Why Don’t Americans Take More Vacations? Blame It on Independence Day

An article in the Boston Review by professor of sociology Claude Fischer falls prey to a pattern that is all too common: attributing social/political outcomes to American attitudes without bothering to examine why those attitudes came to be.

Let me give you a bit of useful background before I turn to the Fischer article as an illustration of a lack of curiosity, or worse, among soi disant intellectuals in America, and how it keeps Americans ignorant as to how many of our supposed cultural values have been cultivated to inhibit disruptive thought and action.

Since I have managed to come in on the last act of Gotterdammerung and am still trying to find the libretto, I’ve been in what little spare time I have reading history, particularly on propaganda. One must read book is by Alex Carey, Taking the Risk Out of Democracy. Carey taught psychology in Australia, and he depicts the US as the breeding ground for the modern art of what is sometimes more politely called the engineering of consent. The first large scale campaigns took place before World War I, when the National Association of Manufacturers began its decades-long campaign against organized labor. Carey stresses that propaganda depends on cultivating Manichean perspectives, the sacred versus the Satanic, and identifying the cause to be promoted with symbols that have emotional power. For many people, Americans in particular, patriotism is a rallying point.

Carey demonstrates how, again and again, big business has managed to wrap itself in the flag, and inculcate hostility to unions. One of the early struggles was over immigrants. A wave of migration from 1890 to 1910 left many citizens concerned that they were a threat to the American way of life. Needless to say, corporations were opposed to restrictions on immigration, since these migrants were willing to accept pretty much any work. Thus the initial alignment of interests was that whole swathes of American society were allied with the nascent labor movement in opposing immigration. And this occurred when even conservatives saw concentrated corporate power as a threat to American values (witness the trust busting movement, the success of the Progressives).

Big business split these fair weather friends by promoting an Americanization movement. These foreigners simply needed to be socialized: taught to speak English, inculcated in American values. In addition, the radical Industrial Workers of the World had become a force to be reckoned with, culminating in its success in the Lawrence textile mill strike in 1912. So even though labor unions were particularly hostile to immigrants, the IWW’s leadership role made it possible to cast unions as subversive, a symbol of foreign influence.

The counterweight, the Americanization movement, was born in 1907 with the establishment of the North American Civic League for Immigrants, headed by conservative businessmen. Aligned groups. such as the New England Industrial Committee, were created as NACLI promoted its program.

The success of the Lawrence strike, which garnered national outrage due to police beatings of women who had volunteered to transport and harbor children of strikers, increased the urgency of countering the union threat. The message was that chambers of commerce, as “conservators of the ‘best interests’ of their communities” needed to educate (as in domesticate) adult alien workers. This Americanization movement had business backers in every sizable city with an immigrant population doing outreach to business organizations, church leaders, and other community groups. In 1914, NACLI decided to extend its program nation-wide, and changed its name to the Committee for Citizens in America. The CIA paid and provided staff to the Department of Education [correction: Federal Bureau of Education] to sponsor Americanization programs (private interests’ ability operate directly through the Federal government ended in 1919).

The outbreak of World War I was a Godsend to the Americanization movement. The war stoked nationalist sentiment and with it, suspicion of obvious aliens as at best “un American” and at worst, subversive. President Wilson spoke at a highly staged “patriotic” event for 5000 recently naturalized citizens in spring 1915. This event was so successful that the movement leaders succeeded in forming local Americanization committees all over the US. Quoting Carey:

The CIA also produced a brilliant propaganda strategy to involve every American in an annual ritual of national identification. This ritual would embed the cultural intolerance of the Americanization movement with an identification that was formally and officially sanctified. The CIA thereby launched its campaign for the fourth of July 1915 to be made a national Americanization Day, a day for a ‘great nationalistic expression of unity and faith in America’.

Carey describes and quotes a pamphlet promoting the event written by one of the executive committee members:

….the ultimate success of the policy would depend on how effectively the ‘average American citizen’ could be induced to bring the influence of his conservative views to bear on the immigrant….’such a citizen is the natural foe of the IWW and of the destructive forces that seek to direct unwisely the expressions of the immigrant in his nwe country and upon him rest the hope and defense of the country’s ideals and institutions.’ Here we have a blatant industrial and partisan view fused with an intolerance of the immigrant and values of national security, in a submission that would cement these interests and intolerances within the paraphernalia of the annual ritual of what would become Independence Day.

This hidden history of our national celebration is only a small portion of Carey’s account of the extent and reach of the Americanization campaign. It shows how big business has led a long standing, persistent, and well financed campaign to turn the public against fighting for one’s rights if those rights are workplace rights.

Now let’s look at the Fischer article in light of this. He does, usefully, describe how Americans toil far more than their advanced economy peers:

Americans just don’t vacation like other people do. Western European laws require at least ten and usually more than twenty days. And it’s not just the slacker Mediterranean countries. The nose-to-the-grindstone Germans and Austrians require employers to grant at least twenty paid vacation days a year. In the United States, some of us don’t get any vacation at all. Most American workers do get paid vacations from their bosses, but only twelve days on average, much less than the state-guaranteed European minimum. And even when they get vacation time, Americans often don’t use it.

Perhaps Americans are Protestant-ethic work obsessives; we are likelier than Europeans to say that we want to work more hours than we do. But this leisure gap is a recent development. In the 1960s Americans and Europeans worked about the same number of hours. Leisure time then expanded everywhere—only more slowly and much less in the United States than elsewhere, leaving today’s disparity. Some argue that high taxes in Europe discourage working, but economist Alberto Alesina and his colleagues point to legislation—that is, politics. The right to a long vacation is one of the benefits that unions and the left have in recent decades delivered to Western workers—except American ones.

This sets up the key question:

Just about everywhere in the West except the United States, where there is no mandatory paid time off, workers not only get vacations but also short work weeks, government health care, large pensions, high minimum wages, subsidized childcare, and so forth. Why is the United States the exception?

The answer comes in two general forms: one, Americans do not want such programs and perks because we do not want the kind of government that would legislate them. Two, Americans want them but cannot get them.

Fischer’s teasing out of the first “answer” (he offers only two options and later points out that they are not mutually exclusive) is an embarrassment. He claims Americans have little “class consciousness” and in passing contends well financed propaganda efforts have no effect:

Even though economic inequality is substantially greater in the United States than in Europe, Americans acknowledge less economic inequality in their society than Western Europeans do in theirs, and Americans are more likely to describe such inequality as fair, deserved, and necessary. Americans typically dismiss calls for the government to narrow economic differences or intrude in the market by, say, providing housing. Working-class voters in the United States are less likely than comparable voters elsewhere to vote for the left or even to vote at all.

Anyone who has studied the history of public relations in the US will not only tell you it works, but also will be able to provide numerous examples, starting with the Creel Committee in World War I, which turned a pacifist US into rabid German-haters in a mere 18 months. But Fischer would rather appeal to Americans’ vanity and exceptionalism. Carey, by contrast, documents the intensity of messaging efforts, the channels used, and tracks how polls and headlines changed. And contra Fischer, he finds Americans to be particularly susceptible to propaganda (by contrast, Australians’ native skepticism of authority, keen sense of irony, and strong community orientation gives them a wee bit of resistance, although Carey described how they were being worn down too).

Mark Ames wrote on the same topic in 2006, and his article is more on point:

According to a New York Times article, British workers get more than 50% more paid holiday per year than Americans, while the French and Italians get almost twice what the Americans get. The average American’s response is neither admiration nor envy, but rather a kind of sick pride in their own wretchedness, combined with righteous contempt for their European worker counterparts, whom most Americans see as morally degenerate precisely because they have more leisure time, more job security, health benefits and other advantages.

It’s like a classic case of East Bloc lumpen-spite: middle Americans would rather see the European system collapse than become beneficiaries themselves. If there is one favourite recurring propaganda fable Americans love to read about Europeans, it’s the one about how Europe is decaying and its social system is on the verge of imploding; we Americans pray for that day to come, with even more fervour than we pray for the End of Days, because the very existence of these pampered workers makes us look like the suckers and slaves we really are. This is why you won’t see Bono or Sir Bob Geldof rallying the bleeding-hearts anytime soon on behalf of America’s workers. They’re not in the least bit sympathetic. Better to stick with well-behaved victims like starving Africans.

The cultural propaganda that accompanied the Reagan Revolution has been so hugely successful that America’s workers internalised it too well, like those famously fanatical Soviet workers who literally worked themselves to death in order to help bring true communism that much closer. According to Expedia, American workers save their employees some $21 billion per year by not taking even the meagre vacation time they’re allowed.

Now in fairness to those office slaves, while Americans buy into the “always on duty” attitude (I noticed how little smart phones and IPads were visibly in use, even in the toniest parts of London, compared to New York City), some of it is rational. Even before the bust, it was hard for anyone over 35 who loses a job to land another, much the less at the same level of pay, job tenures are short, and companies keep squeezing workers. Everyone I know who is still on the corporate meal ticket is doing what would have been one and one half or two jobs ten years ago.

So while there is no easy way to turn to regain control of a cultural commons so throughly under the sway of well heeled corporate interests, perhaps we can start to engage in small acts of reprogramming. While I am not telling you to skip Fourth of July fireworks, it might be time to recognize key events that help us look at our history with fresh eyes. Perhaps we should quietly celebrate what we still have of the America our founders envisaged, say on the anniversary of the signing of the articles of Confederation (a protracted affair, with the last signature affixed on March 1, 1781) or their replacement with the Constitution on March 4, 1789. But regardless of how individuals go about it, the more we recognize how cultural memes are created and propagated, the more hope we have of freeing ourselves from them.

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    1. LeonovaBalletRusse

      And how the issue of “race&place” was used to provoke White 1% Identity Politics for Winners, no matter what:

      “ARE ITALIANS WHITE: How Race is Made in America” -edited by Jennifer Guglielmo & Salvator Salerno (2003);

      “WHITE ON ARRIVAL: Italians, Race, Color, and Power in Chicago, 1890-1945” by Thomas A. Guglielmo (2003).

      This is why all “off-white” immigrants take sides with the “White 1% Power”–whether they be of “African, Middle Eastern, Southern Italian, Latino, or Asian” descent. So we see how the Great Political Game of the .01% American Nobility is rigged via “Identity Politics” with the “Winners the .01% Nobility + .99% Agency du jour” from era to era.

      Can this rigged illusion/delusion of the “American Winner” be dispelled?

  1. John

    Reminds me of the chorus to my favorite Woody Guthrie song, Union Maid:

    Oh, you can’t scare me, I’m sticking to the union,
    I’m sticking to the union, I’m sticking to the union.
    Oh, you can’t scare me, I’m sticking to the union,
    I’m sticking to the union ’til the day I die.

  2. proximity1

    I think it’s great that you chose to read the Carey book, Taking the Risk Out of Democracy; your enthusiasm has infected me and now I want to read it, too.

    1. ex-PFC Chuck

      My library system doesn’t have it but hopefully I can get it on inter-library exchange.

  3. digi_owl

    The old “wage slave” term comes to mind. This especially as an Americans health is directly tied up with going “yes, masta” every time some exec barks a order.

    1. LeonovaBalletRusse

      The Corporate FIX as “Sole Provider” of Health Benefits for the American Worker is designed to make you keep saying: “Yassuh, Boss” — a term Jack Benny’s Man Rochester used for great comic effect, laughing all the way to the bank.

  4. Jack Jonsom

    Maybe workers don’t use their phones in London but the kids sure do just like the good ole USA. Who knows for the next generation of English workers.

    1. Bud

      Thanks for mentioning Bernays — I was a bit astonished the godfather of propaganda (ironically much admired by Goebbles) was mentioned not once in this article.

    1. LeonovaBalletRusse

      For Bernays effect In video form, see “The Century of Self” on You Tube.

  5. Knut

    Great post, and on target. The American public are exceptionally vulnerable to mass propaganda, and have been so since the yellow press got it started at the end of the nineteenth century. The historically exceptional high rate of geographic and social mobility gave and continues to give extraordinary scope to modern means of mass manipulation. Even under the Soviet regime people had a (very) small space of private life in their local friends and family. These ties are much weaker in the US and are not compensated by higher church attendance. Very sad. We just got back the other day from Sicily, where Italians were starting their vacations at the beach. They are happy in ways I have not seen Americans be happy.

  6. Goin' South

    Great post, but one small quibble:

    So even though labor unions were particularly hostile to immigrants, the IWW’s leadership role made it possible to cast unions as subversive, a symbol of foreign influence.

    It might be possible from this to infer that the IWW was hostile to immigrants like the AFL’s business unions, but the Wobblies were definitely not. Indeed, the IWW was full of “foreign influence, and proudly so. Early organizers included immigrants and women, and even immigrant women like Emma Goldman and Mother Jones. The IWW’s great troubadour, Joe Hill, was a Swedish immigrant.

    And the workers in the Lawrence mill, according to Zinn, were predominately immigrant women.

    And remarkably for those days, the IWW organized African Americans as well as whites, with no distinction, in the North and in the South.

    The IWW’s Constitution states:

    It is the aim of the IWW to build world-wide working-class solidarity. The IWW therefore actively opposes bigotry and discrimination on and off the job. No wage or salaried worker shall be excluded from the iWW because of race, ethnicity, sex, nationality, creed, disability, or sexual orientation.

    While the language is modern, that has been the policy of the IWW since the beginning.

    It has always recognized that:

    An injury to one is an injury to all.

    1. LeonovaBalletRusse

      The Unions also were permitted to be infiltrated by Organized Crime Bosses.

