Are we citizens? Or peasants?

This financial crisis has revealed much about America.  About the operation of our government.  About our ruling elites, and what they consider important — and who they believe should pay for their mistakes.  And about the American public.  Our passivity and ignorance (don’t know, don’t care).

If we choose to be sheep the best we can hope to get is a shepard.  More likely we will get wolves.  This is the natural order of things, and neither shepards or wolves are criminals.  The most common reaction to these hard facts has been to whine about it.  Perhaps instead we should consider not being sheep.

Some prominent conservatives analyze the situation

Perhaps the most astonishing aspect of the crisis has been that of prominent conservatives.  As we see in this conclave talking on the Glenn Beck Program:  “Destined to Repeat“, Fox News, 10 April 2009 — Red emphasis added.  Excerpt:

GLENN BECK, HOST: There are undeniable parallels between what has happened in the past on our planet and what is going on today. And tonight, we’re going to cover a lot of them. I hope that you come away from tonight’s program with a deeper understanding of how some of the most infamous events in history started with the best of intentions. …

BECK: All right. Our country is not being controlled by jackbooted fascists. But like I said, during George W. Bush’s term, the groundwork is continuously being laid to take us there if the train goes off the tracks. History shows us that it only takes two simple things for fascism to rear its ugly head, and it can happen virtually overnight: fear and hunger.  A temporary crisis is almost always a precursor to a much, much more permanent one.

So, with that in mind, let me show you the four main things that we’re going to be talking about tonight. First, we’re going to take you to Russia, where under communists like Lenin and Stalin, their revolution pitted peasants against the rich, the poor against the wealthy. They were basically saying, “Eat the rich! They did this to you! Get them! Kill them!”

These days, the comparison, demonstrators are rioting in front of the G20, unions protesting in front of AIG, an organized mob, buses showing up at the houses of the evil AIG executives. It’s a different style, but the sentiments are exactly the same — find ’em, get ’em, kill ’em! They did this to you!

RGELLATELY, AUTHOR, “LENIN, STALIN & HITLER”: Well, the Russian Revolution came at the end of disastrous First World War, and the people were hungry and there was a great desire to get out of the war. Lenin came back to Russia — brought there by the Germans, incidentally — to try to bring about a revolution, and he did it cunningly by offering poor peasants land, people bread, and the army peace. And with those three slogans, he managed to obtain rather quickly and easily victory for the Bolshevik Revolution in October — old style, October 1917.

Now, what happened after that, of course, is that there was a war was in the countryside and basically he promised the land to the poor peasants, who were then invited to take land from the churches, from nobility that were better off. And what they did, of course, was think actually that the communists were going to let them keep the land. So, they became firm backers of the Russian Revolution, the poor peasants believing that now the land that they thought was rightly theirs for so long now was theirs finally to keep.

But of course, that was complete illusion, and within no time at all, the situation went from bad to worse. So, think what would happen if you draw off the best farmers, you kill off the best farmers — what do you think is going to happen next? What happens next is a famine.

BECK: And that’s exactly what happened. And I see this parallel with AIG and then the bankers and everything else — hate them, hate them, they did this to you, you’ve got to get them, you know, kill them off, put them in jail, take their money, whatever. Who is going to run these things? There are — they have expertise that most don’t.

Let me — let me go to Amity. Do you have any or anybody — is anybody watching the news today and seeing things that don’t have to repeat? But when you, as a historian, and you know history, don’t you look at today and go — wait, wait, wait? Everybody knows what we’re doing, right? Everyone is aware this is dangerous territory that we’re — that we’re walking down.

AMITY SHLAES, AUTHOR, “THE FORGOTTEN MAN”: Yes, Glenn, there is a variant of what you said before — politicians who can’t remember the past condemn the rest of us to repeat it. So, you get the feeling in Washington, they haven’t thought about what government can do before. I prefer to call it “statism,” the ever-expanding state what we’re talking about, which then corrupts, when then sometimes leads to war. And yes, I see, when we look at companies and blame them, no good outcome because those companies are also often the source of our prosperity and our return to prosperity.

So, you can be mad at certain AIG executives that they didn’t forego their bonus or that they were too lawyerly in writing it all out this winter and tricking people with Congress. And yes, there are bad people at all companies, but if we blame AIG, we also hurt a lot of other companies.

For an analysis of Amity Shlaes brand of economics see An important and politically significant guide to the Great Depression (30 April 2009).

I recommend reading the complete transcript to take a full measure of its nuttiness.  We have gone through the greatest financial crisis since the 1930’s — the first global recession (wars do not count) — and there these people show no awareness of the need for fundamental reforms.   Also, comparing America to the last days of the Czars is nuts.

Most bizarre:   in response to tepid discussion of changes, they invoke the ghosts of Communism and Fascism.  Revolution and famine.  If we jail some senior bankers, our system will collapse because nobody else can run those institutions.  This is too crack-pot for serious analysis, but Matt Taibbi does find important meaning in it for all of us.

A reasonable person’s remarks about these conservatives’ analysis

Excerpt from “The peasant mentality lives on in America“, Matt Taibbi, posted at The Smirking Chimp, 14 April 2009:

This must be a terrible time to be a right-winger. A vicious paradox has been thrust upon the once-ascendant conservatives. On the one hand they are out of power, and so must necessarily rail against the Obama administration. On the other hand they have to vilify, as dangerous anticapitalist activity, the grass-roots protests against the Geithner bailouts and the excess of companies like AIG. That leaves them with no recourse but to dream up wholesale lunacies along the lines of Glenn Beck’s recent “Fascism With a Happy Face” rants, which link the protesting “populists” and the Obama adminstration somehow and imagine them as one single nefarious, connected, ongoing effort to install a totalitarian regime.

This is not a simple rhetorical accomplishment. It requires serious mental gymnastics to describe the Obama administration — particularly the Obama administration of recent weeks, which has given away billions to Wall Street and bent over backwards to avoid nationalization and pursue a policy that preserves the private for-profit status of the bailed-out banks — as a militaristic dictatorship of anti-wealth, anti-private property forces. You have to somehow explain the Geithner/Paulson decisions to hand over trillions of taxpayer dollars to the rich bankers as the formal policy expression of progressive rage against the rich. Not easy.

… It’s been strange and kind of depressing to watch the conservative drift in this direction. In a way, actually, the Glenn Beck show has been drearily fascinating of late. It’s not often that we get to watch someone go insane on national television …

After all, the reason the winger crowd can’t find a way to be coherently angry right now is because this country has no healthy avenues for genuine populist outrage. It never has. The setup always goes the other way: when the excesses of business interests and their political proteges in Washington leave the regular guy broke and screwed, the response is always for the lower and middle classes to split down the middle and find reasons to get pissed off not at their greedy bosses but at each other. That’s why even people like Beck’s audience, who I’d wager are mostly lower-income people, can’t imagine themselves protesting against the Wall Street barons who in actuality are the ones who fucked them over.

