Naked Capitalism, “A Home for All Sorts of Bircher Nonsense”

By Matt Stoller, the former Senior Policy Advisor to Rep. Alan Grayson and a fellow at the Roosevelt Institute. You can reach him at stoller (at) or follow him on Twitter at @matthewstoller.

A post I wrote two weeks ago, How Ron Paul Challenges Liberals, created something of a stir.  It was the most commented article on Naked Capitalism, ever.  And it kicked up a series of arguments among Democrats and civil libertarians.  Glenn Greenwald, who has been talking about these problems in prominent forums, followed up with this remarkable post (and then this one), and has taken many insults as a result.  This in and of itself is worth noting – the slurring of those who critique the structure of modern liberalism is an essential tool in the preservation of the status quo.  I’m going to highlight a few of the reactions here without much of a rebuttal, because I think the reactions themselves illustrate the struggle that boxes in traditional partisan Democrats.

First, let’s go back to the idea of the piece.  The basic thesis was that the same financing structures that are used to finance mass industrial warfare were used to create a liberal national economy and social safety.  Liberals supported national mobilization in favor of warfare and the social safety net during the New Deal and World War II (and before that, during the Civil War and WWI), but splintered when confronted with a wars like Vietnam, Iraq, and Afghanistan.  The corruption of the financial channels and the destruction of the social safety net now challenges this 20th century conception of liberalism at its core (which is heavily related to the end of cheap oil).  Ron Paul has knitted together a coalition of those who dislike war financing, which includes a host of unsavory and extremist figures who dislike icons such as Abraham Lincoln and FDR for their own reasons.  But Paul, by criticizing American empire explicitly and its financing channels in the form of the Federal Reserve, also enrages liberals by forcing them to acknowledge that their political economy no longer produces liberal ends.

I’ll be describing in much more detail the shifting of the social contract underlying this failure, which has nothing to do with Ron Paul and would exist with or without him.  For now, I think it’s useful to chronicle the multiple reactions from partisan Democrats.

A fairly common reaction has been to misrepresent the thesis, and argue that those exploring Ron Paul’s ideas are necessarily Ron Paul supporters.  That is how, on this blog post by a regular community member at the Democratic blog Daily Kos, Naked Capitalism was called “a home for all sorts of Bircher nonsense.”  (In the comment thread, there are ardent defenses of the Federal Reserve…. UPDATE: This post was originally put up at the People’s View, and it was later cross-posted to Daily Kos)  Katha Pollitt makes a similar argument titled “Progressive Man-Crushes On Ron Paul.”  More interesting, I think, are two blog posts at the liberal site Hullabaloo, one by the well-known blogger Digby and one by a Democratic Party activist by David Atkins.  Let’s start with Atkins, who is wrestling with what liberalism is.  Here’s his remarkable description of his ideology.

Liberalism is and has always been about intervention. It is the opposite of libertarianism, and always has been. Liberals understand that power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Left to their own devices, people with weapons and money will always try to exploit and dominate people without weapons and money unless they are stopped from doing so. It is not because we are taught to do so. It’s just innate human nature. If this were not the case, libertarianism would work as an ideology. It does not, and never has at any point in history.

When the government steps in to stop a corporation from dumping noxious chemicals into a stream, that is intervention at the point of a gun, by a superior force against a lesser force attempting to exploit the weak and powerless. When the government steps in to enforce desegretation in schools, that is intervention at the point of a gun, by a superior force against a lesser force attempting to exploit the weak and powerless.

When Abraham Lincoln and the North decided not to allow the nation of the Confederacy–and make no mistake, it was a separate nation with separate laws and an entirely separate culture–to secede from the Union, in large part because the North had an interest in ending slavery in the South and in striking down a competing agrarian economic system, that too was intervention by a superior force against a lesser force attempting to exploit the weak and powerless. To this day, many Southerners feel that their land is being occupied by an illegitimate and invading power, and theirs a Lost Cause that will rise again.

This is what liberalism is. It is unavoidably, inescapably paternalistic in nature. It is so because it understands the inevitable tendency of human beings to be truly awful to one another unless social and legal rules are put in place–yes, by force–to prevent them from doing otherwise.

Conservatives use force of government as well, of course, but not in defense of the weak and oppressed, but rather to maintain the power of money, of patriarchy and of the established social pecking order. Where the oppressive hand of government helps them achieve that, they utilize it. Where libertarian ideology helps them keep power in the hands of the local good old boys, they use that instead.

But a liberal–a progressive, if you will–is always an interventionist, because a liberal understands that society is constantly on a path of self-perfection, in an effort to use reason and good moral judgment to prevent insofar as possible the exploitation of one person by another.

The division between liberals lies in how far to intervene, especially in foreign wars. Almost all would agree that intervention in World War II against the Nazis and Imperial Japanese was the right thing to do. Most would agree that intervention in Kosovo was the right thing to do to stop the ongoing genocide there. Certainly, conservatives at the time opposed involvement in either conflict. Some liberals believe that America should use its power of intervention to help the oppressed around the world by use of force if necessary. Most others understand that such moves, even if well-intentioned, cause more problems and harm than they solve. But there will always be disagreements between liberals about whether, how much and where to intervene in the world in order to stop bad people from doing bad things that either threaten America, or simply threaten to oppress the poor and the weak. Not, of course, that America’s war machine is always or even usually used with such good intentions; quite the contrary. It is usually used for the conservative purpose of exploiting and destroying people and resources for the benefit of the wealthy. But here we speak only of liberal ideology and its relationship to the use of military force.

Similarly, liberals have a conflict when it comes to economic intervention. A few on the left choose to pursue a very hard line of intervention toward economic egalitarianism, leading to a vision in line with Communism. More of us tend to see the need for substantial economic intervention on a capitalist substrate, and lean more toward Democratic Socialism. Others see the need for some intervention, but are wary to stepping too far into the middle of the “free market,” which makes them more Neoliberal. But in all these cases, the question is only a matter of degree.

It is no accident that the most fervent economic interventionists on the left have also turned out to be the most imperial and bellicose (e.g., the Soviets and the Chinese.) They believe most in the necessity of force to prevent exploitation by the holders of capital, and see no reason why that necessity should stop at their own borders.

Contra Stoller, there is indeed a conflict within liberalism, but it is precisely this: a matter of how much intervention is necessary. It is not a fundamental conflict of ideals.

For Atkins, liberalism is dominance, with liberals holding the dominant position.  Mankind’s nature is brutal and exploitative, liberalism restrains it using equally harsh methods.  Atkins furthermore equates support for Democrats with policies that benefit the middle class, in a nod to Cold War era liberal anti-communism.  This kind of alpha-beta mindset implies that criticism and rejection of Barack Obama, the chief alpha of the Democrats, is a threat to Atkins’ version of liberalism itself.

On to Digby, who throws up her hands at the question.

I have to admit that I don’t fully understand Stoller’s thesis although I do find myself instinctually rejecting the idea that liberalism is based upon a contingent relationship between finance and war making — but perhaps that’s just because of the very unpleasant historic resonances in that conspiratorial premise. Considering that war has been omnipresent since humans emerged from the slime, I find it hard to see this correlation as anything more than coincidental, but it’s possible that I’m being obtuse. In any case, I was more confused by it than anything and that’s probably my own fault.

Admitting that, I will simply say that I define my own liberalism as a belief in egalitarianism, universal human rights, individual liberty and social justice, all tempered by a pragmatic skepticism of all forms of power, private as well as governmental. I prefer democracy because it provides the best possibility of delivering on those desires while keeping authoritarian power at bay even though it’s ridiculously inefficient and often corrupt.

I have been against every war of my lifetime but I would have supported intervening in WWII. I rail constantly against the encroaching surveillance/torture state (at all levels, not just the federal)but I do not recognize that states, property or corporations also have “rights” which may supersede the individual. (And in that respect I’m more supportive of individual liberty than many of the so-called libertarians.) I’m also against rapacious capitalism and discrimination, both private and public, and believe in a reasonable redistribution of wealth for the common good. I think the challenges of the environment require not just collective national effort, but collective global action.

Digby writes that she does not understand the thesis, but instinctively rejects it as conspiratorial nonetheless.  Her response as to what she believes in suggests not a coherent system, but simply a menu of concepts she finds pleasing.  She lists off a set of concepts, like a consumer at a shopping market, picking and choosing what she wants.   Oh, I’ll have the human rights, the egalitarianism, some social justice, and a side of, oh that looks good, “pragmatic skepticism of all forms of power, private as well as governmental.”  Oh, and democracy, that too.  Yummy.  Having such an attitude requires ignoring the historical links between the oil industry, war-making, and the New Deal.  It requires believing that infrastructure like highways and airports were built because good liberals were in charge, instead of the very obvious point that this stuff made the oil industry a lot of money while spreading prosperity to the middle class.

Calling this history conspiratorial is consumer liberalism speaking. Fundamentally, consumerism is about being averse to power and desirous of someone else to run the system for you so you don’t have to look at how it works.  Just buy the sausage in the suburban supermarket, and don’t look at how it’s made.  For instance, Kevin Drum, another consumer liberal, says that Ron Paul is never worth having as an ally, then throws off this aside when discussing how he agrees with Ron Paul’s non-interventionism, except when he doesn’t.  “If Iran seriously tried to mine the Strait of Hormuz, for example, I’d fully expect the U.S. Navy to put a stop to it, even if that meant sinking a few Iranian vessels.”  Drum throws around a war with Iran with a cavalier attitude as to the economic consequences (let’s leave the moral consequences aside for now).  It is unclear whether Drum understands the difference between warfare and the images he sees on television that are called warfare.  He just wants his sausage to come in nice neat plastic containers.

Now, I do not mean to pick on these people specifically.  It’s just important to recognize that these attitudes, as well as those of Greenwald, are marbled throughout our elite institutions.  I don’t want people to get the idea that there is no debate happening – there’s a reason Greenwald is widely read, and why Naked Capitalism has impacted the financial debate the way it has. But by and large, the recognition that the old liberal order was built on certain alliances and structures that have collapsed and turned malevolent is still not widely understood.

People sense that something is deeply wrong, but that is still just a feeling, an unpleasant tickle in the mind, not enunciated or acknowledged.  The intellectual deficit is there, frightening to look at, even as this winter (so far) is one of the mildest and driest in recorded American history and the Eurozone teeters and our current order comes nowhere near even considering how to solve these problems.  It’s not our fault, there’s nothing we can do differently, etc, is still the order of the day.

But political ideologies are systems.  They have to be financed, there has to be an energy model so you can fuel things, they have to display internally consistency so they don’t break down, people have to run the machinery, the programs have to work, the people that manage and implement have to have ethical, social, and financial norms, there must be safeguards,etc.  You can’t just randomly choose a bunch of stuff you want and call it an ideology.  As the New Deal era model sheds the last trappings of anything resembling social justice or equity for what used to be called the middle class (a process which Tom Ferguson has been relentlessly documenting since the early 1980s), the breakdown will become impossible to ignore.  You can already see how flimsy the arguments are, from the partisans.

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About Matt Stoller

From 2011-2012, Matt was a fellow at the Roosevelt Institute. He contributed to Politico, Alternet, Salon, The Nation and Reuters, focusing on the intersection of foreclosures, the financial system, and political corruption. In 2012, he starred in “Brand X with Russell Brand” on the FX network, and was a writer and consultant for the show. He has also produced for MSNBC’s The Dylan Ratigan Show. From 2009-2010, he worked as Senior Policy Advisor for Congressman Alan Grayson. You can follow him on Twitter at @matthewstoller.


  1. Foppe

    Digby:Considering that war has been omnipresent since humans emerged from the slime, I find it hard to see this correlation as anything more than coincidental, but it’s possible that I’m being obtuse.

    Digby should probably read Graeber’s Debt..

    A nice book that touches on a lot of the points you make re the corruption/studied ignorance of the liberal class is David Harvey’s Cosmopolitanism and the Geographies of Freedom, in which he very convincingly shows (among a number of other things) how the crude intuitive support of universalistic cosmopolitanism (and the Spread of Democracy) has been very neatly used to further neoliberal policy goals. (This because liberals as a rule tend to be very much in favor/very unskeptical towards processes of “universalization” or supranationalization, as they always imagine such moves to further their dream of a totally free world, while the actual, very selective universalization that is being pushed by the neoliberals — abolition of borders for goods and financial capital but not humans, creation of WTO/IMF/etc. — neatly undermines median class prosperity the world over.)

      1. nonclassical

        hear here…and then put an end to ridiculous claims NK is a “bircher” haven,,
        (or neocon-“Project for a new American century”)

        1. Aletheia84

          I don’t think the claim was that NK was a Bircher haven. It’s that such a blanket defense of Ron Paul opens up a very comfortable space for Ron Paul fans. Ron Paul being a staunch supporter of the Birchers, and a big fan of one of its original board members, Von Mises.

          This could have been avoided if Matt had not made the mistake of fishing for motives behind critiques of Ron Paul, and conflating that with a larger critique of liberalism itself. The two things are separate. Only sheer speculation and conjecture, along with a rather silly attempt to put large swathes of people he’s never met on the couch, could lead to that conflation.

          Ron Paul’s positions on the issues merit hard criticism on their own. There is no sense in trying to water down or redirect those critiques by insinuating bad faith in his critics. It comes off as a thought-prison and a forced feedback loop, which becomes a nice shield for Ron Paul.

          It’s a pretty good gig if you can claim any and all critique leveled at you is merely the result of the bad faith and hypocrisy of your critics. It’s a pretty sweet deal when others set that up for you.

          “Oh, he’s only saying that about Ron Paul because Ron Paul threatens his own sense of self.”

          I heard similar things from Sarah Palin supporters, whenever anyone dared criticize her highness.

          Ron Paul fans are actually even more protective. I don’t think Matt really wants to go there.

          1. Walter Wit Man

            You’re not being honest. Point to one Ron Paul “fan” on this site. The few libertarians that read this site are probably not as eager participants as they once were because Yves herself has been hostile to right libertarianism.

            I don’t see anyone on this thread promoting Ron Paul as a fan. Some self-identified leftists say they would vote for Paul because of his left-wing positions (like ending the wars). Some lefties, like me, will probably vote for a lefty third party, but are debating Ron Paul in a way that does not dismiss him and his ideas like the mostly Democrat partisans want to do.

            You are building up a straw man. The main beneficiary of your efforts is the conservative forces that run the Democrat party.

            Why is ending our war such a bad right-wing thing to do? Why is ending the racist war on drugs bad?

            Why would a lefty try so hard to attack the one politician that stands a chance of ending the empire or the war on drugs? I too have my doubts about Paul, but shouting down the very consideration of him is HIGHLY SUSPICIOUS and USUALLY DOWN BY PEOPLE THAT WANT THE STATUS QUO.

          2. Kakko

            Many Ron Paul fans, like Apple (mac) fans, are fanatical. So are many tea party and OWS members. So are many Obama fans. What intrigues me about Ron Paul is how he gets so much support from minorities, from the military, from civil libertarians, and from so many groups that the left and right pander to, yet both MSM and MSPoliticians try to silence him. As long as both major parties attack him ad hominem, they don’t have to address the issues he brings up. Ron Paul is not “electable” not because his views are out of sync with the populace but because they are in sync with the populace but out of sync with the power elite.

      2. Up the Ante

        citizen k should offer commentary on Louis Freeh serving as MF Global’s bankruptcy trustee.

        ” MF Global Trustee Tussles With Regulators: Report
        Friday, 6 Jan 2012

        MF Global’s bankruptcy trustee, Louis Freeh, has refused to turn over some documents to the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC), which is investigating what happened to an estimated $1.2 billion in missing customer funds, the Wall Street Journal said.

        Freeh, a former director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation and who represents MF Global’s parent company, has asserted attorney-client privilege in deciding not to release certain documents to the CFTC, according to his office and people familiar with the matter, the Journal said.

        The dispute is complicating efforts to learn how the firm lost the customer funds and to return the money to its owners and could slow the investigation, the Journal said, citing people familiar with the investigation.

        A spokesman for Freeh’s office told Reuters that the trustee’s team was cooperating with regulators, law enforcement and Congressional committees and is not aware “that our initial desire to preserve the attorney-client privilege has hampered their respective investigations.

        “To the extent that the authorities express concerns to us that the effort to preserve the attorney-client privilege is hampering their investigations, we of course would be willing to discuss the issue with them and be inclined to waive privilege,” the spokesman said. ”

        “.. working to reduce risk in today’s increasingly dangerous and complicated global marketplace. ”

        Working hard to help the looting while ‘the Birchers’ say nothing.

        1. Carla

          “That is how, on this blog post by a regular community member at the Democratic blog Daily Kos, Naked Capitalism was called “a home for all sorts of Bircher nonsense.” (In the comment thread, there are ardent defenses of the Federal Reserve.)”

          Is anyone over at Daily Kos aware that Dennis Kucinich has introduced a bill in Congress, HR2990, that ends the Fed?

          Is Kucinich a Bircher?

          1. Eureka Springs

            Ha! Kos is where one goes to watch Democrats make Kucinich sausage. What they did to him when he was considering not voting for the health looting spree was as disgusting as any sausage factory.

          2. sleepy

            At DailyKos, Kucinich is considered a nutter, beyond the pale of respectable political discourse–not universally I should say, but by the overwhelming partisan groupthink ideology of the site.

            While it was Taibi I believe who recently termed this 2012 election year “the most meaningless ever”, taking it one step further, Obama has done more to expose the hollowness of liberalism than any radical progressive could ever hope to, i.e., liberalism has reached its end.

            And as Stoller says, the people feel something is deeply wrong.

            Perhaps the combination of those two observations will produce some sort of new realignment, hopefully a positive one though that is not at all assured.

          3. John Drinkwater

            As far as I can tell, the first person to write a takedown of the the Fed was liberal-left journalist (Nation writer) William Greider, in his 1980’s book, Secrets of the Temple.

          4. Walter Wit Man

            Kucinich gets the same treatment as Ron Paul at Democrat propaganda sites like Daily Kos and Hullaballoo! Just look back to when Obamacare was rammed through with Kucinich’s help. Kucinich tried to move the legislation to the left (suppossedly), and he came under the same attack from Digby and the Kos.

            Since Obama yanked Kucinich’s chain and kept him firmly in line, the Dem propagandists like Kos have left him alone and are focusing on Ron Paul.

            But make no mistake about it–places like Daily Kos are attacking Ron Paul not because of his right-wing positions–BUT FOR THE SAME REASONS THEY ATTACKED KUCINICH–they don’t want people to get the idea that popular left-wing ideas, like ending our wars, are possible. They don’t want liberals to make an alliance with a different set of conservatives (the libertarians conservatives rather than the Democratic conservatives).

      3. jo6pac

        Yep, I’ve been banned from commenting there do to I keep pointing out what Ives points out and yes read the Generals book it’s on line for Free.

          1. Walter Wit Man

            Like Kos, Digby has purged her site of those that are too critical of the party or the Dear Leader. She brought Atkins on at the same time she started purging a number of long time lefty commentators. And she did so in a dishonest way.

            Digby and Atkins were removing messages without any stated policy or warning. They hid this censorship from their readers and some people were even tricked into commenting on their site repeatedly, and their comments were appearing to them, but Atkins and Digby were selectively removing comments they didn’t like! A number of long time commentators tried contacting Digby for an explanation or to complain/appeal but she only responds to partisan Democrat concerns.

            Digby is just as compromised as Daily Kos–she has just been more successful at hiding the partisan nature and funding for her site.

          2. Hmmm

            Besides simple deletion, Digby exploits a feature of her comment software, Echo, called Ghosting. The commenter can see their comment, but it is made invisible to everyone else. And the commenter is kept in the dark about that; all looks normal to him or her. It’s a particularly curious and sneaky feature to rely on so extensively for someone who champions transparency and democracy (value of differing opinions) as much as she. Yet the fact that such moderations (deletions etc.) occur is not mentioned anywhere on her site. No policy is explained.

      4. Steve Jones

        Heck, Digby should read Smedley Butler’s “War is a Racket.”

        And “To the Person Sitting in Darkness.”

      5. tdraicer

        The idea that nations go to war mainly for economic reasons is a persistant myth on the Left, but a myth nevertheless. (Too bad really: wars would be much less frequent if that were the case.)

        As for this “basic thesis”

        >The basic thesis was that the same financing structures that are used to finance mass industrial warfare were used to create a liberal national economy and social safety. Liberals supported national mobilization in favor of warfare and the social safety net during the New Deal and World War II (and before that, during the Civil War and WWI),

        while it is true that it was WWII and not the limited interventions of the New Deal that finally ended the Great Depression, that was a side effect, not a philosophy. That the New Deal was NOT based on “national mobilization in favor of warfare” can be seen by the fact that when WWII broke out, the US was tied with Romania in the size of our armed forces. And after the war the US cut back its armed forces drastically in less than a year. It was Korea and the Stalinist shadow in Europe that increased our military spending, but even the growth of our nuclear arsenal under Ike was an attempt to limit that spending. Indeed, military spending didn’t really take over the economy until liberalism was already on the ropes (partly because of Vietnam, but mostly because of the civil rights struggles).

        I say all this as a student of history, and not as a supporter of Obama who I have opposed since 2004; I’m hardly an agent for the Democratic Party.

    1. Walter Wit Man

      I find Digby incredibly dishonest. I wish Stoller would have used different liberals as foils.

      On one hand I guess it’s good to use dishonest partisan hacks like Digby as representative–because the reaction to Stoller’s original Paul piece is intertwined with the tribal hijinks that Digby engages in.

      But engaging with Digby or Kos simply stoops to their level and gets one all twisted up in their net–as designed.

      Digby and Kos and these partisan Democrats do not argue in good faith. Please avoid them.

      1. sleepy

        I wonder how much Kos gets paid by the DNC? I wonder as well the number of paid DNC staffers who function as front page diarists.

        What passes for policy discussion on their front page has for the past couple of months been nothing but the latest Bachmann, Perry, Newt, Mitt jokes.

        Except for Ron Paul–no jokes there, just a concerted effort to damp down his anti-militarism and anti-surveillance state message.

        1. Walter Wit Man

          I wonder the same thing.

          I also wonder the same about Digby.

          I also wonder the same about “progressive” groups, like Act Blue, that Digby pimps for.

          I also wonder about the influence of such things as journalist/blogger listserves and groups such as CAP.

          1. Aletheia84

            I wonder about anyone who pushes Ron Paul and claims to be a leftist at the same time. The two things are are in diametric opposition.

            Ron Paul being a reactionary neoconfederate and all. Ron Paul being beloved by Stormfront and white nationalists more generally. Ron Paul being an Ayn Rand lover and believer in Austrian economics crackpottery. No leftist in their right mind would support someone who so clearly and vocally despises the left.

            Please be honest. You’re not a leftist. You’re just another right-wing propertarian, posing as a lefty.

          2. Walter Wit Man

            Again, you lie. I am not “pushing” Ron Paul.

            I would prefer it if all those “progressive” Democrats left the Democratic party and voted for a left third party, like I have done since 2008 (I was a late bloomer and should have left the party long before).

            You are twisting yourself into a pretzel to avoid the obvious–Ron Paul is to the left of Obama and the Democrats on some critical issues. Obama claims the right to assasinate anyone he wants with no oversight and claims the right to wage war without an act of congress (like in Libya). Ron Paul says the constitution protects personal liberty and wouldn’t assassinate citizens or wage illegal wars.

            Who in their right mind says Obama is to the left of Paul on these issues? This is why I doubt your bone fides (in addition to the fact the Democratic party is deathly afraid of Paul and is therefore on the attack and thus all vocal activists supposedly cleansing Ron Paul from lefty circles is suspect in my mind).

            How many drones will Obama unleash on innocent civilians in the next month or so? Do you care about killing these people at all? How can you not acknowledge that Ron Paul would save these kids lives. He would tell the drone bombers to stand down. Meanwhile the Droner in Chief has killed dozens of kids with cluster bombs and it’s Ron Paul that sends you into a frenzy!

            C’mon. This is so morally twisted that you simply MUST be a partisan Democrat.

        2. Nathanael

          Markos is *clever*.

          His actual goal is quite clear, and admitted quite openly: to retake the Democratic party and restore FDR-style government to it. Regardless of how the system fell apart.

          He is engaging in the movement of mass politics in that direction through the careful use of direction, but never getting too far away from the crowd. As long as there are Obama worshippers, and Obama isn’t going to be out this week, he tolerates them, while focusing relentlessly on his actual political goals.

          I think he understands both power and politics. Subtle and difficult things to understand and I respect anyone who does; even Woodrow Wilson.

  2. vlade

    I Atkins fascinating. Ultimately, just about any government is about some sort of intervention. Having any but trivial societ w/o intervention is impossible (even the “conservative” version requires intervention for the property rights). Of course, any intervention requires power. How is he going then to resolve his own “power corrupts”? This is the fundamental ambiguity of human race. To get better results, we need intervention by power. But since the only power that can intervene is human one, there’s no way to prevent its (eventual) corruption. There’s no way to make it go away (short of having some machine AI or extraterrestrials rule us). Any and all systems will eventually fail.

    History has shown that there’s only one way to combat the slide into corruption, and that is general rise in living standards. That is not because it eliminates corruption, but because it makes (in general) corruption slightly smaller problem overall. Conversely, sharp fall in economic conditions leads to political problems.

    Unfortunately, the golden goose of economic standards is too easy to slaughter once it seems to be at least slightly established, and the bad times are forgotten (and boom and bust is wished away). It takes but a generation or two, although the overall slide can be slower (a couple of hundreds years).

    Now we’re at the moment in just another political cycle in the history of the world, slowly sliding towards worse conditions. There’s nothing in history or human nature that makes me believe it will end well (and I count just about anything short of global war or widespread local wars as “ending well”) – it would be first time ever for mankind. But then, hope springs eternal, right?

    1. Dan B

      This observation, “since the only power that can intervene is[a] human one, there’s no way to prevent its (eventual) corruption”, is being invalidated by the power of nature (e.g., ecology, thermodynamics, the environment). Human society is nested in nature, which we do not control, just as Copernicus showed that the sun does not revolve around the earth.

      1. vlade

        Yes, and the noble savage is the best of us… Please show me any significant community that would not get corrupted with power in a reasonable amount of time (talking decades).

        And, for your information, nature includes cheats, power grabbers and suchlike in a huge abundance, so even by your argument you’re wrong.

    2. Percy

      Atkins: “This is what liberalism is. It is unavoidably, inescapably paternalistic in nature. It is so because it understands the inevitable tendency of human beings to be truly awful to one another unless social and legal rules are put in place–yes, by force–to prevent them from doing otherwise.”

      This is a truly obnoxious, wrong-headed view of human kind, at least of human kind in America. It posits that there are no decent people who do good things for reasons of the heart and do them without anyone requiring them to do so. The real problem may be that we do not recognise (or trust) that there are many of these and that there are enough of them to prevent, through our existing political means, those who instead actually do match Atkins’ wrong-headed, terribly sad characterization of the “inevitable tendency of human beings,” of which there are surely too many — not in number necessarily, but any at all, frankly — from doing great harm to others for personal gain or out of sheer perversity. (I tend to see banks this way.) These suffer from a disorder: being systematically inhuman to fellow humans. Are we asked to believe that this is so for all of us — or at least most of us? Is that why we need liberalism or progressivism or whatever it is to be called? I doubt this, that is, what seems to be the underlying premise, that there are so many of the latter than the former that the former will be and are regularly are stopped and disempowered, fooled, and rendered incapable of protecting themselves and others better inclined by the latter. In America, so far, the former have had the best of the contest over time. For that reason, I and many others continue to reject a political philosophy of whatever name that is based on the warped view of human nature embraced by Atkins. Human nature is simply too complex, one that also and often has its better angels, to be captured in such a tiny, dark-glassed bottle. Atkins and his ilk would do better to let themselves out of it.

      1. Percy

        (Sorry! Thought I was editing (to correct) and find myself embarrassed now by three versions showing up. Regrets!)

      2. Ransome

        Greed is most likely learned, a bad behavior that only adults can partake. Read the Kropotkin essay Mutual Aid. Mutual struggle happens under ordinary conditions but when the going is tough, mutual aid is prevalent. The Greedsters during national distress are misfits, teaching others to be misfits. Show them no mercy.

        1. vlade

          Good grief… All the human history to look at, and we draw exactly the wrong conclusion.

          No, greed is NOT (only) learned (if nothing else, I could point to pathological psychopats – of whom there’s more in the population than you’d think, and it’s not a binary state but rather a sliding scale). The fact that greed can be learned (as can any social norm) is not the same as that it’s source is only others (how would it have happened in the first case then? how come it pollutes so much?).

          We’re not good by nature (nor are we evil by nature). Cheating/stealing/etc. is present in about all societies, including those that struggle to survive (where the punishment for being discovered is harsher, but the rewards larger).

          Ignoring how humans work is part of our tragedy – for then the ones who have a better clue how we do work often use it to their purposes and we have no defence.

          Declaring “power is evil, I don’t need to read on Machiavelli, etc” as I often hear is clapping our hands over our ears and ignoring reality. Only with the knowledge of ourselves (and how power works in society) can we see when others are misusing power.

    3. gemini333

      There really is nothing fascinating about Atkins. He and his brother run a marketing firm and they do work for Democratic candidates and the party. That is their livelihood. Atkins is all over the place with his opinions and writings. There is no consistency at all. He is a disciple of marketing and has stated that marketing is king, that he could convince you of anything he wanted to. There is no sincerity in Atkins and people are foolish to waste time reading him because he is at all times trying to play you.

      Digby is another story. I can’t figure out what happened to her but something definitely happened in the past few months — right around the time that she started letting Atkins post on her blog. I’ve followed her, enjoyed her writing and agreed with her almost all the time until she did this recent change which looks a whole lot like a sell out to me. I’m seeing it on other progressive blogs too like Alternet, CrooksandLiars, others, but it is just a sprinkling — not too obvious.

      1. Walter Wit Man

        Ding. Ding. Ding.

        Atkins is a hack. Period. His writing makes no sense because he is not honest and therefore there is no real substance behind his writings. It’s an exercise in writing copy that benefits the party–it’s not real political writing.

        So Atkins is a PR hack for the Democrat party. Digby is the same thing, she simply has developed a slightly more sophisticated (read intellectual) reputation for herself. She can’t be as openly partisan as Dave Atkins the PR hack, so she brought Atkins on to run interference for her on her blog without having to dirty herself.

        Make no mistake about it–Digby, Atkins, and Kos are all performing the same dishonest hack job for the Democratic party. Digby just gets to pretend to be the most liberal and independent–but she’s neither. Whatever she once was, she’s sold out and is a complete party hack now and her writings do nothing but damage. I avoid her site completely now. I expect her site to add zero to this conversation–all it will do is benefit her corrupt conservative fascist party–the Democrats.

        1. Nathanael

          No, they are not performing the same hack job. They do not even have the same agenda.

          You’re making the same mistake as people who think Ron Paul and Newt Gingrich and Mitt Romney are working together. They aren’t.

      2. David Atkins

        Wrong. My brother and I do occasionally work for candidates we believe in, but it doesn’t come close to paying the bills. The vast majority of our work is private sector.

        1. Lambert Strether

          He and his brother run a marketing firm[,] and they do work for Democratic candidates and the party.

          I added the comma to make Atkins’s distinction clear. Of course, gemini never did say that Atkin’s work paid the bills.

          1. David Atkins

            No, a marketing *research* firm. And the implication that we are therefore somehow congenitally incapable of honesty is insane.

          2. Walter Wit Man

            No Dave. It’s “insane” to argue there is no conflict of interest that gives you an inherent reason to be dishonest.

            You are ostensibly writing political essays about politics, including essays about the party you are a member of and the party where your clients come from–the Democrat party. Have you ever worked for a third party candidate? What about Republican? I’m guessing you work primarily for Democrats.

            Which means you have an incentive to not be too critical of Democrats, doesn’t it?

            Would your firm be negatively impacted if you made the argument that Ron Paul is to the left of the Democrats and Obama? Would your work be impacted if you promoted third party candidates over the Democratic party?

            See Dave, this is why people that have read a substantial amount of your writings think you are dishonest. You can’t even admit an obvious conflict of interest. Sure, you can claim you are different and are not influenced by conflicts of interest, but you can’t claim there is no conflict. You have an incentive to run interference for the Democrat party–hell, you’re paid to do this (or perform *research* to help them do this).

          3. different clue

            How does David Atkins’s and Digby’s deceitful censorship and sneaky secret bannings on Hullabaloo reflect on David Atkins’s so-called “honesty”?

            How many people have Digbatkins secretly stealth-banned in sneaky secret so far? R U Reddy, Sarah. B, Joe 6Pac, how many others? While lying about it the whole time?

            Dogs of a feather bark together. “By their supporters shall ye know them.” I think we know the Obamacrats quite well by supporters such as Atkins, Digby, Daly, Kos, Emmanuel, etc. etc. etc.

    4. Robert Zraick

      Words have power. I would suggest that what is being call intervention should be call protection. Intevention is used so often regarding our flawed foreign policy that we might be muddying the issue.

    5. ScuzzaMan

      There is a distinct difference between intervention is response to contravention of the rules governing illicit behaviour (i.e. “crimes”) and intervention in order to make some positive outcome occur.

      This difference occurs mostly in the amount of power required by the central authority, and further shows up in how often, how vigiorously, that power is exercised.

