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It Takes a Government: Ideology Gaffe or Grammar Goof?

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Many describe it as the biggest ideology gaffe of this election year. The speaker says, in essence, that it was merely a grammar goof. Either way, it was a gift to Mitt Romney that, at least temporarily, takes the heat off his tax return dust-up. The mistake, because it certainly was that, was President Obama’s announcement to small business owners, “If you’ve got a business, you didn’t build that. Somebody else made that happen.”

The words were part of a speech Obama gave in Roanoke, Virginia on July 13. Since then, he’s been hit by a nonstop barrage of criticism from those who understand the sentences as crediting government with building the private sector.  Small business owners are insulted by the president’s assertion that the government gave them their businesses. Reeling from the negative reactions, Obama claimed seven days later that the “that” which small business owners didn’t build was roads and bridges.

Obama’s claim has done nothing to quell the controversy. In context, his disputed words are:

“If you were successful, somebody along the line gave you some help. There was a great teacher somewhere in your life. Somebody helped to create this unbelievable American system that we have that allowed you to thrive. Somebody invested in roads and bridges. If you’ve got a business, you didn’t build that. Somebody else made that happen. The Internet didn’t get invented on its own. Government research created the Internet so that all companies could make money off the Internet.”

The claim that, like the Internet, the government created small businesses so people could make money off them angers voters. But, is the anger misplaced? Is it really just a case of grammar errors? And knuckle-rapping bad grammar it is. “a business” and “that” are singular. Roads and bridges are plural. So “you didn’t build that” necessarily refers to “a business”. Otherwise, the president would have said, “If you’ve got a business, you didn’t build those”.

On the other hand, the “you didn’t build that” phrase is grammatically incorrect even in its obvious meaning. Specifically, the word “that” in the sentence is a declarative article, which is only used properly to refer to a specific noun. Declarative articles are not used to reference general nouns, such as “a business”.

And that may be the biggest argument in favor of the President’s insistence that his words are misunderstood. His speeches are replete with grammatical errors. Dropping the ending g’s from gerunds is a particular favorite of his. Another is using slang contractions such as ‘gonna’ for “going to”.  These improper usages are affectations. Obama thinks they make him sound like a man of the (to him, grammatically challenged) masses, and thus more credible.

As alluring as the grammar goof excuse appears, it doesn’t pass the laugh test for two reasons. The entire context of that section of the president’s speech contradicts his claim of grammatical error only. His consistent message of the last four years undermines it as well.

Obama’s contested statements were part of his justification for increasing taxes on the rich. They were made toward the end of a 40 minute monologue given to a very receptive audience. Apparently, he was inspired by the recurring cheers and applause to state frankly the ideological underpinning of his economic thesis: the government creates private success.

A couple of paragraphs earlier in the speech, Obama stated, in referring to the Clinton tax increases:

“And, by the way, we’ve tried that before — a guy named Bill Clinton did it. We created 23 million new jobs, turned a deficit into a surplus, and rich people did just fine. We created a lot of millionaires (emphasis supplied).”

After crediting the government with private wealth creation, Obama went on to chastise successful business owners on two counts. According to him, they believe, and wrongly so, that they are smarter and harder working than other Americans. The president further stated that only two factors drive private business success: the government, and the initiative of those who choose to own businesses.

Obama would not be more incorrect if he had stated a belief in an earth-centric universe. If success in business only requires the government and personal initiative, the failure rate of small businesses would be virtually zero. Instead, even in non recession years half of the people who start their own businesses fail. The main reason is mismanagement. Owners can have all of the initiative in the world, but the doors will close anyway if they can’t manage money, people, resources and time.

While competent management skills are necessary to succeed, they are not enough. Small business owners must be willing to risk personal financial disaster and work as if they’re indentured to the venture, because they are. The small business owner, tiny actually, in our pack was typical of the breed. During the fiscal year, our pack member and a co-owner paid their people first, taking only a monthly stipend for themselves. At the end of the year, employees were given bonuses according to the business’s profitability and their relative contributions. After that, money was put back into the company to fund the next year’s growth. Only then did the two owners take their bonuses, which typically were less than those of some of the employees.

As for the level of effort required to sustain the business, these owners worked 80 to100 hour weeks for years. They looked forward to weekends, not because they got time off, but because they could work productive 16 hour days without phones ringing or email beckoning. Business travel was always either on Sunday nights or weeknights after putting in a full day at the office. They missed birthdays, anniversaries, family gatherings, parties and so many other social functions that they lost count. Ultimately, they sold the business and made sure that their employees kept their jobs with the new owner.

Make no mistake. These two people are not special. They are just like millions of other small business owners. These folks do work harder than most. They have to put in the time or the venture fails.  They take care of their employees first. They risk their personal finances. They make life choices that others wouldn’t even consider. They do not deserve the derisive scorn heaped on them by the current occupant of the White House. They don’t have time to think of themselves as smarter or harder working. They’re too busy striving to succeed.

The president’s denial of the personal risks taken, the extraordinary effort expended and the sacrifices made to succeed in business is shameful. Equally wrong is his claim of a government-centric economy. His roads and bridges example is, simply put, ass-backwards. The government is a facilitator of commerce, not a creator of wealth. It did not provide infrastructure from which commerce then flowed. Commerce, or business, came first and thrived. As a result, taxpayers demanded the use of their dollars to facilitate its expansion across state boundaries. In our democracy, government is the servant of the people, not the master.

But, Obama’s upside down view of the role of government is necessary to justify his wealth redistribution agenda. If the government creates wealth, the government can dictate how it is spent. He has advocated redistributing the wealth since at least his much publicized conversation with Joe the Plumber on the 2008 campaign trail. On that occasion, the president-to-be stated, “I think when you spread the wealth around, it’s good for everybody.”

A little later in his conversation with Joe, Obama gave his justification for wealth redistribution:

“The only thing that changes, is I’m gonna cut taxes a little bit more for the folks who are most in need and for the 5 percent of the folks who are doing very well – even though they’ve been working hard and I appreciate that – I just want to make sure they’re paying a little bit more in order to pay for those other tax cuts. Now, I respect the disagreement. I just want you to be clear – it’s not that I want to punish your success – I just want to make sure that everybody who is behind you – that they’ve got a chance at success too.”

Again, Obama stated his view that the government is the force behind the economic success of individuals. But, that time, he wasn’t referring to small business owners like Joe who had already succeeded. Obama was talking about everyone else in the country. Making everyone successful is a pretty tall order, one that over $5 trillion in deficit spending in the past 3 1/2 years has failed to fill. One wonders why Obama never thought to cut spending in order “to pay for those other tax cuts.”

Two years later, the president stated, in a spontaneously uttered sentence, “I do think at a certain point you’ve made enough money.” In context, the sentence reads:

“We’re not, we’re not trying to push financial reform because we begrudge success that’s fairly earned. I mean, I do think at a certain point you’ve made enough money. But, you know, part of the American way is, you know, you can just keep on making it if you’re providing a good product or providing good service. We don’t want people to stop, ah, fulfilling the core responsibilities of the financial system to help grow our economy.“

Obama did catch himself almost immediately, stating that his personal belief was not policy. Maybe not then, but it is now. If government creates individual success as he insisted in 2008 and on July 13 of this year, it can arbitrarily dictate when individuals have enough.

Whether ideology gaffe or grammar goof, there’s one thing that can be said about the president’s word choices. If there were a great teacher somewhere in his life that helped him along the line, he or she wasn’t an English teacher.

See you on the left-side.

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About Sidney and Riley

  • Igor

    But it’s true: American prosperity was fueled by large government projects: canals, dams, river control, airports, harbors, interstate highways, etc. All created by the government, financed by General Obligation bonds. None of it was built by pre-funding from business. None was undertaken by private enterprise. No venture capital to build Hoover dam, just government General Obligation bonds.

    Across America business has been the beneficiary of government roads, harbors, airports, river projects, railroads, etc.

    It was the American sense of community that built the Great Projects that have nourished American business. The American people were willing to advance the money to build the infrastructure that made commerce possible.

  • It was obvious from the first day what Obama meant, but very few let the truth get in the way of politics.

  • Arch Conservative

    The fact is that the vast majority of small to medium sized business owners are Republicans. To run a successful small to medium sized business you have to be a somewhat intelligent person, cognizant of how the world actually works. Just not intelligent enough to fully comprehend the sheer genius that is Barack Obama and his acolytes.

    The one explained it plainly for all of us mere mortals…….If you run a successful business the reason for that success is not your own effort but rather your third grade public school teacher and a benevolent federal government that enabled you.

  • Dillon Mawler

    Mr. Conservative:
    Here’s what the President actually said:
    “The point is, is that when we succeed, we succeed because of our individual initiative, but also because we do things together.”

    Here’s what you say you believe he said: “If you run a successful business the reason for that success is not your own effort, but rather…”

    These are opposites.

  • Zingzing

    But, you see, mr. Mauler, that’s how the world actually works: you take what someone says and say they said the opposite because… Well, just because.

  • Glenn Contrarian

    Arch –

    The fact is that the vast majority of small to medium sized business owners are Republicans.

    And WHERE did you get this ‘fact’, hm? Here’s a clue, Arch – just because you want so badly to believe a thing doesn’t make that thing true.

    Your great conservative “job creators”, like to send their money to the Caymans or Switzerland…and as such create ZERO jobs with that money that they stash overseas.

  • Dillon Mawler

    Yes, Mr. Zing, and then someone points this out, and the commenter never returns to the thread, because he’s been exposed as a bullshit artist whose views are properly disregarded. He will, of course, say the exact same thing on other threads.

    I have visited BC before.

  • Igor

    Most businessmen have a pretty parochial view of the world. They generally know just enough to operate successfully in their little world.

    For many years I thought it would be a good idea to have a businessman for president, you know, like Herbert Hoover. Oops! Maybe that wasn’t a good example. OK, how about Jimmy Carter. Oops! All the rightists excoriate him mercilessly (in spite of he created the only lasting peace in the Middle east between Egypt and Israel).

    More to the point, I was a businessman all my life, from when I started working at 12 (as a caddy, pinsetter, paperboy, lawn roller, house painter, farmhand, etc.) and started several companies. I’m a pretty good guy, and pretty successful businessman. So I should be an excellent President. Alas, in all modesty, I must confess that I would be a terrible president. It’s a sobering realisation.

  • Glenn Contrarian

    Igor –

    That reminds me of the GOP brouhaha at the idea that we’d have a president that had never served in the military – it was Clinton, and I remember being against him for the same reason.

    But neither service in the military nor success in business is what a president needs in order to be successful. What he or she needs is the ability to GOVERN. That’s what the GOP doesn’t – or refuses to – get.

    And like you, I’d make a terrible president. It took a lot of years for me to be able to admit to myself that I’m not a natural leader. I’d be better serving in a supporting role. No guy likes to admit that he’s not able to lead, but there it is.

  • Glenn Contrarian

    Sidney and Riley –

    The president’s denial of the personal risks taken, the extraordinary effort expended and the sacrifices made to succeed in business is shameful. Equally wrong is his claim of a government-centric economy. His roads and bridges example is, simply put, ass-backwards. The government is a facilitator of commerce, not a creator of wealth. It did not provide infrastructure from which commerce then flowed. Commerce, or business, came first and thrived.

    Of course, of course! That’s why all those small businesses that line the freeways were there before the freeways were built! And all those online businesses were thriving online before DARPA did anything to help build the internet!

    Yep! All those businesses on the street corners were there and were quite successful before the streets – or even the sidewalks – were built! Brilliant! Sidney and Riley, you’re both (if there’s indeed two of you) perfect examples of right-wing brilliance in this modern world!

  • Re #1 & 8, Hi, Igor. Yes roads and bridges were financed by GO bonds but those bonds had to be repaid and that was through taxpayer dollars. Regional governments (cities, counties and states) also finance roads and bridges and airports and whatever through bonds. Sometimes, the regional governments repay road bonds via tolls but those are, at least where we live, the exception.

    As a businessman, do you believe that this infrastructure creates or facilitates commerce? That’s really the point of the President’s argument. He believes the government creates wealth. We believe that infrastructure facilities business but cannot create wealth. Ultimately, wealth creation is the result of individual effort.

  • Re #10, Speaking of DARPA, if the government could replicate the structure, management principles and execution strategy of that tiny agency, we’d be a huge fan of government agencies. But, so far, it’s just a one-off. There’s an excellent article on
    how the Internet was invented that shows what government can do but, except for that one shining example, has not.

  • Zingzing

    So infrastructure facilitates business, but then has nothing to do with it after that? Put a highway down, start a gas station, move the highway, the gas station does just fine in the middle of nowhere? We have entered… The twilight zone. This gas station demands profit, so it kidnaps customers from roads far flung across the land. A man, on his way to LA after losing all his money in Vegas, suddenly finds himself in Michigan. How did he get there? The profitable gas station of doooooom, that’s how! Now the man is stuck in Michigan! Wth nothing to do! Oh, horror.

  • Igor

    Originally it was just ARPA, Advanced Research Projects Agency. The DoD horned in on it later when it looked useful. At first ARPA just sent out manila envelopes full of smelly mimeographed sheets with research project titles and contact info for researchers. The first computer use was about 1959 when they setup an IBM 1401 (workhorse minicomputer) with a 2701 communications adapter for TTY and then a guy with a leased line to Raleigh could signon from an IBM 1501 workstation, which was a selectric typewriter with an ASYNC comm adapter for IBMs peculiar protocol. So then you could query the ARPA database instead of waiting for the mail. That is, if you had the leased line, about $1000-$2000 a month typically, and the 1501 which had a similar lease cost. The 1501 ran at 15 char/sec., about 50% better than a TTY.

    Most people waited for the mail.

    It wasn’t until the mid 80’s that ‘internet’ started to assert itself, and then mostly as a backbone for ‘quikmail’ networks serving local BBS’s. With email, usenet, IRC, FTP, etc.

    More later.

  • Dillon Mawler

    Mr. Sidney and Mr. Riley:

    The President specifically said what the point was: “The point is, is that when we succeed, we succeed because of our individual initiative, but also because we do things together.”

    You say his real point was that “government creates wealth,” which he never said, hinted at, or implied, anywhere in that speech. In fact, I’ve never actually heard ANYONE claim that.

    Here’s some of what he DID say; any of these quotes could be logically inserted in your comment #11, right after “wealth” and before “Ultimately.”:

    “In this country, if you’re willing to work hard, if you’re willing to take responsibility, you can make it if you try.”

    “I’m betting on America’s workers. I’m betting on American industry.”

    “We’re not guaranteed success, but we’re guaranteed the right to work hard for success.”

  • Igor

    @15-Dillon: Well, I’ll say it: Government creates wealth.

    Right here, where I live, in the SF Bayarea, we have some premium examples of it.

    For example, the Bay Bridge, which goes between SF and Oakland. That massive transportation link between the cities has been responsible for most of the riches created in the two cities. On the SF side, it has provided a link for SF to get workers from the Oakland area, greatly needed because housing is limited in SF (a stable population figure around 800,000 for 50 years) and even environs.

    Countless fortunes were bequeathed on business by easy access for workers. That wealth was created when the government built the bridge. Business exploited the opportunity, that’s all. And it would never have been built if we had waited around for private business to get things together.

    Countless fortunes were bequeathed on east Bay real estate developers, salesmen, contractors, etc., by the wealth potential created by the bridge.

    Now, today, the government is going to kick in another big chunk of wealth by replacing the eastern span with a glamorous new span. Incidentally, that new span will cost $6billion, or more. That’s pretty expensive since the entire bridge only cost $77million in 1939, and that was $6million under budget. How did they do it? Well, they used all-union labor back in those dark days, and now we have advanced to privatization and sublet the bridge sections to China. Hey, wait a minute! There’s something wrong with this picture. Oh well.

  • Dillon Mawler

    Mr. Igor:

    I’m sure many will quibble over “create,” but your point is completely valid: without that government-built bridge, the economic activity on both sides is lessened. I can’t believe anyone would argue the opposite.

  • Glenn Contrarian

    Sidney and Riley –

    Re #10, Speaking of DARPA, if the government could replicate the structure, management principles and execution strategy of that tiny agency, we’d be a huge fan of government agencies. But, so far, it’s just a one-off

    So all our roads and highways and freeways are just “one-offs”, too? Infrastructure ENABLES commerce. Go ask most businessmen of New York City – the financial capital of the planet – how well the Big Apple would function without a subway system!

    Another shining example would be our health care system which – though it is not available to tens of millions of Americans – IS the best in the world. So many of our best medicines and treatments and therapies were developed by or in partnership with the CDC and the NIH…and ONE-SIXTH of our economy is directly involved with our health care system.

    Then there’s our nuclear power plants – are you going to claim that business came before government there, too? Or is this just another “one-off” in Sidney and Riley World?

    And do you use a cell phone? Or GPS? Or do you watch television? What private business put every single one of those satellites in orbit that enabled the Information Age?

    Hm? I guess that’s another “one-off”, too….

  • Arch Conervative

    Nice to see all the Obama apologists are out full force spinning the shit out of what he said. No wonder this country is going down the tubes.

  • RJ


    Gallup: U.S. Business Owners Now Among Least Approving of Obama

    But hey, maybe they are mostly pissed off Democrats?

  • RJ

    Here’s Obama in full context.

  • From Wikipedia:

    “Spin is a form of propaganda, achieved through providing an interpretation of an event or campaign to persuade public opinion in favor or against a certain organization or public figure.”

    Now, taking the President’s words out of context to make it seem that he was dissing small business owners is certainly spin. Reacting to the ensuing collective right-wing hissy fit by trying to defuse it by claiming that Obama made a grammatical error is also spin.

    But, Archie, Blogcritics commenters explaining the context of the President’s words and pointing out what it was he was actually talking about is not spin: it’s the presentation of facts.

  • RJ

    I love how the Smartest President Ever – who is world renown for his Masterful Oratory – is such a stuttering clusterfuck when he’s off teleprompter that he has to have leftist bloggers clean up his mess and explain “what he really meant” for him.

    This is getting embarrassing.

  • Glenn Contrarian

    Why RJ, I do believe we’ve misunderestimated you….

