Gaius Publius: The Collapsing Social Contract

Yves here. I have been saying for some years that I did not think we would see a revolution, but more and more individuals acting out violently. That’s partly the result of how community and social bonds have weakened as a result of neoliberalism but also because the officialdom has effective ways of blocking protests. With the overwhelming majority of people using smartphones, they are constantly surveilled. And the coordinated 17-city paramilitary crackdown on Occupy Wall Street shows how the officialdom moved against non-violent protests. Police have gotten only more military surplus toys since then, and crowd-dispersion technology like sound cannons only continues to advance. The only way a rebellion could succeed would be for it to be truly mass scale (as in over a million people in a single city) or by  targeting crucial infrastructure.

By Gaius Publius, a professional writer living on the West Coast of the United States and frequent contributor to DownWithTyranny, digby, Truthout, and Naked Capitalism. Follow him on Twitter @Gaius_Publius, Tumblr and Facebook. GP article archive  here. Originally published at DownWithTyranny

“[T]he super-rich are absconding with our wealth, and the plague of inequality continues to grow. An analysis of 2016 data found that the poorest five deciles of the world population own about $410 billion in total wealth. As of June 8, 2017, the world’s richest five men owned over $400 billion in wealth. Thus, on average, each man owns nearly as much as 750 million people.”
—Paul Buchheit, Alternet

“Congressman Steve Scalise, Three Others Shot at Alexandria, Virginia, Baseball Field”
—NBC News, June 14, 2017

“4 killed, including gunman, in shooting at UPS facility in San Francisco”
—ABC7News, June 14, 2017

“Seriously? Another multiple shooting? So many guns. So many nut-bars. So many angry nut-bars with guns.”
—MarianneW via Twitter

“We live in a world where “multiple dead” in San Francisco shooting can’t cut through the news of another shooting in the same day.”
—SamT via Twitter

“If the rich are determined to extract the last drop of blood, expect the victims to put up a fuss. And don’t expect that fuss to be pretty. I’m not arguing for social war; I’m arguing for justice and peace.”
Yours truly

When the social contract breaks from above, it breaks from below as well.

Until elites stand down and stop the brutal squeeze, expect more after painful more of this. It’s what happens when societies come apart. Unless elites (of both parties) stop the push for “profit before people,” policies that dominate the whole of the Neoliberal Era, there are only two outcomes for a nation on this track, each worse than the other. There are only two directions for an increasingly chaotic state to go, chaotic collapse or sufficiently militarized “order” to entirely suppress it.

As with the climate, I’m concerned about the short term for sure — the storm that kills this year, the hurricane that kills the next — but I’m also concerned about the longer term as well. If the beatings from “our betters” won’t stop until our acceptance of their “serve the rich” policies improves, the beatings will never stop, and both sides will take up the cudgel.

Then where will we be?

America’s Most Abundant Manufactured Product May Be Pain

I look out the window and see more and more homeless people, noticeably more than last year and the year before. And they’re noticeably scruffier, less “kemp,”​ if that makes sense to you (it does if you live, as I do, in a community that includes a number of them as neighbors).

The squeeze hasn’t let up, and those getting squeezed out of society have nowhere to drain to but down — physically, economically, emotionally. The Case-Deaton study speaks volumes to this point. The less fortunate economically are already dying of drugs and despair. If people are killing themselves in increasing numbers, isn’t it just remotely maybe possible they’ll also aim their anger out as well?

The pot isn’t boiling yet — these shootings are random, individualized — but they seem to be piling on top of each other. A hard-boiling, over-flowing pot may not be far behind. That’s concerning as well, much moreso than even the random horrid events we recoil at today.

Many More Ways Than One to Be a Denier

My comparison above to the climate problem was deliberate. It’s not just the occasional storms we see that matter. It’s also that, seen over time, those storms are increasing, marking a trend that matters even more. As with climate, the whole can indeed be greater than its parts. There’s more than one way in which to be a denier of change.

These are not just metaphors. The country is already in a pre-revolutionary state; that’s one huge reason people chose Trump over Clinton, and would have chosen Sanders over Trump. The Big Squeeze has to stop, or this will be just the beginning of a long and painful path. We’re on a track that nations we have watched — tightly “ordered” states, highly chaotic ones — have trod already. While we look at them in pity, their example stares back at us.

