The Rape of Democracy

Eric Zuesse

On the one side are Republicans, who resent taxes and self-identify with rich people who say that government is basically a huge waste of money and only private business is efficient and productive.

On the other side are Democrats, who don’t resent anything and who say that government is good enough to be worth the taxes that are paying for it.

Neither party is “pro-government,” and both parties are “pro-private-enterprise” or pro-corporate; so, what America actually has is two conservative parties, one of which — the Republicans — is extremely  conservative.

Those are the only two political parties that have a history and a donor-base that’s big enough to stand a chance of winning 99% of elections in America; so, third parties exist here only to draw off more support from voters of one of the two real parties than from the other, and thus to throw elections in close races and thereby use their voter-base of fools so as to enable them to extort something from one of the two real parties. Otherwise, they’re simply stupid, all the way from their bottom to their top.

That’s the reality of the ideological ‘debate’ in the United States increasingly during recent decades: conservatism versus extreme conservatism, the latter of which is otherwise called “fascism.”

How did this ideologically monotonous, all-conservative, America come about?

Republican donors have simply been winning. They especially won in the U.S. Supreme Court’s 5-Republican to 4-Democrat Citizens United decision that makes a corporation (either profit or nonprofit) a “person” with the special privilege to donate unlimited and even secret cash to any and all political campaigns.

In November 1933, the founder of today’s form of extreme conservatism or “fascism,” Benito Mussolini,” defined what fascism is, by saying (see page 426 there) that it’s “corporationsm”: he wrote that “the corporation plays on the economic terrain just as the Grand Council and the militia play on the political terrain. Corporationism is disciplined economy, and from that comes control, because one cannot imagine a discipline without a director. Corporationism is above socialism and above liberalism. A new synthesis is created.”

In other words, he said: corporations are more efficient than any government can be;  so, governments should be run like corporations are — top-down by a decisive CEO — in order to get things done that government wants done, and to do it quickly and efficiently, not to waste money.

Mussolini’s teacher was Vilfredo Pareto, who defined the very concept of “efficiency” that’s used in today’s economic theory; he said that it’s simply transactions in which all participants are participating voluntarily. In other words: there is no government over them, no regulator of the economy; there are just trades, transactions, these being voluntary, like in the idealized economy. (But, he ignored what ‘voluntary’ means; he instead used a self-invented term “ophelimity” for that, in order to ward off questions to which he had no answer: all of the important questions — such as “Taxes aren’t voluntary; are they therefore automatically inefficient, bad, welfare-reducing?” And: “If someone buys or sells on the basis of misrepresentations, was the transaction ‘voluntary’?” Pareto was just a con-artist in the intellectual sphere, but a very successful one.)

Mussolini promised to “make the trains run on time”; he would be the CEO to do that, so that people could go efficiently about their private business, while he tried to minimize the role of government in the economy. To him, government was just a necessary evil, and should be run more like a corporation is run. Bureaucracy wasn’t seen as the evil; government  bureaucracy was, and he wanted to reduce it to a minimum, transferring it to private corporations, which would supposedly be more “efficient.” He invented the privatization of what had been government, tax-supported, functions. In September 2009, the European University Institute issued their RSCAS_2009_46.pdf, titled “From Public to Private: Privatization in 1920’s Fascist Italy,” (subsequently retitled “The First Privatization: Selling SOEs” in the 2011 Cambridge Journal of Economics) by Germa Bel, who said in her summary: “Privatization was an important policy in Italy in 1922-1925. The Fascist government was alone in transferring State ownership and services to private firms in the 1920s; no other country in the world would engage in such a policy until Nazi Germany did so between 1934 and 1937.” She particularly noted: “In his first speech as a member of the Italian Parliament in June 1921, Mussolini said: ‘The State must have a police, a judiciary, an army, and a foreign policy. All other things, and I do not exclude secondary education, must go back to the private activity of individuals.’”

That policy was subsequently taken up by Augusto Pinochet in Chile, Margaret Thatcher in Britain, and Ronald Reagan in the U.S., because the ideology, fascism, gradually became normalized throughout the West, via corporate-backed people such as Milton Friedman and other extremist conservatives; and liberals merely rejected it, they didn’t offer any coherent ideology to replace  it.

The Cold War against the communists had given fascism a privileged position: one couldn’t talk against “the free market” without running up against Joseph R. McCarthy’s anti-communist witch-hunts or other people’s similarly far-right nationalist demagoguery, which meant that there was really no acceptable alternative to fascism, in the West.