  • I love how the Smartest President Ever – who is world renown for his Masterful Oratory – is such a stuttering clusterfuck when he’s off teleprompter that he has to have leftist bloggers clean up his mess and explain “what he really meant” for him.

    Or perhaps our right-wing friends are so staggeringly stupid that they think it hasn’t occurred to a single leftist blogger to actually read this particular bit of Masterful Oratory in its entirety, and that they will therefore actually find their spin credible.

    This is getting embarrassing.


  • Arch Conservative

    Masterful oratory? hahhah

    Not only were his words not taken out of context but anyone who actually listened to him say those words could hear the condescension dripping form them when they came out of his surly pie hole.

    I remember in the months leading up to the 2010 midterm how every leftist moonbat and his mother living upstairs were predicting that the GOP would not make significant gains in Congress. How’d that work out for ya? The fact is that if this miserable facsimile of a leader manages to pull it out in November it will only be due to the combination of Mitt Romney’s total lack of charisma and the ever increasing stupidity of the American people as they submit to the degenerate leftist ideology of absolute dependency upon the state as the new norm.

  • Igor

    @23-RJ: you overestimate the appeal of irony. It’s so much work to be sarcastic for so little reward that I’m surprised that you persist. Oh well.

  • Not only were his words not taken out of context

    Of course they weren’t, Archie – if by “context” we mean GOP spinmeisters and right-wing bloggers/op-ed writers presenting a quote so that in isolation it fits the context of the caricature of Obama they’ve been painting for the last six or so years.

    anyone who actually listened to him say those words could hear the condescension dripping form them

    No, Archie: anyone who is you, or is predisposed to think badly of the President, could hear it. Things like that are in the ear, or eye, of the beholder. For instance, it’s likely that a fair number of people who read your Blogcritics comments think they are the rantings of an opinionated reactionary windbag. It’s likely others think you are a man of principle who tells it like it is.

    As troll is fond of reminding us: YMMV.

  • Government’s role is essentially at the macro-economic level- not so much at the household level. Management of reciprocal fair trade can facilitate small business growth overseas. Lowering taxes can put more money into the pockets of small business owners to help them grow their business.

    Affordable student loans certainly facilitate students getting the requisite training to advance a career in any of a number of noble professions. Infrastructure investments do help the general conduct of commerce because roads are the lifeblood of economic activity. Government can help to remove gangs and organized criminals because without guaranteed safety- no business can grow anywhere.

    Consumers need a modicum of consumer protection to protect against exploitation by sellers. Clearly, the government has some role on the macro level. Its role at the micro level should be less pervasive.

  • Expat Pat

    If your country is going down the tubes, it’s because of ignorant conservatives like yourself who can’t process more than one sentence of information at a time. I remember people used to look up to America, but the internet has revealed we were seeing an illusion because most the yokels were hidden from view

  • Igor

    The internet as we know it is a triumph of collectivist government activity over private commercial activity. Both IBM and DEC tried to build general-purpose networks and both failed because they wanted to restrict hardware connections to THEIR devices and because they wanted to control and charge for every single little connection and every single little scrap of information and every single little block of data. Both were very authoritarian systems designed to create monopoly control over data communications.

    Many people are acquainted with the ancient 3270 systems of bulky ugly, monochromatic, slow, high-priced, 24*80, green on black, heavy terminals, usually with the CICS logon prompt burnt into the screen. Horrible. And IBMs plans for the future were basically more-of-the-same. “Why would anyone want color?” an IBM executive asked me. “They don’t need it” he said, answering his own question. Eventually there was a color 3270, but it was a fake, built by Hitachi and costing $10,000.

    Meanwhile, the ARPA guys, by now called DARPA as the DoD contributed some bucks, had been working with exotic communications protocols using asynchronous ACKs using the famous Red Balls, Blue Balls, etc. (all commercial systems required synchronous ACKs so that they could maintain their beloved control and mastery and monopoly), sliding-window protocols, packetizing, and flexible connectivity. Some of those techniques found use in Timesharing systems and created some millionaires and supported the luxurious retirement benefits of old IBM Selectric salesmen who couldn’t even spell computer.

    ARPAnet admitted EVERYONE to the network with flexible connection protocols and cheap bulk rates. After all, it was a research system designed to support academics at universities, and businesses with related research interests. So it was text based, i.e., good ol’ ASCII characters. But those clever Unix fellows quickly devised Unix-Unix-Encoding (UUE) which mapped binary onto an ASCII network and allowed free-form binary to flow freely through the network with only a slight cost in efficiency, and then successive generations of UUE (like UUX, etc., with map dictionaries and so on improved efficiency to greater than 100%, close to the Shannon-Nyquist theoretical max rates).

    IBM tried to respond with a dialup system called PRODIGY which was pretty good, if stiff and slow, and AOL came along as a closed comm system concentrating on apps. Both featured downstream cacheing at local multiplexors, a decent enough idea, but inferior to ARPAnet which cached at the endpoints thus saving costs and maintenance.

    We early users had access to good internet apps like FTP, IRC, email, usenet, etc., just like now, but small home users did everything thru an intermediary BBS, like “SpaceBBS” ($20per month) that a local retired army guy setup in town with a couple relay racks full of ganged PCs and modems and some kind of crossbar. What you did at home was to dialup his modem array and then you could poke around in his file system for good PC programs (like PKzip, Phil Katz’s excellent file compression program, still in use), or you could inject a ‘quikmail’ file into BARRnet which was a concentrator that bundled quikmail packets together and sent them to an SMTP mail initiator, and then collected your email from POPs, made a quickmail packet for you and sent it back thru BARRnet. It was a half-duplex system, not interactive, but the interactive capability was there for larger users that didn’t have to share a T1 line.

    And then CERN created Mosaic (the first fullscale ‘browser’), which we now know as Netscape (when it became a commercial product) which used the highly developed academic publishing language SGML (Structured General Markup Language) in a subset dubbed “HTML”, which we all know and love.

    The local BBS’s like ‘SpaceBBS’ turned into ISPs, aggregated, and raised their rates!

    The whole thrust of the internet was bottom-up design and implementation, and a rather wild-west openness, and it won!

    All that with a communications protocol that no right-thinking corporate technical committee would ever approve, connectivity options ditto, billing ditto, and a whole lot of other things ditto. But now they’re all doing it.

    All of it developed at publicly financed universities and with public research funds.

    Your tax dollars at work.

  • troll

    …your tax dollars at work undermining the principles of intellectual property rights and information security

    the contradictions – the horror

  • Clav


    Quoted for Truth.

  • Igor

    “Intellectual Property Rights” is a recent invention of the giant corporations that seek monopoly over thinkers and consumers. It’s a gross exaggeration of traditional copyright and patent law, which was intended to provide some continuing rewards for inventive individuals for a limited time, as specified in the constitution.

    Over the last 100 years or so large corporations have sought, and usually received, ever more powerful control over and profit from properties they ‘own’, that yield the true authors almost nothing. It’s basically a high class form of robbery. Robbery of some individuals “intellectual property” in order to obtain a monopoly in the market.

    Goliath was beaten by little David, but in the rematch Goliath hired lawyers to harass David with SLAM lawsuits to preoccupy David and demand special conditions and drug tests, etc., that seem to have been tilted against David, especially after some useful judgements from compliant Judges who were happy to accept campaign contributions fom Goliath Inc., and it’s generous owners, and then hired the entire audience for the match so that it would appear to onlookers that Goliath was a saint and David the tool of the devil.

    In the rematch Goliath crushed the hobbled and harassed David. And everyone cheered in approval.

    I think Ken Nordine did a Word Jazz verse about that, perhaps called “Flibberty Jib”, which ends “how are things in your town?”


  • Les Slater

    I wouldn’t want to find myself defending Obama so I will not. He doesn’t deserve any defense.

    I’m a communist so I’m inclined to defend small business in this debate, not all small businesses but those that produce useful products and services.

    Sidney and Riley pick on Obama but in a quite superficial way. Obama is a representative of the more general interests of the capitalist class, or more precisely of capital itself.

    The capitalist system is in a deep, and deepening crisis. The capitalist class may not be happy with how things are working out on Obama’s watch but they do not have much confidence that the likes of Romney would do any better.

    Neither business not government create any wealth. Wealth comes from nature and labor. At least some small business owners do labor intensely and that labor does create wealth. To the extent they hire workers the labor of those workers produce more wealth.

    The fact of ownership has nothing at all to do with the production of wealth and wealth can be created without any private ownership of the means of production.

  • roger nowosielski

    Tell it how it is, Les.

  • Igor

    A sentient capitalist will state that most commercial endeavors begin with a capitalist, who raises money to initiate the endeavor, to buy the machines, the factories, the trucks, etc., the actual capital (means of production) and to initiate the payroll so that workers may be hired. And it’s true. Such activities should be rewarded some way, and there should be a premium for doing it because there is so much leverage — the ROI is high.

    There are alternatives, such as Guild systems in which young skilled worker wannabees apprentice themselves to experienced craftsman, and then supply their own tools (capital).

    The real problem is with the allocation of rewards, and capitals opinion that ALL revenue and profit is their property to deal with as they please. It’s that opinion that is destroying America by grossly distorting power allocation in business. We need a better way to allocate rewards, perhaps thru unions, perhaps thru worker representation on the Board Of Directors.

  • Les Slater


    It is only a very few ignorant capitalists that actually believe ‘… ALL revenue and profit is their property to deal with as they please’. Those views are more the realm of apologetic wannabees.

    The reason things go the way they do is inherent in the lawful workings of the capitalist system itself. Those on for the ride have very little control.

    Sidney and Riley blather about how much Obama hates business and loves big government. Obama represents business, at least the most powerful. It is the workings of capitalism itself that is so destructive to small business.

    Capital needs a very powerful government. The whole system is shaky and the government is its necessary prop.


  • Hiya Les. Nice to see your typing. You have sharpened another idea for me with #28.

  • Igor

    Apparently it takes a government to stage an Olympics in Utah, too. In 2002 when the perennially screwed up Mormons were busy screwing up the Salt Lake City Olympics, amid much publicity Romney stepped in to save them with a Federal Government bailout of $1.5billion from his fellow Republicans in the US administration. That’s more money than the USA spent on all USA Olympics from 1904 onward.

    So that Hero of the Radical Right, eager to cut government spending everywhere else, such as old people needing medical care, young children desperately needing food and education, was nevertheless willing and even eager to spend a small fortune to show off to his fellow cultists. And then go about claiming to be a wonderful project manager and advertising his borrowed success as a great personal triumph and a qualification for being president.

    He’s a bum.

  • Les Slater

    Picking on Romney is a yawn. Is there any evidence that another four years of Obama would be any better?

    No matter how smart leaders of finance or government may be, or think they are, they have no solutions.

  • Igor

    Your diffidence has convinced me that you see no differences anywhere between anyone. How boring that must be for you.

  • Les Slater

    Me diffident? I don’t express opinions? Bored?

  • Igor

    You may have heard of another bridge around here called the “Golden Gate”, so named by Sir Francis Drake when he looked through the opening to the bay, hills covered in the Golden California Poppies that decorated the hills.

    The GG was envisioned as a civic project to promote housing in Marin County to support SF business. It was built by union labor for about $35million and came in under budget. And it’s still standing. A.P.Giannini (a pretty good judge of good investments, he built the Bank Of America, which you’ve probably heard of, by pioneering banking to small businesses and shopowners), Giannini bought out the whole issue himself and eventually made a $37million profit on the deal. IIRC the last bond was paid off in 1971. Heck of a good deal, all around.

    Thousands of business and personal fortunes were created by that government venture. Including those of a number of my businessman friends.

  • Igor

    George W. Bush’s entire personal fortune came through the government. He failed as a wildcatter, “Spectrum Oil”, when he tried to start a business in his 30’s, losing the entire $500,000 grubstake his family gave him. The Texas Rangers owners approached him with a deal: put in $600k for a 2% holding in a team with a dim future. GWB borrowed the money from “family and friends” (probably his dad). But he was still a lousy businessman (he fired Sammy Sosa), but his partners had a plan:using GWBs influence and his dads political push, they got the county (Arlington County, IIRC) to build a new stadium for the Rangers (using a tax override so that it was paid for by the citizens of Texas, your tax dollars at work!)

    Enthusiastic Texas baseball fans went to the new stadium and the rangers started to win and make money.

    The management gave GWB an additional 6% of the club, which he eventually reported as Capital Gains (to get the low tax rate) without GWB putting in new money. Most people would regard that 6% ownership bump as pay for services rendered (i.e., influence peddling) and subject to ordinary income taxes.

    Thus did the state and county governments of Texas bequeath a fortune on GWB.

  • Les Slater

    Now picking on George W. Bush? Not that I don’t agree with what you say. I disagree with why you’re saying it.

    George was president for eight years. It should be painfully obvious that he couldn’t run the government on any serious level. The fact is he didn’t.

    The various ruling classes have established stable institutions that span several governments of both parties. They are the ones that choose what advisers a president will have and ultimately what policies will be pursued.

    Obama disappointing so many is that whatever talents and intentions he may or may not have he has very little wiggle room. His mark is more superficial than not.

  • Zingzing

    Les, If you see no difference between Obama and Romney, you’re not paying attention. You may not like the system, but let’s not pretend they’re all the same. If you want to say they are, go ahead and think about it for a minute rather than sticking up your generic pose.

  • Arch Windbag

    It’s very interesting (and more than a little bit sad) to see people like Arch Conservative and RJ talk about things like “spin” and “context” and then ignore the actual message, which can be easily found on the White House website (as El Bicho inferred).

    But this is where politics is in the modern United States. People ignore facts because it suits their own ideology. They also make things up and repeat them to give them a cheap form of legitimacy.

    In the end, we get the government we deserve. One based on lies and only good enough to build weapons which, contrary to the accepted “wisdom,” do nothing more than buy jobs for defense contractors. If you think all of that money “protects our freedoms,” then you’re whistling past the graveyard of a once great country.

  • Igor

    GWB brags about his accomplishments, and is scornful of those with less wealth, yet everything came from the government. He’s an example of the typical self-deluded radical rightist.

  • troll

    Zingzing #47 – the point is more their similarities: both represent the ruling capitalist class and neither has a ‘solution’ to the present deepening crisis

  • Les Slater

    I suggest people pay a little less attention to any, typical or otherwise, self-deluded radical rightist. They are the flip side of the coin of the self-deluded liberal. The ruling class uses the symbiotic relationship of right and left to their great advantage.

  • Zingzing

    That’s a bit hard to respond to, troll. And it’s strange that the radical left accuses Obama of being the opposite from what the right accuses Obama of being. I don’t trust your statement anymore than I would a rightist’s claim that he’s a communist. Both statements are simplistic to the point of inanity.

  • Igor

    I mention GWB to point out that we could have known that he would fail in government just as he failed in business. All he ever accomplished was Influence Peddling, not a very distinguished occupation.

    Dick Cheney has a similar record: He lied about being CEO of Halliburton, he was NOT. He was actually “Government Relations Officer”, i.e., he used his contacts in government to sell Halliburton contracts. He was an Influence Peddler. The truth came out when Halliburtons own officers were sued by their own stockholders for having bought Dresser Industries (said purchase had been pushed by Cheney), which suddenly developed a $20billion liability loss that cost many shareholders lots of money as the stock went thru the floor. Cheney weaseled out by disclaiming his CEOness. Some people claim that the sweetheart KBR Iraq/Afghan contracts were balm for Cheneys screwups. Gee, that suggests that he started those wars to toss lucrative contracts to KBR.

    What we could have known from GWBs and Cheneys business screwups was that they would screwup the government, too. Which is what they did, demonstrating unprecedented ignorance and ineptness in everything they touched: economics, war and international relations.

    Now we have the next business candidate, Mitt Romney , who claims that his sterling business experience gives him insight into matters, although he never says what that insight reveals. And so far his policy ideas are a joke: witness this weeks stupidity about tax policy that the independent Taxation Policy Center eviscerated.

    Romney and Bain are what businessmen call “liquidators”: thay are called in to guide a failing business through bankruptcy. The idea is to sift thru the ashes, find any nuggets of gold and set them aside in a separable business that can be isolated and sold for net assets that can throw off commissions and bonuses. The liquidator typically gets 2% of any new capital brought in, and 20% of any profits from asset sales. That’s why they’re called “2 and 20” outfits.

    So, we can expect that Romney will liquidate the USA, Whoops! I don’t want that! Why, that even sounds disloyal, or treacherous or treason, or something.

  • troll

    well Zingzing – imo the question of class representation is both significant and empirical

    left/right conservative/liberal? : why ponder the degree of your amygdala’s atrophy…from my pov a more productive exercise for you seekers after self-knowledge is to analyze your ‘paycheck’ – where does it come from? what is your relationship with surplus value and the the system of class exploitation from which it derives?

  • roger nowosielski

    The seekers after self-knowledge? That’s a good one.

    The listed objections to Les’s and troll’s pointed remarks only confirm me in the long-held belief that the liberal mindset is the greatest obstacle to true democracy.

    But perhaps there is an intricate connection between liberalism and the Anglo-Saxon genes and xenophobic culture, prudish and estranged from the self (the body). It must search for happiness outside of the self: hence the value placed on success.

    Liberalism may well be a way of mitigating the deleterious effects of estranged and misused lives, an understandable reaction, but it isn’t a cure. It, too, is a symptom of the same disease.

  • Glenn Contrarian

    Roger –

    But perhaps there is an intricate connection between liberalism and the Anglo-Saxon genes and xenophobic culture, prudish and estranged from the self (the body). It must search for happiness outside of the self: hence the value placed on success.

    First, ALL cultures are to some extent xenophobic – such is not a function of culture, but of humanity. Those cultures which are less xenophobic are merely those that have been forced (by economic necessity, religious stricture, or idealism by the leaders) to accept those who would otherwise not belong. AND it is the liberal personality that you decry which is most accepting of those who are different, whereas the conservative mindset is less accepting of the same. Or are you referring to a different definition of liberalism?

