Oct 30, 2011

October 30, 2011: Imagine There’s No Pizza, If 9 were 6, Thin Crust and Red Meat.

"Cain performed "Imagine There's No Pizza", a gospel-flavored parody of the John Lennon songs "Imagine" and "Give Peace a Chance", at an Omaha Press Club event in 1991. A video of this performance became popular during his 2012 campaign. "(1)  This, according to Wikipedia Cain performed with a group of “female backup singers while he wore white preacher’s robes”.  Let’s take a look at this erstwhile Rescumlican presidential wannabee and see how he cuts the pie.

Herman Cain emerges unto the presidential stage boasting a background as businessman and radio talk show host, both of which immediately disqualify him from further consideration.   Let’s look at the Business record:
“At age 36, Cain was assigned in the 1980s first to analyze and manage 400 Burger King stores in the Philadelphia area. At the time, Burger King was a Pillsbury subsidiary. Under Cain, his region posted strong improvement in three years. According to a 1987 account in the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, Pillsbury's then-president Win Wallin said, "He was an excellent bet. Herman always seemed to have his act together."  At Burger King, Cain "established the BEAMER program, which taught our employees, mostly teenagers, how to make our patrons smile" by smiling themselves. It was a success: "Within three months of the program's initiation, the sales trend was moving steadily higher."[34]

His successes at Burger King prompted Pillsbury to appoint him president and CEO of another subsidiary, Godfathers Pizza. Cain arrived on April 1, 1986, and told employees, "I'm Herman Cain and this ain't no April Fool's joke. We are not dead. Our objective is to prove to Pillsbury and everyone else that we will survive." Cain, over a 30-month period, reduced the company from 640 stores to 563 . As a result of his efforts, Godfather's Pizza sales were reduced from $275 million in 1986 to $242.5 million in 1988. Godfather's Pizza was performing poorly, and had slipped in ranks of pizza chains from 3rd in 1985 to fifth in 1988 . In a leveraged buyout in 1988, Cain, Executive Vice-President and COO Ronald B. Gartlan and a group of investors, bought Godfather's from Pillsbury. Godfather's sales remained level with Cain as CEO, ending at $265 million for 540 stores in 1996, when he resigned.” (2)

So for all the “smiling” introduced by Cain he enjoyed modest success whilst at Burger King but nevertheless presided over a contraction at Godfather’s Pizza resulting in the closing of stores and the reduction in annual earnings.  Imagine another cheerleader in charge of the national destiny!

One must approach Pizza men with gloves on for the level of ignorance is truly threatening to the republic.  I am reminded of Tom Monihan taking ownership to the Detroit Tigers in the mid 1980’s.  He immediately replaced the retiring Jim Campbell with the University of Michigan football coach Bo Schembeckler.  How a college football coach would be suitable as general manager for a professional major-league baseball team only Monihan could discern.  The fact is that it wasn’t a very good fit.  Within a few short years the Tigers would begin that long slide that led to the eventual loss of nearly 120 games in a single season and would take over a decade to rectify.  In fact, things got so bad, that the league contemplated for a time taking over the team while Monihan still ran the show.  One of Domino Pizza’s executives tried to explain the situation to a reporter late in the Monihan era. “You don’t understand my boss”, he said.  “Whenever Monihan is confronted with a problem his answer it to put more pepperoni on it”.  Therein lies the problem.

Simple solutions for simple minds.  The question is which head holds the mind of the simpleton, the erstwhile candidate or the collective cranium of his following? Perhaps it is one or the other, perhaps it is both. 

For our purposes let’s review the 9-9-9 proposal set forth by Cain in the Rescumlican debates as the leitmotif of this attempt to simply weigh the product down with more pepperoni. The "centerpiece" of Cain's presidential campaign has been the "9-9-9 plan", which would replace all current taxes (including the Payroll Tax, Capital Gains Tax, and the Estate Tax) with 9% business transaction tax; 9% personal income tax rate, and a 9% federal sales tax. According to Cain, corporations would be able to deduct costs of goods sold (provided the inputs were made in America) and capital expenditures, but not wages, salaries and benefits to employees. Deductions, except charitable giving, would be eliminated. The federal sales tax would not apply to used goods. Cain also said that the 9-9-9 Plan would lift a $430 billion dead-weight burden on the economy..

