Mesmerized by Melodic Rhetoric

“I’ve been through Y2K and I’ve been through 9/11. I have never seen people so afraid as what we are seeing right now,” said gun shop owner Scott Moss recently. With more guns per capita — easily 250 million privately owned ones — and certainly more people in prisons than any other democracy, the intriguing question in this still worsening economic calamity is: If Americans found the courage for political rebellion now, would it preempt massive criminal violence, social havoc and armed rebellion later?

What we see President Obama and Congress doing and debating seem inadequate to restore financial health and security to the vast majority of Americans before millions more lives are devastated. Billions of tax dollars have gone to banks, corporations and others but have not stopped the hemorrhage of our financial lifeblood. More than half a million jobs continue to be lost a month; 3.5 million in the past year. Millions are losing their homes, health insurance and ability to buy food. Those with jobs are afraid to spend money.

As Nobel Prize winning and gloomy economist Paul Krugman said the other day after condemning what is going on in Washington, DC : “the economy is still in free fall” and we may be “falling into an economic abyss.” Harsh words for a harsh reality.

Recently, President Obama said: “A failure to act, and act now, will turn crisis into a catastrophe.” But what really matters is exactly what actions the government takes and whether they are what is needed. Besides, about the same time, his senior advisor David Axelrod said on television that “we have an economic catastrophe.” For most Americans, catastrophe seems more accurate.

Meanwhile, the elite Upper Class that stole the nation’s wealth in recent years with their greed and political clout, and destroyed the global economic system, are still sitting pretty in their McMansions, penthouses, private jets and yachts. They still enjoy their $50,000+ cars, still wine and dine in incredibly expensive restaurants, and still retain more wealth than ordinary people can imagine. Brioni men’s suits for $40,000+ are selling fast.

So what are ordinary Americans doing? Are there massive crowds of screaming, sign-carrying Americans in city streets from coast to coast? No. Or outside congressional buildings and the White House? No. Are there riots and looting by hoards of hungry and angry people who have lost a decent lifestyle? No. Do we see anything like the anti-Vietnam War protests? No. Do we see anything like the urban riots after the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr.? No. Do we see anything like the rebellion against the British that created our nation? No

What do we see? Millions of people getting notices that they have lots their jobs, getting eviction notices, applying for bankruptcy, trying to get unemployment benefits, standing on long lines to get a shot at few jobs, filling crowded hospital emergency rooms to get medical help, taking their children out of child care they no longer can afford, and buying fewer and cheaper foods or seeking free food.

Compared to rioting Europeans, Americans seem like docile, drugged out sheep herded towards the economic cliff, mesmerized by melodic rhetoric of political messiah Barack Obama.

No wonder our politicians look like dithering, confused idiots arguing among themselves as we continue falling into economic hell. We simply are not demanding enough of those we elected.

It’s as if most Americans are patiently waiting to be rescued by winning the lottery. Is it hope or stupidity?

Meantime, President Obama has successfully stimulated one business sector. Since November, gun and ammunition sales have soared, as have requests for concealed carry permits. “Our sales are up 15 to 20 percent since October,” says the owner of Shooter’s Service in Livonia, Michigan. “It’s not the 40 percent other stores are reporting, but it’s good business.” Oakland County in Michigan issued 130 percent more concealed carry weapon permits in January than a year earlier. Such permits are up as much as 90 percent in some Western North Carolina counties. According to the FBI, background checks for gun sales in January jumped 29 percent over January 2008; this followed a 24 percent rise in December and a 42 percent increase in November. In many places gun sales have dropped because of shortages.

What awaits us when hope becomes futile and all confidence in the government is lost? Gun owner Chad Roberts in Tennessee said this recently: “With the economy like it is more people are going to be desperate wanting to steal from you.” So, perhaps we will see a contagious, rapid descent into mass criminal violence. As suffering, gun-toting Americans resort to looting, theft, robbery, burglary, assaults and other economically driven violent acts to get what is needed to survive, and other gun owners shoot to defend what they have. The fabric of civilized society ripped apart. Brutal police and military actions result, and for many no police protection. Constitutional freedoms suspended in a national emergency. Government threatened by armed rebellion as gun-toting citizens put their Second Amendment rights to the ultimate use.

This nightmare scenario may happen because free people waited too long, remained too hopeful, put too much faith in elections. Armageddon is closer than most Americans realize. Beyond catastrophe lies mob rule, a doomsday post-democracy, disintegration, collapse, chaos. Americans sucked into the economic abyss where violence replaces politics.

Hope will be a distant memory. One way to avoid the abyss is to give Americans what they have a constitutional right to have; something the Founders in their wisdom knew we would need. They provided an option in Article V of the Constitution that Congress has refused to honor, even though the one and only requirement has long been met. It is a convention of state delegates to consider proposals for constitutional amendments. This would provide a national forum for the public to seriously become involved with possible ways to reform and improve our government structure. Over 700 applications from state legislatures for an Article V convention have been submitted from all 50 states; they are being made available for the first time at Because the convention can only propose amendments that still must be ratified by three-quarters of the states there really is nothing to fear about harming our Constitution. There is now considerable interest in many states to push for a convention.

In these dismal times using what the Founders gave us makes more sense than ever before. Americans need more than two-party politics. They need a serious debate about structural reforms through constitutional amendments that can attack the deep-rooted corruption and incompetence that plague the federal government and contributed to creating our current economic meltdown.

Rather than fear a convention, embrace it. It is far more rational to fear sticking with our status quo dysfunctional government or, worse, the degeneration into violent upheaval. Following the Constitution’s path to get reforms should be preferred.

Joel S. Hirschhorn was a full professor at the University of Wisconsin, Madison and a senior official at the Congressional Office of Technology Assessment and the National Governors Association; he has authored five nonfiction books, including Delusional Democracy: Fixing the Republic Without Overthrowing the Government. Read other articles by Joel.

57 comments on this article so far ...

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  1. rg the lg said on February 11th, 2009 at 12:27pm #

    We don’t get it … the enemy isn’t the guy next door who, out of desperation, steals from you … but our so-called politicians and corporate mucky mucks who stole from us because we didn’t believe that it was happening.

    We sow what we reap … and if Joel is correct, we deserve the chaos, the pain … the total dislocations. Why? Because when millions were dying in Iraq or Darfur or some other place most of us hardly seem to know exists, we turned a blind eye because, well, it wasn’t next door.

    RG the LG

  2. bozh said on February 11th, 2009 at 1:14pm #

    my wife just told me, Bob[she cant pronounce bozh] you are more stupid now than ten yrs ago.
    that’s OK, said i, i haven’t noticet it.
    well amers have been around for much longer than ten yrs and it seems they are not noticing anything. thnx

  3. bozh said on February 11th, 2009 at 1:18pm #

    my wife asked me one day, What’s zionism? i told her i didn’t know but suggested she read also DV postings instead of inquirer.
    she also said laura is leaving bush and not buzh. thnx

  4. John S. Hatch said on February 11th, 2009 at 2:27pm #

    America is facing financial disintegration, but also a moral one. Mr. Obama’s seeming unwillingness to deal with Bush Administration crimes (including 9/11) is as serious as the economic crisis. There’s nothing left.

  5. anthony innes said on February 11th, 2009 at 7:13pm #

    The reason the staus quo has not been challenged is that by and large the distribution system is still working for a lot of folk.No power outages so the TV is on so why go out on the street .Keep gorfing treats available in stores and so on. The USA$ is being printed into the same condition as the Confederate fiat money as we ponder.The people stocking self defense are taking a pragmatic approach to what is obvious. The momentum /cascade of events rushing at the so called G7 cannot be stopped by the anemic wrist waving politics we have seen since Truman. Ike warned us and was ignored. That the Bank cartel (Bank of International Settlements ) has any interest in sovereign National government is faery tales told to children: The financial collapse is being engineered,manufactured just as any other war.

