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Rent party

[Welcome naked capitalism readers. - BDBlue]

[I'm happy with this post, and I want some responses, so, dammit, I'm going to sticky it. Note that the implicit programme listed toward the end could fit happily with our meetup project. -- lambert]

Put this up on the fridge, if you still have a fridge. Ian nicely captures a lot of what we at the third pole in American politics have been groping toward:

Falling_Safe_Royalty_Free_Clipart_Picture_090202-140463-810048The bottom line in America today is that while everyone who isn’t paid not to know [for example], knows how to fix what’s wrong with America (for example, instead of the mess called Health Care Reform, pass single payer), nothing that really fixes anything fundamental will be allowed to occur.

America is controlled by what economists call rent-seeking behaviour. Virtually everyone important has a revenue stream, and they don’t want anyone to take that revenue stream away. So pharma and insurance companies, who would have been damaged badly by single payer (they would have lost hundreds of billions) made sure that a plan to provide everyone with better health care for a third less than current costs was never even considered.

The most important game in America today is the contest for control of government, so that government can directly or indirectly give you money. Health care “reform” in which the government decided to force Americans to buy private health insurance or be fined is merely the latest (and most blatant) example. Virtually every industry, from finance to telecom to agriculture is involved in this game. It is in all their interests to make sure the game continues, but they do fight amongst each other for the spoils.

This game will continue until the US can no longer afford it. Indeed, even now, some industries are taking it on the chin, loosing out to their better connected cousins. For example, the current downturn has seen the prison-industrial complex losing ground. They get most of their money from State governments, and the States simply cannot afford to keep locking up so many people at so much cost.

This is the downward spiral of a great power in senescence. It ends in collapse, reformation or revolution, when it becomes clear that the rents of the Ancien Regime can no longer be afforded, and too many of those who were bought off are thrown off their dole.

The Tea Partiers, however misguided they may be in many respects, have been thrown off the dole. Whatever they are called, they will not be going away.

So what is to be done? I have to rush off into RL, so the rest will be only semi-coherent, but:

I guess what I've been trying to say -- and here we can get into all sorts of class disclosure, since I still have more assets than billions of people, am petit bourgeois by upbringing, though not in my productive relations, enjoy gonadal privileges, and all that, so discount as you will -- goes something like the following:

1. The legacy parties are only about redistributing rent streams among elites. Period.* (No, the parties were not always only about (re-)directing rent. In regimes under the spoils system or "honest graft," "everybody got a share," as Milo Minderbinder would say. The Civil Rights Act wasn't only about rental streams, even if watching Jesse Jackson, Jr. you might not think so.)

2. If we built the record of where the Overton Window gets slammed shut on the left or the right, I'd bet the "set point" would be exactly where rents get distributed elsewhere than elites (the left: single payer; the right: abolishing the Fed).

3. As Ian says, the system of rents is not sustainable. Collapse, reformation or revolution will come.

4. I don't see where a revolution** will come from, and I don't see (after HCR) where reform will come from. So, collapse (Greenland; Iceland). We can't know when collapse will come. The collapse could be soon, it could be later, it could be serial (cf. Matthew 24:36); our rentiers are nothing if not resourceful in using our their government to extract blood from our bodies. (I'd bet the Dems have pumped enough of our blood into the zombie banking system so that collapse won't happen before the 2010 midterms, and maybe not until after 2012, as long as the elites don't panic and turn on each other.)

5. Taking the 13% who think that Obama's health care proposal isn't liberal*** enough as a (perhaps slightly underestimated) proxy for the strength of liberalism, I don't think we have the power to affect the country's trajectory. If, as Ian said, the only fight that matters now is the fight for the government, that's a fight we can't win. We don't have the numbers, and we don't have the money.

6. That's why the opportunity cost, for us, of investing in the legacy parties is unacceptable, even leaving aside values: Incremental gains (again, see HCR) won't protect us from collapse anyhow, and prevent us from creating more resilient systems that will protect us. Blogging is important in this context to (a) set the record straight, (b) develop relations among the like-minded, and (c) share thoughts and ideas.

7. Although new ideas, new forms of discourse, and resilient systems have no value in the pre-collapse context, they will have great value in a post-collapse context (see, again, Stirling).