    Second, are you perhaps more accepting of those cultures where the religion encourages introspection? For as far as I can tell, with the possible exception of feudal Japan, there’s absolutely zero cultures where cultural emphasis on introspection arose from non-religious influences.

  • Igor

    I interrupt this stream of internecine BC warfare to return for a moment to the original topic, which was Obamas reputed gaffe about “…you didn’t build that…”.

    It’s been reported to me that Romney said exactly the same thing to the 2002 Olympians at the opening ceremonies. (I understand this started being reported about July 23 so I apologize for being tardy, but I don’t watch USA TV news, or any commercial TV, preferring DW-TV, BBC, NHK, France24, RT or Taiwan Report, etc., which seems to filter out the more egregious mudslinging).

    Not that any of that makes any difference, IMO. Of course people who strive and achieve are aided greatly by society. It was true when Romney said it and it was true when Obama said it.

    What’s interesting to me is that anyone, including our own Sidney and Riley, chose to make an issue about that statement. Of course, each reporter is telling us of their own bias. But it’s such a weak argument as to make one wonder at their naivete. Especially since the Romney comment seems to have surfaced about July 23 and the S&R editorial was published 2 days later on July 25. Did they just plow ahead with the diatribe even though the ready rebuttal was staring them in the face?

    One might suppose that having composed such a diatribe it would have been difficult for S&R to abandon their handiwork merely because it was mistaken, so they published anyway, figuring to bury their mistake in the general rightist clamor surrounding Obamas remark.

    The whole thing just detracts from S&Rs credibility as observers of politics. They seem to show little of their famous left-brain capability and just go off on conventional rightist propaganda in the right echo chamber.

    Sorry for the interruption. You can go back to Hatfields vs. McCoys, or whatever.

  • troll

    …El Bicho nailed this echo in comment #2 – hardly seemed any reason to comment further on it

    (hey Roger – drop me an e-mail and let me know how things are shaking out for you after your move)

  • Roger’s continued sniping at liberalism still puzzles me; I’ve still yet to read anything from him that was anything other than liberal or, far worse, purely philosophical and nothing at all that was either iconoclastic or practical.

    C’mon, Roger, knock off the pointless posturing and gives us real something to chew on…

  • Glenn Contrarian

    Chris –

    I think Roger’s referring to a different definition of liberalism than that which most of us use.

  • Yeah, maybe, Glenn, but even if that is the case, we still need to move on from mere rhetoric…

  • roger nowosielski

    The Europeans, e.g., the French, the Spanish, the Italians, are less estranged from or ashamed of their bodies than the Anglo-Saxons. They’re more prone to enjoy life, whether by their eating habits, the time they take, conversation being an integral part of food consumption, part of the ritual. This is a foreign concept to us, everything’s fast food or food on the go. Breast feeding in public, e.g., is quite common in European cultures but an abomination in ours. We are ashamed of our bodies, of our bodily functions, ashamed of and estranged from nature. An Anglo-Saxon is a denaturalized/denatured man, more xenophobic and more prudish than any other. Which is why he needs an object outside of the self to satisfy his cravings. And so, the notion of success becomes a cult-like object.

    (Random thoughts on how the Anglo-Saxons may appear to people from other cultures)

  • Stereotypes now?


  • And how.

    There are at least 18 stereotypes in Roger’s #62 and possibly as many as 24. Pretty impressive work.

  • troll

    …Chris #59 – while one might question the practical need for (and maybe even the desirability of) an articulated conceptual framework for ‘the movement’ and while he has yet to justify (convincingly enough for his liberal audience anyway) his claims that liberal attitudes are destructive to ‘true democracy’ or provide a fulcrum for iconoclastic action Roger has gone well beyond ‘sniping’ in his critique

    you might not be a big fan of philosophy and the histories of ideas but fair is fair

  • 47 – Zingzing
    Aug 03, 2012 at 8:52 am
    Les, If you see no difference between Obama and Romney, you’re not paying attention. You may not like the system, but let’s not pretend they’re all the same. If you want to say they are, go ahead and think about it for a minute rather than sticking up your generic pose.

    This 5 minute video introducing how public opinion is politically controlled should help you see what Les is saying.

    How Politicians & the Media Misrepresent the Public

    Paraphrased summary:

    Both parties are the same on monetary issues. They support private healthcare, high defense spending, and the interests of big business.

    Our attention is diverted to issues of civil liberties such as gay marriage, abortion, etc. This works effectively to focus us on a few social differences, which ends up convincing us that the candidates are different when they are actually identical in their support of the elite.

  • roger nowosielski

    Of course these are stereotypes, Dreadful. Yet, the fact they draw an intense reaction from some, such as Chris, is quite telling: all stereotypes are to some extent true, though they may not be fair.

    For the record, the characterization offered is not mine but arose in the context of a specific conversation. In any case, that’s how some (intelligent) blacks who had spent considerable time living in Europe view the American/Anglo-Saxon white culture, and I merely found the pov interesting enough to relate as food for thought. The connection with “liberalism” and objectification of success was just a matter of connecting the dots, simply as a matter of conjecture.

    I apologize for the confusion by not making it clear that I wasn’t necessarily speaking in my own voice.

  • troll

    Cindy – I’ve spent several fun hours on the MEF site since you posted it…thought I should say thanks

  • troll, thanks. it is good to know that someone has taken a look and gotten something out of that site.

  • troll, we’ll have to differ on that one; I think I’ve had the opportunity to read everything Roger has written and don’t recall anything that has ever amounted to more than sniping against liberalism which, as far as I am aware, is the least bad practical political philosophy.

    Furthermore, as his own remarks are nothing but based on liberal thought, to criticise it so frequently as he does, whilst seemingly displaying no awareness of that contradiction, nor anything by way of an advance upon liberalism, nor any practical steps to implement any upgrading, refining or progression of it, seems to be nothing more than posturing to me, which is largely what contemporary philosophy has sadly become.

    When that is combined with his constant poor comprehension of the views of others expressed here and the accompanying mis-characterisation of those remarks, what is left revealed is neither compelling nor even coherent and lacking in any degree of intellectual discipline or rigour.

  • Cindy, I hesitate to engage with you again as the last time I made an entirely reasonable response to one of your points you lost it but yet again I find myself thinking that your point is both true yet only partial and also not at all new.

    Surely the perception that our governments and the media are giving us partial and subjective views and information is at least as old as politics itself?

    There are, of course, clear differences between Obama and Romney, but also much that they have in common; such is the nature of the contemporary political game.

    I completely agree that a new and better politics is called for and probably long overdue but until Western democracies have their own “Spring” like moments I doubt the political plates will make the necessary tectonic shifts.

  • Roger, probably nobody doubts the existence of stereotypes, least of all myself, but they are at best a limited and limiting social definer at best and to characterise any grouping exclusively in those terms is simply absurd and dishonest.

    Equally absurd and dishonest is your weak attempt to portray my three word mockery of your laziness as an “intense reaction”.

    Now we at least know that you were merely regurgitating someone else’s intellectual laziness, although whether they are in fact “intelligent” insights remains in some considerable doubt…

  • roger nowosielski

    My bad, Chris. Intense is not a term one should ever ascribe to you. But mockery or not, and mockery is your favorite stylistic habit, it is a form of reaction. (Didn’t mean to get personal, dude, though am hardly surprised you took it that way.)

    As to your take on the quality of my thought and written works, rest assured I expect nothing constructive from you, just so you know.

  • Roger, your attempts at provocation are as ineffective as your comprehension is limited.

    I’m often intense, although dealing with you rarely requires it.

    I suppose you could call my #63 mockery at a stretch, although I intended it as something lighter and hopefully funnier.

    I don’t really mind what you expect from me, but I expect anyone who wants to be taken seriously, and you so obviously want to be taken seriously, to be able to able to understand ideas clearly and then build on that. As your comprehension of input is so clearly and deeply flawed, it seems of little point to take your output that seriously.

    One of the major problems with internet based communication in spaces like this is that many people aren’t really interested in engaging in dialogue and don’t seem able to understand other people’s words as well as they might in an actual conversation. The main interest seems to be in output only, which I think is an opportunity lost.

    Thankfully there are some that have the ability to receive as well as transmit and for that one must be grateful.

  • roger nowosielski

    The so-called attempts at provocation, Chris, are only in your own head. You do seem suffer from an exaggerated opinion of yourself.

    In any case, I’ve long found you one of the least persons on this site worthwhile of engaging; so no, provoking you was the last thing on my mind.

    Don’t let it bother you, though. Keep on pluggin’.

  • Roger, your are so funny, albeit unintentionally so.

    Keep on living in your imaginary world, you’re clearly not equipped for reality; or honesty…

  • troll

    …dunno Chris – for all his faults you might give Roger a more sympathetic read

    you do share certain concerns such as eg the overbearing State…one point of focus in Roger’s work is to demonstrate how this is inexorably linked to liberalism

  • troll, I don’t read anybody sympathetically or unsympathetically, I read everyone informationally.

    I know he and I have a few concerns in common but that does not detract from my points, which are information and fact based.

    As to liberalism, sure it contributes to state expansion, just as the authoritarian paternalism of the right does too. However, liberalism is tolerant of differences, not controlling or limiting of them.

    What we need are more intelligent and better laws and government processes, a meta legal and political system if you like…

  • troll

    … liberalism is tolerant of differences, not controlling or limiting of them. = an essential characteristic of liberalism (per Chris and Glenn Contrarian at least)

    so a convincing critique of liberalism would need to highlight the ways in which this narrative is suspect

    thanks for the clear re-focus

  • Igor

    @77-the overbearing state is linked to human vanity, the belief that each one has that he knows what is best for others. It’s beyond mere politics.

  • roger nowosielski


    But therein lies the contradiction, the idea that devising enlighten laws will do away with intolerance whereas their effect seems precisely the opposite. (Liberalism is a product/form of human enlightenment gone awry.)

    Which suggests the need to re-think the proper function of law(s) in a democratic society, with greater stress on the didactic/teaching dimensions, designed to produce consent, than those having to do with censure and/or punishment.

  • roger nowosielski

    … enlightened … (first line)

  • troll, nothing is beyond a good critiqueing, indeed criticism is a necessary part of improving anything. In that regard, particularly online, what we need is dialectic but what we get is debate and/or rhetoric.

    Igor, I’m not sure that all humans believe that they know what is best for others. It is an old world way that is a part of faithism and authoritarianism but more modern folk don’t really need a big stick wielding figurehead.

    Roger, as far as I have understood this conversation, nobody said that devising enlightened laws would do away with intolerance.

    Tolerance is a quality of liberalism but there are no liberal political parties nor are the Western democracies particularly liberal – and increasingly less so both over the last 40 years and particularly since 9/11. You are arguing against something nobody is proposing…

  • Les Slater

    The terms liberal, progressive, left as well as conservative and many other attempts to describe political tendencies are often not much more than epithets these days.

    Most organized, loosely or otherwise, political tendencies support the capitalist system. This is why it can be said that the whole range of alleged right to left is headed toward the same dead end.

  • Zingzing

    The problem, les, is that while communism is a beautiful idea, it assumes much of collective humans that we’ve proven over and over we don’t have in us. Yes, we can work together for the better good, but there will always be someone or some group of people that will pervert that spirit and turn it into despotism. (Capitalism, which is greedy and corrupt to its core, at least plays to things that humans are capable of, even if it’s not our best qualities.)

    If you can tell me how you think we can negate this fundamental flaw in communist reality (not thought, but actual communism in action in the real world), I’m sure I’d at least become more open to persuasion about communism being anything but another dead end. (keep in mind that I’m totally open to socialism in many ways.). Hell. If you can just point me to a historical example of actual communism (in a nation or society at least somewhat comparable to our own) that didn’t produce a nightmare, I’d be rather thrilled.

  • Les Slater


    Your argument is not against communism but humanity. You are expressing nothing but the pessimism of a demoralized middle class.


  • Zingzing

    Give me a break, les. Or at least meet me midway. And stop with the posturing. I can see right through it, and frankly, it smacks of propaganda. You must admit that communism in reality has not even closely lived up to its promise on paper. And even a smidgen of thought given towards communism’s historical failings points towards human greed and the human desire for power as the reason for that failing.

    It’s not pessimism so much as it is engaging with reality. If you don’t see the same problem I do, it seems to me that you are forgetting humanity rather than arguing for it. I love love love the idea of communism, but that’s all it’s ever really been good at being: an idea. It doesn’t seem to work in large societies (and by large I mean even nations much much smaller than our own).

    Can you tell me how to get around the fact that communism in practice has always been quickly perverted (and corrupted)? or can you tell me why you think it would be different this time? Or are you just going to give me another line?

  • Les Slater

    What are you talking ‘this time’? Humanity has tried and we have learned. The attempts by humanity taking destiny into our hands were never thought to be able to work without suppressing the workings of capital on a world scale. There have been misjudgments as to what was possible when but like I say we have learned and now do know that capitalism is not necessary.

    Previous attempts have been with relatively small and isolated working classes. The working classes and their vanguard leaderships have been ruthlessly smashed.

    Capitalism itself has strengthened the working class qualitatively on a world scale since 1917. We are in a much better position to succeed and the forces of capital are continuously falling into deeper crisis.

    It is becoming clear that capital will kill us if we don’t kill it. The realization that the system, its political and business leaders have no answers is becoming clear to all but the most dense.

    There will be those that will continue to believe that human beings are not capable of finding a way out but I’m quite confident that they will end up quite isolated.

  • Zingzing

    “this time” means whenever the next time comes around.

    “we have learned and now do know that capitalism is not necessary”

    You seem to be speaking for a large amount of people, many of whom I’d think would agree with you. Unfortunately, a lot of people with money and power would disagree with you, or if they didn’t disagree with the “necessary” bit, would still think it desirable enough to fight over it, and they’d be hard to beat. Not saying it’s impossible, just saying I think you’re a bit over-confident. (and smacking of propaganda again…)

    “Capitalism itself has strengthened the working class qualitatively on a world scale since 1917.”

    It has. Which may lead some in that class to think twice about biting the hand etc etc.

    “It is becoming clear that capital will kill us if we don’t kill it.”

    Times is tough right now, but come on. It’s only been a few years. A decade ago and a decade from now, capitalism was and may again be doing just dandy by the middle class. It might not make you rich and it might not make you happy, but communism can’t promise those things either… And communism (or at least the shitty attempts at communism,) has killed people before and it might again. This again smacks of propaganda. Do your friends like to be around you when you get on this stuff? Just asking.

    “There will be those that will continue to believe that human beings are not capable of finding a way out but I’m quite confident that they will end up quite isolated.”

    All I’m saying is that full-blown communism might not be the answer. It’s got several strikes against it already.

    But anyway, you’re saying that the working classes have learned and the next time we give communism a shot, the problems of past communist regimes won’t pop up again because… I don’t know. Do we have to suppress capitalism on a world scale? It’s unclear from your comment. There are elements of human nature against communism. How does this address those problems?

  • Igor

    @85-Zing: there are many pioneering societies that were socialistic and even communistic, e.g., The Fourier Societies that sprang up all over the US in the 19th century, the Kibbutz’s of Israel, the Amanas in Iowa, the, Mennonites and other traditional groups in the Northeast, all of the Indian tribes across the US, etc.

    When I was a boy I worked on farms in southern Minnesota populated by Swedes and run in a loose communalism which developed “Co-ops” to jointly market finished farm products to stores, including Co-op groceries across the country. They were largely responsible for destroying grocery monopolies that oppressed both producing farmers and consuming families (that’s why the profit margin in the grocery business is about 4%-5% now).

    I’m surprised you’re unaware of such communitarian successes and can only conclude that such information has been purposefully excluded from your education.

    You’ll have to search out the information on your own since it appears that USA newspapers and TV are controlled by large conglomerates that have vested interest in keeping citizens ignorant of anything that departs from conventional views.

  • Les Slater

    Zing, you read too much of your middle class demoralization into your understanding of history and human nature.

    The direction of the period we are now in was becoming clear in the late 60’s. It hit me like a sledge hammer on August 15, 1971. I have been observing, studying and intervening in the class struggle since.

    During that time I found how seriously one has to take history and theory. Those that know me will note that my tone and confidence has become much more serious since Katrina. I talk to a lot of people. To see a major U.S. city destroyed by the workings of the capitalist system has opened many eyes. Only a very few have any confidence that government, business, academia or the any of the religious hierarchy have any solutions. This includes the very wealthy.

  • Les Slater

    To make it a little clearer that last sentence should read ‘This lack of confidence includes the very wealthy.’

  • Although I have ambivalent feelings about capitalism, I have even more mixed feelings about communism, which has never ever been established as a political system anywhere.

    It is great in theory of course but then so are many other theories that can’t actually cut it in the world.

    One thing that capitalism’s detractors tend to ignore is that it is actually taking more and more people out of poverty and that there are signs that there is an actual end to below subsistence level poverty for everyone on the planet within the lifetimes of people under 40 years of age…

  • Igor, none of those examples were on a national level or have thrived over time, so don’t really work as viable examples.

    Les: “Capitalism itself has strengthened the working class qualitatively on a world scale since 1917. We are in a much better position to succeed and the forces of capital are continuously falling into deeper crisis.

    It is becoming clear that capital will kill us if we don’t kill it. The realization that the system, its political and business leaders have no answers is becoming clear to all but the most dense.

    There will be those that will continue to believe that human beings are not capable of finding a way out but I’m quite confident that they will end up quite isolated.”

    Can you put some flesh on these rhetorical bones?

    I have problems with the very concept of a unified working class; don’t actually see how it is the case that the “forces of capital are continuously falling into deeper crisis”; fail to see how capital will kill us but would agree that many contemporary political and business leaders have no answers, although that is often true and new answers do seem to have a way of emerging.

    Your last point is quite at odds with all the rest and I completely agree that we humans will find ways of resolving contemporary challenges but I don’t think it is going to be in the way you seem to be envisioning…

  • Les Slater


    Marxist do not deny the constructive power of capital and Marxists have not been the only ones to recognize the destructive power of capital.

    It is becoming painfully clear to most that the destructive power of capital outweighs its constructive power. The consequence of technology and productivity creating misery on the scale it does is insidious.

