At the time, conservative columnists Rowland Evans and Robert Novak were among the few outsiders who described Bush's obsession with exorcising the Vietnam Syndrome. On Feb. 25, 1991, they wrote that the Gorbachev initiative brokering Iraq's surrender of Kuwait "stirred fears" among Bush's advisers that the Vietnam Syndrome might survive the Gulf War.

"There was considerable relief, therefore, when the President made clear he was having nothing to do with the deal that would enable Saddam Hussein to bring his troops out of Kuwait with flags flying," Evans and Novak wrote. "Fear of a peace deal at the Bush White House had less to do with oil, Israel or Iraqi expansionism than with the bitter legacy of a lost war. 'This is the chance to get rid of the Vietnam Syndrome,' one senior aide told us."

In the 1999 book, Shadow , author Bob Woodward confirmed that Bush was adamant about fighting a war, even as the White House pretended it would be satisfied with an unconditional Iraqi withdrawal. "We have to have a war," Bush told his inner circle of Secretary of State James Baker, national security adviser Brent Scowcroft and Gen. Colin Powell, according to Woodward.

"Scowcroft was aware that this understanding could never be stated publicly or be permitted to leak out. An American president who declared the necessity of war would probably be thrown out of office. Americans were peacemakers, not warmongers," Woodward wrote.

The Ground War

However, the "fear of a peace deal" resurfaced in the wake of the U.S.-led bombing campaign. Soviet diplomats met with Iraqi leaders who let it be known that they were prepared to withdraw their troops from Kuwait unconditionally.

Learning of Gorbachev's proposed settlement, Schwarzkopf also saw little reason for U.S. soldiers to die if the Iraqis were prepared to withdraw and leave their heavy weapons behind. There was also the prospect of chemical warfare that the Iraqis might use against advancing American troops. Schwarzkopf saw the possibility of heavy U.S. casualties.

But Gorbachev's plan was running into trouble with President Bush and his political subordinates who wanted a ground war to crown the U.S. victory. Schwarzkopf reached out to Gen. Powell, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, to make the case for peace with the President.

On Feb. 21, 1991, the two generals hammered out a cease-fire proposal for presentation to the NSC. The peace deal would give Iraqi forces one week to march out of Kuwait while leaving their armor and heavy equipment behind. Schwarzkopf thought he had Powell's commitment to pitch the plan at the White House.

But Powell found himself caught in the middle. He wanted to please Bush while still representing the concerns of the field commanders. When Powell arrived at the White House late on the evening of Feb. 21, he found Bush angry about the Soviet peace initiative. Still, according to Woodward's Shadow , Powell reiterated that he and Schwarzkopf "would rather see the Iraqis walk out than be driven out."

In My American Journey , Powell expressed sympathy for Bush's predicament. "The President's problem was how to say no to Gorbachev without appearing to throw away a chance for peace," Powell wrote. "I could hear the President's growing distress in his voice. 'I don't want to take this deal,' he said. 'But I don't want to stiff Gorbachev, not after he's come this far with us. We've got to find a way out'."

Powell sought Bush's attention. "I raised a finger," Powell wrote. "The President turned to me. 'Got something, Colin?'," Bush asked. But Powell did not outline Schwarzkopf's one-week cease-fire plan. Instead, Powell offered a different idea intended to make the ground offensive inevitable.

"We don't stiff Gorbachev," Powell explained. "Let's put a deadline on Gorby's proposal. We say, great idea, as long as they're completely on their way out by, say, noon Saturday," Feb. 23, less than two days away.

Powell understood that the two-day deadline would not give the Iraqis enough time to act, especially with their command-and-control systems severely damaged by the air war. The plan was a public-relations strategy to guarantee that the White House got its ground war. "If, as I suspect, they don't move, then the flogging begins," Powell told a gratified president.

The next day, at 10:30 a.m., a Friday, Bush announced his ultimatum. There would be a Saturday noon deadline for the Iraqi withdrawal, as Powell had recommended. Schwarzkopf and his field commanders in Saudi Arabia watched Bush on television and immediately grasped its meaning.

"We all knew by then which it would be," Schwarzkopf wrote. "We were marching toward a Sunday morning attack."

When the Iraqis predictably missed the deadline, American and allied forces launched the ground offensive at 0400 on Feb. 24, Persian Gulf time.

Though Iraqi forces were soon in full retreat, the allies pursued and slaughtered tens of thousands of Iraqi soldiers in the 100-hour war. U.S. casualties were light, 147 killed in combat and another 236 killed in accidents or from other causes. "Small losses as military statistics go," wrote Powell, "but a tragedy for each family."

On Feb. 28, the day the war ended, Bush celebrated the victory. "By God, we've kicked the Vietnam Syndrome once and for all," the President exulted, speaking to a group at the White House. [For more details, see Robert Parry's Secrecy & Privilege .]

So as not to put a damper on the post-war happy feelings, the U.S. news media decided not to show many of the grisliest photos, such as charred Iraqi soldiers ghoulishly still seated in their burned-out trucks where they had been incinerated while trying to flee. By that point, U.S. journalists knew it wasn't smart for their careers to present a reality that didn't make the war look good.

Enduring Legacy

Though Reagan's creation of a domestic propaganda bureaucracy began more than three decades ago and Bush's vanquishing of the Vietnam Syndrome was more than two decades ago the legacy of those actions continue to reverberate today in how the perceptions of the American people are now routinely managed. That was true during last decade's Iraq War and this decade's conflicts in Libya, Syria and Ukraine as well as the economic sanctions against Iran and Russia.

Indeed, while the older generation that pioneered these domestic propaganda techniques has passed from the scene, many of their protégés are still around along with some of the same organizations. The National Endowment for Democracy, which was formed in 1983 at the urging of CIA Director Casey and under the supervision of Walter Raymond's NSC operation, is still run by the same neocon, Carl Gershman, and has an even bigger budget, now exceeding $100 million a year.

Gershman and his NED played important behind-the-scenes roles in instigating the Ukraine crisis by financing activists, journalists and other operatives who supported the coup against elected President Yanukovych. The NED-backed Freedom House also beat the propaganda drums. [See Consortiumnews.com's " A Shadow Foreign Policy. "]

Two other Reagan-era veterans, Elliott Abrams and Robert Kagan, have both provided important intellectual support for continuing U.S. interventionism around the world. Earlier this year, Kagan's article for The New Republic, entitled " Superpowers Don't Get to Retire ," touched such a raw nerve with President Obama that he hosted Kagan at a White House lunch and crafted the presidential commencement speech at West Point to deflect some of Kagan's criticism of Obama's hesitancy to use military force.

A New York Times article about Kagan's influence over Obama reported that Kagan's wife, Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland, apparently had a hand in crafting the attack on her ostensible boss, President Obama.

According to the Times article, the husband-and-wife team share both a common world view and professional ambitions, Nuland editing Kagan's articles and Kagan "not permitted to use any official information he overhears or picks up around the house" a suggestion that Kagan's thinking at least may be informed by foreign policy secrets passed on by his wife.

Though Nuland wouldn't comment specifically on Kagan's attack on President Obama, she indicated that she holds similar views. "But suffice to say," Nuland said, "that nothing goes out of the house that I don't think is worthy of his talents. Let's put it that way."

Misguided Media

In the three decades since Reagan's propaganda machine was launched, the American press corps also has fallen more and more into line with an aggressive U.S. government's foreign policy strategies. Those of us in the mainstream media who resisted the propaganda pressures mostly saw our careers suffer while those who played along moved steadily up the ranks into positions of more money and more status.

Even after the Iraq War debacle when nearly the entire mainstream media went with the pro-invasion flow, there was almost no accountability for that historic journalistic failure. Indeed, the neocon influence at major newspapers, such as the Washington Post and the New York Times, only has solidified since.

Today's coverage of the Syrian civil war or the Ukraine crisis is so firmly in line with the State Department's propaganda "themes" that it would put smiles on the faces of William Casey and Walter Raymond if they were around today to see how seamlessly the "perception management" now works. There's no need any more to send out "public diplomacy" teams to bully editors and news executives. Everyone is already onboard.

Rupert Murdoch's media empire is bigger than ever, but his neocon messaging barely stands out as distinctive, given how the neocons also have gained control of the editorial and foreign-reporting sections of the Washington Post, the New York Times and virtually every other major news outlet. For instance, the demonizing of Russian President Putin is now so total that no honest person could look at those articles and see anything approaching objective or evenhanded journalism. Yet, no one loses a job over this lack of professionalism.

The Reagan administration's dreams of harnessing private foundations and non-governmental organizations have also come true. The Orwellian circle has been completed with many American "anti-war" groups advocating for "humanitarian" wars in Syria and other countries targeted by U.S. propaganda. [See Consortiumnews.com's " Selling 'Peace Groups' on US-Led Wars. "]

Much as Reagan's "public diplomacy" apparatus once sent around "defectors" to lambaste Nicaragua's Sandinistas by citing hyped-up human rights violations now the work is done by NGOs with barely perceptible threads back to the U.S. government. Just as Freedom House had "credibility" in the 1980s because of its earlier reputation as a human rights group, now other groups carrying the "human rights" tag, such as Human Rights Watch, are in the forefront of urging U.S. military interventions based on murky or propagandistic claims. [See Consortiumnews.com's " The Collapsing Syria-Sarin Case. "]

At this advanced stage of America's quiet surrender to "perception management," it is even hard to envision how one could retrace the many steps that would lead back to the concept of a democratic Republic based on an informed electorate. Many on the American Right remain entranced by the old propaganda theme about the "liberal media" and still embrace Reagan as their beloved icon. Meanwhile, many liberals can't break away from their own wistful trust in the New York Times and their empty hope that the media really is "liberal."

To confront the hard truth is not easy. Indeed, in this case, it can cause despair because there are so few voices to trust and they are easily drowned out by floods of disinformation that can come from any angle right, left or center. Yet, for the American democratic Republic to reset its goal toward an informed electorate, there is no option other than to build institutions that are determinedly committed to the truth.

Investigative reporter Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories for The Associated Press and Newsweek in the 1980s. You can buy his latest book, America's Stolen Narrative, either in print here or as an e-book (from Amazon and barnesandnoble.com ). You also can order Robert Parry's trilogy on the Bush Family and its connections to various right-wing operatives for only $34. The trilogy includes America's Stolen Narrative . For details on this offer, click here .

LIANE CASTEN , December 28, 2014 at 1:21 pm

Terrific analysis. Am working on my own book on Vietnam (under contract.) Would love to use this piece liberally–of course with serious attribution. Do I have your permission?. Liane

W. R. Knight , December 28, 2014 at 1:51 pm

Bear in mind that during WWII, Reagan was nothing more than an itinerant movie actor who played war heros but never participated in the war itself. The movies he played in weren't much more than unabashed propaganda.

It is obscene that we allow the most vociferous warmongers to avoid any personal risk in the wars they promote; and it is depressing to see the public persuaded by the propaganda to sacrifice their money and children for the benefit of the warmongers.

Man on the street , December 29, 2014 at 2:49 pm

Reagan actually has two sides as he was portrayed on SNL, the nice grandfatherly side, and the mafia boss warmonger side. He managed to use the media to display his nice side.

Carroll Price , December 31, 2014 at 11:49 am

It takes both. All really successful presidents have a nice grandfatherly side and a mafia boss side that's displayed to the public as the need arises. Why? Because the American people admire the mafia war monger trait as much, if not more, than the grandfatherly trait. FDR and Reagan were both successful presidents because they had great skill in displaying whichever side fitted occasion, while Jimmy Carter, who was not blessed with a mafia/war monger side was a complete failure.

Joe Tedesky , December 28, 2014 at 2:07 pm

When ever this subject comes up, of how the right wing in American politics controls the narrative, I think of the 'Powell Memo'. In 1971 Lewis Powell wrote a secretive memo descripting how the conservatives must take hold of the American media. Powell would become a Supreme Court justice. If you Google his 'Powell Memo' you will read how Justice Powell laid out a very specific plan on how to do this. Powell wrote this before becoming a sitting Supreme Court Justice. His instructions were so good that many believe this document he wrote, was his stairway to heaven.

I cannot help but reflect on how the Warren Report was a great way for the Dark State to see how well they could pull the wool over America's eyes. Even though many did not buy the official one gunman claim, what else was there to counter this official report. So, it's business as usual, and for the average US citizen there isn't much else left to do.

I value this site. Although, there are way to many Americans not getting the news this site has to offer. Instead our society strolls along catching the sound bites, and listening to agenda driven pundits to become the most ill informed populace in human history.

Everythings Jake , December 28, 2014 at 3:54 pm

Another stellar moment of "integrity" in Colin Powell's long and ignominious career.

JWalters , December 28, 2014 at 5:43 pm

" given how the neocons also have gained control of the editorial and foreign-reporting sections of the Washington Post, the New York Times and virtually every other major news outlet."

And how do the neocons, working from niches out of the limelight, have the power to do all this? In a political system dominated by money, from where comes their money? Who coordinates their game plan? Who has an interest in promoting needless wars?
http://warprofiteerstory.blogspot.com

Mark , December 29, 2014 at 8:35 am

A tour de force outstanding work; essential reading, imo. It draws together in detail the mind-management of aggressive imperial adventures from Vietnam, through Central America and Iraq up to Ukraine and Syria today. Thank you Robert Parry.

Perhaps, as a further signal of the 'same ole same ole', you might even have thrown in somewhere the epithet 'jihadi contras' to describe extremist militias used (recruited, funded, trained, armed and directed) by the US (and allies) in the Syrian nightmare (and Libyan); where the secular and tolerant Assad government is – painfully for perception managers – still supported by the vast majority of Syrians, however topsy-turvy the mainextreme narrative is.

Thomas Seifert , December 29, 2014 at 9:12 am

A question from Germany: We observe a very similar process over here – the mainstream media closest following (and inciting!) the official NATO-propaganda in the case of Ukraine. This happens even stubbornly against the bitter protests from greater parts of their own readers.

But: HOW does this happen? What are precisely the mechanisms to unite the media and the journalists behind a special doctrine? On other themes there is still a pluralism of opinions – but in the case of "national interests"/foreign policy there is a kind of frightening standardization. Why this difference?

And why this against an obvious resistance from large parts of their readers and from experts (e.g. the last three German chancellors – Schmidt, Kohl and Schroeder – have admonished the NATO for better considering the Russian security interests). I don't want to believe in simple conspiracy theories

onno , December 29, 2014 at 9:23 am

Another great article by Consortiumnews proving the manipulation of people by the Western Media. It's amazing and scary to realize that people's minds are influenced by government propaganda. It reminds me of the German occupation during WW II and the lies broadcasted by US financed Radio Free Europe during the Cold War and apparently still happening in Azerbaijan.

This is psychological warfare at its best and used at the hands of the White House and Washington's Congress. What a shame for a so-called democratic nation, when are the American people waking up?

John , December 29, 2014 at 12:57 pm

Excellent piece indeed. The collusion of mass media and officials installed by the same economic powers completes the totalitarian mechanism which has displaced democracy.

Suggest clarifying use of the name Raymond, at first apparently Raymond Bonner also called Bonner, then a (different?) Raymond with the CIA referred to only by surname(?) as Raymond, then a Walter Raymond jr.

Studies estimate that between 100K and 150K Nam vets have committed suicide since the war. There are many reasons why but I suspect a goodly number did so when they couldn't handle the knowledge of how they had been used. I'm careful about who in my "peers" I enlighten.

Paul , December 29, 2014 at 3:39 pm

The positive side of democracy in America is exemplified precisely by journalism such as this. How sad that it is almost completely overshadowed by the cynical imperial 'democracy' that Parry's essay describes.

Your description of how the first Iraq War was pursued despite easily available options to avoid the carnage are hair-raising and infuriating. Almost as infuriating as the internal propaganda efforts of the U.S. government. I hope this essay is widely read.

To me, the positive side of democracy in America is exemplified precisely by journalism such as this. How sad that it is almost completely overshadowed by the cynical imperial 'democracy' that Parry's essay describes.

Barbc , December 29, 2014 at 7:32 pm

This past year I have learned from a number of Vietnam veterans that Reagan is not as well liked as has had been implied.
A most of the dislike is how he did not follow throw with bringing home the POWs left behind in Vietnam.

Steve Pahs , December 29, 2014 at 10:47 pm

Mr. Parry,

I follow your writing and have passed it along at times to the misinformed in my life. I appreciate such as your MH17 work early on when Putin and Russia were immediately blamed.

I am a Nam grunt vet from 66′-67′ who is the not so proud recipient of the Purple Heart. My physical wounds affect me to this day as I approach the age of 68. My mental wounds are not from my combat experience so much as they are from the eventual feeling of being used and betrayed. Adversity does not build character, it reveals it. I'm good with mine. The mental wounds evolved over time as I educated myself about how such an awful thing as that war could happen and engulf me in it at 19.

Three months in a military hospital makes one think about what had just transpired. It was the start of a journey that will continue till my last breath. I've crossed that threshold where most of my family and friends are looking through a keyhole offered up by our "leaders" while I am in the room dealing with the evil. Even those who understand what I present will sometimes tell me that "you are right, but it's too late in my life to accept it". That was said by a former Marine pilot.

It's painful to watch any western MSM. It's all through our sports and entertainment programming to the point of madness. The wreckage caused by our "leaders" across the earth's face, in our name, IS evil. I stopped taking the local paper a couple of years ago after they no longer would print my letters and columns. Twenty years ago it all made me quite angry. It's sadness I feel now for those who refuse to "see". Many vets don't know the source of their anger and the VA gladly numbs them with drugs. Not I.

Studies estimate that between 100K and 150K Nam vets have committed suicide since the war. There are many reasons why but I suspect a goodly number did so when they couldn't handle the knowledge of how they had been used. I'm careful about who in my "peers" I enlighten.

Mark Twain (SLC) said some profound things. One of my favorites is "It is easier to fool people than to convince them that they have been fooled".
Always follow the money.

Thanks for what you do. It does make a difference.
Steve Pahs

MarkinPNW , December 30, 2014 at 1:43 am

This "Perception Management" is nothing knew. The argument has been made persuasively that the attack on Pearl Harbor actually resulted from a deliberate and successful campaign by FDR to change or "manage" the mass opinions or "Perceptions" of the US electorate from strongly pro-peace and anti-war (what could be called a "Great War syndrome" from the stupid and useless devastation of WW1) to all out pro-war for US involvement in WW2, by provoking the Japanese and refusing all peace negotiations with the Japanese who desperately were trying to avoid war.

In reference to "Orwellian Dystopia", Orwell's novels "Animal Farm" and "1984" were based in large part on Orwell's experience in the Spanish Civil War and WW2, respectively.

Generalfeldmarschall von Hindenburg , December 30, 2014 at 12:01 pm

Until the U.S. gets its butt seriously whipped again, as in Vietnam, the ever escalating strategy of tension against all countries who exhibit less than total and unconditional obedience to Washington will continue. Victoria Nuland is nothing more than a modern version of Cecil Rhodes; the ever probing tentacle of a voracious empire. In fact, It's really the same one.

hp , December 30, 2014 at 3:52 pm

The ripened fruit of the pervert Freud's pervert nephew Edward Bernays. (how the usurping usurers roll)

Jacob , December 31, 2014 at 11:51 pm

"In the 1980s, the Reagan administration pioneered 'perception management' to get the American people to 'kick the Vietnam Syndrome' and accept more U.S. interventionism, . . ."

The management of public perception within the U.S. regarding its imperialistic/colonial ambitions goes back much further than the 1980s. The Committee on Public Information, also known as "the Creel Commission," was the likely model Reagan wanted to imitate. The purpose of the CPI was to convince the American public, which was mostly anti-war, to support America's entry into the European war, also known as WWI. The CPI was in official operation from 1917 to 1919 during the Woodrow Wilson administration. But the paradigm for the use of mass propaganda to alter public perceptions is the Congregatio de propaganda fide (The Office for the Propagation of the Faith), a 1622 Vatican invention to undermine the spread of Protestantism by managing public perceptions on religious and spiritual matters.

[Oct 16, 2017] C Wright Mills called the US state a plutocracy all fifty years ago

Notable quotes:
"... Indeed; smart, intelligent, "clever" folks in no way confers any degree of civility on their "vested" interests. Manipulation and control are suitably useful tools for their purposes. ..."
"... The media is not a major player in running the country, contrary to what much of the right has been brainwashed to believe. It's a tool of the elite. A hammer is also a very useful tool but it doesn't do much to determine what the carpenter builds. ..."
"... We convinced ourselves that our form of oligarchy was somehow "better" than other forms, when in fact, the end game was always the same..concentrating the power in as few hands as possible. Denial was the name of the game here in the US. ..."
"... They learned their lessons well after the 60's, the last time the people really raised up against the machine, so they have given us all the; junk food at a low cost, all the TV and mindless sexually charged entertainment, all the "debt wealth", a simple minded, unread, semi-literate, beer swilling fool could ever ask for. And we all gladly gobble it up and follow the crowd, for who wants to be on the outside looking in... ..."
"... There is always a ruling elite because power is the wellspring of all human actions. There is also a certain moral consciousness that many people argue is innate in human nature, and that consciousness is fairness. The fairness instinct survives where ordinary human sympathy may fail. Based upon this basic morality of fairness those of us who are willing to take risks in the interest of fairness need to prune and tend the ruling elites as soon as possible. We proles need to act together. ..."
"... Waiting for the oligarchy to rot from within isn't what i would call a viable plan. Not when there is a far better and far more sure way to get the job done. Start with capping wealth accumulation. ..."
"... With all the upheaval in today's politics, it's hard not to think that this moment is one in which the future of the political system might be more up for grabs than it has been in generations. ..."
"... Dominance of oligarchic political power, through neoliberalism, over the last four decades has effectively put such policies out of bounds. ..."
"... The last one I recall was an article by Kenan Malik on identity politics . For what exists in this country, the UK, I have previously used the term "oligarchy by profession" ... meaning a pool of the usually upper half of the middle class, or a group in whom that group is disproportionally represented, who not only likely have a select education but who go on to become part of certain professions - accountants, lawyers, journalists, bankers, doctors etc. ... and of course, politicians tend to be drawn from these. ..."
"... Apparently we're so distracted that we're also all genuinely shocked that Hollywood is rife with pedophilia and extreme sexual harassment as though it's some revelation that we didn't know already, but that's another conversation. ..."
"... If we're all so distracted then it's not difficult for our political 'representatives' -- I use that word very tentatively because they barely ever do -- to subject themselves to the oligarchs for a few scraps more than we have ourselves. ..."
"... Limiting govt still leaves economic power and the tendency towards monopoly untouched. ..."
"... Culture is the key, much more than any genetic impulse, which is practically meaningless and so explains nothing. ..."
"... As wealth defense is so important to oligarchs, there is a constant pressure to cheat and break the law. One solution therefore is to apply the law but also to construct legislation with specific principles in mind. If the point of tax legislation is to contribute your share towards the general good then those who avoid and evade tax would be guilty of a technical breach but also a breach of the principle. ..."
"... However our laws are skewed to allowing the wealthy to defend their wealth and so a party of the people is always needed. Always. ..."
Oct 16, 2017 | discussion.theguardian.com

cognitivedissonance1 , 15 Oct 2017 13:25

Nothing new here, C Wright Mills, the US state as a plutocracy , government by the few , said it all fifty years ago , especially the economic oligarchs

http://www2.ucsc.edu/whorulesamerica/theory/mills_critique.html

http://plutocratsandplutocracy.blogspot.co.uk/2016/05/the-power-elite.html

imipak -> NoBets , 15 Oct 2017 13:21
I would again point to Plato. Those whose affluence exceeds the critical threshold stagnate. They have no need to work, no need to hold anything as valuable, they contribute nothing and take everything.

What is the point in being so rich? There's nothing you can gain from it, other than bank account pinball.

The purpose of being rich is to enable you. It is the only purpose. Once you are fully enabled, money has no value.

Those who are poor can't afford the tools to work well, the education/training needed, anything by which they could better themselves and be upwardly mobile.

There are some who are poor by choice. Voluntary hermits are common enough. They're not included in here because they're self-sufficient and have the tools they need so fall out of scope.

The middle band, where prone work the best, function the best, are mentally and physically the best, is very very big. Nothing stops you cramming society into there because they've plenty of room to stretch out.

But people always want to improve. No big. Make tax follow a curve, so that you always improve but the game gets harder not easier. Would you play a computer game where level 100 was easier than level 1? No, you'd find it boring. As long as it's a single curve, nobody gets penalized.

You now get to play forever, level billion is better than level million is better than level thousand, but it's asymptotic so infinite improvement never breaks outside the bounds.

"Asymptotic" is a word that meets your objection AND my rebuttal. You do not have to have either a constant, infinity or hard ceilings. Leave straight lines to geometers and enter the world of inflection points.

Viddyvideo , 15 Oct 2017 13:19
Elites exist the world over -- East, West, North and South. Question is how do we create a world where power is shared -- Plato and his Guardians perhaps or are we doomed to be ruled by elites until the end of time?
handygranny -> R Zwarich , 15 Oct 2017 13:14
Indeed; smart, intelligent, "clever" folks in no way confers any degree of civility on their "vested" interests. Manipulation and control are suitably useful tools for their purposes.
memo10 -> ashleyhk , 15 Oct 2017 13:11

Yet most of the media is resolutely "liberal" or leftist How do you explain that?

The media is not a major player in running the country, contrary to what much of the right has been brainwashed to believe. It's a tool of the elite. A hammer is also a very useful tool but it doesn't do much to determine what the carpenter builds.

RecantedYank -> mjmizera , 15 Oct 2017 13:09
Rapid is still quite right... We convinced ourselves that our form of oligarchy was somehow "better" than other forms, when in fact, the end game was always the same..concentrating the power in as few hands as possible. Denial was the name of the game here in the US.
CommanderMaxil -> Elgrecoandros , 15 Oct 2017 13:08
jessthecrip's comment was clearly not calling for JRM to be imprisoned or in any way punished for his views , but for his votes . Specifically his votes in the House of commons to support benefit cuts for disability claimants. Admittedly that a pretty extreme position from my point of view, but nonetheless you are misrepresentating what was said, whether deliberately or because you genuinely have not understood only you can know
Spudnik2 -> Gunsarecivilrights , 15 Oct 2017 13:05
More people should simply look up from time to time and quit living in fantasy books. The whole and real truth is not written in a book its all around you if you are willing to except what you see.
vinny59er , 15 Oct 2017 13:04
Form a government in same way we select juries. No entrenchment of the same old guard, no lobbyists,no elite, no vested interests.Just people like you,and you.People like your children.People like your parents.People like your neighbors
mjmizera -> RecantedYank , 15 Oct 2017 13:03
The industrial-military complex of the 50-70s didn't just disappear, but morphed into today's structures.
mjmizera -> voogdy , 15 Oct 2017 13:00
Not anymore, as conspiracy nuts are now serving their new masters, the altRight. They joined the enemy.
theseligsussex -> Sailor25 , 15 Oct 2017 12:59
Not really driven by the oligarch, more looted. And there's normally 1 greedy bugger, Sulla or Pompey, who has to have it all and upsets the apple cart, and then you get Augustus.
mjmizera -> ashleyhk , 15 Oct 2017 12:58
There is never the right far enough that one can't be to the left of.
mjmizera -> RecantedYank , 15 Oct 2017 12:55
All the good/bad labels lose their meaning without a qualifier - for whom.
winemaster2 , 15 Oct 2017 12:54
The US and it being a democracy, the word that is no where mentioned in the Constitution is one big hoax and the perpetuation of the same, where the missed people in this country are further conned by the elite and the rich. Then on top of it all we f or sure not practice what we preach. To that end our political system with two senators from each of 50 states m irrespective to the population is lot to be desired in terms of any real democratic process, let alone equality in representation. To add insult to injury, the US House of Representatives where Congressional Districts are gerrymandered just about every two years, is even worst. Just as the US Congress in which over 90% of the people have no confidence.
sejong -> ashleyhk , 15 Oct 2017 12:50
Yet most of the media is resolutely "liberal" or leftist How do you explain that?

Liberal MSM has been emasculated. It doesn't know it's dead. It doesn't move any needles. It just brays on in ineffective anti-Trump outrage and one identity politics issue after another.

Rightwing media is king in USA.

makingalist , 15 Oct 2017 12:47
One way they get away with it is by having their own separate education system. It's high time private schools were closed down.
handygranny -> ID3924525 , 15 Oct 2017 12:47
Who was it again who said he loves the undereducated and uninformed during the campaign season of 2016?
laerteg -> ValuedCustomer , 15 Oct 2017 12:44
Yes- the demonization of liberalism on the right and the turning away from liberalism on the left *has* paved the way for oligarchy.

Divide and conquer, as usual, is working.

Shrimpandgrits -> imperium3 , 15 Oct 2017 12:44
Slavery -- chattel slavery -- was an element.

Socialist, mass slavery was not.

Leon Sphinx , 15 Oct 2017 12:41
The House of Lords in the U.K. and the Senate in the US were originally there to prevent poor people - always the majority - from voting to take away wealth and lands from the rich. Basically, if such a vote was cast, the HoL and Senate - filled with the elites of society - had the power to block it.
ashleyhk , 15 Oct 2017 12:41
This is a fascinating dissection of how the "leftist/liberal" media was completely disrupted by Trump. It is a long read and quite difficult (so not likely to appeal to most of the knee-jerk commentators) but, whatever your politics it is well worth a look
https://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2017/10/what-facebook-did/542502 /
Laurence Bury , 15 Oct 2017 12:41
The human (and probably animal) world is made up of oligarchies that deal with each other. History has shown that only lone soldiers can upset established orders: Alexander, Napoleon, Lenin, Castro and Bin Laden come to mind.
laerteg -> Hibernica , 15 Oct 2017 12:40
I agree with the article's premise. We have allowed the oligarchs to consolidate power.

Why? Because Americans revere wealth and power. We have bought into the capitalist model hook, line, and sinker. We willingly elect candidates and sign on to policies that allow oligarchs to consolidate their power, increase their wealth and income inequality, pomote greed and selfishness, and undermine democracy - the power of the people.

We have been busy electing agents of oligarchy to Congress since 1980. Buying ino the "small government" con, the "taxes are theft" con, "the business is overregulated" con, the "corporations are the job creators" con and its twin the "government never created jobs" con, the anti-union con, etc, etc, etc.

Our political system would be a lot more representative of the people if the people would get off their butts and start participating in it. Our electoral ststem is open to anyone who wants to participate.

But who and how many participate any more?

When the people create a vacuum with their apathy and cynicism, the oligarchs fill it with their greed.

Oligarchs will always be attracted to power, no matter what system is in place. What's needed to minimize their ability to entrench themselves is vigilance in defending our institutions against corruption.

And vigilance is something that the American people seem to have less and less of every day.

Matt Quinn , 15 Oct 2017 12:40
Maximise aggregate happiness as John Nash suggested. Cooperation beats competition in almost every sphere. Uniting the 99% will happen after the 1% have brought civilisation to a standstill and a billion people starve.
vinny59er , 15 Oct 2017 12:38
The biggest impediment to true and real democracy is the existence of political parties.
RapidSloth -> RecantedYank , 15 Oct 2017 12:27
Denial is a powerful mental mechanism, that and also people tend to associate oligarchy with brutal, straight forwards autocratic rule.
US has a very sophisticated socio-political system that has isolated the elite and the common man through many filters rather than one solid brick wall - so people dont see it. This paired with large enough populations who are cretinous enough to actually vote for somebody like Trump or give a second term to the likes of G.W Bush makes fooling extremely easy.

There is also the tendency of treating laws like dogma and the constitution like the bible. A stark example of it is how they boast about freedom of speech. Everybody is keen to point out that one can publicly criticize politicians without fear of prosecution but nobody seems to notice how useless that speech is and how effectively the political elite shelters itself from negative opinion and is able to proceed against the public will. I find it quite fascinating.

RecantedYank , 15 Oct 2017 12:20
ALL oligarchies are bad...they just function from a different starting point.
In the US, we have an oligarchy based on wealth,who then uses their money to buy the political animals.
In Communist countries, you had a political oligarchy, who used their political powers to corner the wealth.
And in religious oligarchies you have a few selected "high priests" using religious fervor/special communication lines with whatever deity, to capture both wealth and politics.

None of these are preferable over the other as they all concentrate power into the hands of the few (1-2%), against the interests of the many.

virgenskamikazes , 15 Oct 2017 12:20
The fact is Western Democracy (democratic capitalism) is not and was never a true democracy.

Historians from at least 300 years from now, when studying our historical time, will state our system was capitalism, whose political system was plutocracy -- the rule of the capitalist class from behind the curtains, through puppet governors.

Sure, the same historians will, through archaeological evidence, state, correctly, that we called and considered ourselves to live in a democracy. But they will also find evidence that this claim was always contested by contemporaries. Emperor Augustus restored the façade of the Republic and called himself princeps instead of king, and, officially, Rome was still a Republic until the time of Marcus Aurelius to Diocletian (maybe the first emperor to openly consider himself a monarch) -- it doesn't fool today's historians, and it seems it didn't fool the Roman people also.

sejong , 15 Oct 2017 12:15
Oligarchy in USA is secure. For a generation, it has leveraged rightwing media to get unquestioning support from white America based on aggrieved truculence toward the liberal, the brown, and the black. And that was pre-Trump.

Now Trump rampages against the very symbol of the grievance: Obama.

It's midnight in the world's leading third world country

voogdy , 15 Oct 2017 12:10
Anyone who's been accusing united states of being an oligarchy so far was branded as a conspiracy nut. So does this article rehabilitates them and confirms their assertions?
j. von Hettlingen , 15 Oct 2017 12:07
In ancient Greece: "While the ruling class must remain united for an oligarchy to remain in power, the people must also be divided so they cannot overthrow their oppressors." Today the oligarchs aren't always united, because they see each other as rivals. But they have nothing against dividing and weakening the people in order to prevent them from rising up to "their oppressors."
Mass indoctrination is the answer. Oligarchs around the world seek to build up a media empire to brainwash a gullible public and sow discord in the society. The most notorious members of a civil oligarchy in the West are Silvio Berlusconi and Rupert Murdoch. Like oligarchs in ancient Greece, their modern counterparts need democratic support to legitimise their goals. And they support candidates in elections who will do their bidding once in office.
Oligarchy and plutocracy will continue to rule America, because the worship of money is a popular faith. As long as an individual is well off, he/she sees little incentive to help improve social equality. A revolution will only be possible if a critical mass is behind it.
PeterlooSunset -> maddiemot , 15 Oct 2017 12:06
The current US education system was put in place by the oligarch foundations of the Rockefellers, Carnegies and Guggenheims . It exists to keep the majority of the citizenry misinformed, thus docile workers and passive consumers.
ID3924525 -> 37Dionysos , 15 Oct 2017 12:05
Sounds about right - a least some, a very small minority, realise they're being suckered - the overwhelming majority die pig ignorant, whether they believe they've made it or live in a trailer park.
lasos2222 , 15 Oct 2017 12:03
it's very rare that an article in the Guardian doesn't have an obvious agenda. Simple click bait stuff. This article is different, and worthwhile reading. Excellent.
RecantedYank , 15 Oct 2017 12:02
I am only surprised that anyone would still be in the dark about whether or not the US is an oligarchy. It's been obvious now for at least the past three-four decades.
RapidSloth , 15 Oct 2017 12:01
If the general public opposes rule-by-economic-elites, yep sure... too elections held in the last two decades contradict that statement.
37Dionysos -> OldTrombone , 15 Oct 2017 12:01
Yep---for where very few have very much and most have nothing, you have a pressure-cooker. The property-police must indeed grow in number and brutality.
37Dionysos -> ID3924525 , 15 Oct 2017 11:58
And the other half of it is what Ben Franklin warned about, "the corruption of the people." The gangsters really sense and know how to play people against themselves---arousing appetites, appealing to short-term pleasure, to short-term feel-good thinking and acts, and to greed and lust for seemingly easy power. When you realize you're had, it's too late: "In every transaction, there's a sucker. If you're wondering who that is, it's you."
Feindbild -> PSmd , 15 Oct 2017 11:55
Yep sure. The 'big white kid' pritecting the brown kid does tend to be working class or middle class Jewish, and indeed, more likely to be socialist than liberal (in my experience).

I wouldn't limit credit for this kind of thing to any particular ethnicity. But I will say that most major successful reform 'crusades' of modern Western history were inspired by Christian ideals, and often led by Christian clergy, including the anti-slavery Abolition movement in 19th-century America, the Civil Rights movement in the 1950s and '60s, and the anti-Communist revolutions in 1980's Eastern Central Europe. Even in the anti-Apartheid movement, the churches played a leading role, personified, of course, by Bishop Tutu.

MTorrespico -> OldTrombone , 15 Oct 2017 11:52
Correct, because that would be too easy . . . for 'Muricans, because Other people might benefit, and because it is too, too logical a solution for the Turd World USA.
37Dionysos , 15 Oct 2017 11:51
In the Oxford English Dictionary you find that "profit" and "advantage" are close cousins etymologically. Makes sense, since "profit" (the word for value you did not put into an exchange) creates "advantage"---and then you use advantages to give even less and take even more profit. Round and round she goes, and there's no bottom. "Advantage" of course is also inherently relative to somebody else's "DIS-advantage": hence our planet full of "disadvantaged" working people.
OldTrombone -> rg12345 , 15 Oct 2017 11:50
No, I think the Democrats are the ones most successful at diverting the people from their own power in favor of the banks. The Republicans are far less successful by their own control, instead benefitting only from luck such as Wasserman-Schultz denying Elizabeth Warren from her rightful place in the Oval Office. Sanders was the consolation candidate for Warren voters. Warren would have beaten Trump 50-nil.
MTorrespico -> Nash25 , 15 Oct 2017 11:50
Correct. Two equal evils from the same nest-egg, a political party with two right-wings. At the least, the public know why the First Nazi of Great America has an aura of flies.
name1 -> Skip Breitmeyer , 15 Oct 2017 11:46
Divisions or hijacking? I suspect the latter.
PeterlooSunset , 15 Oct 2017 11:39

a colleague of mine asked if America was really at risk of becoming an oligarchy. Our political system, he said, is a democracy. If the people don't want to be run by wealthy elites, we can just vote them out.

Thanks for the cracking joke. That was hilariously funny.

teamofrivals , 15 Oct 2017 11:38
There's a term on everything and a rhythm to all things and its an impertinence to think that any political system lasts forever for our security.
brianBT , 15 Oct 2017 11:34
full and transparent disclosure of all finical and gift transactions between elected official and anyone not in govt.. this include "payments" to family, friends their charities.. etc.. if you cant see the lie no one fight to have the laws and rules changed... additionally lobbyist must no longer be allowed to have the type of closed door access to our leaders.. all these conversations must be moderated or flat out banned and a new form of communication is developed.... put it this way I have never been able to get a meeting with my leading politician yet big business can at almost any time.. I'm glad this issues is being more openly discussed.. we need more of the same
ID3924525 -> ID3924525 , 15 Oct 2017 11:32
Karl Marx, in The Communist Manifesto , indentified this in his concept, "False Consciousness", and Orwell, taking Stalinism to exemplify it, points to the same in Animal Farm , though I bet they weren't the first, and hope they won't be the last.
OldTrombone , 15 Oct 2017 11:31
Machiavelli was right, when you need political favors to get to the top, then you will always owe the favor-givers when you get there. Machiavelli also said this:

Sortition works!

When the most powerful person has literally zero interest in the outcome, they will defer to moral utilitarianism every time. Ask Canada's John Ralton Saul "The Unconcious Civilization" and Australia's Ricky Muir from the Motoring Enthusiasts Party [seriously] who scuppered Aussie right-wingers from bringing US-style education-loans to rent-seek our economy to death.

laerteg , 15 Oct 2017 11:29
The problem is that today's so-called "populists" have been so propagandized into despising the liberalism that could fight the oligarchs, and buying into the very policies and philosophies that allow the oligarchs to consolidate their power (endless tax cuts, undermined government, deregulation, big money in politics, destruction of unions, etc, etc.) that they play right into their hands.

They've mistaken a demagogue for a man of the people and continue to cheer on the dismantling of the checks on oligarchy that our system provides.

This country is in a world of hurt and those who should be exercizing their democratic power to diminish the power of the oligarchs are busy dismantling it, thanks to decades of right wing media propaganda.

All I see is more oligarchy, more autoctacy, and less power to the people. We just keep sticking it to ourselves.

Elgrecoandros -> jessthecrip , 15 Oct 2017 11:28
I literally copy pasted the comments in order, how have I twisted anything?

The person complained about some reaction to Rees-Mogg for having different political views being over the top and you promptly justified their claim.

OldTrombone , 15 Oct 2017 11:25
Capitalist oligarchies = bad, right?

So... communism, then, right?

It's time for SORTITION

When anyone could instantly become president, then everyone has to be educated as much as possible. Right? Hey classical policy scholars, sortition worked in Ancient Greece too! As well as everywhere else ever since. Ever heard of court juries?

ID3924525 , 15 Oct 2017 11:22
Divide and rule - the oldest trick in the book, and incredibly easy, as long as people are kept ignorant by propaganda (currently known as The Media) and education.
rg12345 -> Rainborough , 15 Oct 2017 11:21
Many (most?) Of us do understand it, that's why we're opposed to Citizens United, whereas the Republicans are for it.
Nash25 , 15 Oct 2017 11:20
Hillary Clinton lost because the working class (correctly) perceived her to be a supporter of oligarchy in the USA. Her ties to Wall Street, corporate power, and the upper class were too obvious.

Yes, Trump fooled many voters into believing that he was populist, but their perception of Clinton was still accurate.

If the Democratic party leaders had chosen Sanders as their candidate, they would have won the election. But the "Democratic" party leaders (ironically) feared what he offered: real democracy.

jessthecrip -> Elgrecoandros , 15 Oct 2017 11:19
You are an expert twister and no mistake. I can only salute you
SoxMcCarthy -> TragicomedyBeholder , 15 Oct 2017 11:18
"The Bad Hayek emerged when he aimed to convert a wider public. Then, as often happens, he tended to overreach, and to suggest more than he had legitimately argued. The Road to Serfdom was a popular success but was not a good book. Leaving aside the irrelevant extremes, or even including them, it would be perverse to read the history, as of 1944 or as of now, as suggesting that the standard regulatory interventions in the economy have any inherent tendency to snowball into "serfdom." The correlations often run the other way. Sixty-five years later, Hayek's implicit prediction is a failure, rather like Marx's forecast of the coming "immiserization of the working class.""
fivefeetfour , 15 Oct 2017 11:18
Lenin has written that politics is a concentrated economy more than a century ago.
rg12345 -> OldTrombone , 15 Oct 2017 11:16
Do you think Democrats are the only ones trying to consolidate wealth and power? You must have missed the part about keeping people divided.
Lafcadio1944 , 15 Oct 2017 11:15
This of course is a simplified version and can't really touch on everything, however he glaringly leaves out the deliberate human suffering results from the oligarchy protecting its wealth and aggressively taking over ever more markets. Yes, of course, what today is called "alignment of interests" among the oligarchy is necessary but that alone is not enough they mus also be ruthless beyond that of others. Nothing stands in the way of profits nothing stands in the way of ever greater control. The oligarchy has decided that nature itself is just another obstacle profit making - there is no room for empathy in the world of the oligarchy poverty suffering from curable disease mutilation from bombs are acceptable external consequences to their obsessive accumulation of wealth.

The real reason the oligarchy wins is because they are willing to be ruthless in the extreme and society rewards ruthlessness and ridicules the empathetic.

Elgrecoandros -> jessthecrip , 15 Oct 2017 11:14
"Perhaps the OP was proposing prison for JRM for expressing a viewpoint..."

Nobody was proposing that, it was hyperbole from rjm2017.

Well it was hyperbole until your comment calling on punishment for those with different political views.

R Zwarich -> Kay Nixon , 15 Oct 2017 11:14
This may be true, they often seem so blinded by their raw greed that their powers of reason become dysfunctional. I don't think, however, that the stupid things they do to slake their greed means that they are stupid. When the chips are down, they are capable of bringing their considerable powers of reason to bear.

However stupid or smart they might be, we surely must realize that they have been at least smart enough to gain total ownership and control of all our mass media. They use this tool, the most powerful tool of social control that has ever existed, with consummate skill in pursuit of their agenda(s).

If you look at the overall content of our mass media, you can see an impressive level of 'mind' at work, 'behind the curtain'. This 'mind' is constantly manipulating our consciousness, using very highly sophisticated, highly skilled techniques.Their understanding of human psychology, and their ability to manipulate us using our most basic appetites and desires, is characterized by true genius, even ig that genius is diabolical in its designs.

'They' choose what movies get made. Which TV shows are produced. Which songs get airplay. Which social and political issues are sensationalized and which are buried.

Most of the citizens of our ostensible 'democracy' have been 'trained', just as any animals are trained to any behavior, to be 'consumers' rather than 'citizens'. We are well trained by an omnipresent mass media that assaults us constantly. In any direction that we turn our gaze, or our attention, 'they' are there, to direct our thoughts as they think serves their purposes.

I sure wouldn't sell these people's intelligence short. They may often do stupid things to serve their greed, but they did not acquire the power that they have through any lack of intelligence.

fragglerokk , 15 Oct 2017 11:13
what everyone seems to forget is that whilst ancient Greece was the cradle of democracy it was not only a slave state (whose slaves had no rights to vote) but that only an elite minority were eligible to vote themselves - power very much rested with the vested interests of the few.

I agree that societies are a reflection of the 'will' of the people these days, even if that will is ill informed, reactionary or, as seems to be the case, largely uninterested in voting. You get the governments you deserve and people in the West have become lazy, permanently distracted, often ignorant and usually in the grip of one addiction or another, thus allowing 'democracy' to be subverted. The media have had their role in this by allowing themselves to be manipulated and owned by vested interests, rarely reporting the truth and doing as they are told by various govt offices and departments. Uninformed people make poor decisions.

OldTrombone , 15 Oct 2017 11:13
What the Black Lives Matter movement is telling us is that the Oligarch's enforce their rules of 'law' precisely at the barrels of guns, and by the words of one man after one man, each with a uniform on and a camera off.
TheResult -> J.K. Stevens , 15 Oct 2017 11:13
National Anthems only make sense in context of International Games
Where 2 anthems are played out of respect for each other
Elgrecoandros -> Elgrecoandros , 15 Oct 2017 11:11
Further, you stated above that you were "...responding to a poster who called for imprisonment for those concerned", when in fact the quote shows they were complaining about people calling for imprisonment, not calling for it.

That shows you are twisting what was said, it is incredibly disingenuous of you.

Skip Breitmeyer -> sparkle5nov , 15 Oct 2017 11:09
It's the divisions of the left that allow Tory and Republican minority rule to prevail. In the US the divide is quite bitter between Hillary and Bernie wings of the Dems- at the moment I don't really see where reconciliation can emerge. And of course in Great Britain you actually have two major parties competing rather self-destructively for the available votes on the left. (As well as the mighty Greens...). Divided and conquered, indeed. And such a bloody cliche!
OldTrombone , 15 Oct 2017 11:06

Democracy is vulnerable to oligarchy because democrats focus so much on guaranteeing political equality that they overlook the indirect threat that emerges from economic inequality

And yet Marx doesn't rate a single mention in the entire article...

jessthecrip -> Elgrecoandros , 15 Oct 2017 11:06
No, even though you've quoted me you have misunderstood what was perfectly plain. I stated 'like everyone else who voted to cut even more from disabled people's benefits'. Perhaps the OP was proposing prison for JRM for expressing a viewpoint, but that was not and is not where I'm coming from.
OldTrombone , 15 Oct 2017 11:05

At its core, oligarchy involves concentrating economic power and using it for political purposes.

Here is the exact reason why the Democratic Party is lost now. The Clintons, Wasserman-Schultz, and their new Goldman Sachs alumni hero in New Jersey, and now Kamala Harris seeking the same money from the same bankers.

And who did Hillary blame? Bernie, of course.

PSmd -> Dark Angel , 15 Oct 2017 11:02
It's sort of worked against the right though. Take a look at the last election. Yes, the Tories got most votes, but they've pretty much lost all ethnic minorities, including asian professionals, hindus and sikhs. Why is this, especially when Labour moved to left and are now more socialist than left liberal?

Purely because the right has been subsumed by angry grievance mentality, or aggreived entitlement. The internet is awash by people who hate assertive blacks and asians, Dianne Abbott received half of all abuse of female MPs. And so.. the Labour pick up votes that Tories had gained under Cameron. If you are a prosperous hindu dentist or stockbroker, sure you might have shrugged off your parents labour voting tendencies and might be Tory. But also, you might be seeing this sort of stuff, the bile on the internet, the resentment expressed behind internet anonymity. And you might be thinking that deep down underneath that expensive suit of yours, you are your father and mother, a tentative, slightly frightened, cheaply dressed immigrant who has arrived as an outsider and are visibly aware that half the population likes you, but the other half doesn't.
And so you vote Labour.

Divisiveness actually divides the core group you are aiming to win. If you do white chauvinism, well, you end up unite everyone who is not white. Black, brown, yellow, all huddle together scared, back under the labour fold. And you end up dividing the whites into the patriotic and the 'self hating libtard'.

Elgrecoandros -> jessthecrip , 15 Oct 2017 11:01
The sequence of comments was...

Rjm2017

"Just read the language of many in here...apparent JRM should be banished and locked away. You don't need to look to far to find odeous beliefs."

Your reply to that:

"Not locked away. Prison is expensive for the taxpayer. Assets sequestered for the good of the commons and put to work cleaning - streets, hospitals, care homes - on workfare. Like everyone else who voted to cut even more from disabled people's benefits, causing what the UN has described as a 'catastrophe' for disabled people in this country"

My reply to you:

"You are advocating confiscation of private property and forced physical labour for people who hold different political views to you. Is Stalin a hero of yours?"


Yours is a call to punish people for holding different political views to you.

Yours is an extremist position and, like all extremists, you think it is justified.

barciad -> FrankLittle , 15 Oct 2017 10:57

e.g. Park Chung-hee sent thousands of homeless people to camps where they were used as slave labour, many were were tortured and executed.


Like I said, benignish. He took a third world basket case (which is what South Korea was up until his seizure of power) and set it on the way to becoming a first world economy.
Skip Breitmeyer -> BayardDC , 15 Oct 2017 10:56
One of the most interesting mini-discourses I've read anywhere. I would only add that the 'mob' currently in charge of the polity of the House is actually a minority that has gamed the system.
AladdinStardust -> Gunsarecivilrights , 15 Oct 2017 10:56
which is exactly what the author did when her ill health meant that she no longer had medical insurance. Ain't life a bitch?
OldTrombone , 15 Oct 2017 10:55

They also tried to keep ordinary people dependent on individual oligarchs for their economic survival, similar to how mob bosses in the movies have paternalistic relationships in their neighborhoods

Like Wine-stine? (Wine-stain?)

Rainborough , 15 Oct 2017 10:55
"Democracy is vulnerable to oligarchy because democrats focus so much on guaranteeing political equality that they overlook the indirect threat that emerges from economic inequality."

No democrat with two working brain cells to rub together could honestly suppose that great concentrations of wealth, which necessarily confer political power on the wealthy class, can fail to undermine democracy. A capitalist democracy is an oxymoron and a delusion.

ChesBay -> maddiemot , 15 Oct 2017 10:52
They admire the rich, and the lifestyles of the rich, although it is out of their reach.
They do not admire the wise, and the experienced.
They don't know who are their state and federal representatives.
They don't know the reason for the Civil War.
They don't know much about our history, our constitution, or anything about civics.
They don't know much about world history.
They don't read much, and are suspicious of education, and the properly educated.
They are easy marks for lies, and negative influence, because they never question.
They refuse to address, or even admit, their own irrational prejudices.
They don't vote, but they do plenty of complaining, and like to blame others for the problems of our nation.
AveAtqueCave , 15 Oct 2017 10:51
Good luck with that.
FrankLittle -> barciad , 15 Oct 2017 10:45
I do not think that benign or even benign(ish) suits the majority of the above e.g. Park Chung-hee sent thousands of homeless people to camps where they were used as slave labour, many were were tortured and executed.

