The Politics of Ingratitude

by John Médaille on January 19, 2010 · 30 comments <span>Print this article</span> Print this article

in Economics & Empire

gift

Irving, TX. Pope Benedict, in his recent encyclical, spoke of the Principle of Gratuitousness in the economy, a principle that strikes both economist and businessman alike as paradoxical at best, and nonsense at worst. I have in other places written on this principle, but here I would like to address its opposite: the politics of ingratitude.

I think a good starting place for such a discussion is the signs that were carried in the Tea Party Protests, “No Socialized Medicine—Hands Off Medicare.” Now, we could pass this off as mere ignorance and it is hardly news that some people are confused about the nature of socialism and about just what Medicare is. However, I heard the eminent Catholic intellectual, Michael Novak, say exactly the same thing last April in a public debate. Novak stated his opposition to socialized medicine and affirmed his support for Medicare, stating that he could not afford the medicines for his wife without it. Mr. Novak is, I suspect, well compensated by the American Enterprise Institute for his services. Still, I am willing to believe his claim that he needed public help to defray his private expenses. But I am perplexed by his apparent claim that his age alone justifies this subsidy. Surely he must know that there are folks younger than he is whose wives and children need similar help, and several of them might not make as much as he does. When the leaders speak nonsense, you can hardly blame the followers for repeating it.

This attitude of “socialism for me and capitalism for thee” is widespread. I am a member of the Real Estate profession, and I reckon that 99.79% of my colleagues are ardent believers in the “free market.” They also demand that the government support the housing market. Indeed, few markets are as government-dependent as is the housing market, and Realtors divide their free time into complaining about government interference and demanding more government support. I have never given a dime to the Realtor’s PAC, because I have never seen it take a single action in the public interest. But the sad fact of the matter is that we live in a Republic of PACs, and in our form of “democracy,” one must pay to play. Recently, our PAC and its allies not only got the $8,000 tax subsidy for first time buyers passed—and then extended—we got a new subsidy of $6,500 for “move-up” buyers, based on the principle, I suppose, that bigger is always better, and getting someone else to pay for bigger is best of all.

This attitude is, I believe, most characteristic of my generation. I was born in 1947, the year that the Full Employment Act was passed, the law that enshrines Keynesianism as the official policy of the United States Government and the Federal Reserve System. Indeed, the bill only recognized what had already been a fact since 1933: the government had taken responsibility for the management of the economy. I am not a Keynesian, but I am grateful for those who were. The plain fact of the matter is that the only workable capitalism is Keynesian capitalism. Capitalism before the war was a hit and miss affair, with the misses almost as frequent as the hits. The economy was in recession 40% of the time; calamity was normal.

My parent’s generation survived the Great War and the “Great Misery,” as the French Canadians call the depression. They wanted their children to escape these evils. And we did. Indeed, there was never in our history—and possibly not in the history of the world—such a long period of peace combined with so great a prosperity. True, we had some wars, but they were remote. And since the Vietnam war, we have delegated a small part of the population to fight them and have nominated our grandchildren to pay for them. We display yellow ribbons to show our “support” of the troops, but would scream blue-bloody murder if we are taxed to pay them. Nothing, not even war, should interfere with our relentless pursuit of “more.”

Here is the great secret of my generation: What our parents gave us as a gift we have received as an entitlement. No one is not grateful for an entitlement. Indeed, everyone is resentful that it is not larger. Worse, we are resentful of everybody else’s entitlements because they compete with our own. Politics because a matter of getting as large a share of the pie as you can, while giving as little as you can get away with. We ended up resentful on both sides: we are resentful about how little we get (no matter how much it is) and resentful about how much we have to pay (no matter how little it is).

Which brings us back to Michael Novak and the tea-partiers. Government medical care for all must inevitably involve some cutbacks in Medicare for the retired. And that is not acceptable. We’ve got ours, and we will not share. No way. No how. The opponents of socialism are too busy protecting their own entitlements to even see them as socialism. It makes for a politics of pressure groups, a Republic of the PACs. There can be no common good, only goods spread around to a particular coalition, with costs spread to losers, if possible, or better yet, to the next generations; after all, what have they done for us lately?

