The Shameful Self-serving Myth of American Exceptionalism

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“I believe in American exceptionalism, just as I suspect that the Brits believe in British exceptionalism and the Greeks believe in Greek exceptionalism. We have a core set of values that are enshrined in our Constitution, in our body of law, in our democratic practices, in our belief in free speech and equality, that, though imperfect, are exceptional…. I see no contradiction between believing that America has a continued extraordinary role in leading the world towards peace and prosperity and recognizing that leadership is incumbent, depends on, our ability to create partnerships because we can’t solve these problems alone.”

– Obama, 2009, overseas trip

” I carefully studied his address to the nation on Tuesday. And I would rather disagree with a case he made on American exceptionalism, stating that the United States’ policy is “what makes America different. It’s what makes us exceptional.”

– Putin, NYT Op-Ed, September 11, 2013

“America is an exceptional nation – that is, one like no other, not just now but in history – because it is dedicated to the universal principle of human liberty. This is grounded in the truth that all men – not just Americans – are created equal and endowed with inalienable rights by their Creator.”

– Jim DeMint, Heritage Foundation President

DeMint’s “interpretation” (which is a rather strange way of putting it) only shows he’s either ignorant of history or he hopes his fellow citizens are. And it’s not in any way “valid” because it isn’t the truth. Not that politicians would have any truck with that curiously strange thing called the “truth,” you know. It seems the main thing the USA is “exceptional” is self-delusion. Oh, and toppling other countries who won’t do what we want.”

– Darryl Thomas, blogger

Why all the hubbub over such a seemingly inconsequential and dusty term which hardly anyone outside the halls of academia has ever heard? Well, because the news agencies and the political wonks need something to talk about. First, Obama referenced it in his national speech about the possible military involvement into Iraq’s neighbor, Syria. Then Russian President Putin fired an op-ed in the New York Times cautioning the US about being too quick to assume an “exceptional” national identity. Then Texas congressman Jim DeMint chimed in defending the term with all the empty-headed enthusiasm of a Texas 8th grade  civics book. I had heard the term before, but it wasn’t a subject I ever thought I’d devote a blog towards, but here it is. Hope you like it.

Alright. American Exceptionalism. The term was first coined in print back in the Ben Franklin days of American History by the travel writer Alexis de Tocqueville. He used the term in a very narrow sense; America was exceptional in that it was totally different from any other place the well-travelled Tocqueville had visited. [1] For one, Tocqueville considered America to be far more religious than any country in Europe. It also had far more slaves than any country in Europe but that’s another story for another blog.

The idea has been bandied about and evolved over the past 260 years or so. The term was taken up again by the American Communists during the Jazz Age in the 1920’s. [2] It was used by the American Communists to describe their belief that the reason the socialist movement in America was failing to materialize and advance itself as much as it did in Europe was due to the economy of the times which were so favorable to the Capitalist state, and so it would take longer for the prophesied collapse to occur. In recent times, post-1960’s – the term was used among critical theorists and social scientists that either agreed or disagreed with the premise that America was somehow “qualitatively different from the rest of the nations in the world. Neoconservative and neoliberal politicians have latched on to it to assert America’s global hegemonic rights and powers, which the USA reserves for itself while denying it from other nations.

Now we are caught up. American Exceptionalism can be thought of as a politically religious or metaphysical concept that imbues one with a glowing nationalistic pride. That pride is undeserving because of the titanic mountain of evidence that rises up to meet it.

There are about five core ideas that make up the belief why America is so special. We Americans have been taught these things in various ways and through various means. They can be reduced to these:

LIBERTY

EGALITARIANISM

POPULISM

INDIVIDUALISM

CAPITALISM

None of these concepts have really been practiced on any sort of mass scale – at least not on any scale that didn’t involve requiring money. LIBERTY? Welcome to the nation with the largest disposable populace in the world. America has more people in jails and prisons than anywhere else in the world. Legal rights are being taken away and turned into “privileges” and subject to being overridden by “secret courts” that exist outside the normal boundaries of the law.

EGALITARIANISM? Well, it sure sounds nice. The different classes may not be openly enslaving people in sweatshops and having children making garments in factories (that’s what Asia is for), but since everything revolves around buying  and selling your survival to the next guy, equality is more like a faint outline of a nearly forgotten dream. Equality? People either fear it or don’t know what it means or care if it actually exists as long as they can get through the day without being hassled. That’s what the 21st Century has become.

POPULISM. Please. Half of the elected officials are millionaires working for billionaires. The American voter is typically uninformed and largely controlled through the media that pushes a narrow, slanted virtual reality that shapes a narrow, slanted world view which then the voter forms a narrow, slanted opinion which she will invariably confuse with factual evidence, yet nonetheless convince herself that she’s rational and only interested in reality. She hasn’t any idea that her responses have been programmed into her to become nothing more than a predictably passive consumer.

