Tuesday, November 29, 2011
Thursday, October 27, 2011
Over and over instruments of power in social relationships try to make us believe that some abstraction they call "free market" can work without some form of instrument, which they pretend to be against, called "government".If one wishes to think for oneself, it's imperative to deconstruct tautologies, because tautologies cannot help us to think things through:
government is virtually always coercive since....
the free market is always non-coercive since....
Well, what is government? Without a negative dialectic we are left with nothing but positivist declarations, and we can only apply truth values to such declarations. So how about a little negative space around the positive declaration to give it some definition, like the space between notes in a jazz piece so that you know it's music not just some endless noise: "Government" is not a thing in itself. It is first of all a word, one that applies to an abstract set of rules implying organization, rules humans imagine in relationship with each other to achieve some sense of orderliness amongst themselves. And we do that because... why? Don't jump to an answer. At the very least we all together do that to achieve an order of some kind.
Is it not fair to assume that kind of agreement has always existed in some form amongst the social beings we know ourselves to be, whether written down or in the very daily set of relationships that are part of the very cooperative small hunter gathering groups that our great-great ancestors devised for daily survival? Today that set of relationships has become vastly more complex. One can maybe recognize that in doing so it has achieved vast and complex sets of rules, many codified as "law" to accommodate the many more people alive now compared to a hundred thousand year ago. Those rules, whether written down or not, are always an instrument to be put in play by the actors in society. They are nothing without actors. They couldn't be imagined without imaginers.
When that set of relationships we call "government" fails to work for everyone, then people are free -- if they realize it -- to change the abstract rules of their relationships.
This is a fact because it is something that can actually take place. Thus, there can be no nature or god dictated fact of rules, like an Old Testament or Bible, or even a Constitution, that says the ones who have managed to get all the toys in their little sandbox get to keep them. People all have to agree to that. It takes actual, get up in the morning, put on your clothes agreement for that to happen. The 1% get to keep theirs only if everyone agrees to play by the rules. And there are only a few ways the powerful can get everyone to agree to this arrangement. One of those ways is: people are said to agree when the lie that we are a voting democracy legitimizing this relationship is generally accepted as what is taking place. Everybody agrees and everyone just goes along.
The 1% own and control 90% everything and the rest have about 10% of what's left is believed to be the way of things. It's natural because it's "obvious" the 1% ______ed it. Put in whatever operative logic you want. An important instrument in maintaining that belief is the power to control ideas, otherwise known in the Twentieth Century as "public relations" or, we can use the other word, not so pretty, propaganda, which comes in many flavors and varieties.
When that "belief" in those abstract ideas that maintain control suddenly disappears, which can happen very suddenly, like when the rent of mortgage payment can't be made, the food can't be bought, the gas for the car can't be purchased, and people rise up in revolt, then the other end of the management logic spectrum comes into play and those who are the organized enforcement instruments for keeping this social fiction going can invoke systems of logic that wield the technology of force. Again, individual human beings must do any of this, a policeman must willingly perform as a machine of enforcement in the institutional system of logic that involves keeping the order. A policeman must do his job, there's no cpu, there's no software, a human being does this. Exactly how no one has yet been able to say with absolute certainty. And without that certainty, we ought to be respectful of each other and what we do.
It's helpful to keep these contradictory assumptions in perspective by the conscious recognition that this enforcement instrument includes the highly developed institutional force that has evolved into modern day police and military technological instruments. These are all part of social evolutionary principles involving technology.
Technology, and a society that is now fundamentally technological in its very organization, is not a one person invention. Technology comes out of a milieu of culture. The languages we take for granted are part of this phenomenon. No individual invents their own language they learn to use by the time they are three years of age. Nor can any individual even use the technology them without language. No individual proclaim to the world that they own a piece of property without language. And technology, which is now our medium of existence, cannot exist without all the parts of that milieu organizing in a constant process, most of which takes place through the agreement in actions of individuals.
Someone has to perform any act for the sake of governing -- that is, making sure things stay in some sort of order. The governed as well as the enforcers of rules must act. No governing instrument, whether a corporation of a state government, happens on its own. Is that not obvious? And that brings up the question of power. And the question of power brings up the question of what exactly we are perceiving in this growing phenomenon we are now calling OWS. And everyone is stumbling over each other to try to control that phenomenon, which implies disorder, and disorder implies fear of the unknown, with ideas, word, labels.
A "free market" as a fact cannot possibly exist outside a social and cultural system of some kind. Which of course brings about a question: what does the word "free" mean? Yet the phrase is tossed around as if it's a reference to some technological instrument of its own, not just a logical line written in a piece of software. That may be the mistake of trying to make sense of things in an utterly rational fashion, and if you read Adam Smith's Wealth of Nations you may notice that he too was struggling with the contradiction of his own logical device, the creation of the concept: "free market".
We have inherited that struggle and we are experiencing its inevitable creation: cognitive dissonance. Because a market is merely a the sum of actions, a living and ongoing process, essentially the relationships between people within a common set, and consciously or unconsciously, depending on the awareness and intelligence of those involved, it is an agreed upon set of relaitonships between human beings.
Wednesday, August 31, 2011
David Edwards in his article: Kucinich: Obama's job czar expert at creating foreign jobs quoted Kucinich as saying:
That's a polite, even politically correct way for a moderate, even respectable Democrat to tell us that this Administration is screwing Americans like the others before it. Especially so since Reagan and the push for global regulation change (termed in neoliberal speak: "Deregulation").
“He has expertise in job creation, but, unfortunately for the United States, seems to be creating jobs in other countries. One-fifth of the U.S. work force has been eliminated since that gentleman had taken the helm of GE,” Kucinich explained.
