Chris Hedges: Death of the Liberal Class

Grit TV interviews Chris Hedges about his new book, The Death of the Liberal Class:

“We have a choice,” says Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and author Chris Hedges. “You can either be complicit in your own enslavement or you can lead a life that has some kind of integrity and meaning.” Hedges argues for moral responsibility in a world bankrupt of it, and discusses the downfall of what he refers to as the liberal class in his newest book. From World War I to the present, he traces the rise and fall of liberal values, and paints a grim portrait of the future.

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  1. Greenguy

    Hedges makes a convincing case – the decline of the liberal petty-bourgeoisie is total. Our option is revolt or a continued decline into oligarchy and plutonomy. Unfortunately the US population seems more inclined to accept the latter rather than the former at this point.

    1. Ina Deaver

      There’s emigration. If you know where to look, there is already a wave of this going on in the class to which Mr. Hedges is referring.

        1. NOTaREALmerican

          Jeez, come on.

          Half a mil gets you into NZ. There’s no place better, assuming you aren’t obsessed with perfection.

          Look up NZ -> immigration -> investor (There’s also an investor Plus options that gets you more leg room)

          If you want some sort of perfectly moral society, well… that’s a mental problem.

        2. Ina Deaver

          As far as what I’d suggest, I’m with Eric: NZ appears to be the hands-down winner. Ease of entry, plenty of room and opportunity, and a fairly tight labor market – even now – in a surprisingly wide number of trades.

        1. Ina Deaver

          The top places are Canada, New Zealand, Australia (all for obvious language reasons); Argentina, Costa Rica, and Brazil feature fairly highly. After that, people scatter out a good deal.

        2. Ina Deaver

          There used to be a liberal population that moved to Mexico, but that has virtually stopped. The entire city of San Miguel de Allende is retired or divorced Americans – but all older. Younger people favor Belize or Costa Rica.

  2. Paul Repstock

    Thanks for sharing this Yves. Your blogsite relevance grows daily. Soon you will be bombarded with offers for syndication..or driven off the

    1. Paul Repstock

      Mr. Hedges eloquently and yet subtly points to the demise of the short lived American Empire/Century.

      I really hope that is not the whole story. I think perhaps that the diversity within the country and it’s relative youth may allow The United States to reinvent itself. To rise above the xenophobic ranting of ignorant and fearfull people. I do see potential for that. The institutions and groups many of us complain about are not peopled totally by megalomaniacs. There is still time to pull a reset. But, everyone will need to accept that there is no such thing as “An Inconvenient Truth”.

      1. Rex

        “There is still time to pull a reset. But, everyone will need to accept that there is no such thing as “An Inconvenient Truth”. ”

        What the heck are you getting at with that last bit? Seems to me, more like, we are swimming in a sea of inconvenient truths.

      2. DownSouth


        I agree. This may indeed be “the whole story,” and maybe not.

        What’s the old colloquialism? “When the going gets tough, the tough get going!”

        Hannah Arendt put it this way in Crises of the Republic when she takes a rather harsh swipe at Camus:

        Good men become manifest only in emergencies, when they suddenly appear, as from nowhere, in all social strata. The good citizen[and I would put Hedges in this category, along with myself], on the contrary, must be conspicuous; he can be studied, with the not so very comforting result that he turns out to belong to a small minority: he tends to be educated and a member of the upper social classes.

        For an historical example of how this worked in practice, there’s this from Frederick Lewis Allen writing in his book Since Yesterday:

        It was during the next two or three years that the fires of zeal burned most intensely: that one man in three at a literary party in New York would be a communist sympathizer, passionately ready to join hands, in proletarian comradeship, with the factory hand or sharecropper whom a few years before he had scorned as a member of Mencken’s “booboisie”; that daughters of patrician families were defiantly marching to the aid of striking garment workers, or raising money for the defense of Haywood Patterson in the long- drawn-out Scottsboro case; that college intellectuals were nibbling at Marx, picketing Hearst newsreels, and–with a flash of humor–
        forming the “Veterans of Future Wars.”

        How completely the focus of public attention had become political, economic, and social, and how fully the rebelliousness of the rebellious had turned into these channels, may be suggested by the fact that H. L. Mencken, whose American Mercury magazine had been the darling of the young intellectuals of the ‘twenties, lost ground as it became evident that Mr. Mencken, though liberal in matters of literature and morals, was a tory in matters of politics
        and economics–until by 1933, when he resigned his editorship, the new highbrows were dismissing him airily as a back number. Nor did the intellectuals rise in furious defense of freedom of expression when the Catholic Legion of Decency imposed a censorship upon the movies in 1934-35. They were tired of all that, and their protests were faint. They had turned to fresh woods and pastures new.

        “Booboisie” is a word coined by H.L. Menken, which was his term for the stupid and the gullible working and middle classes.

        Menken was the typical 1920s “liberal.” Wikipedia has this to say about him:

        As a nationally syndicated columnist and book author, he notably attacked ignorance, intolerance, frauds, fundamentalist Christianity, osteopathy, chiropractic, and the “Booboisie,” his word for the ignorant middle classes… Mencken heaped scorn not only on the public officials he disliked, but also on the contemporary state of American democracy itself…

        Mencken has regained relevance today as a libertarian conservative. His incessant attacks on government, sanctification of laissez-faire and belligerent disdain for the working class—-“rustic ignoramuses” he also called them—have gained favor with modern-day libertarians, as evidenced by this article in Reason Magazine.

        1. DownSouth

          And I think H.L. Menken serves as a poster child for the cognitive dissonance that lies at the heart of the conservative libertarian creed. The “booboisie,” according to classical liberal economic theory, makes economic decisions based purely on rational considerations and with perfect information—-information equal to that of what the mightiest corporation commands. When it comes to the political arena, however, it’s an entirely different story. In matters political, the “booboisie” is composed of emotionally driven “rustic ignoramuses” who are incapable of advocating for a government that protects and serves their values and interests.

        2. emca

          Never thought of Mencken as much of a “Liberal” in any day or era, although many groups have appropriated his iconoclastic thoughts in reference to their own causes (and effect).

          To understand Mencken one must understand Nietzsche.

          Well maybe not – but the parallels are striking.

          The “booboisie” is a replay of Nietzsche’s “common”. Both expressed the respective author’s foreground disdain for democracy, which they regarded as rule of the ramble, the irrepressible descent into the superficial by the masses (for another similar view on this subject I would suggest, not a German, but José Ortega y Gasset’s “The Revolt of the Masses”).

          Mencken contribution to Western thought is not his views on early 20th Century American life (although his sharp wit is entertaining), now classified via the lens of current liberal/conservative polemics, but his voice as a journalistic critic and all-around gadfly of convention, popular ‘truth’, particularly as expressed in politics.

          Mencken like Nietzsche are their own internal contradictions, your link (and sub-links) reveal some of Mencken’s dilemma of holding two positions of equal but oppose commitment (sometimes with Nietzsche in the same paragraph!)

          So I don’t see much value in typing Mencken’s ideals and writings in the confines of current political ideology, or even viewing his reflections on those topics critically.

          Moreover I can’t help but observing the thesis of the demise of American liberalism as something in the order of liberal angst; to put it another way, a shared remorse and despondency in the face of vicissitudes of victory.

          Time to clean house anyway.

      3. traderjoe

        Why do we want to be an empire? Don’t empires rule over people?

        I realize this will be an unpopular post on this board, but why do ‘liberals’ want to place even more faith and power in government – even though they lament the current status of things? Isn’t our current government the logical evolution of all governments – rule of the masses by the few, for the benefit of the few?

        Don’t entitlement programs merely create vassals, serfs, and even slaves? 44 million people on SNAP. Is that a failure because there are too many people on it, or not enough?

        Can a centrally planned government resist the temptation to create an empire, with 1000 bases over seas, and running two ME wars – in order to procure resources, weapons, and power? Are there ever benevolent kings, and for how long and how often?

        Doesn’t a vast and reasonably successful private non-profit sector take reasonable care of our fellow citizens? If taxes were virtually eliminated, imagine the compassion that would bloom beyond what already exists today? Even in deep recessions, the fundraisers I’ve seen (the luncheons) are packed with people willing to give their private dollars DIRECTLY to others in their community.

        Why do the liberals place faith in a national government to take better care of their next door neighbors then they can?

        Imagine locally controlled schools, locally controlled social safety nets, virtually no standing armies. No mega-corporations. The rule of law. An in-touch and motivated citizenry that takes care of each other in community and compassion, instead of relying on a far off Uncle Sugar.

        That’s my Utopia, and IMHO it would be a much more vibrant community then the liberal dream.

        1. davefromcarolina

          The problem is not “big government.” The problem is the absence of the Rule Of Law. All those fine folks who got the government off our backs were actually just getting the government off their own backs, so they could lie, cheat, steal, and go to war without any consequences. No consequences for themselves, anyway. How about we start with enforcing the law, and then we’ll get to Libertarian Paradise maybe later.