… But actual rich people can’t ever be the target. It’s a classic peasant mentality: going into fits of groveling and bowing whenever the master’s carriage rides by, then fuming against the Turks in Crimea or the Jews in the Pale or whoever after spending fifteen hard hours in the fields. You know you’re a peasant when you worship the very people who are right now, this minute, conning you and taking your shit.

Whatever the master does, you’re on board. When you get frisky, he sticks a big cross in the middle of your village, and you spend the rest of your life praying to it with big googly eyes. Or he puts out newspapers full of innuendo about this or that faraway group and you immediately salute and rush off to join the hate squad. A good peasant is loyal, simpleminded, and full of misdirected anger.

And that’s what we’ve got now, a lot of misdirected anger searching around for a non-target to mis-punish — can’t be mad at AIG, can’t be mad at Citi or Goldman Sachs. The real villains have to be the anti-AIG protesters! After all, those people earned those bonuses! If ever there was a textbook case of peasant thinking, it’s struggling middle-class Americans burned up in defense of taxpayer-funded bonuses to millionaires. It’s really weird stuff. And bound to get weirder, I imagine, as this crisis gets worse and more complicated.

Conclusion

This puts America in a tough spot.  The core of the loyal opposition has gone crazy.  The Administration in power continues the policies of the old Administration.  To whom do we turn if the economy fails to recover in the second half of 2009?  To ourselves.  It’s our government.  It’s our nation.  It’s our responsibility.

Afterword

Please share your comments by posting below.  Per the FM site’s Comment Policy, please make them civil and relevant to this post.  Or email me at fabmaximus at hotmail dot com (note the spam-protected spelling).  Posts over 250 words will have a fold inserted (putting a “more” button in the comment), so make the opening text an interesting summary of your comment.

For information about this site see the About page, at the top of the right-side menu bar.

For more information from the FM site

To read other articles about these things, see the FM reference page on the right side menu bar.  Of esp interest these days:

Some posts about causes of the crisis:

  1. The post-WWII geopolitical regime is dying, 21 November 2007 — Why the current geopolitical order is unstable, describing the policy choices that brought us here.
  2. Diagnosing the eagle, chapter I — the housing bust, 6 December 2007
  3. Death of the post-WWII geopolitical regime – death by debt, 8 January 2008 – Origins of the 1982 – 2006 economic expansion; why the down cycle will be so severe.
  4. Let us light a candle while we walk, lest we fear what lies ahead, 10 February 2008 – Putting the end of the post-WWII regime in a larger historical context.
  5. A vital but widely misunderstood aspect of our financial crisis, 18 September 2008 — Too many homes.
  6. A picture of the post-WWII debt supercycle, 26 September 2008
  7. Debt – the core problem of this financial crisis, which also explains how we got in this mess, 22 October 2008
  8. Causes of the financial crisis (no, its not the usual list), 29 October 2008
  9. Government policy errors and the Great Depession, 1 November 2008
  10. Economics is not a morality tale, 14 January 2009

36 thoughts on “Are we citizens? Or peasants?

  1. The two lengthy quotations you’ve excerpted reminded me of Jane’s Law.

    Jane’s Law: The devotees of the party in power are smug and arrogant. The devotees of the party out of power are insane.
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    Fabius Maximus: That’s brilliant! That is how I see things today, but until reading this I did not realize how often this is true.

  2. Becks strategy is to keep people from turning to government as a possible solution to the current mess. The governments he portrays as bad examples were not democracies but dictatorships. The problem we face is that by continuing to insist on weak government aka low taxes, no government regulation, and etc is that the other networks of power (the military, economic, religion, and aristocratic media) replace government in setting the rules of social interaction. For example; gasoline prices have been rising lately, not because of low supply, high demand, or refinery backlog, but because unregulated speculation has stepped in as a hedge against future inflation. This amounts to a de-facto “tax” on the people, without the benefit of representation. But nobody will call it that.

  3. The Looting of America: How Wall Street’s Game of Fantasy Finance Destroyed Our Jobs, Pensions, and Prosperity—and What We Can Do About It (Paperback)

    http://bit.ly/rltb4

    “I loved this book.  A worms’-eye dissection of the Wall Street crisis from a very sharp and very knowledgeable labor economist.  Here’s hoping that before the Washington consensus gets set in stone, policymakers will read it and reflect on the havoc the masters of the universe have wreaked on ordinary people.’
    from Charles Morris, the author of The Trillion Dollar Meltdown: Easy Money, High Rollers, and the Great Credit Crash and Money, Greed, and Risk: Why Financial Crises and Crashes Happen, two of the best books about Wall Street.” 

  4. I think Matt Taibbi’s argument is falsely constructed. Are conservatives really criticizing the protests against the bailouts and AIG excesses? More often I associate conservatives with the protests. Conservatives of the libertarian type are protesting to keep government small and to let these companies fail.
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    Fabius Maximus replies: Taibbi is explicitly referring to the Glenn Beck program, which features some high profile conservatives. Their words speak for themselves, as in the excerpt provided.

  5. I think most of us are closer to ‘serfs’ than ‘peasants’ in that, to a certain degree, we are enslaved by the need for regular income derived from employment. It is very hard for the employed class to get up in arms against the employer class. Furthermore, for increasing numbers of people, the employers are distantly managed corporate entities and one’s manager is pretty much on your level in that he/she also has little or no say, let alone contact, in overall corporate management. The need to earn a wage to feed our families and maintain some sort of place in an otherwise place-less modern society makes cowards of nearly all of us.

    I think this is one of the reasons that the political class is more often blamed for problems than the employer class even though the latter has increasingly – and increasingly more obviously – been controlling the former.

  6. Typically I find your sources to be more thought-provoking than these, FM. The present ones have more the feel of invective than anything, and neither are especially informative. But perhaps thats the point itself.
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    Fabius Maximus replies: If you are aware that major US conservative figures are saying such crazy things, then this is not informative. If you are comfortably with this, then the post is not interesting. I still find the former shocking and the second disturbing.

  7. Just as the majority of US citizens and medical professionals favor a single payer system (in poll after poll for many years I believe) and yet the notion never gets given serious attention by the pro-corporate government of the US, so also I suspect there is widespread convergence of belief that the overall financial system is in dire need of an overhaul. One writer who is lauded on both the ‘left’ and the ‘right’ (in alternative circles) is Ellen Brown whose latest piece discusses some aspects of Weimar Germany’s hyperinflation and the dramatic recovery thereafter during the early, pre-military years of the Third Reich. “The Weimar Hyperinflation? Could it Happen Again?“, Center for Research on Globalization, 19 May 2009.

    The lynchpin in her tale is the dominant role of private central banks, the current model, versus national currency which – she along with many others – argues was one of the key sources of America’s early success. Indeed, it was probably the abolition of the local currencies and demand for payment in gold that principally caused the American Revolution.

