Thursday, October 20, 2011

Wilson Carey McWilliams: Theorist of Occupy Wall Street in 1988

The following quotation is from McWilliams' essay, "The Discipline of Freedom," published in 1988 in the volume To Secure the Blessings of Liberty: First Principles of the Constitution, edited by S.B. Thurow. This paragraph could have been published today and it would be rank among the best descriptions of our time:

Contemporary citizens confront a political world dominated by organizations so powerful that they amount to private governments. The media and the other great private associations have a considerable power to shape the market, to set terms for social life and to mold political opinion. Ordinary citizens, in practice, have little or no ability to create alternatives; these private governments can be controlled only by equally gigantic public bureaucracies. But private governments are often so important that government, at least in the short term, cannot allow them to fail. This is not a matter of ideology . . . . At a certain level and size, the great private governments virtually become institutions of the republic. The relative invulnerability of private governments, however, emphasizes the distinction between such organizations and the small businesses and individuals who can be and are allowed to fail because they are not important to the republic as a whole. The lesson is not lost on citizens: for individuals, public life is a sphere of indignity as well as of weakness, a sphere of activity in which only a few are heard and still fewer matter.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Occupy/Disrupt

I am actually heartened by both the Tea Party and the Occupy Wall Street (and growing number of cities) movements. Both of these movements are corrupt in their own way (the tea party pretty quickly was in part coopted by old school republican aparatchiks and it looks like the Occupy movement is in the process of being coopted by public sector unions) but have at their core been a vessel for the average person to express their disatisfaction (often rage) with the status quo and actually be heard. Our current fiscal situation is not sustainable, we narrowly avoided a developing economy syle financial crisis on the basis of our credibility (bulit up over two hundred years)which we have now spent, record numbers are unemployed with no prospects in sight...in short we are mired in the worst type of failure, one which are elites are largely responsible for. I think the more disruption the better. Wall Street is not creating jobs but creating rents which they are capturing and steering more capital away from productive uses and into their private coffers. Wall Street is a boil that needs to be lanced.

On Occupy Wall Street and Capitalism

The response to the Occupy Wall Street protest in New York City from right-wing talking heads has been to portray the masses of people as against capitalists and capitalism. As many others have pointed out, there is little truth in this charge. But that really doesn't matter, since the point of ascribing to them a hatred of capitalism is to portray them as politically essentially a sterile movement with nothing to offer. They are anti-capitalist in a vehemently destructive sense -- they want to get rid of Wall Street jobs and the job creators! -- or so many republicans would have you believe. What the right wants you to see as a passionate hatred of capitalism, is actually people who have dared to entertain and have come together to nourish their hope for making America a country in which workers can earn a living, raise a family, afford education and health care, and retire. The protesters do not hate capitalism; they hate the plutocratic undoing of democratic politics in which vast numbers of people - the 99% - are supposed to matter more than vast sums of money.

Thursday, October 06, 2011

Random Musings on Christie and Palin Announcements

When Gov. Chris Christie announced he wasn't running I imagine the President and his campaign advisers sighed a sigh of relief. When Sarah Palin announced she was running I imagine the President and his campaign advisers sighed a sigh of disappointment.