Bloggers of the Sphere Unite! (You Have Nothing To Lose But Everything)

Dr. Pierce’s diagnosis:

Income inequality is a symptom, not the disease. People realize that now. They see the symptom erupting in all directions, but, at a visceral level, they can sense the deeper pathology at work in their lives. The disease is a lack of accountability, a failure of the responsible institutions, political and otherwise, to do their jobs as a check on the inebriate gluttony of the financial sector of the economy, abetted by its pet economists and its legions of fans in the business media, and the disease is also a political system so awash with the proceeds that it can’t clear a space to do anything about making whole the victims of this reckless pilferage. Income inequality is the medical shorthand.

The butcher’s bill will run to volumes.

Appreciated, Doctor – except that “lack of accountability” is also a symptom, or perhaps something of an understatement or euphemism.

To review:  The international political-economic system began to run aground in the late ’60s. It took a decade for a patch to be put into place that for the United States amounted to putting the entire country, public and private, on credit cards, so that wages could be frozen, profits could continue to accumulate, and surpluses could be absorbed where rates of growth could be sustained: financialization. A generation later, the absolute crisis – the final crisis in principle, but not necessarily the last actual poltiical crisis – of that financialized system finally commenced system-wide, globally.

The lack of “accountability” – itself a quasi-financial term – not only preceded this period, but was already its basis from the outset, as a characteristic of the system as a whole. The imposition of accountability, the coming to accounts, would be a challenge to an entire system based on denial, implying a predicament insusceptible to mere adjustment, but with an appearance and, under the law of diminishing returns, a fading reality of manageability when observed from proximity to the centers of unaccountable power and privilege.

Pierce’s entire post is as readable as always, but approaches a higher level of abstraction than usual for him or for most bloggers and pundits.  It shows how a leftish but not quite leftist pundit, writing in the pages of Esquire (whose now-available January cover story is on the “American Class System“), can express himself convincingly as a neo-Marxist revolutionary without ever putting it in so many dangerous and intolerable words.

Pierce’s analysis put me immediately in mind of a line from Jonathan Chait, from an otherwise little-remarked post, also on the question of income inequality and the ability, or inability, of the American political system to address it.  Describing the frustrating limits of Obama’s version of “New Nationalism,” Chait explains how neither Obama nor anyone else on the current American political scene is prepared to address the real basis of inequality, which is inequality per se – the non-equivalence of power (including power as wealth) that re-produces itself through income inequality.

Chait’s term of art for the vast and enduring inequality of assets is “pre-transfer inequality.”  His conclusion:

I remain unconvinced that there is a useful plan that can actually reverse or halt growing pre-transfer inequality at an acceptable price, and even if there were, it’s impossible to imagine the U.S. political system ever enacting it.

Read today, and perhaps at any other previous time in the history of the United States of America, the above quite reasonable observation sets the limits of political change, and re-states the definition of a political system that originated in the ideal of protecting the individual and his property from absolute power.  At the limits of economic expansion, at the coming due of accounts – perhaps now, perhaps after a few more years or a decade of the absolute crisis – Chait’s words convert immediately into a revolutionary credo:  If the system cannot enact what the system must enact, then the system must be replaced.


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15 comments on “Bloggers of the Sphere Unite! (You Have Nothing To Lose But Everything)

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  1. Having gotten caught up in writing a few posts myself, I missed this one. It shouldn’t be missed. I think you should start something like Greenwave. You could do visuals behind you or embedded in the news report-political statement and start a TV station of your own like this guy http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iYwz8K6Ud6c
    This one would be a good first step. You have the visual behind you and then you read this. Only I would suggest you make a final, very clear point with each one. I know that goes against your MO, but it would help if you would declare things a bit, establishing where you’re coming from and then making clear suggestions like the one here: Bloggers of the Sphere Unite! You have nothing to lose but everything! Start and finish with something that makes it clear that you’re being funny and right on at the same time. This is your time, CK. The People don’t need to be told what to do, or how to vote. They need to hear things that cut through the political positionings and ideological ideals. You could do it.

    • Ach! Another assignment! Though this one might be easier than unpacking Hegel on the nature of good and evil.

      Now, I could give you 1,000 reasons organized into a handful of main problem areas describing why what you suggest would be impractical, and why I could never compete with Mr. Greene, certainly not with his teeth, but instead I’ll consider further what it would take to produce a sample of what you suggest. Could result in a watchable experiment if nothing more.

      • Cool. Sorry about all the assignments. My father was the same way. He had ideas for everyone. Like me at least, he also did his own stuff and followed through with hundreds of self assignments. ADD on the loose!