    One way to overcome the increasing ‘proletarization’ (a more contemporary and apropos version of ‘peasant’) is to restore sovereignty of money. Abolishing the private central bank, refusing to use national currency issuance as a means to fund foreign and or non-productivity-based speculation, would be a valid, viable and victorious first step in overcoming the venal vicissitudes visited upon us by a class of now veritably vilified voracious vinancial vultures!
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    Fabius Maximus replies: I just skimmed Brown’s article, but it looks like a mish-mash. The Weimer hyper-inflation is usually seen as the last stage of WWI for Germany. The German State was only a half-century old. It’s government widely seen as illegimate, resulting from wartime defeat following an exhausting war, plus brutal payments to the victors enforeced by military occupation. What’s the similarity to the US?

    As for Hitler, he initiated fairly standard recovery policies (along with some special NAZI-type add-ons). Much as Japan and Scandinavian nations did earlier, FDR did around the same time, and the French bloc did later. Being a mad tyrant, Hitler was free from the mainstream economists whose worries about government deficits forced FDR to abort the New Deal’s major recovery programs in 1937 — tossing the US back into recession.

    The implied comparison of the US to Zimabwi is nuts.

    In short, most of her article is absurd. She is an “attorney practicing civil litigation” and displays little knowledge of economics.

    This is like getting geopolitical insight from reading Captain America comics (that’s an insulting comparison, but I’m not sure whether to the Captain or Brown). There are many good studies about hyperinflation. I will post some later. The best IMO is Peter Bernholz “Monetary Regimes and Inflation” (2003), which studies 29 episodes of hyperinflation in the 20th century. Among developed nations most result from defeat in war or breakup of Empire (e.g., the USSR).

  8. FM writes: “If you are aware that major US conservative figures are saying such crazy things, then this is not informative. If you are comfortably with this, then the post is not interesting. I still find the former shocking and the second disturbing.

    Reply: No more shocking nor disturbing than the equivalent rhetoric coming from the Left during the past 8 years. In fact, this is milder in many ways. I think we’re simply at a critical stage in our polity and that, yes, it may very well come to blows. Sorry, but thats the way it is in the world of 4G, open source warfare. I’m concerned about where/how it begins, is all.

    What disappointed me about the articles was their narrow scope. Its neither the Wall St bigwigs nor the Politicians alone who are at fault for our current economic problems and ginning up anger for either group alone won’t solve it. Our policies have contributed to the mess, sure, but so has the inexcuseable refusal of our political class to refuse to uphold the laws as written and to police financial matters as they are charged to do, which naturally has resulted in rampant white-collar criminality.

    And every policy forthcoming is consistent with covering that up. They’re in cahoots, in simpler terms. No wonder the People are pissed.
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    Fabius Maximus replies: We have the best government money can buy. The question is what the American people will do about it. Ultimately we are responsible.

  9. Glenn Beck = Matt Taibbi: Inhabiting opposite sides of the same coin.
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    Fabius Maximus replies: You might be right speaking of them in general. I have only read 3 of Taibbi’s articles, and this is my only exposure to Beck. But speaking of this specific comparison, they do not IMO appear equivalent. Much of the material on Beck’s show (as indicated by the excerpt) is hysterical exaggeration, plus some outright false statements. What in Taibbi’s article is equivalent?

  10. I’m with you, Erasmus, on Ellen Brown. Web of Debt is certainly worth reading as history. And it highlights a central feature of the current crisis, that banks no longer play the role they were intended to play, as recyclers of savings for future growth, but have shifted to simply making money by through interest on loans. This parallels, in a sense, a shift among large corporations from making money by producing goods and services, to making money by mergers and acquisitions, selling off unprofitable parts, and other means of temporarily inflating stock prices.

    As for the original point of this post, annamissed has the right take on it — it’s always about keeping us distracted from the real issues.

  11. The core of the loyal opposition has gone crazy.
    Ha ha… it’s a fine time to be a Conservative, even a Republican:
    1) After years of almost daily Bush-Hate from the media about Iraq, the WOT, & Guantanomo, the Bush-haters get anti-war O(‘it was a dumb war’) — whose policies look far more like Bush III. Obama CHANGED — good job! Now we’ll see how the Bush-hate hypocrites fail to level same critiques against Obama as they did against Bush.
    2) Pro-life supporters, after reductions in US gov’t support for abortion (end of fed funding), are now seeing massive increases in Obama’s support for abortion — any time, for any reason, even if the gov’t has to pay for it. (My paraphrase of his actual policy.) The 54% Catholics who voted for Change probably didn’t quite think it would be like this — I’m sure there will be increasing anti-abortion Bishop’s Letters coming.
    3) Economic disaster — no fiscal conservative was happy with Bush spending, altho they did like the Tax Cuts. (Tax Cuts which, after a spike in the deficit led to an increase in private/ peaceful economic expansion.) Now the Bush ‘orgy of spending’ that Obama complained about — is being tripled by that very hypocrite himself. And it’s likely to be far worse for expansion than a similar deficit from tax cuts — it might not even get positive growth for a year or more, despite the huge amounts of gov’t directed pork, corruption, and waste.

    Now true fiscal conservatives can complain w/o having voted for the Chief Spender, (unlike anti-Bush spending conservatives who correctly thought Kerry was far worse.) That’s the Tea Party anger and energy.

    But Liberal Fascism (not just the book) is the kind of thing that gets folks fired — like for donating to a campaign against gay marriage. There have been folks fired for being anti-Politically Correct; I don’t know of any who were fired for supporting gay marriage (tho there might be some).

    FM: Yes, conservatives favor — tax cuts when times are good (we don’t need the gov’t spending then) AND tax cuts when times are bad (tax cuts are the best stimulus). Big gov’t folk are the reverse — more gov’t spending in good times (like former CA, ’cause we have more cash) AND more gov’t spending in bad times (for stimulus! like now, especially CA).

    The Obama (and McCain) “hate of the rich, greedy Wall St bankers” really is similar to the commies, and draws upon the same envy sin so many people have. The Tea Party “hate taxes / big gov’t” is more like the American Revolution.

    American exceptionalism — the only country founded by an anti-tax revolution.

    The Obama Dem anti-rich, anti-AIG protesters ARE American peasants (& voters); ‘organized’ to beg for more gov’t (spending of others’ money).
    The Tea Party anti-tax, anti-elite gov’t protesters ARE American citizens (& voters).

    It’s a big country. Great, too, still; but will it remain so?

  12. FM replies: “You might be right speaking of them in general. I have only read 3 of Taibbi’s articles, and this is my only exposure to Beck. But speaking of this specific comparison, they do not IMO appear equivalent. Much of the material on Beck’s show (as indicated by the excerpt) is hysterical exaggeration, plus some outright false statements. What in Taibbi’s article is equivalent?

    His tone, his demeanor and his intent.

  13. An interesting fact is that GE is running adds on Rush Limbaugh crowing about how they love to hire ex military guys. You know, the same GE that pays Kieth Olberman to spit into the camera ranting against military guys on MSNBC. I think what we are seeing is a symptom of weak government as noted in 3 above. Into the void come players like GE, stumping for Obama. Then, predictably, Bill O’Reilly calls for a right wing boycott of GE products on Fox news. GE buys time on Limbaugh. It’s standing room only in the theater of the absurd.

    Pass the popcorn please.

