“Deadbeat Nation” sounds like a great name for book. And as it turns out, it is a book. In A Nation of Deadbeats: An Uncommon History of America’s Financial Disasters, William & Mary professor Scott Reynolds Nelson argues that American history consists of a never-ending string of defaults at the individual, municipal, and state levels. Credit bubbles alternately finance transformative policies like westward expansion and infrastructure improvements, and then remake the nation’s political landscape when they invariably pop. Economist Tyler Cowen, in a New York Times Magazinereview last July, needed just one sentence to summarize the book: “We have hardly ever had a well-functioning banking system.”
What this means is that from the very beginning the finances of this country were based on fraud. Watch the video here.
In this he shows how nearly all the financial disasters and crisis can be traced back to bank and financier investments that were dodgy at best and fraudulent at worst. What Nelson I think does not realize is that in this he also shows how capitalism itself is at it’s very core is based on fraud, swindling and corruption. And at the head are the bankers.
I have watched a number of these types of videos and read a number of articles and online books of this sort by various economic and financial historians etc. all with the stated or unstated premiss that there is nothing wrong with capitalism providing it is done honestly.
Then each one without exception goes on to show unequivocally that there is no such thing as honest capitalism. There never has been and probably never will be.
One of the main topics these days has been about how to “save the system”. Meaning our current political and economic system here and maybe elsewhere. Or the eventual collapse of same regardless of what anyone does or attempts to do.
And one of the main aspects of this is then context in which this is being done. As if the time after WWII and the depression of the 1930s is the way things have always been and the attitudes there in were the way people always were. The problem here is that anyone who has read any history should know – this is false. But most of us still alive think this way. Those of us born after WWII. The so called Baby Boomers and their off spring.
Before WWII unless you were born into a “Middle Class” family – and I am using the wikipedia definition here, the college educated professional class – your life would be pretty rough. Either working a farm or on one or working in some factory in some metro area for horrible pay and lousy working conditions and lousy housing. And that is if you were white. If you were a minority, it was even rougher.
There were no suburbs or interstate highways or big box discount stores. Health care was minimal, if at all. And the depression made this all much worse. For farmers thing were already getting rough with droughts that precede the dust bowl and the depression. Not to mention that just prior to this in the late 1800s, grain prices had gone down a black hole do to over production caused by the mechanization of farming.
And unless you were born into a very well off family, higher education was pretty much out of the question. There were few state universities and the private ones were beyond all but the very fortunate.
Babe boomers however had it much much better. Our parents got to go to college thanks to Uncle Sam if they were in the service. State Universities were being built along with community colleges. The war and what followed created a huge demand for workers not know before hand. There was a major building boom do to the lack of housing and suburbs popped up like weeds. Unemployment was low and wages were going up. If you were white, during this period, you future was a hell of lot more rosy than you parents was. And most kids then were expected to go to college if they had anything on the ball at all. A major change from previous generations.
Now here is the problem. We were all told – on the radio, television, by our parents and in school – this is the way things are and the ways things will always be. Maybe not on those words, but that was the message. We were not told that this was primarily because the US was the only show in town. That the rest of the world was in the stone age or had been bombed into the stone age. That a very large number of the jobs out there had to do with make weapons to fight those horrible communists. That the cheap gas and oil etc. were provided by US companies that used slave labor to steal it from other less developed nations.
And to tell you the truth few if any of us cared. We were too busy with rock and roll and the beat generation. Hot Rods and girls. The space race. A few of us became aware of racial bigotry and civil rights and began to come a bit more involved with this. Joining marches and protests and singing songs. But with the intention of returning to our nice comfortable lives.
The Vietnam war geared up and more of us get involved with protesting that – primarily to keep our heads from being blown off. And with the intention of returning to our nice comfortable lives. But along the way a lot of us became very disenchanted with our government and political system. We grew up idealistic and getting pretty much what we wanted. We expected to be treated well and listened to and when we were not… When we were treated like some kind of inconvenient pest, a large number developed a deep seated resentment. And far too often this was passed on to their children as well.
We were going to change the world…the system and when we could not, felt betrayed by the whole establishment. Government, education, corporate…you name it. But our expectations were unreal. We were unaware or refused to accept that the times and our it’s prosperity were one huge propaganda event. To show the world that our system was so much better that the “other” system. And as soon as this was no longer necessary, tossed aside like a used newspaper.
Because far too many of us – of my generation, the boomers – would not completely see that because we were white that others were not, was a big reason why our lives had been so comfortable. And that as soon as that was no longer necessary, we would become unnecessary as well.