    Not only are the capitalist not able to control capital but it is becoming a threat to them also. The position of the capitalist himself has become quite precarious.

    I have been suggesting that the working class itself contest for government leadership in the electoral arena and just let us decide what priorities to push and enforce.


  • Les, again, please substantiate your assertion that the “destructive power of capital outweighs its constructive power”, because I don’t see the evidence to support that or your other repetitious but similarly unsupported rhetoric.

    It’s starting to sound like a belief system rather than something more empirical…

  • Oh, as to the notion of the working class, which I still don’t see as a homogeneous body, contesting government leadership, that would seem pretty redundant when the political system and the legal structures that underpin it are themselves in need of substantial structural reform.

  • Zingzing

    Igor, #90– you see that part where I continually ask for examples of communist societies or nations at least somewhat comparable to our own? That’s because I know all about what you describe in your comment, and I was sure someone would bring it up, even though it’s got no real baring on the idea of turning this nation into a communist nation. So spare me. It’s pretty amazing that you think such info is hidden or hard to come by.

  • Zingzing

    Les, #91– so I see you dodged the question again. Do you not agree that any attempts at a large-scale communist system have been marred by despotism? You speak in such vague terms… Why is that? There’s so much rhetoric, but nothing concrete… You sound like a preacher of your gospel, which is more than a little off-putting, and not at all convincing.

  • Zingzing

    Seriously les, I know the metaphor may be a little off (or maybe not), but I’m like a guy looking at a car and you’re the guy trying to sell it to me, and when I ask about the gas mileage, you go on about how many people it can fit in the back.

    You’re not going to sell me on this using that tactic, and you’d damn well better be trying to sell me, shouldn’t you?

  • Les Slater

    I answered the questions, maybe not to the best of my ability, but certainly gave it a shot.

    I was at a birthday party Saturday and started talking with a professor of philosophy. I knew him and we both have interests in Hegel and Marx. I mentioned I was reading Thomas Aquinas and got into a deep discussion on religion. He said he was not an atheist to which I replied that maybe we need God, from a biological perspective. It was a deep and very theoretical discussion. He got upset when I told him I didn’t believe in infinity. We will continue that discussion.

    His biggest shock was when I told him I was brought up Pentecostal. He was absolutely amazed that not only did I survive but am able to think.

    What I didn’t go into with him is that most of the relatives, and some friends, I grew up with never abandoned those beliefs. And you know what? Every last one of them can think. I don’t have to hide any of my political beliefs or even avoid them.

    Most of the real workers that I come in contact with are devout Christians. And you know what? They think too. I find many are very interested in explanations about how capitalists, the workings of markets and even capital itself thwarts their fulfillment of what they desire and believe they deserve. They are beginning to understand that they, as a class, being organized and taking power is necessary.

    I spent over 30 years living in Boston. I couldn’t stand it any longer and finally got out. It struck me when John Kerry was running for president that he represented the essence of middle class stupidity. He tried to say that everyone else was stupid.

    Here in Chicago it is more confined to the left and other self-described progressives. It’s distilled in the occupy movement, which in my opinion is quite reactionary. Politically they are the voice of capital personified.

  • Zingzing

    You didn’t answer the question to my satisfaction, that’s for sure. You didn’t even directly address it. As for the rest of what you just said, I’m struggling to find any connection to what we were talking about, unless it was directed to someone else.

  • Les, you didn’t actually answer the questions at all, but you did confirm my suspicion that you are speaking out of faith not reason.

    Your rather bizarre ramblings in #101 are lavish demonstration of a lack of clarity that is not a little unnerving.

    Your views are divisive and reactionary in and of themselves and therefore lacking in credibility and value. Shame…

  • Les Slater


    I’m a scientist by nature. I spent a career as a fairly high level electronics design engineer. Part of the scientist side is cosmology, thermodynamics and particle physics. My engineering experience hardware (both digital and analog), software, communications, signal processing, high energy – lots of things.

    Since we are attempting to communicate here, and complaining about its shortcomings, I will let you know some the background of what I base what I say, what I observe and what I believe.

    First, I can’t see, hear, smell or otherwise observe all of reality. I have much experience with sampling and sampling theory. For that I’m indebted to Harry Nyquist. To go deeper as to what the samples might mean I’m indebted to Claude Shannon and Warren Weaver.

    When interpreting a snippet of news or what a person may say he thinks on a certain subject one has to have some sense of the common shared experience and history and an immediate context.

    Another technique I use is borrowed from particle physics, interjecting something that might shake something loose, maybe ‘unnerving’ and see what flies. Not always productive but over time and from different angles a picture begins to take shape.

    Both ‘fact’ and ‘faith’ are ultimately based on a material reality. But both are interpretations of that material reality and may or may not correspond to the essence of that reality. There are even facts that may be true but only superficially related to the essential reality.

    I strive very hard that any faith I have is related to the essence of material reality and its motion.

    You may dismiss the likes of Hegel or Marx but believe me if you don’t deeply understand what they are describing then you will be hopelessly lost.

    Note that I did not say you had to be an expert in any academic sense but what they were attempting to describe is real.


  • Igor

    @93-Chris: you don’t suppose there can be something other than ‘capitalism’ or ‘communism’, do you? Or perhaps some felicitous combination of the two? Do you think that politics in Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Netherlands, etc., etc., is doomed?

    It’s not obvious to me that the Political Wheel Of Fortune only has two numbers on it.

  • Igor

    @93-Chris: the last paragraph seems astonishingly obtuse given all the current evidence that capitalism is presently embarked on a course of plundering wealth from the middle class while re-distributing wealth upward and pressing more people downward as we progress toward a society of “haves and have nots”.

    The middle is being raided from above.

  • troll

    “real workers” Les?


    just as capitalist (like) exploitation (and I use that descriptor to remind us of what we’re talking about) existed within a predominantly feudal social structure – and despite initially having no nation to call its own eventually dominated the dominator – so communist (like) productive enterprises exist within the currently dominant capitalist social structure…

    – just sayin’

  • Igor

    @93-Chris: your first paragraph is puzzling since soviet (Stalinist) communism existed in the Soviet Union for 70 years and subjugated 100s of millions.

    Soviet communism succeeded in creating industrial society in a backward agrarian society. It also succeeded in subjugating millions of people and even succeeded in Racial Cleansing of 10s of millions (Like the muzhiks). They were the first to launch a successful earth satellite. Etc. Of course, the arts suffered under “Socialist Realism”, despite some great movies, good Prokofieff, Katchiturian, Stravinski, Shostakovitch,… and suddenly Pasternak and Solzhenitsin let the irrepressible human Russian soul loose.

  • Igor

    @98-Zing: what basis of comparison do you require when you say: “…you see that part where I continually ask for examples of communist societies or nations at least somewhat comparable to our own? ”

    Communist Russia, the Soviet Union, was as geographically large and populous as the USA, and so was comparable.

  • Zingzing

    It was, Igor, but that’s not the type of example you were giving before. Besides, the ussr quickly devolved into despotism and even in its less despotic later days, it still wasn’t the best advertisement for communism. You seemed to have missed my question to Les, which concerned a communist regime in a nation of at least comparable size to the us, which DID NOT devolve into despotism. “comparable” means at least a few million. On a small scale, it seems to me that communism can work, and in the early days of civilization, was probably a necessity. But I think the 20th/21st century experiments with large scale communism have all been disastrous or at least far below the even the most basic promise of communism’s idea. Given the evidence, I’m not willing to trade in our current system, even with all its flaws, for what we’ve seen of communism in action.

  • Zingzing

    Igor: “Chris: your first paragraph is puzzling since soviet (Stalinist) communism existed in the Soviet Union for 70 years and subjugated 100s of millions.”

    I’d be willing to bet that Chris is saying that that wasn’t really communism, as it was too perverted by the regime. Much the same as communism has been perverted in Cuba, Pre-90s china (and other parts of Asia that have made significant market reforms over the last couple of decades), as well as N Korea, which has not even attempted a classless society in many decades, if ever.

  • Les, fascinating as your #104 is, how does it relate to either my remarks to you or your own prior remarks?

    Igor, my answer to your #105 questions are maybe, but not so far; hopefully; and no.

    Re your #106, what is happening in the USA and some other Western democracies is not the world; there is a clear trend that global poverty is declining and has been for many years now, regardless of short term localised problems.

    World Bank data shows that the percentage of the population living in households with consumption or income per person below the poverty line has decreased in each region of the world since 1990:
    Region 1990 2002 2004
    E Asia/Pacific 15.40% 12.33% 9.07%
    Europe/Central Asia 3.60% 1.28% 0.95%
    L America/Caribbean 9.62% 9.08% 8.64%
    M East/N Africa 2.08% 1.69% 1.47%
    South Asia 35.04% 33.44% 30.84%
    Sub-Saharan Africa 46.07% 42.63% 41.09%

    As to the Soviet Union, what went on there was absolutely not Communism. There have never been any communist states ever.

  • Les Slater


    My 104 was in response to your 103 which was a response to my 101. Before that there was a history of me trying to get across specifics as to the degeneration of capitalism and where to look to resolve the crisis.

    Your very brief 103 complained on a couple fronts. One that I ramble and lack clarity and also that my views are divisive and reactionary. On the latter I have no idea what you are talking about.

    As far as my ‘ramblings’ go, since I was not convincing you or Zing I thought I would give a little glimpse into what I think about and a little about how I think.

    104, which you find fascinating, was an attempt at further elaboration of how I come to the views that I have and a little about some of my communications methodology.

    The parts about essence vs the superficial goes back to the theme of this thread, namely a certain perspective on Obama in the 2012 elections. I attempted to point out that regardless of differences of politicians including their capabilities or lack thereof, that the direction the government would go had much more to do with underlying factors at work, factors that were beyond human control.

    I contend that some of those factors need to be suppressed.


  • Les, I know which comments you were referring to but your 104 had no thematic relevance to anything preceding it.

    Your views are reactionary because they are a reaction to your perception of the status quo and divisive because you see one class as pitted against another.

    I can’t actually relate to your view as it just seems to be based on a redundant and incomplete understanding of issues and what is actually going on in the world, as opposed to in the world of your political theory, but thanks for the conversation.

  • Les Slater


    I told you a little about how I observe, think and communicate. Maybe you can enlighten me, in what I have written in this thread, how I advocate pitting one class against another.


  • Zingzing

    “since I was not convincing you or Zing…”

    you could easily attempt to do that, but you don’t… I wonder why. Both Chris and I have expressed huge doubts about communism’s ability to translate from the page to reality without becoming a distorted, malign thing, so much so that’s it becomes impossible to actually call it communism and it becomes some form of despotism.

    I’ve been poking around and found that Tito’s Yugoslavia, while more socialistic than communistic, and while he was a dictator with a lot of problems and more than a little blood on his hands, may be the best shot you’ve got. There’s loads of Balkan states (and other areas of eastern europe and near asia that weren’t part of the ussr or the eastern bloc per se) that were once considered communist (but now are not) and they may have some history you should know something about and it’s possible you could regale us with some stories of communist successes in those areas.

    I, at least, want some facts. I want to see that the communist dream doesn’t always become a nightmare. Where and when has it ever been that communism delivered anything close to what it promises? Socialism, communism’s better equipped cousin, has its problems certainly, but they are minor compared to communism, and at least passable when compared to capitalism.

    I find it hard to believe that, given the swings and easily corruptible qualities of capitalism, that anyone would fully subscribe to it. I also find it hard to believe that given the history and easily corruptible qualities of communism, that anyone would fully subscribe to it. Some mix of these things, even if bits of them harm the upper classes, and even if bits of them harm the lower and middle classes, is what’s needed. No system will ever be perfect for all, but if we tinker and toy with an open mind, we might just produce something that doesn’t simplify modern life down to ideas that have no baring on the modern world, and gives us both individual opportunity and a communal safety net.

  • Les Slater


    I look at things very differently than you do. Or at least it would seem so on the surface.

    I wasn’t always a communist. I had to be convinced. A very short time after U.S. went off the gold standard I started hanging around the U.S. Socialist Workers Party and read ‘Revolution Betrayed’ by Leon Trotsky. It was very informative reading about what actually happened causing the degeneration of the Soviet Union. You should read it but I doubt it would totally convince you.

    What did convince me at the time was a written account of a dispute within the Socialist Workers Party in 1939 and ’40. Two major books were published about that dispute. One was ‘In Defense of Marxism’ by Leon Trotsky and the other ‘Struggle for a Proletarian Party’ by James P. Cannon.

    The dispute erupted around the Stalin-Hitler Pact and the Soviet’s occupation of eastern Poland and invasion of Finland.

    The ideological leader of the opposition within the Party was one James Burnham. There were two others, one was Max Shachtman.

    The point of the opposition was that with the Stalin-Hitler Pact and the military invasions of Poland and Finland that the Soviet Union could not be considered any different than Nazi Germany and could in no way be defended.

    I was a new member of the Socialist Workers Party as I began reading ‘Defense of Marxism’ I agreed with the opposition that thought Trotsky was just splitting hairs because he was so connected with the Russian Revolution.

    Before the end of the book I was won over to Trotsky’s position and Burnham went from being a ‘communist’ to admitting his views were far from any form of Marxism. He later went on to Join William F. Buckley in the founding of the ‘National Review’.

    From this I became thoroughly convinced that class perspective has an extremely important bearing on one’s political views. Reading wikipedia’s piece on James Burnham can be quite enlightening.

    And, oh yes, I do have a positive example to look to: Cuba.


  • Glenn Contrarian

    Les –

    Cuba’s not exactly a positive example. Yes, they can rightfully brag about their medical system, particularly given the stupid half-century embargo that America keeps enforcing, but there’s not much in the way of freedom of speech. They DO have many political prisoners there.

  • Les Slater


    I’ve been to Cuba twice. My experience is that people do not have the slightest fear of criticizing the government or its political leaders or even the political system itself.

    ALL of the celebrated ‘political’ prisoners that I have heard of have committed crimes similar to what might get you a prison term for in the U.S.


  • Zing,

    The ‘modern world’ seems perfectly suited to using technology for direct democracy rather than representative democracy. I wonder why that is never suggested, tested, or implemented on even the smallest levels as a potentially better alternative.

  • Les Slater


    Under the present class divided society with a minority, very privileged and powerful, ruling class having pretty much a monopoly forming opinions, any attempts at technology enabled direct democracy would, I believe, be a step toward mob rule.


  • Glenn Contrarian

    Les –

    Really? According to the Havana Times, Cuba ‘finally’ released all its non-violent political prisoners in 2011. According to the BBC (from before the actions in the Havana Times article), there were 167 political prisoners in Cuba.

    But most telling is this article from earlier this year:

    In 2011, Smith led Congress and members of the international community to nominate Biscet for the Nobel Peace Prize.

    Biscet said that he has endured torture and inhumane cruelty at the orders of a dictatorship seeking to coerce him to stop his work to promote human rights in Cuba.

    He told of the abuse that he suffered at the hands of the political police, who beat him, disfigured his face and broke his foot.

    He and his family were tortured, he said, and three assassination attempts were made against him.

    Biscet has been arrested multiple times, including once after he accused the Cuban government of allowing and hiding botched abortions.

    While in prison, he was awarded the Medal of Freedom by President George W. Bush for opposing the Castro regime.

    The Catholic Church in Cuba helped secure Biscet’s release – along with over 50 other dissidents – in March 2011. After his release, he chose to remain in Cuba and continue fighting for human rights.

    In his testimony, Biscet described the cruel treatment he suffered and observed during almost 12 years in prison.

    To be fair, America is the closest thing to a prison society in the world, and it is a national shame. But we can certainly speak out against our government. That’s apparently not the case in Cuba.

  • Igor

    Neither communism nor capitalism is capable of being scaled up from small units to huge units.

    We saw that demonstrated 30 years ago in the failure and breakup of the Soviets. It hasn’t happened so disruptively to capitalism, yet, but we seem to be getting closer.

    Meanwhile, many smaller states seem to prosper in each camp. We should learn from them.

  • Glenn Contrarian

    Igor –

    Well said.

  • Les Slater


    Not that I would put a whole lot of faith in what Havana Times might say but the first link you provide, on balance, makes my case more than yours.


  • 121

    Like town meetings, Les? I need more of a picture of what is in your mind.

    In my mind is an example of a small town, which got rid of its police force (even tough they are not particularly against police), and took over the budgeting for their own needs.

    Are you suggesting that experiments to try to use technology so that everyone has a say in what rules effect them will result in mob rule?

    Also, it would help to visualize or have further explanation of what you mean by ‘mob rule’.

  • Les Slater


    ‘It hasn’t happened so disruptively to capitalism, yet…’. What do you call World War Two? Capitalism does scale to quite encompassing levels. It just needs to periodically destroy much of what it produces so that can start on a fresh footing. That is precisely what ‘… we seem to be getting closer’ to.

    Wishing, hoping or whatever things would stay small, gets you nowhere. We need to put an end to the cycle.


  • Clav

    Yes, they can rightfully brag about their medical system

    Not really. While they do have superlative physician training, their medical services are two-tiered, with Party members receiving far better services than non-Party members — especially in terms of facilities, equipment, and medications.

  • Glenn Contrarian

    Les –

    That’s why I said what I said about America’s “prison culture”, isn’t it? My comment was hardly about declaring “Morning in America” – anything but! My comment was about disproving your claim of freedom of political speech Cuba.

    You might reject the first reference, but that’s why I included three such references. The onus is still on you.

  • 121

    Anyway Les, setting aside your vision of mob rule (mine is more like an orderly meeting) there is a problem I am posing to Zing. I am wondering why he thinks such a trial is never implemented from within our system.

    It seems a no-brainer. You have the ability to allow voting on all sorts of issues–we have had this implemented through propositions on ballots and such. So, why doesn’t this idea (ideas like this) get further attention in the present system?

  • Les Slater


    I told you that I visited Cuba twice. I was not supervised by anyone. I not only asked questions but was approached because I was from the United States and told in no uncertain terms what they thought.

    That link obliquely referred to the case of Allen Gross and talked about cell phones. Try to read that carefully. It has much to do with what various criminal propagandists consider political prisoners.