Then, when communism fell, and when it became replaced (under the guidance of the Harvard economics department, thoroughly Paretian of course) in the 1990s, with fascisms, and massive privatizations of previously state-owned assets, there was no clear alternative anywhere  to fascism. Mussolini had won WWII, after his death — first in the communist countries, then in the rest. Aristocrats were now firmly in control worldwide.

What the Republicans on the U.S. Supreme Court did in their Citizens United  decision was simply to carry this privatization-ideology more fully into the sphere of U.S. political campaigns. The five fascist ‘Justices’ didn’t refer to Benito Mussolini, but, if they had been honest, they would have — and they wouldn’t have referred at all to the U.S. Constitution, which, certainly in its original intent, was anti-corporate.

The author of the Declaration of Independence and the third U.S. President, Thomas Jefferson, wrote, on 12 November 1816, to his long-time friend Dr. George Logan of Philadelphia, about the “profligacy” of England’s government, wasting resources to prop up its international corporations, which Jefferson said had brought about “the ruin of its people” in order to benefit aristocrats. He said, “This ruin [in England] will fall heaviest, as it ought to fall, on that hereditary aristocracy which has for generations been preparing the catastrophe [meaning creating the catastrophe (by corrupting the government), not meaning to prepare for the catastrophe]. I hope we shall take warning from the [English] example [e.g., the British East India Company] and crush in it’s [sic] birth the aristocracy of our monied corporations which dare already to challenge our government to a trial of strength and bid defiance to the laws of our country.”

On 26 December 1827, he wrote to William B. Giles, warning that “younger recruits, who, having nothing in them of the feelings or principles of ’76, now look to a single and splendid government of an aristocracy, founded on banking institutions, and moneyed incorporations under the guise and cloak of their favored branches of manufactures, commerce and navigation, riding and ruling over the plundered ploughman and beggared yeomanry. This will be to them a next best blessing to the monarchy of their first aim, and perhaps the surest stepping-stone to it.” He was forecasting fascism, as America’s enemy.

Benjamin Franklin was equally clear about this. In James Madison’s extensive account of the proceedings at the U.S. Constitutional Convention that wrote the U.S. Constitution, Madison recorded, on 10 August 1787, concerning a proposal that had been put forth by a certain proponent of slavery, Charles Pinckney (sometimes spelled “Pinkney”), to restrict voting only to people who had property, that (in Madison’s paraphrase of Benjamin Franklin’s speech), Franklin had asserted on this date, that:

“the possession of property increased the desire of more property — Some of the greatest rogues he was ever acquainted with, were the richest rogues. We should remember the character which the Scripture requires in Rulers, that they should be men hating covetousness — This Constitution will be much read and attended to in Europe, and if it should betray a great partiality to the rich — will not only hurt us in the esteem of the most liberal and enlightened men there, but discourage the common people from removing to this Country.” (Precursing the Statue of Liberty: it didn’t just happen — our Founders were planning for it.)

Madison immediately added there:

“The Motion of Mr. Pinkney was rejected by so general a no, that the States were not called.”

Not only did Franklin’s statement sway the entire convention; it caused Madison himself, ever-afterwards, to change his mind from ambiguity to clearly favoring persons over property. Thus, in 1821, he wrote that:

“there are various ways in which the rich may oppress the poor; in which property may oppress liberty. …  It is necessary that the poor should have a defence against the danger. … Under every view of the subject, it seems indispensable that the mass of citizens should not be without a voice, in making the laws which they are to obey, & in choosing the magistrates, who are to administer them, and if the only alternative be between an equal & universal right of suffrage for each branch of the Govt. and a confinement of the entire right to a part of the citizens, it is better that those having the greater interest at stake namely that of property & persons both, should be deprived of [that] half their share in the Govt.; than, that those having the lesser interest, that of personal rights only, should be deprived of the whole.”

Alexander Hamilton was fairly quiet about this matter at the Convention, but he had already been fully on record as having written, on 23 February 1775, in his The Farmer Refuted, that:

“no Englishman who can be deemed a free agent in a political view can be bound by laws to which he has not consented, either in person or by his representative. … It is therefore evident, to a demonstration, that unless a free agent in America be permitted to enjoy the same privilege [as in England], we are entirely stripped of the benefits of the constitution, and precipitated into an abyss of slavery. For we are deprived of that immunity which is the grand pillar and support of freedom. And this cannot be done without a direct violation of the [then-existing British] constitution.”

Hamilton was saying that one of the reasons a revolution against the King was necessary is that the King was violating the British Constitution, by denying all (non-slave) colonists an equal right to vote, irrespective of how wealthy they might happen to be.