We had the privilege to live a fantasy. A Disney kind of life for a while. But the fantasy is over. Time to get real.
America has been called the great melting pot. If so, then to me at least, it’s more like fondue that has gone horribly wrong. This great mixing of cultures has yielded a country that is becoming more splintered and divided each year. Instead of molding the traditions and cultural values that were brought over here by those from other areas into one, a number of these beliefs and values have been lost or simply tossed aside.
A country where personal agendas and monetary rewards take president over relationships and community. I remember when it was not so much. When everything did not have a price and avarice was considered by most to be crude and uncouth. Where you went out of your way from friends because friendship meant something. Where people looked out for one another and supported one another. Where jingoistic propaganda was not necessary to get people to back and idea or action. Where everything did not have to be sold by a carnival barker.
I remember a time when a cabbage could sell itself just by being a cabbage. Nowadays it’s no good being a cabbage-unless you have an agent and pay him a commission. Nothing is free any more to sell itself or give itself away. These days, Countess, every cabbage has it’s pimp. -Rag Picker “The Madwoman of Chaillot“
Morris Berman brings this up using Seinfeld as a definitive example.
In the case of the Seinfeld scripts, Jerry provided the upbeat, overt aspect of the show’s humor, while Larry David supplied the subtext. Larry’s vision, especially about America, was quite dark. As a result, there is an undercurrent in the episodes, one which says that the United States is a country in which friendship is pretty much a sham and community nonexistent; a society where nobody gives a damn about anybody else.
This is true not only in the way that the four central characters–Jerry, Elaine, George, and Kramer–relate to those outside their little circle, but also in the way they relate to each other. They often talk simultaneously, “through” each other, as though the other person weren’t even present. All four of them appear to have only one motive: advancement of their own personal and immediate goals. In a word, the show is actually about the callousness, the almost autistic indifference, of daily life in America; and this is revealed in episode after episode.
Berman then gives a half a dozen plot synopsis as examples of this. But he leaves out I think a very important aspect in the socio economic context. That of the upper class white areas. The gated communities and those with home owners associations and condos and what not. Upper class suburbia and upper class town houses etc. But even the series Friends tried to play this kind of relationship for laughs as well, though with a bit more subtlety.
Among the poor and black and asian and latino communities, this is not the case. At least not nearly as much. For they need to have more brotherhood and fellowship to make it. And from my own small experience they do. This deep rooted community spirit was most prevalent within various ethnic and cultural areas but rarely between different ones. It was also quite visible in rural family farming areas and amongst those who were laborers and blue collar workers as well. It helped to bring together unions and other organizations. It was this value system and attitude that pushed us forward and paved the way for the inventions and progressive attitudes.
So it should come as no surprise that as this value of brotherhood and community as diminished, so have the unions and other organizations. The “Me Generation” and their offspring have take over. Born with a silver spoon in their mouths, dishwashers to keep them clean and sanitary and a guaranteed income from their bought and payed for education. Those that want to throw out anything that they personally do not benefit from but costs them money. A nation that goes to war for no good reason but to further someones agenda. Where Ayn Rand can is a popular metaphor. And as Berman points out at the end of his piece:
When Jerry phones his lawyer, “Jackie Chiles” (a Johnnie Cochran look-alike), to explain that they were arrested for not coming to someone’s aid, Jackie explodes with indignation: “Why, that’s ridiculous!” he barks. “You don’t have to help anybody. That’s what this country is all about!” As the popular American expression has it, He got that one right.
The trial over, the judge sentences our heroes to a year in jail, commenting that “your callous disregard for other human beings threatens to rock the very foundations of society.” But which society? What the show tells us, in episode after episode, is that callous disregard for other human beings is the foundation of society–American society, that is. And so the subtext finally breaks through in no uncertain terms: Seinfeld was A Show About Something, after all.
Seinfeld ran for 10 seasons and was one of the most popular shows at the time. And no wonder, it presented American upper class values to a tee. This show about nothing in a country about noting.
The consumer confidence has dropped again for the second straight month according to AFP. As if this was some sort of anomaly. And at World Economic Forum in Davos the movers and shakers are try to figure out what to do next with the current economic down turn, as if they had any clue. They don’t but that’s OK, they’ll still party like there is no tomorrow. There just might not be.
The problem is that everyone thinks we are experiencing some odd deviation from the norm. That there is some problem with the world economy that needs to be fixed and if only the correct solution could be found, everything would right itself and start humming along. Nothing could be further from the truth.