        • piece needs re-writing if it’s supposed to sustain much attention… having played with recording it now, I can hear and see its problems better… I’ll show you what I mean later… really the main point is just to note Chait and Pierce’s observations and the ease with which radical implications can be read into them that exceed the the authors’ apparent intentions…

          • Actually within in the limits of the form, you do grasp some of the greater truth,where as Pierce misses it utterly. Now Beck who you loath, has pointed out how the collapse of Bretton Woods, by 1971, something our friend Rex pointed out, lead to the large scale transition out of manufacturing, into a more systemic reliance on consumerism and Reich’s ‘symbolic analysts’ , which had a more dramatic affect not only in the MidWest, but the urban centers on both coasts, notably your LA, but
            also Miami, Philadelphia.

            For a time this benefited the MITI kureitsu allance in Japan, that made the Salaryman possible until their property bubble collapsed, something Fallows hasn’t even acknowledged after twenty years, in the interim China and India,
            shook off their post colonial attachment, and delved deep into the global manufacturing and expanded into the services industry, There are reasons for our current circumstance, that Pierces’ indignation, although satisfying doesn’t really get to.

            • Rex had the timing partly right, and like other monetarists he correctly identifies another of the telltale symptoms: The insufficiency or obsolescence of Bretton-Woods. Like the Paulites and other monetarists, Beck is obsessed with the shiny metal, and his prescription for dealing with the crisis of capitalism is to return – both in economics and in policy – to a quasi-mythical version of the circumstances that shaped the previous crisis, and the one before that, turtles on turtles, all the way down. We can’t go back to the gold standard and, e.g., pre-Progressive banking regulation very much for the same reason that we can’t go back to beaver hats and the heady days of building the transcontinental railroad.

              Unlike Rex, Beck has already decided in favor of idealizing one perspective, libertarian capitalism with the collective interest systematically displaced as sanctified hyper-patriotism, and on demonizing the main alternative, social democracy in the broad sense. That’s what makes him an ideologue, and, when tested on his unreasoning faith, he responds with more faith and more un-reason. That doesn’t prevent him from being as gray as all the other cats at radical midnight.

              Rex/Beck/Paul are right that the gold standard previously stood in the way of unbounded debt-financing. What makes them crazy is the unshakeable belief that going back to a system that failed, even if possible, can solve a crisis of the successor system, that there ever was an option to stop the clock and turn monetary time backwards.

              • Beck takes issue with crony capitalism, of both left and right variations, hence his quarrel with Gingrich as well
                as Obama. What is so mythical about this system, you keep talking about, what is hyper about patriotism,

                • “Taking issue with crony capitalism” is like being in favor of Mom and apple pie. As soon as anyone on the left brings it up, the accusations of “class warfare” and “demonizing the job creators” and “Kenyan Alinskyist socialism” etc., etc., start up.

                  What’s delusionary about Paulite libertarianism – isolationism-monetarism – could fill a book. Where he differs with a fellow lunatic like Beck comes down to Christian Zionism. Paul seems to believe that we can revert to some version of 19th century coastal defense or even an 18th century Jeffersonian commercial utopianism in which economic interests bind the nations of the world together in perfect peaceful harmony, and war and politics end. Beck seems to think the end times are just about here, and, well, I don’t expect what he believes to add up even as sensibly as Paul’s worldview: On some days he’s willing to think about massive defense cuts and withdrawal from “foreign entanglements,” and on the next day he’s all for a the clash of civilizations and the defense of Israel against the Mohammadean hordes.

  2. Realistically, what is OWS’s next step, one would suggest an electoral strategy that would challenge who they consider are
    the less resolute members of the Democratic coalition, meaning the remaining blue dogs

    • I haven’t seen any sign that OWS is ready to identify with or target the Democratic Party in that way. I think the protests will continue at some level, and may even escalate with sufficient provocation, and in that way help to keep their issue focus alive, but in some ways they’ve already achieved quite a bit in terms of affecting the broad political discussion. It maybe up to others – already organized groups and conventional political actors – to translate their message into practical politics, including practical or realistic vehicles for revolutionary or transformational politics .

      • …could be interesting… that kind of “occupation” has a long and diverse lineage in oppositional movements… will be interesting to see how both sides react if the idea catches on… depending on the authorities could end up painful for “normal” families just looking for a place to live, and limit their participation…

  3. much better tactic then trying to defend a bunch of semi-stinking tent camps on public land filled with people who have actual homes

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