Class Warfare Blog

November 20, 2017

New Resource for Social Justice Found

It has been recently noted that most Americans do not own a gun, nor is there a gun in their household, rather there are many guns in the hands of a few. Apparently “… America’s gun super-owners, have amassed huge collections. Just 3% of American adults own a collective 133,000,000 firearms – half of America’s total gun stock. These owners have collections that range from eight to 140 guns, the 2015 study found. Their average collection: 17 guns each.

Really I think we need to start considering these people a national resource. Since they reject the idea that the Second Amendment to the Constitution refers only to militias, maybe each of these super gun owners could be tab as a militia of one, to help defend the country, you know, when the liberals attack.

Maybe we could have these militias patrol the streets of our most dangerous cities, where all of them mynoritees is.

Maybe we could have them fight ISIS. I would be willing to buy a one-way ticket for one of these guys, but we would have to get some sort of dispensation to allow them to take their own crate of guns and ammo with them.

Apparently the Second Amendment is not about allowing individual citizens to own a gun, but about a very small minority to own their own armories.

I wonder what happens to the NRA when these gun nuts run out of room to store their hoards and stop buying guns. Are they going to sponsor the building of secure, high tech, gun range and armory combinations on the lot next to their houses? Gotta find a way to keep those “collectors” buying.

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November 10, 2017

Boy, I Love Ian Welsh

But unlike most of the rest of the world, China is actually trying to tackle problems, to think decades ahead, to plan and to do big important things. Some of what China considers important, like its expansion of a truly oppressive surveillance citizen which will include a public score for every citizen, I don’t like, but China does big things, good, bad or flawed, while we watch approaching catastrophes and gently hum to ourselves, then check our phones.

Follow the brilliant mind of Ian Welsh at his blog.

Economist’s Grasp of Reality (or Lack Thereof)

Many economic theories focus on the tendency of markets to create states of equilibrium. They say these states occur “naturally.”

Economists are also keen on making their studies seem scientific and they can and do point to many physical systems that naturally come to equilibrium. If you drop a ball, it falls, bounces a few times and then stops. The force on the ball at that point is the force of gravity (the attractions things have for one another because they have mass) and the counterforce (keeping the ball from moving downward by opposing the force of gravity) is the floor pushing up because its shape has been changed by the weight of the ball as it is made of resilient materials (materials that return to their original shapes when distorted .. a little). Voila, an equilibrium state created naturally. The downward force of gravity is exactly balanced by the upward force exerted by the floor and an equilibrium of forces exists.

Physics literally abounds with such examples: bathroom scales, child’s swings (pendulums), heat transfers, etc. But these are simple systems and economic systems are not simple (although they can be passed off as such, they are not). A better source of examples of scientific equilibria would be biology, which has more complex systems. In biology, if an organism achieves something like a state of equilibrium there is one thing you can know about it: it is dead. (Hey, this does happen … naturally!)

In complex organisms, these organisms are near states of equilibrium but never get too close to being in one. If, for example, we lose enough heat from our bodies to affect our skin temperature, we are moved to action: our hair stands up (goose bumps) to trap air to insulate us, our metabolism kicks in to generate more heat internally, and if those don’t work, we get up and put on a sweater, or turn on the heater in our house/apartment. Our temperature stays pretty much the same because we are always correcting it.

If we get too far from equilibrium, we usually are quite ill, but actually being at equilibrium means we are room temperature, aka dead.

Economist are full of shit if they espouse natural equilibrium creation by economic markets. It is one of those signs that you know they are spouting bullshit, like when their lips are moving. The reason they allow themselves such delusions is they do not check their theories against reality. They aren’t even expected to! Unfortunately for those folks, their end is coming soon. While they were not looking, behavioral economics has sprung up with a behavioral economist having won a Nobel Prize recently. These folks apply economic reasoning to actual experiments and actual people’s behaviors! That is, they check their theories against reality. (Gasp, wow!) It will not be long before the movers and shakers start noticing the progress being made by the behavioral economists is not being matched by ordinary economists and then, the jig will be up.

Imagine, if “trickle down economics” had ever been required to be validated against reality, it would have been exposed as a bullshit argument used to mask increased benefits for the elites long before it was. Think of all of the political bullshit that could have been prevented.

If this were to become SOP, we might actually find out what the last refuge of scoundrels really is.

November 6, 2017

Live Off of the Land? Move Along, Nothing to See Here

The empire keeps striking back, as this article about the legal foundation of the common use of the land to sustain oneself shows. This battle is still being waged today.

The elites do not want us to use common land to sustain our lives. They need to be able to coerce our labor to their benefit, not ours. And their efforts continue to this day.

Read it and weep: Why You’ve Never Heard of a Charter as Important as the Magna Carta

 

November 5, 2017

None So Blind As He Who Will Not See

Note This is a very long post, you may need to read it in stages. Sorry. Steve

At this point in my life, I am an old man. For over 60 years I have been studying history, mostly on my own. I remember reading H.G. Wells A Short History of the World when in high school, for fun. (I was what was then called “a reader” but an otherwise ordinary boy.) In college I read Will and Ariel Durant’s The Story of Civilization, for fun (and The Story of Philosophy and The Lessons of History). I read books about Egyptian History, the history of science, World War 2, the Russian Revolution, and on and on. I have been reading lately about the history of the Christian church (a real hair raiser if there was one).

And in all of those histories my eyes ran over the words but they didn’t quite come together. All of those Russian peasants, the serfs of Europe, the subjects of Egyptian and Persian god-kings, the Christian mobs running competitors out of town, all of those slaves and I never put together the fact that the vast majority of all human beings have been slaves since the advent of civilization.