Mes petits sous, mon petit cri de coeur.

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  1. relstprof

    But the elite aren’t going to stand down, whatever that might mean. The elite aren’t really the “elite”, they are owners and controllers of certain flows of economic activity. We need to call it what it is and actively organize against it. Publius’s essay seems too passive at points, too passive voice. (Yes, it’s a cry from the heart in a prophetic mode, and on that level, I’m with it.)

    “If people are killing themselves in increasing numbers, isn’t it just remotely maybe possible they’ll also aim their anger out as well?”

    Not necessarily. What Lacan called the “Big Other” is quite powerful. We internalize a lot of socio-economic junk from our cultural inheritance, especially as it’s been configured over the last 40 years — our values, our body images, our criteria for judgment, our sense of what material well-being consists, etc. Ellis’s American Psycho is the great satire of our time, and this time is not quite over yet. Dismemberment reigns.

    The college students I deal with have internalized a lot of this. In their minds, TINA is reality. Everything balances for the individual on a razor’s edge of failure of will or knowledge or hacktivity. It’s all personal, almost never collective — it’s a failure toward parents or peers or, even more grandly, what success means in America.

    The idea that agency could be a collective action of a union for a strike isn’t even on the horizon. And at the same time, these same students don’t bat an eye at socialism. They’re willing to listen.

    But unions don’t matter in our TINA. Corporations do.

    1. Moneta

      Most of the elite do not understand the money system. They do not understand how different sectors have benefitted from policies and/or subsidies that increased the money flows into these. So they think they deserve their money more than those who toiled in sectors with less support.

      Furthermore, our system promotes specialists and disregards generalists… this leads to a population of individualists who can’t see the big picture.

      1. Jeremy Grimm

        Would you please translate your comment for those of us unfamiliar with your language. I know “TINA” but get lost with the rest of your comment.

    2. OpenThePodBayDoorsHAL

      Hear, hear: “it’s all personal, almost never collective”.

      And when it is collective, it’s never a class collective…it’s gender or race or age or culture. Elites know full well they can “pay half the serfs to kill the other half”. Every temptation to succumb to your tribal collective should be resisted, it’s only a class collective that binds and solves all ills.

      And as Moneta points out, the fulcrum is the money system. 5 people control half the planet’s wealth, and seen through the hyper-personal lens the serfs think “gee maybe that could be me someday, that guy is so cool”. No. “That guy” is a monopolist oligarch who is stealing your future and that of your kids. Money is not “his” it’s “ours”. So we need:class collectives, and public, not private, money.

  2. Dead Dog

    Thank you Gaius, a thoughtful post. That social contract is hard to pin down and define – probably has different meanings to all of us, but you are right, it is breaking down. We no longer feel that our governments are working for us.

    Of tangential interest, Turnbull has just announced another gun amnesty targeting guns that people no longer need and a tightening of some of the ownership laws.

    1. willem

      One problem is the use of the term “social contract”, implying that there is some kind of agreement ( = consensus) on what that is. I don’t remember signing any “contract”.

      1. RBHoughton

        It refers to the duty of politicians to provide good government and has been an invariable rule of society since ancient times. The saying in The Han Dynasty before the time of Christ was “The King rules justly, the people obey; the king rules unjustly, the people rebel”

        When we had an aristocracy that accepted its duty there was a concept of noblesse oblige. Unfortunately its not a duty the present owners of the country would dream of undertaking.

  3. Fiery Hunt

    I fear for my friends, I fear for my family.
    They do not know how ravenous the hounds behind nor ahead are.

    For myself?

    I imagine myself the same in a Mad Max world.

    It will be more clear, and perception shattering, to most whose lives allow the ignoring of gradual chokeholds, be them political or economic, but those of us who struggle daily, yearly, decadely with both, will only say…

    Welcome to the party, pals.

  4. Disturbed Voter

    Increasing population, decreasing resources, increasingly expensive remaining resources on a per unit basis, unresolved trashing of the environment … and an political economy that forces people to do more with less all the time (productivity improvement is mandatory, not optional, to handle the exponential function) … much pain will happen even if everyone is equal. Each person does what is right in their own eyes, but the net effect is impoverishment and destruction. Life is unfair, indeed. A social contract is a mutual suicide pact, whether you renegotiate it or not. This is Fight Club. The first rule of Fight Club, is we don’t speak of Fight Club. Go to the gym, toughen up, while you still can.