  14. FM: your comments on Ellen Brown (about whom I also have reservations) border on the hysterical and are, as is too often typical, silly ad hominems. The comparison with US and Zimbabwe is perfectly valid IF – and only if – hyperinflation occurs. It has happened in the past (hence the study of Weimar Germany) and it can happen in the future. Given the inordinate amount of fiat currency issuance in the US, considering the possibility of hyperinflation is hardly irresponsible. In any case, we’ll know if it happens and if it does, probably within the next 6-18 months. If it doesn’t, GREAT!

    Also, you clearly don’t understand much of what Hitler did, which was not ‘fairly standard’. But since you rely on Shirer that is hardly surprising. Has it ever occurred to you that perhaps the mainstream version of a regime against whom we waged an illegal, unnecessary war is just a tad deficient, aka hyperbolically slanted?

    Now: for an excellent conservative take on the status quo in the US: “How Tyranny Came to America“, Joe Sobran, posted at Sobran’s, undated.

    Although I find his use of the term ‘liberal’ a little dated in the sense that the so-called ‘conservatives’ tend to embrace all the same things, this one is good. Bottom line: America is a post-Constitutional entity that is a) not a democracy b) not a republic c) a functioning tyranny. Under a tyranny, most people are ‘peasants’. That’s the way it’s supposed to be and that’s the way it is.

    So why rag on poor little Ellen Brown? She’s just another peasant trying to make sense of it all. And to no avail it seems.
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    Fabius Maximus replies: The article is nonsense, as I briefly described in several dimensions. To expand on the points you note: we are structurally neither like Zimbabwe nor Weimer. I gave specific reasons why the conditions of Weimer inflation do not apply to the US; I would hope nobody w.o tin foil hats needs a similar analysis for Zimbabwe/US. These comparisons are like saying the US will be like Antarctica — if America developed a miles-deep ice cap!

    (2) “as is too often typical, silly ad hominems.”

    The only thing I said about her personally was to quoting her professional background. This is not an ad hominem.

    (3) “America is a … functioning tyranny”

    The tin foil hat has slipped over your eyes. That is too bizarre to warrant reply.

    (4) Sobran’s “How Tyranny Came to America

    I agree with most of this article — but only after the first page. The reasoning in the opening — his title thesis — is wrong. As seen in this quote.

    “{W}e no longer fully have what our ancestors, who framed and ratified our Constitution, thought of as freedom — a careful division of power that prevents power from becoming concentrated and unlimited. … And the words they used for any excessive powers claimed or exercised by the state were usurped and tyrannical.”

    Do many people consdier the UK system to be a tyranny, structurally? Yet Parliament has unlimited concentrated power. Legally, Parliament is sovereign — restrained only by the degree to which it respects custom (the “unwritten constitution”).

  15. “Just as the majority of US citizens and medical professionals favor a single payer system (in poll after poll for many years I believe) and yet the notion never gets given serious attention by the pro-corporate government of the US, so also I suspect there is widespread convergence of belief that the overall financial system is in dire need of an overhaul.”

    The point in the above introduction to my post # 8 is that, disregarding whether or not Ellen Brown is right or wrong or whatever, she is being listened to by ‘alternative’ press/public on BOTH sides of the so-called political spectrum. In other words, her story – again whether accurate or not – appeals to a sector that is not captured by the sort of polemic that your lead post is depicting. Hence my offering it in the context of this thread.

    And what is she arguing, this person appealing to so many who supposedly are at opposite sides of the political spectrum? That the entire monetary/financial/political structure of the US is OUT OF WHACK; and one very important way it is out of whack is having a private central bank versus government (ideally State) issued currency.

    This is a valid point. Moreover, whether or not the point is valid, it is relevant and interesting that so many feel it is valid.

    A tangential point was that a convincing – and therefore important – majority of American favor single-payer health care even though the USG consistently refuses to entertain the possibility. Leaving aside constitutional issues, and returning to the ‘peasant’ aspect of the thread title, this is yet one of many glaring examples of how the gap between the people and their rulers has widened to the point where it can fairly be called dysfunctional. Given this is the case, the only way for the ‘peasants’ to get anywhere is not simply by voting in elections, as you called for last year, but more likely with a bloody revolution given that nothing else has a ghost of a chance of success.

    These are heavy matters.
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    Fabius Maximus replies: Do you have a cite for polls showing a majority of Americans favoring a single-payer health care system. I know little about this debate, but I suspect (guess) the results depends on the phrasing.

  16. From a quick Google search, from Physicians for a National Health Program (PNHP), 9 December 2008:

    “Support for single payer is extensive. In a peer-reviewed statistical study in the Annals of Internal Medicine, 59% of U.S. physicians said they would support government action to establish national health insurance. In a recent Associated Press poll, 65% of the respondents said, “The US should adopt a universal health insurance program in which everyone is covered under a program like Medicare that is run by the government and financed by taxes.

    In addition, over 480 labor organizations, including 39 state federations of the AFL-CIO, have endorsed single payer legislation, as have numerous professional associations, city and state governments, and religious denominations.”

    {PNHP says} They had hearings on this recently and of course did not invite a single single payer advocate.
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    Fabius Maximus replies: OK, this is evidence, albeit from a press release (aka open letter) of a single-issue lobbying group. In my experience, these kinds of groups are not high quality sources, and media material like this is among the least reliable of their output. A story from the mainstream media about a poll, a report by the polling firm, a study by a think-tank (although ideological, many of them do good work) — all of these would be more interesting.

    Also: single line poll questions give divergent responses, esp about complex issues where the public poorly understands the benefits and costs. Which is why in good research several questions are usually asked in order to determine the public’s views.

    On another level (this is topic drift), most polls are useless because most people answer randomly to most policy questions. For a discussion see this summary to one of the classics of social science research: “The nature of belief systems in mass publics”, In “Ideology and Discontent”, Editor David Apter, 1964.

  17. The fact that Ellen Brown is not a tenured Economics Professor or salaried Think Tank Impresario does not necessarily disqualify her from opining about the history of money in the US. In fact, it could be regarded as a necessary qualification!

    In any case, you miss the point again: it matters NOT A WHIT whether her opinions are valid/valuable/accurate/ridiculous, at least not in the context of the thread: the point is that her view – generally speaking an anti-FED view – is finding sympathetic hearing from people who, according to the sort of political narratives espoused by the chattering heads types in your lead, are supposedly on opposite sides of the political spectrum.

    And interestingly enough, this view not only has something very definite to say about the nature and cure of the financial mess we are in, but also gets to bone-deep levels viz. the ‘are we peasants or citizens’ theme. Taking back national money issuance from the Usury Industry is a good, solid first step. Certainly it is an issue worth taking seriously given the extraordinary excesses in bubble creation and wealth disparity the current regime is generating.
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    Fabius Maximus replies: What evidence do you have that this “anti-Fed” view is “finding sympathetic hearing” among any larger audience? Esp since the Fed is by design the designated “bad cop” in our public policy system, shifting the opprium of necessary but harsh decisions from elected officials to a vague group of experts led by a senior and older figure (at the end of his career).

