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Totalitarian Kleptocracy

When I survey the economic and political scene, I see parallels between the current kleptocracy and totalitarianism as written about by Hannah Arendt in her Origins of Totalitarianism:

The trouble with totalitarian regimes is not that they play power politics in an especially ruthless way, but that behind their politics is hidden an entirely new and unprecedented concept of power, just as behind their Realpolitik lies an entirely new and unprecedented concept of reality. Supreme disregard for immediate consequences rather than ruthlessness; rootlessness and neglect of national interests rather than nationalism; contempt for utilitarian motives rather than unconsidered pursuit of self-interest; "idealism," i.e., their unwavering faith in an ideological fictitious world, rather than lust for power—these have all introduced into international politics a new and more disturbing factor than mere aggressiveness would have been able to do.

You see when we look at today's totalitarian kleptocrats, one of the main questions that comes up is why they act in ways that appear ultimately to be self-destructive, even suicidal. I have tried in the past to answer this by pointing out that the looters themselves are not self-destructive. We might expect that individual kleptocrats seeking to maximize their looting might produce, collectively, an analogue to the paradox of thrift, that in the aggregate their behavior is self-destructive. But even this is not true. As we saw in 2008-2009, kleptocrats looted to a meltdown and then successively looted its aftermath. Their actions can only be termed self-destructive if they spark a revolution, which so far they have not.

But what about the political side of kleptocracy and the politicians who abet and promote it? Are they suicidal? This question is applicable to all our national politicians, Democrats and Republicans alike, but in particular to Obama. Is he engaging in political suicide to further the kleptocratic project of his class? He would certainly appear to be. His main, indeed sole campaign strategy, seems to be to portray himself as slightly less crazy than whoever the Republican nominee will be. Of course, the choice between two extreme corporatists is really, for the electorate, no choice at all. It is what Hannah Arendt calls the "pose of normality" which totalitarianism presents to the non-totalitarian world.

I suppose the deeper question is why are our kleptocratic elites so extreme? Americans have endured a certain level of looting by their elites from the birth of the nation. In some periods, this has been more marked than others, but we have never seen such systemic and unrelenting looting as we suffer from now. And this brings me around to the totalitarian mindset and the Hannah Arendt citation above. Supreme disregard for immediate consequences: TARP, the bailouts, the debt ceiling limit debate. Rootlessness and neglect of national interests: the pointless, endless wars. Contempt for utilitarian motives: tax cuts for the rich, budget cuts for everyone else. The unwavering faith in an ideological fictitious world: a grand description of our political process and the politicians who populate it.

To paraphrase Arendt, totalitarianism only assumes the attributes of normality in order to lull the non-totalitarian public, that is to placate the rubes. But they don't mean it, hence the "discrepancy between reassuring words and the reality of rule, by consciously developing a method of always doing the opposite of what they say." Obama has made this his hallmark. The true goal is to wage war against normality, that is the real world. And that is why an ideological fiction is absolutely necessary to totalitarianism. The real world inherently poses a challenge to the totalitarian one. It is an anchor aroud which opposition can form. The only way totalitarianism can be truly ascendant is if the real world is replaced by the fictitious one. It is why Obama, or the Democrats, or the Republicans continually choose the fictitious world of their partisan kabuki pseudo-fights over the real one where we live.

Sounds crazy, right? It couldn't happen here, or it can't be that bad. Someone would have noticed, except that everything that we have been taught and think we know about the last 35 years of our political and economic history, the period of the current kleptocracy's construction, is false, a fiction. Yes, some of us are beginning to question that history, document the great transfers of wealth, the buying of the political process, etc. but ask yourselves how did that false history get as entrenched as it has and whose interests does it serve? Why do our media and most of academia still repeat and affirm it? If it's not that bad, how exactly did we get to where we are now today?

The answer is that kleptocracy stripped down to its bones is totalitarian in its nature. It just wears better suits than its spiritual ancestors.

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cripes's picture
Submitted by cripes on

In short, the overlord class is utterly delusional and driving us headlong into disaster.
What is to be done?

The overlords think they have the answer in floating libertarian utopias. So did Leicester Hemingway with his "New Atlantis," blown away in a storm in 1966.
They are completely fucking crazy. And they're in charge.

The World Cruise Ship has 106 spacious private apartments, 19 studio apartments, and 40 studios for a total of 165 residencies. The World residencies range in price from $825,000 up to $6.3 million.

Peter Thiel, the founder of PayPal and early investor in Facebook and Spotify, has an eye for finding big ideas and watching them grow. Now Thiel has invested $1.25 million of his $1.5 billion into the Seasteading Institute, a Libertarian group inspired by Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged that aims to build experimental floating societies in international waters.

Submitted by lambert on

It's not as crazy as planning to escape to outerspace.

I should really minimize the rent I give to PayPal. Why am I funding this destructive force?

Submitted by regulararmyfool on

Apparently the elites don't talk to each other.

The owners of the huge ships full of oil from the mid East and the chemicals from India haven't mentioned to him that there are some people who are libertarians and don't really care about the Laws of the Seas.

I want to see how much "Anti-Pirate" insurance costs this guy.

okanogen's picture
Submitted by okanogen on

Seriously, build your failboat, launch it, and move onto it. Create your uber-free-market, eugenic, Darwinian utopia. There needs to be a place for the Galts of the world to live out their fantasy so they can stop crying about how down-trodden they all are.

God is it boring.