Sunday, October 05, 2008

L'etat, c'est moi

The latest financial crisis has laid bare, to any thinking person, that the question "Should the state control property?" is misguided. The state does own all the property; the question is, "What kind of state should own the property."

You do not own your house. The bank owns your house. Actually the large investment banks own your house. And when the large investment banks screw up big time, the government hands them a trillion dollars, the life's work of a million average people. And that's on top of the two or three trillion dollars (the life's work of two or three million people) we've spent to commit the mass murder of a million people in Iraq.

If you do not realize that state power is in the hands of the owners of capital, you are simply not paying attention. Our so called democracy is a sham; state power is not in any way, shape or form in the hands of the people. Our government is a government of the rich, by the rich and for the rich. If capitalism were pragmatically effective, if putting state power in the hands of the rich had the best effects, then we would not be in the mess we're in. Again. Yet again. Over and over again.

Capitalism has laid bare the false dichotomy between economic power and political power. There is no difference: economic power is political power.

The lesson of western democracy is that nominal political power should not be the inalienable property of individuals. No matter how good any individual king might be, making political power the inalienable right of the king — "l'etat, c'est moi" — is a Bad Idea. Since economic power is political power, making economic power the unalienable property of individuals — no matter how good any individual might be — must be an equally Bad Idea.

Pure laissez-faire capitalism doesn't work, not for very long. We found that out time and again in the 19th and early 20th centuries. The booms are great, but the busts cause enormous suffering... and the wars are savage and terrible. The Great Depression of the 1930s put the final nail in the coffin of the pragmatic value of laissez-faire capitalism.

Trying to "patch" capitalism with some political regulations, as we tried to do in middle of the 20th century doesn't work either. It works economically, but the capitalists view any attempt to limit their freedom — their freedom to enslave the rest of humanity — as intolerable. And they have the power and the will to regain their freedom. Europe has done more and held out longer, but the cracks in their regulated capitalism pseudo-socialism are widening; in another generation the neocons and Christian Dominionists will rule there too.

It seems scary for a lot of people to accept intentional responsibility for anything. If I just "go with the flow", I'm not responsible for any bad results. But this mindset just moves a sin of commission to a sin of omission, with little ultimate difference. Once we know the result of inaction, we are just as causally responsible for the effects of inaction as we are of action. And we leave the fruits of action only to those who feel no moral responsibility whatsoever, and can thus act without fear of adverse consequences... at least consequences adverse to anyone but themselves.

We have enough knowledge, enough technology, enough raw materials right now to give every person on the Earth a dignified life free of unnecessary physical suffering and enough autonomy and real liberty to struggle to find their own meaning and happiness unfettered by exploitation and sadistic oppression. We have the technology right now to give ten times as many people such dignity and liberty.

We are in this position today. Only our failure of will, our refusal to act, our addiction to the devil we know, stands in the way of a better society. It's not enough to gripe, complain or even protest.

We have to think scientifically about how we want our society to be organized, and we have to act on that thinking. And we have to be morally responsible enough to act with a good will, and if we make a mistake, to honestly admit that we failed and try something better.

We no longer have the luxury of simply letting the chips fall where they may. We know what happens when close our eyes and let things happen: war, torture, rape, poverty and finally oblivion.


  1. Breaking the chains od two tracking an issue.Nixon/Kissinger started idea to describe the 2 track language to end the Vietnam war.Since than repubs have refined the skill.Sarah Palin mastered it quickly,i.e.Holding up her down syndrome child like a trophy of motherhood then promising handicapped listeners,"you'll have an advocate in DC."Then vetoing funds for special ed in Alaska having no clue about ADA 1990.Any ideas?

  2. Breaking the chains of double tracking an issue in the US.Republicans began the two tracking with Nixon and Kissinger in the 3 years to end the Vietnam war.The repubs have refined their skills since Nixon.Sarah Palin has mastered the 2 tracking.Holding up a retarded child like a trophy than pledging that you folks with handicaps,winking ya know "Down Syndrome" will have an advocate in Washington.Vetoing special ed funds in Alaska.Ideas?

  3. Excellent analysis, and undoubtedly correct. Just to be sure I understand you, there is nothing short of revolution that can possibly end the hegemony of capital, correct?

  4. Revolution? Definetely. But doesn't revolution mean violence? Can you see those that have economical power and the army at their command not using it to protect their "property"? Only in few occasions they manage to pull a fake revolution to let people blog off some steam (see the fall of communism in eastern europe). Real revolution requires killing. The common people have lost for a long time the right to justice and if a person wants justice he should do it on its own. As long as we put the existence of A LIFE before the quality of A LIFE we're going nowhere except letting evolution do its thing and preserve life at all costs.

    I've seen TV interview of a convict that had a mistrial. The judge was corrupt and convicted the person even though the convict told him he'll get his revenge after he'll do his time. The convict did his time, bought a gun and killed the judge. This is revolution at the individual level. Mass revolution only create chaos at the level of society and give the rich the time to get the handle of the economic power. We are tought to value life above everything else: happiness, justice, health etc. Even science promotes this line of thinking by its advancement in the medical field, giving the people the hope of long, healthy lifes; people live longer even though the last few years of their lifes are counsciousless.
    I'm a pesimist. The blind desire to live no matter what is embeded in our genes by the evolutionary mechanisms. Resisting it is just too hard. I myself, don't know if, under the right circumstances, I would rise up to the challenge, even if I now think it is to be don.

  5. comrade -- i agree that revolution is the only way, and fear that logossfera is correct that it must be violent revolution. i also share logos' unfortunate evolutionary imperative regarding quantity vs quality of life. how do you (and you, too, bum) propose to deal with this?

    is there a non-violent alternative? some way to convince the capitalists that what they're doing is harmful to them as well as the rest of the world? i've never fired a gun in my life, and would likely be caught and tortured by either side if there were a violent revolution as i've got a funny name, but come from priviledge...

    anyhow. all of this is obvious to us, obviously. and marx has been so trashed in the general public's mind that getting people to buy it now is tougher than selling sand in the desert. so what do we do? how do we get this beyond yacking on forums and into actual action?

    and, most importantly, what action should be taken?

  6. Logossfera, arjuna: I'm working on a post to address both your concerns.


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