      1. rotter

        So were local govts, the police and judicial system and just about every other institution in american life . Unions were not exceptional that way.

        1. stripes

          All true. Talk radio show host Norman Goldman tonite begging people not to elect Romney……! Unfortunately he is preaching to the powerless when it comes to electing the President. . We don’t elect the President. The Electoral College does. It is the Oligarchs that work for the Plutocrats who decide who that will be through the corrupt State, City and County politicians. It is the corrupt Governors, Mayors, Senators, City Alderman, Congress people, the Legislators in the State houses and State Capitals who are the deciding factor in the electoral college vote. The electoral College in Illinois had 3 corrupt key members as part of the electorate in 2008, …Mayor Daley, House Speaker Michael Madigan
          and his son. House Speaker Michael Madigan’s daughter is also the Ill. State AG…..All of the State, County and local politicians must be voted out and replaced by all of us. The electoral college must be abolished and term limits must be placed on ALL POLITICIANS…The Supreme Court Justices must also have term limits. Restore the U.S.C. and Abolish the FED.

  7. Middle Seaman

    America’s brand of capitalism didn’t ever resemble the brand written about in the 19th century by Marx and Co. It always was two measures of power to one measure of business. That’s the reason the owners fought unions from the 19th century until these very days. School emphasizes discipline over anything else. You would think that the three Rs are important; they are second to discipline.

    The result is as Ames correctly says “the very existence of these pampered workers makes us look like the suckers and slaves we really are.” We do work too much, we vacation too little and we are pushed and stepped on by the owners.

    Those who grew up in the US were trained to be slaves. I don’t see it as propaganda. It is indoctrination, education; services and even the way our health is taken care of are a Cambodian style reeducation camp with the killing.

    1. Sandi

      Let’s not forget how others stack the deck against us – From Harold Meyerson’s column re: the Supremes –

      Taken in context with the conservative majority’s other recent rulings, Alito’s opinion also revealed the most class-based double standard the court has exhibited since before the New Deal. In the 2010 case Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission — rendered by the same five justices who signed onto Alito’s ruling in Knox — the court ruled that corporations could directly spend their resources on political campaigns. These two decisions mean that a person who goes to work for the unionized Acme Widget Company can refuse to pay for the union’s intervention in political campaigns but has no recourse to reclaim the value of his labor that Acme reaps and opts to spend on political campaigns. Citizens United created a legal parity between companies and unions — both are free to dip into their treasuries for political activities — but Knox creates a legal disparity between them: a worker’s free-speech right entitles him to withhold funds from union campaign and lobbying activities, but not the value of his work from the company’s similar endeavors.

      1. Bud

        The difference is that stockholders can sell their stock if they object to the political expression of the company leadership. It’s entirely voluntary if they do or don’t.

        Union members (voluntary or involuntary) could not object to political expression of their leadership. The ruling answered whether any natural person should be coerced by law to financially support dissemination of “political speech” they heartily disagree with.

  8. fresno dan

    It is human vanity that makes us believe that we only believe what we have carefully considered and vetted. I saw this quote on another blog and it certainly makes me think:

    Göring: Why, of course, the people don’t want war. Why would some poor slob on a farm want to risk his life in a war when the best that he can get out of it is to come back to his farm in one piece. Naturally, the common people don’t want war; neither in Russia nor in England nor in America, nor for that matter in Germany. That is understood. But, after all, it is the leaders of the country who determine the policy and it is always a simple matter to drag the people along, whether it is a democracy or a fascist dictatorship or a Parliament or a Communist dictatorship.
    Gilbert: There is one difference. In a democracy, the people have some say in the matter through their elected representatives, and in the United States only Congress can declare wars.
    Göring: Oh, that is all well and good, but, voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same way in any country.

    I read the second to the last sentence, and than I read it again. And I thought about…Vietnam, Iraq, Korea, and WWI.
    And the more you think, the more wars you can add.

  9. David Lewis

    In an article on “engineering of consent”, shouldn’t you at least give a bow to Edward Herman and Noam Chomsky, who wrote a book titled “Manufacturing Consent” in 1988, and Walter Lippmann, who coined that term the book “Public Opinion” in 1922.

    1. bmeisen

      It’s probably easier to understand Citi’s balance sheet than to figure out why Americans are not marching through the streets demanding single payer, 30 days of paid vacation, public transit, etc etc. Call it the Kansas thing? Yves could have also given a hat tip to Frank.

      An American in Germany in my second year with my current employer, I get 32 paid days of vacation. We’re going to Italy soon for 3 weeks, to Tuscany. The capuccino on the beach is perfect and it costs 1 Euro. Where we go the bartender likes to play 70’s rock mixed up with Paolo Conti and mad Italian jazz fusion. Last summer I sat looking out at the water, sky and hills, spellbound by a long Allmann Brothers set. I couldn’t stop listening and when it was over I said, I’m gonna get that CD.

      1. ctct

        ot: Italian’s did the best ‘rock music’/ mixed with jazz and classical elements… Area, PFM, Le Orme, Banco del Mutuo Soccorso,Osanna…etc… all brilliant

        1. Heretic

          The Miss Italy Contests are also really good. Full of very sexy women.
          And they seem so intelligent and articulate also; although I can’t understand a word they are saying, I am sure that I agree with all of them… :)

    2. Working Class Nero

      Why should Chomsky and Herman get a bow when Edward Bernays wrote an article in 1947 called “The Engineering of Consent”?

  10. Tom Crowl

    RE: “cultural values have been cultivated to inhibit disruptive thought and action”

    This is true. And the ‘target’ often co-operates with his own self-devaluation… if given the opportunity.

    In simplest terms… I like to call this the flip side of a “will to power”.

    It’s the “will to not to have to do jack-diddly-squat unless I actually have to”…

    That may be a funny name… but its a very real phenomenon common to ALL life forms.

    Organisms only make decisions when their ‘reactive systems’ (e.g. ‘brains’) require it.

    That’s why a sucker is born every minute. I’m not religious but Jesus was part right when he said “the meek shall inherit the earth”.

    The meek will inherit the earth when the literally decide to take responsibility for it.

    Issues in Scaling Civlization: The Monsters-from-the-Id Dilemma

    P.S. The vision of a user-owned Commons-dedicated Account network… building on its utility and advantages as a virtual cash card… initially depends on existing TBTF-controlled payment systems. But once established in can form its own. And its more general potential as a more competitive virtual wallet is something VC’s do understand. Along with what they call its likely ‘traction and scalability’. Its the ‘exit strategy’ that boggles. But I think solutions are possible. (This inexperienced entrepreneur is pleased to have been invited into LAVA.org and getting some much needed advice on advancing this needed utility.)

    Yves is right!

    Banking should be a utility… and the monopoly of payment systems is a problem.

    My suggestion: build it.

  11. maynardGkeynes

    I wish what Yves were saying was true, but the piece of evidence that keeps coming up for me is that the most obsessively hard working people I know are people who make the most money, are the most educated, and have the most freedom to take vacations and work as little as they like. That they don’t take vacations or enjoy much leisure tells me that something deeper is at work here. In the medieval Catholic Church, there was a sin called scrupulosity, which was akin to what today we call obsessive compulsive disorder, the compulsive practice of religious ritual to the extent where it dominated a persons every thought and deed. The worst of these sinners were typically the most accomplished and respected religious men, who had no need for such obsessive private and public displays of devotion and ritual. Yet, they could not deny its urges. This sort of behavior among the accomplished and successful seems to have its roots in some sort of internal human brain wiring that is not understood, but that certainly exists. So what does this tell us about today? My theory is that work has become our new Religion. Where religion once gave meaning to our lives, was our prime mechanism for the denial of death and our claim to immortality, today it is work – or perhaps the denial of urges toward leisure. Work gives meaning to our lives, and our works make us immortal, in our own minds and ‘souls.’ Does this relate to the guy or gal at Walmart who is working just to survive? I think so, from the simple observation that the behaviors of the dominant social, religious, and cultural class, in today’s world, the rich, have always filtered down to become part of the mass social milieu and to establish the social mores that affect everyone. I think the answer to Yves query lies closer, and deeper in human nature than it does to the PR machine, which in any event, can make no claim greater than that it only reinforces what the species was prone to do anyway, for the golden retriever to retrieve, and the human to seek meaning through his outward manifestations and actions, formerly his religion, today his work.

    1. skippy

      A book you should read.

      Dirt Cheep – Elisabeth Wynhausen

      For three decades award-winning journalist Elisabeth Wynhausen has written about the downside of Australia’s ‘miracle economy’ and compelling accounts of the lives of the working poor. In late 2001, she decided to join them. Over a period of ten months Elisabeth went undercover and worked as a factory hand, an office cleaner, a retail worker and a kitchen hand, moving from state to state and attempting to live on her meagre earnings.

      Caustic, courageous and often funny, this is a unique view of class, power and middle management seen from the other side of the serving counter, and a very personal experience of what it is like to be under-paid, under-appreciated and part of Australia’s emerging underclass.



      Elisabeth Wynhausen is a senior journalist with The Australian. In her distinguished career, she has also worked for The Bulletin, and spent twelve years in New York as the foreign correspondent for The Age and the National Times.

      From dead end job to dead end job, Wynhausen documents the inadequacy of the institutions supposed to protect low-wage workers. Individual contracts, say the ideologues, are a matter of personal choice but when she answers an ad for a hotel job, the penalty-rate-free contract arrives “as if my signature on the piece of paper was a mere formality”.

      The Occupational Health and Safety regulations that look good on paper prove impossible in practice. “I could just imagine what (my supervisor) would say if I followed the order in the manual and advised her that the slippery floor around the tray wash machine was a workplace hazard.”

      Accepting her own powerlessness provides Wynhausen’s biggest challenge.

      Many of her positions come to an abrupt end when she can no longer bite her tongue in response to bullying supervisors or institutional stupidity. But pride is a trait the truly poor cannot afford.

      Devoid of any agency through which to control their existence, they internalise their own marginality and when Wynhausen reveals her real identity, her co-workers “have trouble believing that anyone would bother to write – let alone read – a book about their working lives”.

      It’s no wonder. Last century, Jack London and George Orwell journeyed into the urban slums and denounced poverty as a social rather than individual problem. Such thinking has long since evaporated: as Wynhausen notes, in a deregulated, neo-liberal world “fairness and equity now barely get a hearing”. When Paris Hilton and Nicole Richie encounter the contemporary people of the abyss, they respond with a contemptuous: “Eeewhhh!”

      In the future, perhaps, dishwashers, waitresses and other conscripts from the invisible army of the poor will pen their own stories. Until then, read Dirt Cheap. Tender, funny and righteously angry, it provides a badly needed window on to the aching and forgotten lives upon which our society rests.


      Skippy… if a social system increasingly produces less winners and more losers, with a financial measuring bar constantly moving upwards, it must be the individuals fault…right?

      1. F. Beard

        it must be the individuals fault…right? skippy

        Yes, for not joining the exploitation class one’s self.

        I remember a work mate’s rejoinder to “Money can’t buy happiness” – “I don’t want to be happy; I want money!”

      2. rps

        “It’s no wonder. Last century, Jack London and George Orwell journeyed into the urban slums and denounced poverty as a social rather than individual problem.”

        It is not charity but a right, not bounty but justice, that I am pleading for. The present state of civilization is as odious as it is unjust. It is absolutely the opposite of what it should be, and it is necessary that a revolution should be made in it. The contrast of affluence and wretchedness continually meeting and offending the eye, is like dead and living bodies chained together.

        The rugged face of society, checkered with the extremes of affluence and want, proves that some extraordinary violence has been committed upon it, and calls on justice for redress. The great mass of the poor in all countries are become an hereditary race, and it is next to impossible for them to get out of that state of themselves. It ought also to be observed that this mass increases in all countries that are called civilized. More persons fall annually into it than get out of it.

        Despotic government supports itself by abject civilization, in which debasement of the human mind, and wretchedness in the mass of the people, are the chief criterions. Such governments consider man merely as an animal; that the exercise of intellectual faculty is not his privilege; that he has nothing to do with the laws but to obey them; and they politically depend more upon breaking the spirit of the people by poverty, than they fear enraging it by desperation.
        Thomas Paine, Agrarian Justice 1795

    2. Capo Regime

      Wow believe it or not your comment actually reinforces the point Ives is making. People believe higher forces and god compel them to work more!!!

      1. F. Beard

        That’s due to ignorance of the Bible, especially the Old Testament. The ancient Hebrews had many compulsory days off such as the Sabbath, feast days, and a year long Sabbatical once every 7 years.

        One hand full of rest is better than two fists full of labor and striving after wind. Ecclesiastes 4:6

    3. Capo Regime

      Work is work and it has to be pretty damn compelling to give meaning to your life–Er Surgeon, Sister Teresa, Artist I can see. But drawing meaning your life from most american jobs is well a stretch! Most work is just work and now most work in U.S. is either make work or a scam or low pay retail service sector work. Which is why wages are low, producitivity is low, people are eating themselves to death and poping pills and downloading porn like there is no tomorrow.

    4. rps

      Most American Workers fear going on vacation, much less take off Saturday and Sunday for ONE REASON: The overhanging threat and reality of their jobs being eliminated because they believed the fantasy of workers vacation and sicks days.

      Employers have institutionalized fear and retribution for all workers that have the temerity to take vacations and days off. Those really ‘cool’ blackberrys, pagers, laptops and so on that Americans are tethered to, are Employer Operated Electronic Monitoring Devices to serve one purpose: workers always on call and available for the Slave Master.

