Rob Johnson on the Breakdown of Democracy

By Lambert Strether of Corrente.

Jessica Desvarieux of the Real News Network interviews Rob Johnson, the Director of the Economic Policy Initiative at the Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt Institute and a regular contributor to the Institute’s blog NewDeal2.0. He serves on the UN Commission of Experts on Finance and International Monetary Reform. Previously, Dr. Johnson was a Managing Director at Soros Fund Management where he managed a global currency, bond and equity portfolio specializing in emerging markets. He was also a Managing Director at the Bankers Trust Company. Dr. Johnson has served as Chief Economist of the US Senate Banking Committee under the leadership of Chairman William Proxmire and was Senior Economist of the US Senate Budget Committee under the leadership of Chairman Pete Domenici. Dr. Johnson was an Executive Producer of Taxi to the Dark Side, an Oscar Winning documentary produced and directed by Alex Gibney.

I’m giving Johnson’s bio in its entirety, to emphasize how very much there is to it. And I apologize for going to the Real News Network well again, too soon; I skipped over this video yesterday, assuming that there would be nothing extraordinary about it. But I was wrong! Here’s the video:

More at The Real News

And here’s the transcript, to which I will add interspersed commentary. First, though, here’s a quote from another Rob Johnson interview in 2013:

I guess the way I’d put it in a metaphor is it feels like there are an awful lot of the elite that know this system is not wholesome, and they’re all standing on the deck of the Titanic looking in each other’s eyes, and they’re asking a question with their eyes, “Are we going to help this navigator? Are we going to help this captain get off the ice? Or are we going to get the food and the jewels from the safe and put them in our lifeboat?” And my sense is that most of them are trying to get stuff into their lifeboat, and that system isn’t going to cohere. And in that dysfunction there is opportunity.

So one wonders what opportunities have arisen in between then and now, eh? Here’s today’s transcript:

DESVARIEUX: So, Rob, what role have the financial institutions like central banks played in problems of democratic governance?

JOHNSON: Well, to the extent that central banks are very responsive to financial institutions and, as we saw in the leadup to 2008, unreceptive to strong supervision and strong regulation, they–how you say [incompr.] problem erupted [incompr.] crisis.

On the other hand, they can’t play a stabilizing role. And as they sit in that intersection between markets and people, as a government institution they can fortify what you might call the democratic needs or structures that create a healthy society and a healthy financial market. We have a lot of work to do to put that back in place right now.

Let’s stop right here. Let me caveat at the outset that I’m really in “more in sorrow than in anger” mode, here, but that said, I find this interview highly disconcerting, to say the least, and hard to account for. It feels like Johnson’s gone on tilt. I won’t snark on the “[incompr.]s”, or on the pre-stride-hit “intersection between markets and people” (Soylent Green “intersects” people?), but get this: “We have a lot of work to do to put that back in place right now.” What can “that” be? Surely “democratic needs or structures.” But central banks like the Fed or the ECB are independent. Since when did they even reflect, let alone “fortify” democratic needs or structures? So, how can we “put back in place” what never was? Perhaps Johnson means not democratic, but regulatory structures? If so, why not say so?

DESVARIEUX: Do you see a declining influence or ability of the nations to control multinational corporations?

JOHNSON: I think we’ve been in that decline for quite some time, maybe 40, 50 years. The mobility of financial capital, the mobility of technological capital, has pitted state against state, region against region, and nation against the nation. As we’ve seen with the large low cost labor based economies of China and India being integrated with the world economy, we’ve had a very, very profound change in inequality, what you might call a race to the bottom in labor rights and a race to the bottom in environmental conditions.

True enough, at least in part, but unremarkable. For example: Isn’t it at least possible that the 1% of the 1% — the sort of oligarch who has one home in London, another in Dubai, and several others, one or two forgotten — are in fact trans- or post-national? That the nation-state is, for the few who really run the world, a flag of convenience? This is certainly true for Russian and Ukrainian oligarchs, and are US or Chinese oligarchs so very different? And if this idea has merit, surely it puts a different complexion on “state against state”? Not to mention the idea that the mobility of capital and the mobility of capitalists are intertwined problems. Surely the NC commentariat isn’t the only cast of characters to have come up with this idea? And we might also mention that the “profound change in inequality” differs in its nature, worldwide: Thailand, though highly unequal, is called by some the Detroit of Asia, and I doubt many of its citizens — unlike those from the Detroit of North America — would want to turn the clock back forty years.

The power of capital has never been higher, and the power of citizens is such that governments are now agents of capital to keep what you might call the production locations in their district. And the historic role of the capital versus labor fight, the state being the referee, has changed form. As [incompr.] a famous scholar at [incompr.] University said, we now have a deterioration of representation, where the state works with capital to keep down the demands of labor in order to maintain capital in place, how we say, within the domain [incompr.]

True that the power of capital (however defined) has never been greater, at least in my lifetime and my parents’ lifetime. Modulo the “[incompr.]”, again, however, is “referee” really the right metaphor for the state? Since when was the state ever a neutral arbiter, outside the game? (The agencies set up by FDR, for example, were rule-governed and not corrupt, so they might be considered fair, but they were in no sense neutral; systemically, their function was to preserve capital; they were and are players on the field, not referees; that’s why disorder in the front office affects them.)

DESVARIEUX: Alright. Let’s pivot and talk about Europe. Elections are coming up at the end of May, and several right-wing parties are expected to make some gains in the European Parliament. Do you see right-wing populist movements as playing a significant role in worsening this problem?

JOHNSON: I think right-wing populism is a symptom of the despair of the feeling that there is no direction home, as Bob Dylan used to say in his “Like a Rolling Stone” song. There’s no sense of order, there’s no sense of fairness, there’s no sense of rules, and what ones we have are rules made for the elite, for the powerful. You’re looking at places like Greece and Spain with 50 percent youth unemployment. These are not places where people are going to be attracted to anything other than a restoration of order and an alleviation of their fear. You see the same thing taking place in India right now. [incompr.] Modi is running on a kind of make-the-trains-run-on-time authoritarian agenda. And people are responsive to this ’cause they don’t see any coherence in the system.

For what this is worth, since I’m not a European expert, I think the situation is both more nuanced and, in some places, more hopeful than Johnson suggests. Johnson mentions Spain, but “Spain has avoided the emergence of an organized racist right” and enjoys continuing mass protests against austerity. In Greece, the socialist party, SYRIZA, is in the lead for the coming elections for the European parliament, and very close in the national elections although, granted, when asked which party they trusted most, 42% of Greeks answered none. On the bright side, they didn’t choose Golden Dawn! Not to sound like Pollyanna here, but “These are not places where people [all? Some? Who?] are going to be attracted to anything other than a restoration of order and an alleviation of their fear” is clearly not universal. The standard trope that the right prospers in hard times, as in the 30s, seems not to be true, then, or not true in the way that it has been. So, don’t those demonstrators in Spain show there’s opportunity for democratic governance? Why not give listeners some detail on them? Who were they? What were their demands?

DESVARIEUX: So what do you see as the solution, then?

JOHNSON: A solution? A solution, I believe, involves substantial reforms to diminish the power of money and diminish the power of large corporations in relation to individuals. Corporations are not people. Right now they have the rights of people but none of the responsibilities. They need to be taken out of the game. You need in the United States go back to the Fourteenth Amendment of the Constitution and say what matters is not personhood, what they call natural personhood. A corporation is an artificial persons. They should not be able to play a big role in democracy, and the money and wealth of individuals should not be able to play a role in either.

First, notice how we’ve been sliding, all but insensibly, from “capital” to “corporations” (“large”) to “money” and to “wealth.” Those are very different concepts. If we lack crisp definitions of the forces that prevent democratic governance, how are we to achieve it? And if those forces are global, as the discussion to this point suggests they are, why couch “the solution” is American terms? For example, what is the European equivalent of the Fourteenth Amendment, if any? Further, I don’t know whether corporations are persons to the EU, or in European civil code countries, and I would expect Johnson to say. Finally, if the American left tropes of “get money out of politics” and “corporations are not people” are meaningful in the European context, I would expect Johnson to give me some detail to back up that implicit claim as well.[1] Those demonstrators in Spain — what do they say?

DESVARIEUX: But how would you actually do that, Rob? ‘Cause it seems like a pipe dream now, especially after this McCutcheon decision. How would one go about doing something like this?

JOHNSON: Well, it’s very, very hard. We’ve let things get way out of balance in this country over the last 40 years. And I would say it’s not easily feasible. But activity and outrage and protest, hopefully nonviolent protest, but nonetheless raising the temperature on the part of the body politic that this is what is not tolerable has to be a part–it has to be part of the equation.

Again, more despair, which could and should have been alleviated, not only for the benefit of the TRNN’s audience, but for Johnson personally, by concrete examples of “activity”[2]. For example, here in the great state of Maine, we’ve had the following activities tending toward democratic governance that I can think of, off the top of my head: (1) partial success with resistance to landfills owned by large out-of-state corporations; (2) success, so far, in preventing the state from being bisected by an “East-West Utility Corridor” (probably at least a pipeline), sponsored by one of the state’s largest corporations, and an even larger Canadian oil firm, Irving; (3) the successful prevention of faculty firings at the University of Southern Maine; (4) more and more local food sovereignty bills; and (5) Occupy. That’s quite a tally for a small, marginal state. I bet there’s a lot more such activity all around the country, and you’d think an organization with clout and a budget like the Roosevelt Institute could do some research and give Johnson some talking points so he isn’t left in despair with only generalities to point to.

And about non-violence[3], “hopefully.” First, I’m a believer in strategic non-violence because 20th-Century. My bias exposed, my feeling is that if you’re going to put somebody “in harm’s way” (as the cliche has it) by asking them to risk violence by being violent, then you’d better have a good reason for doing so, that you can express in clear language. I don’t see a reason, or language, like that in this interview. Further, “hopefully” implies that violence could bubble up, randomly. But if that’s a possibility, shouldn’t the left be thinking strategically, and trying to avoid it, leverage it, or do some harm reduction? “Hopefully” implies the left is doing none of these things; hope is not a plan. Finally, a useful hermeneutic is that the first person to propose violence is always the cop. So, we’d indeed be “hopeful” that violence be avoided, but not perhaps for the reason Johnson thinks. Again, an organization with clout and a budget should be providing Johnson with talking points on this topic.

