Saturday, December 11, 2010

William K. Black on Obama

What Aspect of Dealing with Bullies Did Obama Fail to Learn as a Child?
The Effort to Claim That Economists Support Obama's Capitulation on Tax Cuts for the Wealthy
Bill Black: No, Mr. President, you did not negotiate a winning tax deal

There are only two conclusion: either Obama is a staggeringly incompetent executive, or he is an operative for the Republican party.

It's true that Obama doesn't have any executive experience. But his incompetence goes much deeper: anyone who has run an endeavor more complicated than a coffee shop has encountered bullying and brass-knuckled opposition. As Black notes, Obama is failing at lessons he should have learned in middle school. We can't entirely rule out incompetence, but we should be looking more closely at a hidden agenda.

I'm of course employing hyperbole in describing the alternative as Obama being a Republican party operative. It is, I think, more accurate to make the uncontroversial assertion that Obama is an operative for the capitalist ruling class; the capitalist ruling class is presently dominated by the ideology of the Randian faction; and the Republican party is (and has always has been) the primary political arm of the capitalist ruling class. Obama and the Republican party serve the same masters. Part of the strategy of the capitalist ruling class has been to weaken the populism of the Democratic party.

I haven't done any research, and I don't know what the capitalist ruling class has actually done, but the most obvious strategy is to use campaign contributions and other forms of funding to strengthen "moderate" (i.e. would have been Republicans 40 years ago) Democrats and weaken populist Democrats. They would do so to ensure that the Democratic party does not represent the interests of the working people and lower-middle-class against the capitalist ruling class, but rather serves as a counterweight to the religious right that has been courted exclusively by the Republican party. The capitalist ruling class has good reason to distrust the religious nutjobs.

It's clear however, that Democrat or Republican, the capitalist ruling class has not decided to rescue the consumer economy. I say "has not decided" intentionally; I'm not saying — and I don't believe — they have actively decided to destroy or let the consumer economy fail. I suspect the truth is more subtle.

The Randian faction has been operating ideologically: they have been promoting a set of ideas within the capitalist ruling class.

The "non-Randian" capitalist faction has a view, I think, much like, "We're on top; we rule the world. All we have to do is keep the consumer economy working reasonably well (which is no mean task) and our privilege is guaranteed." The Randian faction, however, finds it intolerable that they do not have absolute power. Just as it's morally wrong to give a sucker an even break, it's morally wrong to make any concessions to anyone outside the capitalist ruling class. Read Atlas Shrugged again and note why every member of the elite chooses to follow John Galt (why Galt himself decides to destroy society). Is it because they lack power, privilege and material reward? Hardly. It is because they do not have absolute power. To the Randian mind, the task of keeping the consumer economy running is as deeply immoral and reprehensible as the task of keeping the system of chattel slavery would be to an ordinary person.

They believe the members of the capitalist ruling class are the creators of all value. They see themselves as, if not the John Galts, then the Hank Reardens, despite the fact that not a single Randian capitalist has the slightest bit of scientific or managerial competence; they have delegated both activities to the professional-managerial middle class. (Indeed those few members of the capitalist ruling class that do have actual scientific, technical and managerial competence are the least Randian.) They believe they really can let the consumer economy slide into catastrophe, retreat to Galt's Gulch, and emerge in a few years to enslave an exhausted and starving population. They really do want to "liquidate labor, liquidate stocks, liquidate farmers, liquidate real estate ... it will purge the rottenness out of the system. High costs of living and high living will come down. People will work harder, live a more moral life. Values will be adjusted, and enterprising people will pick up from less competent people."

They are, of course, deluded. They are not the creators of all value but parasites on the labor of the working class. They fail to appreciate the power of torches and pitchforks. And they seriously underestimate the Chinese; I can't imagine the leadership of the Chinese "Communist" Party looking at our political and economic troubles with anything but unrestrained glee. I hope for their sakes the Randians are learning Mandarin. (I should probably take my own advice.)

While the Randian faction has not completely taken over the capitalist ruling class, they have succeeded in spreading their ideas and way of thinking among their opponents, as well as spreading an appropriate version of their ideas in the professional-managerial middle class and the working class. The non-Randians are starting to think about the world in Randian terms; more importantly, they must communicate with a population a large segment of which has been trained to respond to Randian ideas in a particular way. They have lost their confidence in their own pragmatic ideology, which causes weakness and indecision at critical moments. They aren't really happy with the kleptocrat financiers, but the Randian memes cause them to shy away from actually punishing them: they feel a sense of indecency in doing so. And how do they communicate this unhappiness to the people? If some of the priests know the pharaoh is corrupt, how do you communicate that corruption to a people who worship him as a god? Furthermore, the priests derive their own prestige from their service to the pharaoh. If the pharaoh is corrupt, then what are they but servants of corruption?

None of this calculation need be conscious; everyone develops habits of thought that preserve their own privilege and status. In much the same sense, Democratic party politicians have always seen itself as servants of the (relatively) pragmatic faction of the capitalist ruling class; with the pragmatic faction itself losing confidence and starting at least not reject a Randian "moral" view out of hand, the faction and party are increasingly becoming indecisive, rudderless, and helpless.

This is precisely what we're seeing. The Randian faction may use pragmatic, instrumental arguments (most of which are as transparently fallacious as the instrumental arguments against gay marriage) but theirs is a fundamentally moral position: whatever results from an immoral activity, however seemingly useful, is itself inherently immoral. The consumer economy, which — in the Randian view — can result only from an immoral transfer of income and wealth from those who produce to the "moochers" and "looters", those who do not produce (or who produce only as instruments, as the hammer produces only as an instrument of the carpenter). This fundamentally moral view has gained traction in the minds of the pragmatic faction of the capitalist ruling class; the appropriate versions have gained traction in the professional-managerial middle class and the working class. This traction weakens the will and character of the pragmatic faction: They pretty much know what to do to fix the economy (imprison the kleptocrats, regulate the financial system, and stimulate demand), but the Randian ideas render these strategies distasteful; they cannot commit wholeheartedly to them.

The Randian faction is deluded, but they are not deluded in the way the pragmatists think they are deluded. They do not believe that the measures they favor — increasing inequality of wealth and income — will "save" the consumer economy. They want to destroy the consumer economy, because the mass of people do not create value, they only consume the value the capitalist ruling class itself creates. Arguing with the Randian faction about whether or not this or that strategy will save the consumer economy is as fruitless as arguing evidence for evolution with a creationist. Just as the creationist is not interested in coming up with the best scientific theory, the Randian faction is not interested in coming up with the best way to save the consumer economy.

The Randian faction is deluded only in their belief that they can survive the collapse of the consumer economy and be in a strong position to exert dominance in the recovery. They will, if we are lucky, find themselves on the wrong side of a hundred million pitchforks; if we are unlucky, they will be frantically studying Mandarin to cling pathetically to the bottom rungs of our new Chinese overlords' (whom I for one welcome) bureaucracy.

1 comment:

  1. See, I like this article and stuff and read it more than three times also. What Larry is telling, like how these cruel persons, Randian capitalists and stuff, will go over to China when everything is over, i think this is write.
    Cos these persons got no country.
    Cos they are loyal only to money and power also.
    Like when they sold to Nazis and to America at the same time. Or like in Germany, they built Nazi camps, after 1945, they buit fridges, porche also, goes from tank engines- to cars.
    This is how they operate and stuff. So people now who are telling how patriotic they are, huh, very high chance they will relocate to China and continue doing al their bad stuff, just like Larry is trying to tell everyone.


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