      The liberal progressive ideal is a “good government” empowered to make good things happen. I would say it is a dream except that, of course, it is in fact a nightmare. So much more power is requried to achieve this, even only in theory, than is required to respond to overt crimes, that the road to corruption through exercise of that power is demonstrably faster, and accelerative.

      (And no, being able to point to politically favoured groups who have benefitted as a result of liberally-motivated interventions does not, ipso facto, validate the entire political philosophy(ies) of liberalism or liberal-progressivism.)

      Nor is this to argue that more ‘classic’ liberalism, that ostensibly sought only to restrain the baser characteristics of humans in society, was ever pure, or even predominant, nor successful.

      But politics is like any kind of security; it requires never-ending attention. House-keeping, on a daily basis. Always things that are out of place, that have become untidy, must be put to rights, put back into place.

      The most enduring, most prevalent, and most pernicious political myth is thus that it is the role of the adopted political system to perform this housekeeping function.

      It is not.

      for it is the system itself that becomes disordered over time – “things fall apart… mere anarchy is loosed upon the world” – and must be corrected.

      It is the job of the citizenry to perform this fucntion. To restrain the inevitable corruption of the system from taking domonant hold of the society and in turn corrupting it and loosing the runaway positive feedback loop that is now plainly evident in all the western (so-called) ‘liberal democracies’.

      To, for example, make damned sure that political representatives are replaced early and often. That political power becomes a brief privilege and not a lifetime sinecure.

      Perhaps the most glaring symptom of the failure of this civic duty is the strong presence within American politics of family dynasties. Dynasties that are not only surviving multiple decades but spreading – the Kennedys, the Bushs, the Clintons, the Pauls – it goes on.

      The website also shows that in both houses the re-election rate for sitting members is typically at or above 90%. (

      Wishing for an ideal system, composed of imperfect humans, devised by imperfect humans, to restrain the imperfections of humans, is a ludicrous fantasy.

      But, hoping that the general public – ourselves imperfect humans – will reliably fulfil our civic duties and take on this momentous task, is also a pipe dream.

      Unfortunately, what history reveals is that each generation must learn anew the lessons of untrammelled power and its consequences. That the rags to riches to rags in 3 generations is not just a familiar family story but a familiar national story, albeit perhaps with longer ‘generations’ involved due to overlapping inter-generational effects and the spreading and relative persistence of cultural histories.

      My view is that the arguments over superior ‘systems’ is misguided at best, when it is not positively cynical and destructive, if the system is considered only as those political institutions that exercise power and are generally accepted as having legitimate authority to do so.

      The fundamental premise of democracy is that every adult has equal power and thus equal participation. (Why and how this became so is a discussion for another time, perhaps.)

      The entire thrust of modern political machinations – i.e. party politics, aka the ‘One Property Party with Two Propertied Wings – is to disempower the citizens while maintaining the fiction that they are empowered BY the process, and to hide the truth that the process is (was) a symptom of their power, and it’s corruption became ‘necessary’ as a consequence of that power.

      1. Nathanael

        “The liberal progressive ideal is a “good government” empowered to make good things happen. I would say it is a dream except that, of course, it is in fact a nightmare. ”

        Bullshit. It’s actually a dream. It’s a rather nice place to live.

        Honestly, do you know anything about the history of government at all? Let’s go back to the ancient Greeks, and the concept of the “benevolent despot”. Some of the great philosophers concluded that this was the best form of government of all. They are right — if you look historically, this is generally the situation with the most happiness for the most people.

        The problem with benevolent despots (Caesar Augustus? Marcus Aurelius?) is one of succession; they are almost inevitably followed by incompetent or malevolent despots.

  3. harumpf

    Modern “Liberalism” is really just another form of Marxism, albeit with a corpatist and technocratic vineer. Yes, there is a sliding scale from soft Socialism to Marxist Leninists, but these differences for the most part ammount to istintions without differences.

    The term was thoughly hijacked hijacked by the New Dealer during their looting in the 1930’s; the marxist “New Left” perverted the usage to the point of absurdity. If we take the 19th century meaning of the term, those today who are branded “conservatives” most clearly fit the definition.

    “Liberals” today comprise all manner of retrograde and reationary colletivists of the worst sort, and little else.

    How much is enough intervention? Why what was outilend in the consitituion, of course, an outline of rights that was cast aside by the Democrats starting with the New Dealers.

    You already betray your self with your allusions to those “nasty corporation dumping pollutants.” (and you just cannot help yourself when it comes to hyperbole, FUD and agi-prop, can you?) The whole envirmental movement has been thourghly hijack by the Left, and has abousolutely nothing to do with anything real about the “environment” (which, BTW is doing quite nicely, that you very much). It is about using sacre tactics to attack the Left’s enemies, those enemies largely including the productive and the decent. It is about attcking property rights and liberty. It ia about attacking capitalism.

    HOW clownish you are then you pretend to “critique Liberalism”. You mean no such thing at all. You are Marxists and Sttists to the core. You just do not like your place in the Nomenklatura.

    1. Foppe

      Aww, how cute. From “productive workers” to “the environment” to the Constitution, all in one reply. So tell me, who funded your liberal arts education? I’d demand a refund. (Your knowledge of history seems a bit spotty, and I don’t know who gave your pol theory classes, but I’m glad I’ve got different teachers.)

    2. James

      Clownish but effective. Same technique used to smear Obama’s healthcare gift to the private sector insurance mafia as somehow “socialist.” The numb-nuts on the right bought and continue to buy the whole line of crap hook line and sinker. Call anything socialist and watch the knees reflexively jerk in unison. The ghosts of Marx and the Soviet Union continue to haunt us still.

      1. gemini333

        These are the same types of critics who damn the left as “socialist” and “fascist” — at the same time!

        1. F. Beard

          To the extent the Left supports banking, which should be a purely private business, it IS fascist.

          Government and by extension the Left who seek to wield its power, can simply spend its fiat into existence and tax it out of existence. Banks are not needed. So why does the Left support the Fed which supports the banks?

          And where is the Left on a risk-free fiat storage and transaction service so government deposit insurance can be cancelled?

    3. nonclassical

      some have never been “near:” Europe, obviously…

      defenders-apologists for corporate capitalism-blamers of marxist economics for all they cannot conceive have yet to figure out how communist China contains the very corporations they are defending..

    4. jonboinAR

      The environment does as well as it does largely due to the intervention of the modern environmentalists you decry. How can the environment be protected without rules in regard to its treatment? If we’re going to protect it that will always involve interfering with “productive” development on behalf of the “snail darter” (some obscure, never before noticed creature). Its inevitable. OTOH, getting rid of these onerous rules I think that environmental hell-holes such as the rivers in Ohio that caught on fire in the ’60’s become inevitable.

      1. Robert Zraick

        While concern for the environment is only rational common sense, the “environmentalists” are used as tools for government control, expansion of power, and a big fat money grab which has little or nothing to do with the environment.

        1. Nathanael

          If you had an actual example of that, you might have an argument.

          But of course, you don’t. Because there isn’t one.

          The favorite tool for gratutious, unnecessary expansion of government intrusion is of course “national security”, or its current version “terrorism”.

          It is a classic right-wing tactic to try to divert attention to something useful, like environmental protection laws, and blame it for the sins committed by another agency, like the DHS.

    5. Graham Shevlin

      As somebody who grew up in Europe in a declining socialist country, I can say without any shadow of doubt that based on this posting, you wouldn’t know socialism or marxism if they fell on you.

    6. Binky the Bear

      I prefer the fascism vs friendly fascism model as it seems to fit better. Obama does the same things Bush does but justifies it in a way designed to appeal to moderate people.
      The bidness of America is bidness; bidness combined with government is fascism. We can have authoritarian mean fascism under a GOP government, or have the friendly kind under the Dems.

  4. YankeeFrank

    Digby’s response is shocking in its naivete and unwillingness to look at the hard truth. She is content to just chalk it up to being “her fault”.

    Atkins is comfortable with the unreflective wielding of immense power and simply closes his eyes to the difference between the claimed purpose and the actual results. He thinks he can comfortably knit together neoliberal Obama and union democrats as being just different degrees of the same philosophy, or nation destruction as being little different from nation building. To admit that the tools used to create the modern republic have taken control of our governments and now run riot over mostly all of us is not something they want to admit — I think this is partially due to the milquetoast political theory of incrementalism that Obama and his intellectual supporters like Cass Sunstein promote. If the system is out of control then incrementalism is not a functional response and cozying up to the powerful will not be an option. So instead they promote a big lie and continue a technocrat/fascist system. And whatever institutional opposition they might face is represented by those like Digby (and most union leadership) who are way too comfortable and lazy to really make any waves.

    1. gemini333

      They have to use this faux naivete and pretzel logic because they are committed to supporting the party and the Obama campaign. There are a lot of people who are making absolutely no sense anymore for that same reason. Cognitive dissonance to the nth degree.

      Maybe they can try to throw a whole lot of complexity into everything to get through this.

      1. Nathanael

        Yeah, it’s just typical cognitive dissonance and rationalization from Digby (who’ll figure it out eventually) and Atkins.

        Smearing Markos with the same brush is just wrong — he’s much, much smarter, and one should watch carefully the way the tone of his statements has been moving. If he is supporting Obama it is only by staying quiet about him.

  5. Dave of Maryland

    I stopped reading this stuff a long time ago.

    Navel gazing.

    Do you want to help, or not? Do you want to help but only if your conditions are met? Your ego is stroked? (Most commented piece ever!!! Congrats!!!)

    When you help, you help unconditionally, and you help from where you are.

    Otherwise, Entertain me. Tell me a thrilling story. Inspire me. Motivate me. Lead me. You are standing in a choice spot. What can you do with it? Where you are is where you begin.

    1. YankeeFrank

      Yes sir! Should we help the way we helped the Iraqis? Or the Afghanis? The way we helped tens of millions of Americans to lose their life savings and their jobs in a fraud-induced housing bubble? Help is on the way — Dave of Maryland is on the case!

    2. Julian

      If attempting to explain how the collapse of the middle class and the growing assualt on civil liberites in the US relates to the growing insistence by elites that modern State financing, which any historian will tell you has a long and intimate association with liberalism, be used only for war-making and shielding them personally from their poor business decisions (ie, only for their benefit) is “Navel -gazing”, then so is the idea that, by understanding what brought about the Global Financial Crisis, we can better respond to it, and build fire-breaks against it in future.

      Considering that this site has been wholly dedicated to the latter proposition for the last handful of years, I would say you’ve chosen the wrong place to push your dismissive personal philosophy of anti-intellectualism and willful ignorance. There is nothing at all controversial about the idea that liberalism and financial innovation both public and private are related. Hamilton was one of the most successful bankers of his time, for Thor’s sake, and anyone who can read the Federalist Papers and say he wasn’t a proponent of civil liberty is either grossly disinegenous or suffering a head injury. Financial complexity, managed debt, and stock-trading (that is, capitalism) have walked hand-in-hand with liberalism since its birth in the Enlightenment; hell, since before its birth, all the way back to the perrenially struggles between merchant, peasant, city man, and aristocrat of the Middle Ages. Of course liberals deployed the same tools and theories they advocated for business in the service of the State, which liberals long championed as an alternative to Fief and Kingdom, and what was until WWII the State’s primary concern; war-making. Why do you find this entirely accurate assement of political history offensive?

      Stoller’s argument is that this alliance between finance, the State, and freedom that has long lain at the heart of liberalism is currently breaking down, and that this crisis is cracks in liberal concensus to become visible. He presents that assertion with merit, and thus it is worthy of serious engagement as opposed to name-calling and petulant dismissal. Just by asking the question he is “helping”, though not perhaps by your definition of that word, or towards whatever goal you consider worthy enough to advocate here but leave entirely undefined. Liberals need to face these arguments, consider them seriously, and reach a constructive solution; the contemporary go-to American political solution of sniping at the messenger while temporizing will solve nothing.

        1. cwaltz

          Feature not bug.

          What I find most entertaining is that supposedly it is people that are critical of their coverage of a corporate owned party candidate that is “an attempt to preserve status quo”

          Uh FAIL. The fact that these guys aren’t actually covering people who are candidates that aren’t part of the status quo parties speaks volumes. The fact that they’d rather cover a Republican that they supposedly don’t support over candidates that might challenge the status quo speaks volumes.

          Preserve the status quo my backside!

          1. Aquifer

            You are spot on – they cannot handle a challenge from the left, so they ignore it and hope i will go away, but nature and politics abhor a vacuum so they have it fill it with something.

            A lot of these guys/gals, IMO, exhibit the “battered wife syndrome – they will complain about their spouses, how awful they are, maybe even swear out complaints, but, in the end they will tuck their tails between their legs and go back because “there’s nowhere else to go”. Of course they haven’t looked for anywhere else, and if someone points it out they will come up with all sorts of excuses not to go – because, for whatever reason (Stockholm syndrome?) they don’t really want to go; if only the spouse would get therapy, develop insight, then (s)he would change, etc. etc

            i don’t think Stoller, et. al want to leave the Dems, they just them to “shape up”, stop beating up on us. A Rep can’t really “replace” a Dem, only act as a counterpoint, a lefty 3rd party could actually replace them – that is what they are most afraid of …

            Hey if Stoller can analyze in the name of “inconvenient truth”, so can I :)

        2. pws

          Look “middle-class” should be “working class.” However, the idea that their is a fundamental difference between people who earn money through some sort of labor (no matter how much money they make) and people who get money by collecting various forms of rent is considered doubleplus ungood crimethink in the modern United States.

          1. Up the Ante

            Aquifer said, “A lot of these guys/gals, IMO, exhibit the “battered wife syndrome – they will complain about their spouses, .. ”

            You forgot the other possibility, Aquifer. They are parodying their spouses after having battered them, reveling in the identification.

            Kind of like a weaponised social media personna running amok, they could care less what your response is in any direction.

            Where Anonymous wears the smiling mask, the personnas wear half the mask, the other half is pure evil.

          2. Aquifer

            Gotta admit, Up the Ante, that was a bit too convoluted for me – could you explain it in other words?

            (PS, sorry pws, but this is the only way to “reply” to UtA)

        3. LeonovaBalletRusse

          That’s right, Lambert, the 99% transcends class. But the shills have been set to the task to bust the 99% solidarity against injustice, fraud, monopoly, entrenched corruption, crony capitalism, and organized crime in high places.

          A troll is a troll, insinuated to press the party line, from the blog section and the comments section, whatever it takes.

      1. Nathanael

        “modern State financing, which any historian will tell you has a long and intimate association with liberalism, ”

        Actually, it also has a longer and more intimate association with “conservatism”, as any competent historian will tell you, back to the Bank of England and beyond. So, uh….

        I don’t think “liberal” and “conservative” are meaningful as modern political terms — they’re too much like Rorshach blots.

  6. Parvaneh Ferhadi

    There is no such thing as non-intervention.
    If your neighbour’s house is burning and decide to not intervene, you allow it to burn down.
    If you see someone drowning and decide to not intervene, you allow him to drown.
    If you see someone robbed and decide to not intervene, you allow a robbery to happen.
    So these are all conscious choices do signal to society the preferences of the actor(s) making these choices and thus do influence a society and create or change rules by which a society works.
    Thus, a non-intervention is still an intervention.
    It’s a fiction, but a convenient one. This fiction allows you to hide behind a (bogus) principle so that you have no need of justifying your preference for things like segregation, genocide, discrimination, crime, bullying and so forth. It allows you to just step aside an claim, “sorry, I am a non-interventionist”, no need to reflect on morality or anything like that.

    1. Travizm


      Confucius apparently said that if he was in power he would enforce that all political language is simplified and made so it reflects reality.

      For some reason your comment made me realise that indeed this idea of interventionism reduces to smoke if you tease it.

    2. Pitchfork

      Are you kidding? You really believe that non-interventionists — whether in terms of foreign policy or domestic — advocate being amoral and stupid, as you outline here?

      All you’ve done is changed the definition of “non-intervention” in order to put down an argument that no one is even making.

      In case you really are at sea on this ( and not simply being obtuse), non-interventionism concerns the state, not the metaphysics of social interaction.

      1. cwaltz

        In Paul’s case he prefers both.

        He opposes the UN, foreign aid, and treaties. He’s a unilateralist.

        Brown people would die under a Paul presidency. It just wouldn’t be because of a drone. People that believe otherwise are being naive.

        And yes Ron Paul likes to have his cake and eat it too(just like most of the GOP)
        While condemning international bodies and suggesting we not be part of them he uses their bodies of work (IAEA)to promote his policy position on Iran. How speciaL and hypocritical!

        1. Tad Ghostal

          Take a breath there, Sheila.

          Ron Paul is against treaties because they are inherently anti-democratic. They remove “representation” from the act of governance. What Ron Paul promotes is the concept that the primary duty of a state is to represent and act on the will of the people. Treaties circumvent all the checks and balances that exist in a democracy, removing, for example, the single most important–and most somber–power of any state- the war power- from the people and their representatives. Ban Ki Moon and the UN Security Council are not accountable to US citizens in any election. Neither are any other politicians of foreign states who may be party to any given treaty. Hence, committing our troops and military and foreign policy to their follies is not just anti-democratic, it is outright poor policy.

          What Ron Paul observes, correctly, is that our military is inherently a racist institution, exploiting at-risk communities and the poor to fill it’s ranks. It is then abused by the President (Republican or Democrat alike) who sends our poor brown kids off to kill brown people elsewhere. Frequently, there is a powerful economic motive behind the actions. Often there may be tactical or strategic motives. Rarely, if ever, is the motive humanitarian in nature. Sure, State, the CIA and Pentagon tend to find a way to gin up some window-dressing, underneath it all, the real decisions are being made by power serving the interests of power alone.

          What Ron has suggested is that the Constitution requires a vote declare to go to war. Sounds trivial. But what it would require, in fact, is a specific vote on initiating war where each and every representative would have to take a specific position. This provides constituents the ability to find and keep actual representative government.

          A more functional democracy. Less unnecessary death and destruction globally.

          That is somehow a bad thing?

          1. cwaltz

            Somehow I doubt that Paul has a problem with exploiting the poor. He just doesn’t believe it should be state sponsored.

            He’ll have no problem leaving the brown people to the mercies of Halliburton or Bechtel. After all, we mustn’t interfere with the free market and have any of that nasty regulatory stuff.

        2. Tad Ghostal

          Also, the comment on the IAEA is flat out ridiculous. Citing data or findings produced by the IAEA is not an endorsement of the agency. Paul’s use of the IAEA findings is done for several reasons.

          First, if international treaties have value, it is because they are adhered to. Right? Well, the nuclear non-proliferation treaty relies on the IAEA to determine “proliferatIon,” not the US Pentagon. The assumption being, an individual nation may manipulate findings to justify a course of action it wants to take. Reasonably so. So that treaty relies on the IAEA to monitor and report. And it reports Iran is not making weapons.

          Yet the US still intends to use nukes as the raison d’etre for sabre rattling in support of a new war.

          Where are the Democrats decrying the action? Why isn’t the President deferring to the IAEA? Why aren’t any progressives in Congress, those who believe steadfastly in the value of international government, of treaties, of protecting certain universal human rights (like the right to not get killed by the whim of a foreign general)?

          In citing the IAEA, Paul does us all an enormous service. It forces those who support the notion of treaties and international government to make a choice. Choose your position and be consistent. You choose the IAEA, then there is no justification for war. You choose the Pentagon and CIA, then there is no justification or need for treaties and the UN. But he raises a valid point; foreign governments are much like off-balance sheet vehicles at corporations. It allows the leaders to engage in sneaky shit, with potentially dire consequences, without dealing with the accountability issues.

          Talk about have your cake and eat it too . . .

          1. cwaltz

            Just because you say it is ridiculous doesn’t make it so.

            The idea that being part of international bodies somehow destroys a country’s sovereignty is a load of bunk.

            Furthermore citing the work of an international body while arguing that those bodies should not exist is hypocrisy.

            Oh don’t worry I’ve chosen my position. I don’t believe in placing my hand over my eyes and screaming lalalalalalalala. I’m not stupid enough to believe that ignoring the plight of the poor in countries is going to leave them feeling warm and fuzzy towards us. Nor am I foolish enough to believe that big business will leave these countries alone simply because a President Paul isn’t willing to use a state sponsored military. I heartily support looking at our foreign policy but not with the position that we withdraw from the global community. In short, I disagree with Paul on qeuite a bit of his policies.

          2. Up the Ante

            “Where are the Democrats decrying the action? ”

            They by now are probably watching the spectacle of the IAEA allied with the EPA in downplaying Fukushima irradiation of the U.S.

            Does Tad think they would need any further betrayal ?

            And in keeping w/personna action, Tad is here to celebrate the inaction ?

        3. dirtbagger

          A Ron Paul Presidency would not necessarily be a step backwards. I believe his opinions on military escapades, treaties, sound fiscal and currency policies mostly make sense and much of the power to enact policy change lies within presidential constitutional authority.

          In those areas where his ideas are off the charts – belief in the commons, taxation, social and reproductive issues, etc. – he would only have the bully pulpit as the power to enact policy change resides with Congress.

          1. Aquifer

            Yes – but he can veto funding or legislation for all sorts of things he doesn’t like. He is not only the CIC, he is the head Administrator, as in “Administration” so he can appoint AH heads of Dept’s (“heckuva job, Brownie!”, or how about Reagan’s EPA), or just not get around to appt’ing heads at all. He could throw a monkey wrench into any agency that administers any social program. Programs need 4 legs – legislation, appropriations, administration, enforcement. The Pres is in charge of the latter 2 and can veto the first 2 …

            (The Paulites are showing up, went through this on another site, one more usually assoc with progs, as opposed to genetic Dems, like the sites mentioned above, Truthdig – didn’t think i would see it here – that’s the problem with giving them an inch …)

          2. Walter Wit Man

            You have an odd reading list Aquifer for a suppossed third party supporter.

            Out of all the third party lefties I know I don’t know any of them that hang out on pro Democrat sites and APPROVE of the fact they are excising talk of Ron Paul.

            I doubt your stated bona fides of being a super liberal. I think you’re basically a partisan Democrat, a “progressive” that would rather work with the fascist neoliberal Democrats than truly work for other alternatives.

            Most (but not all) lefties not associated with the Democratic party that I know, would not mind Ron Paul disrupting the Democrats and pointing out to them they are huge warmongers. Sure, some lefties hate Ron Paul even though he would end the empire and the war on drugs, but I don’t know any that would go to Democrat sites to run interference to keep Paul’s antiwar message out. You are running interference for the Democratic party and trying to prevent their sheep from hearing any dissent.

            I doubt you are who you say you are.

      2. Parvaneh Ferhadi

        «In case you really are at sea on this ( and not simply being obtuse), non-interventionism concerns the state, not the metaphysics of social interaction.»

        non-interventionism concerns the state, not the metaphysics of social interaction – So you are saying a state and how it handles things has no influence on social interaction?

        That cannot possible be right, because if it were, the whole talk about big government would just be nonsense – because if it had no influence on social interaction, its size wouldn’t matter.

        A state is not an entity you can separate from society – the two influence each other. It’s acts – and its non-acts – send messages to society.

        1. Lucy

          “A state is not an entity you can separate from society – the two influence each other. It’s acts – and its non-acts – send messages to society.”

          That sounds exactly right.

          It is not possible for the state to not do social engineering, for instance, because everything it does or does not do reflects a value.

          1. Parvaneh Ferhadi

            I did address your argument. Your argument seems wrong to me. Maybe you have some other arguments you want to share?

            In the meantime consider these possibilities:
            A) A state that does not intervene in society is not possible at all. What purpose would it serve? None at all. You might as well do away with it entirely.

            This is an ideal some want to achieve. A world in which no state is necessary and society runs on its own. For example communists think that the state will wither away some day.
            That might be true, but “some day” is likely to be very far away and would require different human beings, so this is not really an option. So we can conclude, that a state that does not intervene in society at all is not a possibility that is implementable.

            Thus you’ll always have some form of state intervention in society. The only question is how big will this intervention be.
            Two extreme possibilities of interventionist states are:

            B) A state that barely intervenes in society does send two messages to two groups.
            First, it sends a message to potential victims of abuse. The message is: Whatever happens to you, don’t expect any help.

            Second, it sends a message to potential abusers. That message is: Whatever you do, no one will stop you.

            It is not difficult to figure out with what kind of society – if you can call it a society at all – you will end up here.
            This form is close to the libertarian ideal of state.

            C) A state that intervenes everywhere would have to be called a totalitarian state. There are actually some people who would strive to implement such a state. These are the abusers in B). Thus, it is very likely that B) will lead to some form of C) over time, because no-one or nothing is there to stop them.

            Luckily for the most of us, there is a whole continuum between B) and C) from which to chose, but all of them require some form or extent intervention of the state in society.

            It is hard to see any type of state that could rightly be called non-interventionist, except case A) where there is no state at all. Thus, a non-interventionist state is a fiction that doesn’t exist and cannot be achieved.

    3. Jim Elliot

      Intervention: To speak at all reveals some intention. Just to be heard is to intervene in a way, to persuade is to intervene with more vigor, to persuade by coercion is another level of intervention, to persuade by violence is another level.
      To speak may be to provide clarity which is to intervene on behalf of others.
      To speak may also be to ask for clarity, which is to intervene on your own behalf.
      I think living in silence may be the ultimate selfish act or the ultimate sumbissive act.
      Personally sometimes I submit, sometimes I’m self-centered, and sometimes I intervene. I struggle with the choice.

    4. Petey B.

      Right on… Great line of argument to force the libertarian moral position out into the open.

      Having a government, or even only a theoretical conception of how to structure a society for {justice / maximum benefit / etc} is about making choices. Lots of them, heavily laden with values. Refusing to choose is one of the choices, often a bad one.

    5. LeonovaBalletRusse

      Good point. The flip is to *negative interventionism* via the praxis of willful ignorance, of denial of facts, of obstructionism.

      Someone should make a dynamic graphic showing how this works in reality.

    6. Robert Zraick

      The best way to intervene is to support individual freedom and protect it. Stop pushing for more government control. It is thee cause of the problems, not the solution.

  7. Fraud Guy

    So it seems that you are the only one to understand the coherent liberal position, and the other commenters do not, which is why you can critique it and they cannot defend it.

    I think we first have to agree on the mutual definition of liberal before you can claim that high ground.

    1. M

      Thanks for this. I would have to say I’m with Digby, a little confused by the original argument that liberals support military spending – you will have to take my word, I’m not stupid or trying to be willfully ignorant, but as Digby says, I’ve been against every war in my lifetime, and I think if you asked the average liberal-on-the-street they would say the same thing. The average liberal-on-the-street would not know about any links between the oil industry, the New Deal and the military, whether they exist or not. On learning about them, they would not then immediately decide to also be against food stamps, say. Again, I’m not trying to be stupid, I’m genuinely confused by this argument and I think a lot of people felt this way

      I was trying to figure out what Stoller actually meant by “liberals” – did he mean establishment politicians like the Clintons or Obama who, to the average liberal-on-the-street, seemed to espouse liberal values while giving away issues to conservatives? I confess to being confused by them as well.

      Most ordinary people don’t subscribe to a coherent ideology anyway, they are more what Stoller calls consumers at a shopping market. I don’t really consider myself a “liberal” because I haven’t known what that’s meant since conservatives started using it as a dirty word, I’d prefer a European style socialism-lite.

      So, yeah, I’m with Digby, I still don’t really understand the original argument. If you are against war you should also be against food stamps? Again (and you have to take my word for it of course) I’m not trying to be stupid but that is what I get out of it.

      1. Lambert Strether

        Stoller writes:

        political ideologies are systems. They have to be financed, there has to be an energy model so you can fuel things, they have to display internally consistency so they don’t break down, people have to run the machinery, the programs have to work, the people that manage and implement have to have ethical, social, and financial norms, there must be safeguards,

        It would be useful to tease out the systems that support our various factions (and the central tendencies of both legacy parties). I’d think we’d find more similarities than differences across the board. For example, the energy model — turning this continent into a second-or third-world extractive economy with fracking, mountain top removal, and some wind — with political structures to match, is clearly shared by both parties. And “ethical, social, and financial” norms have completely broken down, since impunity exists and the elite level, looting and theft are open, and the rule of law only exists for the proles.

        So I don’t think there’s a lot of reason to invest in a discussion of the semantics of “liberal,” because the political system has degenerated into pure factionalism; there are no semantics to be had.

          1. j.grmwd

            Bingo! When a creature like the corporation, amoral as a design feature, pulls all the strings, is it any wonder that governments of both the left and the right rule in a manner bafflingly inconsistent with the ideologies that supposedly inspire them.

        1. travy

          all of american politics can be filtered through the simple statement, “liberals always lose and the rich always win.”

      2. Art Eclectic

        I tend to agree. I know a lof of self-described liberals and none of them are big supporters of military spending. Where I think you do see support for military spending is amongst the political liberal class. They’ve figured out that military spending is fairly popular with Independents and rightward leaning voters who can be coorced across the fence. So, in order to gain votes (and more cash for their own districts) they support military spending. The war-mongers on the far right have made anyone who doesn’t support military spending a “liberal pussy” so effectively that the liberal political class can’t help but get in line.

        1. sonambulo

          The flip side of this is that the liberal political class is not concerned about losing votes by supporting military spending. They have figured out that, while many self-described liberals claim to oppose military spending, they will not withhold support for a Democratic candidate based on this issue.

          1. Nathanael

            This is because we’re on the verge of an overdue party realignment; for the majority of voters, neither party represents even the majority of their views. On many issues, the two-party consensus is actually opposite to the 99%-ers consensus.

            However, the US political system is so ossified and the 2-party system is so entrenched (even more entrenched than Duverger’s Law demands) that this realignment is very, very overdue. Markos is trying to seize the Democratic Party during the realignment; I wish him luck, but that’s a hard lift to execute.

            More likely the entire government will collapse before the realignment.

        2. Walter Wit Man

          This is a reflection of how successful Digby and Kos and other Dem propagandists have been. Most liberals are against war, they thought they were voting for politicians who were going to end war, yet here they are supporting a pro war party.

          That’s the trick. To get theme to support pro war policies. And the way they get that to happen is to use people like Digby and Kos to ratfuck people like Ron Paul. This is the method they use to get liberals to support right-wing policy! The Ron Paul diversion.

          Who cares what they say. It’s what they do. Obama has tacked to the right and expanded our wars, but the one person in the two main parties that wants to end our wars, is portrayed as a crazy racist that should be mocked and ignored. So that even liberals that supposedly care about war, like Digby (ha!), want nothing to do with him and instead are going to support (vote for and give money to), a right-wing war party. Does this make any sense to someone that really cares about war and would put this as the most important issue?

      3. Walter Wit Man

        My working definition for this piece is

        liberal=someone with leftist ideals that votes for the Democrats/Obama

        The problem is that the Democratic party is a far right conservative party. So implicit in the criticism is the idea that liberals are claiming to be one thing but are actually doing another thing in practice–if they vote for Democrats.

        So you may be against war in theory, but if you voted for the Democrats/Obama, you are actually pro war. Not only pro war, but pro war crimes and endless wars. You don’t get to pretend to be against war and war crimes and then vote FOR Obama.

        If you were a member of the Nazi party in 1940 and claimed to be against war, would it make sense to call yourself anti war as you supported an explicitly pro war party? Wouldn’t you argue that someone that was truly against war in 1940 would have to leave the Nazi party?

        p.s. on a personal note, your message pains me because I view Digby as a very negative force because she “fools” people (I know that it is probably offensive to you that I think she fooled you into your view, but I think it explains reality and I too was once fooled by her as well). She really is a master at this type of argument. It’s an argument I now believe is designed to deceive. Her whole site is DESIGNED to sucker people by this argument. That’s her whole schtick and her purpose–to keep liberals in the Democratic party fold.

        1. LeonovaBalletRusse

          Walter, you are dead right. The word “liberal” is simply a four-letter-word to be plugged into a rank propaganda piece, or an obfuscation piece, such as the blog leading to these comments.

          Really, what does this blog do, but muddy the waters?

        2. ohmyheck

          I think it is the Demmocratic Party Leadership that is rightwing conservative, and has left the rest of the Party, and it’s party platform, in the dust. There are plenty of Democratic Party members who want to know what happened to their Party and are weighing other options. 99%’er’s? How about 99% of the Dem Party have nothing in common with the Leadership. Thanks to Obama, we have OWS.

        3. Jason Boxman

          I cannot profess to having read digby more than once or twice in the past six years, but could it be her intent is truly so nefarious? I subscribe it to tribalism.

        4. M

          I don’t read Digby, I was refering to her as quoted by Stoller, so she can’t have influenced my views.

          I well remember my feeling of betrayal in 2003 when I realized that both my senators (Clinton and Schumer, Democrats both) voted in favor of invading Iraq.

          I don’t know if I will vote for Obama but I sure as hell am not voting for Ron Paul. Everyone is commending the phrase ‘consumer Liberalism’ – isn’t that exactly what people are doing who support Ron Paul for his anti-war stance, but choose to ignore his many other unacceptable positions?

          1. Walter Wit Man

            It’s possible I’ve underestimated how truly bad a Ron Paul presidency would be. But releasing millions of people from our racist and cruel prison system, restoring their civil rights, ending the police state, and ending the wars and empire, are attractive goals.