* * *

Frankly, I found this interview extremely disorienting, even distressing; Johnson’s been laboring in the vineyard for a long time. For me, the contrast between the vivid metaphor of social dynamics on board the sinking Titanic, in 2013, and the imprecision and ungrounded abstractions of 2014 is striking. Did the oligarchs sail off in their lifeboats and leave Johnson, despairing, on the tilting deck? It was almost as if — I imagined — Johnson had received a phone call with terrible news, like a death in the family, just before the interview, and had to sleepwalk through it anyhow.

One might even speculate — because it would irresponsible not to speculate — what the imagined bad news might have been… I know that for some who have left the Democratic Party, especially after a life-time of party work, the experience has been much like a death in the family: Severed ties, mourning for what once was or might have been, time on their hands that would have been spent with the lost one. One might speculate, then, that Johnson received terrible news about the Democrats, with whom he has been deeply involved for many years, or about the Democratic nomenklatura, or about the administration — news that we proles don’t know about yet. Some terrible act of bad faith.


NOTE [1] FWIW, and my own thinking on this is by no means crisp, I don’t think we need to “get money out of politics” so much as we need to take (a nice chunk of) capital away from capitalists, and if they don’t have so much loose cash lying about, they’ll have less capacity to buy up officialdom with it, a happy byproduct.

NOTE [2] “Outrage” only if tactically appropriate, because otherwise it’s self-indulgent. And “protest” hardly ever, at least in the US context, since there it’s demonstrably ineffective; think back to Iraq. (I understand from our intern, Jessica, that “protest” in Spain is a different kettle of fish from “protest” in America; it never works to project the American context; never.)

NOTE [3] Gene Sharp lists 198 Methods of Non-Violent Protest and Persuasion. Not all non-violence is non-violent “protest”; “parallel sovereignty,” for example.

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About Lambert Strether

Readers, I have had a correspondent characterize my views as realistic cynical. Let me briefly explain them. I believe in universal programs that provide concrete material benefits, especially to the working class. Medicare for All is the prime example, but tuition-free college and a Post Office Bank also fall under this heading. So do a Jobs Guarantee and a Debt Jubilee. Clearly, neither liberal Democrats nor conservative Republicans can deliver on such programs, because the two are different flavors of neoliberalism (“Because markets”). I don’t much care about the “ism” that delivers the benefits, although whichever one does have to put common humanity first, as opposed to markets. Could be a second FDR saving capitalism, democratic socialism leashing and collaring it, or communism razing it. I don’t much care, as long as the benefits are delivered. To me, the key issue — and this is why Medicare for All is always first with me — is the tens of thousands of excess “deaths from despair,” as described by the Case-Deaton study, and other recent studies. That enormous body count makes Medicare for All, at the very least, a moral and strategic imperative. And that level of suffering and organic damage makes the concerns of identity politics — even the worthy fight to help the refugees Bush, Obama, and Clinton’s wars created — bright shiny objects by comparison. Hence my frustration with the news flow — currently in my view the swirling intersection of two, separate Shock Doctrine campaigns, one by the Administration, and the other by out-of-power liberals and their allies in the State and in the press — a news flow that constantly forces me to focus on matters that I regard as of secondary importance to the excess deaths. What kind of political economy is it that halts or even reverses the increases in life expectancy that civilized societies have achieved? I am also very hopeful that the continuing destruction of both party establishments will open the space for voices supporting programs similar to those I have listed; let’s call such voices “the left.” Volatility creates opportunity, especially if the Democrat establishment, which puts markets first and opposes all such programs, isn’t allowed to get back into the saddle. Eyes on the prize! I love the tactical level, and secretly love even the horse race, since I’ve been blogging about it daily for fourteen years, but everything I write has this perspective at the back of it.


      1. NotTimothyGeithner

        If you view Parliament as a foreign power not being held in check and wresting power from a 130 year old arrangement of unpaid governors, an absentee king, and local parliaments, the American Revolution makes more sense. Washington may have started the revolution as a guy tossed from office for suggesting violence was probably a bad idea and wound up our sterile king, but the power structure was the same. The efforts of Washington’s surrogate sons and officers, Madison and Hamilton are bizarre.

        The colonies saw especially in Boston saw a rapid change which combined with a very young population saw the Union Jack morph from a patriotic symbol to the standard of invaders who didn’t vote. Non, slave male suffrage was basically 100%. The only men who didn’t own land weren’t long for a harsher world.

        Protests and random acts of violence became committees and targeted violence and symbolic actions which became armies and congresses. As the causation of Boston got underway, the other colonies saw the growing numbers of teenagers (half t he population was under 18) and started to wonder if Boston was a test run for a more traditional rule. The colonists didn’t have access to MPs. Pressuring them wasn’t going to work.

        Prior to Jefferson George III was rarely identified as a villain and was seen as a negotiator. Jefferson had problems with secession from an elected chamber even if he didn’t get to vote,but regime was a time honored tradition.

  1. diptherio

    On taking away some of the loose cash the oligarchs have lying around (no doubt in large swimming pool-like vaults, á la Scrooge McDuck):

    This is why I’m an advocate of cooperative businesses and state banking (also time-banking and other alternative currencies, although the transformative power of these seems, to my mind, more limited). In cooperative enterprises, the profits are distributed to the workers/members, i.e. much more widely than in capitalist enterprises. State banking removes a major source of deposits from Wall Street–state’s accounts–and ensures a supply of financial capital that is tied to a particular state and used for investment there. Both of these mechanisms serve to remove income sources from the powers that be.

    I’m not convinced that taxing away the wealth of the rich is feasible at the moment (I may be wrong, of course), but I do think that finding ways to divert their income streams to others may be quite possible. Remember, it’s flows that create stocks. Change the flows, change the stocks.

    In conclusion: Co-ops, Union Co-ops, and State Banks. That’s my proposal.

    1. Worker-Owner

      Their money is an illusion. It is a collection of debt instruments nobody intends to pay back at any value. Co-ops producing, co-ops storing, co-ops financing, and co-ops distributing need only enough of “their money” to make the protection racket pay-offs. If you start closing the production, distribution, consumption loops locally, things like time-banks and local currencies have proven to deeply enrich adopting communities.

    2. mellon

      Dipterio, I realize I’m souding like a broken record but I’m almost sure that the free trade agreements which the US is pushing around the world probably bar new public financial vehicles, banks, etc of any kind. The institutions which were founded before the FTAs are allowed to be continued in order that the can be gradually privatized, but the standstill clauses in he agreements prohibit new ones. So I’m afraid they were 25 years ahead of you on that one. Note that this is not widely known as the reason why they want to privatize Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, healthcare fincial services (insurance) , education, water systems, banking/credit unions and virtually everything else that is a service (defined as everything you cannot drop on your foot)

      This is very short but it gives you an idea of what’s involved.


  2. Ruben

    They key to understand this critical man of the economic elites lies in your first quote. The economic elite is seeing, from their advantageous point of view, that the governance of the ship has gone dysfunctional. Seeing this, the rich are taking advantage instead of helping correct the dis-functionality.

    It is not that the rich has taken over the gov’t or that gov’t and the rich are now the same, the elite, the proverbial revolving door, that is simplistic leftist charlatanism, infantile leftism if you will, prevalent at NC by the way.

    The real issue, the big picture malaise, is the decomposition of the democratic utopia. What do Spanish protesters want? They want a different political system. They feel in their guts that fair and effective economic policies will come after fixing the corrupt political system.

    So you see despair and not anger, because this man is not denouncing kleptocracy or oligarchy, but because he is pointing out the decaying corpse of the democratic utopia.

    About Golden Dawn. The economic elites fund fascism when they conjecture that the normal statesmen are probably doomed by their corruption. It is a kind of backstop to fall back in case the populace goes as far as to bring out the guillotine or the expropriation squads as a result of the statesmen incompetence, corruption, greed, vanity, pettiness.

    If the economic elites respect the statesmen then they can accept a quite high degree of economic equality. This is really useful in fact because then the economic elites can harvest a lot of talent from among the populace, elevate some of them to become whole with the elite.

    Maine is giving you good vibes because it is small. A State has to be small to be bearable or even likable, sometimes. Big States attract big dis-functional egos.

    1. Christopher D. Rogers


      Many thanks for your middle class slurs, which I take great umbrage too, specifically; that the left is infantile, and by that measure most posters on these boards are leftwing, and also infantile.

      Typically middle class twaddle, which is why, low and behold, many of us who originated from the working class, and indeed remain working class, detest you’re lot as much as we do the ruling elite.

      No, as an actual “socialist” who happens to be greatly concerned at the economic trajectory of our planet, much of it imposed on us by idiots from the USA, I usually take solace from the fact that a few sane folk from your dysfunctional nation post on NC and other “open minded” boards not beholden to the elite, or indeed the middle class.

      However, such sanity to you is “madness’ by another name, namely by utilising the word infantile, and by stint, actually ignoring all facts – well known facts, but infantile facts nonetheless.

      So old bean, I believe firmly in freedom of speech, I also believe in correcting someone when they are egregiously wrong. And you Sir are egregiously wrong.

      Still, at least we know which side of the barricades both of us will be on, for its a fact we’ll be on opposing sides, which is comforting to me, and to many of my class – most of whom have toiled all their lives, fought in wars and been shat upon by persons such as your good self – hence our dislike of the middle class, who at the end of the day, as just enablers for the elite.

      And obviously, despite all historically reference dating back more than 5,000 years, you’ll protest that the “elite” does not exist and that this too is an example of infantilism!!!!!!!

        1. sd

          I waffle between anger and sorrow. At the moment, the only way forward that I can see is on the very local level. Getting active in whatever small community one is a part of. I like to think of it as a neo-revolution by way of a thousand paper cuts. Small snips – much like the oligarch has done to those of us in the working class. It’s the only way that I see that true change will come about. Thankfully, the 1% do not like spending time with those of us in 99%.