Capitalism is an economic system that is inherently crisis-prone. It is driven by forces which cause it to be unstable, anarchic and self-destructive. This is as true today as it was over 150 years ago, when Karl Marx and his collaborator Frederick Engels described capitalism in the Communist Manifesto as “a society that has conjured up such gigantic means of production and of exchange, [that it] is like the sorcerer, who is no longer able to control the powers of the nether world whom he has called up by his spells.”1
Indeed, today’s world of wild stock market booms and slumps, recurring layoffs and long-term unemployment, corporate scandals and power blackouts, seems to fit their description better than ever before. The present economic downturn is no exception. The United States is currently in the middle of the longest period of job losses since the Great Depression of the 1930s. In fact, the U.S. economy today has 2.6 million fewer jobs that it did two years ago. Meanwhile, over two million people have lost health insurance coverage and personal bankruptcies hit a record of over 1.5 million households in 2002.2 In short, economic crises–recessions and depressions–were a part of capitalism at its birth and, despite promises to the contrary, continue to plague the system to this day.
Indeed. On need only to review the history of capitalism and the lists of financial crisis to see it is just one crisis and downturn after another with brief periods of stability followed by some economic bubble or boom followed by another crisis. Beginning ironically enough with tulips.
Tulip mania (1637)
South Sea Bubble (1720) Crisis of 1772 Panic of 1792 Panic of 1796-1797
Post-Napoleonic depression Danish state bankruptcy of 1813
Panic of 1819, a U.S. recession with bank failures; culmination of U.S.’s first boom-to-bust economic cycle Panic of 1825, a pervasive British recession in which many banks failed, nearly including the Bank of England Panic of 1837, a U.S. recession with bank failures, followed by a 5-year depression Panic of 1847 Panic of 1857, a U.S. recession with bank failures Panic of 1866
Long Depression(1873–1896) Panic of 1873, a US recession with bank failures, followed by a four-year depression Panic of 1884 Panic of 1890 Panic of 1893, a US recession with bank failures Australian banking crisis of 1893
Panic of 1907, a U.S. economic recession with bank failures
Wall Street Crash of 1929 and Great Depression (1929–1939) the worst depression of modern history
OPEC oil price shock Secondary banking crisis of 1973–1975 in the UK
Japanese asset price bubble (1986–2003)
Bank stock crisis (Israel 1983) Black Monday (1987)
Savings and loan crisis of the 1980s and 1990s in the U.S. 1991 India economic crisis Finnish banking crisis (1990s) Swedish banking crisis (1990s) 1994 economic crisis in Mexico
Quite a list. And these are just the biggies. There is a separate list of banking crisisthat is nearly as long. We love to blame each of these on who ever is the leader at the time as if he or she was responsible for it, when financial crisis and downturns are part of the capitalistic system. There is also some belief that eliminating empires would fix it it as well, when empire is part of capitalism. In fact it’s a requirement since capitalism requires continued growth to exist and continued growth requires empire.
As you can see the mean time between failure is horrible and an engineer worth his or her salt would get rid of the system. And it can no more be regulated that an avalanche.
This is normal. The lousy jobs and lousy education and lousy outlook. Until the next bubble or final crash or until we replace it.
“History is a set of lies that people have agreed upon,” Napoleon said. “Even when I am gone, I shall remain in people’s minds the star of their rights, my name will be the war cry of their efforts, the motto of their hopes.”
It has always been thus, that people will glorify and embellish the past to suit their own egos. Especially when it comes to wars and the victors but even the losers as well. With stories and monuments and what not. Hollywood has made a fortune on this. Books by the millions have been written glorifying the past one way or another.
The split between those in Memphis who hold up authentic heroes—those who fought to protect, defend and preserve life, such as [Ida B.]Wells and Burkle—and those who memorialize slave traders and bigots such as Forrest points up a disturbing rise of a neo-Confederate ideology in the South. Honoring figures like [Nathan Bedford] Forrestin Memphis while ignoring Wells would be like erecting a statue to the Nazi death camp commander Amon Goeth in the Czech Republic town of Svitavy, the birthplace of Oskar Schindler, who rescued 1,200 Jews.
The rewriting of history in the South is a retreat by beleaguered whites into a mythical self-glorification. I witnessed a similar retreat during the war in Yugoslavia in the 1990s. As Yugoslavia’s economy deteriorated, ethnic groups built fantasies of a glorious past that became a substitute for history. They sought to remove, through exclusion and finally violence, competing ethnicities to restore this mythological past. The embrace by nationalist groups of a nonreality-based belief system made communication with other ethnic groups impossible. They no longer spoke the same cultural language. There was no common historical narrative built around verifiable truth. A similar disconnect was illustrated last week in Memphis when the chairman of the city’s parks committee, William Boyd, informed the council that Forrest “promoted progress for black people in this country after the war.” Boyd argued that the KKK was “more of a social club” at its inception and didn’t begin carrying out “bad and horrific things” until it reconstituted itself with the rise of the modern civil rights movement.
