Thursday, March 17, 2005

Plutocrats and Fascists

Ideology is a refuge for some people. It provides them with answers when their intellects will not. Liberalism is an ideology, as we have said all along, but we have defined it not as a cornucopia of answers to life's daily vexing questions, nor have we provided within Liberalism a model of the economy or of social organization. Liberalism is a set of principles and strategic goals. These principles are enunciated right there on our banner: Individual Liberty, Humanity, Progress, Ethics, and the Rule of Law. These are interactive principles that in their various combinations provide guidance to Liberals as they confront daily situations.

The conservatives say that Liberals are state-ists, that we believe in big government solutions to societal problems. Indeed we do believe in government programs, because we believe in Humanity and in the Rule of Law. That is, when we combine these two principles, we realize that our greatest service is to other human beings ... not just to ourselves ... and we believe that this is more easily accomplished by establishing structures in the Law ... independent of the whims and vagaries of individuals ... to accomplish humane goals.

The Bushites do not believe in the efficacy of government because they fundamentally do not believe in the judgment and motivation of people who are not motivated by self-interest. They believe that self-interest is the natural leavening in society, that the most capable people will quickly realize that self-interest is the way to be, and that only these people will "make something of themselves" as measured by (of course) the universal standard of success—money. Put more succinctly, the Bushite ideology is built on the notion of a Darwinian survival of the fittest built not on natural selection, but on the accumulation of wealth. At the end of the 19th century this idea was called Social Darwinism or the Gospel of Wealth. It is bunk!

Liberals are not against corporations or government agencies or companies or individuals, but Liberals understand from bitter experience with the kings and ministers of England (and elsewhere ... including America) that individuals, if not constrained by laws and ethics, will take their own individual perspective to be the truth ... rather than just their individual perspective. This is why Liberals demand a Rule of Law to constrain the inevitable excesses of strong individuals. Yet, Liberals believe that when motivated not just for profit and power individuals should be given the opportunity to express themselves freely, hence the Liberal placement of "Individual Liberty" first among our guiding principles.

Bush and the Bushites, on the other hand, believing as they do that the captains of industry (and they themselves) have "already proven themselves to be superior to the rest of us," put their trust for society for jobs, health, happiness, culture, etc. under the aegis of industry, corporations, if you will. It is their sincere belief that the rich are better human beings than the poor, because the rich make it possible for the poor to survive. It never occurs to them that maybe the rich are rich because they made the poor poor. They miss this point because they believe that riches are the reward for superiority. Some of them think that this is God's way of identifying superior persons, although, we think you will have to agree, there is nothing in the Bible or Torah or Q'ran or the Confucian Analects or the teachings of Buddha that says anything like this and much that is utterly opposed to such an idea!

So, for Bush and the Bushites with corporations representing the best efforts of a superior group of people, the proper duty of a government is not to provide programs helping people, but programs and laws and structures helping corporations ... which then will in their own natural way help people. This is the very definition of plutocracy—government by and for business and industry, rather than government by and for the people. If nothing else Bush and the Bushites are plutocrats pure and simple.

You see, Bush and the Bushites have our personal well-being at one remove from reality. They depend not on direct effect programs of assistance and nurture, but rather on the hypothetical side effects of the normal activities of corporate business and industry. They forget that these side-effects are more like epiphenomena than rational, intentional goals.

Liberals know very well what the motivations of corporation are. It does not take much time in a corporate board room to understand this. The single purpose of a corporation is profit for the stockholders. It matters not what the product or service is; profit is all important. When the managers are able to realize a profit, the stockholders reward them with high salaries. When they fail to provide profits, dividends, and generally let the value of the stock depreciate, they are fired. The pressure is enormous and many men and women crack and then fail under it.

So, if for instance you were to put everyone's Social Security fund into the hands of corporate leaders, what would you expect to happen? You would expect the managers of corporations to try to make a profit as usual and for everything to work to the benefit of everyone! And, you would be talking about an ideal case that has never occurred in a sustained way. You have heard of the business cycle!

Instead, what we have seen is where managers feel themselves to be independent of or above the Rule of Law, but under the exacting pressures of the corporate goal of profit they cheat, steal, bribe, whine, and generally throw their corporations into chaos, leaving the stockholders ... like the stockholders of thousands of savings and loan institutions fifteen years ago ... or the energy companies more recently ... holding the multi-billion, perhaps trillion dollar bag. Imagine Social Security in that bag!

Liberals do not trust people who believe themselves above the Rule of Law, Law democratically arrived at and evenly applied. Liberals believe in the goodness of people, but remain vigilant against the appearance of rogues. Bush and the Bushites believe ... against all of history and distress ... that the rogues are few and far between and that the system is self-correcting. There simply is no evidence for this claim and volumes of history to prove the opposite.

In their most naïve moments Bush and the Bushites are plutocrats, but when they lie to and propagandize their own citizens, when they trade in fear, when they divert attention from their own mistakes, when they discriminate against nationalities and categories of individuals, when they attempt to overthrow the Rule of Law they are fascists, not less frightening and horrible than the fascists of the 1930's and 1940's in Europe!

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