  6. russell olausen said on February 11th, 2009 at 7:35pm #

    I agree with the comment regarding the 9-11 snooze-up.Every moral reprobate now has hope of success.On the other hand,those that expected open justice are in shock.Inscrutable fate is all the unwashed can expect given the crooked history our public sentinel has.That would be the media,har-de-har.

  7. Don Hawkins said on February 12th, 2009 at 5:42am #

    Sent this to a financial channel this morning.

    Well what is going to happen today? Wait don’t tell me we are going back to the gold standard. Suspend the mark to market rule. On all levels we are going to start working together you know like congress a house divided and all that. I know forget socialism how about a good old fashion military coup in the States that would shake things up a little. 1% of the population move to Colorado and barb wire the entire border of the State and all get a copy of the book Money Island. Here’s a good one the United States sends all the D-9 Cats it can find to the Amazon rain forest and cut all the trees down to help the housing market. I know convert coal to gas and build more coal plants you know just go total coal because it’s what’s for dinner. Forget all these new ideas like electric cars or this whole green energy thing we use the same systems we know how to do we have to get the economy moving again. Have China build everything we need and all we do is consume. Print more money. Here’s another good one like George Bush the older one said respect your leaders. Eat as much as you can to help the economy. Go shopping that was the younger one. Spend more money than you have. Don’t listen to scientists on the home planet it only makes things harder. I know none of this will ever happen just the witting of a person in a box kind of a prison for the mind with his head down and blurred very blurred in his thinking.

    blurred: anything indistinct or hazy to the sight or mind.

    Lose the suits ask for help use your mind outside that box work together. Look boss it’s the knowledge it’s the knowledge. It won’t be boring. Can it be done yes but you have to try and please quit saying call now, call now, call now it’s driving me mad.

  8. Tree said on February 12th, 2009 at 6:40am #

    The Article V information is very interesting. The rest, including the comments, is sanctimonious bullshit. I’m am so sick and tired of the argument that Americans are too lazy to do anything. Like “ordinary” Americans can end genocide and economic collapse. This is pure stupidity.
    You know what happens when you lose your job? I’m asking because I would bet the person who wrote this article has no idea. You don’t go out and protest or riot. You panic, you go into a depression, you spend hours each day looking for a new job, you wrangle with credit card companies and unemployment and health insurance companies. You don’t have the time or the resources to mount a political protest.
    Do you see people in Zimbabwe protesting and rioting? North Korea? Sudan? Yet for some reason you think Americans are different from everyone else in the world?

    It seems that nearly everyone, radicals and others alike, believe this country, this society, this world owes them something. Maybe a true and pure radical view is the belief that no government, no country, no organization owes you anything.

  9. Max Shields said on February 12th, 2009 at 8:15am #


    I won’t dispute you in terms of what Americans do when the “lose” their job.

    Perhaps “lazy” is not the correct term for why Americans are apathetic – whether they have or don’t have a “job”. Remember, the “fat, dumb and happy” have jobs based on mostly “make work” like what insurance companies and many government contractors provide. Most “jobs” are poorly defined and easily eliminated because they don’t “add value” to someone’s bottom line – which means the “job” may have paid the bills and kept the pathological US economy humming, but it was basically meaningless work.

    Still, there is the issue of needing food and other basic needs. Americans have been known as “leading quiet lives of desperation”. They’ve lost connection with everything around them (including their family) as they trudge off to meaningless, thankless “jobs”.

    But, are American’s lazy? Mis-Guided? Ill-educated? Lacking critical thinking skills? Perhaps it is too general, certainly to imply that all Americans are, but we got more than a few (understatement).

    Now, to genocide and protesting. No, most Americans may not even know what the word “genocide” means, or if they do, mis-apply it. So, yah we don’t have a lot to work with here. When people get over their denial, and stop mourning the loss of their “job” perhaps…just may be, many will be open to learning, understanding and realizing what their tax dollars (the dollars taken out of their paychecks from their meaningless humdrum “jobs”) has been up to.

    Surprise surprise. (No, I don’t pity Americans, the people who’ve gladly mindlessly consumed (yes the ads on tv made them do it) 5 times the natural resources of all over humans on the planet.

    What to do?

  10. Ramsefall said on February 12th, 2009 at 8:36am #

    Tree makes an excellent point regarding human nature in response to critical circumstances such as losing a job and being left with little or no options. If mounted with accumulated bills that become unpayable, the inherent tendency will be to fall into depression, perpetuating one’s problem. Organizing and protesting does not become the top priority, surviving does.

    This inactive reaction has perpetuated poverty around the world, and the string pullers know it well. The poor and unfortunate, especially if living in conditions of misery, are not able to be stimulated by lofty ideals such as effective rebellion. Personal inclinations are directed toward survival like finding food or shelter.

    While complacency in an ultra-consumerist society has been part of the problem until now in the US, when pressed up against the hard wall of inevitability and overwhelming desperation, options are limited along with the energy required to implement them.

    The degree of complacency in the US is a natural byproduct of capitalism and its soulless emptiness — life too easy, for too many for too long at the swipe of a plastic card. While some have bought into the system more than others, the system itself propagates complacent behavior naturally, leaving the new impoverished and struggling once-middle-class members helpless. Capitalism has effectively done its job to further separate the haves, the have nots, and the have mores. But this is not witnessed everywhere, its predominance is Amerikan.

    An example to justify: Bolivia. The Bolivians who promoted Morales to the presidential seat were poor, dirt poor in comparison to US standards. These are people who haven’t had the luxury of daily showers or supermarket shopping in a gas-guzzling SUVs, not even central heating for the long, cold nights high in the Andes, and they haven’t been returning home after work to be distracted by 500 channels of cable TV void of any valuable content.

    These are people who have never had any of those Western luxuries (distractions), yet they managed to organize and raise one of their representatives to head of state. They were not distracted, they were not complacent. On the contrary, they were driven forward by the momentum of their own accumulated intolerance toward the oligarchs who had worked so hard to screw them. Maybe a lesson is there to be learned by the new sufferers of a corrupt and ever-failing US capitalist society?

    Best to all.

  11. Tree said on February 12th, 2009 at 8:51am #

    I really want to respond to your comments, Max and Ramsesfall, I think there’s a lot I’d like to say, but I am currently at my meaningless “job” that not only helps pay down my credit card and student loan debt but probably supports the Zionist Agenda as well. I think it’s important to kill as many birds with one stone as possible so that I have more time for my hobbies.
    Sarcasm aside, I’ll be back later– not ignoring anyone.

  12. Max Shields said on February 12th, 2009 at 9:32am #

    Tree as someone who has held many meaningless jobs (even “executive type”) I’m fully aware of the fear of losing what seems to be your only means of sustenance.

    It is a problem the “man” holds your fate in “his” hand. Freedom from that fear is not only liberating, you actually find that the fear was unwarrented.

    It is well known, documented, and experienced. For some people, their “job” may be “fulfilling”. But by definition a “job” is not something the individual creates, but is pre-defined by what the employer wants/needs and is willing to pay for.

    Being lost in the “job” treadmill (drive back and forth, head down, don’t say anything that might jeopardize your “job”, particularly with an economic downturn) has been the American reality beginning with mass industrialization. This is seritude. You went to college to find a “job” (in your case you may have gone to college to learn something) and now have to go off to the “job” to pay for the opportunity to go to college. And then there will be other debts and consumer demands that keep you running off. First, you need to buy special cloths either for the “job” or because you need to fill your life with something that the “job” provides (purchasing power), etc. You know the story, you’re living it.

    Sarcasm is just a confirmation of the American human condition.

    Then there’s the FEAR of LOSING your “job”; the one you disdain, but pays the “bills”. Heaven forbid you lose it!!