            And I know to be skeptical of Paul. But if one is considering voting for Obama they have no right to lecture liberals about voting for Paul. Because Paul could largey end the police state and our wars, Paul would be more liberal than conservative Obama.

            As far as the calculus . . . Obama is almost as conservative as Paul domestically anyway and Obama and the Democrats lie about having liberal goals. So they are much more conservative than usually thought.

            Plus, Paul seems more sincere than Obama or the other politicians and thus more likely to follow through on the good things. I know to be suspicious, but seriously, don’t you believe him more than others? He’s been consistent and taken unpopular opinions.

            Lastly, the good things he would do would be easier to do then the bad things. He can pardon or commute sentences and can get the attorney general he wants to end the drug war. He barely needs any congressional or judicial action. Same thing with the wars. Sure, there may be disputes with Congress, but he can unilaterally unwind a lot of the empire and the wars, immediately saving thousands of lives.

            Ron Paul is not the best option. But he may be the left most result we Americans can hope for. From a leftist point of view I think he is more left than Obama. Stopping our senseless wars would be huge. We would go from secret wars in over 100 countries to zero secret wars (if we can trust Paul, that is). We would stop the drone killings.

      4. nonclassical

        ..unless they lived 70’s-80’s…”Chicago Boys” vs. Alliende’, for Anaconda Copper-September 11, 1973…or read William Blum’s TRUE CIA expose’, “Killing Hope”, or Perkins’, “Confessions of An Economic Hit Man”, or Klein’s, “The Shock Doctrine-the rise of disaster capitalism”…

        or lived through Bush-Cheney-neocon-“Project For A New American Century”

        1. LeonovaBalletRusse

          Indeed, the spirit of Welch and the John Birch Society has become dominant in our society. I remember a visit to the Bircher “Knott’s Berry Farm” in the early 1970’s: The buoyant CERTAINTY of the “true believers” against “those liberal Communists.” Now that “Communism is dead,” the “liberal” is the “enemy.”

          Whatever it takes to bring the fascist interlocked systems of “The Family” and the “John Birch Society” for pious Americans certain of their “might is right.”

          It’s still the same old song. Only now WE are the target for asset-stripping, WE are the goats with the “resource curse”–which is why Oreobama cannot bring himself to rise against Extraction Capitalism (fracking, shale oil) in USA!USA!

          There is no difference between a Neoconservative and a Neoliberal now; and the word “liberal” refers to the Neoliberal. They are the two faces of the Old Regime.

          The “progressive” point of view is that the Old Regime has had its day, and must go, since it has become irredeemably corrupt, voracious monster that will continue to eat the substance of We the People. Hence, the 99% is “progressive” in this sense: We must progress beyond the DEAD-ENDERS of the Old Regime: whose despotic rulers are shielded by BOTH FACES of the Old Regime, called “Republican/Tea Party/Libertarian” or “Democrat/Libertarian”.

          Hence, the blog giving rise to our Comments is just more political churning to keep us off the point: radical change from an unjust system to a just system.

          Isn’t if fun to throw out the GOSSIP that NC Commenters are Birchers, and see what happens? This is blogging as Reality Show. Pathetic.

    2. eclair

      As to agreeing to a definition of “liberal”, I thought I knew what it was and that was what I was. And then I took to calling myself a “progressive.” Because most of the folks I hung about with were calling themselves “progressives.”

      And then I started explaining to people that I was a “progressive with radical leanings.”

      I was pretty sure I wasn’t a “libertarian” because I have know and really really really liked some libertarians during my lifetime. And agreed with many of their beliefs; that we should de-criminalize drugs, stay out of women’s reproductive decisions, get out of policing other countries, for example. But I couldn’t go the whole way to the logical conclusion of getting rid of government.

      So, now I don’t know what to call myself. And, after reading Stoller, Digby and Atkins, I am even more adrift.

      I begin to feel echoes of my early exposures to heresies of the Catholic Church. The Church “Fathers” labelled people as Gnostics, Marcionites, or even, horrors, Unitarians. And marginalized or killed them.

      Or as, in the early 20th century, Russian Revolutionaries were peeled off into Bolshevists, Menchevists or Stalinists. And marginalized or killed.

      Feels like we are in the midst of an upheaval of values, belief systems, ideologies, call it what you will. We can’t go on as we are – Stoller’s parenthetical mention of oil as the medium that has greased the rise of our current system – insures that things are going to fall apart or grind to a halt as that resource dries up and becomes insanely expensive.

      Kudos to Stoller for daring to bring all this up for discussion. For a lot of us it’s like getting hit in the face with a bucket of cold water. To stop short and ask ourselves, just what are we, really. I don’t think we have names for the new groupings at this time. But I have the sense of frantic milling about on the field as we try to figure out which “team” we will be on.

      But that’s all good. As well as horribly upsetting.

      1. Valissa

        Been there, done that… know just how you feel. I went through a somewhat similar process in 2007-2008. It’s kinda like the 5 stages of death, and after depression you eventually you get to acceptance. I call it the acceptance of reality versus believing in political myths. I am much less stressed about politics now that I am not irrationally invested in unrealistic political outcomes. I think the un-named 6th (optional) step is developing a sense of humor about politics, though it’s a cynical and absurdist sort of humor.

        “Feels like we are in the midst of an upheaval of values, belief systems, ideologies, call it what you will.”

        Totally agreed on that one! The historical evidence accords. History shows a regular trend over time of values, beleif systems and ideologies outliving their usefulness as they become less relevant.

        Suggest reading… The Upside of Down: Catastrophe, Creativity, and the Renewal of Civilization, by Thomas Homer-Dixon

      2. Jason Boxman

        Indeed. I realized I wasn’t a liberal and certainly not a Democrat when they failed to end the war back in 2006. Since 2008 it has become abundantly clear to me that the Establishment exists to service itself. Of late I have considered myself a socialist.

  8. Francois T

    “Naked Capitalism, “A Home for All Sorts of Bircher Nonsense””


    NC, one of the best expert financial blogs that takes a decidedly pro-human being, common sense and ethical approach to finance and the economy is now, (what’s that again?) “A Home for All Sorts of Bircher Nonsense”.

    Very funny indeed!

    The total absurdity of these insults nicely reinforces Stoller’s thesis: liberals must come to grips that an ideology isn’t a composite of a la carte items one can pick and choose as it is convenient.

    Salon liberals don’t believe it? Hell! Just look at the total failure of the Republicans, who shall suffer a Master whoop-ass is November 2012: You can’t be for “small government” and social Darwinism while relentlessly preaching for an enormous, continual expansion of the military/national security apparatus plus tax cuts for a privileged few that shall be protected form the sacrosanct “free market” no matter what. The magnitude of the internal contradiction and sheer hypocrisy is unsustainable.

    Likewise, this idea that “I can protect my uterus and the right of minorities/women, and not have to care about some aliens blown up in foreign lands” (paraphrasing a rather repugnant opinion that does not even deserve a link) is the epitome of willful ignorance of History and basic human nature. Provide unchecked power that you steadfastly refuse to criticize because your guy is in the White House while you were precisely criticizing the very same power grab from the previous occupant of said White House is a total bankruptcy of ideals AND ideology.

    There is a reason why so many Americans believe “the country is headed in the wrong direction”. There is a “mental recession” in the political ideologies market.

  9. jake chase

    You really cannot get anywhere with this type of thinking. Any society is an engineering problem which inevitably requires tinkering to fix inevitable imbalances, fault lines, fissures, disasters. One must observe closely, proceed carefully, remain tentative, assist those most obviously in need, rein in those clearly running amok. We keep getting these philosophers demanding the stage when what me most need are mechanics. This morning I listened to that first class predatory putz Jack Welch complain on CNBC about government regulation imposing at #1600 fine on one of his operations. He is not a bit troubled by banksters looting trillions in mortgage and derivative scams, but don’t send inspectors around to businesses run by honest men like him. This clown made himself a billion dollars by setting GE up to go bust by borrowing short and lending long. Not 5 people in the whole country understand the company was only saved in 2008 by the Fed commercial paper facility. Keep digging for facts and ignore this kind of foolishness.

    1. Julian

      But the necessity of such tinkering is precisely what Stoller is advocating. What he’s saying is that the robust financial system which liberals created over centuries to fund the State as their chosen champion against tyranny both personal and governmental has gotten out of hand. He’s saying that what was created as an excellent system for guaranteeing wide-spread prosperity, and funding state actions -whether that be education, state medical care, state pensions, or war- has taken on a life of its own and become the biggest enemy of the social goods it once secured (along with the ability to levy war). As such, this relationship needs to be renegotiated, but that can’t happen until, at the very least, liberals recognize this relationship exists.

      Ignoring his point that noble goals have been attained via ignoble funding, and that those funding sources have become openly hostile to liberal social goals accomplishes nothing. Everything LBJ accomplished, he accomplished with funding from KBR; the company that would become Halliburton. You simply cannot understand the Civil Rights era correctly, and how MLK could achieve so much success on the issue of discrimination while simultaneously utterly failing to get across his message of pacifism, without understanding that the very people funding the party that championed King’s causes were war profiteers. The current assault on SS and Medicare has similar origins. The money men of our political economy would rather see wars continue and their profits increase at the expense of social stability than see those wars ended for the sake of preserving the social safety net and bringing prosperity back to the US. Until we face this fact, we can’t even begin to realign our politics to address its imbalances.

      1. jake chase

        If he’s saying that he might have just said it and stopped. Personally, I think the problem is that the political system has been captured to enable looting by those the system should be controlling, while operating to grind down everyone else. Both political parties have collaborated with the looters. Nothing offered by either Party is even intended to stop the looting or even slow it down.

        1. Matt Stoller Post author

          If he’s saying that he might have just said it and stopped.

          I’m not that eloquent.

          1. ks

            You’ve got the better argument, so just keep making it. Counter attacks on individuals are distracting.

      2. Nathanael

        IF that’s what Stoller is saying, then Stoller is DEAD WRONG.

        (a) Liberals did not create the financial system which “funded” the liberal causes. This was, essentially, a deal cut with conservatives. Or, if you will, with the devil. Go look up the history of the Federal Reserve Act, or earlier, of the Bank of England. The financiers have always been conservative.

        (b) There has never been any per-se need for “funding”. Agreement to a need for “funding” was essentially a deal brokered with certain power elites in order to assuage people’s belief, pushed by the same power elites, that funding was necessary. Again, look up the histories. And if you don’t believe that “funding” was unnecessary, look up the history of ancient governments. Only for buying FOREIGN goods is “funding” truly necessary.

        In other words, the piece is economically and historically shallow.

    2. nonclassical “derivatives” circa 2001=$880 Billion…

      by 2007, after Treasury Secretary Paulson went to SEC to deregulate “leverage”=
      collateral, “derivatives” valued $600 TRILLION..

      ..when Lehman collapsed, their “leverage”=circa 100-1…

      ..what did people THINK when credit card lobbyists wrote new bankruptcy laws?

      ..I thought, “One whole helluva lot of Americans are going to go bankrupt”…and
      that was 2005-6…

  10. Ted Braun

    Just finished reading “The Government Never Sleeps” by J. Paul Henderson which is an easy to read book that will get liberals and conservatives upset. A more challenging to read book is John Gray’s Black Mass. Both of these books, from different perspectives, challenge liberals and conservatives.

    1. Valissa

      Thanks for the book recs! I just ordered John Gray’s “Black Mass” after reading some excerpts and reviews at Amazon. One of the main reasons I consider myself an ex-liberal is that I finally saw through and threw off the mental utopian and do-gooder “mind shackles” and became a political un-believer. I no longer believe it’s a rational investment of my time and energy to participate in the 2-party political process or political arguments.

      btw(/snark alert), I think it’s hilarious that NC’ers are being called “Birchers” over at Kos. Those of us who knew Obama was going to be Bush III were called racists by Kos and many other so-called liberal bloggers back on 2008. The first stage of warfare is taunting (it’s not called a political campiagn nor nothing) so it should be no surprise. Just like back on the playground in grammer school or cliqueishness in high school, name calling remains a proud political tradition. The standard “sticks and stones” response applies ;)

      A couple of months ago I discovered this quote from STRATFOR’s George Friedman, who knows well the mindset of US gov’t, military and political elites…

      “There is a deep consensus between Gore and Bush, … When you look at the last 10 years, there’s not much you can think that would be different if George Bush (the former president and father of the current GOP nominee) had won and Bill Clinton had lost.” – George Friedman (on 2000 election)

      1. Nathanael

        Not by Markos, surely. By commenters at DailyKos, definitely. But watch Markos’s personal behavior — he’s very much not a race-baiting Obamabot.

  11. Philip Pilkington

    US liberalism used to be more reflective. JK Galbraith was the leading light in the good old days and he ALWAYS raised institutional relations as being important.

    Personally, I think that most modern day liberals are either (a) not used to dealing with political power relations because they don’t get involved or (b) so used to dealing with political power relations that they cannot see them because they are so deeply involved. The former throw around airy-fairy ideological nonsense (consumer liberalism, as Stoller calls it) while the latter try their best to look like pragmatists by banging the war drum and throwing deficit spending and corrupt and crumbling institutions.

    Also notice a subtle IDEOLOGICAL shift in the discourse of the modern liberal:

    “This is what liberalism is. It is unavoidably, inescapably paternalistic in nature. It is so because it understands the inevitable tendency of human beings to be truly awful to one another unless social and legal rules are put in place–yes, by force–to prevent them from doing otherwise.”

    Perhaps that’s what liberalism is TODAY but not so historically. Liberalism — as Lasch showed in his later work — was always an ideology of progress (hence, ‘progressive’). It tended to believe that all the badness could be regulated out of Man. It was conservatism that always raised issues relating to ‘human nature’ and the like.

    The belief in making Man perfect through laws and the like was, in my opinion, a silly fantasy, but it certainly gave its practitioners a confidence and a sense of purpose which they today lack. Instead they have mostly adopted a mealy-mouthed ‘pragmatism’ (and not in the Deweyian sense of the word) that allows them to ingrain themselves in a system that has been falling to pieces for 30 odd years.

    The most scary thing about all this is that I really don’t see a new system of institutions emerging that liberals CAN actually ally themselves with. The last one grew out of the war economy of WWII and we have nothing like this on the cards.

    1. Nathanael

      Don’t be scared. What’s currently happening is the *collapse* of institutions. Did liberals see institutions to ally themselves with in 1789 in France? No, no, they did not. But they created new institutions to deal with the collapse of the old ones.

      OK, so that didn’t turn out perfectly, but they could have done a lot worse.

      We are facing a similar situation, where the old institutions are collapsing, and we had better be creating our own “shadow institutions” as fast as we can, because when the collapse comes, the strongest “shadow institutions” will win. We don’t want that to be a demented bigoted anti-science theocratic church — and those are well-organized already.

  12. wunsacon

    >> Any society is an engineering problem which inevitably requires tinkering to fix inevitable imbalances, fault lines, fissures, disasters. One must observe closely, proceed carefully, remain tentative, assist those most obviously in need, rein in those clearly running amok.

    Years ago, I heard Alan Dershowitz for all of 15 seconds on a televised debate. He said something like “Society doesn’t know what’s ‘right’. We only recognize what’s ‘wrong’. So, we constantly ‘right’ ourselves. We’re engaged in a endless process of right-ing ourselves.”

    1. Ransome

      Dershowitz describes democracy. Voting is a crap shoot, unless you are voting someone or a Party out. Whomever is elected has a limited time to do damage before they can be voted out. If the public is not too unhappy, or the alternative looks worse, they can stay. It is a bit like leading from behind.

  13. Goin' South

    Believe it or not, when I saw the headline, I correctly guessed both the web site and the author of that comment. Very typical of both, though the latter is also a hero over at the Obamabot site, The People’s View. How ironic it is that “progressives” gather at DailyKos, a for-profit site run by a dictator and organized as a Delaware LLC, i.e. in the least transparent manner possible.

    It’s heartening to see more and more people coming to the realization that if you’re egalitarian and anti-authoritarian, you can only really find a home among the real libertarians: anarchists. That spreading awakening corresponds nicely with the appearance of an articulate explicator of small-a anarchism, David Graeber.

    1. ohmyheck

      Agreed, Goin’ South, on both your interpretation of above-mentioned websites, and the fact that Daivd Graeber’s philosopshy is gaining a foothold. Nice seeing you again!

  14. cwaltz

    I’m going to preface this by saying I AM a liberal, I AM NOT a Democrat. So I find it interesting that the term “partisan Democrat” is being thrown around as the construct as to who is being critical. I didn’t even vote for Obama in 2008 and I was and will continue to be critical on these pro ron paul positions posts.

    Second, support is not limited to the position that you have to vote for someone. Support can be putting someone’s ideas out and promoting them or presenting some of their ideas as reasonable while glossing over their less than reasonable ones. And trust me by using the term glossing, I’m being kind.

    Thirdly, I find it interesting that instead of choosing to promote candidates they do agree with like Anderson or Stein that these guys have allowed Ron Paul to suck all the oxygen out of the room and instead have spent their time covering a candidate they purport they aren’t even supporting. Is it any wonder the left side of the aisle perpetually loses! Here’s a novel idea, if you don’t support him STOP TALKING ABOUT HIM. Let the GOP wax poetic about his anti regulation pro free market positions(and if you think you can’t have war without a military occupation- check out Bechtel and the water wars, it’s a Paulite future). He isn’t the only candidate that opposed the war. Furthermore, Anderson actually OWNs Paul on civil rights. How about talking about him? Stein also opposes wars. Oh wait, she’s not part of the corporate owned duopoly either. I guess that should excuse political activists and pundits from actually covering THEIR positions. Long live our right to vote for bad or worse!

    1. dcblogger

      Thirdly, I find it interesting that instead of choosing to promote candidates they do agree with like Anderson or Stein that these guys have allowed Ron Paul to suck all the oxygen out of the room and instead have spent their time covering a candidate they purport they aren’t even supporting. Is it any wonder the left side of the aisle perpetually loses! Here’s a novel idea, if you don’t support him STOP TALKING ABOUT HIM. Let the GOP wax poetic about his anti regulation pro free market positions(and if you think you can’t have war without a military occupation- check out Bechtel and the water wars, it’s a Paulite future). He isn’t the only candidate that opposed the war. Furthermore, Anderson actually OWNs Paul on civil rights. How about talking about him? Stein also opposes wars. Oh wait, she’s not part of the corporate owned duopoly either. I guess that should excuse political activists and pundits from actually covering THEIR positions. Long live our right to vote for bad or worse!

      so good it had to be repeated

      the legacy parties have betrayed us, time to start talking about the emergent parties.

    2. Lambert Strether

      OK, I’ll bite. Where are the links to Anderson and Stein? It’s useless to say that somebody ought to be doing the work you won’t do.

      * * *

      Ya know, there might actually be a reason to focus, as Stoller has done, on the fact that there is exactly one legacy party candidate who says he wants to end the wars and the empire, and it’s not Obama. Doesn’t a fact so remarkable deserve to be remarked upon?

      Personally, I think RP is 2012’s hopey change, but from the right. That doesn’t affect Stoller’s point at all.

      Avedon has a thoughtful post on this that I highly recommend.

      1. Aquifer

        i have posted this on this site multiple times, to the point where i thought i might get kicked off for doing it. But that exemplifies the problem “off-site” non corporate candidates face; without the “good graces” of ostensible progressives or lefties or whatever they are, like Stoller, who have their own bullhorns, it is perpetually necessary to post here, there and everywhere, over and over, hoping to get one more and one more who will at least listen ….

        She will be doing her own State of the Union for anyone who cares to listen ….

        1. cwaltz

          If it’s any consolation SOME of us are paying attention.

          I’m hoping Anderson and Stein manage to share a ticket.

        2. Walter Wit Man

          Do you spam pro Democrat sites like Daily Kos with links to the Green Party?

          Because if you are so concerned that a conservative get elected, like Ron Paul, then you must be shaking in your boots if conservative like Obama is going to get elected, right?

          I mean Obama is at least as conservative as Paul and will actually cause the death of a lot more people with his pro war policies. So I’m sure you’re running around shouting Jill Stein every time a liberal mentions Obama, right? I mean you don’t want them making the mistake of supporting a conservative like Obama, right?

          Somehow I doubt cwatlz and Aquifer’s bone fides as 3rd party supporters. I mean I will probably vote for Jill Stein for heaven’s sake . . .

          but it is significant that Ron Paul is to the left of the Democrats on the biggest issues of the day.

          Ron Paul would save tens of thousands of lives if he could end our wars.

      2. cwaltz

        Uh I didn’t figure the google was broken but here you go.

        Here’s Anderson’s party.

        Here’s his wiki page.

        Someone posted Jill down below.

        S/he is exactly right too. Judging by Stoller/ Greenwald/and a variety of other progressives who have a pulpit to preach from you’d never know these candidates were running. It’s Ron Paul, Ron Paul, Ron Paul. Meanwhile a post on Rocky Anderson from one of these guys could very well mean the difference between getting him on the ballot in the state or not. It could mean the difference between having a choice other than the status quo candidates. It could mean starting the debate from the left instead of having to start it from center right.

        1. Aquifer

          i find it more than a tad amusing, if at the same time totally exasperating, that the “progressive” media, for all it’s loud complaints about the shallowness or deception of the corporate MSM nevertheless seems to take its cues from that MSM when it comes to whom it is “important” or “necessary” to talk about …

          It’s views may be different but its subjects are strangely the same …

          1. Walter Wit Man

            I’m frustrated too.

            But it’s people like Lambert that do promote third parties (at his site and here). And third parties are more likely to be linked to here at NC than those other places you mention (as is happening on this thread).

            In fact, places like Digby and Daily Kos work really hard to prevent people from choosing a 3rd party. Those are also the people that are working the hardest not to talk about Ron Paul. There is a connection.

            But talk about Ron Paul is important. Its a valid discussion point–especially for people on the left that want a third party. I think the left needs to start working with conservative libertarians and to drop the conservative Democrats. Neither alliance is perfect. It would be great if the left were so powerful it didn’t need any allies. But it needs to leave the Democrat party and it needs to expand its support system–I recommend via Occupy and libertarians.

            My main point is the vast majority of liberals have already allied themselves with conservatives (the Democrats–a very conservative party which is probably more accurately described as fascist). Why is it so unbearable for some to hear talk about liberals allying with some other group of conservatives? If anything, this new group of conservatives (libertarians) is more trustworthy than the conservative Democrats, and will actually result in a more left result. After all, Ron Paul is to the left of Obama so if the liberals were to ally themselves with Paul instead of Obama we would be slightly (and even significantly) better off.

            Now, I think both parties are so polluted that I won’t even trust a Kucinich or a Ron Paul anymore. So I agree that supporting Ron Paul is likely not enough change to be worth it (although if he were to agree to an an explicit agreement for the alliance, like an agreement not to touch Social Security or abortion, as Nader and Gonzalez tried to get him to agree to, then maybe).

        2. Lambert Strether

          I wrote “exactly one legacy party” (i.e., not emergent party) for a reason. Stoller writes:

          But political ideologies are systems. They have to be financed, there has to be an energy model so you can fuel things, they have to display internally consistency so they don’t break down, people have to run the machinery, the programs have to work, the people that manage and implement have to have ethical, social, and financial norms, there must be safeguards,etc. … You can already see how flimsy the arguments are, from the partisans.

          And presumably Stoller is writing about a systemic breakdown, no?

          There’s an old joke about a book reviewer who complained, of a book about penguins, that it was not about swans. Well, I don’t have a lot of sympathy for that reviewer. Similarly, I don’t have a lot of sympathy for the wish that Stoller write a survey post of emergent party candidates instead of a post on system issues in the legacy party system. And from the pragmatic perspective, when one considers that the legacy party system is the main barrier to the emergency of new parties, it makes sense to highlight cracks in the foundations of that barrier, no?

          1. Aquifer


            Mr. Strether, so now this is “a post on system issues in the legacy party system”? Wow, you could have fooled me. I thought it was an approving post about how a member of one of those legacy parties was making mincemeat of the other legacy party written by a member of the legacy party whose ox was being gored. Silly me!

            And i thought that some of our objections, at least mine, were about the fact that if the person doing the approving really wanted to deal a blow to the legacy party system, he would have demonstrated how elements outside that system (“emergent parties”) were not only laying the same critiques, but providing an alternative, unless of course the poster did wish to put forward that opposing legacy party member AS the alternative ….

            As I said, beware of progs bearing pauls –

            “And from the pragmatic perspective, when one considers that the legacy party system is the main barrier to the emergency of new parties, it makes sense to highlight cracks in the foundations of that barrier, no?”

            Sure, if that is all there was to it – but obviously there was considerably more than that. If that is all there had been, you would have barely a peep from some of us (frogs) …

            You might be right about swans not belonging in a book about penguins – but watch out for Black Swans (and it is a sad commentary on the state in which we are in that I cannot make such a reference without quickly adding I am using the term as intended by what’s his name – never could remember names – who wrote the book of that title and not about our AA Pres!)

            In any case I think the post is more about how to deal with (p)frogs (no, not Frenchman, either) getting slowly boiled in a pot, by approvingly mentioning a snake who would lift them out so he could eat them, instead of a “tree hugger” who would set them free …

          2. cwaltz

            You can’t see the forest through the trees.

            And it seems like only yesterday that it was YOU complaining about how the mainstream bloggers sold out single payer.

            Enjoy your “blogger certified choices” Lambert.

          3. Walter Wit Man

            That’s hilarious cwatlz and Aquifer that you accuse Lambert of limiting the choices to the status quo.

            You obviously are familiar with Lambert’s site if you are referencing his single payer advocacy . . . which confirms to me that you are indeed arguing in bad faith.

            You should know full well that Lambert has promoted third parties like the Green Party much more than almost any other leftist site. Especially sites like Daily Kos that have literally forbidden discussion of third parties and did its best to suppress left-wing voices on health care. I mean Lambert has done the opposite yet you accuse him of marginalizing third parties?

            What foolishness you utter. Who are you serving? I call bullshit that you are a lefty third party supporter. You sound just like most partisan Democrat “progressives” at places like Daily Kos. You sound just like the voices that wanted to shout down Kucinich or any single payer advocacy during the health care debates. You sound just like the people that were shouting Lambert down re health care policy. These are the same people shouting about Ron Paul now (for the most part).

            Maybe you should check the fact you are taking Daily Kos’ side in this argument and fighting with Lambert. Check out their respective sites and get back to me on which one is more respectful to third party opinions.

            What a foolish comment.

  15. reason

    My take,
    and I’ve stayed out of this – is that this is a VERY American discussion. That this discussion is happening at all, shows just how disfunctional American politics has become. Guys, democratic renewal (start with electoral reform), should be your number one issue! Everything else should be secondary.

    1. Art Eclectic

      While you are absolutly correct, the suggestion is not possible given human nature. We will not reform anything in the USA as long as it means somebody is going to lose some of their goodies. People will fight harder to retain what they have than they will to obtain something new. Reform will not be possible until most of the middle class no longer has much to lose. As long as most of them have houses and cars and flat screen TV’s and ESPN/HBO they will not reform the system which provided them these things.

      Case in point, Americans are obsessed with the deficit and spending but calls to eliminate the Mortgage Interest Deduction are met with shock and horror.

      It is next to imposslbe to retract benefits once they’ve been offered.

      1. reason

        After the 2000 presidential election, I thought there was some hope that some people had become aware how poorly your democracy functioned, and how important reform was. Alas, it has all been forgotten. And things have got worse.

        1. Ralph Crown

          Some of us have not forgotten the debacle of the 2000 election. When your country’s election legitimacy is on a par with Rumania, refining your ideology is less than useless. If your vote doesn’t matter, your ideology doesn’t matter. Unless and until the US has fair and transparent elections, the left and the right are both wasting energy on sniping at each other.

          1. Nathanael

            The only reason “right” vs. “left” matters: the “right-wing” party, the Republicans, has had its leadership taken over by people who are *openly opposed* to honest or functional elections.

            The Dominionist wing is openly working to abolish elections entirely, in favor of a religious theocracy. The corporate wing would rather simply install election computers which announce the desired result, Soviet-style.

            The Democratic Party, in contrast, is not ideologically coherent, and has not settled on an open platform of hostility to democracy. They aren’t actually supporting honest elections, not at the national level. They are at the state and local level, however, which helps.

        1. Frank Speaking

          if it is “the young” with nothing to lose who are to lead reform everyone should be worried—very worried indeed.

          perhaps if it were a the “young and the wise” (not necessarily mutually exclusive or limited by chronological age) with everything to gain there would be less to worry about—but not much less.

          1. Ransome

            The Takers are well aware of reform. They are petrified of wealth redistribution after years of looting. They know how to fix the system. The young simply needs to express their grievances peacefully and then forcefully; the looters will reform the system, if only so that they can keep the spoils looted from us. We will never receive justice. We were complacent.

          2. aletheia33


            agreed. things will be righted just enough to calm things down.

            if there is any hope in the long run, there must be a change in a large enough number of people’s willingness to give credence to and follow the instructions of the propagandists. people in large numbers would have to change how they think about where and how to get information that is reliable. maybe there is some hope of this via the internet, occupy, and teaching of critical thinking, but the potency and toxicity of mass media, now on a scale never before engineered, can only be fought with a mass awakening of minds. meanwhile, that media is the ONLY way to reach a large enough number of people to exercise real influence.

            who’s figured out how to reach and persuade our passive “citizenry” that what they’re being shown every night on the screen is a lie, it’s a lie that’s extremely dangerous to them and their children, and they have the power to change that?

          3. Nathanael

            “The Takers are well aware of reform. They are petrified of wealth redistribution after years of looting. They know how to fix the system. The young simply needs to express their grievances peacefully and then forcefully; the looters will reform the system, if only so that they can keep the spoils looted from us.”
            I wish. I don’t think the looters are that smart. I think they’re for the most part actually psychopaths. (There was a recent report that banks had been using personality tests to deliberately recruit psychopaths.) And the recent studies on psychopathy show that it involves an inability to think long-term.

            It is possible that some of the 0.1% who are not looting psychopaths will figure out how to suppress the psychopaths and reform the system, to save themselves. Warren Buffett certainly wants to!

            However, I think it more likely that the psychopaths will continue wrecking things for short-term gain until governments collapse, after which *whoever* replaces the government will put the psychopaths’ heads on (metaphorical) pikes.

      2. different clue

        I’m perfectly willing to consider giving up some of my goodies after everyone with more goodies than me has been stripped of their goodies down to my level. Then if we all collectively still need to give up goodies to get reform, I will accept myself and everyone newly de-goodied down to my level all going down together to the next level.

        What I will not willingly accept is giving up some of my goodies so that someone with twice as much goodies as me can get my given-up goodies on top of their twice-as-much-already goodies.

        I would rather see the global economy burned all the way down to the ground.

      3. aletheia33

        >Reform will not be possible until most of the middle class no longer has much to lose. As long as most of them have houses and cars and flat screen TV’s and ESPN/HBO they will not reform the system which provided them these things.<

        i am afraid this is probably true. as long as unemployment remains so very low among those who have graduated from college. and steps have already been taken to mitigate somewhat the debt burden on young graduates–expect to see more mitigation as occupy gathers more numbers among the young. and it might work to quiet the youngsters down. i hope not.

    2. Eureka Springs

      I agree… On this Occupy (the only movement with any spunk these days) is both a danger and a disappointment so far. Very little participation on the details/sweeping reforms needed… Instead it’s a completely myopic easily co-opted by Move To Amend and the like, strikingly similar to D party focus on ending Citizens United in a manner which won’t change much, or ever garner the kind of majority support needed to push through an amendment process.

      Just try telling someone ending Cit U alone will not come close to eliminating 1% ownership of the political system.. and watch their eyes glaze over as they either don’t hear it or give up… We have a long, long way to go before we know what to even ask for. (As Matt points out so well in the post)

  16. Bagbalm

    Digby will start to clue up when her sausage no longer is available in its neat little tray covered with plastic wrap because her sort have regulated anyone who actually produced anything like a sausage into bankruptcy.

    Even the pigs will lose in the end because when you don’t make sausage any more you don’t turn them loose into the ‘ecosystem’ you stop breeding them. The biggest guarantee a species will not go extinct is to be delicious.

      1. reason

        I’m not against people expressing their opinions, but a tiny little bit of basic empiricism wouldn’t go astray.

      1. Lambert Strether

        Thing is, though, that Big Food, regulated, is still Big Food. I push local good, and “own garden” food. And I find, locally, that I’ve got a lot of strange bedfellows on the right.

        Suppose one of them has an excellent idea for composting. Should I wait ’til one of my leftist friends suggests it before adopting or propagating it?

        “But that’s not politics!” Oh, it’s not?

        1. Frank Speaking

          production of a food supply and control of that food supply is the single most elemental component of politics and economics.

          folks on the right have been way out front on the home grown, preserved and stored front for decades.

          the left’s back to the land effort came crashing down when the communes imploded crushed by the work involved in replicating 19th century technology and internal gender politics and cult of personality politics.

          backyard chickens are going the same way as those communes—progressives “can’t be bothered” and are very adverse to stoop labor, sweat and working outdoors in all kinds of weather.

          when the iPhone comes up with an app for “doing home grown” is when they will adopt it as a way of life.

          1. bob

            “folks on the right have been way out front on the home grown, preserved and stored front for decades”

            Yes, “folks” such as ADM, Cargil and Monsanto are WAY ahead of most, and tend to support right leaning candidates in right leaning states.