      Religion, Naaaaaah, just the slave master’s updated version of ball and chain slavery.

      1. Neo-Realist

        Also, many American Workplaces have adopted the paradigm of doing more work with fewer employees so that it becomes a challenge to take extended time off because you may be the only one that knows how to do your particular job or nobody else is available to do your job in your absence. The lack of anybody else to do your job, or at least do it in significance increases the dread of having a s***load of problems and piled up work when you get back; so you take less time off to decrease the potential headaches.

    5. LeonovaBalletRusse

      It’s “habit.” They are deeply habituated to working like driven donkeys.

  12. Goin' South

    Not completely off topic:

    The level of militarism and sappy patriotism (is there another kind?) is reaching epic levels in the U. S., at least among a certain audience.

    I was at a ballgame a few weeks back, and nearly every break between innings, some military plane(s) flew over to a roar from the crowd. I couldn’t help thinking how different the reactions of innocents from Gaza to Kandahar are to the sounds of those rotors or jets.

    Then to switch from a chilling bloodlust (We’re #1 in killing!!!), during the 7th inning stretch, this miserable new tradition of having old Kate Smith (who was old when I was a boy in the 60s) sing “God Bless ‘Murca.” All around me, people were removing their hats!!! What the hell? Have we now extended it from the national anthem to any song with ‘Murca in the title?

    I left my hat on.

    1. LeonovaBalletRusse

      Well, what are Big Sports Events for? Bread and circuses, you know, but increasingly without the bread. Maybe pay-for-peanuts.

  13. wilwon3

    Great article, however, I wonder about the acronym CIA to apply to the Committee for Citizens in America. I was unable to find that Committee by searching on Google; perhaps, a more appropriate acronym would be CiA?

    All in all, the logic of the argument seems consistent. Patriotism has long been great as a bonding agent.

    1. Rutger

      Thank you. I thought the same. I kept thinking, wait a minute, the CIA didn’t exist back then. Turns out there was a reasonable explanation.

    2. Justine Sharps

      Yves actually gets the name of the Committee wrong when she says, “In 1914, NACLI decided to extend its program nation-wide, and changed its name to the Committee for Citizens in America.” She appears to be paraphrasing from page 44 of Carey’s book, where Carey says that the NACLI “changed its name to the ‘Committee for Immigrants in America’ (CIA).”

  14. proximity1

    proposed, TAG: ‘myths & mythology

    You’ve come to focus more and more on how our prevailing myths influence our thinking about, interpreting of, our circumstances and I think that’s a brilliant piece of progress in the direction of topical discussions.

    and so,

    Since one of the rightly interesting themes of this reflection of yours could be called, “Our myths and how they work on us,” why not create a ‘myths & mythoology’ “tag” and include it on this and other articles which include this very important aspect of social analysis?

  15. long may she burn

    Or observe the day when the civilized world recognized the human right to rest and leisure, leaving God Bless America behind: 10 December 1948, with adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Or commemorate the day when the civilized world left God Bless America even further in the dust, on 3 January 1976: when The Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights came into force and made protecting your leisure from corporate exploitation a binding duty of grown-up states. Or just take a big moist dump on an American flag, the symbol of you knuckling under to your boss.

  16. Paul Tioxon

    I am developing a critical eye towards the NC site, the postings and the comments. I am concluding that when you are not presenting the most cutting edge finance reporting and expose, you are acting as a consciousness raising experience, a teach in, on radical politics, that many baby boomers may missed out on. I find the politics here to be muddled at best, yours included. But your socialization to achieve what you have in life, your MBA and the capacity to report on and convey to the untrained, the banking, finance and economic events with meaning and comprehension is a simple act of kindness along with a bold political stance to say that something very wrong has happened and needs to stop now! It is a kindness to people who do not know what most of the investment banking world means to their everyday lives. Most professionals do not have the time, the willingness, or empathy for the uneducated outside of their specialty, to take the time out to explain things, to debunk frauds, to demystify obscuring lingo and misdirecting false concepts.

    I see you are reading history in efforts personal to demystify your own understanding, clarify your thoughts. It is clear that we are all products of socialization from the moment we are born mute babies. We are acculturated to speak the native language so we can relate ourselves to the world. We are sent to school to further read and write that language, again, to relate to the world. And, outside of the socialization of a loving family and community, the nation state also insinuates itself, trying to socialize us for other purposes. So much of the consciousness raising here reminds me of the New Left political radical development that occurred between the late 1950’s through 1968. So much of the college protests, the best and the brightest of America sent off to become even more educated, cultured and professionalized, became instead, radicalized. Learning history beyond the 7th grade civics lesson format, experiencing the Viet Nam war personally with the draft and watching the violent response from not only the cops on campus but from your parents, friends and neighbors over political differences, permanently altered the view of millions of kids from that era to this day. We have not all gone away or forgotten.

    But here, I sense, especially in yr post today about the meaning of the 4th of July, a similar radicalizing experience, not that you needed much more since the events of the past 5 years. Some who post here are clearly veterans of the New Left. That does not mean you were a card carrying member of the SDS, but part of The Movement politics. It was a broad, decentralized explosion of radicalism. For my part, it made me acutely aware of how I came to be the person I was. History does that. History plays a unique role in that it is not an art or a science. It is the first true intellectual achievement of humanity. It is our story. We know ourselves better than we know the weather or the movement of the planets and stars or the atoms and particles. We know this because we are not talking about a mysterious force or phenomena that needs to be unlocked with instrumentation to extend beyond our limited 5 senses. When we live, we make history, when we speak to each other about what happen, we begin the process of recording history. At first, orally, then via writing and now film and other multimedia. But the content is always the same, humanity. And all this subject matter requires is acknowledging that we are all human, we are all mortal and we all have lived a life and have a story to be told.

    1. LeonovaBalletRusse

      Indeed, Yves is the risen cream of the Original “American Dream” of participatory democracy, and its potentially virtuous outcomes.

      “Yves Smith” the Exemplary Leader risen from the dead regime of anti-democracy. Yves Smith: President 2012. This would be justice.

      Benjamin Franklin understood that “American Revolution” was an ever-evolving project for We the People to enact from era to era.

  17. History_buff

    Cary thinks the CIA was active in 1915? The CIA wasn’t established until 1947, and was the continuation of the Office of Strategic Services which itself wasn’t formed until 1942.

    How could the CIA have “launched its campaign for the fourth of July 1915 to be made a national Americanization Day” and “paid and provided staff to the Department of Education to sponsor Americanization programs” nearly 32 years before it even existed?

    I am interested to learn more about Carey, and how the CIA was active 32 years before it was established. Does the CIA posess a secret hot-tub time machine looted from Nikola Tesla? Was this 1915 “CIA” a super-secret joint Illuminati-Freemason-Rothschild venture that eventually became the OSS and the official CIA?

    Or is Carey so sloppy with his so-called research that he doesn’t bother to back his conspiracy theories up with even the most basic facts. Ah well, never let the truth get in the way of a good conspiracy theory.

    1. proximity1

      in this case, I think “CIA” is a reference to “Committee for Citizens In America,”– note, from the essay’s text,

      “In 1914, NACLI decided to extend its program nation-wide, and changed its name to the Committee for Citizens in America. The CIA paid and provided staff to the Department of Education to sponsor Americanization programs (private interests’ ability operate directly through the Federal government ended in 1919).”

      1. El Snarko

        Bleep! close but no cigar. On page 210 of the index CIA is noted as Committee for Immigrants in America, and is used as such on pages 44-45. The foreward IS by Chomsky.

        I bought this off a overstock sellerslist about twelve years ago and thought, how quaint. What does this Aussie know? Man was I mistaken and intellectually smug.

        1. Justine Sharps

          El Snarko is correct. But Yves actually gets the name of the Committee wrong when she says, “In 1914, NACLI decided to extend its program nation-wide, and changed its name to the Committee for Citizens in America.” She appears to be paraphrasing from page 44 of Carey’s book, where Carey says that the NACLI “changed its name to the ‘Committee for Immigrants in America’ (CIA).”

  18. Min

    “I can do one year’s work in nine months, but I can’t do nine months’ work in a year.” — J. P. Morgan

        1. F. Beard

          That’s certainly true, at least for me. That’s why I like flexible hours so that when I don’t have any real work to do, I can go home.

  19. Mista B

    Given the current state of European affairs, are European workers truly that much better off? Further, what will the answer to this question be in five years? Ten years? Europe is imploding. Quoting an article from 2006–i.e. right before the GFC began, which was right at the height of the EU and the euro’s glory–is disingenuous. How do the Greeks, Spaniards, Irish, Portuguese, Italians–and Germans!–feel about all of those “benefits” (i.e. future obligations being racked up that could never be paid for) now? Talk about propaganda.

        1. Capo Regime

          How much longer? For the foreseable future. Much lower crime rates, higher literacy, car ownership is half due to great mass transit, healthier, lower infant mortality, multilingual etc…. Personal debt is lower and the rate of obesity (save for UK) is a fraction of what it is in the U.S. Nor are 20% of adults on prosac

          Also, families tend to stay in goegraphic proximity and have strong social support networks.

          Times tough? Sure but in far better position to weather the storm. Key is to not get taken in by distortions by u.s. media and fake stats. There is a great deal of implied gloating of what is going on in Europe but alas things are far worse in U.S.

          1. bmeisen

            Nice summary. Regarding the fate of today’s western European worker, I do not see a return to industrial labor relations in the wake of a collapse of the Euro. Assuming that Europe avoids another descent into world war, at worst the western European worker might lose some of her current benefit levels. Immigrants and the environment will probably suffer more.

        2. Eric

          it’s not so much about how much longer, it’s about what they do different: Europeans take the wealth of the 1% and redistribute of they think the gap has grown too large

    1. LeonovaBalletRusse

      “Europe is imploding” because it embraced “The Chicago Econ Way,” thanks to Neoconlib Shock Doctrine for Regime Change Winner-Take-All. We’re talking what began with the United Fruit Model for “creative destruction from Hell” and is ending, we hope, with the implosion of “Europe” as the Holy Roman Nobility Reich-in-Chicago-Mode. (You know, that “Economic Hit Man” mode John Perkins so vividly describes.)

      “Continental Europe” needs a do-over STAT. “Time and tide wait for no man.”

  20. Superduperdave

    Oh, and by the way – to add insult to injury – France has the highest worker productivity in the world.

    (Norway is actually No. 1, but doesn’t count because of the petroleum sector’s contribution).

    1. Capo Regime

      Right on target Dave. Data all support your statements and otherwise the folly of the way we do things in U.S.

      Was very fortunate to work in Aus and in Northern Spain a few years back. The best thing was the absence of many things which dominate the U.S. workplace, the frequent team meetings, ra ra town hall meetings, jargon, obession on cost cutting tools, sticking around for long hours to make it appear you are working, fear of taking days off lest you lose your job.

      What was great was workers were less stressed, people were more focused and productive and management less obtrusive. Also, meetings were more productive. Lot of time wasting and going through motions in U.S workplace

    2. LeonovaBalletRusse

      What “America” means by “productivity” is “squeezing blood from turnips.”

  21. Capo Regime

    The post Ives is just fabulous. Knock me down with a feather. On target in all ways–note when truths are exposed the quiblers emerge.

  22. ep3

    great post YVES!!!
    It is quite sickening how we dumb Americans relish the glory of working 90 hour weeks and never taking time off.
    And didn’t Americans fight a war for independence from kings and monarchs? Yet we want to have a stratified society so one person can brag to another about how they pay more for their health care than another person. Seriously, I can go to any news website in Michigan and looking at the comments for articles about health insurance and you will find people bragging about how they pay outrageous sums for their health insurance. This in the state that unions were founded in.

    1. NotTimothyGeithner

      It was more about the British West India Company and the investors in Parliament than George III. George III is blamed in the Declaration to make the legal rationalization for rebellion, and not every rabble-rouser agreed even hawkish ones, but George III is blamed largely for an abdication of his duties which an unnamed foreign enemy usurped, the ruling party in the British Parliament.

      The Declaration of Independence makes a tacit argument more powerful than written argument of the colonies were separate and equal under the monarch in the same way the British Parliament was. In our case, George III failed, and we metaphorically hanged the king. It was more or less agreed there was no reason for a new king or monarchy with governors and fairly regular elections in practice. In keeping, the Glorious Revolution didn’t mean the UK Parliament was supreme but that the local parliaments were in the colonial capitals.

  23. Lambert Strether

    Turn off your television, and encourage others to do so!

    * * *

    If you don’t watch TV for an extended period of time, and get clean, and then encounter it in a public space, for example an airport lounge, you will be astounded at how raw and brutal the propaganda is.

    1. Capo Regime

      Great point Lambert. Would add NPR as well in U.S. No TV at home and indeed while traveling the TV’s at Airports tend to stress me out. We avoid restaurants or bars with TV’s (plus the food or drink tend to be not so good) which is good. Was jolted the other day by TV’s at the gas pump…..They don’t give up do they. Somebody is working 80 hours a week with no vacation to come up with ways to constantly message us!!!

    2. LeonovaBalletRusse

      Lambert, quite so: when “clean” of TV abuse, you see TV fare as assault and battery. So great is the assault and battery of the “mind” that the effects are physically wearing through the entire body. But of course! that “mind” is the ISSUE of each and every one of our BRAINS/nervous systems: “Prime Regulator.”

      TV is the Dynastic Despot’s prime Weapon of Mass Destruction.

      T-shirt: “TV=WMD”

      1. David

        Except for TV comedy. Colbert, Daily Show, Office, Modern Family. It’s a great release.