I have written before about how I thought small groups of human beings ended up with shamans, shamans being members of the tribe who weren’t particularly skilled at hunting or any other valuable skill, yet who craved status and hence claimed to be able to negotiate with all of the gods that abounded in the minds of people. Since we knew no better, we assumed that everything had a voice in it like we had in our heads, so there was a god of the brook, of a tree, of a mountain, of the animals they hunted. All of our gods started with the animistic gods of primitive humans as precursors. This is where the idea of a god came from. But those gods were right there to observe in the form of the tree, or the spring, or the antelope. They weren’t far away gods and they certainly weren’t all-powerful.

When people started to gather in larger groups (larger than a small family), that is up to 100-125 in a troop (about the maximum size before splitting into smaller groups apparently), there was likely more than one shaman and they either had to compete or cooperate and since they were cunning they realized that they would be better off together than in competition. In order to cooperate, they had to get their stories together, so they were making the same claims and exhibiting the same “powers.” This is how a covey of shamans started religions. As the size of groups expanded, more cooperation between and among shamans was necessitated.

I have come to the conclusion that “organized” religion is simply a people control mechanism that was enabled by civilization. To live in cities, a great deal of labor needed to be coerced (because no one wanted to work that hard) and religion proved to be the tool to do just that. (“Kings” didn’t show up until about 1500 years after the first cities, which were always run by religious elites.) For the religious, the city was a gravy train. Other people toiled to provide them food and clothing and luxuries and all they had to do was perform some rituals from time to time and, of course, claim to have some power over those damned gods who would kick our asses at the drop of a hat. This was the creation of first wealth and the first full-time leisure.

I assume there were some true believers but they were always co-opted by the power mongers who took their imaginative creations and used them to make people obey.

The people closest to the class of elites wanted in on the scam (no different today) and didn’t want to be coerced into doing the work to support all of the freeloaders, so since the idea of capturing people from other tribes already existed, the idea of acquiring manpower from elsewhere came readily to mind. Men and women to work, women of child-bearing age to have more babies, even children were valuable. So, the elites, in essence, invented large scale slave raids, which were the nascent versions of what would end up as wars.

This is also why religions make no sense at all because we are looking at them in the wrong way. Religions are uneasy partners with political/military leaders to supply psychological and, if needed, physical force to keep people in line. In rare cases religion gets co-opted to support the general populace, but eventually they fall back in line as partners to maintain the status quo for the elites. The religions then, of course, use those instances as indicators of their true natures, like in the U.S. where religious leaders became anti-slavery, when there is no scripture whatsoever that supported their position.

Just like the shamans who saw they were better off as allies than competitors in the tribes, the religious elites saw the martial elites as natural allies. This took a little while to work out. The first “kings” were battle leaders under the control of the religious elites, but soon the warriors saw that they could whip the assess of those girly-men priests and didn’t think they should be taking orders from them anymore. You need to look no farther than The Epic of Gilgamesh for an example of such a conflict.

This alliance of elites has always had it ups and downs. The political elites eliminated the priest’s influence in the Russian Revolution, for example. (You will notice the priests are back, somewhat cowed, but religion is too good of a tool of oppression to waste. Ask Mr. Putin.) Henry the VIII of England created his own church when the one he had wouldn’t do his bidding. The Church of Rome threw much of the young male nobility of Europe into the meat grinder of the crusades to capture and control Jerusalem (a hardly useful task, but just making them do it reinforced their power over the nobles). There are many examples, but almost always the two religious and secular powers end up hand in hand.

Just ask yourself, which of the two American political parties is most covetous of political power? You will also notice that they are also the most overtly religious, even trying to change the law that prevents clergy from haranguing their congregations on politics. Which party are the religious supporting the most? (Surprise!) There are many more examples that can be made.

The bottom line is that religion was invented to control your behavior for the benefit of an elite few. Civilization was a tipping point in scale. And because of this there has been untold misery inflicted on other humans who were enslaved or coerced into work they didn’t want.

We know civilization was a tipping point because there was so much resistance to it. The first cities rose and died very quickly. There were structural problems, problems of getting resources delivered to the elites (water transport was good, land transport was awful), there were problems coercing “the flock.” The were problems in the high concentrations of food created and stored and shipped drew vermin like magnets, and as the populations increased, the numbers of people and animals were high enough to support disease epidemics.

All of the “civilizations” were initially surrounded by “barbarians.” These were actually the free people … well free, unless they were captured and enslaved by the “civilized” people. The barbarians were hunter-gatherers, or pastoralists, or semi-sedentary groups of people who lived the old way, the easy way, the healthy way.

Because the “barbarians” had very varied diets, they were quite disease resistant. The grew taller, stronger, and had less gum and other diseases. (We know this; this is not just a guess.) The “civilized” people were the exact opposite, but also got a narrow diet (consider the Chinese diet of rice for breakfast, rice for lunch, and rice for dinner … if they were lucky) and got to work longer hours at work not of their choosing. Yes, I know hunter-gatherers had to gather and hunt to eat, but they didn’t have someone telling them to do just one thing all of a day. They didn’t have anyone telling them what to do at all. They would go looking for things good to eat and what they did depended on what was available, and there was widespread availability of many different foodstuffs which was shared fairly egalitarianly … until the civilized people confiscated the land by force and used it for the elite’s purposes.

The barbarians opposed the civilized people because the civilized people opposed them. And sometimes the barbarians won. But in the end, the free people succumbed to the diseases and predation of the “civilized” people. (Consider the fate of the millions of people living in what was to become the United States, when the Europeans showed up with their “white, god-given privilege.)