    The U.S. and other governments OPENLY have programs designed to destroy the Cuban Revolution. There is money that is delivered to the so called dissidents with particular destabilization projects in mind. We just saw that in the recent death of Oswaldo Paya in an auto accident.


  • Les Slater


    I have no doubt small projects can work. In a way your view is similar to Igor’s I commented on in my 127.

    The problem with small communities, communism, even on a large scale, is that capital works on a world scale and will subvert all of it unless it is destroyed.


  • Les Slater


    BTW, the auto accident killing Oswaldo Playa and one other ‘dissident’ somewhat illustrates my ‘particle physics’ principle of communication.


  • Well, Les. It’s not my view. It’s also, not not my view.

    The point of my query was not about posing a view. It was about asking zing why he thinks reasonable and logical proposals, such as the one I was making (among possible others), never get considered.

  • Zingzing

    Cindy, your suggestion probably works well on a small level. But are you suggesting such a thing at a national level? I’m pretty sure it would end up less than you imagine. We elect people do consider this stuff because it’s then their job to consider it. Not that they always do their job well… There isn’t enough time in the day for the working person to consider this stuff fully, the amount of fraud that’s possible, the amount of trolls out there… There are many unresolved issues with this idea.

  • I was not talking about large scales, zing. I was asking why this idea is never even studied or tried.

    But zing…at least I know where you stand.

    You are dedicated to the way things are and the system that is. You think people given the opportunity, are too stupid to rise to the occasion of deciding what is good for themselves by themselves.

    You think 42 known and evidenced fuckwads making our decisions is preferable to us making them for ourselves.

    I think you we are fucked.

  • lol, I think WE are fucked.

    (That ‘you’ was from a setnece I deleted.)

  • Zingzing

    I don’t get why, Cindy, after the amount of times I’ve gone out of my way to say I think there are major problems with the system we have, you insist on saying that I’m “dedicated to the way things are and the system that is.” I didn’t say people were too stupid, did I? No… Those are just words you put in my mouth, and I have no idea why you’d want to do that. I did say that many working people lack the knowledge (meaning to cut through all the legalese and understand what a bill proposes), but then again, so do many of our representatives. And have you ever heard of the tyranny of the majority? That’s why every referendum on gay rights gets shot down, even though it’s clearly unconstitutional.

    And who are these 42 fuckwads?

    In the end, you very clearly don’t know where I stand. You just decided to make shit up. It’s funny how you want people to speak their mind and control their own destiny, yet you distort what anyone who even somewhat disagrees with you has to say. This does not bode well. You’re going to have to learn to listen to what people say and not be so quick to dismiss their voice.

  • Because your actions (i.e. your apologetic stance toward the system that is) and your ‘other beliefs’– the ones that suggest this is all that will work, it’s all we have, etc. etc.

    The 42 fuckwads include every politician that represents you. You basically just told me that they (the fuckers who cheat on their spouses, lie, put pictures of their dicks on the internet, and have a whole bunch of reasons to stay in power besides doing anything that is good for you) do a better job than just asking you what you want. You just told me it’s their job, presumably you prefer them doing it to YOU deciding for yourself.

    What don’t you understand? You just fucking put me in my place when I suggested the people should have more power.

    We are fucked! Most people are indoctrinated with the same belief system you are.

    You know what? Frankly I don’t give a damn, Scarlet. I have been coming to see that if it all goes to hell in a fucking hand-basket, so much the better for the real victims. Not us privileged assholes chatting on the internet to no one about nothing. But the children who are slaves, for sex and chocolate and every other privileged delight of the ruling class apologists/beneficiaries. Including me. Because I have to live with my ineffectiveness and the fucking pathetic optimism of people who are privileged.

  • Only the privileged can indulge in Chris’s optimism. Bet he wouldn’t be so fucking optimistic if he was in a field in the hot sun cutting down vegetation for less than he could feed his family on.

    But what the fuck…we got ours!

  • Cindy, it would be easier to take you seriously if 1) you could actually draw a positive picture of how things could be different in a practical way that would actually work and 2) you actually took the trouble to find out what someone’s situation is rather than simply making shit up.

    Apparently either of those things would take a commitment to honesty and integrity that your cynical prejudices and unworkable theories appear to preclude you from ever achieving.

    Shame really, but don’t let actual reality get in the way of your seemingly endless bitter negativity. I for one remain unashamedly full of love and optimism in the face of the shit storm.

  • Les Slater


    We may disagree on a few things but like your ‘… remain[ing] unashamedly full of love and optimism in the face of the shit storm.’ I hope you really are, I believe I am too.


  • Les Slater


    I believe the privileged can be the least optimistic. I also find the least privilege one has over the lower paid workers the more likely they can see a path out of this morass.


  • As you said, Chris, you had no idea that Chevron dumped so much oil in the Amazon it was linked to 14,000 cases of cancer at the time of writing. There are people who live in that jungle. Their lives are decimated. Sorry it was your ‘go to’ destination, I’m sure it effected you personally and greatly.

    My negativity comes from being effected by what happens to the least among us. I look for what happens. It is not going to be presented to me on the evening news.

    I don’t give a rats ass if you take me seriously. And I won’t indulge in positive solutions when negative realities will do just as well.

    Sure you can be whatever you want. But you can still be loving and positive without criticizing people who bring up factual negative realities.

    I suspect you want me to shut up about suffering so you can go on with your positive fantasy. Why does my bringing up negatives facts that other people suffer disturb you so much? Are your fantasies threatened by what is actual reality for some people?

    Or maybe you believe that just putting on a happy face will change the world.

    Now, I don’t count you among the most reasonable or rational thinkers here. But really, your mantra that I am negative is shallow name-calling.

    I AM NEGATIVE! That is the point of what I write.

  • Here Chris,


    Your child is enslaved in a bunker without food or care. Or you have to decide which of your children will starve or will you have to feed yourself first to insure they have any continued care.

    Who do you pin your hope on?

    Someone who views you as collateral damage of a better tomorrow as they leap into their privileged future with joy?

    Or some negative asshole who refuses to shut the fuck up about your situation?

  • Well, then I guess it’s just the anarchists who really believe an injury to one of us is an injury to all of us.

    We are our sister’s keepers folks.

    Good luck.

  • Zingzing

    Cindy, you’re making shit up again. You take things I say and draw them out to some conclusion very far from the actual thing I said, and then pretend I’m the one saying it instead of you. Look at all those words you’re popping in my mouth. I say direct democracy would be difficult to implement and has a great potential for fraud and tyranny of the majority and you claim I said something totally different? Why do you want people to have a voice if you don’t fucking listen and then go off on some accusatory rant about how terrible that person is? You are truly your own worst enemy sometimes. It makes it easy to see how people’s movements are often co-opted by authoritarian figures. I figure the likes of mine will be the first against the wall in your mythical utopia.

  • Well, zing, my apologies for offending you. I don’t see you including much more than the problems of white middle class peoples in your solutions. I guess that is the problem I have with your positions. I don’t have a mythical utopia. Talk about words in mouths–all I suggested was a democratic vote.

    And as for Chris, I am not suggesting you should be anything other than full of optimism and love. But I would wish your spirituality would allow you to have a little love for someone whose negativity stems from actual love and the inability to forget about those who suffer voicelessly. I am not sure why you refuse to simply be kind and allow me what I do, even though it is different from what you do. For me, it is necessary to remember every single day that the things that I enjoy are enjoyed at the expense of others.

  • Surely I have offended you again zing. What I meant was that the forefront of your thinking is about the privileged (of which you are a member).

    As you said before, you like this culture.

  • Les Slater


    ‘For me, it is necessary to remember every single day that the things that I enjoy are enjoyed at the expense of others.’

    There is much truth in that statement. The major purpose of imperialist military is to force and maintain an inequality in the exploitation of labor. Wages and prices are social relationships.


  • Cindy, it doesn’t seem possible to get through to you at all.

    Nobody is denying or ignoring that there are a lot of negative things going on, but somebody is ignoring the fact that there are also lots of positive things going on as well.

    In order to understand what is going on, you have to be prepared to see the whole story.

    Looking for positive solutions is a progressive and survivalist strategy; negative realities are just problems that need addressing, not wallowing in.

    I don’t at all want you to shut up about negative factors, that is just another piece of bullshit you made up, just like your earlier presumption about me and my situation, which you still haven’t had the common decency to admit you know nothing about.

    Trying to portray positivity and a willingness to address contemporary challenges as a fantasy is simply absurd. You can choose to wallow in problems all your life or you can roll your sleeves up and deal with them.

    You provide a classic Cindy moment of your clouded perception in your own comment #144 – “Now, I don’t count you among the most reasonable or rational thinkers here. But really, your mantra that I am negative is shallow name-calling.

    I AM NEGATIVE! That is the point of what I write.”

    Apparently I am unreasonable, irrational and indulging in shallow name-calling to depict you as negative but you are negative! How hilariously confused is that?

    As to your scenario you depict in #145, my choice would be to make a micro-finance loan to the person in question so they could start a small business in their community and provide for their family through their own efforts.

    I am fairly sure they will be happy to do that and ignore the smug, condescending Westerner who prattles on about the situation at boringly great length but actually does fuck all about it. As to the person who sees them as mere “collateral damage”, perhaps that person only exists in your sad little head.

    As your #146 just seems to be one of those little self referential remarks you like to drop into conversations to no apparent purpose or reason, I’ll just let it pass.

    Zingzing, that’s just what she does these days unfortunately. She is just so busy condemning all and sundry who don’t unquestioningly buy in to her righteous theories, even though she can’t actually flesh them out, map out an actionable plan or anything else more substantive than rhetorical posturing.

    Philosophers are such a non-productive pain, whereas people who can see that money and capitalism are just energies to be channelled into positive outcomes get on with it. That’s why such people can’t accept simple facts like declining global poverty levels but love hand wringing about how terrible the world is. They could be part of the solution but prefer their righteous indignation…

  • Zingzing

    I didn’t really bring up any solutions, and I think your accusation of me only thinking about white middle class people is ridiculous. I do like the culture–meaning the arts, the food, the diversity–but there are other bits of it I don’t care for, such as the greed, bigotry and “me first” attitude that pops up all too frequently. Am I not allowed to do that? If so, why not?

    “all i suggested was a democratic vote.”

    And all I said was that your method (the Internet) created issues with that idea and there were a few other problems to consider. The idea is fine, it’s executing it properly that I find difficult. Just like les with communism, I’d like to see the problems worked out, or at least some idea of how we can control those problems. And all I get in return is some shit about me being middle class from both of you.

    Are they not legitimate concerns? Fraud, the ignorance (not stupidity) of the electorate and the tyranny of the majority aren’t problems for you? The history of communistic movements becoming dictatorships isn’t a problem for les? Why not? And how do you jump from “zingzing has doubts” to “it’s because he thinks of nothing but white middle class people”?

  • You don’t understand the first thing about capitalism.

    That’s all I have to say to you.

  • Except that it isn’t as if you haven’t had ample opportunity to learn about it. You just clearly refuse. It isn’t just whatever you happen to think it is.

    So, talk away. I am done with you.

  • For what it’s worth zing, I didn’t suggest execution via the internet. I merely said with all the technological advances we have, surely we should be able to arrange things to have a better direct say over what effects us.

    There is no reason we could not meet/vote in the towns we live in.

    And probably I took some liberties based on past discussions and probably I am generalizing because middle class people see no rush, no pressure, and they often think they are always going to be immune to the forces that effect the marginalized.

    If I am not describing you, then I am sorry. I overstepped.

  • And actually zing, now that it is so late. I didn’t even really say that. What I asked is why you think no effort is made in that direction, which would seem to be a reasonable one in the ‘land of the free’.

  • Zingzing

    #152 was for 148/9…just so none gets confused.

  • And 153 and 154 is for 151 not that anyone could get confused.

  • Zingzing

    But there are efforts made in that direction. They’re called referendums and they can be rather anti-“land of the free” at times. It’s tyranny of the majority at it’s worst when it’s used to deny rights, as it often is.

    And the reasons I gave are the reasons why this direct democracy thing doesn’t take off more often. Referendum is used most often in what people think are simple, emotional issues. That recent referendum In nc won easily, even though most people didn’t know that it also stripped rights and benefits from unwed straight parents. Even with months of run-up time, people still didn’t know what the hell they were voting for, except whether marriage was between a man and a woman, which is discrimination and unconstitutional and a vast simplification of the proposal itself.

    And just think what you’d get if every Tuesday was election day… Lots of people voting on stuff they don’t know about, some popping in random votes just so they could say they did their civic duty. And that’s just the ones that vote… What about all the other people at work or invalids at home or apathetic people or those who just don’t care one bit about politics? Special interests would multiply and grow in power, vote-buying would be epic. Problems you or I haven’t even considered would pop up.

    In order for direct democracy to work, it has to be all-inclusive, there has to be a reasonable discussion to educate the public and to deliberate the finer points, and everybody must be able to contribute to the discussion and have their vote counted the same as everyone else.. When you get to larger groups of people, satisfying all three (or any) of these goals becomes nearly impossible. And if you don’t satisfy these goals, you’ve not got direct democracy at all.

    So it is used, frequently, in the land of the free. But when it is used it’s got potential to destroy freedoms, which it does frequently. And the reason it’s not used more often is because it is damn near impossible to pull off when you get into more complex proposals or bills or any of that.

    Plus it just takes too long. By the time you discuss the issues and everyone is ready to vote, the moment often will have passed.

  • Les Slater

    I have a lot of experience with middle class progressives and find that their social station distorts their perceptions of the world and how things work.

    Chris not answering my 115 is an example of that distortion of perception.

  • Cindy, all your #153/154 did is confirm that conversation and engagement with your peers is too much trouble for you. How you square that with your purely lip service commitment to anarchism is beyond me.

    Your perception is like that of a fly on a turd; all you can see is shit…

    Les, your #115 was posted on 7 August at 7.36pm Californian time, which was 3.36am on the 8th of August where I am and I was asleep.

    I can’t actually understand why you would ask for examples of how you pit one class against another as your pseudo communist rhetoric constantly talks about the working class needing to take action, so assumed your remark to be yet more posturing that didn’t actually need a response, but now you have one.

    As to how not answering you is an “example of distortion of perception” or why you, like Cindy, assume anything about my situation without actually knowing anything, only you can know that.

    I for one am baffled by the both of you and the endless clichés and outdated, ill-informed nonsense you both spout…

  • Les Slater


    I have been VERY careful in my language to not pit class against class. Here in Chicago I’ve been very critical of occupy’s 99% vs 1% formulations and have publicly described their ideology as fundamentally reactionary.

    What you and others, despite my repeated attempts, seem to miss is that not only do I not pit class against class but don’t believe these classes or the individuals associated with them are the fundamental problem.

    The class structures that we have now are the results of the workings of capital not some defect or evil of people within the higher social and ruling layers.

    Most people of all classes have bought into the pervasive ideology of the ruling class that capital and some form of the capitalist system are necessary for the best we can hope for in human civil society.

    Those that rule have a better understanding of true class relationships than the middle classes.

    The working class also has bought into much of ruling class ideology but have much less stake in the system and are more open to take alternatives seriously.


  • Chris,

    Your 161 confirms that you are no more than a high-level boor. Careful I don’t land on you. Your spirituality reeks.

  • Les, IF that is the case I have utterly missed it, for which my apologies.

    Personally I don’t buy into a class based analysis of anything nor do I see capitalism as the root cause of any of our problems.

    Cindy, if you keep listening to yourself hopefully one day you’ll notice how very confused and confusing you are.

    As to my spirituality, I’ve no idea what you are on about, just as you have no idea what my spirituality may be. As with anything in this world there is an easy way to find out – you simply ask a question – but of course questions and their answers would disrupt the perfect, albeit false, narrative you have constructed.

    I know you’ve not had a good year this year but I hope the Cindy I remember comes back to us soon…

  • roger nowosielski

    “but I hope the Cindy I remember comes back to us soon…” Heaven forbid!

    The last couple of pages of this here “conversation” is ample proof that Mark (Eden’s) theory as to the desirability of convincing self-styled liberals of anything at all is an exercise in utter futility. Dreadful may well be a notable exception, but these two …? I’d throw them under the bus. They are the enemy.

    Do you begin to see, Cindy, the merit of starting our own discussion group rather than wasting your time on this foolishness?

    BTW, I’ll look up your phone number you gave me in one of your emails and call you tonite.

  • Zingzing

    Ah, to long for a people’s movement, except the ones that raise questions you don’t want to answer–they, truly, are the enemy. To the wall with them!

  • I’d been wondering where the prince of pose had got to and here he is!

    As far as I’m aware, which is based on what people actually have written rather than fevered imaginings, there are very few to none “self-styled liberals” in this comments thread.

    Your pretension to any kind of political or cultural change is as comic as it is pointless and as impossible to implement as your hilarious fantasy of throwing people under a bus.

    The enemy? The enemy is stupidity and pretension and you have long since been defeated by those charlatans.

    I suspect the only reason you fantasise about a “discussion group” is because you’d like to screen out those voices that don’t buy into your deluded notions, expose your silliness and lack the patience to indulge you in your pompous and vacuous thoughts.

    Foolishness? You have long since cornered the market on that commodity and as far as I am concerned you are welcome to it.

  • zingzing, I’m confident you understand that my #167 was not directed at you but the Arch Dunderhead of California!

  • Igor

    Monolithic capitalism has as little chance of success in America as Monolithic Communism had in Russia.

  • troll

    Cindy – I’m not a fan of majority domination and wonder how this could be avoided in an experiment using high tech direct democracy…working toward agreement (or even mutual understanding) with small groups is tough enough

    Roger – what I said was that your work on a critique of liberalism is important and that Dreadful should be the measure of its adequacy ;0)

    Chris – I’m not clear on your use of the concept in your call for more dialectic…moments of reciprocal opposition (as in antagonistic class relationships) are fundamental to the dialectical process

    (this fact – that conflict on the path to a harmony of opposites is built into the concept – is why I am less than entirely satisfied with it as the description of the requirements for change and movement despite its close match with my experience of everyday life…I like to think that we can chose better)

    could you flesh out the term a bit as you’re using it?