Herman Cain stated the following summary about the 9-9-9 Plan:
“Our current economic crisis calls for bold action to truly stimulate the economy and Renew America back to its greatness. The 9-9-9 Plan gets Washington D.C. out of the business of picking winners and losers, using the tax code to dole out favors, and dividing the country with class warfare. It is fair, simple, transparent and efficient. It taxes everything once and nothing twice. It taxes the broadest possible base at the lowest possible rates. It is neutral with respect to savings and consumption,capital and labor, imports and exports and whether companies pay dividends or retain earnings.(3) This, of course, is pure balderdash.  It is neither fair, transparent or efficient and it does not tax everything once and nothing twice.  My wages, for instance, are taxed at the workplace, at the supermarket, and with several value-added taxes as goods make their way through the production and distribution chain. Wealth, of course, walks away from the table unburdened.

According to the analysis of Howard Gleckman the Tax Policy Center,
“When you get right down to it, Cain’s [9-9-9] plan is a 25 percent flat-rate consumption tax — not all that different from the FAIR tax that he says is his ultimate goal. This tax would be paid three times: first on wage income, again at the cash register as a sales tax, and yet again by businesses on their sales minus their cost of goods and services. For tax junkies, the first is a flat tax. The second is a retail sales tax and the third a business transfer tax. But they are all consumption taxes.

Although Cain has spoken about having designated 'empowerment zones' wherein a lower percentage, such as 3%, is paid instead, apart from this consideration, some have called Cain's plan more regressive than current policy, thinking it would raise taxes for most households, but cut them for a majority of those with the highest income.’

“However,” (the article continues) “this analysis of Herman Cain’s 9-9-9 Plan seems to have forgotten payroll taxes. With payroll taxes the employer and the employee split the tax.” This agruement is, of course, bogus. Once again, to wit: All of the value generated to pay the taxes is created by the worker.  The employer simply hijacks his portion of the tax burden as part of the wealth he ‘expropriates” from the worker and affixes his name to it.  Ask the proponents of these schemes if they really think the capitalist will give back all that is currently being withheld instead of simply pocketing it.  The fact is these costs are duly factored in to the “costs of labor” by any business accountant worth his salt belying in the language the actual fact that the entirety of the tax burden is in fact borne by labor.
“In a October 18, 2011 debate several of the other contenders for the GOP nomination attacked the plan, with candidate Rick Santorum  referencing the Tax Policy Center's claim that 84% of Americans would pay more and that the plan would entail "major increases in taxes on people," a charge Cain has refuted ." (3)

Even Republicans, it seems, can spot a red herring when they see it or, perhaps, more pepperoni that the pie can hold. The 9-9-9 plan could just as easily been 6-6-6 for all the care that has been taken in considering the effect it would have on the commonweal.  Beware of the Pizza man bearing gifts for you will be left with thin crust and as much red meat profit demands.

As a simple litmus test ask yourself why, when these proposals are floated, do not the wealthy bankers, hedge fund managers, holders of derivatives and credit default swaps, or other icons of the rich and powerful howl in agony?  The answer is that these proposals are their proposals. (4)  Pete DuPont made the mistake of putting them on the table himself and, by so doing, being altogether too transparently self-serving.  Now they hire the political ignoramus, or the well-healed shill to do it for them.  Pimps for the Grand O’l Prostitute, the GOP., of which Herman Cain is only the latest in a long sorry line.
4. Note that Cain has worked for the Koch brothers “ Americans for Prosperity” a wrong-wing stink tank funded by the Koch family for the purposes of furthering greed in America.  This is yet another attempt to run regressive tax proposals up the pole in the name of “fairness” and “prosperity” when in fact it is nothing other than an effort to relieve the Koch’s of any remaining stigma attached to the concept of “Noblesse Oblige”.

October 29, 2011: Fool Me Two Times, Arms around Ignorance, Some Things Never Change

 "Fool me two times girl
fool me twice today
fool me two-times baby
i'm going away
fool me two-times yeah
once for tomorrow
once just for today"....... Parody of  The Doors "Love Me Two Times". 