    3. knowbuddhau

      Couldn’t agree more. My parents never miss the nightly corporate news. Nevertheless (or should I say ‘therefore’?) my dad, a Vietnam vet and retired USN Master Chief, swears he’s never heard of Robert McNamara.

      They seem to think that, since it’s in color and hi-def, it can’t be propaganda, that’s only something the Nazis once did. It has to be in grainy black & white, featuring goose-stepping Nazis, or it ain’t propaganda.

      Most egregious are the smash cuts from one distorted report to a completely unrelated distorted report, followed by a throw to commercial. Repeat that twice, spending 10 times the air time on, let’s say, British royal family curtsying than on the US housing market, and call it a night. No wonder we’re an ADD nation.

    4. Patriot

      After not watching TV for several years, I had a roommate who bought a big flat screen. In the previous two years, I only watched TV shows via DVD, so I was pretty selective about my viewing.

      I was surprised by how obnoxious most shows were, especially a lot of the so-called comedies which were cruel and mean spirited. The TV ads were similarly awful.

      I moved away, and haven’t had a TV since. No loss.

    5. proximity1


      Lambert Strether says:
      June 27, 2012 at 10:48 am

      Turn off your television, and encourage others to do so!


      10,000 thumbs way up!

    6. reslez

      What surprises me is how sneering and mean-spirited the commercials are. One person uses the advertised product, while his neighbor who does not is a clueless buffoon. Is that what it takes to sell products these days? The fear of being ridiculed as an idiot, or to put another spin on it, socially cast out? I can just about hear the unsaid message in my head: CONFORM… CONFORM… CONFORM!

      As Patriot mentioned the entertainment that passes as “comedies” are the same way — mean-spirited and cruel.

    7. Roland

      Quite true. After several years spent without TV at home, one thing that became very noticeable, whenever I would see TV elsewhere, was just how many times the imperative mood is employed. One would not normally address a stranger in such fashion, but TV viewers accept strangers addressing them in the imperative, dozens of times in the course of an evening.

  24. Ralph Chaplin

    nitpick, it’s Industrial Workers of the World. International Workers of the World would be a bit redundant.

  25. Pelham

    Wow. I had no idea. Shouldn’t such elemental and profound bits of American history be part of a standard public school education?

    1. Capo Regime

      Well maybe in american public education worked in say even providing basic literacy for many then we can start thinking of history…..

    2. Max424

      Um, no. Kids should taught the “bullshit narrative,” so the best and brightest of them can grow up to be “jingoistic neo-liberals.”*

      *Not an oxymoron, btw. The idea is to reduce the land of the free and the home of the brave to penury, all in the interest of planet-wide profit making.

      Meanwhile, you tell these now broken, free and brave souls, you love them, and America too, and lay the blame for their troubles on the usual suspects, like liberals, niggers, terrorists and immigrants.

      Note: Unions are still on the blame list, but for how long? I mean, will neo-liberals continue attacking unions in the near future, when they are literally, all gone?

      Probably. And the propaganda machine will make it seem like it’s still a nip and tuck struggle between hardworking ethical businessmen and evil socialist roustabouts, and the poor, bottom-dwelling and overwhelmed souls (which will include just about everybody), will believe it.

  26. Valissa

    I have to say I found the title of this post and the main points to be typical of the overly simple historical analysis that is so common on political posts whether in blogs or the MSM (X is to blame for Y, simple linear causality is usually not true IMO). I don’t buy that the propagandistic origins of the 4th of July has all that much to do with why Americans take less vacations, although both of those are interesting subjects for discussion.

    I read Carey’s book a few years ago when I was studying up on propaganda (also the classic book by Bernays, and some Chomsky) and found it very insightful. However learning about the origins of 4th of July did not diminish my enjoyment of the holiday, probably because of all the other history I’ve read. All countries, institutions and tribes have holidays that celebrate their origin and glorify their identity & history, and these holidays were pretty much contrived at some level by the leaders/elites of the time to be unifying and I can see the cultural benefits of that. My personal choice is to enjoy all holidays as much as possible, and not get caught up in moral judgments about their origins, a trend which has become very intellectually fashionable on the left but strikes me as self righteous political correctness.

    Some people here might enjoy this book by Fischer (not recommended for hard core liberals looking to prove points)… I found it fascinating.

    Made in America: A Social History of American Culture and Character, by Claude S. Fischer

    1. Capo Regime

      Other than U.S are there other countries which do the equivalent of 4th of July auto and appliance sales? In paris do the citroen dealers have bastille day clearance sales?

      1. Goin' South

        In Europe, holidays are really holidays for everybody. Nearly everything is closed, at least for part of the day. You might be forced to cook and eat a meal at home AND go without shopping for a day.

      2. Valissa

        The Fischer book I recommended re-iterates for today Alexis de Tocqueville’s commentary (from the 1830’s) about how commerce/market oriented Americans were relative to Europeans. So of course American’s are going to be business oriented on the holidays, Americans (as a whole) have always been business oriented! btw, shorter version of my comment about the title of this post… correlation is not causation,

        1. Capo Regime

          Nope but correlation is correlation and in reality outside of physical sciences thats the best you are going to get. People still don;t know (following a scientific approach) the causes of criminality, depression, adhd, obesity, economic crisis, etc……Correlation (e g. data mining, factor analysis, discriminant analysis and the whole non parametric approach) and a complex system approach is the emerging way of understanding many aspects of the physical world. Correlations, intertwining and simultaneous occurence every bit as useful and ofter more than y=x. I do think you sold Ives post quite short.

      3. LeonovaBalletRusse

        Bastille Day in Paris and Orleans are for FUN! enjoying a day at liberty. it’s not for buying anything but wine, beer, Evian, Perrier, and delicious food. Auto and appliance July 4th “Sales” are for the bloody “keep your nose to the grindstone” suckers who celebrate USA!USA! with War Profit on their minds, who always follow the Bush Diktat to “keep shopping” as if 9/11 and the P.A.T.R.I.O.T Act had never happened.

    2. Yves Smith Post author


      You appear to be guilty of the very thing you are accusing me of. A case of projection?

      While the headline is simplistic and provocative, that’s what headlines are meant to do. The text clearly states than the anti-labor campaign in the US is more deep rooted and persistent than most people know, and it goes back to before WWI. The use of the Independence Day story is to shock people into realizing the degree to which patriotic impulses (Carey’s sacred versus satanic) have been harnessed to turn sentiment against organized labor.

      And I’ve been in Oz on Australia Day. The Australians aren’t as precious about their national holiday as we are, and they still have really good fireworks. I was also in Paris once on Bastille Day, but I didn’t know enough locals to calibrate sentimentality. Would be curious to get input from readers who’ve traveled extensively or have family living abroad.

  27. Abe, NYC

    It’s not just that 30-40 years ago workers had far more power than they do now. I see that now both employees and employers see work as a favor granted by the employer. Any paid time off, be it sick leave or vacation, is an even bigger favor. We should be so grateful we get any vacation at all, it’s only natural we don’t use up all of that.

    I see it everywhere, in friends and family. My wife had a fever of 103 one evening, and she was telling me she would go to work the next day – her shift starts at 4.30am – if she feels better (and it wasn’t delirium).

    It seems to me 30-40 years ago the relationship between workers and employers was far more based on shared goals, whereas today the only goal is whatever the boss says it is. What used to be workers is now “human resources”, to be used and disposed of like any other resource, and said resources are supposed to be grateful for being used.

    It is not a coincidence that 25 years ago everyone was talking about Japanese workaholics, whereas now Americans work far longer hours than the Japanese.

    1. LeonovaBalletRusse

      The master-servant dichotomy for profit has “risen again” with the Angola Plantation Prison for Private Profit model–the Southern Strategy “perfected.”

      “THE MIND OF THE MASTER CLASS: History and Faith in the Southern Slaveholders’ Worldview” and “FRUITS OF MERCHANT CAPITAL: Slavery and Bourgeois Property in the Rise and Expansion of Capitalism” by Elizabeth Fox-Genovese and Eugene D. Genovese.

      Private Property and Slavery are FEATURES of Capitalism.

      1. knowbuddhau

        Have you seen Slavery by Another Name?

        Slavery by Another Name explores the new forms of slavery after the Civil War.


        IMO, the fundamental myth of America (and much of the West, for that matter, esp. Israel) is of life as God’s own plantation. In this worldview, the pious owning class see themselves as God’s own landlords here on Earth. Thus, going off plantation, or being without a job given to you by your “betters,” is necessarily a sin and therefore a crime, punishable by life at hard labor.

        They say they’re concerned for us, when it’s really all about them getting their sorry souls into their idea of heaven, which amounts to never having to do a day’s work. (See also http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Prosperity_theology.)

        We’re getting jobbed to death by pious hypocrites, who extol the virtues of hard work while avoiding it like the plague, when what we really need are livelihoods.

  28. LeonovaBalletRusse

    Australians such as Carey and Keen are NOT starry-eyed “royalty” worshippers like so many Americans are, so they are hip to the propaganda of the Anglo-Imperial Regime and related Corporate “Nobility” that feels entitled to the Whole Pie ever since the “Indies” corporate colonial rackets began.

    The Aussie, as benevolent big brothers, s are opening our eyes to our fall into stupor, as if the American Revolution never happened. As Franklin knew, “revolution” is a permanent project in evolution, if we are not to be abject slaves to the Pox Brittanica/Americana.

  29. F. Beard

    It all goes back to the banks. If corporations did not have access to the counterfeiting cartel, the banking system, then they would likely be forced by competitive pressure to use their own common stock as money. Then the American workers themselves would profit from outsourcing, automation and immigration since they would be “capitalists” themselves.

  30. LAS

    Nice writing here.

    Reminds me of some marketing clients of mine who ask to find the emotional hot buttons or triggers that get people to buy things or do things, so to press these buttons … apparently skipping the objective of learning what people might need/want and delivering to that.

    We exploit others and ourselves with so little true reflection.

  31. Sandi

    Yves, thanks for a thoughtful post. You might also enjoy (if that’s the right word) “Invisible Hands: The Businessmen’s Crusade Against the New Deal”, by Kim Phillips-Fein. She covers a litany of successful attempts to keep the worker down, beginning with the DuPont brothers and other Gilded Age titans, and goes on to explain how GE became so agressively anti-union (and how they hired Ronnie Ray-gun to be their folksy spokesman, who visited the GE plants and proselytize their anti-union message to all and sundry). She shows how the Chamber of Commerce and businessmen in general became so politically active. It explained a lot of today’s politics.

  32. Dave of Maryland

    You have an excellent analysis, but you can take it a step further back, into slavery, which has been whitewashed out of American history.

    It wasn’t that the colonies were half slave and half free. Lincoln nailed that. You can’t have halves.

    The original colonies, which were hardly more than seaboard settlements, were all of one piece. The south, with slaves, had the money. The north, with shipping and trade, catered to them. Here are two straws in the wind:

    Anti-slavery sentiment started building in England late in the 18th century. (See Wilberforce.) When the New England colonists got uppity, London thought to mollify them by promising to ban slavery, thereby giving them an advantage over the slave colonies to the south, or so London thought. Instead, enraged and frightened southerners joined forces with New England.

    Or so it was said. In reality, New England provided the ships for the slave trade, New England provided the ships to move southern cotton (pre-cotton gin) to the mills of England. New England had the timber to build the ships, New England had the best harbors. New England provided the banking. The Northerners enabled the Southerners. North and south were all of a piece. All of the same cut of cloth.

    The other straw is that there was no other industry in the colonies, other than slaves and trade built on slaves. All the antebellum buildings in Washington, including the dome of the Capitol itself, were built by slaves. The White House, the Capitol, all of them. (It would seem that slavery in Washington, DC, itself, persisted until the 13th amendment of 1865.) What this means is there was no economy in the south. It had been eaten by slaves.

    Where this gets interesting is when the northern states start to expand westward, north of the Ohio River. Unlike the seaboard colonies, western states had real economies, and these economies were being hurt by the ongoing expansion of slavery to the south, which offered them only destitution. (Slavery was expanding, in part, as a result of the cotton gin, a labor-saving device: Too many slaves, not enough work.) In other words, slavery drove down the price of labor to zero in the south, and to nearly zero in the north.

    How are differences in labor costs handled in classical economics? By means of tariffs. But note the Constitution expressly forbids tariffs between states. Just as Greece is being eaten alive by the German Euro, the western states were being eaten alive by cheap southern slaves.

    Evidence of western distress is found not only in the Kansas-Nebraska Act, but also in the founding of the Republican Party, in Ripon, WI, in 1854. The western states were a hotbed of Republicanism. Why? Because slavery was hurting them. Not New York. Not Boston. Not Philadelphia, which, one way or another, were still getting rich from slavery.

    Like as not, this East-West divide will turn up in the Civil War in the raw numbers of troops sent by Illinois, in contrast to, say, New York.

    Which is to say that the anti-union feelings of the 1880’s and 1890’s were built on the firm slavery foundations established before 1860. From this analysis it is not hard to conclude that America is a slave nation and always has been.

    The analysis can go further, to postulate that America should replace its present form of government with a popular parliamentary system, which might solve some of the underlying problems.

      1. Dave of Maryland

        Blacks were lynched in Minneapolis.

        Chinese were lynched in California.

        Your point?

  33. Kiste

    One thing that might explain the reluctance of Americans to embrace more government services and a tighter woven social security net might be that Americans simply are not willing to pay for it? Seems reasonable, considering the American love affair for tax cuts.