    Zingzing – might be that the premise of your call for examples – the very possibility of a communist nation – is faulty

    the history of the internationals and the inability of any vanguard to prevent worker participation in the world wars is ample evidence that nationalism kills — people and ideas

    so imo yes – any serious experiment with a politics of communism would have to be borderless

    interim ‘practical’ step – support worker participation on boards where decisions about the use/distribution of the surpluses that they produce are made

    …I do go for the idea of tinkering with an open mind

  • Zingzing

    Troll, I’ll agree that nationalism is one of the greater evils of the past few centuries… Its only use is during the world cup and the Olympics. Go USA women’s soccer! Sweet sweet revenge.

  • I’m not a fan of majority domination and wonder how this could be avoided in an experiment using high tech direct democracy…working toward agreement (or even mutual understanding) with small groups is tough enough

    I have no idea, troll. It’s not something I have seriously considered. The example was a random one used on behalf of another point. A long lost point and not really wroth bothering with.

  • troll, the point I was making or at least attempting to is about the way so much communication goes – or doesn’t go!

    Most of the time it seems to consist mostly of one way transmission – most people are stuck on send and don’t seem able to receive.

    Whether this is because they don’t care or lack empathy or is just problematic with the medium I’m not entirely sure but fear it is more the former than the latter. Maybe it is just an oxytocin deficiency.

    I’ve tried to respond directly to what people post so many times on this site and others and often struggle to get anything like the ebb and flow a casual chat in a bar could manage, never mind anything more.

    This thread serves as a fine example of how I’ve tried to engage with people’s ideas and words but apparently failed to be understood or gain any traction.

    As you may very well know and understand better than I, “Dialectic (also dialectics and the dialectical method) is a method of argument for resolving disagreement that has been central to Indian and European philosophy since antiquity.

    The word dialectic originated in Ancient Greece, and was made popular by Plato in the Socratic dialogues.

    The dialectical method is dialogue between two or more people holding different points of view about a subject, who wish to establish the truth of the matter by dialogue, with reasoned arguments.

    Dialectics is different from debate, wherein the debaters are committed to their points of view, and mean to win the debate, either by persuading the opponent, proving their argument correct, or proving the opponent’s argument incorrect thus, either a judge or a jury must decide who wins the debate.

    Dialectics is also different from rhetoric, wherein the speaker uses logos, pathos, or ethos to persuade listeners to take their side of the argument.” (Wikipedia)

    I see it as an inclusive process that can and should embrace all stakeholders in stark contrast to debate or rhetoric, which seem to require exclusion.

  • Thank you, Roger for sticking up for me as your friend. My respect and appreciation for you could not be greater.

    And thanks for noticing my need for a cheering up phone call, Les.

    You are two bright spots. I appreciate you both.

  • troll

    The example was a random one used on behalf of another point. A long lost point and not really wroth bothering with.

    Cindy – your original question and its point were clear enough and the ensuing comments about referendums – examples of experiments with some kind of direct democracy – were responsive

    …I’m not sure what to do with all the ad hominem stuff – or was it a discussion of method?

    probably best for me to leave it be

    Chris – once you get beyond relatively small areas of agreement one man’s reasoned argument is another’s nonsense I guess…that’s what I see a lot both on-line and in face to face communication anyway

    …hardly surprising – I’ve always thought that Socrates was something of a sleazy bastard who never told the whole story and suspected that there’s more to communication and the search for agreement/consensus/truth than logical argument

  • Actually troll, my original point and question were unclear. I used an offhand example which I ended up defending in trying to salvage it for its original purpose which was something like asking zing why he thought the system in place does not move toward more freedom and input for individuals.

    But perhaps you know better than me what I intended.

  • troll

    …its original purpose which was something like asking zing why he thought the system in place does not move toward more freedom and input for individuals.

    …as I said – you point was clear enough

    (I wasn’t looking for you to defend your example in my question – only for ideas)

  • roger nowosielski


    Naturally, with the proviso that Dreadful’s is an unfettered mind, and I’m willing to entertain that proposition. As to the rest …

    Most importantly, however, I have to convince myself and attain greater clarity.

  • Sorry troll, I misunderstood. (little bit jumpy)

    You know, I really don’t know how majority domination using technology could be avoided. I don’t see much else effective for political change besides direct action, including movements like OWS. Technology seems to me to be a failure even as far as information dissemination. We have all the world of information at our disposal, yet unless we look, what is marginalized remains marginalized. And technology is coopted by the diominating culture and I would only expect it would continue to be.

    I am thinking more about culture change, these days–maybe politics will follow. Creating new forms for things are what I am playing with. New organizations and new information for willing ears. Reflecting what we want to see in all forms–novels and films, for example. Teaching children to navigate the cultural indoctrination, offering workshops that ask people to question what they believe, creating organizations that actually do things differently. An un-church, could be an organization that goes out and actually works with the marginalized in the community instead of spending time in pews. Willing participants and movement in a direction. Just some ideas.

  • It’s interesting to me to think of skewing forms slightly. So they look sort of ordinary, in a way, but contain challenging information. (like the un-church)

  • Roger I’m not sure that I’m a reliable strip of litmus paper for anything. I do know that my mind is unfettered enough to understand the notion that capitalism as the best of all possible economic systems is an illusion, and that it appears to work as well as it does only because it is the system our society is built on.

    (As a crude analogy, someone who’d grown up on an isolated island where electrical power was entirely derived from potatoes would probably be inclined to believe that potatoes were the best of all possible sources of electricity.)

    I pride myself on a bigger aptitude for critical thinking than your average bear, but I’m as prone to bouts of irrationality as anyone else.

    I accept the compliment though! 🙂

  • Picking up on your remark in #170, the USA isn’t a fan of majority domination, which is why it is a representative republic, not a democracy.

    I believe peer to peer technology does allow for this to be avoided, which is why tyrannies shut down the mobile and internet communication channels when opposition rises. The USA government also has that power of course…

  • Doc, perhaps debate about what is the best possible economic – or any other kind of – system is not worth focussing upon. It is a fairly academic point after all, a bit like debating which are the 10 best films, bands or, a current popular theme, Olympians.

    For all its faults, capitalism does allow the direction of energy to wherever somebody chooses to send it, so to my understanding if there is a problem with capitalism, it is a human problem not something that is intrinsic to capitalism itself. In other words, blaming capitalism is simple scapegoating.

  • True, Chris, but there are those who are of the belief that capitalism is a natural law rather than a human invention, and thereby arrive at the fallacious conclusion that it is infallible.

    As I’ve pointed out elsewhere, it is this thinking which may result in capitalism as practiced being ultimately responsible for the termination of the biosphere as a habitable environment for our species and many others.

  • Wow, I wasn’t actually aware of that, Doc. Capitalism as a natural law? Gobsmackingly stupid notion!

    If anything results in such a catastrophic outcome as terminal planetary pollution, it will be human stupidity and short-sightedness, two qualities that are to be opposed at every opportunity, albeit the former is so fashionable in many circles these days…

  • Igor

    Good points in 184, DD.

  • ‘if there is a problem with capitalism, it is a human problem not something that is intrinsic to capitalism itself. In other words, blaming capitalism is simple scapegoating.’ (183)

    I suppose it depends on how you define capitalism. For mostly propagandistic purposes, capitalism is frequently confused with ‘free’ enterprise, private enterprise, markets, private property, and so on. It is hard to say that anything so vague has any particular characteristics or behaviors. On the other hand, one can define capitalism as the condition of a state in which the means of production and the government are controlled by an elite whose power and social position depend on the exploitation of a working class for production labor and consumption. The fact that this form of capitalism contains a significant power differential between classes of persons strongly implies the use of force and fraud to achieve and maintain its structure. (And this is what we observe.) That is going to be a problem for a lot of people, yet it’s intrinsic to the system (because of class difference).

  • Hi Anarcissie,

    There are certainly some, possibly even many, instances of capitalism taking the form you portray but does that mean that it is the only way?

    Whilst there have been many instances of force and even fraud being used to maintain such structures, two of the worst examples of that are surely Soviet Russia and contemporary China, which is at least a little odd.

    Are you suggesting that force or fraud are being used to maintain capitalism in North America or Western Europe? I’m struggling to think of any examples on a significant scale.

    For what it is worth, I see money as a metaphor for, or a store of, energy and capitalism as a way of using that energy to do work.

    That definition works at a local level and an international level and doesn’t require force or fraud to operate, so it doesn’t seems as those “qualities” are automatically inherent to the system.

    Like all systems, capitalism is open to abuse, but I think there are far worse systems operating that actively provide temptation and incentives for abuse to happen.

    Party politics is one of those things and I for one would like to see political parties outlawed on the basis that they are inherently corrupting by nature, far more so than capitalism.

  • What Capitalism is:

    Capitalism is a system of SOCIAL RELATIONS*, in which capitalists are fully human actors, and workers are exploited. Primitive accumulation precedes capitalism in providing the accumulation of wealth and resources to induce less fortunate people to enter into a highly unequal relationship with a capitalist. In the last chapter of Das Kapital, Vol. 1, Marx illustrates the social conditions necessary for capitalism with a comment about Edward Gibbon Wakefield’s theory of colonization:

    “…Wakefield discovered that in the Colonies, property in money, means of subsistence, machines, and other means of production, does not as yet stamp a man as a capitalist if there be wanting the correlative – the wage-worker, the other man who is compelled to sell himself of his own free-will. He discovered that capital is not a thing, but a social relation between persons, established by the instrumentality of things.

    Karl Marx’s discussion of primitive accumulation in part eight of Das Kapital, Vol. 1 has become a cornerstone of the Marxian critique of ‘bourgeois’ political economy (in German: urspr�ngliche Akkumulation, literally “original accumulation” or “primeval accumulation”). Its purpose is to help explain how the capitalist mode of production came into being. According to Marx, BEFORE THERE COULD BE MONEY WITH WHICH TO MAKE MORE, i.e. capital, AN ORIGINAL ACCUMULATION MUST TAKE PLACE. This might take the form of resource extraction, conquest and plunder, and/or enslavement.*

    Capitalism is BASED ON EXPLOITATION. It is a method of wealth extraction by ‘those who have’ from ‘those who have no choice’. There is no other gentler capitalism, though there may be kinder bosses. It is what it is.

    Writing in 1815, Patrick Colquhoun, a proponent of capitalism, explained the need for the poor in London (who were seen as bad and infected with sloth and a blight on ‘society’). He understood that without poverty there is no capitalism. (The Invention of Capitalism, Michael Perelman)

    *emphasis mine

  • Igor

    The problem is that people seem to think there can be Only One System operative in society. That any system necessarily proibits all others. It’s not true.

    Capitalism is a pretty good system for operating an industrial system, but it will not work for all of society. So, why try? You’re doomed to failure.

    And why should a capitalist like me be allowed extraordinary privileges? Why aren’t capitalists and “CEOs” required to have certain educational requirements and take a test?

    It’s harder to become a cosmetologist than to become a CEO! A cosmetologist has to actually get a license and pass inspection by their peers. All a guy requires to become a CEO is the money (about $1600) to pay a lawyer to create a corporation.

  • ‘… Are you suggesting that force or fraud are being used to maintain capitalism in North America or Western Europe? I’m struggling to think of any examples on a significant scale. …’

    I think we can probably all agree that the mass media and the statements of officials of the Federal government are almost completely fraudulent, not only in saying things that aren’t so, but also in not saying things that are so, and striving to keep them unsaid (as with Wikileaks). So much for fraud.

    The financial system is also highly fraudulent, but that’s a more technical discussion unsuitable for a brief comment.

    As for force, any state of any kind is ordered by force, but different states have different ways of using it. In the case of the United States, we observe nearly constant colonial wars; there have been dozens of military actions ‘of choice’ (that is, unprovoked aggressions) since World War 2 (and many before that) against Third-World (poor) countries, plus additional wars fought by U.S. client states and proxies. Domestically, there has been a constant expansion of police surveillance and power and a militarization of the police. The Fourth Amendment has been pretty much abrogated. Locally, we observe completely unconstitutional actions such as ‘Stop and Frisk’ suitable for a traditional police state. We have a very large prison population and a class of people for whom arrest, trial, imprisonment and probation under police surveillance are a way of life.

    We have a wealth and property system which is increasingly class-based, an increasing population of people who are deprived of the most basic form of territory, a place to live. Millions more hover at the edge of the poverty pit; if they fall in, it will be virtually impossible for them to climb out under present conditions. The ruling class toys with the idea of rescinding working-class entitlements already paid for. One really has to wonder if a return to feudalism or slavery is anticipated.

    I am surprised I have to mention all this; I thought it was common knowledge. And I’m only scratching the surface.

  • Re #189, my perception is that is what a kind of capitalism was, and once it was pre-dominant in the West and possibly still is in “communist” China but it isn’t the only form of capitalism.

    I’m watching the Olympics closing ceremony, which is a symphony of British music. It has been much more emotional than I expected, with the chosen music taking a far more provocative selection than I expected.

    Here’s a quote from one of my very many favourite songs

    So you think you can tell
    Heaven from Hell
    Blue skys from pain.
    Can you tell a green field
    From a cold steel rail?
    A smile from a veil?
    Do you think you can tell?

    And did they get you to trade
    Your heros for ghosts?
    Hot ashes for trees?
    Hot air for a cool breeze?
    Cold comfort for change?
    And did you exchange
    A walk on part in the war
    For a lead role in a cage?

    Something to think about at least.

    Re #190, I’d certainly agree that a lot of the media and governmental output is dishonest, which is different to fraudulent, but as there is so much disagreement it can’t all be untrue. The trick is to figure out what, which is not easy. Wikileaks is a big help in that regard and I value it highly.

    Not sure I agree about the wars point but I completely agree about the aggressive militarisation of the police, the attacks on freedom and the incarceration rates.

    I’ve commented on that many times both here and on other sites and made the point that there has been a prolonged attack on freedom and tolerance since at least the Reagan or even Nixon eras and that has got far worse since 9/11.

    I don’t agree with your economic argument though or the class analysis but, if you are right then I fear we are going to see a lot more extremism and violence over the coming years.

  • The wars point:

    There were 900 major and 3000 minor covert CIA operations uncovered by the Church Committee in 1975, as taking place in the preceding 14 years. Illegal covert US operations. Stockwell extrapolates this out to 3000 major and 10,000 minor operations since the inception of the CIA.

    JOHN STOCKWELL, former CIA Station Chief Angola Task Force (This 7 minute video will explain as well as scroll the number of deaths in the 14 years–600,000,000 and a rolling list of the dates of some of the actions and where they took place.)

    “My expertise, as you know, is CIA, Marine Corp, three CIA Secret Wars. I had a position in the National Security Council in 1975 as the Chief of the Angola Task Force running the Secret War in Angola. It was the third CIA Secret War I was part of.” (…)

    I think it was in the mid ‘80s that I coined this phrase the ‘Third World War’ because in my research I realized that we were not attacking the Soviet Union in the CIA’s activities, we were attacking people in the Third World. And I am going to just quickly, in the interest of time, just give you a little sense of what that means, this Third World War.”

    “Basically, it’s the third, I believe in terms of loss of life and human destruction, the third bloodiest war in all of history. They undertake to run operations in every corner of the globe. They also undertook the license of operating just totally above and beyond U.S. laws. They had a license, if you will, to kill, but also they took that to a license to smuggle drugs, a license to do all kinds of things to other people and other societies in violation of international law, our law, and every principle of nations working together for a healthier and more peaceful world.”

    “Meanwhile, again, they battled to convert the U.S. legal system in such a way that it would give them control of our society. Now we have massive documentation of what they call the secret wars of the CIA. We don’t have to guess or speculate. We had the Church committee investigate them in 1975 which gave us our first really in-depth powerful look inside this structure.”

  • A sample:

    The Argentina “Dirty War” (1976-1983) Torture and oppression was supported by the US and funded with millions and millions of dollars and with training and weapons provided to the Junta and with US corporate involvement.

    Ford sued for kidnapping, torture in Argentina

    Ex-union organizers in Argentina have filed a lawsuit against the Ford Motor Company and the company’s local arm, claiming that they were abducted and tortured inside a Blue Oval facility during the country’s 1976-1983 military dictatorship.

    According to the civil suit, Ford allegedly “planned and executed a precise and concrete plan to violently get rid of the labor union activities, with the purpose of establishing a terrorism of enterprise that would allow it to freely reduce its staff and…speed up production lines,” engaging in beatings, mock firing squads, and electric shocks.

    Those bringing the suit are seeking an undisclosed amount of money, along with a possible formal apology by the automaker.

    Mercedes-Benz has also been singled-out for alleged violent crimes under the regime, including the kidnapping of some 18 employees from 1976-1977, fifteen of whom have never been found.

    US Involvement With The Junta

    State Department documents obtained by the National Security Archive under the Freedom of Information Act show that in October 1976, Secretary of State Henry Kissinger and high-ranking U.S. officials gave their full support to the Argentine military junta and urged them to hurry up and finish the “dirty war” before the U.S. Congress cut military aid.

    The U.S. was also a key provider of economic and military assistance to the Videla regime during the earliest and most intense phase of the repression.

  • Glenn Contrarian

    Cindy –

    (This 7 minute video will explain as well as scroll the number of deaths in the 14 years–600,000,000 and a rolling list of the dates of some of the actions and where they took place.)

    Six hundred million deaths? I’m going to assume this is a simple typo on your part, with a minimum of three too many zeros.

  • Thanks Glen! A typo. Actually, only 2 too many zeros. The figure should be 6,000,000 (six million).

  • Cindy, that is all true but also 40 years ago. Why is all your rage directed historically?

    And will you ever enter into dialogue rather than remaining in lecture mode?

  • Zingzing

    Cindy, have you read “shock doctrine”?

  • Glenn Contrarian

    Cindy –

    Let’s suppose that everything’s you linked to is true, that 6M were killed in these wars. First off, while the CIA made much of it happen, I really think you’d be better served laying at least as much blame on the local politics where – like Afghanistan – loyalty goes to tribe before government. For instance, how well did, say, Rwanda get along without U.S. involvement? Not so well, as I recall.

