Abstract: Just as the ultimate reason for democracy is intelligence, the ultimate tool of plutocratic control is stupidity. We explore many aspects of this, putting Obama, health care, the USA, Europe, Rome, and the Federal Reserve into the mix.
In brief: Comparing with comparable, namely Europe, American politics lags in professionalism, albeit leads in corruption (and both facts are related). Meanwhile, the USA leads in lack of perception of said corruption, as it should: bad stuff, has to be covered up, that’s how it gets really bad.
Corruption has been seen before, and was the cause of the slow stupidification, then morbidification of Rome, first as a republic, and then as an empire, and, finally, as a fascist theocracy of the worst type.
The corruption in question was not just financial, plutocratic corruption. It was also the deeper philosophical corruption of learning to submit higher mental human purposes to the baseness of greed and hubris. And, although the Roman elite was responsible of this, it was not the only one to partake in it. All of Roman society made this choice around 300 BCE. Attempts to revert it, under the Gracchi, 170 years later, came too late: by then the plutocrats had private armies, and used them to kill the Gracchi, and thousands of their supporters. (A later attempt was made by Caesar.)
There is evidence that Obama expected some of this philosophical corruption , and was ready to craftily out-maneuver it in health care, with a little Machiavellian plot of his own, using greed against itself (he basically said so as early as 2001).
So Obama made a show of being friends with greed, and even to claim it as a guide, as he set-up his subtle health care trap. But he was blindsided by the financial crisis that he, and most thinkers, had not anticipated, even conceptually. So, as he deployed his little health care trick, he was engulfed by his new found pseudo-friends, the financial conspirators, and got completely discombobulated, as they grossly showered themselves with all the gold they could find in the world, and taxpayers’ homes, besides.
Whereas as the president was still in his mood to please health care plutocracy while subtly using it against itself. Who can be defeated with subtlety, when they have already grabbed the world? Obama had overlooked that point.
That was pretty stupid. And no accident. Still, Obama has kept on plowing forwards with his health care plan. As he correctly said:"It’s a debate about the character of our country." Indeed, is that philosophical character going to kept on being corrupted by the greed of the few on top, or not?
Plutocracy governs best by making the people just stupid enough for domestication as a placid herd, but not so much that the herd becomes too mentally retarded to serve as needed. In the case of Rome, though, plutocracy overshot and the placid herd was made too dumb to serve as needed. Thus the republic, and then society itself, collapsed. It took many centuries. Evidence points out, though, that we now measure time in years, and that the USA’s "Novus ordo seclorum" (New Order of the Ages) is turning into more of the same morbidification at an accelerated pace.
Synopsis: Socrates used to rile against unprepared politicians, elected but unable to do anything well, because they had not been formed and trained enough to do their job. According to Socrates, democracy without technical competence of its leaders was a no-go. One can make a critique in a similar spirit, as one compare the leaderships of the contemporary USA and that of the EU.
However dismal European politicians are, they have been holding top positions in government for a long time, and have enough experience to, at least, do something when they get to the top. Putting in power untested and unprepared people in high positions, as is done in the USA, makes stupidity into dogma. (I will argue that this is no accident.)
An example was Schwarzenegger of California, an owner of a dozen Hummers or so, who, upon becoming governor, cancelled a tax on cars, thus saddling California with a budget gap that started an uncontrollable avalanche of problems in the Golden State. Reagan, another Californian actor, had the same facile mien to ease policy into long term disaster. So successful was Reagan at claiming that black was white, and white, black, that, to help his campaign, Obama sang his praises (OK, he is singing the praises of giant derivatives bankers too).
Still another example out of California is Proposition 13 and 58, which basically allowed big rich commercial property owners to pay basically no taxes… while still using full blast all the city services: schools, fire, police, for their businesses. Some of these people live in tax havens, far away, while they suck California dry (as often in USA plutocracy, their estates are basically transmitted tax free, and their taxes stay desperately low, through the trick of leasing what they own). That was pretty stupid of the people of California not to see what trick was played on them. But the plutocrats who pushed this sort of measures are expert at making people stupid, and, as soon as the school system just bring forth only stupid specialists, plutocrats can steal from the people as if they were babies. (Some people plutocrats steal from are poor, middle class, and even upper class: a owner of a multi-million dollar home in California get fleeced too… So the word "people" is all embracing, more than 99% of the population, once removed the crooks and flippers.)
