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Saturday, September 20, 2008

Feudalism Isn't the Same Thing As Socialism

I'm getting really tired of the smug way media people and pundits on the mainstream leftish side of things keep calling these bailout fantasies "socialism." I get it that it seems like an enjoyable "gotcha" way of putting things. People imagine that Republicans hear this and, ooh, it makes them so mad! Isn't that funny? But, honestly, who cares about that? This crisis is actually real, there are things happening here that will actually matter to millions of actual people's lives.

It has been the market fundamentalist Neoliberal law of the land since Carter's Fed Chair to facilitate the spreading or displacement or "socialization" of risks and costs of corporate enterprise, all the while hyper-privatizing the profits and benefits of that enterprise.

It would be completely insane to describe that state of affairs as "socialism." Yeah, the Reagan era, high water mark of United States socialism! Clintonian workfare and NAFTA crapola, American socialism triumphant!

Does anything mean anything to anybody? I mean, I know you have to make allowances. America's generalized Fox News consciousness is liable to declare as socialist anybody to the "left" of fascist dullard Sean Hannity at this point. Clearly, this is a term without much substantial meaning apart from its function as a schoolyard taunt in America. The Preamble to the Constitution of the United States would probably sound like socialism to millions in Sarah Palin's America, if they actually read it (one wishes they would also read the New Testament of that Bible they claim to cherish so much when they get in a "godly" lather over their war-making and money-making).

But people who do know better than this really need to take a little more care with these things, else ignorant people (many of whom have been exposed to little in the way of consistent sense in these matters, which is importantly the fault of people of sense) will just bulldoze ahead and off the cliff without a pause in their strides, without a second thought, without knowing any better what they are doing, taking everybody else with them.

I frankly doubt that there is likely ever to be much in the way of benefits or profits to arise out of this steaming pile of incredibly bad loans, but if any benefits or profits eventuated somehow from these bailouts and these benefits and profits were likewise to be "socialized" -- that is to say, distributed back as dividends to the taxpayers who are now expected to fund them -- then perhaps it would make marginally more sense to describe the emerging bailout consensus as "socialist," I guess, if we really had to.

But a better word for what happens when elite minorities privatize benefits and profits while socializing risks and costs is very old fashioned perfectly recognizable dumb-as-a-bag-of-hair feudalism. Feudalism isn't the same thing as socialism. Our "investor class," "creative class," CEO celebrities and congressional and broadcast-mediated millionaires clubs are simply a self-appointed ruthlessly self-interested and jealously self-protecting clutch of rather mediocre would-be aristocrats.

aka: The Village in Netrootspeak.

The Bailouts do not appear to me to be new in the least, but to represent a direct continuation, intensification, and amplification of the neoliberal policies that produced the crisis in response to which they are presumably being offered as a solution. Crappy loans backed by nothing but the desire of greedy assholes to exploit a lack of oversight or regulation to make short-term profits is not a "liquidity problem" but a problem of insolvency. The crap is real, it's hit the fan, and it is to indulge in the same ideological fantasizing that produced the problem to wave it away as a "liquidity problem." The mindset that views the current crisis as one of liquidity is precisely the neoliberal mindset that imagined the economy was strengthened when it was financialized in the first place and our productive capacity, our savings, our infrastructure all evaporated to be replaced by "branding capital" and "informational goods" and "loan packages."

All this liquidity is pissing down our backs and pretending it's raining. I know, I know, I'm not an economist, just another angry blogger, so there's no need to worry your pretty little heather heads about what I say.

By the way and way of conclusion, I mentioned a moment ago the swiftly emerging public "bailout consensus." Have you noticed that the pundits and policy makers seem to be growing more assured about this consensus, despite the fact that no more actual details are forthcoming about what problems it is really addressing, who is expected to implement it and how, and who ends up with all this money, under what conditions, and who pays for what and how?

This is always a wonderful sign for the everyday people who have to clean up after the messes of our betters.

It seems to me that all the pundits and media heathers and policy makers are just glomming onto a few magical phrases that have been repeated enough times at last to substitute in their brains for some kind of substance and get them off the hook of needing to understand anything that is actually going on for the moment.

And now I fully expect they will get in their circle and hold hands and pretend that all the people who have been wrong about everything and caused all these problems represent our saviors somehow (it must be those impeccably tailored suits) and they will ridicule anybody outside the circle who expresses any skepticism that can't be properly soundbited (soundbit?), thereby dictating the terms of available however inadequate reasonableness in precisely the same tonalities with which they once no doubt policed diversity in high school, ferreting out the "cool kids" from the uncool ones, flinging these unrebuttable content-free insinuations at them in a deflationary and perfectly effective effort at censorship of the sensible and any actually critical thinking at exactly the moment when we need it most desperately.

I think the Establishment, in the name of offering up solutions, is blowing a trillion dollars to kick the ball forward without solving anything. I think that trillion dollars is real, and its reality will take the form of you and your friends and your kids living with less freedom and less future and dying sooner and more painfully and more pointlessly than you otherwise would have.

I think that if you aren't angry about that, and if you don't see to it that you and better more sensible people working on behalf of your actual interests have more of a say in the public decisions that affect you, then you are a very foolish person indeed.

Right now, that means getting Obama into the White House and getting more Democrats into Congress and into State government, especially the handful of more progressive democrats who are emerging on the scene -- perhaps you will be among them yourselves? -- more and better democrats, holding democratic feet to the fire, pushing back against the corporatists militarists and theocrats and all their mudslinging and influence-peddling and money-grubbing and war-making and buck-passing and lawless looting.

I think things are unbelievably bad at the moment, much worse than even I feared they might be, and it is time to get as involved in the political process to turn the tide as you are able. Vote, but also contribute what you can, where you can. I am truly frightened for my country and for our future today.

1 comment:

Antonin said...

Great rant !

The sad thing is, while you guys seem to be edging ever so slightly toward an actual resolution of this “Movement Conservative” epoch (if we can put any stock into Obama’s wording), here in Canada we are witnessing the unexplainable ascent of another Bushnik clique gathered around Stephen Harper’s paternalistic posturing. While mainstream media has been quite prompt in underlining the ideological grounding to much of his policy (on art and culture, policy-maker transparency, copyright, Vancouver’s safe injection sites, crime on pregnant women (!)) the mass of voters are apparently able to bypass information and latch onto his simplistic narrative of “family values” and “law and order”. The Fox News syndrome is spreading, and it is no good news for a many-partied Left against a consolidated Right as is the case here…