          1. traderjoe

            Agreed that Rule of Law is a huge issue. But it’s a chicken and egg question – big government and big corporations work hand in hand. Big government is far easier to capture and corrupt – as power becomes so diffuse, accountability easy to pass along, and the distance between the ruled and rulers increases.

            So agreed to the issue, but I would argue that government has to go first, and let local communities enforce the law.

        2. Cog

          Big liberal government, for many including my republic minded self, exists as the counterweight to an otherwise oligarchic, corporately centralized, establishment. The liberal creation of the “state” is something perhaps many of today’s “liberals” do not support so far as it breads entitlement. We cannot afford that. I think you need to extract what it is that is liberal that has nothing to do with it and, instead, take yourself back to, say, “naked capitalism” instead.

          Innovation shouldn’t be designed to serve the receiver of revenue. That’s something that comes to mind. Come to think of it, I heard on the radio this morning that the majority of the wealthiest seven counties in the United States now surround Washington DC. What does that say?

          Maybe the meaning of liberal is changing before our eyes. Ideals belonging those labeled liberal, or progressive, today include fiscal balance, because we don’t believe in VooDoo economics, they include prudent regulation and the support of the environment, at some cost. They include the belief that only a government, through an informed public, can offset the perpetually stratifying tendency of capitalist wealth. There are more reasons to be today’s liberal than Hedges puts forward.

          Hope’s daughters, Anger and Courage. Let’s not forget.

          1. traderjoe

            Thanks for the comments. As I think you were alluding to, I agree the word “liberal” is hard to define these days, and its use is a bit muddled.

            Agreed to the need for a counter-balance. I actually would do away for the corporate form of organization (favoring partnerships or sole proprietorships). Corporations allow individuals to be hidden from liability, and allow diffuse ownership that allows management free reign.

            “They include the belief that only a government, through an informed public, can offset the perpetually stratifying tendency of capitalist wealth.”

            It’s my belief that government actually assists in the stratifying. Large corporations easily capture regulators, which prevents true competition. And it’s hard to have an informed public when it is rule by 300 million. People feel their votes get lost (which they do). Better to have local rule, with an engaged public.

            Corporations should not be treated as a person under the law – that’s a gift of a willing government. They should be dismantled. Local rule with smaller, personally liable business participants. That gets you the engaged public…

        3. Cog

          Traderjoe, In response to your follow up suggesting we let local communities take back control, consider where David and Goliath come in. I am in favor of local solutions to social problems, but not national ones. Finance and health care have become two clearly national problems when providers freely act on a national scale after achieving price, and rule, making status.

          Even if it is local, or state control you want restored, I would keep in mind that it was people, like Bob Corker, who sought to take power AWAY from state AG’s during Fin Reg. Decentralized rule making is a bane to nationally established corporations. They cry over the inefficiencies, yet are quick to reach for the lowest common denominator in service once dominance is achieved, or bought, at the federal level.

          1. traderjoe

            Agreed on many points. My “plan” abolishes the corporate form of ownership – and which ideally brings the break-up the nationally-established corporations. National governments in cahoots with the corporations elevate the prestige, status, and privilege of the Corkers of the world. Why else do Senate races cost $100 million these days – because that is how much the seat is worth. In a decentralized ‘government’, those positions would not nearly be so profitable. [And as you refer to, it makes it much, much harder for corporations to buy market access, etc. if there is ‘no’ Federal level.]

            As national companies are done away with, local companies will be able to compete once again. I would argue that these are the companies, and scale of operations, that bring jobs back. MERS is a topical example of the attempt by the mega-corporations to essentially cut out jobs in the name of ‘efficiency’ (among other things). And therefore, my plan favors a bit of inefficiency – because more jobs make a society healthier (I know that wasn’t your point).

            My plan also favors competing, stable currencies, including a US Treasury issued scrip (issued without interest and without debt). In a stable currency paradigm, where people can reliable store wealth over periods of time, the role of the “money-changers” is rendered largely obsolete. Again, just my Utopia…

        4. Doug Terpstra

          “If taxes were virtually eliminated, imagine the compassion that would bloom beyond what already exists today?”

          Ouch, that reminds me so much of Bush’s delusional “thousand points of light”, which really began before Reagan with noblesse oblige elitist nonsense. Of course it’s not really a delusion; it’s a lie and has only dangerously unbalanced the gyroscope of an otherwise dynamic economy. Tax cuts for plutocrats and government of by and for the corporations is what has our economy so choked today.

          Anyway, it’s been proven that rich give a smaller portion of their income to charity than the rest of us, so it would be better to soak the rich, promote equality and invest in the commonwealth. Fewer people today buy that oxymoronic compassionate conservatism or the dissonant benevolent capitalism line of bull anymore. They want a government based on equal opportunity, equality under the rule of law, corporations stripped of personhood, and direct democracy without bribery. We have a long way to go, but your tax prescription is just more of the same tinkle down.

          1. traderjoe

            “so it would be better to soak the rich, promote equality and invest in the commonwealth”

            – who decides what “rich” is and what “soak” means, what “equality” is, and what to “invest in”? Ah, those decisions are the crux of the matter. I think it would be fair to say that you have 300 million definitions of “equality” in America. It’s like the word “fair” – fair to whom, and under what conditions? And the very decision-making processes ALWAYS are eventually corrupted.

            Government regulations (and taxation) FAVOR the entrenched corporation, not a level-playing field of Capitalism.

            “They want a government based on equal opportunity, equality under the rule of law, corporations stripped of personhood, and direct democracy without bribery.”

            – I would strongly argue the closer path to this reality lies in smaller government and not larger. An interesting side-bar is that you mention ‘equal opportunity’, yet discuss taxation, which is related to money. Perhaps the most equal opportunity is for Freedom, Self-sufficiency, and a level playing field. Those items are purchased not with money per se, but with a free and just society. Those items are the anti-thesis of Big Government (which exists to take from some to give to others involuntarily, and eventually who captures that process?).

          2. Doug Terpstra

            I’m not sure how you inferred I’m for bigger government. But it is interesting that most hypocrites preaching smaller government, Reagan, Bush and Bush, expanded it (and debt) dramatically in the service of corporations and military. I am for more direct democracy.

            BTW, I don’t think definitions of rich, equality, fairness, justice, opportunity, bribery etc. are nearly as difficult as you suggest. Many other countries with higher per capita wealth, universal health and fully-funded higher education might be useful models. Also basic common sense measurements, ratios, percentages, bell curves, etc, can be used along with historical data on wealth distribution. I would simply go back to progressive tax rates pre-JFK, when taxes were progressive, and the wealth gap was measurably smaller.

            Of course definitions will vary, but it’s worth trying to have an honest discussion. The elite constantly deflect, change subject, charge class warfare, or say it just can’t be done, so let’s not try. It’s time. The status quo is wretched and unsustainable.

        5. steelhead23

          I suspect that you do not really want an answer, but here goes. The liberalism Hedges is decrying, is not the big government, big brother, welfare state you oppose. At least not objectively. Liberalism is an expression of caring for one another and creating governance that cares. Individual liberty, the rule of law, the protection of the downtrodden – these are liberal ideals. Of course, such caring would lead to state-sponsored welfare that fits social needs – and of course, it is impossible to get this perfect. What the right has focused on is these imperfections – the welfare queen, the hypochondriac, the perpetual student – the shirkers – rather than the equality and liberty that socialists espouse.

          To suggest that liberals want a welfare state and endless government booty is the functional equivalent of assuming that conservatives want a Wall Street that steals from investors and the public. Is this a position you wish to defend?

          1. traderjoe

            I am interested in the answer and the response. Thanks. Liberalism does seem to be a term that is difficult to define, as the definition changes over time and with the speaker. Perhaps that is in part by design? [I argue the two party system is in fact an intentional diversion from the corporate rule, but I digress.]

            On the one hand you seem to decry the big government welfare state, but espouse “state-sponsored welfare that fits social needs”. How does one draw the line? How do you have both individual liberty (an original liberal concept), but yet tax and regulate in such a significant factor? Isn’t any state-sponsored welfare (paid for by one taxpayer for the benefit of another) the taking of one’s liberty for the benefit of another?

            It’s all tricky stuff. I concede to that wholeheartedly. And I’m not trying to be difficult. The trouble with letting the government beast lose, is that it’s hard to put that Genie back in the bottle once started…

      4. Greg b

        I hold out hope because of our young people. My son and his wife to be both are looking to do meaningful, humanity enhancing work. They will not be chasing dollars, doing anything to get rich. They have simple wants and needs. I think many of their generation does as well. This may sound silly to some since most of todays kids were brought up with much affluence but I really think they have a lot and dont think they NEED anymore. So they are just working to maintain. They value their social networks more than stuff, and they all think the rest of the world is an exciting place they want to explore. Most have met friends from just about every culture. They have already risen above the xenophobic ranting of their grandparents. They view them as pleasantly crazy. They dont fear the rest of the world at all.