8. The idea of "happiness" is very important. Rent seeking behavior brings happiness to nobody (not even our corrupt and perverse elites). Do you want to keep being unhappy? Why?

9. The Buddhist idea of "merit" is very important. Policies and values that I/we support may not come to be, as collapse plays out, until after I'm/we're dead and gone. That doesn't mean there's not merit in pushing for them. This perspective will apply particularly in the coming imposition of "entitlement reform." For my generation, it's going to be important to frame discourse not as "I paid for it, I want it" (even though that is true under the deal O'Neill cut with Reagan) but in terms of what's best for the new world that is to come. (It's not a coincidence that Obama tried to buy off the youth with a single payer student loan system; I'm betting that enough of them see being on their parent's insurance policy until the age of 26 under HCR as a sign of something seriously wrong anyhow, so Obama's spoils distribution will have little impact. And, after all, they'll still be in debt.) Importantly, violence is without merit.

10. Many small drops make a tide. Even the 13% can make a difference en masse by removing themselves from as many rental relationships as possible.

This post may strike some as quietist, pessimistic, or even defeatist. In fact, I think it's exactly the opposite of all three!

And now, if you've come this far, the flip side ...

NOTE * I should qualify this with the idea that elected representatives from the legacy parties who are "small time" enough not to see their positions as the equivalent of unpaid internships in the system of rents aren't subject to these strictures. But the spectacle of Kucinich -- liberalism's supposed baseline at the national level -- actually whipping the House floor for an HCR bill he'd opposed in principle only one day before Obama left a pony's head in his bed -- should open everyone's eyes to the rot at the national level.

NOTE ** I realize I'm discounting the growth of the Tea Partiers as an authentic and effective fascist movement. That's because:

1. I see a lot of OFB pushing the idea, but I don't see it locally. I realize my state is not all states -- MI is different from MA is different from ME is different from MS -- but since the press and the access bloggers are totally instrumental and untrustworthy in their reportage, I need to see some signs of it, on the ground, where I am.

2. I grant that Versailles is pushing a conflict between the Dems and the tea partiers as a ratchet effect tactic, and there's no reason to think that Versailles won't try to make the conflict as vicious and evil as necessary to allow our elites to continue to live in the style to which they have become accustomed, but I'm not sure that the baseline level of hate against a single target is present. Unlike Germany in the 1930s, which had a compact land mass, a reasonably homogenous population, and the single target of the Jews, the United States in 2010 is continental in scope, has a wildly various population, and no single target for hate.**** Where's the critical mass of people who'll target one single enemy as the new Jews? Yes, blacks, gays, women, liberals are certainly all hated by fractions of the populace, but that varies by generation, geography, age... So how do those fractions get welded into a whole? Maybe I'm just wildly optimistic, but I don't see it. (I'd also argue that the society in which another authentically fascist movement, the KKK, flourished was a lot more like Germany in the 1930s than the United States today.)

3. These thoughts are distinct from the idea that the United States has become corporatist, and also distinct from the realization that new powers of surveillance and social control have been putting us in "lobster in the pot" mode for some time. There won't be camps. There might be ankle bracelets, internal passports, and drones. Look! Over there! Teabaggers!

NOTE *** Whatever "liberal" might mean. Not "progressive," certainly. That bed can't be unshat.

NOTE ON NOTE *** Joseph Cannon critiques this:

You are foolish to think that a "baseline level of hate against a single target" is necessary.... Amorphous enemies will do. So will multiple enemies. In fact, the enemies were both amorphous and multiple in Germany; you misread German history.

That's why the Reichstag fire hoax targeted socialists, not Jews. That's why the concentration camps held lefties before they held Jews. That's why Klaus Barbie rounded up Freemasons. ... There will be a baseline level of hate against an ever-shifting number of ill-defined targets. That will be the true danger of the thing.

I need to reread my Richard Evans, but I think Cannon has the right of it on the history -- if not the parallels. I'm reading the holocaust back into history, instead of seeing how history accelerated into the holocaust. My bad.

UPDATE The Move Your Money idea needs to be generalized; don't just move your money, move everything you can!

UPDATE One could view this entire post as validating the concept of inequity aversion.

UPDATE Minor copy editing tweaks, in honor of our NC readers.