INDIVIDUALISM. Probably the biggest conceptual scam since reality TV. I have always found it odd that individualism is strangely accorded metaphysical status. It is a central tenet of the European and American Liberal tradition, so it’s had a long run and thus, has embedded itself into the national subconsciousness of the nations of the world. This tenet exists simply to provide a justifiable stance for predatory capitalism to exist and reach into every pocket, ironically. Individualism does not exist unless it exists within the system, to which one has no choice but to submit.

CAPITALISM. Or its 21st Century version, casino capitalism, which is a kindest word ever given to slavery. The chains are not made of iron, but of metaphysical zeros and ones spinning in existential data servers across the globe. There’s no liberty outside of capitalism, only a certain liberty within the system. Which isn’t a liberty at all, but more a submission to the soft cryptoauthoritarianism that destroys lives the world over.

Right. I could go into how taken together, these planks that make up the conceptual platform of American Exceptionalism can be shown to not be all that “exceptional” and downright self-deceptive. And dangerous, if politicians become too enamored of its cache and use it to justify American dominance across the world. Besides, this myth is used to cover a multitudes of lies.

I believe it is the tropes of the US standing for the “principle of equality” and “the principle of human liberty,”as DeMint’s letter puts it, are two clearly defined statements that can be easily rebutted because of that new thing the kids call history. You know, when you add in all that slavery, Jim Crow, segregation, and second-class status for anyone who wasn’t a white male landowner – not to mention various genocides and invasions and assassinations of other citizens and democratically elected leaders in other countries that were no threat to America, one has to be self-deluded, grossly ignorant or simply dishonest not to own up to the facts. The shameful legacy of human slavery alone stands as a valid rebuttal to the stated virtues of the “liberty” and “equality” that America allegedly stands for, no matter how much true believers would like to dismiss it.

How does that Biblical verse go… Let’s see… “A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit.” And if that doesn’t work, try this on for size: “Actions speak louder than words.” Oh, and “Pride goeth before a fall?”

American exceptionalism is a self-serving myth.

As long as there exist “secret courts” that operate outside of the bounds of the Constitution (a document our politicians are likely to uphold as a shining example of “liberty and equality”) and so empties standing law of all meaning,  as long as you have the NSA that secretly spies – err.. “collects data” on its own Citizens and then sends that information to Israel, as long as we have the exceptional USA conducting surveillance on its own journalists, its own civil society, and its own ordinary citizens and refer to them as “adversaries” we are not all that exceptional. I know it’s unfair because it’s so easy to argue against American exceptionalism by emphasizing the catalog of evil that’s the legacy of this country. If one examines the example of U.S.-backed Contra war in Nicaragua that killed some 30,000 Nicaraguans, one wouldn’t feel all that great about America’s exceptional role in the world.

NOTES

[1] American Exceptionalism: A Double-Edged Sword. Seymour Martin Lipset. New York, N.Y.: W.W. Norton & Co., Inc. 1996

[2]  Albert Fried, Communism in America: A History in Documents(1997), p. 7.

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The United States Supreme Court has Granted the FDA with Scientific Infallibility!

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From Whiteout Press online news service:

“In a 5-4 vote, the US Supreme Court struck down a lower court’s ruling and award for the victim of a pharmaceutical drug’s adverse reaction. According to the victim and the state courts, the drug caused a flesh-eating side effect that left the patient permanently disfigured over most of her body [1]. The adverse reaction was hidden by the drug maker and later forced to be included on all warning labels. But the highest court in the land ruled that the victim had no legal grounds to sue the corporation because its drugs are exempt from lawsuits.

The story gets to the takeaway line with this fascinating nugget to digest:

“In short, the Court ruled that the FDA has ultimate authority over pharmaceuticals in the US. And if the FDA says a drug is safe, that takes precedent over actual facts, real victims and any and all adverse reactions.”

Yes folks, if the Food and Drug Administration says a drug is safe, the subject is no longer open for questioning. The key to understanding this seemingly ridiculous ruling is a little something in American Jurisprudence called “the Supremacy Clause,” which states in effect that where  a State law and a Federal law are found to contradict each other, the State law is rendered invalid. The drug in question is a generic version of a “name brand,” which the FDA has approved. Thus if a State court awards damages to a plaintiff that successfully showed to be harmed by a generic drug, there can be no standing in Federal court because of the “impossibility” of a company following both Federal and State laws at the same time. The corporations realize this and only have to drag the matter before the Supreme Court who will dutifully overturn an otherwise correct judgment. They understand that all they have to do is sell any drug under a generic name and be free of any liability or consequence! But if one investigates just a bit further, what will be discovered? If one is allowed to ask three simple questions, what will we be forced to consider?

