The Supreme Court has taken the unprecedented step of ruling in an issue that no one had asked them to adjudicate. It is plain that a majority wanted to make a law and they have done nothing other than legislating from the Bench. They claim to have used their own
version of the First Amendment in making a free debate between corporate America and the unions. This is something like saying that if a person has a dispute with Exxon, the oil company is free to hire Mike Tyson to fight it out, bare knuckles, with the individual, one on one. They pretend not to note the disparity in power between the Plutocracy and the unions, which has been obvious in American life, and a subject of legislative redress, for over a century. Stripped of disingenuous verbiage, the five justices have decided that it is a matter of constitutional fairness that Big Money should be able to drown out the efforts of talk in paid media by their antagonists. It is a giant step in the Class War waged by the Robber Barons for at least the last 60 years on the remaining shreds of equality between themselves and the People, most especially the working people, in which group I include everyone that lives on less than 100 G and quite a few besides. It has been labeled as obvious by every commentator and is taken to foreshadow domination in future elections by those calling themselves Republicans, though they act more like monarchists with every passing term. It is generally said that this will guarantee the rule of the Robber Barons, to a degree that we have not seen in over 120 years. The only answer is that the representatives of the People must repeatedly denounce every message in the paid media as suspect. For those who do not have the means of separating the sheep from the goats, we must recognize that there is no individual thinking in the Republican party and vote against all their candidates unless we see overwhelming evidence of individual thinking.
Wednesday, January 20, 2010
We are having tons of troubles these days with Economics. For at least 50 years, this has been in the hands of professionals who flatter themselves under the caption of the Free Market. This lovely name comes to us out of the Enlightenment, when the change out of the traditional system of Feudal and Guild economics was a notable advancement, and catered to the sense of liberalism of 250 years ago when freedom was in its infancy as a way of dealing with economic reality. Yet even then many of the best thinkers recognized the enormous power of corporations. Even Adam Smith, who advanced the Free Market, was against the monopolistic power of companies like the East Indian and Hudson’s Bay corporations. That was kid stuff compared with the power of world-spanning companies like those we see today. And these corporations use the power of good jobs to tell the business schools what they expect their graduates to believe, and that trickles down to the Economics departments of universities, most of whose students are not genuinely interested in their subject, but are ready to study whatever they are asked as the price for admission to the executive suites of the wealthy corporations. The result is that the beliefs of Ayn Rand and Milton Friedman reach us through their acolytes, like Robert Rubin and Larry Sommerfeld, who are now the economic advisors steering Pres. Obama. It is true that they echo the majority view of the most prominent economists, so how can we expect anything else in a president with almost no economic thinking of his own? I have been unhappy with that subject since being exposed to it at the London School of Economics, and we must all live with it as long as it holds sway over the majority of that profession. I do not know how we will get out of it as long as the corporations continue to hold sway over what our schools are teaching as received science.
Thursday, January 14, 2010
The American public is clearly confused by the threat of terrorism. They are clearly unwilling to accept that when they accept the status of a nation at war, they are likely to have to face up to the possibility of getting killed in the process, particularly when the form that the war takes is one of killing others who get in the way of what DC considers its legal and rightful option to declare the rules of the game. For at least the last 60 years, DC has spoken in terms of declaring what it is that they and other nations may do, and has expected other peoples to adhere to the will of the world, as they propound it. The natural consequence of such an arrogant posture is to assure that some other people will take exception, even violently, to the claim that there is nothing they can do about it, most especially to the most unstable among them, of whom there is no lack in the world. The response that the Greeks, the Romans, and the British took in such situations was to write off the response as natural and tolerable, part of the costs of fighting, and especially of winning, such wars. The United States, possibly alone of such sovereignty-wielding powers, expects to be immune from retaliation and is outraged by counter-attacks, however unsuccessful, by individuals or small groups. A lesson we could take from other imperial powers from the past, is to maintain dignity and accept losses for civilians in this war with the same aplomb that we confer on the killing and maiming of the children that DC sends oversees to enforce its will. If Americans want the fleeting glory of being Boss nation and ruling the World, then the population that glories in that power must expect that those who are unwilling to submit themselves to subservience will, from time to time, get around the rules of conduct set out for the world by DC and declare themselves for action, as Timothy McVeigh did, but it seems we have no stomach for that.
Wednesday, January 6, 2010
It is hard these days to know whom to believe, and there is so much to know that we can not be responsible for making up our minds. For many of us, the question of belief lies in a choice of authorities: whom to believe. So there are many of us that are prepared to trust in Science, but even that has been undercut by the number of people who are peddling special interests disguised as objective scientific fact. This fault is available in all areas, including economics, social policy, and even sometimes in Physics. So there is an understandable willingness to go with the preponderance of opinion in an area of reputable study, but even that has a history in almost every science of denying the truth of some new belief that turns out to be the new truth. We think of people like Copernicus, or Pasteur, or Einstein. Most recently the bulk of opinion in economics, which proclaims itself a science, has favored the dicta of the predator school out of the U of Chicago, which touted the self-correcting forces of the Market, only to be bounced from one bubble to the next until we faced the threat of total economic collapse and were told by one expert after another that we would have to pawn the product of the nation far into the future and put the proceeds into the pockets of the predators. How is a nation to choose when the whole of an established area of study gives its voice to a position that turns out to be a disaster? How is the President to know whom to believe in an area in which he has no expertise of his own? It is easy to say that something is obvious after the fact, but the voices of doubt were few and far between. So when we have some people denying the truth of Global Warming or questioning the benefits to be had from the study of stem cells the evidence is hardly convincing, except to those especially inclined to believe when the scientific voice is strong and explicit. Science, after all, flourishes on doubt.