This is not limited to political history but to economic history as well. Idolizing the events and leaders of a past that was not nearly as glorious and successful as even those of us who lived it would like to imagine. The post WWII era and FDR’s New Deal. Which either helped tremendously or hindered horribly our economic endeavors. Depending on which revisionist history one adheres to. It generally was not quite that clear cut.
The Depression of the late 1920s and 1930s and (supposed) prosperity following WWII seems to be the current interest of both the right and the left. All conveniently forgetting that this was simply one of many economic downturns and may not even have been the worst. The depression of the late 1800s was by some accounts far worse and even lasted far longer.
But the economic fundamentals were shaky. Wheat exporters from Russia and Central Europe faced a new international competitor who drastically undersold them. The 19th-century version of containers manufactured in China and bound for Wal-Mart consisted of produce from farmers in the American Midwest. They used grain elevators, conveyer belts, and massive steam ships to export trainloads of wheat to abroad. Britain, the biggest importer of wheat, shifted to the cheap stuff quite suddenly around 1871. By 1872 kerosene and manufactured food were rocketing out of America’s heartland, undermining rapeseed, flour, and beef prices. The crash came in Central Europe in May 1873, as it became clear that the region’s assumptions about continual economic growth were too optimistic. Europeans faced what they came to call the American Commercial Invasion. A new industrial superpower had arrived, one whose low costs threatened European trade and a European way of life.
As continental banks tumbled, British banks held back their capital, unsure of which institutions were most involved in the mortgage crisis. The cost to borrow money from another bank — the interbank lending rate — reached impossibly high rates. This banking crisis hit the United States in the fall of 1873. Railroad companies tumbled first. They had crafted complex financial instruments that promised a fixed return, though few understood the underlying object that was guaranteed to investors in case of default. (Answer: nothing). The bonds had sold well at first, but they had tumbled after 1871 as investors began to doubt their value, prices weakened, and many railroads took on short-term bank loans to continue laying track. Then, as short-term lending rates skyrocketed across the Atlantic in 1873, the railroads were in trouble. When the railroad financier Jay Cooke proved unable to pay off his debts, the stock market crashed in September, closing hundreds of banks over the next three years. The panic continued for more than four years in the United States and for nearly six years in Europe. The long-term effects of the Panic of 1873 were perverse. For the largest manufacturing companies in the United States — those with guaranteed contracts and the ability to make rebate deals with the railroads — the Panic years were golden. Andrew Carnegie, Cyrus McCormick, and John D. Rockefeller had enough capital reserves to finance their own continuing growth. For smaller industrial firms that relied on seasonal demand and outside capital, the situation was dire. As capital reserves dried up, so did their industries. Carnegie and Rockefeller bought out their competitors at fire-sale prices. The Gilded Age in the United States, as far as industrial concentration was concerned, had begun.
As the panic deepened, ordinary Americans suffered terribly. A cigar maker named Samuel Gompers who was young in 1873 later recalled that with the panic, “economic organization crumbled with some primeval upheaval.” Between 1873 and 1877, as many smaller factories and workshops shuttered their doors, tens of thousands of workers — many former Civil War soldiers — became transients. The terms “tramp” and “bum,” both indirect references to former soldiers, became commonplace American terms. Relief rolls exploded in major cities, with 25-percent unemployment (100,000 workers) in New York City alone. Unemployed workers demonstrated in Boston, Chicago, and New York in the winter of 1873-74 demanding public work. In New York’s Tompkins Square in 1874, police entered the crowd with clubs and beat up thousands of men and women. The most violent strikes in American history followed the panic, including by the secret labor group known as the Molly Maguires in Pennsylvania’s coal fields in 1875, when masked workmen exchanged gunfire with the “Coal and Iron Police,” a private force commissioned by the state. A nationwide railroad strike followed in 1877, in which mobs destroyed railway hubs in Pittsburgh, Chicago, and Cumberland, Md. The Real Great Depression – Scott Reynolds Nelson
But both sides of the debate really do not like talking about this part of history since upon close examination it revels how shaky the argument for capitalism really is. For this is the era that Marx was writing in and about. This crisis of capitalism that so parallels our own current situation. But that was the late 1800s and the capitalists were still able to grow and invent their way out of this mess. At least temporarily.