    I’m not excusing our actions at all, but I do think others share just as much of the blame as we do.

    And one more thing – the guy claims that 6M dead is the third deadliest war in history? Hardly. China’s Taiping Rebellion cost 20M, the Thirty Years’ War cost 30M, and those are both long before the 20th century. If that 6M is completely true – which I doubt – and if it’s all our fault – which it isn’t (though much of it is) – then that toll would place in the lower half of the top ten…that is, unless we include genocides and forced famines.

  • troll

    …”lecture mode”? – evidentiary mode more like it

    so Chris – how could Cindy in this case change her input for it to be considered dialoguish and dialectical? certainly simply using more recent examples of miscreant activities won’t do the trick

    …how do you propose that we get at the wars true purposes?

  • troll

    (…true “point” that is)

  • troll, I’m not entirely sure that 40-100+ year old facts are evidence for current conditions; are you?

    If I’m following the conversation accurately, Cindy added her input about those wars to support Anarcissie’s point in #191 about American colonial wars, which was in response to my question about whether force or fraud was being used to maintain capitalism in the States or Europe.

    So far I’ve not seen that assertion supported.

    As to dialogue, is it not the case that I have responded to the points others are making whilst they largely ignore mine and simply keep on making the same points as they have previously made? Dialogue can’t occur if some people won’t accept alternative inputs and insist on clinging to prior beliefs.

    I try really hard to believe as little as possible because it is clear that belief almost always obscures perception – or at least that is what I believe! 😉

  • troll

    Chris – as I read the conversation Cindy responded to your doubt concerning Anarcissie’s take on the point of the wars…pretty much responsive and dialogy if you ask me

    but more importantly how do you propose to dialectically interact with the Anarcissie/Cindy proposition let’s call it to achieve a new common understanding of the wars point?

  • Troll, so you are saying that adding information which lacks relevance nor adds support for a point is dialogue?

    I am responding by pointing out that the information supplied doesn’t support the point, which I thought was pretty obvious.

    In case you’ve lost focus, I know I am starting to, the point under discussion is whether force or fraud IS being used to support capitalism in Western democracies, not what happened over 40 years ago…

  • troll

    …and you’re saying that historical evidence of such use is not relevant to the dialogue which I don’t accept as necessarily the case

    empirically past behavior can usually be considered a good predictor ‘all things being equal’…if you’d like to introduce your ideas about in what way things aren’t equal or comparable to 40 years ago and how force and fraud are no longer in play then the dialogue might progress

  • Well, you can be as philosophical about it as you like, but it is a simple matter of fact and logic that historical evidence of such activity is by definition not evidence that it is happening now.

    If other people can see that it is, then it is up to them to show it to me for dialogue to progress. Asking me to prove something I can’t see is absurd.

  • Les Slater

    When one discusses wars there is a tendency to see them as us vs them or them vs them in the most superficial sense, the Iranians vs the Israelis for instance. Or to maybe see them is primarily religious.

    Wars in modern history have been primarily economic. Since the late nineteen century wars have been increasing at the behest of centers of capital.

  • Les Slater

    Not just capital but especially finance capital.

  • Cindy


    How about some up to the minute state use of force, coercion, and fraud to promote capitalism on a global scale. Will that do You can look at the information I posted the other day on Kenn’s thread, about why I, any many critics, would find the use of charts on poverty decline by the World Bank unsuitable to use as ‘factual’ information on poverty.

    My information there regards the IMF and the World Bank and their mission of spreading neoliberal capitalism throughout the globe to the detriment of the poor, the indigenous, and the ecology worldwide.

    I quote myself: Some links for those not familiar with the IMF and the World Bank and their enforced corporation-friendly, anti-poor, anti-indigenous, environment-destroying, neoliberal policies throughout the third world which encourage countries to lower their standards for worker safety and security, privatize property, promote slavery, oppression of indigenous people, and irreparable environmental destruction (they funded the destruction of 25% of the Amazon Rain Forest)

    In, Globalization and Its Discontents, Joseph Stiglitz, former Senior VP and Chief Economic Adviser of the World Bank, argues that the policies pursued by the IMF are based on neoliberal assumptions that are fundamentally unsound. (…) Stiglitz argues that IMF policies contributed to bringing about the East Asian financial crisis, as well as the Argentine economic crisis. Also noted was the failure of Russia’s conversion to a market economy and low levels of development in Sub-Saharan Africa. Specific policies criticised by Stiglitz include fiscal austerity, high interest rates, trade liberalization, and the liberalization of capital markets and insistence on the privatization of state assets.

    We shall also see how the contracts for Iraqi oil and Afghanistan oil interests pan out in light of Bush’s fraudulent claims about Saddam Hussein and the reason for the Iraq war. I think that Afghanistan’s oil was privatized in 2009.

  • A theoretical discussion in dialectical form of why capitalism requires war and imperialism might be a bit lengthy for the comments section of a blog, since every step of any such argument will be bitterly contested by capitalism fans. However, one observes, not only constant military aggression and provocation on the part of capitalism’s poster child, the U.S., but of its forerunners as well, the British, French, Dutch and other liberal empires. I would think this would at least imply some sort of relation, if not absolutely prove it. Some might say, I suppose, that war and imperialism are characteristics of any state, capitalist or not, a natural outcome of its social logic, but since capitalism is a form of the state this argument doesn’t let capitalism off the hook, it just puts added perpetrators in the dock.

    In any case, is it not amusing for at least one of us to agree with the now fallen-away originator of the discussion, who found Mr. O too fond of the government?

  • Igor

    @210-Ana: The OPs, Sidney and Riley, fell away because they were unwilling or unable to deal with the commentary. That’s typical, since their articles are usually so weak that all the value, if any, will appear in the commentary, and IMO they are simply unable to deal with that.

    Warfare is the natural state of any empire that has established itself domestically, communist, capitalist, or anything else. Otherwise, given all the empires power, they would have to solve domestic problems, and that’s no fun. Also, it’s harder than just blaming everything on foreigners.

  • Les Slater

    Under capitalism war has two necessary functions. One, it is a weapon of centers of capital to compete with other centers of capital. The other purpose is that when there becomes a generalized regime of overproduction, it destroys a sufficient quantity of itself to begin yet another cycle.

    During both its drive for supremacy and its self, but partial and only temporary, destruction, we pay dearly.

  • Igor

    Yes, war serves to centralise state power while citizens are cowering under the perceived threat of ‘foreigners’. Citizens gladly surrender their rights (and money! Don’t forget the MONEY!) out of fear.

    Every American family has paid the price of a new car for the Iraq war. Is that what you thought you were going to pay, bozo? Or did you swallow the Bush bleep that it was going “off budget”?

  • troll

    Chris – you say …it is a simple matter of fact and logic that historical evidence of such activity is by definition not evidence that it is happening now.

    analogously: I checked my truck’s differential last month and discovered metal flakes in the the grease indicating excessive gear wear…would it be unreasonable for me to treat this observation as some form of evidence that the process is continuing today – all things being equal?

    (don’t get me wrong though – the ‘fair witness’ game is amusing in a juvenile kind of way)

    I’m a bit disgruntled that your point so far seems to boil down to a call for up-to-date information

  • troll

    …frankly I see no attempt on your part to uncover contradictions in the Anarcissie/Cindy proposition nor a proposed counter-thesis

    where’s the dialectical approach?

  • troll, that is not even remotely a fair analogy. I truly don’t know how to respond to that.

    You are welcome to be as disgruntled as you want to be but there has still been zero input to support the contention that force or fraud are being used in the West to maintain capitalism. I don’t even see that force is being used to support capitalism in any democratic countries outside the Western democracies.

    The examples provided were all bad things to have happened, no argument there as far as I am concerned, but were neither in Western democracies nor contemporary.

    I have no idea what you mean by the fair witness game or why you would find it amusing in any kind of way.

  • troll

    …how is the analogy ‘unfair’?

    It’s becoming more unclear to me not less what would count as evidence for you and officially give up.

    (you’d have to have read Heinlein’s Stranger in a Strange Land to get the ‘fair witness’ reference)

  • Les Slater

    Chris is in denial mode.

  • troll, because the actions of human beings over 40 years ago have no relationship at all to the actions of a closed machine. How you could ever imagine human activity and a component are analogous is beyond comprehension.

    I have read Stranger in a Strange Land many years ago and do recall that fair witness, although I fail to see how your mention of it could be tied to the book or to how you see it as a game.

    Les, I’m not in denial mode at all, I’m simply asking people making unsupported allegations to put some flesh on the bones of their assertions, which so far they have failed to do.

  • Les Slater


    There is plenty of evidence that all the bad things you attribute only to the past are still operative.

    Also, I have observed you having difficulty understanding responses to questions you have asked. When pushed, you attribute to others what they have not said.


  • So, the IMF and World Bank don’t count?

    How can they not count? Did you miss that post, Christopher?

  • There is plenty of evidence that all the bad things you attribute only to the past are still operative.

    Indeed there is. One only has to look.

    Perhaps it is more fun just to tell the other person you have no idea what they are talking about or they are wrong or they have not made their case or it is their job to make their case, not yours. Then you can simply await their next response and do that all over again.

    For example ‘fair witness’ can be understood in 30 seconds by looking it up. Just like any word one does not understand. Instead Christpher is now playing ‘fair witness’ with troll about the meaning of ‘fair witness’.


  • zing,

    i have read much of shock doctrine. i also attended ‘fire the boss’ in nyc where naomi and avi spoke on the workers run factory movement in argentina and the potential for it to move here. in attendance were workers from the republic windows and doors factory (which sadly had not opted for worker-run).

    (troll: in looking up the name i discovered that the new company also shut down again this year and there seem to be plans for a worker-run factory this time

    Les, do you know about this?)

  • troll

    dredging synaptic channels…while it’s been a couple of lifetimes since I last read any of the Platonic Dialogues and my memory is far from perfect while I remember plenty of calls for clarification and the like I can’t come up with an instance where Socrates used the “I’m not seeing it” gambit to fault an argument

    and chagrin chagrin – are there really no similarities between observations of capitalist agencies 40 years ago and of my differential a month ago in the world of reasoned dialogue?

    I think I’ll go shovel some shit and turn my compost instead

  • troll

    Cindy – interesting…I haven’t kept up

  • Igor

    @214-troll: I checked my truck’s differential last month and discovered metal flakes in the the grease indicating excessive gear wear…would it be unreasonable for me to treat this observation as some form of evidence that the process is continuing today – all things being equal?

    Undoubtedly the wear continues. The Hypoid gears in the diff CANNOT be perfect, even were they to be 1:1, which they are not, typically being 31 to 11 or some such (relatively prime ratio chosen to avoid excessive coincidence of gear faces). Even if they could be fabricated flawlessly, the shortcomings of spur gears are worse in hypoid gears, which is why the gears are case-hardened and immersed in special lubes with strange and wonderful chemical additives.

    Differential gears start wearing each other out from the beginning and never let up. It is testimony to the cleverness and hard work of gear designers that they are as durable as they are. And that they don’t even howl bad until really abused. Usually howling is from the wheel bearings.

    The wear in your diff will never stabilize and flake production will continue until that heap goes to the dump. Even then the punkin might be extracted at the Pick ‘n Pull and sold to a shade tree mechanic for $39 because he thinks that the flakes in his diff lube indicate that his rear-end howl is the diff, who then will discover that nothing has changed and he checks the wheel bearings.

  • I think one could reasonably argue that war is a characteristic of states in general, and that capitalism is generally involved with war because it is one possible configuration of the state — it is a subset of the set of social organizations we define as states. The peculiar warlikeness of the capitalist states could be seen as an output or function of the dynamism and productivity of capitalist arrangements.

    In the 1990s, after the dissolution of the Soviet Union, it looked as if we were moving towards a capitalist superstate in which the ruling classes of all significant states would cohere into a world system of domination and exploitation. Perhaps we are; Iran and North Korea are hardly worthy adversaries of NATO; the cops of the world are running around flogging pathetic, destitute wogs and stamping out trivial bush fires. We can then expect to observe a world in which capitalism has no exterior and thus no way of dealing with its inherent contradictions by exporting them to the various hapless natives of distant regions. In that case Marx’s predictions might start to come true.

  • Igor

    IMO we can be assured that our leadership is capable of manufacturing foreign enemies almost out of thin air. Witness Saddam Hussein. And look at the way we made formidable-appearing hobgoblins out of the hapless Afghans.

  • Les, I have noticed that you spout dogma rather than acknowledge inconvenient facts that undermine your outdated theories so am struggling to take you any more seriously than any other faithist.

    That said, if there is any evidence that force or fraud are being used to support capitalism, I invite you to provide it as so far I haven’t seen anybody provide anything to support the assertion.

    Although it could be true, unless you are going to provide examples, I don’t accept your opinion that I am not understanding people’s remarks. I didn’t get troll’s Heinlein reference but it was fairly obliquely introduced so I think that was forgiveable.

    Cindy, you miss the point. I don’t have to go look for evidence to support somebody else’s assertion; that is their job. I will provide evidence to support any claims I make, so if I suddenly announce that the Moon actually is made of cheese, it will be backed up.

    That said, I did read the article on the Share the World’s Resources site that you linked to in detail.

    I accept the point made in that article that there is more to defining poverty than just income and that factors such as nutrition, access to health care and other basic needs are also important. That doesn’t amount to fraud though, unless you are using the term in a extremely liberal (if you’ll pardon the word) way.

    I also wonder what kind of value we should attribute to the massive increase in mobile phone ownership all around the world, including in the world’s poorest countries; a phenomenon that gives many people ways of accessing resources such as cultural, economic and political information, enabling community action, and even ways of accessing capital and actually doing work?

    Why would a fundamentally oppressive system allow such liberating and enriching technology to disseminate so widely?

    I’m not arguing that we live in a perfect world and do share many of the same concerns as you, but I am struggling to see evidence that we live in an essentially malign and oppressive environment.

    Les certainly and probalby Anarcissie too argue that wars are economic but I struggle to see the most recent examples in Eastern Europe (excluding those involving Russia), North Africa, and the Middle East as primarily economic in nature.

    Chinese posturing in the South China Sea may be seen as primarily economic as it is about control of resources, albeit dressed up in different terms.

    There may well be future wars which are about basic resources such as food, water and living space – lebensraum as the Germans called it in the 1930s and 40s – unless technology can come to our rescue and there are signs that it may, despite current Western economic problems.

  • Christopher,

    Here are some ways the IMF and World Bank commit what I consider fraud.

    WB uses tax money with the claim that are offering loans to benefit the developing world.

    That purpose does not materialize. What does happen is that debt in those poor countries now grows. The WB then acts like some global loan shark instituting the demands of the IMF and forcing gov’ts to change their policies in ways that hurt the people there.

    However, all is not lost, because the policies instituted make it very easy for large corps of the 1st world to get access to those countries resources.

    Are you aware that the poor and child slaves who harvest chocolate, for example, have almost exclusively never tasted it? Did you know that poor countries send their best agricultural products to us?

    I should also have mentioned NAFTA. Because in a slightly different twist this agreement furthers capitalism, again, at the expense of the poor. Example: US Smithfield is now Mexico’s premier ham producer. It drove the little pig farmers out of business. How did it do this?

    NAFTA allowed subsidized corn into Mexico to compete with Mexican grown corn. This oddly does not reduce the price of food for the people, but does reduce the price of feed for hogs by 60%. This allows Smithfield, in Mexico to buy the corn at these subsidized rates and corner the market putting smaller local businesses under.

    So farmers, particularly subsistence farmers who grew corn or raised hogs are irreparably injured.

    What about the 25% of the destruction of the rainforest funded by the WB? This destroyed the land where indigenous people live, who, like all people without power, were not asked their opinions.

    These things are force and fraud, in my opinion.

    As far as the cell phones, I would have to do some research to form an opinion. I do recall that cell phones were being made available to the poor by charities. I was looking for a good place to donate to help and I found an interesting one that actually gives the money directly to the end user. They do this using cell phone banking. As I recall that is a big thing in developing countries.

    I will have a look when I can and answer your question in more detail. For now, I would like to know your opinion on that.

    For example, Iranian citizens have cell phones, what does that say about the nature of their gov’t in regards to being fundamentally oppressive?

  • 229 – Christopher Rose, Aug 15, 2012 at 6:06 pm:
    ‘… [I]f there is any evidence that force or fraud are being used to support capitalism, I invite you to provide it as so far I haven’t seen anybody provide anything to support the assertion. …’

    We have at least nominally liberal (i.e. capitalist) governments, especially that of the United States, practicing unprovoked war, imperialism, economic aggression, terrorism, propaganda, surveillance, unjust imprisonment, and fraudulence on a massive scale over a long period of time. If these often expensive activities are unnecessary for the maintenance of that government’s preferred social order, what is the reason for them? Some explanation seems to be needed.

  • Les certainly and probalby Anarcissie too argue that wars are economic but I struggle to see the most recent examples in Eastern Europe (excluding those involving Russia), North Africa, and the Middle East as primarily economic in nature.

    Wars are always economic at root. That’s why they’re fought. To justify bellicosity on that scale, there has to be a perceived threat or benefit to going to war so great that it overrides the cost.

    Both Gulf Wars were blatantly economic, as were most of Cold War-era America and Russia’s interferences in the governance of foreign countries.

    In the Balkans, the Serbs, Croats, Bosnian Muslims and other factions were all motivated by the possibility of being much worse off than they were previously, namely from the threat of extinction or subjugation. That was also how Hitler sold his “Final Solution” to the German people.

    The Arab Spring was/is also economic. People simply do not rise up against their governments if they are economically comfortable.

    Even Osama attacked the US, Britain, Spain and other countries because he and his organization believed Western influence in the Arab/Islamic world was detrimental.

  • Zingzing

    Cindy: “So farmers, particularly subsistence farmers who grew corn or raised hogs are irreparably injured.”