    1. OpenThePodBayDoorsHAL

      Disagree, the solution is not steroid abusers at the gym and the law of the jungle, the solution is equity and justice. There is more than enough abundance to go around, what we have is a distribution problem. We don’t need rivers of blood to topple the old order, enough people in the streets and a few small tweaks to the tax laws and the money system and you’re most of the way there.

      1. thoughtful person

        Agree in principle, but if thing fall apart who provide equity and justice? Our captured congrees and federal govt not looking up to the task at the moment.

        Maybe we just need to do it ourselves – like the old saying, “question authority, take responsibility”.

        Intentional communities like the monasteries of the dark ages?

      2. pissed younger baby boomer

        We are there the deep state is starting to ramp up 90% and counting .The elites are fallowing the Rome empire play book to the letter. My self I live in small town whats left us in the town after it happens, we will be serfs work in the fields growing food, the rich here will lords,dukes, and may be kings. as they say in WASH DC who knows or don’t want know.

  5. JTMcPhee

    “Social contract:” nice Enlightment construct, out of University by City. Not a real thing, just a very incomplete shorthand to attempt to fiddle the masses and give a name to meta-livability.

    Always with the “contract” meme, as if there are no more durable and substantive notions of how humans in small and large groups might organize and interact… Or maybe the notion is the best that can be achieved? Recalling that as my Contracts professor in law school emphasized over and over, in “contracts” there are no rights in the absence of effective remedies. It being a Boston law school, the notion was echoed in Torts, and in Commercial Paper and Sales and, tellingly, in Constitutional Law and Federal Jurisdiction, and even in Criminal Law and Criminal Procedure. No remedy, no right. What remedies are there in “the system,” for the “other halves” of the “social contract,” the “have-naught” halves?

    When honest “remedies under law” become nugatory, there’s always the recourse to direct action… of course with zero guarantee of redress…

    1. sierra7

      “What remedies are there in “the system,” for the “other halves” of the “social contract,” the “have-naught” halves?”
      Ah yes……the ultimate remedy is outright rebellion against the highest authorities….with as you say, “…zero guarantee of redress.”
      But, history teaches us that that path will be taken…..the streets. It doesn’t (didn’t) take a genius to see what was coming back in the late 1960’s on….regarding the beginnings of the revolt(s) by big money against organized labor. Having been very involved in observing, studying and actually active in certain groups back then, the US was acting out in other countries particularly in the Southern Hemisphere, against any social progression, repressing, arresting (thru its surrogates) torturing, killing any individuals or groups that opposed that infamous theory of “free market capitalism”. It had a very definite “creep” effect, northwards to the mainstream US because so many of our major corporations were deeply involved with our covert intelligence operatives and objectives (along with USAID and NED). I used to tell my friends about what was happening and they would look at me as if I was a lunatic. The agency for change would be “organized labor”, but now, today that agency has been trashed enough where so many of the young have no clue as to what it all means. The ultimate agenda along with “globalization” is the complete repression of any opposition to the “…spread of money markets” around the world”. The US intends to lead; whether the US citizenry does is another matter. Hence the streets.

    2. Kuhio Kane

      JTMcFee, you have provided the most important aspect to this menage on ‘social contract’. The “remedies” clearly available to lawless legislation rest outside the realm of a contract which has never existed.

    3. bdy

      The Social Contract, ephemeral, reflects perfectly what contracts have become. Older rulings frequently labeled clauses unconscionable — a tacit recognition that so few of the darn things are actually agreed upon. Rather, a party with resources, options and security imposes the agreement on a party in some form of crisis (nowadays the ever present crisis of paycheck to paycheck living – or worse). Never mind informational asymmetries, necessity drives us into crappy rental agreements and debt promises with eyes wide open. And suddenly we’re all agents of the state.

      Unconscionable clauses are now separately initialed in an “I dare you to sue me” shaming gambit. Meanwhile the mythical Social Contract has been atomized into 7 1/2 billion personal contracts with unstated, shifting remedies wholly tied to the depths of pockets.