Not sure how Carl Mannerheim gets to be on your list? He was appointed Military chief during the Finnish civil war and he was elected President of Finland

DammedOutraged , 15 Oct 2017 10:44
Oh you mean a bit like all those plebs going out and voting to wreck the EU oligarchy's vision as to whats best?
vastariner , 15 Oct 2017 10:44

At the same time, they sought to destroy monuments that were symbols of democratic success. Instead of public works projects, dedicated in the name of the people, they relied on what we can think of as philanthropy to sustain their power.


That was more because there was no income tax regime - something difficult to impose when there was no centralized collection from a single consistent professional government. So if the Athenian navy wanted a ship, it got a rich chap to pay for it. Rather than out of general taxation.

Athens got rich on levies it imposed on its allies by way of protection money, which eventually collapsed in acrimony, but that's a different story.

StephenR45 -> TheWindsOfWinter93 , 15 Oct 2017 10:43
You'll be first "over the top" then?
Alfandomega -> timiengels , 15 Oct 2017 10:41
Owen Jones ? ......a man of high minded principle and unblemished
virtue . Don't think he would object to a spot of terror........in defence
of his liberal principles , of course..
somebody_stopme , 15 Oct 2017 10:41
I guess we are seeing some of oligarchy break down. Many oligarchs support many socialist policies to avoid tension between classes. For eg: many rich support universal basic income and some even support single payer healthcare.
imperium3 -> Sailor25 , 15 Oct 2017 10:41

You make a good point but in my wide but less than comprehensive knowledge of rapid development often occurrs in periods of oligarchy.

All those mills that drove the industrial revolution, created by oligarchy.

All those armies and aqueducts that drove the Roman Empire, created by oligarchy.

All those libraries and universities that drove Greek learning, funded by the oligarchy.

The great library of Alexandria, oligarchy.

OK, I'll concede that. Which makes for an interesting perspective on things overall, actually. One can see the advantage of an oligarchy - wealth and power is concentrated in few enough hands to achieve great things, but not so few that, like in a monarchy or dictatorship, the leader must spend most time and effort on keeping their power. Whereas a more equal democracy lacks the capacity to make bold steps or drive through unpopular new ideas. But this also means the oligarchs have the power to grind down those underneath them, and therefore in order to enjoy the fruits of that development, the oligarchy needs to be destroyed.

In other words, oligarchies deliver growth, democracies deliver prosperity. I would certainly not like to live under an oligarchy (assuming I'm not an oligarch) but it would be beneficial for a country to have had one in the past.

Kay Nixon , 15 Oct 2017 10:40
I have come to the conclusion that the oligarchy which rules the world are complete imbeciles who haven't a clue that the whole Neoliberal system they built in the 1970's is collapsing and they are clueless on how to handle it. Just because they are wealthy and greedy doesn't mean they are intelligent.
J.K. Stevens -> TheResult , 15 Oct 2017 10:40
In order to prevent the protests from going out over the airwaves Fox (sports) in all their 'logic' started excluding broadcast of the Anthem. Early on I said I would not watch any of these sporting events with, as you say, these jingoistic displays going out and Fox has obliged me but I wont say thanks.
desertrat49 -> BayardDC , 15 Oct 2017 10:39
Yes....Nothing in current affairs would surprise the ancient political philosophers who were students of real human nature ...and real history!
yule620 , 15 Oct 2017 10:37
Understanding Greece is not something you associate comfort with.
desertrat49 -> DrPepperIsNotARealDr , 15 Oct 2017 10:36
It serves as a relieve valve...just as it did in Ancient Greece and Rome.
Obfusgator , 15 Oct 2017 10:36
It's very simple really. The law system makes a complete mockery of democracy and the judiciary is comprised of a bunch of laissez-faire twits.
desertrat49 -> TheResult , 15 Oct 2017 10:35
The last recourse of scoundrels is patriotism!...always been thus because it always works...see H.L. Mencken et. al. !
Postconventional -> SenseiTim , 15 Oct 2017 10:34
Britain isn't different. Oligarchy is built into our system of governance, e.g. royals and house of lords. We even have special oligarch schools where children are sent to be educated for leadership
desertrat49 -> zootsuitbeatnick , 15 Oct 2017 10:33
You do not think the pomp and circumstance of Oligarchs, Monarchs and Military Dictators is without purpose or effect, do you?
StephenR45 -> DolyGarcia , 15 Oct 2017 10:32
Ban Keeping up with the Kardashians.
Gunsarecivilrights -> ID059068 , 15 Oct 2017 10:31
Or in other words, "I can't take care of myself, so I demand the government take money from others and give it to me!"
maddiemot , 15 Oct 2017 10:31
"An informed citizenry is at the heart of a dynamic democracy." - Thomas Jefferson

We have Americans who don't know when the Civil War was fought, or even who won, but insist we must stand for the national anthem before a ballgame.
So much for 'the Land of the Free'.

EquilibriaJones -> Sailor25 , 15 Oct 2017 10:31
Saying life can only get better if we are all collectively greedy together is not a logical argument. Ask the polar bears.
StephenR45 -> davshev , 15 Oct 2017 10:30
It didn't start with Trump.
Gunsarecivilrights -> DirDigIns , 15 Oct 2017 10:30
More people need to read Atlas Shrugged.
desertrat49 -> MarmaladeMog , 15 Oct 2017 10:30
All of the wishful thinking is hugely naive.....they have not been studying the lessons of history.
J.K. Stevens -> OldTrombone , 15 Oct 2017 10:29
And in the older grades, they prescribe (hand out) adderall, CSN stimulants, like chiclets to help student study (cram) and with comprehensive test taking.

https://www.huffingtonpost.com/allen-frances/why-are-so-many-college-a_b_8331958.html

desertrat49 -> DolyGarcia , 15 Oct 2017 10:28
This is the rub.....and the mob does not value education while the rulers value propaganda. Notice the close association between Autocratic and Oligarchic systems and religion, historical mythology and hyper-patriotism!
EquilibriaJones -> Sailor25 , 15 Oct 2017 10:28
Or that's the evil of it. Economic inequality rises until people die. Like homeless on the streets, starving food banks, grenfell tower, waiting on hospital beds instead of famine and pitchfork wars.
The idea is to progress and solve problems before they escalate to pitchfork wars. Praising grotesque inequality is not part of the solution, it's the cause of the problems.
desertrat49 -> Crusty Crab , 15 Oct 2017 10:25
H. L. Mencken is a must read on this!
Alfandomega -> Peter Martin , 15 Oct 2017 10:24
Very remote possibility . I think you'll find their over inflated salaries
weigh more heavily in the balance than their " principles ".
SenseiTim , 15 Oct 2017 10:24
This article should be required reading for all Americans. I am posting a link to Twitter and Facebook to get as many Yank eyeballs on it as possible.
desertrat49 -> Langsdorff , 15 Oct 2017 10:24
What emerges from Plutocracy is Oligarchy...what emerges from Oligarchy is Autocracy. Autocracy is one form or another is the natural state of human society....all the others are ephemeral systems...or systems that disguise the actual Oligarchy or Autocracy!
davshev , 15 Oct 2017 10:23
The biggest contributor to America's plutocracy is our abysmally uninformed electorate.
HL Mencken knew this nearly a century ago when he said:
"As democracy is perfected, the office of president represents, more and more closely, the inner soul of the people. On some great and glorious day the plain folks of the land will reach their heart's desire at last and the White House will be adorned by a downright moron."
desertrat49 , 15 Oct 2017 10:20
Just exactly when was it that "democracy defeated oligarchy in ancient Greece"?
What proportion of the population in Ancient Athens, for example, were actually citizens...and what proportion of those actually held the franchise?...I believe that you would find the numbers surprising!
Also ...when these (and other) writers speaks of Ancient Greece.....it is usually Athens that they are mythologizing....most the Ancient Greek world had little by way of representative government...let alone "Democracy"!
jessthecrip -> Elgrecoandros , 15 Oct 2017 10:18
No I wasn't. I already responded to you regarding this. To remind you, I said

when people in positions of power take £28 billion (at least) off one of the most powerless and already impoverished groups in our country (disabled people), resulting in hundreds of suicides, enormous suffering, worsened isolation, serious lack of care support, and thousands dying soon after being found 'fit to work' (a situation the UN has described as a 'catastrophe') then I think it perfectly reasonable to favour some punishment for those politicians who inflicted such suffering on their fellow citizens

I was not suggesting punishment for 'thought crime' or for expressing views, but for actions seriously damaging to our citizens.
OldTrombone , 15 Oct 2017 10:17
I have worked in several of the American rich's schools where they charge $30k per kid, families have 3-5 kids there, plus they donate another $30k per kid per year. These schools shame their $50k/year teachers into donating hundreds and thousands per year to their own schools in order to prompt further donations from parents, who expect the poor teachers to prove their fidelity to these rich kids by giving their own money to them. I have seen these schools' principals fire teachers who teach "how to change things". I have seen them promote teachers who teach absolutely nothing, because then the rich kids enjoy insulting and demeaning those teachers' weaknesses. I have heard rich $chool principals tell Harvard psychology lecturers that grade inflation is a marketplace necessity. I have seen rich principals tell school inspectors that the curriculum presented for verification is supplied by a currently-employed teacher (who was awfully bad at teaching) when in fact it was written and prepared by a teacher who had just been fired "for methodology problems"...

American rich schools are the sickest schools on earth, even sicker than British boarders, even sicker than other countries' orphanages.

davshev -> ID50611L , 15 Oct 2017 10:15
Yes, but we now have the consummate...emphasis on "con"...bullshit artist in the White House whose first order of business has been to discredit the media whenever it exposes him for what he truly is. Trump has thousands of people believing that any media story about him which is negative is "fake."
Sailor25 -> JosephCamilleri , 15 Oct 2017 10:14
Yes they did and in all those political systems there where rich bastards at the top making the decisions.

They may have been bastards but on balance they actually made some pretty good decisions.

RutherfordFHEA , 15 Oct 2017 10:13
In his book Culture Inc. , Herbert Schiller quoted a recent study on neoliberal deregulation in the US which began with the question:

"Is deregulation... a strategy on the part of corporations to re-appropriate the power lost to democratic reforms of the mid-20th century?"

Sailor25 -> Dan2017 , 15 Oct 2017 10:13
So you are in favour of populism?

I consider populism an important part of the process as it creates a balance for oligarchy.

I would consider that the greedy big picture thinking of oligarchy drives growth while the greedy small picture thinking of the plebs (of which I am one) tries to get that growth more equally distributed.

ID50611L -> debt2zero , 15 Oct 2017 10:12
Spot on
MoonMoth -> Tenthred , 15 Oct 2017 10:10
It is perhaps unlikely that a radical Athenian democrat from ancient Greece would recognise any current form of government as genuinely democratic.

The cleverest way to maintain a long term oligarchy in these enlightened times might be to have an elective one, only dressed up as something like say a 'parliamentary democracy'. Luckily no-one has come up with this idea yet.

Dark Angel , 15 Oct 2017 10:10
Exactly that is going on now - we have 'workers' and 'benefit scroungers', British against 'immigrants' who exactly are not immigrants as having legal rights to live in the UK (EU citizens), 'deserving' poor and 'undeserving' poor.
Divide and rule.
Without knowing the past, it is impossible to understand the true meaning of the present and the goals of the future.
It's so annoying that is has been so easy to manipulate with our society - Tories and UKIP say 'hate!' and people do as if they are trained animals - hate people on benefits, EU citizens, immigrants, asylum seekers, a conflict between Brexiters/Remainers...
Sailor25 -> Swoll Man , 15 Oct 2017 10:09
Laughing at the fact that you chose to write an insult rather than engage in debate.
barciad -> FrankLittle , 15 Oct 2017 10:08
Benign(ish) dictators of the 20th Century:-
Tito (Yugoslavia)
Carl Mannerheim (Finland)
Kemal Ataturk (Turkey)
Fidel Castro (Cuba)
Nasser (Egypt)
Park Chung-hee (South Korea)
Like I said, benign(ish). Each one the subject for a debate within themselves.
Sailor25 -> Boghaunter , 15 Oct 2017 10:07
There is always winners and losers but the worst loser in modern British society had a better standard of living than a winner of a century ago.

The key to human development is driving sustainable progress not worrying about who losses out today.

Of course there must be balance because morally we must consider who loses our today. The question is how much do we hamstring the children of tomorrow to help the losers of today.

Langsdorff , 15 Oct 2017 10:06
To war on the Oligarchs is to war on our own nature.
whitman100 , 15 Oct 2017 10:03
The super rich conservative oligarchy, currently running the UK, get away with it because enough of the British people vote against their own economic interest.

Parents, for example, effectively vote for the food to be taken from their children's mouths, converted to cash and given in tax cuts to the super rich conservative elite so they can send their children to £30k a year private schools.

Political economy and political science should be compulsory in primary and secondary school so that the ripping-off of the British people is made obvious through education and ended through democratic revolution.

GKB507 -> Giftshop , 15 Oct 2017 10:02
.. it's scary though.. automation will eliminate the economic support line for many, while companies like Google have eyes and ears in every household.
JamesKeye -> webapalooza , 15 Oct 2017 10:02
Definition of democracy: "a system of government by the whole population or all the eligible members of a state, typically through elected representatives." You are presenting an anti-Democratic party talking point, not an enlightened understanding of subtle political differences. Of course, the intention was a democracy in the USA, as compromised as it was and is. What we are not, and never have been, is an absolute direct democracy -- a form of governance appropriate only to small communities.
dcroteau -> Hibernica , 15 Oct 2017 10:01
Considering that "the people" are not that much more enlightened than they were in ancient Greece, yes it is the will of the people that allowed the US to become an oligarchy.

Considering the voting turnout around 56%, that means that 44% decided that they didn't care whether or not their leader would be a good or a bad one.

That's more than 1 in 3 people who couldn't care less about the outcome of the elections.

So political apathy is the will of the people.

KK47 , 15 Oct 2017 10:00
Oligarchs would fund the creation of a new building or the beautification of a public space.

When I read this I think: why am I reminded of the words 'gentrification' and 'privately-owned public spaces'?

https://www.theguardian.com/cities/2017/sep/26/its-really-shocking-uk-cities-refusing-to-reveal-extent-of-pseudo-public-space

Excerpt from the above link:
the spread of pseudo-public space in London – large squares, parks and thoroughfares that appear to be public but are actually owned and controlled by developers and their private backers

And I'm also reminded of Attlee's great words about the attitudes of oligarchs in general:

http://www.azquotes.com/quote/688837

Excerpt from the above link:
Charity is a cold grey loveless thing. If a rich man wants to help the poor, he should pay his taxes gladly, not dole out money at a whim. - Attlee

J.K. Stevens -> Peter Martin , 15 Oct 2017 10:00
I know that it's just geography but it appears that the 'left coast (west coast) teams (players))' are taking a leadership role in this struggle. Unlike other professional sports systems, the NFL players are at a disadvantage in terms of career length and working conditions (eg, head injuries). I believe they're going to need some outside help (in whatever form) to be successful which doesn't give me hope. There are a bunch of chicken s____ outfits and power players out there at present that, as an example, allowed (contributed) the Executive Branch takeover by a Russian backed interloper.
ID50611L -> Giftshop , 15 Oct 2017 09:58
agree 100%
Sailor25 -> imperium3 , 15 Oct 2017 09:58
You make a good point but in my wide but less than comprehensive knowledge of rapid development often occurrs in periods of oligarchy.

All those mills that drove the industrial revolution, created by oligarchy.

All those armies and aqueducts that drove the Roman Empire, created by oligarchy.

All those libraries and universities that drove Greek learning, funded by the oligarchy.

The great library of Alexandria, oligarchy.

I recognise that it takes a plebeian revolt now and again to get the wealth shared out fairly but the engine that drives the wealth so it can be shared often seem to be oligarchy.

sparkle5nov -> FE Lang , 15 Oct 2017 09:58
Agree! I've been saying for years; cheap fast food, cheap ale and cheap television have replaced religion as the opiate of the people.
ID50611L -> zootsuitbeatnick , 15 Oct 2017 09:57
Trump is using the toolbox created by the Bush & Obama administrations.
Crusty Crab , 15 Oct 2017 09:57
A free educated and honest press may be the answer to a true democracy ?
DolyGarcia -> Hector Hajnal , 15 Oct 2017 09:55
And how do you keep the people informed and educated when the oligarchs control the media?
ID50611L , 15 Oct 2017 09:54
how is it, then, that the wealthy control so much of government? ...consequence of a lap dog media who lick the ass rather than expose and speak the truth to power elites.
TheResult -> J.K. Stevens , 15 Oct 2017 09:53
Now is the right time to ban the National Anthem

Brainwashing jingoist nonsense is a bandwagon platform for wet farts

W.a. Thomaston , 15 Oct 2017 09:50
The captured author/minions have obviously not had full access to the reading room
*And the secret writings of
Part of a small cache of loose leaf scrolls smuggled out of Alexandria before the fire
Last entrusted to a small elite 13th century band of chainsaw wielding warrior...
Comedy writing nuns
Hector Hajnal , 15 Oct 2017 09:49
Is about education, oligarchy wins to ignorant people. In order to have a healthy democracy the people must be informed and educated other wise oligarchies groups will inundate everything with cheap adds, will manipulate and will win control, methinks
Id1649 -> Sailor25 , 15 Oct 2017 09:45
And all brought down when the elites forgot that they were only the top of a pyramid and that they ultimately relied on those below. We at the foot of the monolith can see that the oligarchs serve only themselves so no longer buy into their project. We see that it is one big club and we - unlike our political masters - ain't in it. So empires fall.
MarmaladeMog , 15 Oct 2017 09:45
Sitaraman's colleague sounds worryingly naive.
Sailor25 -> EquilibriaJones , 15 Oct 2017 09:44
True, perhaps that's the beauty of it.

The senators have to supply the bread and circuses the plebs want or out come the pitchforks.

webapalooza , 15 Oct 2017 09:44
The author demonstrates his ignorance of the American system of government. He uses the word "democracy" no less than 8 times, yet American is not a democracy and never has been a democracy. You will find no form of the word "democracy" in any of the founding documents. The Founding Fathers knew very well the dangers of democracies, and so they created the American government as a constitutional republic. Not once does the author mention that; I doubt he even knows what it means, let alone the difference.
NoBets -> imipak , 15 Oct 2017 09:43
If you're complaining because prices are (inevitably) regressive on the "poor" (however defined), what do you say to the obvious retort that this is indeed the main difference between being "poor", being comfortable, being affluent and being rich?

What is the point of working and earning if it isn't aimed at making oneself less "poor" or more affluent?

FrankieOwen -> TheResult , 15 Oct 2017 09:38
Dunno, doesnt appear that they do in the rough parts of Chicago.
furryandrew -> Commem , 15 Oct 2017 09:38
Or as Mayer Amschel Rothschild correctly summed up the situation in 1790 - "Let me issue and control a nation's money and I care not who writes the laws"

What this article fails to draw our attention to , and they never do, is that private banks CREATE 97% of our entire money supply (look up "fractional reserve banking"). Whilst that remains the case the "oligarchy" will always have firm control over the rest of us.

Peter Martin -> J.K. Stevens , 15 Oct 2017 09:36
Wonder what would happen if all players took a knee, if they all stood together then the owners would start to fret.
nhickman -> TheWindsOfWinter93 , 15 Oct 2017 09:32
There was a time when the deadliest military weapon was the longbow. It could only be handled by men who had been trained up since infancy.
It enabled the English to rout a numerically superior French force at Agincourt, 1415.
The notion that the early 15th century was a period of democratic government is an interesting reading of history.
zootsuitbeatnick , 15 Oct 2017 09:32
imo
In the US today, the oligarchy cannot win without an assist from a significant segment -- not necessarily a majority -- of the overall population.
9/11 taught us that many people are willing to give up freedoms for the myth of security.
The Trump presidency is teaching us that many people are willing to give up their voice -- democracy -- for the myth of returning to a perceived better way of life (group superiority over racial, gender, religious, etc equality) from some bygone era.
imo
Newmacfan , 15 Oct 2017 09:30
We are currently experiencing a destabalisation of our nation and fellow Western Nations by the dominant Western Nation to try to halt the failure of this vastly endebted bigger brother......how do we stop this?
J.K. Stevens , 15 Oct 2017 09:28
On this NFL Sunday it is not hard to imagine the secret meetings that owners and/or their representatives had to coalesce against Kaepernick's 'taking a knee' to stop this form of protest in its tracks as a oligarchical institution. On Tuesday, when Dallas Cowboys owner, Jerry Jones declared that any player taking a knee would not play today, the circle of the objective to chill dissent was complete.

And the plutocratic beat goes on.

TheLibrarianApe -> imperium3 , 15 Oct 2017 09:27
Top post.
DrPepperIsNotARealDr , 15 Oct 2017 09:26
Democracy was always like this. What is that famous quote, by Earl Grey or Sandwich or someone, in Parliament, about allowing peasants to have the vote? "I do this, not to weaken our power, but to preserve it"

Democracy in the UK and the US has always been a forum for the oligarchy to resolve their own disputes rather than rule for the people by the people. Brexit is an example, a referendum held essentially because of the split in conservative party.

FE Lang -> zippy200 , 15 Oct 2017 09:25
And conservatives are going to save us all from done minded feel good policies of the left, is that it?
Since the 80's American politics had swing do far to the right liberals are capitalists monied elites, but the right had an army of simple minded uneducated lemmings on thier side, people that will be against thier own personal interests because of 12th century religious horse spit or group think. Thier are more Right winners in State houses, leadership positions then ever before, they control the Congress, the courts, the Presidency and yet dolts like you still say the country is going in the wrong directions and listen to son misters tell you its the fault of the left. Somewhere in your reptilian brain you know this makes no sense, but you lack of depth, you inability to comprehend what you read or to shake free from the group think or right wing ideology will never let you understand that the bet people you vote in time after time are the very ones whom have sold your job to the Chinese, profited from your child's illnesses, war, chaos in some far off land.
Keeping voting Republicans, it's working out so well for you tailer, Nascar types...
BayardDC , 15 Oct 2017 09:21
The article obfuscates a distinction laid out by Aristotle, in The Politics: aristocracy - rule by the few, focused on the common good; and oligarchy - rule by the few (wealthy), focused on their selfish good. He argues that aristocracy, rule by the best, inevitably turns into oligarchy, rule by the wealthy. In Aristotle's three forms of government - rule by one, by few, by many - the three legitimate forms (monarchy, aristocracy, polity) degenerate into their evils twins (tyranny, oligarchy, democracy). For Aristotle, Democracy was not a legitimate form of government, but a corrupted form: mob rule, we might call it. The US Constitution deliberately set out to create a mixed form of government: monarchy (president); aristocracy (Senate and Supreme Court); polity (House of Reps.). From the beginning, Americans have focused on the potential for our "monarch" (president) to turn into a tyrant: Trump is the poster child for a single executive ruling on his own, selfish behalf. We have been less aware of the fact that the Senate has become a simple oligarchy, while the House has degenerated into a bastion of deputies chosen by what Aristotle would have called democracy, that is, a corrupted form of rule by the many. Aristotle's citizens - those who rule and are ruled in turn - can constitute about 10% of the population; in today's US that would mean 20+ million people actively and continuously involved in politics (i.e., not simply showing up every four years to mark a ballot). Millions of Americans have long done such things, and political life remains active at the local level in many areas. On the national level, the Tea Party has shown how this level of enhanced involvement can transform politics, and has further shown that a coherent, organized minority can demolish what we think of as democratic norms. They are about to elect a Senator in Alabama who has twice been removed as a judge on the state's Supreme Court (an elective body), for violations of judicial norms. Here in the US, all three forms of our original government - monarchy, aristocracy, polity - have degenerated into their evil twins. Yes, the wealthy 1% will always game the system in their favor, but until we restore each of the parts of our forma mixta, we can never reduce their advantages to a level consonant with a decent form of society. Under W Bush, the oligarchs got the tax rates (above all on capital gains) reduced to their 1929 levels. That legislation had a time limit, and Obama chose not to continue it: indeed, he raised capital gains rates a further 3.8% [making the rate 23.8% as against the 15% of Bush]. Now, the two greatest goals of the oligarchs are a return to the 15% rate and the abolition of the estate tax, so all of the fantastically rich Baby Boomers (say, Sec'y of Commerce Ross, net worth $2.5 billion) can leave their wealth unencumbered to their heirs, solidifying the oligarchy's control. The Tea Party, through all the yahoos now in the House, can focus on creationism, climate change denial, immigration, etc., while the oligarchs quietly change the tax system to perpetuate their dominance. Over here, we are already in fiscal year 2018 (started on Oct 1), so tax changes would really go into effect in 2019, that is, after the mid-term election. If Mnuchen and Co. get their changes to capital gains rates and other technical loopholes aimed at the 0.1% [sic], and eliminate the estate tax, we'll know that the oligarchs have eliminated any barriers to their collective dictatorship.
TheLibrarianApe -> Commem , 15 Oct 2017 09:20
This is a blindingly excellent article.

What's new is, like this article, we have the vocabulary to frame both the problem and the solution. Oligarchy is no longer inevitable and whilst the means of control are greater, the means for derogation are too and there are fewer oligarchs than plebs.

Its now easier to spot bad behaviour and harder to keep secrets. Oligarchs have to use force more often to hold into power and that tips their hand.

This article has left me (an avowed pessimist) feeling rather more optimistic.

BlueberryMuffin -> zippy200 , 15 Oct 2017 09:17
Liberalism is about freedom. Personal and economic. Not about "proletariat solidarity" and totalitarian Marxist regimes.
FE Lang -> GusDynamite , 15 Oct 2017 09:15
They learned their lessons well after the 60's, the last time the people really raised up against the machine, so they have given us all the; junk food at a low cost, all the TV and mindless sexually charged entertainment, all the "debt wealth", a simple minded, unread, semi-literate, beer swilling fool could ever ask for. And we all gladly gobble it up and follow the crowd, for who wants to be on the outside looking in...
Giftshop , 15 Oct 2017 09:12
There is always a ruling elite because power is the wellspring of all human actions. There is also a certain moral consciousness that many people argue is innate in human nature, and that consciousness is fairness. The fairness instinct survives where ordinary human sympathy may fail. Based upon this basic morality of fairness those of us who are willing to take risks in the interest of fairness need to prune and tend the ruling elites as soon as possible. We proles need to act together.

Democracy is not enough and besides democracy we also need reason, facts,and fighting spirit.

W.a. Thomaston -> awilson5280 , 15 Oct 2017 09:09
As the inventor of the "hydrodaktulopsychicharmonica" once said: " you have a Republic if you can keep it"
amwink -> awilson5280 , 15 Oct 2017 09:06
Sparta was more than just militarism, and slavery was also practised in Athens, as well as in Rome and quite much everywhere else in the ancient world.

Sparta did something that today's democracies have forgotten: it cared about protection of its citizens. That's the most elementary reason why a State exists, not to provide health or education.

Now, regarding a replacement, epistocracy has yet to be tried. And the same democracy, but with census suffrage, or via election of electors, who in turn elect the ones who will hold office, have worked quite well in many places, producing better politicians, less inclined to populism (take the Venetian Republic, for example).

logos00 -> apacheman , 15 Oct 2017 09:05

Waiting for the oligarchy to rot from within isn't what i would call a viable plan. Not when there is a far better and far more sure way to get the job done. Start with capping wealth accumulation.

One must have already broken, or at least sufficiently loosened, the oligarchic grip on politics to institute such a policy.

Here in the UK, things are the darkest they have been in my lifetime, including the Thatcher years, but we are in a moment of possibilities that can lead in opposite directions.

The author is surely right when he says

With all the upheaval in today's politics, it's hard not to think that this moment is one in which the future of the political system might be more up for grabs than it has been in generations.

Dominance of oligarchic political power, through neoliberalism, over the last four decades has effectively put such policies out of bounds.

We had a Labour government that won convincingly under Blair while declaring itself relaxed about the accumulation of great wealth.

richard160458 -> MattSpanner , 15 Oct 2017 09:05
And democracy failed after generations of poor decisions and war
richard160458 , 15 Oct 2017 09:02
Greece had a long period of decline at the hands of democracy. Plato wrote his Republic as a protest, and to put forward an alternative. Eventually the romans took control.

There are indeed parallels with today but given the external challenges I for one believe that western society will be overtaken by q new set of rules.

debt2zero , 15 Oct 2017 09:01
Very good, interesting article. You know, every now & then this paper, for all it's faults, serves up an article that is quite enlightened/ing.

The last one I recall was an article by Kenan Malik on identity politics . For what exists in this country, the UK, I have previously used the term "oligarchy by profession" ... meaning a pool of the usually upper half of the middle class, or a group in whom that group is disproportionally represented, who not only likely have a select education but who go on to become part of certain professions - accountants, lawyers, journalists, bankers, doctors etc. ... and of course, politicians tend to be drawn from these.

And revolving door arrangements is one of the ways this pool retains a certain cohesion, or as in the article "homogeneity in culture and values".

As for division, how many times have I read, "oh, we are so divided .. blah, blah", as though some journalists have an almost unconscious need to promote it.

Interesting article.

GusDynamite , 15 Oct 2017 09:00
Bit too late, really. Not to mention it's super easy to take what they want while we're all so distracted by arguing about who is the most racist misogynist, defending ourselves from the accusations or applauding comic book movies. Apparently we're so distracted that we're also all genuinely shocked that Hollywood is rife with pedophilia and extreme sexual harassment as though it's some revelation that we didn't know already, but that's another conversation.

If we're all so distracted then it's not difficult for our political 'representatives' -- I use that word very tentatively because they barely ever do -- to subject themselves to the oligarchs for a few scraps more than we have ourselves.

Maybe if we didn't bicker like kids we'd beat them.

PhilJoMar -> ConBrio , 15 Oct 2017 08:53
Either you've not read the article attentively enough or your bias is irremediable. Limiting govt still leaves economic power and the tendency towards monopoly untouched. The genetic impulse you mention is a spurious concept in itself. If there were such a genetic impulse we would not have seen such a change as the major advances of women in the last half century. Culture is the key, much more than any genetic impulse, which is practically meaningless and so explains nothing.

As wealth defense is so important to oligarchs, there is a constant pressure to cheat and break the law. One solution therefore is to apply the law but also to construct legislation with specific principles in mind. If the point of tax legislation is to contribute your share towards the general good then those who avoid and evade tax would be guilty of a technical breach but also a breach of the principle.

However our laws are skewed to allowing the wealthy to defend their wealth and so a party of the people is always needed. Always.

Lastly private schooling needs to be looked at. I mean FFS Eton has charitable status!

[Oct 16, 2017] The Guardian by Ganesh Sitaraman

Those who have economic power also have political power. Is this sop difficult to understand.
Notable quotes:
"... The system, in other words, can't really be "rigged" to work for the rich and powerful unless the people are at least willing to accept a government of the rich and powerful. If the general public opposes rule-by-economic-elites, how is it, then, that the wealthy control so much of government? ..."
"... To prevent this occurrence, ancient Greek elites developed institutions and practices to keep themselves united. Among other things, they passed sumptuary laws, preventing extravagant displays of their wealth that might spark jealously, and they used the secret ballot and consensus building practices to ensure that decisions didn't lead to greater conflict within their cadre. ..."
"... While the ruling class must remain united for an oligarchy to remain in power, the people must also be divided so they cannot overthrow their oppressors. Oligarchs in ancient Greece thus used a combination of coercion and co-optation to keep democracy at bay. They gave rewards to informants and found pliable citizens to take positions in the government. ..."
"... These collaborators legitimized the regime and gave oligarchs beachheads into the people. In addition, oligarchs controlled public spaces and livelihoods to prevent the people from organizing. They would expel people from town squares: a diffuse population in the countryside would be unable to protest and overthrow government as effectively as a concentrated group in the city. ..."
"... They also tried to keep ordinary people dependent on individual oligarchs for their economic survival, similar to how mob bosses in the movies have paternalistic relationships in their neighborhoods. Reading Simonton's account, it is hard not to think about how the fragmentation of our media platforms is a modern instantiation of dividing the public sphere, or how employees and workers are sometimes chilled from speaking out. ..."
"... Oligarchs would fund the creation of a new building or the beautification of a public space. The result: the people would appreciate elite spending on those projects and the upper class would get their names memorialized for all time. After all, who could be against oligarchs who show such generosity? ..."
"... To understand that, we can turn to an instant classic from a few years ago, Jeffrey Winters' Oligarchy. Winters argues that the key to oligarchy is that a set of elites have enough material resources to spend on securing their status and interests. He calls this "wealth defense," and divides it into two categories. "Property defense" involves protecting existing property – in the old days, this meant building castles and walls, today it involves the rule of law. "Income defense" is about protecting earnings; these days, that means advocating for low taxes. ..."
"... The challenge in seeing how oligarchy works, Winters says, is that we don't normally think about the realms of politics and economics as fused together. At its core, oligarchy involves concentrating economic power and using it for political purposes. Democracy is vulnerable to oligarchy because democrats focus so much on guaranteeing political equality that they overlook the indirect threat that emerges from economic inequality. ..."
"... Winters argues that there are four kinds of oligarchies, each of which pursues wealth defense through different institutions. These oligarchies are categorized based on whether the oligarchs rule is personal or collective, and whether the oligarchs use coercion. ..."
"... Simonton offers another solution. He argues that democracy defeated oligarchy in ancient Greece because of "oligarchic breakdown." Oligarchic institutions are subject to rot and collapse, as are any other kind of institution. As the oligarchs' solidarity and practices start to break down, there is an opportunity for democracy to bring government back to the people. ..."
"... Even with compulsory voting Australia still funnels votes to those we don't want to elect in the form of transferable 1st pass the post single member electorates. True democracy would grant proportional representation, and allow citizen initiated binding referenda. ..."
"... By these measures you could say America has been an oligarchy from its very conception. Look at the robber-barons of the 19th c. There are occasional "raisings of the veil" such as new deal or great society when the general public gets a fair go. The industrial boom of ww2 is what gave the working class a shot at living a decent life - and of course offshoring industry is precisely closing that door again. ..."
"... Tens of millions of Americans waited patiently for a Dem candidate to talk about our stacked decks, D.C. swamps, and broken systems -- instead, they gave us a Hillary coronation and expected us to embrace the pantsuit. ..."
"... After university econ training, and a long business career, I now consider education a terrible thing. Knowing what I know now about how our systems really work, when I observe our Congressional leaders looking into the camera with point-blank lies day in and day out, I feel they deserve execution; literally, I am feeling like heads should roll. ..."
"... In America, oligarchs win when Dems are center right (in practice, not rhetoric) and are sold out to the oligarchs. Case in point, HC. There is no counterbalance to those who are even further to the right. Oligarchs win without a legit 3rd party. ..."
"... Obama and the Dems lost 1,000 elected positions before Trump came along. It's because he sold out to the big banks. ..."
"... Small D Democrats. Not big D Democrats. The Clintons are clearly in the oligarch class, much like Trump. It is rather hilarious to hear Trump supporters talk about how he cares for the poor. ..."
"... Oligarchic institutions are subject to rot and collapse, as are any other kind of institution. As the oligarchs' solidarity and practices start to break down, there is an opportunity for democracy to bring government back to the people. In that moment, the people might unite for long enough that their protests lead to power. With all the upheaval in today's politics, it's hard not to think that this moment is one in which the future of the political system might be more up for grabs than it has been in generations. ..."
"... It never ceases to amaze me how Americans delude themselves into thinking that they live in a democracy. ..."
"... They don't come by it naturally. Their delusion is pushed along by very well oiled propaganda machines, probably mostly financed by the taxpayers themselves. ..."
"... Can't recommend Requiem For The American Dream highly enough, absolutely required viewing for anyone wishing to understand the mockery of democracy under which we live. ..."
Oct 15, 2017 | www.theguardian.com

A few years ago, as I was doing research for a book on how economic inequality threatens democracy, a colleague of mine asked if America was really at risk of becoming an oligarchy. Our political system, he said, is a democracy. If the people don't want to be run by wealthy elites, we can just vote them out.

The system, in other words, can't really be "rigged" to work for the rich and powerful unless the people are at least willing to accept a government of the rich and powerful. If the general public opposes rule-by-economic-elites, how is it, then, that the wealthy control so much of government?

The question was a good one, and while I had my own explanations, I didn't have a systematic answer. Luckily, two recent books do. Oligarchy works, in a word, because of institutions.

In his fascinating and insightful book Classical Greek Oligarchy, Matthew Simonton takes us back to the ancient world, where the term oligarchy was coined. One of the primary threats to oligarchy was that the oligarchs would become divided, and that one from their number would defect, take leadership of the people, and overthrow the oligarchy.

To prevent this occurrence, ancient Greek elites developed institutions and practices to keep themselves united. Among other things, they passed sumptuary laws, preventing extravagant displays of their wealth that might spark jealously, and they used the secret ballot and consensus building practices to ensure that decisions didn't lead to greater conflict within their cadre.

Appropriately for a scholar of the classics, Simonton focuses on these specific ancient practices in detail. But his key insight is that elites in power need solidarity if they are to stay in power. Unity might come from personal relationships, trust, voting practices, or – as is more likely in today's meritocratic era – homogeneity in culture and values from running in the same limited circles.

The ruling class must remain united for an oligarchy to remain in power

While the ruling class must remain united for an oligarchy to remain in power, the people must also be divided so they cannot overthrow their oppressors. Oligarchs in ancient Greece thus used a combination of coercion and co-optation to keep democracy at bay. They gave rewards to informants and found pliable citizens to take positions in the government.

These collaborators legitimized the regime and gave oligarchs beachheads into the people. In addition, oligarchs controlled public spaces and livelihoods to prevent the people from organizing. They would expel people from town squares: a diffuse population in the countryside would be unable to protest and overthrow government as effectively as a concentrated group in the city.

They also tried to keep ordinary people dependent on individual oligarchs for their economic survival, similar to how mob bosses in the movies have paternalistic relationships in their neighborhoods. Reading Simonton's account, it is hard not to think about how the fragmentation of our media platforms is a modern instantiation of dividing the public sphere, or how employees and workers are sometimes chilled from speaking out.

The most interesting discussion is how ancient oligarchs used information to preserve their regime. They combined secrecy in governance with selective messaging to targeted audiences, not unlike our modern spinmasters and communications consultants. They projected power through rituals and processions.

At the same time, they sought to destroy monuments that were symbols of democratic success. Instead of public works projects, dedicated in the name of the people, they relied on what we can think of as philanthropy to sustain their power. Oligarchs would fund the creation of a new building or the beautification of a public space. The result: the people would appreciate elite spending on those projects and the upper class would get their names memorialized for all time. After all, who could be against oligarchs who show such generosity?

An assistant professor of history at Arizona State University, Simonton draws heavily on insights from social science and applies them well to dissect ancient practices. But while he recognizes that ancient oligarchies were always drawn from the wealthy, a limitation of his work is that he focuses primarily on how oligarchs perpetuated their political power, not their economic power.

To understand that, we can turn to an instant classic from a few years ago, Jeffrey Winters' Oligarchy. Winters argues that the key to oligarchy is that a set of elites have enough material resources to spend on securing their status and interests. He calls this "wealth defense," and divides it into two categories. "Property defense" involves protecting existing property – in the old days, this meant building castles and walls, today it involves the rule of law. "Income defense" is about protecting earnings; these days, that means advocating for low taxes.

The challenge in seeing how oligarchy works, Winters says, is that we don't normally think about the realms of politics and economics as fused together. At its core, oligarchy involves concentrating economic power and using it for political purposes. Democracy is vulnerable to oligarchy because democrats focus so much on guaranteeing political equality that they overlook the indirect threat that emerges from economic inequality.

Winters argues that there are four kinds of oligarchies, each of which pursues wealth defense through different institutions. These oligarchies are categorized based on whether the oligarchs rule is personal or collective, and whether the oligarchs use coercion.

Warring oligarchies, like warlords, are personal and armed. Ruling oligarchies like the mafia are collective and armed. In the category of unarmed oligarchies, sultanistic oligarchies (like Suharto's Indonesia) are governed through personal connections. In civil oligarchies, governance is collective and enforced through laws, rather than by arms.

Democracy defeated oligarchy in ancient Greece because of 'oligarchic breakdown.'

With this typology behind him, Winters declares that America is already a civil oligarchy. To use the language of recent political campaigns, our oligarchs try to rig the system to defend their wealth. They focus on lowering taxes and on reducing regulations that protect workers and citizens from corporate wrongdoing.

They build a legal system that is skewed to work in their favor, so that their illegal behavior rarely gets punished. And they sustain all of this through a campaign finance and lobbying system that gives them undue influence over policy. In a civil oligarchy, these actions are sustained not at the barrel of the gun or by the word of one man, but through the rule of law.

If oligarchy works because its leaders institutionalize their power through law, media, and political rituals, what is to be done? How can democracy ever gain the upper hand? Winters notes that political power depends on economic power. This suggests that one solution is creating a more economically equal society.

The problem, of course, is that if the oligarchs are in charge, it isn't clear why they would pass policies that would reduce their wealth and make society more equal. As long as they can keep the people divided, they have little to fear from the occasional pitchfork or protest.

Indeed, some commentators have suggested that the economic equality of the late 20 th century was exceptional because two World Wars and a Great Depression largely wiped out the holdings of the extremely wealthy. On this story, there isn't much we can do without a major global catastrophe.

Simonton offers another solution. He argues that democracy defeated oligarchy in ancient Greece because of "oligarchic breakdown." Oligarchic institutions are subject to rot and collapse, as are any other kind of institution. As the oligarchs' solidarity and practices start to break down, there is an opportunity for democracy to bring government back to the people.

In that moment, the people might unite for long enough that their protests lead to power. With all the upheaval in today's politics, it's hard not to think that this moment is one in which the future of the political system might be more up for grabs than it has been in generations.

The question is whether democracy will emerge from oligarchic breakdown – or whether the oligarchs will just strengthen their grasp on the levers of government.

Ganesh Sitaraman is the author of The Crisis of the Middle-Class Constitution

curiouswes -> antdog , 16 Oct 2017 00:37

I think the USA is a republic and not a democracy. I also think the distinction isn't a subtle one. Many think we'd be better off as a democracy. I don't. In a democracy, the majority rules. That means when you are in the minority, you don't have a say. The electoral college prevents the larger states from squeezing out the smaller states. However some don't think that is necessarily a problem. Urban life is very different from rural life and we can't make all of the rules based on urban life.
hardmoney -> trundlesome1 , 16 Oct 2017 00:27
They're too busy being distracted with Bread and Circuses.
gregwani , 16 Oct 2017 00:24
Whilst the suggestion of "creating a more economically equal society" is obviously desirable, it's not exactly a practical recommendation against the context of the rest of the article.

Herein lies the key: "...they sustain all of this through a campaign finance and lobbying system that gives them undue influence over policy."

Possible solution? No vote; no donation.

Curtail corporate funding of political parties, Super PACs, Unions, etc. and have election campaigns financed from public funds ONLY. If you can't vote as an individual person/citizen, you can't contribute.

This would remove a big barrier to reform - lobbyists and political patronage - and ensure that elected leaders are unshackled, with the freedom to govern based on evidence-based policy and long-term planning rather than just rewarding the corporate elite who put them there.

BrunoForestier -> Hypatia415 , 16 Oct 2017 00:19
Even with compulsory voting Australia still funnels votes to those we don't want to elect in the form of transferable 1st pass the post single member electorates. True democracy would grant proportional representation, and allow citizen initiated binding referenda.
BrunoForestier -> FLanzy61 , 16 Oct 2017 00:12
White nationalism wasn't necessary when you were 90% of the population - it has only emerged with the mass immigration era, when socially engineered policies threaten to make you a minority in your own nation-state. (yes, I am aware that the indigenous population was here first and was disposessed - but America the nation state was clearly built predominantly on European settlement)

There used to be an effective form of identity politics - based on working class common interest - that brought a high standard of living to most people (even the oppressed Black minority). It is the splitting of that identity that has allowed the neoliberals to sideline class as a divider of common interest.

curiouswes -> nonsensefactory , 16 Oct 2017 00:07
regarding (1): not sure it is feasible and I don't think we should do it if it is. The market is a weird animal imho. Both the hedgers and the speculators can drive a market share price up or down and contrary to popular opinion, I don't believe the speculators are to blame when a company does well. A lot of people got financially devastated because they had holdings in Enron. I wouldn't want to punish those investors even further because they invested in a bad company.

regarding (2): I agree. The concept of globalism is a good concept. However the way it is being implemented isn't.

regarding (3): Again I agree. Most of the regular posters who agree with the media nonsense don't post on articles like this one because a paid troll sticks out like a sore thumb on articles like this.

BrunoForestier , 16 Oct 2017 00:00
By these measures you could say America has been an oligarchy from its very conception. Look at the robber-barons of the 19th c. There are occasional "raisings of the veil" such as new deal or great society when the general public gets a fair go. The industrial boom of ww2 is what gave the working class a shot at living a decent life - and of course offshoring industry is precisely closing that door again.
functor , 15 Oct 2017 23:56
I am not an expert on Greek history but wouldn't the example of Alcibiades suggest that when an oligarchy falls-- due to war and plague in the case of Athens -- dangerous demagogues who break away from the same oligarchy ride the "democratic" wave and cause even more misery like the idiotic invasion of Sicily? Weren't the democratic people-- the landless poor of Athens-- more inclined to war at that point than the oligarchs? In some sense aren't we seeing what happens when a member of the oligarchy breaks away in present day U.S-- Trump rode a populist wave that was very democratic and people powered-- and where has that got us? Sometimes true democracy can be a messy and frightening affair.

I offer no defense of oligarchies, but the older I get, the more I wonder whether democracy of the people, by the people, is really for ALL the people.

Take Brexit, Trump, or for a more remote example, the Fascist inspired Hindu right wingers in India. All of them are in many ways a truer representation of the voice of the people, but that voice is so ugly, so exclusionary, so narrow, that one might be forgiven to want the sedate stability of an oligarchy back.

Bewareofnazihippies -> ChesBay , 15 Oct 2017 23:55
I'm afraid I have to agree. When thinking on these issues, I have a recurring mental image, it's the crowd scene at Brian's window, in the greatest cinematic example of satire, Life of Brian.

Brian -"You are all individuals. You are all different! "

The crowd -"YES! WE ARE ALL INDIVIDUALS! WE ARE ALL DIFFERENT! "

Man -"I'm not"

The crowd -"Ssh! Ssh! "

antdog -> sejong , 15 Oct 2017 23:41
......ahhh, reclining in the facetious lounge; unfortunately, this amusement left us with a candidate ignoring the masses of the American population opening the door for Trump.

Tens of millions of Americans waited patiently for a Dem candidate to talk about our stacked decks, D.C. swamps, and broken systems -- instead, they gave us a Hillary coronation and expected us to embrace the pantsuit.

Meanwhile, tens of millions then voted for Trump, knowing point-blank he was lying; they happily voluntarily deceive themselves (current/active); how sad is this reality ?

mrkris -> TragicomedyBeholder , 15 Oct 2017 23:40
As someone already said, instead of treating poor people unequally well, why not treat rich people the same as everyone else- don't let them hide their money from the taxman, don't give the rich unfair breaks and handouts
curiouswes -> SoAmerican , 15 Oct 2017 23:40

Do you think that is going to inspire Americans to get out and vote?

When the choice for the most powerful office in the world comes down to a choice between Donald J Trump and Hillary R Clinton (who were friends before the election started), I tend to think that our problem is not due to voter apathy, but rather voter apathy is due to our problem.

Those who still participate, still think this is all about the left vs the right because they think they still have a choice. They do. they get to choose between neoliberalism and fascism.

Alex Cardosa -> koikoi , 15 Oct 2017 23:38
The way its always been done. At the end of a pike. The rest is just fantasy.
antdog -> boilingriver , 15 Oct 2017 23:31
After university econ training, and a long business career, I now consider education a terrible thing. Knowing what I know now about how our systems really work, when I observe our Congressional leaders looking into the camera with point-blank lies day in and day out, I feel they deserve execution; literally, I am feeling like heads should roll.

Our systems have been hijacked, and the interests of the masses of our populations are being completely ignored--what should be the penalty for selling out, via acute sophisticated engineering, the population of an entire nation ?

hardmoney -> boilingriver , 15 Oct 2017 23:30
"Start demanding some laws for them to follow that has some teeth when they lie to us."

Pretty difficult when the criminals are in charge of lawmaking.

hardmoney -> boilingriver , 15 Oct 2017 23:30
"Start demanding some laws for them to follow that has some teeth when they lie to us."

Pretty difficult when the criminals are in charge of lawmaking.

PGNEWC -> SoAmerican , 15 Oct 2017 23:30
I dont think its a belief in 2 parties but a belief in a type of fixed yin and yang that drives this

Opposites like Good v Evil , the Unknown Others (like Foreigners) v the known (your Family /Friends ) etc . We see things as Either/Or because it is the simplest way of making sense of our world. But the world is far more complex and nuanced than this and there are degrees of rightness and wrongness and we as you say take on board the whole rigid structure of one side or the other -- it plays right into the oligarchs hands

Bewareofnazihippies -> peter nelson , 15 Oct 2017 23:18
Your instant dismissal of zaarth's point of view is the essential problem of modern democracy - casual demeaning and disregarding attitude from the ruling elites towards an informed citizen expressing concerns of inequality and systemic concentration of political power to the oligarchs.

Typical.

There maybe no political will to address these issues, but there sure as hell is plenty of social will! As for your last sentence "- So redistributionist policies have no future. ", well, considering that we've had 40years of global wealth being redistributed to the 1%, it's about time it was spread around a bit more equitably, don't you think?

Be Gold , 15 Oct 2017 23:02
In America, oligarchs win when Dems are center right (in practice, not rhetoric) and are sold out to the oligarchs. Case in point, HC. There is no counterbalance to those who are even further to the right. Oligarchs win without a legit 3rd party.
koikoi , 15 Oct 2017 22:39
A article. A case in point - Iceland, where the elite owns the fishing fleet and controls the financial industry, whereas the majority of the population barely scrape by. People are furious but how do you overturn centuries of oligarch 'rule and law'?
vr13vr -> Dave514 , 15 Oct 2017 22:38
Disagree. "Why" is always a question. If you don't know and understand "why," the original intent of a law, you can't interpret and apply it properly. As a result, it gets perverted to the point that it does no longer make sense. We have plenty of examples in the US.

Without why you can't adapt to the changing environment either.

vr13vr -> Wolframite , 15 Oct 2017 22:35
But how successfully? And with how much resources, compared to various industrial and other deep pocket lobbies?
franklin100 -> kizbot , 15 Oct 2017 22:34
Yes, it's the same wherever people keep their mouth shut to keep their job. That's the corrosive effect of corruption.
hardmoney -> SoAmerican , 15 Oct 2017 22:31
Do you know how small the odds are to get a large group of people to rally (or vote) around a cause? This is why grassroots have a low success rate. The founding fathers certainly knew how small the odds are and gave the people a bone they naively believed to be useful and powerful; the right to vote. It is one of the biggest cons played on the people and has managed to keep the natives quiet and complacent, while the elite and powerful do their bidding.
franklin100 -> Nada89 , 15 Oct 2017 22:30
As the joke goes, I welcome our new oligarch overlord. Yes, most likely one fallen oligarch will be replaced by another.
kyoung21b -> helenus , 15 Oct 2017 22:09
The ones that rob you blind, wantonly if they're called republicans and apologetically if they're called democrats.
franklin100 -> Bewareofnazihippies , 15 Oct 2017 22:06
To get back to the argument about the oligarchs buying collaborators, everybody who keeps their mouth shut to keep their job falls into that category. So that's the majority in work.
boilingriver -> antdog , 15 Oct 2017 22:06
That's why i want to go after the politicians and bypass their evil, selfish, stupid pawns they are encouraging right now.