But, you say, that was a long, long time ago and now the benefits of civilization are shared by one and all. (This claim is followed by a long list of the benefits of civilization, most of which are valid but many are quite dubious. Protection from communicable diseases with vaccines that people never got before being herded into large groups has to be considered a push. Being able to fly thousands of miles overnight is of debatable value. But that is not my main point. My point is “at what cost?” Civilization is still a pattern in which the elites coerce labor from the vast majority for their benefit alone. To make this obvious, here are a few things to consider:

  • Do you pay a tithe or give to a church? Do you know what your money goes for?
  • After the 2008 financial collapse that caused a worldwide economic recession, which people were made whole first?
  • Would you vote for an atheist were they better qualified in all other ways than their opponents in an election?

These are just a few questions to stimulate your thinking. Most people have no idea where the funds their churches collect go, for example. Even if their church publishes a financial statement, few read it. Most of the funds go to what is called “overhead” in business (salaries, utilities, maintenance of buildings, etc.) almost none goes to charity. This is basically a business which has overhead but no product other than what it’s customers imagine.

We all are aware that banks and stockholders got bailed out after the 2008 debacle, that none of the miscreants went to jail. That ordinary folks whose home mortgages were rigged so they appeared to be affordable, got very little, most nothing. The elites were taken care of first, as they always are.

And polls show that the vast majority of Americans wouldn’t vote for an avowed atheist under any circumstances. (Donald Trump lied about his religiosity, which should surprise no one.) Now that is control! If you want public office, believe what we tell you or at least pretend to.

While the mechanisms of coercion are now much more subtle (they are in essence, baked into the system—capitalism is one of them), ordinary people work very, very hard, and the surpluses they create go to the wealthy, powerful elite, and not themselves or their families. You have seen this graph before, no?

Many people have expressed surprise that evangelical Christians supported the candidacy of Donald Trump. If one takes a step back and looks at what is going on without the rose-colored glasses we are told we must wear (by the propaganda of the elites) the evangelicals voted for Mr. Trump in spite of his personal failings and attitudes and lack of belief but because of his willingness to pursue their political agenda. All of the dogma, scripture, etc. of the various churches is just window dressing, window dressing to be ignored when it gets in the way of the real agenda, which is maintaining and expanding the power of the religious and wealthy secular elites.

If you do not believe this, consider the following Christian scriptures:
Matthew 6:19-20 (“Do not store up treasures for yourself on the earth”)
Luke 6:24-25 (“But alas for you who are rich, for you have your comfort”)
James 5:1-6 (“Come now, you who are rich, weep, howling out at the miseries that are coming for you”).
As one writer put it “While there are always clergy members and theologians swift to assure us that the New Testament condemns not wealth but its abuse, not a single verse (unless subjected to absurdly forced readings) confirms the claim.”

So much for the prosperity gospel and the churches support for the wealthy. Never will scripture get in the way of their pact with the secular elites, who use money more than strong arms now to coerce the behavior they desire.

Just as there is no support for an anti-slavery position in the Christian churches, American religious elites point to the actions of churches to get slavery disallowed in this country. If one steps back and looks at that in an unfiltered way, it was just another coalition formed to create a political end and it had nothing to do with Christianity and everything to do with taking care of the elites. The elites expanded slavery to vast numbers to support civilization and is more than willing to abandon the practice, if it is to their benefit. (You will note that even though “freed” the situation of most Black Americans changed very little.

What has hit me and hit me hard is that civilization has been a source of coercion and misery quite likely for a majority of human beings since its inception. We even talk about how the workers who built the pyramids weren’t slaves, they were volunteers. Right, our god-king “asked” us to do this task, this dangerous, absurd task that creates no food, no wealth, and is back breaking labor and we volunteered enthusiastically. If someone walked up to you on the street and offered you this “job” for no pay (other than room and board), would you take it … or would you need to be forced to take it?

If you look at every “socialist” country in existence today (outside of the democratic socialist countries but possibly even including them), can you really say that the “means of production” are owned by “the people”? Do you think that the recent Chinese Communist Party meeting was comprised of representatives of “the people” or possibly even made up of ordinary Chinese citizens, aka “the people”? In every case I have looked at, the socialism is window dressing for rule by a powerful elite. The “rulers” are always wealthy, able to take care of their families with positions in the elite structure, and represent themselves rather than the needs of the people. The people are directed in such a way as to create wealth and power for the elites. Period.

The United States is supposed to be a grand experiment in “self-rule.” The founders were elitists and were dismayed when people of the “middling sort” (tradesmen and craftsmen, oh my) got involved in politics. They thought government would be in better hands if those hands had the leisure time to devote to contemplation. Right.

Is there any support for the idea that the U.S. is not being controlled by the wealthy (Wall Street, the Koch brothers, etc.) for the benefit of the elites at this point? What did it take? A couple of hundred years to find out that our version of civilization is just like everyone else’s?

And what has me hammered flat at this point in my life is the sheer amount of pain and misery that has been authorized under the guise of civilization. One of the best estimates I have seen of the number of humans (Homo sapiens) indicates that about 107 billion of us have been born. Of that number maybe 100 billion have been around at the same time as “civilization” (civilization allowing for a vast expansion of the population … of slaves). The estimate that in the year 1800, 75% of all people were in some form of slavery, indicates the vast amount of coercion and oppression that has been created and is still being created under the mantle of civilization, mostly for the benefit of wealthy elites.