  3. john c. halasz

    Hedges is an honorable fellow and his memoir of his experience as a war correspondent was powerful testimony. But I can’t help thinking his rant denouncing the failure of the “liberal class” derives from his origins and faith in it, i.e. the liberal Protestant prep school and Ivy League elite. A more trenchant, historically rooted account of the decline and fall is surely possible.

    1. Steve Sewall

      John, where might your “more trenchant, historically rooted” account of the decline of liberalism begin? What other strains of liberalism do you have in mind apart from that of Dwight McDonald, on whose account Chris Hedges says he relies?

      My dad, Richard B Sewall, an English prof at Yale for 42 years, was an Ivy League liberal if ever the was one. He respected McDonald, voted for Henry Wallace against Truman and Dewey in 1948, read the Nation and IF Stone, and, following Dr. King, spent a couple days in a Baltimore jail during the civil rights ’60s.

      OK, that’s just one strain of liberalism. What others do you have in mind? Wisconsin progressives? Seems to me all strains have suffered the fate that Hedges describes. I think he makes great good sense. I think it’s time for people to step up and act. Enough with the tweeting and blogging. Yves, thanks.

      1. Michael M Thomas

        I had the good fortune to take a couple of classes with Steve Sewall’s father at Yale in 1956-57. He was a great teacher and a fine man. I don’t think “prep school”/Ivy League thinking should be shrugged off. Some cancers work from the head down. Those are the places where the people who think they’re going to run (perhaps own) the country are so to speak educated. But the point of that education has changed. It’s now all about “principal,” as in net worth, as opposed to “principle,” as in the moral examined life.
        “Noblesse oblige” as a term of social art has metastasized into something quite different. “Gatsbyesque” is now a term of Ralph Lauren-style approbation.
        Anyone who cares about this country and these things should read James Fenimore Cooper’s The American Democrat (readily available). It is a sort of antidote to Tocqueville.

      2. purple

        Without a powerful anti-capitalist movement to hedge against, there really is no reason for the ruling class to tolerate liberalism. Capitalism is about individual businesses maximizing profit.

        1. Steve Sewall

          Sorry, Purple, I meant to reply to Doug (below). But your call for “a powerful-anticapitalism movement” prompts me to suggest that what’s needed is a powerful bonding between haves (with a conscience) and have-nots. To this end, Gandhi and King spent time in jail. This may not be a bad option today. Think of it. Non-violent non-cooperation and civil disobedience. Obstruct foreclosures. Not pay income taxes. Whatever. If 50 elders did that – I’m 69 – an example would be set for younger generations to follow.

          Obama, for him to show his decent side (he may have one) needs to see the country responding to people who make tangible, intelligent, visible sacrifices. Again, non-violent ones. To think that Obama spent three years as a community organizer in Chicago’s inner city Altgeld Gardens …

          Hey, Purple, how would you get your movement off the ground? Michael Moore’s “Capitalism: a Love Story” is an impressive flick, especially the 2005 Plutonomy client memo:


          Yves, hope all this doesn’t bring down your site, as one wag above predicts. I have been turning to it most every morning for two years.

        2. sgt_doom

          Exactly, Purple, you have stated the discrete event.

          Sadly, of course, predatory capitalism has eaten itself, and is currently in the complete self-destruct phase.

          Without the countervailing forces of Soviet Union totalitarianism, and with the capitalist state colluding with the Chinese capitalist totalitarian state, self-destruction is imminent.

        1. robert reed

          excellent point. the cold war did enable liberalism to enjoy capitalistic support, or at least limp opposition. great window dressing in our war against the soviets for the “hearts and minds”. now the war is over, looks like capitalistic interests are openly hostile to liberal and humanistic interests, even to the point of exporting job producing businesses and shifting tax burdens to the lower and middle classes. will be interesting to see how the middle class reacts when china exports its inflation problems to the u.s. no jobs, higher prices.

  4. Jason Rines

    Good video, thanks for publishing Yves. The only disagreement with Chris Hedges is print is dead and the Internet holds little promise. Talking his dying book while accurately lamenting the temporary tribal culture.

    The youth of today are doing very well learning to collaborate. And they are willing to work hard for less to do it. So much shit given to them for having iPods. Great to insult their intelligence for efficiency and having music alone to console them in their collective impovershment.

    The tribalism is for my generation Gen X (with some noble exceptions). My generation is pretty consistent with Strauss & Howe 4th Turning.

    The rest are either close to the power centers and will be last in line to be eaten by the croc or too financially strapped or old to form a unified coalition. And there is real and palatable fear of founding one or funding one. But that too is changing as the general investment class gets angst of no growth. Capital goes to where it is best served. It will go to reform political systems just as easily as it went to China.

    As Paul mentions, Yves might me forced off air someday. That is the definition of tyranny. She will no doubt continue and not sell out. I am someone that understands the pressure and daily struggle of caving in. But lets face it, no affirmative action now means further delay in getting back to a world investing in. And if her writings constitute some form of sedition then that is my signal it is time to run for the hills as in literally.

    1. kievite

      “The rest are either close to the power centers and will be last in line to be eaten by the croc or too financially strapped or old to form a unified coalition. And there is real and palatable fear of founding one or funding one. But that too is changing as the general investment class gets angst of no growth. Capital goes to where it is best served. It will go to reform political systems just as easily as it went to China.

      As Paul mentions, Yves might be forced off air someday. That is the definition of tyranny.”

      I think you are right. Whether we will see evolution or revolution it probably will be from above. The problem is that despite decline neo-liberalism is still the dominant ideology. In this sense those who complain that Obama is a darker copy of Bush II have a valid point. New powerful political movement on which some capitalists might want to bet their money is impossible without new ideology, which serves as a crystallization point for a new party or capturing an old one. I see none of it. In this sense laments of Chris Hedge are baseless in literal and figurative meaning of the word.

      There is general dissatisfaction with the status quo and feeling of the “decline of the empire”. There are some marginal groups including some affiliated with blogs like Naked Capitalism. But that’s about it. Two party system works as powerful tool for marginalising opposition. In a way the whole neo-liberal model still works despite deep cracks both on the surface and in foundation (whatever that means).

      I think the most plausible development of the current political situation is further concentration of power at the top, on federal level. In other words growth of centralization of political power. We saw this during the Bush II administration and that process is continuing under Obama. This is a typical development during profound politico-economic crisis. And it does not exclude some reforms. But they, if any, will be attempted only “from above”, not “from below” although they can be inspired by some grass roots movement.

      As for silencing Yuves, I think you are off mark. With the current structure of mass media it is generally unnecessary to use authoritarian methods of silencing dissenters.

      “Bread and circuses” approach really works wonders. When you have several hundred TV channels and millions of Internet sites the attention span suffers so much that individual speakers almost does not matter. Only hammering the same message 24×7 works. I strongly doubt that “Yves might be forced off air someday”. The system works more intelligently by dilution of the message.

  5. K Ackermann

    This was the most moving, resonating, and enlightening perspective I’ve experienced since I don’t know when.

    I don’t even know what to say.

    Maybe I’m not as fucked up as I’ve come to believe.

  6. Kevin de Bruxelles

    In most countries, the “liberal class” is to the right of center. In these countries the working classes would never be foolish enough to put their faith in a liberal class. Instead they built up workingmen’s social democratic and labour parties to represent their interests. In America a relatively high standard of living (compared to the rest of the world) was achieved and the sacrifices required to have a socialist party (higher taxes for example) were rejected by the American working classes and they are now reaping the results.

    The liberal class does do a good job in looking after their own narrow class interests. They dominate higher education; move effortlessly within the corporate elites; are able to protect many of their identity politics clients, all while sneering down on the unwashed mass of working class peasants. They are able to avoid the fallout of their failed policies by living in wealthy enclaves and sending their children to private schools. Since looking out for the working classes would in fact hit at some of their privileges and/or mean curbing some of the more outrageous demands of their identity clients, there is not one reason liberals should change what they are doing.

    What does need to change is working class people thinking the liberals (or conservatives for that matter) are going to look after working class interests. Of course limited between a choice of the disdain of the liberal class versus the crass emotional appeals of conservatives, the working classes all too often fall for the latter.

    Hedges is able to occupy the high moral ground of a social critic only at the price of rejecting power. While that is fine for him – and social critics are certainly valuable – it is a bit like a priest rejecting the sinful world of reality and retreating to a monastery from where he can issue morally indisputable proclamations. The working classes need to develop a political identity that is hungry for power and everything that goes along with it.

    The problem is that there is a deep hatred of the working classes within liberal circles. Who can deny that one of the strongest forces working against civil rights were the white working classes? The same thing goes for many of the identity clients so beloved by Liberals. Gays, feminism, illegal immigration, diversity in general, etc are all things looked at with suspicion at best within the working classes.