      1. Ruben

        I use the term infantile to refer to the fantasies of utopianism, the innocent belief in ideas that hover above the minds of well-meaning leftists and take possession of them, the current one being democracy. Is it not obvious that it does not work as advertised, that sooner than later degrades like any other government system, that it gets optimized for those who dream of escalation to the top, for their own ambitions and of those that are already on top supporting the ascent of the current climber?
        This happens along a continuum. It gets worse the bigger the territory and population under control.

        1. Christopher Dale Rogers


          At this juncture in time I’m have a little dialogue on sovereignty – something we seem to ignore at our peril, but something I’m keen on, and many posters on NC seem keen on – indeed, it’s the realists of the left who give me hope, rather than the “utopians” who espouse haughty ideals with little real way of achieving them.

          Now where I originated, and love, we have a class system and a class consciousness, something which seems not to exist in the USA – I’m born and bred Welsh and proud that all my family have been associated with coal, iron and steel. All were active trades unionists, including myself as an actual organisers in my late teens, as well as supporters of the traditional Labour Party – now sadly vanquished.

          However, I make no bones about who caused most of my fellow countrymen’s suffering, suffice to say, it was not the ruling elite or 0.1%, but vast swathes of the middle class, and at least 30% of the working class who voted Conservative continually, this despite the Tories being “lower than vermin” as that well known son of our Monmouthshire valley’s community expressed it: one Nye Bevan.

          So, I’m sorry, but when I hear my supposed betters, namely the middle class enablers espousing shit, I get rather annoyed – particularly given all the dung that has been heaped no my class by our betters for the best part of 40 years – this being nearly the bulk of my own life.

          Perhaps its because you chaps have your wonderful working class history denied you – in our neck of the woods, we are aware that Yankees treated their workers worse than negro slaves – effectively, it was us who were lower than vermin in their eyes, and still they valiantly fought back, despite a preponderance of axe handles, baseball bats and guns of all sorts being used against them.

          Perhaps when you chaps awaken to your glorious working class heritage, you’ll become valiant once more, but lets point the finger where it belongs first, before looking higher up the food chain – which is why i hold my head in shame when I hear the word “American Dream” – the biggest load of crud sold to any poor fool, and yet in your aspirational society, despite the real facts, many believe in this dream – thank God Martin Luther King did not!

          So hope for you yet, but embrace your past and remember you live in a class-based society, one where an active class war is ongoing – just a shame most don’t realise it.

          1. Ruben

            I respect class consciousness and I respect a fighter from a family of fighters.

      1. Ruben

        This is an unexpected question.

        In the short term, ignore electoral politics. A 10% turn out in whichever is the coming major event would probably crack the power of those organizing the show.
        In the long term, reduce the scale of hierarchical structures to better accommodate them to the scale of social groups from which we have evolved.
        One serious problem with the enormous extrapolation of power that is currently prevalent is the following: statesmen experience the obliteration of the moral compass that nature has given us because whatever they do, any evil, lie, imposture, vanity, pettiness, is rationalized as being done for the common good, as public service. What the private individual finds abhorrent, the Public Leader deems necessary, for the common good. From the egregious evil of frying babies in their cradles with nuclear bombs, to the pettiness of advocating American beef and pork when good human nature calls for sake camaraderie.

        1. mellon

          I think the powers that be would be overjoyed if all the thinking people could be prevented from voting.

          1. hunkerdown

            Sure they would. But they still need elections and they still need people to turn out for them to ratify and legitimize the system. Steal their cattle (low-information voters) and all they have left is hat.

          2. Milquetoast Honey

            If voting changed anything, they’d make it illegal.

            Emma Goldman said that and she was a smart woman. And it’s true today. Having grown up in the nuclear haze of Reagan to now, the American public I’ve seen voting politicians into power who have continually worked against their best interest while allowing nearly 60% of the discretionary budget go to defense (or Defense) instead of making this a more socially sane country.

            Sounds like we’ve been making our votes count.

    2. jrs

      “It is not that the rich has taken over the gov’t or that gov’t and the rich are now the same, the elite, the proverbial revolving door, that is simplistic leftist charlatanism, infantile leftism if you will, prevalent at NC by the way.”

      Well what’s wrong with that? Except perhaps that the government has always been aligned with the rich to some degree. The capitalist state serves the capitalist, it’s the ruling class. But clearly their are periods where the rich throw more or less bones to the 99%, where the corruption is more or less blatent. Or are we supposed to hope for better rich people? That rich people develop and exercise and social conscience and use it to steer the government in a better direction? It would be nice ….

      What’s democratic anyway? The U.S. is perhaps one of the worst designed democratic systems out there.

      1. Oregoncharles

        It’s about the oldest. The Constitution was written with very little experience, anywhere, of its form of government. Consequently, even with all the amendments, it’s essentially a first draft, full of obvious botches (the Vice Presidency and the Senate spring to mind).
        We need a new Constitutional Convention – but it’s a very risky approach.

        1. hunkerdown

          Republicanism is democracy *exclusively for the ruling class*. And representative democracy is neither representative nor democracy… unless each representative serves at their constitutents’ pleasure and can be automatically removed by popular vote at any time.

          Stop gaslighting.

          I suppose after the US feeds however many million socialists, Hispanics, Blacks and other national embarrassments into the wood chipper, the Anglophone west might be so lucky as to have a well-designed, democratic Grundgesetz imposed upon us when we surrender WWIII.

      2. Ruben

        It’s always wrong to confuse cause and effect. The cause is the decomposition of the political system, the effect is the growth in economic inequality, the exacerbation of the class system. And the cause of the decomposition of the political system is the natural decay of extremely large top-down systems.

        There are communities that are not exceedingly large, that are democratic, prosperous, and have a relatively satisfactory economic equality. Those communities though are not intent on preaching, patronizing, and coercing the whole world, their elites are busy looking inside, minding their own business. It could not be said that they are just throwing more bones to the less wealthy.

  3. semiconscious

    ‘It was almost as if — I imagined — Johnson had received a phone call with terrible news, like a death in the family, just before the interview, and had to sleepwalk through it anyhow…’

    nah. i’m thinking he’s just been listening to ‘trout mask replica’ (visible over his right shoulder) a little too much :) …

  4. JuneTown

    A most odd interview-commentary format.
    I hope Johnson does not resort in a similar manner at INET.
    Many of Johnson’s comments called for follow-up that would inform the reader, but instead we get Desvarieux’s commentary.
    It would be fine if offered in counterpoint to the person being interviewed, but to post these as a critique off-site of the interview seems heavy handed ‘journalism’.
    Decide if you’re going to do an interview, or be a commenter.
    And let the readers decide.

    1. Lambert Strether Post author

      NC readers are more than capable of deciding; they have the complete video, a link to the TRNN transcript, and the transcript here; I deleted the social chit chat intro and outro. So I don’t know what your beef is.

      “Many of Johnson’s comments called for follow-up that would inform the reader.” That’s a more deferential way of saying what I said: Lack of crisp talking points, slippery concepts, American-centric slogans for a global concept, etc. Wouldn’t it have been nicer, and more effective, had the followup not been called for?

  5. Banger

    As you say, Mr. Johnson has been laboring in the vineyard for some time and his views are modified by his experience and the social milieu he lived and worked in. For Johnson to come to the sorts of conclusions he has come to is important and I hope you don’t dismiss it. If you’re looking for hope look at how many people within the nomenklatura do harbor thoughts similar to Johnson’s–I think that is important and helpful. When you’ve been working in and believing in the system for many years it is hard to adopt revolutionary ideas.

    We ought to engage in dialogue with people like Johnson by clarifying our own ideas which are not exactly rigorous or unified. I think we can come to some conclusions here about the current world-political state–we are in a transition state where one of the major dynamics is that private institutions and persons are using the “global marketplace” and the neoliberal trade and political structures to gain political power over nation states and the people therein. The U.S. government is the main agent acting for these purposes and, at the same time, an actor in the global political struggle. I will give you a simple example. In the Ukraine situation we see the USG acting to create instability and even war in the region. Is this in line with what corporations want? I don’t think so–the corporations allied with the USG, the military-industrial-intelligence complex certainly prefer tensions and low-level war (we ought to see those corporations not as “defense” industries but as industries that actively seek some sort of war) but Wall Street may not be so enthusiastic. This is one of the struggles we see acting out in the U.S. and Europe. Is it worth wrecking the markets at this time over national boundaries when the whole drift of post-WWII and post Cold War political reality is towards dissolving those boundaries? I see the Ukraine and Syria/Iran as a way for the national security bureaucracy to get a bigger share of the power-pie against the interests of most of the corporate sector. How that plays out in the coming years will be interesting.

    Our current situation provides a lot of wiggle room for a revivified left one that, hopefully, is not so focused on political correctness and the culture wars and a little more on realpolitik (real realpolitik not the cave-in by most of the left on the ACA) and organizing things like collectives, cooperatives, targeted strategically aimed boycotts as well as relentlessly targeting the mainstream media which is, much more than NSA or police agencies, the main instrument of repression and mass hypnosis. The wiggle room I speak of exists precisely because people like Johnson and the dissidents within the national security state like Snowden (who I believe had help within the NSA) and those who speak to Sy Hersh as well as many unknowns who work within government structures and Congressional staff who know this is f-ed up.

    1. Ulysses

      “We are in a transition state where one of the major dynamics is that private institutions and persons are using the “global marketplace” and the neoliberal trade and political structures to gain political power over nation states and the people therein.”

      Yes, but unlike early medieval feudalism– where the eorls had an organic power base as master of the churls on their own domain, with obligations to share resources with higher lords, and the necessity of giving real protection to lesser thegns who shared resources with them– our nascent neo-feudalism lacks even the paltry sense of mutual community support implied by noblesse oblige.