How does one get one’s arms around such ignorance?  Where does one begin?  At MSNBC and Current TV as well as the publications of Rachel Maddow and Al Franken, a veritable cottage industry has arisen to try to answer the outrageous assertions coming hourly from the “idiot wrong”.

This headlong drive to stupidity, this “will to ignorance” finds many manifestations, most recently in the form of tax proposals by Rescumlican wannabees Governor Rick Perry of Texas and former Pizza executive Herman Cain.  These proposals, a 20% “flat tax” put forward by the Texan and the so-called 9-9-9 proposal by Mr. Cain are derivatives of the old rescumlican push to eliminate whatever progressivity still exists in the tax code in favor of the seemingly “fair” flat tax.  For our purposes, I’m republishing a previous post on the then so-called “fair tax” proposal that was floated in the 2008 election and championed by yet another conservative neophyte Governor Huckabee of Arkansas.  Here, then, is how it looked four years ago.  Some things never change:

“Why is it that every time one sees a fundamentalist preacher turned politician campaigning for the Presidency he has the Bible in his left hand, his right index finger in your face and a tax cut for the rich in his back pocket? It is difficult to say, perhaps overweening ambition, perhaps the reluctance or the inability to understand something as complex as economics, perhaps intellectual laziness, perhaps a simple willingness to be a shill for wealth. But in any case we are now presented with another such spectacle this time in the form of Mike Huckabee, our very own Elmer Gantry.

He arrived late to the Presidential sweepstakes and took up the twin causes of God and good government in an effort to gin up the support of the fundamentalist wrong that heretofore were seen to have controlled the proceedings. Initially his message was a welcome variant from the old standard in which Christ was seen not as the apostle of greed but became, briefly in the hands of the Reverend Mike, once again the God of compassion. Accordingly Mike spoke eloquently, if only briefly, of our collective need to tend to the least among us. But his campaign, after Iowa, gained little traction with victories limited by religious and sectional boundaries. In order to breathe new life into his flagging effort, the Huckster has now transformed himself into a full-throated champion of the so called “Fair Tax”, not so much to win the nomination but to pick up the broken petard of Pat Robertson and become the new Champion of the idiot right.

Accordingly he is now out canvassing the country saying that “in Arkansas if it can’t be fixed with duct tape it cannot be fixed, and the tax code and the IRS cannot be fixed with duct tape”. There you have it in a ‘nut’ shell. If it cannot be fixed with duct tape it must go. Well Mike, I hate to break the news but you cannot fix the schools with duct tape, you cannot fix the military with duct tape, you cannot fix the roads with duct tape…..shall we get rid of those too? Talk to any heating and cooling contractor and you will learn that in fact one cannot fix anything with duct tape, not even ductwork. But it is by these standards that the Huckster wages his war to rid us of the onerous Internal Revenue Service.

No one, especially a progressive, is about to defend the present system of how we tax ourselves in these United States. The present tax code is as close to a ‘flat’ tax as we have seen in generations, with nearly all the progressivity having been taken out of it. But the problem of taxation in America is not that we are being taxed too much, for we rank near the bottom in overall taxation among industrial countries. It is that the near elimination of the graduated income tax of our forefathers has produced a society that has increasingly become more bifurcated between great wealth and the struggling rest of us. This tax proposal, coming as it does on the abject failure of a straight out ‘flat’ tax proposed by the likes of Pierre DuPont in his Presidential campaigns, is even more regressive. It would move the tax burden increasingly from the wealthy unto the backs of the working middle and lower classes; increasing the taxation on work while nearly eliminating the taxation of wealth.

When our forefathers introduced the graduated income tax they understood, as the ‘boomers’ apparently do not, that it is better to tax wealth than tax work. Reasoning from the tenets of Adam Smith, the founder of modern free-market capitalism, that work produces wealth, our forefathers rightly concluded that it would be counterproductive to tax work since it was through work that all wealth originates. Better, they said, to tax wealth at a higher rate. By taxing wealth at higher rates it leaves work with a relatively lighter share of the overall burden, freeing it to generate more wealth. This reasoning took the form of the distinction, in the terminology of our ancestors, between what was called “earned” and “unearned” income. Better they said to tax at higher rates unearned income (income from rents, interest and profits), than earned income (income from wages). Accordingly heavier taxes were laid upon the upper income tax bracket (in the 90% range), capital gains and estate taxes. The result was a more egalitarian society, one in which the fruits of our collective labor were generally shared, a society in which we witnessed the explosive growth of a large industrial middle class.