Question 1: If the Food Drug Administration is (allegedly)  an “agency of the United States Department of Health and Human Services” that is (allegedly) ” is responsible for (allegedly) protecting and promoting public health through the regulation and supervision of food safety, tobacco products, dietary supplements, prescription and over-the-counter pharmaceutical drugs (medications), vaccines, bio-pharmaceuticals, blood transfusions, medical devices, electromagnetic radiation emitting devices (ERED), and veterinary products, then why have so many drugs it  has approved of been shown to later be unsafe? One such FDA-approved med that wreaked havoc was Vioxx, which caused fatal heart problems and deaths in the thousands!  If Vioxx had managed to be sold as a generic, then any corporation could do so without much consequence. The question that begs a sensible answer is this: what interests are being served by the Supreme Court and the FDA? The commonwealth of the American Citizens, or the pocket books of Big Pharma Corporations?

Question 2: Scientific Infallibility is (allegedly) impossible. A well-known scientific principle in trying to understand something is direct observation. In a similar case brought before the Supreme Court in 2009 (Wyeth v. Levine) [2], the SCOTUS ruled,

“We conclude that it is not impossible for Wyeth to comply with its state and federal law obligations and that Levine’s common-law claims do not stand as an obstacle to the accomplishment of Congress’ purposes in the FDCA. Accordingly, the judgment of the Vermont Supreme Court is affirmed.”

Justice John Paul Stevens:

“…the intent of Congress in passing the Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act was to implement a system of minimum standards for assessing when a drug is safe and effective enough to reach the market. It did not mean to pre-empt states from finding that additional steps are appropriate to protect their citizens. The Court agreed with Ms. Levine that although the FDA has technical expertise, it lacks the resources to continuously oversee all of the thousands of drugs on the market. Congress intended that state tort law serve as a supplement to its oversight.”

Did you notice that this earlier ruling contradicts the latest ruling on the same crucial point of responsibility? Who is today’s Supreme Court more sympathetic towards? The American Citizen or the Big Pharma Corporations?

Question 3: Now that pharmaceutical corporations have been given the green light to abuse their position and kill and maim its customers with impunity, who will you turn to when something like this happens to you or your family? You better have deep, deep pockets because there are two things for sure, the FDA and the Supreme Court are not going to help you under the current system and you are definitely going to pay. Common sense has been sold along with your “privilege” of citizenship (which isn’t worth doodley-squat). Proof that there needs to be a new system installed that will benefit everyone equally and not only for those who can buy chief justices just like any common street-walker.

NOTES

[1] According to the court documents, the victim is reported to be “severely disfigured, has physical disabilities, and is nearly blind.” – Mut. Pharm. Co. v. Bartlett, No. 12-142, 2013 BL 166063 (U.S. June 24, 2013)

[2] Wyeth v. Levine

6.7.13. Human Right #2: Right to Physical and Mental Health

2. An Equal Health Right that provides all essentials to building strong physical embodiments, insuring vitality and well-being along with clarity of intellect, emotional balance and physical stability.

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Anti-Abortion activists often refer themselves as members of the “Right-To-Life” campaign. It’s a bit of a misnomer, since they really should be called the party of the “Right-to-be-Born.” I don’t have a problem with considering the right of a fetus to allowed to be born, IF the world they are going to be born into the jaws of a nightmare that we laughingly call “civilization.” The fact is that the “right-to-life” movement cares way too much what happens to the fetus before birth than to what happens to it after it’s born. For most fetuses that will be born into this world, birth  is probably the worst thing that can happen to an incipient life-form. Most infants – many millions of them – will be born into an impoverished hell that they will never be able to recover from. Many will have nothing but pain, starvation, war, a wrecked environment and insane human beings to deal with before they die an undignified death, never knowing a single comfort that we in the First World take for granted every day. The “Right-To-Lifers” really couldn’t care less; many have told me that it isn’t God’s Will that so many suffer, but that it’s due to Satanic influences and Mankind’s “fallen nature” that so much suffering exists for these little ones. If that is the case (and I’m kind of in agreement with the “fallen nature” aspect – humanity has forever been a pretty brutal and vicious piece of work on this planet), if such suffering and pain is awaiting so many new beings coming into this world and you realize how fucked up things are, why would you campaign for the “right” of these future persons to be born on such a world?

Wouldn’t it make more sense to be all about standing up for the unborn if the world was first a proper place to begin a life? Has anyone ever interviewed a fetus before it was born and asked if it’s okay being born in a dirty hovel in a Darfur refugee camp where it can expect of life filled with no education to speak of, no access to healthcare, nothing but violence, water and food shortages, abuse and exploitation to look forward to? Put yourself in those shoes. Does that sound like an entrée  you’d want to order from the Menu of Life? Does that sound like the kind of fate you would want for your child? People who wring their hands about the shame and desolation of abortion (which may very well be a mercy considering what is in store for most children coming into this world) are so involved with their own minds and inner conflicts that they fail to see what they are really advocating. It is unfortunate for them that they never considered what would be in the best interests of newborn beings would align with the best interests of everybody else. That means providing a decent place for children to be born into – a place where they can grow in strength and honor, within a potential just waiting to burst forth onto this plane of existence, freed from crippling psychological issues that maim and destroys their character before they even have a chance in this world. What greater sin could there be to be given the gift of life and have that gift of a newborn turned to such a shameful thing just because we refused to rise above our disgraceful, paranoid natures, where the “right-to-life” is merely a “right-to-wrong” the truly innocent. Human Right #2 would be so easy to give to all of us, and it would finally bring forth a world that would be an honored destination for any newborn.