It is staggeringly heartbreaking to consider the families broken by slavery, the backs broken by “voluntary slavery” moving rocks the size of Volkswagens to make a pretty pile, the whippings, the diseases, the starvation, the sexual and physical rape, the forced breeding of humans like cattle … it is a well of sadness we should be drowning in. But if we were to succumb to this feeling, the propaganda machine of the elites would kick in to perk us up, I am sure. Sad workers aren’t as productive as happy ones.

Have you seen the “tax reform” plan of the Trump administration? Do you still doubt my analysis?

November 3, 2017

Conservative A-hole Tanks Own Company Because Union

According to the California Today column in today’s NY Times:

“… popular news sites went dark on Thursday after its parent company DNAinfo shut down the entire Gothamist network of city-centric websites.
“The move came a week after reporters and editors at the New York newsrooms of Gothamist and DNAinfo voted to join a union.
“On Thursday, visitors to the websites were greeted by a post from Joe Ricketts, the company’s billionaire owner and founder of TD Ameritrade. He praised journalists who ‘reported tens of thousands of stories that have informed, impacted, and inspired millions of people.’
“But he added, ‘DNAinfo is, at the end of the day, a business, and businesses need to be economically successful if they are to endure.’“Mr. Ricketts, who started DNAinfo in 2009 and bought Gothamist last spring, had been outspoken in his dislike of unions.“As the company’s New York employees moved to unionize last spring, management warned that DNAinfo had been losing money for years. Mr. Ricketts later wrote, ‘I believe unions promote a corrosive us-against-them dynamic that destroys the esprit de corps businesses need to succeed.’”

Conservatives have poisoned their own minds about unions so much that this, er, gentlemen, couldn’t see a major opportunity right in front of himself.

If it were true that the company had been losing money for years (one has to ask why one expands a company by buying another one when one is losing money, but we understand one has to spend money to make money), but I digress, if the company has been losing money for years, open the books to your new union and ask them to be part of the solution rather than part of the problem. Closing the company is still an option, in fact it is a big hammer to use if conventional negotiations were to occur. (I’d rather avoid conventional negotiations and instead prefer interest-based negotiations, but one doesn’t always control how things will go.)

Possibly, if the company were losing money, the union could be a source of ideas as to how to reverse that trend. Certainly it would damper a unions lust after better wages and working conditions for its members.

Companies of European origin who set up shop in the U.S. actively encourage the formation of unions as being effective partners in the running of a profitable company. European countries include union officers on their boards of governors, often by law as well as custom. Of course, in the U.S. they run into conservative state and federal government representatives who put the kibosh on such efforts when they occur. We can’t have examples of working, cooperative unions to be able to point to now, can we?

We would like to know whether Mr. Ricketts has ever been a member of a union, or worked in a union environment, or managed a union-based company. I suspect not. I assume he got his information from other rich assholes like himself, who have no idea what they are talking about and would rather put out their eyes than see what is right in front of them.

In this case the creator of the “corrosive us-against-them dynamic” is certainly not the newly created labor union, it never had a chance to act one way or the other. Gosh, I wonder then, what the source of that “corrosive dynamic” was? Hmm.

October 26, 2017

Capitalism—Good, Socialism—Bad … But Why?

In this country capitalism is the best economic system of them all! Capitalism and Free markets, rule, baby! Capitalism is No. 1. It is an essential element of democracy. Socialism (Boo, hiss.) is evil, the spawn of Satan and is a threat to democracy and all it stands for. (Q: “What do you think Mr. Spock?” A: Fascinating. “Yeah, me too.”)

I ask you to read the following before continuing:

The Mathematics of Inequality

“Seven years ago, the combined wealth of 388 billionaires equaled that of the poorest half of humanity, according to Oxfam International. This past January the equation was even more unbalanced: it took only eight billionaires, marking an unmistakable march toward increased concentration of wealth. Today that number has been reduced to five billionaires.

“Trying to understand such growing inequality is usually the purview of economists, but Bruce Boghosian, a professor of mathematics, thinks he has found another explanation—and a warning. Using a mathematical model devised to mimic a simplified version of the free market, he and colleagues are finding that, without redistribution, wealth becomes increasingly more concentrated, and inequality grows until almost all assets are held by an extremely small number of people.

“’Our work refutes the idea that free markets, by virtually leaving people up to their own devices, will be fair,’ he said. ‘Our model, which is able to explain the form of the actual wealth distribution with remarkable accuracy, also shows that free markets cannot be stable without redistribution mechanisms. The reality is precisely the opposite of what so-called “market fundamentalists” would have us believe.’

“While economists use math for their models, they seek to show that an economy governed by supply and demand will result in a steady state or equilibrium, while Boghosian’s efforts ‘don’t try to engineer a supply-demand equilibrium, and we don’t find one,’ he said. […] ‘The model tracks the data with remarkable accuracy,’ he said. He and his team will soon publish a paper on how it relates to U.S. wealth data from 1989 to 2013.

“‘We have also begun to apply it to wealth data from the ECB, and so far it seems to work very well for certain European countries as well,’ he said [..] It turns out that when agents do well in early transactions, the odds are so increasingly stacked in their favor that—without redistribution from taxes or other wealth-transfer mechanisms—they will get more money, and keep accruing wealth inevitably.

“’Without redistribution of wealth, our market economy would not be stable,’ said Boghosian. ‘One person would run away with all the wealth, and it would keep going until it came to complete oligarchy.’ And even if a society does redistribute wealth, if it’s too small an amount, ‘a partial oligarchy will result,’ Boghosian said.”

Now, of course, that is just the opinion of a few, but does that mesh with your current view of the world?