    But the working classes are now so overwhelmed by non-stop entertainment, especially sports, that they have little to no time for any sort of political thinking outside of emotional reactions to the latest race-based topic. But it is only they who can advance their class interests. Only when they put down the remote control and start organizing themselves the way their European cousins did a century ago will American working classes start to reverse their steady 40 years of decline. Waiting for some sort of reformed Liberal class to do it for them will just lead to even more decades of despair.

    1. Valissa

      For the most part I agree with you here… esp. this part:

      “Hedges is able to occupy the high moral ground of a social critic only at the price of rejecting power. While that is fine for him – and social critics are certainly valuable – it is a bit like a priest rejecting the sinful world of reality and retreating to a monastery from where he can issue morally indisputable proclamations.”

      btw, for those who may not be aware of this, Hedges as an M.Div. from Harvard’s Divinity School. His moralistic approach to liberalism is typical of liberalism’s decline into mere theology and away from worldly power. This and your other critique’s of liberalsim as actually center-Right are some of the reasons I no longer consider myself a liberal… along with the fact that I completely intellectually reject the one-dimensional Left-Center-Right paradigm as a ridiculously inadequate model of political thought and analysis. Having studied religion quite extensively myself, the dangers of dualism and good vs evil thinking that pervades the L-C-R model make it the perfect mental frame for controlling the masses via propaganda.

      However, Kevin, I do take issue with this statement:
      “But the working classes are now so overwhelmed by non-stop entertainment, especially sports, that they have little to no time for any sort of political thinking outside of emotional reactions to the latest race-based topic.”

      This is the typical attitude towards the working classes found on this blog and many others that attract liberal ideologues. No wonder the working classes can’t stand liberals, given how snooty and judgemental y’all are about them. You generalize about them and assume there is some sort of viewpoint that all memebers of the working classes have (much like “all Republicans are…” or whatever inaccurate generalization one might make of some group’s members). It is my observation that the working classes (if they are employed) are too busy working multiple jobs to support their families to spend the stereotypical time watching TV and being loutish as they are portrayed in sitcoms etc (though they certainly watch it for relaxation liek members of other classes do), and they have brains too and not as ignorant as many college educated liberals think they are.

      George Friedman of STRATFOR is the only intellectual I read that I think has a better grasp of working class interests and why they are what they are. My observation is that many Liberals tend to judge others via their utopian classist moralistic dualistic beliefs and play the in-group/out-group self-righteous sociological game like all other groups do. Liberals are not morally superior to other groups IMO. In terms of power politics, liberals suck and no wonder should ever expect a liberal to have their back. However most of the liberals I know are well meaning nice people just like the conservatives that I know.

      1. DownSouth


        A combination of moral imperatives and self-interest seems to inform most extraordinary human achievement. Perhaps J.H. Elliot, writing in Imperial Spain: 1469-1716 encapsulated it best:

        The dedication, however, required a cause, and the sacrifice a recompense. Both were described with disarming frankness by Cortes’s devoted companion, the historian Bernal Diaz del Castillo: ‘We came here to serve God and the king, and also to get rich.’

        Marx, Rousseau and Robespierre glorified the working classes, giving them a raison d’etre and rescuing them from the moral pit to which Plato had consigned them for thousands of years. But if we put the poor on too much of a moral pedestal, then we deprive them of the right to advocate their baser instincts. All of a sudden we’re confronted with the situation where it’s virtuous for the rich to pursue their self-interest, but sinful for the working classes to do likewise.

        Where I take most issue with Kevin, however, is in his binary conception of the body politic. I don’t see it as this bipolar completion of class vs. everything else. Instead I see each of us as being a ball of competing loyalties, loyalties which sometimes conflict, and sometimes complement each other. Each of us is pulled by racial loyalties, class loyalties, religious loyalties, partisan loyalties, loyalties based on membership to a sexual-preference group, secular ideological loyalties, gender loyalties, loyalties to some narrow business group (like the American Bankers’ Association, for instance), sectional loyalties (heartland vs. coast), national loyalties, loyalties to our own economic self-interest, etc.

        I think it goes without saying, however, that our political and economic overlords would prefer us to stay focused on any loyalty other than the loyalty to our own economic self-interest, and will do everything in their power to make sure that’s the case.

        1. Valissa

          You make a most excellent point here…

          “Marx, Rousseau and Robespierre glorified the working classes, giving them a raison d’etre and rescuing them from the moral pit to which Plato had consigned them for thousands of years. But if we put the poor on too much of a moral pedestal, then we deprive them of the right to advocate their baser instincts. All of a sudden we’re confronted with the situation where it’s virtuous for the rich to pursue their self-interest, but sinful for the working classes to do likewise.”

          While my tendency is to agree with your point in general, interestingly to me you are using quite religious language … glorifying, pedestal, virtuousness, and sinfulness. It is that sort of language and framing I am trying to avoid getting caught up in as I do not see it as useful. Personally I do not have much regard for Marx or Plato any more. The regard with which these two elitist ideologues are held by the western academic world signifies much of the underlying epistemological problems we have today discusssing the realities of politics rather than ideology. I also used to be more of a fan of Rousseau but have read too much history, anthropology and archeology to maintain those ideals, and I have developed more respect (though not complete agreement) with the Hobbesian viewpoint.

          In my own research, and eventual presentation of that, I am seeking to use more simple, plainly descriptive and direct language instead of all the abstraction and reification typical of western intellectual thought. Not an easy task by any means. Just trying to talk about politics without applying the L-C-R paradigm is very challenging as that frame has become so deeply embedded.

          “Each of us is pulled by racial loyalties, class loyalties, religious loyalties, partisan loyalties,…”

          Exactly so! It would be great to see more political conversations that involve this type of language and analysis instead of the L-C-R approach.

      2. Kevin de Bruxelles


        Which books or articles do you recommend by George Friedman? I very much enjoyed reading Azar Gat and Carroll Quigley who you mentioned a while ago.

        1. DownSouth

          I bought Gat’s War in Human Civilization and Quigley’s The Evolution of Civilizations. They’re sitting on the bookshelf, not read yet, but definitely in the queue.

          So many great books, so little time.

          1. Kevin de Bruxelles

            I’m reading J.H. Elliot’s “Imperial Spain” along with Michael Gillepsie’s “The Theological Origins of Modernity” which you recommended. But the recent discussion here of The Federalist Papers have sent me down that path for the past several days!

            But you’re right, there is so little time and so many books to read!

          2. Valissa

            Exactly so… my book queue is rather overwhelming these days. Currently reading a long history of the Byzantine Empire, but haven’t read enough yet to recommend to others.

            I went to Amazon to learn more about the Gillespie book, and read some of the text. Sad to say it’s my least favorite writing style… obfuscatory philosophical academese that after a several paragraphs I tuned out. The exact opposite of Azar Gat’s style, which is clear, flowing and straightforwardly easy to read with low usage of specialty academic language.

            Since the title and topic covered are an area of strong interest, I persevered and found this nice and simply stated yet very powerful point… so my thanks for pointing out this book.

            “This notion of divine omnipotence was responsible for the demise of realism.”

            Amen to that ;)

        2. Valissa

          Kevin, glad you liked the Azar Gat book “War in Human Civilzation” … although at 700 pages, and synthesizing as many academic disciplines as it does, it’s quite a project to undertake to read it… though well worth the effort, IMO. My next big reading project is Finer’s 3 volume set on “The History of Government.” My theory is that without understanding the purpose and history of government, governance, and governing one cannot not make any real sense of the purpose of politics.

          Another book I highly recommend (and short at only 150 pages), a real gem for interdisciplinary and creative thinkers on history, despite it’s horridly offputting title, is “The Struggle for Stability in Early Modern Europe” by Theodore K. Rabb. The period of history covered is ~1500-1700 a crucial time of transition and change in Europe at many levels. I think many would find some interesting meta-level parallels to today.

          I have not read any of Friedman’s books yet, prefering to read as many of his articles at STRATFOR as I can first… but here is the article I came across recently where George touches on some of the problems with liberal/enlightenment thinking during the course of the article… it’s Geopolitics 101 ala Friedman. btw, Geopolitics is my most recent intellectual “crush” as a mode of understanding the world, although like all approaches to knowledge it has it’s limitations.

          The Love of One’s Own and the Importance of Place

          The availablity of this article (from May 2008) depends on what type of STRATFOR subscription level you have. They recently bumped me up to full archive availablity (so assuming they did this with everyone) as opposed to the 2 week access level I had previously.

          Here is a snippet as a teaser:
          Modern liberalism and socialism do not know what to do with nationalism. On one side, it appears to be an atavistic impulse, irrational and unjustifiable. Economists —who are the quintessential modern thinkers — assume with their teacher Adam Smith that the primary purpose of individuals is to maximize their self-interest in a material sense. To put it simply, acquire wealth. They argue that this is not only something they should do but something that all men will do naturally if left to their own devices. …

          I have saved the article as a PDF so if anyone wants me to email it to them, let me know.