      Solidarity, of course. Hard when Identity politics lubricate a labor market that insists on specialization, and talented children of privilege somehow manage to navigate the new entrepreneurism while talented others look on in frustration. The resistance insists on being leaderless (fueled in part IMHO by the uncomfortable fact that effective leaders are regularly killed or co-opted). And the overriding message of resistance is negative: “Stop it!”

      But that’s where we are. Again, just my opinion: but the pivotal step away from the jackpot is to convince or coerce our wealthiest not to cash in. Stop making and saving so much stinking money, y’all.

  6. Moneta

    The pension system is based on profits. Nothing will change until the profits disappear and the top quintile starts falling off the treadmill.

    1. Susan the other

      and there’s the Karma bec. even now we see a private banking system synthesizing an economy to maintain asset values and profits… and they have the nerve to blame it on social spending. I think Giaus’s term ‘Denier’ is perfect for all those vested practitioners of profit-capitalism at any cost. They’ve already failed miserably. For the most part they’re just too proud to admit it and, naturally, they wanna hang on to “their” money. I don’t think it will take a revolution – in fact it would be better if no chaos ensued – just let these arrogant goofballs stew in their own juice a while longer. They are killing themselves.

      1. OpenThePodBayDoorsHAL

        I work at the cutting edge of new money systems and believe me there is a giant reset about to happen. Banks profit when they create money (lending), in payments (40% of their revenues globally), in forex (10-20%) and those are all at serious risk to go to zero. Yes it will take a decade but as BillG said things change less in 2 years and more in 10 years than you think. Think Eastman Kodak and digital photography. The final result will be “Peace, Bread, and Land” but the financial disruption in the meantime will be epic.

        1. nobody

          10 years… 10 years

          — The situation is the same.

          — Yes, but the problem is different. Ten years is a long time. Can be a very long time.

          — Even so, it’s still only ten years.

          — No I only want to explain, gentlemen, that very often between one historical period and another, ten years certainly might be enough to reveal the… the contradictions of a whole century. And so often we have to realize that… our judgments, and our interpretations… and even our hopes… may have been wrong. Wrong, that’s all.

    1. Tim Flanagan

      The Elites’ lawyers are still in the process of reviewing the Social Contract, but I’m sure it will be signed very soon.

    2. Grebo

      The ‘social contract’ is a metaphor for the tacit and passive agreement which is implicit in the stability of our social arrangements. It has two clauses:

      1) They agree not to bleed us completely dry.

      2) We agree not to guillotine them.

  7. Realist

    When I hear so much impatient and irritable complaint, so much readiness to replace what we have by guardians for us all, those supermen, evoked somewhere from the clouds, whom none have seen and none are ready to name, I lapse into a dream, as it were. I see children playing on the grass; their voices are shrill and discordant as children’s are; they are restive and quarrelsome; they cannot agree to any common plan; their play annoys them; it goes poorly. And one says, let us make Jack the master; Jack knows all about it; Jack will tell us what each is to do and we shall all agree. But Jack is like all the rest; Helen is discontented with her part and Henry with his, and soon they fall again into their old state. No, the children must learn to play by themselves; there is no Jack the master. And in the end slowly and with infinite disappointment they do learn a little; they learn to forbear, to reckon with another, accept a little where they wanted much, to live and let live, to yield when they must yield; perhaps, we may hope, not to take all they can. But the condition is that they shall be willing at least to listen to one another, to get the habit of pooling their wishes. Somehow or other they must do this, if the play is to go on; maybe it will not, but there is no Jack, in or out of the box, who can come to straighten the game. -Learned Hand

  8. DJG

    Here in oh-so-individualistic Chicago, I have been noting the fraying for some time: It isn’t just the massacres in the highly segregated black neighborhoods, some of which are now in terminal decline as the inhabitants, justifiably, flee. The typical Chicagoan wanders the streets connected to a phone, so as to avoid eye contact, all the while dressed in what look like castoffs. Meanwhile, Midwesterners, who tend to be heavy, are advertisements for the obesity epidemic: Yet obesity has a metaphorical meaning as the coat of lipids that a person wears to keep the world away.

    My middle / upper-middle neighborhood is covered with a layer of upper-middle trash: Think Starbucks cups and artisanal beer bottles. Some trash is carefully posed: Cups with straws on windsills, awaiting the Paris Agreement Pixie, who will clean up after these oh-so-earnest environmentalists.