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Tony Wikrent's picture
Submitted by Tony Wikrent on

of which a preview was in my comment last week. This past weekend, while peddling my books at a show at the fair grounds in Timonium, Md, I expanded on my analysis of Plouffe and Obama, here.

My thinking at this point is that there are a select few of us who are willing to devote ourselves to mastering the topics of economics and statecraft to better understand the concepts of the general welfare and the common good that will have to guide us once the recovery phase from the breakdown begins. That means that we have to take a long term view, of five to twenty years (or beyond our own lifetimes as you suggest) of building a political movement able to challenge and defeat the status quo. The history of the Non-Partisan League suggest that sometimes, when economic injustice is so severe and so widespread that there is mass discontent, this organizing process becomes explosive. The NPL gathered over 60,000 members in less than a year - in a state of only 600,000 souls. But note that the NPL had a very specific program, of specific economic policy proposals, that readily attracted the support of North Dakota's farmers. Such specific economic policies are largely absent right now; instead, we get the embarrassing insanity of the "top ten progressive issues" at

The problem now is that the knowledge of actual economics is just beginning to spread, in response to the financial crises and resulting economic squeeze. How many people right now even understand what Ian writes about economic rent-seeking behavior? Only once such concepts become widely diffuse, do we reach the essential pre-conditions in which real change is possible (and note that I will not write "assured").

Those select few of us willing to do this must become, in effect, the lecturers deployed by the Farmers Alliances in the 1880s, and the Non-Partisan League in the 1910s. Right now, we must do it without the benefit of a formal organization that allows us to devote ourselves to the task full time. In the meantime, I think Jeff Roby has a good idea, though I would favor revising his proposed platform to focus solely on economics. The experiences of both the Farmers Alliances and the Non-Partisan League shows that a legacy party can be taken over working at the local level, while the experience of the Farmers Alliances also shows the pitfalls and dangers of trying to get beyond a legacy party through building a genuine third party. For now, I am not persuaded that a third party is either feasible or useful in the American polity. Small victories can be had the local level, which can lead, hopefully, to a cumulative effect at the national level. That is exactly what the Obama campaign achieved, which is what makes it infuriating that Plouffe and Obama were not really interested in changing the status quo of rent-seeking behavior (see my comment linked to above).

Last year I became a precinct leader in my local Democratic Party. For what it's worth, here are some resolutions that I was able to introduce and get passed at a precinct meeting of ten people:

Cheeks Precinct Resolution in Support of an Independent Regulator of the Financial Markets and Banking System

Cheeks Precinct Resolution in Support of Rep. DeFazio’s Proposed "H.R. 4191: Let Wall Street Pay for the Restoration of Main Str

Once I had introduced these, I was asked to explain them. They were then passed unanimously. This unleashed an interesting dynamic: the other nine people then clamored to also write and pass a resolution on health care. I brought up single payer, but people did not want to go that far. That's fine - the important thing, I think, is that people were beginning to assert themselves at the local level - what Lawrence Goodwyn writes about in his important book The Populist Moment, as "the achievement of a heretofore culturally unsanctioned level of social analysis."

Cheeks precinct resolution on Health Care Reform

gqmartinez's picture
Submitted by gqmartinez on

More like 5. I believe a real leader of a non-legacy party movement can win in 2012. The mood is ripe. In 2006 and 2008, the GOP lost over 50 house seats and 20 Senate seats. They also lost the majority of governors and state legislatures. GOP conservativism was a FAIL and was roundly rejected. Of that, there is no question (Obama won fucking Virginia!).

There is a massive growing anger at the Dems. But that should not be confused with a desire to run to the GOP. But right now, the GOP is the only alternative to express their disgust. This is why I think voting "none of the above" rather than abstaining is important. Its a show of dissatisfaction, not indifference--we *want* to vote, just have no one to vote for.

Tony Wikrent's picture
Submitted by Tony Wikrent on

because the basic oligarchical (hierarchical nature) of the South was never changed; the structure of control simply took on new forms. (It just so happens I scanned some of this in order to use it for what I'm writing on the populist movement.)