    This is important. If we are to build a world from the rubble of the corporate industrial capitalistic system, we need to come to terms with the meaninglessness that it created along with the endless wars and pollution…

  13. Ramsefall said on February 12th, 2009 at 9:52am #

    I look forward to your reply when you have time, Tree.

  14. bozh said on February 12th, 2009 at 10:28am #

    just a very short observation about the plight of amers. in my judgment, the plight is caused mainly by the structure of governance.
    and this structure controls nearly utterly education, spying, advertising, entertainment, info, mode of production/use of money, etc.
    as korzibski said, Structure is the only content of knowledge. so study also structure of society; i.e., how a person is related to another (stranger, friend, nonfriend) and how each layer of society is related to every other.
    one also needs to take into account how cults relate to one another and to the governmental and societal structures. thnx

  15. Deadbeat said on February 12th, 2009 at 11:00am #

    Max Sheilds writes…

    This is important. If we are to build a world from the rubble of the corporate industrial capitalistic system, we need to come to terms with the meaninglessness that it created along with the endless wars and pollution…

    What “we” need to come to terms with is the proper way to analyze the current crisis so that solutions can be derived that will work and not DISTRACT people into some sort of REFORMISM that may temporarily alleviate the current crisis.

    Coming to terms with “meaninglessness” means coming to terms that FUNDAMENTALLY capitalism is about EXPLOITATION. The current crisis of Capitalism is very much an extension of Marxist theory. However what Capitalist did especially after WWII was to essentially REFORM the system enough to “buy out” the working class and to attack Socialism via McCarthyism and the Cold War.

    This has been well over a 60 year process so for many Americans they are not as much “apathetic” but ignorant of their own working class interest and ignorant of what to do about it and where to go to look for answers, solutions and analysis.

    Tree and Ramefall are correct that when people lose a job they are going to think about survival. The system has done a good job at shredding social safety net and interconnection by atomizing citizens whereby they become even more DEPENDENT on private debt in order to survive and to achieve the proverbial “American Dream”.

    I also agree with Tree’s indignation about labeling Americans as “lazy” and the disdain that emanate from writers leveled at the working class. The working class has been duped and indoctrinated and seduced by Liberalism.

    What Liberalism did was to MANAGE Capitalist crisis. It was effective up to a point and actually worked to delay and to mitigate downturns. The problem however is that Liberalism preserved Capitalism (read: elites) whereby it inherent contradictions cannot be contained. Capitalist since the 1970’s has been rolling back New Deal Keynesianism. It appears that Capitalist may be running out of tricks to stimulate the economy and at this point the elites would not care of the rest of the society degrade in order to preserve their class wealth and power.

    Another thing that the writer fails to analyze once again is that before the War on Iraq, American did march and protest the War. That movement could have formed the basis of a movement to challenge Capitalism. Unfortunately the “Left” went to great length to diffuse this energy and a potential mass base for a new movement. Failing to analyze the internal conflicts and contradictions on the Left and its own contribution to its own marginalization doesn’t provide an accurate account of why the American people are confused about their own class interests. Identity politics has also supplanted working class politics which causes a great deal of confusion because identity politics tend to blur class antagonisms within the identity group. The smashing of unions and the ossified union leadership also has contributed to the miseducation of Americans as well.

    What Americans needs is real education about the contradiction inherent within Capitalism and how Capitalism fundamentally exploits workers. A great place to start is by studying Marx. In Europe and Latin America — the places mentioned by the author and protesting their conditions — have a better than average understanding of Marx than most Americans.

  16. russell olausen said on February 12th, 2009 at 1:53pm #

    Does shock and awe have to use hard weapons or will psy-ops do?Who loves you baby?

  17. bozh said on February 12th, 2009 at 2:34pm #

    ah, amer “liberalism”; yet another ism. in fact the socalled liberals were/are as bellicose and antiworking class as the most litterati and conservatives.
    now arises yet another ism:libertarianism. it’s injected in the language to further confound confounded.
    isms change but relations don’t. master-serf relation had not basically changed; payer-payee relation had been with us fo rmillennia. relationship btwn lawmakers/enactors and nonlawmakers likewise hadn’t changed. more cld be said. thnx

  18. Garth said on February 12th, 2009 at 3:59pm #

    This comes from America’s wimpy little brother, Canada. It’s all the same really… Same consumer life-style, same meaningless job, same pretend democracy, same failing capitalist structure (on a smaller scale).

    It might be a good idea to invest into alternatives to using a job to feed yourself. Community gardens and things like that.

    Dirt, seeds, and water. They’re not hard to come by.

    We could provide ourselves with basic necessities without relying on “jobs”. Some things you can do without dollars and oil are pretty cheap and can reduce our reliance on the system. A little bit of money might help to invest in materials, but materials all come from the ground, pretty much.

    I don’t know what all these options are, but I know they could help if all our food relies right now on dollars and oil. I’m not saying we live a primitive life, but rather soften the fall and provide alternatives to the “shoot your neighbour” method of feeding yourself, and your communities.

    Seek alternatives. Replace the system piece by piece. Reduce reliance gradually. If community efforts to survive are attacked by government, it’ll be a clear signal to the community that THEY are being threatened by their leaders and need to stand up.

  19. Ramsefall said on February 12th, 2009 at 4:33pm #


    great point, shock and awe via economic psy-ops…how far will this follow-up social experiment go? It’s already taken on a life form of its own particularity and the media is playing its part to scare the crap out of consumers…the public will be waving the white flags this time instead of the imperial stars and stripes as seen post-9/11.


    sure enough.

    Best to all.

  20. Ramsefall said on February 12th, 2009 at 4:48pm #

    Reliance (dependence, addiction, etc), as Garth mentions, can only be tackled in two ways, either gradually reduced or promptly abandoned, discarded like a bag of rocks. Just the same, the problem will be confronted, one way or the other. No swimming around this storm.

    Who will be the first playwright to create the tragic/comedy of Capitalism’s soon-to-come quadraparalysis, if not inevitable death? Gore Vidal? Whoever, it’s sure to be a timeless classic, folks.

    Best to all.

  21. Tree said on February 12th, 2009 at 6:55pm #

    I hope I haven’t lost the thread here. It seems others have added here what I wanted to say and I guess I don’t have much else to add at this point.
    I like what Garth writes about. This is what I’m trying to do in my own life. Having a vegetable garden, learning to sew, I live within my means, things that make me a little more self reliant. It seems stupid for me to point this out considering this was the norm for centuries.
    I do think in this day and age there is the risk of over-romanticizing times past in order to make ourselves feel better about our present times.

    My initial gripe was the way Americans are generalized as all being lazy and apathetic. This is not only dishonest, it’s intellectually lazy and it does a disservice to the millions of Americans who are NOT apathetic nor lazy.
    Most importantly to me, it’s not just an American issue, it’s human nature. It’s the same ceaseless wave seen nearly everywhere else in the world throughout history where people want more, get more, then eventually lose it.
    I firmly believe that if the majority of people just shut up and sat still and listened to themselves, they would find what they are looking for and would stop the incessant searching and spending.

    I also wanted to make the point that while so many fingers are pointing at Americans for not doing whatever it is people think they should do, the fact is few people around the world are doing it either. Zimbabwe is in a hell of a lot worse shape than America but no one is protesting there. The wealthy Sudanese aren’t protesting in droves over Darfur. North Koreans are oddly compliant. The list goes on, so why slam Americans? If someone wrote here that Arabs are lazy and apathetic and therefore deserve what they get in Gaza, people would be livid. So yes, Gazans are under a lot of oppression from Israel but I would argue that while very different, many Americans are oppressed as well.

    Deadbeat, you write a lot about class in America. I tend to think no one gives a shit about class anymore. I think we’ve come to a point where words like class and even capitalism have no meaning to people anymore.