Keynesianism feeds this politics of ingratitude; it is its economic component. It is not that it is a bad economic theory. It is a very good one, at least in the context of capitalism. Since the essence of capitalism is the gathering of large piles of capital, it depends on depressing wages. Hence, it always has difficulty in reliably generating enough purchasing power to clear the markets. Somewhere it needs a big spender, and government is the only force capable of fulfilling this role. But its failures are both political and moral. Keynes wanted the government to freely borrow and spend in bad times, and than tax and repay the loans in good times. But the building up of debts is politically easier than tearing them down, and Republicans especially have been more than willing to adopt the first part, but not the second. Hence, we have the paradox that the most “conservative” governments are also the most Keynesian, applying the stimulus of debt even when it was not needed.

The moral failures are even more telling. Keynes recognized, as most economists did not, that the economy was dependent upon distributive justice. But Keynes refused to confront the failure of justice within economics itself. Instead, he made it a political question, he made it into re-distributive justice. The economy would operate under the capitalist rules and produce its imbalances, which the political authorities would then tax and re-distribute. In this way, he saved capitalism from—and for—the capitalists.

Take a program like Social Security. Now it is obvious that the young must support the old; this is but the natural law. In ages past, old age security meant either having a lot of money or having a lot of children. And since few people had money, most people had children, if they could. But the resources of the family were shared, which encouraged a sense of gratitude between the generations. But with the Social Security and Medicares systems, the relationship between the generations is mediated by the government, and the pension becomes an entitlement. One can argue the economics either way, but the social consequences are devastating. It is no longer necessary to have children to ensure one’s security in old age, so long as other people are doing so. In fact, the winners in the social security lottery are those who had no children, and so spared themselves the trouble and expense, but rely on others to have children to pay the taxes that are necessary to support them.

Things will come to a head pretty quickly. In 2011, the first wave of the baby boom will hit 66, full Social Security retirement and Medicare age. But there is no money in the system to pay these pensions, only IOUs than can only be redeemed by raising taxes, or by yet more borrowing. Will there be enough of an economy to tax? Will there be enough borrowing capacity to finance it? I doubt it.

My generation has always been about resentment. In the 60′s, it was resentment of the war, which actually had some basis, but also of “old people” in general. “Never trust anyone over 35,” was a popular slogan, one which we validated by becoming untrustworthy when we reached that age. Or at least becoming Republicans, which is much the same thing. Ronald Reagan learned to play the politics of ingratitude better than most, telling those who were taxed the least that they were taxed the most, and promising to tax them not at all. And it would all be financed by reducing “waste, fraud, and abuse”; no actual government programs would have to end, no possible constituency would be embarrassed or deprived. Government grew, revenues shrank, and we proved, at least to the sharp mind of Dick Cheney, that “deficits don’t matter.”

But they do. And more than the fiscal deficits, the moral deficits matter, and we have burned through all our capital in both areas. Keynesianism will fall because capitalism will fall; the fates of both are bound up with each other. But the men of my generation should at least have the honesty to lament its passing, to recognize the gifts we have been given, and to realize, too late perhaps, that the only way to keep a gift is to pass it on. We failed to pass on the gift to our children—indeed we had few children to pass it to—and so we will lose it all. Ingratitude is like that.

The economy certainly depends on a rational market rooted in fair exchanges. But while this is a necessary condition, it is not a sufficient one. Beneath the exchanges there must be a spirit of the gift, an on-going lagniappe, something over and above the exchange. Of course, the government has a role in all this, and in certain cases it must intervene. But such interventions cannot replace the normal human relationships upon which a healthy society is built. Keynes, with the best of intentions and the most logical of proofs, corrupts these relationships; the “conservatives” adaptations of Keynes both corrupts his theory and removes any effective opposition.