In the 1880s, William H. Skaggs served as mayor of Mayor of Talladega in his late twenties, and crated the municipal water system, the fire department, and the public school system . He later served as president of Bank of Talladega, before apparently fleeing the South to become a lawyer in Chicago. In 1924, he wrote, The Southern Oligarchy: An Appeal in Behalf of the Silent Masses of Our Country against the Despotic Rule of the Few

The Slave Oligarchy was a landed aristocracy. This aristocracy not only directed all governmental policies, but it also : ruled with an iron hand in the commercial and financial affairs of the Southern States. It was not only imperious in fixing the social status in the South, but its power was absolute in a country where the whole civic and economic system was built on the institution of slavery. This imperialism was not only undemocratic in theory and practice but it was not even republican in form.

The great social and economic revolution following the war brought about not only a great increase in the number of tenants engaged in cultivation of cotton, but also a radical change in the relation of landlord and tenant. So long as the laborers engaged in production of cotton were a part of the chattel estate of the planter, it was not necessary for the landlord to exploit his labor. After the bondsman was given not only his freedom, but, practically at the same time, also vested with all the civic and political rights of a citizen, equal under the letter of the law to his former master, the landlord no longer had a sentimental or pecuniary interest in the laborer who worked his fields.

When the landlord no longer owned the laborer on his farm it became necessary for him to divide authority in order to control the newly emancipated labor. This division was one of the
great economic changes that has so seriously affected the social and political status of the South. The landed aristocracy ceased. to exist as an' absolute political and economic power, and in its
place there has grown up a triumvirate made up of the land-lord, the money lender and the lawyer.

After emancipation, the resources of the landlord were so greatly reduced, and there followed so many changes in ownership, that it became necessary to call in the assistance of the money lender, and, as a matter of course, the landlord and the money lender needed the services of the lawyer; not only in making laws in the interest of the landlord, but also in taking care that the laws were so enforced as to control the labor and perpetuate the economic and political power of the new dynasty.

Goodwyn provides a vivid description of the new economic and financial structures that perpetuated the Southern oligarchy:

These conditions really illuminated the potential support for the agrarian revolt because they caused thousands to flee to the frontier and armed those who remained with a fervent desire to join the movement when it eventually swept through their region. Further, these conditions were so pervasive in their impact, shaping in demeaning detail the daily options of millions of Southerners, that they constituted a system that ordered life itself.

The "system" was the crop lien system. It defined with brutalizing finality not only the day-to-day existence of most Southerners who worked the land, but also the narrowed possibilities of their entire lives. Both the literal meaning and the ultimate dimension of the crop lien were visible in simple scenes occurring daily, year after year, decade after decade, in every village of every Southern state. Acted out at a thousand merchant counters in the South after the Civil War, these scenes were so ubiquitous that to describe one is to convey a sense of them all. The farmer, his eyes downcast, and his hat sometimes literally in his hand, approached the merchant with a list of his needs. The man behind the counter consulted a ledger, and after a mumbled exchange, moved to his shelves to select the goods that would satisfy at least a part of his customer's wants. Rarely did the farmer receive the range of items or even the quantity of one item he had requested. No money changed hands; the merchant merely made brief notations in his ledger. Two weeks or a month later, the farmer would return, the consultation would recur, the mumbled exchange and the careful selection of goods would ensue, and new additions would be noted in the ledger. From early spring to late fall the ritual would be enacted until, at "settlin'-up" time, the farmer and the merchant would meet at the local cotton gin, where the fruits of a year's toil would be ginned, bagged, tied, weighed, and sold. At that moment, the farmer would learn what his cotton had brought. The merchant, who had possessed title to the crop even before the farmer had planted it, then consulted his ledger for a final time. The accumulated debt for the year, he informed the farmer, exceeded the income received from the cotton crop. The farmer had failed in his effort to "pay out" - he still owed the merchant a remaining balance for the supplies "furnished" on credit during the year. The "furnishing merchant" would then announce his intention to carry the farmer through the winter on a new account, the latter merely having to sign a note mortgaging to the merchant the next year's crop. The lien signed, the farmer, empty- handed, climbed in his wagon and drove home, knowing that for the second or fifth or fifteenth year he had not paid out.