    Let me give you an example what the level of government services costs a working person in Germany:

    Let’s say you’re single and earn €60000 per year, which is considered an very nice, clearly above average middle class income here.

    Of an monthly income of €5000, about €1000 is contributions to various statutory state insurance schemes (health, pension, long-term care, unemployment and occupational accident insurance). This contribution is matched by the employer.

    So in actuality, the employer pays €6000 for your work. €2000 of that goes to fund the social security net. Of the remaining €4000, about €1200 is paid in taxes (income tax, church tax, solidarity surcharge).

    So what’s remaining of the €6000 your employers pays for your work is €2800. This means ~54% is paid to the state as taxes and contributions.

    Of the remaining €2800, a fair share is then taxed when you spend it – in the most regressive manner imaginable. 19% VAT, extremely high energy taxes (oil, electricity, gas), auto tax, dog tax, tobacco tax and so on.

    At the end of the day, I think it would be a good estimation that 2/3 of what your employers pays for your work ends up being recycled and redistributed by the state, if you are a gainfully employed single person on a middle class income.

    Now, what is my point here? My point is that _I_ am fine with this. It’s not perfect, but I don’t mind the basic idea of high taxes in exchange for social security and government services.

    The question is: Is this something Americans would agree to? It’s one thing to bemoan the fact that Americans don’t enjoy the wide range of government services many Europeans do. It’s another thing to pay for it. And this is an important question to the American left: are you willing to impose that kind of tax burden on the middle and working classes in particular?

    1. Capo Regime

      Incorrect. U.S. pay fairly high taxes as it is (if you have lived and worked overseas this is apparent) especially when you realize what you get back in term of unit of service. So I paid maybe 5 percent more in europe but I get 40% more–I m essentially getting more no? In reality the taxes clearly defined are higher in the u.s. than anywhere else. Also, U.S. taxpayers support a enormous miitary industrial complex and security apparatus, subsidize big pharma and health more than any nation and get far less in return. The cost of just 1 b 1 bomber could send all the kds in Maine to college for free for the entire course. Again, the point is that propaganda makes people go against their interest.

      1. Capo Regime

        big Pharma, banks and military contractors have been embracing big government forever……Low tax low government u.s. is merely a myth…….along with love of freedom. Put eagles and flags around something and amercans will go along with it….

      2. Kiste

        I’m sorry but I seriously doubt that. While I do not know the particulars of the US tax system, I do talk to a lot of former colleagues and university friends who are now working in the USA and every single one of them has told me that they’re paying _signifcantly_ less in taxes, insurance contributions etc. than they did in back in Germany.

        That is in addition to generally higher salaries in the tech sector and lower prices / lower consumption taxes on many goods (1 USD buys you more in the USA than 1 EUR does in most European countries). The only thing worse seems to be somewhat higher rent but even that’s relative when compared to rents in places like Munich.

        1. Capo Regime

          But you are missing the point and obviously working on hearsay and no experience or knowlege.

          For a short work visit not a bad deal. But when it comes time to sending their kids to school most eurpoeans here in D.C. freak out and send them to private school, then I ask how much educational loan debt are your german colleagues carrying? Thats right 0. here to be a professional you have to go to Univeristy and borrow tens of thousands if not hundreds of thousands to pay tuition? How much in Germany–thats right almost nothing. So yes–lower taxes on income than europe but you get essentially very little back–high crime, bad shools, bad transit , expensive health insurance (if there is german paying 1,200 us. per month for family health insurance word of it has failed to get out) Its common to hear of English Bankers tranferred to New York stunned by how much higher the taxes are the how poor the services are compared to London–look it up. Oh and Corporate taxes are highest on the planet. Capital gains now thats low…

          1. Kiste

            I’m not arguing against government services and the taxes to support them. I am very much in favour of it and yes, many Americans are short sighted if they push for tax cuts on the expense of government services because they will end up paying an arm and a leg for the very same services, just to private providers.

            This is not the issue. The issue is that you claimed that Amercians pay more taxes and I know for a fact that this is not true. I trust the hearsay of people I know and who worked in both countries as opposed to the statement of same blog commenter who doesn’t provide any evidence.

            Furthermore, my question still goes unanswered: is the American Left ready to openly endorse a 50-70% effective taxation of the middle and working class to pay for the desired government services, as you have in Germany, Scandinavia, France etc.

          2. James

            Raising taxes is now political suicide in the US. The Repubes have poisoned that ground VERY effectively over the past 30 years or so.

      3. Ms G

        I always laugh when American friends trot out the “oppressive” tax scheme in Europe and gloat at how much better they have it here. That is until one asks: have you added up what you spend on health insurance, education, transport, and the quality of your public parks to the taxes you pay? They don’t realise that the “oppressive” tax scheme in Europe includes all of that and then some.

        Also, as Capo Regime points, out, taxes here are extremely high if you earn wage income (as a full employee or consultant). In certain cities/states, after FICA, Medicare, Federal Income Tax, the add-on by state/city staxes (not even including Sales Tax) quickly eats up 45-50% of income. And it’s on top of THAT that health insurance, education, are spent.

        The commonplace that “we don’t want to pay for what they have in Europe” relies on the ridiculous failure to see that Americans are being gouged to to the tune of far greater “payments” via the “free market/private sector” fees that would be covered by taxes in Europe (and with gianormously huger benefits)!

          1. Ms G

            Yep. Plus add on to the long list of benefits that Europeans get for — de facto — far less money: child care, maternity leave, humane vacations and sick leave, etc. etc. etc.

        1. Ms G

          Andrea’s post below reminds me of many more things on the list of what Euro taxpayers get for their taxes (which we not only don’t get but, insult to injury, pay for without accountability for 100% corruption): Infrastructure.

          When you tally in the quality of design and upkeep (and ultimate useability — Oh My!) of roads, streets, bridges, trains, high ways, etc., the US vs Euro outlays really start to widen geometrically in a clear scissor pattern: US taxpayers = screwed chumps paying a lot more for a lot less.

          What will it take for the ideological hatred of government to yield to clear eyed awakening in this country?

    2. bmeisen

      Like Kiste, here in Germany I take home less than 50% of what I earn and I am not unhappy about it. In exchange I and my family get a high quality of life, e.g. education, security, social services, reletively effective representative government, tolerable levels of corruption.

      What we don’t get is the most wasteful and corrupt welfare system in the history of mankind, namely the US military. And note that Americans are paying in crime rates for shitty public schools, and they’re paying covert taxes in the form of higher ed tuition and receiving in exchange a system of higher education that is controlled by and accordingly serves first and foremost the class who needs education the least, namely the elite 1%.

      Kiste’s point that Amis probably aren’t willing to pay for a European-style social system can be accounted for by Yves’ argument that propaganda has worked wonders in the US for the ruling elite.

      1. James

        It’s also a vicious cycle. Lower taxes lead to reduced/poorer services leads to reduced support for government and increased resistance to taxes of any form. I honestly don’t see the center holding for more than another decade or two (if that!) at the current rate. Once again, this was all a result of a very calculated and deliberate long term strategy. Bravo, Repubes! Take a bow, you’ve earned it!

    3. Mike

      Simple thinking: NO. Given what we hear about how the middle class is doing, who wants to pay even more in taxes?! Especially after all the tea party propaganda about how it’s big government that’s the problem. And, all the “information” we hear about government workers, and about the efficiency of government, in general.

      1. Ms G

        What if paying a little more in taxes meant you didn’t have any more health care costs, education costs, end of life costs, etc etc etc? That math yields interesting results.

        1. Kiste

          Math is unimportant if you have been brainwashed into thinking:

          – that state-run health insurance means death panels and long queues to see a doctor

          – that the state is incompetent by definition and the private sector always provides better quality services

          – that the state is always inefficient and/or corrupt and the private sector is not and thus being able to provide comparable or better quality services at lower costs

          – that taxation is tyranny and a strong state sector puts you firmly on the road to serfdom

          The question I posed was sort of rhetorical. Of course, the answer is NO. I don’t think you can ever convince Americans to consent to more government services AND PAY FOR IT. Of sure, they love it if it doesn’t cost them anything (well, ostensibly at least) like Medicare Part D but ask them to pay taxes for it? Oh no, can’t have that.

          1. Ms G

            Thanks for sharpening the issue. A root problem, then, seems to be that Americans believe that if they are paying their hard-earned dollars to private sector looting machines it’s “free” but if they just pay via taxes it’s odious and bad (even if it’s a lot less money out of their pockets for way more service and a fundamental dignity.) Put another way, there’s no objection to being scammed by private sector “providers” (health, edu, etc.) because it would be worse to get service for dollars from anything state-ish!

            Weird, right, in a country full of people in love with budgeting and financial planning!

          2. Ms G

            By the way Kiste. Small point: Medicare ain’t free. Anyone who is collecting has been paying into it their whole working lives. There are copays and deductibles even once in. Medicare D has the “donut hole” — 1000s of dollars out of pocket for people on fixed incomes for prescriptions. Medicare does and doesn’t cover all sorts of things — more out of pocket. And so on.

            I realise you live in German so you might not be up on these details about a quintessentially American and ridiculously complex “health insurance” system!

    4. steelhead23

      Would I be willing to exchange 54% of my employers total cost of my employment for a real, secure, safety net? Oh hell yes. Look, as I stare retirement in the eye, the strongest feeling I have is anxiety. Will I have enough? Will the dollars I have retain their value? Am I doing the right things to be sure? etc.

      If we had a real social contract – an assumption that protecting individual human dignity as well as health and welfare was the interest of all Americans, the cost of ensuring such a system would be immaterial. It is my view that this question fits well with the argument Yves is making here, we work harder than we would like to because we are programmed to accept if not laud our fate. Changing this, while the elite control our media and many of our institutions is a daunting task.

      Perhaps way off topic, I find the current rift between Catholic nuns and their bishops rather analogous to the rift between labor and current social norms. It bears watching how successful the Catholic laborers (nuns) are in their fight with management (bishops).

  34. Ryan

    I’m confused, the CIA didn’t exist until after World War II. What’s with the 1915 CIA involvement?

    1. Justine Sharps

      The same point is already addressed in the comments above, starting at June 27, 2012 at 9:33 am.

      “CIA” stands for “Committee for Immigrants in America”. Yves actually gets the name of the Committee wrong when she says, “In 1914, NACLI decided to extend its program nation-wide, and changed its name to the Committee for Citizens in America.” She appears to be paraphrasing from page 44 of Carey’s book, where Carey says that the NACLI “changed its name to the ‘Committee for Immigrants in America’ (CIA).”

    2. steelhead23

      I believe she is referencing Committee for Citizens in America, created in 1914 from the when the North American Civic League for Immigrants (est. 1907) changed its name. These folks worked to create “good” citizens out of recent emigres – meaning willing to work for nickels and dimes, never complain, and never collectivize.

      1. Justine Sharps

        No, there was never such an organization as the “Committee for Citizens in America”. To reiterate the point I made in my comment above, Yves has, through a typo or some similar oversight, simply represented Carey’s account. If you look at Carey’s text (which she is explicitly citing), it is clear that she is referring to the organization that Carey names as the “Committee for Immigrants in America”. Hence “CIA”.

  35. Hugh

    We of the 99% have been indoctrinated by the 1% to accept their looting as normal, even noble. The public discourse whether political, economic, historical, etc., has been so poisoned that it is almost impossible to have a discussion free of the frames the kleptocrats have imposed on us.

    Basically, it comes down to this. Any taking by the 1% no matter how disproportionate and criminal is deserved, sacrosanct, a testament to the well functioning of society and the economy. Any getting by the 99% is suspect, dubious, unearned, a menace to society and an unsustainable drain on the economy.

    What is important here to realize is that the 1% not only believe this but they have gotten most of the 99% to believe it as well.

    1. Andrea

      US citizens don’t want to pay ‘more’ tax (can’t even consider it) beause they already pay a huge amount, often more than in Europe, specially if you accurately tot it up. (Depends place, family compo, etc.) but get so little in return.

      Pot holes in the roads (and road tolls..), infrastructure bust (live in X place), failing public education (private or home schooling), debt for students (mobilise family savings if any), health, forget about it. They pay thru the nose for what? So they hate the ‘Gvmt’ – interference big bills, etc. but they don’t have a clue where their money goes as there is no accounting, no proper information given out.

  36. Capo Regime

    I think I am not alone in finding some humor on the centrality of 4th of July in the U.S. You do realize that the U.S. is the oldest continuous government in te world? Yes its the oldest. It has the largest military and until recently (maybe or maybe not) was the largest national economy. You have to admit, celebrating independence for the U.S. is now rather contrived and well outright bizzarre.

    1. LeonovaBalletRusse

      We have the “largest military” because we are the “official” global military for the interests of the Global Nobility Master Class the 1% (the Eternal .01% and their .99% Agency du jour).

      1. Roland

        Global Enforcement Services, marketed to the worldwide investor class, constitute the USA’s most important export. It is also the economic sector in which the USA maintains a strong relative competitive advantage.

        Because the minimum investment threshold is very high, and because lead times are so long, it is difficult for alternative service providers to enter the Global Enforcement Services field.

    2. alex

      “You do realize that the U.S. is the oldest continuous government in the world?”

      What discontinuity has there been in the government that controls England since the Glorious Revolution of 1688?

      Yes I realize that’s the British government, so the 1707 Act of Union was a discontinuity for Scotland, but not England. Same point for Northern Ireland.

      1. bob

        The BOE has been around that long. Coincidence?