6.6.13. Human Right #1: Right to a Healthy and Fulfilling Life

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1. An Equal Economic Right that insures that all financial needs are accessible and available to ensure that the fundamental requirements of a healthy and fulfilling life can be realized and manifested.

There has been countless words devoted to Human Rights over the centuries. Some writers have even taken seriously the concept of  a human right as something that belongs  justifiably to every person. Thomas Paine, author of Common Sense which gathered Yankee support for the war against the Crown before the Revolutionary War, wrote another book that was nearly as influential for its defense of the French Revolution called, Rights of Man. In Rights of Man, Paine takes 31 points in outlining the justification for revolution against the government when the government fails to safeguards the “natural rights” of its citizens. Among other points under consideration, Paine claims that “rights” cannot be conferred through the political process for a reason:

It is a perversion of terms to say that a charter gives rights. It operates by a contrary effect — that of taking rights away. Rights are inherently in all the inhabitants; but charters, by annulling those rights, in the majority, leave the right, by exclusion, in the hands of a few… They… consequently are instruments of injustice … The fact, therefore, must be that the individuals, themselves, each, in his own personal and sovereign right, entered into a contract with each other to produce a government: and this is the only mode in which governments have a right to arise, and the only principle on which they have a right to exist.

In our view, and with the benefit of hindsight, there are a few problems with this type of analysis.

Laws are created all the time that makes the populace more dependent on government and more dependent on making money to survive. Rights are not so much “given and taken away” as much as they are “bought and sold.” Yes, even in Paine’s day was the recognition of economic and political power concentrated in the hands of the elite, be it the newer and developing merchant class or the old aristocracy. What Paine fails to understand, or maybe didn’t notice, is that governments are not formed by people entering into voluntary contracts with each other. This is a Classical Liberal Romanticist fantasy meant to legitimize all kinds of political and economical deceptions that always seem to end up justifying the status quo for “Individuals” who are doing quite swell, thank you. And it doesn’t even begin to discuss the most glaring and intractable problem defenders of “liberty” never seem to ask themselves: how can a “right” exist when it can be overridden and invalidated so easily by another? Countries have always been formed, managed and maintained through deadly force. I need only to give the example of the United States of America to back up my assertion, born and nurtured under war, holocaust and slavery as it was. All the Liberal Political Scientists at  the time of America’s dawning era were paid to spread beguiling stories and narratives about “We the People,” and “Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness.” Yes, they meant every single word of it… if you were a landowning White Male.

The Bill of Rights by the Equal Life Foundation represents the reality of what Human Rights can and ought to be… for EVERYONE, not just the few who believe that since they have access to wealth, only they have access to life. Since Governments have proven that they can create money and wealth using computers, paper and printing presses, our first Bill or Humans sees no reason everyone should not be entitled to what a few has allowed only themselves to enjoy. What we propose calls for a different social contract, and a different perspective, but it is not unintelligible or incoherent. Since money has become the lynchpin for gaining and possessing value in the system, let all in the system be valued. Thus we call for enactment and recognition of the basic Human Right for all persons to have their basic financial, educational and health needs met, equally and without delay.

 

Fear of Equal Money, Part 1. 03/22/2013

Would the Equal Money System confiscate personal wealth?

If history shows anything, it is that there’s no better way to justify relations founded on violence, to make such relations seem moral, than by reframing them in the language of debt – above all, because it immediately makes it seem that it’s the victim who’s doing something wrong.

-David Graeber

This question appeared on the Quora board and I was asked to answer it.  It was asked by “anon user,” the now – infamous paid internet troll who suffered a massive literary beatdown at the hands of Sunette Spies (see previous post). I wasn’t going to answer it at first, but upon reflection, why the hell not? Others (without an axe to grind or a paycheck to collect) probably ask the same question. So I won’t acknowledge the p.i.t. on Quora, but I will answer it here (and dare anon user to play his game in my back yard).

Pretending that this question comes from genuine curiosity, I will say that I do not know everything that will happen with the installation of an Equal Money System. I do foresee it being installed in successive stages, over a period of many years, maybe decades, I don’t know. The current system would not accept such a shock if EMS were to be delivered all at once. But I want to discuss the overarching concern embedded within the question: “what will happen to my personal wealth?”