In the 1870s and on, attempting to escape the crop lien system and a life of debt peonage, hundreds of thousands abandoned the old South and moved to what was then the frontier in Texas, Arkansas, and Oklahoma. It was in Texas that in September 1877 a group of farmers in Lampasas County, Texas banded together to attempt a “cooperative” effort at buying and selling, and – get this – to educate themselves. For two years, this “Farmer’s Alliance” quietly studied and spread to surrounding counties, until there were 120 of them. But, local merchants and bankers refused to deal with the cooperatives, and their most devastating weapon was to deny credit to the Farmers Alliances. By 1883, the movement was dying off, with only 30 Alliances represented at a state-wide meeting.

The denial of credit forced the Alliance members to begin to question the basic arrangements of the financial and monetary system. In late 1883, the Farmers Allliances of Texas hired a 36-year old firebrand from Alabama, S.O. Daws, as a Traveling Lecturer.

Daws traveled far and wide, denouncing credit merchants, railroads, trusts, the money power, and capitalists. The work-worn men and barefooted women who gathered to hear the Alliance lecturer were not impressive advertisements for the blessings of the crop lien or the gold standard. Such audiences did not require detailed proof of the evils of the two-price credit system and the other sins of the furnishing merchants. They had known "hard times" all their lives. But Daws could climax his recitation of exploitation with a call for a specific act: join the Alliance and form trade stores. Were monopolistic trusts charging exorbitant prices for fertilizers and farm implements? Join the Alliance and form cooperative buying committees. Did buyers underweigh the cotton, overcharge for sampling, inspecting, classifying and handling? Join the Alliance and form your own cotton yard.

What began to happen, as the farmers struggled to get their cooperatives up and running, only to be stymied by the lack of credit, was that the entire national system of creating and allocating credit and money came under intense scrutiny and examination by people whom were not supposed to concern themselves with such matters.

I think the same phenomena will begin to happen in the next few years, as millions of people in their twenties and thirties, unable to make the same economic headway as their parents, and struggling with more debt than any previous generation in American history, will begin to ask themselves and each other: why? The answer, of course, is because the American economy and polity is organized to protect and serve various usurious and rent-seeking interests and groups, rather than the national interest. It will take time for people to study these issues and reach the proper conclusions (if at all). That is why I give a time frame if five to twenty years.

But at the same time, there will be some very threatening developments. The economic forces propelled by indebtedness and insolvency will have an increasingly disruptive effect, especially on the state level. The five most populous states, California, Texas, New York, Florida, and Illinois, account for just under 40% of U.S. population and total GDP. All five of these states are in severe budgetary and financial distress, both because of the economic collapse, but also because of huge, unfunded federal mandates. As the budgetary and financial troubles of these states worsen, there will be increasing tension over the issue of federal mandates that will feed an increasing desire to “go our own way.” The pressures created for fracturing the national government will become dangerously high. It will be a race between spreading an understanding of the basic economic knowledge to understand the monetary and financial arrangements that are oppressing people and their aspirations, and the cumulative build up of separatist forces that could destroy the Union.

okanogen's picture
Submitted by okanogen on

Thanks for this Tony.

I would like to learn more about the farmer's coop movements, also the birth of credit unions. Both of these seem like models to examine.

For example SBA loans are a total racket, they are guaranteed against default by the federal government (meaning the bank can't lose, only you as a taxpayer lose), at a fixed, rather high rate (guaranteeing the bank a nice rent), have guaranteed loan origination fees (rent) and have so many covenants and restrictions beyond just being current on your loan, including requirements to maintain certain additional types of insurance (rent), that you can easily have your loan called just due to having a bad quarter.

However, regardless if it is foreclosed or not, the SBA loan system is a racket designed to allow banks to make money off small businesses, with all risks assumed by the federal government*. Due to the availability of the program, there is no capital available to small businesses. How could anybody (even a credit union or coop) lend to small businesses if they have competitors who can lend risk free?

I'm not an economist, but the way I look at it is that it isn't credit, or capital per se which are "evil", credit allows people to survive while creating something which will some time sustain itself, but not now (i.e. like planting a crop). Capital is just a catchall for that which is or can be credited, whether it is equipment, money, whatever. The evil is the combination of government and corporations steering all towards their friends/benefactors and rigging the game so that only those chosen few can possibly benefit. The vampire squid analogy would be even more apt if it was a symbiotic parasite. In other words a parasite that requires its symbiotic relationship with another entity to survive. In this case, (certain) corporations require a symbiotic relationship with the government in order to parasitically feed on basically everything else. The relationship between these corporations and the government had been mutually beneficial (mutualism), but the reason for the upcoming collapse is that all of the blood has already been drained from "everything else" and the parasite (corporation) is now turning on it's formerly mutually benefited partner (government).