    Meanwhile, I just got a message from my car-share service: They are cutting back on the number of cars on offer. Too much vandalism.

    Are these things caused by pressure from above? Yes, in part: The class war continues, and the upper class has won. As commenter relstprof notes, any kind of concerted action is now nearly impossible. Instead of the term “social contract,” I might substitute “solidarity.” Is there solidarity? No, solidarity was destroyed as a policy of the Reagan administration, as well as by fantasies that Americans are individualistic, and here we are, 40 years later, dealing with the rubble of the Obama administration and the Trump administration.

    1. JEHR

      DJG: My middle / upper-middle neighborhood is covered with a layer of upper-middle trash: Think Starbucks cups and artisanal beer bottles. Some trash is carefully posed: Cups with straws on windsills, awaiting the Paris Agreement Pixie, who will clean up after these oh-so-earnest environmentalists.

      Yes, the trash bit is hard to understand. What does it stand for? Does it mean, We can infinitely disregard our surroundings by throwing away plastic, cardboard, metal and paper and nothing will happen? Does it mean, There is more where that came from! Does it mean, I don’t care a fig for the earth? Does it mean, Human beings are stupid and, unlike pigs, mess up their immediate environment and move on? Does it mean, Nothing–that we are just nihilists waiting to die? I am so fed up with the garbage strewn on the roads and in the woods where I live; I used to pick it up and could collect as much as 9 garbage bags of junk in 9 days during a 4 kilometer walk. I don’t pick up any more because I am 77 and cannot keep doing it.

      However, I am certain that strewn garbage will surely be the last national flag waving in the breeze as the anthem plays junk music and we all succumb to our terrible future.

      1. Moneta

        IMO a mix of “There is more where that came from” and “I don’t care a fig for the earth”

        1. DJG

          JEHR and Moneta: What my interpretation is veering toward these days is a compulsion to shit in the nest. Which makes me wonder about the “collapsing social contract”? What social contract? Or as I put it, What solidarity?

      2. jrs

        I suspect it’s something like “I already live somewhere ugly and degrading and not human-scale, so why even bother to keep it nicer?”

        But of course it just makes things worse. Much of America that is urban and suburban has really ugly bones to begin with (a few places at least have some nice architecture, but this is the exception). So it starts out ugly. But the trash makes it worse.

        1. jrs

          Related to this, I thought one day of who probably NEVER gets any appreciation but strives to make things nicer, anyone planning or planting the highway strips (government workers maybe although it could be convicts also unfortunately, I’m not sure). Yes highways are ugly, yes they will destroy the world, but some of the planting strips are sometimes genuinely nice. So they add some niceness to the ugly and people still litter of course.

      3. visitor

        The trash bit has been linked in other countries to how much the general population views the public space/environment as a shared, common good.

        Thus, streets, parks and public space might be soiled by litter that nobody cares to put away in trash bins properly, while simultaneously the interior of houses/apartments, and attached gardens if any, are kept meticulously clean.

        Basically, the world people care about stops outside their dwellings, because they do not feel it is “theirs” or that they participate in its possession in a genuine way. It belongs to the “town administration”, or to a “private corporation”, or to the “government” — and if they feel they have no say in the ownership, management, regulation and benefits thereof, why should they care? Let the town administration/government/corporation do the clean-up — we already pay enough taxes/fees/tolls, and “they” are always putting up more restrictions on how to use everything, so…

        In conclusion: the phenomenon of litter/trash is another manifestation of a fraying social contract.

        1. Big River Bandido

          The trash bit has been linked in other countries to how much the general population views the public space/environment as a shared, common good.

          There *is* no public space anymore. Every public good, every public space is now fair game for commercial exploitation.

          I live in NYC, and just yesterday as I attempted to refill my MetroCard, the machine told me it was expired and I had to replace it. The replacement card doesn’t look at all like a MetroCard with the familiar yellow and black graphic saying “MetroCard”. Instead? It’s an ad. For a fucking insurance company. And so now, every single time that I go somewhere on the subway, I have to see an ad from Empire Blue Cross/Blue Shield.

          1. visitor

            There *is* no public space anymore. Every public good, every public space is now fair game for commercial exploitation.

            And as a result, people no longer care about it — they do not feel it is their commonwealth any longer.