          1. Kevin de Bruxelles

            Thanks for the suggestions; they are on my Christmas list.
            The article sounds interesting but I don’t have access to Stratfor. Could you please forward it to bruxellesdekevin at yahoo dot com? I made this address just for the occasion.

      3. sgt_doom

        “But the working classes are now so overwhelmed by non-stop entertainment, especially sports, that they have little to no time for any sort of political thinking outside of emotional reactions to the latest race-based topic.”

        Couldn’t disagree with you more, Valissa.

        Now I would agree with that assertion to describe all those “Tooth Fairy” environmentalists, who believe the status quo is just fine, as along as everyone goes along with them, and who diverged from the working classes when they so ignorantly agreed with the Corporate Fascist State in offshoring those dirty manufacturing jobs offshore, with nary a thought to the complete ecosystem.

        Negative on your thinking on Mr. Hedges, who has this up-from-poverty combat vet’s respect. He is referring to the lack of any actual media in America today (along with the lack of any economy due to its dismantling over the past thrity-plus years), and the substitution of mindless and redirectional entertainment, exactly like what Berlusconi has done in Italy, and other countries are pursuing elsewhere.

        1. sgt_doom

          I should add, there are significant number of people who accept Igore (Al Gore)’s carbon offset scam — originally conceived in the Reagan administration and laughed out of existence back then as there were still a few authentic dems and progressives around.

          Nor should we accept that latest shadow banking scam and money handout to Wall Street and the Oil cartel, cap-and-trade.

          But few choose to think it through and be analytical.

        2. Valissa

          Please pay attention to the threading… I DID NOT say at that, Kevin did. Then I pointed out my own disagreement to that paragraph.

      4. nmewn

        Let me drink this in again;

        “This is the typical attitude towards the working classes found on this blog and many others that attract liberal ideologues. No wonder the working classes can’t stand liberals, given how snooty and judgemental y’all are about them.”


        You have it…almost.

        The “liberal”, as once constituted, is dead. There are now only statists, progressives, socialists and the assorted hangers on, communists & anarchists who call themselves “liberal”.

        Liberal used to mean, you can do anything you wish, until it harms me, my family, my country. Then I will oppose you, while reserving my right to use force to stop you.

        No more.

        The choice was an ideal or complete anarchy. The ideal was ditched with the obvious result.

    2. chad

      “Only when they put down the remote control..”

      heh I’ve often thought about the mayhem that would ensue if broadcast, cable, and satellite television went down for about a week.

    3. DownSouth

      Kevin de Bruxelles said: “The working classes need to develop a political identity that is hungry for power and everything that goes along with it.”

      I am in total agreement.

      However, there’s a paradox that lies at the heart of left-wing ideology that the left has been unable to overcome during the 20th century.

      In the final chapter of The Populist Moment, Lawrence Goodwyn concludes that “corporate domination” of the political process has been “the governing political folkway of every decade of the twentieth century.” And the rhetorical and political strategies devised by the robber barons who supported McKinley in 1896 are still the same strategies being used by today’s corporatists.

      How have the corporatists been able to maintain this highly corrupt political structure by using the same old morally and intellectually bankrupt platitudes?

      Goodwyn believes that it is because “the advocates of popular democracy who spoke out of the socialist faith were never able to grapple with the theoretical problem at the heart of their own creed.” As Goodwyn goes on to explain:

      While the progressive society was demonstrably authoritarian beyond those ways that Thomas Jefferson had originally feared, and while it sheltered a party system that was intellectually in homage to the hierarchical values of the corporate state itself—-cultural insights that provided an authentic connecting link between Populism and socialism—-the political power centered in “concentrated capital” could not be effectively brought under democratic control in the absence of some correspondingly effective source of non-corporate power. While the Populists committed themselves to a people’s movement of “the industrial millions” as the instrument of reform, the history of successful socialist accessions to power in the twentieth century has had a common thread—-victory through a red army directed by a central political committee. No socialist citizenry has been able to bring the post-revolutionary army or central party apparatus under democratic control, any more than any non-socialist popular movement has been able to make the corporate state responsive to the mass aspirations for human dignity that mock the pretentions of modern culture. Rather, our numerous progressive societies have created, or are busily creating, overpowering cultural orthodoxies through which the citizenry is persuaded to accept the system as “democratic”—-even as the private lives of millions become more deferential, anxiety-ridden, and (no other phrase will serve) less free.

      So here’s the riddle: The only way to bring down the corporate state is by matching power with power. However, once that countervailing power has been created and the corporate state routed, the people have been unable to control the newly created power.

      Is there a way out of this trap?

      Our political creed incorporates two competing concepts of humanism. One is that articulated by Montaigne in his Essays. As Michael Allen Gillespie wrote in The Theological Origins of Modernity, he seems to have believed in “a flowering of human multiplicity, because he did not believe that any two humans would ever reason alike.” The competing concept was that of Descartes, who, Gillespie says, “by contrast, was convinced that anyone who is freed from the prejudices of the world and uses his good sense will arrive at exactly the same conclusions as he did.”

      It seems that the American left has gotten swept away by the Cartesian conceptualization. The typical left-winger seems to believe that if only the evils of the corporate state can be exposed, that most people “will arrive at exactly the same conclusions as he did,” which is that the corporate state must be brought down. But obviously most people don’t arrive at that conclusion. Many people fear the counter-power of the socialist state just as much or more than they do the power of the corporate state. And the fact that a great deal of left-wing argumentation is so loaded with pious, self-righteous, holier-than-thou moralisms probably doesn’t help their cause either.

      So I believe it might behoove the American left to take a second look at Montaigne’s concept of humanism. Instead of the search for absolute truth (and absolute morality) which inspires all contemporary secular ideologies, including Marxism and Capitalism, and results in a quest for a monopoly of power; Montaigne’s concept leads instead to a separation or balancing of powers (a concept which, according to Arendt, “can be traced back to Aristotle, or at least Polybius, who was perhaps the first to be aware of some of the advantages inherent in mutual checks and balances”).

      Montesquieu was to later fall heir to this tradition, as Arendt goes on to explain:

      Montesquieu seems to have been unaware of this historical background… For Montesquieu’s discovery actually concerned the nature of power, and this discovery stands in so flagrant a contradiction to all conventional notions on this matter that it has almost been forgotten, despite the fact that the foundation of the republic in America was largely inspired by it. The discovery, contained in one sentence, spells out the forgotten principle underlying the whole structure of separated powers: that only ‘power arrests power’…

      Arendt goes on to point out that Montesquieu rejected the concept of an absolute morality, opting instead for a regime of competing moralities:

      Montesquieu’s famous insight that even virtue stands in need of limitation and that even an excess of reason is undesirable occurs in his discussion of the nature of power; to him, virtue and reason were powers rather than mere faculties, so that their preservation and increase had to be subject to the same conditions which rule over the preservation and increase of power.

      Montesquieu’s insights and philosophies were subsequently passed down to the Founding Fathers, later to be all but forgotten by most Americans, who blithely resumed a neo-Puritanical quest for sure truth. Arendt again:

      How well this part of Montesquieu’s teaching was understood in the days of the foundation of the republic! On the level of theory, its greatest defender was John Adams, whose entire political thought turned about the balance of powers. And when he wrote: ‘Power must be opposed to power, force to force, strength to strength, interest to interest, as well as reason to reason, eloquence to eloquence, and passion to passion’, he obviously believed he had found in this very opposition an instrument to generate more power, more strength, more reason, and not to abolish them.
      –Hanna Arendt, On Revolution

      1. jake chase

        Henry George explained the problem in a nutshell:

        Where land is free and labor is unassisted by capital, the whole produce will go to labor as wages; where land is free and labor is assisted by capital, wages will consist of the whole produce less that necessary to induce the storing up of labor as capital; where land is subject to ownership and rent arises, wages will be fixed by what labor could secure from the highest natural opportunities open to it without the payment of rent.

        Where natural opportunities are all monopolized, wages may be forced by competition among laborers to the minimum at which laborers will consent to reproduce.

        Hannah Arendt is cocktail party conversation. Read Henry George.

        1. sgt_doom

          Thanks and on target, good sir.

          The financial-intelligence complex of America, created during WWII by the Wall Streeters, and now completely privatized, is simply about financial intelligence for control and power and greed purposes.

          Thus, they have spread this model throughout the planet, and the International Chamber of Commerce has an eternal seat on the United Nations.

          Today, with the release that wonderful activist for freedom in Burma (Myanmar), the American Non-media naturally neglects to mention the massive privatization which has taken place in that country during her captivity, following the model of the American financial-intelligence complex.

        2. DownSouth

          jake chase,

          Well I’m happy you’ve found your one true faith.