        I do agree with the gist of the comment- the same people have been in control, under different looking governments, all subservient to, or serving “at the pleasure” of the Monarch.

        It’s pretty clever how they manage to say otherwise.

  37. LeonovaBalletRusse

    Yves, maybe you’ve started the ball rolling. American workers are so cowed and deceived by Chambers of Commerce (BigCorp Propaganda Central), TV ads, and overwork, that the most resistance they can muster is to nod in agreement with “Dilbert’ cartoons. This is excruciatingly pathetic. But Americans, because of false pride, shun seeing themselves as “pathetic” when their miserable lives are the very definition of pathos. No matter how low Americans sink (Meth addiction anyone?), they MUST see themselves as “self-reliant winners” in the game of life.

    It’s time to blow Chambers of Commerce here and abroad out of the water, with a campaign revealing their monstrous propaganda designed to keep the American worker at every level in bondage to the 1%.

    Americans must face the truth that we have been aggressively deceived and abused by Corporate+Pol+MonopolyFinance America so that the 1% can profit more and more, over the worked-to-dead bodies of the 99%. The masses must be convinced that the 1% doesn’t give a rat’s ass about the rest of us, so that only the 99% can put a stop to the egregious avarice and abuse of the 1%.

    Thanks so much for taking the lead more largely in this blog. “Citizen Journlists Unite!” We need Discovery of Traps day by day.

    1. Andrea

      All that is true.

      But if fails to describe the insularity and hubris of the American worker (whoever he or she might be when he is dancing the polka) in the sense that he must show that he is loyal, part of the team, and further on, part of the in-group in his society – which might stretch from T-shirt production, China imports, to Gvmt, the oil industry, Big Corps, etc.

      The famed loyalty, the need for ‘performance’, attested to by long hours and submission to bosses, prompt attention to mails, calls, meetings, critiques, bosses, new procedures, new demands, extra paperwork, the dress requirements, all of it imho pretty useless and affecting productivity negatively, is mandatory.

      The work place in the US has a ‘tribal’ character, without the tribe, as the tribe is not working together, tribal guff is symptoms or overt tags have been taken over, to enforce, again, an authoritarian scheme. (As in Gvmt, the military, the prison industry, the terror laws, etc. and in the past, the slaves, etc.)

      Last time I looked, moreover, the average work week hours in the US were lower than in any EU country. The labor participation rate is also quite low.

  38. rps

    Frederick Douglass’4th of July speech in 1852 is as relevant then as it is today. Today’s wealthy Class Warfare against the 99%, has outstripped and surpassed racism. Read Douglass’ (abbreviated) speech with new eyes [Debt] slavery.

    Fellow citizens, pardon me, and allow me to ask, why am I called upon to speak here today? What have I or those I represent to do with your national independence? Are the great principles of political freedom and of natural justice, embodied in that Declaration of Independence, extended to us? And am I, therefore, called upon to bring our humble offering to the national altar, and to confess the benefits, and express devout gratitude for the blessings resulting from your independence to us? …..

    Who so stolid and selfish that would not give his voice to swell the hallelujahs of a nation’s jubilee, when the chains of [Debt] servitude had been torn from his limbs? I am not that man. In a case like that, the dumb might eloquently speak, and the “lame man leap as an hart.”

    But such is not the state of the case. I say it with a sad sense of disparity between us. I am not included within the pale of this glorious anniversary! Your high independence only reveals the immeasurable distance between us. The blessings in which you this day rejoice are not enjoyed in common. The rich inheritance of justice, liberty, prosperity, and independence bequeathed by your fathers is shared by you, not by me. The sunlight that brought life and healing to you has brought stripes and death to me. This Fourth of July is yours, not mine. You may rejoice, I must mourn. To drag a man in [Debt] fetters into the grand illuminated temple of liberty, and call upon him to join you in joyous anthems, were inhuman mockery and sacrilegious irony. Do you mean, citizens, to mock me, by asking me to speak today? If so, there is a parallel to your conduct. And let me warn you, that it is dangerous to copy the example of a nation (Babylon) whose crimes, towering up to heaven, were thrown down by the breath of the Almighty, burying that nation in irrecoverable ruin.

    Fellow citizens, above your national, tumultuous joy, I hear the mournful wail of millions, whose [Debt] chains, heavy and grievous yesterday, are today rendered more intolerable by the jubilant shouts that reach them.

    My subject, then, fellow citizens, is “American [Debt] Slavery.” I shall see this day and its popular characteristics from the slave’s point of view. Standing here, identified with the American bondman, making his wrongs mine, I do not hesitate to declare, with all my soul, that the character and conduct of this nation never looked blacker to me than on this Fourth of July.

    Whether we turn to the declarations of the past, or to the professions of the present, the conduct of the nation seems equally hideous and revolting. America is false to the past, false to the present, and solemnly binds herself to be false to the future.

    At a time like this, scorching irony, not convincing argument, is needed. Oh! had I the ability, and could I reach the nation’s ear, I would today pour out a fiery stream of biting ridicule, blasting reproach, withering sarcasm, and stern rebuke. For it is not light that is needed, but fire; it is not the gentle shower, but thunder. We need the storm, the whirlwind, and the earthquake. The feeling of the nation must be quickened; the conscience of the nation must be roused; the propriety of the nation must be startled; the hypocrisy of the nation must be exposed; and its crimes against God and man must be denounced.

    What to the American [Debt] slave is your Fourth of July? I answer, a day that reveals to him more than all other days of the year, the gross injustice and cruelty to which he is the constant victim. To him your celebration is a sham; your boasted liberty an unholy license; your national greatness, swelling vanity; your sounds of rejoicing are empty and heartless; your shouts of liberty and equality, hollow mock; your prayers and hymns, your sermons and thanksgivings, with all your religious parade and solemnity, are to him mere bombast, fraud, deception, impiety, and hypocrisy – a thin veil to cover up crimes which would disgrace a nation of savages.

    Frederick Douglass – July 4, 1852


    1. LeonovaBalletRusse

      NOW do we gittit? We the 99% are ALL “nee-groes” now! Perhaps this is the cosmic lesson we ALL needed to learn. That’s why the “Black” Trojan Horse Barack Obama is such an abysmal disgrace, such spit in the eye, to ALL descendants of slaves in America who have risen out of bondage.

      Has Toni Morrison considered a stint in “politics” more directly? Who but Toni Morrison has the intellectual and linguistic power of W.E.B. DuBois? Will she help us ALL to understand that her exquisite analysis of power politics, “Playing In the Dark: Whiteness and the Literary Imagination” is a PRIMER for the 99% at large?

  39. knowbuddhau

    Thanks for the article, Yves, I’ve been wanting to learn more about the history of propaganda in the US. I’m much obliged.

    I bow in your virtual direction ;)

  40. Mark


    As you deepen you’re reading, two classics that you should review are David Brion Davis’ The Slave Power Conspiracy and the Paranoid Style (1970), and The Fear of Conspiracy: Images of Un-American Subversion from the Revolution to the Present (1971). What you’re describing in the 1890s actually existed all the way back into the early Republic.

    1. LeonovaBalletRusse

      ALSO, Yves, if I may pile on:

      “PROPAGANDA: The Formation of Men’s Attitudes” and “THE TECHNOLOGICAL SOCIETY” by Jacques Ellul, to show us How We Got Here.

      Why should the French Protestants and Agnostics+Atheists get involved? Moreover, they can give us pointers on “guillotinage.”

  41. Capo Regime

    Its annoying when they go on with U.S. triumphalism and how the EU is hapless.

    Not so hapless it turns out:

    THE NUMBERS: Global wealth held by individuals, 2011* –

    World: $231 trillion
    EU $75 trillion
    U.S. $58 trillion
    Japan $26 trillion
    China $20 trillion

    * Credit Suisse

    1. LeonovaBalletRusse

      Careful, Capo Regime. The Old European .01% keeps gaining and gaining at the expense of the Moveable Feast the 99%.

      1. Capo Regime

        Right you are but–the european 1% is clever enough to understand their longer term interest and spread it around a bit more–the EU countries all have a far more equitable income distribution and far lower poverty rate than the U.S. Still–your point taken.

          1. Capo Regime

            Well lets stick to facts. The health, safety and economic facts for now. Income distribution is better, the 1% do not in anyway have the disproportionate wealth that the U.S. 1% do–hey look it up this is not a controvery. Are the 1% there smarter–maybe maybe not but they have do tend to treat the help a lot better than the do in the U.S. Maybe they are not smarter, maybe its the water or good cheese. But the chasm does not exist and lots of research shows that eurpoean countries are healthier along a continuum of measures.

  42. ds

    Americans aren’t any more susceptible to propaganda than Europeans, nor do they harbor any more irrational beliefs about Europeans than Europeans do of Americans.

    In America, the industrial revolution coincided with the birth of the nation. Our social, cultural and governmental institutions were all in their infancy when businesses began amassing power and growing on a large-scale.

    In Europe, however, governments and many of the social and cultural institutions were already well established by the time the industrial revolution occured. Relative to the United States, there was far less available power for business interests to seize, and, as a result, the working classes of Europe have had more of a say in the design of labor laws and the social safety net.

    1. Capo Regime

      Really? Not true. And do you forget WW1 and WW2? Do you forget that the are all Parliamentary democracies and function much differently–and thus more responsive to citizens…i.e. in a parilamentary systesm Obama and his cabnet would have been on the street in 2010. How about tests showing higher rates of literarcy and common knowlege in history. How about Eurpoeans protesting al the time. How about the fact that only 15% of americans have passports and the rate of eurpoeans travelling to the U.S. is a multiple of the reverse? No they are not all the same……..

      1. LeonovaBalletRusse

        As Veblen demonstrate, the .01% (not the 1%) Global Rentier Class “takes care of their own, with the model of spoils-sharing by the Top-Out-of-Sight (the .01%) that the Treaty of Versailles presented. As Veblen correctly observed, this left the 99% paying the remainder through the nose. This paved the way for Hitler’s coronation.

      2. ds

        European governments aren’t any more responsive to the “will of the people” overall than are American governments (federal, state and local). There are indeed certain areas where European governments are more responsive, but there are others where American governments are more responsive.

        Business have more power here in America than they do in Europe. My only argument is that this is a result of historical circumstances, and not because Americans are stupid, ignorant, and easily influenced by propaganda.

        1. Capo Regime

          By design parliamentary democracies are more responsive to popular will. The fact that multipary coalition governments without corporate donations exist in the EU alone proves your statement to be ignorant nonsense.

    2. Capo Regime

      DS–know much history? Opinions are great but made up facts are another. European governments and polity have changed in ways americans could not fathom in the last 100 years. And no governments in Europe were not affected by the industrial revolution as that was confined to Engalnd and the rest of Eurpose was mostly small city states—your entire point is void of any semblance of historical fact. Did you go to U.S. public school?

      1. ds

        “And no governments in Europe were not affected by the industrial revolution as that was confined to Engalnd and the rest of Eurpose was mostly small city states”

        “no governments in Europe were not affected” is a double-negative, so its hard to understand what you mean, but wouldn’t that *support* the argument that business interests in america were able to seize more power than they were able to in europe?

        This idea that American people are idiots who are susceptible to propaganda and 4th of July holidays while Europeans are all enlightened and rational is false. Europeans harbor just as many inane beliefs and prejudices as do Americans. The difference with respect to working conditions and the welfare state is that business interests in Europe are less powerful than in America because other institutions in Europe were already well-developed prior to the onset of the industrial revolution and the rise of large-scale corporate power.

        1. Capo Regime

          The EU is richer and the people live longer, lower stress jobs, do a better job of education and taking care of the vulnerable. Governments are less corrupt, people watch less tv, read more and don;t believe in Angels. Look it up and deal with it. Look up PISA scores, child mortaliyt, homicide, depressions, officia corruption, Look it up and learn something

          Your repitition is again devoid of any knoweldge of history or salient facts. American institutions are older than any eurpopean institutions–they have been remade in 1866, 1918, 1945, 1992–but you dont know that or the meaning of the dates do you?

  43. Pearl

    Thanks for the insightful post–I just forwarded it along to my 24 year old daughter, who, seemingly, spends all of her measly 10 days of annual vacation on attending weddings, graduations, visiting her mom in the Southeast, her dad on the West Coast, seeing her doctor and dentist, running errands for car maintenance and standing in DMV lines. If she ever took a “real” vacation, it would be at the expense of seeing her family, of having regular medical/dental visits, and of having an operational vehicle!

    But she’s so grateful to have a good job that she doesn’t seem to notice the extent to which she’s getting screwed out of having a real life.

    At the end of the day, this is all about me–and about my genetic material that is trapped–trapped, I tell you, inside of a young woman who is never gonna have the time to procreate me a grandchild, let alone raise it!

    Note to society–it’s one thing to tick off 24 year old white collar workers. But once you start ticking off perimenopausal grandchildless housewives on blogs–watch out. It’s a demographic you really don’t want to mess with….

    Kaboom. ;-)

    1. abelenkpe

      It’s the same for those in their 30s. We just end up using our time off to hang out and reconnect with the kids instead of visiting family, plus take care of doctor and dentist visits, etc, etc. Of course a relative living nearby would be ever so helpful. Perhaps if you move closer to your daughter and can help with childcare she’ll be able to give you a grand kid?
      Good luck either way. Kids are wonderful.

    2. JTFaraday

      It’s true. I used to keep my vacation days for “snow days” as I had a long commute and I wasn’t going to literally risk my so-called life for a shithole!