            Did you notice whether the NYC subway got increasingly dirty/littered as the tentacles of privatization reached everywhere? Just curious.

      4. bdy

        Litter is a social construct. Hunter-gatherers can’t litter. We only have to watch where we poop, pee and leave the dead. Cleaning up after ourselves requires a conscience – a quantum event to separate an actual decision from the set of post-rationalized reactions we call being alive. Believe it or not yoga helps with that, even when it’s 99% class marker.

    2. Moneta

      Here in Canada I got into an argument with a Trudeau/Obama admirer when I categorically stated that Obama did nothing. My argument being that if Obama (& co.) had accomplished something worthwhile, Trump would not be in power.

      A little too radical?

      1. roadrider

        A little too radical?

        Perhaps to the person you were speaking to but essentially correct.

      2. bdy

        It would have been enough had simply endorsed Sanders. Wonder how much coin that would have cost him.

      3. thoughtful person

        Obama created “Hope”. This lasted longer for some than others. Perhaps some still believe even now. Hope is worth something in politics -and stocks for that matter…..

  9. DJG

    The importance of the end of solidarity–that is, of the almost-murderous impulses by the upper classes to destroy any kind of solidarity. From Yves’s posting of Yanis Varoufakis’s analysis of the newest terms of the continuing destruction of Greece:

    With regard to labour market reforms, the Eurogroup welcomes the adopted legislation safeguarding previous reforms on collective bargaining and bringing collective dismissals in line with best EU practices.

    I see! “Safeguarding previous reforms on collective bargaining” refers, of course, to the 2012 removal of the right to collective bargaining and the end to trades union representation for each and every Greek worker. Our government was elected in January 2015 with an express mandate to restore these workers’ and trades unions’ rights. Prime Minister Tsipras has repeatedly pledged to do so, even after our falling out and my resignation in July 2015. Now, yesterday, his government consented to this piece of Eurogroup triumphalism that celebrates the ‘safeguarding’ of the 2012 ‘reforms’. In short, the SYRIZA government has capitulated on this issue too: Workers’ and trades’ unions’ rights will not be restored. And, as if that were not bad enough, “collective dismissals” will be brought “in line with best EU practices”. What this means is that the last remaining constraints on corporations, i.e. a restriction on what percentage of workers can be fired each month, is relaxed. Make no mistake: The Eurogroup is telling us that, now that employers are guaranteed the absence of trades unions, and the right to fire more workers, growth enhancement will follow suit! Let’s not hold our breath!

  10. Daniel F.

    The so-called “Elites”? Stand down? Right.
    Every year I look up the cardinal topics discussed at the larger economic forums and conferences (mainly Davos and G8), and some variation of “The consequences of rising inequality” is a recurring one. Despite this, nothing ever comes out if them. I imagine they go something like this:
    “-Oh hi Mark. Racism is bad.
    -Definitely. So is inequality, right, Tim?
    A wet dream come true, both for an AnCap and a communist conspiracy theorist. I’m by no means either. However, I think capitalism has already failed and can’t go on for much longer. Conditions will only deteriorate for anyone not in the “1%”, with no sight of improvement or relief.

    I’d very much like to be proven wrong.

    1. Bobby Gladd

      “Conditions will only deteriorate for anyone not in the “1%”, with no sight of improvement or relief.”

      Frase’s Quadrant Four. Hierarchy + Scarcity = Exterminism (From “Four Futures”)

      1. Daniel F.

        That was a good read, thank you.

        I don’t think we’ll reach this “Soylent Green” phase, at least not in fifty years. Eventually, but not just yet. And there’s no explanation offered for keeping third world countries barely alive.

  11. Archangel

    Reminds me of that one quip I saw from a guy who, why he always had to have two pigs to eat up his garbage, said that if he had only one pig, it will eat only when it wants to, but if there were two pigs, each one would eat so the other pig won’t get to it first.

    Our current economic system in a nutshell – pigs eating crap so deny it to others first.

    “Greed… is good”.

    1. oh

      Our country is rife with rent seeking pigs who will stoop lower and lower to feed their greed.