            The rest is trollish bait. When speaking about the WORKERS on farms, not the capital owners, how does that split play out?


          2. Frank Speaking

            thanks for making my point Bob.

            the motivating factors for growing you own differ between left and right but the resulting economic and political behavior is identical.

          3. bob

            “folks on the right have been way out front on the home grown, preserved and stored front for decades”

            That was, presumably, your point. You said it. You then went on a rant about what pussies lefties are and that they can’t handle the “work”, when in fact they are usually the ones doing the “work”.

            “Work” is defined as force applied over distance, not some bean counter pushing buttons on a computer.


            Now, again, who is “working”?

          4. aletheia33

            >backyard chickens are going the same way as those communes—progressives “can’t be bothered” and are very adverse to stoop labor, sweat and working outdoors in all kinds of weather.

            when the iPhone comes up with an app for “doing home grown” is when they will adopt it as a way of life.<

            i politely beg to differ, i personally know of several scores of people who are anything but averse (is that your meaning?) to such labor, sweat, and adverse (one could call it) weather conditions. not only are they performing such labor with joy, they are laboring and spreading the word about its coming necessity as well.

            you either are not really paying attention or don't really mean what you say.

          5. Nathanael

            “folks on the right have been way out front on the home grown, preserved and stored front for decades.”

            No, they haven’t. Not for the modern political definition of “right”.

            Sure, some of the *left-wingers* doing home-grown, preserved and stored stuff still vote Republican out of some mental habit dating back three generations, but if you ask them what they actually want done on any issue they actually understand the facts on, they’re “left-wing” politically.

            As with the “Republican” organic farmer running on an anti-fracking platform in a recent local election near me. She’s a left-winger by modern political standards and is only Republican for tribal reasons.

        2. cwaltz

          Who are you quoting?

          Or are you pulling a Stoller and making ass-umptions.

          I live in a Red State. I’m married to a gun nu-er-enthusiast. I’m surrounded by people from the right side of the aisle. That being said, I have managed to make headway because I don’t wait for them to frame the debate for me and I don’t frame it in terms of left or right. I frame it in terms of good or bad policy.

          I don’t oppose Paul because he’s from the right side of the aisle. I oppose him because he’s a free market, anti corporate regulation, pro personal regulation fool. In his country the white guys get to be free from being detained but the rest of the community gets to be told who they can marry, what medical advances they can have access to, what services someone not able bodied can have access to, to pack sand when some nutball hangs a whites only sign(and yes it has happened recently) or find another job when some guy opines about how awesome your boobs look. In other words, we’re relegated to second class citizenry.

          I reject the position that Ron Paul even remotely represents my values.

          1. Lambert Strether

            “I frame it in terms of good or bad policy.”

            Exactly. Take, for example, ending the empire, where RP at least was the merit of talking a good game, unlike any D candidate and the central tendency of the D party.

            So you support Stoller’s thesis.

            Composting practice is good or bad, even if the composter’s practice starts out based on that nutter Rudolf Steiner. Foreign policy issues are different why?

          2. cwaltz

            He isn’t terming it from a policy perspective though. He’s approaching it from a candidate perspective. Furthermore, his argument is based on the faulty premise that people critical to this particular candidate are doing so because they are invested in an imaginary status quo. Speaking as someone who was critical of Paul from a policy perspective I can assure you that is NOT the case.

            I can shred Paul on policy, including his foreign policy. If you believe in international community work like NATO or the UN, or you believe in foreign aid for disease like AIDS or for poverty filled countries, if you believe that the world is a better place when you work together then Ron Paul is as far as you want to get to good on foreign policy. I’m not a unilateralist.

            Furthermore, I keep hearing over and over again the erroneous posit that Ron Paul is the only anti war machine candidate and the only way the left can get these ideas out. That simply isn’t so. There are third party candidates that oppose war and are far better on issues than Ron Paul could ever dream to be from a left perspective. They just haven’t been covered by Stoller or those like Stoller.

            The frustration with Stoller comes from the faulty premises he keeps putting out. Instead of asking WHY people from the left side of the aisle oppose his posts he decided arbitrarily to assume they are partisan or are trying to preserve a status quo. Instead of discussing all the anti war candidates he deliberately chooses to put forth the position that Paul is the only candidate having the discussion opposing the war and that simply isn’t true. It’s false.

            Our opposition isn’t to the Ron Paul lovefest as nearly as much as the half truths and the assumptions made in both the posts that Stoller wrote.

          3. aletheia33

            watch out for that international community aid and the like from UN and NATO. they are run like everything else by the neoliberal powers that be and much of what they appear to be “giving” to those less fortunate is really the gift that you wish never had come, and what they’re actually taking with their other hand is to a large extent what you cannot afford to lose.

          1. eclair

            Good question. Maybe in large pots, so they can be rolled northward (?) as spring comes earlier and winter arrives later. And, pushed uphill, as Vermont becomes a coastal state.

  17. Mcmike

    All large institutions become pathological – most occupied with perpetuation than renewal – liberalism is no exception. The dem party will soon implode under its own contradictions just as with the gop. And good riddance.

    War, meanwhile is almost always avoidable. If one goes far enough back, we find bankers and spies creating the conditions long before hostilities erupt… Hello saddam, osama, hello prescot bush…

  18. voislav

    The US political spectrum has moved so far to the right over the last 30 years that most of the “mainstream” ideas align with the right and far-right European parties. Republican party has become the equivalent of the French National Front and British BNP, with the Democrats only slightly to the left.

    So any remotely reasonable person would seem hopelessly out of touch with the “mainstream”. The US “liberals” though like to delude themselves into thinking that they are leftists, so anyone who points out how far right the Democratic party really is has to be a crackpot.

    1. Nathanael

      Unfortunately, you are wrong. The US Republican Party is far more extreme and demented than the French National Front or the British BNP.

      While just as bigoted against “colored people” and foreigners, the Republican leaders are much more sexist, and much, much more economically elitist *and* economically incompetent. And much more dishonest.

      For poor whites, the National Front or the BNP would be a lot better than the national-level Republican Party in the US.

      This says something about how bad things have gotten in the US. There are probably democracies which have degenerated worse (Uganda?), but I can’t honestly even say that the Nazi Party, right-wingers in the extreme, were as right-wing as the current Republican leaders — you see, the current Republican leaders are an insane, lying death cult who *won’t* build Volkswagens or Autobahns.

      Some of the medieval Popes were more right-wing than the current Republicans. Some of them.

      1. Nathanael

        Note that Ron Paul is certainly not one of the Republican Party’s leaders, and is forced out by the establishment at every opportunity. Gingrich, Romney, Perry, Bachmann, Santorum, etc., are….

  19. F. Beard

    Left to their own devices, people with weapons and money will always try to exploit and dominate people without weapons and money unless they are stopped from doing so. David Atkins

    And yet liberals support the Fed which greatly increases the ability of the banks to steal purchasing power from the helpless? How does that compute? It doesn’t.

    1. Ransome

      As far as the Fed, it was designed by capitalists to expand the money supply temporarily with debt while holding the value of the public’s money sound. You can’t steal debt but you can steal the nation’s gold if you overprint the public’s money to meet demand. The mistake was assuming debt would be used only for responsible investing. “Investing” became gambling with broker-dealer margin on the stock market, creating leveraged leverage. The system is being abused, like a drug. Narcotics are useful when used as intended.

      1. F. Beard

        The mistake was assuming debt would be used only for responsible investing. Ransome

        The mistake was to prop up an inherently dishonest and unstable money system.

        “Responsible investing” does not require a government enforced/backed counterfeiting cartel. Common stock is an ethical means to consolidate capital for economies of scale.

        1. Ransome

          Investing is more than common stock, it is starting a small business. Stocks and bonds were alternate forms of financing reserved for corporations or public works.

          1. Ransome

            You may be right, but even stock is abused. The best system of money does not rely on debt, especially when the system is so easily abuse.

          2. F. Beard

            Investing is more than common stock, it is starting a small business. Ransome

            Without the asset inflation caused by the counterfeiting cartel, individuals could save to start a business or business partnership or corporation.

            The counterfeiting cartel (the banking system) creates a “Tragedy of the Commons” situation where everyone MUST borrow from the cartel if any do or else be left behind.

            Abolish the cartel and the rat race will cease to be, replaced with ethical capitalism.

  20. ron

    The article is more political babble, pin the tail on the donkey definition of progressive or liberal is meaningless but provides the author with another paycheck.

    1. Yves Smith

      What planet are you from? I’d like to know how an article that ruffles many of Stoller’s putative allies on what passes for the left is in his economic self interest, much the less earns him a “check.”

  21. David

    What the hell is going on?

    They came for Humanism and killed it in the late 1980’s.
    They were afraid of accepting that “The Other” human beings had worth.
    We can not kill “The Others” if our population views them as pious in their own way.

    Public Interest and the Common Good died in the discussions about that time also.

    Now they come for Liberal as a description having worth.
    Are you co-coordinating and erasing any and all places of goodness and community to come from as Citizens of Community except Religion? It is hard today to stand proud in the public sphere without first saying I belong to a particular church and religion.

    Yes a strain of any group or ism can be picked out and shown to be contrary to the belief of the group. Define the strains and point out the numbers of each.

    Let’s hear a statement of what those who support this line of thought believe in?

    Where do you believe the ethical and moral place of American movements is today or does that seem naive and out of touch to ask in the eyes of those who think all Liberals believe this way?

  22. BillyBob

    “Liberals supported national mobilization in favor of warfare and the social safety net during the New Deal and World War II (and before that, during the Civil War and WWI), but splintered when confronted with a wars like Vietnam, Iraq, and Afghanistan. The corruption of the financial channels and the destruction of the social safety net now challenges this 20th century conception of liberalism at its core (which is heavily related to the end of cheap oil).”

    Before the Civil War, many Americans were inclined to say “these United States.” Afterward, it became “the United States”: a change from a confederal to a federal conception. The Civil War began as a war to preserve the union but became a war to grant that union the legal power to determine a minimum standard of citizenship; it was no longer acceptable for Massachusetts to outlaw slavery, as it did in the late 18th century, but have Mississippi permit it, as it did by state law until the late 20th century.

    With the mobilization for war came the two things necessary for social mobilization: buy-in and the money to pay for the transformation. Without the challenge from the Confederacy to union, the South probably could have drifted on with slavery for quite a while longer, but once engaged in war, the North was forced to answer the abolitionist question: is not the slave a man and a brother? Having transformed the national government onto a full-scale war footing, the North was obliged to quicken the pace of industrialization. Until that time, the US Army was intentionally kept small precisely so that US government interventions abroad would be kept episodic and brief, in large part because of the threat it would represent to civil liberties. As Elbridge Gerry had remarked to the Constitutional Convention: “A standing army is like a standing member. It’s an excellent assurance of domestic tranquility, but a dangerous temptation to foreign adventure.”

    As after World War I, there was a “return to normalcy,” with regard to government intervention both domestically and internationally after the Civil War. However, as the Gilded Age highlighted the nation’s gross inequalities and social oppression, Populists, and Progressives in both major parties began to agitate for the federal government to intervene to curb the runaway powers of the railroads, the banks, the meat packers, the drug companies – of unbridled naked capitalism generally.

    Whether consciously seeing the link or not, the two great presidential proponents of federal regulation of capitalism, Theodore Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson were also the chief actuators of the United States becoming a major military player on the world stage. TR eagerly sought a policy of imperialism and domestic amelioration – foreign and domestic intervention – while Wilson felt that intervention in World War I meant an end to his hopes for a progressive era. But, most importantly, Wilson mobilized the national government for total war, with his War Industries and other Boards, wage and price controls, and massive government military contracts. Again, there was the buy-in for a national project, in this case winning World War I, and the financial means of achieving it, both concentrated in federal government hands.

    After the usual return to normalcy – both a much smaller army and more unbridled capitalism – the US was again confronted with the challenge of massive inequality at home. Franklin Roosevelt, who had been Assistant Secretary of the Navy under Wilson now sought to get buy-in through the urgency of the economic crisis to mobilize the nation with federal power and to reorganize the economy through various boards and agencies. That is, he tried to use the kind of national mobilization that Wilson had achieved in wartime for use in peacetime.

    The results were mixed. American corporations resisted then, as they do today, investing in the United States, preferring to invest in Nazi Germany, where they could get the kind of super-profits they can get today in “Communist” China. It was not until World War II that both the necessary buy-in and the necessary economic mobilization could be achieved.

    With the establishment of the National Security State, the US has put itself on a permanent war footing, with almost all funding for research and development – including parallel development of weapon systems – coming through the Federal government, and most of that through the new Department of Defense. All manner of new economic initiatives from funding the Interstate Highway System to sending students to graduate school to learn strategic languages have been done in the name of defense. It led to a fine economic boom.

    We have been living off FDR’s success at bringing guns and butter together for the last 60 plus years. But that boom is now coming to an end. Yes, it is related to the wind-down of the oil economy and the cold hard fact that, while nothing gets buy-in for mobilization like war, Americans are very tired of endless, profitless wars. Liberal politicians prate on about the New Energy Economy and conducting it as one would conduct a war, but there simply isn’t the political buy-in without the disaster staring us in the face. And worst of all, the Founders’ fears that permanent mobilization for war has meant both constant war abroad and steep erosion of civil liberties at home are being realized.

    1. Ransome

      Good summary. I have a slightly different take but not so different. With democracy and unlimited resources and the Industrial Age, capitalism was birthed. As capitalism matured, it favored both concentration and expansion.

      Washington and Jefferson explored wringing the most out of their plantations, using the most modern methods and seeds from Europe. They died in debt. One hundred years later at a meeting of agriculturists it was announced “In consolidation, there is wealth”, following the lead of the industrialists. Later Butz was to say “Get big, or get out”

      The Civil War was the war of economies and vision. The discussion of the Civil War period in the above article is fuzzy, no one wanted to dominate the South and no one wanted their defective agricultural economy. The North had protectionist tariffs, straight forward mercantilism and access to cheap labor. Mercantilism promotes production of products from raw materials to finished products, a system that adds the most value to the economy. The South could not manufacture a pair of shoes. Growing soy beans, er cotton, and shipping to China, er Britain, and receiving finished goods in return is economic suicide to a merchantilist. Mercantilism promoted full employment (of cheap labor), the Southern system rejected mercantilism.

      The 180,000 slave owners of 4 million slaves had $16 billion on the table to lose if they stayed in the Union. Their defective management of the land forced them to move after 6 crops or so as crops exhausted the soil and mono culture disease took hold. They were boxed in. The Northern bankers were happy to lend money at 9% for new land and the Northern manufactures and merchant princes were happy to sell domestic goods at 1.5 times the rate in Europe because of the tariffs. As far back as Jackson, the vision of America was sea to shining sea, which would not work with a break of the Union. The industrialists knew we were a nation of resources and a bunch of planters were not going to spoil the picnic by dividing the nation.

      The 50’s discovered that a prosperous middle class made a prosperous nation and that impoverishing the workers was a flawed self-interested concept. The neo-capitalists have taken on the bad parts of the new mercantilism, throwing out the good, solely to extract short term profits with minimum investment. Their vision is near-sighted and wrong headed. Concentration and expansion brings wealth to a few but not to a nation, hence the necessity for an ever more deadly military and world dominance to protect the wealthy. You see this in Israel, who is kept perpetually at the edge of a state of war, robbing the citizens of prosperity and creating increasing internal conflicts, fighting over the crumbs. Israel is America tomorrow.

      1. Nathanael

        “The 50′s discovered that a prosperous middle class made a prosperous nation and that impoverishing the workers was a flawed self-interested concept. The neo-capitalists have taken on the bad parts of the new mercantilism, throwing out the good, solely to extract short term profits with minimum investment. Their vision is near-sighted and wrong headed. ”

        Correct. They do this because they are led by psychopaths, who are inherently incapable of thinking long-term.

        As for Israel, it has been able to degenerate in its particular way for two reasons:
        (1) ability of right-wingers to constantly claim that the scary outsider neighbors were coming to get them. Right-wingers have tried that in the US, but it’s wearing out its welcome because it’s so manifestly untrue.
        (2) ability of sane, smart Israelis to emigrate, skewing the situation further and further. It’s much harder to get out of the US.

        Therefore the US will follow a different path.

    2. Nathanael

      “Until that time, the US Army was intentionally kept small precisely so that US government interventions abroad would be kept episodic and brief, in large part because of the threat it would represent to civil liberties. ”

      Not really. Research the “Indian wars”. The effort to keep the Army out of foreign intervention failed in 1812 and never recovered. Constant expansion and expropriation of native land was the rule after that. The Army constantly existed and was constantly large.

      However, it was organized differently — an Army was assembled for each individual campaign. This made it far more flexible, and frankly better at winning. This was done until WWII.

      We currently are stuck with a World War II military organization, which is obsolete and non-functional. It’s one reason our military, despite being the most expensive and largest in the world, generally loses its wars.

  23. charles sereno

    Re Comments — Quantity and/or Quality: Happily, both. Thanks for the squeak about anarchism with an “a.”

    1. Proximity1

      Ideas may be discussed without, at the same time, lending credibility to hypocritical husksters running for public office–be they Republicans; Democrats, or “other”.

    2. Proximity1


      It’s the “source” that’s being “discussed”, not the “ideas”, and therein lies the problem.

      Want to discuss freedom, justice, equality of opportunity? Fine. Let us discuss these–rather than in what way Ron Paul does or does not really support them.

      How about that? What I see being given the emphasis is not these very important issues but, rather, Ron Paul’s suppposed connection to them.

      1. Lambert Strether

        Indeed. And the misdirection doesn’t come from Stoller’s post (or anything Greenwald wrote*).

        To hoist half this thread by its own petard, the misdirection comes from those who are objectively pro-Obama.

        NOTE Now, I don’t really mean that “objectively pro-Obama” part. But according to anybody who says that to support one of Ron Paul’s policies — heck, even to examine or cite to it — is to support Ron Paul, that’s exactly what I mean (and should mean).

        1. Aquifer

          But see, that is the point! “RON PAUL’S policies”

          What is important here, the policy itself? Or that it is Ron Paul’s policy? If it is the policy that matters, then discuss it – of course, in the interests of full disclosure, mention those, ALL those, who hold that policy. If it is that it is Ron Paul’s policy, then please explain why it is important for us to discuss RP’s policies.

          What I think you do not understand is the ENORMOUS frustration of having perfectly good candidates from the left ignored or simply dissed by silence by those who are ostensibly champions of the left. This is ESPECIALLY galling when the critiques these lefty candidates are making are cited approvingly apparently only when they come from the mouths of the right!

          Again, it is ironic that the poster ostensibly writes to wake up “clueless” liberals about the effects their techniques have had but does so in a way that, if one is to give him the benefit of the doubt, indicates he himself (and perhaps others) is “clueless” about the effect his own technique has.

          However, if given lemons, I do try to make lemonade, so, true to my nom de plume, I will again add some H2O to the glass:


  24. rps

    Atkins,”Liberalism is and has always been about intervention.”
    So President Nixon’s signing NEPA (national environmental policy act) on New Year’s Day 1970 and two months later Earth Day makes him a decisive liberal? Or Republican Teddy Roosevelt’s Anti-Trust Act, The Meat Inspection Act, and the Pure Food and Drug Act are the actions of a liberal? How about Pres. Grant setting aside Yellowstone National Park Act in 1872? There are many examples from both sides of recognition to the destructive actions of humanity and changing humankind’s direction.

    “When the government steps in to stop a corporation from dumping noxious chemicals into a stream, that is intervention at the point of a gun”

    Government steps in with the Rule of Law and not necessarily pointing a gun at Corpses. In fact, it’s government who chooses the winners and losers of Corpses, and not the other way around. Contracts, tax exemptions, subsidies, bailouts, etc….are government choices such as saving Goldman Sachs and burying Bear Stearns were “choices.”

    What needs reform is the “party” system since neither at this point in time represent the people. Rather than arguing over the candidates positions, we must address the fact that none of them are worthy of our vote nor representative of the general public. Everyone of them are elitist candidates.

    This November is the “no confidence” write in vote.

    1. Lambert Strether

      “So President Nixon’s signing NEPA (national environmental policy act) on New Year’s Day 1970 and two months later Earth Day makes him a decisive liberal?”

      By comparison to Obama, yes.

      * * *

      Mike Check for President!

  25. LIt3Bolt

    I think you would have a more coherent argument if you show that the financial elite have simply co-opted social movements to seize more power for themselves throughout history. This essentially was what caused the Reformation; once German princes realized they could benefit financially from Martin Luther’s ideas, they promoted and encouraged them. The Civil War was fought over the definition of financial assets.

    The main ideological crash liberals and libertarians have is that liberals believe Strong Government is necessary to enforce Social Justice, while libertarians believe Strong Government destroys Personal Freedom. Thus you are correct that liberals should be more dismayed by the Central Government they believe is necessary for social equality is in fact at best indifferent to that goal, and in some cases (drug war, corrupted government by financial elite) detrimental to it. However, the liberal riposte to that charge is libertarianism is at best indifferent to social justice, and libertarians in America do have a history of promoting reactionary social values (such as the Pauls).

    Further, the charge of “consumer liberalism” against your critics and dismissing them as uninterested in “sausage making” is amusing considering that by your own downplaying of Ron Paul’s faith, history of bigotry, and political associations, I can charge you of being a “consumer libertarian,” one who cherry picks the very best about his preferred ideology while downplaying any side effects or hypocrisies.

    Finally, your crowing about Ron Paul’s foreign policy and economic ideas making liberals uncomfortable is interesting. What’s even more interesting is that his long history of views on women and African-Americans apparently don’t make you or Glenn Greenwald uncomfortable at all. It leads me further to the conclusion that libertarianism in America is merely a mask for certain social ideas and has nothing to do with economics or civil liberties.

    1. Lambert Strether

      Once again, the central point is this: RP is the only (perceived) anti-war candidate in the race. For people who feel that’s their primary issue, they literally have “no place else to go” than RP.

      Isn’t it remarkable that Obama and the Ds have thrown all those voters under the bus? Or is it not remarkable?

      That’s the question that Stoller is raising, and it doesn’t make him a libertarian to raise it.

      * * *

      One thing I’ve been noticing about the posts Obama apologists make on this question is how long and how convoluted they are. The squirming is almost audible.

        1. tom allen

          Apparently, all-out war, everywhere, with everyone, is the only option. Letting other people in other countries determine how they want to run their lives is “off the table.”

          1. Frank Speaking

            welcome to the real world—also known as the human condition—the longest running tragic comedy ever staged

        2. Walter Wit Man

          How is ending wars isolation? Paul denies being isolationist and says he would have the U.S. trade with countries. Isn’t trading with a country like Cuba or Iran create less isolation?

      1. Aquifer

        “RP is the only (perceived) anti-war candidate in the race.”

        Considering that he is NOT the only anti-war candidate in the race, don’t you think it is time that all folks of good will worked to dispel that “perception”?

        “One thing I’ve been noticing about the posts Obama apologists make on this question is how long and how convoluted they are. The squirming is almost audible.

        Though there clearly may well be Obama apologists here, i hope you are not confusing all who critique Stoller’s approach as “Obama apologists” ….

      2. Proximity1

        “Once again, the central point is this: RP is the only (perceived) anti-war candidate in the race. For people who feel that’s their primary issue, they literally have “no place else to go” than RP.

        Ron Paul isn’t “anti-war. He’s for war. In his view, war should be waged against King George the Third, by daring rebel colonists armed with mussel-loading flint-locks and swords. We should publish pamphlets, hang lanterns in the Old North Church–‘one if by land, two if by sea. Unless the enemy is a European monarch, imposing on us all manner of intolerable oppressions of our God-given (stress God-given), and his Highnesses troops wear Red Coats and have actually invaded our shores, quartered troops here, & etc, then we have, obviously, no cause for war.

        By the way, I point out that, as written and adopted, the Constitution provided for no standing army and the President of the United States was commander-in-chief when called into actual Service — viz

        The President shall be Commander in Chief of the Army and Navy of the United States, and of the Militia of the several States, when called into the actual Service of the United States; (Article II, section 2.)


        Also, Landed gentry should wear powdered wigs and knee britches, with buckles on the men’s leather shoes. Horses should be well-cared-for. Boys should go to school, study, learn arithmetic, Latin and Greek; girls should help their mother in the household, cooking, cleaning, and taking care of the domestic arts. All should pray and read the King James Bible.

      3. cwaltz

        They have no place to go if you’ve taken third party candidates off the table. Otherwise, contrary to popular belief, there is far more than one anti war candidate.

        Can you remind me again who it is protecting the status quo parties?

        I’ll give you a hint. It ain’t people who put forward that Stoller is wrong for his promotion of Paul policies.

          1. cwaltz

            Strawman Lambert!

            My candidate? Uh, I don’t have one yet. I’m still deciding. That’s why I listed TWO anti war, anti drug candidates that aren’t a) a Democrat b) a Republican named Ron Paul

            The status quo candidates are Barack Obama from the Democratic party and any of the candidates from the Republican party. They are the establishment parties.

            You’re better than this. If you’re going to provide an argument have it make sense.

        1. Walter Wit Man

          IMHO, the people criticizing Ron Paul and criticizing Stoller or Greenwald for talking about Ron Paul, are the same people who don’t want to mention third parties.

          It’s Daily Kos that does not allow talk about third parties and can’t honestly talk about Ron Paul and the cognitive dissonance of the Democratic party.

          People like Lambert promote talk about third parties.

          The Ron Paul talk on the left HURTS the two party system, especially the Democrat party, because it shows the Democrats to be completely worthless frauds. People willing to honestly talk about Ron Paul are likely MORE willing to talk about third parties than those people that want to shut down talk about Ron Paul from the left.

          1. Aquifer

            Yoo, hoo, Walter,

            Though you may consider me the exception that proves the rule, as one of those critiquing RP and those who persistently insist on shoving him our faces, I have CONSISTENTLY, here and elsewhere, been pushing 3rd parties for over a decade now …. but obviously am as invisible to some such as yourself as those 3rd parties are.

            Lordy, what kind of song and dance does one have to do to get on stage …

      4. Glenn Condell

        ‘One thing I’ve been noticing about the posts Obama apologists make on this question is how long and how convoluted they are. The squirming is almost audible.’

        When I’ve tuned out the noise, the signal I hear is ‘flap flap flap’.

      5. Nathanael

        Voting third party here for the top of the ticket. Haven’t decided which one though — I suppose it depends which ones make the ballot.

        For the Senate, it depends whether my Senators vote to destroy the Internet. If they do, I’m voting against them.

        Below that level, my local Democrats actually act sane. The Republicans still don’t. So….

  26. i

    Too much intervention = North Korea

    Too little intervention = Somalia

    Balance is the key to all things. Balance is never the same from moment to moment. Balance must be constantly watched, and maintained. Political balance always results from disagreement. There will never be a unified consensus.

    1. Frank Speaking

      Somalia, North Korea.

      Both populations starving and living in abject poverty and terror.

      One as result of a state and the other the result of the absence of a state.

      Why does one deserve intervention and one not?

  27. LRT

    Liberals do have a fundamental problem with Lincoln. The war was about stopping a group of people seceding. The argument was that if people are not compelled to accept the will of the majority, it will be the end of democracy (government of the people, by the people….) And how exactly it did that for the ones who wanted to secede? And why exactly they should not have? Was it only slavery?

    Yes, its a tough one either way. Hard cases make bad law. Suppose they had wanted, like the south of Sudan, to secede to avoid sharia? That is how they felt about it. Wrongly of course, but where do you draw the line? Is it that people should not be allowed to secede if we don’t agree with their reasons?

    1. bigsurtree

      99% of the drafted, as well as undrafted, soldiers on both sides didn’t have a clue about what they were fighting for, nor the picnickers at Gettysberg. Same said of WWI et al.
      They all basically died for the myth of America, an essential requirement for the admission into the modern nation state. And what does that mean?: A special right of passage to participate (and later dominate) the new world Open Door Policy for the militarily advanced Atlantic Empires. Without organized “killing”, with its moral justifications, it’s tough to be the top dogs in the science of political zoology.

    2. Blissex

      «The war was about stopping a group of people seceding. The argument was that if people are not compelled to accept the will of the majority, it will be the end of democracy (government of the people, by the people….) And how exactly it did that for the ones who wanted to secede?»

      That’s the usual glorification on racism, shameful and direct, as well an attack on democracy and the rule of the majority.

      The overwhelming majority of the people of the Confederacy were against secession and against slavery, but they could not vote because they were dark skinned and held prisoners by a small violent minority of vile exploiters, who willingly sacrificed their lives in great numbers to fight for continuing the vileness.

  28. nowhereman

    Let me get this straight, “liberals” are upset because someone points out the hypocricy exposed by Ron Paul’s election platform.
    So much so that they are now scrambling to come to a definition of “liberal” that soothes their cognitive dissonance.
    Personally I agree with Greenwald, we should be seriously be looking at the cause of the discomfort. Things cannot improve until we do so.
    Perhaps, since the cat is out of the bag so to speak, the democrats should take a serious look at running a alternative candidate to Obama.
    What am I saying? “Democracy” doesn’t work that way.
    My bad.

    1. Proximity1

      “Perhaps, since the cat is out of the bag so to speak, the democrats should take a serious look at running a alternative candidate to Obama.
      What am I saying? “Democracy” doesn’t work that way.
      My bad.”

      Since we don’t have and never have had “Democracy”, your back-handed disparagement of its impled failing gets us no where.

      Yes, you’re right: Democrats should run someone other than Obama or an Obama-look-alike, (read, Hillary Clinton, who’d have given us the very same flawed work that Obama has produced). But since the Democratic party is captive of the same moneyed interest that control “the other” perty, there is little prospect of that alternative from within the existing Democrat national party structure. These facts, however, lend nothing to Paul or his candidacy in points or in value.

  29. joecostello

    good luck with this Matt, but I suggest not spending too much time trying to convert the “liberals”, its a rather small, effete, powerless lot.

    you can say the difference between the New Deal and Morning America is the New Deal was at least done with good intentions, while Morning in America was always nothing more than marketing a rather nasty bit of business.

    The New Deal was always reactionary, it was reacting to the collapse of recently created national/global economic system, and its original sin was to throw-out any efforts at anti-trust and embrace concentrated economic power, supposedly to be balanced through concentrated regulatory power, which worked well enough until the economic power grasped complete control of the political structure. Though an old liberal will take offense to the term reactionary, they will completely defend the centralization/regulatory paradigm, to their complete oblivion it seems.

    The second problem of the New Deal, its institutionalizing came at the same time as WWII, and liberals supported the creation of the National Security State and a perpetual war time budget after the war. Most liberals won’t argue this fact, and in fact big-labor became one of the National Security State’s biggest supporters as the Military Industrial Complex, was at one point greatly unionized, don’t know about today, military manufacturing was spread far and wide across congressional districts, and labor got government funding to “organize” affiliates in all sorts of important areas, like Central and South America. I think the deal was they would no longer organize in these United States.

    So, this is simply the state of affairs with what was once defined as American liberalism, I’m not sure how those self-describe as liberals today define themselves, but questioning this state of affairs would cause great cognitive dissonance with many, or as “many” as there are.

  30. j.grmwd

    The author’s whole thesis seems to rest on the idea that only with a state-created fiat currency can a nation finance warfare. True enough. But fiat currency is only a tool, a tool which essentially every country in the world today uses, for the most part peacefully. And a tool that most people consider indispensable to the running of a modern economy. If the U.S. has a particular predilection for misusing that tool, well as they say a good craftsman doesn’t blame his tools.

    1. Nathanael

      +2. I would add that the Greenbackers supported a true fiat currency, and it would probably have had fewer problems than the fiat currency lashed to the banking cartel which we actually got, as a result of a deal with the Money Trust.

      (Really, look up the history leading up to the Federal Reserve Act. It’s a deal: the Greenbackers got government control of the money supply, but the Money Trust — banksters — got to keep the seignorage. We should *never* have let them keep the seignorage.)

  31. Mike Folsom

    I applaud this post and Matt’s earlier post.

    It is way past time for Liberals/Progressive to do a bit of introspection. The responses to Matt’s earlier post and those of Greenwald are to be expected. And, as for posts on this subject at places like the Daily Kos readers should remember that challenges to Democratic Establishment Orthodoxy are simply not permitted at Kos. Their allegiance to the Democratic Establishment is so strong that I and others have been banned from posting there for simply suggesting that Liberals and Progressives should consider voting for a 3rd Party.

    A note to Matt – please remember the lowder “they” scream the more on target your arguments are! You are dragging out sacred cows for all to see and while they will ultimately make great hamburgers you are causing the Establishment much pain and they will fight you to the end. So please, please keep on keeping on and please make them scream and scream again. We are all the better for it.

  32. Proximity1

    Paul, his views, his supporters, his positions: ARE A DISTRACTION for real liberals and progressives.

    If I may opine: concerning Ron Paul, there is no reason, none, to hail him or his stated positions in so far as some of them may appear to be in “sync” with certain views held by people calling themselves “liberal”, “Democrats”, “progressives”, etc.

    If any of these people, so self-described, want to champion one thing or oppose another, they can do so without paying tribute, homage or attention to Ron Raul’s views concerning the matters at issue.

