Monday, January 25, 2010

The republican agenda, part 2

I received some very interesting comments and conjectures on my recent post, The Republican Goals.

Keep in mind there are three components to any ruling class faction: the face of the faction, in this case elected Republican politicians and the Republican party officers, such as Michael Steele; the popular support, ordinary people who vote for the party, volunteer for campaigns and otherwise provide its popular base; the power of the faction: the actual capitalists who provide economic support for the party. I'm mostly curious about the motives and goals of the power component, although all the components are important in evaluating hypotheses.

Many commenters support the null hypothesis: there are no consistent or general goals of the power component of the Republicans (or possibly even of any component). In other words, there's no "artificial" selection going on; the character of the Republicans is purely natural selection, based purely on the interaction between the personal characteristics of the individuals. While the null hypothesis is hard to prove, anyone (myself included) who wants to think about the issue scientifically must make any alternative hypothesis empirically distinguishable from the null hypothesis. How can we empirically tell the difference between some goal or agenda and no goal at all?

One key distinction between the Democratic and Republican party power structures is ideological consistency. Even when they lose elections — a lot of elections — the Republicans preserve major (and even a lot of superficial) elements of their ideology intact. The Democratic party power structure, however, tends to change its core ideology in response to even small losses: they have virtually abandoned almost all of the ideology constructed and successfully tested (and at least temporarily adopted by the Republicans) during FDR to Nixon height of Democratic party power. (Of course, as a communist, I'm hardly impressed even by the best of Democratic party ideology.) The long-term Republican ideological consistency in the face of local defeats seems like pretty strong evidence that there's some sort of underlying agenda somewhere; without such an ideological agenda, there should be more variation in Republican elected officials, variation that the voters will not select against, the kind of variation we actually do see in the Democratic party.

The second "null" hypothesis is that whatever agenda exists, exists either within the party itself, or in a behind-the-scenes power structure that isn't really a part of the capitalist ruling class. Pat Robertson, for example, is not really a part of the capitalist ruling class: he has a lot of money (his net worth is estimated as $200-1,000 million), but he did not achieve his wealth through the ordinary capitalist means, the production of goods and services or financial manipulation. He's best seen, I think, as someone who's achieved a degree of economic power outside the traditional capitalist class; it's an open question whether or not the capitalist class will adopt him.

It may well be that the obvious Marxian analysis of the present political situation is not correct: What we are seeing today is not the result of competition within the capitalist class (i.e. those who own and control the means of actual production), but rather competition between the capitalist class and some new and distinct class. Furthermore, this new and distinct class might not be an economic class. Before now, standards of living were low enough that economic productivity by itself exercised strong selection pressure. Today, however, our "problem" is with surpluses and overproduction. (Local or immediate over-production has been a persistent problem in capitalism from the middle of the 19th century. The problem, however, may have become global and systemic; not amenable to local and immediate adjustments in finance and government policy, or simply a pause awaiting the next scientific or technical innovation.)

I suspect this non-economic line of analysis may prove more fruitful.

1 comment:

  1. I suspect the battle is transnational oligarchs vs. merely national ones. Things like Davos and Bilderberg point to this arrangement. In a way one might invert Sri Aurobindo and argue that there is a very invisible global power group-simplification call it Satan-then there is the obvious power groupings of the Overmind-then there are the hoi polloi trying mightily to bring Satan alive in each of them.

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