*Gee, where have we heard that before?

madamab's picture
Submitted by madamab on

the anger is real and it's directed at Democrats and "libruls," since the wingnuts can't tell the difference, and don't want to. (I've heard this many times from righties, at least. They don't do distinctions among perceived enemies.)

I point you towards Chatblu's report on the ground from the red state of Florida.

We are going right, right, right...down the tubes.

nihil obstet's picture
Submitted by nihil obstet on

Sinclair Lewis wrote, "When fascism comes to America, it will be wrapped in the flag and carrying the cross."

I don't think the same level of violence would be necessary in the U.S. as was in Germany. The Germans had a much stronger push back against Nazism, through trade unions, communists, and an active civil life. Furthermore, an overwhelming proportion of the men had military experience that consisted of more than vicarious identification with our boys on TV, and they were willing to use it in the streets (both sides). In the U.S., there are no strong organizations except corporations. The rest have fallen victims to the individualist consumer self-identification, and few Americans are really willing to risk their personal safety.

Meanwhile, propaganda works. At a Drinking Liberally session in my town several weeks ago, I commented on the efforts to cut social security. One of the young people, who sees herself as a committed liberal, argued that "We've got to do something about the deficit." She was convinced that "we" don't have money for social programs. She really worked at convincing me how important deficit reduction is, and stopped only when a laptop was used to bring up information on Social Security's soundness. She was astonished. And this is a relatively high-info, high-public-minded individual. Sigh! Anyway . . .

The continued looting of the country will not be met with organized resistance. Instead, there'll be withdrawal of consent and refusal to follow the civic codes that make a society possible, so we'll have a Soviet Union style collapse.

As far as the force that is necessary for the elites to continue, they've already rescinded habeas corpus, have asserted the right to imprison indefinitely, and to kill upon executive order. So the American president has stronger legal powers than virtually any dictator you can name. And as for the enemy? Islam is a God-send for these people. Get your flag and your cross.

okanogen's picture
Submitted by okanogen on

No major flaws in this post.

The key to negatively impacting rentiers is to reduce paying them rent. Unfortunately for the tea partiers, they are only about reducing one kind: taxes. Even then, they are only about reducing anything non-military.

There are plenty of rents, some are direct, some are avoidable, some are not.

With reduction being the best we can hope for (without completely going off grid), here is how I've reduced mine:

First, I cashed out my IRA, 401K, etc.. I did that because investing the money in my own business would have the largest beneficial impact on my and my family's life. If I was in a salaried job, I would direct all matching contributions out of stocks and into guaranteed fixed rate of returns like T-bills. Stocks just feed the monkey. This is damn easy.

Second, I've reduced all credit cards to the minimum possible (while still running a small business). I keep all balances at the minimum possible (again). It is tough to run a small business without credit. Actually, it's impossible, but reducing it as much as you can is all you can do. This is not easy.

Third, I no longer contribute to political parties and/or even individual politicians. I have learned my lesson.... This is damn easy.

Fourth, no fast food (okay, some times I slip). I also make sure that my employees on the road frequent small joints/restaurants rather than chains or fast food. It's a culture thing, it's impossible to work on the road without eating out and it's a compromise. Not easy, but not real difficult either.

Fifth (related), local produce/farmer's markets, coops and local groceries over Whole Foods Nation, Trader Joe's etc.. This is damn easy.

Sixth, no more subscriptions to magazines/mainstream media. This is damn easy and sure cuts down the clutter.

Seventh, I now think it is imperative to reduce my taxes (and those paid by my employees) as much as possible, the government is determined to not have my best interests in mind. Until such time as that changes, why not "starve the beast"? Not easy, not impossible (always legal!).

Eighth, information is key, I am investing in all sorts of training for my family and subsidizing classes for my employees. This includes advanced wilderness first aid, and (non-violent) survival training such as edible plants, etc.. The first aid is applicable to our work anyway.