Making matters worse, and contrarily to legend, the system of checks and balances of government is insufficiently developed in the USA. It’s actually less developed than in Europe. The abyss between self satisfied American plutocratic propaganda and reality is not just uncanny, it has become life threatening, for the entire society. And not just for the survival of the USA.
Everybody was waiting for Obama, the new messiah, to do something. But what if he can’t? What if both his hands, and his mind, are all tied up in plutocratic knots? The USA is all about leadership, American wisdom says all day long. But what happens when the leader can’t lead?
Europe does not depend on one messianic individual, real or imagined. Power in Europe is highly fragmented, and multi-cephalic. And not just that. It accentuates institutions, not individuals. (The institutional strategy was learned in the Middle Ages, and solves some of Socrates’ objections.)
When one arrives in an American city, such as San Francisco, the newly elected 38 year old mayor "welcomes" you, as if said city was his personal property. The message: America is led by its leaders, and they own the place. The USA is about being led by all mighty individuals… not so much institutions, or ideas.
In peacetime, true leadership is more about being led by ideas, than about being led by individuals. Such as the idea, and ideal, is the idea of Europe, as one polity, or the idea, and ideal, of economic sustainability, by contrast with bringing back Napoleon, or Lincoln to to bring the masses into submission, by killing millions, or Martin Luther King to dream loudly about the USA respecting its own Constitution and Human Rights.
If the idea of the Constitution and Human Rights had been foremost in Americans’ minds, as it ought to have been, Martin Luther King’s dreaming aloud would have been irrelevant. It was stupid for it to be otherwise. Hence the question: where does all this stupidity come from?
Nobel Laureate Stiglitz observed that the financial system in the USA is typical of a "CORRUPT" regime. But corruption feeds stupidification, and reciprocally. This is the key concept.
SOCRATES WAS NOT READY FOR GOLD MAN:
Nietzsche criticized Socrates a lot, he opined, "maybe because I am so close to him". Socrates, just as Nietzsche, were scathing about the societies they lived in. Athens for Socrates, Germany for Nietzsche (who then left for Suisse, Italy, and France).
Socrates criticized the electoral system of Athens, decrying it as idiotic, whereas Nietzsche had a much more general critique of the psychology of Germany, finding it racist, herd-like, stupid, and bound to bring forth enormous wars and holocausts in the following century. As it happened exactly (since the masses are not exactly intelligent, Nietzsche was then accused of what he had predicted and decried!)
The greatest private contributor to Obama’s campaign was Goldman Sachs, a plutocratic, predatory organization owning top politicians, worldwide.
How would Socrates have qualified that? How would he have approached the problem? There was no equivalent of Goldman Sachs to heap scorn on in Athens. Although massive amounts of money from the Persian dictatorship did corrupt Greece, this was beyond Socrates’ expertise. And that huge money from dictatorial plutocrats corrupted Sparta, not Athens.
The likes of Goldman Sachs have been careful to capture semantics claiming the exact opposite of what they are truly doing. Such a strategy of semantic camouflage is nothing new: the Nazis were "removing the Jews from Germany for their own protection". At least, so they claimed to the German population, which was all too happy to accept that explanation, since the riches left by the Jews were redistributed to "real Germans".
The likes of Goldman Sachs have been careful to vaccinate their discourse against the precise objections Socrates brought against politicians in his time and place. Thus the financial sector has to give itself predatory bonuses because it needs "talent" to further "innovation". The truth being that they are talented as the best highway robbers there ever were, and, not only they innovated nothing, besides new technology in highway robbery, but they starve real technological innovation of money, economic activity, and talent (because finance seduces, or more exactly corrupts, the most brainy youth, by making them offers they cannot refuse).
Hence now we have to fight a factor Socrates did not encounter: dissemblance, hypocrisy, and what Hitler called the "big lie technique". Thus politics is increasingly about neurophilosophy.
STUPIDITY TO CONTROL THE POPULUS:
I hold that mental retardation brought the Greco-Roman empire down. No, it was not caused by lead in pipes as it has been alleged (deposits of limestone covered the insides of the pipes quickly, whereas stupidity rose inexorably, generation of Romans after generation of Romans, and so did the corruption of the moral system).