However, the fascist jurist Antonin Scalia famously said, with glee, in the 12 December 2000 Bush v. Gore case (5 Republicans beating 4 Democrats), that, “the individual citizen has no federal constitutional right to vote for electors for the President of the United States.” Scalia refused to mention that that’s not because the original intent of the Founders wasn’t overwhelmingly in favor of equal voting rights for all non-slaves. (But women were yet another traditionalist issue too hot to touch in that era.) Scalia’s Constitutional “originalism” rejects the original intent of the Founders, but instead is based upon the bigoted intent of the most-conservative Americans and even Britishers during that time, as constituting our Constitution’s “original intent”; and, so, Scalia is unalterably opposed to the concept of one-person-one-vote, and he does all that he can to amplify the voting-power of the wealthy, via increasing the influence of money over our ‘elections.’ This naturally tends to transform one-person-one-vote into one-dollar-one-vote (which is the fascist ideal: rule by dollars, instead of rule by voters).

The entire thrust of Republican Supreme Court ‘Justices,’ in regards to electoral disputes, has been based far more upon the attitudes and values of people such as Benito Mussolini, than reflecting people such as Benjamin Franklin. Big-money has taken over, and liberals haven’t provided any alternative to that ideology. But Franklin did. And Jefferson did. And Madison did. And Hamilton did. Many of America’s great Founders did.

This fact is being ignored, because the wealthy interests who have financed conservative scholars don’t want it to become known. And liberal aristocrats, such as George Soros, serve more to distract such debates than to finance authentically progressive scholars, such as Zephyr Teachout, the author of the brilliant “Constitutional Purpose and the Anti-Corruption Principle”. In a briefer and more down-to-earth vein than Teachout’s, is my own “Republicans on the U.S. Supreme Court Are Wrong: The Original Intent of the U.S. Constitution Was Progressive.” Such progressive writings are marginalized, because people like Soros, Gates, the Kochs, and the Waltons, are of only two basic types: some of them (the few ‘liberal’ aristocrats) ignore the ideological issue, but the others of them are strongly ideological, finance conservative scholars, and thus determine what type of thinking is ‘respectable’, and what types are not. (Truth doesn’t equate with their ‘respectability’.)

The conservatives have pre-empted a true jurisprudence of original intent, in order to block an authentic one coming from the progressives, just as the fascists have pre-empted a true “welfare”-based economics, in order to block an authentic one coming from any progressives. Thus, what we’ve got is unscientific, mythological, jurisprudential theory, and economic theory — both. Both of these conservative efforts have succeeded, because of enormous aristocratic money behind them. In scholarship, merit is starved; corruption is fed. Truthful scholarship and truthful politics are thus the two legs that are needed in order for a culture to be able to walk toward an authentic liberty, a liberty of the public (away from the aristocracy), but both legs are crippled with corruption; and, so, what prevails in both law and economics is instead the well-funded fascism. It has nothing to do with truth. Truth is what corruption blocks. Corruption is inimical to truth.

Thus, corruption wins; truth loses. That’s the problem. When there is great inequality of wealth, the truth gets drowned-out by lies. It’s been happening in America, and around the world. More and more money is going into the promulgation of lies, because that’s what any aristocracy thrives upon, quite naturally. Without those lies, the public would recognize: the aristocracy’s authority is founded on fraud.

———-

Investigative historian Eric Zuesse is the author, most recently, of  They’re Not Even Close: The Democratic vs. Republican Economic Records, 1910-2010,  and of  CHRIST’S VENTRILOQUISTS: The Event that Created Christianity.

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  • The thing that gets me about Democrats is THEY are really responsible for letting rightwing media & Republicans demonize the word “liberal” by remaining silent and distancing themselves from the word. So really DEMOCRATS have allowed “liberal” to be a curse-word. They let Republicans in their ads say, “He’s a liberal”. If they can do that without saying anything beyond “He’s a liberal”, then they have successfully made it a curse-word. No Democrat shoots back, “Tell me what a liberal is” or “Would you like to repeal unemployment? Or social security? etc…”
    Why is this? Has anyone else noticed this?
    Here’s the way it stands for me: Democrats are the New Republicans, and Republicans are blatantly batshit crazy, and there ARE NO REAL LIBERALS in the entire government. Maybe Bernie Sanders possibly. And they label Democrats “liberal” so they have framed real liberals right out of the picture.
    They frame Democrats as “liberal”, and they aren’t, and Republicans as “conservative”, and they aren’t. Republicans are insane. And Democrats “cave” all the time, which I question isn’t on purpose.