    I’ll leave the corn farmers out of this, and obviously a man cannot survive on sweet, sweet pork alone (although I sometimes struggle to see why, as it is the finest and most versatile of meats), but how does this harm the pig farmer? The price of feed, even if they can’t by the same subsidized corn as the big corps, must have gone down given this, and “subsistence farming” means that the farmer and his family consume most of the product, right? Obviously selling pigs becomes more difficult, but they’re cheaper to raise… Maybe “subsistence” wasn’t the word you were looking for? Or maybe I’m missing something. I don’t doubt that nafta has hurt family farms, but subsistence farming should be pretty safe, assuming subsistence farming means what I think it means.

  • troll

    I imagine that there are a number of ways to explain the recent wars – economics (that is pertaining to production of surplus that is to class relationships) is just one facet of the zirconia but it does provide a pretty clear view of the core given the reflections of other facets

    looking for so-called primary causes can be a lot of tail chasing sometimes – I’m sure that the size of the oligarchs’ collective dick has more than a little to do with it

    cell phones are big business – ‘the system’ is full of risk takers whose goal is ‘making money’ and who are happy to leave contradiction cleanup to their governments

    …besides – its probably part of a conspiracy to reduce the population (brain cancers accidents due to inattention and all) to a more manageable size anyway

    500000000 or bust

    (Igor – I love engineers)

  • zingzing,

    Things are a little more complex.

    Let me first say that the corn savings did not go to the consumers. The corn profits went to the huge corporations. Both Mexican and US. Let me explain that in a different comment addressed also to Christopher.

    For now, here is a pretty clear explanation of how subsistence farmers operate.

    NAFTA to Mexican Subsistence Corn Farmers: “You’ve Been Made Redundant” (or in American English–“You’re Fired”)

    Subsistence producers, at the other end of the spectrum, make up 40% of all Mexican corn producers. (For now I’m going to skip over the intermediate producers.) Subsistence producers “operate under difficult conditions of inferior soil, sloping terrain, irregular rainfall, and small landholdings.” They produce corn for their own consumption and then meet other financial needs with off-farm employment. In a pinch, they sell their excess corn (often right after harvest when the market is flooded and prices are low). If they run out of corn during the year, they have to buy more to eat (long after the harvest, when prices are high).

    NAFTA negotiators assumed that corn prices wouldn’t affect these subsistence farmers because they grow corn to eat and not to sell. Of course, as you can see, they do sell it to cover basic household needs. NAFTA made corn prices drop, lowering the amount these farmers can earn for their corn, but tortilla prices have stayed high (the low prices are not passed onto the consumers).

  • Igor

    @229-Chris: offers the challenge:

    … if there is any evidence that force or fraud are being used to support capitalism, I invite you to provide it as so far I haven’t seen anybody provide anything to support the assertion.

    Every party to every “Credit Default Swap”, common currency in Todays Capitalism, is party to a fraud because every CDS is a fraudulent insurance policy that is NOT subject to any regulation or oversight. There is NO guarantee whatsoever that there is any actual money to backup those insurance policies. And EVERYONE involved knows it! Indeed, that is the basis on which the CDS is sold! Everyone involved KNOWS that they are participating in insurance fraud.

  • Zingzing

    Cindy, that’s why I left the corn farmer out of it… Obviously, that market is going to be flooded. The pig farmer though… What of the pig farmer, who actually would seem to benefit from a flooded corn market?

  • zing,

    The Mexican farmers buy more expensive domestic corn. They aren’t importers. So they, like consumers do not see the profits on the cheap corn.

    Only the huge corps see the profits, both US and the 2 huge Mexican grain traders that resulted from NAFTA privatization.

    From a video with transcript, interviewing Timothy A. Wise, Research Director of the Global Development and Environment Institute (GDAE), Tufts University: NAFTA + US Farm Subsidies Devastates Mexican Agriculture

    WISE: You get the big grain traders from the US–Cargill, ADM, and others–interlocking corporate relationships with some of the biggest traders in Mexico, and they’re clearly in a position, certainly, with their market power, to capture the gains from those low commodity prices and not pass them on to consumers.

    JAY: So a supposed liberalization of trade and liberalization of Mexican law as it regarded to business actually just led to more monopolization and concentration of ownership.

    WISE: It definitely led to that. And the other thing it led to, which has now raised much greater concerns with, in recent years, the rise in commodity prices and tortilla riots in Mexico.


    How NAFTA Assisted the Hog Industry’s Demise
    To explain NAFTA’s role in transforming the Mexican hog industry, the next section describes how foreign interests deflected measures taken to protect Mexico’s live hog and pork product industries. The following section describes the NAFTA “Trojan horse” that allowed foreign corporations to also capture the domestic Mexican markets. Together, these two trade and expansion strategies put millions of commercial and subsistence farmers out of business. (…) [p9]

    The profusion of hog and pork imports into Mexico was problematic, but it was not the gravest danger to the Mexican hog industry. The true threat to the domestic industry came from multinational corporations investing heavily in business ventures with Mexico’s largest hog producers, or purchasing them outright. Their efforts were facilitated by Mexico’s newly relaxed land ownership regulations56 and minimized restrictions on foreign investments.57 [p.10]

    Corporations like Smithfield Foods and ConAgra Foods58 could now also compete domestically with Mexican commercial hog farms.59 They were able to undercut their domestic competition in large part by exploiting NAFTA’s open trade initiatives to reduce their biggest operation cost, animal feed. This feed, typically corn and soybeans, was considerably less expensive in the U.S., and NAFTA essentially created “implicit subsidies” for U.S.-owned corporations importing cheap and tariff-free animal feed into Mexico.60 Meanwhile, other Mexican farms paid higher prices for domestically-grown soybeans and corn.61 [p.11]

  • And it isn’t just the subsidies. There are other US policies that encourage overproduction of agricultural commodities, including corn. So not only cut rate corn provided as corporate profit directly from taxpayer pockets to huge agribusinesses–but mass quantities at sub-production cost prices.

  • Clav

    500000000 or bust


  • Cindy, I completely agree that the kind of loans you refer to are failures but isn’t the reason why often corrupt political leaders in the recipient nations? I guess that is some kind of fraud but I don’t really see it being committed by Western powers.

    I don’t support that kind of aid myself and am working towards supporting direct assistance to people so they can help themselves, in other words micro finance. That is why I know about things like foundations, which I mentioned to you in a comment on another thread here, which allow people to set up organisations to support such types of activity over longer time frames than a single lifetime.

    I am aware that child labour is used in chocolate production in some countries as it became public knowledge late last century. I believe the kinds of people that brought it to wider attention are people you would call liberals.

    Child labour is common in far more than just the chocolate industry of course, and China is complicit in much of it. China is actually involved in many extremely stupid and destructive ecological and social dimensions particularly in South America and sub-Saharan Africa.

    Child Labour, as I’m sure you know, was also quite common to Western countries up to the late 1930s. It isn’t an easy subject to opine on and I have unresolved contradictions on the subject.

    There are lots of problems within many trade agreements including NAFTA. I don’t really know enough about them to be sure that they are genuinely corrupt and criminal or misguided early efforts or simply selfish but wouldn’t be surprised if they are a mixture of all the above.

    On ecological grounds I’m pretty much opposed to deforestation for any reason but in a world of growing populations it seems unlikely to stop any time soon and it is done by expanding local populations as well.

    As you may know, it is increasing wealth that is one of the key factors that reduces birth rates, which is one of the many reasons micro-finance and micro-lending on a peer to peer basis is, for the foreseeable future at least, such a powerful concept.

    Mobile phones allow access to informal networking, information, finance, to say nothing of more computing power than NASA had when it put men on the moon, to everybody who has one, which is over 5 billion of the world’s population. In poor countries far more people have phones than computers, so they are crucial for many purposes.

    Anarcissie, I don’t have any argument that Western powers are doing those things and in most cases I oppose them, particularly within the United States.

    Although I have relatives that do, I’m not living there and wouldn’t want to in its current legal and political environment, which has become almost a bitter parody of the once land of the free.

    The USA has one of the most excessive and controlling legal systems and far too much militarised policing and far too many security services for my liking and it sets a bad example to the whole world.

    I don’t see any of that as being in service of capitalism though, simply bad government and bad politics, which is why I think that a major overhaul of the legal and political systems of most countries is much needed.

    Doc, I don’t believe that people are risking life and limb to oppose oppressive governments for the sake of money. Nobody I’ve seen interviewed in the recent uprisings in Tunisia, Libya or Egypt was talking about money primarily, they were talking about wanting to be free of oppressive dictatorships.

    As to Osama Bin Laden, I think the USA and the other Western countries made a fundamental mistake in not establishing Palestine as a state. If that had been done decades ago, terrorism as we know it would not exist and the world would be a far better place.

    Igor, I don’t fully understand CDS or complex financial derivatives at all well and would agree there is considerable scope for fraud to take place. Surely that is just possibly criminal greed though rather than fraud in support of capitalism itself?

  • Christopher,

    Cindy, I completely agree that the kind of loans you refer to are failures but isn’t the reason why often corrupt political leaders in the recipient nations?

    No, that is not the reason. I provided more than enough evidence to support what I said. I even included the opinion of a Nobel Prize winning ex-executive of the place the loans come from.

    You said you back up your claims. Please provide evidence for your claim that the loans were failures due to “often corrupt political leaders in the recipient nations”. I will be happy to do some reading or view a video if that will help you in backing up your point.

    I guess that is some kind of fraud but I don’t really see it being committed by Western powers.

    Well then, I guess all of the information I presented in support of it originating with western powers and institutions, was for naught. C’est la vie.

    I hope that we can refrain from discussing things about which we do not already agree. I think at this point it must be as clear to you as it is to me that there are probably better ways we might be spending our time.

    On that note:

    I do microfinance as well, through KIVA, and in looking for the best way to aid in helping people out of poverty without the recipient having to give money to banks and without paying the high administrative costs associated with charities, I came up with Give Directly. You may wish to check them out.

  • Not for nothing, but you are now ignoring all the NAFTA evidence I presented, Christopher. That went into my decision to remove myself from discussion.

    I just wanted to point that out, for the record.

  • 241 – Christopher Rose, Aug 16, 2012 at 12:10 pm:
    ‘… I don’t see any of that [various bad things] as being in service of capitalism though, simply bad government and bad politics, which is why I think that a major overhaul of the legal and political systems of most countries is much needed. …’

    But the bad things have been fairly consistent over a long period of time, so it does not seem reasonable to assume that they are aberrations due to the curious variety of human nature and social systems, and that they will soon fade away as mysteriously as they came.

  • troll, You may wish to look at Give Directly also.

  • Cindy, I didn’t claim that corrupt politicians in recipient nations was the cause, I asked a question. However, I have read many news reports over the years of financial aid of various types to HIPC and other poor countries not reaching those it was meant for. Have you not?

    I don’t see why both things can’t be true as they are not mutually exclusive…

    I personally don’t see the point in only discussing things on which we agree as that seems to offer low learning opportunities.

    I took a look at Give Directly and was interested to see that they use mobile phones to give money directly to people but am not sure that it is something that I want to fold into my plans, but thanks for the link though, it was good to learn about what they are doing.

    Your NAFTA information was presented to zingzing not me and I didn’t see the relevance to what we were discussing; apologies if I missed that.

    Anarcissie, it is almost always a bad idea to assume anything and your assumption in #244 is not anything that I think.

  • Well Christopher Rose,

    Perhaps I have been hasty.

    (One of the reasons that I am so angry at the privileged world is its [our] inability and sometimes reluctance to look at evidence of what is happening to the marginalized. Each one of us loves people. You love your wife, for example. Every decision you make about the world should be made, imo, based on your wife’s survival. If it is good enough, in otherwords, for Mexican farmers or children in Africa, then it had better be good enough for my own beloved family. So, when privileged people, as members of gov’t agencies make mistakes because they are blind to marginalized needs, they gamble with lives. In Mexico’s case, 2.3 million were driven out of farming and 5 million farming relatives driven into the illegal alien stream. Quite a mistake, NAFTA.

    Just like when the World Bank added half a billion people to their calculations about who was in absolute poverty, after, in 2005, they realized their $1.08/day was really not going to make it and they changed it to $1.25/day. Real human beings are on the other side of this analysis. We are fragile. We don’t live well without proper medical care, food, etc. I see my husband in every human being, So, every human being counts to me. You should see your wife in every human being.)

    Thanks for your very civil explanation. I will withdraw my intention to only discuss agreeable topics.

  • Les Slater

    ‘One of the reasons that I am so angry at the privileged world…’

    Forgive them Lord, for they only think they know what they’re doing.

  • Glenn Contrarian

    Cindy –

    Yes, globalization is doing permanent damage to America’s economy – personally, I think that it’s one of the two or three factors that has set us irrevocably on the path to national decline.

    But you know what? There’s an upside to globalization and the damage it did and is continuing to do to America…and this upside is bigger than America. It’s sort of a bittersweet way to look at it, but it’s true.

  • troll

    I doubt that Chris is proposing to discuss ‘bad government and bad politics’ as cause without reference to the economies of countries…but as I’m unable to accept the relegation of the discussion of capitalism to the level of some unclear new agey energy flow thingy I haven’t a clue as to how to proceed

    wealth is ‘transformed’ surplus labor – to explain its distribution without a thorough going analysis of the current system class exploitation which enables it would be kinda like discussing the architecture of those lovely US southern plantation homes without mentioning slaves

  • Glenn Contrarian

    troll –

    good metaphor.

  • Glenn Contrarian

    And troll –

    This may help. At one time I tried to claim that the poorer economies and the generally lower standards of living in red states vice blue states were due to red state governance. Clavos pointed out that this was a violation of the correlation/causation fallacy, so after beating my head against his rhetorical brick wall for a while, I went back to thinking…

    …and I realized that I was putting the cart before the horse. The red-state governance – and the lower standards of living that go with it – were not the cause, but the general result of living in rural areas. And so it goes pretty much everywhere in the world – the more urban the region, the more exposure to and interaction with other races/cultures, the more major centers of learning/research, the more industry/commerce, and the more social support for those who are down on their luck.

    Rural areas, OTOH, have less of all those…which is why there’s generally more racial and cultural hatred in rural regions, and lower standards of living when it comes to life expectancy, birth mortality, teen pregnancy, educational attainment, crime…the list goes on.

    And given the divergence of the two major parties into liberal or conservative (whereas they both once had significant representation of both), the more the rural areas have generally become red, and the more the urban areas have generally become blue…

    …but the conservative side seems to be stuck in a perpetual game of “I’m more conservative than you”, resulting in positions ever further to the right, and it’s becoming a political death spiral.

  • troll, I do indeed think that the subject of governance can and should be decoupled form capitalism and national economics. I wouldn’t go so far as to say there is no connection between the two but I would have thought that the distinction between how we organise and regulate ourselves and capitalism/economics was clear enough.

    Wealth is indeed “‘transformed’ surplus labor” but it is also other things as well, not just that. Surely that definition is just one aspect of wealth, related to a class analysis of labour?

    I think you are forging linkages that don’t actually exist. Clearly it is possible to discuss the architecture of plantation homes without discussing slavery, just as we can discuss Roman architecture without discussing slaves.

    As to capitalism, it seems to me that it is obviously a process of energy transfer and transformation. At its most simplistic, I do some work, make something or some money, I take that thing or that money somewhere and swap it for something else; that original work I did has been transformed into something else somewhere else.

    How or why you manage to associate that with any new age energy flow concept, which sounds like some mad mystical shit to me, I have no idea.

  • troll

    Glenn Contrarian – I agree that geography can serve as another one of those facets that I referred to above when trying to ‘get a picture’ of what’s going on

  • troll

    As to capitalism, it seems to me that it is obviously a process of energy transfer and transformation. At its most simplistic, I do some work, make something or some money, I take that thing or that money somewhere and swap it for something else; that original work I did has been transformed into something else somewhere else.

    that is not capitalism – that’s some Robinson Crusoe fantasy

  • troll

    Chris – what’s unique about capitalism is the set of human relationships which make it work

  • troll

    …oh – and your idea of divorcing politics and economics for the purpose of analysis might serve some purpose that you perceive but seems pretty pointless to me

    (btw – it’s not the market that defines a capitalist economy but rather the way we produce things…the market is essentially a political construct imo)

  • troll

    continuing I guess:

    Wealth is indeed “‘transformed’ surplus labor” but it is also other things as well, not just that. Surely that definition is just one aspect of wealth, related to a class analysis of labour?

    which in no way lessens the import of such an analysis

    I think you are forging linkages that don’t actually exist. Clearly it is possible to discuss the architecture of plantation homes without discussing slavery, just as we can discuss Roman architecture without discussing slaves.

    I didn’t deny the possibility of such discussions

  • troll

    …in fact you can read entire modern texts on economics without running into the concept of class analysis

    (one correction out of many possible to my ranty comments yesterday morning: I should have called Chris’ description of capitalism simplified a ‘Robinson Crusoeish fantasy’ to avoid argument about the particulars of that old critique)

    if kicking loose the trillions in hoarded capital is a goal stemming from the current crisis then microlending looks to be having a micro effect so far…this offered solely for the purpose of discussion with no intension of denying the positives of loans and gifting and unconditional gifting in particular

  • Indeed, I agree with that last paragraph. It describes a stark reality.

    Microloan, food aid, microgrants (a thing I have recently discovered is likely better than microloans an a variety of ways), are all fingers in the dyke of poverty and food scarcity.

    They may be good for a few starfish. Another solution is needed. That, imo, has to do with changing the social relationships which capitalism is based on.

  • roger nowosielski

    Indeed, it’s still feeding the beast.

  • I include more than the social relationship between the worker and the capitalist. But the larger social relationship within which capitalism is embedded–and that is domination.

  • roger nowosielski

    The domination is simply the result of the skewed value system, whereby capital is valued over (and therefore in control of) labor.

    One needs to reverse this relationship.

  • troll

    Chris – I’m still trying to understand your purpose in advocating the analysis of yin divorced from yang as well as your notions about dialectical discussion…maybe next time

    Cindy and Roger – both seem right to me…while there are temptations to treat domination ahistorically it can be seen in each of the various approaches to expropriating surplus labor

    …as more of a commie than a socialist I find it aesthetically pleasing to think in terms of transcendence rather than reversal which idea seems to maintain hierarchy and dominance