          You’re certainly not alone. As Robert H. Nelson observes in Economics as Religion: “If the wars of religion four hundred years earlier had been fought among Catholics and diverse Protestant denominations within Christianity, the great wars of the twentieth century were now fought among socialist, Marxist, fascist, American progressive, capitalist, and other branches of an overarching religion of progress.” “The intellectual history of Western thought since the Enlightenment,” Nelson continues, “is characterized by one utopian vision after another, each finding fault with its predecessors, but then holding out the prospect of yet another, truer—-more scientific—-path to heaven on earth.”

          So Henry George has to get in line. He was just one more in this long succession of utopian schemers. Here’s the formula followed by every one of them: “If you will just →insert solution here← all man’s problems will be solved.” See how simple it is!

          Unfortunately, in practice reality never matches the theory.

          Property is the instrument of justice in the creed of the bourgeois [capitalist] world; and the source of all evil in the Marxist interpretation. Both creeds miss the truth about property. Since property is a form of power, it cannot be unambiguously a source of social peace and justice. For every form of power, when inordinate or irresponsible, can be a tool of aggression and injustice. However, since property is not the only type of power I society (not even all economic power), it cannot be the sole source of injustice. Since some forms of property represent the security of the home, and others protect against the hazards of the future and still others are instruments for the proper performance of our social function, some forms of property are obviously instruments of social justice and peace.

          Clearly the Marxist and the bourgeois property ideologies are equally indiscriminate. The Marxist ideology has proved to be the more dangerous because, under the cover of its illusions, a new society has been created in which political and economic power are monstrously combined while the illusion is fostered that economic power has been completely eliminated through the “socialization “ of property. A democratic society on the other hand preserves a modicum of justice by various strategies of distributing and balancing both economic and political power. But it is not tenable to place the institution of property into the realm of the sacrosanct. Every human institution must stand under constant review. The question must be asked, what forms of it are viable under what specific conditions? In so far as the absence of a Marxist challenge to our culture has left the institution of property completely unchallenged we may have become the prisoners of a dogmatism which will cost us dearly in some future crisis.
          –Reinhold Niebuhr, The Irony of American History

          I don’t necessarily agree with Niebuhr that Marxism is a more dangerous doctrine than Capitalism, but they are certainly both very dangerous.

      2. EmilianoZ

        Power against power

        At some point I thought this might work to our advantage. After all, the corporatocracy is far from being homogeneous. They also have conflicting interests. I was hoping that industrialists who produce something would raise up against financiers who produce nothing. I think Kevin_de_Bruxelles expects the military industrial complex to compete with finance over dwindling resources (solvent middle class taxpayers). The wars were probably undertaken for the benefit of oil companies, Halliburton and the likes. But it’s hard to see what’s in there for financiers. It means less money for them to extract from the Treasury.

        Unfortunately for us, it looks like the wealthy do see the advantage in ganging up together. After all, the rich might one day need the military to protect them from popular unrest. On the other hand, we, the great unwashed, have never been able to unite. Maybe the rich are more clever after all.

  7. Edmundo Braverman

    Thanks for that, Yves.

    A very well thought out and articulated description of the death of the liberal class. His views on our retreat into the various intellectual ghettos of the Internet resonated in particular with me.

    While I’m certainly no liberal (at least in the sense he’s referring to), I think the marginalization of voices like Barry Sanders and Dennis Kucinich (and guys like Ron Paul on “my side of the fence”) costs our national debate a great deal.

    1. Anthony Kennerson

      Ahhh….that eould be BERNIE Sanders.

      BARRY Sanders was a former professional football player…probably not related or relevant.

      As for Chris Hedges’ work in particular: though I do think that he is a valuable voice on speaking to what is wrong with what passes for liberalism these days, I personally find him to be way too elitist and socially conservative, and his brand of ripping working people for their limited choices to be much too caustic. Hedges seems to forget sometimes that a significant portion, if not an outright majority, of the working class happens to be people of color, young people, women, GLBT, sexual transgressors…and they are more than capable of adequately assessing their role without the need for his moralizing and talking down at them. For all his critique of the “liberal class”, he seems to be so tone deaf to the basic fact that for the past 30 or so years, liberals have nevcer been in charge of the economic or social power structure at all.

      The real issue behind the deficit of Left activism is NOT the prevalence of the “liberal class” or the supposed diversionary “spectacles” of porn or NASCAR or pro wrestling; it is the ultimate dependency of political progressives on getting along to go along with the capitalist system as a whole. Social criticism of the byproducts of capitalism’s detrius can be helpful; but organizing working people of all persuasions in an cohesive alliance to attack the system as a whole would be so much more effective, in my view.

      All Hedges does in his ranting is to enable and enhance the already too strong attack on progressive ideology as a whole by conflating “liberalism” with social anarchy. He’s no less a silent authoritarian than some on the Right, even with his more “leftish” foundation of capitalist critique.


  8. Anders S

    Many thanks for posting that. Lots of food for thought and some killer expressions (“Fox is a non-reality based belief system”)

  9. i on the ball patriot

    Suck video – the tell is the Pulitzer Prize – gag me with a fucking spoon!

    Should be …

    The Rise of the Pernicious Greed Class …

    Chris Hedges, stuck in la la land (he’s either drinking the kool aid or selling it), engages in a Vanilla Greed lament that reeks of victim bashing and diverts attention away from the wealthy ruling elite by blaming the failure on a failure of a fraud. The liberal class in scamerica is a fraudulent construct of the wealthy ruling elite, it has always been a fiction. It was created by the old Profit Drive Vanilla Greed ruling elite to harness and dissipate the forces of freedom and fairness that railed against their oppression and exploitation. The ‘liberal class’ functioned as wealthy elite Vanilla Greed’s middle class overseer.

    That false liberal class construct has now been co-opted for elimination by the Control Driven Pernicious Greed crowd that replaces that middle class overseer body with a less costly law enforcement class as they implement their two tier, full spectrum dominance, ruler and ruled world, with the ruled engaged in an intentionally created perpetual conflict.

    The Vanilla Greed overseer class, the past sell outs (sheesh — talk about complicity), and the old Vanilla Greed businesses, are now screwed and need to wake up and smell the coffee as they are the only block with sufficient resources to thwart the Pernicious Greed global take over.

    Deception is the strongest political force on the planet.

  10. jake chase

    The only sensible solution to all the problems endlessly debated on this site was crafted in 1879 by Henry George. Take the trouble to read his Progress and Poverty which remains as true today as on the day he finished it.

    Social deragements cannot be resolved by corporate monopoly, ponzi finance, government leaf raking and militarism. The whole liberal idea was bankrupt from inception.

    1. liberal

      The only sensible solution to all the problems endlessly debated on this site was crafted in 1879 by Henry George. Take the trouble to read his Progress and Poverty which remains as true today as on the day he finished it.

      Absolutely. The fact is George pretty much figured it all out over 100 years ago.

      1. CS

        Or Marx before George: Capitalism only creates wealth for capitalists. Never for the workers and less and less now for the American middle class. Bubbles are the pabulum of working class and middle class dreams of wealth post Reagan/Thatcher; post recently housing and now gold. The latest boondoggle is retaining the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy (with the eventual goal of a “flat tax”). In the capitalist system wealth redistribution from the top down is necessary and just – the synergistic effects of surplus value are built in for the capitalist but there is no such automatic structural wealth-building mechanism for the workers or middle class.

    2. DownSouth

      I have no idea who Henry George was nor what his moral, political and social prescriptions might be. However, statements like “the only sensible solution to all the problems” are the hallmark of a utopian dreamer.

        1. DownSouth

          OK, so here’s what Wikipedia has to say about George:

          Henry George is best known for his argument that the economic rent of land should be shared by society rather than being owned privately. The clearest statement of this view is found in Progress and Poverty: “We must make land common property.” Although this could be done by nationalizing land and then leasing it to private parties, introducing a large land value tax causes the value of land titles to decrease correspondingly, but George did not believe landowners should be compensated, and described the issue as being analogous to compensation of former slave owners.

          Is it just me, or does that seem to ring an awful lot like this?

          The communist dogma is more specific. Men are corrupted by a particular social institution: the institution of property. The abolition of this institution guarantees the return of mankind to the state of original innocency which existed before the institution of property arose, a state which Engels describes as one of idyllic harmony with “no soldiers, no gendarmes, no policemen, prefects or judges, no prisons, laws or lawsuits.”
          –Reinhold Niebuhr, The Irony of American History

          1. jake chase

            There is one critical difference. Henry George did not advocate confiscation of true capital, which is nothing but stored labor devoted to production. Communists advocate confiscation of all property, which deprives the worker of his wage and leaves him at the mercy of the state. Not one person in one thousand understands what capital truly is; most confuse it with money, securities, instruments which represent claims on production but have no necessary relation to wealth or production. In our vampire state these claims on production are multiplied exponentially to benefit and sustain a predator class known as bankers. Spend two weeks in a communist country and you will understand the difference between eliminating private property and taxing away the value of land qua land in which no man has a legitimate right of property.