  44. Tim

    “The average American’s response is neither admiration nor envy, but rather a kind of sick pride in their own wretchedness, combined with righteous contempt for their European worker counterparts”

    Good grief. What a crappy twisted interpretation of people’s thought process.

    All other things being equal:

    That’s the self-righteous motivation Americans have that is fully justified and not the result of being brainwashed by propaganda!

    If a man can’t take pride in his own work then you are arguing for a someone to not be human and not participate in sustaining the survival of the human race.

    1. Tim

      I’m not saying we are not being robbed above, we are, we are being enslaved, and not having the right facts due to propaganda is why people are decieved, not because we have become wretched in out thought processes.

      Taking pride in your own work and your fellow american workers is noble, not having access to the fruits of your own labor is a wretchedness not of your own doing.

      Subtle difference from the quote, but important nonetheless.

    2. trav eaux de chumpe

      Delighted to hear how much you like winnin’ over me, dude, cuz I haven’t done a stick o’ work in like a decade and my life is frickin’ nirvana, livin’ off the interest you hopeless drones pay out the nose, to Me. You outworked and outproduced ’em, yep. As famous hardworking busy beaver Jamie Johnson sez, “Just keep telling yourself that.”

    3. ds

      Self-flagellation is a uniquely American characteristic. Just as the author notes that Americans tend to blame themselves for lost jobs, low wages, etc., a lot of the commenters here argue that the American people are themselves to blame for the weak welfare-state because they are ignorant and easily persuaded by nationalistic propaganda.

      It might, however, be the case that progressive change has a better chance of success when it empowers and affirms the qualities of individuals rather than scolds them for being so foolish, stupid and weak.

      If you wonder why progressives have such a hard time in America, all you have to do is read the hyperbolic vitriol about American people in these comments to see why.

    4. James


      A bit hyperbolic perhaps? And as far as production, just what is it that we still “make” anymore anyway? Recent Chrysler appeals to Patriotic fervor notwithstanding. Particle board, soon to be vacated debt-financed genuine imitation McMansions in fire, fault, and flood zones? Point conceded. We Americans need to get over the myth of ourselves so we can start honestly dealing with the reality of ourselves, which ain’t so great these days.

  45. Rick

    Unfortunately, a lot of Americans have fallen for the “pampered Greek workers” line of “explanation” for the European financial crisis in general.

    We saw this strategy work very well with the Wisconsin recall. I think a lot of people voted for Walker and against the public sector unions because they figure since they don’t have their pay and benefits, then nobody should. “Everybody earns what they make” is the line of the neo-liberals, except when working class people have living wage jobs with benefits. Then working class people are encouraged to look upon their fellow workers with envious eyes, rather than demand a similar level of pay and benefits through solidarity.

    What’s left of organized labor has its work cut out for it, and wasting millions every election cycle on campaigning for bourgeois Democratic politicians is a recipe for suicide. People aren’t going to support you if you aren’t on the front lines organizing working class people, rather than demanding they vote for their Democratic bosses, who don’t represent their interests anyway.

  46. abelenkpe

    “According to a New York Times article, British workers get more than 50% more paid holiday per year than Americans, while the French and Italians get almost twice what the Americans get. The average American’s response is neither admiration nor envy, but rather a kind of sick pride in their own wretchedness, combined with righteous contempt for their European worker counterparts, whom most Americans see as morally degenerate precisely because they have more leisure time, more job security, health benefits and other advantages.”

    We even do that here. See the attack on union workers.

    Funny because work recently told us that to better compete with our European and Canadian counterparts (who enjoy more pto each year) we need to have our pto reduced. See their countries provide tax subsidies (aka bribes) to encourage work to remain in the country vs ours which provides none. So work work work fellow Americans for less pay, less benefits, less education and no chance of retirement and be proud!

    1. LeonovaBalletRusse

      “Dance, dance, dance till you drop.” (W.H. Auden: “DEATH’S ECHO”)

    2. Pearl


      Indeed. I agree with you and I’m afraid you’ve just pushed me over my threshold and into full-on rant mode. (Sorry in advance.)

      My dad worked 35 years for and retired from the Southern California Edison Company as an exempt (“white collar,” “management” etc.) employee who, although was never in a union himself, directly benefited from the fact that Edison had a large number of union employees (IBEW, UWUA, Teamsters, etc.)

      Through the “magic” of collective bargaining–unions raised the bar (particularly as it pertained to benefits)for all of the Edison employees, because it just wasn’t likely that the “exempt” employees’ benefits would ever get too far out of synch with the union employees’ benefits packages.

      And slightly veering off topic here, I also want to mention that benefits seemed to be of particular importance to the IBEW, UWUA, Teamsters and the other unions that Edison negotiated with. (I worked at SCE as an intern in the Employee Benefits Dept a zillion years ago and one of my duties was proof reading these contracts.) The union folks took hits in their salaries at that time in exchange for better benefits–such as decent pension plans and good healthcare benefits. They could have negotiated for higher salaries and lesser benefits–and then blown the extra income on Rolexes and BMWs. But they didn’t.

      And it ticks me off when I hear about clawing back “overly generous pension and healthcare benefits” that were “promised” to the unions back in the 1980s. Actually, what mostly gets my hackles up is the use of the word “promised” in such context–as if these pension and benefits packages were some sort of casual side deal made between a Corporate CEO and a Union leader after a few drinks at the annual Christmas party. Every single word of those contracts (ahem,”promises”) were hard-fought. I know this because I remember during union negotiations season having to, almost daily, and for weeks on end, trudge over to a secretary and apologetically hand over 100+ page contracts that needed to be completely re-typed so as to reflect the most recent one or two sentence change that had been settled upon. (This was in the (gasp!) pre word-processing days.)

      As a lowly intern, I think I was a sort of neutral(ish) observer. I was also very young, and I didn’t have a lot of preconceived notions or biases at the time. But I came away with the sense that the upper management folks had some hostility toward the union folks and toward their annoyingly nit-picky contracts. But the mid-level management folks–the ones with whom I mostly worked–were routing for the unions, even if under their breath. It was not lost on them that, generally speaking, the better the unions did–the better they did.

      Okay. I’m done. Guess I’m just Union-labile today.

  47. emptyfull

    I think this is why the American left needs to re-embrace patriotism. There is much to love about our country and its ideals — indeed, those ideals have been so key to the worldwide democratic left that we rarely realize the extent to which our minds have been shaped by the American experience. We need to embrace our flag as the symbol of constitutional democracy and human rights, the ideal of equality before the law, and equal opportunity.

    The left’s cosmopolitanism has made many of us suspicious of the nation-state, but I think we’re seeing the results of diminished states now and the dangers this has posed to democracy.

    I also hope that the left can get over its occasional antipathy towards Christianity. Like it or not, when you look past the Enlightenment’s rationalist framing of human rights, equality, etc., you’ll see these ideals are very much based in fundamental strands of Jewish and Christian thought. Contra what the New Atheists have argued, religion has been an often constructive force both in the lives of individuals and communities (yes, yes, we must also continue to critique the darker side of religion too, but this can be done through appealing to people’s desires to be better, more faithful religious people rather than through mockery). What was Marxism other than an overly-idealistic, alienated attempt to bring about the kingdom of God?

    If we haven’t been successful in convincing Americans, perhaps we should ground ourselves and our morality more securely in the language and even faith that gave root to so much we believe in today. There is much goodness to be found there.

    1. James

      Patriotism… the last refuge of the scoundrel. Patriotism is almost always a smoke screen put up by someone who is in fact anything but a patriot, whatever the hell a “patriot” is anyway. See the Bush bunch and just about anyone involved in American politics since. When I see those fucking lapel pins I just want to puke. I’d be happy to see the word patriot banished from the lexicon and replaced by (a genuinely) “informed citizen,” although the FOX News/Limbaugh crowd would be all too quick to full that void as well.

      1. LeonovaBalletRusse

        James, “patriots” – Yves Smith, William K. Black, Chris Hedges, for example. And Lambert Strether, and many commenters daring to become drone targets.

    2. LeonovaBalletRusse

      The “antipathy” is rather to “faux Christianity” which has been ramped into a cruel, selfish Republicn hyper-Capitalist “Prosperity Religion” — VERY far from the teaching of Yeshua/Jesus as promulgated in the “New Testament” (“New Covenant” – acc. to Willis Barnstone).

  48. Heretic

    A very good piece today. I really enjoy the fact that you are very broad minded, and touch upon a variety of cultural, historical and psychological issues in this blog.

    I have a thought… The message of the progressive left and right (to my fellow readers: there are social and economic rightwing thinkers who do hold intellectual integritty, fact Based evidence, justice and compassion in the highest regard, and who abhor the deceifulness, indifference, and cruelty of what we now call the hard right) has been to appeal to factual evidence, reason and compassion. But my cursory study of history seems to indicate that ‘persistent salesmanship’ (easy to understand slogans, appeal to positive and negative emotions, identity politics) is more successful at mobilizing the masses in the short to medium term. We must work with the cultural memes of the society in order to be successful. It is unfortunate that many in the western world are becoming increasing vulnerable to propaganda; but this is the environment we must work with.

    1. emptyfull

      Yes! But it’s not just about rhetoric divorced from reality. It’s about identifying with core elements of our moral heritage in a way that calls everyone to join us if they care about our country. Although such language can be manipulated against people’s interests, it doesn’t have to be.

      1. Heretic

        I believe we are saying similar things. We must use propaganda tools to forward the interests and well being of the people. Unfortunately, the raw truth without some good salesmanship will not attract the attention of the ordinary people. Later, when the reins of political power are held in proper hands, we can begins the long process of educating people, so they will not be so vulnerable to manipulation.

        1. emptyfull

          I think we’re in the same ballpark, but not completely. I’m asking the good people on this board to see their love of justice as rooted in ideals that many people often derided as idiots by progressives also can love. We don’t have to take the potentially arrogant road of believing we need to “re-educate” others; this alienates almost anyone. But American evangelicals did a great deal of the leg work in making America a more just place in the nineteenth century (despite their many faults). The new generation of evangelicals are rebelling against their parents’ culture war mentality in increasing numbers. The God of Justice still breathes in American culture. There is a great deal of power in respecting and invoking that God.

  49. MacCruiskeen

    You think that just because we are at the office we are working and not reading blogs?

    1. Ms G

      No, but you are doing “face time” — all that really matters :) (Productivity in US often means “being physically there” for no useful purpose).

      1. James

        And isn’t it really that personal touch that makes it all so very worthwhile? The shared moments of boredom, lethargy, mutual animosity, and utter desperation.

        1. Ms G

          Sorry about the interrupted post.

          I liked your comment. The picture is grim but describes the impoverished social solidarity that has been bred in the no-exit workplace.

  50. Warren Celli

    Yves, excellent post! You are on a subject near and dear to my heart, mass culture shaping. In the post WWII years we have, as a global population, undergone incredible change as a result of very intentional and incremental culture shaping — yes! — propaganda! It has been aided and abetted by acceleration of the rate change in the production of Deceptive Externalized Tools of Dominance (DETODS), with the increased rate of change emanating from the DETODs themselves, their evolutionary expediting effects on human organisms, and by consolidation and control of them by the aberrant few.

    Regarding this: “Carey stresses that propaganda depends on cultivating Manichean perspectives, the sacred versus the Satanic, and identifying the cause to be promoted with symbols that have emotional power. For many people, Americans in particular, patriotism is a rallying point.”

    Yes, and in reverse propaganda you have to paint the aberrant rich, and those who adopt and promote their deceptive ways as evil and etxra evil. It is not however simply a matter of reverse demonization. It is a matter of pointing out the reality of all of the traits and characteristics of those who piggishly take more than a fair share of life’s pie while at the same time pointing out that they also cause a resultantly massive disruption and unsustainablee flow and use of the planet’s resources. Their ‘traits and charasteristics’ in reality are sociopathic symptoms, hence; Evilism and Xtrevilism. The aberrant few, and those who adopt and promote their deceptive ways, are in reality afflicted with a sociopathic disease. Evilism has mutated into Xtrevilism in the post WWII years, and, this mutation, coupled with the acceleration of the rate of production of DETODs and their consolidation as described above, explains the more rapid cultural changes taking place and the attendant withering of our aggregate human morality.

    Here is an excerpt from my forthcoming web site;

    “Xtrevilism vs Fairism — Its a global struggle for control of morality — its a struggle for your future…

    • It is not about the process decoys* of deflation, inflation, or stagflation — it is about deceptionflation, subjugationflation, and eliminationflation…

    The global financial crisis is not about one singular event, nor is it about exotic financial derivative products, professional economic analysis, or financial solutions. It is about corruption and the ebb and flow of the evolution of human morality…

    Let’s begin at the beginning…
    An Intentionally Orchestrated Half
    Century Long Sea Change In Our Global Morality…
    We stand at a pivotal point in all of human evolution… The hard fought for, and hard won, fair and good morality of past generations is threatened by an aberrant and deviant secretive ideology. It is a pernicious ideology of lies that clothes itself in all that is good. An ideology that masks and conceals itself in freedom, patriotism, religious righteousness, integrity, compassion, hope, positive change, etc., but works instead behind the scenes to instill divisiveness and destruction so as to oppress and exploit us all. That aberrant and secretive ideology is firmly based in deception and the Noble Lie. That abnormal ideology is called Xtrevilism, and its perpetrators, who think you are to stupid to ever catch on, are working, by appealing to your baser instincts, to mold you and shape you into believing that they have your best interests at heart. Nothing could be further from the truth. They are lying!