    I really don’t disagree with what Max and Ramsesfall have written here, I tend to agree with all of it.
    There are definitely apathetic, lazy douches in America. I sometimes think if it wasn’t for the Business major in colleges boring, unimaginative people would have nothing to do for a living.
    But, like it or not, we’re all living in the same reality.

  22. Ramsefall said on February 13th, 2009 at 4:10am #


    I don’t think it’s possible to overstate the value of simplicity, nor the importance of reliance on oneself instead of the system. Capitalism and man’s disconnection from nature has created the devastating circumstances that mankind faces today. Get back to the roots and the essence of life — something that class-structured capitalism has detoured us from.

    Generalizations provide empty lip service, nothing more — laziness crosses all cultural and national boundaries, it’s certainly not limited to Amerikans.

    One day at a time, keep your focus on the reality you want.

    Best to you.

  23. Tree said on February 13th, 2009 at 6:46am #

    Deadbeat, I realized in my comment complaining about generalizations, I made a generalization. I should have written that many people don’t care about class or “capitalism” rather than “no one” does.
    Not really an original thought, anyway. Slavoj Zizek, who I’m not a big fan of anyway, has written of this recently.

  24. Don Hawkins said on February 13th, 2009 at 8:03am #

    In the coming years say 10 to start the middle the left the right the rich the poor girls, boy’s old and young get to meet on a place called Earth. It could start sooner not because of what we doing to this planet but what we are doing to ourselves. It is the same thinking that has got us to both places. Right now big oil wants this and big coal want’s that and big business want’s and bank’s want more. The elite’s so called are trying to figure out if it’s better to move to Iceland or Colorado the middle there is none the lower the poor where to sleep and what to eat. The fighting we see now in the Congress will need to change and the way the system is run or a better way to put it trying to hold on to nothing more than debt and get more debt and how to spend more debt better known as insanity. A substantial new way of thinking is needed if human’s wish to survive. The key word is need not want.

  25. Max Shields said on February 13th, 2009 at 8:32am #


    I agree with your point about capitalism not being foremost on many people’s mind.

    If we take some of the symptoms like oppression, exploitation aside for a moment and give it a historical perspective we quickly realize that such conditions pre-exist capitalism.

    A reading of Adam Smith would dismiss the notion that Smith was introducing the notion of elitist power structure of haves/have nots. In fact much of Smith’s writing is egalitarian in nature; and had a positive – perhaps too postive – and outlook on human nature.

    Whether Marx or Smith are flawed models seems fairly clear, what is not always stated is their intent which appears to be similar ends but a different sense (given the time span between their writtings) in terms of human nature.

    I have nothing against dilectics or the Socratic method as long as these are not religiously used to solve all our pressing human and ecological problems.

    What is absolutely essential, it seems to me, is that we understand the problem and separate it from ideologies or one-size fits all prescriptions.

    I’ve mentioned Henry George, and those who seem to think in monolithic terms, misunderstood my comments as dedicated entirely to the works and genius of one man and his writings. While I think he is truly a treasure, one few Americans remember or know, and that that is an injustice to us all; I do not think land alone is the entire picture. But without a clear understanding of land as regards the human condition we have little hope in solving the deep and hurtful problem of wealth concentration and all that springs forth from it.


  26. Tree said on February 13th, 2009 at 9:15am #

    Max, I’ve never heard of Henry George but I’m interested in his ideas after reading your comments. I think it’s interesting that he was active in the 19th century, with ideas about land while Native Americans were being tossed off their own land. Did he ever write about that aspect?

    Lots of great American thinkers in the 19th century.

  27. Max Shields said on February 13th, 2009 at 9:57am #


    I don’t have a particular reference I can cite off the “top of my head”, but the idea of land goes to the very heart of the issue of ownership.

    Basically, land is not, from George’s perspective (and many others) owned by anyone. For George ownership comes from what we build (captial and labor). We use land. Now, please note: land in terms of classical economics (such as George) means all of nature (air, water, minerals, energy sources, the ground; essential all of the universe which is not fabricated by humans).

    This idea is central to the notion of the commons and thus what is public and what is private. This is central to how we have corrupted the commons (which seems to have started in the “mother country” England) by regularly “selling it off” to private, usually wealthy profiteers.

    For George, land is not owned, but is given value through public works. Where humans invest (capital and labor), collectively, is where land has the greatest value. That value is publically owned, not individually owned. Therefore, the investment is wealth that needs to be recaptured to pay for public services and infrastructure. This whole relationship was utterly corrupted when the railroad barons came into being in the US; and as corporations became more and more dominate (to the point where they run the US foreign and domestic agenda and policies).

    The US government, through the legal and legislative process has given our common wealth to corportions through patents, licenses to “land” and in some cases direct ownership. Through the action of the pen, the railroad barons took ownership of the vast acres of land surrounding the tracks they laid down from one end of the US to the other. This is hugh public wealth which is not recaptured. In effect, such privitization concentrates wealth in the hands of a few and leaves the rest to relative impovershipment.

    For George, there was no need for taxes. The only thing that should exist is a rent on land use. Such a rent would pay not only for pubic works, services and infrastructure, but would provide every citizen with a pension; i.e., there would be no need for social security or dependency on 401K or state/corporate pension systems as they exist today – and you wouldn’t have to be 65 to collect!

    Over time, a number of highly regarded (and not necessarilary politically similar) economists have strongly supported George’s claim in total or in large part. Michael Hudson has written extensively that had Russia after the collapse of the Soviet Union nationalized their rich natural resources (“land”) they would have avoided the hardships and greed of the Kleptocracy who rushed in took “possession” and became mult-billionaires overnight.

    I think what George deals with is the injustice of land in every sense which would naturally include native Americans (should I locate a document on native Americans and George I’ll pass it along). George traveled the world and spoke and apparently captivated audiences from Australia (who has implemented land value tax) to Britain (where W. Churchill fought constant for LVT enactment and there is to this day a strong advocacy for it.) The book – Progress and Poverty.

  28. Tree said on February 13th, 2009 at 4:43pm #

    Thanks for the info, Max. It does interest me. I normally have 3 books going at once but will definitely read more about George when I get a chance.

  29. Deadbeat said on February 13th, 2009 at 6:44pm #

    Tree writes …

    Deadbeat, I realized in my comment complaining about generalizations, I made a generalization. I should have written that many people don’t care about class or “capitalism” rather than “no one” does. Not really an original thought, anyway. Slavoj Zizek, who I’m not a big fan of anyway, has written of this recently.

    Issues and discussion of class has been greatly suppressed in the United States. I’m sure you’ve heard politicians say that “America is a classless society”. And when class is mentioned it is usually the elites that complain about “class war” when in fact that “class war” is being waged against the workers. It is this indoctrination over the past 60 years (3 generations) that has helped to maintain ignorance.

    This is a time for the American people to now think about “conventional wisdom” and to engage themselves in thinking about the political economy. Notice I didn’t say “economics” but POLITICAL ECONOMY.

  30. Brian Koontz said on February 13th, 2009 at 8:00pm #

    In reply to anthony innes:

    “The financial collapse is being engineered,manufactured just as any other war.”

    The West has been built on financial and image power during the neoliberal era. The financial power of the West is unraveling. The American state proposes to replace this power with military power.

    The Western elite is calling in their chips. The world economies are being trashed while the final neoliberal era wealth transfer to the rich occurs.

    Europe is scrambling toward a neo-Keynesian global financial model which they believe will continue their domination of the world for some decades to come. Their efforts are opposed by the Americans who want to use their military for blunt-trauma hard-terror world domination.

    A large segment of the American elite want the global financial system to collapse in order to force the global elite to join up with the neoconservative plan for post-neoliberal world domination. If the global financial system collapses, there will be no neo-Keynesian reform for the perpetuation of Western financial domination.

