“You say you want a revolution?
Well, we all want to change the world.”
Today is International Worker’s Day remembrance of the Haymarket “Affiar”
So let’s talk about election politics and class warfare, shall we?
I saw a Facebook post from an someone who was livid about this Salon.com article suggesting that liberals might be torn between the lesser of two evils in a Clinton/Trump general election:
Now I am not endorsing this view but you have to understand that Sanders and Trump are two sides of the same rhetorical coin: disruption of the status quo.
Trump and Sanders supporters share a visceral sense of something amiss in the political and economic systems that purportedly represent them.
There are two wings, the left and the right-but in a post-Citizen’s United and corporate media-controlled world, many have come to believe that they belong to the same bird.
I found it strangely unsurprising that Trump appropriated a reporter’s use of the phrase “America First” without apparently grasping the historical significance of this phrase in the context of Nazi appeasement prior to WWII.
Bernie Sanders’ agenda of spending money at home instead of overseas intervention reflects a similar agenda. He wants to spend tax money on education and health care instead of regime change and even has the chutzpah to reject Kissinger and Netanyahu.
What the well-educated and well-healed elites of both the right and left wing don’t understand is that America is an ahistorical and perpetually self-reinventing culture at its best and an ahistorical and fear-based nation at its worst. But you can’t manipulate a people with historically-based propaganda when they don’t know history…
It is harder to sell would be disruption voters that International Bolshevism or nativist Fascism is are clearest and most present dangers when a majority of American’s are feeling that our economy and current way of life is not sustainable, fair, or accountable to the majority of its stakeholders.
Trump and Sanders supports are not pleased about the prospect of having to live three generations under one roof, working 40-hour weeks to have no discretionary pay after rent, student loans, and health insurance.
In the Cold War past, calling someone a communist or a capitalist could get this dodo off the ground but the young and the restless Americans don’t resonate enough with history for them to be moved by the old tunes. It is like trying to play Glenn Miller to a rave for young people or playing Kayne West at a Tea Party fundraiser.
In fact, young Americans are rejecting the brand of capitalism at an alarmingly high rate according to this Washington Post report on a recent Harvard Survey. Another Facebook friend asked today, what is a better name for capitalism?
Continuing with the “flightless bird” theme, even lame duck President Obama said in Argentina in March, 2016 that there was little difference between Marxism and Capitalism:
What a cognitively dissonant thing for the
“leader of the free world” to say!
Allegedly, Communism was about equality and Capitalism was about freedom…
Well, with a million millionaires in “Communist” China and legalized tax evasion and taxpayer “reinsurance” of Capitalist institutions, we have to say that both brands have suffered from problems.
In truth, there has never been a Communist country where some were more equal than others as in Animal Farm.
And there has never been an America where the powerful weren’t just a little more free than others.
The problems with American Capitalism as it currently exists are not dissimilar from state-controlled Communism: non-sustainability and amorality.
Getting people to work for some abstract good rather than personal wealth is a low productive state. My children and I were struck by the learned helplessness of a generation of people we met who lived under the poverty of a state-sponsored Communist in countries like Poland, the Baltic States, and Russia.
But acquiring vast sums of wealth upon the backs of wage slavery is also unsustainable as we are discovering.
You can’t build tree houses from the lumber below. Costco and Chobani are better models for corporate citizenship than Apple and Monsanto.
So what is the rebranding that is needed for young people to fall back in love with Capitalism? I think the problem is not one of branding but of the authenticity of the brand. Capitalism in the US and Communism in the Soviet Union relied too heavily upon a locus of control that was defined by oligarchy.
As documented in the movie, The Big Short, our rewarding of speculation is the tip of a very large and old iceberg of asset class market manipulations, “plunge protection teams”, and unfree markets with the proletariat footing the bill.
From backroom deals to buy land where railroads were to be built, to Social Securuty Trust Fund raids, to S&L Bailouts, to government-sponsered military/pharma/prison/fossil fuel/education-industial complexes, right up until the bank bailouts of 2008.
If we were to allow speculation to have financial repercussions, the system would purge itself and capitalism’s good name and better ideas could be redeemed.
Unfortunately, when you write checks for $14 Trillion to shore of up the banking system that helped created the problem, you haven’t exactly decided to let free markets operate with maximum efficiency.
I suggest that people get away from ‘isms’ and branding and focus on what is needed to flourish. We need the rule of law, a free press and independent judiciary, a middle class, transparent and efficient markets, sustainable growth (and destruction) of industries and bureaucracies, and most of all, cooperation and optimism.
In short, we need the brand American capitalism that the Constitution and Jimmy Stewart sold us on: life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness- not disease management, drones and surveillance, and the emptiness of consumer pop culture.