      Today’s kleptocrats aren’t working for a stable, peaceful society with themselves securely at the top. Their vision, I submit, is even more sinister than that of the Old Regime aristocrats:
      “If you want a picture of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face—for ever… Power is not a means; it is an end. One does not establish a dictatorship in order to safeguard a revolution; one makes the revolution in order to establish the dictatorship. The object of persecution is persecution. The object of torture is torture. The object of power is power.”– George Orwell, 1984

    2. Jackrabbit

      I think Lambert’s criticism of Johnson has merit. People can prevail when they form coalitions for specific objectives (and presumably that could scale up). Your response – which reiterates points that you have you made on NC many times, seems to be a mish-mash of defeatism (in sympathy with Johnson), hope (there are good people within govt!) and change (wiggle-room!).

      I think Ulysses darker view is more right: there are powerful people/groups that drive the agenda and play upon the Deep State and media that you focus on. I think there is a sense that conditions will almost certainly worsen. And as more people pay attention, it seems likely that they the willingness to confront the powers that be will grow. Certainly, to be successful, people must proceed cautiously and smartly. But why discourage challenging immoral and corrupt systems or promote the hope that people can rely on ‘good guys’ in the system for fix(es)?

      1. Ulysses

        I fear that far too many Americans will be looked at in the not-too distant future as matching this Urban Dictionary definition:

        “Good German
        A citizen of Nazi Germany who participated in or overlooked atrocities while denying personal moral responsibility by appeal to his submission to supposedly legitimate authority.
        “The American CIA agents who relied on the White House legal justification of torture were nothing more than Good Germans.””

        Patience isn’t always a virtue! We don’t have the luxury of waiting for a palace coup to produce a more benevolent system drawing leaders from the decent folks still clinging to some small shred of power under our kleptocracy.

        We need to openly, actively resist this illegitimate regime with even more vigor than the partigiani showed in resisting the fascisti. Buying a Bernie Sanders 2016 t- shirt won’t do the trick, perhaps even massive civil disobedience won’t do it.

        The indigenous resistance groups like IdleNoMore seem to me to be showing us the way forward– no compromise, no surrender to the planet’s destroyers.

        1. Oregoncharles

          It’s notable that the First Nations in the way of the proposed Tar Sands pipeline to the Pacific (through some very serious mountains) have actually threatened forcible resistance, a new Indian War. Given the terrain, which is their turf, it’s a serious threat – they could make the pipeline forbiddingly costly, if not impossible.

          1. Lambert Strether Post author

            It is. The country (the land) is lucky to have Idle No More, and the state of Maine is lucky to have the Penobcots and the tribes generally. They are the only ones thinking that sheds and jurisdictions might need to be co-terminous, for example; I keep thinking that might be a good idea for common pool resources like the Penobscot, for example.

  6. Working Class Nero

    Civilization is a history of inequality by definition. Elites created the possibility of agricultural surpluses, typically associated with irrigation canals and/ or flood controls, and then used these surpluses in order to gain further control. Their peasants were caught in a social cage where civilization enslaved them but the stored grain storage did provided some insurance against famines and the elites also provided defense against roaming bandits. A fixed parasite was often slightly better than being destroyed by a roving parasite (see Kurosawa’s “Seven Samurai”) since the fixed parasite depends a little more on their host’s survival.

    Throughout the evolution of civilizations, the balance of power almost always stayed with the elites and, depending on their generosity, the life of the peasants ranged from just acceptable to murderously miserable. If you wanted equality you needed to join your local tribe of hunter-gatherers.

    Although peasant and slave rebellions were frequent, and revolutions came and went, none were able to permanently overturn this elite / peasant power equation. The new boss was pretty much always the same as the old boss from the elite point of view — right up until Marxism came around that is, or so it seemed.

    The Marxist revolution in Russia seriously scared the elites in other countries. It scared them so much that they allowed the elite / masses power equation to become a little more balanced in favor of the masses. Marxists didn’t do so much for the peasants they ruled; but they sure did make life better for the Western working and middle classes they didn’t rule.

    For example, FDR’s job was to give the masses just enough – and nothing more — to ensure that a Marxist revolution would not occur in the US. Democracy or no democracy has nothing to do with it. Elites felt a visceral fear of Marxism and while relying on their old standbys of propaganda and violent suppressions, still made the risk mitigation effort of spreading the wealth a little more fairly in Western countries just in case. How well the masses were treated depended on how real the Marxist risk was felt to be. So at peak-Soviet power in the fifties and sixties, serious concessions were made to the masses. In Europe where the risk was even greater, even more substantial welfare states were created. As the prosperity these intelligent policies brought lessened the threat of Marxist revolutions in the West, the elites were able to back off a bit and introduce neo-Liberalism and globalization to reverse the Western masses gains from earlier in the century.

    Meanwhile in the Marxist countries, the Western capitalists looked on in envy as Communist elites were able to effortlessly slip the yoke on their working classes through an ideology which declared their countries to be working class dictatorships. But the desperate need to keep up with the West and to therefore acquire hard currencies led these Marxists to weave the rope from which the Western capitalists would eventual hang their working classes. In East Germany for example, after first going deeply into hard currency debt, the Politburo pimped their working classes out to multinational corporations, and when this didn’t bring in enough hard currency to make their interest payments, they started importing cheap third world (communist) labor to help with their margins. Suddenly it dawned on Western elites, when they recognized an even harder version of themselves in the reflection of their supposed Marxist adversaries, what dopes they had been to take Marxism seriously and to make concessions to their masses. Reagan and Thatcher were brought in to help start the process of rebalancing the elite / masses equation to take into account the previous overestimation of the value of the Marxist radical.

    And soon poor communist (and sometimes not) countries were pimping out their peasants to so that the multinationals didn’t have to use well paid Western workers. And where moving the factory was not possible, poor peasants were brought in to both lower wages and to weaken social cohesion so that welfare states could be dismantled.

    This re-balancing will continue, and obviously not in the favor of the masses, until a new threat is recognized by the elites. And most unfortunately this threat will likely need to be the violent type. Bankers swinging from lampposts; posh neighborhoods ransacked and destroyed are just some of the scenes that will be required to get the huge equality super-tanker to swing in the other direction. And I don’t say this lightly as given my relatively fortunate circumstances, I would most likely be on the receiving end of this violence.

    Now ideally from a Western point of view this violence would occur in another area of the world and Western masses would benefit from it all over again without paying much a price in blood. But this is pretty unlikely to occur twice in a row. In former Marxist countries, such as Russia and Ukraine, the oligarchs know that the population is so thoroughly disgusted by Marxism that they have nothing to fear from the Left and can push the standard of living way down.

    So perhaps this time the threat to elites will come from the Right? It seems to me that leading oligarchs everywhere may have something to fear from a radical right coming to power. Which is why they work overtime pushing the propaganda lines about right wing racism (which isn’t to say racism doesn’t exist in right wing circles) to keep the masses on the oligarch’s side. So as of yet, since the right wing threat is so minor and distant, there is absolutely no need for elites to buy a little insurance and re-balance the elite / masses equation. Far from it, the lot of the masses will only be getting much worse until the new threat arrives; if it ever does.

    1. James Levy

      I think you do a solid job here, but you ignore the extent that the revolutions of 1789 and 1848 bought the middling sorts much greater room to maneuver. What Marx saw clearly that bourgeois historians ignored was that the real concessions went very little way down the pyramid.
      My issue is, returning to the Titanic metaphor, who is on the bridge, who in the engine room, and who are the lookouts (if anyone). Unlike a commentator up the line, I think that the agents of the rich do largely hold these positions, but I believe they are either frozen in indecision or getting conflicting messages from their paymasters, or perhaps even grasp the severity of the situation and have given up all hope. If we are really facing the fallout from peak oil, the collapse of healthcare systems, and 5 degrees of climate change in the next 30-50 years, then by conventional standards (the only ones the Obamas of this world are able to apply) all hope is already lost. We need to know if anyone is steering the ship, and get to them fast, and commandeer the thing if necessary if we to have any hope at all.

        1. Yves Smith

          I studied the French Revolution in gory detail as part of my major, and by the time I was in college, deep archival work had been in vogue for over 10 years.

          The great irony of the French Revolution was that hunger, which had been a very serious issue IIRC 10 or 15 years ago, was abating, which of course does not mean it was not a very serious issue to the parts of the population that were still suffering. But you had the combination of pent up frustration (the official response had been inadequate and people were still hurting, the court was correctly seen as wildly disconnected), foment of leftist ideas among the nobility, and then the tax crisis which led to the calling for the first time in over 150 years of the Three Estates. This was the monarchical analogue to a Constitutional crisis at a time of general unhappiness and fractures among the elites, and all hell broke loose.

          1. allcoppedout

            Much to agree on in Nero. The last three ‘revolutions’ in Western Europe were Greece, Portugal and Spain, all against brutal fascist torture terrors. The Greek on was tripped by law students protesting the draft. For a quick read on Portugal – and this might be some guide on what we should do. Spain was really weird with ETA and GRAPO (Maoist) and the failed 1982 coup by cops. I got he impression that revolution or change came because of outrage and perhaps mockery from democratic tourists. All three countries were poor compared with our situation now, with some massively rich people.

            The two lessons from these countries are that change can happen without the sky falling and that really changing the old structures is never done rigorously enough – and this latter is not about a more bloody purge but new banking and monetary policy.

    2. impermanence

      Since all things take place because of the infinite events preceding, attempting to use historical context [at least, your estimation of such] to fuel your prognostications, leaves out most of that which is actually going to manifest such change.

      Leave such foolery to the wizards who fill their cauldrons with all kinds of intellectual non-sense, intone incantations casting spells of fantasy and ignorance over the public as they enable the fraud and thievery that defines social life on this planet.

    3. susan the other

      “Be careful what you wish for” applied equally to the left and the right. What has the neocon/neoliberal side of the equation achieved? A huge mess. And how is their money going to save them? It isn’t. And in the meantime the world itself is being overtaken by events. By reality. I can’t read ENEnews any more because it is too frightening. But it is nice to realize that the rich can’t get away from the mess any more than we 99ers can. Their reluctance to talk about it is revealing – because it is a certainty they are sick to the bone and don’t know what to do. About anything. And I always get the impression that they are still too proud to allow themselves to be criticized.