 This is part and parcel of the fear of loss attached to a change from the current economic system. A system where the winner takes all, and is perfectly represented in the image below:

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Within this equation the question must be asked, what if your personal wealth directly contributed to the suffering of countless others? I won’t even apply any rationality or morality to the question, because it’s been exploited to death. And the cheap trick about morality and rationality is that one can set up a premise based on any foundation along a causal chain of events and attach any moral or rational “cover” or significance that can prove or justify anything, no matter cruel or unjust. MY personal wealth is to be considered the most important thing in my life because I have given it so much value that it justifies everything I had to do to get it and keep it. I’ve given so much to this that I have identified this value as myself. So the fear of my wealth being “confiscated” is really the existential fear of having my valued personality taken away from me.”

Has our questioner ever considered to what extent the personal wealth of those who have to be stripped of all worth, economic or otherwise, to line the pockets of those in command of the system? [1] I really doubt anyone has. Because if one had even first considered the inner dimensions of such a question, it would have failed to leap from one’s mind. Then again, it could be the rank ignorance of an appalling nature. In America we have wealth “confiscated” by others every day in the form of banking fees, interest and other charges and subsidies commonly known as “corporate welfare.” That last item “confiscated” the wealth of US Citizens to the tune of $100 billion dollars in 2012. [2] The questioner may not be aware of such confiscations of wealth currently at work in Capitalism, but more likely, the question was merely a cynical trap to engage in pointless troll dickholery, which I mean to say, it may be a good question, but considering the source, it is only a question presented with a dubious malice submerged within a veneer of civility.

Critics uniformly draw lazy comparisons between Equal Money  and Communism, and often with a weak command of either subject. Of course, we have already diagramed that fear of Equality will cause one to succumb to unreasonableness – and even hostility – when presented with the notion of economic egalitarianism, and at the same time, fall into silent denial over the fact that the current system has taken so much more than Equality ever could.

Fear of Equal Money is a fear that radiates from a center of unenlightened self-interest, a sense of entitlement and a perverse need to justify the unjustifiable. Remember, it was less than a century and a half ago that human slavery  – the legal, religious and economic confiscation of a colonized people’s treasure of blood, labor and tears was abolished. And it took a bloody civil war and a 150 years of lynchings and disenfranchisement since then to nearly settle the question. Nor does the question even begin to explain,  acknowledge or bemoan the attempted extermination and confiscation of land of the Indigenous Peoples in the United States. Yet, any talk of “reparations” sends these Randian Individualists into paroxysms of rage. They will archly reply that they shouldn’t be held accountable for the sins committed in past centuries, yet they will be slow – or unwilling – to forswear any wealth or advantage gained by those same sins. This is what I meant by the “cheap trick of rationality.”

So, back to the question – I simply do not know the answer, because that chapter in human affairs is still to be written. Whatever happens will be agreed upon democratically, which would be the best method to set up the EMS. There will undoubtedly be a transition phase – and many people will be surprised how relatively easy it all could be done. But any discussion about the redistribution of wealth should not be made within cynical, jaded and lazy comparisons of what has happened in the past, but with due consideration of what is best for all. Which leaves me with a question for the critics of Equal Money: What would be better for everyone than having everyone’s basic needs in the world taken care of?

NOTES

[1]  For some perspective how the US government has colluded with the US banking system in taking public money to give to the banks, please read Ellen Brown’s excellent Internet article for Global Research, “Financial Meltdown: The Greatest Transfer of Wealth in History; How to Reverse the Tide and Democratize the US Monetary System.

[2] From the Libertarian Cato Institute report, a think tank as neoliberal as they come; Corporate Welfare in the Federal Budget .

Fear of Equality, Part 6. 03/15/2013

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The Natural Law Argument Against Equality

When we speak of the Fear of Equality, we notice that most opponents of Equality will use various arguments to contradict or invalidate the benefits and rewards of Equality. The most popular is the  Natural Law argument, due to its claims of representing the best features of human nature and best represents the ideals of human freedom. Above all else, Natural Law has been appealed to justify and legitimize and promote Capitalism. But does the Natural Law argument against Equality succeed in overturning the basic tenets of an egalitarian – based society?

“God is not separate from the world; He is the soul of the world, and each of us contains a part of the Divine Fire. All things are parts of one single system, which is called Nature; the individual life is good when it is in harmony with Nature. In one sense, every life is in harmony with Nature, since it is such as Nature’s laws have caused it to be; but in another sense a human life is only in harmony with Nature when the individual will is directed to ends which are among those of Nature. Virtue consists in “living in agreement with Nature.” (Zeno, 4th Century, BCE).

It was the Stoics who are credited in formalizing the theory of Natural Law, where they believed that certain insights existed behind the natural order that could be ascertained through the application of reason and logic. This ancient Greek school of philosophy founded at Athens by Zeno (c. 300 BCE). According to Zeno’s teaching, the Universe is based on laws of the fiery mind of God. The Universe actually IS “God.”  It is the highest virtue (or moral good) that is based on knowledge, and that the wise live in harmony with the divine Reason that governs nature (because “God” IS Nature), and since life on Earth can cause various, detrimental episodes, to be indifferent to the reversal of fortunes that result in success and failure is “virtue.”