Start demanding some laws for them to follow that has some teeth when they lie to us.
They want to sanction Russia who was just repeating what republican/tea party had been saying.

antdog , 15 Oct 2017 21:58
"A loophole in American tax law permits companies with just 20 percent foreign ownership to reincorporate abroad, which means that if a big U.S. firm acquires a smaller company located in a tax haven, it can then "invert" – that is, become a subsidiary of its foreign-based affiliate – and kiss a huge share of its IRS obligations goodbye.........Over the next decade, corporate inversions could cost the U.S. Treasury nearly $20 billion" Rolling Stone

*******

They made this legal, folks, and it's just the tip of the iceburg. Meanwhile, not a peep (cricket, cricket, cricket.....)

sejong -> thenthelightningwill , 15 Oct 2017 21:56
As Putin said, when a spring is compressed all the way to its limit, it will snap back hard.

Trump caught that wave perfectly. Clinton was wading in the kiddie pool.

franklin100 -> MoonMoth , 15 Oct 2017 21:54
Corporate lobbyists have so much more wealth than the incomes of individual politicians, that is their political salary, that they are all bought not so much with brown envelopes but with jobs like Osborne's, a day's work a month for Blackrock for which he is paid £650k a year. It's so obviously not a payment for what will be done as for what has been done.
HistoryHacker , 15 Oct 2017 21:53
Thought provoking and excellent comments that should be read before opining. As for my opinion, it seems that communism was left out when it might just be the answer to a conundrum that seems unresolvable. Uniformity of wealth within reason (the rule of seven times) can be achieved and sustained. But that requires education which again, can be achieved and sustained. That is, if we don't blow ourselves to smithereens before we achieve such a heightened state which after all should be a...normal?!
thenthelightningwill -> sejong , 15 Oct 2017 21:51
Obama and the Dems lost 1,000 elected positions before Trump came along. It's because he sold out to the big banks. We don't need two Wall St. parties. Until the Dems learn to respect their voters and do things like support single payer, this is all we get.
sejong -> antdog , 15 Oct 2017 21:49
Debbie Wasserman's decide our candidates, thus, our elections.

You make a good point. DWS and HRC: it's all their fault that Trump is president.

antdog -> Will D , 15 Oct 2017 21:48
......whaaaa ? You mean to tell me coronation is not true democracy ?

I need to upchuck.

SoAmerican , 15 Oct 2017 21:47
The primary institution that drives oligarchy in the US is the "two party system". It is not enshrined in the Constitution. It is purely the working of the political class. The people need to quit believing that there can only be two parties.
antdog -> boilingriver , 15 Oct 2017 21:45
The spin and brainwash are now far, far more powerful than the 1960's.

How else do you explain tens of millions of formerly hardworking middle class, now on the outside looking in (with their adult children), continuing to wave the flag, with a large smile on their faces, all the way to the poorhouse day in and day out--and not even a peep?

SoAmerican -> zzoetrope , 15 Oct 2017 21:44
Honestly though, it becomes more undemocratic when people rag on it sy as you have done above. Do you think that is going to inspire Americans to get out and vote? What you don't understand, or maybe you do too well, is that the biggest threat to democracy in the US is apathy. When you present it as such a situation that there is no reprieve, then why should they vote?
Will D -> Andrew Stronto , 15 Oct 2017 21:35
As the article points out the oligarchs use selected messaging, which includes anti-left propaganda and misinformation. So the result is that any political movement that is left of centre (and the centre has shifted quite a lot to the right in the last few decades) is made to seem like hard-core socialism or even communism.

When you look at the policies from Bernie Sanders in the USA and Jeremy Corbyn in the UK, and see how they've been attacked by the right-wing media, but when you put them into the perspective of the policies of the 60' and 70's they aren't even particularly left-wing. Most would have been described as centrist policies.

The oligarchs have succeeded in moving the goal posts to the right and made centrist policies seem dangerously left-wing.

Will D -> Tom Wessel , 15 Oct 2017 21:27
They don't overlook it because they have been bought by it. Today's 'democrats' are complicit, and rely on it for their post-political income.
nonsensefactory , 15 Oct 2017 21:26
Modern oligarchs owe their political and economic power to a variety of structures and systems, such as:
(1) The limited-liability, shareholder-controlled corporation, designed to maximize profits for the shareholders while protecting them from the consequences of their actions (why can't one sue the shareholders of ExxonMobil for the actions of the company that they control?)

(2) The global neoliberal 'free-trade' unlimited-capital-flow system, which allows oligarchs to pit nation-states and workers against one another in a race to the bottom for the lowest wages and pollution and safety standards - a system promoted by both Democratic and Republican parties in the United States, which has boosted profits for oligarchs and destroyed the middle class.

(3) The monopolistic tightly-controlled corporate media system, which promotes the interests of the oligarchs who own and control it, setting the narrative played out across television, radio, print media and much of the Internet to the overall population in a remarkably coordinated fashion - such that most 'media' serves to distract or deceive the public, rather than to inform.

There are no doubt others - such as tax codes that allow the rich to accumulate vast wealth, while stripping wealth from poor people and the middle class - but those are among the most important factors.

SoAmerican -> Tom Wessel , 15 Oct 2017 21:23
Small D Democrats. Not big D Democrats. The Clintons are clearly in the oligarch class, much like Trump. It is rather hilarious to hear Trump supporters talk about how he cares for the poor.
boilingriver , 15 Oct 2017 21:19
Oligarchic institutions are subject to rot and collapse, as are any other kind of institution. As the oligarchs' solidarity and practices start to break down, there is an opportunity for democracy to bring government back to the people.

In that moment, the people might unite for long enough that their protests lead to power. With all the upheaval in today's politics, it's hard not to think that this moment is one in which the future of the political system might be more up for grabs than it has been in generations.

It always takes a revolution/ protest from the people to throw out the political corruption and then the rich just start again.
Until we get some laws that they have to follow and serious jail time when they do not, we will not have decent people to choose from. The reason we have such crappy choices is this is the only job in the world where you can lie and cheat to your boss (us) and face no serious consequences.

robinaldlowrise , 15 Oct 2017 21:02
It's difficult to see how Ancient Greece fits into either of those narratives if Aristotle's conclusions from his contemporary, careful, empirical (yes, really) investigations of the whole range of political variants present in Ancient Greece entered into their analyses. For a start, even in political units as small as a city-state, he rates democracy as a degenerate form of government (albeit the best of all three degenerate forms) that naturally tends towards oligarchy (another degenerate form), though – give or take some refinement of concepts involved – a proper mix of both results in the best form of "rule by the many", namely "polity", in an over-all ranking of forms of government by good or "correctness" that is topped by monarchy and tailed by tyranny.

Getting in to all this while not falling victim to the modern trigger word syndrome requires significantly greater subtlety of thought than seems to be deployed by either of the authors under consideration, though how much of their analyses has slipped by the author of this piece is unknowable on the basis of the evidence here available. Have any of the trio even considered a Ancient Ryanair trip to Ancient Greece for a third millennium looksee?

Andrew Stronto -> Hypatia415 , 15 Oct 2017 20:55
The oligarchs best work is done through divide and conquer and should they ultimately be truly threatened then they will prevail through an order out of chaos of their own creation. Most issues you mention like the widening gap between the rich and poor, climate change.. yada yada are engineered to fracture society to make us all easier to control. Oh and they love to stamp their handy work so keep an "eye" out for them !
Tom Wessel , 15 Oct 2017 20:53
" Democracy is vulnerable to oligarchy because democrats focus so much on guaranteeing political equality that they overlook the indirect threat that emerges from economic inequality . "

Hog wash! They know where the money is and they want it transferred into their pockets. And if some of that money trickles down to the less fortunate, they surely will take credit for it. The Clintons didn't become multi-millionaires by concentrating on inequality.

Roderick Llewellyn -> boilingriver , 15 Oct 2017 20:51
I suspect the article's Author, when he said "democrats" (notice lower case) was not referring to the political party the Democrats (upper case). He meant any who advocate for an increase in democracy. This presumably overlaps with the Democratic Party, but by no means is congruent to it.
Tom Wessel -> helenus , 15 Oct 2017 20:46
They are the ones that always have a smile on their faces and constantly give to charities from the monies they exploited from the ignorant masses. Then in retaliation, the masses put them on pedestals. It's a very simply routine. Wash, rinse and repeat.
boilingriver , 15 Oct 2017 20:43
Democracy is vulnerable to oligarchy because democrats focus so much on guaranteeing political equality that they overlook the indirect threat that emerges from economic inequality.

The Dem voters do not overlook that. To be fair the Dem politicians do look at economic policy. Affordable health care using the rich taxes, environment, clean drinking water and making CO responsible. Just look at what trump tea/party are dismantling. Dems are also for increasing min wage. They should do better, but they are not as worthless as republicans. The republicans work for the rich not us.

I find it strange that you never called out the republicans actions, just the Dems. The republicans are the ones putting in the policies/laws that are cementing the riches power and making our lives worse.

Hypatia415 , 15 Oct 2017 20:42
A very deep and timely article given that oligarchies threaten the very survival of our world. Think the widening gap between the rich and poor, climate change, environmental degradation, war and the mass movements of people fleeing all of the above.
Even with democracy and compulsory ballots in Australia voters still believe their best interests lie with the representatives of the oligarchs, the banks, financial services and transnational corporations.
Mercurey -> TragicomedyBeholder , 15 Oct 2017 20:41
Demonstrably not the case when one looks at successful periods of progressive policies such Butkers Education act. The idea that the fruits of life are distributed according to talent & effort is a grim joke that can be dismissed out of hand.

Social privilege repeats itself & counteracting that is a moral duty. As is exposing the myths that justify it.

RobertLlDavies -> peter nelson , 15 Oct 2017 20:29
You haven't got a clue. have you. I've spent years recruiting people into unions in small unorganised workplaces, where employers do their best to victimise anyone who tries to form a union. Many people are either afraid of joining a union - or they have no idea what unions do, except for the rubbish printed about in the anti-union papers (viz. most of them). I'm happy to say that, in the end, we succeed in enabling workers to get together in many workplaces to defend and improve their lot at work. I live in a traditional working class area, near many unionised and non-unionised workplaces. Whate about you? How many ordinary workers have you ever discussed these matters with? How many trades unionists?
stanphillips , 15 Oct 2017 20:28
Read the "Iron Heel" by Jack London" for a description of an extreme oligarchy set in the USA of the early twentieth century. The book is a narrative by the wife and partner of the main male character Ernest Everhard (interesting name I know). Some of Everhard's descriptions of what London saw as consolidation of the American oligarchs are succinct and chilling. If you haven't read it then it really demonstrates in a fictional sense how long the concept of modern oligarchies have been around:
http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/1164
hardmoney -> zzoetrope , 15 Oct 2017 20:19
"It never ceases to amaze me how Americans delude themselves into thinking that they live in a democracy."

They don't come by it naturally. Their delusion is pushed along by very well oiled propaganda machines, probably mostly financed by the taxpayers themselves.

zzoetrope , 15 Oct 2017 20:14

Our political system, he said, is a democracy. If the people don't want to be run by wealthy elites, we can just vote them out.

It never ceases to amaze me how Americans delude themselves into thinking that they live in a democracy. The US executive, arguable the most powerful collection of people in the world, is substantially un-elected. Only the President stands for election and he's not elected by the people but by an undemocratic electoral college; Hilary Clinton received the most votes and lost the election.

The rest of the Executive aren't elected, they're appointed and you can't "just vote them out".

Then there's Congress where electorates are so gerrymandered that in the vast majority of cases the results are foregone conclusions; national elections are decided in a few "swinging" seats. Congress is also corrupted by the dependence of the system on massive donations, by lobbyists, and vested interests.

Of the world's democracies, the Unites States must be one of the least democratic.

hardmoney , 15 Oct 2017 20:08
And the Oscar goes to America, land of the free and milk and honey; created, propagandized and brought to you by the Hollywood tv and film industry for the last 100 years.
skydolphinattakforce , 15 Oct 2017 20:05
in America the 2 partys pretty much control the election and they are both part of the oligarchy. so I don't think theres much hope for the U.S.
PennyCarter -> RBHoughton , 15 Oct 2017 20:02
I recently read an essay where the American political system is likened to a rodeo. The bull is the voting public being ridden by the oligarchs. If the oligarch falls off the bull the bull is distracted by the rodeo clown (the president) until he can get back on the bull.
Tom Wessel -> Manacatsaman , 15 Oct 2017 19:57
" I personally wonder,... just how much longer this level of stupidity will persist. "

Probably well into the disaster of global warming.

Tom Wessel -> peter nelson , 15 Oct 2017 19:53
" Who exactly are the oligarchs? Do you think that they know that they are oligarchs? "

I doubt a pervert or rapist looks at himself as such.

gerryinoz , 15 Oct 2017 19:52
Who are our oligarchs and who do they finance, lobby, influence and control in Canberra?
The law. The fucking law is mainly for the very wealthy or influential, not for grafters like me.
Still, all in all, in Oz we have a labor party that gave us decent wages, Medicare and super.I think our oligarchs are greedy bastards but not as severe as the American, Russian or Arab oligarchs. The French knew how to deal with theirs in the 18th century and a couple of ours could do with that treatment.
desertrat49 -> GimmeHendrix , 15 Oct 2017 19:51
As Socrates was forever doing...if we do not define our terms, we quickly end up in the weeds. Britain is King in Parliament (badly corrupted under Victoria!) and America is a Plutocratic Republic!...No Democracy intended...or delivered...but much mythologized none the less!
Tom Wessel -> aldebaranredstar , 15 Oct 2017 19:51
"kind of like taking a knee ...we shouldn't be pursuing niche interest anymore."

Police brutality is a "niche" Issue? I can see you haven't met a Brown Shirt you didn't like.

RBHoughton , 15 Oct 2017 19:51
The American people cannot vote out the oligarchs because they make the rules of the game and the electorate must comply. The author seems to suppose there is a democracy operating on this planet when the nearest we have approached that ideal is the supposedly representative democracies of numerous countries.

One of the features that reinforce the oligarchy in power in USA is the agenda of the nine Supreme Court judges who approved 'Citizens United' and assured the oligarchs that the man with the money would call the shots.

Another important point that does not surface in this article is the 600BC institution, jointly with democracy, of theatre. That allowed playwrights to present the naive electorate with plays enacting the hard choices that citizens would have to make now they were responsible for their own government. There is a group of greats scholars on the BBC's 2014 series "Guilty Pleasures" who discuss and approve this point.

JosephCamilleri -> Sailor25 , 15 Oct 2017 19:49
On balance over thousands of years some rich bastards made some good decisions? How scientific of you. Not so much a logical argument as a watery fart.
Bewareofnazihippies , 15 Oct 2017 19:48
Please Guardian, don't close this comments section too soon.
This topic truly goes to the heart of why so much of humanity's failings of governance and stewardship of the Earth is so malevolent.
The quality of the responses highlight that many readers recognize that this is THE issue that underlies so many of our existing problems.
Tom Wessel , 15 Oct 2017 19:48
" Ancient Greek elites developed institutions and practices to keep themselves united. "

Nothing couldn't be more relevant then the Guardian running Hillary Clinton articles. Saw at least 3 on the front page right now. Let's keep the elite neoliberals in power.

desertrat49 -> TallulahD , 15 Oct 2017 19:46
Like I said elsewhere, one has to first define citizenship and who has the franchise before one gets too carried away by talk of Democracy!
JosephCamilleri -> Amanzim , 15 Oct 2017 19:44
There are democracies and "democracies". India has a ruling class that rules for its class, so not really that democratic. India isn't USA, USA isn't Australia, Australian isn't Germany, Germany isn't the Netherlands. That's roughly the scale.
desertrat49 -> PennyCarter , 15 Oct 2017 19:44
One of the interesting conceits of American culture is the way that the mega rich envision themselves as simply middle class...one sees it all the time.
The short answer is that the politically aware Oligarchs know very well who they are....and the wannabes know who they are as well!
My favourite is still one of the Koch brothers saying that he had no problem with Oligarchy...so long as he got the government that he paid for! Beautiful!!
aldebaranredstar , 15 Oct 2017 19:40
More than oligarchs I see alliances built on niche interests, or interests that are particular to a group of people. these special interests are wedge issues for that group, kind of like taking a knee and how that affects the NFL and ripples through the whole culture. Too many niche interests are being pushed forward, and that's why there's no consensus or very little. That's why there is gridlock and stasis. we shouldn't be pursuing niche interest anymore. we need larger consensus agreements, things we can agree on in society as a whole, and we got to keep talking until we find that agreement. that's how I see it
sejong , 15 Oct 2017 19:33
A hundred years ago, as the West industrialized, oligarchs wielded power via the employment relationship. Beginning a generation ago with the transfer of manufacturing to China, the instrument of power shifted to media. Murdoch was one of the first to exploit this. And now we have Trump.
guest0987 -> Zaarth , 15 Oct 2017 19:28
Agree totally. Redistribution of wealth to keep a few from controlling everything is what we need. And this does have a future as moving to the left is the way for the US to go. The right has shown for at least the past 40 years to offer nothing.
Redredemptionist -> WhatTheTruth , 15 Oct 2017 19:22
Dear WT..., WT... do you mean by:

"the oligarchy of Socialism" ?
"giving people too many rights" ? and
"neutralises everything to a standstill" ?

Too many 'dog whistles' make a strong sound but no meaningful sense what so ever!

PennyCarter -> peter nelson , 15 Oct 2017 19:21
My guess is that oligarchs don't even think they are oligarchs. They probably think they are actually part of a meritocracy, having conflated the rigged political system with what they believe to be their superior abilities
Dave514 -> Dave514 , 15 Oct 2017 19:18
Sorry that was WSC.
JamesValencia -> Dave514 , 15 Oct 2017 19:17
The "?" was merely rhetorical, as is usually the case on t'interwebs :)
peter nelson -> MartinSilenus , 15 Oct 2017 19:14
The comments in this thread mostly seem to be by whinging old style Labour supporters, who can no longer hide the contempt that they have for ordinary people - your "apathetic proles".
Dave514 -> JamesValencia , 15 Oct 2017 19:14
"Parturient montes, nascetur ridiculus
mus." The original Latin quote used by WAX to accurately describe Attlee.
peter nelson -> 3melvinudall , 15 Oct 2017 19:12
Oh rubbish. People choose whether to join a union. It takes closed shop contracts to enforce union membership, and the fact that unions seldom form in right to work states prove that when given a choice most workers don't want to join a union.
peter nelson -> Timothy Everton , 15 Oct 2017 19:09
Nonsense. The American government was elected by the voters. Local and state government to draw the voting districts for US house races were elected by the voters. US Senate governor and presidential races cannot be gerrymandered. And Hillary Clinton WAY outspent Donald Trump.

Progressives need to stop whining and complaining about the Koch brothers and start putting together a slate of candidates and ideas that ordinary Americans want to vote for.

Sailor25 -> theseligsussex , 15 Oct 2017 19:06
Looted and raised off the back of slaves but in the process laying the foundation of western civilisation.

My point isn't that it's fair or right or good. My point is that the concentration of power and wealth in a small group of individuals often leads to incredible development that betters all of humanity down the line.

peter nelson -> Zaarth , 15 Oct 2017 19:06
Who cares what you support? There is no political will for such a thing and the general direction of democratically elected governments is toward the right not the left. So redistributionist policies have no future.
peter nelson -> Manacatsaman , 15 Oct 2017 19:04
Money IS speech. Surely if the founding fathers intended to protect any particular kind of speech, it must have been political speech. So if I want to use my money to promote a particular policy or political candidate then any attempt by the government to prevent that is obviously and clearly a violation of my right to political speech.
Bewareofnazihippies , 15 Oct 2017 19:01
One of the best articles I've read here. It's about time an article like this finally gets a hearing. I mostly read these kind of arguments and perspectives from the comments section. So well done.
JamesValencia -> rikmac78 , 15 Oct 2017 19:00
Well, given what I said above, one might expect me to agree, but I wouldn't: New Labour nevertheless did an enormous amound of good: A fairer britain, enormously improved public services, the business sector properly regulated. taxation improved.

The problem was Blair. The background was Labour, which kept on beavering away with Labour principles: "society first" in a word.

New Labour achieved a huge amount. A shame abour Blair. If John Smith hadn't dropped dead, it might be different. With emphasis on "might" - at least Smith, although also restructuring Labour towards the centre, wasn't so bent on reneging Labour core values.

Luckily the Labour party reneged little: Labour endures :)

nottrue , 15 Oct 2017 18:59
Very interesting. While it currently appears impossible to win back democracy there might be some hope. I sense that things might change soon. The debacle of the current electricity market in Australia and lack of action to mitigate climate change can be seen in the light of the Oligarchy's fear of losing their wealth base, which could end up in a rise of democracy.'
TallulahD , 15 Oct 2017 18:56
In Athens, enslavement for debt had been a fundamental law from the time of Draco in the 39th Olympiad in the 7th Century BC. However, in the sixth century BC, the lawgiver Solon ordained a radical new constitution: by cancelling all debts both public and private, he "liberated the people once and for all" thus paving the way for all citizens to be admitted into the Assembly: Aristotle, "The Athenian Constitution", Parts 6 and 43 (although the Athenian form of direct democracy was a limited concept by modern standards - to become a citizen one had to be an adult male, born of citizen parents).
Manacatsaman , 15 Oct 2017 18:38
Most people in the U.S. conflate democracy with capitalism; there's no comprehension of separateness of political and economic "systems". The prevailing idea is that "America is a nation of business" and in the 19th Century the Supreme Court declared corporations to be individual persons and most recently confirmed that "money is speech". So, the people who have the ability to vote out the oligarchy don't even know what one is, or why it's bad for them. Thus a lying, cheating, greedy "Billionaire" is seen by the middle and lower classes, or as I'm sure Trump refers to them behind closed doors, "my marks", as their savior. I personally wonder, as the Trump Administration works tirelessly to grind its base into the dirt, just how much longer this level of stupidity will persist.
SteveofCaley , 15 Oct 2017 18:38
The process of branding and advertising, a century old, places unmerited trust in non-human entities, corporations and institutions. Humans are slick and untrustworthy. We assume that Police Departments are always kind. If harm occurs, is it a rotten cop or rotten citizen? Pick one. Ask a disloyal NFL player. They hate the troops, peace, freedom and justice, right?
The modern oligarchy is to hide behind labels and brands. God so loved the world that he founded a privately-held nonprofit with tax advantages ...whatnow? Exxon owns your axxons, folks.
SocAlan , 15 Oct 2017 18:38

At the same time, they sought to destroy monuments that were symbols of democratic success.

Privatisation!

Sailor25 -> EquilibriaJones , 15 Oct 2017 18:35
People always die, the default position of humanity is grinding poverty.

What we should be looking at is why come civilisations escaped that. A modern Britain is less likely to die of poverty today than at any other time in history.

The concentration of wealth in small groups of individuals often provides the impetus for development. To much concentration of wealth means you end up with exploitation of the plebs the flip side leaves you with economic stagnation.

The key as in most things is getting the balance right.

SocAlan , 15 Oct 2017 18:32

They gave rewards to informants and found pliable citizens to take positions in the government.

Does this not remind one of the last Labour government?

Timothy Everton -> Dave514 , 15 Oct 2017 18:31
Do a bit of reading. I would suggest Nancy MacLean's "Democracy in Chains" for a start. It has a direct line to the big-money influence of the Koch family over the U.S. government. There are many others, of course.
Hector Hajnal -> DolyGarcia , 15 Oct 2017 18:30
ehmm well... thats something that must start within the family and the community, if family fails theres the community if community fails thats window open to attack. Even so I have been knew fellows and sisters that even in the must adverse circumstances manage to make themselves educated and with a good criteria vice versa with fellows from a good environment turn to be as... so is a matter of choose as well. The problem with that is that this are the times of internet instant gratification which create the perfect scenario to create a bunch of idiotics egocentric lunatics with not will nor performance at all just slaves to machines. So ehmmm we need some kind of a bomb which disables some of the technology, not all, just for a while and try to get some to nromal
Sailor25 -> imperium3 , 15 Oct 2017 18:29
I wouldn't like to live in an extreme oligarchy either but we must remember our present will be somebodies past.

Money we direct away from growth to support our current living standard makes the people of tommorow less wealthy.

As I posted earlier there needs to be balance but we shouldn't assume oligarchy is a bad thing in of itself.

Guangudo -> GimmeHendrix , 15 Oct 2017 18:28
I would say oligarchy or oligarchy, because "democracy" does not really exist, it never did. Nothing will change unless we do away with Darwinism.
Guangudo , 15 Oct 2017 18:15
"Democracy (Greek: δημοκρατία, dēmokratía literally "rule of the people"), in modern usage, is a system of government in which the citizens exercise power directly or elect representatives from among themselves to form a governing body, such as a parliament. Democracy is sometimes referred to as "rule of the majority".

Having this definition in mind I do find rather bizarre that everyone insists on calling such a system a "democracy" when it is a fact that women and slaves where not allowed to vote.

Nowadays is getting somehow worse, because manipulation and agnotology have upset everything. The systems control perfectly everything and this charade are done by a power in the shadow, and although most people ignore it, this Power is theocratic.

The fact that repeating a lie constantly does not make it an axiom ...

MartinSilenus -> sparx104 , 15 Oct 2017 18:12
1984 is my `favourite` book, the subtext is that there is in fact no hope from the proles, as Winston Smith comes to see. They are apathetic & any who might rouse them, are liquidated. They have the power to overthrow the party, but are mostly just ignored by it, & so just get on with their lives. The lesson is that power, without the will to use it, is meaningless: still true as it happens.
Dave514 -> 3melvinudall , 15 Oct 2017 18:07
My, my, you've got this all sorted out so we'll have a dictatorship that is able to abolish the Supreme Court and Congress. Wow!
rikmac78 -> JamesValencia , 15 Oct 2017 18:06
New Labour is simply a lighter shade of Tory power...
Pushk1n -> blogdubdrib , 15 Oct 2017 18:00
Francis Galton was a founder of the science of statistics and a bit of a snob.

Galton was a keen observer. In 1906, visiting a livestock fair, he stumbled upon an intriguing contest. An ox was on display, and the villagers were invited to guess the animal's weight after it was slaughtered and dressed. Nearly 800 participated, and Galton was able to study their individual entries after the event.

Galton stated that "the middlemost estimate expresses the vox populi, every other estimate being condemned as too low or too high by a majority of the voters",[45] and reported this value (the median, in terminology he himself had introduced, but chose not to use on this occasion) as 1,207 pounds. To his surprise, this was within 0.8% of the weight measured by the judges. Soon afterwards, in response to an enquiry, he reported[46] the mean of the guesses as 1,197 pounds, but did not comment on its improved accuracy. Recent archival research[47] has found some slips in transmitting Galton's calculations to the original article in Nature: the median was actually 1,208 pounds, and the dressed weight of the ox 1,197 pounds, so the mean estimate had zero error. James Surowiecki[48] uses this weight-judging competition as his opening example: had he known the true result, his conclusion on the wisdom of the crowd would no doubt have been more strongly expressed.

He thought the judges local yokels and was expecting to laugh instead he found that irrespective of perceived intelligence the mean of the wisdom of the crowd ( the 800 entering the competition for a prize) was surprisingly accurate.

There are more things in Heaven and Earth ....

Dave514 -> glenns , 15 Oct 2017 17:59
And you know this specifically how?
J4Zonian -> ashleyhk , 15 Oct 2017 17:58
US media hasn't been "leftist" ever. In the 1930s and a few other periods it's had significant minorities that were liberal or leftish, but otherwise, it's mostly right-of-center imperial support mechanism media; now and increasingly, it's extreme right wing (Fox, Murdoch (WSJ, National Geographic, etc.) Clear Channel and Sinclair dominating TV and radio with more than 1000 stations. Reporters are sometimes left-leaning but that has little or nothing to do with what's published. Hollywood tends to be liberal on social issues but rarely moves off the imperial support wagon except for occasional dips into history to communicate with platitudes. Any media that considers Obama and Clinton anything but right of center corporate duopolists is way over on the right wing; that includes everything 95% of people ever hear or see--all networks, cable, every daily newspaper... The Guardian a little bit, Pacifica radio's 5 stations, Mother Jones and sort of The Nation, Common Dreams and a few other sites, blogs etc.--that's the left in the US. Pitiful, especially considering that a large majority of people in the US favor very liberal positions on almost all issues except war, death penalty and imprisonment.
Dave514 -> JamesValencia , 15 Oct 2017 17:56
British Rail was even a greater disaster ushered in by Clement, the mountains laboured a d brought forth a mouse, Attlee
curiouswes -> RapidSloth , 15 Oct 2017 17:55
For me, things really took a decisive turn for the worst when Wilson was president. Before that, the defacto government wasn't codified. According to this wikipedia article the was a "growing concern" about the so called money trust.

The Pujo Committee was a United States congressional subcommittee in 1912–1913 that was formed to investigate the so-called "money trust", a community of Wall Street bankers and financiers that exerted powerful control over the nation's finances. After a resolution introduced by congressman Charles Lindbergh Sr. for a probe on Wall Street power, congressman Arsène Pujo of Louisiana was authorized to form a subcommittee of the House Committee on Banking and Currency.

from the article above:

In civil oligarchies, governance is collective and enforced through laws, rather than by arms.

Democracy defeated oligarchy in ancient Greece because of 'oligarchic breakdown.'
With this typology behind him, Winters declares that America is already a civil oligarchy.

I don't know much about economics, but from what I think I know, one can speed up or slow down the economy by increasing or decreasing the money supply respectively; and prior to Wilson's term, the government had that power. However after Wilson's term that power moved into the private sector because laws were passed. I see that as a huge problem and from what I can gather, so did Lindbergh:

The new law will create inflation whenever the trusts want inflation. From now on depressions will be scientifically created.

TWOBOBS , 15 Oct 2017 17:51
I think the citizenry is being screwed by the oligarchy on both the left and the right, which tend to merge into the same thing. Both are about power and control and have very little to do with democracy or individual liberties. Neither the capitalists nor the socialists care much about you. You are a means to an end. Both the right and the left seek to control speech and thought through the media and through institutions. Both the right and left want a disempowered, compliant population.
JamesValencia , 15 Oct 2017 17:48
There's lots to think about there. Thanks for a good article, more on democracy please ! It strikes me we're in a situation where we need to relearn what it is, exactly.

What struck me most was the oligarchy eroding symbols of democracy, and taking over the legal system of government, and I'd add, taking over the management of government through privatisation of government services: The civil service increasingly outsourced to the private sector, that is, the oligarchy.

This is what "the small state" political project, currently centre stage in the UK and the USA, is leading towards: governments run by the private sector.

And the response is always "it's cheaper and more efficient! And democracy is the representative - who cares if government departments are shut down and their services delivered by the private sector? It means less tax !"

And we end up with Network Rail, and the other scandals of privatised services in the UK, and to Labour's undying shame, much of this was ushered in by New Labour.

Pushk1n -> Light_and_Liberty , 15 Oct 2017 17:46
I think you need to read the article. Trump fits every definition of an Oligarch, his actions are exactly how Oligarchs survive, true he may not be the only one in the US.
Skullen -> deeaiden , 15 Oct 2017 17:42
You sound slightly like a psychopath yourself.
johnthebaptiste -> alloomis , 15 Oct 2017 17:38
or even dictatorshiip
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Elective_dictatorship
MalicX -> Elgrecoandros , 15 Oct 2017 17:37
Jessthecrip seems to have been supporting punishment of some kind for people whose actions demonstrably cause actual, serious harm to real people. You seem to consider the actions which create such actual harm (including many deaths) to be a 'political opinion'. I think that's where the difference in attitude lies.
Shannon Renee Kayne-Amoureux , 15 Oct 2017 17:35
Bilderberg Group, et al.
Pushk1n -> GimmeHendrix , 15 Oct 2017 17:35
You Think, the people were well and truly lied to by rather rich and unscrupulous people who hope to benefit from the chaos as this article makes clear this is the way that Oligarchy works by manipulating and dividing the demos.
curiouswes -> hardmoney , 15 Oct 2017 17:31

The problem is and always has been, life is not black or white, but gray. One man's fact is another man's differing opinion.

True. However, a women has the right to abort a fetus. That is a fact. Now we can have an opinion that she has the right to kill her own fetus, but that wouldn't be a fact because technically we can't ascertain that the fetus is alive because it doesn't necessarily "stay" alive if we remove it from the mother (at least not in the first trimester). Therefore legalized abortion isn't legalized murder. However it is unconstitutional to take everybody's guns away. It really takes verbal gymnastics to try to make the constitution say anything different, so the proponents for gun control swear up and down that they aren't trying to take everybody's guns away. However when you ask what their objective is, they say they want to stop people from killing each other with guns. Without that measuring rod (the constitution), they don't take that tone. Instead they argue that people don't need guns. The same can be said for speech. Hate speech imho does more damage than the right to bear arms, but the 1st amendment gives those fools the right to behave the way the did in Charlottesville. Those who tried to silence them walked on the 1st amendment, again in the name of the greater good. As a black man, I'm not about to side with people who think we need to keep those statues up. I know exactly what those statues represent. However again the constitution is there protecting their right to voice an opinion to say what I vehemently oppose. I can disagree with them but I don't have the constitutional right to silence them. When people want to force others not to speak on college campuses, that isn't constitutional. It is authoritarian. Authoritarianism in the name of the greater good. some don't have a problem with that kind of authoritarianism, but when it comes from the orange one, that's authoritarianism that nobody needs because it's really hard to find his "greater good". His sense of greater good generally seems to benefit some, while marginalizing others. Personally I think his impeachment is now months overdue, but, as you say, that is just my opinion. I think firing Comey was an authoritarian move. I think when a head of state can neutralize his detractors, in theory we can't get rid of him for anything, because he can simply fire any perceived threat to his power. The fact that he is still in power is an outrage to me. But then again, I think it was an outrage that HRC was even running for president. They dumped Gary Hart, because he was having an extramarital affair, but for some reason, HRC was able to walk through "airport security" with all of her baggage. But, "no election rigging" from state side. It was all done by the Russian oligarchs according to our wonderful media. However this is a democracy because we had a choice between, "Lock her up" and "I cannot tell the truth"
Zaarth , 15 Oct 2017 17:22
This is why I support wealth redistribution through progressive taxation. It's not so much about achieving "income equality" as it is about preventing power being concentrated in the hands of a few. Extreme wealth is a public danger. Many would trample on our rights for their own profit, convenience, or pleasure, and most politicians are all too eager to let the super wealthy buy their place as public masters.
Gunsarecivilrights -> Spudnik2 , 15 Oct 2017 17:19
Voluntaryism is to be commended. Compelling people to be charitable with force is not.
Adkult -> Newmacfan , 15 Oct 2017 17:02
Yet you were complaining about regions wanting to separate before. The EU doesn't fund Spain's regional parties by the way, as much as you'd like them to.
Spudnik2 -> Gunsarecivilrights , 15 Oct 2017 17:01
I accept that so much of what I see demands action. The world needs more helping hands and kindness.

You can believe in what ever you like, but actions make all the difference. Donate something like canned food, or volunteer someplace and you can make a real difference in someones life ( more than any book or bible ever did ).

memo10 -> mjmizera , 15 Oct 2017 16:45

The industrial-military complex of the 50-70s didn't just disappear, but morphed into today's structures.

15 years in Iraq & Afghanistan says it never changed at all.

memo10 -> clshannon , 15 Oct 2017 16:42

Not true, the standards are high enough, it is the fact that kids from disfunctional families and poverty cannot reach them. So the teachers just pass them on to the next grade anyway. You end up with poorly educated adults who 'know' education is useless according to their experience raising children who continue the cycle.

The curriculum is demanding enough. They just don't demand anything relevant to people's lives. As long as everything stays irrelevant they can continue rewarding the people who play by the system's rules and punish those who find that stupid and frustrating.

Ponderbelle -> Gamba Puirida , 15 Oct 2017 16:40
Reich has a soul full of light and empathy. Once people are allowed to attain their basic needs, the rest is mostly fluff. Nature provides every resource needed to sustain a wholesome existence...not a cash register one to be found in the fields of plenty. Ancient greed has never been faced full-on by humanity. The required efforts to shelter, feed and clothe ourselves are too often run over roughshod due to the number one vice: Profits first and foremost, with the essentials for survival marked for the highest bid; callously termed 'what the market will bear'.

Democracy? Not in many decades. We are under the total rule of organized business; which applies to most developed nations. The virtues of sharing and goodwill would be one remedy to the basic economic inequalities.

However, in our current bailout experiment (and, not a few economists are status quo baloney feeders) the inertia is in a free wheeling philosophical advantage to the gods of the highest profit. You'll never see any sympathy cards slated for modern economists. A simple evident reality is that
our basic needs for survival are the same. Damned if we can manage to seriously address that fact first and create systems which have a clear vision for the betterment and uplift of all.

It will not be long before the loud financial bubble pop sounds off again - it will be called the inevitable market correction or due to aggressive over reach. Oligarchy will feign much needed financial aid required. We deserve much better. I predict eventually a r e v o l t from those who suffer the insanity of deprivation in a world of plenty. Certainly in the US our votes are mean less and less with the likes of Citizens United. Corporations may be legal entities but they are N O T citizens. All that exists, exists for all.

kyoung21b -> TragicomedyBeholder , 15 Oct 2017 16:39
Yes much more rational to treat everyone "equally" like providing huge subsidies to, e.g. big oil, big ag, and big pharma so they too can appear to be performing equally.
Obtrectator -> deeaiden , 15 Oct 2017 16:37
Unworldly middle-class theorists create revolutions but almost invariably cannot control them. They tear up the rule-sheets, failing to understand that that loosens or destroys the restraints on psychopaths of whatever background, who then proceed to hack their way to the top.
Thus Lenin facilitated Stalin; Sun Yat-sen ultimately resulted in Mao; Desmoulins and the Girondistes were devoured by the Jacobins and their Reign of Terror.
alloomis , 15 Oct 2017 16:31
"He argues that democracy defeated oligarchy in ancient Greece because of "oligarchic breakdown." Oligarchic institutions are subject to rot and collapse, as are any other kind of institution. " unfortunately, democracy did not defeat oligarchy in ancient greece, except briefly in athens and its dependencies. and the usa is no kind of democracy. voting for who will be your master is not democracy, it is elective aristocracy. and that is the political arm of the economic oligarchy called 'capitalism.'
Bochi -> threeoutside , 15 Oct 2017 16:28

Who, exactly, doesn't think of "the realms of politics and economics as fused together"?

It's been the basic assumption of UK politics from 1997 until 2015 (at least) that there is only one "common sense" economic model that works, and that is an extreme market-oriented form of neo-liberalism.

Most of the electorate in this country still buy into neo-liberalism's deceitful platitudes as if the argument was over 40 years ago and democracy consists of choosing a few people to manage it every five years.

3melvinudall , 15 Oct 2017 16:26
Oligarchs in the US have, for 40 years, taken the power from the people. They have accomplished it by destroying the labor unions and any hint of a labor movement. They have taken control of the media by buying it ( 80 or so owners of MSM to 5 or 6 owners now), they control the narrative. They control what we talk about. They control the politicians by "dark money". Outside money floods strategic states to influence elections down to school board levels. Money is donated to universities with conditions to control who is hired to run certain schools within the university ( the economics school at FSU, for example). Economic policies and tax codes have funneled growth income to the top 140 families in the US. Now we are witnessing the cumulative efforts of these oligarchs bear fruit. Unions are meaningless, growth income flows to the wealth class, we talk about God, guns and gays in every election cycle, efforts to do away with all social programs and rig the tax codes so the middle class pays more and the wealthy pay less. I would say the Oligarchs are in control and have won. They control the courts and all branches of government....what is left? Can democracy survive now that they control the ballot box and the elections? And they certainly can control enough minds to win an election...we witness that in 2016.
GimmeHendrix -> Arch Stanton , 15 Oct 2017 16:20
'And Trump being the worst type of oligarch may create 'oligarchic breakdown' and bring the whole corrupt shitheap called US democracy crashing down.'

Contradictions in terms. Its either a democracy or an oligarchy.

GimmeHendrix -> threeoutside , 15 Oct 2017 16:18
You suggest a determinism which is false. Brexit is a classic example where the political will of the masses acts contrary to the immediate interests of domestic capital.
GimmeHendrix , 15 Oct 2017 16:12
Well its just been confirmed. We live in an oligarchy. One where the notion of democracy acts as an ideological support.
curiouswes -> hardmoney , 15 Oct 2017 16:09
Likewise.

Similar to Dorothy and her ruby slippers in the Wizard of Oz; she had the power all along, but didn't know it.

Ahh, the Ruby slipper analogy! Well done! I missed it, obviously :-)

sparx104 , 15 Oct 2017 16:07
Someone else seems to have understood this some time ago. ..

"'If there is hope,' wrote Winston, 'it lies in the proles.' If there was hope, it MUST lie in the proles, because only there in those swarming disregarded masses, 85 per cent of the population of Oceania, could the force to destroy the Party ever be generated. The Party could not be overthrown from within'"

RapidSloth -> curiouswes , 15 Oct 2017 16:06

it does show when the government is exceeding it's authority

Except that when you look at how much power the constitution has given to the state in the past three decades the answer to the question of whenever or not US is an oligarchy is should be rather obvious....

hardmoney -> curiouswes , 15 Oct 2017 16:00
"...we need some way to separate fact from opinion."

The problem is and always has been, life is not black or white, but gray. One man's fact is another man's differing opinion.

fragglerokk , 15 Oct 2017 16:00
Can't recommend Requiem For The American Dream highly enough, absolutely required viewing for anyone wishing to understand the mockery of democracy under which we live.
fragglerokk -> Gamba Puirida , 15 Oct 2017 15:59
Requiem For The American Dream also ... any adult would be extremely enlightened by watching it.
curiouswes -> zippy200 , 15 Oct 2017 15:55

Trouble is liberals on the one hand bang on about proletariat solidarity, yet on the other, peddle identity politics and turn a blind eye at increasingly fragmented communities.

"The Jews, will not, replace us!" I'm so glad the "president" rebuked this blatant display of identity politics in Charlottesville.

Elgrecoandros -> CommanderMaxil , 15 Oct 2017 15:54
That is a semantic argument over whether or not his votes can be taken to represent his views. It is still calling for punishment of political opponents because they disagree with the political opinions of the poster.
GusDynamite -> Skip Breitmeyer , 15 Oct 2017 15:48
Look, I'm not fan of the left way of things but to claim they are entirely to blame is willfully ignorant of conservative and right wing failings. I can hardly expect either to see my point and accept that they're the problem, the best I can do is pause now and then I know that I am the problem as much as any and try to mind myself. If we all just took responsibility for ourselves left and right and anything in between would matter far less.
hardmoney -> curiouswes , 15 Oct 2017 15:40
Hi wes, hope you are doing well. Yes, the people DO have the power, but they either don't know how or choose not to use it. Similar to Dorothy and her ruby slippers in the Wizard of Oz; she had the power all along, but didn't know it.
curiouswes -> RapidSloth , 15 Oct 2017 15:31

There is also the tendency of treating laws like dogma and the constitution like the bible.

I wouldn't call the constitution a bible, but it does show when the government is exceeding it's authority. In times when some are actually concerned about whether or not the USA is a oligarchy, we need some way to separate fact from opinion.

ID7380890 , 15 Oct 2017 15:27
Spot on article. Lots of loopy comments. Personally I find the positions the Guardian takes to be those that further the interests of our ruling elite.
Where are the discussions about Trust Law which is nothing more than a huge tax avoiding scheme for the wealthy.

How about the control of the legal costs the high street solicitor can claim when he wins for the average person against the badly behaved housing associations and landlords, the insurers and employers. It has forced good solicitors out of these types of litigation. The result is occurrences like Grenfell Tower. The Guradian always goes on about Legal Aid. Solicitors don't need poverty rate legal aid. They need the corrupt, the greedy and incompetent to pay the same rates per hour for the small man's lawyers when they lose as they pay for their own lawyers. This funds all the work those small high street solicitors do in investigating cases that go nowhere, and enables them to provide free advice.
Or take the continuous false fears propaganda of those who wish to ignore the Leave vote. The majority voted for an end to cheap migrant labour driving down wages and living standards for the working population, for an end to an economy dominated by financial services and house price inflation.

AnonForNowThanks -> Light_and_Liberty , 15 Oct 2017 15:26
What "people?"

Racially polarized voting does not constitute a "people." It echoes a much earlier time, when there was a slave society on American land.

Roughly 1 in 4 active duty enlisted men and women in the US Army are black, compared with about 13.5% of the total population, hence 80%+ higher than their representation in the general population.

You don't see a problem here?

Dave514 -> AnonForNowThanks , 15 Oct 2017 15:25
Not o my the two major Vet Organization but a myriad of Vet support groups.
curiouswes -> hardmoney , 15 Oct 2017 15:24
Hi Money!

I think the people really do have the power. I think as long as we have the bill of rights, the power is still ours to retain or relinquish. Just because the scotus doesn't strike down unconstitutional laws like the patriot act, brady bill (gone at the moment but likely to come back), I don't think it means that we have no power. It is just that well informed people such as yourself have a difficult time informing those less informed because the media is engaged in a very effective endeavor to keep them misinformed. As you correctly pointed out in another post, people will believe anything. It is only those who really care enough to actually stop and think are what you are saying, only those will be informed despite the efforts of the media to keep them in the dark. If you can get enough people behind you, I think you could really change this. Me? I don't think the masses care enough. I think they are good people. It is just that they can't think ahead enough to see the crisis as it presents itself today. They don't feel the sense of urgency and as long as the media continues this game of deception, they will be more worried about the local football team they any existential threat until the media makes it out to be an existential threat.

thank you for all you do and have done!

Gamba Puirida , 15 Oct 2017 15:15
IMO, Robert Reich's movie - Inequality for all - should be played and discussed in every class around the age of 16 in western countries.
AnonForNowThanks -> Dave514 , 15 Oct 2017 15:14
Which brings to mind another question: who lobbies for the homeless veterans? The oligarchs depend on the armed forces for their vast wealth and position, then discard them.
SunwynRavenwood , 15 Oct 2017 15:13
Then, of course, there is the guillotine.
Arch Stanton -> newsfreak , 15 Oct 2017 15:13
As the News International scandal showed, the British justice system / rule of law is the finest legal system that money can buy.
Hornplayer -> vinny59er , 15 Oct 2017 15:09
Trump the Sequel you mean?
Dave514 -> Hornplayer , 15 Oct 2017 15:09
The major Vet organizations do so already in the US as for the homeless Churches and other charitable organizations.
deeaiden , 15 Oct 2017 15:06
Conveniently forgotten in all this is the fact that most of history's most horrendous dictators and political psychopaths came from the poor. Most, if not all, revolution political movements come from the upper middle class...people who have enough money to be comfortable and afford luxuries, but not enough that they are afraid of changing things to their financial and, possibly, social detriment. The only people who really want to defend and protect the status quo are the wealthy, for obvious reasons, and the poor, who do not want to change the system--which is all they know and perhaps all they understand--but only change their position in it. I meet a lot of people who are wealthy and well-educated--these
attributes are not necessarily reflective of each other--and a great many people who are poor. Trust me, you definitely do not want the latter group running things. "Street smarts" are great...on the street.
GagaInGreenacres -> unclestinky , 15 Oct 2017 15:01
And who would not tolerate unemployment. In Australia, Menzies almost lost the 1961 when unemployment nudged 3%!
newsfreak , 15 Oct 2017 14:59
Enlightening! The judiciary is the bastion of oligarchy and the media, for the most part, confuses and divides public opinion to ensure all remains under control -- of the oligarchs.
GagaInGreenacres -> imipak , 15 Oct 2017 14:52
The taxation curve is a very low order matter. The primary question is the difficulty of the first level, of getting a job where you feel you are making a valuable contribution, either because of the remuneration or because of the job satisfaction. We don't need the numbers in the masters accounts to achieve this, we can make our own numbers and give them to people who are willing to make a worthwhile contribution. Even if the masters slander them as "unworthy". Even if they are not really our sort of people.

The main use of taxation is to prevent masters from hiring their own private armies or worse still the national army.

threeoutside , 15 Oct 2017 14:52
Excuse me? Who, exactly, doesn't think of "the realms of politics and economics as fused together"? Anybody under the age of about 16, from what I can see. What a dumb statement. Interesting subject here, though.
Hornplayer -> gregwani , 15 Oct 2017 14:51
Aristotle went further. Those with money Pay to participate and the money is used to pay those that are too poor and otherwise would not participate. Now the question is how much needs to be paid? The Duke of Westminster and the like should probably cough up a good whack so that the homeless and families at the food bank can be paid to participate.
Arch Stanton , 15 Oct 2017 14:42
The United States of America is an oligarchy as shown in 2008 when the banks through their control of the Federal Reserve and numerous politicians stole billions from the public purse. Then, Obama's consistent failure to deal with the criminal acts of JP Morgan and other banks shows who is in running that country. C

Which of course is why the political mainstream has imploded and Trump was elected. If you know that the criminals in charge vote for the man they detest most even if he is an utterly preposterous showboating unprincipled liar.

And Trump being the worst type of oligarch may create 'oligarchic breakdown' and bring the whole corrupt shitheap called US democracy crashing down.

Brexit has split the oligarch's poodles in the U.K. Ie. Blairites & Osborne v Gove / Johnson / Tory head bangers and may consign the Conservative party to oblivion. This may lead to a genuinely left wing government that represents the many and not the few.

vr13vr -> Dave514 , 15 Oct 2017 14:40
One of the questions is why? The other is that even if it is in the constitution, does it mean it can never be changed? If the reality on the ground and social threats have changed over the last 200 years, so should the laws that protect us from those threats.
GagaInGreenacres -> whitman100 , 15 Oct 2017 14:39
Maybe, but remember that currently even a university education in economics leaves people thinking that taxes and borrowings "fund" government spending and that banks " lend on" deposits according to the "money multiplier".
Tim2006 -> Dave514 , 15 Oct 2017 14:38
Corruption is not. We are talking about legalized corruption ...
Ritula Fränkel -> Light_and_Liberty , 15 Oct 2017 14:37
What on Earth are you talking about?

Donald Trump is the oligarchy. His disruption at the feeding trough comes from his greed: instead of understanding that oligarchs maintain stability by sharing, he remains primarily concerned with distributing privileges to his closest circle.

Trump is not a radical anti-oligarch. He's just a simpleton oligarch who doesn't understand the rules.

Scot Fourowls , 15 Oct 2017 14:37
In response to the well-researched truth of this politically significant article, the propaganda reversal machine is in full force by the comments of upended sanity-and- unreality reverence toward the existentially ridiculous, dangerous and deceptive kleptocratic regime of 45; see, e.g., the comment of whatever or whoever is called in print "Light_and_Liberty."

Maybe I'm just noting the comnent activity of bots. Anybody who is a real person and would want to know the truth about 45's vile regime needs only to read every political article of the Guardian UK US edition today.

Enough said.

Evangelist9 , 15 Oct 2017 14:30
Democracy was not the norm the city states of ancient Hellas, but just one among a number of political systems. Whilst Athens had democracy in that all male citizens could vote and take part in the governing of the city (from the introduction of the system by Cleisthenes in 507 BC, and lasting for around 200 years), Sparta, for example, never had any form of democracy but two hereditary kings supported by a council of elders and the ephors. This system served the Spartans well because they were constantly on a war footing and their kings led their armies (hence the need for two kings, in case one was killed in battle, as happened with Leonidas).
Some city states had τύραννοι , or "tyrants", though it did not have its modern connotations of oppression and cruelty. It merely meant an absolute ruler, good or bad.
In ancient Athens, a citizen who chose not to vote was called an ιδιώτης, which gives us our modern word "idiot".