    4. Rosario

      I enjoyed your analysis. Though I feel ecology is the current catalyst of revolution. Debt instruments and massive consumption (by both the over and under classes) will keep the lower classes intoxicated enough as to pose no threat, at least for a geological second. The real fun will begin when Capitalism has finally overextended the capacity of our Lebensraum to its breaking point. Climate change is just the most well known of ecological catastrophes befalling us. If the revolutions of the past were sparked by the flint and steel of ideology the revolutions of the future will be sparked by the torch of ecological catastrophe.

    5. mellon

      One could make a completely apolitical argument that the rise in the standard of living in the late 20th century was a product of the need for workers in industry and a worker shortage in the US, the one large industrialized country that survived WWi and especially WWII essentially unscathed. Now what’s happening is that technology is making it possible to do more and more with fewer and fewer workers. So a great number of the methods of protest that involve work will no longer be effective if there is very little need for workers. Also, unless we can refocus the country on education and skills development, its likely that more and more people will be without an income, many people will be forced to leave the developed countries because they wont have enough to live. But its unlikely that the developing world would be very welcoming.

      I think that consumers organizations are a positive vehicle. As its one of the few ways they can influence things, its important that people spend their money wisely!

      The cost of the bad healthcare that’s being forced on us is probably between half and three quarter million dollars per person over a lifetime. It would be useful if somebody could take this 2004 study that used year 2000 data and figure out the “lifetime distribution of healthcare costs” today – and then compare costs in Canada vs. the US.

    6. Glenn Condell

      Well said.

      My only cavil is that while the ‘Marxist revolution in Russia seriously scared the elites in other countries’, many wiser heads at elite levels in those countries were scared long before 1917 and there wasn’t much fertile ground for the wider revolution afterward largely because of measures taken in the previous few decades.

      Eg Lloyd George’s nascent welfare state, eg TR – not just the trust busting and the forthright suggestions on inheritance tax, but the support of unionisation and introduction of worker’s compensation. The McKinley assassination surely played some part in this, but Czolgosz was hardly acting in a vacuum… anarchy didn’t reign exactly, but there was a lot of it about, quite apart from the steady growth of socialism as a defining characteristic of the time.

      ‘This re-balancing will continue, and obviously not in the favor of the masses, until a new threat is recognized by the elites. And most unfortunately this threat will likely need to be the violent type’

      I’m not so sure. I think the thing that would have them clutching the pearls would be the possibility of genuine democracy, ie real-time and direct, rather than the punctuated disequilibrium of elections. Governance they couldn’t buy, in other words.

  7. Dan Kervick

    A solution? A solution, I believe, involves substantial reforms to diminish the power of money and diminish the power of large corporations in relation to individuals.

    I would put it rather this way: We need substantial reforms to diminish the power of money and large corporation in relation to democratic communities. The power of individuals will always be close to negligible in the face of organized corporate wealth. The only thing that can challenge and discipline concentrated wealth and elite power is solidarity and strength in numbers, and the countervailing force of a durable and politically effective democratic community with the organized power necessary to put its decisions into action.

    Until Americans break out of their radical individualism and kneejerk obsession with an illusory and unachievable ideals of personal liberty, and rediscover the ethos of democratic solidarity and civic commitment, they will be weak and lost, and their futile private struggles will only tighten their bonds. They must also get real about the fact that there is no realistic way to neutralize the political power of great wealth that doesn’t involve asserting direct political control over that wealth, and preventing unchallengeable economic power from arising in the first place.

    I don’t know whether the erosion of democracy is more due to something that powerful people have done to us, or that we have done to ourselves, but in any case fewer and fewer Americans seem to think like democratic citizens. Many are consumers first and foremost, rolling in the rich mud when times are fat, kvetching and squealing when something disrupts the usual flow of slop, and attaching no idea to the word “democracy” other than the process of pushing a button in the sty every four years to call for a new feeder. But I think they are starting to get over this, and realize that they need to actually do something more active and participatory that simply arguing about which savior-feeder should be in charge.

    The 21st century will be a struggle between democratic polities and corporate, privately held economic power.

    1. Banger

      I agree with you to a certain extent–as for the struggles for power–I see it as a little more diverse as follows: 1) The major corporate sector led by the finance sector and their allies in the internationally oriented bureaucracies and unofficial governing bodies; 2) the state sector which consists mainly of vast bureaucracies all seeking to stay relevant and led by the U.S. national security state that requires war and conflict to stay powerful; 3) the media/internet communication virtual establishment which mediates, increasingly, power internationally; and 4) the many communities, individuals, families, tribes of people who should be led by those of us who understand how things work rather than the mainstream media who is only interested in their own power.

      1. diptherio

        ” the many communities, individuals, families, tribes of people who should be led by those of us who understand how things work…”

        Oh no…bolshevism alert! It is the desire/willingness to be led that “those of us who understand how things work” should be trying to inoculate our fellow humans against. I fear that you would have us replace one group of technocrats with another, albeit friendlier, group. That way lies damnation, my friend. Beware.

        1. jrs

          Every one understands a great deal about how things work. They understand capitalism (years of suvival by wage labor will do that). They understand the corrupt systems they deal with (like the health care system). They understand *some* of the news. They see the government tolerates and participates in all this and they understand beuracracy too. They probably don’t know top secret intracacies of the deep state or how to hire a lobbyist or how to influence D.C. so that might be of some use.

          1. James Levy

            I was just thinking of this as I drove past a few signs around my town for the upcoming selectmen election (actually, two of the three in my town are women). I thought that governing is way more straightforward, and requires less expertise, than any other profession I could think of. What you need to run this town (or even this state) is general competence, a willingness to learn, a good heart, and a moral center that inoculates you against being bought. Harvard degrees and vast experience and/or intelligence are completely unnecessary. Really, governance is more about character than knowledge. But since we can’t quantify character, and don’t value it, we get education, expertise, and PR instead. I’d lay heavy odds that an executive council of 11 Americans chosen at random would do a better job than any cluck we’ve had as President for a long time. All they’d need to qualify is to be able to pass an 11th grade test in reading, writing, geography, and civics.

              1. Ulysses

                They used sortition in many of the medieval Italian city-states as well. Of course those fiendishly clever Medici bought off the guys drawing names out of a hat and thus managed to control the major councils. They were smart enough to give their faction narrow majorities (say 11-9) and thus preserve the fiction of the system’s integrity.

                Eventually, after the Medici banksters had used their great wealth to buy themselves the chair of St. Peter’s in Rome, they ended the charade of the Florentine Republic and just declared themselves a hereditary ducal ruling family in 1531. By the early 18th century they were on the same level as the Bourbons and Hapsburgs in Europe.
                No system– whether it be sortition, election, pulling magic swords from enchanted stones, etc. is immune from corruption!!

              2. allcoppedout

                They did a lot more over the course of the Democracy. Strikes me scale may have something to do with new technology – the conditions of what we know now and can do now sort of thingie.

            1. Banger

              I’m not with you on this one, James. When the stakes are low and/or the issues are relatively simple then the average high school grad or less may do just fine. But when they’re dealing with powerful forces they better know what’s what or they’ll be cheated out of the pants they’re wearing in short order. I’ve seen sharks in a feeding frenzy.

              1. James Levy

                I understand what you are saying but the “experts” got us into this and our current system seems to only churn out credentialed amoral jerks like Bush, Alito, Obama, Kagan, Summers, Geithner, Nuland, et al. I’ll take an average man of no great intelligence with character and a moral compass over these creeps any day. Better a man or woman who might be outsmarted than a person guaranteed to be bought.

        2. Banger

          So knowledge is irrelevant? How is the average person suppose to know what many of us have taken decades to learn? Would you allow anyone off the street to fix the wiring in your house? Do you suppose Martin Luther King could have been replaced by just anyone in the corporation. It’s just that kind of attitude that animates the tea party with their militant ignorance. People are not born with critical thinking skills, they must be trained by someone that possesses those skills; in the same way, those of us who have done our research must lead those who have other qualities to fully develop.

          1. Alejandro

            “People are not born with critical thinking skills, they must be trained by someone that possesses those skills”

            By “training” do you mean mentored or minted? Does this “training” bestow credentials? Does the “training” define the perimeter of what a critical thinker can criticize?
            I was recently asked, what’s the difference between a corrupted conscience and a semi-functional hypnotic trance? She suggested that the former RESPONDS to “negotiations” and the latter REACTS to deeply embedded neuro-semantic “triggers”. I’m not fully sure what she meant but I have been “thinking” about it.

          2. Glenn Condell

            ‘Would you allow anyone off the street to fix the wiring in your house? Do you suppose Martin Luther King could have been replaced by just anyone in the corporation’

            Men of straw. Representing your community is not the same as wiring your house, and certainly not the same as being a moral giant with a power to inspire. Civics is everyone’s beat.

            The idea that we have to have ‘experts’ decide on everything is dangerous. Ummm, I will simply present the word ‘Economics’. ‘Nuff said?

            Some things are too important to leave to the pointy-heads. We should not, on any issue we feel strongly about, feel shy about putting out 2 bobs worth in just because we don’t have a PhD in it. I can recall a time when speaking ‘out of turn’ and not ‘knowing your place’ were social sins. I miss some things from those days, but not the default forelock-tugging. I decry the new bolshieness all the time of course but I’m guiltier of it than anyone else I know, and I do appreciate that I live in a society where I have the freedom to make a goose of myself.

            The role of `experts’, `professionals’ et al is perhaps even more important now than it ever has been, but I feel that to elevate them to a position of final arbiter is to invite gullibility or apathy from the public, not to mention hubris from them. They ought to be seen as advisers, in much the same way as courts give weight to expert testimony but see it as only one contributing factor to a decision – which if vital enough ought to be made by citizen juries selected by lot as per Lambert’s Athenians.

            A more informed, active, engaged community driving policy debates is a more desirable scenario than an increased reliance on professionals. The world needs ordinary people to stick their necks out, get involved and say their piece. Anything else, particularly deferring to experts, is an abdication. Use them by all means, but come to your own conclusions.