Inventions and growth though have built in limitations as well. This is one crisis that will not be grown out of or invented out of or even be solved by imperialistic wars, such as those used by Germany in the 1930s.
And like all eras of history, it has been glossed over by those who would like to think the years prior to WWI were so peaceful and nostalgic. Conveniently forgetting how horrific they actually were so as to vindicate their own agendas.
I just finished doing an electronic restoration on an old Hallicrafters S40 communications receiver circa 1947. Replaced all the old paper capacitors and the electrolytic capacitors and a few resisters. I also replaced the audio output tube and its associated components with an audio amplifier module I had since that particular vacuum tube was pretty pricey and the transformer as well.
Where I currently live I am not to far from the transmitter sites of some local radio stations but this did not seem to bother this radio when I was tuning around, I was able to listen to a station in Toronto Ontario quite well. This was not the case with a much newer Radio Shack DX302that I had which was overloaded by these close and powerful signals to the point of making it nearly useless trying to receive anything on the AM broadcast band.
With my hearing the way it is, I find the sound from the old Hallicrafters much more pleasing to listen to than my newer high priced receivers for AM and shortwave. But to be fair the old Hallicrafters was not as sensitive on the upper shortwave bands as any of the newer ones I have, including the RS DX302.
This not a diary to bash current technology. After all I have been mucking about in it since I was 10 years old and I am now in my 60s. Also, I enjoy working on and building and modifying radios and such, and have done so for nearly that long. I am concerned, though, about a few aspects of it.
I had a talk the other day with a gentleman who was here to do maintenance on my furnace. He came into my radio room and was fairly impressed – I guess – with my equipment and such. We got to talking about the current electronics and such, and how people just pitch them out when they break rather than getting the items repaired. I said that was the main reason I left the field of repair and went into computers. The occupation just went away. In fact component level repair is just not practical on today’s electronics. The parts are way too small and require specialized tools to replace them — assuming one can even get the replacement parts. In the case of microprocessors and specialized chips, this is quite often very difficult or impossible.
Which brings up another aspect of our current technology. The old vacuum tube equipment, though some it was pretty cheaply made, it was still quite robust. It was not as affected by voltage spikes or lightning or heat and humidity as current equipment is. It was much more repairable and less complex, to the point that you did not need much training or specialized tools to maintain it. Also we were not nearly so dependent on it in our lives.
Like the old cars with carburetors and distributors and such, that if they died on the road you could do some kind of quick fix to get you to a gas station to do a more complete repair. Nowadays that simply is not possible. Nearly every part is controlled by a computer.
Speaking of computers, I helped a friend last night with her’s because it had some unwanted software on it and getting rid of it was a considerable task. Computers are beyond most people to maintain, even the software can become unusable pretty quickly. With our dependence on them, this is becoming a major hassle.
Not simply computers but nearly everything we do now requires some sort of high tech to accomplish. There are processors in nearly everything now and the infrastructure as well. And little of it is protected from anything. From simple communications to every financial transaction and even many medical tasks. And all this data runs on fiber optic cable that has little protection from the the environment or from sabotage. Our electric infrastructure is right out in the open and as we have seen a number of times, can be brought to halt rather quickly.
We know how much pandemonium is caused if we lose electricity for a week. Imagine what it would be like if we lost it for a month or more. Or if we lost our data communications for a month or more, which can happen. It is nearly impossible to protect as it is so vast. But the loss of a few key sites could bring the whole thing down.
The fact that this has not occurred yet does not mean if would not or could not happen. And it’s a hell of a lot easier and cheaper to disable than flying planes into buildings. Weapons have already been developed to disable the electrical grid or parts of it.
One of the main reasons for this is the centralized control that is maintained by private monopolies, making our infrastructure very vulnerable. So while we sit back at our computers…sipping on our electrically brewed coffee…remember this the next time you use your cell phone.
Abandoned church - Lars K. Christensen/flickr creative commons
The American Empire was not like other historical empires, for from the very first it has been made up of various different ethnic and cultural groups. Initially French and Spanish. Then Dutch and British. With other nationalities coming later. Irish and German and Russian and (in my case) Finnish.