The ancient Greeks were innovators in politics (also. of course, a Greek word) - as in almost every other sphere of life - and would not have attached the modern value terms to them that we do today. They were the greatest experimenters in history and the debt we owe to them in the modern world is incalculable.

tjt77 -> winemaster2 , 15 Oct 2017 14:29
"the word that is no where mentioned in the Constitution is one big hoax and the perpetuation of the same," 'One nation under God' was not mentioned either.. but nothing is static and things tend to evolve or devolve..
There has been lot of chit chat about a 'Democratic Republic' in the 30+ yrs Ive resided in the USA... Seems to me that a more accurate description would be "Empire" given the big enforcement stick in over 5,000+ locations across the Globe added to the huge production of military weaponry that is sold to various despots every year. An Empire which, like all those before it, cannot sustain indefinitely.
GagaInGreenacres -> maddiemot , 15 Oct 2017 14:28
You know the masters are happy reading this sort of divisive posting. So the jocks hate the nerds, get over it. The jocks are the one's suffering the main burden of unemployment.
Light_and_Liberty , 15 Oct 2017 14:16
You got it totally backwards: can oligarchy survive in the face of democracy unchained.

The election of Donald Trump was a middle finger to the establishment ruling class (aka oligarchy) and the results are self evident. We have a Federal Bureau of Investigation investigating a phony dossier and calling it Russian Collusion. We have a special counsel looking for anything to indict him with vis-a-vis that phony dossier so as to remove him from office. We have the Republican party -- the president's own party -- intentionally doing nothing to forward the agenda of the people. We have embedded federal employees who are undermining the president's agenda. We have the media and Hollywood in full propaganda mode. We have Democrats aiding and abetting rioters and protesters and call it 'The Resistance'.

So, yes, it is interesting to see what happens when Democracy takes on Oligarchy and Oligarchy cannot accept the people's effrontery in voting for their own interests.

Dave514 -> gregwani , 15 Oct 2017 14:16
Lobbying is protected by the Constitution
GagaInGreenacres -> BayardDC , 15 Oct 2017 14:14
The taxation shenanigans only work as long as long as the economy is a zero sum or worse game. That is when austerity and targeted spending on "job creation" in the private sector means that money creation only happens for the wealthy. The first step in not taxing the stagnant wealth pools, but rather getting the fresh water of government spending heading onto the dried plains of the working class.

Remember the masters feel far more threatened that we do, they have never experienced an honest, respectful human relationship in there lives and have no sense of self reliance what so ever. Threatening taxation as a first step to reform, is certain to get maximum response even from the "liberal" majority of the masters.

Antoni Jaume -> ashleyhk , 15 Oct 2017 14:12
If you believe that, then I have a bridge in Brooklyn to sell, a very good bargain...
gregwani , 15 Oct 2017 14:10
Good article in the causes - thanks for your work - but whilst the suggestion of "creating a more economically equal society" is obviously desirable, it's not exactly a practical recommendation against the context of the rest of the article.

Herein lies the key: "...they sustain all of this through a campaign finance and lobbying system that gives them undue influence over policy."

So we need to specifically advocate for curtailing corporate funding of political parties, Super PACs, etc. and have election (& referendum) campaigns financed from public funds and heavily regulated private citizen donations. If you can't vote, you can't contribute. This would remove a massive barrier to widespread reform in the shape of lobbyists and political patronage whilst ensuring that elected leaders are unshackled, with the freedom to govern based on evidence-based policy and long-term planning rather than just rewarding the corporate elite who put them there.

Matt Simonton -> blogdubdrib , 15 Oct 2017 14:06
The book brackets a discussion of Sparta, which was an atypical oligarchy (although it regularly supported more conventional oligarchies militarily). The focus of the book is not on the Athenian oligarchies of the later fifth century, but on oligarchic rule as practiced in the wider Greek world (e.g. Corinth, the Boeotian koinon, Thasos, Chios, Ephesus). These regimes did not follow Sparta's austerity model, but neither did the Athenian oligarchies of 411 and 404. Kolkhis above is correct on Sparta that while there was a mirage of austerity around Sparta, over the course of the fifth and fourth centuries it gradually developed into a more conventional oligarchy of extreme wealth stratification. One need only turn to the reforms of Agis and Cleomenes in the third century to see how unequal it had become. Stephen Hodkinson has done excellent work on wealth inequality within Sparta.
SN1789 , 15 Oct 2017 14:04
"Unity might come from personal relationships, trust, voting practices, or – as is more likely in today's meritocratic era – homogeneity in culture and values from running in the same limited circles." All of these features of elite unity are under girded by shared economic interests vis-a-vis the masses.
clshannon -> pbalrick , 15 Oct 2017 14:04
Not true, the standards are high enough, it is the fact that kids from disfunctional families and poverty cannot reach them. So the teachers just pass them on to the next grade anyway. You end up with poorly educated adults who 'know' education is useless according to their experience raising children who continue the cycle.
aquagreen -> imperium3 , 15 Oct 2017 14:03

The spoils of the Roman and British Empires mostly went to enrich the oligarchs while the vast majority of the population laboured in poverty.

Oh please, don't spoil our nostalgic view with inconvenient facts.

Ritula Fränkel , 15 Oct 2017 14:03
Thank you - excellent article.

Since ownership conventionally involves the direct enactment of control and choice upon things (at least according to the ethicist Daniel Sperling), might it not be an idea to examine the conventions upon which property law is built in the West, since property law often is held as a model for all other types?

Sperling suggests that ownership is not absolute but instead is inferred out of a confluence of 'interests' that surround an object - I'd like to think that a cultural shift towards the recognition of the interests , rather than the ownerships , that guide policy-making could indeed challenge an oligarchy that views law-making essentially as the defence of property.

letsbeclearaboutthis -> vinny59er , 15 Oct 2017 14:00
People who have no effing idea of why they are there, nor what the intricacies of the process are.
Kolkhis -> blogdubdrib , 15 Oct 2017 13:58
Yet it did all go wrong in Sparta. This links to a splendid source on ancient Greece and Rome. http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/hopper/text?doc=Perseus%3Atext%3A1999.04.0009%3Achapter%3D6%3Asection%3D13

Even with a ban on money - or as you say a literally iron currency, still land accumulated into ever fewer hands. This particular link is short enough to quote in full.

Spartan women, like men, could own land privately. Ordinary coined money was deliberately banned to try to discourage the accumulation of material goods, but the ownership of land remained extremely important in Spartan society. More and more land came into the hands of women in later Spartan history because the male population declined through losses in war, especially during the Classical Age. Moreover, Spartan women with property enjoyed special status as a result of the Spartan law forbidding the division of the portion of land originally allotted to a family. This law meant that, in a family with more than one son, all the land went to the eldest son. Fathers with multiple sons therefore needed to seek out brides for their younger sons who had inherited land and property from their fathers because they had no brother surviving. Otherwise, younger sons, inheriting no land from their own family, might fall into dire poverty.

letsbeclearaboutthis -> MrMorningDew , 15 Oct 2017 13:57
What makes you think the idiosynchracies of democratic governance stop at the federal level?
letsbeclearaboutthis , 15 Oct 2017 13:55
You have neglected to point out how oligarchs manage to convince ordinary people that their best interests coincide. In the recent NZ election, the National party, representing farmers and businesspeople, used the prospect of a tax giveaway to convince people they would be better off under National. It worked because of the number of people who look no further than their own immediate interests when voting. Who's to blame for that?
Danexmachina , 15 Oct 2017 13:48
The rich get richer and the poor get poorer because we work for them and buy their stuff. Then someone remembers the other uses for pitchforks and torches....

The current delay is because nobody lives on the land except corporate farmers, so the masses no longer have territory to defend except in Faecesbook.

blogdubdrib , 15 Oct 2017 13:47
"while he recognizes that ancient oligarchies were always drawn from the wealthy, a limitation of his work is that he focuses primarily on how oligarchs perpetuated their political power, not their economic power."

I'm intrigued about how this might apply to Sparta which had legal limitations on wealth, an iron currency and a tightly knit ruling class which eschewed wealth in pursuit of solidarity and military discipline.

This article, which shows no interest in the historical specifics, fair enough seems to be thinking of the oligarchic counter-currents within Athenian democracy eg the coup of 411, Plato's Republic etc - both of which incidentally were influenced by admiration for Sparta's austere Lycurgan constitution which banned wealth. After all, if you have democracy you give stupid people a vote and this lead if you do not have checks and balances against cynical populists to terrible decisions like the Sicilian Expedition, the executions in the wake of Arginusae ... contributory factors in the unnecessary defeat of 404.

Likewise Brexit, Trump.

trp981 , 15 Oct 2017 13:46
"As of oligarchy so of tyranny, the end is wealth." -- Aristotle, Politics

"With this typology behind him, Winters declares that America is already a civil oligarchy. To use the language of recent political campaigns, our oligarchs try to rig the system to defend their wealth. They focus on lowering taxes and on reducing regulations that protect workers and citizens from corporate wrongdoing."

Although the neoliberal turn since the coming of the Reagan exacerbated the trend towards an oligarchic concentration of political/economic power, the seeds were planted from the very beginning. The Electoral College and the Three-Fifths Compromise in the US Constitution are both examples of democratic procedures designed to ensure the preservation of concentration of political power in the hands of economic oligarchs, and to act as barriers to the dispersal and democratization of political power. We have already seen the effect of this constitutional design twice in the new century in the disparity between the outcome of the Electoral College and the popular vote in 2000 and 2016.

"Simonton offers another solution. He argues that democracy defeated oligarchy in ancient Greece because of 'oligarchic breakdown.' Oligarchic institutions are subject to rot and collapse, as are any other kind of institution. As the oligarchs' solidarity and practices start to break down, there is an opportunity for democracy to bring government back to the people."

The dangers of the ever-increasing extreme inequality can also be viewed from the perspective of its impact on the stability of the social formation. A decrease in stability manifests itself through an increase in the brittleness of the socioeconomic system and a decrease in its ability to respond to unforeseen shocks in a versatile manner. Although fortunately the adverse impact of extreme inequality is at present only affecting the majority of the population in the US, the effects will also be felt by the oligarchs in the long run, unless they manage to build an earth orbiting Elysium before the arrival of the long run. The dangers of extreme inequality and the instability it can cause are explored by various scholars including Acemoglu and Turchin . The latter models social instability as a time-dependent variable, and tracks its evolution over time. In the language of mathematics, this is known as a dynamical system approach. The particular variable the evolution of which he tracks is what he calls the political stress indicator, which combines the effects of three other variables (mass mobilization, elite mobilization, and state fiscal distress) and their nonlinear interaction through time. The dynamical behavior of each of these factors measures the stability of the overall socioeconomic system, and acts as a warning signal when regions of criticality and instability are breached. The formation of oligarchic interests maps into a subset of the variable "elite mobilization" in Turchin's model. According to his analysis we are at present on the cusp of a critical socioeconomic instability. The increasing instability of the neoliberal order implies the shifting of the ground beneath it. The previous givenness of the passive citizenry is becoming less so, and critical junctures might approach fast and unforeseeably.

fritsd -> Fibonaccisequins , 15 Oct 2017 13:45
America: the best Democracy money can buy!
Gunsarecivilrights -> Spudnik2 , 15 Oct 2017 13:41
I accept that what I see is the abhorrent stupidity that is socialistic and collectivist thoughts perpetuated by the progressive sheep.
RobertsJimm , 15 Oct 2017 13:40
According to Bill Bonner, author of Bill Bonner's Daily Reckoning, the Deep State of unelected insiders, government cronies, generals and their industrial allies, assorted lobbyists and back scratchers are the force that runs the government. Elections are theater. And the current performance is a tragic-comedy
CinBrooklyn , 15 Oct 2017 13:38
The US is NOT a democracy. It is a Republic. Let's start from a correct premise. The opening of this article is political dross. Am I wasting my time if I read further? Come on, Guardian.
MrMorningDew , 15 Oct 2017 13:34
When your colleague says the US is a democracy, you should tell him that is not correct. Point out to him that the person who finishes second in the vote count of our citizens wins the presidency and that 12% of our population controls 50% of the votes in the Senate. Gerrymandering allows a minority of votes to control the House. There is nothing democratic about the Federal Government, you need to get down to the state level to find democracy.
hardmoney -> RapidSloth , 15 Oct 2017 13:33
"A stark example of it is how they boast about freedom of speech."

And as useless as protest. The people's power is a lie formulated and carried out in Oz.

MeRaffey , 15 Oct 2017 13:32
Time to get creative. We have become so predictable, the wealthy can keep way ahead of us.

Fanning the flames of our asinine CULTURE WARS on effing FACEBOOK, was all the Russians needed to do to drive our presidential in their direction. The little boys who run global-tech-empires were no match for the Russians. Even now, when Trump is running the planet via TWITTER, our little tech-boys can't figure out how they lost control of their own creations.

Asymmetric power might be the key. Right now, the wealthy own a piece of every country and everyone on earth. We have been reduced to the size of an ant and we need to start thinking, and acting like ants. Instead of feeding our money to the wealthy, we need to starve them out.

Create disruption. Stop doing anything you normally do.

For example, order take-out anywhere you please, but refuse to go inside restaurant chains of any kind - diners, fast-food joints or upscale joints anywhere. Enter locally owned businesses only.

Stop putting your money in banks, stocks, bonds and other capitalist owned systems. Remove cold, hard cash from the system by putting your money in a safe deposit box at your local bank. Force the wealthy out of the closet, to try and pass laws allowing them to open your safe deposit bank.

Stop giving your old clothes and stuff to Goodwill, the Salvation Army or thrift shops. Stop sorting your trash - plastic, glass, metal and put all of it in your trash. Create a mess so big, so fast and so pervasive it becomes a crisis - for the wealthy trash hauler kings and their politicians.

Stay off facebook for one month. The next month, back on facebook, and out of Twitter.

Sign up for an email account anywhere but google and then use it for all of your on-line shopping only.

Stop being so predictable by using the same corporate chain grocery store, gas station or clothes store. Take your business to new places, try new things, get out more, mix it up, mix and match, but stop being predictable.

Confuse and baffle. Sign on to new news sources. If you're a liberal, sign onto Brietbart. If you're a conservative, sign onto Center for Progress. Use your new email to sign up for alerts from a dozen different sources, including foreign ones.

Do not buy anything, but go on-line and shop for shit you hate. Shop until you see ads for everything you hate, from music, to books, clothes and household stuff popping up on your computer screen like crazy.

Lie like crazy. Go on comment boards and pretend you are an entirely different person. Pretend you are a Russian, Canadian, or German, a conservative, a liberal, a Trump hater, a Trump lover. Your task is to confuse by lying. If you are 65, post pictures of your new baby. If you are 20, post pictures of you in nursing home bed. Get creative. Have fun. Lie like crazy.

Confuse. Baffle. Lie. STOP being predictable.

[Oct 16, 2017] Governing is complicated as laws and policies affect a diverse spectrum of people and situations. The average person, in my experience, is not inclined to spend the time necessary to understand good laws/policy in a complex society. The one safety check on mob rule is that most people don't become politically active until their situation is relatively dire

Highly recommended!
Republic is the policies system where leaders are obliged to leave after their maximum allowed term in office or if they lose the election (as opposed to the monarchy). the question who really select the rulers remain open, and in most cases people are not gven the right to do so -- the elite preselect candidates for which common people can vote in general elections.
Democracy is more then that -- it is unrealistic, utopian dream of direct rule of people, without intermediation of the elite. As such it is mostly a propaganda trick. Still be can strive for more fair representation by the elite. The key question here are the mechanisms of the filtration and the rotation of the elite as well as providing a channel for people from lower strata to enter the elite. Right now universities are still serving as a path to upward mobility but this channel is more and more blocked.
For example the US Senate is an example of almost life appointment to political position. Putting the limit on the time one can a senator might improve the situation, but it created the problem of short-termism. But taking into account to what extent senators are controlled by MIC and various other powerful lobbies it might not matter much. "It has been studied, and the fact is that members of the American Senate spend about two-thirds of their time raising money."
The class who holds economic power always also hold political power.
Notable quotes:
"... Democracy is a compromise, but it is one that virtually no one argues against. At least leaders are obliged to leave periodically. Churchill had it right when called democracy the worst form of government except for all the others. ..."
"... So, no thanks, I prefer representative democracy where I leave governance to a representative who I can vote for or against. I don't want to ever be involved in politics and hence I don't want decision left to groups of "community activists" of which i suspect you'd be quite happy to be part of. ..."
"... Trump is no Caesar but a Cataline. Just a sad sideshow in the slow implosion of Pax Americana. ..."
"... I'm sorry, but this is just not possible, at least not without something close to a revolution. In every Western country we like to call a democracy, the truth is that they have only an elaborate stage set of democracy. I prefer the term "plutocrat" to "oligarch," but whatever word you choose to use, the facts of society are the same. ..."
"... Power, no matter how it is granted, is power. And money is power, serious power. We can see this in a thousand aspects of our societies from the long-term success of someone like Harvey Weinstein in business to the many powerful lobbies which determine the direction of national policy. ..."
"... In the United States, the last national election was between a multi-billionaire and the best financed candidate in history, a woman who burnt through somewhere between $1.2 billion and $1.8 billion to lose. ..."
"... It has been studied, and the fact is that members of the American Senate spend about two-thirds of their time raising money. The American House of Representatives actually has call rooms were Representatives spend time every week raising money. And when I say "raising money" I don't mean the contributions which come from the likes of you or me. I mean big money from big sources of money, the only ones who really count. ..."
"... Something is out of balance in Washington. Corporations now spend about $2.6 billion a year on reported lobbying expenditures -- more than the $2 billion we spend to fund the House ($1.18 billion) and Senate ($860 million). It's a gap that has been widening since corporate lobbying began to regularly exceed the combined House-Senate budget in the early 2000s. ..."
"... Today, the biggest companies have upwards of 100 lobbyists representing them, allowing them to be everywhere, all the time. For every dollar spent on lobbying by labor unions and public-interest groups together, large corporations and their associations now spend $34. Of the 100 organizations that spend the most on lobbying, 95 consistently represent business. ..."
"... Above analysis needs to be translated into common everyday analogies. Such as Governments are gangs selling crack and guns and form co-ops with other gangs to stop killing each other. Leaders are psychopaths who kill anyone who calls them a bitch. ..."
"... Revolutions usually occur because of economic difficulties. As long as life is relatively stable/acceptable, most people will not challenge the status quo. Their voting (if they vote at all) is reflexive/rote. ..."
"... People will only rise up if you take away the minimum level of life for too many people. Many people are happy with the minimum. The left are deluded in they think they can gather together a lot of political protests for a life above the minimum. Many people are happy if they are simply getting by. You only have a problem when too many people are not getting by. ..."
"... I don't like an oligarchy but I'm just not sure where this pushback will come from. Many people are destined to be the bottom of whatever system is in place. ..."
"... We're delivered the illusion of democracy but look how quickly trump has been owned and is now going OTT in doing the bidding of the elites. ..."
"... People that are poor and oppressed CAN'T complain. That is the whole point of living in a dictatorship. ..."
"... Last November, a decent sized percentage of the American electorate appears to have voted for a 'politician' who they perceived to be the outsider. Presumably, their view was that there was little to differentiate between traditional republicans and democrats. ..."
"... Thank you for a wonderful article. Does the assumption "Oligarchy bad- Democracy good" really stand up to scrutiny in all cases? Democracy has had its failures, and some benign dictators have done very well for their people. ..."
"... Words and Technologies lead to abuse by rouge states like USA NSA and UK GCHQ spying on all citizens, Bannon type nonsense like racism is populism, white supremacy is judeo-christan values and racist Corporations like Breitbart and Cambridge Analytica pushing racist platforms like Trump and Brexit. Same Hypocrites are outraged when Russia and Iran infiltrate them back. Drone tech preceded 911 and preceded Bush war in Iraq and Afghanistan, (but were used on the sly). Now illegal wars are conducted using drones illegally claiming there is no law for drone wars. Spy Agencies and Internet censors have Sundays off. ..."
"... Understanding the connection between wealth and power shouldn't be all that difficult. Really. More wealth = more political power, always has. Waiting for the oligarchy to rot from within isn't what i would call a viable plan. Not when there is a far better and far more sure way to get the job done. Start with capping wealth accumulation. No one has a right to unlimited wealth accumulation. Allowing it leads to oligarchies and the death of democracies, as this article points out. ..."
"... When George Bush Junior followed his father into the White House and became the President he demonstrated that political power remains in the hands of a few and the system is rigged. It doesn't require academics to write comparisons to Greek culture to tell us the dice is always loaded. ..."
"... The USA is clearly a warlord power in how it behaves around the world, and anyone that sees the power of the militarised police, from Kent state to Black Lives, should recognise aspects of the Mafia type power. ..."
"... The point is not that the laws are used by Oligarchs, but that the constitution and system of laws one has brings forth olicharchs. Europe has laws, but the countries there are largely social democracies rather than imperialist presidencies. ..."
"... One of the finest reviews written in decades about a topic of supreme importance. Police and military officials are the brute arms and legs of the oligarchic elites. The coming attack on North Korea and Iran is the elite capturing new markets for their banking industry and manufacturing. Goldman Sachs and the investment banks are chomping at the bit for entre into southwest and east Asia. ..."
"... The article assumes that oligarchy is inherently bad. Ancient Greece, Ancient Rome and Victorian England where all democratically sanctioned oligarchies. They where also the most successful cultures of their day. Perhaps a democratically sanctioned oligarchy is the most successful system of governance in large populations. ..."
"... Having been poor, I can't see the poor doing a better job of running the world. These articles never propose any workable solution to what we have now. Maybe the middle class could run things. Let's have a middle class revolution. That's more workable than 'power to the poor' which would end terribly. ..."
"... Their most effective power play is the perpetual game of economical musical chairs. The chairs are your living wage. Each round the masters take out their profit, removing one (or more) of the chairs from the next round. Now you have the choice of a death match with your neighbors for the remaining chairs or currying favour with the masters for the removed chair. ..."
"... Don't forget the role of the corporations and their associated 'think tanks'. In reality the USA is a corporatocracy as nicely pointed out by Bruce E. Levine in The Blog of the HUFFPOST in 2011. https://www.huffingtonpost.com/bruce-e-levine/the-myth-of-us-democracy-corporatocracy_b_836573.html ..."
"... "...in today's meritocratic era." This description is a myth put about by the oligarchs to justify their economic and political power. ..."
"... The UK had a brief glimpse of Democracy, sometime between the mid 1940's and the late 1970's. ..."
"... If you are thinking of the old Warsaw Pact countries, that was certainly an oligarchy based on party membership. ..."
"... Perhaps all political systems will tend towards oligarchy over time, as the people with the wherewithal learn how to make the system work for them and theirs. Anarchy cannot be the solution, but what is ...? ..."
"... So an oligarchy hiding behind a sham democracy is the best we can hope for? ..."
"... In a system where we economic power buys political power democracy will remain a myth or at best an illusion and as the author rightly points out a catastrophic event at the level of the depression or world war is needed to begin anew. I for one am not hoping for either ..."
"... So when the people take control and their populist leaders take charge and all their lots become better, don't they become the very oligarchs they despise? ..."
"... With this typology behind him, Winters declares that America is already a civil oligarchy. To use the language of recent political campaigns, our oligarchs try to rig the system to defend their wealth. They focus on lowering taxes and on reducing regulations that protect workers and citizens from corporate wrongdoing. ..."
"... Industrialization will prevent any meaningful revolution so without serious changes in who is winning elections for a sustained time oligarchy in the US is here to stay. Mechanized war means control of assets rather than numerical superiority is the key to conflict and despite the millions of rifles and assault weapons out there they wont do much against drone bombers and drone tanks. ..."
"... I was heartened by the idea that the oligarchy must necessarily rot from within as a result of its own cronyism. Much like the insider-dealing, back-stabbing, and incompetence of the present clique. ..."
"... 'The question is whether democracy will emerge from oligarchic breakdown – or whether the oligarchs will just strengthen their grasp on the levers of government.' - judging by evidence from time immemorial my money is definitely on the oligarchs. ..."
"... The combination of political and economic power is discussed in Plato's Republic. Either book 4 or 5. Whilst not a replacement for modern treatment, it is vital reading if you want to avoid the limitations of single perspectives. ..."
"... To understand the significance of psyops and infowar against the public, you should also look at Tacitus' book on Corrupt Eloquence. Again, not a replacement but a way of seeing the broader picture. ..."
"... The article starts with an assumption that is wrong. It seems to suggest that America can't become an oligarchy without the will of the people. That ignores the fact that America's electoral system attracts oligarchs or at least people who are happy to be puppets of oligarch to the top job. ..."
"... Surveillance, drones, a purchased media, a mercenary govt, an internet with too much democracy and thus too many hairsplitting doctrinal differences, and increasingly effective killing devices, means the international corporate oligarchs have been in control for some time and will be for awhile more ..."
Oct 16, 2017 | discussion.theguardian.com

FREDBUDTZ -> DocAdam , 15 Oct 2017 08:49

Yes, but the fundamental issue has always been, how do you chose the oligarch and how do you get rid of one who is clearly badly failing or abusing power?

Democracy is a compromise, but it is one that virtually no one argues against. At least leaders are obliged to leave periodically. Churchill had it right when called democracy the worst form of government except for all the others.

Oligarchy clearly serves some developing countries well, always assuming the oligarchs are people dedicated to doing their best for the country as a whole. And they do do that sometimes.

Yet, we have supported nonsense like killing a Gadaffi, who gave his people good government and peace, and pitching Libya into chaos.

All in the dishonest name of democracy from our dishonest "democratic" politicians.

Look at Israel, always slapping itself on the back as the Mideast's "only democracy," while it consorts happily with kings and tyrants in its neighborhood and continues to hold millions of people in occupation against their will.

DirDigIns -> jessthecrip , 15 Oct 2017 08:46

What's your definition then?

Representative democracy. Not democracy by the crowd. Not eternal referenda. Not local "community" groups holding a lot of power. This is simply the tyranny of small groups of ideological left and ring wing extremists who will sit for 4 hours on a wet Tuesday evening in some hall somewhere to get their way, knowing that most normal people have better things to do with their lives.

It is the way of socialist workers and the like at University with their endless union meetings and motions, hoping to sneak through some crap the "represents" the student body of thousands on the basis of less than 100 votes. When challenged as to legitimacy the response is always "no one is prevented from getting involved".

That I suspect is your type of democracy, as it certainly is Corbyn's.

So, no thanks, I prefer representative democracy where I leave governance to a representative who I can vote for or against. I don't want to ever be involved in politics and hence I don't want decision left to groups of "community activists" of which i suspect you'd be quite happy to be part of.

zippy200 , 15 Oct 2017 08:44
Marxism 101. Trouble is liberals on the one hand bang on about proletariat solidarity, yet on the other, peddle identity politics and turn a blind eye at increasingly fragmented communities. And when the modern oligarchs come out and play they scratch their heads and blame "the stupid".
DirDigIns -> ID059068 , 15 Oct 2017 08:40
Your comment is the equivalent of the reply one normally gets from lefties btl if you say you don't want to be paying more tax i.e. "go to Somalia".

The nuance that there may be something between high tax and low tax is lost on them.

In your case, the idea that having what Beveridge proposed originally as a "safety net" of state provision rather than a lifestyle choice of full coverage of everything is lost on you, hence you suggest the choice is a binary everything or nothing.

Yours is the ignorance of the socialist and yes, a lack of personal freedom in your thinking that I'd reject every time.

W.a. Thomaston , 15 Oct 2017 08:37
The first rule of oligarchic fight club: You do not talk about oligarchic fight club! Or apparently Republics? From the little golden book of how to overthrow oligarchs by overthrown oligarchs (*Minion Free Edition)
Amanzim -> JosephCamilleri , 15 Oct 2017 08:37
India has democracy, but it is suppressing Kashmiris who want to be independent. In the last decade more than 30000 people have been killed by Indian army. Why? Because they want freedom.
Koen Van Vugt -> aeris2001x2 , 15 Oct 2017 08:36
Trump is no Caesar but a Cataline. Just a sad sideshow in the slow implosion of Pax Americana.
awilson5280 -> amwink , 15 Oct 2017 08:36
Sparta used slave labor for its agricultural needs, freeing its people to train and form the backbone of its militaristic society.

I agree that the best system for managing human affairs remains an open question. Locke and Hobbes are not done debating, and Churchill's attribution that democracy is the worst system of governance aside from everything else we've tried bears consideration as well. (If you want to discard democracy, it only seems fair that you present a viable, well thought-out replacement.)

FREDBUDTZ , 15 Oct 2017 08:36
"How the oligarchy wins..." "... two recent books can teach us about defending democracy from oligarchs'

I'm sorry, but this is just not possible, at least not without something close to a revolution. In every Western country we like to call a democracy, the truth is that they have only an elaborate stage set of democracy. I prefer the term "plutocrat" to "oligarch," but whatever word you choose to use, the facts of society are the same.

Power, no matter how it is granted, is power. And money is power, serious power. We can see this in a thousand aspects of our societies from the long-term success of someone like Harvey Weinstein in business to the many powerful lobbies which determine the direction of national policy.

In the United States, the last national election was between a multi-billionaire and the best financed candidate in history, a woman who burnt through somewhere between $1.2 billion and $1.8 billion to lose.

It has been studied, and the fact is that members of the American Senate spend about two-thirds of their time raising money. The American House of Representatives actually has call rooms were Representatives spend time every week raising money. And when I say "raising money" I don't mean the contributions which come from the likes of you or me. I mean big money from big sources of money, the only ones who really count.

Look at a phenomenon like Macron in France. He came from nowhere and seems to have very limited talents, yet the plutocratic interests who backed him managed to grab the French Presidency. Former French President Sarkozy, a man who proved mostly ineffective, took huge sums from General Gaddafi to the richest woman in France, a woman rumored to not have been even fully competent at the time.

Not only are the contributors of big money - both individuals and lobby groups - at the center of Western politics, but our very institutions are constructed to accommodate leadership which does not reflect the views of a majority. This is done in many structural ways from district gerrymandering to the nature of the "first past the post" ballots we use.

Look at Britain's most utterly incompetent modern politician, David Cameron, the man who single-handedly created the entire Brexit mess plus engaged in a terrible lot of dishonest and brutal behavior in the Middle East. He was never popular and ruled with something over 35% of the vote. Britain's institutions accommodated that.

In Canada, Stephen Harper, the man most Canadians likely regard as the shabbiest ever to rule the country, managed to do terrible things with about 39% of the vote.

And everywhere, people don't vote for war, interests do, rich interests.

timiengels , 15 Oct 2017 08:34
We desperately need a revolution.....and to hang these oligarchs from the nearest yardarm or lamppost. Where is our Robspierre?
Boghaunter -> Sailor25 , 15 Oct 2017 08:34
Economist Ha Joon Chang wrote about the meteoric economic rise of South Korea. He talked about how governmental policy chose areas to heavily subsidize (like educating engineers) to stimulate growth. They were successful but Chang also talks about the "losers" left behind.

If we only look at economics and if we assume economic growth is always a positive with no downside (slums, environmental degradation, authoritarian oppression, rulers passing laws to protect their privilege, etc.), than your premise looks sound.

choowy , 15 Oct 2017 08:33
'...displays of wealth that might spark *envy'. Interesting article otherwise
ClaudiaRain01 -> Boghaunter , 15 Oct 2017 08:33
I think being dire is an important key. Maybe it is dire in Britain for many people now. It isn't here, in Australia, just yet although people are going backwards.

The other issue is a lack of political literacy. You have to convince people they need a revolution. Many people are poor because understanding things like politics and society is not their strong point.

You may have a large group of people who are prime to vote for socialism but you'd have to explain to them why and convince them not just take it as a given they will. You may have an overwhelming amount of people who would benefit from socialism and you could win the revolution then they'd do something dumb like vote for Trump or Pauline Hanson. It is not a given that having victorious numbers of struggling people means socialism will be voted for.

Fibonaccisequins , 15 Oct 2017 08:32
Something is out of balance in Washington. Corporations now spend about $2.6 billion a year on reported lobbying expenditures -- more than the $2 billion we spend to fund the House ($1.18 billion) and Senate ($860 million). It's a gap that has been widening since corporate lobbying began to regularly exceed the combined House-Senate budget in the early 2000s.

Today, the biggest companies have upwards of 100 lobbyists representing them, allowing them to be everywhere, all the time. For every dollar spent on lobbying by labor unions and public-interest groups together, large corporations and their associations now spend $34. Of the 100 organizations that spend the most on lobbying, 95 consistently represent business.

https://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2015/04/how-corporate-lobbyists-conquered-american-democracy/390822/

TheResult , 15 Oct 2017 08:29
Above analysis needs to be translated into common everyday analogies. Such as Governments are gangs selling crack and guns and form co-ops with other gangs to stop killing each other. Leaders are psychopaths who kill anyone who calls them a bitch.
barciad -> TheWindsOfWinter93 , 15 Oct 2017 08:29
You say that, but wind the clock back 80 years and they were saying the same things about tanks and airplanes. Modern day, 'urbanised feudalism' with the petrol engine instead of horses. Otherwise known as Fascism. Didn't quite work out did it...
Elgrecoandros -> jessthecrip , 15 Oct 2017 08:29
I don't think Jeremy Corbyn should be punished for having different political opinions to me, nor do I want Jacob Rees-Mogg punished because his opinions differ from mine, whereas you were calling for the latter to be punished for his political views.

For most people the options for dealing with those of a different political opinion are not either 1) imprisonment or 2) confiscation of property/forced labour. Those are extremist positions.

Boghaunter -> ClaudiaRain01 , 15 Oct 2017 08:27
I find truth in your words. I used to understand the fear of "mob rule", which democracy seemed vulnerable to. Governing is complicated and, ideally, is broad-minded as laws and policies affect a diverse spectrum of people and situations. The average person, in my experience, is not inclined to spend the time necessary to understand good laws/policy in a complex society. The one safety check on mob rule is that most people don't become politically active until their situation is relatively dire.

Revolutions usually occur because of economic difficulties. As long as life is relatively stable/acceptable, most people will not challenge the status quo. Their voting (if they vote at all) is reflexive/rote.

Most of the time, democracies are fundamentally guided by people who have a deeper interest in governance. As long as the engaged populace takes reasonable account of society as a whole, there will be no upheavals. When the scales tip too far we get an "acting out" that is unrestrained and chaotic and understandable.

This is simplistic and not meant to be absolute. Just an observation.

ClaudiaRain01 -> imperium3 , 15 Oct 2017 08:25
People will only rise up if you take away the minimum level of life for too many people. Many people are happy with the minimum. The left are deluded in they think they can gather together a lot of political protests for a life above the minimum. Many people are happy if they are simply getting by. You only have a problem when too many people are not getting by.
ClaudiaRain01 -> JosephCamilleri , 15 Oct 2017 08:22
In Australia plenty of people choose to live off the minimum wage. Many choose not to work full time. The state picks up after them with health care and income top ups. They are highly unlikely to make an effort to overthrow the oligarchy or the plutocracy. Why bother when you can work 30 hours a week at an easy job and get along just fine in life.

I don't like an oligarchy but I'm just not sure where this pushback will come from. Many people are destined to be the bottom of whatever system is in place.

Fibonaccisequins , 15 Oct 2017 08:20
In the UK we have circa 1200 quangos controlling our lives, and look how the tories have recently abused select committee appointments. In the USA they have organisations such as the council on foreign relations which wields huge power across all areas of policy, combined with the intricacies of all the mechanisms it prevents democracy from taking shape. We're delivered the illusion of democracy but look how quickly trump has been owned and is now going OTT in doing the bidding of the elites.
amwink , 15 Oct 2017 08:19
By "Greece" I suspect this article means "Athens". Sparta had a different system and was not subjected to these issues. In fact, that system was superior in many ways, but apparently all has to be judged according to the rule that democracy would be the best.
MattSpanner , 15 Oct 2017 08:16
Classical Greece's economy ran on slave labour. Something Tories hanker after with austerity, zero-hours contracts and non-existent job security.
aeris2001x2 , 15 Oct 2017 08:16
Or one from the elite arises and takes power and skips democracy and devolves the US straight to tyranny, as also forewarned by the classics. Its a good job Trump never got in last year...oh fuck
JosephCamilleri -> TheWindsOfWinter93 , 15 Oct 2017 08:15
People that are poor and oppressed CAN'T complain. That is the whole point of living in a dictatorship. Should you be interested in the truth of what is happening in that empire, just navigate different news sites.

Authorities in Xinjiang Extend Uyghur Persecution to Region's Ethnic Kyrgyz (RFA)
Justice for Some, Notoriety for Others: Public Law Enforcement in China (DH)
Xinjiang Seethes Under Chinese Crackdown (NYT)
Clashes as Ethnic Evenk Herders Protest China's Grazing Ban in Inner Mongolia (RFA)
Chinese Dissident 'Utterly Destroyed' in Detention (FB)
China executed 2,400 people in 2013: report (AJ)
Chinese Dissident Calls on China to Stop Persecuting His Family (VOA)

SimonGKelly -> Churchman72 , 15 Oct 2017 08:12
China is indeed a good example.

What about the GOP and the Democratic parties as competing oligopolies? Last November, a decent sized percentage of the American electorate appears to have voted for a 'politician' who they perceived to be the outsider. Presumably, their view was that there was little to differentiate between traditional republicans and democrats.

Stateless1 , 15 Oct 2017 08:12
Gerrymandering helps get the result you want.
https://img.washingtonpost.com/pbox.php?url=http://img.washingtonpost.com/blogs/wonkblog/files/2014/05/crimes-against-geography.png&w=1484&op=resize&opt=1&filter=antialias&t=20170517
shtove -> Slo27 , 15 Oct 2017 08:09
Once you use the concept of class you out yourself as the oligarch's willing executioner. There's no proof that democracy can't adapt and survive, yet a catastrophist will insist it's so.
imperium3 -> ClaudiaRain01 , 15 Oct 2017 08:08

They aspire to be like the top? No, they don't. No revolution is coming because plenty on the bottom are fine if they are just getting along in life. Aspiring to be like the top would involve too much hard work for many.

If you push the bottom too far you just end up with a correction at the next election, that's it.

And yet the Bourbons do not still rule France, neither the Romanovs nor the Bolsheviks rule Russia, and the once-mighty Habsburgs are a distant memory.

Of course, the reason our democracies are not supposed to go the same way is that the populace can change things themselves through elections rather than having to rise up and overthrow the whole system. But what happens when the electoral system fails? What happens if, no matter how the electorate votes, the political class thumbs its nose at them and carries on as usual?

To take the most obvious example of democratic failure - the US - where will the American electorate go after Trump? Can we seriously expect the same people who voted for him, and undoubtedly did not get what they wanted, to flock to support some business-as-usual Democrat or oily Republican?

ConBrio , 15 Oct 2017 08:07

Winters declares that America is already a civil oligarchy. To use the language of recent political campaigns, our oligarchs try to rig the system to defend their wealth. They focus on lowering taxes and on reducing regulations that protect workers and citizens from corporate wrongdoing.

If there's ever been a country not ruled by oligarchy I'd like to see it.

The United States vacillates between a sly oligarchy of the Left who use the dole as its virtue signaling to garner votes, and the Right whose use of government for self aggrandizement is more obvious.

Indeed, any notion that the genetic impulse to self aggrandizement will change is spurious.

As such, the only and imperfect defense, is to limit government power thus reducing the oligarchs' potential for self dealing and, more importantly, requiring frequent elections which although in the long run don't eliminate the problem, tend to engender compromise and periodic shifts in power from one faction to another.

James Madison's article No. 10 of The Federalist elucidates the principles. http://avalon.law.yale.edu/18th_century/fed10.aspof

Churchman72 -> SimonGKelly , 15 Oct 2017 08:01
I think today's China is a good example of what a modern oligarchy looks like- a Party structure that provides privilege through membership, but no clearly definable ideology other than consolidating power and projecting it. It is ironic that a supposedly socialist country devotes so much energy into preventing labour from organising into unions and has such massive inequality.

Russia on the other hand is a sham democracy where the structure of democracy is in place, but thoroughly eviscerated so that it exists only to confer legitimacy on the oligarchy (with Putin and his inner circle at the core). If Putin was to die suddenly (or become incapacitated) there may be a real world example of oligarchical collapse as rival factions try to occupy the vacant centre of power. It could very well create a space in which genuine grassroots democracy could grow, but equally it could tear the country apart.

Neither country has a history of democracy, and the rule of law isn't anywhere near as strong as in liberal western democracies, and is easily subverted. Russia particularly has a culture of political coups, as the country relies on unequal power distribution to function, making separatist movements a very real threat.

JosephCamilleri -> TheWindsOfWinter93 , 15 Oct 2017 07:58
They are complaining, but you can't hear them, because they are oppressed and colonized and disenfranchised. In the country, in inner Mongolia, in Turkestan, and in Tibet, and when they want to claim their rights and their family gets persecuted for a few generations. And if anyone talks about it, the Communist party threatens to not trade with you.
imperium3 -> TheWindsOfWinter93 , 15 Oct 2017 07:58
Precisely. In a world where a handful of people could control a whole army, who's to stop that handful from assuming total control over the rest of us?

I'm not even sure there's much that can be done to stop it, since the nations that refuse to embrace new military technology tend to get defeated by other nations that have no such qualms.

EquilibriaJones -> Sailor25 , 15 Oct 2017 07:57
Successful until people start missing 3 meals. Then the pitchforks come out.
jessthecrip -> Elgrecoandros , 15 Oct 2017 07:57
I was responding to a poster who called for imprisonment for those concerned. Do you think imprisonment would be more democratic?
DocAdam , 15 Oct 2017 07:55
Thank you for a wonderful article. Does the assumption "Oligarchy bad- Democracy good" really stand up to scrutiny in all cases? Democracy has had its failures, and some benign dictators have done very well for their people.
ID059068 -> DirDigIns , 15 Oct 2017 07:54
I sincerely wish you to have the same freedom to 'live freely and succeed or fail due to their own personal talents' as my grandparents had in the 20s and 30s.

That is, the freedom to be unemployed without help for years (but with the freedom to grow what food they could in the back yard of a slum in an industrial city). The freedom to see some of their children die because there was no treatment if you were diabetic and poor. The freedom to send your 13 year old son to work with a broken foot (stamped on by one of the cart-horses he tended) because he was the only earner. The freedom to work hungry for two days until payday because bills had been paid (rent, coal) and there was no money... I could go on and on. I really hope you get to enjoy all this freedom. And please do emjoy it without a murmur of complaint because being helped by all your neighbours that make up 'the state' isn't freedom, is it?

JosephCamilleri -> ClaudiaRain01 , 15 Oct 2017 07:54
Who is 'we'? It depends where you were born.
JosephCamilleri -> Sailor25 , 15 Oct 2017 07:52
Both Greece and Rome went through quire a few multiple systems in multiple situations. It does not make sense to say they are singular political types at all.
Elgrecoandros -> jessthecrip , 15 Oct 2017 07:51
Considering that in another thread you called on forced labour and confiscation of private property for those you disagreed with politically, your version of 'proper democracy' would have been called 'τυραννία' by the Ancient Greeks.
ClaudiaRain01 -> Swoll Man , 15 Oct 2017 07:50
No, working with poor people convinced me socialism is no better. I'm not inclined to work hard and have to support people who choose to work part time and collect benefits part time as a lifestyle choice.
imperium3 -> Sailor25 , 15 Oct 2017 07:50
Successful for whom? All of those were extremely unequal societies. The spoils of the Roman and British Empires mostly went to enrich the oligarchs while the vast majority of the population laboured in poverty.

The majority was only able to prosper once the power of the oligarchs was broken, either from above (the early Roman emperors tore the old senatorial class to pieces) or from below (gradual democratic and labour reforms in Britain conceded for fear of a potential revolution).

TheWindsOfWinter93 -> GagaInGreenacres , 15 Oct 2017 07:45
That would work fine before the age of automation now where humans are taken out of the job scope entirely. Then it becomes a lot harder to justify on a philosophical, ethical and moral level the logic of giving money to people for doing nothing (because there's nothing left for them to do).

You're talking about a fundamental change in the mentality that we reap what we sow, that our efforts directly correspond to the rewards and resources we gain at the end of it. I don't think that's possible. Neither is it desirable.

unclestinky , 15 Oct 2017 07:44

two World Wars and a Great Depression largely wiped out the holdings of the extremely wealthy

There was also a couple of generations trained under arms and seasoned under fire. There was a mixing of classes unlike any other and enough people who would not put up with a return to the status quo.
TheWindsOfWinter93 -> twilightegal , 15 Oct 2017 07:43
A world war is entirely necessary. To assume that peace is inherently good for humanity as a whole in terms of population numbers, technological advancements, or political stability is ridiculous in my honest opinion. Peace represents stagnation. It relies too much on ever-convoluted webs of interdependence (like that Concert of Europe before WWI, once declared as peace for its time).

The American revolutionaries had it right when they said that the tree of liberty regularly requires the blood of tyrants and patriots to continue flourishing.

TheResult , 15 Oct 2017 07:41
Big Words usages up above

Words and Technologies lead to abuse by rouge states like USA NSA and UK GCHQ spying on all citizens, Bannon type nonsense like racism is populism, white supremacy is judeo-christan values and racist Corporations like Breitbart and Cambridge Analytica pushing racist platforms like Trump and Brexit. Same Hypocrites are outraged when Russia and Iran infiltrate them back. Drone tech preceded 911 and preceded Bush war in Iraq and Afghanistan, (but were used on the sly). Now illegal wars are conducted using drones illegally claiming there is no law for drone wars. Spy Agencies and Internet censors have Sundays off.

TheWindsOfWinter93 -> barciad , 15 Oct 2017 07:41
Interesting idea. So the core of a nation's military power decides what politics makes it up (dependent on who's got the most access to the power to kill). In that case the automation of war for drones and robots cannot be anything but bad news: they are the new cavalry, affordable only by the very rich and powerful and so awesome in destructive power at almost no human cost if they are destroyed that they would make the perfect enforcers for a strict feudal order.
apacheman , 15 Oct 2017 07:39
Understanding the connection between wealth and power shouldn't be all that difficult. Really. More wealth = more political power, always has. Waiting for the oligarchy to rot from within isn't what i would call a viable plan. Not when there is a far better and far more sure way to get the job done. Start with capping wealth accumulation. No one has a right to unlimited wealth accumulation. Allowing it leads to oligarchies and the death of democracies, as this article points out.

Set the cap at a reasonably high figure to reward hard work, innovation, etc. Somewhere around $5B should work. Why $5 billion? Because of the ~2K billionaires in the world, most, like 80-85% or so, have less than that amount, and it becomes a break point within the oligarchy, dividing their unity. Think of the egos involved: many of those with $1-5B would relish seeing the 200+ hyper rich brought within striking distance of equality on their level.

Second, agree with the politicians that taxpayers know best how to spend their money.

Change the budget process so that the politicians pass the budget, but the people decide whether or not to fund it. Establish dedicated tax payment centers so when tax time rolls around, the proposed budget is available for the citizenry to examine.

Then allow the taxpayer to fund those parts they agree are necessary and make sense, by establishing discrete step amounts scaled to the size of the tax bill, e.g., say your tax bill came to 1582 whatevers, dollars, pounds, etc. At that size your increment might be 25 or 50, let's say 50 for argument's sake.

That means our taxpayer could fund up to 31 different parts of the budget. To ensure that the money gets spread around, we can limit the number of allocations to any given part to 3 or 4, and close a choice when its budget request is met. Anything left over that doesn't meet the minimum step level would go into the general fund for the politicians to allocate, either topping off programs that didn't quite get their budget requests filled or funding something that didn't get sufficient funds from the public to be viable.

Now here's were you can get voluntary revenue enhancement: allow the taxpayer to top off the leftover amount for the privilege of allocating it themselves rather than surrendering it to politicians' control. That amount wouldn't be applied against future taxes, it is payment-for-privilege. In our example the taxpayer could add 18 to the leftover 32, a choice many would make.

Third, bring voting into the modern era: use those handy tax payment centers both to vote in local, state, and national elections (while changing the voting period from a day to a week) and to provide feedback to politicians. Whenever anything controversial comes up, like healthcare or bailouts or war, allow the citizenry to override their representative's choice of vote if a majority of voters choose to vote the other way on that particular matter.

Fourth, establish mental standards for running for political office. Test would-be candidates to determine whether or not they are sociopaths. I'd prefer to not allow such people to hold political offices or appointments, but would accept just identifying them so voters know what they will get.

Taken together, those steps would ensure that democracy is strong and safe from co-option by oligarchs, both directly and indirectly by providing a genuine incentive to pay attention to issues.

TheWindsOfWinter93 -> Slo27 , 15 Oct 2017 07:36
Indeed you're right. And to be fair, why should he? The world's spent long enough whining on about great powers like the US trying to foist their ideas of a better world by their own rules and standards on everyone else (democracy spreading anyone?), so if we are to truly put words to action then an isolationist US allowing for other powers to fill the vacuum and return the world to multipolarity cannot be seen as anything other than a good thing.
TheWindsOfWinter93 -> JosephCamilleri , 15 Oct 2017 07:34
That doesn't sound very much like China here which is used as an example of a dictatorship (more de-facto than de-jure since the Chinese president and premier only has the absolute writ of God for ten years).

Apart from those in Hong Kong, there really isn't much of anyone in China's domestic population complaining about being oppressed, unfree, colonised, or unable to become who they can be.

barciad -> N1LiberalElitist , 15 Oct 2017 07:31
It really some downs to how you define the term 'Liberal'. Socially Liberal? Economically Liberal? The latter being a modern euphemism for being about as reactionary as it gets.
philipl -> ValuedCustomer , 15 Oct 2017 07:28
But that is breaking down as middle class benefits (pensions etc.) begin to disappear. There is a growing awareness , I think, that inequality is becoming extreme between the very rich and everyone else. Good article, anyway.
JosephCamilleri -> TheWindsOfWinter93 , 15 Oct 2017 07:28
People in dictatorships are oppressed, unfree, colonised, and unable to become who they could be. Most people want to be more than just alive.
DirDigIns -> WhatTheTruth , 15 Oct 2017 07:27
I'd rather describe it as socialism giving everybody endless free stuff, hence we get more and more reliant on the state and those who wish to live freely and succeed or fail due to their own personal talents see the idea of personal responsibility denuded everywhere.

Socialists seem to think "freedom" is achieved by having the state always there in everything to back you up, to a lot of the rest of us that is most definitely not freedom at all.

mrpukpuk , 15 Oct 2017 07:26
We are all well divided. So the oligarchy is safe.
Russell Sanders , 15 Oct 2017 07:24
When George Bush Junior followed his father into the White House and became the President he demonstrated that political power remains in the hands of a few and the system is rigged. It doesn't require academics to write comparisons to Greek culture to tell us the dice is always loaded.
JosephCamilleri -> TheWindsOfWinter93 , 15 Oct 2017 07:23
That would depend on the quality and sophistication of the constitution. Social multi-party representative democracies with a house of review don't decay like executive presidencies do.
JosephCamilleri , 15 Oct 2017 07:19

"In civil oligarchies, governance is collective and enforced through laws, rather than by arms. Democracy defeated oligarchy in ancient Greece because of 'oligarchic breakdown.' With this typology behind him, Winters declares that America is already a civil oligarchy."

Two things.

1. The USA is clearly a warlord power in how it behaves around the world, and anyone that sees the power of the militarised police, from Kent state to Black Lives, should recognise aspects of the Mafia type power.

2. The point is not that the laws are used by Oligarchs, but that the constitution and system of laws one has brings forth olicharchs. Europe has laws, but the countries there are largely social democracies rather than imperialist presidencies.

Also, I don't think anyone interested in politics does not understand that material economical structure is the basis, and ideology is just the result or sales pitch.

