Monday, September 20, 2010

I Have Seen The Enemy

Today I am redirecting your attention here. I hope it is apparent in the post at the link why there will be no revolution in the U.S. Too many of us have a hand in the sordid pie. Too many of us are, in effect, compromised, our acquiescence to all sorts of skullduggery, foreign and domestic, bought and paid for by a system that, by hook or by crook, we helped create. Until this system is sundered, and it will be, probably by an exogenous shock or two-because the U.S. is not a closed system-there will be no alteration in the current trajectory of our political, economic, and social behavior.


Debra said...

I read the link while skipping the charts and graphs.. you KNOW how much I hate those. And, to boot, they purport to be (usually..) an OBJECTIVE view of reality.
Pfft, as we say here.
I keep telling myself that I MUST read Tocqueville, but I am rather lazy, and I can imagine it is a little.. DUSTY, and dry (but this might be totally wrong, who knows ?)
What your author decries in the States is what people decry here, too. The.. UNEQUAL treatment of earned income and... financial instrument money.
It is rather hard to say WHY this treatment is so unequal. Initially MAYBE, because, in the minds of our fathers, and grandfathers.. WORK was a sacred duty (both those words count), and few people in the middle class had stocks and bonds. (Plus, many of them distinctly remembered the BAD OLD TIMES and were leery of those stocks and bonds, and the hollow promises behind them.)
In the post WW2 economy over here... EVERYBODY was working. Rebuilding. In true DEMOCRATIC and EQUAL fashion, huh ? And people believed in work too.
Now, for instance... NOT EVERYBODY is working, as your author points out, and... people no longer believe in work. WHO DOESN'T BELIEVE IN WORK ??
Here your author and I DIFFER : after being PERSONALLY ACQUAINTED with many people who do not work, who are living off those benefits, I feel ENTITLED to say that MOST OF THEM would give their eye teeth to work. The benefits ? Hell, Edwardo, THAT'S ONLY FILTHY LUCRE. IT can't buy your respect, now, can it ? It can pay for your groceries (and not many...) at the local supermarket, but it won't enable you to look the cashier in the eye straight.
Believe me.
Now.. when A SOCIAL BODY ACCEPTS THE PREMISE of under full employment, and sets in motion the INDUSTRIAL technology that reduces jobs, and concentrates businesses, while delocalizing besides, well... we will call that outright warfare on work.
AND we will say that the social contract has been broken. In my book. Work is a sacred occupation for man. He NEEDS it in order to feel worthwhile. (Not always remunerated work, but work with a form of social recognition attached to it.)
BUT.. WHO, pray tell, HAS BROKEN THE SOCIAL CONTRACT ? The people who are cashing in on stocks and bonds ? Maybe. Maybe not.
I think that THAT should take care of the enormous MYTH that the poor are HAPPY to be getting benefits. A bunch of Protestant ideology inspired bunk.
But then.. THE POOR NEVER GET NO RESPECT, Edwardo. All the way across the line. Sometimes... they don't deserve it. But not always.
As far as the generalized welfare state... something tells me that this position is the LOGICAL outcome of Enlightenment thought, and I think that Tocqueville will bear me out.
I think that entitlement thought goes hand in hand with the idea of.. THE RIGHTS OF MAN. (and that cute little formula NEVER reads.. the rights and OBLIGATIONS of man, does it ? Not the last time I looked. We seem to have not managed to get past the first half of the idea).
The democratic state is based on the mathematical operation of division : DIVIDING up a PREFAB, preconceptualized PIE into equal parts (for equality...) and then DISTRIBUTING THEM AROUND. HANDING THEM OUT. To an infantilized population, to boot.
As I am starting to say, I think we have exhausted Enlightenment ideas now FOR THE TIME BEING. And we are moving away from them. Where to ? Who knows...
Something.. authoritarian is due to come up now, Edwardo. Historically. As I keep harping on, right ??

Edwardo said...

Many have claimed, as you seem to be doing, that the welfare state is the logical outcome of The Enlightenment. The welfare state is, in fact, a distortion of The Enlightenment, which prescribes nothing but the right to pursue life, liberty, and that very unwieldy and gossamer state of being known as happiness.

Most creeds quickly become warped and distorted, because, try though we might, human behavior simply can not be contained by master discourses or philosophical creeds. In fact, most such creeds, which tend to be exalted products of mankind's prodigious (and sometimes fevered) imagination, and are rarely rooted in anything like actual experience, are, at the outset, adopted for mixed motives.

The philosophies of The Enlightenment well served The Founding Fathers in their quest to throw off the shackles of royal authority and oppression, but they assiduously refused to address the nagging issue of slavery which, had they done so in keeping with their Enlightenment piety, would have sundered their plans for what was, in the end, a glorified land grab.

I think the main point to take away from the post at the link is that too many Americans are, where they were not before, vested interests in the affairs of the state. That is not, in my view, a recipe for change of any sort, but rather, stasis, which is exactly what we have.

But, of course, change is a constant, whether we engage in behavior that causes stagnation or worse. And The Enlightenment certainly allows any and all of us the choice to fiddle away while Rome burns.

