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Sunday, June 03, 2012

The State at the End of the Universe

The current round of class warfare taking place in this country can hardly be called that because it is taking place within a single class. This is no great conflict between the construct of a 1 and 99 percent, this is a civil war taking place within the 1 percent. The very name of the "Buffett Rule" makes that all too obvious. When your class warfare bid relies on 1-percenters like Warren Buffett and Elizabeth Warren, then what you have isn't a class war, it's an internal conflict among some of the wealthiest Americans over whether the future lies with an all-encompassing state or a looser libertarian system.

Buffett's position as the champion of the government class isn't as irrational as it might seem. For the average taxpayer, the tax code is a vacuum cleaner, but, for Buffett, it's an investment. The more money people pay in, the more money the government has available to salvage troubled banks that he can swoop in on at a hefty profit. The average taxpayer loses money to the government, but Buffett gets back money from the government.

Plenty of 1-percenter New York Times readers whose worldview is shaped by buffoons like Paul Krugman and Thomas Friedman have taken on the worldview that we need government expansion to drive the economy and remain competitive. And for them it's even true.

If you're investing in windmills, then government spending looks like it's creating economic growth, which it is, just not for the massive numbers of unemployed and not in a sustainable way. But most people, rich or poor, generalize from their own personal experience. If you're pounding the pavement looking for work, and then have to sign over a check to the IRS, then you're not likely to have a positive view of the government as an economic arbitrator, but if you're investing in environmental gimmicks, picking up government money and turning a profit without having a viable product, then you can only admire how well the government is stimulating economic growth.

To people like that, taxes aren't a loss, they're an investment. Pay more to Uncle Sam and he'll roll out a stimulus plan to buy more windmills, and then everyone wins, except the people who have to pay for the windmills or rely on them for electricity. And it's natural for them to think that if everyone just paid more money, the government would have more money to invest in windmills and other important things that they can profit from. They don't think of it as crony capitalism, to them it's just good business.

Government-class 1-percenters, whether they are directly or indirectly employed by the government, or just acting as crony capitalists, are making money from the government. The problem is that it's ill-gotten loot. Government sinecures and insider profiteering are as old as the republic, as old as every nation on earth and then older some, but the participants used to have a better idea of what they were doing and why.

The ideological wrapping paper gives the system a degree of intellectual and economic credibility that it does not deserve. The Tammany Hall crony trading contributions for government contracts understood what he was doing and why; his successors lie to themselves that they are supporting a progressive cause and making the world a better place. They aren't the corrupt ones, it's their enemies who want to destroy the environment, starve the poor and destroy the country for their own profit who are the rotten ones.

The government-class 1-percenters really believe that if we just invested more in infrastructure and education, threw out our remaining immigration laws and provided comprehensive social services for everyone, we could have a first-class economy, just like Europe. Their globe trotting court jesters like Krugman and Friedman breezily recite anecdotes and channel FDR's ghost to make unsustainable spending seem less like a pyramid scheme and more like a promising payoff. But they believe all of this because they have to. The alternative is to come to grips with a vision of themselves as vultures feeding off the carcass of the republic through cronyism and corruption.

Unsustainable is the key word. The numbers aren't hard to crunch, and the only way to escape their cold relentless logic is through rose-tinted glasses that see a utopia of unrealistic growth and global selflessness ahead. Only by believing that conventional capitalism and the nation-state are dying, can they justify their part in killing them. And only by believing that they are investing in a better world that will replace the old world that they are destroying can they see themselves as patrons, rather than plunderers.

But there is also something bigger than that going on here, and that is the purpose of wealth itself. Amassing wealth, like any human activity, requires a larger sense of purpose, a moral framework to give it a higher sense of accomplishment. The plutocrat as patriarch is on its way out. Fewer billionaires are interested in leaving money to their children; the philanthropic foundation dedicated to a better world and the body of the state and its world government are their true offspring.

They're not patriots, often, they don't even believe in American exceptionalism or the future of the nation-state. But it's not the nation part they're interested in, only the state part. It is not people or flags that interest them, certainly not national identities or histories, only institutions. The state, regardless of borders or governments, as the great mother and father of mankind is the idea that compels their worship. Their philanthropic activity takes the form of floating pseudo-states that travel the world solving national problems and breaking up borders, and their foundations are obsessed with bulking up governments and getting them to tackle one social problem or another.

They have come to see the state as an extension of themselves and their mission is to expand the power and scope of states. Individual freedoms meet with little regard from them. To their lofty eyes, the mass of people are sheep and require herding. Their money goes to activist groups who boast of being able to herd men with the aim of making governments better able to control their subject populations.