    Obama is so deeply corrupt and manageable that despite him not being a member of the party supported by the neoconservatives, he will likely be influenced by the neoconservative agenda, as he has already shown through his hawkish views and aggression toward Iran and Afghanistan.

    Right now there is a war – between American efforts (dominated by the neoconservative agenda) to bring down the world financial system versus non-American elite (largely European/Japanese) efforts to sustain that financial system through reformation. This is currently the most important war in the world.

  31. Deadbeat said on February 13th, 2009 at 11:18pm #

    Max writes …

    What is absolutely essential, it seems to me, is that we understand the problem and separate it from ideologies or one-size fits all prescriptions.

    Why does Max advocate the need to separate problems from ideology when in fact many problems emanate from the ideology such as Capitalist “free-market” ideology.

    Also Max claim that problems must be isolated from “one-size fits all prescriptions” is the fallacy of the middle ground. First we don’t know what problems Max is talking about. And if those problem are the one being made clear to us by the Capitalist crisis then we can see why his fallacy is perhaps one of the most seductive of all fallacies. The reason it that it seems like “common sense”. The answer according to Max must lie somewhere in the middle. That is what common sense tell us, even if that is NOT where the answer lie.

    The problem with the fallacy of the middle is that it is really telling us to LIMIT our thinking and analysis so that we do not analyze CONTRADICTIONS of the middle. By failing to analyze, to debate, to challenge and to test ideas then we’ll end up making the “common sense” choice rather than the CORRECT choice.

  32. Deadbeat said on February 13th, 2009 at 11:34pm #

    Max writes …

    I’ve mentioned Henry George, and those who seem to think in monolithic terms, misunderstood my comments as dedicated entirely to the works and genius of one man and his writings. While I think he is truly a treasure, one few Americans remember or know, and that that is an injustice to us all; I do not think land alone is the entire picture. But without a clear understanding of land as regards the human condition we have little hope in solving the deep and hurtful problem of wealth concentration and all that springs forth from it.

    Henry George was FLAWED and understanding why his focused solely on land was flawed people who are promoting his ideas are doing an injustice because they will lead the working class to MAKE THE SAME MISTAKES that his followers made over a century ago. Why should the working class make the same mistakes. History is about learning from mistakes. Unfortunately Henry George became a DUPE for the capitalist class.

    Max did already showed that MLK in his speech “Where Do We Go From Here” sites George. So clearly George did have perspective that is useful and there is nothing wrong learning from those arguments but that only present ONE SIDE OF THE STORY. Analysis means understanding the FULL PICTURE so that we can learn and understand WHY George failed.

    In that same speech by King he presents an incorrect depiction of communism and does everything he can to distance himself from communism. On the other hand he identifies racism, militarism and capitalism as twin evils thus King even up until his death was EVOLVING in a socialist direction.

    The same is true about Albert Einstein and he praised George in 1931 only to write “Why Socialism?” in 1949. Einstein who was TIME magazine “Man of the Century” clearly evolved his political outlook as well.

    I hope Max perspectives evolve because it is NOT land that people has to understand it is POWER and how to seize it that people really need to understand so that people can gain greater control over the means of production and be their own boss and create a DEMOCRATIC economy so that the other problems that concerns Max like land and the ecology can be dealt with.

  33. Deadbeat said on February 13th, 2009 at 11:45pm #

    For [Henry] George, there was no need for taxes. The only thing that should exist is a rent on land use. Such a rent would pay not only for pubic works, services and infrastructure, but would provide every citizen with a pension; i.e., there would be no need for social security or dependency on 401K or state/corporate pension systems as they exist today – and you wouldn’t have to be 65 to collect!

    The same is true under Socialism. However Socialist are not convinced that all revenue can be derived from rent on land use. This is probably more true today since get sums can be derived from stock market speculation in a small office (very little land use). The problem here is that land ownership is not the only form of exploitation and redistribution is needed to repair that exploitation.

    Thus the irony and contradiction of Max’s perspectives. He writes… one-size fits all prescriptions yet Henry George was flawed for exactly that reason.

    This has been the problem with Max Shields perspectives on DV from the beginning and that is he fails to analyze his own contradictions.

  34. Max Shields said on February 14th, 2009 at 6:24am #


    Parsing and contorting my statements is transparent to anyone paying attention.

    By the way, take a look at volume 3 of Das Capital. Marx delves into land after he read George. (Marx was loosing the argument and so he just adapted.)

    But my point is not to argue for or against Marx. I’m simply presenting a great American thinker. Today his works are being used, successfully around the world. There are Henry George Institutes in Latin America.

    Most of the world recognizes that land, in the narrow and broad sense is central to peace and justice – socially and economically. Developing nations know this better than any.

  35. Don Hawkins said on February 14th, 2009 at 6:24am #

    And Deadbeat in the coming years land land that can used to live on and land for crops for millions and more will be at a premium. It has already started in Australia, California, China, India the far North. Still time to slow some of this but must start now and will be anything but easy. Think of it as kind of a war.

  36. Tree said on February 14th, 2009 at 8:25am #

    Deadbeat, I don’t think it’s about class in America. It’s about ideology; the so-called culture war. It’s quickly coming down to the people who refuse to change their ways and those who want a sustainable life and a future.
    I think to use terms like class, to refer to Marx and Socialism is anachronistic and it has no efficacy, it merely throws people off the path.
    Marxism is dead in the water. The only place it’s being used is in academics and even there it often seems to be a way to fit a square peg into a round hole.

  37. Don Hawkins said on February 14th, 2009 at 8:47am #

    Tree in simple terms there are a few who to shop at Wal mart or use a shovel or work on there own car is something other people do us we the people the little people Joe public and the strange part is those few are nut’s. Simple terms.

  38. Max Shields said on February 14th, 2009 at 9:21am #

    Henry George did NOT become a “dupe” for capitalists. He set forth to confront a simple observation (as is the case with most great thinking): why is it that “progress” creates poverty” and that the creation of poverty concentrates wealth in the hands of a few.

    This is a simple but profound question. George set out to define his terms very clearly (which is not the case with economic writters, leaving people to wonder what they “really” meant).

    Wealth is not money and requires 3 discrete components to its creation: Capital + Labor + Land. All classical economists (including Marx understood this) but in the very end of the 19th Century to the present, land was subsumed under capital by the neo-classical economists who have ruled our policies and academia for over a century. When “land” is subsumed under capital it becomes a commodity. And it is this turn of events which compounds the concentration of wealth, and the creation of world poverty.

    When, Deadbeat, I mentioned monolithic thinking, I was referring to your rather black and white view: either/or. George challenges that kind of thinking because he is both and neither.

    One reason I think George has been so widely read and incorporated, is because you can incorporate his thinking in practical ways without abidding by a system. Marx, as is the case with most of his contempories in Germany, was of the German school whereby to be taken seriously you needed to provide a system of thought (not in the biological sense of system, mind you). And Marx complied.

    George writes like a Whitman or Melville – he’s kind of a Nietzche in that he embraces the problem without regard to a “school of thought” or dictim.

    But George was also meticulous in his thinking. There is incredible clarity.

    As I indicated, land is a central core principle which must be incorporated in a sustainable economics. Land and a single “tax” is but an elegent solution to one of our most pressing problems – access to the means to distribute wealth and sustenance. Such access is, I would submit the basis for war/peace, justice/injustice, empire/living democracy. It is not a utopia that George is trying to layout (as did Marx) but a just direction.

    His economics is not ABOUT class. Class is a symptom. The term “worker” is transient to underlying principles. George’s genius was that he was not interested in the transient but in underlying principles. Underlying principles are universal and “eternal”.

