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Fixing the System: There must be some way out of here

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Fixing the system: There must be some way out of here
By Joseph Danison
Online Journal Contributing Writer


Aug 19, 2008, 00:21


Ask the American Everyman about the political economy that he calls home and the responses will always include words such as “freedom” and “capitalism” especially if it is a compare and contrast sort of question, such as: “Why did the United States defeat the evil Soviet empire in the Cold War?” Well . . . Duh! Because we have a superior capitalist free market system! Capitalism is king! Communism sucks! Everyone knows that!

America is the fertile soil that grows the Entrepreneur, the Self-Made Man, Bill Gates, T. Boone Pickens, Warren Buffet, Paul Bunyan, and the Jolly Green Giant. It is the bastion of the superior individual armed with the righteous sword of capitalism that lays waste to all the inferior isms that have blighted the planet heretofore. Capitalism and America are synonymous as any word association test will quickly reveal, and Reagan’s proclamation of the right to get rich, though not proposed as the 27th Amendment to the Constitution, is nonetheless a proposition to which Everyman will subscribe. So it seems. Getting rich is after all “the pursuit of happiness,” isn’t it?

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You have to at least try to get rich, don’t you, even if you aren’t Bill Gates or T. Boone Pickens material? If you don’t at least try to grab the brass ring, you’re likely to end up concussed and sidelined in the robust football game of American life. There’s the star player, the American Idol, and the supporting cast of wannabes in the grand clamor of the competitive drama called capitalism, and for those sour grapes out there in loser-land that don’t applaud the excellence of the superior performers and their great accumulations of wealth, well, let them eat food stamps and welfare vouchers. Cry babies, bottom feeders, cripples, and mental defectives are an unfortunate part of the grand landscape of Our Way Of Life. That’s just the way it is and that’s the way the Founders of our great country put it together, right?

Not really. Adrian Kuzminski, a gentleman small landholder in the Jeffersonian mode sans slaves, in his reflection on populism called “Fixing The System: A History of Populism Ancient and Modern,” begs to differ. The Declaration of Independence and the Constitution are not capitalist manifestos. They are documents reflecting a frustrated populist yearning older than Methuselah. The populist impulse is actually OEM programming in newly extruded humans which is overwritten at a tender and early age by a reactionary educational system in cahoots with the Microsoft Corporation, chief cyber predator of laissez-faire capitalism.

Indeed, wise Professor Kuzminski informs us that populist self-governance is the natural and spontaneous political condition of aboriginal cultures, or what he calls “kinship societies.” The American colonists, in the opinion of this writer, actually acquired their practical notions of democracy not through readings of ancient Greek or Roman commentators, or John Locke (1632-1704, English philosopher emeritus of life, liberty, and the pursuit of property), or other Enlightenment scribblers, but through direct observation of the American Indians and a process of osmosis, which they never admitted, and which may explain why these tribal cultures were exterminated. We displaced Europeans failed to cut the umbilical to Great Britain and did not achieve the true democratic condition and individual liberty enjoyed by ignorant barbarians who didn’t even have to work for a living. Resentment was inevitable. It was just blasphemous the way those naked, illiterate savages felt so entitled!

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The populist impulse within us all, overwritten as it is by false programming, remains quite strong and when repressed turns ugly. The repression of true popular sovereignty can lead to neurotic displacements like genocidal aggression and torture, compulsive secrecy and national security states, preemptive wars, fascism and state terror, rape, child abuse, domestic violence, cancer, hemorrhoids, the heartbreak of psoriasis and other forms of national and personal psychopathology we can plainly see today when we look in the mirror.

We have ridden roughshod over our natural populist inclinations. This process began quite early in our history when General Washington suppressed the populist uprising of Daniel Shays and the farmer/soldier revolutionary heroes on day one, you might say, of the new Republic. And then Alexander Hamilton came along to administer the coup de gras to any genuine democratic possibilities by indebting the new nation to the Bank of England and the allied sleazy world of international finance of that day.

But now it is time for the return of the repressed and the joyful abreaction of real democracy. It is past time. In truth, it may be too late, but populists are hope fiends, forever delirious with great expectations.

We must, therefore, rediscover our true populist understanding of political economy from the OEM source, or what Jefferson in the Declaration called “The Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God” and whatever else we can devise that resembles those kinship societies of yore before we blow ourselves to smithereens. The most basic principle of populist political theory must be understood just as aboriginal cultures always and everywhere have understood it. This idea is expressed in the notion of the “commons.” As the American Indians could not conceive of ownership of the land because it was the common inheritance of all living creatures, so in modern societies it has to be understood by citizens that all citizens have basic property rights. In other words, all citizens simply by virtue of their birth are entitled to a piece of the action.

Entitlement is the keyword. In our day, only the rich are entitled, even though in their hypocrisy, induced by the profound confusion and myopia of great wealth, they will say things like: “I do not believe in inheriting your position in society based on what womb you come from . . .” (Warren Buffet, engaged in obscene public acts of philanthropy with Bill Gates, June, 2005)

Professor Kuzminski’s brilliant analysis states the fundamental misunderstanding at the heart of our social ills clearly and succinctly: “For Locke, property has to be earned, it has to emerge out of a state of nature through labor; but for populists, property is already there, the free gift of nature, the natural capital that is the common inheritance of the earth for every man and woman: the land, air, and water without which one cannot live, let alone labor.”