Their great dream is a global state to which everyone would be subject, a perfectly functioning government machine that would see to everyone's needs, end all wars, eliminate different thinking and usher in a golden age for mankind. It's an old dream, a stupid dream, and the natural dream of people who have lost the ability to believe in anything but the state, who have no higher aspiration than to create a perfect grandiosity, a King Kong of governments that would seize the people in one fist and leer from a high point at a puny world.

It's a dream as grand as it is cruel and useless. They would not be the first men to squander everything on a fit of grandiosity. The inhabitants of Easter Island, all but destroyed themselves to fill the island with stone figures, leading to famine, mass death and cannibalism. But, from their point of view, building them would raise the status of the chiefs and provide for their social needs. There was no need to worry about the consequences of throwing all their resources into the labor, because the heads would take care of the chiefs and the chiefs would take care of them.

We have our own chiefs, and they are obsessed with making their own stone heads, and, if we all have to be enslaved to go on making stone heads for their glorification, that's all-right because the stone heads will take care of us. Just like they have in Greece and Spain, in Rhode Island and California.

Every civilization builds giant useless things to stave off the march of time. Egypt had the pyramids, Easter Island had its own stone heads, and we have government institutions. But, unlike them, we are not concerned with venerating the past. Our best and brightest live in a world outside time at the end of history when the clock of ages has ticked its last. They are unconcerned with progeny and the perpetuation of nations and cultures, only with managing their transition to that final civilization that is to be the state at the end of the universe.

The Easter Islanders thought of their ancestors, the Egyptians of the world of the dead, but our leaders think only of marching forward to the world of tomorrow. The world of government which they have been obsessed with for over a century. The pyramid tomb of our civilization from which they believe that an immortal world-state will rise like a phoenix to usher in a new age.

An age in which spirituality and reason, wealth and scarcity, individualism and collectivism, along with all the other irresolvable and irreconcilable paradoxes of human existence will be reconciled within a brilliantly conceived system of human existence. An age whose harbingers are leaders like Obama, empathetic communicators, political healers and inspirational thinkers. An age that will require the sacrifice of all our resources and our rights to bring about.

It isn't class warfare in the wind here, but a clash between the government class and the rest of us. Between the unselfishly selfish and the selfishly unselfish. It's not about the poor against the rich, it's about a split among the elites over the direction of our civilization. A split that is muddied with class warfare rhetoric by 1- percenters who want to confiscate wealth for their own private benefit and the public good of the stone heads and pyramids of the utopian state.

Behind that clash is the spiritual and cultural malaise of a society that cannot envision any more horizons, that despairs of new frontiers of human accomplishments, and instead has been laboring steadily on its own government tomb, while profiting from insider mummy deals and construction contracts. Like all conflicts, it is about power, but it is also about the moral right to power. It is a conflict between those who have written the eulogy for America and the human race in the tomb of government and those who believe that we can reclaim the possibilities left behind by stepping out of the tomb, casting down the stone heads and fighting for the future.

18 comments:

Lemon said...

The end of the space program helped to stop growth and end horizons too.
The science behind it invented jobs, opened up possibilities that the gov no longer can see.

mindRider said...

A triple A once again sultan, pegging your line of thought to the Easter Island statues!

Edward Cline said...

Great analysis, again, and superb illustrations which comport nicely with your theme, Daniel. And you are a first-class fighter for the future.

John L Jordan said...

IMO, the same evil genius that inspired the fauxEuro as a "world-class" currency is now about the business of annihilating all currencies and national sovereignties. Individuals across the world will be issued credits by unionized zombie bureaucrats charged with the job of estimating each individual's worth to the collective. Read C.S. Lewis' "The Abolition of Man" for a clear description of where post-modernism is taking us: it's a fast read, it's in the public domain and available online. "The Abolition of Man" is Lewis' most famous secular, i.e., non-religious treatise.

Anonymous said...

"but a clash between the government class and the rest of us. Between the unselfishly selfish and the selfishly unselfish. It's not about the poor against the rich, it's about a split among the elites over the direction of our civilization."

Loved the 'unselfishly selfish vs. the selfishly unselfish' line!

fsy said...


Between the unselfishly selfish and the selfishly unselfish.


Great line, but which is which?

Anonymous said...

Sultan - One of your best!

Anonymous said...

Sultan. Love the brilliant piece here. My favorite part is where you call Krugman and Friedman Buffoons!

Reminds me of an old Bugs Bunny cartoon where he calls an adversary a "Buffoon...what a Maroon!"

The Titanic USA is 2/3rds of the way down. The rats are just scrambling for topside.