Tom Brokaw called my parent’s generation “The Greatest.” I don’t know if that is true, but I think I know which generation gets the title of the worst. We cultivated resentment and passed it on to our children. Only this time, they will have real cause for resentment, and real debts to resent.

{ 26 comments… read them below or add one }

avatar HappyAcres January 19, 2010 at 9:14 am

Sir,

You rehearse a conventional history. But it’s not beyond the pall to consider the State’s economic engineering to be 1) unnecessary, and 2) the source of our distress.

That gratitude is a incidental casualty of government insinuating itself into daily life seems perfectly reasonable.

avatar Ryan Davidson January 19, 2010 at 9:24 am

The coming backlash against senior citizens will be terrible to behold, but unlike the 60s, when the Boomer generation outnumbered their parents’ generation, the Boomers outnumber us, their children. Those born after 1980 will have to wait another decade or two before we have sufficient political influence to stem the flow of wealth transfer from the young to the old, and by that time it may well be too late to avoid a major sovereign debt crisis.

True, the results of sovereign debt crises can beget things from Magna Carta on one end to the Reign of Terror on the other, but as the latter is the historical norm, I’m not sure that’s a road we want to go down.

avatar D.W. Sabin January 19, 2010 at 11:17 am

The American Injun, founders of the American Libertarian Party had a term called “potlatch”. These were gatherings where gifts would be bestowed and goods essentially destroyed as an illustration of the wealth of the participants. The Great Basin Shoshone, aka the Diggers, who spent their life digging for roots , berries and grubs in hostile surroundings generally conferred the highest status upon the person who gave away the most. White men who came in contact used them as target practice because after all, anybody who foraged for jack rabbits and grass hoppers is a pestilential being. The Digger Shoshone’s clan brother, the Comanche repaid the White Man’s gift by moving south to Texas in order to start the first Organized Professional Sports in North America, killing the interloper when he arrived. Oddly enough, the Comanche gave a pass to the Hill Country German immigrants who would read Goethe to them in their German guttural language and this was apparently enjoyed by the Comanche who was known to break off even the pursuit of a Texas Ranger when they crossed into German lands. Play would resume on the other side of the German district once the Ranger emerged from “out of bounds”. To their credit, the Ranger was a sporting participant, always giving as good as he got. Unfortunately, the Comanche Franchise was overrun.

But, back to “potlatch”. As a baby boomer, the greater part of my paltry wealth in both time and money has gone to my chilluns and I consider it a fine potlatch and hope that they too will return the favor if the need arises. My wealth is my family. I don’t harbor any guilt at all in hoping for their good efforts in my dotage. Sure we Boomers have been foolhardy in mortgaging the grand kiddies futures but the High Farce of american Collegiate Life is a testimony to a rather liberal potlatch toward our poor oppressed progeny who would now like to ponder eating the old in retribution. The fact that the Great Benefactor in Washington squawks on and on about the family but seems hell-bent upon replacing it with something much more better leads me to believe that we would all be better off digging and dispensing treasure on our own because these folks only got the “destroy wealth” part of the potlatch equation down. They aint quite recalled the need to generate something worth giving away before they start destroying. There is no good sportsmanship in a potlatch run by amateurs.

avatar John Médaille January 19, 2010 at 5:21 pm

HappyA, I will be happy to consider alternatives, if only somebody will present me with one. By alternatives, I don’t mean some clever theory, but something on the ground and actually working. The sad truth about capitalism is that it has only worked when the gov’t has intervened. Do you have a counter-example? In any case, the plain fact of the matter is that for all of my life I have lived under a system of state capitalism, and I have lived a prosperous life, despite having few marketable skills. It’s rather amazing, and I am just expressing my gratitude. I know full well that the game is up, but it had a remarkable 70-year run. Not bad.

Ryan, I don’t think there will be a backlash in that sense, there will just be a collapse, and that right soon; the system won’t be able to pay me what it promised, and the young will say “I’ve got my own problems,” except for the ones that will say, “No hablo engles.”

