Monthly Archives: September 2018
Yeah, not one of my catchier titles but sometimes you just have to say it plain.
I’m in the midst of reading a new book about the long history of pseudo Libertarian incursion into American democratic progress and it’s enlightening to say the least. As far as I’ve always understood it, Libertarianism as defined as a political ideology, is basically the capitalist version of Anarchism, the main difference being that somehow the magical free market will save us all as opposed to the rainbows and butterflies that come with mutual cooperation without coercion doing the same. Both ideas come mainly from intellectually elite boy-children whose moral superiority casts no doubt on their otherwise easily disprovable assertions.
Make no mistake though, with enough money and a firm commitment to fundamentally changing the balance of power back to elite, white, landholding, educated, moneyed folk you can talk the ignorant unwashed masses into almost anything. The dog whistles drown out the jack hammers drilling into the power of working folks. Racial and ethnic fear mongering hold the head of reason underwater until the bubbles stop, it’s too late, democracy as even the least of us understand it is dead.
At the risk of turning this post into a book report, in Democracy in Chains, author Nancy MacLean tells the story of James McGill Buchanan a Nobel Prize Winning economist and the arguable grandfather of Political Economy. The book constantly refers to his philosophical adherents as Libertarians but that tag will prove to be inaccurate as the story goes on.
In short it outlines the transformation of an economic movement more in line with the way colonial America worked than the idea of democracy we’ve come to accept. A way of thinking that basically obliterates the current social order. It’s one of those books that confirms with eerie accuracy what many of us have seen happening around us.
Basically, read the book.
My tangential comments on the ideas surrounding the book will follow.
I’ve talked about my own anarcho-libertarian leanings before, I’ve also talked about my sympathy for all types of middle to lower class people (being one of them myself doesn’t hurt) but i want to step back from both and look at this transformation through my own experience of them. It means fundamentally different things to different people but the general gist is that individuals are prime before the state, whatever state that is.
I lived through the Reagan revolution so I felt the behind the scenes machinations that steered the political ship during that era even without knowing they were there. I felt the meanness that was tested during that era, the proto-tea party movements of “Angry White Men” (I never get tired of this clip) the anger and resentment that helped restart the Klan and create the still racist but less obviously so patriot movement. The “Libertarians” of the Virginia school of political economy were making inroads into the corridors of power, aided and abetted by none other than Charles Koch (who to this day is the grand wizard of “Libertarian” direct action) they used any social movement that would benefit their oligarchic elitism. Many of the same tactics used by the preservers of the Confederacy are still being used today to divide and sterilize the power that the working class attained post labor.
They used racial animus, fearmongering and outright lies and distortions to push an agenda that legitimized the idea that only certain people had the right to weigh in on political matters and only certain experiences mattered. You can easily rectify this with many of the “constitutionalist” provocations that defended slavery, opposed universal suffrage and defend ideas most of us hold as undemocratic. The cause beyond all causes though is to restore a colonial ideal that only educated, land-holding white me be given the franchise. The erosion of voting rights among communities of color not only assumes that the poverty-stricken are not educated enough to make a valid decision in determining their future but that the cannot be given the information to make that choice in a rational fashion. White rural poor America gets a second tact.
“When you are accustomed to privilege, equality feels like oppression.”
This is the foundational truth of the new Libertarian movement, it is the fuel that has fired the engine of their attracting their most ardent followers. As demographic changes continue to become more apparent, women become more powerful and racial minorities become (collectively and deceptively) the majority, white males have become the target audience for a newly lipsticked pig.
This movement will and has used any means to grab power. It uses disinformation directed at communities of color and majority communities as well. It uses a slow steady well-funded effort through a network that feels increasingly comfortable coming out from behind the scenes. It intends to wrest what we think of as democracy as broken as it already is (and much of this is by design, designed by, guess who?) into what actually is a plutocracy. This makes the Republican Libertarian wing’s tacit support from the Trump agenda in all its fracturing, disenfranchising, Russia-loving glory make much more sense.
Trump is not only a useful idiot for Russian oligarchs, but for American ones as well.
This will not end well if it ever ends at all.
There are so many complex intertwining aspects of the Kavanaugh nomination that it boggles even the minds of people who, by the definition of their employment, have to hold the ideal of juggling opposing information. Complicating the basic issues of human dignity and privacy which pervade the process is the fact that most folks have no idea what it feels like to be truly socially and economically privileged and have little time or energy to develop an imagination to put themselves in that place.
There are basic forms of privilege that men feel, the privilege to catcall, to leer, to assume advances are welcome and to think this is the case even though there isn’t the impulse to follow through. There are additional privilege as white men that exist that allow them even greater flexibility to do so. White supremacist ideology isn’t reserved for avowed racists, it permeates the culture. Up another level is the assumptions that come along with being white, male and economically advantaged.
I had some exposure to this when I attended a prep school and later when dealing with students from Ivy League universities “as equals” engaging in activism. I had even greater exposure when I’d managed to weasel myself into a few Fraternity parties and other assorted functions reserved for that class. Enough exposure and enough reading allowed me to imagine some of the rest. I can’t for the life of me go completely “there,” but I do have enough in my own experience and in my own head to “feel” some of that privilege.
What so many are missing is how that enshrined mentality affects this curious state of play we find ourselves in currently, not just as far as this nomination but in the culture as a whole. At the junction of understanding what the wider agenda is, feeling that justified in a way and knowing still that the impulse is so utterly antidemocratic especially if we continue to believe in liberal democratic principles there is a tsunami of confusion that spins the steadiest of heads.
I’ve seen first hand how little understanding of the middle class the wealthy elites have, how casually they brush aside social norms and set thresholds of behavior that allow none of the boundaries the rest of us have. Classism, is much as Racism and Sexism is a growing prevailing disease in this country and the fully known privilege of the members of the exclusive club of truly wealthy elites, most of which still attain wealth, at least initially, through inheritance, is becoming legion. Like those fully emboldened now to show their true racist colors, the blatantly classist few are out there with their antidemocratic beliefs in full display.
Kavanaugh’s nomination as well as the man himself are rife with this ideology. The ideology of sheltered assumed superiority and privilege based on breeding and wealth and the assumption of being above the law and above codes of normalcy reserved for the rest of us. An example of this in plain sight for as long as I can remember is DKE the fraternity at the heart of many calls to police (and a subsequent eviction) in New Haven, and one which Kavanaugh was briefly a member is only one of many examples of this mentality enshrined in universities across the country. Institutional think tanks like the Reason foundation and the Club for Growth clean up the beer soaked assumption and often pill these suckling pigs off the teat of fraternity life and legitimize the assumption of superiority through breeding. These institutions lie at the juncture of early American ideals of land holding intelligentsia and a particularly and ironic strain of Libertarian white male supremacy that finally feels comfortable outing itself after Obama.
Make no mistake, there is a direct attempt to hijack our liberal democratic ideals and become a democratic republic in name only. There is a concerted effort to de-platform any attempt to bring this to the masses and create any sort of popular push-back against it. It is not solely Republican as many corporate Democrats come from these same institutions.
Kavanaugh is one shot after many and many more still to come. The information war (more irony as Alex Jones co-opted the notion for his own gain) has been in session for decades and through this president, at this time, it is raging full on. The war for democracy is in full swing and at this very moment democracy is losing. Where that war goes, and it can’t be partisan, will not only determine the fate of our liberal democracy but other liberal democratic countries throughout the world.