“There is a pattern in the past of civilization after civilization wearing out its welcome from nature, overexploiting its environment, overexpanding, overpopulating,” Wright said when I reached him by phone at his home in British Columbia, Canada. “They tend to collapse quite soon after they reach their period of greatest magnificence and prosperity. That pattern holds good for a lot of societies, among them the Romans, the ancient Maya and the Sumerians of what is now southern Iraq. There are many other examples, including smaller-scale societies such as Easter Island. The very things that cause societies to prosper in the short run, especially new ways to exploit the environment such as the invention of irrigation, lead to disaster in the long run because of unforeseen complications. This is what I called in ‘A Short History of Progress’ the ‘progress trap.’ We have set in motion an industrial machine of such complexity and such dependence on expansion that we do not know how to make do with less or move to a steady state in terms of our demands on nature. We have failed to control human numbers. They have tripled in my lifetime. And the problem is made much worse by the widening gap between rich and poor, the upward concentration of wealth, which ensures there can never be enough to go around. The number of people in dire poverty today—about 2 billion—is greater than the world’s entire population in the early 1900s. That’s not progress.”
Hedges essay deals with what he calls the Myth of Human Progress but I see it as very key to empire itself. That the bigger myth is that of a single American culture. We see evidence of it especially today with the fracturing of even the right wing movement. That what has bound people together was not some American history but rather a myth of American history built around some mythical culture.
Dmitri Orlov brings this up in this interview he did lat last year on Businessmatters radio. You can download and listen to it here. One of the things he (Orlov) brings up is the lack of community and the collapse of community standard,s as it were, in especially those areas that were hit hardest by Sandy last year. This is not surprising since community was weak at best even in those more upscale areas that were hit and was organized almost entirely around economic status and materialistic values. So when those were destroyed, so were the symbols of the “community”.
Communities as we here knew them in the past were organized almost entirely around some ethnic or cultural group. Sometimes religious but mostly ethnicity and culture of those who live there. The Italian or German or Irish or Chinese or etc. sections of nearly every metro area. This was also the case in the rural areas. The farmers were of similar cultural groups.
But as these people had children, fewer and fewer of these children would cling onto the cultural heritage of the parents and grandparents. Because of this the sense of community began to be lost or at best was some superficial aspect, such as their financial status or the suburban area or car they drove. It has no real roots. It was manufactured and sold by the media. The generic white anglo saxon male dominated family. Leave it to Beaver. My Three Sons. The Brady Bunch. Etc. And it was based almost completely on some personal self-centered agenda rather than the greater good. A product of Madison Ave. and Hollywood.
Orlov in this interview and his previous entries on his blog likes to compare the ex-Soviet Union with the US but I think he misses a key point. That is that the Soviet Union was make up of ethnic and cultural Russians for a large part. It was Russians fighting for other Russians during WWII, which is why they won it. This deep clan or tribal bond. Very like a family bond that America really does not have.
Which is why nearly all the war propaganda was about either fighting against something or some one. IE Nazis or Japs or Commies. Or for some vague ideal. Freedom. liberty…etc. Rarely – if ever – for America. That attitude or belief in always helping your fellows has never really existed in this country outside of one’s ethnic/cultural enclave. The superficial suburban groups never had it since it was based almost entirely on material standing. And once one lost this, one was out, so by definition there would be no help.
So with this economic grouping quickly falling by the wayside as the downturn accelerates, what we are seeing with the gun nutz and tea party right wing is a last desperate attempt to maintain some kind of cultural identity where none actually exists.
It’s this lack of any real cultural identity that the Washington/Wall Street cartel is taking advantage of and to an extent trying desperately to preserve. It’s also why the coming collapse of the American Empire will not look like those in the past as there is little to bond us together in it except mutual hardship.
Whether this will eventually bring people together as a whole and when this will occur is anybody’s guess. I am sure there will be more and more communities formed on an isolated and small scale, but a larger unification is at this time doubtful. It would take a great deal of time. This culture of personal gain and benefit over the greater good will be difficult at best to overcome.
I remember watching part of a movie a while back with David Ogden Stiers as a musician and this young lady who came to audition her violin with him. When she finished he told her that the she played the piece flawlessly but that her performance lacked feeling. Lacked soul. Lacked emotion.
I feel that this country has lost it’s feeling and soul. It’s emotion.
Before the industrial revolution everything you got was made by hand one at a time. There very likely were apprentices and helpers involved but it was one at a time. Each unique in some way from the the others. made by craftsman an artisans who learned and honed their skills and trade over the years.
Then the industrial revolution got underway big time. By the late 1800s and early 1900s, most things were being built in factories and thanks to people like Henry Ford – on some kind of assembly line. But even with assembly line techniques and interchangeable parts, most of what was made was of fairly high quality. As you can see with this 1938 Philco floor model or this Model A Ford.
Some were of very high quality indeed. Like the E. H. Scott or this high end Zenith Stratosphere. Not only did they make the radios, they made a lot of the parts inside as well. Even the vacuum tubes. And the mechanical tuning assemblies were also complex and well made. As you can see in the photos above, the cabinetry was of very high quality as well. With fine detail work and wood inlays and a fine finish.