      1. Valissa

        Yes, the monist point of view of reality versus the pluralist one. Long ago I decided to support the “many” side of the “one and many problem”. Of course that classic “problem” is only a problem if one is a monist or a monotheist, which I am no longer. Life is observably “many” (with only occasional moments of oneness), and to me that means reality is “many” and therefore force is required to corral the many into alignment with some sort of “oneness” on any issue.

  11. vv111y

    Hi Yves et al,
    Hedges debated this with a panel a few weeks back.

    There are 2 tabs “Chris Hedges: The Liberal Class” and “Death of the Liberal Class?”
    The page starts with Hedges alone for 14 minutes.
    Click the next tab for a debate between Hedges and:

    Tony Keller is a Visiting Fellow at the Mowat Centre for Policy Innovation at the University of Toronto.

    Mark Federman is an organizational therapist. Read his blog at:

    Reihan Salam is a Policy Advisor with Economics 21 and co-author of Grand New Party.
    Reihan writes for the Daily Beast too, apparently.

    ~37 minutes.

    I was goig to send you this when it was broadcast, but there’s a delay btw airing and when it’s put on the web. Forgot about it by then.


  12. JLS

    USA need a social-democratic party not a liberal one.
    The question is why poor people in Mississippi or Oklahoma vote Republican or don’t vote.

    The axis Republican/Democrate is too much about value not enough about economy, Republican knows that more they talk about ‘value’ less people talk about Economy.

  13. Jim

    The analysis of Chris Hedges raises some extremely important issues—especially for any future organizing attempts in the U.S. Modern liberalism, as it emerged at the turn of the 20th century, was an ideological perspective that arose in opposition to mass production, mass culture and mass politics.

    Modern liberalism tended to see middle class society as repressive force which tended to stifle the creativity of intellectuals and artists and also to favor statist solutions to economic problems (its endorsement of the War Industries Board in World War I, its love affair with the planned economy of the Soviet Union as well as FDR”s brain trust).

    The core of modern liberalism, at its origins, tended to consist of a class of politically self-conscious intellectuals (people like Herbert Croly, the editor of the New Republic or H.L. Mencken, who taught liberal intellectuals to think of themselves as a “civilized minority). The thrust of their respective outlooks, in my opinion, represented a deep alienation from American life combined with a contempt for and critique of what they considered as the backwardness and provincialism of most Americans.

    This almost instinctive condescension of the “civilized minority” has deeply penetrated American culture and presents a significant barrier to present-day political mobilization.

    Large-scale democratic social movements are comparatively rare and part of the reason might be found in reigning liberal intellectual traditions which assume most Americans are politically incorrigible.


    1. Valissa

      Liberalism has so many definitions, facets, and threads… and there are so many great comments here related to that, it’s been hard to do them all justice.

      Just wanted to thank you jim for your very insightful thoughts on liberalism, it added another important piece for me… and it’s worth repeating this last bit:

      Large-scale democratic social movements are comparatively rare and part of the reason might be found in reigning liberal intellectual traditions which assume most Americans are politically incorrigible.

  14. Hal Horvath

    It’s so unfortunate that we are complicit in labeling ourselves into pigeonholes.

    We are only aiding those that profit from dividing people into opposing camps (think talk shows, etc….).

    Meanwhile, in the unfiltered world of reality, each and every one of us is routinely liberal and conservative, every day.

  15. solo

    Approvingly, Smith writes, “Hedges argues for moral responsibility in a world bankrupt of it . . . . ” Did anybody else notice the inconsistency? Smith might as well call for faster-than-light phenomena in a world devoid of it. As for Hedges: The man is a liberal moralizer, pure and simple; i.e., Hedges is devoid of either theoretical or historical knowledge as to what makes his subject matter of the moment “tick,” i.e., why contemporary America is morally and intellectually bankrupt, etc. –Thus do Smith and Hedges exemplify the tendencies that they decry, without understanding.

  16. Valissa

    Here is a critique of liberalism from another perspective… have included the opening paragraphs of
    this fabulous article!

    Shadia B. Drury… Against Grand Narratives, Part 1

    Exactly one hundred and fifty years ago, John Stuart Mill published On Liberty, Charles Darwin published On the Origin of Species, and Karl Marx published the Preface to a Critique of Political Economy (all 1859). So, in 2009, we celebrate (or lament) the 150th anniversary of the roles played by these three big ideas in our history—liberalism, Darwinism, and communism. Despite their apparent differences, these are all “grand narratives” that belong to the same Zeitgeist, and grand narratives are both dangerous and puerile and should be abandoned. But what is a grand narrative anyway?

    Since the triumph of Christianity over the pagan civilizations of Greece and Rome, the West has suffered from an inability to affirm life in this world without an overarching purpose to give it meaning and make it worthwhile. This is where grand narratives—grand and glorious tales—come to the rescue. They save the world from the meaningless cycle of birth and death; they give life a magnificent and majestic purpose beyond itself that somehow redeems it from its supposed worthlessness.

    1. DownSouth

      Superb essay.

      I found the following quote interesting because two of the most insightful contemporary critics of neoliberalism and neoconservatism are conservatives—-Kevin Phillips and Andrew Bacevich.

      In contrast to neoliberalism and neoconservatism, classic conservatism was less optimistic about the trajectory of history, and this made it more sober in its political expectations… Whatever its shortcomings, classic conservatism eschews grand narratives.

      And Drury’s belief that modern secular ideologies are nothing but stealth Christianity is a theme dear to my heart.

      But I cannot accept Drury’s cyclical theory of history. How does it explain, for example, the Axial Age, the period between 800 b.c. and 200 b.c. when the size of extant empires grew by an order of magnitude? The first of these great empires was the Persian, followed by the Roman, then the Chinese and so on. The advent of these empires coincided with the formulation of integrative ideologies (e.g. religions)—-Monotheism, Buddhism, Confucianism, Stoicism, etc. as is pointed out here by Peter Turchin. Hominids lived as hunter-gatherers for the vast majority of their evolutionary history (which has lasted over two million years). Agriculture originated only about 10,000 years ago and has been practiced by the majority of the world’s population for only two or three millennia. So, given what has happened over the past 10,000 years, it hardly seems to me that history is endlessly repeating itself.

      1. Valissa

        “And Drury’s belief that modern secular ideologies are nothing but stealth Christianity is a theme dear to my heart.”

        I agree, but see it from a slightly differently perspective… more like the values, ideals and ” worldview framing” of Christianity became so deeply embedded in western intellectual thinking because of the power the church had over the education system for so many years, that it’s very difficult to “see”/be aware of it much less to root it out and replace it with yet another worldview. The definition and usage of the word ‘secular’ has always seemed a but artificial and awkward to me anyway, as it is generally defined as being the opposite of religious or simply as what is not religious… and I’m not fond of dualisms like that as ways to comprehend the world.

        “But I cannot accept Drury’s cyclical theory of history”…

        I think you are misreading her on that. She doesn’t have a cyclical theory of history, as she is against the whole idea of grand narratives. There are all kinds of cycles in human history (as in life), and one can refer to life, nature or history as being cyclical as opposed to it being linear or “progressive” without trying to force it to fit a particular model of cyclicality.

  17. Tom Blanton

    As an anarcho-libertarian, I am embarrassed by the Libertarian Party and the handful of libertarian institutions that have been co-opted by conservatives. I am revolted by the right-wing. I am disgusted by the left and progressives that are far less liberal than I am on nearly every issue imaginable – all the while claiming that I am a greedy monster and fascist. Apparently mirrors are in short supply among those who worship government power.

    The left, once again, has elected another fascist (as some are discovering), yet as always, we are asked to look to big intrusive government as the answer to all problems, regardless of the cost, the debt, the loss of privacy, the loss of basic human dignity; and regardless of the growing police state/surveillance state and the global militarization. But if only we elect the right people as we ignore the fact that the right people are NEVER elected – they seldom even make it on the ballot.

    The progressives embrace the monopoly on violence that is the government and advocate the state have a monopoly on everything else – even as they claim their great fear of corporate monopolies, despite the fact that you can’t be forced to do business with corporations (except in wild exaggerated circumstances created in the minds of progressives). Simply put, if you can’t opt out, you are not free. If you aren’t free, you are dehumanized because self-determination is the essence of freedom.

    Lest I be derided as a corporate apologist, let me remind you that corporations are fictitious entities created by the statutes of your beloved government. Let me remind you that it was your beloved government that has bestowed personhood on the corporations. Let me remind you that it is the corporations that write the regulations you demand and fund the politicians you support.

    But no, the left must use the force of government to enforce compliance with the pipe dreams of bureaucrats and corrupt politicians who manage to fool the naive every time using the buzzwords of fools. Hedges is right, the middle class indoctrinated left has no integrity, no humanity, and no value other than as a case study in narcissistic bloviating about faux compassion while turning away from injustice and murder in exchange for the crumbs of the elite.

