Saturday, September 27, 2008

The corporatist consensus

The Wall Street Journal reports:
WASHINGTON -- Key House and Senate negotiators were scheduled to meet Saturday afternoon to iron out the final details of a $700 billion rescue package for Wall Street, with a goal of being able to announce a final agreement before Asian markets open Monday morning.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D. Nev.) in an appearance on the Senate floor, said there are only a "handful of issues still lingering" for lawmakers to finalize. He said he hopes Congress and the Bush administration can at the very least release an outline of the bailout plan by Sunday evening to send a reassuring message to global stock markets.
When the entire U.S. political establishment agrees that there is a "crisis" that demands the public defer to their benevolent rulers to solve, it invariably means the American taxpayer is about to get royally screwed. Why, we must invade Iraq -- er, bailout our affluent campaign contributors or the entire economy will collapse, leaving your grandmother no option but to turn tricks on the street in order to pay for her blood pressure medication. Give us more power and money before it's too late! The sky is falling, the sky is falling!

What's particularly ironic about the proposed $700 billion transfer of wealth from the middle class to Wall Street is that it is self-proclaimed "progressives" -- the likes of Barney "Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac are not facing any financial crisis" Frank and the corrupt Chris "friend of Countrywide" Dodd -- who are leading the charge to artificially inflate housing prices by paying above-market rates for worthless mortgage-backed securities, all to the benefit of their investment bank buddies.

Consider that these same lawmakers, who denied all along that there were problems with the government-backed Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, claim to be the biggest advocates for "affordable housing". Yet, when housing prices finally fall to a point where they are actually affordable, these same defenders of the poor and downtrodden proclaim that there is a "crisis". Why, it's much better to give poor people massive loans for overpriced houses they can't afford -- to the benefit of the real estate industry and the investment banks now reaching for your wallet -- then to actually allow home prices to fall to their true market value, where low-income families just might actually be able to purchase them without falling into massive debt.

Instead, Democrats in Congress are essentially calling for a massive injection of corporatism -- wherein the economy is centrally planned by a a political and business elite -- in the name of the very poor who benefit the most from the bursting of the housing bubble. Indeed, the explicitly corporatist nature of the proposed bailout is evident everywhere one looks -- need I point out that the progenitor of the bailout scam, Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson, was the head of the very investment firm, Goldman Sachs, that now stands to gain billions of dollars at your expense?

But while the Democratic sellout to Big Business is completely predictable, what's disappointing is the response from rank-and-file Democrats -- the ones you think just might balk at granting the Bush administration the unilateral authority to run the economy. But as a liberal friend remarked to me the other day, the only ones opposing the bailout at this point are those in the "nutjob, black helicopter crowd". And while the bailout might be "unfortunate", with the right (wait for it) oversight -- from the same regulators who failed to stop or predict the current debacle -- another giveaway to Wall Street can be avoided.

The view that, with just the "right people" in place -- that is, Democrats -- the current credit-based, chronically-in-debt U.S. economy can hum right along to the betterment of all is to me rather curious, and not at all based on the actual history of these here United States. It also reminds me of a piece by Albert Jay Nock I noted a few months back, on the essential difference between liberalism and radicalism: while the average liberal sees the state as what it could be -- a guarantor of peace and justice for the downtrodden -- the radical sees it as it actually is.

As Nock writes:
In the philosophy of public affairs, the liberal gets at his working theory of the State by the "high priori road"; that is to say, by pure conjecture. Confronted with the phenomenon of the State, and required to say where it came from and why it is here, the liberal constructs his answer by the a priori method; thus Carey, for example, derived the State from the action of a gang of marauders, Rousseau from a social contract, Sir Robert Filmer from the will of God, and so on. All these solutions of the problem are ingenious and interesting speculations, but nothing more than speculations. The radical gets at his theory of the State by the historical method; by tracing back and examining every appearance of the State, to the most remote examples that history can furnish; segregating the sole invariable factor which he finds to be common throughout, and testing it both positively and negatively as a determining cause.

The result carries the radical to the extreme point of difference from the liberal in his practical attitude towards the State. The liberal believes that the State is essentially social and is all for improving it by political methods so that it may function accordingly to what he believes to be its original intention. Hence, he is interested in politics, takes them seriously, goes at them hopefully, and believes in them as an instrument of social welfare and progress. He is politically minded, with an incurable interest in reform, putting good men in office, independent administrations, and quite frequently in third-party movements. The liberal forces of the country, for instance, rallied quite conspicuously to Mr. Roosevelt in the good old days of the Progressive party. The liberal believes in the reality and power of political leadership; thus, again, he eagerly took Mr. Wilson on his hands at the last two elections.

The radical, on the other hand, believes that the State is fundamentally antisocial and is all for improving it off the face of the earth; not by blowing up officeholders, as Mr. Palmer appears to suppose, but by the historical process of strengthening, consolidating and enlightening economic organization. The radical has no substantial interest in politics, and regards all projects of political reform as visionary. He sees, or thinks he sees, quite clearly that the routine of partisan politics is only a more or less elaborate and expensive byplay indulged in for the sake of diverting notice from the primary object of all politics and political government, namely, the economic exploitation of one class by another; and hence all candidates look about alike to him, and their function looks to him only like that of Dupin's pretended lunatic in "The Purloined Letter."
While Nock's description of liberalism would appear to apply to your average Obama voter today, the above essay was written in 1920, highlighting the fact that while many believe in some form of progressive, linear view of history -- where things are constantly improving, with a few hiccups along the way -- nothing has changed when it comes to the relationship between the common man or woman and the government. 

Despite the pleading, self-interested calls from people such as Frank, Dodd, and Paulson to bailout Wall Street for the sake of "Main Street", the state, as Nock points out, has always been interested not in the common good, but in the enrichment of those in power; that is, "the economic exploitation of one class by another". Keep that in mind the next time you shell out half your income in taxes and wonder why it primarily funds war and tennis lessons for some investment bankers snot-nosed kid.

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