Dan2017 -> Sailor25 , 15 Oct 2017 07:18
Unfortunately, your view is one that is becoming more prevalent, on the left and right. All about ensuring that the correct thinking people are not held back by the plebs. Ti that effect they accuse them of false consciousness by one half and being anti-business by the other.
FranklinDRoosevelt , 15 Oct 2017 07:17
One of the finest reviews written in decades about a topic of supreme importance. Police and military officials are the brute arms and legs of the oligarchic elites. The coming attack on North Korea and Iran is the elite capturing new markets for their banking industry and manufacturing. Goldman Sachs and the investment banks are chomping at the bit for entre into southwest and east Asia. Articles and reviews like this one is WHY I HAVE READ THE GUARDIAN FOR DECADES.
GagaInGreenacres -> TragicomedyBeholder , 15 Oct 2017 07:16
The government need not favour the down trodden, it need only offer a job at a living wage to anyone willing to contribute to their community. This would make us all equal enough.
Sailor25 , 15 Oct 2017 07:15
The article assumes that oligarchy is inherently bad. Ancient Greece, Ancient Rome and Victorian England where all democratically sanctioned oligarchies. They where also the most successful cultures of their day. Perhaps a democratically sanctioned oligarchy is the most successful system of governance in large populations.
ClaudiaRain01 -> TheWindsOfWinter93 , 15 Oct 2017 07:15
They aspire to be like the top? No, they don't. No revolution is coming because plenty on the bottom are fine if they are just getting along in life. Aspiring to be like the top would involve too much hard work for many.

If you push the bottom too far you just end up with a correction at the next election, that's it.

ClaudiaRain01 , 15 Oct 2017 07:13
Having been poor, I can't see the poor doing a better job of running the world. These articles never propose any workable solution to what we have now. Maybe the middle class could run things. Let's have a middle class revolution. That's more workable than 'power to the poor' which would end terribly.
qvideh -> YurekandTina Kulski , 15 Oct 2017 07:11
Plutocracy!
GagaInGreenacres , 15 Oct 2017 07:11
Their most effective power play is the perpetual game of economical musical chairs. The chairs are your living wage. Each round the masters take out their profit, removing one (or more) of the chairs from the next round. Now you have the choice of a death match with your neighbors for the remaining chairs or currying favour with the masters for the removed chair.

The masters need only cut out some unpopular group and tell some convenient story about how they brought it on themselves in order to get your support.

The only way for democracy to thrive is for the community to supply a new a chair for every one taken by the masters, as was done in the post war period up till the mid seventies. Since then it has been economic musical chairs with austerity, budget constraints and irreducible unemployment as far as they eye can see.

Slo27 -> Amanzim , 15 Oct 2017 07:09
Isolationist Trump still intends to rule the world, he just does not want to get involved in making it better.
Slo27 -> TheWindsOfWinter93 , 15 Oct 2017 07:07

don't they become the very oligarchs they despise?

In America, they actually chose an oligarch to battle the oligarch, and somehow that is not how it is panning out.
YurekandTina Kulski , 15 Oct 2017 07:06
Don't forget the role of the corporations and their associated 'think tanks'. In reality the USA is a corporatocracy as nicely pointed out by Bruce E. Levine in The Blog of the HUFFPOST in 2011. https://www.huffingtonpost.com/bruce-e-levine/the-myth-of-us-democracy-corporatocracy_b_836573.html
Redredemptionist , 15 Oct 2017 07:06
"...in today's meritocratic era." This description is a myth put about by the oligarchs to justify their economic and political power.
Slo27 , 15 Oct 2017 07:05
And yet, the American voters brought in Trump the oligarch, and tasked him with destroying the institutions that perpetuate oligarchy.

Democracy will be destroyed through utter stupidity of the lower classes. They can easily be egged to see an enemy in their fellow citizens and turn to oligarchs for protection. Specifically, in the US, the white majority wants Trump to prevent a transition into whites becoming the largest minority, instead of the majority. These are their expectations and they are prepared to tolerate any outrage as long as they think he is working towards that goal.

Gunsarecivilrights -> WhatTheTruth , 15 Oct 2017 07:05
Rights and socialism do not belong in the same sentence. Are you drunk?
barciad , 15 Oct 2017 07:03
The UK had a brief glimpse of Democracy, sometime between the mid 1940's and the late 1970's. I should also add that Aristotle included a third factor. The size and nature of ones armed forces:-
  1. If the core was cavalry, then it would be a feudal monarchy (Macedon, Persia)
  2. If it was elite heavy infantry, then it would be an oligarchy (Sparta, Rome)
  3. If it was through either mass light infantry or naval based, then it would be a Democracy (Athens)

Now consider the UK after 1945, you have a this huge 'citizen's army' that has been out in field (one way or another) for over half a decade. Add onto that the huge losses of wealth and (more importantly) the alliances that were forced upon us. There could be nothing but an effective mass popular Democracy in this country. And for the first time in its history.

But alas, the Oligarchs bided their time and when the first sign of crisis came along, the struck. The 1970's for fucks sake, which were nothing compared to the cataclysms between 1914-1914, that same said Oligarchs created. Yet you would not think it the way those people bang on about it. Thus now, we have the 2010's, a decade that we will be warning our children about.

With the subheading 'What happens when you forget the lessons of history'.

SimonGKelly -> WhatTheTruth , 15 Oct 2017 06:59
If you are thinking of the old Warsaw Pact countries, that was certainly an oligarchy based on party membership.

However, how far are we from that in a system which guarantees that only one of two parties will end up in power? A glance across the pond shows how that is simply another form of oligarchy generating a hereditary establishment. That was HC's biggest problem.

Perhaps all political systems will tend towards oligarchy over time, as the people with the wherewithal learn how to make the system work for them and theirs. Anarchy cannot be the solution, but what is ...?

Redredemptionist -> TragicomedyBeholder , 15 Oct 2017 06:54
So an oligarchy hiding behind a sham democracy is the best we can hope for?
TheWindsOfWinter93 -> Amanzim , 15 Oct 2017 06:53
Who cares about whether democracy or dictatorship is better. As long as the people get richer and safer and happier with their lot in life, that's all that matters. Humans don't nearly live long enough to care more than just staying alive and bettering our own lot in life.
twilightegal , 15 Oct 2017 06:51
In a system where we economic power buys political power democracy will remain a myth or at best an illusion and as the author rightly points out a catastrophic event at the level of the depression or world war is needed to begin anew. I for one am not hoping for either
NotSoLittleMouse , 15 Oct 2017 06:49
There is also an economic minimum the population needs to be at. Dividing the classes only goes so far.

There's an argument on the oligarch needing the masses to finance their wealth, especially through utilities and monopolies (privately run NHS by token choice of companies), but it almost like the oligarchs don't need the masses anymore and can defend their wealth via stock exchange and governmental debts.

I would say that the biggest reason for the success of the oligarchs is making security, defined and framed by them, more important for the mass than freedom.

TheWindsOfWinter93 , 15 Oct 2017 06:49
So when the people take control and their populist leaders take charge and all their lots become better, don't they become the very oligarchs they despise?

What seems to be missing is recognizing the fact that very often in human society those on the bottom aspire to be like the top, even if they disagree with their personalities they don't disagree with their idea of prosperity and power. So it's going to be endlessly cyclical. The people take power and become oligarchs in their own right. Then someone has to take over on the bottom and then it all starts again.

redleader , 15 Oct 2017 06:48

With this typology behind him, Winters declares that America is already a civil oligarchy. To use the language of recent political campaigns, our oligarchs try to rig the system to defend their wealth. They focus on lowering taxes and on reducing regulations that protect workers and citizens from corporate wrongdoing.

Aristotle would have argued that countries are oligarchies when they have oligarchical constitutions.

Amanzim , 15 Oct 2017 06:47
Democracy works much better when all have economic prosperity. It should also look after the minorities by giving them equal rights and opportunities. I see democracy in India and look up to how it has remained a free country. But there are more than 300 million people in India who are so poor that they cannot afford much in life, most of them live on roads. China on the other hand is a dictatorship, but has reduced poverty of more than 400 million people in the last few decades. Which path should others follow?

America under Trump is making the country isolationist. As Economist wrote so well: "The world does not want an isolationist United States or a dictatorship in China. Alas, it may get both."

Andy Roberts , 15 Oct 2017 06:43
Industrialization will prevent any meaningful revolution so without serious changes in who is winning elections for a sustained time oligarchy in the US is here to stay. Mechanized war means control of assets rather than numerical superiority is the key to conflict and despite the millions of rifles and assault weapons out there they wont do much against drone bombers and drone tanks.
kizbot , 15 Oct 2017 06:41
in Greece the oligarchs rule through corruption. Everyone is tainted so the system cannot be overthrown without going down with it.
mill1806 , 15 Oct 2017 06:40
I was heartened by the idea that the oligarchy must necessarily rot from within as a result of its own cronyism. Much like the insider-dealing, back-stabbing, and incompetence of the present clique.
Keith Fraser -> TragicomedyBeholder , 15 Oct 2017 06:37
Not all measures aimed at improving equality involve giving extra privileges to currently disadvantaged groups - one can remove privileges/other advantages from groups which are doing more than OK, like curtailing legal tax-dodges which are only of use/available to the very wealthy. One can also remove barriers which (deliberately or not) impact people unequally, such as voter-suppression tricks.

This set of images is a very simplistic but helpful way of explaining the difference between different ways to deal with inequality:

https://cdn-images-1.medium.com/max/1600/1*owl5RUCkVYPzZi9tuyC54Q.jpeg

N1LiberalElitist -> ValuedCustomer , 15 Oct 2017 06:37
If you think that's "contemporary bourgeois liberal strategy" then the oligarchs are winning. They've told you the woes of the world are all the fault of the liberal middle classes, and you've believed them.
abugaafar , 15 Oct 2017 06:35

The question is whether democracy will emerge from oligarchic breakdown

or demagoguery.

Nada89 , 15 Oct 2017 06:33
'The question is whether democracy will emerge from oligarchic breakdown – or whether the oligarchs will just strengthen their grasp on the levers of government.' - judging by evidence from time immemorial my money is definitely on the oligarchs.
jazzdrum , 15 Oct 2017 06:32
For me , this film says it all and clearly too. https://topdocumentaryfilms.com/everything-rich-man-trick /
imipak , 15 Oct 2017 06:30
The combination of political and economic power is discussed in Plato's Republic. Either book 4 or 5. Whilst not a replacement for modern treatment, it is vital reading if you want to avoid the limitations of single perspectives.

To understand the significance of psyops and infowar against the public, you should also look at Tacitus' book on Corrupt Eloquence. Again, not a replacement but a way of seeing the broader picture.

Remember, we wouldn't be in this mess if we had a clear picture, but we have a different perspective to these past writers. Philosophers and elephants. You've got to combine the visions and weight them correctly.

Hibernica , 15 Oct 2017 06:30
The article starts with an assumption that is wrong. It seems to suggest that America can't become an oligarchy without the will of the people. That ignores the fact that America's electoral system attracts oligarchs or at least people who are happy to be puppets of oligarch to the top job.

If Trump hadn't been elected Hillary Clinton would now be President. More intelligent certainly and less likely to destroy the country but still backed by countless very wealthy people who would have been expecting payback for their support.

So rather than ask how America can avoid becoming an oligarchy I'd be asking if there was ever a time when it wasn't an oligarchy.

ValuedCustomer -> ValuedCustomer , 15 Oct 2017 06:30
In fact the whole article is fantastic, I've been relying on instinct and Michels' (accurate but primitive) Iron Law of Oligarchy for this stuff.
WhatTheTruth , 15 Oct 2017 06:29
What about the oligarchy of Socialism where giving people too many rights neutralises everything to a standstill?
ValuedCustomer , 15 Oct 2017 06:25
While the ruling class must remain united for an oligarchy to remain in power, the people must also be divided so they cannot overthrow their oppressors. Oligarchs in ancient Greece thus used a combination of coercion and co-optation to keep democracy at bay. They gave rewards to informants and found pliable citizens to take positions in the government.

These collaborators legitimized the regime and gave oligarchs beachheads into the people. In addition, oligarchs controlled public spaces and livelihoods to prevent the people from organizing.

This is the clearest explanation of contemporary bourgeois liberal strategy I've ever seen.

Bravo!

SameTrip , 15 Oct 2017 06:23

The question is whether democracy will emerge from oligarchic breakdown – or whether the oligarchs will just strengthen their grasp on the levers of government.

Surveillance, drones, a purchased media, a mercenary govt, an internet with too much democracy and thus too many hairsplitting doctrinal differences, and increasingly effective killing devices, means the international corporate oligarchs have been in control for some time and will be for awhile more
Tenthred , 15 Oct 2017 06:23

democracy defeated oligarchy in ancient Greece because of "oligarchic breakdown."

Yes, but I'm not sure I see why that is to do with institutional decay - except if that means that the arrangements for bribing, threatening and manipulating the populace break down, in which case it just pushes the query back to why that should happen.

Which brings us to consent and to capacity. If the state has the capacity to ensure that citizens do OK then it will gain their consent. If not, not.

So far so simple for the ancient Greeks. Not so simple for us, now, because one of the institutional structures controlled by the oligarchy is the one that manufactures and maintains consent.

That's why, if we have arrived at oligarchy, we will not escape as simply as the city states of ancient Greece - and perhaps cannot escape it at all.

Bransby -> Commem , 15 Oct 2017 06:21
When I was an ancient Greek I was fantastic. Since the financial crisis and austerity cuts I've found it hard to be as great as before
jessthecrip -> jessthecrip , 15 Oct 2017 06:21
Ooops - 'sew disunity in the ruling class'
jessthecrip , 15 Oct 2017 06:20
So those of us who want proper democracy need to try and sew in the ruling class, just as they have long encouraged disunity amongst us plebs, is that it? Perhaps one advantage (of few that I can see) of brexit is it's exposing significant disunity in the Tory party.
Commem , 15 Oct 2017 06:19
Nothing new then. Who said " I don't care who makes the decisions as long as I write the Agenda and the Minutes. Information control is key. We live in a Alice in Wonderland world of spin.
ethelbrose , 15 Oct 2017 06:17
If only we could shut off roads in cities to traffic we could be so much more powerful as a mob...
TragicomedyBeholder , 15 Oct 2017 06:16
Very interesting and informative. However...

one solution is creating a more economically equal society

If one were to look at this equality problem rationally and logically, then any government policy aimed at making people equal would actually amount to government treating people very unequally.

Sort of like because people are unequal they should be treated unequally in order to make them equal. So in this sense the very idea of social justice is either irrational or else meaningless.

Differences in vocation, gifts, interests, locations and aspirations contribute to making people unequal. Socialism is a provenly unworkable myth.

[Oct 11, 2017] Donald Trump is exposing the contradictions of the elite by David Callahan

That's neoliberal elite after all. Why the author expects them to be ashamed is unclear
Notable quotes:
"... Business practices aimed at boosting shareholder value – like outsourcing, offshoring, automation, union-busting, predatory lending, and a range of anti-competitive abuses – have undermined the security of large swaths of the country. In turn, a flood of business dollars for campaign donations and lobbying over decades has helped thwart effective government responses to rising pain on Main Street. ..."
"... History tells us that societies with extractive and self-serving upper classes tend to fall into decline – whereas societies with inclusive elites are more likely to thrive. With the rise of Trump, we're seeing what an unraveling of the social fabric looks like after decades in which nearly all the nation's income gains have flowed upwards to a tiny sliver of households. ..."
Oct 11, 2017 | www.theguardian.com

Since January, though, we've also seen a new level of rapaciousness by corporate interests in Washington DC that seem intent on extracting as much wealth as they can from wherever they can: consumers, investors, public lands, student borrowers, the tax code and even the war in Afghanistan.

Longtime watchers of the .01% won't be surprised by this bifurcated picture. For over two decades, an ever more educated wealthy elite has trumpeted its belief in tolerance, diversity, and meritocracy – even as it's also helped usher in record levels of inequality that have left many Americans feeling economically excluded and increasingly angry.

Trump's retrograde presidency has revealed the profound contradictions at the top of the US income ladder.

... ... ...

Corporate leaders have already been supportive of Trump's sweeping push to gut regulations in ways that would tilt the rules governing the economy more in favor of business and the wealthy. Social inclusion may be a growing public mantra of the far upper class. But economic extraction remains among its core operating principles.

... ... ...

Social inclusion is a public mantra of the upper class. But economic extraction remains a core operating principle

The answer is that many corporate and financial leaders were, and still are, a big part of the problem. These leaders have fostered the economic conditions that have thrown the values of tolerance and diversity on the defensive in America.

Business practices aimed at boosting shareholder value – like outsourcing, offshoring, automation, union-busting, predatory lending, and a range of anti-competitive abuses – have undermined the security of large swaths of the country. In turn, a flood of business dollars for campaign donations and lobbying over decades has helped thwart effective government responses to rising pain on Main Street.

... ... ...

History tells us that societies with extractive and self-serving upper classes tend to fall into decline – whereas societies with inclusive elites are more likely to thrive. With the rise of Trump, we're seeing what an unraveling of the social fabric looks like after decades in which nearly all the nation's income gains have flowed upwards to a tiny sliver of households.

Rarely has the American experiment – the notion of a country united by ideas rather than shared heritage – felt more fragile than it does right now. It's an ugly picture of division and resentment, but a predictable one given the economic trauma inflicted on millions of people over recent decades.

... ... ...

David Callahan is the author of The Givers: Wealth, Power, and Philanthropy in a New Gilded Age. He is the founder and editor of Inside Philanthropy

[Oct 11, 2017] Among the crises effecting the United States, the one effecting us most profoundly is the absence of any accountability for the crimes committed by our oligarchic class

Notable quotes:
"... his thinking that corporations, the mainstream media, and the academy can and do successfully "game" dissent by suppression, divide and conquer, co-optation, and so on, is spot on. ..."
Oct 11, 2017 | www.unz.com

JackOH > , October 9, 2017 at 11:08 am GMT

I'm a moderate admirer of Chris Hedges, but he is really cooking in this interview. Too much to praise here, but his thinking that corporations, the mainstream media, and the academy can and do successfully "game" dissent by suppression, divide and conquer, co-optation, and so on, is spot on.

alexander > , October 9, 2017 at 4:30 pm GMT

I think this was an excellent discussion, and I would like to thank you both for having it, and sharing it.

Among the crises effecting the United States, the one effecting us most profoundly is the absence of any accountability for the crimes committed by our oligarchic class.

Addressing this issue is ground zero for any meaningful change.

If there is no accountability for their crimes , there will be no change.

Certainly the greatest among these crimes was(is) defrauding the nation into " a war of aggression". which, being the supreme international crime, should be met with harsh prison sentences for all who promoted it.

It is important for everyone to recognize just how much damage these policies have done to the country, not just in terms of our collective morale or our constitutional mandates,not just in terms of our international standing on universal principles of legality and justice, but our long term economic solvency as a nation.

The "exceptionalism" of our "war of aggression" elites has completely devastated our nation's balance sheet.

Since 9-11, our national debt has grown by a mind numbing "fourteen and a half trillion dollars".. nearly quadrupling since 1999.

This unconscionable level of "overspending" is unprecedented in human history.

Not one lawmaker, not one primetime pundit, nor one editorialist (of any major newspaper), has a CLUE how to deal with it.

Aside from the root atrocity in visiting mass murder on millions of innocents who never attacked us (and never intended to) which is a horrible crime in and of itself,

There is the profound crisis , in situ , of potentially demanding that 320 million Americans PAY FOR THE WARS OUR ELITES LIED US INTO .

This is where the rubber meets the road for our "war of aggression-ists ", gentlemen.

This is the "unanimous space" of our entire country's population on the issue of "no taxation without representation".

WHOSE assets should be made forfeit to pay for these wars .The DECEIVERS or the DECEIVED ?

Ask "The People" ..and you will find your answer .very fast.

No wonder our "elites" are terrified to discuss this .

Absolutely terrified.

Anonymous > , Disclaimer October 10, 2017 at 4:10 am GMT

@alexander

No wonder our "elites" are terrified to discuss this .

They're not terrified–they know full well that they don't have to discuss it. Control of the flow of information eliminates any such necessity.

We're right now in the consolidation phase, during which the last few remaining pockets of dissent are thoroughly vilified, rooted out, made illegal and worse: unthinkable.

The idiotic grievance warriors whom–to his credit–Mr Hedges identifies as such, are the verbal equivalent of the violent criminal shock troops with which the elites afflict us. The 'identity politics' they champion are an extremely useful cudgel in the endless divide-and-conquer strategy.

jacques sheete > , October 11, 2017 at 11:20 am GMT

It is the result of the transformation of the country into an oligarchy.

That's cringe-worthy.

Transformation into an oligarchy? Transformation ??? I like Hedges' work, but such fundamental errors really taint what he sez.

The country was never transformed into an oligarchy; it began as one.

In fact, it was organized and functioned as a pluto-oligarchy right out of the box. In case anyone has the dimness to argue with me about it, all that shows is that you don't know JS about how the cornstitution was foisted on the rest of us by the plutoligarchs.

"An elective despotism was not the government we fought for "

-Thomas Jefferson: Notes on Virginia Q.XIII, 1782 . ME 2:163

The Elites "Have No Credibility Left"

Guess what, boys and girls Why did they have any to begin with?

Where do people get their faith? WakeTF up, already!! (Yes, I'm losing it. Because even a duumbshit goy like myself can see it. Where are all you bright bulb know-it-alls with all the flippin answers???)

jacques sheete > , October 11, 2017 at 11:35 am GMT

Newspapers are trapped in an old system of information they call "objectivity" and "balance," formulae designed to cater to the powerful and the wealthy and obscure the truth.

It's amazing that here we are, self-anointed geniuses and dumbos alike, puttering around in the 21st century, and someone feels the necessity to point that out. And he's right; it needs to be pointed out. Drummed into our skulls in fact.

Arrrgggghhhh!!! Jefferson again.:

Nothing can now be believed which is seen in a newspaper. Truth itself becomes suspicious by being put into that polluted vehicle. The real extent of this state of misinformation is known only to those who are in situations to confront facts within their knowledge with the lies of the day.

Thomas Jefferson to John Norvell, 14 June 1807

http://press-pubs.uchicago.edu/founders/documents/amendI_speechs29.html

More deja vu all over again and again. Note the date.:

"This is a story of a powerful and wealthy newspaper having enormous influence And never a day out of more than ten thousand days that this newspaper has not subtly and cunningly distort the news of the world in the interest of special privilege. "

Upton Sinclair, "The crimes of the "Times" : a test of newspaper decency," pamphlet, 1921

https://archive.org/stream/crimesofthetimes00sincrich/crimesofthetimes00sincrich

jacques sheete > , October 11, 2017 at 12:08 pm GMT

I find it most fascinating that none of what Hedges says is news, but even UR readers probably think it is. Here's an antidote to that idea.

The following quote is from Eugene Kelly who's excoriating government press releases but the criticism applies as well to the resulting press reports. I found the whole article striking.:

Any boob can deduce, a priori, what type of "news" is contained in this rubbish.

-Eugene A. Kelly, Distorting the News, The American Mercury, March 1935 , pp. 307-318

http://www.unz.org/Pub/AmMercury/

I'd like good evidence that the situation has improved since then. Good luck.

jacques sheete > , October 11, 2017 at 2:35 pm GMT

The Elites "Have No Credibility Left"

Who thinks they had any to begin with? The quote, below, is almost 2000 years old

Apollo, too, who pretends to be so clever, with his bow and his lyre and his medicine and his prophecies; those oracle-shops that he has opened at Delphi, and Clarus, and Dindyma, are a cheat; he takes good care to be on the safe side by giving ambiguous answers that no one can understand, and makes money out of it, for there are plenty of fools who like being imposed upon,–but sensible people know well enough that most of it is clap-trap

Leto. Oh, of course; my children are butchers and impostors. I know how you hate the sight of them.

-Lucian of Samosata, DIALOGUES OF THE GODS, XVI, ~150AD

http://www.sacred-texts.com/cla/luc/wl1/wl124.htm

[Oct 11, 2017] Russia witch hunt is a tactic used by the ruling elite, and in particular the Democratic Party, to avoid facing a very unpleasant reality: that their unpopularity is the outcome of their policies of deindustrialization and the assault against working class

Highly recommended!
Chris Hedges, who is doubtless a courageous journalist and an intelligent commentator, suggests that if we are to discuss the anti-Russia campaign realistically, as baseless in fact, and as contrived for an effect and to further/protect some particular interests, we can hardly avoid the question: Who or what interest is served by the anti-Russia campaign?
An interesting observation "The Democratic Party doesn't actually function as a political party. It's about perpetual mass mobilization and a hyperventilating public relations arm, all paid for by corporate donors. The base of the party has no real say in the leadership or the policies of the party, as Bernie Sanders and his followers found out."
The other relevant observation is that there is no American left. It was destroyed as a political movement. The USA is a right wing country.
Notable quotes:
"... This obsession with Russia is a tactic used by the ruling elite, and in particular the Democratic Party, to avoid facing a very unpleasant reality: that their unpopularity is the outcome of their policies of deindustrialization and the assault against working men and women and poor people of color. ..."
"... It is the result of the slashing of basic government services, including, of course, welfare, that Clinton gutted; deregulation, a decaying infrastructure, including public schools, and the de facto tax boycott by corporations. It is the result of the transformation of the country into an oligarchy. The nativist revolt on the right, and the aborted insurgency within the Democratic Party, makes sense when you see what they have done to the country. ..."
"... The Democratic Party, in particular, is driving this whole Russia witch-hunt. It cannot face its complicity in the destruction of our civil liberties -- and remember, Barack Obama's assault on civil liberties was worse than those carried out by George W. Bush -- and the destruction of our economy and our democratic institutions. ..."
"... Politicians like the Clintons, Pelosi and Schumer are creations of Wall Street. That is why they are so virulent about pushing back against the Sanders wing of the Democratic Party. ..."
"... The Democratic Party doesn't actually function as a political party. It's about perpetual mass mobilization and a hyperventilating public relations arm, all paid for by corporate donors. The base of the party has no real say in the leadership or the policies of the party, as Bernie Sanders and his followers found out. They are props in the sterile political theater. ..."
"... These party elites, consumed by greed, myopia and a deep cynicism, have a death grip on the political process. They're not going to let it go, even if it all implodes. ..."
"... The whole exercise was farcical. The White House would leak some bogus story to Judy Miller or Michael Gordon, and then go on the talk shows to say, 'as the Times reported .' It gave these lies the veneer of independence and reputable journalism. This was a massive institutional failing, and one the paper has never faced. ..."
"... The media's anti-Russia narrative has been embraced by large portions of what presents itself as the "left." ..."
"... Well, don't get me started on the American left. First of all, there is no American left -- not a left that has any kind of seriousness, that understands political or revolutionary theories, that's steeped in economic study, that understands how systems of power work, especially corporate and imperial power. The left is caught up in the same kind of cults of personality that plague the rest of society. It focuses on Trump, as if Trump is the central problem. Trump is a product, a symptom of a failed system and dysfunctional democracy, not the disease. ..."
"... For good measure, they purged the liberal class -- look at what they did to Henry Wallace -- so that Cold War "liberals" equated capitalism with democracy, and imperialism with freedom and liberty. I lived in Switzerland and France. There are still residues of a militant left in Europe, which gives Europeans something to build upon. But here we almost have to begin from scratch. ..."
"... The corporate elites we have to overthrow already hold power. And unless we build a broad, popular resistance movement, which takes a lot of patient organizing among working men and women, we are going to be steadily ground down. ..."
"... The corporate state has made it very hard to make a living if you hold fast to this radical critique. You will never get tenure. You probably won't get academic appointments. You won't win prizes. You won't get grants. ..."
"... The elite schools, and I have taught as a visiting professor at a few of them, such as Princeton and Columbia, replicate the structure and goals of corporations. If you want to even get through a doctoral committee, much less a tenure committee, you must play it really, really safe. You must not challenge the corporate-friendly stance that permeates the institution and is imposed through corporate donations and the dictates of wealthy alumni. Half of the members of most of these trustee boards should be in prison! ..."
"... Speculation in the 17th century in Britain was a crime. Speculators were hanged. And today they run the economy and the country. They have used the capturing of wealth to destroy the intellectual, cultural and artistic life in the country and snuff out our democracy. There is a word for these people: traitors. ..."
Oct 11, 2017 | www.unz.com

Originally from: The elites "have no credibility left" by Chris Hedges

But the whole idea that the Russians swung the election to Trump is absurd. It's really premised on the unproven claim that Russia gave the Podesta emails to WikiLeaks, and the release of these emails turned tens, or hundreds of thousands, of Clinton supporters towards Trump. This doesn't make any sense. Either that, or, according to the director of national intelligence, RT America, where I have a show, got everyone to vote for the Green Party.

This obsession with Russia is a tactic used by the ruling elite, and in particular the Democratic Party, to avoid facing a very unpleasant reality: that their unpopularity is the outcome of their policies of deindustrialization and the assault against working men and women and poor people of color. It is the result of disastrous trade agreements like NAFTA that abolished good-paying union jobs and shipped them to places like Mexico, where workers without benefits are paid $3.00 an hour. It is the result of the explosion of a system of mass incarceration, begun by Bill Clinton with the 1994 omnibus crime bill, and the tripling and quadrupling of prison sentences. It is the result of the slashing of basic government services, including, of course, welfare, that Clinton gutted; deregulation, a decaying infrastructure, including public schools, and the de facto tax boycott by corporations. It is the result of the transformation of the country into an oligarchy. The nativist revolt on the right, and the aborted insurgency within the Democratic Party, makes sense when you see what they have done to the country.

Police forces have been turned into quasi-military entities that terrorize marginal communities, where people have been stripped of all of their rights and can be shot with impunity; in fact over three are killed a day. The state shoots and locks up poor people of color as a form of social control. They are quite willing to employ the same form of social control on any other segment of the population that becomes restive.

The Democratic Party, in particular, is driving this whole Russia witch-hunt. It cannot face its complicity in the destruction of our civil liberties -- and remember, Barack Obama's assault on civil liberties was worse than those carried out by George W. Bush -- and the destruction of our economy and our democratic institutions.

Politicians like the Clintons, Pelosi and Schumer are creations of Wall Street. That is why they are so virulent about pushing back against the Sanders wing of the Democratic Party. Without Wall Street money, they would not hold political power. The Democratic Party doesn't actually function as a political party. It's about perpetual mass mobilization and a hyperventilating public relations arm, all paid for by corporate donors. The base of the party has no real say in the leadership or the policies of the party, as Bernie Sanders and his followers found out. They are props in the sterile political theater.

These party elites, consumed by greed, myopia and a deep cynicism, have a death grip on the political process. They're not going to let it go, even if it all implodes.

... ... ...

DN: Let's come back to this question of the Russian hacking news story. You raised the ability to generate a story, which has absolutely no factual foundation, nothing but assertions by various intelligence agencies, presented as an assessment that is beyond question. What is your evaluation of this?

CH: The commercial broadcast networks, and that includes CNN and MSNBC, are not in the business of journalism. They hardly do any. Their celebrity correspondents are courtiers to the elite. They speculate about and amplify court gossip, which is all the accusations about Russia, and they repeat what they are told to repeat. They sacrifice journalism and truth for ratings and profit. These cable news shows are one of many revenue streams in a corporate structure. They compete against other revenue streams. The head of CNN, Jeff Zucker, who helped create the fictional persona of Donald Trump on "Celebrity Apprentice," has turned politics on CNN into a 24-hour reality show. All nuance, ambiguity, meaning and depth, along with verifiable fact, are sacrificed for salacious entertainment. Lying, racism, bigotry and conspiracy theories are given platforms and considered newsworthy, often espoused by people whose sole quality is that they are unhinged. It is news as burlesque.

I was on the investigative team at the New York Times during the lead-up to the Iraq War. I was based in Paris and covered Al Qaeda in Europe and the Middle East. Lewis Scooter Libby, Dick Cheney, Richard Perle and maybe somebody in an intelligence agency, would confirm whatever story the administration was attempting to pitch. Journalistic rules at the Times say you can't go with a one-source story. But if you have three or four supposedly independent sources confirming the same narrative, then you can go with it, which is how they did it. The paper did not break any rules taught at Columbia journalism school, but everything they wrote was a lie.

The whole exercise was farcical. The White House would leak some bogus story to Judy Miller or Michael Gordon, and then go on the talk shows to say, 'as the Times reported .' It gave these lies the veneer of independence and reputable journalism. This was a massive institutional failing, and one the paper has never faced.

DN: The CIA pitches the story, and then the Times gets the verification from those who pitch it to them.

CH: It's not always pitched. And not much of this came from the CIA. The CIA wasn't buying the "weapons of mass destruction" hysteria.

DN: It goes the other way too?

CH: Sure. Because if you're trying to have access to a senior official, you'll constantly be putting in requests, and those officials will decide when they want to see you. And when they want to see you, it's usually because they have something to sell you.

DN: The media's anti-Russia narrative has been embraced by large portions of what presents itself as the "left."

CH: Well, don't get me started on the American left. First of all, there is no American left -- not a left that has any kind of seriousness, that understands political or revolutionary theories, that's steeped in economic study, that understands how systems of power work, especially corporate and imperial power. The left is caught up in the same kind of cults of personality that plague the rest of society. It focuses on Trump, as if Trump is the central problem. Trump is a product, a symptom of a failed system and dysfunctional democracy, not the disease.

If you attempt to debate most of those on the supposedly left, they reduce discussion to this cartoonish vision of politics.

The serious left in this country was decimated. It started with the suppression of radical movements under Woodrow Wilson, then the "Red Scares" in the 1920s, when they virtually destroyed our labor movement and our radical press, and then all of the purges in the 1950s. For good measure, they purged the liberal class -- look at what they did to Henry Wallace -- so that Cold War "liberals" equated capitalism with democracy, and imperialism with freedom and liberty. I lived in Switzerland and France. There are still residues of a militant left in Europe, which gives Europeans something to build upon. But here we almost have to begin from scratch.

I've battled continuously with Antifa and the Black Bloc. I think they're kind of poster children for what I would consider phenomenal political immaturity. Resistance is not a form of personal catharsis. We are not fighting the rise of fascism in the 1930s. The corporate elites we have to overthrow already hold power. And unless we build a broad, popular resistance movement, which takes a lot of patient organizing among working men and women, we are going to be steadily ground down.

So Trump's not the problem. But just that sentence alone is going to kill most discussions with people who consider themselves part of the left.

The corporate state has made it very hard to make a living if you hold fast to this radical critique. You will never get tenure. You probably won't get academic appointments. You won't win prizes. You won't get grants. The New York Times , if they review your book, will turn it over to a dutiful mandarin like George Packer to trash it -- as he did with my last book. The elite schools, and I have taught as a visiting professor at a few of them, such as Princeton and Columbia, replicate the structure and goals of corporations. If you want to even get through a doctoral committee, much less a tenure committee, you must play it really, really safe. You must not challenge the corporate-friendly stance that permeates the institution and is imposed through corporate donations and the dictates of wealthy alumni. Half of the members of most of these trustee boards should be in prison!

Speculation in the 17th century in Britain was a crime. Speculators were hanged. And today they run the economy and the country. They have used the capturing of wealth to destroy the intellectual, cultural and artistic life in the country and snuff out our democracy. There is a word for these people: traitors.

[Oct 08, 2017] The Dark History of Fear, Inc

Notable quotes:
"... None of this qualifies as your typical run-of-the-mill lunacy (scented candles cause cancer), over-the-top tripe (the recent solar eclipse marks the beginning of the apocalypse), or unbelievable baloney (that man-made pyramids have been discovered in Antarctica). Rather, the paranoid style is rooted in pernicious, but believable, political fears: that the nation is under threat from people or movements plotting to do it harm and is teetering, teetering, teetering on the edge of an abyss. The problem is not that this is patently false (The Germans! The Japanese! The Russians!), but that it's often exaggerated -- and, sometimes, purposely so. Then too, as Hofstadter implied, preying on these fears for political gain not only isn't new, it's tried, tested, and often successful. Scaring the dickens out of voters is as American as the 4th of July. ..."
"... The claims now are not only as breathless as anything the CIA said about East Germany in the 1980s, they're as suspect: Mexico is "on the verge of collapse" -- a claim made by White House Chief of Staff John Kelly -- that Russia is providing arms to the Taliban (retold by the recently retired commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan, Gen. John W. Nicholson, Jr., and, just the other day by James Mattis), that the U.S. military will be "outranged and outgunned by many potential adversaries in the future" (noted by national security adviser H.R. McMaster prior to his service at the White House) and that, as Donald Trump himself said during his address to the United Nations, large parts of the world " are in conflict and some, in fact, are going to hell ." ..."
"... The problem with the claims is that those who are asked to dismiss them are required to defend the opposite -- that Mexico is economically healthy (it isn't, but it's hardly on the verge of collapse), that Russian weapons haven't shown up in Afghanistan (they have, though not simply in the hands of the Taliban), that Russia and China aren't developing new and more sophisticated weapons (they are, but so what?), or that it's ridiculous not to believe that "major portions of the world are in conflict" (that's always been true). The other problem with disproving the claims is that doing so contains a whiff of weakness, or naiveté: that the skeptic favors open borders, supports Afghan terrorism, doesn't support a strong military, or is hopelessly misinformed. In fact, however, each of these claims have been made before -- and refuted by expert testimony. ..."
"... The same holds true for each of the other claims. Following Gen. Nicholson's statement that Russia was providing arms to the Taliban, his claim was given short shrift by both the Defense Intelligence Agency and by Jens Stoltenberg, the General Secretary of NATO. Stoltenberg acknowledged that he'd seen the reports, adding that the only thing they lacked was proof. ..."
"... That Russia is an antagonist is now widely accepted, and it is trivially true that Moscow's nuclear arsenal (with or without the help of China) could lay waste to the U.S. But outgunning us? Russia spends a fraction of what the U.S. spends on its military establishment (some 14 percent of what we spend, in fact) and so must pick and choose what weapons it will develop. ..."
"... So, yes, we're in deep, deep trouble -- just as we were when witches danced in Ipswich, when Samuel Morse claimed we were being subverted by papists, when Joe McCarthy saw a communist under every State Department memo -- and when the Russians were producing missiles like sausages. ..."
Oct 08, 2017 | www.theamericanconservative.com

Back in 1835, Samuel F.B. Morse (who went on to invent the telegraph and the Morse Code), wrote a book about a plot to overthrow the American republic. The conspiracy, Morse wrote, was well-funded, highly secretive, and hatched in Vienna by members of the The St. Leopold Foundation, which had dispatched cells of Jesuit missionaries to the U.S. to forcibly convert the nation to Roman Catholicism. This was no small intrigue: The plot's leaders, as Morse meticulously catalogued, were Austrian diplomat Klemens von Metternich, Ferdinand V of Hungary, and (of course) Pope Gregory XVI. "It is high time that we awakened to the apprehension of danger," Morse wrote .

What is shocking about this nonsense is not that Morse actually believed it, but that millions of other Americans did too. Morse's book seeded the rise of the nativist "Know-Nothing" party , whose goal was to curb immigration, root out Catholicism, and return America to its protestant ideals. In essence, they were the America-firsters of the nineteenth century. The Know-Nothings swept into office in Chicago, were strong in Massachusetts and, in 1856, nominated a national ticket (Millard Fillmore and Andrew Donelson), for the presidency; they tallied nearly 900,000 votes, one-quarter of those cast. "I know nothing but my country, my whole country and nothing but my country," they chanted.

Historians have since excavated the Morse plot with relish, if only as a way to better understand a nation that, from time to time, enjoys being scared witless.

Before the Know-Nothings there were the Anti-Masons, a political movement that warned of a takeover by secretive apron-wearing do-gooders who met for god-knows-why. And before that Americans were warned about witches named Dorothy, Rebecca, Martha, and Rachel, dancing in New England's forests. Some 120 years after Morse, in 1964, historian Richard Hofstadter dubbed this "the paranoid style in American politics" -- a paradigm-shifting essay that catalogued a raft of intrigues peopled by witches, Illuminati, Masons, Jesuits, Mormons, Jewish bankers, Bilderbergers and, in Hofstadter's time, communist dupes doing Moscow's bidding. America's enemies might be unseen, but they were everywhere.

"In the end, the real mystery, for one who reads the primary works of paranoid scholarship," Hofstadter wrote, "is not how the United States has been brought to its present dangerous position but how it managed to survive at all."

None of this qualifies as your typical run-of-the-mill lunacy (scented candles cause cancer), over-the-top tripe (the recent solar eclipse marks the beginning of the apocalypse), or unbelievable baloney (that man-made pyramids have been discovered in Antarctica). Rather, the paranoid style is rooted in pernicious, but believable, political fears: that the nation is under threat from people or movements plotting to do it harm and is teetering, teetering, teetering on the edge of an abyss. The problem is not that this is patently false (The Germans! The Japanese! The Russians!), but that it's often exaggerated -- and, sometimes, purposely so. Then too, as Hofstadter implied, preying on these fears for political gain not only isn't new, it's tried, tested, and often successful. Scaring the dickens out of voters is as American as the 4th of July.

The historical "for instance" in this is well-documented: during the 1960 presidential campaign, John Kennedy insisted that the Soviet Union had outstripped the U.S. in ballistic missile production. There was a growing and dangerous "missile gap" Kennedy claimed, placing the nation in great peril. Dwight Eisenhower, he said, had been derelict in not acknowledging the threat. An independent study commission issued a report that confirmed the fear and Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev gave it credence: We are "turning out missiles like sausages," he claimed. As it turns out, Kennedy was right: there was a missile gap, but not in a way that he thought -- we had plenty, while they had none (a later CIA report speculated that, actually, they might have had three, maybe). Years later, Kennedy's claim looked downright foolish: the problem for the Russians wasn't that they couldn't make missiles (they eventually did, and plenty of them), but that they couldn't make sausages -- which cost them their empire. The same kinds of claims were retailed by U.S. intelligence services about Russia's allies: a 1987 CIA fact book said that East Germany's GDP per capita was higher than West Germany's, a claim so ludicrous that Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan dismissed it to a panel of CIA officers with a legendary quip: "I know a Berlin taxi driver who could have told you that wasn't true."

The claims now are not only as breathless as anything the CIA said about East Germany in the 1980s, they're as suspect: Mexico is "on the verge of collapse" -- a claim made by White House Chief of Staff John Kelly -- that Russia is providing arms to the Taliban (retold by the recently retired commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan, Gen. John W. Nicholson, Jr., and, just the other day by James Mattis), that the U.S. military will be "outranged and outgunned by many potential adversaries in the future" (noted by national security adviser H.R. McMaster prior to his service at the White House) and that, as Donald Trump himself said during his address to the United Nations, large parts of the world " are in conflict and some, in fact, are going to hell ."

The problem with the claims is that those who are asked to dismiss them are required to defend the opposite -- that Mexico is economically healthy (it isn't, but it's hardly on the verge of collapse), that Russian weapons haven't shown up in Afghanistan (they have, though not simply in the hands of the Taliban), that Russia and China aren't developing new and more sophisticated weapons (they are, but so what?), or that it's ridiculous not to believe that "major portions of the world are in conflict" (that's always been true). The other problem with disproving the claims is that doing so contains a whiff of weakness, or naiveté: that the skeptic favors open borders, supports Afghan terrorism, doesn't support a strong military, or is hopelessly misinformed. In fact, however, each of these claims have been made before -- and refuted by expert testimony.

Gen. Barry McCaffrey said that Mexico was in a state of collapse back in 2009, a claim contradicted by then-Director of National Intelligence, Dennis Blair. More recently, and before the recent earthquake shook Mexico City, the collapsing Mexican government offered to help provide aid to Texans victimized by Hurricane Harvey. It's a wonder they would think of us as the walls were coming down around them. Then too, if Mexico is really on the verge of collapse, shouldn't the administration be doing something about it -- perhaps we should appeal to the international community to provide the Mexican government with low interest loans, or maybe we should deploy a U.S. aircraft carrier group to the Gulf of Mexico. Or perhaps, just perhaps, the claim is Morse-like: designed to frighten us, perhaps, into building a wall as a barrier to keep immigrants who are not pouring over the border from pouring over the border.

The same holds true for each of the other claims. Following Gen. Nicholson's statement that Russia was providing arms to the Taliban, his claim was given short shrift by both the Defense Intelligence Agency and by Jens Stoltenberg, the General Secretary of NATO. Stoltenberg acknowledged that he'd seen the reports, adding that the only thing they lacked was proof. But Stoltenberg went further, inviting Russia to be a part of the Afghanistan peace process -- a strange request to a nation that a top U.S. general claims is helping the enemy. Even so, the claim was repeated just this last week by Defense Secretary James Mattis, who added Iran to the growing list of Taliban allies. Of course, Nicholson and Mattis might be absolutely right, but they're saying so doesn't make it so. Then too (we shuffle our feet, look at our shoes, mumble to ourselves), the Taliban's best friend in Afghanistan isn't Russia or Iran, it's Pakistan -- our friend.

That Russia is an antagonist is now widely accepted, and it is trivially true that Moscow's nuclear arsenal (with or without the help of China) could lay waste to the U.S. But outgunning us? Russia spends a fraction of what the U.S. spends on its military establishment (some 14 percent of what we spend, in fact) and so must pick and choose what weapons it will develop. The result is that the Russian Federation continues technological advances in some weapons systems, but lacks significant technological depth elsewhere. During its 2015 May Day military parade, Russia showed off its new state-of-the-art T-14 main battle tank, complete with a new-fangled APS (active protection system) designed to defeat anti-armor weapons. Onlookers ogled the tank, oohing and ahhing at its shiny exterior, its impressive armament. But then, just as it was about to exit Red Square it broke down -- and had to be towed. Is Russia a threat? Sure, it's a threat. But Russia has many of the same problems now that it had at the end of the Cold War. It ranks 53rd in per capita GDP -- just behind Panama.

The world has problems, big problems but it is not going to hell. Here's what going to hell looks like. In the autumn of 1941, Europe was under the domination of a genocidal regime that had extended its murderous policies through all of Europe and whose armies were headed towards Moscow. In Asia, large swathes of China and all of Southeast Asia were occupied by Japanese militarists. The two, with Italy, had formed an axis and controlled significant portions of the globe. Their enemies were teetering on the edge of defeat. The world was going to hell, alright, but the U.S. had yet to get into the war.

But that's not the worst of it. During the early morning hours of September 26, 1983, Lt. Col. Stanislav Petrov was notified by his computer system that the U.S. had launched five intercontinental ballistic missiles at Russia. Petrov sat there for a moment, when he should have been on the telephone to his superiors. After several moments he concluded that the warning just didn't make sense. Why would the U.S. launch only five missiles at Russia, when everyone in the Soviet military supposed they would launch a barrage. "The siren howled, but I just sat there for a few seconds," he later told the BBC, "staring at the big, back-lit, red screen with the word 'launch' on it." Petrov ignored the warning -- and may well have prevented a nuclear holocaust.

So, yes, we're in deep, deep trouble -- just as we were when witches danced in Ipswich, when Samuel Morse claimed we were being subverted by papists, when Joe McCarthy saw a communist under every State Department memo -- and when the Russians were producing missiles like sausages.

Now, as then, we have two choices: we can either embrace our fears and shake in our boots, or we can tell the sky-is-falling crowd what Samuel F.B. Morse's friends told him all the way back in 1835.

Get a grip.

Mark Perry is a foreign policy analyst and the author of The Most Dangerous Man in America: The Making of Douglas MacArthur. His next book, The Pentagon's Wars, will be released in October. He tweets @markperrydc

[Oct 08, 2017] JFK The CIA, Vietnam, and the Plot to Assassinate John F. Kennedy by L. Fletcher Prouty, Oliver Stone, Jesse Ventura

The most important part of power elite in neoliberal society might not be financial oligarchy, but intelligence agencies elite. If you look at the role of Brennan in "Purple color revolution" against Trump that became clear that heads of the agencies are powerful political players with resources at hand, that are not available to other politicians.
Notable quotes:
"... One objective of this book is to discuss these new forces. It will present an insider's view of the CIA story and provide comparisons with the intelligence organizations -- those invisible forces -- of other countries. To be more realistic with the priorities of these agencies themselves, more will be said about operational matters than about actual intelligence gathering as a profession. ..."
"... Under totalitarian or highly centralized nondemocratic regimes, the intelligence organization is a political, secret service with police powers. It is designed primarily to provide personal security to those who control the authority of the state against all political opponents, foreign and domestic. These leaders are forced to depend upon these secret elite forces to remain alive and in power. Such an organization operates in deep secrecy and has the responsibility for carrying out espionage, counterespionage, and pseudoterrorism. This methodology is as true of Israel, Chile, or Jordan as it has been of the Soviet Union. ..."
Oct 08, 2017 | www.amazon.com

Trie existence of these multimegaton hydrogen bombs has so drastically changed the Grand Strategy of world powers that, today and for the future, that strategy is being carried out by the invisible forces of the CIA, what remains of the KGB, and their lesser counterparts around the world.

Men in positions of great power have been forced to realize that their aspirations and responsibilities have exceeded the horizons of their own experience, knowledge, and capability. Yet, because they are in chargeof this high-technology society, they are compelled to do something.

This overpowering necessity to do something -- although our leaders do not know precisely what to do or how to do it -- creates in the power elite an overbearing fear of the people. It is the fear not of you and me as individuals but of the smoldering threat of vast populations and of potential uprisings of the masses.

This power elite is not easy to define; but the fact that it exists makes itself known from time to time. Concerning the power elite, R. Buckminster Fuller wrote of the "vastly ambitious individuals who [have] become so effectively powerful because of their ability to remain invisible while operating behind the national scenery." Fuller noted also, "Always their victories [are] in the name of some powerful sovereign-ruled country. The real power structures [are] always the
invisible ones behind the visible sovereign powers."

The power elite is not a group from one nation or even of one alliance of nations. It operates throughout the world and no doubt has done so for many, many centuries.

... ... ...

From this point ot view, warfare, and the preparation tor war, is an absolute necessity for the welfare of the state and for control of population masses, as has been so ably documented in that remarkable novel by Leonard Lewin1 Report From Iron Mountain on the Possibility and Desirability of Peace and attributed by Lewin to "the Special Study Group in 1966," an organization whose existence was so highly classified that there is no record, to this day, of who the men in the group were or with what sectors of the government or private life they were connected.

This report, as presented in the novel, avers that war is necessary to sustain society, the nation, and national sovereignty, a view that has existed for millennia. Through the ages, totally uncontrolled warfare -- the only kind of "real" war -- got bigger and "better" as time andtechnology churned on, finally culminating in World War II with the introduction of atomic bombs.

Not long after that great war, the world leaders were faced suddenly with the reality of a great dilemma. At the root of this dilemma was the new fission-fusion-fission H-bomb. Is it some uncontrollable Manichean device, or is it truly a weapon of war?

... ... ...

Such knowledge is sufficient. The dilemma is now fact. There can no longer be a classic or traditional war, at least not the all-out, go-for-broke-type warfare there has been down through the ages, a war that leads to a meaningful victory for one side and abject defeat for the other.

Witness what has been called warfare in Korea, and Vietnam, and the later, more limited experiment with new weaponry called the Gulf War in Iraq.

... ... ...

This is why, even before the end of World War II, the newly structured bipolar confrontation between the world of Communism and the West resulted in the employment of enormous intelligence agencies that had the power, invisibly, to wage underground warfare, economic and well as military, anywhere -- including methods of warfare never before imagined. These conflicts had to be tactically designed to remain short of the utilization of the H-bomb by either side. There can never be victories in such wars, but tremendous loss of life could occur, and there is the much-desired consumption and attrition of trillions of dollars', and
rubles', worth of war equipment.

One objective of this book is to discuss these new forces. It will present an insider's view of the CIA story and provide comparisons with the intelligence organizations -- those invisible forces -- of other countries. To be more realistic with the priorities of these agencies themselves, more will be said about operational matters than about actual intelligence gathering as a profession.