But the ‘Boomers’, the grand recipients of our forefathers collective wisdom, saw nothing in the lessons taught that we felt obliged to learn. Accordingly we have followed the siren song of greed introducing one tax ‘reform’ after another from the tax limitation craze set off by Howard Jarvis in California in the late ‘70s, to Ronald Reagan and the Republican assault on the graduated income tax, to the several flat tax proposals, and efforts to eliminate outright the capital gains and estate taxes. Let us take a brief look at the latest entry in the tax ‘reform’ craze put forward by the conservative stink tanks. The effort, such as it is, requires more from us than it deserves.

John Kenneth Galbraith once termed economics the ‘dismal science’, and although he was referring to the writings of Smith, Malthus and Ricardo, he can also be read to understand that approaching a study of economic theory or practice is like going to the dentist. Accordingly one approaches the study of the “Fair Tax” with all the enthusiasm of facing root canal work.

The idea came out of the bowels of Americans for Fair Taxation as a simple shell game in which the tax burden would be shifted from income taxes on profits and wages to what is, in effect, a national sales tax. Now even a flat rate tax of say 10 or 12%, as our friend Pierre DuPont proposed, has at least the appearance of ‘progressivity’ inasmuch as that the more one makes the more taxes one pays. But the so called “Fair Tax” proposes a 23% sales tax on all goods and services. It would eliminate taxes on savings and investments, all estate taxes, and virtually every other form of taxation. The result is that the tax burden would be shifted entirely onto consumption. What this means is that there becomes an inverse relation between income and the effective level of taxation. That is the lower your income the higher the percentage of your income to taxation. Those at the lowest levels, required as they are to spend virtually every cent on necessities, would pay the going rate. The higher one’s income the more can be put aside for saving and investment which, under this scheme, is shielded from taxation. Yes say the proponents but when it is withdrawn it is spent and taxes are paid on it. No say we critics because the interest on this money is earned and compounded while in the bank and is not subject to taxation. “Unearned” income, which is income nonetheless, is not subject to taxation unless and until it is spent. Suppose it is not spent, suppose it is left to constantly multiply itself over a period of time. Yes when it finally is withdrawn from the bank to make some purchases it is taxed but in the meantime it is tax free. Wages are not so lucky. One is presented then with the spectacle of the worker being taxed at every turn while the investor merely clips his coupons and watches his money grow.

What the inventors of this scheme have done is take the entire cost of government and raise the money by levying a consumption or sales tax. The proposal, with the requisite misleading moniker of ‘Fair Tax’ has the appearance, like the flat tax, of fairness. Everyone pays the same tax, right? Wrong. Everyone pays the same tax, as now, at the checkout counter, but not everyone pays the same effective tax. Whole parts of the economy, principally the investment community, earn money but are exempt from taxation. So for instance, the poor slob earning $15,000. a year pays an effective tax at the going rate of 23% while the billionaire, because so much of his money is off earning income at compounded rates tax free, pays an effective rate of less than 2%.

What makes this shell game so appealing is the deceptively simple complexity of it. It reminds me, in a perverse way, of the objections modern Republicans raise to the idea of returning to a graduated income tax. “The rich already pay the lion’s share of income taxes”, they point out parroting the talking points of the Republican National Committee. The Rich do pay nearly two thirds of all income tax in this country. But that is precisely the problem. The fact that the upper ten percent carry such a burden is not due to the unfairness of the present system or to the horrors of reinstituting the tax code of John Kennedy or even Jimmy Carter. It is due, quite simply, to the fact that the wealthy now own such a large share of the economic pie. No the answer is not to lower taxes on the all too heavily burdened upper classes, it is instead to raise those taxes and return a greater share of the wealth to those who labored to produce it in the first place. What is needed is a candidate for President to look the American people in the eye and tell them that what we want to see is the middle class paying 80% of the income taxes, because under this administration the middle class will control 80% of the wealth.