DW, the potlatch is at the basis of every communal society (although why you call that “libertarian” I cannot say). The coin of the realm in village cultures is honor, not money. We speak a lot of nonsense about “barter economies,” but I doubt that one ever existed. Rather, each person shared their excess production, and expected to receive the excess production of others. The man who could produce no excess was regarded as less than a man. That played hell with his love-life. Trade begins, I suspect, with those outside the clan whom one meets only occasionally. In this case, gifts have to be exchanged simultaneously, and everyone will be looking to see if they are equivalent in value.

avatar eutychus January 19, 2010 at 7:52 pm

Thanks for this article John. I found it very informative.

avatar Howard Merrell January 20, 2010 at 8:54 am

John,
Few of us are consistent. The contradiction of values that you speak of is one that I often observe. Except for brother-in-laws, that we wish weren’t, “lazy-good-for-nuthin’s” are folk who exist outside my clan.
I can’t speak intelligently about Keynsianism, but what I see is a relentless government supplantation of the family. I’m only three years younger than you. I remember one of the rites of youth was when we were visiting my family’s home territory (600 miles from where I lived) being carted around to visit all the old and decrepid relatives. Those who were no longer ambulatory always lived in a small bedroom in somebody’s house. Perhaps the only growth industry in my economically depressed area is the building of facilites to house today’s old aunts and uncles. Of course this boon of rooms for the aged is funded by the young and middle-aged, through their taxes.
I agree that there is a double-standard–all government standards are wrong, except those that benefit me and mine.
I can’t defend Mr. Novak’s or anyone else’s inconsistency especially if it is fueled by a measure of selfishness, but I do understand–I think.
D. W.’s Potlatch is quite similar to the Biblical model of caring for one another. The Apostle Paul told the theives at Ephesus to stop the five-finger-discounting, get a job (probably the haircut was implied), and, here is the key, to work sufficiently enough, and effectively enough to have a surplus to help others. Paul gave his young protege’, Timothy instruction about caring for one’s own household.
Choices were made for Mr. Novak, you, and me, over which we had no control (or minimal through my vote). Essentially the government said, “We will take that excess”–yes, Mr. Novak probably was well paid–”and we will help those around you, whom you could have helped had we not confiscated such a large chunk of your resources.” There are reasons, good and bad for this, but that isn’t my point. Your focus is the impact that Mr. Novak’s insistence that his wife’s medications be subsidized has on the next generation. If the focus is the other direction toward the past, folk like Novak can claim a contract. “The governemt took my funds, with promises stated and implied. Now, I’m here to collect the benefits.”

I’m not trying to justify the attitude of ingratitude, just encouraging a greater level of understanding. Further, I think your piece powerfully illustrates a theme that is often discussed here on the porch. At some point a generation is going to be left holding the bag. The right thing is for us to man-up and deal responsibly with a system that can no longer be propped up. Doing right, when it costs money is tough. I don’t think congressional candidate running on that platform is likely to do well. (I do want the record to show that I would vote for such a candidate, as long as she/he promises to leave my Social Security alone.) I hope the next generation does it well.

avatar D.W. Sabin January 20, 2010 at 9:54 am

John,
I didn’t refer to Potlatch as an original libertarian, I referred to the American Indians as the first standard bearers of that pastime on this continent , however clannish in execution and however satirical in intent on my part. Potlatch was just one of their many ceremonial practices. While some might see irony in a libertarian engaging in so called “socialistic” behavior like giving things away, one could just as easily assume that it is a clear indication of a person’s sense of personal liberty in that they divest themselves of personal possessions because they can. They produce excess and with pride in this capacity, celebrate this pride in gift. We moderns accumulate as a display of wealth and think we need an institutional middle man to organize gifting, thus eliminating much of the community reinforcing benefits from the act of gift.

