The Truth, an Open Letter on Why This America, and This Left, Are Doomed
This America is doomed. There will be another America, and millions of people will live there. Many will be happy. Some will be well off. But it will not be this America.
This Left is doomed. There will be another left, and people will believe in it. But it will not be this left, nor composed of the people who have been made icons of it.
It is true that Barack Obama is a worthless piece of human garbage. But this is not a fact that really matters. Yes, he swept into power by whispering to stupid activists "I'm black, I tell you, black!" And the stupid activists went forth, like good racists, and said "He's black, I tell you, black!" And Americans voted, despite his race. Then, when he did what he promised, that is to be the compassionate conservative heir to Reagan that the village had wanted in Bush, the left self-spun and developed elaborate theories about how he was weak. Obama is not weak – he believes, as most of the elite believes, that you prove you are strong by how many little people you can torture, in the name of protecting the system. If not Obama, they would have found someone else to do the job.
The problem is, it is the job that most of you, the left, wanted. Many will hold out scraps that some other person might have done better. No, in his last moment of honesty before flaming out in his own affair, and in the dying of the one person who kept him honest, John Edwards said "they will take everything." And they will. But it is because Americans want them too.
This is an arc. I came to notice, accidentally, by denouncing the corruption of politics. Then, back in 2003, there were still two last hopes to save America. They were little hope, but they were hope. I unfurled a banner of "We can do this, because we are doing it." And went forth to try and help elect a better man to the Presidency than the one who had illegally been installed in 2000. But it was with the acceptance of all. Remember, not one Senator could be found who would challenge Bush's selection. Albert Gore, in an irony, made the very last ruling, in the chain of rulings, that would allow Bush to be installed.
That was the moment where our doom was almost certain. But it came after many others. Clinton a hero? It was he who passed the regulations which led to our present banking crisis. What Bill Clinton is, is a man who feels enough for other men, to wrest as much for them as the corporate system would allow. He is the best of a bad lot, and it is not entirely wrong to believe in him as the "big dog." But it isn't right to think of him as any more than the man that George Herbert Walker Bush aspired to be.
And before that, we voted for Reagan, essentially three times. Few countries get to make that kind of mistake more than once. And yet, America was rich enough to survive it, in part because our peer competitor fell first.
So this is the baby boom: the most fortunate generation born to history, anywhere ever. Alone at the pinnacle of world power. Given by the investment of the past a technology that could reap gains to the world in the internet, and with enough education to execute even the most labyrinthian plans. And it is wasted. Here, at not quite the end of their power, there might be one more boomer President, they have ruined the American engine of growth, wasted its credit, destroyed its honor, and burned away the accumulated moral authority bought with the Cold War.
There have been worse generations, but none have wasted so much, so fast, for so little.
But a country is not doomed when it has bad leaders alone. America is corrupt down every level. Right this instant, almost every American who has thought about it, knows that Afghanistan is a failed bloody joke. Almost everyone who has a bit of insight, knows that we must leave as quickly as possible. It was Holbrooke's last words, and he was no peacenik. But is the country brought to a stop? Are we seeing National Guardsman have to shoot to kill to protect the war? No, we are not.
A country is doomed when it cannot enforce its own laws. Consider what happens to a person who shares some files. They are fined 500 times the highest estimate of damages that the recording industry can make up. 500 times. Now do some simple math. What would happen had the banking system been fined 500 times the highest estimate of damages? Let's take the number of 10 Trillion that has been thrown around. 10 x 500 = 5000. 5000 trillions is 5 quadrillion dollars. Or more than the expected net present future value of the solar system. We have a better chance of dying off, than paying back the penalties that would be leveled, if a banker were charged the same way a mom from the Midwest is.
A country is doomed when given last chances to convert to a new economy, it does so only for war. The world's first petroleum economy was Great Britain. They converted their navy to it, but not their civilian economy.
A country is doomed when its opposition is so corrupt that it cannot be trusted to oppose. Let me name some names.
Let's start with Jane Hamsher. She's been called out to run for office by some of her zombies. But let me tell you some, though by no means more than an tiny fraction, of truth about Jane Hamsher. She's sold the left out over and over again. Back in the early days of the Obama administration, many of her own writers wanted to oppose Obama, sensing, or in some cases have positive knowledge, that Obama was a marketing campaign wrapped around a messiah complex. She stopped it. Got people taken out.
Then she went into opposition, to collect the donation stream that keeps her afloat. Suddenly, in the abstract, unattached to anything, she looked like she was principled. But that lasts only as long as her interest does. Given a chance to have the mandate taken out of the health care bill, her young and stupid hatchet man Jon Walker is on the case, doing what is good for Jane and himself. Instead of taking the moment to say "single payor, nothing more, nothing less," which would be the principled thing to do, she goes for getting the mandate with universal issue. Let me connect the dots for you. It is no secret that Jane Hamsher is a cancer survivor. She needs universal issue, out of all the things in the bill. Jon Walker is young, he would benefit by not paying the mandate. So does Jane, because FDL could not afford to pay the mandate, and making her own people eat the penalty would be one hypocrisy too far out of her legion of hypocrisies.