This subject cannot be explored fully without a discussion of assassination. Since WWII, there has been an epidemic of murders at the highest level in many countries. Without question the most dynamic of these assassinations was the murder of President John F. Kennedy, but JFK was just one of many in a long list that includes bankers, corporate leaders, newsmen, rising political spokesmen, and religious leaders.

The ever-present threat of assassination seriously limits the number of men who would normally attempt to strive for positions of leadership, if for no other reason than that they could be singled out for murder at any time. This is not a new tactic, but it is one that has become increasingly utilized in pressure spots around the world.

It is essential to note that there are two principal categories of intelligence organizations and that their functions are determined generally by the characteristics of the type of government they serve -- not by the citizens of the government, but by its leaders.

Under totalitarian or highly centralized nondemocratic regimes, the intelligence organization is a political, secret service with police powers. It is designed primarily to provide personal security to those who control the authority of the state against all political opponents, foreign and domestic. These leaders are forced to depend upon these secret elite forces to remain alive and in power. Such an organization operates in deep secrecy and has the responsibility for carrying out espionage, counterespionage, and pseudoterrorism. This methodology is as true of Israel, Chile, or Jordan as it has been of the Soviet Union.

The second category of intelligence organization is one whose agents are limited to the gathering and reporting of intelligence and who have no police functions or the power to arrest at home or abroad. This type of organization is what the CIA was created to be; however, it does not exist. Over the decades since the CIA was created, it has acquired more sinister functions. All intelligence agencies, in time, tend to develop along similar lines. The CIA today is a far cry hum the agency that was created in 1947 by the National Security Act. As President Harry S. Truman confided to close friends, the greatest mistake of his administration took place when he signed that National Security Act of 1947 into law. It was that act which, among other things it did, created the Central Intelligence Agency.3

[Oct 05, 2017] How Billionaires become Billionaires - The Unz Review

Notable quotes:
"... Billionaires in the commercial conglomerates, like Walmart, exploit workers by paying poverty wages and providing few, if any, benefits. Walmart earns $16 billion dollar a year in profits by paying its workers between $10 and $13 an hour and relying on state and federal assistance to provide services to the families of its impoverished workers through Medicaid and food stamps. ..."
"... Inequality is not a result of 'technology' and 'education'- contemporary euphemisms for the ruling class cult of superiority – as liberals and conservative economists and journalists like to claim. Inequalities are a result of low wages, based on big profits, financial swindles, multi-trillion dollar public handouts and multi-billion-dollar tax evasion. ..."
"... Workers pay disproportional taxes for education, health, social and public services and subsidies for billionaires ..."
"... First and foremost, billionaires and their political, legal and corporate associates dominate the political parties. They designate the leaders and key appointees, thus ensuring that budgets and policies will increase their profits, erode social benefits for the masses and weaken the political power of popular organizations ..."
"... As a result, wage and salary workers are less organized and less influential; they work longer and for less pay, suffer greater workplace insecurity and injuries – physical and mental – fall into decline and disability, drop out of the system, die earlier and poorer, and, in the process, provide unimaginable profits for the billionaire class ..."
"... The bulk of repatriated profits are directed to buy back stock to increase dividends for investors; they are not invested in the productive economy. Lower taxes and greater profits for conglomerates means more buy-outs and greater outflows to low wage countries. In real terms taxes are already less than half the headline rate and are a major factor heightening the concentration of income and power – both cause and effect. ..."
"... In other words, the capitalist class as a whole, globalist and domestic alike, pursues the same regressive policies, promoting inequalities while struggling over shares of the profits. One hundred and fifty million wage and salaried taxpayers are excluded from the political and social decisions that directly affect their income, employment, rates of taxation, and political representation. ..."
"... However, worker hostility and despair is directed against 'immigrants' and against the 'liberals' who have backed the import of cheap skilled and semi-skilled labor under the guise of 'freedom'. This 'politically correct' image of imported labor covers up a policy, which has served to lower wages, benefits and living standards for American workers, whether they are in technology, construction or production. ..."
"... The pro and anti-immigrant issue avoids the root cause for the economic exploitation and social degradation of the working class – the billionaire owners operating in alliance with the political elite. ..."
Oct 05, 2017 | www.unz.com

Billionaires in the commercial conglomerates, like Walmart, exploit workers by paying poverty wages and providing few, if any, benefits. Walmart earns $16 billion dollar a year in profits by paying its workers between $10 and $13 an hour and relying on state and federal assistance to provide services to the families of its impoverished workers through Medicaid and food stamps. Amazon plutocrat Jeff Bezos exploits workers by paying $12.50 an hour while he has accumulated over $80 billion dollars in profits. UPS CEO David Albany takes $11 million a year by exploiting workers at $11 an hour. Federal Express CEO, Fred Smith gets $16 million and pays workers $11 an hour.

Inequality is not a result of 'technology' and 'education'- contemporary euphemisms for the ruling class cult of superiority – as liberals and conservative economists and journalists like to claim. Inequalities are a result of low wages, based on big profits, financial swindles, multi-trillion dollar public handouts and multi-billion-dollar tax evasion. The ruling class has mastered the 'technology' of exploiting the state, through its pillage of the treasury, and the working class. Capitalist exploitation of low paid production workers provides additional billions for the 'philanthropic' billionaire family foundations to polish their public image – using another tax avoidance gimmick – self-glorifying 'donations'.

Workers pay disproportional taxes for education, health, social and public services and subsidies for billionaires.

Billionaires in the arms industry and security/mercenary conglomerates receive over $700 billion dollars from the federal budget, while over 100 million US workers lack adequate health care and their children are warehoused in deteriorating schools.

Workers and Bosses: Mortality Rates

Billionaires and multi-millionaires and their families enjoy longer and healthier lives than their workers. They have no need for health insurance policies or public hospitals. CEO's live on average ten years longer than a worker and enjoy twenty years more of healthy and pain-free lives.

Private, exclusive clinics and top medical care include the most advanced treatment and safe and proven medication which allow billionaires and their family members to live longer and healthier lives. The quality of their medical care and the qualifications of their medical providers present a stark contrast to the health care apartheid that characterizes the rest of the United States.

Workers are treated and mistreated by the health system: They have inadequate and often incompetent medical treatment, cursory examinations by inexperienced medical assistants and end up victims of the widespread over-prescription of highly addictive narcotics and other medications. Over-prescription of narcotics by incompetent 'providers' has significantly contributed to the rise in premature deaths among workers, spiraling cases of opiate overdose, disability due to addiction and descent into poverty and homelessness. These irresponsible practices have made additional billions of dollars in profits for the insurance corporate elite, who can cut their pensions and health care liabilities as injured, disabled and addicted workers drop out of the system or die.

The shortened life expectancy for workers and their family members is celebrated on Wall Street and in the financial press. Over 560,000 workers were killed by opioids between 1999-2015 contributing to the decline in life expectancy for working age wage and salary earners and reduced pension liabilities for Wall Street and the Social Security Administration.

Inequalities are cumulative, inter-generational and multi-sectorial.

Billionaire families, their children and grandchildren, inherit and invest billions. They have privileged access to the most prestigious schools and medical facilities, and conveniently fall in love to equally privileged, well-connected mates to join their fortunes and form even greater financial empires. Their wealth buys favorable, even fawning, mass media coverage and the services of the most influential lawyers and accountants to cover their swindles and tax evasion.

Billionaires hire innovators and sweat shop MBA managers to devise more ways to slash wages, increase productivity and ensure that inequalities widen even further. Billionaires do not have to be the brightest or most innovative people: Such individuals can simply be bought or imported on the 'free market' and discarded at will.

Billionaires have bought out or formed joint ventures with each other, creating interlocking directorates. Banks, IT, factories, warehouses, food and appliance, pharmaceuticals and hospitals are linked directly to political elites who slither through doors of rotating appointments within the IMF, the World Bank, Treasury, Wall Street banks and prestigious law firms.

Consequences of Inequalities

First and foremost, billionaires and their political, legal and corporate associates dominate the political parties. They designate the leaders and key appointees, thus ensuring that budgets and policies will increase their profits, erode social benefits for the masses and weaken the political power of popular organizations .

Secondly, the burden of the economic crisis is shifted on to the workers who are fired and later re-hired as part-time, contingent labor. Public bailouts, provided by the taxpayer, are channeled to the billionaires under the doctrine that Wall Street banks are too big to fail and workers are too weak to defend their wages, jobs and living standards.

Billionaires buy political elites, who appoint the World Bank and IMF officials tasked with instituting policies to freeze or reduce wages, slash corporate and public health care obligations and increase profits by privatizing public enterprises and facilitating corporate relocation to low wage, low tax countries.

As a result, wage and salary workers are less organized and less influential; they work longer and for less pay, suffer greater workplace insecurity and injuries – physical and mental – fall into decline and disability, drop out of the system, die earlier and poorer, and, in the process, provide unimaginable profits for the billionaire class . Even their addiction and deaths provide opportunities for huge profit – as the Sackler Family, manufacturers of Oxycontin, can attest.

The billionaires and their political acolytes argue that deeper regressive taxation would increase investments and jobs. The data speaks otherwise. The bulk of repatriated profits are directed to buy back stock to increase dividends for investors; they are not invested in the productive economy. Lower taxes and greater profits for conglomerates means more buy-outs and greater outflows to low wage countries. In real terms taxes are already less than half the headline rate and are a major factor heightening the concentration of income and power – both cause and effect.

Corporate elites, the billionaires in the Silicon Valley-Wall Street global complex are relatively satisfied that their cherished inequalities are guaranteed and expanding under the Demo-Republican Presidents- as the 'good times' roll on.

Away from the 'billionaire elite', the 'outsiders' – domestic capitalists – clamor for greater public investment in infrastructure to expand the domestic economy, lower taxes to increase profits, and state subsidies to increase the training of the labor force while reducing funds for health care and public education. They are oblivious to the contradiction.

In other words, the capitalist class as a whole, globalist and domestic alike, pursues the same regressive policies, promoting inequalities while struggling over shares of the profits. One hundred and fifty million wage and salaried taxpayers are excluded from the political and social decisions that directly affect their income, employment, rates of taxation, and political representation. They understand, or at least experience, how the class system works. Most workers know about the injustice of the fake 'free trade' agreements and regressive tax regime, which weighs heavy on the majority of wage and salary earners.

However, worker hostility and despair is directed against 'immigrants' and against the 'liberals' who have backed the import of cheap skilled and semi-skilled labor under the guise of 'freedom'. This 'politically correct' image of imported labor covers up a policy, which has served to lower wages, benefits and living standards for American workers, whether they are in technology, construction or production. Rich conservatives, on the other hand, oppose immigration under the guise of 'law and order' and to lower social expenditures – despite that fact that they all use imported nannies, tutors, nurses, doctors and gardeners to service their families. Their servants can always be deported when convenient.

The pro and anti-immigrant issue avoids the root cause for the economic exploitation and social degradation of the working class – the billionaire owners operating in alliance with the political elite.

In order to reverse the regressive tax practices and tax evasion, the low wage cycle and the spiraling death rates resulting from narcotics and other preventable causes, which profit insurance companies and pharmaceutical billionaires, class alliances need to be forged linking workers, consumers, pensioners, students, the disabled, the foreclosed homeowners, evicted tenants, debtors, the under-employed and immigrants as a unified political force.

Sooner said than done, but never tried! Everything and everyone is at stake: life, health and happiness.

conatus > , October 5, 2017 at 9:02 am GMT

Ronald Reagan can be blamed for the excess of billionaires we now have. His lauding of the entrepreneurial spirit and how we are all brave individual risk takers makes it seem you are an envious chickensh$t if you advocate against unlimited assets.

But even Warren Buffet has come out for the estate tax saying something like now the Forbes 400 now possesses total assets of 2.5 trillion in a 20 trillion economy when 40 years ago they totaled in the millions. The legal rule against perpetuities generally used to limit trusts to a lifetime of 100 years, now some states offer 1000 year trusts which will only concretize an outlandishly high Gini coefficient(a measure of income inequality).
The rationale for lowering taxes and the untouchable rich is usually the trickle down theory but, as one of these billionaires said, "How many pairs of pants can I buy?" It takes 274 years spending 10,000 a day to spend a billion dollars.
Better Henry Ford's virtuous circle than Ronald Reagan's entrepreneur.
Ban all billionaires. Bring back the union label. Otherwise .. what do we have to lose?

http://nobillionairescom.dotster.com/

jacques sheete > , October 5, 2017 at 2:29 pm GMT

@Wally "According to the US Internal Revenue Service, billionaire tax evasion amounts to $458 billion dollars in lost public revenues every year – almost a trillion dollars every two years by this conservative estimate."

No, it's $458 billion that the government has not managed to steal.

https://www.ronpaul.com/taxes/


An income tax is the most degrading and totalitarian of all possible taxes. Its implementation wrongly suggests that the government owns the lives and labor of the citizens it is supposed to represent.

Tellingly, "a heavy progressive or graduated income tax" is Plank #2 of the Communist Manifesto, which was written by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels and first published in 1848.
To provide funding for the federal government, Ron Paul supports excise taxes, non-protectionist tariffs, massive cuts in spending

"We could eliminate the income tax, replace it with nothing, and still fund the same level of big government we had in the late 1990s. We don't need to "replace" the income tax at all. I see a consumption tax as being a little better than the personal income tax, and I would vote for the Fair-Tax if it came up in the House of Representatives, but it is not my goal. We can do better."

https://youtu.be/qI5lC4Z_T80

No, it's $458 billion that the government has not managed to steal.

There was a time that I would have agreed with that, and technically still get the point, but what it really means is that the government merely allows the corporations which they favor, subsidize, and bail out to keep the chump change they've stolen from the workers, besides that which the government steals from the workers and hands to the corporations.

Corporations and government work hand in hand to fleece the herd and most of the herd apparently think it's just fine.

Never forget that thanks to government, corporations socialize risk while privatizing profit. They are partners in gangsterism.

advancedatheist > , October 5, 2017 at 2:53 pm GMT

Private, exclusive clinics and top medical care include the most advanced treatment and safe and proven medication which allow billionaires and their family members to live longer and healthier lives.

Sorry, I don't buy the notion that billionaires have access to some super-healthcare that the rest of us don't know about. In the real world rich people notoriously waste a lot of money on quackery, like the current fad of receiving plasma transfusions from young people as a phony "anti-aging" treatment.

More likely the kinds of men who become billionaires just enjoy better health and longevity for genetic reasons. They tend to have higher IQ's, for example, and some scientists think that IQ correlates with "system integrity" in their bodies which just make higher IQ people more resilient. Look up the growing body of research on cognitive epidemiology.

anonymous > , Disclaimer October 5, 2017 at 3:05 pm GMT

I'm disappointed there was no mention of the "Billionaires" use of social media. They've always controlled the press of course: startin' wars, hatin' on those guys, gettin' the blood up, jailin' the 'bad guys', preaching an empty delusion of social justice propaganda, payin' Ken Burns to propagandize and put a new coat of paint on the industrial scale killing of Vietnam. Probably just in time for more violence.

Let's face it, many of the workin' stiff will blow a hedge fund manager and kneel before the so-called free market corpse of Sam Walton but most importantly they'll grab their guns outa' patriotic fervor and social media will be right there with 'em. "I love Elon Musk!"

It's a great thing we're watched and datamined for our own good – information is how billionaires became billionaires along with a lot of help from the Government they usually encourage you to dislike. Keep posting!

MarkinLA > , October 5, 2017 at 3:29 pm GMT

Rich conservatives, on the other hand, oppose immigration under the guise of 'law and order' and to lower social expenditures – despite that fact that they all use imported nannies, tutors, nurses, doctors and gardeners to service their families. Their servants can always be deported when convenient.

BZZZZ – wrong. Rich conservative support massive immigration so they can get cheap labor while simutaneously virtue signaling. I thought you just got done sayiong they don't pay for the costs of the working poor? The middle class is who is against immigratioin. They bear the burden and pay the taxes that support it.

[Oct 05, 2017] Opinion cultivation is a mass comms topic. You can look up the spiral of silence, which was theorized in the 1970s as self-censorship by people who hold minority opinions, or think they do.

Notable quotes:
"... TAC is an odd place, I post comments and for some reason every single comment I post on the U.S. state Dept. never gets published while every other comment I write does and I cannot fathom why. ..."
"... Many comment sections of political and "news" sites are tightly curated. They offer the illusion of open discussion but in fact limit the scope of what discussion points are allowed. ..."
"... From a PR/opinion cultivation perspective the goal is to keep those points or positions from appearing before other commenters and readers, thus validating their existence. Or such points or positions are allowed through on a very irregular or rare basis, which leaves the impression that they are extreme. ..."
"... Opinion cultivation is a mass comms topic. You can look up the "spiral of silence," which was theorized in the 1970s as self-censorship by people who hold minority opinions, or think they do. ..."
"... What we have today is the systematic creation of "spiral of silence" by the media that tout themselves as giving voice to opinions/positions/facts. They silence views at odds with the ones they want to sell, with the intention that their viewers/readers will self-censor. ..."
Oct 04, 2017 | www.unz.com

Olorin says: October 3, 2017 at 9:45 pm

@Chris Chuba

I'm sorry to hear that you were removed from TAC. I do not believe that you should tailor you writings to make them pro-Israeli / Jewish if that does not represent your views. If I find an article unappealing I just skip it, I don't want to see it censored and I don't assume bad intentions on people just because they pursue a theory I don't agree with. To judge if someone is out-of-bounds perhaps we should apply the 'Iran test', replace Israel/Jewish with Iran/Iranian and see if people would still take offense (being a bit facetious, nothing would be out-of-bounds).

TAC is an odd place, I post comments and for some reason every single comment I post on the U.S. state Dept. never gets published while every other comment I write does and I cannot fathom why.

The pattern goes like this.

  1. Larison writes how Tillerson is gutting the U.S. State Dept. budget and this is wrecking U.S. diplomacy.
  2. I post a comment asking why that's a bad thing because 60%+ of the budget goes for 'soft power', funding NGO's to influence and/or meddle in other countries. Lindsey Graham even said, 'that's our soft power'.

This is like Groundhog Day, I've tried posting several versions of this comment thinking that I inadvertently said something inflammatory. I've stopped commenting on any article having to do with this topic.

Maybe I'm wrong, I'm fallible but I don't see how my comment is out of bounds, I'm baffled.

TAC is an odd place, I post comments and for some reason every single comment I post on the U.S. state Dept. never gets published while every other comment I write does and I cannot fathom why.

Many comment sections of political and "news" sites are tightly curated. They offer the illusion of open discussion but in fact limit the scope of what discussion points are allowed.

From a PR/opinion cultivation perspective the goal is to keep those points or positions from appearing before other commenters and readers, thus validating their existence. Or such points or positions are allowed through on a very irregular or rare basis, which leaves the impression that they are extreme.

Opinion cultivation is a mass comms topic. You can look up the "spiral of silence," which was theorized in the 1970s as self-censorship by people who hold minority opinions, or think they do.

What we have today is the systematic creation of "spiral of silence" by the media that tout themselves as giving voice to opinions/positions/facts. They silence views at odds with the ones they want to sell, with the intention that their viewers/readers will self-censor.

This is related to the 1970s to 1980s field of "cultivation theory" out of the Annenberg School (Penn). In that case, Jewish scholars at a majority Jewish department commenting on disproportionately Jewish-run media networks/outlets and Jewish-created programming concluded that rank-and-file white Americans were stupid for thinking the world was mean and dangerous based on what they saw on television.

(The findings/research claim held that more hours of TV viewing led to people thinking crime rates were higher than they actually were. I don't call whether the converse was true, i.e., no TV viewing led to underestimate of crime rates, or what.)

There was some truth in the cultivation theory framing–George Gerbner left communist Hungary, IIRC–but the whole thing struck me overall as an effort to ridicule white men and women for a) trusting the media and b) perceiving that their culture was going shall we say down the tubes. The real data were the actual crime rates and why the MSM didn't report those, nor on the demographics of them.

In any case, the researchers were suffering from confirmation bias at least as strongly as their human subjects were, IMO.

[Oct 04, 2017] The Trump-Goldman Sachs Tax Cut for the Rich by Jack Rasmus

Notable quotes:
"... The Trump Plan is actually the product of the former Goldman-Sachs investment bankers who have been in charge of Trump's economic policy since he came into office. Steve Mnuchin, the Treasury Secretary, and Gary Cohn, director of Trump's economic council, are the two authors of the Trump tax cuts. They put it together. They are also both former top executives of the global shadow bank called Goldman Sachs. ..."
"... Given that economic policy under Trump is being driven by bankers, it's not surprising that the CEO of the biggest US banks, Morgan Stanley, admitted just a few months ago that a reduction of the corporate nominal income tax rate from the current 35% nominal rate to a new nominal rate of 20% will provide the bank an immediate windfall gain of 15%-20% in earnings. ..."
"... Big multinational companies like Apple, i.e. virtually all the big tech companies, big Pharma corporations, banks and oil companies, pay no more than 12-13% effective tax rates today -- not the 35% nominal rate. ..."
"... Tech, big Pharma, banks and oil companies are the big violators of offshore cash hoarding/tax avoidance schemes. Microsoft's effective global tax rate last year was only 12%. IBM's even less, at 10%. The giant drug company, Pfizer paid 18% and the oil company, Chevron 14%. One of the largest US companies in the world, General Electric, paid only 1%. When their nominal rate is reduced to 20% under the Trump plan, they'll pay even less, likely in the single digits, if that. ..."
"... Tax cutting for business classes and the 1% has always been a fundamental element of Neoliberal economic policy ever since the Reagan years (and actually late Jimmy Carter period). Major tax cut legislation occurred in 1981, 1986, and 1997-98 under Clinton. George W. Bush then cut taxes by $3.4 trillion in 2001-04, 80% of which went to the wealthiest households and businesses. He cut taxes another $180 billion in 2008. Obama cut another $300 billion in his 2009 so-called recovery program. When that faltered, it was another $800 billion at year end 2010. He then extended the Bush tax cuts that were scheduled to expire in 2011 two more years. That costs $450 billion each year. And in 2013, cutting a deal with Republicans called the 'fiscal cliff' settlement, he extended the Bush tax cuts of the prior decade for another ten years. That cost a further $5 trillion. Now Trump wants even more. He promised $5 trillion in tax cuts during his election campaign. So the current proposal is only half of what he has in mind perhaps. ..."
"... Neoliberal tax cutting in the US has also been characterized by the 'tax cut shell game'. The shell game is played several ways. ..."
"... To cover the shell game, an overlay of ideology covers up what's going on. There's the false argument that 'tax cuts create jobs', for which there's no empirical evidence. There's the claim US multinational corporations pay a double tax compared to their competitors, when in fact they effectively pay less. There's the lie that if corporate taxes are cut they will automatically invest the savings, when in fact what they do is invest offshore, divert the savings to stock and bond and other financial markets, boost their dividend and stock buybacks, or stuff the savings in their offshore subsidiaries to avoid paying taxes. ..."
"... All these neoliberal false claims, arguments, and outright lies continue today to justify the Trump-Goldman Sachs tax plan -- which is just the latest iteration of neoliberal tax policy and tax offensive in the US. The consequences of the Trump plan, if it is passed, will be the same as the previous tax giveaways to the 1% and their companies: it will redistribute income massively from the middle and working classes to the rich. Income inequality will continue to worsen dramatically. ..."
"... Nothing will change so long as the Corporate Party of America is allowed to continue its neoliberal tax giveaways, its tax cutting 'shell games', and is allowed to continue to foment its ideological cover up. ..."
Oct 04, 2017 | www.counterpunch.org

Contradicting Trump, the independent Tax Policy Center has estimated in just the first year half of the $2 trillion plus Trump cuts will go to the wealthiest 1% households that annually earn more than $730,000. That's an immediate income windfall to the wealthiest 1% households of 8.5%, according to the Tax Policy Center. But that's only in the first of ten years the cuts will be in effect. It gets worse over time.

According to the Tax Policy Center, "Taxpayers in the top one percent (incomes above $730,000), would receive about 50 percent of the total tax benefit [in 2018]". However, "By 2027, the top one percent would get 80 percent of the plan's tax cuts while the share for middle-income households would drop to about five percent." By the last year of the cuts, 2027, on average the wealthiest 1% household would realize $207,000, and the even wealthier 0.1% would realize an income gain of $1,022,000.

When confronted with these facts on national TV this past Sunday, Trump's Treasury Secretary, Steve Mnuchin, quickly backtracked and admitted he could not guarantee every middle class family would see a tax cut. Right. That's because 15-17 million (12%) of US taxpaying households in the US will face a tax hike in the first year of the cuts. In the tenth and last year, "one in four middle class families would end up with higher taxes".

The US Economic 'Troika'

The Trump Plan is actually the product of the former Goldman-Sachs investment bankers who have been in charge of Trump's economic policy since he came into office. Steve Mnuchin, the Treasury Secretary, and Gary Cohn, director of Trump's economic council, are the two authors of the Trump tax cuts. They put it together. They are also both former top executives of the global shadow bank called Goldman Sachs. Together with the other key office determining US economic policy, the US central bank, held by yet another ex-Goldman Sachs senior exec, Bill Dudley, president of the New York Federal Reserve bank, the Goldman-Sachs trio of Mnuchin-Cohn-Dudley constitute what might be called the 'US Troika' for domestic economic policy.
The Trump tax proposal is therefore really a big bankers tax plan -- authored by bankers, in the interest of bankers and financial investors (like Trump himself), and overwhelmingly favoring the wealthiest 1%.

Given that economic policy under Trump is being driven by bankers, it's not surprising that the CEO of the biggest US banks, Morgan Stanley, admitted just a few months ago that a reduction of the corporate nominal income tax rate from the current 35% nominal rate to a new nominal rate of 20% will provide the bank an immediate windfall gain of 15%-20% in earnings. And that's just the nominal corporate rate cut proposed by Trump. With loopholes, it's no doubt more.

The Trump-Troika's Triple Tax-Cut Trifecta for the 1%

The Trump Troika has indicated it hopes to package up and deliver the trillions of $ to their 1% friends by Christmas 2017. Their gift will consist of three major tax cuts for the rich and their businesses. A Trump-Troika Tax Cut 'Trifecta' of $ trillions.

1.The Corporate Tax Cuts

The first of the three main elements is a big cut in the corporate income tax nominal rate, from current 35% to 20%. In addition, there's the elimination of what is called the 'territorial tax' system, which is just a fancy phrase for ending the fiction of the foreign profits tax. Currently, US multinational corporations hoard a minimum of $2.6 trillion of profits offshore and refuse to pay US taxes on those profits. In other words, Congress and presidents for decades have refused to enforce the foreign profits tax. Now that fiction will be ended by officially eliminating taxes on their profits. They'll only pay taxes on US profits, which will create an even greater incentive for them to shift operations and profits to their offshore subsidiaries. But there's more for the big corporations.

The Trump plan also simultaneously proposes what it calls a 'repatriation tax cut'. If the big tech, pharma, banks, and energy companies bring back some of their reported $2.6 trillion (an official number which is actually more than that), Congress will require they pay only a 10% tax rate -- not the current 35% rate or even Trump's proposed 20%–on that repatriated profits. No doubt the repatriation will be tied to some kind of agreement to invest the money in the US economy. That's how they'll sell it to the American public. But that shell game was played before, in 2004-05, under George W. Bush. The same 'repatriation' deal was then legislated, to return the $700 billion then stuffed away in corporate offshore subsidiaries. About half the $700 billion was brought back, but US corporations did not invest it in jobs in the US as they were supposed to. They used the repatriated profits to buy up their competitors (mergers and acquisitions), to pay out dividends to stockholders, and to buy back their stock to drive equity prices and the stock market to new heights in 2005-07. The current Trump 'territorial tax repeal/repatriation' boondoggle will turn out just the same as it did in 2005.

2. Non-Incorporate Business Tax Cuts

The second big business class tax windfall in the Trump-Goldman Sachs tax giveaway for the rich is the proposal to reduce the top nominal tax rate for non-corporate businesses, like proprietorships and partnerships, whose business income (aka profits) is treated like personal income. This is called the 'pass through business income' provision.

That's a Trump tax cut for unincorporated businesses -- like doctors, law firms, real estate investment partnerships, etc. 40% of non-corporate income is currently taxed at 39.6% (the top personal income tax rate). Trump proposes to reduce that nominal rate to 25%. So non-incorporate businesses too will get an immediately 14.6% cut, nearly matching the 15% rate cut for corporate businesses.

In the case of both corporate and non-corporate companies we're talking about 'nominal' tax rate cuts of 14.6% and 15%. The 'effective' tax rate is what they actually pay in taxes -- i.e. after loopholes, after their high paid tax lawyers take a whack at their tax bill, after they cleverly divert their income to their offshore subsidiaries and refuse to pay the foreign profits tax, and after they stuff away whatever they can in offshore tax havens in the Cayman Islands, Switzerland, and a dozen other island nations worldwide.

For example, Apple Corporation alone is hoarding $260 billion in cash at present -- 95% of which it keeps offshore to avoid paying Uncle Sam taxes. Big multinational companies like Apple, i.e. virtually all the big tech companies, big Pharma corporations, banks and oil companies, pay no more than 12-13% effective tax rates today -- not the 35% nominal rate.

Tech, big Pharma, banks and oil companies are the big violators of offshore cash hoarding/tax avoidance schemes. Microsoft's effective global tax rate last year was only 12%. IBM's even less, at 10%. The giant drug company, Pfizer paid 18% and the oil company, Chevron 14%. One of the largest US companies in the world, General Electric, paid only 1%. When their nominal rate is reduced to 20% under the Trump plan, they'll pay even less, likely in the single digits, if that.

Corporations and non-corporate businesses are the institutional conduit for passing income to their capitalist owners and managers. The Trump corporate and business taxes means companies immediately get to keep at least 15% more of their income for themselves -- and more in 'effective' rate terms. That means they get to distribute to their executives and big stockholders and partners even more than they have in recent years. And in recent years that has been no small sum. For example, just corporate dividend payouts and stock buybacks have totaled more than $1 trillion on average for six years since 2010! A total of more than $6 trillion.

But all that's only the business tax cut side of the Trump plan. There's a third major tax cut component of the Trump plan -- i.e. major cuts in the Personal Income Tax that accrue overwhelmingly to the richest 1% households.

3. Personal Income Tax Cuts for the 1%

There are multiple measures in the Trump-Troika proposal that benefits the 1% in the form of personal income tax reductions. Corporations and businesses get to keep more income from the business tax cuts, to pass on to their shareholders, investors, and senior managers. The latter then get to keep more of what's passed through and distributed to them as a result of the personal income tax cuts.

The first personal tax cut boondoggle for the 1% wealthiest households is the Trump proposal to reduce the 'tax income brackets' from seven to three. The new brackets would be 35%, 25%, and 12%.

Whenever brackets are reduced, the wealthiest always benefit. The current top bracket, affecting households with a minimum of $418,000 annual income, would be reduced from the current 39.6% to 35%. In the next bracket, those with incomes of 191,000 to 418,000 would see their tax rate (nominal again) cut from 28% to 25%. However, the 25% third bracket would apply to annual incomes as low as $38,000. That's the middle and working class. So households with $38,000 annual incomes would pay the same rate as those with more than $400,000. Tax cuts for the middle class, did Trump say? Only tax rate reductions beginning with those with $191,000 incomes and the real cuts for those over $418,000!

But the cuts in the nominal tax rate for the top 1% to 5% households are only part of the personal income tax windfall for the rich under the Trump plan. The really big tax cuts for the 1% come in the form of the repeal of the Inheritance Tax and the Alternative Minimum Tax, as well as Trump's allowing the 'carried interest' tax loophole for financial speculators like hedge fund managers and private equity CEOs to continue.

The current Inheritance Tax applies only to those with estates of $11 million or more, about 0.2 of all the taxpaying households. So its repeal is clearly a windfall for the super rich. The Alternative Minimum Tax is designed to ensure the super rich pay something, after they manipulate the tax loopholes, shelter their income offshore in tax havens, or simply engage in tax fraud by various other means. Now that's gone as well under the Trump plan. 'Carried interest', a loophole, allows big finance speculators, like hedge fund managers, to avoid paying the corporate tax rate altogether, and pay a maximum of 20% on their hundreds of millions and sometimes billions of dollars of income every year.
Who Pays?

As previously noted, folks with $91,000 a year annual income get no tax rate cuts. They still will pay the 25%. And since that is what's called 'earned' (wage and salary) income, they don't get the loopholes to manipulate, like those with 'capital incomes' (dividends, capital gains, rents, interest, etc.). What they get is called deductions. But under the Trump plan, the deductions for state and local taxes, for state sales taxes, and apparently for excess medical costs will all disappear. The cost of that to middle and working class households is estimated at $1 trillion over the decade.

Trump claims the standard deduction will be doubled, and that will benefit the middle class. But estimates reveal that a middle class family with two kids will see their standard deduction reduced from $28,900 to $24,000. But I guess that's just 'Trump math'.

The general US taxpayer will also pay for the trillions of dollars that will be redistributed to the 1% and their companies. It's estimated the federal government deficit will increase by $2.4 trillion over the decade as a result of the Trump plan. Republicans in Congress have railed over the deficits and federal debt, now at $20 trillion, for years. But they are conspicuously quiet now about adding $2.4 trillion more -- so long as it the result of tax giveaways to themselves, their 1% friends, and their rich corporate election campaign contributors.

And both wings of the Corporate Party of America -- aka Republicans and Democrats -- never mention the economic fact that since 2001, 60% of US federal government deficits, and therefore the US debt of $20 trillion, are attributable to tax cuts by George W. Bush and Barack Obama: more than $3.5 trillion under Bush and more than $7 trillion under Obama. (The remaining $10 trillion of the US debt due to war and defense spending, price gouging by the medical industry and big pharma driving up government costs for Medicare, Medicaid, and other government insurance, bailouts of the big banks in 2008-09, and interest payments on the debt).

The 35-Year Neoliberal Tax Offensive

Tax cutting for business classes and the 1% has always been a fundamental element of Neoliberal economic policy ever since the Reagan years (and actually late Jimmy Carter period). Major tax cut legislation occurred in 1981, 1986, and 1997-98 under Clinton. George W. Bush then cut taxes by $3.4 trillion in 2001-04, 80% of which went to the wealthiest households and businesses. He cut taxes another $180 billion in 2008. Obama cut another $300 billion in his 2009 so-called recovery program. When that faltered, it was another $800 billion at year end 2010. He then extended the Bush tax cuts that were scheduled to expire in 2011 two more years. That costs $450 billion each year. And in 2013, cutting a deal with Republicans called the 'fiscal cliff' settlement, he extended the Bush tax cuts of the prior decade for another ten years. That cost a further $5 trillion. Now Trump wants even more. He promised $5 trillion in tax cuts during his election campaign. So the current proposal is only half of what he has in mind perhaps.

Neoliberal tax cutting in the US has also been characterized by the 'tax cut shell game'. The shell game is played several ways.

In the course of major tax cut legislation, the elites and their lobbyists alternate their focus on cutting rates and on correcting tax loopholes. They raise rates but expand loopholes. When the public becomes aware of the outrageous loopholes, they then eliminate some loopholes but simultaneously reduce the tax rates on the rich. When the public complains of too low tax rates for the rich, they raise the rates but quietly expand the loopholes. They play this shell game so the outcome is always a net gain for corporations and the rich.

Since Reagan and the advent of neoliberal tax policy, the corporate income tax share of total US government revenues has fallen from more than 20% to single digits well below 10%. Conversely, the payroll tax has doubled from 22% to more than 40%. A similar shift within the personal income tax, steadily around 40% of government revenues, has also occurred. The wealthy pay less a share of the total and the middle class pays more. Along the way, token concessions to the very low end of working poor are introduced, to give the appearance of fairness. But the middle class, the $38 to $91,000 nearly 100 million taxpaying households foot the bill for both the 1% and the bottom. This pattern was set in motion under Reagan. His proposed $752 billion in tax cuts in 1981-82 were adjusted in 1986, but the net outcome was more for the rich and their corporations. That pattern has continued under Clinton, Bush, Obama and now proposed under Trump.

To cover the shell game, an overlay of ideology covers up what's going on. There's the false argument that 'tax cuts create jobs', for which there's no empirical evidence. There's the claim US multinational corporations pay a double tax compared to their competitors, when in fact they effectively pay less. There's the lie that if corporate taxes are cut they will automatically invest the savings, when in fact what they do is invest offshore, divert the savings to stock and bond and other financial markets, boost their dividend and stock buybacks, or stuff the savings in their offshore subsidiaries to avoid paying taxes.

All these neoliberal false claims, arguments, and outright lies continue today to justify the Trump-Goldman Sachs tax plan -- which is just the latest iteration of neoliberal tax policy and tax offensive in the US. The consequences of the Trump plan, if it is passed, will be the same as the previous tax giveaways to the 1% and their companies: it will redistribute income massively from the middle and working classes to the rich. Income inequality will continue to worsen dramatically. US multinational corporations will begin again to divert profits, and investment, offshore; profits brought back untaxed will result in mergers and acquisitions, dividend payouts, and financial markets investment. No real jobs will be created in the US. The wealthy will continue to pump their savings into financial asset markets, causing further bubbles in stocks, exchange traded funds, bonds, derivatives and the like. The US economy will continue to slow and become more unstable financially. And there will be another financial crash and great recession -- or worse. Only this time, the vast majority of US households -- i.e. the middle and working classes -- will be even worse off and more unable to weather the next economic storm.

Nothing will change so long as the Corporate Party of America is allowed to continue its neoliberal tax giveaways, its tax cutting 'shell games', and is allowed to continue to foment its ideological cover up. More articles by: Jack Rasmus

Jack Rasmus is the author of ' Systemic Fragility in the Global Economy ', Clarity Press, 2015. He blogs at jackrasmus.com . His website is www.kyklosproductions.com and twitter handle, @drjackrasmus.

[Oct 04, 2017] Today, the main enemy is not aliens; it's division -- between rich and poor, white and black, educated and less educated, right and left. Where there is division there are fences. Mobility is retarded and the frontier is destroyed

Oct 04, 2017 | www.theamericanconservative.com

But how "American" is the Brooks view, encapsulated in the sentence "The whole point of America is that we are not a tribe. We are a universal nation, founded on universal principles, attracting talented people from across the globe, active across the world on behalf of all people who seek democracy and dignity"? Brooks holds up the American territorial frontier as a hallmark of this ethos and of the American identity.

There are two problems with this. First, this conception of what it means to be American has propelled the nation into a lot of folly, heartache, and international treachery. Consider the implications of "founded on universal principles active across the world on behalf of all people who seek democracy and dignity." Almost word for word, that's what was said when the United States invaded Iraq, and how did that turn out? It unleashed a spate of instability and violence in that country that have generated more than 175,000 civilian deaths.

Secondly, Brooks' description of the essence of the American identity is false. His invocation of America's frontier -- as a proxy also for the country's "technological, scientific, social and human frontiers" -- misses a fundamental reality of the American story. America was in fact a tribal enterprise.

Brooks would have us believe that the United States began as a pristine crusader state on behalf of global democracy and internationalism, a "universal nation" devoted to "diverse hopefulness" as opposed to "fear-driven homogeneity." No, the people who ventured onto these shores and then pushed westward inexorably were highly conscious not only of their religious provenance but also of their cultural and ethnic heritage. They brutally pushed aside the aboriginal peoples, declined to mix with them, and created societies that mirrored those of the Old Country, even naming their towns and cities after those inhabited by their overseas ancestors.

As more and more people arrived from places removed from the English Motherland and other English-speaking regions (but almost entirely from Europe), those newcomers were abjured to accept the established Anglo-Saxon elite and bend to its mores and sensibilities. In return the elite gave the nation a relatively gentle and more or less disinterested stewardship based on a strong sense of national service inculcated at WASP prep schools and universities such as Yale and Harvard.

No one expressed more forcefully than Theodore Roosevelt this sentiment that newcomers must assimilate into prevailing American culture, for that culture had no intention of adjusting to the newcomers. "We freely extend the hand of welcome and good fellowship to every man," wrote Roosevelt, "no matter what his creed and birthplace, who comes here honestly intent on becoming a good United States citizen like the rest of us; but we have a right, and it is our duty, to demand that he shall indeed become so, and shall not confuse the issues with which we are struggling by introducing among us Old-World quarrels and prejudices."

As late as the early postwar period, the elite represented by Roosevelt still dominated many of America's major national institutions -- the big banks, the media, the universities, the foreign policy apparatus. Extensive academic treatment has been given to the ways by which the waning Anglo-Saxon elite of America, still dominating foreign policy at the end of World War II, created the postwar global structure that maintained stability for decades throughout the world.

But there were frictions, of course, as new arrivals began to chafe under America's ancient elite, and most of it was tribal. When the Irish of Boston reached such numbers that they could upend the old WASP establishment of that city, it was tribal. When American Jews thrilled to the creation of Israel and sought to bend U.S. policy toward today's special relationship, it was tribal. Ethnic politics is tribal politics, and ethnic politics has become an ever more powerful force within the American polity.

Brooks is not wrong when he says that much of the Trump constituency is driven by tribal impulses. But he is wrong to say that these sensibilities are un-American and the result of bigotry. Tribalism is a part of the American story, and Brooks can't shame it away. That he wants to is encapsulated in this paragraph:

Today, the main enemy is not aliens; it's division -- between rich and poor, white and black, educated and less educated, right and left. Where there is division there are fences. Mobility is retarded and the frontier is destroyed. Trumpist populists want to widen the divisions and rearrange the fences. They want to turn us into an old, settled and fearful nation.

Aha, the true Brooks herein steps forward. It is the Trump constituency that is responsible for all the divisions between rich and poor, white and black, educated and less educated, right and left. He doesn't quite call these people deplorable, but he comes close. If they would just stand down and give up their tribal ways, we could get back to being the America of our past and our heritage -- a "universal nation" drawing unlimited immigrants to our shores in the service of a national mission to spread "democracy and dignity" around the world. Sounds like a return to George W. Bush.

This is policy folly based upon a myth of America. The divisions Brooks laments with such invidious intent won't vanish until the fears and concerns of Trump voters are addressed in ways that can alleviate, at least to some extent, those grievances. That's a reality that David Brooks, for all his clever locutions, can't wish away.

Robert W. Merry, longtime Washington, D.C., journalist and publishing executive, is editor of The American Conservative . His next book, President McKinley: Architect of the American Century , is due out from Simon & Schuster in November.

[Oct 04, 2017] Trump, Syriza Brexit prove voting is only small part of the battle by Neil Clark

Highly recommended!
Inverted totalitarism is very far from democracy. It just pretends being democracy.
Notable quotes:
"... Trump won the election by attracting working-class 'rust belt' voters away from the Democrats and for offering the prospect of an end to a 'liberal interventionist' foreign policy. Yet just nine months into his Presidency the belief that Trump would mark a 'clean break' with what had gone before is in tatters. National conservative members of his team have been purged, while Trump has proved himself as much of a war hawk as his predecessors. Rather than 'draining the swamp,' The Donald has waded right into it. ..."
"... The events of 2017 plainly prove as I argued here that the US is a regime and not a genuine democracy, and that whoever gets to the White House - sooner or later - will be forced to toe the War Party/Wall Street/Deep State line, regardless of what they promise on the election trail. ..."
Oct 04, 2017 | www.rt.com

If voting changed anything, they'd abolish it. That might sound a bit glib but consider these recent events.

In January 2015, the Greek people, sick and tired of austerity and rapidly plummeting living standards, voted for Syriza, a radical anti-austerity party. The Coalition of the Left, which had only been formed eleven years earlier, won 36.3 percent of the vote and 149 out of the Hellenic Parliament's 300 seats. The Greek people had reasonable hopes their austerity nightmare would end. The victory of Syriza was hailed by progressives across Europe.

Pressure was applied on Greece by 'The Troika' to accept onerous terms for a new bailout. Syriza went to the people in June 2015 to ask them directly in a national referendum if they should accept the terms.

"On Sunday, we are not simply deciding to remain in Europe, we are deciding to live with dignity in Europe," Alexis Tsipras, the leader of Syriza, declared. The Greek people duly gave Tsipras the mandate he asked for, and rejected the bailout terms with 61.3 percent voting 'No.'

Yet, just over two weeks after the referendum, Syriza accepted a bailout package that contained larger cuts in pensions and higher tax increases than the one on offer earlier. The Greek people may as well have stayed at home on 27th June for all the difference their vote made.

Many supporters of Donald Trump in the US are no doubt thinking the same.

Trump won the election by attracting working-class 'rust belt' voters away from the Democrats and for offering the prospect of an end to a 'liberal interventionist' foreign policy. Yet just nine months into his Presidency the belief that Trump would mark a 'clean break' with what had gone before is in tatters. National conservative members of his team have been purged, while Trump has proved himself as much of a war hawk as his predecessors. Rather than 'draining the swamp,' The Donald has waded right into it.

The events of 2017 plainly prove as I argued here that the US is a regime and not a genuine democracy, and that whoever gets to the White House - sooner or later - will be forced to toe the War Party/Wall Street/Deep State line, regardless of what they promise on the election trail.

... ... ... ...

Neil Clark is a journalist, writer, broadcaster and blogger. He has written for many newspapers and magazines in the UK and other countries including The Guardian, Morning Star, Daily and Sunday Express, Mail on Sunday, Daily Mail, Daily Telegraph, New Statesman, The Spectator, The Week, and The American Conservative. He is a regular pundit on RT and has also appeared on BBC TV and radio, Sky News, Press TV and the Voice of Russia. He is the co-founder of the Campaign For Public Ownership @PublicOwnership. His award winning blog can be found at www.neilclark66.blogspot.com. He tweets on politics and world affairs @NeilClark66

[Oct 04, 2017] Living Under the French Hate Speech Laws by Lawrence G. Proulx

Notable quotes:
"... Lawrence G. Proulx is a retired copy editor who worked for more than 30 years at the Washington Times, Washington Post, International Herald Tribune and International New York Times. ..."
Oct 04, 2017 | www.unz.com

What infractions must a speaker or writer or editor or publisher avoid in order to stay within the law in France? Here are the basics, as discussed in the manual "Droits des journalistes et liberté d'expression" by Bernard Dapogny and Marion Dapogny:

False news, "made in bad faith, that disturbs the public order or is capable of disturbing it." Use of a false document in reporting. Attempt to harm the discipline or morale of the armed forces or to hinder a war effort. Defamation. Insult. [The distinction between this and the preceding is that defamation must assert something specific, whereas insult can be merely an offensive word.] Attempt to harm a person's honor or reputation. Defamation of or insult to the judiciary, the military services, various other public bodies including "junior high schools, high schools, universities, the Legion of Honor" as well as "local administrations, the police, hospitals, penitentiaries." Defamation of or insult to persons acting in a position of public authority, including "representatives and senators, ministers and Secretaries of State" as well as "police personnel, magistrates, teachers." Defamation or insult based on race, religion or belonging to an ethnic group or a nation. Defamation or insult based on sex, sexual orientation or handicap. Defamation of or insult to deceased persons, where the offense touches on the honor of the heirs or close survivors. Provocation to the commission of a crime which leads to the crime. Provocation to the commission of a crime which doesn't lead to the crime. Indirect provocation (apology), that is, stating that certain crimes were justified, including "war crimes, crimes against humanity or crimes in collaboration with the enemy." Provocation to hate, violence or discrimination, which could be based on a person's "origin, sex, family situation, state of pregnancy, physical appearance, family name, state of health, handicap, genetic characteristics, morals, sexual orientation, age, opinions, politics, labor union activity, belonging or not belonging, real or supposed to a particular ethnic group, nation, race or religion." Provocation to or apology for terrorism. Contesting "the existence of one or several crimes against humanity as defined by Article 6 of the charter of the International Military Tribunal [the Nuremberg Tribunal] annexed to the London Agreement of August 6, 1945, and which were committed by the members of an organization declared criminal in application of Article 9 of the said charter, by a person recognized as guilty of such crimes by a French jurisdiction or by an international one." Enacted in July 1990 and called the Gayssot Law. Offending the president of the Republic. [This law was repealed in 2013.]

Many of these laws are seldom invoked; others are used frequently. To put flesh on the matter, I offer you a list of cases from 2013 that I put together in 2014 for an article that never found a publisher. (Sorry, but the work of assembling it was too tedious for me to undertake it again, and I think the general impression given by more recent cases would not be different.) Although details of the offensive language are frequently omitted in the news reports from which this list is compiled, a quick look will give a sense of how routine the cases are.

One thing should be mentioned first. An anti-racism law passed in July 1972, commonly called the Pleven Law, strengthened the restrictions on speech and granted to private associations dedicated to fighting racism the right to participate in the prosecution of criminal cases and to claim damages as well. Amendments to the law empowered additional categories of associations, for example, associations working "to defend the moral interests and the honor of veterans and victims of war and of those who died for France" or "to defend the memory of slaves and the honor of their descendants." Such associations are frequently the first to blow the whistle on remarks they consider violative, and because they have the standing to file complaints even when no particular person is targeted by the contested remarks, their legal recognition is an important factor in the number of cases brought before the courts today.

2013 in Review

January

Marie-Josée Roig, the mayor of Avignon, files a complaint for public insults contained in a book purporting to be fiction ("Le Monarque, son fils, son fief") by Marie-Célie Guillaume in which a character who resembles Nicolas Sarkozy, the former president, demands a quick sexual "present" from a woman who resembles Roig.

Daniel Boyer, the mayor of Châteaubernard, files a complaint for public insults after a wave of graffiti attacking him and various acts of vandalism.

Frédéric Haziza, a Jewish journalist, files a complaint for public insult and public insult committed against a person because of his religion, after being attacked on the website of Alain Soral, a self-described anti-Zionist activist. Haziza had refused to invite Soral onto his show to discuss Soral's book "Comprendre l'empire" because of Soral's "clearly antisemitic" views.

March

A judge, Jean-Michel Gentil, files a complaint for contempt and insult against Henri Guaino, a deputy in Parliament, for having said that the judge "dishonored the [state] institutions and justice" after Sarkozy was interrogated on suspicion of abusing the weakness of a rich aged widow.

Bloc Identitaire, a nationalist group, announces its intention to file a complaint for public insult against Yann Galut, a deputy from the Cher department, for having called the members of the bloc "casseurs" (protesters who destroy property) in a Twitter message.

April

Rama Yade, a former secretary of state for human rights and for sports, is found guilty of defamation and insult for eight of twenty-eight contested statements posted on her blog about a political opponent, Manuel Aeschlimann, after she was challenged over her domicile status in the Hauts-de-Seine department.

May

Yvan Benedetti and Alexandre Gabriac, right-wing activists, file a complaint against Jean-François Carenco, the prefect of Lyon, and Albert Doutre, director of public security, for "hateful" public insults (such as "imbecilities" and "thugs") made during the containment of a nationalist youth protest in front of the Socialist Party local headquarters.

June

The city of Angers files suit against a shopkeeper for public insult in the form of signs he put up to protest a proposed tax on businesses that serve clients on the sidewalk, which followed among other things a police check of whether he was serving alcohol without the proper license.

Pierre Dubois, the mayor of Roubaix, and the Human Rights League file a complaint against an unnamed man who, during the course of a heated discussion at a public meeting, suggested that the Roma (Gypsies) be sent to Auschwitz.

July

Sylvie Goy-Chavent, a senator of the Ain department who prepared a report on the security of meat production in France, files a complaint against a website, Internet JSSNews.com, which describes itself as a webzine of Israeli opinion, for calling her such things as "bitch" and "little shit" and writing, among other things, "Goy, she wears her name well."