Anonymous said...

the dualism is pensions/middle-class vs no pensions/Secession OR 2nd-world degrading within a generation to 3rd-world. The dualism is not pensions vs revolution, as you have it.

the pension is the most serendipitous invention in history. Intended (mostly) to help elderly poverty, they engendered something quite unintended. Everywhere they were adopted birthrates went way down! People ceased creating their own pension system by having 8 or nine kids, and only had 1 or 2. Fantastic!

this is not understood - people take the Western birthrate for granted (why Grover Norquist can sell the idea of a 2nd world country and people believe it).

there are basically no 2nd world countries because a privatized society with infrastructure but no safety-net would soon hit an iron law of "the fear of getting old", people start cranking out the babies. Third-world status would soon follow.

I mean, I disagree with the flow of the post, what the poobahs fear. They get this (some of them). They dont want to live in USABrazil, constantly afraid of kindappings and so on.

Plus, the other thing the poobahs fear is: secession. They fear California just saying "so long, suckers". which could happen, if poeple were not connected to their pensions.

And I want to add a moral point (your link seems to really not get this) pensions are NOT entitlements. They are earned. Money is deducted for the pension from paychecks. Saying Social Security recipients are "on the dole" (comparing them to food stamps) is just spin. those old folks worked for that pension. really. worked for that pension.

Edwardo said...

"The dualism is not pensions vs revolution, as you have it."

I agree, sort of. It exceeds pensions. And what, if not their own vested interest, pray tell, keeps the populace from engaging in activities that would, in fact, put the nation on a path for change "they can believe in?"

Having said that, I am not sure why you are banging on about pensions when the word is never mentioned in Charles Hugh Smith's post. It isn't even implied.

But let's discuss pensions. They may not be, strictly speaking, entitlements, though it is almost a moot point since states are on the hook for massive public employee payouts.

As for SS, being defined as on the dole, I think you have a point, though again, I am not sure the author of the post said as much. I'd have to go back and check.

However, the more pressing issue is that SS obligations, entitlements, whatever you prefer to call them, are something that the state is, again, on the hook for.

You now have three guesses regarding how officialdom plans to deal with these insurmountable fiscal obligations.

Debra said...

I think that anonymous is thinking...and I am happy to recognize someone that integrates HIS/HER thought into the debate.
I too, think that pensions are a big part of the STRUCTURAL economic problem facing the U.S., and I stuck it down in Mish's place, where it was greeted with a .. huh ? and much head scratching before being dismissed.
In France, the pension idea WAS (and still is..) more complicated than what it appears to be in the U.S. The idea behind public pension plans was organized social solidarity where FOLLOWING generations, through THEIR work, financed the retirement of their elders, who had already worked.
This MUTUALIZATION system had/has the advantage of not pushing the ideology of EACH FOR HIS OWN, and the idea that I, as an INDIVIDUAL, am BUYING my future retirement. That, by the way.. is it.. AUTONOMY , or just sheer SELFISHNESS ?? Looking out for one's own ? Can't build a society THAT way.
There is a WORLD of difference in people's minds between financing somebody else's retirement, and shopping for one's own at the local mall.
At any rate, THE SOCIAL PROBLEM behind pensions is "how are we going to take care of the people who can't work, AND HOW COMMITTED ARE WE TO DOING THIS ? HOW MUCH DO WE CARE ? How..."solidaire" do we feel ? to use a French word.
How much do we care about our neighbor ??
As far as revolution is concerned, the major problem, as a friend once said to me, USED TO BE the debt one : keeping people beholden to the system through their debt, that they had to WORK to pay off. that there is less and less work, and less and less... to buy at fewer and fewer shopping malls, well, I said elsewhere that people walking out on their mortgages was a SIGN of the bankruptcy of the social contract.
But the big problem with Enlightenment society is that paradoxically it has fostered our natural tendancies.. to pin the blame on anybody but ourselves. Waiting for a handout from somebody else, and thinking that THEY (LIKE THE RICH, EDWARDO...) are exclusively responsible for where we are now.
No go.

attempter said...

I imagine TPTB would rather hand out the checks and leave the recipients to rot on the couch in front of the idiot box than send them to work with a non-profit where they could build a new self-respect, rightfully feel they are being paid to do real work (rather than being on any sort of dole), and even, god forbid, through the activity of those non-profits start to see the outlines of a totally different, absolutely possible, non-commodified human world.

Anonymous said...

Edwardo -

I am the poster from before, who banged on about pensions.

I pretty much agree with you. And I am sorry for my pedantic post. I did not mean to come across the way I did.

Thanks for the blog, btw.

Edwardo said...

No worries, anonymous.

Debra said...

But attempter... one of the problems with the entitlement society is that people feel that... they have the RIGHT to work AND be paid for it, and lots of people rotting in front of the couch will NOT OF THEIR OWN VOLITION, and out of a sense of committment to the COMMON GOOD, haul out THEIR asses and do volunteer work. Regardless of all the benefits they may get from it.
Remember... when you start telling people that the ONLY way they can get self respect is by getting filthy lucre for what they do, well then.. they end up believing it, huh ??

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