    I find particularly entertaining the revolutionary talk of raiding the trust fund to move to some other nation ruled by another set of elitist scum. Want to have a real revolution? Quit working for the evil corporations, quit giving them your dollars, pull all your cash out of the banks and Wall Street, help those in need rather than lobby government to take responsibility, reject the violence of government and refuse to pay for it.

    The idiots of the left and right have brought us to this point as they point fingers at each other in judgment. In the end, all of you, left and right, will get exactly what you deserve. It is unfortunate that children and future generations will have to suffer because of the hell the partisans have wrought in their myopic zeal to create a utopia using weapons and prisons – your beloved government’s only tools to ensure compliance.

    The right and left are but two sides of the same coin. Those who can’t see that and who dwell on the political theorists of past ages are doomed to follow the path we are on. It is time to look forward and recognize the horrors that the state has created.

  18. Paul Repstock

    Suppose that all “democratic” countries do away with the tons of usesless campaign retoric all together.

    If the Parties or individuals ere required by law to state their goals and agenda explicitly (forming the platform). Then, each voter would choose the platform which best suited his/her needs. At periodic ntervals during the term of office of the winner of the election could be judged upon performance (achieving goals/or votes on specific bills)

    The Person standing for office by announcing candidacy would be offering a contract to the electorate. Let there be defined penalties for breach of contract…This is neither a mad nor totally novel concept. But, I’m certain the established parties would fight it to the last breath.

  19. Bernard

    well whatever label you want to give the economic and religious systems that are running roughshod over America today, Capitalism as we know it not good for the 97% of us who are being “owned” by the MOTU.

    the middle class is being devoured by the Oligarchy. and the defenders of doing nothing claim Government action is evil and ultimately wasteful as well as defeatist. Government is the problem has been the mantra for over 40 years now. Because Government has been made to be THE Problem.

    a self fulfilling prophecy from the Conservatives who have used Government to destroy Government’s capacity to exist. I really don’t know exactly how much Government did good in reality. i do know i have seen some “real” improvements in America society/America through Government actions, both local and federal.

    this hatred of Government is used to steal, rob and divide Americans. is the destruction of American society a fair and equitable tradeoff to get rid of the EVIL called “Government.” Throwing the Baby out with the bath water to me.

    Course, i can’t afford to move to New Zealand, where socialism exists in some unhealthy non conservative form. The Wild West theory of the “rugged individual” continues unabated in its’ adoration. that Westward expansion continues. this time to New Zealand.

    Business has destroyed America for the bottom line. that’s it plain and simple.
    As Gordon Gecko said in “Wall St.” Greed is Good!

    another religion takes it toll on its’ inhabitant, the Religion of Greed, this time in a starker form

  20. nobody


    Along the lines of your thoughts on Montaigne, Stephen Toulmin’s Cosmopolis is worth a look.

  21. Tom Blanton

    What is so wonderful about 50.1% of the voters dictating what agenda should be forced upon 49.9% of the voters?

    If a politician enters a “contract” with voters and then breaches the contract, does he then enforce the contract against himself?

    I suppose that is possible, but I wouldn’t bet on it.

    I suppose just as man has always invented benevolent Gods that do magical things, he will always invent benevolent governments run by perfect men to do magic tricks such as create a utopian dream world on earth. It’s a wonderful concept on paper, it’s just unfortunate that so many have to die and suffer along the way to enforce the dreams of others.

    1. Paul Repstock

      LOL, the great failing of ‘Democracy’ is that the underlying premis of rule by the majority disenfrancises the minority and often the individual. All I can say is that 50.1% has a better moral ground than does 1%.

      Direct Democracy, as in every person voting on every issue, often looks good to me, but I know it cannot work. To make any headway, a ship must have a Captain. That Captain must have a course and integrity of purpose. The Captain must also have the skill set to allow for the safe navigation of the ship and it’s passengers.

      I think the best situation would be to shrink Government’s sphere of influence and responsibility and then have a very solid compensation scheme to make certain that they would take us to the destination they promised.

      What is the point of voting for the same empty bucket of campagn promises in each election. Only to find that no matter how eloquent the speaker, we have the same result each time.

      –‘Insanity is repeating the same actions and expecting different results’– sry to lazy to look up the actual quote.

      1. Paul Repstock

        Lousy voter turnouts are not all caused by apathy. Rational thinking suggests, that if people understand that any choice offered on a ballot is contrary to their best interest, then they are complicit in their own mistreatment by voting. The alternative offered by canceling or defacing the ballot is even worse. Those actions are seen as vandalism.

        It won’t do to issue a blanket condemnation of the people in government. It is more important to reject the system than the people. As Pogo said “I have seen the enemy, and he is us”. We the people have condoned and even supported the creation of the present system. It is up to us to change it, if we can rise above a self interest value system which is fatally flawed. Self interest is often viewed as the most honest moral position. But, it is like walking on a knife edge.

  22. Tom Blanton

    One problem with the right/left paradigm is the black/white or good/bad thinking. The left thinks corporations are the personification of all that is evil while the government is a force for all that is good. Horse shit!

    The right-wingers think that government can’t do anything right (other than lock people up or kill them), while corporations are the great salvation of us all. Bull shit!

    There is an unholy alliance between big government and big business and there always has been. Those that crave power, including the worst sociopaths in all of history, are attracted to government. Those that crave riches, including the most craven psychotics, are attracted to big business. They thrive on each other and need each other.

    Government has always been the elite serving the elite. Until the left, and the right, realize this, their anger will be misplaced and they will continue to bicker and fight over which set of elitist pigs will dominate and control their lives. I am just surprised at how few crumbs it takes for people to genuflect before the altar of murderous government.

    People have become economic slaves to the government for the illusion of security, thinking that they and others could not possibly have a good life without government calling the shots and “protecting” them.

    I can argue these points for days on end. But, it will do no good to attempt to convince the indoctrinated that voluntary associations can result in prosperous and peaceful lives without the drain of the elite. That the wealthiest people in the world live in the vicinity of DC and Manhattan should tell us all something. Have your government – it churns out death, destruction and poverty while enriching those who control the largest corporations in the world.

    I get why some toothless cracker with an IQ of 60 wants to vote for George Bush, but tell me why an educated middle class group of enlightened liberals votes for Obama. Was it a preference to see more dead Afghans and fewer dead Iraqis? Was it a preference to see Goldman Sachs pay out bigger bonuses as opposed to oil barons living high on the hog? Or maybe it was the Romneycare, er uh Obamacare welfare program for the insurance companies that warmed your compassionate hearts.

    Certainly those who understand how governments, politics, economics and the legal system work can comprehend that there are many options not offered by the elites for living and having options. Small decentralized businesses, mutual assurance associations, local decisions regarding any manner of issues are all discouraged by the centralized powerful government because it isn’t in the best interest of the elite. Discouraged is at best – illegal or simply not allowed, at worst. Yet, the progressives are always there supporting all powerful government against their own interests – just like the ignorant rednecks that vote for people like Bush.

    Scared of corporations? Run to the left. Scared of government? Run to the right. Watch the elites smile as you fall into their trap. Tired of government AND corporations sucking your life away? All you can do is hide from the other 90% of society that wants to impose their hell on the world.

    At this point, all I can say to the left AND right is fuck off – I hope your children are happy with the world you are shoving up their innocent asses.

    Now, kids, go back to pontificate on how wonderful your shiny happy progressive government is going to be once you finally elect the right people.

    1. Paul Repstock

      Very well stated Mr. Blanton!
      Sadly nobody without an “Agenda”, will ever get the chance to govern. Probably, nobody without an agenda would run. But, we are told it is our Patriotic duty to vote. And also, we need a powerful government to protect us from all those ‘Others’????

  23. John Lingenfelder

    Good Lord!! Reading the muck here is really discouraging. What everyone wants to do is run away, flee America. Sure things are extremely bad; sure the future looks bleak; sure all appears hopeless. But look folks, you are the very ones who have to get out of the muck, stand on your hind legs and declare “I believe in this country and am willing to fight, and fight hard for it and its future!!”.

    I have read through Hedges book and it is certainly discouraging. However, I will fight to reverse the course we are on. I AM A PROGRESSIVE!!! I know it takes decades to make change. I know it will take courage and very hard, determined work to reveal the America I know is buried under this malaise.

    If you are one who is willing to work and devote years in a just cause to turn around this country, join with me to do just that and speak out – ALL THE TIME. Speak out about what Hedges has said in his writing.



  24. Ted K

    I don’t think this is a repost, the screener keeps telling me it is a repost.

    Let me preface this by saying I am a pretty strong “lefty” politically. And I think Chris Hedges has the intelligence and tools to be a great journalist. But he says all the cliche’ lines and follows the partisan left so strong I just end up thinking to myself “Why bother??”. If I wanted this type of reporting I could read whatever the most recent Democratic party platform was or read an editorial by Jann S. Wenner. I think Hedges is an intelligent and well-intentioned man, but if I had a few minutes to talk to him, my first question would be “Hey man, have you ever had an original thought in your life on these things??”

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