    What is amazing is that this profundity captured the thinking of millions the world over. It’s been said George was the second most popular American during his time (Mark Twaine, who was a George subscriber, was number one). His book, Progress and Povert (he wrote about 1/2 dozen) is the number one selling book on the topic of economics. He was considered an inspiring speaker and ran for mayor of NYC twice. The first time, in a 3 way race loosing to the Boss Tweed machine (by a whisker) and beating out T. Roosevelt. The 2nd time he ran, indications he would win, but he died unexpectedly in his late 50s just before election day.

    George grow up poor, was self-educated, a journalist, life-long student, who knew extreme harsh personal times. His life is an inspiration. And in this time, when America is the world’s greatest threat, it’s always good (at least for me) to realize that there exists a spirit that bobbles on the ocean of dispair.

  39. bozh said on February 14th, 2009 at 10:39am #

    how do people use the words “capitalists” and “capiatalism”?
    do these terms refer to any degree of how a society functions or does it solely pertain to modes of production/financing of it/profits derived from such ventures?

    is governance or gov’ts part of capitalism or capitalism part of governance/gov’ts?
    and both being parts of reality/morality? can capitalism stand in total isolation from the reality/nature?

    do not capitalists ( the word “plutos” might be more exact) aid some candidates for office and reject others? with money mostly?
    have not plutos written also constitution? and do not only they interpret the constitution?

    it seems to me that capitalism is merely an aspect of the reality. whether we pay taxes or pay rent on land used, this too is a mere aspect of nature.
    so, it seem sto me we need to cast the widest look to better understand what is going on.
    we need to include study of religions; interpersonal, interclass behavior; whether, climate change; our fears, hatred, intolerance, supremacism, lore, technology, education, etc.
    everything is interconnected; nothing stands in isolation. thnx

  40. Barry said on February 14th, 2009 at 11:21am #

    I see capitalism (unlike religion, etc.) as a material thing, its about relations of production where capitalists and the capitalist class accumulate profit by buying the labor of the working class (which for the most part also includes what we call the middle class in the US).
    Profit accumulation equals political power. And so our government is run for the benefit of the capitalists – that aspect has rarely been more obvious than it has been of late.
    I wouldn’t say capitalism is a mere aspect of nature except to say that all things humans do are part of nature. But then that wouldn’t be to say anything useful. Capitalist relations had to be created, just as feudal relations had to be created, and societies built on slave labor or imperialism. Probably the closest things to a ‘natural’ economy are those found in band societies. Hunter/gatherer relationships of band societies would be the original condition of humanity.
    People don’t willingly put down their own tools and use another’s tools unless they are either coerced or convinced of the advantages in losing control over their own production. For the laborer, capitalism entails, as Marx said, being alienated from the means of production.
    So I think whenever we start to analyze a society, its best to start with its political economy. The British/Zionist endeavor in Palestine is a good example.

  41. Barry said on February 14th, 2009 at 11:31am #

    I also don’t think you can view an economic class as a thing in itself. It is essentially a relationship – in the case of capitalism, a relationship between the owners of the means of production – the capitalist class – and those who sell their labor to it – the working class. As entities unto themselves, they would fizzle out in another economic system.

  42. bozh said on February 14th, 2009 at 1:08pm #

    it wld have been much clearer or even clear if i had stated that pious people and what they think and do or don’t do are a part of a whole; thus, these people influence everything and are influenced by everything else.

    by just sharing the language alone, pious and impious people are interconnected and this connectedness is what clergy endeavor to sever.
    there is no religion without people and no its (mis)teachings without people believing them and carrying them out which affects everything else.
    cleargy often tells their serfs to be with people but not of it. and that has vitiating effects onsociety. thnx

  43. Ramsefall said on February 14th, 2009 at 5:13pm #

    Power and land are joined at the hips, it is essential to understand the nuances and intricacies of this relationship…not simply isolate one or the other.

    The railroad barons are an excellent example. Union Pacific and Burlington Northern accumulated tens of 1,000s of acres at virtually no cost, thanks to friends in high places. With this land gift, the barons’ power increased proportionally to their land holdings. As such, power obtains land, and he who owns more land has more power. It’s a fairly simple and straightforward equation.

    What makes multinational companies like McDs or KFC so valuable? Is it their global sales? Their (non)nutritional contribution to society? No. The net worth of such companies from extensive land holdings around the world is the basis of their value.

    A more relevant example is Colombia. The FARC organized in order to represent campesinos in armed rebellion against the state-controlled oligarchy. Their early 1950s origin was in response to carry out what their populist, presidential candidate Gaitan had been promising to do before being assassinated (presumably state involved) — redistribute land to the poor, people who had their land stolen from the state and procured for latifundios since the late 1800s.

    The State has maintained power all these years through control of land. The FARC managed to expand their power through successful conflict against the state (military) and the seizure of land. The FARC has maintained their ongoing conflict against the oligarchs through control of land. At the turn of this century they controlled nearly half the country which began to interfere with legitimate multinational business to such an extent that Washington had to get involved, i.e. Plan Colombia. It’s involvement used the Drug War as a pretext, but the war against guerrilla groups like the FARC, ELN and M-19 was about land and the power which accompanies it. That power can’t be equally distributed, nor can the land.

    While Colombia and its conflict is complex, with a multitude of factors, it essentially boils down to land control and power. Therefore, by understanding the relationship between land and power, as opposed to just one or the other, we are able to better comprehend the reason for so many problems in our world today.

    Best to all.

  44. Max Shields said on February 15th, 2009 at 8:51am #

    Deadbeat: “The same is true about Albert Einstein and he praised George in 1931 only to write “Why Socialism?” in 1949. Einstein who was TIME magazine “Man of the Century” clearly evolved his political outlook as well.”

    I’m not sure what you’re getting at here. Einstein emphatically and repeatedly saw the genius of Henry George. Leo Tolstoy dedicated his last book: Resurrection, to Henry George. The book also deals with land and Tolstoy was NO capitalist.

    Deadbeat: “However Socialist are not convinced that all revenue can be derived from rent on land use. This is probably more true today since get sums can be derived from stock market speculation in a small office (very little land use). The problem here is that land ownership is not the only form of exploitation and redistribution is needed to repair that exploitation.”

    First, whether all revenues for public works can be attained from land is not a “socialist” question per se. A number of economists have asked this question (capitalist economists). “Enough” is the real question. What are our public needs. Are these sustainable needs given: land is limited. You see land forces the question of sustainability. If you have a multi-trillion dollar war machine you need to support, sure land may not be sufficient – nor any other source of revenue for that matter; which is why the US economy is bankrupt.

    Deadbeat talks about Power as if power is an innate and not something derived from external control. Those who acquire access, privatize the commons (natural resources: land/energy sources, etc. hold POWER. The purpose of a non-defensive military is to hold on to resources. But the military is not Power, it is a means to an end.

    The finance “sector” that Deadbeat suggests is where “wealth” resides and is outside of “land” is really a shallow understanding of economics. First, finance is not a fundamental component of an economic system.

    Again, wealth = Land + Capital + Labor. Finances, in a classical sense serve these components not the other way around. However the US system has flipped it. Subsuming land to capital and driving the “economy” through the finance sector. That is why the US makes nearly nothing (military armament is the major exception). Speculation is the problem. Land value tax eliminates speculation and bubbles – it eliminates boom and bust and stabilize the economy.

    Land is real. It is not some vague concept that blows up into a bubble and explodes and collapses. It is the problem of finance taking the lead that creates depressions and collapses economies.

    Socialism is another “ism” that includes this and that. Some of which I, personally agree with from an ethical and moral perspective. But as a economics focused on fundamental univeral principles – socialism comes up very short. George may not speak to every aspect of the human condition. Again, his mission was not to engineer a society, but to reveal the underlying principles behind progress and poverty.

  45. Deadbeat said on February 15th, 2009 at 5:36pm #

    Max writes …
    Land value tax eliminates speculation and bubbles – it eliminates boom and bust and stabilize the economy.