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Populism is a bone fide ism, like any of the more familiar isms: communism, socialism, capitalism, libertarianism, anarchism, and so on and was first articulated, Kuzminski reminds us, by Phaleas of Chalcedon, who laid down the aforementioned basic principle of populist entitlement in the early 4th Century b.c.e. . Populism is not merely one theory of political economy among several, it is the OEM modus operandi populus informing the behavior of people while they were still “savages,” prior to the great confusion introduced by the civilized capacity to read and write.

Populism does not exist today. It emerged during the 19th Century in perhaps the greatest mass movement in US history, culminating in the People’s Party, but it was defeated by the vested interests of finance capital, big bellied guys with top hats, vests, diamond stick pins, and pinky rings. “The rights of capital since then have been increasingly institutionalized and legalized and the rights of persons have been increasingly discounted and marginalized,” notes Professor Kuzminski. Only the term “populism” and “populist” remain to be misunderstood and misinterpreted. Just a faint echo of populism can be heard today such as in the faux populist book by David Sirota, The Uprising. Poor Sirota! He will surely be distressed to learn that he is not a populist, but is instead a progressive antidemocrat in the thrall of laissez faire finance corporatism.

A true populist political economy can exist only when a participatory democratic political apparatus is combined with a publicly controlled monetary system.

We have no democracy in the United States. Voting is not participation. “Voting in the modern sense is largely, if not wholly, meaningless as a political act,” Kuzminski points out. “Indeed, delegating one’s political rights to someone else, to a representative, is the very antithesis of democracy unless that elected representative be directly accountable to constituents on a face-to-face basis. Only in the crudest and most desperate sense -- as in the opportunity to choose the ‘lesser evil’- does voting serve as the roughest of checks on otherwise unaccountable government.”

Have you ever had a face-to-face with your elected representatives, state or federal? Neither have I. They usually want to give out autographs, not listen to your bullshit.

Democracy entails direct political involvement by citizens in the conduct of their public affairs. Voting is a merely symbolic act to legitimize the political activity of a broadly unaccountable political class. The work of Mark Crispin Miller and others (Loser Take All, 2008) amply demonstrates to what nadir of meaninglessness voting has sunk since the introduction of computerized voting machines. It has been factually demonstrated that G. W. Bush lost both the 2000 and 2004 elections through corruption and manipulation of the electoral apparatus and in spite of this, the political class remains unaccountable to the people it purports to represent. Who oversees the overseers? In words of stern consolation, Justice of the Supreme Court Antonin Scalia, the shameless blowhard who spearheaded the illegal intervention of the Supreme Court into the electoral affairs of the State of Florida in 2000, admonishes the American people to “get over it!”

In other words, friends, shut up and do what you’re told.

The perversion of the meaning of democracy persists and the public sleepwalks in an Orwellian state of doublethink while their illegitimate Decider in Chief orders his military and intelligence operations to lay waste to foreign lands in the name of spreading this antidemocracy around the globe.

Okay, we have no real democracy. I delegate my power to act politically to someone else and hope he or she doesn’t go too hog wild in the pork barrel behind closed doors. But this isn’t the worst of it. There’s the little matter of the private financial system, the so-called Federal Reserve System, owned and operated by and for the financial elite, which has by the latest reckoning so egregiously screwed up the financial affairs of this nation that most economists of sound mind proclaim us to be at the brink of the mother of all depressions.

You say you’ve had enough doom and gloom and you’re going to browse on out of here? But wait, there’s good news! It’s called Populism and the Hope Springs Eternal Party.

Here’s what you do: get on over to Amazon and pick up Fixing the System: A History of Populism, Ancient and Modern by Adrian Kuzminski, so you can find out what you’ve been missing and how we can fix things to our liking. It’s all there in a familiar and cozy Times New Roman with an attractive cover you can stare at while you’re high. You’ll discover that Thomas Jefferson didn’t much like the US government after Alexander Hamilton started tinkering with it and came up with a solution called “ward republics” that would have been as workable then as it would be now. True democracy did once exist in this country, in Vermont before it caved into the federal system. That should cheer you up.

And you’ll also discover a whole new monetary system that works for the benefit of all, without penalizing the rich. We don’t want to kill the rich and eat them. Populists aren’t communists or socialists, you know. They’re patriotic, hard working, spit in the grass Americans who just want their country back. You’re probably a Populist yourself.

Above all, be of good cheer!

Joseph Danison is a novelist and commentator in Western North Carolina. Contact him at www.renovationpress.com.

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Adrian Kuzminski is a local activist in upstate New York, and Research Scholar in Philosophy at Hartwick College. He is the author of FIXING THE SYSTEM: A HISTORY OF POPULISM, ANCIENT & MODERN (Continuum Books).

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