Principles of Natural Law have been embedded into Western philosophical thought and accorded a special universal significance, since it has been viewed as a basis for ethical human interaction. Natural law is seen as a “special” branch of  the legal system, especially in the Western tradition  because of its reductive relationship to the natural world from which these universal principles were derived. In other words, it was believed that there was some kind of rational, comprehensible system that exists behind the natural world.

Darwin, Hebert Spencer and others used the Natural Law conceptual framework to build their systems of evolutionary change in biology and sociology. Over time Natural Selection came to be equated with “survival of the fittest,” the Capitalist Law of the Jungle where the only morality could be found in competition, adaptability to the environment and specialization.

During the Middle Ages Thomas Aquinas, the great Christian Church theologian, appealed to Natural Law principles when he proposed that proof of the existence of God did not require faith or belief, but only through the  rational exercise of the reasoning mind.

In the 16th Century, the Dutch jurist, Hugo Grotius, asserted that nations and individuals were subject to natural law principles. Grotius wrote that the laws of men should be in accordance with natural law principles. Grotius and other like-thinking writers and philosophers of the period in the 16th and 17th Centuries used natural law propositions that helped topple the feudal system in Europe by pointing out that the feudal system was in opposition to the universal principles of Nature (and by extension, “God.”). Natural Law precepts helped shape important historical events and documents such as the Declaration of Independence and the Rights of Man documents of te French Revolution, and formed a major stream of thought within the philosophy of Classical Liberalism, Capitalism and religion and science.

By the time we get to Herbert Spencer’s “survival of the fittest” and Charles Darwin’s “natural selection” verbiage in the 19th Century, natural law had become the theological system of Capitalism. The Law of the Jungle and the law of  laissez-faire Capitalism, where the winner takes all, are one and the same. There was nothing “immoral” about a lion killing and eating a gazelle as it was just fulfilling its role as part of the natural world of survival within a certain environment. Same with allowing the exploitation of segments of society and allowing the poor to starve and die; no immorality there, for if the weak are unfit to survive, the law will remove them from this reality. It is simply science. It’s nothing personal.

It has been the theories of Natural Law that has legitimized the structure of Capitalism and helped give it shape and direction. But is this linkage of Natural Law and Natural Selection able to accurately describe a rational order in this world or is it merely a theory based on a false impression of reality? What is the argument of those who fear Equality goes against the principles of Natural Law?

Orders of Equality and the Limits Imposed by “Liberty”

For example, justice is considered to mean equality, It does mean equality, but equality for those who are equal, and not for all. (Aristotle)

Since nature does not endow all men with equal beauty or equal intelligence, and the faculty of volition leads men to make different choices, the egalitarians propose to abolish the “unfairness” of nature and of volition, and to establish universal equality in fact—in defiance of facts. Since the Law of Identity is impervious to human manipulation, it is the Law of Causality that they struggle to abrogate. Since personal attributes or virtues cannot be “redistributed,” they seek to deprive men of their consequences—of the rewards, the benefits, the achievements created by personal attributes and virtues. It is not equality before the law that they seek, but inequality: the establishment of an inverted social pyramid, with a new aristocracy on top—the aristocracy of non-value. (Ayn Rand, The Return of the Primitive)

The arguments against Equality are based in essentialism [1] and limitation. The first argument goes like this: people are inherently un-equal, blessed or cursed with different strengths and weaknesses that yield different results of success and failure in life. To award Equality to all is to reward failure. It is against the Law of the Jungle, Natural Selection and “survival of the fittest.” The Natural Law argument is also one that is embedded through the Classical Liberalism conceits of “Individualism,” “free will” and “Liberty,” not to mention the biggest conceit of all: competition. While the other items are vague, shapeless and subject to multiple interpretations, everyone understands competition.[2] And everyone understands that a Capitalism without competition ceases to be Capitalism. Removing competition removes motivation to participate in Capitalism (so it is believed). And what is feared is the collapse of the entire system due to non – participation. Equality in this way is seen as a subversion to the Natural Order, which leads to the next point.

The Limitation argument is also based on Classical Liberal philosophy, economics and even science. As we have seen in the previous blogs, there’s an inherent, irrational fear that (1) Equality is impossible due to the evil, selfish nature of humanity, and (2) Equality can only be imposed through Draconian, authoritarian means. It is believed that your money must be taken away from you and redistributed to others “who don’t deserve it.” In Capitalism, and this is a point Capitalists are loathe to admit on moral grounds, it is acceptable for a person or group of people to exploit others for profit. The initial economic surge of Capitalism was generated by the harnessing of slave labor and exploitation of the working class. People actually died for the right of working a 40 hour week (Less than 100 years ago, it was common for a factory worker to toil 16 hours a day in dangerous, life – threatening conditions. One can see how Capitalism would have liked to treat its workers). The Limitation of Liberty is the limitation of the liberal’s right to choose to exploit another for profit. (When speaking of “liberal” in this context, I’m referring to the classical economic dimension of the term, not the political definition. Thus, all Capitalists are ‘liberal’ in that Capitalism is a liberal economic system).