            We have had more than enough ‘smart’; it is time we had ‘good’ sit at the table for a while.

        3. mellon

          I agree- I think its far wiser to accept that we don’t know answers, we just try to figure things out as best as we can and not try to see everything through an (insert your ideology here) lens. That’s one of the big problems we’re dealing with today!

          I think that anybody who supports human dignity and believes that we CAN and will do better sees that any extremist or even non extreme but still inflexible ideology is a trap.

          The US’s system would work, and work well, (for Americans) with some fairly minor but very important changes that almost all Americans would support.

          So in that light, any inflexible ideology is a route to failure if it divides us.

    2. Schofield

      “I don’t know whether the erosion of democracy is more due to something that powerful people have done to us, or that we have done to ourselves,”

      Well to paraphrase Mahatma Gandhi one could say that “Democracy would be a very good idea!” In other words we’ve not really experlenced anything approaching true democracy since hunter-gatherer times. The only convincing answer why we haven’t must surely have to do with neglecting to reflect on our own human nature which is “hard-wired” to engage in both “good” and “bad” Individualism and “good” and “bad” Mutualism. Acknowledging this leads to understanding that we have to work with each other to construct restraints that clamps down on the incidence of “bad” Individualism and Mutualism. I’ve put the “good” and “bad” in abbreviated commas because Nature “understands” that selfish Individualism and Mutualism can be an important survival mechanism in extreme circumstances. In brief, then, our destiny is to recognize more clearly (drawing lessons from socio-biology and anthropology especially) that we have to collectively and constantly work at balancing our embedded dualistic human nature and any ideology that “smells” of utopian perfectibility, like Market Fundamentalism, Communism, Fascism, Libertarianism should be avoided like the Plague!

      1. mansoor h. khan

        O more put simply:

        Life is a Struggle and a Test and always has been and will always be. No …ism can change that.

        Of course, Certain behaviors (principles) lead to a better result than other behaviors.

        World History and Scriptures of the major world religions are a good guide to learning those principles which are likely to lead to a better result.

        Now I can see that the western civilization is slowly (kicking and screaming) returning to proper understand of things.

        more at:

        Mansoor H. Khan

      2. Glenn Condell

        ‘In other words we’ve not really experienced anything approaching true democracy since hunter-gatherer times.’

        True, but for the first time (at least since the late 90s) we have the means to approach ‘true democracy’ – which I would define as the capacity to gauge and then act upon the sovereign wishes of the majority on each issue (or at least the majority of those bothered enough to vote) as it arises, rather than at the next election where it will be buried in the national hip pocket or terrorist nightmare, or both.

        Pity we’re not using it. We have the motive as well as the means, we just need the opportunity.

    3. ess emm

      On this point I agree with Dan: Without getting organized the average American wont be able to get what she wants—the organized and monied factions will ruthlessly stomp on her. This is one of the takeaways from Gilen and Page’s recent study.

      But even if ordinary Americans do get organized, the basic structure of the American political system to preserve the status quo will frustrate their efforts. Thus, government reform would be necessary, too.

      There are loads of reformist ideas out there that should be debated and, more importantly, given a chance to succeed or fail. For example, branches of government should be multiplied and methods to quickly resolve impasse developed. Further, no social institution or social practice should be immune from democratic contest, hierarchies and entrenched power should be broken up when they assert themselves.

      And to Alejandro’s worry about the critical thinking expert. Roberto Unger has suggested that critical thinking could be taught by requiring that every subject in school be presented from at least two contrasting viewpoints. So critical thinking would be the natural result of a teaching method rather than initiation into some magical skill by an authority figure.

  8. TarheelDem

    One of the very interesting things that is continually overlooked is that corporations are creations of and privileged by nation states (and in the US by individual states in an increasingly uniform me-too legal system led by Delaware). Government actions to curtail those privileges in one very populous state would have major impact. If that rippled over multiple nation states, the corporate system would no longer protect CEOs from legal accountability. There is a lot of money going into the political system to prevent that from happening. There is a lot of money going into univesities to prevent that from happening. And there are a lot of attorneys on retainer to prevent that from happening.

    That is why corporations cannot just willfully shed the husk of nation-state governance; it is the source of corporate legitimacy to avoid accountability. And the legitimacy of nation-state governance is rooted in the myth of “consent of the governed” and the tolerance of rank-and-file defenders of state order. That nation-state legitimacy is what the prostitution to corporate interests by current government is bringing to the edge of collapse.

    To the extent that corporations build their own systems of order – “security forces” and even armies – they control the world order that emerges out of any collapse. But that is a cost to their own operations and puts them in turn depending on privatized infrastructure that is just a reliable and honest as they are.

    Corporations may suffer greatly from getting what their infantile executives want.

    1. James Levy

      Yes, governments draw up corporate charters and can put anything they want into them. If Congress said that corporate charters demand X and imply Y and can be revoked for Z the reactionary courts might go crazy, but they’d have a tough time saying “No.” Corporations, as I like to point out to Libertarians who hit me with Natural Law arguments, exist nowhere in nature and are solely human constructs. Even if you want to argue that property rights are absolute, corporate rights cannot be, for they are inventions of the modern era and cannot be traced back to nature or any original human proclivity (besides, limited liability should be anathema to anyone who loves Randian ubermensch rugged individualism).

  9. COGster

    The threshold for reform is what happened in the USSR: elites knocking over their own state; peoples dismembering it; the international community reconstituting viable nations. Anything less is pointless shit.

    When you hear incremental bullshit like ‘money out of politics’ you know to stop listening.

  10. Andrew Watts

    Most people have historically participated in the democratic system through labor unions or other civic associations. With the decline of labor unions many of these avenues for political participation have been severely limited for the average individual. The people residing in large states don’t necessarily have the organizational advantage of individual, family, and community ties that people in smaller states do. They also contend against interests concentrated in well-funded power centers that dominate more of the political landscape.

    I’m not worried about the influence of multinational corporations overshadowing the influence of nation-states. The growth in power that corporations have presently ascended to can be tied to America’s imperial system. When this global system is in deep crisis, for whatever reason, their power will decline alongside the misfortunes the Empire suffers. During this chaotic period business interests will be engaged in a fight for survival during the global struggle which will determine who will be the next empire.

    On the rise of fascism right-wing populism.

    Separatism is on the rise in European countries like Spain. Historically this sentiment has aided the rise of fascism as the military steps in to maintain order and the central government. In the present the “right-wing populists” have rallied around the dissolution of the Euro and other secessionist rhetoric. It really depends on which way the middle class moves towards if and when the center ceases to hold steady. As the middle class has always been the arbiter of what constitutes the political center.

    One of the major tragedies of the crisis in Ukraine is the disintegration of a democratic system that had a fairly good record on civil rights.

    1. jrs

      It seems very popular to deride the masses as immoral and selfish. Perhaps they are. But the masses actually have minimal time to do anything anyway (it would take reprioritization in the less extreme cases AND hard to reprioritize in extreme cases – 50 hour weeks and raising young kids or something wouldn’t allow much). And what time they do have – THEY DON’T KNOW HOW TO participate in the democratic system beyond voting. It’s not taught. And yes no structures exist to make it easier. They spend their time consuming instead. Well consuming is not just pleasurable but it IS taught (ok it’s proagandized all day long by advertising) – noone in this society has to learn how to consume. Can the same be said of democratic participation?

      By the way I love Lamberts personal examples of his participation in Maine recently – more of that please – just write some posts about that Lambert.

      1. James Levy

        William Greider pointed this out years back in his book “Who will tell the people?”. He was able to show that in the 19th and early 20th century for white American men (and that’s not a knock, just reality, and better than it was for people in most other polities) political parties functioned on a local level and gave individuals, clubs, and associations access to power and influence. What happened after WWI, and even more after WWII, was that the parties found it easier to appeal to people and mobilize them via media rather than through local chapters and related associations. The many political bosses and their organizations were replaced over time by “free agent” politicians using power bases in various sectors of Capital (usually regional in nature) to self-select and use mass media (legitimized in “selling Eisenhower like soap”) to make a generalized appeal and avoid the local party structures entirely, which became moribund and then withered in most places to irrelevancy. Thus when we want to “get involved”, their is on there there.

      2. Lambert Strether Post author

        Thanks, jrs. I want to emphasize again that I’m peripheral to these efforts; I don’t do the heavy lifting. My job is to write things up, here and elsewhere. And other are doing the same thing; dan_ps with fracking, for example. I think there are many such, but there’s no way to connect them, and of course the legacy parties are often actively opposed or not helpful.

        1. allcoppedout

          I’d just say, that much as I appreciate the collation skill, your direct anecdotes are an icing on the cake.

  11. Brindle

    Johnson is clueless about “Like A Rolling Stone”:

    —“I think right-wing populism is a symptom of the despair of the feeling that there is no direction home, as Bob Dylan used to say in his “Like a Rolling Stone” song.”—

    Dylans masterpiece is, among other things, about the comeuppance of the 0.01%—“you better take that diamond ring and pawn it babe”….”having to be scrounging for your next meal”. There really is nothing in the song that could be construed as being about working class people and their disenfranchisement.

    1. Lambert Strether Post author

      I always heard:

      To be on your own
      With no direction home
      Like a complete unknown

      As exhilirating and freeing. Definitely not as despairing or even being lost. (Probably a musician could show how the key and the chord changes convey this message, if indeed they do.)

      After all, they didn’t play Dylan at home, so why would I want to go back, except for a visit?

      * * *

      It would also be nice to know what the Spanish and the Greeks are listening to, these days.

  12. Min

    Lambert Strether: “but get this: “We have a lot of work to do to put that back in place right now.” What can “that” be? Surely “democratic needs or structures.” But central banks like the Fed or the ECB are independent. Since when did they even reflect, let alone “fortify” democratic needs or structures?”

    First, “we” does not mean the Fed or other central bank. It means the people.

    Second, the Fed is only quasi-independent. It is an agent of Congress, which allows it great freedom of action, but does exercise oversight and legislates mandates. (Sure, Congress now winks at the employment mandate, but that’s now.)