There are other problems with this so-called "fair tax" proposal:

There is the question of the effective tax rate. Proponents say that it is 23% but for the scheme to be income neutral—that is for it to generate as much money into the federal treasury as the current system—the effective tax on goods and services would be at least 30% and, according to the President’s Advisory Panel on Tax Reform, as much as a 34% in order to fund government at present levels. In fact according to economist William Gale of the Brookings Institution taxation at the 23% rate would blow a 7 trillion dollar hole in the budget over 10 years and he projects a more realistic rate of 31% or higher in order to reach present levels of funding.(seehttp://money.cnn.com/2005/09/06/pf/taxes/consumptiontax_0510/index.htm) This new tax would be levied at time of purchase on new homes, rent, interest on credit cards, mortgages and car loans, doctor bills, utilities, gasoline (current taxes would not be repealed) legal fees, ad nauseum.

Conservative radio talk-show host Neil Boortz contends that there will be a 22% reduction in prices as companies will be able to produce and sell goods and services cheaper because they would no longer be required to withhold taxes. This is a blanket admission, by one of the scheme’s principal proponents, that by passing the savings on to the consumer wages will in effect be cut by at least 22%. In other words the money now being withheld would not be returned to the worker but would instead be passed on to the consumer who would then realize the savings when the product is purchased. For the worker, on the other hand, the tax burden remains but must now be paid at the check out counter. The tax must be paid, albeit at the reduced price, not with one’s old ‘gross’ income but with one’s old ‘net income’ that is what was previously left after the old IRS got done with it. Assuming that all of the savings are passed on to the consumer this is at best a simple economic wash. No real savings emerges.

Now either prices increase or wages must fall. Either the employer pockets the monies formerly withheld and passes the savings on to the consumer in which case it is a dead wash—if, and it’s a big if, all of said savings are recycled back to the worker as consumer. The worker is then confronted with a giant leap in retail prices. If the schemers allow us to keep all our earnings and we have all of our former paycheck in hand then prices we will face will be as high as 34% greater. In any case the system, as presented, is a wash. The proponents contend that it will raise as much money as the present system. The question is why make the change?
The answer lies in the hidden agendas. Remember these are the same folks that have been toying with the tax code now for nearly a generation, killing with a thousand cuts the golden goose given us by our ancestors. It began at the 1976 Democratic National Convention when Jimmy Carter, as he accepted his party’s nomination for the Presidency, called the American tax code a “disgrace to the human race.” The problem facing the nation at the time was that the tax code as it had evolved in the postwar era had not been adjusted for inflation. Greater numbers of working Americans were now lifted, by the hyperinflation of the era, into higher tax brackets fuelling a nation-wide tax revolt. Carter in calling for reform gave voice and legitimacy to this growing concern. Instead of simply adjusting the tax code for inflation the Democrats stalled and it was left to Ronald Reagan to do the reforming.

Posturing as a progressive Reagan, much as ‘Ol Two-Cows would do two decades later, put conservative stink tanks in overdrive spinning ‘tax reform’ that had the veneer of being progressive but in effect shifted the tax burden increasingly from wealth to work. Accordingly they cut the highest tax brackets from 72% to 35%; they cut the capital gains tax in half, made similar reductions in the estate tax. They increased Social Security withholding taxes and cut federal revenue sharing meaning that state and local governments, funded on flat rate income or sales taxes, were left to make up the difference. This had the effect of further shifting taxation over the entire spectrum from the graduated income to more regressive forms of taxation. To add insult to injury they eliminated the exemptions for consumer loans, most medical bills, and other previous exemptions that the middle class had enjoyed so as to raise the needed revenues. The result, as has been noted by Republican turned independent Kevin Phillips, is that there has been a growing gap between rich and poor and the middle class, now owning a smaller share of the national economy than at any time since before 1929, is shrinking relative to the rest of the economy. The economic high tides of the 80’s and 90’s did not, as Reagan had promised, raise all boats; and under the maladministration of ‘Ol Two-Cows, over 5 million have slipped through the now tattered safety net into poverty. It is from advocates such as these that the latest incarnation of ‘tax reform’ in the shape of the so called ‘fair tax’ comes. The question poses itself: why trust them?
The shell game gets complicated. The proposal calls for a “Prebate” program in which those at the lowest levels will be reimbursed for taxes paid giving the act a ‘populist’ veneer but this would ensure, under a revenue neutral standard, that the middle class will bear a greater share of the burden. And, to be fair, the proposal does for the first time shift social security funding in such a way as to make the rich belly up to the bar and pay more. But the fact remains that this is perhaps the most regressive tax proposal to ever have reached the national political debate since early in the nineteenth century. It is a shell game in which wealth walks away from the table nearly scot-free.