Nor was the sinking of Rome a sudden failure, as Harvard historian Niall Ferguson just claimed. (An amazing claim, since, however one wants to look at it, the collapse of the Greco-Roman empire obviously took many generations, and it was in obvious big bad trouble as early as Marcus Aurelius, when the later sold the palace cutlery to pay the army, which was trying to turn the Germans around, as they threatened to pierce towards the core of the empire; the last Occidental emperor reigned a bit more than 300 years… later; thus Ferguson ought to review his conceptology.)
Roman stupidification was purely cultural phenomenon. And it was no accident. It had a precise cause.
An oligarchic plutocracy, such as the one that came to own the Roman republic, has interest to make the "Populus" stupid enough to be led by the nose… But not so stupid that the country would become dysfunctional. A fine line to follow, with an abyss on both sides. The situation in Germany between the creation of the "Second German Empire" and 1918 was exactly similar; an oligarchy reigned, and used stupidification and militarization, not to say fascism, to foster its rule. It became so stupid and aggressive that it came to believe that attacking the fully armed French republic sitting next door was a must.
Making people into stupid sheep, but not so stupid that their society can’t function: a fine balance, hard to maintain. It is a bit like maintaining near zero inflation: there is a danger to fall into deflation, something one cannot stop easily, with a great danger that it will turn to a depression. Falling into stupidity, especially cultural stupidity, stepping over that fine line, is similar, just worse. It also leads to mass depression (of the psychological type). Once a society is in that state, such as Oriental Rome, Constantinople under Justinian, at the time of the terrible fights between the "greens" and the "blues", there is no looking back.
A related fine balance is monarchy (= mono-rule, the rule of one). As long as it was Seneca, the philosopher, and personal teacher of Nero, who ruled Rome, perfection was achieved. It lasted five years, until Nero ordered Seneca to kill himself. In other words, when the ruler is perfect, monarchy is perfect. Similarly with oligarchy. But, in a long term autocracy, if the ruler, or the ruling oligarchy falters, the "Populus" cannot step in, because it has been rendered impotent and stupid.
Conversely, Chili was able to recover its democracy, after Pinochet’s horrendous dictatorship, because the latter did not last too long, and democracy had been solidly implanted in the century prior.
In the same vein, the French republic executed dozens of thousands of vicious traitors in 1944-45-46, because the vast majority of the French population hated what had happened during the four years of occupation, and also held that the presence of many fascists in the French establishment contributed crucially to losing the Battle of France in May 1940, as the so called “fifth column”. In other words, the Chilean people, and, a fortiori the French people, were so attached to democracy that the later came back with a vengeance.
It’s better for democracy to come back with a vengeance, than with wishy-washy measures, complete with amnesty, as Athens did around 400 BCE. (Athens lost half of its population, though, which may explain the amnesty.) It is clever to make the civilizational point that democracy is worth, not just dying for, but also killing for.
Anybody in France, looking forward, knows that collusion and collaboration with murderous fascism will bring death. (Other European countries made the same point as France, albeit on a more modest scale, with the exception of the USSR, of course.)
OBAMA IS GOING TO DO SOMETHING:
“They are waiting for us to act,” Obama said on a Wednesday in March 2010 of the American people. “They are waiting for us to lead.” Actually, " they" have given up waiting. Some 80 percent of the population of the USA believes that “nothing can be accomplished”.
But one cannot act, if one has not thought first. Or then one is like G. W. Bush, fully acting, after only half thinking. Even then, Bush was not dumb enough to expand the war in Afghanistan. Even Bush was not dumb enough to see that there was no oil in Afghanistan.
What did Obama do in his first year? And how did we get there? Well, Obama mostly extended policies already in existence under Bush, and that Bush knew were wrong. Obama did that in financial, and military policies. These were the most important policies, in the sense that they are the ones which directly led to the worst recession since the Great Depression. They were also Bush’s most erroneous policies. Even Bush had some doubts about these errors, since he nationalized some financial firms, and refused to extend the war in Afghanistan. Obama did not have such hesitations: he went full speed ahead.
As the Romans used to say:"Erring is human, persevering, diabolical." Not all has been diabolical about Obama; some of the stimulus was good, especially the part about financing science much more.