    Ron Paul “rolls”, first and foremost, for Ron Paul himself–just as the other candidates do– and secondly for the moneyed interests which back him– and no one and nothing else before these. His real or apparent interest in, concern for, this, that or another issue that certain “liberals” or “progressives” find appealing is simply irrelevant. Finding Ron Paul in any way appealing because his expresses views which may be made to seem compatible with certain liberal or progressive ideals makes no more sense than to draw water from a poisoned well simply because it’s handier than a more distant well–where the water isn’t poisoned.

    Ron Paul is not and, really, can never be, a substitute, a stand-in or even a messenger for liberal, progressive, aims and ambitions. To seek to capitalize on his public statements, to appeal to them because ‘no one in “our camp” is even saying such things” is absurd. This widespread confusion is one of the most revealing in helping us understand how and why liberals, progressives, are constantly running off the rails in misbegotten hopes of getting somewhere by an easier short-cut route.

    There is no easy route, no short-cut path. Placing hopes in flagrant reactionaries like Paul to help us carry a message is a gross, wild, misunderstanding of who Paul is and in what his ambitions consist.

    Thus, urging, in so many words, that, “I’m not supporting Paul, I’m just saying that some of his views are in line with some of ours” is unhelpful, a distraction from an impediment to making real progress. All the same, Paul’s supporters have good reason, selfish reason, to love to see this kind of confused, seeming “support” for their candidate.

    “How long?!, How long?!!, Oh Lord?!!”

    1. Walter Wit Man

      You’ve got it backwards.

      Those that are arguing that Ron Paul is a distraction are the distraction. There is a reason the Democrats don’t want to talk about war policies and the war on drugs. There is a reason Democrats don’t want Ron Paul mentioned.

      It really is that simple.

      When I see a liberal incensed at Ron Paul and when they make an argument like you make, pleading with us to ignore Ron Paul, I’m pretty sure of one thing–they plan on voting for Democrats and specifically voting for Barack Obama.

      So I submit it’s you that is uncomfortable because Ron Paul brings to your attention that you are supporting a bloodthirsty right-wing fascist.

      Admit it. You’re going to vote for Obama. That’s why you are so uncomfortable with Ron Paul.

      1. Aquifer

        Baloney, i say!

        For some, including myself, Ron Paul is indeed a distraction – from a better candidate! And i have repeatedly referred folks to the one i think is MUCHO better –

        I am a 4 time Nader voter, I have been hoping since ’96 folks would figure out what schmucks Dems are, and choose a lefty Indy. Looks like they have gotten to the first part, but are still screwing up the second … How can folks ostensibly on the left critique the Dems for not being left enough but then go ga-ga over a libertarian, for Pete’s sake, critiquing Dems as well. As i have said – i think it’s because they aren’t really through with Dems. If they were they would be promoting alternatives from the left, not highlighting those from the right, unless of course ….

        Nah, couldn’t be ….

        However, i would beware of “progs” bearing Pauls …

          1. Aquifer

            “srsly”- Apparently you haven’t read some of the stuff that’s out there …

            Stoller himself may not be “ga-ga”, but he is feeding those who are only to happy to quote him …

            One is always free to speak one’s mind; sometimes one can be blindsided by how’s one work is used, but sometimes it is fairly obvious ….

        1. Walter Wit Man

          Talk about Ron Paul is an improvement on the status quo because it forces the Democratic party to evaluate itself from the left. That’s all Stoller seems to be saying.

          If you truly do not consider yourself to be a Democrat and have voted for Nader the last 4 (!!) elections, then I don’t see why you have such a problem with this.

          I too do not think Ron Paul is liberal enough and will vote for a more liberal candidate (like Socialist or Green).

          But I don’t see how you can not use him to challenge the conservative make up of the Democratic party. Even those that insist on remaining Democrats and want to change it from the inside should welcome an assessment of the party policies from the left, I would think, if they were sincere.

          That’s why I don’t find people like Digby sincere anymore. They say Paul isn’t left enough for them and they don’t want to talk about war or the war on drugs because Paul brought it up. I say bullshit, they don’t want to talk about it because it indicts the Democratic party from the left!

          1. Aquifer

            “But I don’t see how you can not use him to challenge the conservative make up of the Democratic party.”

            Easy, because not only do you not need HIM to do it, using him gives him a cache among progs he doesn’t deserve!

            “Even those that insist on remaining Democrats and want to change it from the inside should welcome an assessment of the party policies from the left, I would think, if they were sincere.”

            Absolutely, and i, as well, welcome them FROM THE LEFT; we have lots from the left, which is why we don’t need any from Ron Paul, unless RP is now a lefty – shucks, why didn’t someone tell me …

            Paul isn’t “left enough” for any lefty, IMO, and using RP as a reason to talk about that stuff gives your fake Dems or whatever a perfect reason to refuse – if you want to attack Dems from the LEFT, why use RP to do it – makes NO sense to me …

            I challenge those who claim they want to challenge the Dems from the left to champion those who are actively doing so. If they won’t, I think we need to know why ..

          2. Walter Wit Man


            What are you talking about? I do challenge the Democrats from the left. All the time. I left the Democrat party in 2008 and have voted for other parties since then and plan to in the future. In fact, I may vote for the candidate you propose.

            But this thread is about the Democrats and how Ron Paul, one of the Republicans, is challenging liberals because many of his positions are TO THE LEFT of the current Democrat president and his party.

            Unfortunately, Ron Paul represents the best and only hope for the Left in 2012. I will probably be voting for a lefty third party and *hoping* many people join, but frankly, I will have to seriously consider Ron Paul if he gets the nomination because he would deliver a substantially more liberal result than Obama would. I have almost given up on the two parties and would only vote for Paul after I’ve gamed the potential outcomes a bit more–but right now it’s looking like a much more liberal result so I would be tempted to break my no Democrat or Republican vow to vote for Paul.

            Ending our wars would be huge. Tens of thousands of lives would immediately be saved.

        2. Glenn Condell

          ‘How can folks ostensibly on the left critique the Dems for not being left enough but then go ga-ga over a libertarian, for Pete’s sake’

          Because he’s all there is. He is unfortunately the best America can do right now, in terms of a halfway viable and visible Presdential candidate. When as a Pepsi man you’re dying of thirst in the desert you don’t turn your nose up at a Coke.

          Left, right, jesus H. As I said this morning at a progressive site whose owner and most of the guests will ‘hold their nose’ and vote for Obama: ‘A vote for him keeps the wheels pointed at the wall, and this goes for domestic policy as well as foreign. All candidates bar Paul represent simply changes of gear or perhaps a belated turn this way or that. Paul is the brake… an old and slightly dated brake perhaps, but the only brake in the race. That is who I’d be holding my nose for.’

          1. Aquifer

            No, he is NOT “the best we can do”! That is precisely what TPTB want us to think – they will be happy with either member of the duopoly, even a “maverick” like Paul – hey, free markets, no regs, what’s not to like! What they wish to avoid like the plague is a 3d party that hasn’t been bought ..

            This is getting more bizarre all the time – I fully expected to see Obams pushed as a “lesser evil” on a left leaning site, but PAUL in that role!? Good Grief! (Man, i’m using that phrase a lot lately ….)

            One thing I learned a long time ago, the hard way, is that it is not enough to “get the bums out”, you have to pay close attention as to whom you wish to replace them with …

      2. ScottS

        I’m registered Democrat. I voted for Obama in the last primary. I won’t be voting for him again.

        I’ve always had independent leanings, though, so make of that what you will. I would self-identify with Teddy Rosevelt’s Bull Moose Progressive party. I support trust-busting and entrepreneurism. I believe in strict regulation for companies, and aggresive defence of consumers and the environment. I believe in personal liberty and corporate responsibility.

        I’ve tried to understand what Stoller is trying to accomplish, but can’t. So the big tent party (Democrats) stand for multiple things? Many (most, maybe all) of the Democratic elites say they’re for peace and equality, then vote for war and corruption? This seems to be more a problem with politics than with Democrats. I can’t imagine any other party doing any better.

        Difference is made in the streets, not in the halls of Congress. Politics is just a pissing contest for sociopaths.

      3. Aletheia84

        Ron Paul is even further to the right than Obama, and his “noninterventionist” policies would cause the death of millions. He’s waged a decades long war against UNICEF and every UN program tasked with fighting hunger, poverty and disease.

        He’s too much the demagogue to understand that humanitarian intervention is possible. His manichean outlook is far too rigid to allow for case by case basis for helping the world’s oppressed with medicine, food, shelter, clothing, etc. etc.

        If a government is involved, he’s against it — unless you’re talking about state governments. If the private sector is involved, he’s cool with it. For him, the source of all evil is the federal government (or the UN), and the source for all that is good and holy in the world is capitalism.

        He’s a diehard, far right-wing, Ayn Rand lovin’ neoconfederate demagogue.

        No sane lefty should want anything to do with him.

        1. Walter Wit Man

          Further evidence you are not the third party lefty you claim to be.

          How many third party lefties want an interventionist military empire and are worried about all the “death” that will occur if we bring our troops home? Sounds like a war-loving “progressive” Democrat position to me (R2P).

          Ending our wars will save lives, not imperil them because we can’t protect the world. What propaganda. NO wonder some of you don’t like Ron Paul–you actually Obama supporting warmongers pretending to protect the left flank from Ron Paul.

          1. Aletheia84

            I missed this one the other day.

            I’m against intervention via war and violence. I’m for intervention via food, medicine, shelter, clothing, etc. Non-violence.

            We are all smart enough to choose when to “intervene” based upon humanitarian criteria. Human rights, social and economic justice being the prime directive for me.

            That’s the real left. Not some absolutist, abstract ideology that says no to all of it, if a government or the UN is involved.

            We need to say:

            Yes to food, clothing, medicine, shelter, clean water, help with agro, etc.

            No to war, violence, etc.

            That’s the real left. Not your reactionary friend, Ron Paul.

    2. Walter Wit Man

      So when Ron Paul says a war of aggression is wrong, he’s really doing so for ulterior motives?!

      What utter hogwash. So according to this new rule of liberal politics, not only does Paul not get credit for going out on a limb by taking a liberal position, he gets points deducted because it’s presumed that he’s doing so for the wrong reasons (and the corollary is that when a Democrat does something bad, like extend the Bush tax cuts, the opposite assumption is made–that Obama really wanted to do the right thing [cut taxes], but the meany Republicans made him do the wrong policy).

      This type of reaction is Exhibit A for what is wrong with liberal thought re Ron Paul. They apply an impossibly cynical standard to the one person that is even daring to propose liberal policy (they did the same thing with Kucinich, btw), and then have a million excuses why Obama and the Democrats have to enact right-wing policy.

      1. Walter Wit Man

        Were you also appalled when Democrats made anti war arguments from 2003 to 2008 that they obviously weren’t sincere about?

        They also chose to make arguments based on American self interest rather than moral arguments. Many Democrats made the argument that we were wasting money in Iraq rather than making the argument that it was immoral.

        Were you also cynical about the motivations of the anti war Democrats? Especially now that these same “anti war” Democrats are now supporting war? Did you apply the same cynicism to the Democrats as you are applying to Ron Paul? If not, why not?

      2. Up the Ante

        “This type of reaction is Exhibit A for what is wrong with liberal thought re Ron Paul. They apply an impossibly cynical standard to the one person that is even daring to propose liberal policy ..”

        It may be their sense of humor.

      3. Aletheia84

        His supposed antiwar stance isn’t a liberal position. It’s right-wing isolationism, which includes his desire to ban humanitarian aid.

        The American and British left, prior to WWII, preached against getting involved in the fight against Hitler and Fascism. Ron Paul is from that same tradition.

        Why should anyone on the left “credit him” with traditional paleoconservative positions? Or, as Rockwell and Rothbard put it, when they tried to bring white nationalists under their tent, “paleolibertarians.”

        It’s also interesting how selective some people are when they search for “ulterior motives”. Apparently, Ron Paul is the only politician in the history of the world above all of that. Apparently, Democrats, liberals, progressives and leftists are automatically suspect, when it comes to Ron Paul, but Ron Paul himself can never be doubted.

        A bizarre world, that.

        1. Aletheia84

          Correction. The American and British Right preached against entering the war against fascism and Hitler.

          A major error in my last comment. I wish we could edit after the fact.

  33. ep3

    awesome post Mr. Stoller. You are a truly intelligent person.

    I really liked this comment: “Having such an attitude requires ignoring the historical links between the oil industry, war-making, and the New Deal.”
    When people talk about “rebuilding infrastructure”, I began thinking about the benefits to the empire. And then I watched a history channel show about the autobahn. Hitler had built these huge interstate highways to make military transport easier. And then it hit me. As soon as the war was over, the US began doing the same. They were only borrowing the same ideas from Germany about having a good infrastructure that was capable of moving the military efficiently across the country. It wasn’t some love of the automobile. It was for the empire.
    Then I thought about the TVA. Why was it necessary to give a bunch of backwards hicks (i am from there) in Tennessee electricity? Well, because in Oak Ridge Tennessee they needed the necessary resources to build and operate their plutonium factories there. Not to give those people lights and plumbing.

  34. Proximity1


    “a distraction from and an impediment to making real progress. All the same, Paul’s supporters have good reason, selfish reason, to love to see this kind of confused, seeming “support” for their candidate.

    “Microsoft Word”: never a post without a flawed “helpful” editing intrusion.!!!!

  35. Ransome

    Liberals (progressives) are nation builders, capitalists are nation destroyers. Neither do it intentionally, it is the result of a mindset of social-interest vs. self-interest, common interests are shared. Once the capitalists get big, they can’t stop, there is no endgame. Enough is never enough. Progressives only intervene when necessary since quality of life is their goal. Throughout history up to today, the majority did not envy wealth. They wanted opportunity, security and justice to live a middle class life, the American Dream.

    1. tom allen

      Liberals vs. capitalists is a false dichotomy. I choose to be both, at least in my dreams. :-P

      Ideally, one would take a small amount of capital and an original idea, try to make the idea work and make some money off it, and if it worked out, liberally give most of the money away (for example, to the people whose ideas didn’t work out.)

      Of course, most capitalists are greedy bastards, so we need a government to step in and tax us heavily by force to take the money from us and redistribute it. But that only works if the governors can’t themselves be corrupted by bribes and regulatory capture, which is of course inevitable. And so, from time to time (such as now) we need to throw all the bums out.

      So: vote Socialist in 2012. :-)

    2. Frank Speaking

      “Neither do it intentionally,…” “Progressives only intervene…”

      intervene is an intentional action, both things can’t be true.

      I agree with what you say about capitalist destroying capitalism—it is what Schumpeter meant by creative destruction (not what today’s consultants and some authors have purported it to mean, see Schumpeter’s “Capitalism, Socialism, and Democracy”).

      I’ve not seen progressives behave any different, they just have a different subset of economic winners.

      Deinstitutionalization of state care of developmentally disabled and the mentally ill (Reagan) are cases in point. The right never intended to supply the resources required for adequate care and the left turned it into a cozy haven for the “professionals”—clinical and managerial— to hide out in and suck up an outsized chunk of resources while consumers go lacking.

      In California the state’s head of the Department of Developmental Services makes considerably less than those running any of the 21 state operated Regional Centers.

      Instead of one CEO operating a system of care for California’s consumers of services from DDS there are now 22 each with replete with its echelon of departement heads, legal departments and managerial support staff.

      If you really want to lose your breath check out the 2012 organizational chart for California’s Departement of Health Care Services.

      I get it that as of the end of 2010 California had the eighth largest economy in the world but that is even more reason for some enterprise other than government being its largest—and best— employer.

  36. Hugh

    “criticizing American empire … enrages liberals by forcing them to acknowledge that their political economy no longer produces liberal ends”

    It is always about the kleptocracy. Establishment liberals abandoned liberal principles a long time ago for the profits that could be had from looting, just as their conservative counterparts abandoned theirs for the same reason. American empire is a project of these Establishment elites precisely because empire protects, facilitates, and extends their looting. There is nothing liberal, conservative, or for that matter American about it.

    We can go back and discuss how both liberalism and capitalism come from the same Enlightenment concept of the rational actor. But this concept of rationality was seen as an ideal, not the reality. It is why the Framers wrote so many checks and balances into the Constitution because they knew that people often do not behave rationally. Of course, their concept of rationality was not ours. Theirs was the rationality of an eighteenth-century landed gentry and a few magnates. Irrationality was vested primarily in everyone else.

    Much the same can be said about capitalism. Free markets filled with rational actors is the ideal, not the reality. For the reality, you need, just as on the political side, lots of checks and balances, that is regulation, and you have to define for whom capitalism and its rationalism are meant to work: the owners of capital or the rest of us.

    But that is another discussion because as I said what we currently have is kleptocracy. And in kleptocracy labels like liberal and conservative are just flags of convenience meant to cover up what is really going on.

    1. Aquifer

      “you have to define for whom capitalism and its rationalism are meant to work: the owners of capital or the rest of us.”

      Seems to me you have to start with a definition of “capital”

      And then ask what does it mean to refer to something as “capital” ….

  37. Publius

    By 2011 all “reasons” for how we arrived here need to be looked at closely. Very possibly we will find that semantics and rhetoric were skillfully used by finanical elites to cloak objectives. US military intervention in World War I and World War II was not innocent. Nations do not wage war from innocence.

    “If the natural tendencies of mankind are so bad that it is not safe to permit people to be free, how is it that the tendencies of these organizers are always good? Do not the legislators and their appointed agents also belong to the human race? Or do they believe that they themselves are made of a finer clay than the rest of mankind?”
    ― Frédéric Bastiat, The Law

    1. F. Beard

      Do not the legislators and their appointed agents also belong to the human race? Or do they believe that they themselves are made of a finer clay than the rest of mankind?” Frédéric Bastiat, The Law via Publius

      Excellent point!

      I independently reached the same conclusion years ago.

      So what is the solution? Ultimatily, (at the Second Coming of Christ) a superior group will reign but until then we should all be especially humble wrt power and trust liberty as much as possible.

      Even Christ was humble. Imagine that, God Himself is humble.

      1. Frank Speaking

        “So what is the solution? Ultimatily, (at the Second Coming of Christ)…”

        Does this mean F. that you and your cohorts have finally bred the perfectly red haired calfed (not a single hair of any other color anywhere on its body) have loaded it on the boat and have departed for Jerusalem?

        How are you and your buds planning to breach the Western Wall?

        Can’t let those pagan Mayans trump christendom…hey what?

        1. F. Beard

          Actually, I think it is God who is doing the breeding and/or Supernatuaral selection.

          You should seek to know what His selection criteria are, no?

          1. Frank Speaking

            ah yes those mere humans in Alabama are merely agents of god doing his handiwork as he directs them in personal communication every morning

  38. ceti

    The guns and butter bargain was struck a long time ago.

    Heck Julius Caesar’s wars were an attempt to buy off plebeian discontent stemming from displacement by slaves in the labor market, by expanding Roman colonies and bringing home ever more war booty. Roman Senators who were from the patrician class objected to this bargain as it necessarily entailed ever more power being invested in the military class.

    It was on the heels of plebeian support that heralded the Empire. That was Rome’s answer to social unrest, is it America’s? Heck, Britain likewise used its colonies as a dumping ground for its impoverished population — a pressure release valve for the industrial revolution.

    Unfortunately, US liberalism (concessions to the working class) is intertwined with the needs of US empire. However, as other countries demonstrate, Keynesianism did not have to be of a military nature (although Sweden is a major arms maker, and Norway an active participant in NATO, belying their pacific reputation).

    1. Aquifer

      “Britain likewise used its colonies as a dumping ground for its impoverished population ”

      Interesting that you raised that – Stephen Hawking, so I have heard, just sent a message to a group celebrating his 70 birthday, urging that we get on with the business of inhabiting other planets – for just that reason; ours is falling apart and cannot sustain our species much longer …

  39. ceti

    Also, the Democrats struck this bargain again with the health reform act. Supporters of real health care reform that would have necessitated eliminating the insurance industry altogether and creating a national or at least state led system on the single payer model, have slammed the Obama plan as not just presenting a massive give away to the insurance industry, but preventing any alternative from ever emerging.

    However, in this era of economic collapse this grand bargain no longer works, partly because private interests have become so large and rapacious and partly because of the collapse of the real economy that has been hollowed out by globalization, free trade, and the depredations of financial capital.

    Clinton already destroyed welfare in the 1990s, and now Obama is signaling an assault on medicare and medicaid, if not social security as well. Social Democrats are also in the same trouble throughout Europe for having to straddle the line between their political commitments and neoliberal orthodoxy that reigns supreme, despite everything that has happened in the last few years.

  40. indio007

    I’m kind of confused by Atkin’s view that the collective has superior morality to the individuals that compose that collective. How does that work exactly? Does it involve a Vulcan mind meld?

    Oh ya for the record , the interstate highway system was built for the aid of war not peace.

    Later Bircherz! :D

    1. Frank Speaking

      “…the interstate highway system was built for the aid of war not peace.”

      You are categorically and absolutely wrong. Eisenhower is not responsible for the building of the interstate highway system nor was it constructed for military purpose.

      …from interview with Earl Swift author of “The Big Roads: The Untold Story of the Engineers, Visionaries, and Trailblazers Who Created the American Superhighways” Pub. 6/9/11

      “Q: The book’s subtitle mentions the “engineers, visionaries, and trailblazers” who created America’s superhighways, but nothing about presidents. Weren’t the interstates Dwight Eisenhower’s doing?

      “A: Actually, Ike had very little to do with them — which may come as a surprise, seeing as how they’re named for the man and associated with his time in office, alongside coonskin caps and polio shots. In truth, FDR had more of a hand in the interstates. And their origins date back decades before him: they’re the product of an evolution that began before America’s entry into World War I.

      “The real fathers of our modern highway system will be unknown names to most readers. There’s Carl Fisher, who inspired the nation’s first primitive network of motor roads; Thomas MacDonald and a supporting cast in the federal Bureau of Public Roads, who turned that network into the numbered U.S. highway system in the mid-twenties and drew up plans for the interstates in the late thirties; and Frank Turner, who played the starring role in turning that prewar vision into what we have today.

      “Alongside these builders are a host of men and women who helped shape what we got, some of them by resisting the system’s advance — people like Lewis Mumford, a writer who initially championed high-speed roads and later became their harshest critic.

      Q: Did you know of these players before you started work on the book?

      A: No, I didn’t. I assumed I knew the basics, that Eisenhower was a major figure in the story. The more I researched, the more I came to see that it wasn’t so.

      “The myth was helped along by Ike himself. In his memoirs he writes about a coast-to-coast trip he took with an army truck convoy in 1919, and how it opened his eyes to the primitive state of American roads; it took the convoy 62 days to drive from D.C. to San Francisco. A quarter-century later, his armies advanced on Berlin using Germany’s autobahns, and he realized that here was the answer — and so it was, he wrote, that building a superhighway network became one of his priorities as president.

      “Ike certainly had both of those experiences, and they may well have fueled his desire for big roads. But by the time he got into politics, the interstates were a done deal. How they are, and where they are, had largely been decided, and they differed in fundamental ways with what he had in mind.”

      1. Up the Ante

        And Frank, don’t forget, you were born for the military, so don’t abuse the gift of speaking they extended to you.


    2. Walter Wit Man

      I hate to resort to the ad hominem but Atkins is confusing because he’s not interested in the truth and instead is simply a propagadist for the Democrat party. He’s a party official and his main focus, by his own admission, is how to use better PR to try to promote the Democrat party. Seriously, that’s what he says he wants to do–to sell the party better, not focus on liberal policy.

      So Stoller is falling into a trap by “debating” these issues with Digby, Atkins, and Daily Kos. These are propaganda outfits whose job is to go ape shit over Ron Paul. Diby and Kos aren’t having an intellectual discussion about the future of the Democratic party–they are engaging in pure politics. It’s been very clear for years that party propagandists, like Kos and Digby, have been scared of Ron Paul and have tried to ratfuck him in response. There has been a concerted liberal effort to preempt this threat for years, and people like Greenwald have pointed out that this makes no sense.

      In fact, liberals are better off organizing with libertarian conservatives like Ron Paul than they are organizing with conservative Democrats. Liberals would get much more out of an alliance with libertarian conservatives. Democratic conservatives are punking their asses!

  41. Jackrabbit

    Reading the comments for this post and the former one, it seems clear that if Obama loses the coming election, it will be because of disenchanted liberals and independends who stay home or vote for RP because:

    If money in politics is the *real* enemy, then RP is the ‘friend’ who is the enemy of my enemy.

    If cronyism is the enemy of constitutional democracy, then RP is the Constitutional candidate.

    And Obama’s deception (“change you can believe in”) is a betrayal that can not be forgiven.

    Does Obama’s travails require liberal soul-searching? I think the Obama Adminstration made their bed by being more interested in political optics than real reform (Healthcare was a give to corporate interests, HAMP was more for Banks than homeowners, etc.), ‘hippy punching’ complainers and self-serving rationalizations (“perfect is the enemy of the good”).

    1. Jackrabbit

      While RP has gained some momentum, I hope people will look into Jill Stein. (I just found out about her from the links above.)

      Probably neither of these candidates can win in 2008, but Stein is very impressive and for many a ‘protest vote’ for her will be more acceptable than one for RP.

      Note: Having just learned about Stein, I haven’t yet decided if I will support her and the Greens but I’ll be looking more closely in the coming weeks.

      1. Aquifer

        Thanx, jack!

        I think it is time we started voting our aspirations instead of our fears (lesser evil) – that we have the latter for so long is the reason, IMO, that we are in the mess we are in ….

        PS – aspirations are not “hopes”

        Aspirations – what we want/need

        Hopes – closing our eyes and crossing our fingers (Obama ’08)

    2. Lambert Strether

      As Ian Welsh argues, the left must take Obama down, and BE SEEN to take Obama down. Otherwise, there’s no left. It’s existential.

      That said, I’d never vote for RP; I’d vote for an emergent party if available, and write in Mike Check it wasn’t.

      None of this means that we shouldn’t discuss whatever policy framework is out there, even if it’s RP’s; I’m truly amazed by the number of people who want to wait for “our side” to raise an issue before discussing it. It’s a basic principle: Your argument is not you.

      1. Aquifer

        Please, can’t you see, that’s the point – our side HAS been raising it, but too many from our side have not been listening – for some bizarre reason, they prefer to listen to it from the OTHER side! Good grief, Charlie Brown!

  42. Ryan Cooper (@RyanLouisCooper)

    So I’m pretty much with Greenwald in thinking that Ron Paul is good to have around in that he is breaking open the cozy DC consensus on war, drones, blowback, and the drug war. He does seem to be either an abject racist or a racist-enabler, but still seems to be a net positive, on balance, since no one else is stepping up. It seems like it’s either racists or murderers.

    None of that has ANYTHING to do with the Fed, except in that most modern countries use fiat currency. Your entire history of liberalism is straight-up goofy. The American empire is the creation of nationalist zealots, just like all the rest; no need to invoke conspiratorial crankery about “war financing” to make your points on war and Paul.

    The gold standard was a terrible idea in the Great Depression, it’s a terrible idea now, and similar incarnations (i.e., the Eurozone) are also terrible ideas.

    1. Frank Speaking

      “Your entire history of liberalism is straight-up goofy.”

      Who is the “you” that your “your” implies?

      “The American empire is the creation of nationalist zealots…” Now who is “straight-up goofy” and invoking “conspiratorial crankery” to boot?

    2. F. Beard

      None of that has ANYTHING to do with the Fed, except in that most modern countries use fiat currency. Ryan Cooper

      A fiat currency does not require a central bank at all. Are you implying that it does?

      A monetarily soverign nation can simply spend its fiat into existence and tax it out of existence if needed.

      A central bank is needed by the banks not by government.

  43. Frank Speaking

    “Your entire history of liberalism is straight-up goofy.”

    Who is the “you” that your “your” implies?

    “The American empire is the creation of nationalist zealots…” Now who is “straight-up goofy” and invoking “conspiratorial crankery” to boot?

  44. Frank Speaking

    Pretty neat trick to drive eyeballs to a destination—pick a fight with blog that is 99 percent zealotry (with no consistant ideological foundation) and one percent rational and informed thought.

    Anyone who has spent any time at the Daily Kos—hours I will never get back—knows 99 percent of those posting there have no certain or accurate knowledge of what “Bircher” is referencing.

  45. Patricia Marino

    Very interesting and thoughtful post. A couple of thoughts:

    Is Stoller saying there’s a conflict of values in liberalism because a coherent ideology requires a unified view and not just a range of things one cares about? This interpretation makes sense of the criticism of Digby: it would be incoherent to simply care about a bunch of things like egalitarianism, justice, and peace without being able to explain why, exactly, these are the things worth caring about.

    If so, the analysis — for all its other virtues — seems to me to have one problem: that this is not a “conflict” in any problematic sense. Most of us care about multiple non-reducible values. We care about individual rights, the collective good, equality, and other stuff. Finding a coherent moral position means finding a way to incorporate all of these values into a consistent moral outlook. A consistent moral outlook applies the same standards to everyone and avoids morally arbitrary distinctions, but this does not require the articulation of a single value — such as Paul’s liberty — through which to see every situation. Liberty is good, but so are some other things.

    Interestingly, the empirical research of psychologist Jonathan Haidt and his colleagues suggests that liberals care about fewer things than conservatives: while liberals care mostly about harm prevention, the collective good, and fairness, conservatives care about these things and also values like sexual purity, respect for authority, and loyalty. My own view is that neither view is incoherent merely for having multiple sources of value.

    Perhaps a different interpretation has to do with “conflict” understood in a more practical way. Stoller may be saying that liberals are forced to confront the fact that particular things — like programs, infrastructure etc. — that seem to them good are actually in many ways bad in the sense of not according with liberal values. In this case the lesson from Ron Paul is the one of learning that what you thought you knew about a particular institution turned out to be false. That would be interesting in a different way.

  46. Frank Speaking

    “Progressive Man-Crushes On Ron Paul.”

    Hey bud, 99 percent of that can be explained by that cloud of smoke from chronic blunt passing and the occasional interlude on the bong.

    You won’t find it on any official document but the growing and consumption of marijuana, ganja, bud, weed, grass, dope, chronic, cannabis, mary jane is the largest dollar value economic activity in California—agricultural and otherwise.

    So you can see the enormity of Governor Jerry Brown’s dilema—black market activity and government employment are the backbone of his state’s economy.

    You have to believe that at least once a day he sees himself in the mirror and curses the day he thought it would be a good idea to be Governor as his swan song.

      1. Frank Speaking

        I’m not sure which point you are asking for a link to.

        The size and value of California’s ganja crop goes as far back as a Time or Newsweek story in the early 80s about Mendocino County’s policy of turning a blind eye because of the economic benefit it had for Main Street in the face of the declining timber industry and I believe that was the first time I read that marijuana had become California’s highest dollar (no pun intended) value agricultural crop.

        Well today it is not just Mendocino County, but Lake County, Sonoma, Siskiyou, Humbolt, Shasta; every national forrest and park in the Sierras and the monthly news stories of tract homes in developments built during the bubble bought for sole purpose of grow sites is common.

        The clincher for me was the last minute swing on Prop 19. As I recall a week out it was trending to pass by single digits and in the end it lost by that amount. All the hype about Oaksterdam clued in those currently enjoying serious cash flow with status quo would see changes that would not benefit them.

        How do you substantiate or quantify anything in an underground economy. Even the $14 billion dollar amount attributed to the annual crop value for tax purposes if the proposition had passed is low balled. How could they even begin to accurately estimate?

        And that is just ganja. There is an entire subculture in California of every trade and profession you can name doing work off the books and under the table.

        The cash value of the dope trade is also corrupting civil government at every level—not just law enforcement, corrections and the judicial system.

  47. Frank Speaking

    “Importantly, FDR had the Fed working for him.” from Stoller’s Dec. post

    is it not the case that, at least since FDR, that the Fed is always working for the President?

    Clearly Greenspan and Cheney/Bush acted in concert.

    1. Yves Smith

      The Volcker rate squeeze sealed Carter’s fate, and Volcker was a Carter appointment. Bush I thinks he lost because Greenspan dropped rates six months too late.

  48. kthomas

    Most of your rebuttal(s) I agree with.

    But this quote really is flat wrong, and very presumptuous: “This kind of alpha-beta mindset implies that criticism and rejection of Barack Obama, the chief alpha of the Democrats, is a threat to Atkins’ version of liberalism itself.” Here, I think you strecth things far too thinly.

    Overall, love your blog and your posts. You are doing God’s work.

  49. 2laneIA

    Citizen K does not take kindly to people who criticize the President. Yves has published criticisms of the President, therefore it is necessary to trot out the “Bircher” smear in response. I do not usually read his/her diaries for reasons that came back to me when I read the one you linked to. Not only is the diary a pedestrian effort, but the comments are full of the usual suspects who answer the call to pile on when their beloved and faultless President is written about in less than glowing terms. IOKIYAR has its parallel in the Democratic Party.

    1. Up the Ante

      Citizen K is therefore a retirable personna when the pres ceases to give them what they want.

      ” .. the usual suspects who answer the call to pile on when their beloved and faultless President is written about in less than glowing terms. ”

      Quite and usual.

  50. Jill

    Here’s my question. How did any of the following become a liberal position: 1. imprisonment without trial 2. presidential authority to kill anyone, anywhere whom the president, on his/her word alone, proclaims a terrorist 3. mass surveillance of our population 4. the protection of war and financial criminals to the point of putting them in charge of one’s financial and war policy? I could go on but will stop.