  12. Chauncey Gardiner

    Don’t know that the two avenues Gaius mentioned are the only two roads our society can travel. In support of this view, I recall a visit to a secondary city in Russia for a few weeks in the early 1990s after the collapse of the USSR. Those were difficult times economically and psychologically for ordinary citizens of that country. Alcoholism was rampant, emotional illness and suicide rates among men of working age were high, mortality rates generally were rising sharply, and birth rates were falling. Yet the glue of common culture, sovereign currency, language, community, and thoughtful and educated citizens held despite corrupt political leadership, the rise of an oligarchic class, and the related emergence of organized criminal networks. There was also adequate food, and critical public infrastructure was maintained, keeping in mind this was shortly after the Chernobyl disaster.

    Here in the US the New Deal and other legislation helped preserve social order in the 1930s. Yves also raises an important point in her preface that can provide support for the center by those who are able to do so under the current economic framework. That glue is to participate in one’s community; whether it is volunteering at a school, the local food bank, community-oriented social clubs, or in a multitude of other ways; regardless of whether your community is a small town or a large city.

    1. JTMcPhee

      ” Yet the glue of common culture, sovereign currency, language, community, and thoughtful and educated citizens held despite corrupt political leadership, the rise of an oligarchic class, and the related emergence of organized criminal networks.”

      None of which applies to the Imperium, of course. There’s glue, all right, but it’s the kind that is used for flooring in Roach Motels (TM), and those horrific rat and mouse traps that stick the rodent to a large rectangle of plastic, where they die eventually of exhaustion and dehydration and starvation… The rat can gnaw off a leg that’s glued down, but then it tips over and gets glued down by the chest or face or butt…

      I have to note that several people I know are fastidious about picking up trash other people “throw away.” I do it, when I’m up to bending over. I used to be rude about it — one young attractive woman dumped a McDonald’s bag and her ashtray out the window of her car at one of our very long Florida traffic lights. I got out of my car, used the mouth of the McDonald’s bag to scoop up most of the lipsticked butts, and threw them back into her car. Speaking of mouths, that woman with the artfully painted lips sure had one on her…

      1. cnchal

        Thanks for your comments and stories. Much appreciated, and my laugh track is set for the week.

  13. Unfettered Fire

    It seems we have a bit of a Nazi infestation problem here.

    Stanley Kubrick tried to warn us in his film Dr. Strangelove, by depicting Peter Seller’s character (one of many) as Henry Kissinger… who battles the compulsion to give the Nazi salute.

    But again, together with the resurrection of Technocracy by Zbigniew Brzezinski and Barry Goldwater’s book, With No Apologies in 1979, the demise of the social contract was underway. Here’s an excerpt:

    “The Trilateralist Commission is international…(and)…is intended to
    be the vehicle for multinational consolidation of the commercial and
    banking interests by seizing control of the political government of the
    United States. The Trilateralist Commission represents a skillful,
    coordinated effort to seize control and consolidate the four centers of
    power – political, monetary, intellectual, and ecclesiastical.”

    Compound that with 1998, which will ‘live in Infamy’ as the year that the Clinton administration destroyed the Middle Class. End of Glass-Steagall and more importantly, the functional end of all anti-trust laws as Exxon was allowed to buy Mobil (oil was $12 a barrel). This allowed Chase to buy JP Morgan and Citibank to buy everything they could get their hands on. Treas.Sec, Bob Rubin, shortly after, resigned to become Citi’s Chairman. We also welcomed NAFTA, CAFTA, and the crusher, Most Favored Nation trade status with our dear friend, China.

    Neoliberalism, the fascist economic policy of the past forty years, is still intent on destroying anything associated with the words “social” or “public”.

    “If you’re not willing to kill everybody who has a different idea than yourself, you cannot have Frederick Hayek’s free market. You cannot have Alan Greenspan or the Chicago School, you cannot have the economic freedom that is freedom for the rentiers and the FIRE (finance, insurance, real estate) sector to reduce the rest of the economy to serfdom.” ~ Michael Hudson

    So here we are. Forced to believe in “lone gunman” theories (has anyone actually SEEN Hodgkinson’s body?) and the justification of the latest hegemonic acquisition.

    Yellen’s interest rate hike was yet another nefarious and perverted decision to intentionally crash the system, the denial of fiscal spending still too strong in her cold, neoliberal heart. There is a new, cashless world to unveil, after all.