The leadership shortfall we’ve witnessed during Obama’s yearlong health care death march "— typified by the missed deadlines, the foggy identification of his priorities, the sometimes abrupt shifts in political tone and strategy — won’t go away … As Frank Rich says in the NYT, Sunday March 6: [Some] frame [Obama's] failures as an attempt to impose “socialism” on a conservative nation… Obama, who has expanded the war in Afghanistan and proved reluctant to reverse extra-constitutional Bush-Cheney jurisprudence, is a radical mainly to those who believe a conservative Republican senator like Kay Bailey Hutchison of Texas is a closet commie…
The problem is that … Obama prides himself on not being ideological or partisan — of following… a “pragmatic agenda.” But pragmatism is about process, not principle. Pragmatism is hardly a rallying cry for a nation in this much distress, and it’s not a credible or attainable goal in a Washington as dysfunctional as the one Americans watch in real time… Obama needs to articulate a substantive belief system that’s built from his bedrock convictions. His presidency cannot be about the cool equanimity and intellectual command of his management style."
I LEAD, THEREFORE I GREED:
What if Obama’s bedrock conviction is advancing himself? What if it were "just a little blow" as he put it? Under this hypothesis, as Obama reached the top, he ran out of ideas to serve, having served himself, the equivalent, for him, of heavens. Then now grabbing for the stars, and having no wings to carry his mind, he cannot get there.
History is full of leaders who wanted to go to the top just because it was there, and had nothing to do once up there, besides listening to sycophants, and themselves. Greco-Roman history, over 2,100 years, is replete with examples of some admirable, clever, knowledgeable leaders motivated by public service. But, among hundreds of leaders, it is also replete with the worst scoundrels, who turned out the exact opposite, in the briefest time, from what was expected from them. Emperors Caligula, Nero, and Justinian are famous example (the later by far the worst, because he reigned four decades, and was highly successful in accomplishing the Christian God’s evil purpose of spreading death and stupidity from Orient to Occident).
The three of them, Caligula, Nero, and Justinian, started as adulated youth, brought up in the very best conditions, and their inchoating reigns were full of hope, righteousness, and change for the best… in the beginning. They turned out in the exact opposite (although no doubt that Justinian is still venerated by the clueless: Constantinople is viewed as having reached its apex under him, and he and his wife are Saints of the Orthodox Church, which is troubling, since Justinian was a holocaust specialist: he did not implement just one holocaust, but several, from Anatolia to Italy!)
Far from being a liberal, by European standards, Obama is so much to the right, that Europeans, would they know what he truly says, could only expect him and his country to be fully dysfunctional.
Europe knows that only social democracy works: other regimes were tried, in the last two centuries, and failed. Ultimately it is the republican social democratic model that triumphed, and it is enshrined in the European Constitution. The last great experiment, trying to make Britain into a mini USA, with a full Wall Street, is failing as we speak (plutocrats will say that happened because the remnants of social democracy in Britain were too strong; but this is false, because it is the newish, unregulated "innovations" which are failing; the British health Service is not, in contrast with the health care system of the USA.)
But dysfunctionality does not stop with Obama being obsessed by being a "republican" (which, nowadays means being a far right ideologue, way to the right of the first Bush president, and little embarrassed by what obviously does not work).
FOR PLUTOCRACY, IGNORANT LEADERSHIP IS BEST:
Obama was also little prepared to political leadership at the highest level. Part of his undeniable charm, as far as plutocracy was concerned. Plutocrats love to be called "friend" by the president, something Obama, not knowing any better, did many times, and then sang the praises of his mentors (as I documented in previous essays). That Obama became president to tell us that wealth and power defined success, and that he was going to take heed from them was a symptom of him being unprepared for his job, which is to lead the city ("polis"), not take advice from its fat cats, especially not just after those broke the city. (By the way, this ethical incoherence is no coincidence: in case of enormous turmoil, ethics and law do not guide anymore; thus Vichy France collaborated with the enemy, the Nazis, and, as Athens started to lose her war with Sparta, chief generals turned into traitors, and back into trusted advisors. That Obama calls a health care profiteer such as Buffet his friend, while supposedly trying to fix health care in the name of justice is a typical turn coat affair, often found when history goes berserk.)
The lack of preparation of Obama can also be seen by comparing Obama to the leaders of Britain, France and Germany. These three European leaders have been at the highest command levers of government for more than a decade: they knew what governing at the federal level entailed, where the bodies are buried, and who dug their graves. They also knew what they wanted to do, and if they had what it took to implement it, and a taste for it.