    The fact that people who self identify as liberal will vote for, defend, send money to and spend time electing an individual who holds these positions is somewhat surrealistic. To my mind, this shows the power of propaganda. Here lies the problem with Ron Paul- he creates cognitive dissonance for liberals.

    Most of the Republican candidates hold the exact same position on the issues I listed above as Obama does. They are also largely buffoons. Therefore liberal attention is taken up mocking or fearing candidates who hold exactly the same positions as their own candidate of choice. How weird!

    Ron Paul injects questions into people’s minds. He is to the left of Obama on certain issues. How can this be? Obama is the leftist candidate, a man of peace, a good decent individual who just happens to imprison the innocent or kill people, but he’s a great guy. Liberals, Democrats and propagandists must do away with such embarrassing information and uncomfortable questions. People must be helped to refuse struggling with the reality of Obama’s actions and what it means to vote for someone who has taken those actions.

    As to the worldview of humans as always being war like, Digby needs to look into anthropology and archaeology/paleontology. She will find her assertion is not true. Both writers share a vision of human beings in common with the most strident conservatives they claim to despise. It should not then surprise me that they also defend a candidate who surpasses the most illegal and unethical behavior of the most conservative president who has gone before him. (Yet I admit, it does or at least it appalls me!)

  51. Tim

    I’ve been trying to plot the political spectrum in two dimensions instead of one (Left-Right) recently.
    I can’t make it work. Ive got the vertical plot which is level of government intervention.

    When I try to create a horizontal axis for left-right, I don’t get a consistent spectrum of change in general philosphy: Liberal and conservatism are merely cherry picking of ideals that flow out of personality traits.

    The only logical plot of political ideology then is simply a spectrum on the level of government interference, involvement, intervention, whatever you want to call it. And conservates and liberal can/do coexist at any point along that spectrum to acheive their own completely divergent means:

    Extreme Example: No goverment interference, is strongly associated to extreme conservatives (think unibomber) and liberal anarchists

    Extreme Example: Maximum government interference, is strongly associated to Communism, which is left/socialistic in nature, as well as to Fascism which is commonly assicated with Conservative values of using goverment to facilitate/motivate “industry”

    Since our government/industrial complex is out of money, it must shrink which make libertarianism the inevitable winner, not left or right.

    My prediction for 2016: Rand Paul is elected President. He a more mainstream version of his dad. By 2015 American will be in the appropriate mood (social contract obviously shredded at that point) to consider things not on a left right spectrum, but also a level of government involvement spectrum, making hard choices about what liberals and conservatives alike can keep and have to get rid of.

  52. Mike Sax

    Look if you don’t want to vote for Obama, will do anything to see him lose that’s one thing-I don’t agree but you know what they say about opinions.

    But buying to this Ron Paul Koolaid about libertarianism is something else.

    By the way, the war on drugs has nothing to do with liberalism. It is not Obama’s war individually either, but the long term policy of the US. I think it’s wrong though it’s absurd to try to offer a choice between ending the war on drugs and covering more Americans with health insurance.

    Ron Paul and Obama Derangement Syndrome

    1. Walter Wit Man

      It’s absurd to offer a choice or the choice was absurd?

      I’m assuming you are claiming the choice was clear. We could have released millions of mostly black men from prison and ended our foreign wars of conquest (the Ron Paul choice), or we could have given millions more people access to health care (the Obama plan).

      Well, we have the rotten Mitt Romney health care plan, and guess what? As a liberal, I would take the Ron Paul plan over the Obama plan any time. Giving a few kids the ability to pay to go on to their parents health care was not worth it. No sir. I would prefer the justice of releasing millions of political prisoners from hell. I would prefer to stop killing tens of thousands of people in places like Somalia and Yemen and Pakistan.

      Plus, Obamacare was not even worth it on the merits! It will be a net negative, imho. We would be better of with its repeal and a fresh single payer or socialized health care approach.

      We all have to pay more for health care under Obamacare. There is no real regulation of the product or of our premiums. It will be a net negative, especially as the promised benefits such as the increased Medicaid benefits are proved to be for naught.

      No, the choice for me is easy. Ending the drug war is way better than Obamacare.

      1. Aquifer


        False choice, why one or the other, why not both?

        You won’t end the drug with Obama, and you won’t get single payer (or any payer) with Paul

        Why won’t you look elsewhere?

        1. Aletheia84

          That’s an important point. So much of this has been set up as a false choice.

          It’s either Obama continuing on the Bush presidency, or Ron Paul.

          I won’t vote for either, and I’d prefer a Democratic Socialist in office.

          Ron Paul won’t be the GOP nominee, so it’s absurd to set it up as an Obama/Paul either/or. It’s most likely Obama/Romney.

          I say no to Democrats or Republicans.

          1. cwaltz

            You “partisan Democrat you”!

            Why are you supporting the status quo?/s

            It’s absolutely amazing to me that people that a person writing about a major party candidate could accuse people insisting that Ron Paul is NOT the best candidate to approach an anti war position (or the only as some seem to be insisting)as doing so to serve the “status quo.” Talk about a bad case of projection. Preserving the duopoly the Democrats and Republicans have created is about as status quo as you can get.

        2. Walter Wit Man


          I was responding to the comment above that proposed the choice of Obama vs. Paul. Paul releasing prisoners and ending our wars would be worth whatever meager benefits Obama has given us. And the negatives Paul would bring would not detract enough from the positives to make Obama better. That’s all I’m saying. Ron Paul would actually do more demonstrable good than Obama would do (millions released from prison and tens of thousands of lives saved abroad from ending the wars).

          Supporting Barack Obama and forming an alliance with the Democratic party is more reprehensible than forming an alliance with for Ron Paul.

          1. Alethia84

            Walter, I could not respond to your post in place, so I’ll try here:

            You said:

            “You are building up a straw man. The main beneficiary of your efforts is the conservative forces that run the Democrat party.

            Why is ending our war such a bad right-wing thing to do? Why is ending the racist war on drugs bad?”

            Talk about straw men. Do you see what you did here? First, you’re making the ridiculous statement that criticism of Ron Paul somehow benefits conservative Democrats. Ron Paul isn’t going to win the GOP nomination, so how is your scenario possible? Second, Ron Paul is far more “conservative” than any Democrat. It’s not even close. He has pre-Civil War views on most issues, including vital issues such as climate change — he calls it a hoax. He’s a troglodyte on the issue of the separation of church and state, and if you match that with his We the People Act, you get fascism and theocracy through the back door of the states. He would also be the best friend the 1% ever had, as he wants to completely wipe out the estate tax (he calls it the death tax, another indicator of his conservative cred), reduce corporate taxes to 15%, end capital gains taxes, demolish regulatory controls on capitalism, etc. He has been fighting against union rights his entire life, and wrote in his book that if a woman is being harassed in the office, she should just leave and get another job.

            That, of course, fits in with his general “freedom and liberty” lie, which says if a worker is being abused at his or her job, underpaid, etc. they should just leave. Which, of course, is just what ownership wants. Because workers will just be going from one crappy job to another, without any change to the status quo.

            Ron Paul has a loathsome vision of the supposed perfection of “the markets” and wants to strip democracy from this country by deregulating the markets even more and privatizing public goods and services. The left, of course, wants the reverse.

            Oh, and to suggest that because someone criticizes Ron Paul that they are against ending wars including the drug wars? That is truly is a major leap into unfounded assumptions. I’m for ending wars, civil liberties abuses, the surveillance state, empire, etc. As are all good leftists. But I also know that Ron Paul comes at these issues from a fundamentally different place than I do, and his other beliefs, proposed bills, his written statements, his newsletters, and his general political philosophy, are hard-right to the max. I can’t support him. I think he’s a fraud, and I find his apologists incredibly annoying, blind and over the top with their deification of this whiny little propertarian from Texas.

          2. Walter Wit Man

            I’m accusing his detractors of running interference for the Democratic party because it is precisely the liberal gate keepers of the Democrat party that are most concerned about Paul. Again, the people that want to shout him down are also the people misrepresenting his stance on war–“progressive” Democrats.

            Again, I don’t care if Ron Paul secretly says nigger over and over and hates black people. He is proposing a policy that is less racist than any other major candidates. Period. I would rather have a racist who enacts non racist policy than a black man that enacts a racist policy (like Obama).

            You can say this Paul’s releasing black men from prison position is an odd position for someone that is a cold-blooded racist to have (and I guess that’s why your head is exploding and you have to come up with some nefarious purpose for Pauls’ stance). But the fact remains that his policy is the most liberal policy that is being proposed by any major candidate in 2012–end our racist war on drugs and the racist imperial wars.

            I UNDERSTAND THAT HIS RIGHT-WING POSITIONS ARE BAD. Do you acknowledge that I acknowledge this? I agree with you that his libertarian views (views that have seeped into both the Democrat and Republican parties) are very destructive. Austerity is going to be bad enough when Obmama and the Democrats do it. I don’t need Ron Paul the bogeyman to be scared about austerity–Obama scares me enough. I get it.

            But the good Ron Paul proposes is REALLY FUCKING GOOD. He will stop drone executing entire families in villages in Yemen, for instance. The current Democrat is a cold blooded murderer war criminal (why aren’t you having a conniption fit about that as well?).

            All you have in response is name calling. And look, I have a very low opinion of all politicians. I can see how Paul may very well be a lying and may be the conservative Obama in 2012 and could be selling a fake hopey changey message. Even though Paul seems more sincere I’ve learned my lesson with finks such as Obama and Kucinich.

            But you aren’t allowing for the possibility Ron Paul is serious and can do a lot of good. It’s certainly more probably than Obama doing good. Plus, why do you say there is no way Paul gets the nomination? What are you, the mainstream media and only your approved choices are allowed? Paul seems to have a way better chance than even a lefty like Kucinich ever had. Paul is in 2nd place in a lot of polls. Seems more like you don’t want him to have a chance rather than your honest analysis. And that’s an odd analysis to have if you really are a third party supporter (who usually are more willing to take chances on less certain outcomes.

        3. Walter Wit Man

          And you’re probably right we wouldn’t get single payer with Ron Paul. But I’m willing to give that up in the short term for the two huge things Paul would do:

          1. End the wars/empire as much as he could. And he could do a lot as president. Reduce the list of covert wars from over 100 to 0. He could pull troops back from around the world. He could do a lot.

          2. End the war on drugs. He could pardon millions of people immediately and not only release them but restore their voting rights.

          In exchange for these things I don’t mind if Paul cuts portions of the federal government but I would want him to promise to not go after Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid and not to go after abortion any more than the Democrats would (and I don’t really see a practical difference between Obama and Paul despite the different history, professed beliefs, etc.). There probably would be a lot of painful conservative results under a Paul presidency (but I wonder if it would be any more conservative than if under Democratic influence), and the nation would go through a traumatic time (just winding down the prison and military industrial complexes will result in job loss, etc).

          But we need to do it as a society. We are the world’s biggest jailors and warmakers and we need to stop. We need to demilitarize and reset.

          And I don’t see the Democrats ever doing this on their own. If Paul could reasonably promise to give us the two things on that list above, there is no more left result than I can see happening under any other circumstance. That is the best we can hope for–a libertarian president.

          Seriously, I hate to come to that conclusion, but how does the left get a more left wing result than Ron Paul looks like he could actually deliver? It doesn’t, as far as I see. It certainly isn’t going to come close with more and better Democrats. I still think a third party is worth a shot, but not enough liberals seem to think so.

          And the problem isn’t Ron Paul. It’s that these liberals would rather play footsie with the Democrat party.

          1. F. Beard

            , and the nation would go through a traumatic time (just winding down the prison and military industrial complexes will result in job loss, etc). Walter Wit Man

            Then let RP support a new GI Bill and other programs to ease the transition.

            The problem is that RP believes in both a balanced budget (insane for a money issuer) and no taxes. That can mean only one thing – cutting spending during a Depression.

            Remember, RP believes in Austrian economics and the Austrians believe deflation is good thinking it “purges the malinvestments.” If the “purging” would only start with their jobs!

          2. Walter Wit Man

            yes indeed. The Austrians would certainly cut spending.

            I imagine that president Ron Paul would have his veto overridden by Congress so I don’t know how much will actually change.

            Plus, both parties are getting set to deliver austerity anyway. I wonder how much worse a Ron Paul would be than a mitt Romney or Barack Obama.

            It is hard to game out how things would play out. At this point if it were up to me I would probably gamble on a Ron Paul over Obama just because I think we need drastic change of some sort and need to try something. I don’t think a Ron Paul or a leftist third party push will amount to anything though–I think we are basically screwed regardless. That’s why I am more open to taking the long shot and probably futile chance of a Ron Paul presidency than I would otherwise be–we need to shake things up.

          3. F. Beard

            I would probably gamble on a Ron Paul over Obama just because I think we need drastic change of some sort and need to try something. Walter Wit Man

            Agreed. But Heaven help us. How far will RP go down the austerity road thinking “Just a little further and the private sector will save us?”

            Meanwhile the private sector will be screaming at him “Spend you dummy; we are going broke!”

          4. Walter Wit Man

            Yes, it seems like it can get real ugly. I think we will see a version of this regardless of Ron Paul.

            But I would also rather have Dr. Paul administering the austerity because he would be more honest in his justification.

            Not only would he go through a learning curve, but the people will (and we will regardless). I have more faith in the American people to deal appropriately in this new environment if there is less dishonesty and the two party stranglehold is released. The two parties have the good cop/bad cop game all set up right now so that the American people are confused and calling for austerity. I don’t think Ron Paul will magically change all this . . . but he would at least be telling us why he’s doing what he’s doing.

            The American people will be able to recognize the evil of austerity if done by Paul whereas Obama is such a master politician that he will bamboozle most people. Most Democrats will think he’s really trying to fight austerity while most Republicans will be convinced he’s a socialist.

  53. Historicaecon

    Hi Matt,
    It’s painfully clear that none of the bloggers you cite (most of whom I read and generally admire)have little idea of what you were talking about. It is not conspiratorial to claim that society is a system driven by powerful interests, many of them unspoken. That’s a fact. The difference between you and Digby and Atkins is that they want to be part of the “conspiracy” and (presumably) you don’t. As Atkins points out, many liberal activists have no problem with an active, interventionist state, so long as their ideological kin are in charge. To put it in slightly different terms, their issue is not home rule, but who rules at home. They support Obama because liberal control of state is preferable to the alternative AND because they actively support “liberal” exercises of centralized state control. Personally, I agree with them on the former and disagree on the latter. For me, Obama has been a deep disappoint both because of the way he has exercised power and because he has refused to roll back presidential powers acquired by Presidents Bush and Clinton. I know many other “liberals” feel this way, but those who are inspired to work in liberal politics rarely do. For them, power is the point. Ah well.

  54. scraping_by

    “For Atkins, liberalism is dominance, with liberals holding the dominant position. Mankind’s nature is brutal and exploitative, liberalism restrains it using equally harsh methods.”

    Thus is Mr. Stoller showing off his purpose. He and his fellow right wing operators call it “mischeif”. In the reality-based world, we call it sabotage.

    Ms. Atkin’s view isn’t nearly so totalitarian. Mankind’s nature is not what’s calling forth intervention. It’s the existence, try what one may, of a minority of sociopaths in every society everywhere. Again, not the total population, and using that strawman is a dead giveaway.

    The progressive world view acknolowedges sociopaths among us, notes they often wangle their way into positions of power and influence, and seek to limit the damage they will inevitably do with that power and influence.

    The right wing hates the thought of restraint on their sociopathic rapine. That’s why they cloak it in appeals to patriotism, psuedo-philosophical ideologies, and set races, genders, and other social classes (middle and lower) into conflict. When they tell the truth, they don’t succeed.

    Is the majority defending themselves against the crimes of sociopaths dominance? Is allowing fraud, bad faith, breaking contracts, and the rest of the underhanded scams some kind of oppression? Is using government to enrich a small group of people respecting their natural rights?

    And as to the title: If Stoller is using the guilt by association to imply NC and the majority of its posters are Brichers, bullshit. My maternal grandfather was a member of the John Birch Society. His world view is not represented by NC, or Occupy, or Ms. Digby, and only vaguely by the Daily Kos. Look at the Koch brothers, Pat Robertson, Bush II/Barry, and the people who invented and run the Tea Party.

    1. Jackrabbit


      Stoller is not using the title as you suspect. As he writes in the third paragraph of his post:

      . . . [in a] post by a regular community member at the Democratic blog Daily Kos, Naked Capitalism was called “a home for all sorts of Bircher nonsense.”

      Stoller is highlighting the “Bircher Nonsense” remark because it demonstrates the knee-jerk, over-the-top criticism that Stoller’s original post elicited.

  55. Because

    Yes, the New Deal was ultra-nationalism. That said, the “progressives” bailed on him in 1937.

    Paul is a piece of crap. Period. So is his son. He believes in “soft-bolshevism”. He will dissolve america, lower living standards and create a new serfdom.

    The problem with the “left” is the refusal to go “bat shit crazy”. Start throwing that stuff I said out nationally about Paul. It won’t take early on, but it will start the internet and blogs to begin the conspiracy theories. Then use that to overthrow the system.

    FWIW, Paul is pro-war. If Wal-Mart and Kroger want to destroy Iran and hired private armies. Paul is just dandy with that. The man worships capital and believes they should have the rule of law.

    1. Walter Wit Man

      I’m open to the idea of Paul being a secret pro-war Trojan Horse in the guise of a anti-war candidate.

      But I’m not seeing it. Can you show me? I think you’re just building (or borrowing) from the lazy Democrat straw man about his libertarianism.

      I think his libertarianism is misguided, and I think you’re onto something when you criticize libertarians for not being concerned enough about the power of private corporations–whereas they are pretty good about being concerned about the power of government. But the complaint about the possible abuse by private armies in a world where the U.S. military stands down seems to be focusing on the negative and missing the positive. Maybe the growth of private militias is a concern, but this is likely to pale in comparison to the great good that would come from the U.S. military disengaging from the world.

      And Paul has shown a concern about the undue influence of private forces. Look at his criticism of the Fed and bailing out banks. Libertarians joined forces with the left in 2008 and 2009 in trying to stop bailing out the too big to fail banks.

      Furthermore, Ron Paul would end the wars and end the use of war contractors, no? Wouldn’t Paul slash the military industrial complex more than any candidate from the major parties? What bigger blow could a lefty hope to achieve against the private war profiteering forces?

      Also, Obama and the Democrats have done just fine expanding private armies–Ron Paul would never have allowed a legal gang like Blackwater to run rampart in a place like Iraq. Obama is expanding the private contractor/proxy model for future wars–so how could Ron Paul increase the danger of private armies? Would Ron Paul’s presidency really lead to the increase of private armies in a way the Democrats wouldn’t?

      I agree that Paul doesn’t fully address the undue power of private force in a libertarian future . . . . but the good his anti war policies would cause would counteract the possibility of private armies rising up. Most likely the world would simply be a more peaceful place without the biggest bully throwing his weight around.

      1. Aletheia84

        Actually, Paul is ferociously in favor of neoliberal privatization efforts. Why wouldn’t that include Blackwater?

        I also find it amazing that anyone on the left can even think of supporting the guy. His “We the People Act” alone is a deal-breaker, not to mention his newsletters, his longtime support for the John Birch Society, and his call to slash one trillion in spending in his first year.

        He wants to cut corporate taxes down to 15%, stating that this will improve American competitiveness. Is there one single lefty economist who believes it would do that, or that corporations aren’t already woefully undertaxed?

        He wants to end capital gains taxes and, as he puts it, the “death tax.” Add to that his love of radical deregulation in excess even of Reagan and Thatcher, and he’s the 1%’s dream come true.

        Steep tax cuts for the rich
        Increased acceleration of deregulation
        and privatization

        And lefties are supposed to back him?

        He wants to completely gut the social safety net, stating repeatedly for decades that they’re unconstitutional, and the left is supposed to find common cause with this guy?

        I truly think people have been blinded by a few of his positions that seem sane and out of place among conservative Republicans and Democrats. But for those few seemingly sane positions, people are apparently willing to accept an otherwise truly repugnant propertarian.

        It makes zero sense.

        1. Walter Wit Man

          He would release millions of people who are unjustly imprisoned in the largest prison industrial complex in the world–containing 1/4 of the world’s prison population. This is a racist prison system that ruins whole communities.

          Furthermore, Paul would stop the killing of tens of thousands of people in places like Pakistan and Somalia and Syria and Libya. These are real people who are dying.

          If a lefty has the chance to do these things, why isn’t it good? Why do you dismiss these good things out of hand?


          I am no Paulie and you should know it. You aren’t arguing in good faith.

          I just think he’s to the left of Obama. I’m sure you are outraged so many liberals keep company with the right-wing fascist Democrats, right? If you are so upset about the right wing libertarians like Paul, then you must really also be upset by the neoliberal fascists like Obama. Right?

          1. Alethia84

            No, Walter. He wouldn’t release millions of prisoners. The Federal government holds roughly 200,000 prisoners, total. The states hold nearly 2 million. Ron Paul has repeatedly said that he, as president, has no say so over the states. He has often said that states can do as they please, setting up whatever oppressive system they wish. If they want to continue to incarcerate hundreds of thousands of prisoners for drugs, Ron Paul would not stop them. He has always said it’s up to the individual states themselves to decide their own drug laws, laws on abortion, laws on discrimination, etc. etc. He is radically against Federal interference in state governance.

            He is not your savior. He’s just a whiny, crackpot propertarian from Texas, with odious ideas on a host of things. No leftist in their right mind should support him.

          2. Walter Wit Man

            There you go hyperventilating. Crackpot? No sane person can support him? He’s my “savior”? C’mon.

            Very weak rebuttal of the facts too.

            There are way more than 200,000 convictions that would be over turned (even people that have served their sentence or are on parole or supervision would be pardoned and would have their civil rights restored). Plus, 200,000 is better than nothing. Do you know how many families and children would get to see their loved ones again? 200,000 locked in cages is too many. And I wonder how many are serving federal sentences in state prison.

            And why is this a negative that Paul would *only* release 200,000? He’s releasing the most he can. As president, he would only have authority to pardon those convicted in federal prison. He doesn’t have the authority to release state prisoners (although I’m sure he would argue that they shouldn’t be imprisoned for drug crimes–whereas Obama and the Democrats are pressuring states to incarcerate).

            It’s like you don’t really care about this issue. You are not giving this idea the thought it deserves. I doubt you sincerely think this is a good thing. Like most Democrats, I bet you are simply giving this subject lip service and you don’t care at all that we imprison the most people in the world using a racist Jim Crow system to lock black people up.

        2. Walter Wit Man

          Re my claim of Blackwater in Iraq under Paul . . . they wouldn’t be in Iraq under Paul because he wouldn’t have invaded and he wouldn’t use the U.S. military to protect a private group like Blackwater from prosecution for their war crimes. He would let them be subject to Iraqi law . . . and wouldn’t have killed the million people in the first place.

          I can’t say the same about the Democrats.

          1. Walter Wit Man

            I don’t believe that Gore would have prevented war after 9/11, but Obama? C’mon. Obama is more of a warmonger than Bush! The Democrats have largely the same imperial racist foreign policy that the GOP does.

            Now you are revealing your true self. No third party lefty I know defends the Democrat party warmongering.

            Admit it. You are a Daily Kos reading “progressive” that is only pretending to be a third party supporter.

            All the signs are there. . .. you defend Al Gore and Barack Obama from the warmonger charge and you don’t want anyone to on the left to point out that Ron Paul is to the left of Obama and the Democrats on major issues like war . . . . but you really do support third parties and are just a lefty concerned that Ron Paul has too much influence!

  56. Larry G

    You make a lot of good points, but there’s something missing. An ideology needs everything you say, and it also needs organizations that can mobilize support for it. The evisceration of organized labor, especially in the private sector, has presumably had a big impact on “liberal” thinking, yet you barely mention it.

    This was apparent from the beginning of the Obama administration. At his early press conference designed to demonstrate his commitment to ending the financial meltdown, the President appeared on stage with around two dozen economists, business leaders, bankers, former Treasury officials—and zero working people. My heart sank, and it still sinks when I think of what liberalism has become.

  57. Petey B.

    It’s just important to recognize that these attitudes, as well as those of Greenwald, are marbled throughout our elite institutions.

    Wow, awesome meataphor!

    >>>>> Philip Pilkington >>>>
    Liberalism — as Lasch showed in his later work — was always an ideology of progress (hence, ‘progressive’). It tended to believe that all the badness could be regulated out of Man.

    Yes! Thank you! A+ for the day. This is what liberalism is. It’s sortof a socialism-lite. Nothing wrong with that, it’s how we make a better world for ourselves, our neighbors, our children, and if we are honest enough, even those on the other side of the world.

    Finally, I second the commenter who said we ought to stop wasting our time behaving as if the Democratic Party might someday represent any kind of “human”, or “progressive”, or “socially just”, or “anti-war”, or “sustainability” values. Those days are gone. Gone. Hard to accept but the evidence is overwhelming. They still talk the talk, sometimes, but the walk hasn’t been walked in a looong time.

    The Democratic Party, along with it’s slightly meaner cousin and partner in crime, the Republican Party, needs to DIE a complete and permanent death as an organization. The sooner the better.,_2012

  58. Jim

    In order to begin to move beyond a terminally compromised Liberalism it may be worthwhile to glance at a comment Michael Hudson wrote on July 16, 2011 in an analysis entitled “The New Central Planners:”

    “100 years ago people thought well, right now we have the big corporations, heavy industry, the railroads doing the planning. We think government should do the planning. That was socialist planning. But now you don’t have government doing planning, you don’t have industry doing planning, you have Wall Street and the Financial sector doing the planning. Nobody a 100 years ago expected anything like this so you essentially have a new class, a new bureaucracy—not the bureaucracy that Hayek worried about in the “Road to Serfdom” doing the planning, but a more centralized planning bureaucracy on Wall Street in America, the city of London in England, the Bourse in France, Frankfurt in Germany, Shanghai in China. You have financial interests that are somehow centralizing all of the planning power and all of the economic surplus in their own hands as a way that is impoverishing the rest of society. This is something entirely new and the political system has not come to terms with it.”

    Hudson’s concept of a new class or new bureaucracy seems worthwhile to pursue both historically and sociologically but only if it also includes the central planners in the public sector, like the powerful public bureaucrats at the U.S. Federal Reserve and the U. S. Treasury. who now clearly work in co-operation and collusion with the private-sector central planners in Wall Street and the rest of the financial sector.

    Any future attempt to theorize a new bureaucratic class of central planners (encased in both the public and private sectors) may also make it possible to again see more clearly the potential relevance of a modern populism and a more radical federalism in potentially undermining elite control of democratic practices.

  59. ek hornbeck

    As a “regular member” of Daily Kos (49,281) I should perhaps point out that citizen k isn’t representative of the community.

    Except that he is. Along with your buddy Chris Bowers.

    Some of us try to stand up for principles. All help gratefully accepted.

  60. Jill

    I don’t have this idea filled out so please bear with me. I do not think Obama supporters have any coherent ethical base, liberal or otherwise, to their thinking. You can’t change from decrying an imperial president to supporting one in 3 years if you have an underlying ethical base. So I’ve been trying to think about what is going on here. I’ve come to two conclusions.

    Support for Obama is about power and support for Obama is about celebrity culture. These are interrelated. Our society defines power as power over others. Because only a limited number of people can have this type of power it leaves many of us feeling powerless.

    Power is attributed to celebrities and people in authority of one kind or another. Allying with a “powerful” celebrity or authority grants one vicarious “power”. This lust for “power” seems very strong in Obama supporters. It gives a sense of belonging and worth which I believe stands in the way of questioning either what he is doing or what they are doing in supporting him.

    This is one reason OWS scares the shit out of authorities. OWS shows an entirely different way of being powerful in the world. It isn’t based on allying with celebrities or designated “authorities”. This way of being powerful is the antidote to being an authoritarian person. It is also a way to resist propaganda.

    1. rps

      “…how a race of men came into the world so exalted above the rest, and distinguished like some new species, is worth enquiring into, and whether they are the means of happiness or of misery to mankind…..As the exalting one man so greatly above the rest cannot be justified on the equal rights of nature” T. Paine, Common Sense 1776

  61. steelhead23

    Matt, I believe you are correct that Ron Paul is forcing American liberals to question their policies and positions. However, I believe you go a tad far in asserting that war financing and social welfare have the same spring-head, debt financing and the financial state termed Wall Street. Paul and others have suggested that we pave a road away from this intersection via sovereign coinage. I too am frustrated by the institutional connections between Wall Street and the U.S. Gov. and I believe you do the movement a disservice by asserting that that connection is necessary to achieve liberal aims. It is not and is inevitably destructive of them. But perhaps I should not comment on the strictures of liberalism as I am ideologically a social democrat but allow me to specify those reforms necessary for national finance to support social welfare.
    1. End corporate personhood (requires a constitutional amendment)
    2. Allow the federal government to emit money unilaterally – debt-free money.
    3. Limit the role of for-profit banking. Yves wishes to regulate it like a utility. I simply wish to eliminate the profit incentive by offering FDIC deposit insurance only to institutions organized as not-for-profit institutions.

    As a socialist, I fully intend to register as a Republican so I could vote in Oregon’s primary for Mr. Ron Paul. Do I want him for our president? Hell no, but I do enjoy and support where he is taking the debate.

    1. F. Beard

      I simply wish to eliminate the profit incentive by offering FDIC deposit insurance only to institutions organized as not-for-profit institutions. steelhead23

      Two individuals walk into your non-profit bank; let’s call them Mr. Black and Mr. White. Mr. Black qualifies for a $50,000 loan and Mr. White qualifies for a $1,000,000 loan.

      Since “loans create deposits” $1,050,000 in new money is added to the economy. Mr. Black only gets $50,000 of that new money but he gets the price inflationary impact of the full $1,050,000.

      Does this strike you as unfair? It should.

      “Credit-creation” whether it is done by for profit banks or non-profit banks or by government steals purchasing power from the entire population but especially the poor.

      1. F. Beard

        But hey, let’s ignore “Thou shalt not steal” and the commandments against oppressing the poor?

      2. steelhead23

        Sorry for the tardy response but the purpose of my proposal is to reduce risk-taking by federally insured institutions. The huge risks the TBTF institutions accumulated during the boom sank the system. They took on those risks to maximize profit, or as Yves argues, as a perverse outcome of individuals working to maximize their compensation. Kill the profit incentive and this goes away. The downside is that without wild profit-seeking behavior by banksters, it is likely that economic growth would slow. I think the price is fair.

        1. F. Beard

          but the purpose of my proposal is to reduce risk-taking by federally insured institutions. steelhead23

          Why the heck should the Federal Government back ANY risk-taking by the banks? Hmmm?

          1. steelhead23

            All lending incurs risk. FDIC should limit risk-taking, but has performed poorly. I perceive that deposit insurance encourages saving, increasing bank reserves and the development of wealth. Let me be clear. Had the U.S. allowed the financial crash to occur, several large banks would have collapsed (BAC) with the result being that the FDIC would have been forced to borrow a substantial amount to meet its obligations. I believe that fear of this outcome had a role in the bankcentric bailouts. Hence, the risks the banksters incurred drove the outcomes which we all deplore. I am suggesting we cut that cord so that if it occurs again, decision makers might have less incentive to save the players from their folly. As things currently stand – it will happen again, its inevitable.

          2. F. Beard

            I perceive that deposit insurance encourages saving, increasing bank reserves and the development of wealth. Stealhead23

            Banking discourages saving since it leverages the saver’s own money (as reserves) to drive up his prices! Savers literally shoot themselves in the foot by keeping their money at a bank.

            The Federal Government itself should provide a risk-free fiat storage and transaction sevice that makes NO loans and pays no interest.

            As for wealth creation, businesses can either pay honest (non-suppressed)interest rates or issue more shares.

  62. PQS

    If Stoller and Greenwald want to use a few of Paul’s ideas to poke at the Democratic/Liberal Establishment, that’s a great idea. Anyone who calls themselves a liberal SHOULD be questioning the ongoing support of so-called liberals for endless war and the war machine.

    However, please don’t try to convice me that just because Ron Paul has a national audience this moment and he has a few “liberal” ideas that he is somehow a serious person. He isn’t, and most of his ideas are crackpot notions, when they aren’t also standard-issue RW corporatist BS in direct opposition to liberal ideas. Look at his positions on his website. How in the world is “fetal personhood” some kind of New Frontier of brilliance? It isn’t. How in the world is ending Social Security a good idea because rich old men like Ron Paul and his grifter son think it is?

    Ron Paul panders to the GOP base just as much as Obama panders to Wall Street, and for the same reasons: their money.

    (OTOH, I have been thinking lately that all the Tenther idiot ragings about States’ Rights are interesting WRT ending the war on drugs….and I would like to have some discussions about that.)

  63. rps

    For the last thirty years there have been no conservatives; only nationalistic radicals of the right and left. A. Huxley-1958-

    Add another 54 years and we are living in a state of permanent fabricated crisis; violent international and domestic wars, that justifies permanent control of everybody-everyone is a potential terrorist-, and everything by the agencies of the central government.

  64. Meteor Blades

    For the record, the individual who wrote the “Bircher nonsense” blog post that Matt Stoller links at the beginning of his piece originally posted it at another web site where he is among the leading writers there who regularly attack Daily Kos as not being friendly enough to the Democratic Party or Barack Obama and his policies.