    Georgism is capitalism with collective ownership of land. The problem and why George was critized by his comtemporaries is that he single solution failed to fully address exploitation. The point of where I am going with Einstein is that YOU Max introduced Einstein to support your argument about George. It Georgism had all the answer as you’ve positioned the land tax to be then Einstein whold have ceased to evolve his perspective. Obviously he did not and in the end wrote the essay “Why Socialism?”.

    What you are doing Max here is trying to DIMINISH Socialism as another “ism” like say “Capitalism” or “Liberalism” or “Fascism” in order to persuade workers to “seek alternatives”. As you have stated Max under the Land Tax there will be no need to redistribute wealth when in fact there will be becuase you elevate “capital” to the same importance as labor which creates ALL the wealth of a society. Under socialism there is no “capital”. People are the engine of the society.

    What you are doing Max is exactly as the article infers to “Mesmerized by melodic rhetoric”. Henry George HAD his time and place and his contribution did in many ways eductate workers to ONE form of exploitation but his argument about land was FLAWED did not address labor exploitation.

    It is not the reading of George that I object to. It is your presentation of George WITHOUT any critique or analysis as to why Georgism fell short to that of Marxist Socialism that you dismiss as another “ism”. What you are doing Max is deeply cynical and dangerous when the working class needs clarity of thought and analysis.

  46. Max Shields said on February 16th, 2009 at 6:34am #

    Deadbeat you offer no critique. And from the beginning, I have said that George is not the entire answer, but land is central.

    There are fewer and fewer Marxists in the world. For me George is not an ism nor do I see his work as the be all end all. It is childishly naive to think that one person has all the answers for the human condition.

    I’m simply making a case for a great American thinker, who few know, and who has provided one of the most potent and viable solutions to poverty, peace and justice.

    George is not a revolutionist, nor is he a capitalist or socialist. If you can’t get you’re mind around that, DB, than perhaps you need to consider meditation or something.

    Neither George’s theories and practice (nor my own) are cynical. To the contrary, they look to understand fundamental principles. There is nothing about George’s work that is dogmatic in nature.

    George aproached his economics first as a moral and ethical mission. This is why he resonates with the likes of Tolstoy, Einstein and Martin Luther King, Jr.

    Deadbeat, your ad hominems do not make for a cogent argument.

  47. Max Shields said on February 16th, 2009 at 7:34am #

    Deadbeat, you throw around words like socialism and Marxism and dialectics, but do you mean by these conflated things?

    The word socialism is not monolithic and has many, perhaps hundreds of variations. Of these which are you talking when you talk about “socialism”?

    An ideology of “Marxist-Leninist” seems all but left to the history books. Where in this are fundamental principles?

    I hear here and else where the leap from capitalism to the savior of socialism, but no where is it clear what this socialism is.

    Simply assuming we are all talking about the same thing is a fools journey and is more than dangerous. I’ve presented a cogent argument for the centrality of land. Not as an “ism” or a dogma, but as a universal principle which time and again has proven itself to be the difference between the concentration of wealth, the exploitation of others, the privatization of the commons, the basis of almost all conflict and war, the creation of poverty.

    No one, not even Marx denies this (perhaps, Deadbeat you do?).

    Again, what is this thing you call socialism? It’s time to do more than pull tidbits from out of the internet and speak clearly about something, something you allude to “believing in”. (I will be surprised if you respond to this challenge…you never have in the past…a sign of a very weak and muddled thinker, Deadbeat, is that he can only react as you do.)

  48. bozh said on February 16th, 2009 at 9:33am #

    well, i’m not going to speak for nor of socialism; i’m going to speak of how a classful society behaves.
    broadly speaking, clergy, lawyers, stars, and other upper classes often look dwn on the lowest class and treat it badly.
    the reasons given for the ill-treatnent is usually that some members of that class are lazy/unmotivated; that most are uneducated, etcetc.

    regarding land rent that max speaks of, that may be OK. but since it hadn’t been tried in US, one cld conclude just from this that the upper classes find it detrimental to their interest.

    speaking of classes, we do not have earls, lords, barons, grafs, boyars but we have richer and poorer classes; more powerful and less powerful classes on econo-jurisprudence-military-political level.

  49. Barry said on February 16th, 2009 at 9:46am #

    In band societies, the original human condition, and still extant in miniscule portions of the world, land is not owned. Only some personal items are owned. Land is a wonderful gift, it provides sustenance and holds mystery. It is to the land, or the skies above, or the waters – that the deceased go to. Often gods can be petitioned, or the ancestors can be appealed to, for a bountiful harvest from the land – whether by hunting or gathering. Usually, such appeals result in sufficient sustenance – but sometimes the group is punished, perhaps they’ve offended the gods or ancestors. The bounty of the land enables production and reproduction of society and has done so since humans were something not quite human.

    This social system held for all human groups until the rise of agriculture. That is, population pressures enabled or forced bands to settle in place. (An alternative theory is that settling on the land caused population pressure, not the reverse). Agriculture introduced land ownership, notions of property (and taxes), social hierarchy (from which comes kings and landlords), hierarchical religion (from which comes monotheism and archbishops), slavery and serfdom, armies, imperialism and colonialism, and cities (from which come empires and states and hard borders) – to name a few things. It diminished the status of females in society. And it vastly altered the relationship of humans to ‘nature.’

    So it would behoove us to restore an old human relationship to land, or find a new one that alters the relationship to land – and its bounty. Nature is a common good and the human relationship to land should reflect that. Its bounty should not be solely for private profit. As Marx indicated – Property is theft.

    I don’t think Marxism as analysis is dead. As someone somewhere said – Marx is necessary but insufficient. What Marx brings to the table is a material analysis. That to understand a society you have to examine its modes of production – and reproduction. Most or all of aspects of society, material or spiritual, can be viewed under the microscope of materialism – how it produces and reproduces itself.

    If we look at the landscape of America, it is a landscape created in the image of our political economy. It visually bears the imprint of our economic system. Geographically, the world can be viewed as a profit surface, with investments flooding in to areas where profits are maximal, while older areas that are ‘resource exhausted’ or where the price of labor has become dear, undergo disinvestment – capital flows out. This is the impetus for globalization – the free flow of capital (and the restricted movement of labor) to profit surfaces. Capitalism cares not a wit for social disruption or displacement other than that which impedes profit accumulation.

    I believe major change is coming down the pike. Perhaps both believers in the Apocalypse and those who surmise the death of capitalism will soon be correct – in outcome, if not in rationale. Marx thought it would happen when the relationship of capital and labor becomes too antagonistic (or as Khruschev put it (to paraphrase) – the capitalist countries will hang themselves by their own noose – hoist by their own petard, literally). The abuse of nature, at least as far as it has always provided a comfortable living for humans, has reached catastrophic proportions, such that the air we breathe and water we drink are altered beyond repair. This is reflected in global climate changes, in wars over water, and conflicts that we attribute to other reasons (such as Darfur where pastoralists and agriculturalists fight it out for scarce resources). The pace of disruption will likely escalate. Various capitalists will enlist various states to do battle for their share of the final scraps of profit. And billions will die – as will even more billions of the animals we depend upon for sustenance. Famine will be pandemic.

    OK, so maybe that is not an exact scenario, but global changes in ‘nature’ are already having widespread impact. I don’t know what’s going to come out the other side. The planet will surely survive, but it will be different. But whether the brave new world emerges in varying forms of socialism, a fascist capitalism, or something else altogether, I’m not yet prepared to suggest. I do think though that capitalist relations distort a proper respect for nature and its bounty, and with 6.9 billion people and growing, and upwards of 30 billion livestock – the pressure on natural systems will kick the environment into a new gear – one that human beings have never experienced before in a quarter million years of existence. The cataclysm will be televised, and you-tubed, and twittered – until the power source suddenly goes quiet. The remaining apocalyptics, the millenialists, the rapturists – will say, “see, we are right, it is ‘the fire next time’ – and next time has arrived.” We won’t have the energy to argue with them.