Another true-to-form behavior of the American Indians regarding libertarianism is they exhibited the same tendency to avoid coalitions when confronted with an assault, effectively passing on the suggestions of those like Tecumseh and losing their land and life-way as a result.

I think the Pope’s “Principle of Gratuitousness” in the recent encyclical was a significant display of spiritual intelligence within the current period. It seems lost to us, such a simple concept. Perhaps the thorny little problem of modern usage comes into play and the current accepted definition of something “un-called for” , or an insult complicates the message but i think it also begs the question of how this culture of strivers also considers charity an insult of sorts, an accoutrement of helplessness and shame.

avatar John Médaille January 20, 2010 at 10:19 am

Howard, I am not defending the Keynesian system, except in the context of Capitalism. It is the only sort of capitalism that works. The key to getting rid of Keynesianism is to get rid of capitalism. But if you want capitalism, you must have Keynes, or it simply will not work. We are constantly posed with false choices, “Keynesianism or Capitalism” when in fact the one is part and parcel of the other. This is why “conservative” govmints always end up more statist that there liberal alternatives.

DW, potlatch is more than ceremonial, it was their economic system, whole and entire. I don’t think it is possible to subsume a gift economy under the theory that deals only with an exchange economy. Of course, we have “advanced” behind such primative tribalism. However, I think Benedict’s point is well taken, namely that the underneath the exchange economy there is still the gift economy, and exchange cannot be viewed as an end in itself, but as a means of funding (as it were) the gift economy. Benedict is insisting that this is a principle of practical economics, and not just a moral platitude.

As for the Indians, I believe the last hope for resistance to American expansion died at Tippecanoe. After that, everything else was a mopping-up operation.

avatar Bruce Smith January 20, 2010 at 11:59 am

A libertarian just might be persuaded to give things away as long as they were allowed to hang onto the wealth producing resources that created those things. Much like the Democrats and Republicans too which helps explain why the electorate in Massachusetts flail around in the quicksand looking for policies they can believe in.

avatar Matthew Wade January 20, 2010 at 12:01 pm

We’ll have to rebuild with some “First Principles of Economic Reasoning” like:

1) Don’t spend what you don’t have. Another way of putting this that isn’t so cliche would be similar to the idea of losing weight: don’t take in more calories than you expend;

2) Be ready to share what you do have: if not in justice, then in charity;

3) Recognize the needs of others, a need that can be met by and through others than yourself. This could be some kind of “Principle of Gratuitousness” similar to Pope Benedict’s in that it extends beyond our immediate sphere of gift-giving;

4) Explore, meditate upon, pray about – however you want to say it – the difference between “price” and “value”.

I’m 24 and only beginning to understand what a mess there is to clean up. (I’m late to the game, I know.) But in the spirit of all the great men before us I think my generation and the ones to come will simply have to step up and accept the place we’ve been given in this great cosmic symphony.

I also like the reference to Ephesians chapter 4.

avatar D.W. Sabin January 20, 2010 at 2:32 pm

John, I’m not sure that Potlatch constitutes the whole , or entirety of Indian economic systems. There was a lot of quid pro quo and in fact thievery, as we understand it …..was a high art amongst the tribes…some more than others. This “thievery” extended from the Navajo’s brilliant horse thieving to the act of Counting Coup in battle, either touching an opponent with a Coup stick and surviving to tell the tale or simply stealing from the enemy.

This brings to mind that perhaps the Grey Eyed Devil adopted this Counting Coup method in our financial system, ritualizing theft , approving of it within big business, developing an elaborate ritual of law around it but holding onto disgust for the practice when someone steals small potatoes from the corner bodega.

I wonder if anyone has ever attempted to fully dissect the Trapper economy that saw European Man and the Indian engaged in commercial intercourse using both Indian currency in the form of wampum and pelts as well as European “currency “in the form of trade goods like beads and iron goods. As little as I have gleaned shows quite a lot of boom and bust . Ditto a full investigation of native American economic activity …where upper midwest copper was found on Cape Cod and Cape Cod clam shell wampum found in the Mississippi valley.