    The ‘Greed And Evil Are Good’ snow job — an intentionally orchestrated sea change in the viewpoint of the global psyche — we have been culture shaped and culture raped!… It is Xtrevilism that is responsible for the sea change in our post WWII global culture and morality. That culture of the time, joyous with righteous victory at the end of the war, was a family oriented culture of good strong moral values. It is Xtrevilism that has intentionally and incrementally worked to shift those once dominant good and strong family oriented moral values — values of fairness, love, respect, opportunity, togetherness, hope, desire, etc. — to elite Xtrevilism corporate values that instead instill and normalize; preemptive war, fear, divisiveness, hate, racism, torture, greed is good, homelessness, extra judicial assassinations, wealth adoration, etc.

    This has all been implemented willfully and deliberately in a top down, “birds of a feather flock together”, secretive global orchestration. The relatively few self anointed wealthy elite Xtrevilism controllers, through their global central banks with their corrupt financial machinations, and their secessionist gangster corporations, have slowly and incrementally over time; hijacked, co-opted, or made complicit, nation state governments and their militaries, state institutions, and their media around the world. By consolidating that media in those co-opted nation states Xtr?vilism has created a powerful global propaganda voice (staffed with disingenuous, good cop bad cop, sell out media toadies) that they have intentionally and incrementally used for destroying our good post WWII global morality. By intentionally appealing to our gullibility; our greed, our selfishness, our vanity and the contentiousness in all of us, they have weakened us and divided us, and pitted us one against the other. Yes! We have been dumbed down and made fearful, divisive, and confused. We must accept that fact and bear responsibility for our moral weaknesses and change our viewpoints and behaviors. But we must also work to remove those few Xtrevilist perpetrators, those most responsible, for conspiring and actively exploiting those weaknesses in us, so as to terrorize, exploit, oppress and eliminate us. The violent murders of John F Kennedy, Robert Kennedy, Martin Luther King, Jimmy Hoffa, college students at Kent State and the continual beatings and maiming of thousands of others engaged in peaceful protest throughout America today, are all designed to instill fear and stifle dissent in this sea change cultural shift.”

    Waking people up to the fact that they have been so deceptively manipulated by those who claim to have their best interests at heart is key to ending the manipulation.

    A call to patriotism will include rejecting greed and embracing Fairism.

    Deception is the strongest political force on the planet.

  51. Nitro Circus

    “The junk merchant doesn’t sell his product to the consumer, he sells the consumer to his product. He does not improve and simplify his merchandise. He degrades and simplifies the client.” – William S. Burroughs

    Here are some clients being degraded and simplified:


    1. LeonovaBalletRusse

      Nitro, your point is TOO clear: Monster Truck Jam 2012 in Jacksonville. Hard to imagine any greater reduction of humanity than this, apart from real war.

  52. Capo Regime

    Am surprised nobody threw out Arbeit March Frei out there—-Work will make you free. Has become the american motto of sorts.

  53. scraping_by

    Why less vacation? One large source is cascading job insecurity. Ever since the introduction of MIS and the spread of Theory Y, middle managers have known their positions were doubly insecure. Most of them have nothing revenue-positive to do with their time at work. They’re reacted by staying at the office longer, making a show of destroying their lives for their jobs, starting every discussion with how long they work in a week. Anyone claiming to be vital is usually posturing.

    What that means is their absences are never noticed. What’s one more head nodding around the meeting table, one more reply on the FYI email, one more face in the audience for the Powerpoint talk? The only way to prevent a temporary disappearance from becoming a permanent disappearance is to stay put. Constantly checking email, check calling clericals, calling in to phone meetings, faxing in papers, getting on speaker phones in the conference room, etc., are pretty good high tech substitutes.

    That, of course, cascades down to others in the office, especially when someone grovelled their way into a director position. Executives pretend not to know there’s an office or what they do, being too busy having visions and relating.

    The rest of us are suffering from business school sloganeering. Most of these pinheads take away very little from their time in school, but one slogan has to do with labor costs being the only area that can be minimized. In that gas, working people harder and paying the same or less is the only way to profitablity. Since most American workers have a bit above starvation and are loathe to lose it, they’ll put up with a lot.

    If it’s too much, there is always importing basically limitless numbers of Mexicans (or East Indians, for white collar work). What used to be a vulgar joke has become a vulgar reality.

    The Standard Sacred Entrepreneur bio always has the line about “worked day and night for months on end” and it’s implied that was the difference between money coming in and being the working poor. Nothing about rich relatives, large corporate partners, the labor of others, etc. So a vague reward is offered, too, for living entirely on the job. It’s about the same odds as Lotto, and indeed, the odds for most workers for hitting the jackpot that way is functionally zero.

    Most Americans, if speaking to someone outside their company’s management, agree they want more leisure more than larger houses, larger TVs, larger everything. It’s a measure of majority powerlessness that work gets piled on fewer and fewer people, while it gets taken away from more and more. Occupy the Unions.

    1. LeonovaBalletRusse

      scraping-by, SERIOUS Middle Management was cleaned out from the 1970’s. I think resulted from the “tipping point” for .01% War Profiteer revenge against Viet Nam blowback by American Youth. The Global .01% Fascist Putsch began with the help of Theodore Adorno’s “British Rocker” contingent from the Beatles onward. From then it was “make Americans stupid propaganda” all the time. “Sex, Drugs, and Rock&Roll, Raves w/ Ecstasy, Heavy Metal” were fed to the masses like tainted meat, devoured greedily.

        1. LeonovaBalletRusse

          MsG, if you search You Tube vids for Tavistock Institute, there are usually sidebar vids about Adorno’s work there, inventing “music” for strategic political purposes. Well, I guess they all followed Freud in his dread that horrible violence was lurking beneath the surface of “Everyman/woman/child,” so that “control of the masses via mind control” and “advertisement” (a la Bernays) was the necessary “brake” on mass chaos and violence in “participatory democracy.”

          See also “The Century of the Self” on You Tube, a very fine series.

  54. JIm

    Leonova Ballet Russe at 12:19 pm stated:

    “American workers are so cowed and deceived by Chamber of Commerce (BigCorp Propaganda Central), TV ads and overwork that the most resistance they can muster is to nod in agreement with Dilbert cartoons. This is excruciatingly pathetic. But Americans, because of false pride, shun seeing themselves as “pathetic” when their miserable lives are the very definition of pathos.”

    “The masses must be convinced that the 1% don’t give a rat’s ass about the rest of us…”

    How do you distinguish your apparent contempt for the average American from the well-documented contempt of the 1% for the average American?

    Was is the foundation of your own false pride?

      1. LeonovaBalletRusse

        Moreover, as I reviewed my entire statement, from which you quoted a part, I don’t see how you think I have “contempt” for Americans of the 99% (of which I decidedly am a part) who are systematically manipulated, exploited, deceived, and enslaved. It is the oppressors for whom I have contempt.

  55. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

    Maybe I am a gadfly, but when I look at flowers, vegetalbes and cats, they work everyday, seemingly enjoying what they do, and they never need a day off…unless they get sick and then die.

    If this heartless world stops creating joyless jobs, if jobs are truly enjoyable, you don’t need non-medical days off. You wish you can work everyday.

    1. James

      Very true. The nature of the work we do itself has grown increasingly joyless, hasn’t it? Maybe it’s got something to do with these damn computers we’re bitching on right now? Take those away and most of us would be at a loss to do anything productive at all these days.

      1. LeonovaBalletRusse

        James, I think most of us are frantically trying to do whatever we can before the gates of hell descend, in a perhaps hopeless drive to derail the progress of Totalitarian Rule in the country we love, striving to “preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States,” as ordinary citizens engaged in a fight-to-the-death for open, participatory democracy. I think most of us realize we are just the peanut gallery applauding the immensely fine effort of Yves Smith, Lambert Strether, Matt Stoller, and the many “patriots” who contribute blogs and links to Naked Capitalism.

  56. craazyman

    All socities through history have acculturation rituals that force consent. These are often quite unconscious, both in terms of those whose behavior is shaped and those doing the shaping, the latter are often puppets of unconscious structures of perception they accept as natural phenomenon.

    Cultural anthropology deals with this as does 20th century pyschoanalytical works such as Freud’s (although Jung was more concerned about metaphysics and the behaviorists were on their own planet).

    What’s unique about the U.S. experience is the inherent tension that arises in a culture founded on rebellion in the name of economic freedom but, as with all group population projecs, also possessed of the natural phenoemon of an inchoate energy seeking to establish itself as a group mind, of sorts.

    Slick operators can take advantage of this potential energy, like daming a river to generate electricity. But inviduals can also perceive and rebel against these efforts — such rebellion is every bit as much of the American experience as the cooption.

    So I will celebrate the 4th of July, probably by doing nothing and laying around like a vegetable, which is may favorite thing to do. And dreaming and channeling too. And probably drinking something like red wine or Budweiser. And I’ll probably channel Thomas Jefferson and Thomas Paine and GW himself. And I’ll probably channel Lincoln and I may even channel Ulysses Grant. And maybe even Ben Franklin, although when I channel him I get a jolt, no pun intended. Maybe even, who else? Somebody whose face looks like a face from history, maybe Thoreau, but he’s a bit of a bore to channel. Although I’ve been to Walden Pond and it’s cool, but I think I’d rather channel some anonymous souls of the same tiem, the 1840s or so. They can be very interesting and they usually dont’ get channeled so they are more receptive and freindly.

    So I’ll celebrate July 4. But I sure as hell won’t go to work. I’ll plan my vacation instead.

    1. LeonovaBalletRusse

      craazyman, these are truly fine insights, and you will see/hear them supported at length in You Tube presentations by Roberto Mangabeira Unger, such as: “Nihilism (7/8): The Religion of the Future” [which is the antithesis of nihilism in Unger’s audacious view], and “Beyond the Small Life: a letter to young people”.

      Indeed, how can spectacular American energy be best employed for good?

      1. Warren Celli

        Election boycotts and a Constitutional rewrite that will out and institutionalize the sociopaths.

        Deception is the strongest political force on the planet.

  57. Tom in AZ

    “The CIA also produced a brilliant propaganda strategy to involve every American in an annual ritual of national identification. This ritual would embed the cultural intolerance of the Americanization movement with an identification that was formally and officially sanctified. The CIA thereby launched its campaign for the fourth of July 1915 to be made a national Americanization Day, a day for a ‘great nationalistic expression of unity and faith in America’.”

    Maybe it is because I need to see more of the quoted material, but wasn’t the CIA created about 1947? Sorry if this is a distraction.

    1. wunsacon

      Tip (to myself as well): when there are so many comments on the board, use CTRL+F to find a term (e.g., “CIA”) that someone else might’ve used to pose the same question.

      1. aletheia33

        thank you. i missed this and posted a complaint about the CIA dates below. should have checked the thread. at the same time, this should have been clarified in the article, and the abbreviation probably should not have been used in carey’s text, since the later CIA abbreviation is so universally understood that it never needs to be spelled out.

        i apologize for my carelessness (below), the very fault of which i complained.

  58. SH

    Hi Yves:

    You’re a hopeless dreamer.

    I’m reading Chernow’s biography of Hamilton right now so I’m not so sure the founders are role models. It looks like things have not changed.


  59. skippy

    CIA = total brand recognition TM.

    Skippy… Do people, can people, even think anymore or just respond to immersion imprinting… sigh.

  60. hermanas

    “Could you put in a word for me?
    I really need a job. We’re about to lose our house.”
    Overheard in the grocery yesterday.

  61. aletheia33

    the CIA did not exist in 1914. it was established around 1948-50. its predecessor, the Office of Strategic (!) Services, was established in 1941.

    when an author gets such a basic fact wrong, it does not incline me to invest time in reading his book, however intuitively on target some of his speculations may be.

  62. aletheia33

    p.s. the CIA was established by the national security act of 1947.

    this act was a turning point in world history. it should not be confused with anything that happened earlier.

  63. aletheia33

    please disregard previous 2 posts. this confusion was addressed earlier by others. mea culpa!

    a friend comments:

    the main reason americans work so hard is that they want to make more money.

    i submit a related issue is lack of cultural education or nourishment such that so many of us have no idea what to do with themselves when not working.

    i wonder how much tv americans watch compared to other “advanced” nations’ peoples.

  64. CoinKoin

    The CIA? In 1915? I always believed they were evil, but operating 32 years before their foundation is definitively a proof.

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  66. David

    A response from Claude Fischer:

    **Smith clearly aligns herself with the “working-class is brainwashed” thesis — subvariety, Americanization campaigns. It is a point of view with a pedigree and plausibility. But hardly proven.

    That there were energetic campaigns to indoctrinate immigrants (and children of all stock) to reject the appeals of radicals, socialists, and union leaders is not news. But that these campaigns existed — the most important, I think, actually were the settlement houses — does not mean they succeeded, nor that their existence explains American exceptionalism. We have plenty of reports of skepticism and scoffing. The targeted 2nd-generation actually led the political swing to the New Deal. Moreover, it as not as if the European working-class did not get the same messages from the bosses — reinforced in their case by strong Church opposition to radicalism.

    Critics of the brainwashed thesis would make these points such as these and would also suggests that it resurrects an unfortunate model of the working class: That it is comprised of “cultural dopes,” people who so poorly understand their circumstances as to be easily led by preaching and ceremony to act against their own interests. Smith may consider them dopes, but the point I was trying to make is that there is evidence that American working-class people have historically understood the issues and just made a different choice. We on the left may disagree, but perhaps we should start the discussion by granting them some respect.**

    David V. Johnson
    Web editor
    Boston Review

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