    Of course that Brown by profession is not an economist (or related field) does not “necessarily disquality her from opining”. I said no such thing (will you ever learn to use quotes, as you find it difficult to accurately reflect what I’ve said). It does not even mean that she is wrong. It is just a supporting factoid.

    I agree with your last paragraph, assuming that what replaces the current framework works better. Thoughtless reform could easily make things worse.

  18. Erasmus: you’re making good points, arguing valiantly, but losing the battle. FM is a decent fellow — basically coming around to a sane vew of what’s wrong with American government and economy — but he is captain of the ship, and only willing to take so much free thinking in the ranks.

    The original point of the post seems to have been lost in all the back and forth: the Republicans are tilting at windmills, and the Democrats are sitting in their castle without a real opposition. Beyond that, the serious truth is that both parties are willing to sell out to who-ever will get them into power; and beyond that, the real masters of the system are neither party, but the major corporations and financial centers.

    So of course we’re peasants. How could we be citizens of a republic run by Citibank? I actually prefer the animal metaphors — dogs, or sheep. Dogs can at least rise up against their masters, without being confused by the masters’ language. Peasants waste a lot of time thinking about what the master meant when he said “bread for all, fair wages, and long live the Czar!!”
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    Fabius Maximus replies: I consider this an inaccurate statement.

    “but he is captain of the ship, and only willing to take so much free thinking in the ranks.”

    There is a wide range of opinion expressed here, including extremes on both sides of the issues discussed (sometimes opinions which I find terrifying). All I ask is that they be grounded in something. Either clearly stated values, or (as in the case of Brown’s economics) accurate facts. In the latter case I gave specific objections, to which I have not seen replies.

    As for Erasmus’ statement that the US is a tyranny, some support is necessary for such an outrageous statement to be taken seriously. It’s like a Lord Bryron complaining about the horrors of his life. Ten minutes with a toothache would show him the nature of real pain.

  19. Talk about throwing a bottle with a message into the ocean! Here I am commenting on a thread that is four days old, where no one except perhaps the moderator will ever see my remark. The moderator is an exemplar of tolerance, open-mindedness and respect for the rules of formal discourse. However, we’re all human.

    Ellen Brown’s Web of Debt is mainly a factual history of events and actors that resulted in the Federal Reserve Bank, and various attempts to oppose it. There’s nothing more contentious about it than the opinion that the US Constitution was a document composed by a limited class of land and wealth owners, designed to protect their priviledges agains “the many.”

    Calling the US a “tyranny” is nothing more than an overstatement of a generally accepted point of view on this site, that the “real” government, to use Lapham’s phrase, is beyond our control — in no way a “democracy.”
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    Fabius Maximus replies: It’s not an accepted view on this site because I totally reject it. Just because we’re too lazy to run the machinery of the Republic does not mean the US is a tyranny. The oppression of American coach potatoes has the same relation to tyranny as the existential pain of a Romantic-era poet like Lord Byron to a real toothache.

    BTW — Brown’s propaganda is history in the same sense as Lord Byron’s poetry is physics.

  20. FM note: I have inserted two replies into the text, for clarity — rather than at the end as usual.
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    Well, one could argue that Lord Byron’s poetry is ‘physic’ but that would be a singular pov. (that’s a pun btw FM). As to tyranny, from earlier on:

    “(3) “America is a … functioning tyranny”

    FM reply: “The tin foil hat has slipped over your eyes. That is too bizarre to warrant reply.

    (4) Sobran’s “How Tyranny Came to America”

    FM: “I agree with most of this article — but only after the first page. The reasoning in the opening — his title thesis — is wrong. As seen in this quote.

    “{W}e no longer fully have what our ancestors, who framed and ratified our Constitution, thought of as freedom — a careful division of power that prevents power from becoming concentrated and unlimited. … And the words they used for any excessive powers claimed or exercised by the state were usurped and tyrannical.”

    Do many people consdier the UK system to be a tyranny, structurally? Yet Parliament has unlimited concentrated power. Legally, Parliament is sovereign — restrained only by the degree to which it respects custom (the “unwritten constitution”).

    I respect your opinion but your answer stating that you agree with most of it but only after the first page which is ‘wrong’ doesn’t explain why you think it is wrong. So it’s a rather befuddled response. It is similar in a way to how you vigorously reject any criticism of the Fed but never give any substantive reasons, except usually ad hominems of one sort or another.

    FM reply: I stated the specific basis on which I believe it is wrong. I will repeat it slowly: Parliament has unlimited concentrated power, yet I have never seen anyone state that this means that the UK is a tyranny. There the relationship described by the author is incorrect.

    As to the word tyranny, obviously it is being used somewhat loosely to make a point. However, on Dictionary.com we find the first of several definitions is:

    1. arbitrary or unrestrained exercise of power; despotic abuse of authority.

    This is not as extreme as some of the other uses, but it is not unreasonably far from many of the excessive abuses of authority currently under way in the US. We are not going through a Bolshevik purge, thank goodness, but laws are continually being enacted making a drift in that direction far more possible/plausible. This is not good and one has to wonder at the motivations and agenda of those who continually keep pushing such legislation, including gun and hate speech restrictions currently in the works.

    FM reply: I suggest that you visit a real tyranny for a year. Then you might appreciate the vast freedoms enjoyed in America, to which you appear oblivious. I find this sad. Americans enjoy freedom unknown to almost all people in western nations throughout history.

    As to Ellen Brown’s audience, I cannot offer any evidence except that I personally like to go to a few very ‘progressive’ and very ‘patriot-right’ sites just to see different camps takes on things. She is a darling in both arenas and you don’t see that all that often. Another bit of ‘buzz’ from the patriot camp is that there is more discussion about trying to create a new party that will unify these sorts of views: many progressives are alarmed at the over-corporatization of society just as many ‘patriots’ for slightly different, but ultimately very similar, reasons. Having detested each other for decades, a rapprochement could prove politically significant in that an alternative view could emerge that is no longer fractured along so many relatively minor ‘wedge issue’ type lines, rather unified in the desire to ‘take the country back’ to its less over-centralised basics.

  21. PS I meant also to mention viz. the UK parliament: I fail to see what that has to do with the current discussion.
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    Fabius Maximus replies: No doubt that is true.

  22. You often praise the Tomgram site. Today’s offering begins with the following:

    “Here’s a snapshot in words of Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner when he was still president of the New York Federal Reserve Bank from a recent portrait in the New York Times:

    … Not surprisingly, the “solution” to the crash of ’08 crafted by former Goldman Sachs chairman Henry Paulson, Jr. — Rubin held the same job before going to Treasury in the Clinton years — and former New York Fed chief Tim Geithner (who made Mark Patterson, a former Sachs lobbyist, his chief of staff and kept on Sachs alum Neel Kashkari to lead the bailout effort) is clearly meant to staunch the wounds of their world, not ours. TomDispatch regular Andy Kroll, who’s read all the latest economic reports so you wouldn’t have to, suggests below just what an instrument of Wall Street their rolling bailout program has really been.”