    Third, it is arguable that the Fed has at times tried to subvert the democratic process by its actions during election years. There is no question that Greenspan dabbled in politics to prevent Brooksley Born from regulating over the counter derivatives. If the Fed can subvert democracy, it can bolster it, as well.

    1. Lambert Strether Post author

      Who said the banks were “we”? Not me. However, even the people, mighty as they are, cannot put back something that was never there in the first place; the Fed was never a democratic institution to begin with.

  13. allcoppedout

    I probably agree more with Ruben than I would expect given what he says about the infantile left. But let’s hold fire. I was dragged up on the voice of labour. The business assault on labour and even liberalism goes way back, and now the elite have distanced themselves from real work and workers so much one fears this is to do with the coming order for slaughter of the sub-humans being easier for this “officer class”.

    Our inability over centuries to displace crass, cruel leaders and the charismatic religious-violent forms of leadership is plain, Education was once the answer, yet people remain dumb as ducks. Even graduates will barely have scratched the surface of their major and PhDs will know nothing of the breadth of research methods, let alone know how to track down a half-way intelligent crook. More than 50% have trouble with arses and elbows, let alone where Ukraine is on the map. Yet who knows whether there isn’t more sense amongst our failures than those who ‘succeed’. The left needs to change, partly because we have always under-rated the evil of the rich, but also because we didn’t work out enough on the power corrupting front. Are there any successful revolutions? I’d say not, though the threat of rebellion may curb elite excesses, Any one remember when we used to talk about countervailing power structures and equality before the law seriously?

    I think we need to regroup behind some new ideas and a genuine sense of kicked-in-the-teeth reality. In this, we may have to consider the extent we are already merely a niche market for exploitation by the ‘book club’ and such as the promotion of Piketty to cult status.Whatever we need to do, its not about carrying an MMT bible like Blair with the Koran in his pocket. Most of what I see put between covers discusses nothing new and I suspect we are amongst many charlatans pimping old books on cross-posting blogs.

    I have some idea on how we might start and develop a new left movement, and though much of this is new technology, we ought to pay more attention to what argument is. Americans have often come over to me as having suffered teaching on argument as though this is what goes on in court rooms (these are more about the playing our of Oedipal dramas). Ad hom is seen as a fallacy and to be avoided (yet text is riddled in snide). We should be less quick to exclude those expressing eristic concern. In the old Labour Club, it would be hard to spot a bloke who had not exchanged expletives ending with ‘and your mother’ with me in solidarity, not petty squabbling.

    1. susan the other

      You should share your NEP post here. A synopsis of the Oafs Party. Very Abbie Hoffman (my hero).

      1. allcoppedout

        I think I did put up the Oaf Party here Susan. The real issue is to stop politicians and main media putting up these useless chants as policy in the beauty contest – or perhaps for us to see dancing evil Pixies behind words delivered as if sensible. What we have to understand is more of the condition our our supposed arguments. I’d say (from a science perspective) that the presence of the groaf-jawbs Neo-liberal Party (clearly there is no difference between red and blue so two parties are feigning not being one) is a sure sign the system we are looking at is not about the best rational argument. Like Geoff Davis I think we have to sack the economists to begin to understand this ‘obviousness’ and not manipulate to yet another situation of ‘we know best’. We have to know the oaf in terms of being such ourselves, know Mugabe and the bankster crooks – yet in a way we don’t just submit to the complex biology.

        Imagine we could put up a real-time oaf and dancing pixie story around the ‘State of the Nation’ speeches that put over NC-mainstream. I think we should equip ourselves with technology a bit like that (as a business) – but that’s way ahead of what I mean. Why do we assume the newsroom, press conference, mainstream education and media are not doing something like this anyway? We need to see the propaganda in real-time. We do something like this in the hard sciences.

        The oaf is both never as stupid as we think and capable of even more amazing stupidity than we can think of. Most oafs know about global warming and that only posh speaking trait-types like us get jobs in areas like that. They do jawbs, we have careers. We offer them careers through education they can’t do. The oaf is not represented in NC posting. There are questions on whether this is an unwarranted exclusion.

        1. skippy

          Did you ever make it down under, Tony would probably take you in a heart beat. Sorry to hear about the Soviet-style Britain thingy, Clive feels the same way, called the LNP a Leninist organization, so you might have to change your travel plans.

          Kudos on the Total Politics’ Top Right-wing Blogs 2011 and Total Politics’ Top Conservative Blogs 2011, tho that flame has waned.

          Geoff Davis [???] the Quantitative Analysis guy who is back stopped by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation and GlaxoSmithKline plc, sweet [!!!!] we can replace chapter and verse with rationalization in coded form, surly that’s a quantum improvement. I mean who does not want to prostrate before the singularity when it arrives, begone vaporous spirits of antiquity, for we have a ‘new gawd’ of our – own – creation. Personally I hope its like the big TV in the movie “Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” watching old re runs between stoopid questions its builders ask. What a choice – antiquity or antiquity with a new paint job hiding all the rust and corrosion underneath it all.

          Skippy… things not working out the way some want… so its always back to consulting some device for truth today… rather than proceed with caution and wait for the data to come in… desires intimidate demand… satisfy me now [!!!]… sigh.

          1. allcoppedout

            Made it on an amateur rugby league tour Skippy and later in NZ. Made the mistake of leaving in both cases, despite job offers. Homesick woman thing. Would have more sense now, but not enough speed.

  14. Oregoncharles

    Lambert’s commentary made me very uneasy, but first a quibble:
    “That the nation-state is, for the few who really run the world, a flag of convenience?” How does that conflict with them playing “nation against nation”, just as they have cities and states? On the contrary, it encourages it. In fact, that’s exactly what the “race to the bottom” is.

    I’m uneasy because, lately, I tend to agree with Johnson’s implicit pessimism. On the large scale, I think we ARE facing a mass human die-off, regardless of how much we could grow in our gardens, because the problems are much broader than just food supply. On a smaller scale, it’s been clear for some time now, and confirmed by the recent Princeton study, that we do not have a democracy in any useful sense, nor does Europe. So we have no way of taking collective action in the service of people or the planet. We’re actually reduced to tending our gardens, or our communities, and staging futile protests.
    I’m glad to hear Maine is doing so well at resisting; Oregon, I think, not so well, though the movement is certainly here. But I think these are candles in the wind. Despite Syriza’s rise, Greece has so far lost its nerve when faced with the prospect of elections, just as the US has, and most of Europe. India is doing even worse.
    Which brings us to what it’s going to take. In terms of rousing the slumbering masses, I think things are going to have to get worse before they get better. And I fear we’ve waited too long, that resistance will shoot right past politics into torches and pitchforks. We could so easily wind up like Syria, though it seems strange to write that on such a bright and peaceful day, in a relatively idyllic corner of the Empire.
    By “hopefully” non-violent, I assume Johnson is referring to the role of the police, who usually start the violence, and the amount of rage it may take to get people into the streets.

    Also, I was a witness to the protests of the 60’s and 70’s that ended the US war in Viet Nam – presumably a precursor to our own day. The big secret is that they weren’t all that peaceful or non-violent. There were bombs going off, Lambert, and people getting killed; demonstrators were actually fighting the police. In short, there was a serious threat to civil order, a bit like the (even broader) one that inspired the New Deal. The famous cover picture of military helicopters landing in clouds of smoke on the Washington Mall, with Monument in the background, carried a clear message: the war had literally come home, and was likely to get worse. At that point, the PTB backed off.

    And I note that the politicians and plutocrats have gotten very good at ignoring letters and polite, peaceful demonstrations, no matter how large. They succumb if it coincides with disagreement among the elite, but only then. They don’t ignore smashed windows and fires in the streets, though.

    So I really don’t know what it’s going to take to have a meaningful impact in our conditions, but I don’t think online petitions, which I faithfully sign, or polite, legal demonstrations, which I faithfully join, are going to cut it.

    But we don’t get to give up, either. The stakes are just too high. I guess I empathize with Johnson.

    1. Jackrabbit

      It seems to me that much of the breakdown in Democracy over the last 20 years or so has been done on the sly. TPTB often try to hide their agenda and also push propaganda that gets a certain public response (often twisting meaning in the process): “jobs”; “freedom”; “free markets”, etc. have become neolib/neocon catch words to cover extremist positions.

      In sum, TPTB act this way because they can’t succeed/win in an open process. They fear a somewhat knowledgeable and somewhat united public.

      Yes, real change often requires hardship and conflict. But to coin an over-used phrase: freedom isn’t free. And the “price” required to right the ship increases every day.

      1. James Levy

        There is truth in this. It’s unpopular to say but the Americans have never done to Afghanistan what the Soviets did–kill a million people. No excuses from me for American imperialism, but they don’t want smashed cities and thousands of corpses on the evening news or splattered all over the internet. They don’t want to send in the troops in the numbers necessary, boots on the ground, to win, for fear of casualties and resistance here at home. The bombing and the boots might fail, but don’t think that plenty of the American elite don’t want to crush foreign opposition and be seen to have “won” these wars, rather than to have obviously failed, as America did in Iraq and is doing today in Afghanistan. Sending a message is nice, but victory parades are nicer. OWS was only suppressed because of media collusion and the marginal status of most of the long-term protestors. If many more, and many more prominent, people were out there in the streets 24/7, it would be a much different thing. The elites are vulnerable, and know it, but exploiting their vulnerability is another thing.

    2. Lambert Strether Post author

      “How does that conflict with them playing “nation against nation”, just as they have cities and states?”

      Maybe I’m naive and it’s always been this way, but I see nations racing to the bottom as driven by the interests of their respective ruling classes as different from a supra-national class setting nations against each other. (I’m also thinking of all the work being done on trade deals, which is more and more looking like the legal system for this supra-national class.)

    3. Andrew Watts

      “Oregon, I think, not so well”

      Don’t confuse the plight of the local Green Party with the overall progress that is being made within the state. I know there are issues that could go either way; the LNG terminal, environmental concerns like the land-use bargain, etc. But it isn’t all that bad.