But, back to compassion and gift as a “principal of practical economics”……I am always astounded by people when they utter the old nougat: “thats business” or when lying or misrepresentation takes on its most elastic form under some kind of separate conduct of malleable truth called “business”. It would seem to me to strike at the very heart of business intelligence, this notion that one is entitled to engage in a business whose principle occupation is finding new victims…sooner or later, one runs out of victims. This and the idea of External Costs remain the termite infested foundations of our prevailing economic paradigm. It points to at least a partial explanation of the continuing ability for the financiers to maintain the bunko which has launched us into the current debacle: Sophisticated mathematics and derivatives blur the lines between participants in an exchange. Quid pro quo is impossible to track. They call it risk reduction but in reality, it is risk acceleration. I will never forget the frightened and essentially confused looks on the faces of some people of enormous wealth in September of 08 when the system was in chaos and nobody really could put a finger upon their exposure. This continuing lack of accountability is a big contributor to the so called “no jobs recovery”.

avatar John Médaille January 20, 2010 at 9:00 pm

Matthew, excellent observations. Gratuitousness lies underneath exchange, and the economists, alas, conflate price and value, and hence cannot talk rationally about wealth, or about economics, for that matter.

DW thievery was indeed a part of the system, but only directed against outsiders. Among many primitive people, including the American Indians, the word for “human” and the name of the tribe were the same. Hence theft or other crimes against the “non-humans” did not amount to much, morally. I suspect that trade originates in exchanges with outsiders as a kind of substitute for war, when that method becomes too expensive or impossible.

Customs similar to counting coup are normal among tribes of low population. This is because the most valuable resource was young men, and religious taboos and tokens of honor were used to limit the carnage which could endanger the very existence of the tribe, even in victory.

Among the Southern Bantu, the method was to require that anybody who killed a man in battle must completely disembowel him, stem to stern, and throw the entrails over his shoulder. Then he had to return to his home village for a three day purification ceremony. This means that the best men (the ones actually capable of killing somebody) were out of action for at least 15 minutes (and most battles wouldn’t last much longer than that). It also meant that everybody went home after the battle to be purified, since nobody would admit to going to war only getting a lousy T-shirt. This means that standing armies or sustained campaigns were impossible. Dingishwayo of the Southern Bantu abolished the purification ceremonies so he could keep an army. But he used it mainly to threaten rather than to fight. It was different with his protegé, Shaka of the Zulus, who built a great empire with the army. He was the African equivalent of the modernists, overthrowing religion and relying on the army rather than the priests.

avatar dave January 21, 2010 at 9:55 am

Thanks for the article.
Happy Acres wrote: “That gratitude is a incidental casualty of government insinuating itself into daily life seems perfectly reasonable.”

Which, when one realizes that our military is a part of the government, is an inducement to wonder if small wars are indeed necessary to validate the large amount of taxation that maintaining such a military requires; I suppose it’s a question of causality versus convenience.

Second, I agree with the analysis, but there’s a fall as in collapse and a fall in terms of not living up to potential. I waver; in isolation, I think collapse, but looking around the world, what sustains us in decline may sustain us for a long, long time. No group may rise enough to replace us.

Third, treasonous thought perhaps, but what if collapse is not so bad a thing? What if our system of governance just doesn’t scale? And that we’ve just been unable to accept, understand or cope with that for a hundred and 50 or so years?