    The brief comment I made using the phrase ‘functioning tyranny’ elicited only scorn and the rather stale, not to mention tedious, ‘tin hat’ ad hominem. Well, I didn’t really explain what I meant by ‘functioning tyranny’ I suppose. Although you chose to react only to the word ‘tyranny’, I deliberately qualified it as ‘functioning’ to indicate that although we don’t have a tyranny in the usual sense, functionally speaking we are getting very close. And Tom’s little intro above illustrates the sort of thing we have that is pretty much as close as you can get to a Mussolini-type definition of fascism as ‘the union of State and Corporate power.’ Now, maybe that is not quite the same as tyranny in your book, but it is coming far too close to comfort because what is most important is not whether the tyranny is administered by one singular agent, aka ‘the tyrant’, rather that the end result is that populace has very little say in the decision-making process, including those decisions that go very much against what they would prefer.

    I do not think it is tin-foil-hattish to be reflecting on the degree to which we have a ‘functioning tyranny’, or perhaps one could say ‘functioning fascist regime’ or ‘functioning unelected plutocracy’ etc. In fact, I think it is bordering on tin-foil hattish to be ignoring the obvious signs, evident for several decades now but increasing of late, that this is, unfortunately, the case even though the vast majority of the population wishes it otherwise.
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    Fabius Maximus replies: Pity us poor puppy dogs! The American government is not treating us right! Not consulting us! Taking advantage of us! How sad. Exactly what do they do that you find so tyrannical?

    Does the secret police arrest dissidents in the dead of night, never again to be seen? Torture dissidents to learn about the activities of their associates? Star chamber hearings, at which guilt is assume? Are police quartered in your homes? Right of petition or freedom of speech revoked? Elections disregarded?

    Let’s see your list of grievances.

  23. In response to comments 23& 25 and their replies – yes, I suppose I’m butting in here, though I would like to see erasmus’ list of grievances.

    FM: “I suggest that you visit a real tyranny for a year…“. So the American government treats most people better than most other governments. That doesn’t mean its not tyrannical on occasion, does it? One might just as well suggest that FM go be poor and black in an American ghetto for a year…Can poverty be considered a form of tyranny?

    Police might be quartered in your home if you had the wrong drugs, and FM has expressed concern about the growing use of SWAT teams.

    Growing up I distrusted the government. Yet, isn’t it weird that many of the ideals that I had then (freedom, justice, kindness and goodness to others) were and are shared by people who would describe themselves as patriots? In that vein I would be interested to hear what FM thinks of political commentators such as Jello Biafra and Robert Anton Wilson, even Noam Chomsky or even Rage Against the Machine – all usually characterized as far left or anarchists. For instance, was RAW correct in asserting a political orientation “perpendicular to” left-right politics?

    I suspect that many people, when not bowing to greed, are after the same thing. Anyway, I don’t believe I have the answers, just trying to figure things out.
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    Fabius Maximus replies: A few comments.

    (1) The comparision is other places on Earth, not Heaven. I here the latter is a nice place, but few seem to be in a hurry to get there. And almost every government acts “tyrannical” at specific times and places, at least to the people who disagree with what its doing and hence object to its use of force (monopoly on use of force is the distinguishing characteristic of the modern State).

    (2) “suggest that FM go be poor and black in an American ghetto for a year”

    (2) I have spent time in ghettos, and consider your comment bizarre. What they need is more police protection, not less. Ideally, locals from these communities. Police and local civil services in the past were a standard path for upward mobility of poor ethnic groups, and could be again.

    (3) “Can poverty be considered a form of tyranny?”

    No. Not unless you are Humpty Dumpty, and believe words mean whatever you want them to mean. Like “tyranny” meaning “all bad things”. Most societies, esp multi-ethnic ones, have some form of underclass. That’s an economic problem, not a sign of tyranny in any usual sense of the term.

    (4) “Police might be quartered in your home if you had the wrong drugs”

    Do you have evidence to support this? I doubt it.

  24. FM note: I have inserted replies into the text.

    Again, you are imputing a meaning to the word ‘tyranny’ that neither I, nor the article I originally offered, gave it but now expect me to justify your interpretation of the term and you have chosen to use a rather particular and extreme, versus nuanced, use of it. With that as caveat I shall, nevertheless, respond, although I don’t regard them as ‘my list of grievances’, a phrase which I don’t acknowledge as personally relevant.

    FM reply: I just use the usual sense of the word “tyranny”, as the man in the street understands it. If you have some special meaning, you should give it when using the word, if you expect anyone to understand you.

    FM comment: “Does the secret police arrest dissidents in the dead of night, never again to be seen? Torture dissidents to learn about the activities of their associates? Star chamber hearings, at which guilt is assume? Are police quartered in your homes? Right of petition or freedom of speech revoked? Elections disregarded? Let’s see your list of grievances.

    1. Re dissidents, yes. It is rare but it happens. Usually not dead of night, usually seen again. Case of Ernst Zundel comes to mind as glaring example. Locked for 2 years in solitary in Canada without trial pending extradition to Germany having done nothing illegal either in the country where he was first apprehended (US), or later held (Canada). My definition of illegal is simply that there were no charges against him in either country. Then, after 2 years solitary, he was extradited to Germany, kept in prison the whole time until trial, then sentenced to the maximum 5 years for publishing dissident materials, i.e. as a thought/speech criminal. In Canada many have been tried and sentenced for speech crimes the past few years at tribunals where full defense is not permitted.

    FM reply: This is bogus. He was arrested in the US for violation of immigration rules, and deported. Both SOP. The other stuff ocurred in other nations. See the Wikipedia entry. Do you consider every nation a tyranny? Don’t worry, Heaven might meet your standards.

    This is lower level, but symptomatic of a general drift: you can lose your job instantly for any comments deemed anti homosexual, anti-other-gender, or racist. I have seen this happen personally for clearly innocuous remarks. My new internet provider’s Usage Agreement states that you cannot violate any international laws during your usage, which would include, presumably, Europe’s hate speech statutes, for example, but possibly also China’s or Russia’s restrictive policies. Small examples, but again, possibly the beginning of something far worse, such as Sarkozy’s proposed three strikes (politically incorrect speech for example) and you can no longer access internet communication for life.

    FM reply: No, not everybody “can lose their job instantly for any comment…” It does happen sometimes, yes. And your ISP agreement is a bit broad, but to consider these things signs of a tyranny are absurd. What nation does not have these kinds of glitches?

    Freedom of speech is certainly no longer extant in Canada, and decreasingly in the US in the workplace I suspect. But also on blogs and forums, many of which have been closed down by judicial fiat. Star chamber tribunals certainly exist in Canada already to some degree as mentioned above, but I am sure you could say the same for many types of criminal proceedings in the US, not to mention the infamous Guantanamo and other detainees. And of course not to mention the highest international percentage of the population in jail in the US.