      Our political system is relatively stable and both of the main parties aren’t entirely hopeless creatures. Oregon’s influence is also on the ascension in Washington.

      1. Oregoncharles

        The local Green Party is healthy, thank you, though we very much need a candidate for Governor.,
        As it happens, Kitzhaber, trying to make up for botching healthcare, has announced complete opposition to a coal port; so we have some real progress.
        I don’t think we can match Lambert’s list for Maine, though.

  15. kevinearick

    Empire Domestication: Breeding Beat-the-Clock Ignorance

    Your work product is less valuable than your skill, which is less valuable than your talent, which is less valuable than your DNA. There is one and only one way to be reborn, through your productive children, the ongoing assumption upon which NPV leverage depends. Investment return is a function of time horizon. You might want to think, before you breed.

    You are what you eat. Embedding the cost of financial engineering into the food supply is the last thing you want to do. Manufactured food as a protein replacement is a recipe for poverty. And children are not subjected to a higher rate of poverty than any other age group by accident. The final blow to the old empire always comes from the children of intelligent farmers, releasing the spring compressed by the false assumptions of money.

    From the perspective of labor, as empire History attests, gold is just as easily diluted as any other empire make-work transmission mechanism. The point of Jesus Christ was not Immaculate Conception, or any other manifest destiny religionism. Couples eyeing the demographic collapse of this middle class are deciding where they feel confident in their children’s future, and it’s not in North Dakota, or anywhere else the empire is dropping non-recurring bait.

    You might think that one of the global cities or a fracking area would be a good place to settle, near a gas station, but you would be wrong. Wages of less than 4X rent can only result in a positive feedback loop of increasing income inequality, ending at 2X, the point of civil marriage, because those at the top of the middle class have disposable financial leverage over those at the bottom who cannot make ends meet with empire wages. The result is net economic losses, which the empire magicians present as growing GDP, arbitrary debt issuance as an asset producing income, hiding economic reality until they can’t.

    Civil marriage is the ultimate affirmative action program, continuously cutting out the top, placing it at the bottom, as the ultimate scapegoat, and replacing it with legacy, the place keeper scapegoat, in one form of manifest destiny religionism or the other, to maintain the status quo, breeding compliance in public housing and education, and enforcing the outcome with law, price control with legacy’s bank and wage control with legacy’s government, all wrapped in pretty and increasingly arbitrary verbiage.

    Once parents opt out of the control mechanism, real estate inflation taxation in this case, economic mobility ceases and the empire implodes, replacing work with financial engineering, increasing price on falling demand. Russia has no other solution but occupation, nor do the Chinese or Japanese. Legacy has run out of sufficient critters to sustain its ponzi, globally. Government unions have been around for over 5000 years, failing one after the other, for the same reason.

    Occupying territory is one thing; raising children is to produce productive children is another. The empire is just an extension of gravity, distilling DNA by its work. Napoleon did not rise to power on the backs of secretaries and Alexander did not sweep across the continent by accident, only to fail. The conqueror cannot employ the conquered to create a sustainable economy. Slavery as wealth fails every time.

    All empires employ a bait and swap with a passive until aggressive feedback loop, rewarding passivity and penalizing aggressiveness in public discourse. The critters can’t get out of the box because they are competing for the best empire box, by being the best at normalizing lying, cheating and stealing – soft power. They can only see the faults in others, because that is what they are paid to do.

    Homelessness isn’t outlawed by accident. Credit does not precede employment by accident. Certification has not eliminated the private sector by accident. The US is not the largest producer of prisons by accident. And white collar criminals are not rewarded by accident.

    Legacy redeems one bad check with another, all chased by a complying middle class entering the demographic ponzi, an expensive queue to nowhere, which works great until the participants can no longer rear their own children, the natural resource ponzi collapses, and the middle class collapses from the bottom up, when an insufficient number of ignorant immigrants can be found to enter at the bottom.

    Legacy laughs all the way to the bank in both directions, demographic boom and bust, by raising rent in both directions and wages in only one, on the same proffered theory of scarcity, which is of course artificial. WWII was a war between Germans, on both sides of the divide and conquer regime, and the Jews threw their own under the bus, just as the American middle class is now.

    The US didn’t intern the Germans, Chimerica is a day late and a dollar short, and the bear is coming down from the north, again. Real estate inflation driven by wage deflation is not wealth, any more than digital money is wealth. Someone actually has to do something, other than pass paper in a growing circle, to get people to what they did yesterday faster today at a lower quality, to create wealth. Bzzt…the answer to Earth Day is not to stop having children.

    What you see in the middle class event horizons is critters repeating mantra, political correctness, while they do what their peers do in ‘private,’ appearing compassionate as necessary while cutting each other to pieces with gossip, to feel superior as the counterweight to insecurity, fertile ground for jealousy, greed and misdirection.

    The opposite of empire is empire, a relativity, divide and conquer, looking glass. Within the empire, males relinquish their role, either to obtain the illusion of material possession, or to rebel and end up in jail. Emerging countries proffer a middle class future to the extent their handlers can exploit natural resources and deliver them to the global cities in mature countries.

    In a real marriage, the male and female correct each other to the end of trust. In a civil marriage, the participants are combatants, joining to a practical end, incrementally improving their odds relative to other combatants, all acting passively until profit on aggression at little to no risk presents itself. Nation/states operate like civil marriages, expediently, which is why empire economics is just another form of war.

    Females are generally passive by nature, and males are relatively aggressive. Individually, both behaviors are counterproductive, leaving both in the past relative to couples moving forward. The appropriate response to passivity is aggression, and vice versa, to make the necessary adjustments relative to nature, in the face of empire false signals, which breeds trust.

    If you choose timing, the location will present itself. With experience, you can choose location and/or timing. Funny, what happens when the critters suddenly recognize their approaching mortality. The Wall Street regulators are not operating in a positive feedback loop with Wall Street by accident, and there is plenty of blame to go around.

    Your spouse naturally sees things that you do not, and the empire is built to grow the seeds of suspicion, turning strength into weakness, opportunity into threat, which is why most marriages fail before they begin. Transmission is a function of disassembly and reassembly.

    Don’t wait for the last fool; watch deceleration, to set your distance. If the critters say one thing and do another, they belong to the empire, which doesn’t mean that they cannot be useful, as a gravitational counterweight in the circuit. Marriage is a 75 year investment, which the empire seeks to steal, quite successfully in the short term, but failing in the long term, every time.

    “Gotta good reason…for taking the easy way out.”

    You might want to rethink your opinion of labor; David is much larger and Goliath is much smaller than popularly assumed. That’s physics.

    Basically, the male climbs up and down the mountain ten times, picks a female at the bottom, and lets her lead the way back to the top, competing at each plateau with single people in an economy rigged to favor civil marriage misdirection, having children along the way, to teach them. That’s the job.

    If you look, you will see the capacitor, the resistor, the inductor…and space travel. The system is SELF adjusting. It places an implicit premium on that which is unique and productive. It places an explicit premium on that which appears to be unique and productive. And appearance is a perception, a function of the time horizon chosen.

    Understanding the system is not the key. Loving your children is, its own reward. The State majority can take your children at will, but it can’t raise them. Prepare them accordingly, to teach themselves.

    Real marriage is the cornerstone/motor/multiplexer of civilization, but try, try, try again, to beat nature at its own game, by going faster and faster, to nowhere.

  16. Hugh

    To explore Johnson’s analogy, the Titanic is the ship the elites designed. They chose the shoddy materials with which it was constructed. They hired the captain and crew out of their own ranks, not for their naval expertise but because they would do what they were told. They selected the course through the ice fields to win the bets they had made for a record-setting voyage. And why not? Hadn’t their leading thinkers argued that icebergs don’t matter? The worried looks weren’t about that. Their focus was on the money and the jewels which they had stolen from all those folks in steerage. They were concerned about what might happen when the folks below decks cracked wise to their thefts. Some of the wilier ones among them were no doubt thinking that hitting an iceberg if they did exist wouldn’t be such a bad thing since it would put the people in steerage even more at their mercy.

    Johnson personifies the reformist paradox. He knows something is wrong, but all he’s got is to turn to the self-same people, the rich and elites, who created the problem in the first place and who have massively profitted from it, and the public institutions which they control, and under some kind of vague public pressure ask them to stop, or more likely lessen somewhat, the very activities which they as a class have found so profitable. It is like a plea from the chickens to the fox to provide better security for the henhouse. The reason that Johnson does not see the incongruity of this request is because he has lived and worked among the foxes all his professional life.

  17. Jim

    By the looks of these comments, I think that the PR flacks have found a way to derail effective commentary on sites, like NC. Just go on and on about historical theory, and “infantilism”, and Marxism, and on and on. Most of these theories rest on the assumption that the elite is WAY smarter than it really is (other theories resting on the assumption of the infinite stupidity of voters are much more appealing). Ultimately, this discussion is a massive waste of time.

    Debate on simple, effective approaches, that could possibly sell with voters, and that could reverse the Titanic, would be much less wasteful, but unfortunately, is in short supply here.

    1. JTFaraday

      “other theories resting on the assumption of the infinite stupidity of voters are much more appealing.”

      Yeah, I always think the voters are the stoopid ones when they don’t fall for my neoliberal policy entreprenerial PR flak schtick thingy.

  18. Charles Stegiel

    There is a class of men says Blake whose whole delight is in destroying. We are controlled by these slaves of the sword. I have no doubt that civil war is preferable to the rulers as compared to to peaceful resolution of disputes between oligarch class and all other classes. Just like Rome we are going into a period of rapid decline. We will have our play actors pretending to govern and a populace obedient or sullen and if the populace steps out of line they will be treated like students at Jackson State or Kent State. And if that does not work, send in Homeland Security. This situation is transnational, as the Ukraine demonstrates. To paraphrase Alexander Pope, a little liberty is a dangerous thing/drink deep or taste not the Pierian spring. If enough people set their foreheads against the ignorant hirelings we can win, but it will be bloody because these men wish to impose the Iron Heel on planet Earth and see no reason to not do it in their lifetime.

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