Nor does the ‘Fair Tax’ eliminate the IRS as the Huckster would have us believe. Some agency, however named, will have to collect the taxes. Taxes, in the new form would simply be collected not by the employer but by the merchant. How the retail industry will react to this burden is unclear. This proposal, by their own admission, will not cut the overall tax burden it will simply shift who will pay it. To suggest otherwise is to hint at a hidden agenda in which the real purposes are to simultaneously cut taxes on wealth and cut government revenue so as to further savage governance. It gets harder to fund the OSHA or the Consumer Protection Agency, when funding has gone dry. Whatever the real intent, one smells a rat under the kitchen sink.

It is doubtful that neither the Huckster nor Neil Boortz has studied Econ 101. If they had they would be able to recognize so obvious an economic shell game. Let us give them the benefit of the doubt and put this present misunderstanding down to a lack of proper schooling. To assume otherwise is to understand that they have become mere shills for great wealth, mere apologists for their corporate paymasters, and mere pimps for the GOP-- the Grand Old Prostitute.

In the immortal words of ‘Ol Two-Cows’, fool me once shame on you, fool me twice, shame on me, fool me three times, ‘won’t get fooled again’. No! No! “
For another assessment of the impact of the “Fair Tax “proposal see:

Oct 21, 2011

October 21, 2011: Ethos of Being, Whatever He Makes, Lights Out.

“It is a universal rule of nature that a man makes an ethic of whatever he sees in the mirror”—from the ‘Quotations of Chairman Joe’

A man makes an ethic of whatever he makes of himself.  If he is a rich man, he makes an ethic of wealth; if he is a poor man he makes an ethic of Spartan efficiency.  If he is a learned man he makes an ethic of education; if he is uneducated he makes an ethic of the school of “hard knocks”.  If he is a wise man he makes an ethic of wisdom; if he is an ignorant man he makes an ethic of ignorance.  If he is a civil man he makes an ethic of cultured civility; if he is a barbarian he makes an ethic of his own barbarism.

The problem with modern culture, especially American culture, is that the possibilities for “re-creating” oneself are apparently limitless.  One’s freedom to assume identity, that is to “invent” oneself multiplies as the social “constants”, the social “norms” increasingly give way to the latest trends.  I’m not simply speaking here of the current practice of wearing one’s baseball cap backwards, or the pant legs down over the shoes, or the practice of wearing, in the open forum, one’s pants half-way down to the knees in imitation of prison wear.  The problem is deeper than that, for the social norms are now under attack by the emergence of, if you will, a perverse version of George the Greater’s “thousand points of light”. 

You see there are now a thousand voices, each with its own siren song, telling tales of alternate universes.  One can now choose one’s own “music” to the exclusion of all else.One can choose one’s own “religion” by simply inventing a more virulent form of existing ones, branching out to become the “branch Davidians” or another variant on the theme.One can choose one’s own education, opting-out by specializing—to the exclusion of all else-what one chooses to learn.  One can choose one’s own news, one’s own editorial support, one’s own everything.  You see it on the street when the young lad or lass walks in front of your car with the headphones on, listening to god-knows-what and oblivious to nearly everything around including the nearly three thousand pounds of steel about to run them down.. 

But what to make of this world when crisis strikes?  What to make of this world when one is whipsawed by forces one has not taken the time nor made the effort to understand?  Who is to connect these dots that mark the thousand points of light in this otherwise dark universe? Who will instruct us, who will impart to us what we have failed to develop in ourselves? To what mountain will we turn to find that oracle who will explain the world around us?