Ninth, reducing energy consumption is key. This is the largest bit of direct rent we pay, as it is incorporated in everything we do, from potable water to heating/cooling, food, etc..

Tenth, education is the flip side of information. I am now determined to (rather than bite my tongue), expand on my political/social viewpoint rather than avoid argument. But always with the view of educating people with opposing viewpoints, whether they are Republican/right wing or not. Interestingly, it is Republicans who are least dismissive, either personally or wholesale. We both agree that Obama-ism (if we can call the current "progressiveism" that), is bankrupt both intellectually and spiritually.

okanogen's picture
Submitted by okanogen on

It's the new think globally.

AKA, "your tax-deferred until age 55, or 65, or 75, or whenever we tell you Roth IRA and corporate 401K plan with guaranteed stock option not redeemable on the open market, and only sellable back to your employer following leaving our employment* won't get you into guaranteed comfortable retirement without having to sell fries to your pimpled great grandkids anymore blues"

*and should we pull an Enron, well gee, why didn't you diversify!!????

PS, If anybody has some concrete ideas of thwarting the upcoming corporate mandate or any other rent, please let me know.

Kick Baucus to the curb's picture
Submitted by Kick Baucus to ... on

This is a very good post you have written.

Yes, rent's two parties are going to take us all down. I don't think the tea party v. Socialist conflict needs to be sharpened into a targeted hate group when a diffuse chaos will suffice. The orchestrated fight distracts from uniting behind any policies from either side that would help ordinary people or stop the downward spiral. Large numbers say they've lost faith in both parties. I believe the unpartied are already a majority, but the media can prevent that realization, because to realize ordinary citizens have lost faith in both parties places blame on the government system instead of the people. By getting people to fight each other, the two-party booty delivery contest continues. They win, even after we are the first post-capitalist, fourth world nation. Ought to be interesting.

Submitted by Lex on

I'd like to second nihil obstet in predicting the trajectory. Think the Soviet collapse and Russia in the 90's.

There's danger from the right, just as there was danger from the right during and after the Soviet collapse, but a continental nation is too big for that kind of fascist totalitarianism without consent. (The Soviet Union is not really a counter example, given the historical changes between then and now.) A whole lot of the current batch of right wing protesters won't be so enamored with rugged individualism when they're not collecting a government check for bitching about the government.

Sporadically violent it almost certainly will be, but organized crime will fill the void left by a state with alacrity. Organized crime is not a fan of random violence, because, like the state, random violence means that no one is in control.

You're right, lambert. What needs to be done is to consciously prepare for the collapse in a proactive manner. This is actually the facet that scares me because this is where the Russian comparison falls apart. The average Soviet citizens spent the better part of their lives working around the system; they were prepared for not having a system because they always knew that the system did not serve them. The dacha gardens of Russians are a prime example. A Soviet citizen would be hard pressed to eat decently without supplementing the diet with home produce. When the system that was supposed to feed them (but hadn't been functioning for a long time) failed outright, they simply turned to what they'd been doing all along.

There's also the matter of no Russian getting utilities turned off or kicked out of their homes for nonpayment; that was a huge stabilizing factor which the US lacks.

The danger then is millions of people who think that they're "middle class" or entitled to full shelves and disposable income finding out that they are, in fact, broke and will soon be hungry. It could turn into an orgy of self destruction...unless there are models and examples of preparedness.

And i fully expect a break up of the US.

dr sardonicus's picture
Submitted by dr sardonicus on

Virtually everyone important has a revenue stream, and they don’t want anyone to take that revenue stream away.

There, I think, is the key. At this point, what good is controlling the government? If a leftist political group were to indeed win significant majorities in Washington and/or the states, those who control the revenue (Wall Street) would most likely move to cut off the money government needs to function, and then what? Sure, the government could respond by using its eminent domain powers to confiscate needed revenue sources, or it could wrest back the power to create its own money from the Fed, but either of those moves would bring about the Armageddon that I dont think the American left has the stomach to face.