If so, I ask that you entertain a rephrasing of the title of this post into “Capitalism Good for the Elites, Socialism Bad for the Elites” and that is the truth behind our false beliefs.

So, why would we buy into propaganda fomented by the wealthy so that we believed the exact opposite? Maybe for the same reason we bought into propaganda fomented by rapacious corporations against labor unions, which we created to protect us from rapacious corporations? Maybe for the same reason we believe that people who are anti-abortion and pro-death penalty are pro life? Maybe for the reason we believe it is a good idea to deport parents of children born here because we are “pro family.” Maybe for the reason we still believe that if we give the wealthy even more money, it will trickle down” to us, some how, some way, maybe. (Who knew it could be so complicated?)

Which One of These Is Not Like the Other?

Filed under: Culture,Economics,Politics — Steve Ruis @ 10:35 am
Tags: ,

The Chinese government is busy with the annual convening of the Communist Party. In their sessions, they reinforced that they were in charge, that they are the only political party allowed (birthday parties are okay still), and they feel perfectly comfortable controlling what ordinary citizens hear, see, and think. Chinese citizens exercise to “patriotic” music, even singing along. They read an ever-changing list of words that are not allowed to be used on their social media (and if they do use them, they should expect a knock on their door). The “party” exerts its control over the most minute aspects of their subject’s lives and their subjects are expected to venerate the party because … just because, or maybe “or else.”

We read about this and smirk. Those people aren’t free like us. We have all of the advantages of capitalism and freedom and they do not (smirk, smirk). Those people are like sheep, blindly following the elites as if they were shepherds. We are so superior, so exceptional! We’re No. 1, we’re No. 1!

Are we?

Try running for president as an atheist.

Try suing Goldman-Sachs for their multiple criminal behaviors.

Try to get your Congressman to carry a piece of legislation “for the people.”

Try running for office under the banner of a third party.

Try challenging the $8,000,000,000 annual federal subsidy of the U.S. oil industry, you know, the one making the massive profits.

Try finding out whether the U.S. “intelligence” agencies are still running every phone call you make through filters looking for key words they don’t like.

Try kneeling during the playing of the national anthem, even though there is no law against it.

Try driving (or shopping, or playing, or walking, or skipping) while Black.

Try getting your local city council to stop having Christian prayers said at every meeting.

Try getting your local oil refinery to clean up the incredible messes they have made.

Try suing your financial advisor for serving his own interests above yours.

Try eating without working.

Need I go on?

The difference between visible control by an elite class and invisible control by an elite class is, uh, subtlety? A matter of style? Do you get more points when the plebs buy into the system through which they are oppressed that they do the oppressing for you?

Just asking.

October 24, 2017

The GOP Tax “Reform” Hallucination

One has to ask the question as to why the GOP thinks that rewriting the federal tax code should have a high priority. The reason I ask is that they have about as sweet a deal for the 0.1% as has ever been, well, since the invention of the progressive income tax.

Gone are the 91% and 70% marginal income tax rates on individuals (the tax rate only on very high incomes). The nominal business marginal tax rate is 35% but the average business tax bill turns out to be only 13-14%. (We have one of the lower actual business tax rates among advanced economies.) The Estate Tax, the tax designed to avoid multi-generation fortune building (money = power, not free speech) is so small as to be invisible (it doesn’t even kick in until you leave an estate worth over $5.45 million).

So, why the intense desire to rewrite the tax codes?

It isn’t the bloated tax codes, the elites wrote those codes. (The majority of the federal tax code is made up of tax perks designed to benefit businesses, often just one business.) It isn’t because they feel you and I are paying too much in taxes. Basically they don’t care what you pay, except as it fuels your resentment over the confiscatory powers of government (those they want reduced, for themselves). They aren’t trying to reduce the power of the federal government, that has expanded under all of the GOP presidents during my lifetime. And if they did want to reduce the government’s power they would do it by cutting spending, a principle they have subscribed to for generations.

So, why the urgency in the GOP for a tax code rewrite for their elite masters?

Oh … greed.

The first words out of Mr. Trump’s mouth on this topic was that neither he nor any of his rich friends would benefit from this “reform.” He then proceed to list tax cuts that would benefit only the wealthy. When this was pointed out, various dissemblings occurred, all of which were incoherent, but a promise was made that while taxes on the rich would be cut, tax deductions would also be cut to make the plan “revenue neutral.” Imagine if that were to be pulled off! Actually you should wonder why that is worth doing.

“So, why the urgency in the GOP for a tax code rewrite for their elite masters? Oh … greed.”

A revenue neutral tax rewrite would result in lower taxes on more income (due to fewer deductions being allowed to taxable income) producing the same amount of revenue to the feds. Big whoopdedoo.

Oh.

All of the so-called “tax loopholes” (there really is no such thing) in the current code were written by lobbyists paid for by the elites to give them, and only them, relief from paying taxes. If they get lower tax rates in such a re-write, at the cost of lost loopholes, it will be easy enough to get their bought-and-paid-for Congressional representatives to enact new loopholes, just for them and voila!

This is a brilliant plan, which is why I can’t imagine the GOP pulling it off. It requires thought, subtlety, planning, and hard work … all of which are qualities selected out in the GOP election processes. (They and their evangelical supporters can’t seem to escape the Theory of Evolution.) They got nobody capable of doing the work involved.

So, I suppose they will try to shove through a “tax reform” plan that blatantly and primarily lowers taxes on the rich and they are likely to fail at that as they have failed at almost everything else.

I find myself cheering for incompetence.

October 22, 2017

I Thought Things Were Coming Together … And Then the Other Shoe Dropped (OMG!)