“If the White House doesn’t have a jobs policy and they go to somebody who is not only moving his jobs out of the country, but also off-shoring profits so he is not paying a share of the taxes GE ought to be paying, look, the White House has to get a grip on its jobs policy.”
The presidency in this nation has been transforming before our eyes for some time now. It's been transforming from a soapbox where a national figurehead speaks for the good of all the people to a CEO arm of the most powerful private collectives ever formed on this planet -- of which GE's Jeffrey is merely yet another prime example on this President's list of appointments. We now have a predominance of heads of private for profit collectives in positions of power under the head corporate CEO, who once upon a time in a hard to remember liberal la la land was the spokesperson for a nation who legitimized the position by voting for it as such.
The Unitary Executive is here, now. And so in this transformation people are still voting, but the grand corporate spectacle called "the media" no longer exposes what the person running for office really stands for. Kucinich was carefully screened in the last March of the Trolls in order to keep this sort of information minimized from public view. Had it not been minimized more people might have had the courage of their convictions and not dutifully legitimized the current sitting corporate CEO in the Oval Office.
Though serious representatives of the people (a dwindling group) like Kucinich struggled to bring the fight for us to bear with attempts to call this act of corporate deceit to task during the last administration -- Kucinich introduces Bush impeachment resolution -- the media successfully snuffed him, now an accepted de rigueur act, and so these perfidious political actors go on to sneer at the general populace, win awards for their deceitful advertising campaigns, and now grab power through a multitude of carefully scripted routs as they redefine the U.S. constitution for the benefit of the powerful business interests, and on we go. No doubt Cheney will make another bundle of money with his latest bit of self promoting propaganda, his memoirs, or as non corporate media Robert Sheer sees it: A Deceit of Shakespearean Proportions. Don't look for Sheer's article in the NYTimes.
Supreme Court Justice Lewis F. Powell would be proud of his compatriots in the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. Read it and weep, unless you're among the powerful who've benefitted: The Powell Manifesto
His "manifesto" marks the beginning of the trend that transformed the Presidency into a corporate CEO; shortly after sending it to the head of the Chamber of Commerce in August, 1971, he was nominated by Nixon and subsequently appointed to the Supreme Court by Congress.
As a so-called fact, those statistical derivatives people toss around about life span improvement, like: "the reason your life expectancy is 75 years and not 45 years is due to capitalism" are questionable. Also questionable is the notion that it is some sort of advance. It would appear that an increasing percentage of people are being kept alive at greater expense, like the cost of creating technologies (drugs are technologies) that keep Type 1 diabetics alive. I learned from a physical anthropologist that more people died in the relatively brief hundred and some odd thousand years of modern humans from tooth infections and directly related factors than any other cause. I don't know how true that is.
Anyone who has bothered to sort through the pile of debris we call history will recognize that technology and capitalism are not co-related in a one to one formula. Thus to assume an economic system causes technological innovation is something of a logical fallacy. It's more like they share characteristics in a Venn diagram.
Human beings have been creating and sharing technologies at least since they discovered how to chip rocks to make spears and knives. They were probably using "found" tools long before that, and that use of tools or technologies would be called "technique". Both technology and technique are shared and they are subsets of a larger set we can call human culture. Human innovation is involved in the creation and use of all technologies and associated techniques. This is a factor of our ability to create systems as groups to increase our survival potential.
Capitalism is merely an economic system that creates a mold that favors homo sapiens economicus. It is not a culture. Though it's arguable that some version of mass global culture results from its principles now.
To maximize its economic imperatives, capitalism needs to employ techniques of efficiency or there won't be any surplus capital to reinvest. Efficiency always come down to energy. So efficiency is a factor of the study of physics in the real world. It's generally true that those efficiency techniques arise from individual effort, but once discovered they can be institutionalized. Thus, as populations grow and centralize, as maximizing energy sources and flows comes to bear on survival, that brings on the techniques of institutionalization. Since the so-called discovery of the "science" of management by Henry R Towne in the late 1800s at the height of the Robber Baron era, bureaucratic efficiencies have grown in status as a field and are now a subject taught in most major universities, because, after all, they are important to "the system". Institutionalizing as a social process is therefore another effect of the evolving technology/technique process, and individuals often find themselves at odds with institutions. This is true of those who think of themselves as capitalists, artists, intellectuals and all sorts of individuals. Institutions are system creating and generalizing factors and not all individuals want to fit the mold of an institution.
Technologies also evolve correlated to the employment of techniques. It seems no technique can be invented that cannot be improved. The question of improvement often hinges on the energy equation involved in changing one technique for a better one. Decision makers often calculate that improvement may not give enough return on investment so they stick with what works. Whole techniques are involved in making those calculations.
Yet techniques do evolve and they do make the application of technology standardized in societies that adopt them. As the techniques become vertically integrated on a global scale (one of the real effects of "deregulating" the global environment through NAFTA, GATT, and other trade agreements), more societies tend to mirror each other. Entrepreneurial spirit plays a role in this evolution, but with the increasing size of societies it becomes increasingly minor. Once a system of institutions based on these evolving techniques is in place, large privately-owned collectives, known as corporations, swallow up the results of these spirited individual innovations and often put them to use in the system in ways that fit the overall spectrum created by the need for efficiency. Interestingly, public collectives, such as those we see evolving in China, Japan, even the United States, follow that same pattern of these transnational private collectives that are pushing for deregulating the global environment now. Thus these efficiency techniques are employed by all major political state systems in the world now and as a result economics has become a major defining factor in modern societies. Hooray for homo economicus! The bold new homo sapiens!