September

The Union of Jewish Students of France says it will file a complaint against the weekly magazine Valeurs Actuelles for provocation of racial or religious discrimination, hatred or violence. The group describes the cover of the magazine's Sept. 26 issue, which shows a white bust of a woman representing France wearing a black Islamic veil and bearing the title "Naturalized: The Invasion They're Hiding," as "racist" and "hateful." The magazine says in return that it will file a complaint against the group for calumnious denunciation, defamation and attack on freedom of expression.

The Foundation for the Memorial of the Black Slave Trade, along with the Federation of African Associations, the National Union of Overseas France, and other organizations and individual citizens file a complaint against Jean-Sebastien Vialatte, a deputy in Parliament, for public insult, defamation and incitement of racial hatred and racial discrimination, for his remarks after vandalism occurred during a celebration of the Paris Saint-Germain soccer team. He had sent a Twitter message in which he said sardonically that "the people who vandalize are surely descendants of slaves, they have excuses[.] #Taubira [the justice minister] will give them some compensation!"

October

The League for the Judicial Defense of Muslims files a complaint against the weekly newspaper Charlie Hebdo for its July 10 cover which had a cartoon captioned in large letters with "The Koran, it's shit; it doesn't stop bullets"; against the magazine Valeurs Actuelles for its Sept. 26 cover; against the website Riposte Laïque for various articles; and against Manuel Valls, the secretary of the interior, for provocation of discrimination and hate, for saying, "Within ten years we will show, we are in the process of showing, there is a will, that Islam is compatible [sic] with the Republic."

Bruno Gilles, a senator in the Union for a Popular Movement, files a complaint against a socialist, Patrick Mennucci, for "defamation and public insults." "He called me a racist and xenophobe," the senator said.

France-El Djazaïr, a Franco-Algerian friendship association, announces that it will file a complaint against a police officer in the city of Alès for "insults and incitement to xenophobic and Islamophobic hatred"; the officer had put on his Facebook profile page a photo-montage representing the Algerian flag over which was written "I hate Algeria," attached to an image of a man wiping his bottom with the flag.

Bachir Bouhmadou, adjunct general secretary of Citizen Resistance, and Ali Saab, president of the Association of Muslims of the Territory of Belfort, file a complaint against Christine Tasin, a militant with the group Republican Resistance, for videotaped comments opposing ritual Islamic butchery and criticizing Islam.

Abdellah Zekri, the president of the National Observatory Against Islamophobia, says he will file a complaint after his house was defaced with swastikas and graffiti saying "Islam Out" and "Heit [sic] Hitler."

The National Front says it will file a complaint against Christiane Taubira, the justice minister, for public insult for having described the party's way of thinking as "deadly and murderous" and summarizing it thus: "It's the blacks in the branches of the trees, the Arabs in the sea, the homosexuals in the Seine, the Jews in the oven and so forth."

November

A 65-year-old man is found guilty of insulting Claudine Ledoux, the mayor of Charleville-Mézières, on his website, l'Union-l'Ardennais, in a manner described by a regional newspaper as "menacing, racist and sexist," in relation to her being made a knight in the Legion of Honor; he is ordered to pay a fine of one thousand euros and damages for mental distress of the same amount to Ledoux.

The association SOS Racisme says it will file a complaint for incitation to racial hatred against Minute, a 16-page rightist weekly, for its cover with a photo of Justice Minister Christiane Taubira, who is a native of French Guiana, and for the title "Clever Like a Monkey, Taubira Finds the Banana Again," which combines two common French expressions; to have the banana (or the peach) means to be full of energy.

A player files a complaint for racial insult after a rough soccer game (three red cards) between the second-stringers of the Sablé and Lude clubs. A player explained: "This attacker called me a dirty white. I called him a dirty black."

The Movement Against Racism and for the Amity of Peoples files a complaint for provocation of racial hatred against Manuel Valls, minister of the interior, for comments about the Gypsies including, "The Gypsies should stay in Romania or return there." The case will be dismissed in December 2013.

Bob Dylan is put under formal investigation for insult and provocation of racial hatred after the Representative Council of the Croatian Community and Institutions of France files a complaint against both him and the magazine Rolling Stone, the French version of which republished an interview in which he said, "If you've got a slave master or the Klan in your blood, blacks can sense that. Just like Jews can sense Nazi blood and the Serbs can sense Croatian blood." The case will be dismissed in April 2014.

December

The comedian Nicolas Bedos testifies after being accused of complicity in making a public racial insult in an article in the magazine Marianne as well as on its website; among the phrases he used were "Negro bugger," "island indolence" and "lazy natives."

Gérard Huet, the mayor of Loudéac, is sued by the Human Rights League for comments about Gypsies he made at a meeting to discuss expenditures to renovate the area where the Gypsies were living. "They've stolen all our plumbing," he says, and he later objects to the comment of another member of the city council with, "You're defending thieves?" He sues the league in return for harassment.

The comedian Dieudonné files a defamation complaint after Alain Jakubowicz, the president of the International League Against Racism and Antisemitism, describes the "quenelle," a gesture used by the comedian and his fans, as "corresponding to an inverted Nazi salute signifying the sodomizing of the victims of the Holocaust." Dieudonné also says he will sue Le Monde, Le Figaro, BFMTV, France 2 and Manuel Valls, the interior minister.

The imam Hicham El Barkani files a complaint for insult after a protest described as islamophobic against the opening of a mosque in Papeete.

Historians on Trial

Some cases have greater import than those listed above, as when historians are attacked for their work.

The Columbia University historian Bernard Lewis gave an interview to Le Monde on November 16, 1993, in which he discussed the killings of Armenians by Turks during the First World War. In the course of it he said, "If one speaks of genocide, that implies that there was a deliberate policy, a decision, to systematically annihilate the Armenian nation. That is quite doubtful. Turkish documents prove a will of deportation, not of extermination." On January 1, 1994, in response to strong objections to his remarks, he published a further explanation of his position, again in Le Monde, ending with a repetition of his main point, that "no serious proof exists of a decision and a plan by the Ottoman government aiming at exterminating the Armenian nation." He was sued by the Forum of Armenian Associations of France and the International League Against Racism and Antisemitism on the claim that he had "gravely hurt the memory and respect of the survivors and of their families." The civil court of Paris ruled that Lewis had "failed to meet his duty of objectivity and prudence in expressing himself without nuance on so sensitive a subject" and ordered him to pay a franc each to the two associations as well as the cost of publishing the decision. Lewis was also the defendant in other civil cases and one criminal one on the same subject, all of which were dismissed.

In 2001, the French Parliament "publicly recognized the Armenian genocide of 1915," and in 2012 the Parliament passed a law instituting a punishment of imprisonment for one year and a fine of 45,000 euros of anyone who "contests or minimizes in an outrageous fashion" genocides recognized as such by French law, but the Constitutional Council ruled the latter law unconstitutional a month later. Both of the main candidates for president that year, Nicolas Sarkozy and François Hollande, soon announced that they would seek a new law to criminalize denial of the Armenian genocide, and in January 2017 a law took effect providing for a year of prison and a fine of 45,000 euros for those who denied, belittled or "banalized in an outrageous way" recognized genocides, crimes against humanity, and enslavement or exploitation of an enslaved person.

In 2001 Parliament also passed a law recognizing "that the trans-Atlantic trade in Negroes as well as the trade in the Indian Ocean on the one hand, and, on the other hand, the slavery perpetrated starting in the 15th Century, in the Americas and the Caribbean, in the Indian Ocean and in Europe against the Africans, Amerindians, Madagascans and Indians constitute a crime against humanity." Four years later this law was invoked against Olivier Pétré-Grenouilleau, a professor at the University of Southern Brittany. In the course of an interview given on June 12, 2005, in relation to his book "Les traites négrières" (The Negro Slave Trades), which had won many awards including the Senate History Book Prize, Pétré-Grenouilleau rejected a comparison of the slave trades to the Jewish Holocaust: "The slave trades are not genocides. The slave trade didn't have the goal of exterminating a people. The slave was a good that had a market value that one wanted to make work as much as possible." An association representing people of the Caribbean, French Guiana and Réunion filed a complaint against him for denying a crime against humanity and demanded that he be "suspended from his university functions for revisionism." In the vehement debate that ensued, Pétré-Grenouilleau was strongly supported by many prominent historians, and in February 2006, acknowledging this opposition, the association withdrew its complaint.

Shortly before the Pétré-Grenouilleau affair erupted, another "memorial" law had been passed, in January 2005, aimed generally at recognizing the suffering of those French citizens who had been repatriated from North Africa at the end of the Algerian War. This law had itself evoked controversy, by requiring that "school programs recognize in particular the positive role of the French presence overseas, notably in North Africa." A year later the law was emended and the "positive role" removed.

Real Prison Sentences

I know of only three writers who have recently been given sentences that were "fermes," as the French say, that is, that were not suspended as soon as pronounced. Vincent Reynouard is a Frenchman born in 1969 and trained as a chemical engineer who has argued that the Nazis had no plan to exterminate the Jews and that gas chambers were not used to kill people. Among the many videos he has placed on the Internet, there is one in which he expresses his admiration for Hitler; he says, "I think that Hitler was a man too good for the 20th Century, too honest, too straightforward." A month after being arrested in Belgium, Reynouard was extradited to France in August 2010 and served seven and a half months in prison for contesting a crime against humanity. He has continued to produce writings and Internet videos, and in February 2015 he was convicted of contestation of crimes against humanity and sentenced to two years in prison. In November 2016 he was given a five-months sentence for publishing two videos in which he stated that he would offer 5,000 euros to "anyone who can show me, in free, candid and courteous debate, that the homicidal Hitlerian gas chambers are not a myth of history." To avoid a return to prison, he is said to be living in England.

Hervé Ryssen, according to Wikipedia, has been sentenced several times for his writings about Jews on counts, among others, of racial insult, racial defamation, defamation against a group of persons because of their belonging to a certain race, and incitation to racial hatred; and Boris Le Lay, who is living in Japan, has been sentenced in absentia many times, most recently in July this year to serve 32 months in prison and to pay 31,500 euros to the groups representing the supposed victims, for his writings judged to constitute incitement to discrimination and to racial hatred and violence, and to contain public racial insults. Among the recent charges against Le Lay was one of making death threats against activists of the Human Rights League; I have not been able to determine if he was convicted of this; if he was, he appears in that instance to be an exception to the other cases discussed in this article, which involve no violence or threat thereof.

Politicians on Trial

Although many speech cases involve politicians, two in particular deserve mention because they arguably played a role in the presidential election of 2007.

The first round of the previous election, in 2002, had stunned the country as Jean-Marie Le Pen, the leader of the National Front, edged out Lionel Jospin, the Socialist candidate, for a place in the second round. Le Pen's share of the first-round vote was only 16.9 percent, but Jospin was handicapped by an abundance of rivals on the left who split the vote. Before the second round, a broad denunciatory publicity campaign to block Le Pen took place, and his opponent, Jacques Chirac, the incumbent, refused to debate him. Chirac was re-elected with 82 percent of the vote.

Before the next election, in 2007, both Le Pen and the party's second-ranking member, Bruno Gollnisch, would be defendants in high-profile cases over things they said.

On January 7, 2005, the rightist weekly Rivarol published an interview in which Le Pen said: "In France, at least, the German occupation wasn't particularly inhumane, even if there were slip-ups, inevitable in a country of 550,000 square kilometers." He also related a story about a German lieutenant, "crazy with pain" after an attack on a train in which many young soldiers died, who he said would have shot up a village had the Gestapo not intervened. Various groups filed complaints, and in March an investigation was formally opened. In February 2008 he was found guilty of complicity in the contestation of crimes against humanity and complicity in apology for war crimes. In January 2009 the appeals court in Paris confirmed the verdict on the first count but threw out the war-crimes verdict. In April 2011 the Court of Cassation overturned the crimes-against-humanity verdict, and remanded the matter to the appeals court, which again found him guilty in February 2012, a judgment confirmed by the Court of Cassation in June 2013. Le Pen was sentenced to three months in prison (suspended) and assessed a fine of 10,000 euros, and the editor of Rivarol and the interviewer were fined 5,000 euros and 2,000 euros respectively. Three of the complainant groups were awarded damages of 5,000 euros each, and Rivarol was ordered to pay for the publication of the decision in Le Figaro.

In the other case, Gollnisch, a professor of Japanese language and culture at the University of Lyon who at the time was director general of the National Front (before the ascension of Marine Le Pen), was charged with contestation of crimes against humanity for responses to a journalist's questions at a press conference in October 2004. No electronic recording was made, but he was quoted as saying: "There is no serious historian who accepts completely the conclusions of the Nuremberg Tribunal; I think that the discussion should remain free concerning the drama of the concentration camps. The number of deaths, the manner in which the people died -- historians have the right to discuss. I don't deny that there were homicidal gas chambers, but the discussion should remain free." In 2006, before the verdict was rendered, he was suspended from his university post for five years.

During the trial Gollnisch was questioned intensively for hours one day in November 2006 over his true beliefs on the matter, and the attorney examining him, Alain Jakubowicz, representing the International League Against Racism and Antisemitism, said he would withdraw from the case if Gollnisch would only admit "that the organized extermination of the Jews of Europe by the Nazi regime during the Second World War constitute an incontestable crime against humanity perpetrated notably by the use of gas chambers." According to Le Monde, Gollnisch appeared surprised and hesitated before giving an answer that might alienate the "hard fringe of his movement." Gollnisch replied, "Completely." Asked to repeat his answer, he said: "My answer is affirmative." He was convicted in January 2007, three months before the first round of the presidential election, and sentenced to serve three months in prison (suspended) and pay a fine of 5,000 euros. An appeals court in February 2008 confirmed the conviction and added fines totaling 39,000 euros to be paid to nine associations devoted to fighting racism or representing people deported from France during World War Two. But in June 2009 the Court of Cassation, judging that his contradictory remarks as presented to the court did not constitute contestation, overturned the verdict without possibility of retrial.

However these cases might be viewed in relation to freedom of speech, they also merit attention from a purely political point of view. In the 2002 election, Jean-Marie Le Pen scored an upset in the first round; in 2007, Nicolas Sarkozy won the presidency by, in the view of many commentators, "borrowing the discourse" and luring the voters of Le Pen's party. In between, both Le Pen and his righthand man were put on trial, to the accompaniment of much public commentary, on charges that suggested their approbation of Nazi atrocities. Under such circumstances, borrowing and luring may be much easier than would otherwise be the case.

Censored Books

In September 2013 the International League Against Racism and Antisemitism sought an injunction from a court in Bobigny to order the excision of passages from five books republished by Kontre Kulture, a publishing enterprise whose publication director is Alain Soral. David-Olivier Kaminski, an attorney for the league, described Soral as someone known as a "vector of hate" and characterized the re-editions as a "provocation, with the purpose of arousing tensions." The league also asked for 20,000 euros in damages for each of the five books.

In November the court ordered the withdrawal from sale of one of the books, "L'Anthologie des propos contre les juifs, le judaïsme et le sionisme" by Paul-Eric Blanrue, which had originally been published by another publisher in 2007, and the removal of certain passages from the four others, all of which were reprints of books published long ago: "La France juive" by Edouard Drumont, "Le salut par les juifs" by Léon Bloy, "Le juif international" by Henry Ford, et "La controverse de Sion" by Douglas Reed. The court judged that the works constituted "insult toward a group of persons because of their belonging to a specific religion," "negation of crimes against humanity," and "provocation of racial hatred." Kontre Kulture and Soral were also ordered to pay 8,000 euros each to the league as well as a part of its legal expenses. In December 2014 a court overturned the previous ruling on the "Anthologie" and it was again allowed to be sold.

The media reaction focused principally on the book by Léon Bloy. Bloy's great-grandchild, Alexis Galpérine, reminded readers in Le Figaro that Bloy was a "philosemite" and that "Le salut par les juifs" had been recommended as a "book against antisemitism" by Franz Kafka. Pierre Glaudes, a professor at the Sorbonne, wrote in the weekly magazine Le Nouvel Observateur: "This decision of justice arouses astonishment and disquiet by attacking a literary work that is 122 years old and has been republished several times without having attracted lightning strikes by justice. This condemnation sets a dangerous precedent. Why not censor 'The Merchant of Venice' by Shakespeare, 'Gobseck' by Balzac or 'Money' by Zola for their antisemitic statements?"

Stage Show Blocked

The case of the comedian Dieudonné M'bala M'bala merits notice particularly for the legal manner in which the performance of his show "The Wall" in Nantes was forbidden in January 2014.

Dieudonné, the son of a Cameroonian man and a French woman, performed for several years early in his career with a Jewish partner, and their sketches often made fun of racism. Eventually he came to hold Jews responsible in large part for the slave trade, he expressed resentment at the attention given to the Holocaust in comparison with that given to the slavery, and he came to regard Jews not as fellow victims of prejudice but instead as important members of a power structure in which people of the Third World and of Third World origin are kept down. His new acts were sharply criticized, and he responded with provocations such as including Robert Faurisson, notorious as a denier of the Holocaust and gas chambers, in his acts. Dieudonné was found guilty of racial insult or defamation on numerous occasions, for example, for saying that a television host financed the Israeli Army, "which doesn't hesitate to kill Palestinian children"; for characterizing Holocaust remembrance as "memorial pornography"; for stating that the directors of a pro-Israeli website were trying to paint him as an antisemite and "son of Hitler"; for describing the International League Against Racism and Antisemitism as one of the "mafia-like associations that organize censorship, that deny all concepts of racism except that concerning the Jews. In fact, they are nothing but Israeli agents."

Largely excluded from television and other standard venues, he has nonetheless maintained an enthusiastic and politically and racially mixed following through his stage shows and videos. In January 2014 his stage show "The Wall" was challenged by the government as a threat to public order and to the dignity of the human person. Its performance in Nantes was banned by the prefecture of the Loire-Atlantic region, which judged that it contained antisemitic remarks that would incite racial hatred and constitute an apology for discriminations, persecutions and exterminations perpetrated in the course of the Second World War. The ban was lifted on the day of the show by the region's administrative tribunal, which held that the show "could not be regarded as having as its essential purpose an affront at human dignity," but the tribunal's ruling was overturned and the ban reinstated later the same day by a judge of the Council of State, the highest court in the administrative-law system, after an urgent request by Interior Minister Manuel Valls.

Conclusion

French people in general seem content with the way free speech questions are handled. If in private they will occasionally murmur that "one can't say anything anymore," in public there is very little disagreement over the necessity of punishing infractions involving remarks characterized as racist or antisemitic or "negationist." Prominent cases, such as the many brought against Jean-Marie Le Pen, are approved, explicitly or implicitly, by the vast majority of commentators in the press and on the radio and television. Even publications that push the limits of public tolerance in other ways -- for example, with crude or even violently obscene and sacrilegious writings and cartoons -- do not defend the targets of anti-racism or anti-contestation laws on general free-speech grounds; quite the contrary.

There is no high-profile organization or figure that publicly espouses the famous words that Voltaire apparently never really said, "I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it." Over all the attitude is closer to that attributed to the revolutionary Saint-Just, "No liberty for the enemies of liberty." The slogan of the International League Against Racism and Antisemitism, one of the organizations most active in denouncing speech offenders, is "Racism is not an opinion but a criminal offense." Even a group such as Reporters Without Borders, which works to further the freedom of the press throughout the world, generally makes no objection to the laws discussed above, although it did oppose the one criminalizing the denial of legally recognized genocides. In an interview, Antoine Héry, in charge of the group's activities in the European Union and the Balkans, explained to me: "I think that the problem in France is that there really are racist statements -- many. This climate exists; it isn't a phantasm. There is, from this point of view, a necessity to regulate a little the domain of speech, because there are abuses. I don't think that in the United States one finds this sort of mass behavior -- because it is massive, it isn't just one guy in his corner doing his thing."

There have been dissident voices on the subject of the criminalization of so-called negationism and other "memorial laws." One of the most prominent is a group called Liberté pour l'Histoire, which was formed in 2005 in response to what seemed about to become a wave of such laws. In a public appeal signed by nineteen historians in December of that year and later by hundreds more, it stated that "in a free state, it is not the business of the parliament nor of the judicial authority to define historical truth" and called for "the abrogation of these legislative measures unworthy of a democratic regime." But even this unambiguous stand is not so solid as it might appear. In 2010, at the International Congress of Historical Sciences in Amsterdam, the group's president, Pierre Nora, spoke of the Gayssot Law and stated: "It is now twenty years since the law was voted, and even if we continue to regret it intellectually speaking, the association Liberté pour l'Histoire does not campaign for its suppression and does not wish to challenge it for the simple reason that this legal and official challenge would only be seen in the public eye as authorizing and even encouraging the denial of the Jewish genocide." There could hardly be a better illustration of the French ambivalence on the matter than this.

This ambivalence derives from an evident fact: the characteristics of the system that make it vicious from a free-speech perspective -- the vagueness and elasticity of the definitions of the crimes, the politically selective application of the laws, the tendency of the trials to become examinations of the defendants' thoughts and beliefs rather than merely of their public statements -- are virtues for a system of political repression, and in France there is a general consensus that the "extreme right" needs to be kept down and that expressions of "racism" and "antisemitism" deserve to be squelched. While there are pockets of dissidence -- such as the websites Polémia and Boulevard Voltaire, the independent rightist station Radio Courtoisie and the Internet television channel TV Libertés -- the assumption remains widespread that anyone arguing that freedom should extend to such speech must have evil motives.

The legal procedures through which speech is restricted do sometimes come under criticism. For instance, the ban on Dieudonné's show "The Wall" was widely criticized because it imposed a prior restraint, seen as equivalent to censorship in a way that punishing the performer afterward would not be. Jack Lang, who was minister of culture in the Mitterrand administration, said that the Council of State had opened a Pandora's box of potential abuses; he objected as well to basing the decision on a vague principle of "human dignity" and pointed out that the risk to public order was not credible. Michel Tubiana, a former president of the Human Rights League, which also objected to the ban, told me in an interview that Dieudonné should have been allowed to do his show and then he could have been prosecuted in the normal way. On the league's website, one reads: "Clearly it is necessary to let nothing pass, to systematically bring prosecutions against the delinquent, to denounce systematically his crimes."

For the future, there is pressure to increase the surveillance, particularly of the Internet. At its annual dinners, which are grand affairs similar to those of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee in the United States, the Representative Council of Jewish Institutions of France presses the attending government officials hard for ever more stringent restrictions, especially on Internet communications. In March 2016, for example, its president, Roger Cukierman, urged that the state of emergency "should also apply to the Internet," and this year its new president, Francis Kalifat, called for "zero tolerance" for bloggers "of hateful content."

In the meantime, France, like the other countries of the European Union, is a party to the Council Framework Decision "on combating certain forms and expressions of racism and xenophobia by means of criminal law," adopted unanimously by the ministers in the Council of the European Union in November 2008. In a report in January 2014 on the implementation of this decision, the European Commission stated: "Member States must ensure that the following intentional conduct is punishable when directed against a group of persons or a member of such a group defined by reference to race, colour, religion, descent or national or ethnic origin:

publicly inciting to violence or hatred, including by public dissemination or distribution of tracts, pictures or other material; publicly condoning, denying or grossly trivialising crimes of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes as defined in Articles 6, 7 and 8 of the Statute of the International Criminal Court; or the crimes defined in Article 6 of the Charter of the International Military Tribunal appended to the London Agreement of 8 August 1945, when the conduct is carried out in a manner likely to incite violence or hatred against such a group or one or more of its members."

And France does its part, by continuing to reinforce its laws. On August 5 of this year it made illegal any "nonpublic" insult or defamation (as, for example, made during a meeting in a company's offices) "made toward a person or group of persons because of their origin or belonging or not belonging, real or supposed, to an ethnic group, a nation, a putative race or a particular religion; [or] because of their sex, their sexual orientation or gender identity, or their handicap."

The law provides for fines of 1,500 euros initially and 3,000 euros for recidivists. It also gives a judge the option of augmenting the punishment with a compulsory course in citizenship.

Lawrence G. Proulx is a retired copy editor who worked for more than 30 years at the Washington Times, Washington Post, International Herald Tribune and International New York Times.

Diversity Heretic > , October 4, 2017 at 4:51 am GMT

"[Neo]Liberalism" is a religion. It defines orthodoxy and heresy and punishes the latter. It asserts the right to punish those who traduce its icons and who violate its taboos.

AKAHorace > , October 4, 2017 at 4:56 am GMT

Would it solve or worsen problems if they reintroduced dueling ?

Achmed E. Newman > , Website October 4, 2017 at 7:54 am GMT

From all this long history of curtailment and punishment of free speech of various sorts, it seems like the French never really had their hearts in it, whether they had their constitution of the 5th Republic with its weasel-out words "but shall be responsible for such abuses of this freedom as shall be defined by law." or even if they had had the same supposed "law of the land" as the US Constitution with its Amendment I.

Our Constitution was upheld pretty well for about 3/4 of the total time since it was written, but it takes the kind of people who care about basic principles. That would pretty much mean mostly descendants of the Founders with only such influx of newcomers that could be assimilated into the culture that values basic principles over political expediency. It goes without saying that women shouldn't have been allowed to vote here, but I said it just in case. In France, I think there weren't so many people that ever got the real idea of free speech and the quote that Voltaire didn't say.

Worse yet for France is the codifying of certain areas of knowledge, normally subject to debate, as "Government-Approved Non-arguable Truth" , which is what the legal maneuvers you write about amount to. Of course, the elites, along with the cucks of the land arrange these Truths to be based on any opposition to foreign immigrant invasion, defending of one's race, but opposition to the Government will always be number 1, as that locks it all in. It's a nice Catch-22 there – "YOUR government's speech policy clearly specifies what you can and can't talk about. The speech policy happens to be one of the things you can't talk about."

The Ministry of Truth is probably not even necessary anymore, as it seems like the unprincipled French have let the bulk of it be put in place already – maybe the Ministry of Truth is all part of "The Cloud". Instead of the answer to, or way out of, this 1984 society lying "with the proles", I'd say it's more up to the hackers now.

conatus > , October 4, 2017 at 9:30 am GMT

Definitional hypertrophy
"This ambivalence derives from an evident fact: the characteristics of the system that make it vicious from a free-speech perspective -- the vagueness and elasticity of the definitions of the crimes"
In an earlier piece Mr. Proulx wrote about 'defintional hypertrophy' which seems to characterize our Zeitgeist. A great great phrase which sums up the elasticized properties of the big three sins of our times, racism, sexism and homophobia.
Racism used to mean Birmingham Regulations regarding public facilities and separate but equal schools, now due to definitional hypertrophy it means 'noticing any racial characteristics' especially if you are white. Sexism used to mean, say banning women from non nurturing occupations and now it means saying "You look good!" to a woman in a absent minded fit of masculinity. Homophobia used to mean 'Hey keep it in the closet pal i don't want to think about what you do" and now homophobia means you must clap loudly and quickly at all homosexual activities or Homo Tinkerbell will die.
Over time these definitions have expanded as the Majority's freedoms have contracted.

Jason Liu > , October 4, 2017 at 10:37 am GMT

Free speech is an illusion, it seems. Most people want to shut their enemies up, and often succeed in doing so. Some countries are just more upfront about it.

Wizard of Oz > , October 4, 2017 at 11:52 am GMT

Is there not class distinction which helps fo understand what these laws are about. Any intelligènt edicated person ought to be verbally adroit enough to convey his meaning in an indirect way so as to avoid the thrust of the law. Thus, e.g.

I think we should discuss how we can combat the very commonly stated view that X and the alarming number of people who can see nothing wrong with it. It is not a matter so much as truth or falsehood but we need to ensure that children are indoctrinated from an early age so they will never even ask the disturbing queston "is this true?". By the time they have grown up to participate in the political life of the nation the whole question will have been swallowed by a memory hole and become a non issue. Much safer for the tranquillity of society than continued cantankerous debates erupting over the truth or falsity of something permanently consigned to be false.

IndieRafael > , October 4, 2017 at 2:48 pm GMT

Long but worth it. As author Proulx says, you can skip over sections in the middle and jump to his conclusion. This is one of the most thoroughly researched, best organized and most clearly written articles I've ever read on Unz.com. The internet needs more copy editors writing like this.

The article is really helpful in understanding the current situation in France.

The European context is mentioned at the end. It would be interesting to read a comparison of France and other European countries.

anonymous > , Disclaimer October 4, 2017 at 5:47 pm GMT

News censorship rises where news integrity falls. Eastern regimes know well harmful effects of censors and informants.

Mulegino1 > , October 4, 2017 at 6:15 pm GMT

In the land of "Liberte, Fraternite, et Egalite" there is from all appearances very little "liberte" and that little international clique of "freres" enjoys a lot more "egalite" than the rest.

Europeancivilwar.com > , Website October 4, 2017 at 6:29 pm GMT

I think the situation in Spain has shown just how little the EU pretenses of 'democracy' mean. Indeed, we all know the famous quote about what 'democracy' really means.

Regrettably though I think things will need to get much worse before they get better. I think the 'normal' people will need Muslims to make up at least 50% of the overall population before they realize just what a horrific future they are heading to..

[Oct 04, 2017] Islamic threat as subsititute for soviet threat that diassered

Oct 04, 2017 | www.unz.com


renfro > , October 4, 2017 at 4:33 am GMT

One of the first things I came across when trying to pinpoint when the Islamic threat was first being 'ginned up' in the US was this essay written in 1992. It is so accurate it could have been written yesterday. I think anyone could guess at which foreign country had the individuals and journalist and congressional clout in the US to create the idea of a 'Green Peril'.

https://www.cato.org/publications/policy-analysis/green-peril-creating-islamic-fundamentalist-threat

The "Green Peril": Creating the Islamic Fundamentalist Threat
By Leon T. Hadar
August 27, 1992

excerpts..

The Making of a "Peril"

The Islamic threat argument is becoming increasingly popular with some segments of the American foreign policy establishment. They are encouraged by foreign governments who, for reasons of self-interest, want to see Washington embroiled in the coming West vs. Islam confrontation. The result is the construction of the new peril, a process that does not reflect any grand conspiracy but that nevertheless has its own logic, rules and timetables.
Indeed, like the Red Menace of the Cold War era, the Green Peril is perceived as a cancer spreading around the globe,undermining the legitimacy of Western values and political systems. The cosmic importance of the confrontation would make it necessary for Washington to adopt a long term diplomatic and military strategy; to forge new and solid alliances; to prepare the American people for a never ending struggle that will test their resolve; and to develop new containment policies, new doctrines, and a new foreign policy elite with its "wise men" and "experts."

The creation of a peril usually starts with mysterious "sources" and unnamed officials who leak information, float trial balloons, and warn about the coming threat. Those sources reflect debates and discussions taking place within government. Their information is then augmented by colorful intelligence reports that finger exotic and conspiratorial terrorists and military advisers. Journalists then search for the named and other villains. The media end up finding corroboration from foreign sources who form an informal coalition with the sources in the U.S. government and help the press uncover further information substantiating the threat coming from the new bad guys.

In addition, think tanks studies and op-ed pieces add momentum to the official spin. Their publication is followed by congressional hearings, policy conferences, and public press briefings. A governmental policy debate ensues, producing studies, working papers, and eventually doctrines and policies that become part of the media's spin. The new villain is now ready to be integrated into the popular culture to help to mobilize public support for a new crusade. In the case of the Green Peril, that process has been under way for several months.

The Israeli government and its supporters in Washington are trying to play the Islamic card. The specter of Central Asian republics and Iran equipped with nuclear weapons helps Israel to reduce any potential international pressure on it to place its own nuclear capabilities and strategy on the negotiating table. More important, perhaps, the Green Peril could revive, in the long run, Israel's role as America's strategic asset, which was eroded as a result of the end of the Cold War
The operational message is that the United States "must refocus its policy on the basic problems facing the Islamic world rather than only the Arab-Israeli conflict."[23] Jerusalem's attempts to turn that conflict into a Jewish-Moslem confrontation and to place America on its side to help contain radical Moslem forces in the region may become a self-fulfilling prophecy. The result is likely to be strengthened anti-American feelings in the Middle East and anti-American terrorist acts, which, in turn, will invite a new round of American military intervention."

[Oct 04, 2017] Creating taboos is the slicing salami tactic

How marginalization of opposition works: Once the extreme positions on an issue (left of right) are rendered taboo and excluded, the next position in (which the lobbyists could not easily succeed in banning as "extreme" initially) becomes the new "extreme". As a bonus its advocates can be accused of being closet supporters of the banned position and as such ostracized.
Oct 04, 2017 | www.unz.com

Randal > ,

October 4, 2017 at 4:51 pm GMT

@Clay Bishop

I've been banned from the Antiwar comment section more than once for explicitly mentioning Jewish influence on foreign policy without masking it with terms like "Zionists," "Neocons," "Likudniks," or the "War Party."

As much as the older crowd on our political spectrum hate to admit it, Daily Stormer and Pol have actually opened up a space for a rational discussion of Jewish influence on politics. When you have anonymous accounts literally calling for all Jews to be gassed, a couple pundits talking soberly about Jewish influence seem fairly moderate by comparison.

And the readers of DS and Pol are definitely the younger generation who will make up the majority of the Right in the future. I envision a day in the near future when the mention of Israel elicits boos at the Republican National Convention.

As much as the older crowd on our political spectrum hate to admit it, Daily Stormer and Pol have actually opened up a space for a rational discussion of Jewish influence on politics. When you have anonymous accounts literally calling for all Jews to be gassed, a couple pundits talking soberly about Jewish influence seem fairly moderate by comparison.

This is of course exactly how banning opinions distorts debate and why identity lobbyists love to impose such taboos on discourse.

Once the extreme positions on an issue are rendered taboo and excluded, the next position in (which the lobbyists could not easily succeed in banning as "extreme" initially) becomes the apparent "extreme" and as a bonus its advocates can be accused of being closet supporters of the banned extreme. They then have to spend all their time and energy defending themselves against being harassed and trying to word their arguments carefully so they can't be accused of falling foul of the taboo (or as with some of the accusations against Giraldi's piece here – of not trying hard enough to avoid the supposed appearance of falling foul of it).

That's how proposals to limit mass immigration are labelled "race hatred" and banned in many forums, and how reasonable raising of an important issue such as in Giraldi's piece gets one smeared as an "antisemite" (or potentially prosecuted in the UK) and excluded from mainstream publications.

Rurik > , October 4, 2017 at 5:47 pm GMT

@Randal


As much as the older crowd on our political spectrum hate to admit it, Daily Stormer and Pol have actually opened up a space for a rational discussion of Jewish influence on politics. When you have anonymous accounts literally calling for all Jews to be gassed, a couple pundits talking soberly about Jewish influence seem fairly moderate by comparison.
This is of course exactly how banning opinions distorts debate and why identity lobbyists love to impose such taboos on discourse.

Once the extreme positions on an issue are rendered taboo and excluded, the next position in (which the lobbyists could not easily succeed in banning as "extreme" initially) becomes the apparent "extreme" and as a bonus its advocates can be accused of being closet supporters of the banned extreme. They then have to spend all their time and energy defending themselves against being harassed and trying to word their arguments carefully so they can't be accused of falling foul of the taboo (or as with some of the accusations against Giraldi's piece here - of not trying hard enough to avoid the supposed appearance of falling foul of it).

That's how proposals to limit mass immigration are labelled "race hatred" and banned in many forums, and how reasonable raising of an important issue such as in Giraldi's piece gets one smeared as an "antisemite" (or potentially prosecuted in the UK) and excluded from mainstream publications.

Once the extreme positions on an issue are rendered taboo and excluded, the next position in (which the lobbyists could not easily succeed in banning as "extreme" initially) becomes the apparent "extreme" and as a bonus its advocates can be accused of being closet supporters of the banned extreme.

I'm glad your insightful comment was recognized as such

Reminds me of how Marine Le Pen's father was marginalized as an 'anti-Semite' (for simply telling the obvious truth), and once he was effectively maligned, (they) set their sights on the moderate daughter, as being "far right", which simply means not as far left as (they) are.

today they call the AfD "far right", in order to marginalize their extremely reasonable and moderate positions – as advocating an invasion of Poland

and of course, were Mr. G to sob his contrition and re-write the article, (not likely ; ), they'd simply set their sights on the next target, having moved the goal posts and tilted the playing field always more and more in their favor.

[Oct 01, 2017] Neoliberal economic policies in the United States The impact of globalisation on a `Northern country by Kim Scipes

Highly recommended!
Notable quotes:
"... Following Frances Fox Piven, "neoliberal economic policies" refers to the set of policies carried out, in the name of individualism and unfettered markets, for "the deregulation of corporations, and particularly of financial institutions; the rollback of public services and benefit programs; curbing labor unions; 'free trade' policies that would pry open foreign markets; and wherever possible the replacement of public programs with private markets" (Piven, 2007: 13). ..."
"... The case of the United States is particularly useful to examine because its elites have projected themselves as "first among equals" of the globalization project ( Bello , 2006), and it is the place of the Global North where the neoliberal project has been pursued most resolutely and has advanced the farthest. In other words, the experiences of American workers illuminate the affects of the neoliberal project in the Global North to the greatest extent, and suggest what will happen to working people in other northern countries should they accept their respective government's adoption of such policies. ..."
"... However, it is believed that the implementation of these neoliberal economic policies and the cultural wars to divert public attention are part of a larger, conscious political program by the elites within this country that is intended to prevent re-emergence of the collective solidarity among the American people that we saw during the late 1960s-early 1970s (see Piven, 2004, 2007) -- of which the internal breakdown of discipline within the US military, in Vietnam and around the world, was arguably the most crucial (see Moser, 1996; Zeiger, 2006) -- that ultimately challenged, however inchoately, the very structure of the established social order, both internationally and in the United States itself. ..."
Oct 01, 2017 | links.org.au

Most contemporary discussions of globalization, and especially of the impact of neoliberal economic policies, focus on the countries of the Global South (see, for example, Bond, 2005; Ellner and Hellinger, eds., 2003; a number of articles in Harris, ed., 2006; Klein, 2007; Monthly Review, 2007; and, among others, see Scipes, 1999, 2006b). Recent articles arguing that the globalization project has receded and might be taking different approaches (Bello, 2006; Thornton, 2007) have also focused on the Global South. What has been somewhat discussed (see Giroux, 2004; Piven, 2004; Aronowitz, 2005) but not systematically addressed, however, is what has been the impact of globalization and especially related neoliberal economic policies on working people in a northern country? [i]

This paper specifically addresses this question by looking at the impact of neoliberal economic policies on working people in the United States . Following Frances Fox Piven, "neoliberal economic policies" refers to the set of policies carried out, in the name of individualism and unfettered markets, for "the deregulation of corporations, and particularly of financial institutions; the rollback of public services and benefit programs; curbing labor unions; 'free trade' policies that would pry open foreign markets; and wherever possible the replacement of public programs with private markets" (Piven, 2007: 13).

The case of the United States is particularly useful to examine because its elites have projected themselves as "first among equals" of the globalization project ( Bello , 2006), and it is the place of the Global North where the neoliberal project has been pursued most resolutely and has advanced the farthest. In other words, the experiences of American workers illuminate the affects of the neoliberal project in the Global North to the greatest extent, and suggest what will happen to working people in other northern countries should they accept their respective government's adoption of such policies.

However, care must be taken as to how this is understood. While sociologically-focused textbooks (e.g., Aguirre and Baker, eds., 2008; Hurst, 2007) have joined together some of the most recent thinking on social inequality -- and have demonstrated that inequality not only exists but is increasing -- this has been generally presented in a national context; in this case, within the United States. And if they recognize that globalization is part of the reason for increasing inequality, it is generally included as one of a set of reasons.

This paper argues that we simply cannot understand what is happening unless we put developments within a global context: the United States effects, and is affected by, global processes. Thus, while some of the impacts can be understood on a national level, we cannot ask related questions as to causes -- or future consequences -- by confining our examination to a national level: we absolutely must approach this from a global perspective (see Nederveen Pieterse, 2004, 2008).

This also must be put in historical perspective as well, although the focus in this piece will be limited to the post-World War II world. Inequality within what is now the United States today did not -- obviously -- arise overnight. Unquestionably, it began at least 400 years ago in Jamestown -- with the terribly unequal and socially stratified society of England's colonial Virginia before Africans were brought to North America (see Fischer, 1989), much less after their arrival in 1619, before the Pilgrims. Yet, to understand the roots of development of contemporary social inequality in the US , we must understand the rise of " Europe " in relation to the rest of the world (see, among others, Rodney, 1972; Nederveen Pieterse, 1989). In short, again, we have to understand that the development of the United States has been and will always be a global project and, without recognizing that, we simply cannot begin to understand developments within the United States .

We also have to understand the multiple and changing forms of social stratification and resulting inequalities in this country. This paper prioritizes economic stratification, although is not limited to just the resulting inequalities. Nonetheless, it does not focus on racial, gender or any other type of social stratification. However, this paper is not written from the perspective that economic stratification is always the most important form of stratification, nor from the perspective that we can only understand other forms of stratification by understanding economic stratification: all that is being claimed herein is that economic stratification is one type of social stratification, arguably one of the most important types yet only one of several, and investigates the issue of economic stratification in the context of contemporary globalization and the neoliberal economic policies that have developed to address this phenomenon as it affects the United States.

Once this global-historical perspective is understood and after quickly suggesting in the "prologue" why the connection between neoliberal economic policies and the affects on working people in the United States has not been made usually, this paper focuses on several interrelated issues: (1) it reports the current economic situation for workers in the United States; (2) it provides a historical overview of US society since World War II; (3) it analyzes the results of US Government economic policies; and (4) it ties these issues together. From that, it comes to a conclusion about the affects of neoliberal economic policies on working people in the United States .

Prologue: Origins of neoliberal economic policies in the United States

As stated above, most of the attention directed toward understanding the impact of neoliberal economic policies on various countries has been confined to the countries of the Global South. However, these policies have been implemented in the United States as well. This arguably began in 1982, when the Chairman of the US Federal Reserve, Paul Volcker, launched a vicious attack on inflation -- and caused the deepest US recession since the Great Depression of the late 1920s-1930s.

However, these neoliberal policies have been implemented in the US perhaps more subtly than in the Global South. This is said because, when trying to understand changes that continue to take place in the United States, these economic policies are hidden "under" the various and sundry "cultural wars" (around issues such as drugs, premarital sex, gun control, abortion, marriages for gays and lesbians) that have been taking place in this country and, thus, not made obvious: most Americans, and especially working people, are not aware of the changes detailed below. [ii]

However, it is believed that the implementation of these neoliberal economic policies and the cultural wars to divert public attention are part of a larger, conscious political program by the elites within this country that is intended to prevent re-emergence of the collective solidarity among the American people that we saw during the late 1960s-early 1970s (see Piven, 2004, 2007) -- of which the internal breakdown of discipline within the US military, in Vietnam and around the world, was arguably the most crucial (see Moser, 1996; Zeiger, 2006) -- that ultimately challenged, however inchoately, the very structure of the established social order, both internationally and in the United States itself. Thus, we see both Democratic and Republican Parties in agreement to maintain and expand the US Empire (in more neutral political science-ese, a "uni-polar world"), but the differences that emerge within each party and between each party are generally confined to how this can best be accomplished. While this paper focuses on the economic and social changes going on, it should be kept in mind that these changes did not "just happen": conscious political decisions have been made that produced social results (see Piven, 2004) that make the US experience -- at the center of a global social order based on an "advanced" capitalist economy -- qualitatively different from experiences in other more economically-developed countries.

So, what has been the impact of these policies on workers in the US?

1) The current situation for workers and growing economic inequality

Steven Greenhouse of The New York Times published a piece on September 4, 2006, writing about entry-level workers, young people who were just entering the job market. Mr. Greenhouse noted changes in the US economy; in fact, there have been substantial changes since early 2000, when the economy last created many jobs.

Yet, the percentage drop in wages hides the growing gap between college and high school graduates. Today, on average, college grads earn 45 per cent more than high school graduates, where the gap had "only" been 23 per cent in 1979: the gap has doubled in 26 years (Greenhouse, 2006b).

A 2004 story in Business Week found that 24 per cent of all working Americans received wages below the poverty line ( Business Week , 2004). [iii] In January 2004, 23.5 million Americans received free food from food pantries. "The surge for food demand is fueled by several forces -- job losses, expired unemployment benefits, soaring health-care and housing costs, and the inability of many people to find jobs that match the income and benefits of the jobs they had." And 43 million people were living in low-income families with children (Jones, 2004).

A 2006 story in Business Week found that US job growth between 2001-2006 was really based on one industry: health care. Over this five-year period, the health-care sector has added 1.7 million jobs, while the rest of the private sector has been stagnant. Michael Mandel, the economics editor of the magazine, writes:

information technology, the great electronic promise of the 1990s, has turned into one of the greatest job-growth disappointments of all time. Despite the splashy success of companies such as Google and Yahoo!, businesses at the core of the information economy -- software, semi-conductors, telecom, and the whole range of Web companies -- have lost more than 1.1 million jobs in the past five years. These businesses employ fewer Americans today than they did in 1998, when the Internet frenzy kicked into high gear (Mandel, 2006: 56) .

In fact, "take away health-care hiring in the US, and quicker than you can say cardiac bypass, the US unemployment rate would be 1 to 2 percentage points higher" (Mandel, 2006: 57).

There has been extensive job loss in manufacturing. Over 3.4 million manufacturing jobs have been lost since 1998, and 2.9 million of them have been lost since 2001. Additionally, over 40,000 manufacturing firms have closed since 1999, and 90 per cent have been medium and large shops. In labor-import intensive industries, 25 per cent of laid-off workers remain unemployed after six months, two-thirds of them who do find new jobs earn less than on their old job, and one-quarter of those who find new jobs "suffer wage losses of more than 30 percent" (AFL-CIO, 2006a: 2).

The AFL-CIO details the US job loss by manufacturing sector in the 2001-05 period:

As of the end of 2005, only 10.7 per cent of all US employment was in manufacturing -- down from 21.6 per cent at its height in 1979 -- in raw numbers, manufacturing employment totaled 19.426 million in 1979, 17.263 million in 2000, and 14.232 million in 2005. [iv] The number of production workers in this country at the end of 2005 was 9.378 million. [v] This was only slightly above the 9.306 million production workers in 1983, and was considerably below the 11.463 million as recently as 2000 (US Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2006b). As one writer puts it, this is "the biggest long-term trend in the economy: the decline of manufacturing." He notes that employment in the durable goods (e.g., cars and cable TV boxes) category of manufacturing has declined from 19 per cent of all employment in 1965 to 8 per cent in 2005 (Altman, 2006). And at the end of 2006, only 11.7 per cent of all manufacturing workers were in unions (US Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2007).

In addition, in 2004 and 2005, "the real hourly and weekly wages of US manufacturing workers have fallen 3 per cent and 2.2 per cent respectively" (AFL-CIO, 2006a: 2).

The minimum wage level went unchanged for nine years: until recently when there was a small increase -- to $5.85 an hour on July 24, 2007 -- US minimum wage had remained at $5.15 an hour since September 1, 1997 . During that time, the cost of living rose 26 percent. After adjusting for inflation, this was the lowest level of the minimum wage since 1955. At the same time, the minimum wage was only 31 per cent of the average pay of non-supervisory workers in the private sector, which is the lowest share since World War II (Bernstein and Shapiro, 2006).

In addition to the drop in wages at all levels, fewer new workers get health care benefits with their jobs: [vi] in 2005, 64 per cent of all college grads got health coverage in entry-level jobs, where 71 per cent had gotten it in 2000 -- a 7 per cent drop in just five years. Over a longer term, we can see what has happened to high school grads: in 1979, two-thirds of all high school graduates got health care coverage in entry-level jobs, while only one-third do today (Greenhouse, 2006b). It must be kept in mind that only about 28 per cent of the US workforce are college graduates -- most of the work force only has a high school degree, although a growing percentage of them have some college, but not college degrees.

Because things have gotten so bad, many young adults have gotten discouraged and given up. The unemployment rate is 4.4 per cent for ages 25-34, but 8.2 per cent for workers 20-24. (Greenhouse, 2006b).

Yet things are actually worse than that. In the US , unemployment rates are artificially low. If a person gets laid off and gets unemployment benefits -- which fewer and fewer workers even get -- they get a check for six months. If they have not gotten a job by the end of six months -- and it is taking longer and longer to get a job -- and they have given up searching for work, then not only do they loose their unemployment benefits, but they are no longer counted as unemployed: one doesn't even count in the statistics!

A report from April 2004 provides details. According to the then-head of the US Federal Reserve System, Alan Greenspan, "the average duration of unemployment increased from twelve weeks in September 2000 to twenty weeks in March [2004]" (quoted in Shapiro, 2004: 4). In March 2004, 354,000 jobs workers had exhausted their unemployment benefits, and were unable to get any additional federal unemployment assistance: Shapiro (2004: 1) notes, "In no other month on record, with data available back to 1971, have there been so many 'exhaustees'."

Additionally, although it's rarely reported, unemployment rates vary by racial grouping. No matter what the unemployment rate is, it really only reflects the rate of whites who are unemployed because about 78 per cent of the workforce is white. However, since 1954, the unemployment rate of African-Americans has always been more than twice that of whites, and Latinos are about 1 1/2 times that of whites. So, for example, if the overall rate is five percent, then it's at least ten per cent for African-Americans and 7.5 per cent for Latinos.

However, most of the developments presented above -- other than the racial affects of unemployment -- have been relatively recent. What about longer term? Paul Krugman, a Nobel Prize-winning Princeton University economist who writes for The New York Times, pointed out these longer term affects: non-supervisory workers make less in real wages today (2006) than they made in 1973! So, after inflation is taken out, non-supervisory workers are making less today in real terms that their contemporaries made 33 years ago (Krugman, 2006b). Figures provided by Stephen Franklin -- obtained from the US Bureau of Statistics, and presented in 1982 dollars -- show that a production worker in January 1973 earned $9.08 an hour -- and $8.19 an hour in December 2005 (Franklin, 2006). Workers in 2005 also had less long-term job security, fewer benefits, less stable pensions (when they have them), and rising health care costs. [vii]

In short, the economic situation for "average Americans" is getting worse. A front-page story in the Chicago Tribune tells about a worker who six years ago was making $29 an hour, working at a nuclear power plant. He got laid off, and now makes $12.24 an hour, working on the bottom tier of a two-tiered unionized factory owned by Caterpillar, the multinational earth moving equipment producer, which is less than half of his old wages. The article pointed out, "Glued to a bare bones budget, he saved for weeks to buy a five-pack of $7 T-shirts" ( Franklin , 2006).

As Foster and Magdoff point out:

Except for a small rise in the late 1990s, real wages have been sluggish for decades. The typical (median-income) family has sought to compensate for this by increasing the number of jobs and working hours per household. Nevertheless, the real (inflation-adjusted) income of the typical household fell for five years in a row through 2004 (Foster and Magdoff, 2009: 28).

A report by Workers Independent News (WIN) stated that while a majority of metropolitan areas have regained the 2.6 million jobs lost during the first two years of the Bush Administration, "the new jobs on average pay $9,000 less than the jobs replaced," a 21 per cent decline from $43,629 to $34,378. However, WIN says that "99 out of the 361 metro areas will not recover jobs before 2007 and could be waiting until 2015 before they reach full recovery" (Russell, 2006).

At the same time, Americans are going deeper and deeper into debt. At the end of 2000, total US household debt was $7.008 trillion, with home mortgage debt being $4.811 trillion and non-mortgage debt $1.749 trillion; at the end of 2006, comparable numbers were a total of $12.817 trillion; $9.705 trillion (doubling since 2000); and $2.431 trillion (US Federal Reserve, 2007-rounding by author). Foster and Magdoff (2009: 29) show that this debt is not only increasing, but based on figures from the Federal Reserve, that debt as a percentage of disposable income has increased overall from 62% in 1975 to 96.8% in 2000, and to 127.2% in 2005.

Three polls from mid-2006 found "deep pessimism among American workers, with most saying that wages were not keeping pace with inflation, and that workers were worse off in many ways than a generation ago" (Greenhouse, 2006a). And, one might notice, nothing has been said about increasing gas prices, lower home values, etc. The economic situation for most working people is not looking pretty.