    FM reply: Perhaps Heaven would not meet your high standards. Yes, many trials in the US are unfair. Guantanamo is not in the US and does not hold US citizens; wartime POWs are often mistreated (tens or hundreds of thousands of German POWs died in our care at the end of WWII). Yes, we put many people in jail after trial. Do you believe most are innocent? Perhaps you should volunteer your services on a prison social service agency. You might find it opens your eyes.

    Generally, however, your response seems to be that of escalating the ‘tyranny’ point into something both extreme and emotional at the same time that you are arguing that yours is the mature, experienced view. But why get so extreme and emotional about it? Tyranny can happen anywhere, and in many different forms and to various degrees. That the USG routinely ‘usurps’ far more than it is constitutionally supposed to should be of concern to any and all US citizens. If the drift – well it’s more than a drift! – is not soon corrected, history suggests that more extreme forms of ‘usurpation of power’ will unfold.

    FM reply: After seeing your list of grivances, I believe my reply was too mild. Daft, even sad. You enjoy a range of freedoms with few precedents in history, without awareness — with many complaints.

    Reasonable people should discuss these matters without leaping to hysterical characterisations of each others’ opinions which only serve to obfuscate the issues under consideration. I suppose Philosophy training helps in this.

    FM reply: I suggest you use quotes when describe my comments (as I have so often requested). It would, of course, show the absurdity of your characterization — which is, I suspect, why you do not do so.

    What about the way that NY governor last year, who was investigating fraud by some of the Big Banks, was spied on illegally and then immediately pressured out of office? Not torture in the dark, but also not good procedure at all.

    FM reply: No, it is not torture in the dark. Any lack of “good procedure” does not make the US a tyranny. Politics is often a dirty business, everywhere. You seem to find anything but perfecion deserves the label tyranny. After death you can hope to find a better world; I doubt anything on Earth meets your standards.

  25. FM said: “wartime POWs are often mistreated (tens or hundreds of thousands of German POWs died in our care at the end of WWII).”

    I have never heard about this. Are you referring to the German troops that were transferred to the Russians, and then subsequently died in Siberia over the next decade? If tens or hundreds of thousands of POWs died while in American camps, that would be terrible. My impression was that the Western countries treated each others’ prisoners comparatively well. From what I have read, the mortality rate among American and British POWs in Germany was only about 2 percent.
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    Fabius Maximus replies: Official estimates of German POW deaths in US care range from 56 thousand to 1.5 million; see this Wikipedia entry for a discussion of different calcuations. This is low fatality rate by historical standards. War is hell.

    There are stories of far higher numbers of dead German POWs, but I give them little weight.

  26. FM note: comments inserted into the text.

    Well, we have been back and forth on the word tyranny for a while. You cleave to an extreme use and insist I go along with your objections to it. So be it. No need for quotes. You can see it in the posts above.

    FM note: I have given cogent rebuttals to all your examples. Your characterization of my comments is without foundation, hence my request that you use quotes.

    No charges made against Zundel. NOT SOP. No charges in Canada against Zundle, no bail offered pending extradition decisions, solitary confinement for 2 years, NOT SOP. And if it is SOP, then I suggest your notion of what is or is not ‘tyrannical’ is a little too loose.

    FM reply: This is so bogus. We’re talking about America, and much of your evidence describes events elsewhere (e.g., Zundel’s trials, free speech in Canada). Zundel violated US immigration laws and was promptly deported. What’s the problem? From Wikipedia:

    “In 2003, Zündel was arrested in the US for violating immigration rules, specifically visa waiver overstay … After two weeks he was deported.”

    This is an extreme case, of course, but the fact that such an individual can be handled in that way by current legal mechanisms bodes ill if things tighten up further. My concerns are not so much about the current status quo except insofar as the momentum is going in the wrong direction, and history suggests that once that ‘trend’, if you will, is established, and given that many of the same types of groups/people are involved in pushing these ‘usurpatorial’ agendas, it is not impossible, perhaps even no longer unlikely, that we will soon start seeing more extreme manifestations as happened no so long ago in Europe and as had happened throughout history when such types of authority are given free rein.

    FM reply: You don’t show that “the momentum is going in the wrong direction”. Considering the past century’s progress in America in so many ways — such as improved civil liberties to women and minorities — I believe the opposite is more correct.

    As to post-war treatment of German POW’s: probably can get an article by Fisher (US Army historian) on this via Google; Bacque’s ‘Other Losses’ is a groundbreaking work on this written when data was still hard to come by. A more recent and respectable rebuttal to his work is Giles MacDonogh’s ‘After the Reich’ but he merely dismisses Bacques in passing as being wrong, but does not explain how about 1.5 Germans became mysteriously ‘missing’, a figure he accepts along with Bacque but never explains. If they didn’t die, where did they go? Large numbers definitely died in American and French camps with the former being open air for several months without latrines or shelter, and with the camp guards being under orders not to provide any food. That is a fact. How many died in those open air camps is not known (records were not kept by the authorities at the time) but the fact that they even existed, along with such forced starvation policies, is already disturbing, to say the least and we are still left with about 1.5 million unaccounted for ‘missing’ whether you use American, German or Red Cross accounting methods.

    FM reply: I do not see where you are going with this. My point was that sometimes bad stuff happens, in every society, despite the best intentions (see the previous comment for details). You cite a small number of individual events as if that discredits the entire social system (calling it a tyranny), which is nuts. Nor do you ever explain what *you* mean by tyranny. From your comments, you appear to consider anything but perfection as a tyranny.

  27. You asked for quotes:

    FM: “The only thing I said about her personally was to quoting her professional background. This is not an ad hominem.”

    Earlier I had objected: “FM: your comments on Ellen Brown (about whom I also have reservations) border on the hysterical and are, as is too often typical, silly ad hominems.”

    FM’s previous comment about Brown: “In short, most of her article is absurd. She is an ‘attorney practicing civil litigation’ and displays little knowledge of economics. This is like getting geopolitical insight from reading Captain America comics (that’s an insulting comparison, but I’m not sure whether to the Captain or Brown).

    You were not specific, but now I am curious: did you find the part in the article where she maintains that the hyperinflation was largely caused by banker-run bear raids on the currency rather than economic fundamentals and suchlike? If this is totally wrong, then much of her article does border on the ‘absurd’, although again without any specifics the statements sound much like mere ad hominem.

    Similarly, although you stated that Sobran’s basic thesis was wrong and supplied the following quote as evidence, you did not explain why it was wrong and have often resorted to insults instead. First Sobran:

    “{W}e no longer fully have what our ancestors, who framed and ratified our Constitution, thought of as freedom — a careful division of power that prevents power from becoming concentrated and unlimited. … And the words they used for any excessive powers claimed or exercised by the state were usurped and tyrannical.”

    So: what is so wrong about that and how can you agree with most of the subsequent article but reject the core thesis? Would be nice to know.

    On review I did miss your answer about British Parliament viz. ‘tyranny’. But again, I fail to see its relevance in a discussion mainly about the US (although I have brought in Canada, perhaps inappropriately). Are you saying that because a government has power – as it should – that any inference that they are going over the line is ridiculous?