    • paul

      I think you need to study history, in order to understand what liberalism really means, and why it is actually easy to demonize. The “liberal” worldview has always been a viciously self-interested class-based worldview, built not around any authentic beliefs relating to the common good, but around the perceived self-interest of the upper middle class and the lower upper class. Liberalism is a wolf that likes to clothe itself in sheep’s clothing at times, because it hopes to mobilize lower class resentment as a powerbase against the upper class, against the aristos, as a counterweight to their structural power. Of course, the upper class has its own ways of pre-empting this, appealing to the lower class resentment via xenophobia. Basically, the right wing represents the 1%. The Libs represent the 15%. Both seek the loyalty of the 85%. Libs use the increasingly skinflint dole to appeal to the 85%, while the aristos use xenophobia. This tends to give aristos an advantage, because elections are always represented as fight or flight situations, and fear of ‘the other’ is more powerful than anything in such situations. What we need is for the 85% to have their own party, an authentic ideology, a coherent narrative and a strong platform – a third party approach, in other words. Yes, the Libs are marginally better than the Aristos, but because their goal is to be aristos themselves, it is only a relative difference, a gain in time, which is wasted if we continue to refuse to recognize the real task, which is to build an real ALTERNATIVE.

    • cettel

      This is Eric Zuesse; and I agree with you about the Democrats’ disastrous failure to have shot back against Reagan’s smearing the term ‘liberal’. But I disagree with you that conservatism is good: it’s bad; it’s bigotry; it’s hatred of other ethnic groups; it’s pro-aristocracy; it’s supremacism; and furthermore the predominant sentiment at the U.S. Constitutional Convention was strongly against it.

  • paul

    As always, Zuesse is more devoted to a screeching hatred for third parties than anything else, which is why he is really just a stooge for the Dems. He so loves calling for reform, in wan and fainting tones, while stridently attacking those who want actual reform. For some of us, the call for reform isn’t just a lovely pose, and we understand that the Dems themselves have chosen to marry themselves to the right wing two step. Third party is the only way forward. Had we spent the decade and a half since 2000 working on building a populist progressive party, we’d have one now. Instead, we have listened to the Zuesse’s of the world as they pretend to call for reform, while in fact doing everything they can to block it. How effective they have been. They have succeeded in demonizing anyone challenging the duopoly as it moves further and further to the right. 90% of Americans despise both parties, but still these Dem-apologists tell us that the notion of a third party is crazy! No, choosing to stay on the train that has run off the tracks is crazy. Pay no attention, people, to the man screaming at you as you jump off the crashing train and try to regroup.

  • MOLON LABE

    Two Parties = Zero Difference

    Mises Institute chairman and founder Lew Rockwell and Future of Freedom president Jacob Hornberger sit down with Judge Andrew Napolitano on Freedom Watch to explain how both political parties are really just two wings of the same bird of prey. 2/6/12

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wy632HTYpF8

  • GT

    This piece should be in the humor section.

    • MCB

      Exactly! Lol!

      What’s conservative about pro choice?
      What’s conservative about neo Keynesian Fed monetary , policies?
      What’s conservative about pro choice?
      What’s conservative about LBGT same or trans gender marriage?
      What’s conservative about porous border control with Mexico?
      What’s conservative about extreme political correctness?
      What’s conservative about gun control measures?
      What’s conservative about Obama’s voting record?
      What’s conservative about Obama?

      Obama is a puppet just like every other President.

      This partisan poppycock by “Dr. Zuesse” belongs on Salon.

      Please dump this guy GW; he’s killing the non partisan, Independent viewpoint I’ve come to enjoy.

  • MOLON LABE

    While in meantime: North America Time for a New Focus Chairs: David H. Petraeus, KKR Global Institute, and Robert B. Zoellick, Publisher: Council on Foreign Relations Press Release Date October 2014

    Goldman Sachs & Co. Director: Shannon K. O’Neil, Senior Fellow for Latin America Studies

    Overview: A new CFR-sponsored Independent Task Force report, North America: Time for a New Focus, asserts that elevating and prioritizing the U.S.-Canada-Mexico relationship offers the best opportunity for strengthening the United States and its place in the world. “It is time to put North America at the forefront of U.S. policy,” the report says. “The development and implementation of a strategy for U.S. economic, energy, security, environmental, and societal cooperation with its two neighbors can strengthen the United States at home and enhance its influence abroad.”

    http://www.cfr.org/north-america/north-america/p33536