In fact, bankruptcy filings totaled 2.043 million in 2005, up 31.6 per cent from 2004 (Associated Press, 2006), before gas prices went through the ceiling and housing prices began falling in mid-2006. Yet in 1998, writers for the Chicago Tribune had written, " the number of personal bankruptcy filings skyrocketed 19.5 per cent last year, to an all-time high of 1,335,053, compared with 1,117,470 in 1996" (Schmeltzer and Gruber, 1998).

And at the same time, there were 37 million Americans in poverty in 2005, one of out every eight. Again, the rates vary by racial grouping: while 12.6 per cent of all Americans were in poverty, the poverty rate for whites was 8.3 percent; for African Americans, 24.9 per cent were in poverty, as were 21.8 per cent of all Latinos. (What is rarely acknowledged, however, is that 65 per cent of all people in poverty in the US are white.) And 17.6 per cent of all children were in poverty (US Census Bureau, 2005).

What about the "other half"? This time, Paul Krugman gives details from a report by two Northwestern University professors, Ian Dew-Becker and Robert Gordon, titled "Where Did the Productivity Growth Go?" Krugman writes:

Between 1973 and 2001, the wage and salary income of Americans at the 90th percentile of the income distribution rose only 34 percent, or about 1 per cent per year. But income at the 99th percentile rose 87 percent; income at the 99.9th percentile rose 181 percent; and income at the 99.99th percentile rose 497 percent. No, that's not a misprint. Just to give you a sense of who we're talking about: the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center estimates that this year, the 99th percentile will correspond to an income of $402,306, and the 99.9th percentile to an income of $1,672,726. The Center doesn't give a number for the 99.99th percentile, but it's probably well over $6 million a year (Krugman, 2006a) .

But how can we understand what is going on? We need to put take a historical approach to understand the significance of the changes reported above.

(2) A historical look at the US social order since World War II

When considering the US situation, it makes most sense to look at "recent" US developments, those since World War II. Just after the War, in 1947, the US population was about six per cent of the world's total. Nonetheless, this six per cent produced about 48 per cent of all goods and services in the world! [viii] With Europe and Japan devastated, the US was the only industrialized economy that had not been laid waste. Everybody needed what the US produced -- and this country produced the goods, and sent them around the world.

At the same time, the US economy was not only the most productive, but the rise of the industrial union movement in the 1930s and '40s -- the CIO (Congress of Industrial Organizations) -- meant that workers had some power to demand a share of the wealth produced. In 1946, just after the war, the US had the largest strike wave in its history: 116,000,000 production days were lost in early 1946, as industry-wide strikes in auto, steel, meat packing, and the electrical industry took place across the United States and Canada , along with smaller strikes in individual firms. Not only that, but there were general strikes that year in Oakland , California and Stamford , Connecticut . Workers had been held back during the war, but they demonstrated their power immediately thereafter (Lipsitz, 1994; Murolo and Chitty, 2001). Industry knew that if it wanted the production it could sell, it had to include unionized workers in on the deal.

It was this combination -- devastated economic markets around the world and great demand for goods and services, the world's most developed industrial economy, and a militant union movement -- that combined to create what is now known as the "great American middle class." [ix]

To understand the economic impact of these factors, changes in income distribution in US society must be examined. The best way to illuminate this is to assemble family data on income or wealth [x] -- income data is more available, so that will be used; arrange it from the smallest amount to the largest; and then to divide the population into fifths, or quintiles. In other words, arrange every family's annual income from the lowest to the highest, and divide the total number of family incomes into quintiles or by 20 percents (i.e., fifths). Then compare changes in the top incomes for each quintile. By doing so, one can then observe changes in income distribution over specified time periods.

The years between 1947 and 1973 are considered the "golden years" of the US society. [xi] The values are presented in 2005 dollars, so that means that inflation has been taken out: these are real dollar values, and that means these are valid comparisons.

Figure 1: US family income, in US dollars, growth and istribution, by quintile, 1947-1973 compared to 1973-2001, in 2005 dollars

Lowest 20%

Second 20 %

Third 20%

Fourth 20%

95 th Percentile [xii]

1947

$11,758

$18,973

$25,728

$36,506

$59,916

1973

$23,144

$38,188

$53,282

$73,275

$114,234

Difference (26 years) $11,386

(97%)

$19,145

(100%)

$27,554

(107%)

$36,769

(101%)

$54,318

(91%)

1973

$23,144

$38,188

$53,282

$73,275

$114,234

2001

$26,467

$45,355

$68,925

$103,828

$180,973

Difference (28 years) $3,323

(14%)

$7,167

(19%)

$15,643

(29%)

$30,553

(42%)

$66,739

(58%)

Source: US Commerce Department, Bureau of the Census (hereafter, US Census Bureau) at www.census.gov/hhes/www/income/histinc/f01ar.html . All dollar values converted to 2005 dollars by US Census Bureau, removing inflation and comparing real values. Differences and percentages calculated by author. Percentages shown in both rows labeled "Difference" show the dollar difference as a percentage of the first year of the comparison.

Data for the first period, 1947-1973 -- the data above the grey line -- shows there was considerable real economic growth for each quintile . Over the 26-year period, there was approximately 100 per cent real economic growth for the incomes at the top of each quintile, which meant incomes doubled after inflation was removed; thus, there was significant economic growth in the society.

And importantly, this real economic growth was distributed fairly evenly . The data in the fourth line (in parentheses) is the percentage relationship between the difference between 1947-1973 real income when compared to the 1947 real income, with 100 per cent representing a doubling of real income: i.e., the difference for the bottom quintile between 1947 and 1973 was an increase of $11,386, which is 97 per cent more than $11,758 that the top of the quintile had in 1947. As can be seen, other quintiles also saw increases of roughly comparable amounts: in ascending order, 100 percent, 107 percent, 101 percent, and 91 percent. In other words, the rate of growth by quintile was very similar across all five quintiles of the population.

When looking at the figures for 1973-2001, something vastly different can be observed. This is the section below the grey line. What can be seen? First, economic growth has slowed considerably: the highest rate of growth for any quintile was that of 58 per cent for those who topped the fifth quintile, and this was far below the "lagger" of 91 per cent of the earlier period.

Second, of what growth there was, it was distributed extremely unequally . And the growth rates for those in lower quintiles were generally lower than for those above them: for the bottom quintile, their real income grew only 14 per cent over the 1973-2001 period; for the second quintile, 19 percent; for the third, 29 percent; for the fourth, 42 percent; and for the 80-95 percent, 58 percent: loosely speaking, the rich are getting richer, and the poor poorer.

Why the change? I think two things in particular. First, as industrialized countries recovered from World War II, corporations based in these countries could again compete with those from the US -- first in their own home countries, and then through importing into the US , and then ultimately when they invested in the United States . Think of Toyota : they began importing into the US in the early 1970s, and with their investments here in the early '80s and forward, they now are the largest domestic US auto producer.

Second cause for the change has been the deterioration of the American labor movement: from 35.3 per cent of the non-agricultural workforce in unions in 1954, to only 12.0 per cent of all American workers in unions in 2006 -- and only 7.4 per cent of all private industry workers are unionized, which is less than in 1930!

This decline in unionization has a number of reasons. Part of this deterioration has been the result of government policies -- everything from the crushing of the air traffic controllers when they went on strike by the Reagan Administration in 1981, to reform of labor law, to reactionary appointments to the National Labor Relations Board, which oversees administration of labor law. Certainly a key government policy, signed by Democratic President Bill Clinton, has been the North American Free Trade Act or NAFTA. One analyst came straight to the point:

Since [NAFTA] was signed in 1993, the rise in the US trade deficit with Canada and Mexico through 2002 has caused the displacement of production that supported 879,280 US jobs. Most of these lost jobs were high-wage positions in manufacturing industries. The loss of these jobs is just the most visible tip of NAFTA's impact on the US economy. In fact, NAFTA has also contributed to rising income inequality, suppressed real wages for production workers, weakened workers' collective bargaining powers and ability to organize unions, and reduced fringe benefits (Scott, 2003: 1).

These attacks by elected officials have been joined by the affects due to the restructuring of the economy. There has been a shift from manufacturing to services. However, within manufacturing, which has long been a union stronghold, there has been significant job loss: between July 2000 and January 2004, the US lost three million manufacturing jobs, or 17.5 percent, and 5.2 million since the historical peak in 1979, so that "Employment in manufacturing [in January 2004] was its lowest since July 1950" (CBO, 2004). This is due to both outsourcing labor-intensive production overseas and, more importantly, technological displacement as new technology has enabled greater production at higher quality with fewer workers in capital-intensive production (see Fisher, 2004). Others have blamed burgeoning trade deficits for the rise: " an increasing share of domestic demand for manufacturing output is satisfied by foreign rather than domestic producers" (Bivens, 2005). [xiii] Others have even attributed it to changes in consumer preferences (Schweitzer and Zaman, 2006). Whatever the reason, of the 50 states, only five (Nevada, North Dakota, Oregon, Utah, and Wyoming) did not see any job loss in manufacturing between 1993-2003, yet 37 lost between 5.6 and 35.9 per cent of their manufacturing jobs during this period (Public Policy Institute, 2004).

However, part of the credit for deterioration of the labor movement must be given to the labor movement itself: the leadership has been simply unable to confront these changes and, at the same time, they have consistently worked against any independent action by rank-and-file members. [xiv]

However, it must be asked: are the changes in the economy presented herein merely statistical manipulations, or is this indicating something real?

This point can be illustrated another way: by using CAGR, the Compound Annual Growth Rate. This is a single number that is computed, based on compounded amounts, across a range of years, to come up with an average number to represent the rate of increase or decrease each year across the entire period. This looks pretty complex, but it is based on the same idea as compound interest used in our savings accounts: you put in $10 today and (this is obviously not a real example) because you get ten per cent interest, so you have $11 the next year. Well, the following year, interest is not computed off the original $10, but is computed on the $11. So, by the third year, from your $10, you now have $12.10. Etc. And this is what is meant by the Compound Annual Growth Rate: this is average compound growth by year across a designated period.

Based on the numbers presented above in Figure 1, the author calculated the Compound Annual Growth Rate by quintiles (Figure 2). The annual growth rate has been calculated for the first period, 1947-1973, the years known as the "golden years" of US society. What has happened since then? Compare results from the 1947-73 period to the annual growth rate across the second period, 1973-2001, again calculated by the author.

Figure 2: Annual percentage of family income growth, by quintile, 1947-1973 compared to 1973-2001

Population by quintiles

1947-1973

1973-2001
95th Percentile

2.51%

1.66%

Fourth quintile

2.72%

1.25%

Third quintile

2.84%

.92%

Second quintile

2.73%

.62%

Lowest quintile

2.64%

.48%

Source: Calculated by author from gather provided by the US Census Bureau at www.census.gov/hhes/www/income/histinc/f01ar.html .

What we can see here is that while everyone's income was growing at about the same rate in the first period -- between 2.51 and 2.84 per cent annually -- by the second period, not only had growth slowed down across the board, but it grew by very different rates: what we see here, again, is that the rich are getting richer, and the poor poorer.

If these figures are correct, a change over time in the percentage of income received by each quintile should be observable. Ideally, if the society were egalitarian, each 20 per cent of the population would get 20 per cent of the income in any one year. In reality, it differs. To understand Figure 3, below, one must not only look at the percentage of income held by a quintile across the chart, comparing selected year by selected year, but one needs to look to see whether a quintile's share of income is moving toward or away from the ideal 20 percent.

Figure 3: Percentage of family income distribution by quintile, 1947, 1973, 2001.

Population by quintiles 1947 1973 2001

Top fifth (lower limit of top 5percent, or 95th Percentile)-- $184,500 [xv]

43.0% 41.1% 47.7%
Second fifth--$103,100 23.1% 24.0% 22.9%
Third fifth--$68,304 17.0% 17.5% 15.4%
Fourth fifth--$45,021 11.9% 11.9% 9.7%
Bottom fifth--$25,616 5.0% 5.5% 4.2%

Source: US Census Bureau at www.census.gov/hhes/www/income/histinc/f02ar.html .

Unfortunately, much of the data available publicly ended in 2001. However, in the summer of 2007, after years of not releasing data any later than 2001, the Census Bureau released income data up to 2005. It allows us to examine what has taken place regarding family income inequality during the first four years of the Bush Administration.

Figure 4: US family income, in US dollars, growth and distribution, by quintile, 2001-2005, 2005 US dollars

Lowest 20%

Second 20%

Middle 20%

Fourth 20%

Lowest level of top 5%

2001

$26,467

$45,855

$68,925

$103,828

$180,973

2005

$25,616

$45,021

$68,304

$103,100

$184,500

Difference

(4 years)

-$851

(-3.2%)

-$834

(-1.8%)

-$621

(-.01%)

-$728

(-.007%)

$3,527

(1.94%)

Source: US Census Bureau at www.census.gov/hhes/www/income/histinc/f01ar.html . (Over time, the Census Bureau refigures these amounts, so they have subsequently converted amounts to 2006 dollar values. These values are from their 2005 dollar values, and were calculated by the Census Bureau.) Differences and percentages calculated by author.

Thus, what we've seen under the first four years of the Bush Administration is that for at most Americans, their economic situation has worsened: not only has over all economic growth for any quintile slowed to a minuscule 1.94 per cent at the most, but that the bottom 80 per cent actually lost income; losing money (an absolute loss), rather than growing a little but falling further behind the top quintile (a relative loss). Further, the decrease across the bottom four quintiles has been suffered disproportionately by those in the lowest 40 per cent of the society.

This can perhaps be seen more clearly by examining CAGR rates by period.

We can now add the results of the 2001-2005 period share of income by quintile to our earlier chart:

Figure 5: Percentage of income growth per year by percentile, 1947-2005

Population by quintiles

1947-1973

1973-2001

2001-2005

Top 95 percentile

2.51%

1.66%

.48%

Fourth fifth

2.72%

1.25%

-.18%

Third fifth

2.84%

.92%

-.23%

Second fifth

2.73%

.62%

-.46%

Bottom fifth

2.64%

.48%

-.81%

Source: Calculated by author from data gathered from the US Department of the Census www.census.gov/hhes/www/income/histinc/f01ar.html .

As can be seen, the percentage of family income at each of the four bottom quintiles is less in 2005 than in 1947; the only place there has been improvement over this 58-year period is at the 95th percentile (and above).

Figure 6: Percentage of family income distribution by quintile, 1947, 1973, 2001, 2005.

Population by quintiles 1947 1973 2001 2005

Top fifth (lower limit of top 5percent, or 95th Percentile)-- $184,500

43.0% 41.1% 47.7% 48.1%
Second fifth--$103,100 23.1% 24.0% 22.9% 22.9%
Third fifth--$68,304 17.0% 17.5% 15.4% 15.3%
Fourth fifth--$45,021 11.9% 11.9% 9.7% 9.6%
Bottom fifth--$25,616 5.0% 5.5% 4.2% 4.0%

Source: U.S. Census Bureau at www.census.gov/hhes/www/income/histinc/f02ar.html .

What has been presented so far, regarding changes in income distribution, has been at the group level; in this case, quintile by quintile. It is time now to see how this has affected the society overall.

Sociologists and economists use a number called the Gini index to measure inequality. Family income data has been used so far, and we will continue using it. A Gini index is fairly simple to use. It measures inequality in a society. A Gini index is generally reported in a range between 0.000 and 1.000, and is written in thousandths, just like a winning percentage mark: three digits after the decimal. And the higher the Gini score, the greater the inequality.

Looking at the Gini index, we can see two periods since 1947, when the US Government began computing the Gini index for the country. From 1947-1968, with yearly change greater or smaller, the trend is downward, indicating reduced inequality: from .376 in 1947 to .378 in 1950, but then downward to .348 in 1968. So, again, over the first period, the trend is downward.

What has happened since then? From the low point in 1968 of .348, the trend has been upward. In 1982, the Gini index hit .380, which was higher than any single year between 1947-1968, and the US has never gone below .380 since then. By 1992, it hit .403, and we've never gone back below .400. In 2001, the US hit .435. But the score for 2005 has only recently been published: .440 (source: http://www.census.gov/hhes/www/income/histinc/f04.html ). So, the trend is getting worse, and with the policies established under George W. Bush, I see them only continuing to increase in the forthcoming period. [And by the way, this increasing trend has continued under both the Republicans and the Democrats, but since the Republicans have controlled the presidency for 18 of the last 26 years (since 1981), they get most of the credit -- but let's not forget that the Democrats have controlled Congress across many of those years, so they, too, have been an equal opportunity destroyer!]

However, one more question must be asked: how does this income inequality in the US, compare to other countries around the world? Is the level of income inequality comparable to other "developed" societies, or is it comparable to "developing" countries?

We must turn to the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) for our data. The CIA computes Gini scores for family income on most of the countries around the world, and the last time checked in 2007 (August 1), they had data on 122 countries on their web page and these numbers had last been updated on July 19, 2007 (US Central Intelligence Agency, 2007). With each country listed, there is a Gini score provided. Now, the CIA doesn't compute Gini scores yearly, but they give the last year it was computed, so these are not exactly equivalent but they are suggestive enough to use. However, when they do assemble these Gini scores in one place, they list them alphabetically, which is not of much comparative use (US Central Intelligence Agency, 2007).

However, the World Bank categorizes countries, which means they can be compared within category and across categories. The World Bank, which does not provide Gini scores, puts 208 countries into one of four categories based on Gross National Income per capita -- that's total value of goods and services sold in the market in a year, divided by population size. This is a useful statistic, because it allows us to compare societies with economies of vastly different size: per capita income removes the size differences between countries.

The World Bank locates each country into one of four categories: lower income, lower middle income, upper middle income, and high income (World Bank, 2007a). Basically, those in the lower three categories are "developing" or what we used to call "third world" countries, while the high income countries are all of the so-called developed countries.

The countries listed by the CIA with their respective Gini scores were placed into the specific World Bank categories in which the World Bank had previously located them (World Bank, 2007b). Once grouped in their categories, median Gini scores were computed for each group. When trying to get one number to represent a group of numbers, median is considered more accurate than an average, so the median was used, which means half of the scores are higher, half are lower -- in other words, the data is at the 50th percentile for each category.

The Gini score for countries, by Gross National Income per capita, categorized by the World Bank:

Figure 7: Median Gini Scores by World Bank income categories (countries selected by US Central Intelligence Agency were placed in categories developed by the World Bank) and compared to 2004 US Gini score as calculated by US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA)

Income category

Median Gini score

Gini score, US (2004)

Low income countries (less than $875/person/year)

.406

.450

Lower-middle income countries (between $876-3,465/person/year)

.414

.450

Upper-middle income countries (between $3,466-10,725/person/year

.370

.450

Upper-income countries (over $10,726/person/year

.316

.450

As can be seen, with the (CIA-calculated) Gini score of .450, the US family income is more unequal than the medians for each category, and is more unequal than some of the poorest countries on earth, such as Bangladesh (.318 -- calculated in 2000), Cambodia (.400, 2004 est.), Laos (.370-1997), Mozambique (.396, 1996-97), Uganda (.430-1999) and Vietnam (.361, 1998). This same finding also holds true using the more conservative Census Bureau-calculated Gini score of .440.

Thus, the US has not only become more unequal over the 35 years, as has been demonstrated above, but has attained a level of inequality that is much more comparable to those of developing countries in general and, in fact, is more unequal today than some of the poorest countries on Earth. There is nothing suggesting that this increasing inequality will lessen anytime soon. And since this increasing income inequality has taken place under the leadership of both major political parties, there is nothing on the horizon that suggests either will resolutely address this issue in the foreseeable future regardless of campaign promises made.

However, to move beyond discussion of whether President Obama is likely to address these and related issues, some consideration of governmental economic policies is required. Thus, he will be constrained by decisions made by previous administrations, as well as by the ideological blinders worn by those he has chosen to serve at the top levels of his administration.

3) Governmental economic policies

There are two key points that are especially important for our consideration: the US Budget and the US National Debt. They are similar, but different -- and consideration of each of them enhances understanding.

A) US budget. Every year, the US Government passes a budget, whereby governmental officials estimate beforehand how much money needs to be taken in to cover all expenses. If the government actually takes in more money than it spends, the budget is said to have a surplus; if it takes in less than it spends, the budget is said to be in deficit.

Since 1970, when Richard Nixon was President, the US budget has been in deficit every year except for the last four years under Clinton (1998-2001), where there was a surplus. But this surplus began declining under Clinton -- it was $236.2 billion in 2000, and only $128.2 billion in 2001, Clinton 's last budget. Under Bush, the US has gone drastically into deficit: -$157.8 billion in 2002; -$377.6 billion in 2003; -$412.7 billion in 2004; -$318.3 billion in 2005; and "only"-$248.2 billion in 2006 (Economic Report of the President, 2007: Table B-78).

Now, that is just yearly surpluses and deficits. They get combined with all the other surpluses and deficits since the US became a country in 1789 to create to create a cumulative amount, what is called the National Debt.

B) US national debt. Between 1789 and1980 -- from Presidents Washington through Carter -- the accumulated US National Debt was $909 billion or, to put it another way, $.909 trillion. During Ronald Reagan's presidency (1981-89), the National Debt tripled, from $.9 trillion to $2.868 trillion. It has continued to rise. As of the end of 2006, 17 years later and after a four-year period of surpluses where the debt was somewhat reduced, National Debt (or Gross Federal Debt) was $8.451 trillion (Economic Report of the President, 2007: Table B-78).

To put it into context: the US economy, the most productive in the world, had a Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of $13.061 trillion in 2006, but the National Debt was $8.451 trillion -- 64.7 per cent of GDP -- and growing (Economic Report of the President, 2007: Table B-1).

In April 2006, one investor reported that "the US Treasury has a hair under $8.4 trillion in outstanding debt. How much is that? He put it into this context: " if you deposited one million dollars into a bank account every day, starting 2006 years ago, that you would not even have ONE trillion dollars in that account" (Van Eeden, 2006).

Let's return to the budget deficit: like a family budget, when one spends more than one brings in, they can do basically one of three things: (a) they can cut spending; (b) they can increase taxes (or obviously a combination of the two); or (c) they can take what I call the "Wimpy" approach.

For those who might not know this, Wimpy was a cartoon character, a partner of "Popeye the Sailor," a Saturday morning cartoon that was played for over 30 years in the United States . Wimpy had a great love for hamburgers. And his approach to life was summed up in his rap: "I'll gladly give you two hamburgers on Tuesday, for a hamburger today."

What is argued is that the US Government has been taking what I call the Wimpy approach to its budgetary problems: it does not reduce spending, it does not raise taxes to pay for the increased expenditures -- in fact, President Bush has cut taxes for the wealthiest Americans [xvi] -- but instead it sells US Government securities, often known as Treasuries, to rich investors, private corporations or, increasingly, to other countries to cover the budget deficit. In a set number of years, the US Government agrees to pay off each bond -- and the difference between what the purchaser bought them for and the increased amount the US Government pays to redeem them is the cost of financing the Treasuries, a certain percentage of the total value. By buying US Treasuries, other countries have helped keep US interest rates low, helping to keep the US economy in as good of shape as it has been (thus, keeping the US market flourishing for them), while allowing the US Government not to have to confront its annual deficits. At the end of 2006, the total value of outstanding Treasuries -- to all investors, not just other countries -- was $8.507 trillion (Economic Report of the President, 2007: Table B-87).

It turns out that at in December 2004, foreigners owned approximately 61 per cent of all outstanding US Treasuries. Of that, seven per cent was held by China ; these were valued at $223 billion (Gundzik, 2005).

The percentage of foreign and international investors' purchases of the total US public debt since 1996 has never been less than 17.7 percent, and it has reached a high of 25.08 per cent in September 2006. In September 2006, foreigners purchased $2.134 trillion of Treasuries; these were 25.08 per cent of all purchases, and 52.4 per cent of all privately-owned purchases (Economic Report of the President, 2007: Table B-89). [xvii] Altogether, "the world now holds financial claims amounting to $3.5 trillion against the United States , or 26 per cent of our GDP" (Humpage and Shenk, 2007: 4).

Since the US Government continues to run deficits, because the Bush Administration has refused to address this problem, the United States has become dependent on other countries buying Treasuries. Like a junky on heroin, the US must get other investors (increasingly countries) to finance its budgetary deficits.

To keep the money flowing in, the US must keep interest rates high -- basically, interest rates are the price that must be paid to borrow money. Over the past year or so, the Federal Reserve has not raised interest rates, but prior to that, for 15 straight quarterly meetings, they did. And, as known, the higher the interest rate, the mostly costly it is to borrow money domestically, which means increasingly likelihood of recession -- if not worse. In other words, dependence on foreigners to finance the substantial US budget deficits means that the US must be prepared to raise interests rates which, at some point, will choke off domestic borrowing and consumption, throwing the US economy into recession. [xviii]

Yet this threat is not just to the United States -- according to the International Monetary Fund (IMF), it is a threat to the global economy. A story about a then-recently issued report by the IMF begins, "With its rising budget deficit and ballooning trade imbalance, the United States is running up a foreign debt of such record-breaking proportions that it threatens the financial stability of the global economy ." The report suggested that net financial obligations of the US to the rest of the world could equal 40 per cent of its total economy if nothing was done about it in a few years, "an unprecedented level of external debt for a larger industrial country" according to the report. What was perhaps even more shocking than what the report said was which institution said it: "The IMF has often been accused of being an adjunct of the United States , its largest shareholder" (Becker and Andrews, 2004).

Other analysts go further. After discussing the increasingly risky nature of global investing, and noting that "The investor managers of private equity funds and major banks have displaced national banks and international bodies such as the IMF," Gabriel Kolko (2007) quotes Stephen Roach, Morgan Stanley's chief economist, on April 24, 2007: "a major financial crisis seemed imminent and that the global institutions that could forestall it, including the IMF, the World Bank and other mechanisms of the international financial architecture, were utterly inadequate." Kolko recognizes that things may not collapse immediately, and that analysts could be wrong, but still concludes, "the transformation of the global financial system will sooner or later lead to dire results" (Kolko, 2007: 5).

What might happen if investors decided to take their money out of US Treasuries and, say, invest in Euro-based bonds? The US would be in big trouble, would be forced to raise its interest rates even higher than it wants -- leading to possibly a severe recession -- and if investors really shifted their money, the US could be observably bankrupt; the curtain hiding the "little man" would be opened, and he would be observable to all.

Why would investors rather shift their investment money into Euro-bonds instead of US Treasuries? Well, obviously, one measure is the perceived strength of the US economy. To get a good idea of how solid a country's economy is, one looks at things such as budget deficits, but perhaps even more importantly balance of trade: how well is this economy doing in comparison with other countries?

The US international balance of trade is in the red and is worsening: -$717 billion in 2005. In 1991, it was -$31 billion. Since 1998, the US trade balance has set a new record for being in the hole every year, except during 2001, and then breaking the all time high the very next year! -$165 B in 1998; -$263 B in 1999; -$378 B in 2000; only -$362 B in 2001; -$421 B in 2002; -$494 B in 2003; -$617 B in 2004; and - $717 B in 2005 (Economic Report of the President, 2007: Table B-103). According to the Census Department, the balance of trade in 2006 was -$759 billion (US Census Bureau, 2007).

And the US current account balance, the broadest measure of a country's international financial situation -- which includes investment inside and outside the US in addition to balance of trade -- is even worse: it was -$805 B in 2005, or 6.4 per cent of national income. "The bottom line is that a current account deficit of this unparalleled magnitude is unsustainable and there is no hope of it being painlessly resolved through higher exports alone," according to one analyst (quoted in Swann, 2006). Scott notes that the current account deficit in 2006 was -$857 billion (Scott, 2007a: 8, fn. 1). "In effect, the United States is living beyond its means and selling off national assets to pay its bills" (Scott, 2007b: 1). [xix]

In addition, during mid-2007, there was a bursting of a domestic "housing bubble," which has threatened domestic economic well-being but that ultimately threatens the well-being of global financial markets. There had been a tremendous run-up in US housing values since 1995 -- with an increase of more than 70 per cent after adjusting for the rate of inflation -- and this had created "more than $8 trillion in housing wealth compared with a scenario in which house prices had continued to rise at the same rate of inflation," which they had done for over 100 years, between 1890 and 1995 (Baker, 2007: 8).

This led to a massive oversupply of housing, accompanied with falling house prices: according to Dean Baker, "the peak inventory of unsold new homes of 573,000 in July 2006 was more than 50 per cent higher than the previous peak of 377,000 in May of 1989" (Baker, 2007: 12-13). This caused massive problems in the sub-prime housing market -- estimates are that almost $2 trillion in sub-prime loans were made during 2005-06, and that about $325 billion of these loans will default, with more than 1 million people losing their homes (Liedtke, 2007) -- but these problems are not confined to the sub-prime loan category: because sub-prime and "Alt-A" mortgages (the category immediately above sub-prime) financed 40 per cent of the housing market in 2006, "it is almost inevitable that the problems will spill over into the rest of the market" (Baker, 2007: 15). And Business Week agrees: "Subprime woes have moved far beyond the mortgage industry." It notes that at least five hedge funds have gone out of business, corporate loans and junk bonds have been hurt, and the leveraged buyout market has been hurt (Goldstein and Henry, 2007).

David Leonhardt (2007) agrees with the continuing threat to the financial industry. Discussing "adjustable rate mortgages" -- where interest rates start out low, but reset to higher rates, resulting in higher mortgage payments to the borrower -- he points out that about $50 billion of mortgages will reset during October 2007, and that this amount of resetting will remain over $30 billion monthly through September 2008. "In all," he writes," the interest rates on about $1 trillion worth of mortgages or 12 per cent of the nation's total, will reset for the first time this year or next."

Why all of this is so important is because bankers have gotten incredibly "creative" in creating new mortgages, which they sell to home buyers. Then they bundle these obligations and sell to other financial institutions and which, in turn, create new securities (called derivatives) based on these questionable new mortgages. Yes, it is basically a legal ponzi scheme, but it requires the continuous selling and buying of these derivatives to keep working: in early August 2007, however, liquidity -- especially "financial instruments backed by home mortgages" -- dried up, as no one wanted to buy these instruments (Krugman, 2007). The US Federal Research and the European Central Bank felt it necessary to pump over $100 billion into the financial markets in mid-August 2007 to keep the international economy solvent (Norris, 2007).

So, economically, this country is in terrible shape -- with no solution in sight.

On top of this -- as if all of this is not bad enough -- the Bush Administration is asking for another $481.4 billion for the Pentagon's base budget, which it notes is "a 62 per cent increase over 2001." Further, the Administration seeks an additional $93.4 billion in supplemental funds for 2007 and another $141.7 billion for 2008 to help fund the "Global War on Terror" and US operations in Iraq and Afghanistan (US Government, 2007). According to Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), in 2006, the US "defense" spending was equivalent to 46 per cent of all military spending in the world, meaning that almost more money is provided for the US military in one year than is spent by the militaries of all the other countries in the world combined (SIPRI, 2007).

And SIPRI's accounting doesn't include the $500 billion spent so far, approximately, on wars in Afghanistan and Iraq .

In short, not only have things gotten worse for American working people since 1973 -- and especially after 1982, with the imposition of neoliberal economic policies by institutions of the US Government -- but on-going Federal budget deficits, the escalating National Debt, the need to attract foreign money into US Treasuries, the financial market "meltdown" as well as the massive amounts of money being channeled to continue the Empire, all suggest that not only will intensifying social problems not be addressed, but will get worse for the foreseeable future.

4) Synopsis

This analysis provides an extensive look at the impact of neoliberal economic policies enacted in the United States on American working people. These neoliberal economic policies have been enacted as a conscious strategy by US corporate leaders and their governmental allies in both major political parties as a way to address intensifying globalization while seeking to maintain US dominance over the global political economy.

While it will be a while before anyone can determine success or failure overall of this elite strategy but, because of is global-historical perspective, sufficient evidence is already available to evaluate the affects of these policies on American working people. For the non-elites of this country, these policies have had a deleterious impact and they are getting worse. Employment data in manufacturing, worsening since 1979 but especially since 2000 (see Aronowitz, 2005), has been horrific -- and since this has been the traditional path for non-college educated workers to be able to support themselves and their families, and provide for their children, this data suggests social catastrophe for many -- see Rubin (1995), Barnes (2005), and Bageant (2007), and accounts in Finnegan (1998) and Lipper (2004) that support this -- because comparable jobs available to these workers are not being created. Thus, the problem is not just that people are losing previously stable, good-paying jobs -- as bad as that is -- but that there is nothing being created to replace these lost jobs, and there is not even a social safety net in many cases that can generally cushion the blow (see Wilson, 1996; Appelbaum, Bernhardt, and Murnane, eds., 2003).

Yet the impact of these social changes has not been limited to only blue-collar workers, although the impact has been arguably greatest upon them. The overall economic growth of the society has been so limited since 1973, and the results increasingly being unequally distributed since then, that the entire society is becoming more and more unequal: each of the four bottom quintiles -- the bottom 80 per cent of families -- has seen a decrease in the amount of family income available to each quintile between 2001-05. This not only increases inequality and resulting resentments -- including criminal behaviors -- but it also produces deleterious affects on individual and social health (Kawachi, Kennedy and Wilkinson, eds., 1999; Eitzen and Eitzen Smith, 2003). And, as shown above, this level of inequality is much more comparable internationally to "developing" countries rather than "developed" ones.

When this material is joined with material on the US budget, and especially the US National Debt, it is clear that these "problems" are not the product of individual failure, but of a social order that is increasingly unsustainable. While we have no idea of what it will take before the US economy will implode, all indications are that US elites are speeding up a run-away train of debt combined with job-destroying technology and off-shoring production, creating a worsening balance of trade with the rest of the world and a worsening current account, with an unstable housing market and intensifying militarism and an increasingly antagonistic foreign policy: it is like they are building a bridge over an abyss, with a train increasingly speeding up as it travels toward the bridge, and crucial indicators suggest that the bridge cannot be completed in time.

Whether the American public will notice and demand a radical change in time is not certain -- it will not be enough to simply slow the train down, but it must turn down an alternative track (see Albert, 2003; Woodin and Lucas, 2004; Starr, 2005) -- but it is almost certain that foreign investors will. Should they not be able to get the interest rates here available elsewhere in the "developed" parts of the world, investors will shift their investments, causing more damage to working people in the United States .

And when this economic-focused analysis is joined with an environmental one -- George Monbiot (2007) reports that the best science available argues that industrialized countries have to reduce their carbon dioxide emissions by 90 per cent by the year 2030 if we are to have a chance to stop global warming -- then it is clear that US society is facing a period of serious social instability.

5) Conclusion

This article has argued that the situation for working people in the United States, propelled by the general governmental adoption of neoliberal economic policies, is getting worse -- and there is no end in sight. The current situation and historical change have been presented and discussed. Further, an examination and analysis of directly relevant US economic policies have been presented, and there has been nothing in this analysis that suggests a radical, but necessary, change by US elected officials is in sight. In other words, working people in this country are in bad shape generally -- and it is worse for workers of color than for white workers -- and there is nothing within the established social order that suggests needed changes will be effected.

The neoliberal economic policies enacted by US corporate and government leaders has been a social disaster for increasing numbers of families in the United States .

Globalization for profit -- or what could be better claimed to be "globalization from above" -- and its resulting neoliberal economic policies have long-been recognized as being a disaster for most countries in the Global South. This study argues that this top-down globalization and the accompanying neoliberal economic policies has been a disaster for working people in northern countries as well, and most particularly in the United States .

The political implications from these findings remains to be seen. Surely, one argument is not only that another world is possible, but that it is essential.

© Kim Scipes, Ph.D.

[Kim Scipes is assistant professor of sociology , Purdue University, North Central, Westville , IN 46391. The author's web site is at http://faculty.pnc.edu/kscipes .This paper was given at the 2009 Annual Conference of the United Association for Labor Education at the National Labor College in Silver Spring , MD. It has been posted at Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal with Kim Scipes' permission.]

* * *

Note to labor educators: This is a very different approach than you usually take. While presenting a "big picture," this does not suggest what you are doing is "wrong" or "bad." What it suggests, however, is that the traditional labor education approach is too limited: this suggests that your work is valuable but that you need to put it into a much larger context than is generally done, and that it is in the interaction between your work and this that we each can think out the ways to go forward. This is presented in the spirit of respect for the important work that each of you do on a daily basis.

[Oct 01, 2017] Neoliberalism Is a Political Project

Notable quotes:
"... I've always treated neoliberalism as a political project carried out by the corporate capitalist class as they felt intensely threatened both politically and economically towards the end of the 1960s into the 1970s. They desperately wanted to launch a political project that would curb the power of labor. ..."
"... In many respects the project was a counterrevolutionary project. It would nip in the bud what, at that time, were revolutionary movements in much of the developing world ..."
"... So in that situation there was, in effect, a global threat to the power of the corporate capitalist class and therefore the question was, What to do?. The ruling class wasn't omniscient but they recognized that there were a number of fronts on which they had to struggle: the ideological front, the political front, and above all they had to struggle to curb the power of labor by whatever means possible. Out of this there emerged a political project which I would call neoliberalism. ..."
"... The ideological front amounted to following the advice of a guy named Lewis Powell . He wrote a memo saying that things had gone too far, that capital needed a collective project. The memo helped mobilize the Chamber of Commerce and the Business Roundtable. ..."
"... Ideas were also important to the ideological front. The judgment at that time was that universities were impossible to organize because the student movement was too strong and the faculty too liberal-minded, so they set up all of these think tanks like the Manhattan Institute, the Heritage Foundation, the Ohlin Foundation. These think tanks brought in the ideas of Freidrich Hayek and Milton Friedman and supply-side economics. ..."
"... This process took a long time. I think now we've reached a point where you don't need something like the Heritage Foundation anymore. Universities have pretty much been taken over by the neoliberal projects surrounding them. ..."
"... With respect to labor, the challenge was to make domestic labor competitive with global labor. One way was to open up immigration. In the 1960s, for example, Germans were importing Turkish labor, the French Maghrebian labor, the British colonial labor. But this created a great deal of dissatisfaction and unrest. ..."
"... Instead they chose the other way -- to take capital to where the low-wage labor forces were. But for globalization to work you had to reduce tariffs and empower finance capital, because finance capital is the most mobile form of capital. So finance capital and things like floating currencies became critical to curbing labor. ..."
"... At the same time, ideological projects to privatize and deregulate created unemployment. So, unemployment at home and offshoring taking the jobs abroad, and a third component: technological change , deindustrialization through automation and robotization. That was the strategy to squash labor. ..."
"... It was an ideological assault but also an economic assault. To me this is what neoliberalism was about: it was that political project ..."
"... I think they just intuitively said, We gotta crush labor, how do we do it? And they found that there was a legitimizing theory out there, which would support that. ..."
Oct 01, 2017 | www.jacobinmag.com

I've always treated neoliberalism as a political project carried out by the corporate capitalist class as they felt intensely threatened both politically and economically towards the end of the 1960s into the 1970s. They desperately wanted to launch a political project that would curb the power of labor.

In many respects the project was a counterrevolutionary project. It would nip in the bud what, at that time, were revolutionary movements in much of the developing world -- Mozambique, Angola, China etc. -- but also a rising tide of communist influences in countries like Italy and France and, to a lesser degree, the threat of a revival of that in Spain.

Even in the United States, trade unions had produced a Democratic Congress that was quite radical in its intent. In the early 1970s they, along with other social movements, forced a slew of reforms and reformist initiatives which were anti-corporate: the Environmental Protection Agency , the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, consumer protections, and a whole set of things around empowering labor even more than it had been empowered before.

So in that situation there was, in effect, a global threat to the power of the corporate capitalist class and therefore the question was, What to do?. The ruling class wasn't omniscient but they recognized that there were a number of fronts on which they had to struggle: the ideological front, the political front, and above all they had to struggle to curb the power of labor by whatever means possible. Out of this there emerged a political project which I would call neoliberalism.

BSR Can you talk a bit about the ideological and political fronts and the attacks on labor? DH The ideological front amounted to following the advice of a guy named Lewis Powell . He wrote a memo saying that things had gone too far, that capital needed a collective project. The memo helped mobilize the Chamber of Commerce and the Business Roundtable.

Ideas were also important to the ideological front. The judgment at that time was that universities were impossible to organize because the student movement was too strong and the faculty too liberal-minded, so they set up all of these think tanks like the Manhattan Institute, the Heritage Foundation, the Ohlin Foundation. These think tanks brought in the ideas of Freidrich Hayek and Milton Friedman and supply-side economics.

The idea was to have these think tanks do serious research and some of them did -- for instance, the National Bureau of Economic Research was a privately funded institution that did extremely good and thorough research. This research would then be published independently and it would influence the press and bit by bit it would surround and infiltrate the universities.

This process took a long time. I think now we've reached a point where you don't need something like the Heritage Foundation anymore. Universities have pretty much been taken over by the neoliberal projects surrounding them.

With respect to labor, the challenge was to make domestic labor competitive with global labor. One way was to open up immigration. In the 1960s, for example, Germans were importing Turkish labor, the French Maghrebian labor, the British colonial labor. But this created a great deal of dissatisfaction and unrest.

Instead they chose the other way -- to take capital to where the low-wage labor forces were. But for globalization to work you had to reduce tariffs and empower finance capital, because finance capital is the most mobile form of capital. So finance capital and things like floating currencies became critical to curbing labor.

At the same time, ideological projects to privatize and deregulate created unemployment. So, unemployment at home and offshoring taking the jobs abroad, and a third component: technological change , deindustrialization through automation and robotization. That was the strategy to squash labor.

It was an ideological assault but also an economic assault. To me this is what neoliberalism was about: it was that political project, and I think the bourgeoisie or the corporate capitalist class put it into motion bit by bit.

I don't think they started out by reading Hayek or anything, I think they just intuitively said, We gotta crush labor, how do we do it? And they found that there was a legitimizing theory out there, which would support that.

[Sep 25, 2017] I am presently reading the book JFK and the Unspeakable by James W.Douglass and it is exactly why Kennedy was assassinated by the very same group that desperately wants to see Trump gone and the rapprochement with Russia squashed

Highly recommended!
Notable quotes:
"... Although I voted for Trump, only because he was a slightly smaller POS than Hillary, it's hard to have any sympathy for him. ..."
"... The Democrats and the Deep State should have accused Israel of interfering in US elections. That would have been a credible complaint. ..."
"... Felix, Except that Israel and her deep state puppets were interfering on behalf of the democrats. ..."
"... What is happening in the U.S. is the same MO the CIA has developed over the past 64 years to create turmoil within a nation to overthrow a ruler that would not comply with the dictates of Wall Street. ..."
"... I am presently reading the book " JFK and the Unspeakable" by James W.Douglass and it is exactly why Kennedy was assassinated by the very same group that desperately wants to see Trump gone and the rapprochement with Russia squashed. ..."
"... Russia-gate - Just another weapon of mass distraction, brought to you by the liars in charge. ..."
"... David Stockman's excellent analysis makes clear that Trump doesn't know what he's doing and has appointed poor advisors, many of whom have been working against him from the start. Yet, per Stockman, "he doesn't need to be the passive object of a witch hunt." He could have and should have exposed the crimes of his accusers from the beginning, while he still had 100% support from the anti-war Right, which put him in office in the first place. He should have ignored the hysteria emanating from his enemies, and made peace with Vladimir Putin as a first order of business. Millions would have supported him. ..."
"... But, after his provocations in Syria and against Russia, which really resulted because he gave control of military decisions to uber hawk and Russia-phobic Mad Dog Mattis, his support from the anti-war crowd has all but evaporated and is unlikely to return. In other words, although he has been treated extremely unfairly by the corporate media, ultimately he has no one to blame but himself. Trump, with his endless stupid tweeting, has become a sad caricature of himself. ..."
"... When an outsider (like Trump) is elected POTUS and promises to do harm to the Pentagon, against the will of the Deep State -- the battle is on. A coup was planned against him, even before he took the oath of office. And, BTW--against the will of the people ..."
"... The Deep State bureaucracy will never let him have full control. Apparently, Obomber and Killery are running a Shadow White House, with all major decisions coming from the Deep State actors thereof. ..."
"... Killery still has her security clearance, by which she knew where the US Military would strike in Syria before Trump had any idea what was going on ..."
"... The Pentagon has seized power and does not recognize any elected or appointed power of the US government. Trump's 'power' is non-existent. If this 'soft coup' becomes a hard one, I predict all hell breaking loose in America ..."
"... "In a word, the Little Putsch in Kiev is now begetting a Great Big Coup in the Imperial City." Interesting point of view from David Stockman. Whatever happens in Washington, one can be sure there will come another provocation against Russia. ..."
"... Not the first time! "US Power Elite, at war among themselves?" https://wipokuli.wordpress.com/2012/12/07/us-powe... ..."
"... Watching from Australia what passes for domestic politics in the US within the media, reminds me of a primitive tribe reacting to a solar eclipse. They run around in hysterical fear gnashing their teeth thinking the great evil spirit has come to steal their corn, carry off their daughters, and destroy their village. ..."
Jun 26, 2017 | www.informationclearinghouse.info

Jenny G · 3 days ago

Although I voted for Trump, only because he was a slightly smaller POS than Hillary, it's hard to have any sympathy for him.

Every time he walks out on a stage clapping his hands, encouraging applause, like a daytime TV game show host, I want to puke.

I honestly don't think Trump really expected to win the presidency. And when he did, he was clueless. His "Mission Accomplished" party at the White House for a bill which would never pass the senate, was pure Dubya Bush. The orange haired POS is an embarrassment to the country.

Felix · 4 days ago
The Democrats and the Deep State should have accused Israel of interfering in US elections. That would have been a credible complaint.
follyofwar · 3 days ago
Felix, Except that Israel and her deep state puppets were interfering on behalf of the democrats.
olde reb · 3 days ago
What is happening in the U.S. is the same MO the CIA has developed over the past 64 years to create turmoil within a nation to overthrow a ruler that would not comply with the dictates of Wall Street.

Detailed in --. http://farmwars.info/?p=15338 . A FACE FOR THE SHADOW GOVERNMENT

The "ultimate goal" (according to internal memos), is to collect on the fraudulent $20 trillion national debt which will result in Wall Street owning the United States. Hello, Greece.

Guysth · 3 days ago
I am presently reading the book " JFK and the Unspeakable" by James W.Douglass and it is exactly why Kennedy was assassinated by the very same group that desperately wants to see Trump gone and the rapprochement with Russia squashed.

Peace is not in their books,war is. John Kennedy had an epiphany and was wanting to make peace with the USSR at the time, after the Cuban crisis, and this could not be allowed to happen .

Same $hit different pile.

doray · 3 days ago
Russia-gate - Just another weapon of mass distraction, brought to you by the liars in charge.
astraeaisabella · 3 days ago
https://www.strategic-culture.org/news/2011/10/25... This may seem relevant, but considering Trump's visit to SAudi Arabia and then immediately "Israel", you might find it interesting.
follyofwar · 3 days ago

David Stockman's excellent analysis makes clear that Trump doesn't know what he's doing and has appointed poor advisors, many of whom have been working against him from the start. Yet, per Stockman, "he doesn't need to be the passive object of a witch hunt." He could have and should have exposed the crimes of his accusers from the beginning, while he still had 100% support from the anti-war Right, which put him in office in the first place. He should have ignored the hysteria emanating from his enemies, and made peace with Vladimir Putin as a first order of business. Millions would have supported him.

But, after his provocations in Syria and against Russia, which really resulted because he gave control of military decisions to uber hawk and Russia-phobic Mad Dog Mattis, his support from the anti-war crowd has all but evaporated and is unlikely to return. In other words, although he has been treated extremely unfairly by the corporate media, ultimately he has no one to blame but himself. Trump, with his endless stupid tweeting, has become a sad caricature of himself.

RedRubies · 3 days ago
Stockman has only been a Congressman. They are allowed more leeway.

When an outsider (like Trump) is elected POTUS and promises to do harm to the Pentagon, against the will of the Deep State -- the battle is on. A coup was planned against him, even before he took the oath of office. And, BTW--against the will of the people, themselves.

The Deep State bureaucracy will never let him have full control. Apparently, Obomber and Killery are running a Shadow White House, with all major decisions coming from the Deep State actors thereof.

Killery still has her security clearance, by which she knew where the US Military would strike in Syria before Trump had any idea what was going on (http://headlinebits.com/2017-06-21/deep-state-hillary-clinton-staffers-still-have-security-clearances-access-to-sensitive-governmen.AlsHBgBSVVwAV1FWVwdSAwBWAg8HXQYE.html) .

You can't write an article about a 'soft coup' and NOT mention her name in connection with it!

The Pentagon has seized power and does not recognize any elected or appointed power of the US government. Trump's 'power' is non-existent. If this 'soft coup' becomes a hard one, I predict all hell breaking loose in America.

Stephen M. St. John · 3 days ago

"In a word, the Little Putsch in Kiev is now begetting a Great Big Coup in the Imperial City." Interesting point of view from David Stockman. Whatever happens in Washington, one can be sure there will come another provocation against Russia.

This will probably be the Joint Investigation Team's final word on the shootdown of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 over eastern Ukraine on 17 July 2014, not long after the little putsch in Kiev. The Joint Investigation Team relies on the Dutch Safety Board's Final Report on Flight MH17. With this report, the Dutch Safety Board has given the world a classic snow job, which I have pointed out in my critique on it. Please read it on my website at www.show-the-house.com/id119.html and share it with your elected representatives. Maybe a collective effort can head this off .

Schlüter 91p · 3 days ago
Not the first time! "US Power Elite, at war among themselves?" https://wipokuli.wordpress.com/2012/12/07/us-powe...
Dick · 3 days ago
Watching from Australia what passes for domestic politics in the US within the media, reminds me of a primitive tribe reacting to a solar eclipse. They run around in hysterical fear gnashing their teeth thinking the great evil spirit has come to steal their corn, carry off their daughters, and destroy their village.

Emotional ignorance and blindness to the rational reality will only lead to more tears.

[Sep 24, 2017] How Sony, Obama, Seth Rogen and the CIA Secretly Planned to Force Regime Change in North Korea by Tim Shorrock

Highly recommended!
Notable quotes:
"... The U.S., he warned in a recent speech on Capitol Hill that I attended, must deliver Kim a simple message: "We know the only thing you care about is your regime's survival. Either denuclearize or we will take actions politically to destabilize your regime." His talk was a basic primer for this "uprising" from within, which is exactly what the Bush administration sought in Iraq when it invaded in 2003. ..."
"... K-Pop, the South Korean musical genre that's popular around the world, could be another weapon: "It's acidic as far the regime is concerned." And commercials about South Korean life planted in DVDs smuggled into the North "would be terrible for Kim Jong-un." ..."
"... The purpose of the operation, he said, is to convince the people of the DPRK that their "paranoid" leader is not a "god," and to plant the idea that his country is unstable: "If that's in his mind, it will affect his behavior." In short, a psy-op. ..."
"... Why Bennett? His official biography states that he has worked for the Office of the Secretary of Defense, U.S. Forces in South Korea and Japan, the U.S. Pacific Command as well as the South Korean and Japanese militaries. According an email he wrote to Sony's Lynton in 2014, he got his start in Asia as a Mormon missionary to Japan and began working on Korea in 1989 "at the request of the Pentagon." By 2014, he said, he had made over 100 trips to South Korea to advise the U.S. Army and senior South Korean military personnel "on how to deter North Korea." Even though he has never been to the DPRK, he bases his knowledge of the country on his "extensive interviews with senior North Korean defectors." ..."
"... The film allegedly sparked North Korea to hack Sony and leak thousands of internal Sony emails. North Korea also warned the Obama administration not to allow the film to be released, branding it "an act of terrorism." So, when Bennett invited questions at his congressional briefing, I asked him: what was his involvement in The Interview , and did he thin