  50. bozh said on February 16th, 2009 at 10:47am #

    i also deduce that people of long ago had been much egalitarian, sociable, gregarious.
    a band of people to survive and thrive had to look after each person.

    however, the indigenous bands in canada are losing fast its original social structure; i.e., that existed for millennia prior to european arrival.
    how and when bands began to adopt the fascist structure of society?
    probably they learned it from european structure of society.

    money was used to buy some chiefs and split their ancient solidarity into opposing camps.
    this is now happening in palestine. a monolithic (tho also fascist to a degree) society was rent assunder by money.

    however, in case of palestinians there was not much they cld do against US/Europe/World Jewry, so some of them probably thought, Why not get some money out of the mess? thnx

  51. Deadbeat said on February 17th, 2009 at 3:17am #

    Perhaps Max you can explain why Michael Hudson who is in the same camp as you can articulate a clear critique and analysis of Henry George and that of his critiques:

    Hudson writes…
    As [Henry George] became more sectarian, 12 criticisms of his political strategy became paramount:

    1. George’s refusal to join with other reformers to link his proposals
    with theirs, or to absorb theirs into his own campaign;

    2. his singular focus on ground rent to the exclusion of other
    forms of exploitation;

    3. his almost unconditional support of capital, even against labor;

    4. his economic individualism rejecting a regulatory or planning
    role for government;

    5. his opposition to public ownership of resources and enterprises;

    6. his refusal to acknowledge interest as the twin form of rentier
    income alongside ground rent;

    7. the scant emphasis he placed on urban and owner-occupied

    8. his endorsement of the Democratic Party’s free-trade platform;

    9. his rejection of an academic platform to elaborate rent theory;

    10. the narrowness of his theorizing beyond the land question;

    11. the alliance of his followers with the right wing of the political
    spectrum; and

    12. the hope that full taxation of ground rent could be enacted
    gradually rather than requiring a radical confrontation to shift
    control of government.


    Reading Hudson you can see that George alienated many of his supporters. He writes …

    George went so far as to accuse his supporter Father McGlynn and
    Catholic officials associated with the Knights of Labor of succumbing
    to socialism.


    In his 1928 preface to the U.S. edition of The Intelligent Woman’s
    Guide to Socialism, George Bernard Shaw made a similar observation.
    George did not acknowledge injustice stemming from causes other
    than private ownership of the land and natural monopolies, or explain
    how the government would spend the rent it was to tax

    It is clear Max that all you can do is engage in ad hominums (claiming I’m throwing terms around) when you yourself has provided NO ANALYSIS or evidence whatsoever to prove your assertion that Land value tax eliminates speculation and bubbles – it eliminates boom and bust and stabilize the economy.

    Even Michael Hudson who YOU brought up to support your position, even he can assess the debate surrounding in George’s advocacy.

    Unfortunately George retained an adherence to CAPITALISM and his support for CAPITAL is UNCONDITIONAL.

    You see Max, it is YOU who is MISLEADING readers here with your advocacy of George WITHOUT any HONEST analysis. Your only response are ad hominems. All your supporting evidence of George has been rather anecdotal. You tried using MLK and Einstein to bolster support for George and both times you failed to dig deeper.

    As Barry points out Marx, who preceded George, indicated that “property is theft”. Marx spoke to issues of ecology as well. George FAILED because he failed to EVOLVE his political viewpoint and to work with others which is the cornerstone of solidarity.

    Despite these flaws he was heavily supported in his campaign by Socialists (such as Daniel DeLeon). It is rather unfortunate that George allowed himself to become a footnote because of his refusal to EVOLVE his political thinking.

    What you are doing Max is presenting the bright side of Georgism while concealing its FLAWED aspects in a cynical attempt to deride Marxist Socialism and to divert the less conscience of the working class into making the same mistakes that Georgists made over 12o years ago.

  52. Deadbeat said on February 17th, 2009 at 3:25am #

    Deadbeat wrote…

    Despite these flaws he was heavily supported in his campaign by Socialists (such as Daniel DeLeon). It is rather unfortunate that George allowed himself to become a footnote because of his refusal to EVOLVE his political thinking.

    I have to correct the above remark. DeLeon supported George BEFORE he became a Socialist. His introduction to Socialism was through his activism in the George campaign. However DeLeon subsequently EVOLVED his political position becoming a Socialist and came to see the flaws in George’s advocacy later and later wrote a critique of George upon his George’s death. I’ve already posted DeLeon’s critique of George in this debate.

  53. Max Shields said on February 17th, 2009 at 5:25pm #

    Deadbeat and why can’t you answer my question?

    As usual you spend your days googling and you can find just about anything on anything.

    But when it comes to THINKING Deadbeat, well your just a DEADBEAT!

  54. Max Shields said on February 17th, 2009 at 5:37pm #

    Barry, what we know is that the American economic system is imploding. The Soviet version of Marxist-Leninism already imploded.

    These are contrived systems which means they are destined to run their course and distintegrate.

    Taking turns between TINA (Thatchers pronoucement when the Soviet Union collapsed) and Marxism is not a way to get humans back on track.

    These over-rated fabricated systems are not sustainable. If Marx understood capitalism, he did not necessarily have an answer to it. Or if he did it got fucked up somewhere between Das Capital Volume I and III.

    Point is there are fundamental priniciples – land is central. All classical economists (including Marx) understood this. Only George gave it the spotlight it deserves.

    Deadbeat, regardless of the critique Hudson works for the Henry George Foundation. I find nothing particularly valuable in George’s run for public office, other than noting it as something he did.

    I’m speaking to his writings which reflect what people such as Einstein, Tolstoy and yes Hundson are primarily interested in.

    Since Marx didn’t DO anything, he cannot be faulted for having tried; but rather for having NOT tried.

    I can find more troubling with Marx and say Lincoln that your little findings on George.

  55. Barry said on February 17th, 2009 at 5:51pm #

    Bozh – Yeah, the difference in material status from top to bottom in any band society is minimal. There are no kings, no tribute required, no paying of tithes, no thrones, and all those trappings that come about with the rise of agriculture. Chiefs, such as they are even today, are usually just very capable guys – and are answerable to groups demands, including women who provide much of the daily protein. Of course, when anthropologists study band societies today, they bring their outsider baggage with them. And even if they’ve done a good job of parsing things, the bands themselves are likely to already have been exposed to a monetary economy and all that goes with it. Still, between the archeologists and anthropologists, many a pattern has been discerned about what life must have been like in the pre-agricultural days before the beginning of the Holocene. Modern band society adds to that knowledge.

  56. Barry said on February 17th, 2009 at 6:02pm #

    Max – I agree with you on the importance of land. I also agree that US-led capitalism is imploding. I’m not sure how long it will take, and what role Chinese capitalism will play (it won’t be good I know) before the entire system is jolted to a new level – one we can’t quite get a handle on yet. I don’t know George, but I’m willing to look in on him.

  57. Max Shields said on February 17th, 2009 at 6:51pm #

    I think you’ll find what he says in Progress and Poverty refreshing.

    The problem with most 19th and 20th century (and 18th Century) economics is that they encourage the notion that humans are above a natural order. That we can build suprasystems which stand outside of the central ecosystems.

    The American economy (whether we call it capitalism or corporate globalism) is a prime example of what happens to such a system. The bubbles created are an attempt to defy “gravity”. The stimulus “solutions” are an attempt to apply air to a deflated balloon. It’s over. Huffing and puffing won’t make it “come back” as seems to be the desire of our new President and his economic advisors.