This attention to detail carried over to WWII. With nearly everything made for the war effort. For the time they used the best available parts. I myself have owned a number of pieces of equipment and radios from that time period and am still impressed with some of the designs and workmanship used. Even small radio receives and transmitters made for bombers by the millions and by different manufacturers had were of the highest quality available at the time. Using precision gear reduction tuning and heavy shielding and other things.
There are those who are of the opinion that this attention to quality was also part of what lead to the depression of the 1930s. That the car makers and electronics makers of the time did too much of a good thing. The products lasted too long and the newer models were not enough improved for people to want to buy new ones. So sales slowed down, inventory remained unsold and people began to be laid off. All this before the bank failures and what not.
This kind of craftsmanship could still be seen up through the early 1950s but some time around the middle of the 1950s and onward things began to change. All of this long before the Japanese and German imports began to appear in any numbers. The fancy cabinetry was going as was the inside quality as well. Early television sets had nice cabinets and well well designed for their day. But by the mid 1960s the cabinetry there was pretty much gone and the electronics inside got cheaper and cheaper.
New and improved was not so much since the electronics inside did not change much from year to year. I know I used to repair them. No real change came in the electronics until the manufactures began to offer solid state television sets. And RCA and Zenith and GE and the rest did not do this until SONY began selling their new TRINITRON sets here which made our stuff look like stone knives and bear skins by comparison.
And by the late 1970s even RCA and Philco were pretty much gone. Zenith followed soon there after. Only the names remained. And the jobs went with them. Quality electronics along with quality furniture and cars became a niche area. Mostly for high end audio equipment and sports cars.
Along the way personal physicians who made house calls and spent time with their patients and milkmen who delivered the milk and left notes in case the cows got into the alfalfa. Local TV shops and corner markets as well.
And we began to just throw things out. Not because they could not be repaired, but because they were out of fashion some how. We started to be a disposable society. Doctors who treated cases instead of people and civilian deaths became collateral damage. And now there are those who seem to think we have a disposable planet as well.
So here is an example of what we were once capable of.
If Krugman were Treasury Secretary we could envision a policy that was focused on creating jobs rather than reducing a deficit that exists almost entirely because of the downturn in the economy.We could also envision a policy that sought to tame the bloated financial sector with a speculation tax that would make much of the creative finance on Wall Street unprofitable. And, we would not have to worry that cutting Social Security and Medicare is the top priority for the Obama administration.
But, Krugman is not on the short list for Treasury Secretary. This list has the names of people who are much more acceptable to Wall Street who, by the way, have been wrong on almost everything important about the economy in the last decade. As a result, we should be very very afraid.
And there is also talk of minting some damn coin to pay off the debt. That ain’t gonna happen either. Just like they keep hoping some bankers and Wall Street executives will do a perp walk. But liberals and progressives hold onto to such hopes like a late stage cancer patient does laetrile and massive doses of vitamin C.
You see none of this was the intention or agenda of Washington from the beginning. We can see that now with the re-inflating of the housing bubble. This time in the rental sector.
Some readers have been asking how one can reconcile positive signs in the housing market with declining rates of homeownership. Indeed, homeownership is falling at an even faster pace than during the 08-10 period….The explanation is that so far a great deal of net demand growth in housing has been in rental units. …This demand for rentals is in fact one of the factors supporting the housing market – for every renter there is a landlord who buys a home.
It was all a lie – one of the biggest and most elaborate falsehoods ever sold to the American people. We were told that the taxpayer was stepping in – only temporarily, mind you – to prop up the economy and save the world from financial catastrophe. What we actually ended up doing was the exact opposite: committing American taxpayers to permanent, blind support of an ungovernable, unregulatable, hyperconcentrated new financial system that exacerbates the greed and inequality that caused the crash, and forces Wall Street banks like Goldman Sachs and Citigroup to increase risk rather than reduce it. The result is one of those deals where one wrong decision early on blossoms into a lush nightmare of unintended consequences. We thought we were just letting a friend crash at the house for a few days; we ended up with a family of hillbillies who moved in forever, sleeping nine to a bed and building a meth lab on the front lawn.
It was never the intention of Washington to temporarily save the banks. The whole point was to continue on as if noting had happened. A giant reset button as it were. No fixes, no regulations, nothing. But everything back the way it was and continue this fascist, fraud that has been perpetrated on the American people. The whole thing was a scam. They lied about the health of the banks. They lied about the bail outs being temporary. They lied about the bonuses. Everything.
