FDL discusses The Mendacity of Hope: Barack Obama and the Betrayal of American Liberalism
I just finished reading through an excellent book discussion on FireDogLake that directly and explicitly addressed the questions of how to organize an alternative political movement to overcome the Democratic-Republican duopoly that currently dominates our political economy: FDL Book Salon Welcomes Roger D. Hodge, The Mendacity of Hope: Barack Obama and the Betrayal of American Liberalism.
eCAHNomics, who somehow spent 30 years on Wall Street without apparently losing his or her soul, posed the direct challenge to the moderator’s stated hope that “we still have a chance to topple the corporate empire.” (comment # 11)
How in the world to do that, or anything like it?
Perhaps you hadn’t noticed, but the third political party is on the right, not the left. That’s because they get all the $$ from the usual suspects & all the organizing talent. There is simply no way for the left to match any such effort.
The class war is over & the rich won.
To which the moderator, Christopher Ketcham replied:
I think Hodge frames class war very specifically in terms of killing corporate personhood, given that corporations are the vehicles of warfare by the very rich against the rest of America…and how to kill corporate persons is indeed a question. A constitutional convention to amend the law of the land so that corporate personhood is explicitly abolished?
Hodge agreed that tackling the issue of corporate personhood is key.
In another response, Hodge recommends Thomas Ferguson’s new book, Golden Rule: The Investment Theory of Party Competition and the Logic of Money-Driven Political Systems. which shows that FDR was able to implement the New Deal by building an investment bloc of corporations who supported his programs. Hodge then observes
The Democrats’ current investment coalition is dominated by the FIRE sector. That’s all you really needed to know to predict how Obama would govern.
This of course brings to mind the distinction Thorstein Veblen makes between industry and business. As economist Douglas W. MacKenzie explains in a November 2007 paper, Veblen examined the functional and cultural differences between financial and industrial institutions, contrasting the profit-driven process of financial capitalism, to the workmanship and science-driven machine process of industry. In general, once an industrial firm falls under the sway of “business managers” and financiers, its focus becomes one “of acquisition, not of production; of exploitation, not of serviceability”.
So, moderator Christopher Ketcham’s comment (# 129) is extremely important in taking a clear-eyed and hard-headed view of American political history:
Let’s talk a minute about Clinton and the Third Way he ushered in under the name of liberalism. Clinton was even worse than Reagan on the matter of industry deregulation, or, more precisely, in the way he allowed industry to drift into consolidation. DOJ anti-trust enforcement became a dead letter… under his administration massive consolidation occurred in telecommunications, media, oil, agribusiness, banking, and retail trade, with Clinton’s DOJ overseeing an estimated 70,000 mergers at a cumulative combined value of $6 trillion – more than the entire GDP of the country in 1992…
In the same service of an accurate view of American political history, it is essential to highlight two comments by Hodge, and warn that they can be dangerously misleading:
Roger D. Hodge November 13th, 2010 at 2:12 pm
In response to Christopher Ketcham @ 8
One of the most fascinating things about American history is the way it keeps repeating a basic pattern that was established in the 1790s: the conflict between Hamiltonian administration and Madisonian republicanism. The names change but the story stays the same. Hamilton self-consciously set out to create a financial oligarchy. Madison and Jefferson went into opposition. Now we have two Hamiltonian parties, both of which tend to the needs of the financial oligarchy
Roger D. Hodge November 13th, 2010 at 3:20 pm
In response to eCAHNomics @ 128
The opposition is that between the republican principle of self-governance and the Hamiltonian principle of oligarchy. You see it in the 1790s, in the Jacksonian era, with the populist movement, the progressive era, the New Deal, the Civil Rights movement, etc. That’s the pattern I was alluding to.
Unfortunately, the historical record is much more complicated, because the attempted secession of the Confederacy was based on the theory of Madisonian republicanism, with explicit attacks on the North for its “Hamiltonian principle of oligarchy.” Entire dissertations can be, and have been, written, on the following point: the fight between Jefferson and Madison on the one hand, and Hamilton on the other, also takes the form of the debate about enumerated powers versus implied powers of the federal government. The Tea Party today is quite clear and strident in demanding an adherence to a view of the federal government as being strictly limited to only those powers expressly written (enumerated) into the Constitution. The problem, of course, is that the “enumerated powers” interpretation of the Constitution leaves the federal government unable to actually function as a national government, as Hamilton argued in advising President Washington to sign the law chartering the First Bank of the United States.
It must be understood that the New Deal policies and programs – which represent, according to Sheldon Wolin, the highest stage of political freedom in our historical development – rest squarely on the implied powers interpretation. But at the same time, there is quite substantial evidence that Hamilton’s approach does favor the creation of oligarchy. It is such a complex and intractable issue, that Associate Justice Joseph Story, in his 1833 landmark study, Commentaries on the Constitution of the United States, began his consideration of Article I, Section 8 with this prescient warning:
WE have now arrived, in the course of our inquiries, at the eighth section of the first article of the constitution, which contains an enumeration of the principal powers of legislation confided to congress. A consideration of this most important subject will detain our attention for a considerable time; as well, because of the variety of topics, which it embraces, as of the controversies, and discussions, to which it has given rise. It has been, in the past time, it is in the present time, and it will probably in all future time, continue to be the debateable ground of the constitution, signalized, at once, by the victories, and the defeats of the same parties. Here; the advocates of state rights, and the friends of the Union will meet in hostile array. And here, those, who have lost power, will maintain long and arduous struggles to regain the public confidence, and those, who have secured power, will dispute every position, which may be assumed for attack, either of their policy, or their principles. Nor ought it at all to surprise us, if that, which has been true in the political history of other nations, shall be true in regard to our own; that the opposing parties shall occasionally be found to maintain the same system, when in power, which they have obstinately resisted, when out of power. Without supposing any insincerity or departure from principle in such cases, it will be easily imagined, that a very different course of reasoning will force itself on the minds of those, who are responsible for the measures of government, from that, which the ardour of opposition, and the jealousy of rivals, might well foster in those, who may desire to defeat, what they have no interest to approve.
Folks, that was written in 1833!
So, mastering this issue of enumerated powers versus implied powers is one of the requirements for the development of a revolutionary consciousness to address our current predicament.
Throughout the discussion on FireDogLake, I was sorely vexed that I had not been able to participate, and urge people to read Lawrence Goodwyn’ s The Populist Moment: A Short History of the Agrarian Revolt in America
a left-liberatarian — a kind of anarcho-capitalist — secessionist movement in Vermont (see: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/christophe...)
Short of secession — which is unlikely — they hope to start a state-wide movement in answer to the capture of the two-party duopoly by FIRE and corporate America. They want to pass laws that outlaw usury, that severely curb the “freedoms” of corporate persons in their state, that abolish the power of money in elections. They want to establish a state bank, along the lines of the Bank of North Dakota, to keep credit and debt within Vermont. They want to bring home the national guard and implement state-wide tax revolts against support of our wars and the continuing enrichment of the military-industrial sector.
In summary, I believe Hodge is correct when he stated:
Boycotts, strikes, protests, etc. are all part of the toolkit. But first we have to bring public opinion along.
And to shape public opinion, we need to know more and be smarter than anyone else.