So they break and run for what is good for them, and try and warp the rules of logic to get there. Power is the only thing they need to do this. Power that thousands of little people, as deluded by her as they were by Obama, and in the same way, gave her, and give her. Power her writers give her.
Let me add another name. Kagro X has been made a hero by many. His theory is that control of the minutiae of the legislative process is the key to progressive victory. After two years of the largest Democratic majorities in a generation, did we see legislative victories? No. This is because procedure never matters as to what gets done. Procedure is about how to take credit, and duck or distribute blame. Procedure is not a game to victory, it is the currency by which leaders protect their members. It is a kind of petty corruption that is necessary, but it is not a key to victory on any issue. If the legislature doesn't want to do it, it will not be allowed to happen. But you've made him a hero, when, in fact, he's a zero, a born follower who, like most, will sit in the way, rather than admit that his piece is small.
Let me add another name. Nathan Newman. Called a labor economist with a conscience, he sold out the labor movement, pimping a so-called labor reform bill as a replacement to the EFCA. He shouted down those who would not get on board. Labor is just booming right now, isn't it?
I could go on, most of your so called heros have sold you out over and over again. But to prove this is not about personal pique, let me take a counter example. Dean Baker has always been personally rude and contemptuous of me, often to bizarre lengths. But Dean has a saving grace. He really believes. He might have bad ideas, he might be rigid in his thinking. But he will not sell people out. As much as Dean Baker is a problem for me personally, he is deserving of respect for having a quantity so rare, that it could not be priced on any market in the world. I could add other examples, but too few. This is not about me. I am not an important person in any way any more. It is about the system that creates such people.
Why does it generate corrupt liars like Jane Hamsher? Why does it give chances to empty brains like Jon Walker? Or corrupt bullies like Nathan Newman?
That is easy. Let me introduce you to the marginal theory of value, as applied to micro politics. The cost of anything is the cost of the next one. If 7 worps can be made, and 10 people all want one, then the cost of a worp is what the seventh person who wants one will pay. Conversely, if 11 worps can be made, and 10 people all want one, the cost of a worp is the lowest that 10th person pays, even if the other 9 are willing to pay more. Much of business is designed to create artificial scarcity so that there are too few worps.
So who are the marginal values of blogging? Of course, the people who are just barely out of the system. That means the micro-political. The people who are just barely in. That means the micro-political. In general, the left is the first, the people who need just one more government benefit. In general, the right is the second, the people who just barely have positive cash flow, so long as they don't have to pay one more dime in taxes, and don't have the interest from their savings go down by a dime. The people most willing to pay for blogging, are the ones who are trying to sell someone else out.
Jane is betraying you for her one benefit. So are others. The people who are very far in, or very far out, are not motivated small donors. But they might be motivated large donors. But no large donor is more than a stone's throw away from the central banking system, and that is a large measure of our problem: that undemocratic institutions determine how much economic activity, and what kind, is acceptable.
Is there hope? Not for this wave. But die and there is life.
Was this wasted? No. We have done what Britain did in World War II, what the Alamo did for the Americans in Texas. What a thousand first responders have done for ten thousand fire victims. We have bought time. Precious time. Were McCain in power now, we would have seen an even more dramatic decline in our fortunes. Obama is Bush's third term. McCain would have tried to be his fourth at the same time.
Was this wasted? No more than Sturm und Drang was wasted to the revolutions that followed. No more than Giotto was wasted on Michelangelo. No more than the Mannheim school was on Mozart. No more than a thousand pickets in a hundred battles, who fell so that others might taste victory. It is not to us to determine the course of the battle, nor to us to shape the war, nor to us to write the peace. We will be cold in the grave.
I began notice by preaching that a new social order was coming, which I termed "the sphere." That this social order will be a balance between the means by which people organize themselves, and the objective facts of their organization. That it would replace, and go to war with, the older structure, which I termed "the pyramid." It has been seen in the case of Assange that the first pitched battle over politics is being fought between the sphere and the pyramid. Many of the people who are fighting might seem repellent. But they are your people, and you are theirs – though neither side truly understands it.
The arguments of the pyramid, its spectrum from left to right, are meaningless in the context of spherical organization. Even many of your heros, such as Paul Krugman, are nothing more than bleeding heart Reaganites. They are adherents to the neo-liberal theory of money, which says that interest rates control the economy best, and are only arguing how to get over this one hump and back to normalcy. There is a famous book that made that argument. It is called The Road to Serfdom. It was written by Hayek, an arch-conservative. Krugman is of the same basic ideological fabric. He might use Keynes' theory, but he does not live in Keynes' world. He rejected a Tobin tax, until it was too late. He pushed the failed heath insurance bill, calling it, wrongly, exactly what theory would dictate. He defended Bernanke, one of the architects of the collapse, both as advisor and then Fed chairman. Remember, you were warned about this. That he has argued for more marginal social benefits than other bleeding heart Reaganites, does not mean that he does not live in the same zip code as Ben Bernanke.
The sphere too will have a political spectrum. Its fights will be as stiff, it's angers as deep. It is not a faction against a faction, it is a world against a world.