President Sarkozy and Kanzler Merkel are conservative politicians, by European definition, they are the standard flag bearers of the right, long having been very close collaborators to Chirac and Kohl, respectively. However, viewed from the USA, they are far out leftists.
This is remarkable, because the USA and Europe ought not to be different universes. And they are not very different economically, and sociologically. Or, at least, they did not start out very different, if one puts the starting line in, say, 1980.
A difference has grown, and that difference is more about what rationality and knowledge have come to mean, and how they impact the very different sociologies. Moreover the evolution of this difference is recent.
It mostly has to do with the USA adopting the Reagan devolution, according to which GREED IS ALL YOU NEED. Greed displaces culture, and all other wants and emotions. Greed is where it’s at.
It is very telling to compare the backgrounds and advisers of Obama, Sarkozy, and Merkel. Merkel is a PhD physicist, thus trained to distinguish reality from fiction, and dreams one wants to believe in from change that is not happening.
Yes, I know, it is insulting to Americans, supposedly, to compare the great USA, which, recently, can’t get anything done, except invading other countries, to France, one of the major component of the European Union (if not it’s exact center, soul, and main driving force). And France just signed a contract to sell four gigantic, sort of aircraft carriers to Russia (which does not have the expertise to build them, and sorely missed having one to invade Georgia, a top Russian general explained).
This brings into question the old style NATO Alliance as an obedient American pet. Sarkozy explained why France was taking Russia under her wing: it is a strategic decision. As he put it, "one cannot ask in the morning the Russians to vote with us on the UN Security Council, and, in the afternoon, tell them one does not trust them."
But so it goes: if the USA can be compared in detail with one country, that country is France (a dreadful fact for plutocrats made in USA, since France is a counter example to most of their asinine theories.)
France has both the size and history to be the bedrock on which the USA stands (no doubt an infuriating notion for many an American patriot, but there is a full continuity between Rome, the Franks, Western Europe, and the USA: France is how the disease of Western superiority was transmitted to the USA, a very creation of that superiority disease, come to think of it).
Sarkozy and Merkel are fully trained federal politicians with long track records. Many in their public do not like them, but everybody knows very well where they stand, a bit like family members. UK’s Brown has also been one of the three most prominent labor politicians, for an entire generation. Although no sweet virgins, they are no dark horses.
Sarkozy was elected mayor (of Neuilly)at the age of 26. A lawyer by training, he was involved in a succession of top governmental jobs (finance minister, and interior minister). During a hostage crisis he exhibited amazing physical courage, confronting the "Human Bomb" to save dozens of children, after the experts did not know what to do. The Human Bomb got so distracted by having a top minister of the republic talking to him, snipers got an opening and killed him.
Sarkozy is surrounded by top experts as personal advisers (some philosophers, some economists, etc.). I am not talking about his cabinet here, and the official positions. I am talking about thoughtful people who can come on TV, and speak with authority, but informally, and in all liberty, from their position as presidential advisers, saying what they think (but they do not sit in cabinet meetings). Volcker has a bit this sort of role in a modest financial position (but he has an official position, and probably not the ear, and certainly not the brain of Obama).
Another thing is that in Europe in general, and France in particular, an enormous numbers of layers and center of powers counterbalance each other, while not neutralizing each other.
REAGAN DEVOLUTION, EUROPEAN EVOLUTION:
Some have said that Europe is politically ineffectual. But they forget that no decision is better than a bad decision. The USA has gambled that hundreds of thousands of armed men, send to the other side of the planet, was all the energy procurement policy it needed, forgetting that Britain administered India, for generations, with no more than 3,000 administrators (and sometimes, barely more than 1,000!).
They also forget that LEADERSHIP IS NOT JUST ABOUT INDIVIDUALS REIGNING, IT IS ABOUT PHILOSOPHIES, ENVISIONING.
The guiding philosophy in Europe is: "Never That Again" ("Plus jamais cela.") Namely, NEVER A EUROPEAN WAR AGAIN. This means unifying Europe for real, and this enrages the American plutocrats, because Europe, unified, is a much larger power than its ex-colony, the USA. Before the clowns at the Wall Street Journal editorial (disclosure: I have subscribed to the thing for all too many years) start to laugh, let me point out that Russia is a small part of it (with two-third of French GDP).