But this should not surprise anyone. As Oliver Stone points out in his series Untold History of the United States – and as anyone who has read anything by Howard Zinn would know – Washington has been lying to us all along. From the beginning of the industrial revolution at least.
All to keep Wall Street and corporate America in the green. The same fine folks who were supporting Nazi Germany, Fascist Italy and Franko’s Spanish armies with oil, weapons, steel and vehicles prior to and even after our entry into WWII.
There are those who think we have become fascist. Personally I think we always were. It’s just more obvious now and the propaganda more intense.
That I am no fan of capitalism or any of the Abrahamic religions should come as no surprise to anyone who has read any of my essays. To me capitalism is merely a reworking of feudalism where one can become a lord by buying the lordship and the serfs under him/her besides being born into it.
The results are generally the same. A few elites at the top of the heap making hey of the miserable lives of those underneath. “Any difference that makes no difference is no difference.”
That the Abrahamic religions go so well with feudalism and capitalism should come as no surprise either. Truly a codependent relationship. Or that the constitution says separation of church and state but nothing about church and commerce or commerce and state. Which makes the sate and the church second cousins, as it were.
Nor do I like any kind of hierarchical for of government. Leaders – whether you call them presidents, prime ministers, premiers or what have you – will invariably become dictators and/or absolute rulers, however benign they may appear. And will nearly always kowtow to those with the most monetary influence.
There are those who think the answer to this is to just let everything run amuck and it will take care of itself. They also seem to think that they themselves would some how be immune to the consequences of this. Interestingly enough, they are also the same ones who want to stock pile the equivalence of Fort Dicks in weapons. I guess their immunity comes from Smith and Wesson.
Then there are those who think we can regulate this to get a kinder and gentler version of feudalism. With kinder and gentler robber baron scum bags at the top. That these people at the top will “see the light’ and “the error of their ways” and not try to change the rules once again. And that worked so well last time. Problem with regulations is, who regulates the regulators ?
And then there are those who think everything is just fine, lets not rock the boat. These are the ones who were called bourgeoisie, who are all chummy with the elites and are more than willing to lick the elites rear ends clan when required. What these people refuse to accept – along with right – is that they too could and probably would – become victims as well. Tolerated until replace by a computerized but washer.
The third act will be a lot more of a noire troisième acte. Desperate and brutal. There are those who seem to think that the end of this act will culminate is a rising up of the people in revolt somehow and cause a capitulation of the PTB. With visions of France and Russia in the early 19th century, forgetting that the PTB have them horribly out gunned. That any stand could – and most likely would – become suicidal. In those earlier revolutions, the people and the PTB were pretty well matched. That has ceased to be the case for quite some time. For what should be obvious reasons. Like those on the right and the preppers who seem to be living under the delusion that they too could fight off a government assault. Not bloody likely. This is not Syria where rebel forces would have access to the kinds of armament needed to be successful. All supplied by sympathetic outsiders. As those same outsiders are part of the PTB.
Nor is this Egypt where the military was supportive of the protestors, but only up to a point. Remember that the military – any military – is highly structured and hierarchical and ordered. And is little concerned with how this is maintained. The situation will become more oppressive and more desperate as time goes on.
The good news is that the last act can turn out much better but will require more work and more sacrifice and a completely different view of the world and community and interpersonal relationships there in. More of an anarchist view with little or no central government. Either locally or regionally. A consensus approach not unlike OWS. As viewed by such visionaries as Peter Kropotkin and Emma Goldman . Or even Dimity Orlov. Small groups who come together by desire rather than by any decree. But it will not be easy by a long shot.
The tentacles of the system reach far. Consider real estate taxes. Even if you own the land you are living on out right and choose not to even engage in commerce and use the monetary system, you still have to pay them or you lose you land. And this sort of thing will become more and more draconian. Count on it.
The answer may even be to relocate to a smaller and yet more corrupt country. Where the corruption on a local level can be of use in this way. Ironic but maybe necessary. For large countries – like here – have the corruption institutionalized and are a closed system in this respect.
And those who choose to live outside it will be view by the PTB more and more as some kind of threat to them. Which they are, but not necessarily in the way they imagine. For the real threat would be to their status and the dependency there upon. Not wishing to be part of, or supporting of the status quo would be seen as subversive.
Working toward the kind of society we envision is never a lost cause. And passing on this vision – even in the family structure – is what will bring about any real and lasting change. And put a halt to this sick, dark comedy we have been living for the last few thousand years. Where teachers and guides replace leaders, and wisdom and enlightenment and virtue and altruism are cherished and valued.
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