So if you mine this equation for any logic, you can only come up with this: at least within Capitalism, Liberty sets limits on equality because Liberty is inherently inequitable, the argument being, “Surely one wouldn’t allow everyone to study at Harvard, would they? It wouldn’t be fair to those who actually can afford it or have the educational level to study there.” There has to be obstacles and impediments in place (like access to money and connections) or else the value of Harvard is rendered spoiled. This value is tied to what we cherish and despise – the life and death principles of success and failure.

We are now moving into another murky territory. The value of a Harvard education is analogous to the value of Capitalism.

NEXT: The Value of Inequality

NOTES

[1] Essentialism is the philosophical belief that things have a set of characteristics that make them what they are (their essence), and that the task of science and philosophy is their discovery and expression; the doctrine that essence is prior to existence.

[2] This is why a result of a tie or draw in a soccer match infuriates American sports fans. There should always be a winner who takes all.

Fear of Equality, Part 3 03/06/2013

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The Myth of Liberty

Capitalism  is not only an economic and political system in which a country’s trade and industry are controlled by private owners for profit, and it is not only a system based on private ownership and generating profits for the “free market” and “investors.” It is actually a functioning Religion, as well.

As a Religion, Capitalism provides many of the same features and benefits any metaphysical system could conceive. It deals entirely in matters of Faith, worship and beliefs in a Supreme Being (of sorts). There are Narratives that are passed down from written books written centuries ago by Priests and Prophets, who created expansive systems of economic theologies which believers take as proof of their God’s existence and Truth of the nature of Reality. There are several main beliefs that have been given a metaphysical status within Capitalism, although we’ll only touch upon a few. It is the enduring, totalizing and ubiquitous presence of these beliefs systems that have made Capitalism so entrenched and almost impossible – to – dislodge for what it is; a pious and deadly superstition. If we look at some of the main myths of Capitalism, it will be revealed that what actually is offered as the truth are distorted and destructive definitions that has been surreptitiously uprooted and erased from their original meanings. The amazing thing is that these transformed, innovated and falsified distortions have caused these definitions to drift away and disappear from their supposedly definite significations, and nobody has seemed to notice. It is much like donkey meat being sold as 100% ground beef at the supermarket, and people not knowing or caring about the difference.

1. Liberty

Capitalism claims to promote liberty, voluntary exchange, integrity, political freedom, private property and wealth. Of these, private ownership of property and personal liberty are touted as the main benefits of Capitalism, and with it, a moralistic presumption that these things are what everyone naturally desires and are entitled to by their own self-reliance and the Grace of God. This idea, among others from classical Liberalism from intellectuals like Hobbes,  and slave – traders such as John Locke and proslavery advocate Hugo Grotius [1]. “Sovereignty,” “natural law,” and the “pursuit of happiness,” were all the rage with these philosophers, although the question of slavery was still far from settled for these purveyors of liberty. With the rise of Capitalism, there was a growing realization that realities of slavery and the ideas of liberty were causing friction and discord among the European intelligentsia. Logic, reason and common sense failed to dislodge the institution of slavery from the institution of Christianity (which tacitly supported it) and the newly – formed investor class that was beginning to amass astounding, if risky profits from the slave trade.  It took centuries and the bloody American Civil War to help settle the question for good. The definition of Liberty, always as metaphysical and philosophical term of “freedom” which never existence in palpable  physical terms on Earth, was slowly transformed within the evolution of the Capitalistic system. Although slavery was abolished, with the idea that man could not have his labor sold without his consent or payment, what now “free” to rent his labor to another for a wage, instead. This bastardization of “liberty” is today’s “freedom” to libertarians and neoliberals, who have no problem in checking their avowed respect for “voluntary exchange” and “personal integrity” at the door, or change their meanings into a gross distortion, as long as it boosts profits.

Capitalism does not promote “liberty,” but in reality, produces a crypto-authoritarian state of enslavement, alienation, endless consumption, poverty, waste and war. Why do I say “crypto-authoritarian?” Because there is no “voluntary exchange” within Capitalism. There is only voluntary servitude. If one doesn’t “voluntarily” hand over one’s body, effort, mind and time to another, that person will not have a bed to sleep or food on their table. Yet Liberty is raised to religious heights, like an invisible Supreme Being that lives in the sky that has no shape or form other than that molded by inference, wishful thinking and ignorance born from the narratives of Capitalist propaganda. Nobody wants to live without a bed or food, because there is no life outside this  system, where only the hell and gnashing of teeth of  begging, destitution and death awaits. Quite an inescapable bubble we’ve managed to create for ourselves, and yet, the belief has solidified into a substance far heavier than Mount Everest: that this is the best of all possible worlds and that Capitalism is the best of all possible systems created by Man. Well, with half of the world’s population living on less than $2 a day, you couldn’t prove this to me.