avatar Bruce Smith January 21, 2010 at 12:15 pm

Perhaps it’s difficult to expect gratitude for re-distributive justice when individuals don’t trust the system to be fair to them in the first place. It’s a kind of begrudging gratefulness. The natural human instinct is to help others without thought of reward but under-lying it is the reward, or comfort, of knowing that should you in turn need help you will get it from others. In simple terms it is the hard-wired assumption that you will be treated fairly as part of an implicit natural law of mutual obligation. However, both capitalism and government as systems of control breach this assumption because certain individuals with sociopathic leanings abrogate power for their own purposes and not the common good. They are able to do this because both capitalism and government are dual natured, or ambivalent, in their use. Indeed an under-lying concern of many of the posts on FPR is trust breakdowns because of this. The only way to re-build trust, however, has to be recognition of the need to create checks and balances, or means of regulation, which prevent the sociopathic misuse of both these systems. The only truly effective means to do this is suffrage; economic as well as political and at as many levels of human association as possible. The consequences of this would tend to be not just an improvement in fairness and therefore trust but also balance in many things not least a re-balancing of the economy away from over-reliance on the financial sector and balanced trade with other countries allowing a renewal of volume manufacturing and reduction of indebtedness to other countries. We need to learn how to best place our trust in trust!

avatar Bruce Smith January 21, 2010 at 2:14 pm

Did the the Vampire Squids sponsor the Supreme Court judges who voted today to further destroy trust by unblocking Congress’s limits on corporations campaign contributions?

avatar Bruce Smith January 21, 2010 at 2:58 pm

The honorable thing would be for the five Supreme Court judges who voted to unblock corporations campaign contributions to resign in the light at least of this MSNBC poll:-

http://politics.newsvine.com/_question/2010/01/21/3788203-do-you-agree-with-the-supreme-court-ruling-allowing-corporations-and-unions-to-spend-freely-in-political-campaigns-

Their ruling was blatantly political and brought the Supreme Court into disrepute.

avatar Christopher Harrison January 22, 2010 at 7:10 am

John,

Thank you for another gem. Your work is consistently intellectually honest, and it rises above the fog of ideology to shine light on unpleasant truths. This piece is certainly no different in that regard.

One thing that I noticed was missing from the discussion, however, was a recognition that it is not only government that has displaced many of the more traditional kin-and-community networks that previously took care of the less fortunate and aged — the market also did this. A modern-day example of this, and one of which my wife and I are guilty as well, would be the way in which grandparents and extended families previously helped take care of children in the family, while now most people turn to the market to provide child care. The sad truth is that our previous interdependence based on traditional structures has given way to dependence upon the government AND the market.

Eugene Genovese once wrote of antebellum southern slaveholders that the surest way to arouse their anger was to point out their dependence upon the slave system, which dispelled their proclamations of their own independence and self-sufficiency. A similar claim could be made with regards to the market and government today, except this anger is one that is split among political lines. Someone of the leftist persuasion would never admit their dependence upon government, while someone of the rightist perspective would never admit their dependence upon the market. Yet, if either of those entities failed for considerable periods of time, that utter and complete dependence would be laid bare for all to see.

avatar Howard Merrell January 22, 2010 at 8:37 am

On the matter of intergenerational relationships:
Dale Kuehne has some interesting things to say in Sex in the iWorld.
If it piques your interest, Colson gives a good description of the book. http://www.christianpost.com/article/20091005/-sex-and-the-iworld/index.html
Kuehne’s thoughts are along the lines of Christopher’s.
When the chief question concerning life’s most basic interactions is “What’s in it for me?” It is no wonder that we are prepared to let our grandkids pay the bill.

avatar Bruce Smith January 22, 2010 at 10:18 am

Yesterday “What’s in it for me?” was officially sanctified by five extreme right-wing Supreme Court judges launching the “Charter for Sociopaths.” Their ruling that it was a breach of free speech to prevent corporations from running political advertisements during election campaigns means that sociopaths can now much more easily prevail over the common good. Here is an example of how this can be. Should the CEO of Vampire Squid Inc. wish to overturn an anti-trust decision preventing him, or her, from buying Worst Buy Inc. he can simply threaten behind the scenes to run attack ads through TV and other media against the politicians sitting on Trade and Anti-Trust Committees who are seeking re-election but are obstinately blocking his/her will for fear of no competition on prices and outsourcing of jobs to slave labor economies of other countries run under totalitarian regimes. Fascism is sociopathy and yesterday revealed how inadequate the American Constitution is and why it needs to be rethought to prevent such easy totalitarian destruction of democracy.

avatar John Médaille January 22, 2010 at 10:38 am

Christopher, Absolutely correct. In fact, in this day of state supported capitalism, the distinctions between the market and the state are fuzzy, to say the least.