I have been posting quite a bit about the revelations I have been getting reading the book Against the Grain: A Deep History of the Earliest States by James C. Scott. It has been slow going because so much in the book has real consequences regarding how I view the world.

If you don’t recall, the book addresses a simple fact. Cities became somewhat sustainable 3500-3000 BCE, so we became “civilized” about 5000-5500 years ago. Yet it is now clear that agriculture started to be exhibited 8000-10,000 years ago (at least). The standard narrative is that the development of agriculture, specifically with regard to grains, caused the idea of a city to flourish. Grain could be harvested, dried, and stored for a long time and so could be taxed easily. The simple fact came in the form of a question: why the three millennium time lag? Why did “civilization” take so long to happen after we had the technology to produce sizable surpluses of grain? The author argues that civilization could only happen when enough labor could be coerced to do the “farming.” It seems an established fact that hunter-gatherers and pastoralists, etc. who were free people, never created food surpluses and food surpluses were what were needed for cities to develop. Food surpluses required excess labor to create and yet were just a big set of problems: how to preserve the food without most it spoiling; if you were still non-sedentary or only occasionally sedentary, you would have to carry those surpluses around with you; you would have to protect the stored food from pests, predators, etc.

Food surpluses only happen when people are coerced to create them.

I have stated this premise before. The minor nuclear warhead explosion came when the author commented that the most productive form of coerced labor is slavery and … as late as 1800 CE, as much as three fourths of the world’s population could be described as being in some sort of state of slavery.

“Now, that just couldn’t be true” was my first reaction to this claim. My second reaction was that students of history are taught that they should not impose “modern values” onto earlier times as it will lead to misunderstanding. I realized that I was coming from a frame of reference in which all people were “free,” as we claim we are, but I immediately realized that might not be true, then. My third reaction was: serfs.

Remember what you learned about serfs in school? Serfs were medieval peasants who worked the land for the local lord in Europe. The picture painted for school children was kind of bucolic and idealized, but think about it. The serf worked as a farmer (mostly) of land they didn’t own. The owner of the land (“from the Manor born”) confiscated the serf’s “surplus” food production. The local lord decided exactly and arbitrarily what the surplus was to be and it always seemed to be “enough to keep the serf in a perpetual state of poverty.” The “lords” used force of arms and religious support to legally tie the serf to the land. Even if the serf got the idea to get the hell out of this awful situation, where would he go? What about his family? There were no “jobs” per se he could get were he to relocate. He was trapped. He worked doing work not of his choice to benefit not himself but others and he had no choice in the matter. (How do you spell slave, boys and girls? S-E-R-F!)

It didn’t take over three thousand years to figure out how to use agriculture. It took three thousand years to figure out how to efficiently coerce large amounts of labor.

Back in 3000 BCE, all slaves had a viable option. Wait until nightfall and walk that way. Didn’t much matter which direction one walked. After a few days, one would be so far away from coerced labor as to be upon another planet. And there was enough food to be foraged that one could go back to being a “hunter-gatherer” quite easily as one still possessed the skills required. In early civilizations, one had options and one was to walk away from a bad situation. This apparently happened quite often. Slavery was a construct that prevented that (or attempted to). Available records showed that slaves were a common factor in all of those early civilizations. They were not treated well; they apparently were commonly beaten into submission. (If you saw a representation of an elite wielding a flail, it wasn’t for threshing grain.) The accounting records (the earliest form of writing were stimulated by such) from the earliest cities showed slaves counted in the same way as domesticated animals, using the same cuneiform in Mesopotamia, for example. The Code of Hammurabi, the first written legal code, is chock-a-block full of codes regarding the treatment of slaves, the recovery of escaped slaves, the punishments for helping another slave to escape, etc. Ditto for all of the other legal codes around the world. “Wars” were wars of capture not killing as slaves were not easily held and replacements were needed for those who escaped or died from maltreatment.

If this were true, if as late as the year 1800, three quarters of all human beings were in some sort of slavery … but it couldn’t be true … could it? Let’s think about it. Slavery was not abandoned in the U.S. until 1865, in England, Canada, and the rest of the British Empire until 1833. Heck, if news reports are correct, slavery still exists all over the world now: sex slaves, enforced labor camps, etc. Yeah, that three fourths slaves estimate could well be true

If we think back to the defenders of slavery in this country, the energy behind it was entirely economic. For those that think our Civil War was a war over “state’s rights to secede,” you have fallen for a bit of historical spin. All of the articles of secession of the Southern states were published and they all focused upon slavery and its abolition being anathema to their way of life. If you think slavery is uneconomic, think again. I will make the point that slavery is the most economic form of labor for the elites (obviously not for the slaves).

Slavery comes in many forms, the worst kind (from my viewpoint) is chattel slavery. Slaves could be beaten, killed, threatened, whatever. Their children were born as slaves. There was no way out. Other forms were more humane if I can even use that word.

My mind immediately jumped to a Bible story. (I’m sorry, my mind does jump about and I do not seem to control it.) I first read of it through Mark Twain’s writings. As the story goes: (Numbers 31:15-18) After Moses’ soldiers had killed all of the men among the Midianites, Moses ordered his army officers to kill all of the male children, kill all of the non-virgin females but to save alive all of the virgin girls for his troops. Prior to this, the Israelites had taken all of the animals and goods of the Midianites and then burned all of their towns. Of course, Moses said Yahweh ordered him to do this. When I first heard of this story, I was impressed mostly with what a dick Yahweh was, but that, I think missed the point. The Old Testament is an unrelenting series of actions of Yahweh against the Israelites (Hebrews, whatever). The Israelites were stubborn and just wouldn’t accept Yahweh as the only god. In the Bible, the Israelites are described as being “stiff necked” and unable to “accept the yoke.” Both of these terms refer to oxen that are difficult to harness up to pull plows and wagons and the like. Slaves were also yoked. Yahweh wanted slaves to worship Him … slavishly. And if the Israelites did what they were told to do, when they were told to do it, they would become rich and have slaves, too. (Pop Quiz: Translate “Islam” into English and what word do you get? Answer: submission. All religions are coercive.)