The plutocrats are enraged, because, if they lose control of Europe, the greater power, they may well lose all power next. Their rage makes them dangerous, and they have to be manipulated with care, like the nitroglycerin they are.
The USA is presently led by Reagan’s philosophy, which, if it has to be abstracted in one slogan is viewed as: GREED IS ALL YOU NEED. Greed displaces culture, and all other wants and emotions. Greed is where it’s at. Greed makes Wall street go around, and thus the world, since Wall Street created the world, ever since Stalin, Mussolini, Hitler and Franco, and got away with it, and a few Great Depressions in passing. In recent years, Larry Summers, now accompanied by his obedient, facts deprived Obama, as he used to be with faithful clueless Clinton, has even dismantled Roosevelt’s work of 1933. So maybe we ought to call it the Summers’ devolution, not the Reagan one. (Indeed the real Reagan could be pragmatic; faced with a scary deficit, he augmented taxes.)
The philosophical leadership provided by the metaprinciple of greed as a guide is inferior to the leadership provided by the metaprinciple of avoiding war, whatever it takes.
Avoiding war does not mean caving in, as in Munich. When Britain and France declared war to Hitler in 1939, it was way too late, actually 20 years too late; thus avoiding war in Europe means avoiding the sort of mess of the Paris Peace Conference of 1919, where the USA interfered destructively, and the European problem of democratization and pacification was not solved; nowadays, this means bringing Russia into the fold, democratically and pacifically… a bit as Serbia was recently, but, hopefully in a much nicer way!
EUROPEAN PHILOSOPHICAL POWER:
There is power in Europe, but it is not just with politicians. As I said, it is in a philosophy of human rights reigning supreme. And this includes prominently the right to WORK, and the dignity of not being led by the nose as if one were cattle.
A number of Siemens upper managers were recently sequestered by other Siemens managers, for example, to extract concessions. As is usual in France, in case of sequestration of bosses, the police stood by, trying to calm everybody. And as often, the kidnappers got a lot of what they wanted.
A bit later a strike in refineries to save 350 jobs (yes three hundred fifty jobs), started to paralyze France. All Total refineries went on strike. Total SA, a French company, is the fourth largest oil giant in the world. The French presidency intervened. The refinery will still close, but a liquid natural gas facility will replace it, and the 350 jobs will be saved. That is a lot of power deployed to save 350 jobs. Intriguingly, the cause of the problem is that French society is so much efficient that the usage of gasoline has gone down a lot, and now US demand for gasoline has gone done too, because of the Great Recession. (Yes, the USA did not need to build refineries for decades, because French refineries made "American" gasoline: a small world we inhabit…)
European courts can be much more powerful than American courts. For example, they often block governmental action, and are keen to suggest explicit remedies. The French Constitutional Court, for example, blocked the Carbon Tax, three days before implementation, but told the government how to fix it.
An appeal court allowed lesbians to adopt, while telling the French National Assembly it had to… change the French National law. In other words, the court not only legislated from the bench, an ultimate no-no in the USA… but gave marching orders to the legislature. This can be done in Europe, because European law has primacy over national law. Another drastic European Constitutional advance.
Indeed, if the primary ethical principle is to avoid another European war, European law should dominate that of all nation-states. Thus, when a court, inside a nation-state, feels supported by European law, or by the spirit of European law, which is the spirit of the Declaration Of The Rights Of man And Citizen of 1789, it does not hesitate to contradict the democracy of the nation-state in which it sits.
The USA presidency, and congress, relative to all this European brain storm, is clearly quaint, obsolete, amateurish and … corrupt. Many American politicians right now in exercise would get serious entangled by various European laws.
A drastic example is the US central bank, the famous Federal Reserve, the celebrated Fed. The fed is in particular famous for its ‘independence". A refined joke. It is not just a question that the Fed chair is named by the president, like I am sure president Chavez would like to do in Venezuela.
By commonly accepted civilized standards, the Fed is corrupt, precisely because it is independent of democratic supervision.
An example of blatant corruption: Jamie Dimon, head of the super giant private bank JP Morgan-Chase, the president’s self celebrated "friend", and object of his man-love and admiration, sits on the board of the New York Federal reserve bank. This is the exact equivalent of a fox guarding the chicks. I remind you that, last year, the Wall Street foxes had eaten all the chicks, and they were sad, and very hungry. So taxpayers were requested to bring more chicks, otherwise Wall Street would devour them, taxpayers, instead. we had a happy outcome: taxpayers are still around, ready to be fleeced some more.