On a more positive note, the key to genuine progressive change lies not so much in controlling the government, but finding a way to control the revenue streams.

tarheel-leftist85's picture
Submitted by tarheel-leftist85 on

wouldn't weather the Armageddon, but the left that will be created (or at least has the potential to be created) after the collapse will/very well might. One of the things that might come to light is that our ideological nomenclature has been irrelevant to policy outcomes--perhaps starting with self-proclaimed "liberal" JFK. And as nominal ideologies become more attached to their respective legacy parties prior to the collapse, policy outcomes/agendas b/w the parties will converge into one.* For now, all "ideologies" are neoliberal. Ideological distinctions can become relevant to policy outcomes following a collapse, when we might see a genuine American left composed of American "conservatives" and "liberals" alike**.

*I don't think that has to contradict the idea of competition among rent-seeking sectors, because it appears that all roads lead to finance. No matter which parasite sectors (incl. insurance, pharmaceuticals, mercenaries, telecom, et al) are able to extract rents from the public through a given policy, the banksters ultimately win. For example, the mandate in the insurance bailout is associated with the opportunity costs of paying one's mortgage (banks can then make bets on people not being able to pay their mortgage, and they win; if they make bets on bets, the have a $22 trillion guarantee from the public). Also, a the social safety net is privatized, the financial rentiers appear to be the primary beneficiaries. Maybe this doesn't make any sense, but maybe financial parasites sit atop a hierarchy of rentiers. And the hierarchy can only remain stable if the banksters don't upset the sort of symbiosis they have with rentiers in parasite sectors. Perhaps that's why the more prescient political movements have previously identified financial sector rentiers as the central culprit in unjust/unsustainable economic arrangements.

**Not to be confused with post-partisanship ponies.

Submitted by lambert on

Lovely metaphor. And the roads that don't, we somehow can never afford to build. Funny, that.

basement angel's picture
Submitted by basement angel on

and the one to which you are responding that make me wish we had ratings here.

Nice work.

tarheel-leftist85's picture
Submitted by tarheel-leftist85 on

sorry i don't comment a lot, as i'm more inclined towards sponge mode--and almost every post/comment i read there's a lot to absorb and marinate in, so getting out of sponge mode is almost impossible! plus, there's always RL calling.

okanogen's picture
Submitted by okanogen on

Revenue streams are not necessary for either human survival or happiness. However, they are the lifeblood of corporate survival.

Big, important difference.

I think it is fairly clear that controlling the government is not possible for mere "people" (99% of the populace defined as "only" "people" rather than "elites"), since the government is controlled by corporate "persons" (also "people" in the Supreme Court's theoretical fantasyland). Corporate persons no longer even feel embarrassed to display their clout, with resources beyond even those of any one individual human person "elite". Except through the infinitely greater power of the corporations they control, not even the Bill Gates or Warren Buffetts of the world are as much as a pimple on the ass of the corporate "persons" that control our government. The global corporate configuration could and would squish the latest, greatest "richest person in the world" like a grub, should that individual actually endanger the global corporate status quo ante.

Since "people" have no power to redirect "revenue streams" (as we have no power to control the provider or maintainer of those "streams), ensuring our own personal survival/happiness means learning to live and self-provide outside of the already soulless and artificial construct required by corporate "persons". Corporations may require revenues streams (and rents), but neither that nor free markets will ensure happiness and/survival for actual human beings should the entire construct fail. And now, the signs of that failure are so acutely obvious that even otherwise optimistic and well-situated "people" (including some of our "elites") are hand-wringing and preparing for the collapse.

Bottom line, self-reliance is now not only a principled political act (as per Arthur Silber), but also a self-interested, and vital survival tactic.

Wow. Who knew?

BDBlue's picture
Submitted by BDBlue on

If you have a little extra income or savings, where do you put it? This is a question I've been asking myself lately. Where's a safe place to stash value - t-bills, gold, a safe deposit box? How do you protect what savings you have against both loss and inflation?

Hmmm, I wonder if there are any investing for collapse classes I could take? I'm only sort of kidding.

This is an excellent post. lambert, well worth the sticky!

Submitted by gob on

Step by step, the longest march
Can be won, can be won.
Many stones can form an arch,
Singly none, singly none.
And by union what we will
Can be accomplished still -
Drops of water turn a mill
Singly none, singly none.

(printed on the cover of the constitution of the American Miners' Association, 1864)