A Thumbnail Political Bestiary

A Thumbnail Political Bestiary … and a weird, 1960s almost happened!

I want to tell you about an almost-happened trend that once seemed unstoppable and that might have changed everything, but that was veered away-from so thoroughly that it is almost-forgotten.

But first, I keep being asked for a CHART of American politics, as I see it. Let me start with something simple, based on a metaphor I despise. The left-right axis.

== litmus tests? ==

Can a machine tell whether you are liberal or conservative? A topic that’s been much circulated, lately, including on this very blog, a few postings ago.

Want an even better way to predict political leanings? How about hypocrisy: many of the states that received the most federal recovery aid to cope with climate-linked extreme weather have federal legislators who are climate-science deniers. The 10 states that received the most federal recovery aid in FY 2011 and 2012 elected 47 climate-science deniers to the Senate and the House. Nearly two-thirds of the senators from these top 10 recipient states voted against granting federal emergency aid to New Jersey and New York after Superstorm Sandy.

Liberal-Letist-libertarianWant the thumbnail political bestiary? Because some of you asked for one… and fully aware that I often rail against oversimplification and the stupid, lobotomizing left-right “axis…” here goes.

(Note, I have an even better 3-D model here.)

A True “Leftist” wants the world remade for the better… but primarily through allocation of resources by state bureaucrats. Coercion may be necessary. Cooperation = good, even if it must be enforced. Competition is inherently suspect.

A “rightist” wants the same coercive allocation of resources done by an even narrower clade of secretive “deciders”… aristocratic owner oligarch Lords — the cartel of 10,000 golf buddies who appoint each other onto interlocking corporate directorates. Rightists ignore that owner-oligarchy oppressed humanity for 6000 years, crushing markets, freedom and competition in 99% of human cultures, far more often than bureaucrats ever did. If it’s private, it must be sacred. Hence they, too, despise fair and flat and open competition, even despite claiming to love it. They are the truest enemies of open-fair markets.

I despise both kinds of competition-destroying tyranny. Americans used to be able to turn their heads and see Big Brother looming in varied directions… till culture war stiffened our necks to face only, insipidly, left or right. I despised communism and the USSR… and I worry about the seemingly inevitable return of truly massive left-wing radicalism…

…but it is the return of feudal owner-lordship that’s looming right now, with wealth disparities skyrocketing to French Revolution levels. And their propaganda machine smears anyone who opposes the current putsch, calling even mild objectors “leftist.” Hence, they do not want anyone reading Adam Smith anymore, who denounced owner-oligarchy.

There are two other major zones in U.S. politics. “Liberals” are the true heirs of Adam Smith… (whom most historians rightly call “the first liberal”)… though millions mistakenly believe liberals are “leftist-lite.”

leftist-liberal-brinThey are not! Leftists want to equalize *outcomes*. Liberals want to equalize the *starting blocks* so that all children get everything they need (health, food education) so that they can then… compete! As Adam Smith called for. There is a huge difference! And were Adam Smith around today today he would be a democrat.

Finally there are libertarians. But they come in many sub-flavors. I consider myself a Smithian/Heinleinian libertarian, who believes devoutly in individualism and creative competition on a flat and transparent playing field. But that makes me a heretic to the Rothbardist-Randian fanatics who have taken over much of the movement and who actually think that oligarchs are friends of flat-open-creative capitalism. Something that has never, ever been true.

Freedom-Fest-2014Hah! I shall speak of this at Freedom Fest in July when I will stand up for Smithian/Heinleinian Libertarianism! If I am lynched or otherwise disposed of, you’ll know how far the freedom movement has drifted…

There. I gave it a shot. A capsule summary of why those denouncing the lying-evil treason being foisted on us by Rupert Murdoch are not “leftists.” They are Americans. More can by found at: http://tinyurl.com/polimodels

In fact though? To hell with the lobotomizing “left right axis!” We should be negotiating with nuance, like adults.

=One of the biggest obsessions and might-have-beens that you never heard-of=

Now this is going to be obscure. I know lots of economists and such, and only the very oldest of them remember what was once the top concern discussed in every business journal, decades ago.

UNION-PENSION-FUNDS“Centralisation of the means of production and socialisation of labour at last reach a point where they become incompatible with their capitalist integument. Thus integument is burst asunder. The knell of capitalist private property sounds. The expropriators are expropriated.” – Das Kapital

UNION-PENSION-FUNDSIt is almost forgotten today. But books and books were written about a “problem” when I was young. In the 1970s, capitalists were terrified by the fact that Union Pension funds seemed to be the main accumulating pools of capital — and by 2020 workers would — in effect — own the means of production.

Even around 1965 there were countless papers declaring it “obvious.” Amid much hand-wringing, the punditry caste – especially William F. Buckley – discussed how it seemed inevitable that corporate capital would thus be majority “owned” by the workers, though not via Karl Marx’s revolution or expropriation. Rather, through an organic and natural process of regulated savings.

Some saw this as a good thing, potentially ending the class system forever! Especially since it would happen “fair and square,” with all stockholders seeing their shares bought by those pension funds at fair market value, with no real losers. No expropriation of wealth from the alread-rich. Just a working class getting steadily richer.

Others saw the prospect as a disaster… for exactly the same reasons… and began planning ways to change the rules and system, so that the looming threat would go away. They began by banning the pension funds from participating much in control over the companies they invested in, or unions from giving orders to their pension funds. There were some sound reasons… and others were just rationalizations to keep control in the hands of major individual stockholders.

I believe much of the Reagan “revolution” was specifically targeted to end that dire threat… through the quelling of unions, the underfunding of pensions, the empowerment of nested shell-ownership, and the vast tsunami of tax largesse to the top aristocracy via “supply side” voodoo. And they succeeded, which is historically unsurprising.

What I do find mind-boggling is that not even one pundit today ever mentions this reversal of what was once seen as an inevitable, unstoppable trend toward a Rooseveltean-style “soft socialism” that would owe zilch to either Marx or revolution, and that would be just as capitalist, only with worker ownership the norm.

How weird that even top economists scratch their heads when I mention this… before a light of dawning memory shows in their eyes (the older ones, that is) and they say… “oh… yeah, that was something we used to talk a lot about, wasn’t it!”

It was once topic #1, much discussed in the 1960s and 1970s. Now gone from the mind. Weird, huh?

3 Comments

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3 responses to “A Thumbnail Political Bestiary

  1. I wouldn’t have a problem with union ownership of the company if it arose from free and voluntary association in the union and unforced purchasing of shares. The failure of companies controlled by incompetent union leaders, and the success of companies controlled by competent union leaders, would have simply been a part of the creative destruction that is integral to capitalism’s proper functioning.

    Free market capitalism is entirely compatible with the workers owning the means of production, it just won’t cut them any slack if they run it into the ground.

    I am a naturally optimistic person so I suspect this union ownership would have mitigated the irrational antagonism toward business that was a key factor in the decline of unions over the last few decades. Far too often, it seemed like those running the union were negotiating at least as much to punish the company as support the workers.

  2. No one with even a cursory acquaintance with the history of labor relations in the US could think that union “antagonism toward business” was irrational.

  3. Pingback: Notes on Peter Boghossian | Views from Medina Road

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