    In any case, the point is flawed for the same reason it would be if referring to Congress: in both systems there are large swathes of the government which are managed by a more or less permanent Administrative Branch. Indeed, this latter is one of the main ways the USG has ‘usurped’ powers it is not entitled to under the Constitution. And of course both systems have multiple secret service and other mechanisms conducting policy far under the radar of either the Parliament or the Congress to oversee. The US Congress is not allowed to get detailed accounting of the Fed’s holdings, decisions or anything else. The BIS’s HQ (BIS is the Central Bank of the other Central Bank’s) is similarly not even under Swiss Government jurisdiction in that Swiss police or govt. officials are not allowed physical entrance, let alone to examine their books.

    You are right to point out that we enjoy many freedoms today. But it is precisely BECAUSE we do that we should be vigilant lest they be ‘usurped’. And as I mentioned in another thread, it should be of concern, to say the least, that many of the same organisations that were involved in the huge (and murderous) convolutions of the twentieth century in other countries, are still in the saddle and now seem to be pushing for a change in the US Republic in ways that are similar to what they did elsewhere. To assume that these leopards have changed their spots when there is no evidence to do so is, I believe, overly naive.
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    Fabius Maximus replies: Yes, I see no historical basis for saying “hyperinflation was largely caused by banker-run bear raids on the currency rather than economic fundamentals and suchlike.” There is a large literature on hyperinflation, she neither cites support for this odd theory or any awareness of the mainstream analysis. Inflation has many causes: war, social collapse, monetary action, fiscal action (i.e., printing money to cover government spending, perhaps the most common cause).

    “Are you saying that because a government has power – as it should – that any inference that they are going over the line is ridiculous?”

    I am rapidly losing patience with this. This is not a reasonable inference from anything I said.

    “So: what is so wrong about that”

    Please read what I wrote, providing a specific explanation of how this showed the error of both the author’s historical statements and general definition of tyranny (it perfect matches the UK Parliament). We’re nearing the end of this conversation.

    As for your quotes, if you believe stating her professional background and evident lack of knowledge about economics are “hysterical and … silly ad hominems”, perhaps you would be happier commenting on another website.

  28. Tyranny III, with requested quotations: I did use the term, but as a shorthand summary of the Sobran article. You later supplied a good reference to how he was using it, with:

    ““{W}e no longer fully have what our ancestors, who framed and ratified our Constitution, thought of as freedom — a careful division of power that prevents power from becoming concentrated and unlimited. … And the words they used for any excessive powers claimed or exercised by the state were usurped and tyrannical.”

    I later further clarified it with:
    “1. arbitrary or unrestrained exercise of power; despotic abuse of authority.”

    Then you replied:
    “FM reply: I just use the usual sense of the word “tyranny”, as the man in the street understands it. If you have some special meaning, you should give it when using the word, if you expect anyone to understand you.”

    There has been too much hasty cross-talk in this interchange which has become unnecessarily vague and ad hominem in general – in the literal sense of that phrase.

    I regret responding to the personal grievances query because it furthers such an ad hominem dynamic. In fact, I could give far more and more substantive but that sort of thing takes time and thought to boil into a short post.

    In short shorthand though I could mention, as unexplained bullets:

    1. The Fed.
    2. GM food.
    3. Encroachments on habeus corpus, privacy
    4. The Administrate Branch in the USG
    5. Usurpation of States Powers
    6. Deeply flawed electoral process bordering on bogus
    7. Power of lobbying groups
    8. Supreme Court enabling USG mission creep.
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    Fabius Maximus replies: This is just nuts, a total waste of time. You don’t like GM food or the Fed, so America is a tyranny? Any more of this will be deleted and future comment moderated.

  29. “This is just nuts, a total waste of time. You don’t like GM food or the Fed, so America is a tyranny?”

    Characterized like that, I agree, total waste of time.
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    Fabius Maximus replies: Nice of you to admit it, the first step on the road to wisdom. I feel foolish for not insisting to see your list of tyrannical acts right at the first, which would have saved much wasted effort. Every day gives an opportunity to learn.

  30. A ‘peasant’s’ experience in the US: “Gone To China, The Story of Al Caggiano and the FIVS“, Joseph Danison, 26 June 2005.

    Esp. around pages 10-15 in terms of ‘functioning tyranny’. This is part of Point #6 above in shorthand simply expressed as ‘power of lobbying groups’. Anyway, this ‘peasant’ is lost to the freedom-fostering US and Canada where he is regarded mainly as a crook, as are others previously mentioned in this thread. (Have not checked the Wikipedia entry about him!)
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    Fabius Maximus replies: You could fill books with stories of injustices in American and every other nation on this planet. Congratulations, you have proved that every society is a tyranny because their are instances of injustice. Be good, and when you die you will go someplace better.

    Now that this is settled, please stop posting this nonsense.

    BTW — the only unusual aspect of this story is the following (this happy ending is not unique to the USA, but very very rare in most nations today):

    Richard Sproules {Police Chief of Brockton, MA} went to prison, which led ultimately to the overturning of nearly 400 drug convictions that had occurred during his tenure as chief.

  31. Hey, thanks for your replies, FM. I definitely agree that “Every day gives an opportunity to learn.”

    Your reply to my first point kind of sums up the argument for me – I had tried to avoid saying whether a the U.S. government is a tyranny or not, only that it behaves that way sometimes, to some people. And I am well aware that this is not Heaven.

    Obviously I made an undue assumption about your spending any time in a ghetto. I don’t think it was necessarily bizarre, however. The point I tried to make was that one’s views are relative to one’s conditions; which is not very different from your original suggestion.

    I have to concede point 3 to you since I know I can tend to do that. BTW, your link to Humpty Dumpty shows that you have a sense of humor, contrary to what you’ve sometimes stated. (Telling that alien to enjoy basking in their multiple suns shows that as well.)

    As to point 4, I thought police surveillance and kicking down doors might be considered akin to police hanging out in one’s home. But my evidence got flushed down the toilet.

    Finally, I think I’m better at reading the material on your site than responding to it, so I’ll stick to that for a while.

  32. The strategy of tyranny is how to devise the best way for the ‘community’ to dispose of human effort. It is taken for granted that people will produce for their order.As the socialist state progresses, it becomes essential to control all productivity. The initial impulse is the same as any other robber’s: to find out what to steal. Productivity is a curious thing, however, in how thoroughly pervasive it is in human affairs. If two kids trade marbles on the school playground, they both come away richer. Politically, it is quite a different matter in grown-up affairs, however, and all trade that takes place beyond the purview of the state must be found for purposes of control.Try to understand: you’re all going to have to start stealing a lot more from each other than you ever have before.
    Try to understand that the perverse argument that our economy will never be stable unless the people are violently expropriated is the most common among the fall toward the all powerful state, sure the USA is not a tyranny but just ignore history.”Live free or die!” has no meaning to people in denial of the facts of reality.

    How many examples does one require? Is it a slippery slope or a brick wall? If it were a complete total state we would be denied the conversation so no the western world is not a completely totalitarian state it just on the road to state control of the mind and body.

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