When Yahweh, through Moses, told them to kill off all of those defenseless people, he was enforcing his will by making the Israelites destroy their own wealth. All of those non-virgin women and boy children were destined to become slaves and slaves were wealth, big-time wealth. The exception made for fuckable girls was probably made to keep the rough and tough soldiers from rebelling completely. Now, if you think this story is horrific, think about this in two ways. If Moses were real, but just deluded, that is one thing. (I believe in God if it is defined as “the most powerful fictional character ever created by mankind” but not in the supernatural.) If the story is entirely fictional, made up as a literary caution against disobedience, it is even more horrific.

Atheists are fond of pointing out that the Bible is pro-slavery, not anti-slavery. Think about the consequences had Christianity reframed Judaism and banned slavery, went so far as to state that slavery was anathema and that their god would avenge all acts of slavery in the afterlife. Christianity was a minor cult rescued from oblivion by a Roman emperor (Constantine). The Roman Empire at the time consisted of quite a small number of citizens, a somewhat larger number of freemen, and a vast number of slaves. What do you think would have happened to Christianity had it been anti-slavery at the time? It sure as Hell would have had no chance of getting adopted as the state religion of Rome. Of course Christianity was pro-slavery, every religion was (and still is?).

My mind next jumped to an American History story. Remember the story of how some Euros “bought” Manhattan Island for $24 in beads and trinkets? (As an aside, I first heard this story about 60 years ago and $24 then would be worth $210.81 now … and they never seem to update the story.) This story was told, I believe now, to show that the Native Americans had no idea of the value of land and were rather clueless and we were doing them a favor in “civilizing them” (also known as genocide). I prefer to think that the Native Americans so paid went back to their fellows with this story about how the stupid Euros gave them “all of this,” because they think they can “own the land!” (Insert uproarious laughter here.) As far as they were concerned, the gods owned the land and they could claim rights to hunt and fish and harvest a spot as long as they could defend it from other Native Americans. Their hunting grounds were not something they considered they or anyone else could own.

What this story points out was that slavery enforced by physical force (or threats against family members) made a transition to control of the land. (“The only true wealth is land” is a saying.) Think about that serf. His “master” owned the land. Just what does that mean? It might have been “given” to him by his master (Turtles all the way down.): “Ye shall have all of the land from the river to the hills, bounded by the sea, for you to do as you wish.” Often, this was like a gift from Yahweh. There might already be people living there, but your “royal patent” allows you to now go and enslave all of those people and get them working for you or kill them all, your choice.

No one “owned” the land in the first place, so it could not be bought, so all land ownership is like the Native American’s hunting grounds. It was theirs to use as long as they could hold it. Same is largely true today. Once the land is controlled, there is no place for a coerced labor force to run to. Consider the Fugitive Slave Act in the U.S. Slaves who “ran away” to states in which slavery was illegal were forced to be returned by the legal system back then. So, the runaway slaves often kept going to Canada to escape that “legal” system. (And that is a long walk from Georgia.) There was nowhere for a serf to run to, so the lord of the manor didn’t need to keep soldiers in the field to make sure they kept working. If they didn’t work, they didn’t eat. (This saying is still amongst us.)

So, civilization (there’s that word again) wasn’t built upon agriculture, which was a necessary but not sufficient condition for its creation. Civilization was built on coerced labor. Consequently “we” didn’t created civilization, the elites did. It was created as a system to serve their needs, where the many fed the few, whether they wanted to or not.

“Consequently ‘we’ didn’t created civilization, the elites did.
It was created as a system to serve their needs, where the many fed the few, whether they wanted to or not.”

This seems to me to be like those movies made by Andy Rooney and Judy Garland. They made ten movies together and they all seemed to have the same story line: a bunch of spunky youths, faced with a financial difficulty (to save a theatre, or a school, or a farm, whatever) always ended up with Andy Rooney saying “I’ve got an idea, gang, let’s put on a show!” Then he would convince the others that they “could do it” and they would then set about creating an entire musical production, which raised enough money to save the day. With a minor suspension of disbelief, you can almost feel that the ideas were those of the characters in the movie (Andy and Judy were so earnest!). But really, the movies were created by the studios who controlled everything because they had the money to make the movie (and reaped the “surplus” money from the movie after the peons got paid).

“We” didn’t created civilization, the elites did, for the elites. Think about that. We just supplied the labor.

So, for 4800-5300 of the 5000-5500 years of our most history, civilization was supported, actually made possible) mostly by slave labor (three out of four … in 1800 CE). But, of course, all of that is in the past … isn’t it?