I said, when I began this, that I would not often tell stories. Let me tell you one. The Mongols formed the largest land empire of the pre-mechanical age. They spread law and a postal system. They had democratic institutions. They were probably the greatest army that has ever been fielded in comparison to the armies against them. They conquered China. And after the first, great, Yuan emperor, the dynasty began to trail off quickly. What did the last emperors of this dynasty do? They spent it codifying law, finishing official histories, until rebellion and famine imploded their dynasty, less than a century after its foundation. The Ming, and Qing, dynasties which followed did not care for these projects first. Reform is a word, it means "decay."
If any age was suited to fixing problems with 1000 page bills, it is not ours. No age is more willing to reform, no age has been worse at it. In the last 20 years we've reformed welfare, and increased poverty, reformed the FDA, and gotten more bad food and bad drugs, reformed the banking system, twice, and the accounting rules, and gotten the largest financial crisis based on outright fraud in the history of the world. We've pushed to reform the UN and NATO, and gotten two long failed wars. We've reformed the campaign finance system, and gotten Citizen's United and the virtual ending of public funding of Presidential elections. Reform is the word people use, when they don't want to change anything in result, but want to be able to leave work at 4 o'clock every day.
And even in this, there is corruption. Consider the PPACA. It was debated endlessly, it took more votes to pass than the entire First Hundred Days, and is longer than the total of the legislation. It went through both houses. It has also lost a court case, which declares one provision unconstitutional. Had the legislature wished to, it would have included a "severability" clause. The kind you find on every End User License Agreement you will ever click through without reading. It says if one part is found unconstitutional, the others will function. It could even be used to create intent of the legislature on linkage: specific provisions could be tied together. It is not in the Senate bill, which was ping ponged back to the House. The clause was removed from the bill. That's right, no one wanted to sign their name to the corrupt bargain. The result is that courts will have to peer into the murky "legislative intent" and decide which parts can and cannot be chopped off.
That is, this is a generation in power that wants to pass 1000 page bills, and cannot be trusted to do it without screwing it up. They can't even do the jobs they say they are good at doing.
This is to be expected, the pyramid gets more expensive with each layer, and heavier. Two cycles ago I pointed out that the amount of money spent on the political system was unsustainable, it was doubling virtually every four years, and has done so again. It has blown through all limits. It has destroyed all restraint. And it will grow even more. 2012 will be more expensive than 2008.
But the pyramid is reaching its limits. I can no longer lock up everyone it deems unsafe: for the first time in 30 years, the American prison population barely grew. We have gone from 500,000 to 2.5 million in 30 years, when the population has grown only by a fraction of that. This is not a society which has the consent, of enough, of the governed.
A greater man than any most of us will even see from a distance once said that the world will little note what he said. It was a modesty that is easy for a man who knows the reverse is true, or little will matter at all. It is harder to write when it almost certainly is true. There are other things to write, but they are not for the present. The present is a slow spiral down. There will be ups, moments of seeming spring, just as sunspots and volcanos have slowed global warming, for a moment, and delivered a cold spell to Europe and America. But the world is growing warmer none the less. Every day there is one less day of oil, every day we grow closer to the abyss. The austerity in Europe, is coming here soon. It does not matter how much you cut, or what you do with taxes, because manipulations of money or law are, at this point, drinking your way to sobriety.
You cannot follow leaders, you will topple them should they arise, and install, in place, people who are corrupt like yourselves.
You cannot save the planet, the planet is not in danger. Instead, one charlatan after another will come, and say that the managerial class can manage to get out of this. They can't because the problem is not that ordinary people are under-managed, it is that they will not demand the change that is needed. What is politically viable, and what is realistically necessary, do not intersect at any point.
Accept this truth: your America is doomed. Your left is doomed. Your words are doomed, and destined to be ridiculed. Either for being wrong, for being corrupt, or for being feebly unable to express a truth that will be as obvious as the immorality of slavery is to you.
Once in the 1990's it was fashionable among anarcho-libertarians to compare themselves to small smart mammals against dinosaurs. I have some news. First the premammals, that is "mammalformes" lost out to the dinosaurs. And, they spent 50 million years scurrying around after that. And they only got their chance because of a massive meteor impact. Not a good plan unless you have 50 million years to kill. This is not the only myth that little people tell themselves, which is a lie. But it is somewhat the most humorous.
The reality is that as long as you want the benefits that the pyramid supplies: mcMansions, air travel, fly rides, or even the endless permutations that petroleum makes possible in fashion, you will have to pay whatever price the pyramid charges, at the rate that the pyramid trades time and freedom for oil and its products. New leadership cannot change that exchange rate, only determine how many dollars denominate it. Only by shifting to a different structure of economy, will there be change.
Not signing off, but there's no reason for any sane person not being paid to, to write one more word about any contemporary conflict, except as a way to point out that the present system is now on a downward slide that will end within the lifetimes of most of your readers. Life expectancy in American just fell last year, despite fewer accidents, and few murders. It is now lower than on Puerto Rico. The data that show the physical effects of decline are now there, for all to read.
And there is no way to reconfigure the present arrangements to change that.