    He in no way represents Daily Kos, officially or unofficially.

    1. chris

      Blah blah blah… I call bullshit. You are the chief community moderator at the censurious dkos and have purged any number of Obama critics because of some (cowardly) perceived threat that even mentioning a primary or a third party will cause the Democrats to fail. The writer you wish to dismiss is still commenting there so he must have your approval on some level, unlike the many more important, highly critical voices that no longer post there.

      Dailykos is not a “liberal” or “progressive” blog, it is a big “D” Democratic blog that champions Obamabots and ardently holds the belief that there is something democratic (small “d”) about silencing dissent from the left.

      In the end, Dailykos is just another wretched mouthpiece for the wretched Democratic Party and your comment here does nothing to distance your blog from the writers that enjoy – through your largesse – the “privilege” (i can not stop laughing) of posting there.

      1. jon k

        It is very sad but I have to largely agree with chris above. The DailyKos has become censurious and all writers who criticize the Democratic party and especially the Obama administration are always at the highest risk.

        Obama zealots will go to any length to take down these writers and they have to walk on eggshells all the time.

        On the other hand, the zealots can have free rein to swarm and attack the dissenters and the DailyKos moderators allow this to happen all the time. Whereby the dissenters can be taken down for much milder and fabricated offenses.

        So I wish that I could disagree with chris but the Democrats and their hacks at the DailyKos are so insecure and zealous, cultish even, that I cannot disagree with his criticisms of that site. I don’t remember it being that way a few years ago but it has gone so far down hill now. Beware posting there and couch your words carefully.

      2. Meteor Blades

        I have not been the moderator at Daily Kos since August.

        People who advocate for third parties are indeed banned but discussion of third parties in the abstract is allowed, that is, whether having a multiple party system would be better and what they might look like.

        Nobody has ever been banned for calling for primarying Obama.

  65. Michael Drew

    Two suggested posts;
    1) A restatement of the thesis in question in a post not cluttered by reference to a distracting political lightning rod who is nothing more than a flavor of the moment. This is more fundamental stuff than is worth just tying to elective politics.

    2) A post acknowledging that the level of critique here is not at the level of politics even broadly conceived, but on the level of social and economic order, and being accountable for the critique by giving some sense of alternatives, even if not unequivocally endorsing any of them.

  66. sgt_doom

    As a liberal-progressive, I support the intervention to induce humanism whenever and where ever possible, be in in the torture centers run by Uzbekistan, or in the USA.

    In other words, this country has some seriously bad karma.

    1. aletheia33

      yes. we will be remembered for developing the technology of killing at a speed of invention far surpassing any previous society, AND for our eagerness to implement what we developed.

  67. JTFaraday

    “But Paul, by criticizing American empire explicitly and its financing channels in the form of the Federal Reserve, also enrages liberals by forcing them to acknowledge that their political economy no longer produces liberal ends.”

    If the cognitive dissonance aroused by a mere cross partisan critique of the one party totalitarian state has liberals squealing like stuck pigs already, just imagine what mental hernias would ensue should liberals discover themselves face to face with a government they only wish they could drown in a bathtub.


  68. Aletheia84


    I think the problem is easily sorted out, and I’m rather surprised you didn’t notice it yourself.

    You made a rather categorical statement, without having even the remotest possibility of backing it up with fact, evidence or the slightest hope of certainty. You basically said that no one criticizes Ron Paul because of his positions. It’s always already merely a cover, a shield, a defense against the critic’s own dark secrets and bad faith. IOW, you made group psychoanalysis the starting and end point of your article, putting people you don’t like on the couch, while making major assumptions about their motives and rationale.

    Yes, by all means, write a critique of liberalism and the Democratic Party. That’s fair game. Chris Hedges, David Harvey, Noam Chomsky and many others have done valuable work in that field. Leftists (whom I identify with) have written excellent critiques of the “liberal class” for decades, and they’re well worth reading. If you had done that, it would have been a welcome addition.

    Instead, you and Glenn confused your critique of liberalism and the Democratic Party with a rationale and an explanation for why people criticize Ron Paul. The two things are separate. Ron Paul’s positions on most issues are easily shredded and deserve rebuke. He has truly odious positions on most major issues, and it’s fair game to attack him on these. One can do so from a leftist perspective (as I do), a progressive, a liberal or a diehard Dem perspective, and make valid points, supported by the evidence.

    You and Glenn ruled that out from the getgo. You said implicitly and explicitly that any and all criticism of Ron Paul is nothing more than fear of the supposed mirror he holds up in front of the liberal establishment. This, Matt, is truly a speculative reach, and impossible for you to prove. You just asserted your gut feeling as fact, and that’s where you went south.

    Delink the two. Delink your (valid) critique of liberalism, etc. from your psychoanalysis of motives for the criticism of Ron Paul, and you’re back in business. They don’t belong together.

    1. Aquifer

      Well written and well said, Thank you!

      Not only is his position, as you have stated it, impossible to prove, it is, IMO demonstrably false …

      There is no fury like the wrath of a lefty scorned.
      Obama has scorned his “base” (and, i suspect, Mr. Stoller’s former employer) and folks are now lashing out at the Dems, as well they should, and should have been doing for years (? decades). But such thrashing, IMO, should be done with a much more appropriate “instrument” than RP. The enemy of my enemy is not always my friend …

      1. Aletheia84

        Your last sentence is extremely important.

        Ron Paul is not a friend of the left’s. If you review his speeches over the years, or read his books, he bashes the left mercilessly. His closest colleagues do as well. Especially Lew Rockwell. He despises socialism just like the vast majority of Republicans. He despises progressives, just like the vast majority of Republicans, and just like the vast majority of the GOP, confuses the two. Funny thing, he is a Republican.

        Ron Paul should be criticized for his positions on the issues, and for his lies regarding socialism and the left in general. I see no reason why anyone on the left would ever support or defend him. But it’s even more bizarre when lefties think we need to listen to him. Why? He isn’t saying anything we haven’t already said about war, civil liberties et al. He isn’t saying it with as much clarity or logic or rationality. Why do we need to listen to him at all? He fills no gap on our side of the aisle. He adds nothing new to our discourse.

        He does for the GOP. Let the GOP deal with him.

        1. Walter Wit Man

          Ron Paul represents the only and best hope for leftists in the near future. I hate to say it, I wish there was a third party on the cusp of relevancy, but alas, it looks pretty bleak for this lefty.

          We are faced with two horrible right-wing choices in Obama v. Romney. (So I’m sure you’re spamming Daily Kos posts with links to the Green Party to mitigate the upcoming horror, right?) Obama is a right-wing horror show and any lefty that is horrified of Ron Paul should be truly horrified of Barack Obama and Romney as well.

          In fact, Ron Paul would probably deliver the most left-wing result any lefty can hope for in 2012. This would especially be the case if the left formed an alliance with the libertarians and got a left-wing VP and cabinet choices and got promises from Paul not to cross certain lines. But it would also be the case if Paul got the Republican nomination and could be trusted to commute or pardon prisoners and end the drug war as much as he could, and if he delivered on his promise to end the wars and empire as much as he could. This would be an awesome left wing result that would frankly be a miracle.

          Ron Paul is doing a service at least because he is showing Obama supporting Democrats to be the right-wing fascists they are. As a supporter of third parties you should welcome Ron Paul disrupting the Democratic party.

          1. Alethia84

            I’m more than tired of hearing “Ron Paul is the only . . .
            ” blah blah blah.

            No. He isn’t. The entire “real left” is antiwar, anti-empire, against civil liberties abuses, etc. etc. And we are those things from the pro-human-rights POV. From an egalitarian point of view. Ron Paul? He is those things from the typical paleo-libertarian POV of “don’t tread on me”, “get off my island” and “taxes are theft.” He is against egalitarianism, against democracy, and in love with capitalism in its most extreme and destructive form.

            Beyond that, Ron Paul is a tenther, and puts “states rights” above human rights, and even above civil liberties, as can be seen in his bill, We the People Act, and dozens of other bills he’s pushed for that empower states to strip us of rights.

            If it is fair to say Obama and Romney are fascists, then Ron Paul is a fascist times two. I can’t support any of them.

            He was never “our only hope.” He might be white nationalists and the militia movement’s only hope. But he isn’t the left’s.

          2. Walter Wit Man

            You are not making any sense. Like most of Paul’s detractors, your writing is filled with nonsensical hate words that do more to muck up your ideas than they do to explain Paul. Nutter. Tenther. Militia. Racist.

            Blah. Blah. Blah.

            It means nothing. It’s intentional hyperbole or intentional mischaracterization. It’s not honest.

            Look, I don’t like the right-wing policies of Ron Paul either (but he’s not really that much more right-wing than the other Republicans or even Obama). Some of his policies could even be way more dangerous than I am fully considering right now. But I’m trying to actually grapple with the pros and cons and you are simply bringing a lot of heat arguing that we shouldn’t even consider the pros and cons. You are appealing to hate and emotion rather than logic.

            You have yet to address the two huge liberal things Paul promises to do. Instead, you use misdirection and attack Paul for entirely unrelated things.

            Again, you have to admit that if Paul could end our wars and our empire, and the war on drugs and the police state, these would be HUGE leftist victories. Huge. Please explain to me how pardoning all non violent federal drug crimes is not a huge liberal victory. Pleas explain how ending our wars and war crimes is not worth exploring. You want to dismiss out of hand this possibility because the messenger isn’t pure enough? You’re not one of those purity trolls, are you?:)

            Yes, Paul could do a lot of damage if his libertarian ideas are enacted. But actually, it will be harder for Paul to end something like Medicare or Social Security than it is for him to do the good things. He will need Congress to do most of the bad things (and like with a president Romney, Democrat partisans might actually fight harder for liberal policy under a GOP president).

            Whereas Paul would have huge power as president to end the wars and the war on drugs. He could immediately pardon millions of political prisoners–mostly poor black men. They would have their voting rights restored. He would end assassination and drone attacks. He would end our illegal wars in Somalia and Yemen and Pakistan–saving tens of thousands of lives.

            But a lot of the bad things he could do require congressional action. In fact, since Paul would have very little support for his drastic budget cuts, I bet there would be a legislative override of his veto. As far as other bad things . . . . Obama and the Democrats are already pursuing right-wing Republican agenda now. Would Ron Paul really make us that more right-wing? Maybe. But I think the evidence points to a more liberal result simply based on war and police policy.

          3. jon k

            Alethia, what Ron Paul does is something that Occupy Wall Street did and it does have value not only for leftists but for all of the 99%. He changes the national conversation.

            I agree with you that he is not the left’s best hope because of his policies but he is their best hope of bringing imperialism, militarism, out of control bankers and erosion of rights and liberties back to the forefront where they belong.

            These are fundamental issues and they are at the core of the problems in our country and are the things that should be at the forefront of the election campaigns. But they are not because the two parties and their status quo candidates differ very little on those issues and they will not want to talk about them in any meaningful way.

  69. Dan Kervick

    But Paul, by criticizing American empire explicitly and its financing channels in the form of the Federal Reserve, also enrages liberals by forcing them to acknowledge that their political economy no longer produces liberal ends.

    This line in itself indicates that you have sipped on too much of the Paul Kool-aid.

    Paul’s critique of empire abroad is apt, but he is a crank who has no real understanding of how the American economy works. The monetary authority of the US government lies in the Congress, and the Fed is simply an instrument of national monetary policy that was created by Congress and to which Congress has delegated monetary operations. There is nothing that constitutionally stands in the way of Congress exercising its inherent monetary authority on its own. The US government could abolish the Fed tomorrow, and yet it would still be perfectly capable of financing its wars abroad.

    If people think we have a bad national government that serves elite interests, then the only viable solution is a better and more democratically accountable national government wielding just as much power, but on behalf of the public interest. There is no viable path to some kind of devolved libertarian “un-government” of gun-toting Arcadian freelancers and small voluntary communities. Honestly, people need to grow up and wake up about this business.

  70. Tony W

    I think the crucial sentence to examine is at the end: “As the New Deal era model sheds the last trappings of anything resembling social justice or equity for what used to be called the middle class.”

    First, I am not sure how Stoller defines “the New Deal era model,” other than a general sense that he thinks it depends on military Keynesianism and what we might call automotive Keynesianism.

    Now, there is no doubt that the U.S., since the New Deal, has evolved a weirdly mutated form of political economy in which military Keynesianism is the closest thing we get to an a coherent industrial policy. But I question whether that was an inevitable result of “the New Deal era model.” A number of other forces are at work that Stoller does not mention, but of which he is fully aware. First, of course, if the process of financialization. Since financialization by its nature imposes a predatory burden on the real economy (think Rmoney and Bain Capital, or Kohlberg Kravis and Roberts, to go back much further than the most infamous vampire squid of the moment), military Keynesianism assumes an out-sized role in subsidizing the increasingly marginal existence of the real economy. Without financialization, I think it might have been possible for other sectors of the real economy to grow healthily by meeting the challenges we face of peak oil and climate change. But if building wind turbines or solar arrays gives you only a five or six percent ROI, while credit default swaps or trading forex derivatives gives you a 20 or 30 percent ROI, where do you think hedge funds are going to direct their money?

    Other factors that Stoller omits in his analysis here are the death of Roosevelt. What I am thinking of here is Roosevelt’s famous plan for what amounted to an economic Bill of Rights, which pretty much died with him. Also significant, and hardly known today, is Roosevelt’s confrontation with Churchill over the fate of the British Empire’s colonial possessions. Roosevelt’s son Elliott captured in his memoirs the confrontation at Casablanca, and Elliot’s account indicates that Roosevelt fully intended to force the British to allow heavy industrial development to occur in Africa and Asia beginning immediately after the cessation of hostilities. Such a policy, which also died with Roosevelt, would have brought forward the date of peak oil, but it is likely – at least I think it is likely – that an entirely different set of elites would have been in charge, elites more attuned to the realities of modern industrial societies, and more willing to devote resources to the solving of major problems that arose, such as peak oil.

    Along these lines, I would also note the impact of the assassination of John Kennedy. I think many Americans lost almost all faith in the political system delivering justice, especially after the further assassinations of Bobby Kennedy, ML King Jr., Malcolm X, and others.

    Finally, Stoller’s analysis here leaves out the incessant efforts of wrong-wingers to roll back the New Deal. My view is that those incessant efforts have more to do with any collapse of a “New Deal era model” than liberalism’s inherent dependence on empire and a war economy, and the contradictions that arise from that dependence. In other words, I believe that if liberalism had not been fatally weakened by the incessant attempts to roll back the New Deal, liberalism might have found the strength to free itself of dependence on empire and a war economy. Reference here, again, the untimely death of John Kennedy because of JFK’s reported determination to withdraw from Southeast Asia after the 1964 election.

    No doubt liberalism has been corrupted. Chris Hedges has documented this painful truth. But what were the agents of corruption? There were more than the two Stoller points to here. I suspect that if given the chance, Stoller would lengthen his essay.

  71. Anthony K.

    I’m still churning through in my own head whether this link between liberal values and empire is inevitable. Certainly in our current state, the entire machinery of our political economy depends on the existence of foreign wars. But I don’t know that this really gets at why libertarianism comes back, which seems more a by-product of our domestic politics.

    The US fights over libertarianism because that’s how political conflict escalates in our liberal democracy–people cry foul when majority politics stop working for them. Libertarian stays influential and people are interested in what Paul is doing, I think, because libertarians’ ability to reframe politics as an individual vs. state problem turns majority politics into constitutional crisis.

    1. Dan Kervick

      The system of New Deal liberalism in the United States, with activist government heavily engaged in the economy running a comprehensive social safety net and constituting a sizable public sector, is no different from what in Europe is more accurately called “social democracy”. And yet the most prosperous social democracies in northern Europe show no imperialistic proclivities at all. There is thus no deep or inherent causal connection between New Deal liberalism and imperialism.

      The growth of the American empire during the postwar period, however, has continually drained resources from social programs. And American social democracy was ultimately destroyed by the rise of neoliberalism – a more market-oriented approach to economic governance that promotes privatization, deregulation and desupervision, and represents a decisive shift rightward and away from postwar New Deal liberalism. The ground for the neoliberal era was prepared by Lyndon Johnson’s inability to choose between an expansive safety net and wars abroad. By extending the war-fighting abroad he helped to kill the New Deal liberalism he was also trying to support.

      So the somewhat inchoate attempt in this piece to draw some line of causal entanglement between New Deal liberalism and militarization or empire is bungled. There is no real causal entanglement. People can simply chose to restore and keep social democracy or New Deal liberalism while rejecting empire.

      If all the thesis amounts to is the claim that New Deal liberalism and the American empire abroad were both supported by the same “funding stream”, then it is an extremely weak thesis indeed. It is a truism that, for any country at all, if that country’s national government maintains programs X and Y, then X and Y are supported by the same funding sources. But to leap from this to arguing that there is some dark and fundamental connection between progressive economic governance at home and empire abroad is a crude and obvious fallacy. It’s like arguing that there is a sinister connection between public Kindergarten and chemical weapons research because they both draw on the same funding sources.

      Paul is a bungler and a defender of radical, backward and nasty laissez faire conservatism. Why in the world have some progressives allowed themselves to be entertained by this silly pied piper?

      1. JTFaraday

        Because some of us are increasingly entertained when the Chicken Littles tear out their own feathers and beat their plucked chicken breasts over Teh Evil Libertarians even though it’s obvious from the Ron Paul candidacy that the totalitarian corporatist terror state we have today doesn’t want anything more to do with it, (mentally slow aging Koch empire notwithstanding).

        If you were running a one party totalitarian corporatist terror state, would you want some crazy old man who runs around telling people YOU’RE the problem? No, that would be bat shit insane.

        Ideological propaganda is for the little people. They tossed your chicken feed over to the pro-government left, (of course).

        1. Aletheia84

          Now, please square their supposed opposition to Ron Paul with the obvious advantages he would bring them.

          No more capital gains taxes.

          Radically reduced corporate taxes. A 20 percentage point cut, in fact.

          No more estate tax, which he called, following typical conservative boilerplate, “the death tax.”

          Radical increases in the deregulation of business and “the markets”.

          Radical increases in the privatization of the public sector. Including social security, which would reroute trillions of dollars to Wall Street, for its benefit.

          Ron Paul is ferociously anti-union, against the minimum wage, and has written that if a worker feels mistreated by a business, he or she should just quit. That goes for sexual harassment as well.

          So, yeah, obviously, corporations and the wealthy are just terrified of a Ron Paul presidency, because, well, umm, he, um . . . would slash their taxes, gut regulations on business, feed trillions to Wall Street and oppose redress for workers if oppressed by business.

          Oh, and his overall ideology? He’s besotted with capitalism and the markets and thinks it’s the very symbol of freedom and liberty.

          Yeah, our corporate masters just quiver in fear when it comes to Ron Paul.

          1. F. Beard

            On the other hand, abolishing the Fed and government deposit insurance (PROVIDING he provides some risk-free alternative to the matress such as a Postal Savings Bank) would severely limit the ability of corporations to oppress their workers with the worker’s own stolen purchasing power vai loans from the government backed counterfeiting cartel, the banking system.

            As for the capital gains tax, you might sing a different tune when the corporations are forced by the abolition of the counterfeiting cartel to pay thier workers with an equity share.

      2. Aletheia84

        Well written and argued. I favor going much further to the left than Social Democracy, to places no one has gone before. As in, no money, no profit, and full on participatory Democracy, with the means of production entirely in the hands of society, of the community of people making up that society. As in, everyone. Individuals own their own home. But everything in between is “the Commons.”

        However, short of that, I think a Tony Judt style social democracy is the best way to go. And I don’t see any necessary correlation between that and empire. If that were the case, Norway, Sweden and Denmark would be the most aggressive military states on the planet right now, as opposed to America, which has the least amount of social democracy in the developed world.

        Add to that, empires were obviously in existence long before social welfare states came into being. It’s simply absurd to cherry pick cause and effect when the causes (kinds of government and economic arrangements) were so varied through history.

        To show that X causes Y, you pretty much have to show that only X causes Y. Unless you admit that there are hundreds of other configurations, which you wouldn’t really want to do, as it would weaken your premise from the getgo.

        Anyway . . . I’ll take a Tony Judt social democracy any day over what we have now, or what Europe has now, caught up as it is in neoliberal madness, too.

        But I’d prefer even stronger medicine. Full democratic socialism first, leading to democratic egalitarianism, without money, profit or debt.

  72. friend

    I think Matt would do better to focus on cliques, rather than ideology. I think he is trying to impose more order than exists.

    The intellectual roots of the New Deal were pragmatism more than anything. And the New Deal arrived at a certain moment, with certain choices.

    Matt might enjoy The Liberal Tradition In America, by Louis Hartz, written in 1950s. Compares American ideology to European.

  73. JTFaraday

    I find it interesting that people can’t break out of electoral mode even though they know Ron Paul is a marginalized “candidate” with no chance of being “elected” by the one party state.

    This is the case even though Stoller has nowhere advised anyone to vote for Ron Paul. Stoller has not even advised anyone vote for Ron Paul in the primary “election,” even though 2012 is the year of the protest vote–whether the rigid Chicken Little partisans like it or not.

    This defective mental audio file is doubly concerning as progressives, of all people, surely know that there hasn’t been a plausibly real Presidential election in the US since the 90s.

    If that, considering that the Clinton Administration was clearly run by the Goldman Sachs Treasury and the Greenspan Fed, as we all know from the testimony of the Chicken Littles’ own “good progressives” like Robert Reich.

    “Naked Capitalism: a home for all sorts of electoral nonsense” might have made a better title for this post.

  74. Ignacio

    Yet another comment. This is personally directed to Stoller: I think you would enjoy re-reading Bertrand Russell. The great phylosopher wrote in 1932 about men investing in government bonds as if they were wasting money because that money was mainly used to pay past or future wars.

    Regards, and congrats to you and Greenwald for this debate.

  75. Bridget

    ”  But Paul, by criticizing American empire explicitly and its financing channels in the form of the Federal Reserve, also enrages liberals by forcing them to acknowledge that their political economy no longer produces liberal ends.”

    More likely, he enrages those liberals who sense that he will dismantle the ponzi scheme enabled by the Federal Reserve and on which liberals have made promises that can’t be kept.

    1. F. Beard

      … he will dismantle the ponzi scheme enabled by the Federal Reserve and on which liberals have made promises that can’t be kept. Bridget

      The Fed should be abolished but government defict spending does not need a central bank at all. The Federal Government can spend without borrowing or even taxation so long as price inflation in its fiat is not a problem.

      Liberals should be asked why they love the Fed and banks since they mainly exist to cheat the population, especially the poor.

      1. aletheia84

        F Beard,

        You responded to my comment about Ron Paul by saying he would abolish the Fed. I hear Ron Paul supporters say that often.

        Personally, I’d love to see it abolished, and then reopened under new management. The people. Owned lock, stock and barrel by the American people, not to be confused with the two parties.

        Thing is, the president doesn’t have the authority to abolish the Fed. Unless you envision Ron Paul as a supreme leader, dictator for life sorta thing. Which would, you know, kinda demolish that whole “limited government” thing he preaches. Not to mention the Constitution.

        It’s a conundrum. In order for Ron Paul to do all of the amazing things his fans want him to do, and say he would do, he’d have to become dictator for life. Il Duce. etc.

        1. F. Beard

          and then reopened under new management. aletheia84

          Whatever for? The US Government has no need for banks including the the Fed. It can simple spend its own fiat into existence and tax (as needed) to remove that fiat from circulation.

          As for the private sector, why should some, the “credit worthy”, be allowed to steal purchasing power from everyone else?

          1. Aletheia84

            Well, you ducked that part about Ron Paul abolishing the Fed.

            But, I’ll let that go. I think as long as we’re stuck with capitalism — I’d rather see it dead and buried — a central bank makes sense. If public, 100% non-profit and totally transparent, we could make sure that it works on our behalf, not for the 1%. We could, for instance, instead of showering the already rich with 16 trillion dollars, send reparations to each and every American making under a certain amount. The economy would boom in no time. Once we stabilized that boom, we could then make sure that our national central bank, owned and operated by the people outside the two party system . . . made sure that we maintain a steady state economy.

            Numerous competing currencies, OTOH, would create chaos and a thousand booms and busts working against one another. It’s a prescription for disintegration and depression.

            Thanks, but no thanks.

            Now, if we would finally do the right thing and eliminate money, profit and capitalism altogether, we could go a far better route. Digital units, based upon labor done. No profit. Everyone would receive their wage from an infinite pool of numbers, owned by the nation as a whole. Funding for anything we need, solved. No debt. No taxes needed. Funding in the form of endless digits from our central “bank” for anything we need. We all receive those digits for our wages. The people own the means of production. Everyone has an equal voice in our destiny as a nation, and equal power.

            No more hunger, homelessness, poverty. Gone. One person’s wage no longer would hurt another’s. No more finite payroll issues. Numbers are infinite.

          2. F. Beard

            We could, for instance, instead of showering the already rich with 16 trillion dollars, send reparations to each and every American making under a certain amount. The economy would boom in no time. Aletheia84

            Agreed. I advocate a univeral bailout till ALL debt to the counterfeiting cartel is paid off.

            Once we stabilized that boom, we could then make sure that our national central bank, owned and operated by the people outside the two party system . . . made sure that we maintain a steady state economy. Aletheia84

            And who gets the loans and who doesn’t? Do the rich get bigger loans because they are more “creditworthy”? Do the poor get smaller loans or none at all?

            Numerous competing currencies, OTOH, would create chaos and a thousand booms and busts working against one another. It’s a prescription for disintegration and depression. Aletheia84

            Better thosuands of small individual crises than 1 huge nation wide one. Besides, fiat would always be available to use for all debts if people so chose.

            Now, if we would finally do the right thing and eliminate money, profit and capitalism altogether, we could go a far better route. Aletheia84

            Common stock is a democratice form of money that “shares” wealth and power, not concentrates it. Liberals should be wildly enthusiatic over it. Also, profits are normally not taken but allowed to compound.

  76. b.

    “The basic thesis was that the same financing structures that are used to finance mass industrial warfare were used to create a liberal national economy and social safety.”

    Yup. They are called taxes, and government, with or without consent of the governed/taxed. That – with or without – is important, as is the consent. The rest is just a repackaging of the glibertarian “Big Government” meme. What is the solution, drown it in a bathtub? How about the corporate part of that “military-industrial-political complex” that converts tax revenue into corporate profits into campaign financing? Yes, the same kind of closed loop incentive structures develop for “third rails” – votes not donations – but that is a trivial observation.

    See George Will’s recent adoption of this meme, and its integration into his own agitprop. The only surprise is that Greenwald hasn’t been able to seen that this is deflecting a long overdue critique of organized “liberalism” – including Stoller – towards a critique of the very means by which the governed are supposed to see their consent being acted upon.

    Lesser weevilism and the disgusting “jobs are more important than ending wars” politics of the decades have always been corrupt. That’s a breakdown of accountability – and a reflection of the reality that you have to do democracy with the people you have, not the people you wish for – not an argument against taxation or government as such. Paul is indeed not particularly relevant to the merits of these issues – and a brutally honest discussion of incentive structures and feedback loops in our “democratic” institutions is absolutely necessary – but Stoller is selling a glibertarian dodge dressed up as a “systemic” critique of straw-liberalism.

  77. Walter Wit Man

    There you go hyperventilating. Crackpot? No sane person can support him?

    Very weak rebuttal of the facts too.

    There are way more than 200,000 convictions that would be over turned (even people that have served their sentence or are on parole or supervision would be pardoned and would have their civil rights restored). Plus, 200,000 is better than nothing. Do you know how many families and children would get to see their loved ones again? 200,000 locked in cages is too many. And I wonder how many are serving federal sentences in state prison.

    And why is this a negative that Paul would *only* release 200,000? He’s releasing the most he can. As president, he would only have authority to pardon those convicted in federal prison. He doesn’t have the authority to release state prisoners (although I’m sure he would argue that they shouldn’t be imprisoned for drug crimes–whereas Obama and the Democrats are pressuring states to incarcerate).

    It’s like you don’t really care about this issue. You are not giving this idea the thought it deserves. I doubt you sincerely think this is a good thing. Like most Democrats, I bet you are simply giving this subject lip service and you don’t care at all that we imprison the most people in the world using a racist Jim Crow system to lock black people up.

    1. PQS

      Walter –

      Please provide details on even one proposal put forth by RP during his long years in Congress that actually works towards this goal.

      1. Walter Wit Man

        Here’s ONE such bill:

        He proposed repealing the PATRIOT Act along with Kucinich.

        He is one of the few people that voted not to sanction Iran and often is the lone voice against our wars of empire.

        He was about the only Congressman claiming the drone assassinations are illegal and counterproductive. He was against the Libyan war.

        Still want more examples?

        Why do you think Paul is insincere? What possible advantage does he have to gain running as a Republican that wants to let a bunch of black guys out of prison?

        Also, the original comment was misplaced. I meant to post it in response to a comment above.

        1. F. Beard

          I probabily won’t vote but I if I do it will be for RP, based on the current choices. Let him learn the hard way that cutting spending during a Depression is insane and unjust to boot.

          Expect RP to attack the minimum wage and Davis-Bacon. Austrians love deflation EXCEPT when it come to principal reduction which is supposed to be voluntary and which in practice will be very niggardly if at all.

          1. Aletheia84

            Yep. He wants to cut one trillion in his first year. That would certainly send us into a worldwide depression, and increase misery and poverty for millions.

            It would literally kill millions of people around the world, because the first thing that goes when the budget axe falls is aid to the poor. We already know that Ron Paul has been trying to kill UNICEF and all UN aid to the impoverished around the world for decades.

            If he gets his wish to cut one trillion — and he’d have the House to back him on this and perhaps even the Senate — humanitarian aid will disappear. All of it. People will die as a result, and mostly people of color.

            I can’t presume to know what the motivations are of people who support him. But I do know what the effect would be. Devastation, worldwide. A dream come true for nihilists.

          2. konst

            I’ve been reading about Austrian economics and I think there should be deflation especially principal reduction. The point the Fed and Fed’sters won’t tell is that deflation is not a bad thing.

            The reason why they are afraid of it is, I think, that a lot of their wealth is leveraged upon the debt of middle class and poor people and if that debt is liquidated or reduced, their assets and wealth will also be reduce by a huge amount.

          3. Walter Wit Man

            Yes. I think those areas are where they would attack.

            But again, is it really going to be any different than Obama or Romney? Besides the rhetoric anyway? Obama has acted like a 1980s Republican when it comes to unions and worker rights. I just read how he’s using the military to break a strike for the first time since Nixon. He is treating federal workers JUST LIKE Walker is treating Wisky government workers–not supporting the right to organize, etc.

            The minimum wage (and unemployment insurance) are policies where there is a rhetorical difference but the action by the two main parties will be largely the same. The GOP pretends to be against these but Bush also passed unemployment insurance extensions and I doubt the GOP would totally remove the minimum wage (and the Democrats should be able to muster the 40 Senate votes to kill it).

            It would be *interesting* to see if Paul will insist on following through on his austerity measures or if he will listen to his inner Keynes like the Republicans seem to do when it matters (see unemployment insurance example above). I would also hope Paul would learn on the job as well and not be so eager to enact austerity (oh jeez, now I sound like an Obama supporter circa 2008). But seriously, he has indicated that he wouldn’t push too hard on austerity if it’s going to effect people too drastically (or at least I thought I heard this message–so again, I should check that I am not engaging in wishful thinking). He hinted at such when he contemplated an alliance with Kucinich and Nader, etc.

            In any case I imagine Paul would introduce a radical budget proposal . . . it would be interesting to see if he negotiated with Congress or simply forced them to override by 2/3 vote. The fight over the military would be huge. I imagine Congress will appropriate a lot of money and Paul will say he doesn’t need it or want it, etc. I’m not sure how it would all play out . . .I guess the military equipment will still be delivered, and contracts followed, but Paul would simply bring the troops home and a lot of the equipment would sit idle. Or he would cave. Who knows.

            I got to say I would trust Ron Paul to substantially cut the defense budget more than I trust Obama. Would be interesting to see how it plays out.

          4. Walter Wit Man


            You are looking at this too simply.

            1. We may have no choice but to deleverage in the face of population growth outstripping available energy. The economists predict slower growth anyway and maybe the problem is in our capitalist assumptions about growth and GDP.

            2. Some cuts are good. Our military, the financial sector, and the health care sector (the health insurance and pharma sectors of health care at least), are all too big and need to be cut. Yes, we will lose jobs if we stop waging so much war and stop imprisoning people. But this is a necessary evil. It will bring more good after a short period of pain. Of course I would prefer a socialized jobs program to replace “good” jobs with the “bad” jobs lost in jails or the military, etc. But I bet I could get a pretty liberal result if I were able to cut $1 Trillion.

          5. F. Beard

            The point the Fed and Fed’sters won’t tell is that deflation is not a bad thing. konst

            Deflation is a bad thing when it results from a decrease in the amount or velocity of money.

            Imagine that you lose blood or heart pumping capability …

            So now we understand the Austrians; they are descendants of “blood letters”.

            To be fair, there is one kind of price deflation that is good; that which results from productivity gains PROVIDED the workers recieve their fare share of the gains.