Thanks for your smarts man!

PAAC

Anonymous said...

didn't bother to finish it...you twist buffet's words...what a ridiculous assumption...typical of the right who are a bunch of hatchet men who offer critiques but no policy of their own...stick to social commentary...you know little of the reality of today's economics...the jobs picture is a plan of the 1%...they want high unemployment to bring wages down...and to keep the pressure on Obama...the tax cuts for the 1% and corporate America has been a failed policy...a scam...they have refused to hire despite record earnings...betrayers...merchants have no country...the gap between the middle and upper classes has been well documented...the upper classes and their unbridled hedge funds are now short selling the market made possible by their removal of the uptick rule instituted after the 29 crash...the big boys blocked legislation to bring it back...its these kind of cruel articles that make me doubt your obvious brilliance...

Anonymous said...

this is a baloney article...the 1% hate Americans...feel they're freeloaders and are out to subjugate them...giving them higher ideals is like an ant crawling up an elephant's back with rape in mind...they will cut the helpless children from the well fare rolls if they could and have been trying to do so..you take the easy way out...its easy to back the rich...

Anonymous said...

yeah right...such beautiful caring people your one per centers! Americans to the core! but let's ship jobs over seas...use tax loop holes so an money made overseas is taxed at lower rates too! such civilized people! lets stack the supreme court so we can use laws, supposedly for terrorists, to spy on people when they start to rise up to get their cruel feet off our necks...want a job? minimum wage and no benefits! social security? we don't need it so we want it taken from you...same for medicare...political bribes..uh I meant donations have made politics the game of the rich..its no accident that Romney has been chosen to represent them...at Bain he cruelly dismantled and dismantle and dismantle he will...he will gut this country's safety nets...look at that puppet's job record as gov of Mass...you're a kind writer...

Leah said...

Bravo! So well said, that it is scary. I'm am not surprised to read one anonymous's comment about not bothering to read and you twist Buffets words blah blah blah... scary to think after 3 1/2 years anyone can still think we're headed in the right direction.....

Anonymous said...

"Like all conflicts, it is about power, but it is also about the moral right to power. It is a conflict between those who have written the eulogy for America and the human race in the tomb of government and whose who believe that we can reclaim the possibilities left behind by stepping out of the tomb, casting down the stone heads and fighting for the future."


There won't be a shortage of people willing to fight for the future. There have always been dreamers who enjoy the good things of life too much, are too romantic and spiritual to live in a bland, sterile, uninspiring world.


Keliata

Anonymous said...

After we fix the current mess.I think we will colonize space.Americans will always need new frontiers.Free Men are the the alpha,we will continue 2 kick ass .yes we will have setbacks,struggle thru ur wars and rumors of war,but Freedom has Gods Grace.
Liberty Valance

Anonymous said...

This is a great article because it addresses THE crucial issue - the nature of Man's soul.
History will decide if men are merely sheep - fit only to be herded.
For the present, this article is proof that we are still men - and the future belongs to us.

JW

Edward Cline said...

Loved this line, especially: "And only by believing that they are investing in a better world that will replace the old world that they are destroying can they see themselves as patrons, rather than plunderers."

Nice capture of the looters.

Anonymous said...

this is in response to Leah...nobody said we're heading in the right direction but I refuse to play the fool for those right wing oppressors...you think they care about you? what a dope...I don't like obama's social policies but we're talking economics here and the gap between rich and poor has increased dramatically and the estrangement of the middle class from the political system is startling...the home of the free? more and more each day the rich plunder the system...raided the treasury under Bush...changed the campaign finance laws...can now spy on us...want to take away social security and medicare...kick the helpless children off the welfare rolls...there is no end to their greed and avarice...anybody who doesn't make 500 thousand a year and votes Republican is a racist fool..

Anonymous said...

buffet doesn't need to game the system...his record shouldn't be tarnished by this ridiculous slander made by another right wing slander and all because buffet dared speak the truth...he spoke the truth because he knows how to make money and doesn't need the government to give it to him like a lot of those other one per centers...its amazing to me how this writer complains about the safety nets when the rich steal the country's resources and raid the treasury, smash the economy with derivative trickery leaving it in shambles, (and for obama to clean up) refuse to hire people even though they sit on record amounts of cash and after receiving tax breaks supposedly to create jobs and he says they have higher ideals? you mean the two dubious wars they deceitfully put our children in? or the behind closed doors energy policies of bush? I could go on and on...and these are things that are public just imagine what goes behind closed doors when those right wing donors sit down with their puppets in Congress...a good writer this man but in the end just another right wing, narcissist, hatchet man...

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