2. The Individual and the Fear of the Group

Also known as God, the Übermensch or the Exceptional Man. Here as well Capitalism elevates the Individual into metaphysical terms as a perfect expression of humanity, the idealized being that conquers and subdues all in his path. Like the petulant, disgruntled John Galt, but this Individual does not exist, much like John Galt, does not exist, but is a story of the frustrated expression of enlightened self-interest. “Men of the mind” [2], as Ayn Rand would put it, whose genius and acumen creates the gifts of the Gods for the swarming masses of humanity.

Within the Capitalist  (and especially the Libertarian and anarcholibertarian) mythos, the Individual is granted an unassailable sovereignty that is unconcerned with anything that might dampen the fires of “enlightened” self – interest. This dimension of the Individual is meant to convey a political reality where the rights of the Individual is claimed to supersede the rights of the Group. When we speak of Fear of Equality we are in essence speaking about fear of the Group.  In Western Civilization, this fear has a deep philosophical undercurrent. The great Holy Trinity of Classical thought, Socrates, Plato and Aristotle, were all disdainful and fearful of democracy and majority rule. They thought, and many others as well, thought that the common man was a bit too dense to allow social groups to act as a politically cohesive unit. [3]

The Individual, according the Capitalist religion, is endowed with “rights,” “free choice” and “responsibilities” that must not be thwarted by any outside agency, for the Individual must be given “personal liberty,” free from the restraints of the leeches of society.  Individual must be granted total sovereignty over their body and more importantly, over the ability to form networks, agreements and relationships. This Individual seems to have no real connection or relationships with other Individuals, and seems to exist in and as an island unto themselves, unless one enters into a “voluntary association.”  Yet, even though this Individual must enter systems of social and financial relationships which forms a “Group” that he naturally fears and despises, according to the Capitalist mythos, the Individual must be allowed the liberty to dictate what kind of relationship he wants to enter with another, as long as it does not involve stealing or forcibly harming another’s body or property.

What is interesting here is that the current system steals and harms the largest portion of human beings (Individuals as a Group) on Earth. Of course the Individual lives in fear over that the Group will some day, out of sheer, overwhelming numbers and vengeance, take his property and wealth away. Ayn Rand went so far to even deny that society (as a Group) did not exist, since it is made up by Individuals, and did not enjoy any moral claims to have rights – “rights”  could only be enjoyed by the Individual. The grafting of a moral component to the capitalist concern of self – interest was a cheap trick (who isn’t for morality?), but many have bought it. And few have questioned how is it that Capitalism (composed of one group of Individuals), as a “moral” system, holds no responsibility for the incredibly damaging effects it produces for this planet and the larger group of Individuals living on it.  “Rights,” “liberty” and “morality” are imaginary, metaphysical concepts used to justify the trap that exists as the jaws of a nightmare from which there is no escape.

Only the fear of the Group is real.

NEXT: The Survival of the Fittest

NOTES

[1] Hugo Grotius (1583-1645) was immensely influential in developing the “natural law” idea that would be borrowed and expanded upon by such thinkers as Thomas Hobbes, Jean-Jaques Rousseau and Locke. Among his ideas was that is permissible for a being to enter into voluntary servitude in exchange for a stable society. Compare this with the modern libertarianism of  Robert Nozick’s notorious statement from his book, “Anarchy, State, and Utopia” (1974):  “The comparable question about an individual is whether a free system will allow him to sell himself into slavery.  I believe that it would.” While Libertarians wonder why they aren’t taken more seriously, this is precisely the reality we all find ourselves in.

[2] Ayn Rand’s hero, John Galt, who is meant to be a Capitalist “hero” in Rand’s novel, “Atlas Shrugged,” is a rather poor example of the flower of Capitalism Rand’s followers make him out to be, because the question must be asked; what self – respecting Capitalist worth his salt goes on strike against… his customers?

In a lengthy speech that drags on for dozens of pages, Galt crows, ““All the men who have vanished, the men you hated, yet dreaded to lose, it is I who have taken them away from you. Do not attempt to find us. We do not choose to be found. Do not cry that it is our duty to serve you. We do not recognize such duty. Do not cry that you need us. We do not consider need a claim. Do not cry that you own us. You don’t. Do not beg us to return. We are on strike, we, the men of the mind.”

[3] Aristotle:  “A democracy is a government in the hands of men of low birth, no property, and vulgar employments.” and “Democracy is when the indigent, and not the men of property, are the rulers.” Plato was just as scornful: “Democracy… is a charming form of government, full of variety and disorder; and dispensing a sort of equality to equals and unequals alike.” According to research by I. F. Stone in his book, The Trial of Socrates, Socrates was put to death because of his teaching of anti-democratic views to his pupils in Athens.