Bruce, the Supremes were merely recognizing an established fact: that the government of the United States is a wholly owned and operated subsidary of corporate America. Why should the plutocracy be limited in the amount of money they spend in supporting their employees? What the Supremes did was to reveal how little they cared for “original intent,” since the founders never intended to give corporations the rights of natural persons.

avatar Matthew Wade January 22, 2010 at 11:00 am

Regarding the recent decision of SCOTUS, I only have my initial reflections to offer. Indeed, I haven’t read the decision, and I haven’t read much commentary aside from a headline on Yahoo! and the comments on this blog. That being said, it seems to me that this decision, affirmed as it was by the “conservative” justices of the Court, is simply a case of us sleeping in the bed we’ve made. What I mean to say is that as a nation we have long recognized and accepted the “corporation” as a separate “person”: in the cultural, social, economic, political, legal, and ethical arenas of our lives. Therefore, it would only follow that we can’t restrict that person’s right to freedom of speech. The dangerous road down which this decision will lead us appears not as an option but only an inevitability. However, another train of thought leads me to believe that we may finally and really be able to “vote with our pocketbooks.”

avatar D.W. Sabin January 22, 2010 at 11:02 am

John,
Wow, disembowelment and entrails thrown over the shoulder……now thats a theatre of conflict.

The Supreme Court’s decision yesterday simply makes current practice legal. The “individual” rights of the “Super-Individual” Corporation have been busy in the fields of the Feds for a very long time. After all, Federal Stimulus and Bail-outs went to these “super Individuals” in order to protect the little “individuals” anyhow. I do like the essentially discriminatory outcome of this victory for the First Amendment. We can expect production values to improve now and maybe that old discussion of ours about Politicians in Nascar jumpsuits festooned with corporate sponsorship will finally come to fruition so that we can dispense with all the sanctimony and simply enjoy the transformation of the National Mall into a Circus Maximus with heavily financed teams of Reds and Blues and Greens and Golds meshing the efficiencies of the NGO with the picturesque entertainments of the Soccer Hooligan.

Nothing to see here folks, move along….go watch the chariot races…they’re giving bobble-head Palins and
Pelosis to the first 100 fistfights.

avatar Bruce Smith January 22, 2010 at 11:44 am

To make it absolutely crystal clear the issue here is not one of “free speech” it’s about the right to legalize “freedom to blackmail.”

The decision by the Fascist Five yesterday ratifies that America has gone back a thousand years to the time when the sociopathic pit bull King John in England thought he could do as he damm well pleased but had to be brought to heel by the signing the Magna Carta or face the military forces of the barons defeating his forces. If it does in the end come to another civil war in America to resolve this issue of the arrangement of democratic forces, or checks and balances, it would seem right to call it the Sociopath War since it would essentially be about how best to check the abusive free-riders that the human race continuously generates through genetic malfunction and abusive nurturing environment.

avatar Bruce Smith January 22, 2010 at 11:50 am

Just to expand the “blackmail” point a little see:-

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/01/22/us/politics/22donate.html?ref=us

avatar Bruce Smith January 22, 2010 at 2:09 pm

At root is the purpose of democracy to overcome “contempt” with “compassion”? Compassion for self and other? This article on “Sociopathy on the Right” helps shed some light:-

http://www.redroom.com/blog/tim-wise/sociopathy-right-ayn-rand-and-triumph-conservative-cultism

avatar RJ March 29, 2011 at 9:47 am

I was sampling this article because it looked interesting. Then I came across the use of “tea-baggers”.

Using a vulgar sexual term to describe a political movement means that nothing else in the article could possibly be worth reading.

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