        2. Aletheia84


          Again, could not respond directly to one of your comments, so will respond here. Please stop with the fishing for motives, allegiances and alliances. It’s absurd. Take people’s criticism of Ron Paul at face value. You have no possible way of knowing their motives, which would involve reading their minds. All you have, via an Internet forum, are the words on the page. Judge them accordingly. When people get caught up in this endless suspicion of one’s true reason for posting, they miss more than just the forest for the trees. They miss the topic at hand and spin off in a thousand directions.

          Now, onto Ron Paul. In several posts, you have made the absurd declaration that Ron Paul would “end empire and the drug war.” Well, yes, he could do just that, if he became dictator. But not if he becomes president. Beyond that, Ron Paul has stated and written a thousand times that he is opposed to Federal intervention with the states, and that includes drug laws. Yes, he could probably end most attempts by the feds to pursue its unjust and truly stupid war on drugs. But the states could and will go on with their own war. Ron Paul’s tentherism and his own proposed bills (like the We the People Act) make it clear that he would do nothing to prevent state abuse of powers. He repeatedly cops out when confronted about his stances by saying, the states should do this and that, not the feds. That includes oppressing citizens, stripping them of their rights, etc. Ron Paul would stand by and let it happen. His We the People Act tries to prevent citizens from redressing state abuse through the Federal system. That’s his core philosophy and ideology.

          IMO, you have, like so many other Ron Paul fans, put far too much faith in one politician, and Americans should know better by now than to do that. Haven’t we had enough examples of politicians baiting and switching on us to last a lifetime? Ron Paul is a politician, a right-wing, Texas Republican. He’s not a saint or savior. No one human being deserves the kind of faith you and so many others have invested in him. Not his record, his public statements, his ideology, his claims. None of it warrants the kind of deification process in place when it comes to Paul.

          That deification process has now taken us to the point where we can’t even argue against his positions without being dismissed as Obamabots, even when we’re leftists who won’t vote for anyone from the duopoly.

          Hate to break it to you, Walter, but Ron Paul is a Republican. He’s a part of that duopoly. He’s not a third party alternative to the status quo. He’s a part of the status quo. And he would certainly, if elected, help the top 1% beyond any other candidate. His tax cuts, deregulation and privatization plans, his gutting of the social safety net and his hatred of workers rights and unions would widen the wealth and income gap beyond its already record levels.

          Do yourself a favor. Read Ron Paul’s views on social justice, economic justice, socialism, collectivism, etc. I’m a socialist, and am appalled at his ignorance of leftist philosophy in general and his bigotry in particular. Look closely at his voting record. Orcinus has done a great job putting that all in one place. Investigate his record. I feel confident that if you do, you will no longer want to support him.

          1. Walter Wit Man

            I’m not a Ron Paul “fan”, and I don’t “support” him.

            I don’t know how many times I have to tell you that.

            I’m only arguing that a vote for Ron Paul will actually lead to a more left result than voting for Barack Obama will. So I can respect the fact that as a socialist you simply cannot accept Ron Paul because the negatives outweigh the positives. If you take that position then, if you are consistent, you will make the same argument about Obama and the Democrats. Do you? Do you spam Daily Kos and other “progressive” sites warning them about their support for Obama because he is too right-wing?

            I know the dangers of Ron Paul’s libertarianism. I’m willing to game these out with you if you want to treat it honestly.

            But I’m turned off from doing this analysis with you because you demonstrated that you are not bringing logic to the exercise–you’re on a mission to discredit Ron Paul rather than to honestly analyze anything. You claim that Ron Paul won’t do anything good but your evidence is really weak and usually not on point.

            To me ending our illegal wars and our prison industrial complex are the most important issues facing this world (as well as the control the 1% has on our democracy and resources). You can’t even bring yourself to acknowledge that Ron Paul has a better stated policy than Obama or the Democrats.

          2. Walter Wit Man

            So since Ron Paul is a Republican he is pro war and pro torture and pro violating our civil rights just like them? Was Ron Paul the only Republicans supporting left-wing liberals like Kucinich as part of an elaborate ploy to fool leftwingers into voting for Republicans? Or is his target audience centrist independents?

            Is he sincere but will simply sell out? Like Kucinich?

            I am actually open to this argument simply because I’ve been burned so many times. I reluctantly supported Democrats like Kucinich but now I know that when push comes to shove Dennis will put party ahead of principle.

            I’m just curious about your theory because your stated theory seems like a ridiculous left wing strawman version of a Ron Paul sellout.

            Plus, your criticism of Paul’s foreign policy seems to be it isn’t interventionist enough! This sounds like you are criticizing Paul from the right, like lots of Democrats are doing now, arguing that somehow bombing countries protects them.

            Also, re international aid, most of U.S. aid goes to the war machine in places like Israel, so I wouldn’t be so concerned with the loss of a lot of this aid. The U.S. has politicized international aid and I think we actually might be better off if we went to a private model rather than using aid to further U.S. strategic and military interests.

        3. PQS

          No, I meant a bill put forth by RP that proposed ending the War on Drugs and pardoning its prisoners.

          1. Walter Wit Man

            The pardon is a role that is uniquely reserved to the executive branch. So only the president can do it and Paul had no power to effect this in Congress. Paul has said that he will pardon non violent drug crimes when he’s in office. This would be a step above a commutation because it would restore voting rights.

            Also, as noted before, it would only extend to the federal government as state executive officers usually have the pardon power in the states.

            Furthermore, Paul would presumably not pressure states to incarcerate people for drug crimes, as Obama has done.

  78. Stefan

    John Locke’s Two Treatises on Government (1690) argued that governments originated in the voluntary association and consent of humans acting in their rational self-interest.

    Locke claimed humans were reasonable and cooperative, and located the beginnings of civil order in the social contract—an agreement in which humans traded the absolute freedom of the state of nature for the limited freedoms of civil society.

    Locke’s theory of the social contract is the foundation of classical liberalism—the political doctrine that prizes individual rights and freedoms and strives for a constitutional government that secures individual autonomy.

    From the social contract, citizens retain “unalienable” rights—to quote the American Declaration of Independence—that no government should ever violate.

    By vesting a government with some powers of legislation and enforcement, humans secure their freedoms.

  79. konst

    @ Matt Stoller,

    You were recently on the Matthew Filipowicz show

    and you mentioned that Ron Paul has some crazy ideas like letters or marque. I applaud you for raising issues with liberals and progressives that Paul raises that we need debate on, but it’s amazing how many people (yourself included) lack knowledge of the US Constitution and history. I’m not saying I’m an expert but seriously you guys have to do better.

    I’ve been following Ron Paul’s campaign and history for a few years now and one thing you and everyone should’ve realized by now is that everything, and I mean everything, that Ron Paul advocates is within the Constitution including “letters of marque”. (Letters of Marque and Reprisal in Article I, Sec. 8 cl. 11)

    So all these “crazy ideas” as liberals and progressives call them are actually what the US Constitution authorizes the federal government to do and prohibits it from doing anything else.

    Progressives and liberals have been deluded into thinking that this mythical thing called “their government” is their protector like a father figure who is going to protect them from harm. I think the last few decades should have been enough to wake people up from that delusion. I used to be a progressive and if you think the government is your guardian angel just consider for a minute the possibility that your strongly held beliefs all throughout your childhood were wrong, if only so you can examine the situation objectively and not through rose colored glasses.

    1. Aletheia84

      No one on the left believes the government is a guardian angel. That kind of claim just sounds like so much conservative boilerplate. You’re mistaking opposition to Ron Paul for a belief in government’s angelic nature. The two things have nothing to do with one another.

      Most leftists I know are opposed to Ron Paul and government overreach, empire, war, the surveillance state, etc. etc. We oppose both. We also know, unlike propertarians, it would seem, that oppressive, tyrannical power resides in the private sector as well, and must be combated through democratic means. Ron Paul and most propertarians are against that, believing that any democratic checks on their property rights is an assault on the very notion of “liberty and freedom.” As if, liberty and freedom is solely the purview of those with property — read, business owners. As if the liberty and freedom to pollute, steal from workers and consumers, pay crappy wages, fire workers at will and so on is a legitimate definition.

      It’s not. Except for American libertarians, who, in my view, have a truly warped idea of what liberty and freedom are all about.

      1. konst

        Most leftists I know are opposed to Ron Paul and government overreach, empire, war, the surveillance state, etc. etc. We oppose both.

        That’s not my complaint. I used to be a progressive and know exactly what you’re trying to say. My complaint is that there’s this cognitive dissonance in that progressives say they are against those things and yet they will vote for Obama again! You have to admit they just can’t face reality that they have been hoodwinked.

        We also know, unlike propertarians, it would seem, that oppressive, tyrannical power resides in the private sector as well, and must be combated through democratic means.

        That’s what I used to think but you have to look at it logically. I’m not saying that some corporations and companies won’t try to overreach but think: what and how is it that corporations try to avoid the law?

        As if, liberty and freedom is solely the purview of those with property — read, business owners. As if the liberty and freedom to pollute, steal from workers and consumers, pay crappy wages, fire workers at will and so on is a legitimate definition.

        You need to look at this more deeply. What you said is not the way the world is but it’s the way those drunk with political power align themselves with those corporations to give them political favors to avoid them having to abide by the law.

        1. Aletheia84

          I used to be a progressive as well. I’m a socialist now. A ferociously anti-capitalist socialist. I’m not a member of any party or organization, but the Democratic Socialist Party probably comes closest to my beliefs. I think America should go there, and then go further over time. Democratic Socialism first, establish it, give Americans the choice to see its benefits and then the benefits of completely chucking capitalism, money and profit altogether. I think if they can see the benefits of doing just that, they’ll vote for it. And the benefits are obvious. Virtually the entire nation would improve its standard of living dramatically. The only people who would not are millionaires and billionaires, and even they would see a far better, healthier, safer, longer-lived society.

          Anyway, so that’s the preamble to this. I categorically reject Ron Paul, the Republican party and the Democrats. Between the two parties, I think the Dems are preferable. But I reject both of them. So my critique of RP comes from that place. He is a Republican, after all. I find it bizarre that people who say that we need to reject the two parties seem to carve out an exception for him.

          1. konst

            About Ron Paul being a Republican. I see you still see the world as it was painted for you and for many people during their childhoods and stuck with them ever since. If you compare Ron Paul to today’s Republicans you’ll see he’s not really a Republican but run in the Republican party cause in the US you have no choice.

            The trouble with socialism is technically it doesn’t and won’t work. I used to have similar beliefs as you but I found out they just don’t work. There’s technical reasons why it doesn’t work and there’s nothing wrong with profit and money. The free market (if you know what the free market is, not Wall Street but you and everyone who is a member of society) has resistance to violence and tyranny.

            I think the only thing that works is adopting the “non aggression principle” The Non-Aggression Axiom of Libertarianism (that’s on the Lew Rockwell website)

  80. rootless_e

    “A fairly common reaction has been to misrepresent the thesis, and argue that those exploring Ron Paul’s ideas are necessarily Ron Paul supporters. ”

    On the contrary, the misrepresentation has been on the part of Greenwald and Stoller who pretend their support for Paul is not support because they have, so far, not actually endorsed his political campaign. Paul comes to “limited government” from a line of argument that has existed since before the Confederacy and has been used to justify slavery and then Jim Crow. The tactic of allowing that Paul has some issues, and then jumping to “but”, is weak. The unibomber offered a critique of environmental destruction, Father Caughlin opposed banks, Tom Watson spoke for the poor working class (the white one) – even George Wallace was a populist. It’s disingenuous for Stoller and Greenwald to claim that their embrace of this slimeball Dixiecrat is not an embrace, that it can be neatly separated from his Aryan Nation pandering, or that it is not primarily motivated by their unhinged antipathy to the Obama administration.

    1. konst

      NAACP President Nelson Linder on Ron Paul:

      “Knowing Ron Paul’s intent, I think he is trying to improve this country but I think also, when you talk about the Constitution and you constantly criticize the federal government versus state I think a lot of folks are going to misconstrue that….so I think it’s very easy for folks who want to to take his position out of context and that’s what I’m hearing…I’ve read Ron Paul’s whole philosophy, I also understand what he’s saying from a political standpoint and why people are attacking him…If you scare the folks that have the money, they’re going to attack you and they’re going to take it out of context…What he’s saying is really really threatening the powers that be and that’s what they fear…”

      FULL DISCLOSURE: “Nelson Linder contacted our office and wanted to stress the fact that he made his comments as a private citizen, not as president of the Austin NAACP. He said the libertarian platform deserves the same scrutiny as the Democratic and Republican parties receive in this nation. He went on to say that some on the web have construed that he is endorsing Ron Paul. And that is not the case. Mr. Linder went on to say that the interview was designed to discuss local issues concerning civil rights and civil liberties and his knowledge of the Libertarian party and Ron Paul.”


      1. Aletheia84

        Interesting that you cite Lew Rockwell, as he’s the most likely author of those racist, crackpot letters under Ron Paul’s name. At least the ones Paul didn’t write himself.

        [Ilya Somin, January 18, 2008 at 4:27pm] Trackbacks
        Ron Paul and the Political Strategy of Appealing to White Racial Resentment:

        Julian Sanchez and David Weigel have an interesting article in Reason compiling evidence suggesting that Llewellyn Rockwell of the Ludwig Von Mises Institute was the author of the notorious racist and anti-Semitic material published in Ron Paul’s political reports in late 1980s and early 90s.

        To me, the most important part of the article is not the possiblity that Rockwell wrote the newsletters but the fact (mentioned only in passing) that Paul apparently supported Rockwell and Murray Rothbard’s political strategy of appealing to white racial resentment as a strategy for gaining support for what they called “paleolibertarianism” (a combination of libertarianism and paleoconservatism). According to Sanchez and Weigel, Paul even went so far as to abandon his planned 1992 presidential bid in order to support Pat Buchanan’s candidacy, which Rothbard and Rockwell had endorsed. It is difficult to imagine an American political platform much more inimical to libertarianism than Buchanan’s combination of protectionism, support for economic regulation, nativism, racial resentment, thinly veiled anti-Semitism, and extreme social conservatism. Unlike the newsletters, Paul’s apparent embrace of Buchanan’s candidacy and the Rothbard-Rockwell racialist political strategy can’t be blamed on the misdeeds of ghostwriters whose work Paul was supposedly unaware of.

        You might want to avoid using his website in the future. Oh, and for most of us on the left, the above is more than enough to disqualify Ron Paul.

        1. Lambert Strether

          An interesting perspective from a former DNC staffer:

          Well, putting aside the question of how one defines “convincingly”, at the heart of the teeth gnashing are Paul’s racist newsletters and their import. For me, this would be a much tougher nut to crack if structural and/or cultural racism were still the most heinous defect in the American body politic. But in a country where indefinite detention just became the law of the land, it’s not. In a country where unmanned American drones are killing innocent children abroad, it’s not. And in a country where mortgage scammers are protected from prosecution while Americans are being foreclosed on in record numbers, it’s not. Sorry black folks, but race and racism are not the biggest issues of the 21st century and to imagine otherwise is to conflate the issue and put the needs of your community ahead of the needs of America in particular and the global community in general. In that way, it’s a selfish usurpation of the political agenda to placate the few, and it shouldn’t be tolerated by black people of conscience.

          If you, or me, or the next gal or guy believes Ron Paul to be a racist based on those 20 year old newsletters, then don’t vote for him. But don’t pretend that, as we devolve into a genuine police state, one candidate’s 20 year old view on race, or one’s association with racists, is a disqualifier. That’s a cute little immature brand of boutique politics, but it’s just unworkable in the knuckle and fist variety of real politics where the most important and impactful issues take priority.

          These issues are not as easy as some think, and don’t necessarily fall neatly into partisan boxes.

          1. Aletheia84

            It may not be enough for some to disqualify Ron Paul based upon those letters and his pandering to white nationalists.

            Ok, fine. But if your rationale is that his views on the police state offset that, you might want to take a closer look at his views on states’ rights. A good place to start is hisWe the People Act. It would set the table for state fascism and theocracy, one state at a time. Paul, in this act, is trying to prevent a private citizen from seeking redress for state abuse of power through the federal courts or agencies.

            His supposed civil liberties cred is based on a juvenile, naive and cursory projection. It’s not supported by Paul’s actual bills or adherence to tentherism. But as long as people think about Ron Paul as the last perfect, pure and saintly man in the universe, all too many people will be fooled into accepting Ron Paul myths.

        2. konst

          Aletheia84 says:
          January 10, 2012 at 10:38 pm
          Interesting that you cite Lew Rockwell, as he’s the most likely author of those racist, crackpot letters under Ron Paul’s name. At least the ones Paul didn’t write himself.

          I didn’t cite Lew Rockwell. That link is an interview with NAACP President Nelson Linder on Ron Paul.

        3. F. Beard

          was the author of the notorious racist and anti-Semitic material Aletheia84

          You have got to be kidding. Both Mises and Rothbard were Jewish. Are you confusing anti-fractional reserves with anti-semitism?

          Thr bankers will hide behind anything to protect their filthy business.

  81. Goin' South

    What I heard tonight, after Paul’s second place finish in the NH primary, is his exaltation in his campaign’s status as something aimed at taking down the status quo.

    That, and his supporters’ cry of “Revolution” during his speech, confirms that, as an Anarchist, I have much more in common with them than the Dem shills on DailyKos.

    Paul’s nonsense about the virtues of Capitalism notwithstanding, he does evince a confidence in basic human decency that “liberals” lack. It’s true that he is blind to the evils of Capitalism, but his young supporters will learn that we are oppressed not only by the Overseer but by the Master as well.

    “The Masters make the rules
    o’er the wise men and the fools,
    I’ve got nothin’, Ma
    To live up to.”

    A basic problem of ‘Murcan culture.

  82. Michael Finn

    I think what I found most insulting about the whole post was the fact that this contributor was attempting to act as the “decider” on what Liberalism is. That is beyond arrogant.

    My ideological beliefs are my own and they are not for somebody else to define for me, I don’t fit exactly in liberal or conservative because my needs and wants are different than everybody elses which means I value things differently. Politics is the game picking the least bad solution out there because you have to listen to the other side. If you didn’t then you would be living in a dictatorship.

    You can argue semantics all you want but frankly it gets old real quick, look at what happened with Republicans and the abortion/gay marriage debates. Calling the president a baby killer is a good way to get attention and be completely dismissed as a quack. I grew tired of the assassination argument when it became clear the guy was working for the enemy, supporting the enemy, and providing support to the enemy. He could have simply turned himself into US Troops. There is precedent for this, during the 2001 invasion of Afghanistan a soldier for the enemy turned himself over the military because he was a US citizen and he lived.

    This President has done something that no other president has done, he has reformed health care and brought costs for it under control. You can bitch and moan about how it isn’t up to your standard but you know what? My mother is going to get treatment for her two pre-existing conditions when she switches her health insurance and she won’t go bankrupt. If you don’t think that is a gigantic deal then you are as bad as the Republicans. I didn’t get everything I wanted when the bill was passed and had I been negotiating I could guarantee that it wouldn’t have gotten anywhere.

    Ron Paul has beliefs that run counter to everything I believe in. I believe that anybody has the right to go anywhere in this country and not be denied the right engage in commerce because of their race, skin, religion, sexuality, or any other reason. His beliefs would let people do that. His beliefs would require that we go to currency standards that are insane. He wants to take this country back more than two hundred years from civil rights perspective.

    I have beliefs and ideas and I’m more than flexible on them but I will not yield my morals. Ron Paul’s stance challenges my morals as a citizen of this country and as a human being. I want no part of a movement that would hold him up as a mirror to show people how they should be.

  83. dandelion

    We are on the edge of fascism in this country.

    The left is not large enough nor powerful enough to stop it.

    I wish we were.

    But it may well be that, for now, only libertarianism offers a possibility of arresting the complete marriage of corporation to state, the complete assumption of totalitarian powers by the state, and the total militarization of the state/economy.

    The fact is that, ideologically speaking, libertarianism has stronger history/roots in the American political mindset than any kind of social democracy/socialism does.

    My politics are about as far left as you can get in this country and I find Paul’s positions on social justice odious.

    Whoever posted above that liberalism used to be more reflective is absolutely correct. I’d go one further and say that liberals or political activists used to have much stronger grounding in history, political philosophy and economics. They no longer do, and that’s why you get people like Digby who can only argue for their positions out of a sense of morality to which they wish to convert everyone else or ridiculous statements by Atkins about the need for the Federal Reserve to exist so that Treasury doesn’t have to beg dollars from JP Morgan.(In fact, I’m surprised any liberal would call liberalism “paternalistic,” as Atkins does, without flinching, given that word’s close relationship to patriarchy, which tells me Atkins has done no reading whatsoever in feminist thought.)

    We are on the brink here, and it’s our own fault, as liberals and leftists have done a terrible job at doing anything like wooing the population, anything like what we old rad=fems used to call consciousness raising.

    I’d love it if the SWP or the Green Party or any leftist could rally people to the left side of the equation and stop this march to fascism. But we can’t even rally support for a simple spending package to bring down unemployment from what in the 1980s was considered crisis levels; we can’t even get a president to allow the FDA to allow us emergency contraception.

    We certainly couldn’t get a candidate as radically disruptive to the Democrats as Paul is to the Republicans on the ballot, and if you don’t think Paul isn’t disruptive then you aren’t paying attention to Goldman Sachs et all who absolutely do not want the Fed audited.

    I think it’s time to stop thinking about politics in moralistic terms and start thinking about how power works, how it accrues, how to obtain it, and most importantly for now, how to stop its complete centralization in the hands of the would-be tyrannists in DC and NY.

    But I think we’re in an emergency here.

    1. Jackrabbit

      I think your ’emergency’ comment might be a good basis for a third post, following on Matt’s first two.

      How do liberals effectively communicate what they stand for and their concerns in today’s world? How do they connect with a populace that has effectively ‘drunk the cool-aid?’

      Many people have bought the ‘truth’ of a major political divide in big govt vs big business. And factionalism seems to be very ingrained also. The ‘nuance’ of *effective* government and *enlightened* self-interest is lost.

      Along the same lines, I’m sure we’ve all seen comments on NC and elsewhere about the difficulty of discussing inconvenient truths regarding the direction of the country/economy – even with a ‘receptive audience’ like friends and family.

      Conservatives, backed by an increasing wealth disparity, have been able to ‘shape the electorate’ and control the terms of the debate.

      It seems to me that for liberals and many independents, a vote for RP is a protest vote. Many of those should probably register their protest via a vote for Jill Stein of the Green Party.

      While neither Jill Stein or Ron Paul probably has a chance to win this year, building support for the Greens seems to be more constructive. (Votes for the Green candidate brings future matching funds, doesn’t it?)

      1. F. Beard

        How do they connect with a populace that has effectively ‘drunk the cool-aid?’ Jackrabbit

        Banking steals purchasing power, especially from the non-rich. Make that clear to the population and they will realize that those who support the Fed and banking are THIEVES, not pious, hardworking producers.

        The mistake liberals make is to try and balance one theft (by banking) with another (redistribution).

        Thieves to the Right of US,
        thieves to the Left,
        here we are
        stuck in the middle
        and screwed.
        apologies to Gerry Rafferty

        1. Jackrabbit

          You’re addressing the problem like a rational, goodhearted person would. Pointing out the problem and expecting that people will a) understand/accept your description, and b) take action that is in their self-interest.

          But you ignore the competing messages that are being continually blasted from TPTB via MSM. Much of that, directly or indirectly, urges people to fear change and stick with traditional parties (Dem or Rep) that basically use their “base” as a bargaining chip.

          So despite widespread anger at Banks, environmental concerns, soaring cost of Education and Medical care, uncompetitive industries and job losses, etc. nothing really changes. And with every new administration the screw is turned tighter, and the message becomes even more urgent: stick with our party (if you know what’s good for you).

          The mistake liberals make …
          The mistake liberals made in 2008 was to believe that Obama would deliver on his promise of “Change You Can Believe In.” That should make them doubly cautious of any candidate. Although I see myself as more “Independent” than “Liberal”, I too was thinking of voting for RP as a protest, but I am now thinking that Green offers a much more fruitful path to a real and realistic dialog for change.

  84. marcos

    The most damning indictment of liberals is that they are willing to accept brutal squalor enforced by war crimes and crimes against humanity in the global south because the if Paul were elected and would end that aspect of empire, they might have to suffer a bit at home.

    Thus, the liberal exposes the bankruptcy in their threadbare ideology by prioritizing civil rights for tens of millions over the right to life for billions of people.

    Yes, Paul is terrible on a whole host of issues. I’m not sure that the neo-fascists are more or less of my enemy than Summers, Daley, Geithner and Emmanuel and I’m a gay Jew, so the appeal by associative cooties falls flat. And his commitment to laissez-faire economics seems to be that which Obama and his Wall Street backers aspire to themselves.

    At the end of the day, government has to be big enough to drown the largest corporation in a bath tub. I’ll take small government as soon as we have only smaller corporations.

  85. Kuy

    What i don’t like about Stoller’s thesis is how it seems to be about a couple of disconnected points. He seems to be treating democrat party loyalists and the liberals who disagree with these loyalists as having the same positions and temperaments. That’s why i liked Greenwald’s analysis because it was clearer to me on that fact. He said that Ron Paul demonstrated to certain party cheerleaders that it was the Republican who held positions that were more leftist than the Democrat president. However Stoller seems to treat left wing critics of Obama and left-wing supporters of Obama as the same thing.

    He then goes on this leap of faith that criticism of RP must be motivated by the inherent contradictions within liberalism. This is just psychoanalysis, and it is just like how the critics of psychoanalysis were called neurotics by defenders of psychoanalysis. Some liberals have specific and concrete criticisms of RP that target his ideology fundamentally. These people don’t want Obama or Ron Paul. But Stoller never explicitly recognized this reality.

    I also did not like how he seemed to confuse a structural analysis of how the welfare state and wars can be financed and for some reason presented it as a contradiction in ideology, when in fact it sounds more like a contradiction between ideology and reality. This is without even mentioning or justifying how a given method of financing a welfare state and wars, somehow tars the former with the latter, when financing, whether through fiat or fixed money, does not necesitate one do both things (war and welfare). One can finance war or welfare, or one can finance both. It seems like something dictated by national priorities and i don’t see how it’s a historical necessaty.

    I feel like talking about how cheap oil and finance structures allowed for the existence of the welfare state and perpetual wars is a good analsis to make, but i feel Stoller has muddled it by making it into a psychoanalytic critique of all liberals with no distinction made between them.

  86. marcos

    Another ideological turdblossom that I’ve heard issue forth from liberals is the notion that the US empire does not have to be scaled back because the killing would just happen there in any event.

    Closely related to US exceptionalism and to the pateranlist notion that order must be kept at all costs, including disorder, this ideological fart bubble is easily popped.

    Latin America labored under the shackles of the Monroe Doctrine as the regional storehouse for raw materials that helped fuel the rise of industrialism in the US.

    As the global north recovered from WWII and developed liberal social structures, Latin America’s self determination was checked by the liberal US starting in earnest in the mid 1960s.

    What followed was 25 years of brutal military coups, dictatorships, wars, death and destruction.

    As the cold war petered out, the US was distracted and Latin America took the opportunity to chart its own course. In the intervening 20 years, Latin America has successfully shaken off northern dominance and taken steps to orient their economies towards the sustainable well being of their populations.

    There are two notable exceptions, Mexico and Colombia where US intervention has led to the imposition of right wing regimes.

    In the places where self determination has erupted in Latin America, the killings have stopped. In Mexico and Colombia, where the US maintains the greatest political, military and economic presence, the killings have continued and in the case of Mexico, increased.

    I know of no better political science experiment that demonstrates that the US the thick red line, the source of the killing, not the thin blue line standing between order and chaos.

  87. Jackrabbit

    LEFT) Liberals: Govt’s main job is to protect human rights.
    RIGHT) Conservatives: Govt’s main job is to protect property rights.

    UP) Fascists and Socialists: Maximize Govt (to meet certain challenges)
    DOWN) Libertarian: Minimize Govt

    Societies that go too far LEFT, RIGHT or UP, DOWN generally experience social and economic problems.

    When viewed this way, it’s hard to see how Libertarians have anything to teach Liberals because they address a different dimension of government.

    Libertarians recognize that property owners will pay to protect their property and people will organize to protect their rights but adamantly believe that Govt has no role to play in supporting those ‘private’ activities.

    RP’s success, then, may be more a result of Republican’s demonizing of Govt (so as to reduce regulation, among other things) than Liberal’s missteps.


    There are many practical questions that remain unanswered. Chief among them is this: Just how much of the Libertarian vision could a Ron Paul Presidency achieve? It seems likely that he would be blocked from cutting programs favored by powerful interests (like defense) but might well have the votes to cut social programs and regulation.

    A Libertarian President and a Republican Congress would push the US even further to the right than we are already.

  88. Aletheia84

    A well thought out essay.

    What intrigues me is the idea that somehow the libertarian vision is a “threat” to the plutocracy. Uh, no. The plutocracy might prefer the conservative status quo in some ways — but not all — because along with massive tax cuts and deregulation, it offers them corporate welfare and further bailouts.

    But they still win mightily if they get the libertarian dispensation, which would also involve massive tax cuts, major deregulation and privatization efforts, as well as ideological support for laissez faire.

    They win handily under both dispensations. Both the conservative and American libertarian visions are decidedly pro-capitalist, anti-union, anti-egalitarian, anti-democratic. Both dispensations increase the power of the plutocracy and decrease the ability of democracy to counteract it.

    Back in the 30s, the plutocracy actually had to fear a truly leftist revolution that would have taken away its power outright. Socialism, transforming eventually into communism was a major fear for plutocrats throughout the world. Many of them saw the social democracies of Europe, after WWII, as a compromise, a way to placate the left while retaining most of their wealth and privileges in the bargain. In exchange for high taxes and minor redistribution efforts, plus a social safety net, they got to keep their heads.

    Fast forward to 2012, and plutocrats no longer fear any revolution from the left. They know their billions are safe from any egalitarian movement, and they now don’t even believe they have to give up anything like they once did, via social democracies or the New Deal. They obviously believe they’re in the cat bird’s seat, and can demand further and further blood from the bones of the working class to pay for their tax cuts and bailouts.

    They have nurtured both the conservative and the American libertarian (propertarian) movements, cleverly seeing that all too many dupes will view the latter as “revolutionary”, even though it secures the status quo for the richest of the rich. Funding both, they can play them off against one another, thus containing any and all “revolutionary” forces within the political right that keeps them safe, fat, rich and in total command.

    Any real threat to the plutocracy must come from the egalitarian, anti-capitalist left, not the right, especially not the pro-capitalist, pro-“free markets” right. The closest thing we have to this challenge now is the battered, rag-tag armies of OWS, but there is no guarantee that it may survive the onslaught of state power directed against it by the plutocracy. But the key here is that in 2012, with no serious egalitarian threat to the powers that be, and all too many duped into believing that Ron Paul represents a “revolution”, the plutocracy is safe, and it knows that.

    In short, it’s beyond delusional for anyone to posit Ron Paul is some kind of fighter against the status quo. The status quo being capitalist hegemony, Ron Paul and the propertarian movement offer nothing but the most blindly loyal support.

    1. marcos

      If Ron Paul is no threat, then why are the mainstream media and Republican Party pretending that Ron Paul does not exist?

      1. Jackrabbit, Nation-wide polling numbers (available on homepage, just scroll down):

        Romney: 27.8
        Gingrich: 16.2
        Santorum: 15.8
        Paul: 12.6
        Perry: 5.6
        Huntsman: 3.0

        But that doesn’t tell the whole story because getting the nomination requires organization, $, legwork, etc. So while Paul has done well so far and there are still undecided voters that he could attract, what are the chances that he clinches the nomination? Intrade odds of Paul winning the nomination is currently 3.8%

        Those who think RP could win as a third party candidate will be interested to know of that Intrade now shows the chance of Paul as President at only 2.6%!!!!! Don’t miss the opportunity to invest in your candidate.

        1. Jackrabbit

          Just to be clear, this is not an anti-RP comment. The 2-Party system sucks the air out of the room for candidates that don’t fit into one of the two Parties.

          The Media doesn’t have to conspire to ignore them, the 2-Party system stacks the deck so that it is difficult (though not impossible) for “third-Party” candidates to be “relevant”.

          Also: I have seen _some_ media coverage and mentions.

          Those considering a “protest vote” should consider Jill Stein of the Green Party.

      2. different clue

        Perhaps the OverClass elites fear that a Ron Paul presidency might make the current social order too plainly visible to deny, and might make too many Americans too restless after a few years of Libertarianism. For example,
        if enough drug companies cause enough high profile visible killings of enough children by putting arsenic in the bottle while putting aspirin on the label, a critical mass of bereaved parents might realize who made that functionally legal by abolishing the FDA . . . for example.

        I think that was the same reason that the CEO MSM (CEO in this case is my clever acronym for Class Enemy Occupation) was instructed to favor Obama over McCain/Palin because a McCain/Palin administration would have made OverClass rule so overt and painful that rising numbers of nonRich Americans would have realized where the pain comes from, and from whom. The natives would have started getting restless. Whereas Digby/Atkins’s beloved Obama was able to narcotise and smooth-out a lot of people for a few more years.

        A President Paul would usher in a Naked Lunch moment where every bite is visible on the end of every fork . . . to take William S. Burroughs’s deathless words wildly out of context.

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