I SEE NO CORRUPTION, THEREFORE I AM NOT CORRUPT:
So Obama is in his big White House. A smart little boy without much experience, surrounded by arrivistes, plutocrats, and a second rate ex-journalist such as Mr. Axelrod. Some of these people cannot even know what corruption is; they always aspired to it, and lived by it. They find normal to sit on boards of hospitals, making ten times, or more, the US median income, although they have strictly no medical background to be there. (In France hospital administration is the object of rigorous training, examinations and the selection of the very best in double blind competitive entrance exams).
A boy with dreams he would like to believe in does not necessarily a good captain make. Caligula, Nero and Justinian, among many others, started as boys, very good, resplendent crowned boys, and hope reigned. But the very fact those boys did not earn their positions through a long hard slog made them vulnerable to hubris. Tripling the force and the losses in Afghanistan, as Obama did, while feeding the banksters, is hubris. Hubris is a corruption of judgment by the will to power, just as greed is a corruption of the heart by the same will to power.
CORRUPTION, STUPIDIFICATION, ANNIHILATION:
Civilizations have died from mental retardation. It is not just the Nazis who died that way. Rome is exhibit number one. By the Second Century (or even the First), it was obvious that stupidity and corruption, feeding on each other, were devouring Rome. (The occasional bout of brilliance such as the first five years of Nero, when Seneca was de facto emperor, or the first two Antonine emperors, or the short reigns of emperor-philosophers, such as Julian, notwithstanding.)
The point about Rome is that corruption preceded stupidification. The Romans of the republic were dangerously superior in the ethical realm.
Gaul was conquered by Caesar in the name of ethics. This was far from being false, and that is why Gaul, although very independent in spirit, never seriously rebelled later, and ended up out-Roming Rome herself, with the Imperium Francorum, the direct prolongation of the Imperium Romanorum, Pars Occidentalis. Gaul agreed that Rome brought multiple advances, including ethical ones (and that includes having outlawed the Celtic religion, which was discriminatory on the ground of heredity, and human sacrificing).
As Rome got corrupt enough, and stupid enough, she was unable to stop her slide to oblivion, except by ever more fascism. And on it went, ever more stupid, ever more fascist, until the imposition of imperial fascism from heavens ("Christianism"), and the calamitous reign of Justinian (Sixth Century Constantinople).
Now, of course, internet geniuses will check Wikipedia, and see that, under Justinian, the Roman empire reconquered the world (except for Francia). But actually Justinian did so by destroying the world. Pretty stupid. At some points the city of Rome changed hands seven times. In the end, only one man was left inside, it is said. And the aqueducts had been destroyed.
By the time Justinian’s uncle, an uncouth, but competent general, became emperor, the Franks and the Goths controlled the West ("Pars Occidentalis"), and used higher smarts to get some of the (Roman) state re-started. The Goths were destroyed by crazed superstitious enemies (Justinian destroyed the Ostrogoths in Italy, and the Muslims destroyed the Visigoths in Spain, 150 years later).
The more ferocious and crafty Franks destroyed those very same enemies (in a general counter-offensive, which lasted at least six centuries, and the Crusades were just a sample).
THE FISH ROTS BY THE HEAD (IF ANY):
Corruption was the initial problem of Rome, and it brought its final solution (not just the termination of Rome in the West by the Franks in 486, and in the Orient in 1204, but even, long term, through Christian amplified hatred, the final solution a la Hitler). Stupidity can go on and on…
Roman corruption was philosophical in nature, and deeply tied to the very rise of Rome. Maybe not its fundamental republican, and legal rise, the deepest reason for its superiority. But certainly it tied into Rome’s meteoric rise around 300 BCE; then Rome discovered the virtuous circle of military conquest, the slaves it brought, and the resulting power of it all.
Corruption is now the main problem of the USA. It is the sort of corruption that hides its nature by being naked in everybody’s face. It is so gross, everybody is in denial. Thus, it is a corruption in everybody’s mind. We saw that in Constantinople under Justinian (and throughout most of the late Roman empire). The financial sector has crowded minds out of more profitable mental pursuits (ironically).