Let me take a moment and lay out what the life of a prosperous “free” American looks like. We are born and then do what our parents tell us to do until we are of school age. We are then sent to school. Can we, as children, choose not to go? No, it is compulsory. Can we choose what to study? No, the curriculum is created by the state. We learn to do as we are told and if we do well in school then we go “to college.” Can we not go? Yes, but don’t count on getting a good job. So, we go. Can we choose what to study? Yes, but from a prescribed list of “programs” so basically we are as free as the voters in the last presidential election (who could vote for anybody, but one of “these two” will win). So we go, study hard, and do well and graduate. We are roughly 25 years old. We get a “good job,” save our surplus money (if there is any … of course there is, this is a “good job”) and by the time we are 30 we have a down payment and buy a house and the land it sits upon. Well, actually a bank owned by the elites buys the house and we arrange to make payments for 30 years and then it becomes ours. So, now we are 60 and we own a house and a 50 by 100 foot lot. Is this enough land (aka wealth) to plant food to support one’s family? A nice vegetable garden, some fruit trees and nut trees, a wheat field, uh … no. So we own land but not enough land to opt out of the system. And to make sure we do not, you must pay property taxes on your owned property, so you need some income to prevent your property from being confiscated, so you are still tied to “a job.”

And we say we are “free” people. I now understand better when conservatives complain that their freedoms are being eroded by government. Since the government, which is supposed to be us acting collectively, has been captured by the elites. This is actually true. Unfortunately the ordinary conservatives have been led to a position that their complaints about government can only cause changes that make the elites even more prosperous and more powerful.

Our “pay-as-you-go” culture is a manifestation of the coerced labor foundation of civilization. If you are dubious, consider that according to federal surveys 80% of working Americans basically hate their jobs. A truly free person would be someone who went where they wanted and did what they wanted to do. I suggest that even the 20% who do not hate their jobs wouldn’t have picked that work as something to do had they been truly free to do whatever they wished.

So, what does it take to be actually free? In my mind, freedom now comes from “not needing a job” and living as we want. I am not thinking about the young person who still lives at home and is well into their twenties and doesn’t have a job. I am talking of being on one’s own. The commonest way to do this is to have, I believe the term is, “fuck you money.” You have enough money to live well without needing a job or a boss, who you can tell to “fuck off.” This amount of money makes you one of the elite and not a coerced laborer. If you are resisting this scenario, consider the sayings “You won’t get rich working for wages,” “I am just a ‘wage slave’,” “I have to go to work.” I could go on.

Imagine what you would do if you had “fuck you money.” The closest thing we have as a large segment of the population is senior citizens who retire well. These folks do what they want when they want: they travel, they participate in social events (plays, sporting events, etc.), and they volunteer scads of hours, that is they work for free, but doing things they feel have value. This is how free people behave. Coerced laborers are constantly limited by how much money they make and how much time they “must” work to earn it. They have “a job” which means they labor for someone else (who, as Marx says, “owns the means of production”) who benefits from the surplus created by their labor. If they do not produce a surplus, they get fired. From what they are left with (aka paid), they pay for shelter (rent, mortgage), food, transportation, etc. and if there is anything left, they save for the future. But what they can do and where they can go is constrained by the need for “a job.”

So, is “civilization” still built on a foundation of coerced labor? I think so: if you don’t work, you don’t eat. Hunter-gatherers did not experience this.

Let me end with another scenario. Large numbers of workers in the U.S. worked for companies which made handsome profits. This means they created surplus wealth that the business owners reaped. Their work was of high quality, there were no problems. The next thing they know, however, is the owner of the business has shipped the production capacity overseas to a state with lower wages. If the current workers want a “severance package,” they must train their replacements, then they can go suck eggs. The business owners, collectively having pressed for the commercial markets around the world to be “free” meaning that there are no charges when their goods are imported into a country (no tariffs), thus created this “option:” move my productive capacity overseas and then “import” my products into the U.S. This has happened to the tune of millions of jobs lost per year for the last twenty years. This situation allows businesses to seek out the lowest possible labor costs for their businesses, no matter where they are, because if they have to pay their workers less, then the surplus wealth they create, which they claim, is greater. The accumulated wealth from this process is used to make sure the political systems represent the interests of the elites and not the interests of the workers. (The most recent trade deal we just barely scotched was of this ilk. It was a massive plan to protect the business interests of the elite. Nothing for ordinary folks was in it.)

Now you know why slavery was so popular and why other systems cannot compete with it; it is far too economical to not have to pay your workers (just paying them less is often enough incentive to pack up a factory and ship it out of country).

A news story I heard just yesterday was of a U.S. DEA agent (Drug Enforcement Agency) who was busting drug distributors for selling massive quantities of oxycodone (e.g. Oxycontin, Hillbilly Heroin, etc.) illegally. This had gotten so bad that people were dying in large numbers from overdoses (still are). Just as the agent was about to bust a major illegal distributor for a second time, his investigation slowed to molasses in January speed. Why? Well the drug manufacturers, who were making fortunes off of the illegal sales, got to the Justice Department of the Obama administration and the case pipeline got squeezed to a trickle. Cases were sent back for corroboration, more review, etc. To top it off, Congress actually passed a “drug enforcement enhancement law” which basically cut the DEA enforcement division off at the knees so they couldn’t pursue such cases. (Note: the Obama administration, not the Trump administration. Also note: Congress could cooperate and pass legislation, if it were important enough.)

Are we free? Only in so much as the elites are making money.

You will take note that the elites have recently made substantial efforts to “reform” our public education system. And if you think the likes of Bill Gates, Betsy DeVos, and Eli Broad have our children’s best interests at heart, you have been drinking their Kool-Aid. They are focused on schools making students “college and job ready!” Yep, they want to make sure that all of our children fit acceptable positions in the coerced labor scheme that is known as modern civilization.

So, how can we be free in this current “civilized” context? The only way to get close to anything like freedom for all, we must use the coercive power of the state against the elites. Estate taxes have to be large so fortunes cannot be inherited. Income taxes on very high incomes have to be so high as to discourage very high incomes. That would be a start. We basically need to reign in all elites.

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