    “Now I don’t mean to undersell the dangers of inflation. Once you’ve maxed out the economy, cooling any further overheating with higher interest rates is indeed a good idea. Hiking rates is a only bad idea when the economy is already underperforming. (Like now.)

    A healthy economy is a fine balance between the upward pressure of jobs for everybody, and the downward pressure of keeping inflation in check. It’s the Fed’s job to supply the downward pressure, but it’s Congress’ job to supply the upward pressure. And the Fed is in a far better position to do its job well when that upward pressure is constant and strong. Then the Fed can keep interest rates high to keep inflation low. Plus, if there’s a recession it would have plenty of room to cut rates to give the economy a boost back to health.

    Instead, Congress is austerity obsessed. So the Fed finds itself in a world where the upward pressure is incredibly weak, and its unable to coax the economy back to life on its own. Hence the call for a higher inflation target.

    So what sort of deficit spending would do the job? The kind that gets the money to the poor and the working class instead.”

    1. Unfettered Fire

      “Hence to fight and conquer in all your battles is not supreme excellence; supreme excellence consists in breaking the enemy’s resistance without fighting… The best victory is when the opponent surrenders of its own accord before there are any actual hostilities…It is best to win without fighting.” ~ Sun Tzu

      This is what has been happening: invisible warfare.

  14. Oregoncharles

    ““kemp,”​ if that makes sense to you” – he means “kempt.” Roughly the same meaning as “well-groomed.”

  15. oaf

    …are we the only multicellular organism with it’s vital organs exposed on the surface?

  16. Sound of the Suburbs

    The Asian Tigers produced very successful, low inequality societies.

    There is an answer and we need it.

    There are different versions of capitalism and the latest one hasn’t been particularly successful.

    Keynesian capitalism ended in the stagflation of the 1970s.
    This version ended in the secular stagnation of the new normal.

    For some reason the establishment (bankers) can’t let it go, even though it has failed miserably.

    Reforming the banking system and not the labour market, seems to provide the best model as shown by Germany and the Asian Tigers before their neo-liberal conversion.

    The success of the Asian Tigers was due to a policy known as “window guidance” by the Central Bank; this directs bank credit into the important areas of the economy that will ensure it thrives, business and industry. It ensures the bankers don’t go into the normal bubble mode by guiding them away from real estate speculation, financial speculation and focusing on just one area of business without looking at the bigger picture.

    Germany doesn’t use “window guidance” but it ensures bank credit caters for the long term needs of business and industry by having 70% of its banks being small, non-profit organisations that are closely tied to the regions they serve. There is no incentive to blow bubbles for short term profits, dividends and bonuses.

    The historical record is now there for all to see, the tragedy that is financial liberalisation.

    The early experiments in 1970s South America revealed the inequality, pension fund raiding, other financial raiding and the legacy of debt that it leaves behind.

    The early 1980s see the beginnings of financial liberalisation and the late 1980s sees the following crises, e.g. US S&L crisis; UK, Japan, Australia, Canada and Scandinavia real estate busts.

    More financial deregulation leads to 2008; the Euro-zone crisis; Irish and Spanish real estate crashes.
    2008 is just another real estate bust, leveraged up and transmitted internationally by complex financial instruments. As the global bust hits the Euro-zone, it crumbles.

    That’s another fine mess financial liberalisation has got us into.

    Australia, Canada and Scandinavia are queuing up for their second real estate bust.

    We need bank credit to be directed sensibly into the economy.

    1. Sound of the Suburbs

      The psychopath is always caught out by the trail of destruction they leave behind.

      They are effortlessly charming and have the perfect excuse for every problem they create.

      You can’t see them directly, you have to look behind them and see the carnage they have left in their wake.

  17. FWX341844

    Capital flight from The Russian Federation should frighten The Neoliberals far more so than the active measures that Putin ordered against Clinton. A world order awash in dirty money from kleptocratic oligarchs is the more obvious instance of chaos in the world, today. If the elites do not eventually re-regulate capital flows, then the globe’s currently unregulated capital flows will inevitably render the accumulated wealth of the elites quite perfectly worthless. They will need a veritable Golden Horde of predator drones to defend themselves. Oops.
    Rumor has it they’re hard at work on that project. What have they done with our forensic accountants? Were they all lost in some automated freeway pile-up?

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