If you have made an ethic of ignorance, you seek the wisdom of Rush Limbaugh.  Why else would one consult a man who not only flunked out of college but in the process managed to fail every class he took including Ballroom Dancing?  Here is a man who has made an absolute ethic of ignorance and is now getting filthy rich appealing to that segment of society who has done the same. Or, you can turn to the deeply troubled and paranoid Glenn Beck who daily consuls the retreat to the cave as we approach the much heeded end of civilization as we know it.  If you have made an ethic of barbarism you join the modern “Brown Shirts” in the Teabag movement shouting down all civil discussion.  Why else would you join a movement that has made an ethic of nullification and has adopted the nihilist creed that nothing is better than everything else; that no loaf is better than any bread at all.

How do we make sense of this mess? It depends by which star in the sky one sets one’s bearings.  The problem is that the lights are going out in the western sky and will not be lit again in our lifetime. Increasingly they can only be seen against a backdrop of nearly absolute darkness.

Oct 9, 2011

October 9, 2011: Judgment of Mere Mortals, Will to Ignorance, In Service of Villians

“It is in the nature of things that the relative fitness for any claim to deity is left to the considered judgment of mere mortals.” –From the “Quotations of Chairman Joe”

And so it has been throughout history, this relationship between governors and the governed; for the power of the elected has always been determined by the acquiescence of the electors.  This was the truth revealed by Thomas Hobbes who was forced into exile because he chose to defend the crown for all the wrong reasons.  Reasoning that the “state of nature” was, in his words, “mean, brutish and short”, he concluded that order was restored not by divine decree but by what could be called “gang rule.”  The King, therefore, received his legitimacy from the “gang”.  The “Leviathan”, as Hobbes called the emerging modern state, simply was another form of gang rule.  Notice, however, the emergence of the concept of “popular sovereignty” in it’s however convoluted form.  For rule by consent of the “gang” instead of “divine right” not only earned him an exile to the Netherlands but a place among the philosophes along with John Locke, Rousseau and Voltaire as leading advocates  of the emerging divinity of the popular will. 

The “people” have always had the power over the anointed, it is simply a question of whether they choose to exercise it and, if so, how.  As it is with any of the gods, so it is with kings, that when they no longer serve useful they are summarily called before the assembled and dismissed.  And so Zeus and Zoroaster, Aphrodite and Thor have gone the way of Louis XVI and Louis Napoleon; except in Britain, of course.

Electors have, as it were, vast power and in the modern democratic state these powers are duly extended into every facet of life: consumer choices, career opportunities, political preferences, and educational investments, choices over everything from presidents to toilet paper.  These choices offer a vast array of possibilities not the least of which is to give freedom to the headlong urge to ignorance.  A “will to ignorance” to paraphrase Nietzsche.

I first discovered this phenomenon shortly after graduating from college.  I was talking with my sister about some subject and brought up Mark Twain.  “Who,” she asked? 
“Mark Twain”, I replied.  “Who’s that” she responded.  “Didn’t you read him in American Literature Class” I asked?  After all we graduated from the same High School only a few years apart.  “We didn’t have to take American Literature” she said.  Upon close examination many of the old requirements had gone by the boards in favor of “feel good” classes like “Home and Family living”. 

What the preceding posts indicate is a growing structural ignorance based upon the fragmentation of the marketplace (especially the media), and the specializations of knowledge as a function of modern science.  This has been exasperated by the growing exercise of power by the electors to not only voice their will through increasing use of recall and referendum balloting but to intentionally and purposefully exercise their ‘god-given’ right to be ignorant.

It begins in school which now gives the emerging citizen the ‘right’ to opt-out of an education.  It continues into adulthood by exercising one’s “right” to opinion based on skewed empirical evidence, or no evidence at all.  One can now choose to opt-out of the requirements of informed citizenship as one can now choose “news” based on one’s existing prejudices, or ideological leanings.  The result of all this fragmentation is a pervasive alienation expressing itself in raging impotence as the great unwashed struggle unsuccessfully to get their collective arms around what it is that is being done to them. Self-interest has, in due course been separated from “enlightened” self-interest, for “enlightened” we are no more.  The result has been the folly of the brown-shirt “ teabag” movement spouting “populist” rhetoric in the service of villians.