Economy Nobel laureate Joseph Stiglitz, former chief economist at the World Bank, observed that if a country had applied for World Bank aid during his tenure, with a financial regulatory system similar to the Federal Reserve’s — in which regional Feds are partly governed by the very banks they’re supposed to police — it would have been refused.
"If we had seen a governance structure that corresponds to our Federal Reserve system, we would have been yelling and screaming and saying that country does not deserve any assistance, this is a corrupt governing structure," Stiglitz said during a conference on financial reform in New York. "It’s time for us to reflect on our own structure today, and to say there are parts that can be improved."
In other news, we are dying, and it’s time for us to rearrange the bed.
The USA will not have the luxury of the slow decay of Rome, because, differently from Rome, it is surrounded by other great powers, and it is not self sufficient: only eight years of oil production are left, at the present rate, inside the USA. Although the invasion of Iraq bought some time, it is little to go by, and it could well backfire.
And the general problem remains that we are facing many disasters in the making, which can only be avoided by maximum brain power. But the enticement of greed is not that of thought over matter, but the enticement of power on other people, quite a different drive. This is how corruption feeds stupidification.
The feeding can be more direct: Socrates spoke of the necessity of having politicians who were competent enough to make their jobs appropriately, and the question arises with Obama, since his team could get nothing major done, which did not involve adding steroids to policies already initiated under Bush. Initiation is harder than continuation. The Obama team may be so incompetent that it cannot initiate anything major (Bush initiated a few major programs and disasters).
Although Socrates had a point, the fact remains that, at the time the two largest class of problems Athens had were hubris and conspiracies and betrayal. of that, Socrates says nothing. But the various betrayals of Socrates’ lover Alcibiades (who had suggested and was supposed to lead the attack on Syracuse), played a calamitous role in Athens’ collapse. Even worse, deep down, was the enormous financing of Sparta by Persia (allowing Sparta to build a giant war fleet which brought Athens down, with half the population killed).
Common American wisdom, has it that conspiracies do not exist. This piece of pro-active propaganda all Americans in good standing know by rote. That is rendered possible by them not knowing much history. And having even the head of the best buried deep in the sand is not new, as the case of Socrates show.
But it is high time to not be that naïve. We are living in times when we will be superior minds, or we will cease to be.
In Polanski’s Franco-Germano-British movie, "Ghostwriter", an explanation is suggested on how and why (some) Anglo-Saxon leaders are actually CIA plants recruited by networks originating in universities such as Harvard. Of course, the poor CIA is much abused, and the financial enormity that just happened, and keeps on happening, the corrupt oligarchy ruining the world, for all to see, suggests, in turn that recourse to assassinations (such as in "Ghostwriter") is not necessary. After all, one does assassinate sheep: one takes care of them instead, especially of their tiny little minds.
Stupidity itself is the ultimate conspiracy. Shedding minds is more efficient than shedding blood.
Annex: Some will scoff: what can mind over matter do, which would be fast, clean and spectacular?
Well, nothing much nowadays, because the main mental universe ruling the stupid political class has become the universe of financial derivatives. As its name indicates a derivative, unreal universe. Thus a stagnation of technological progress. because the later is not located in a derivative universe, but in the real universe.
Lack of enough, necessary technological progress is the proximal reason that brought Rome down.
As ecological and military problems accumulated, Rome was defeated, because she could not unleash enough technological progress to solve said problems.
Instead Rome decided that the universe was not real, just derivative from the true God. OK, God was not explicitly a financial derivative, although it was invented by the biggest plutocrats ever observed, but the basic idea stayed the same: work your mind on a derivative, not the real thing. Instead, call the derivative the real thing. Thus Obama sing the praises of Dimon’s portfolio of 80 trillion dollars of derivatives.
Now the true God is not sitting in heavens, brandishing a sacred book. The true God now is Greed, and the derivatives are financial. But it is the same flight from reality.
Suppose there is a nuclear winter, and that the main oil field have been struck by nukes, making them radioactive, and that world trade has been smashed from lack of fuel, piracy, etc, while sea level is quickly rising… Could the West still have plenty of energy for building the necessary cyclopean levees and feed the people from underground hydroponics, while keeping them warm enough, and free of radiation?
Yes. We could for example stitch existing technology together and make fusion-fission nuclear plants (those would use normal uranium for the thermonuclear blanket, which would fission under fast thermonuclear neutrons).
Wall Street cannot master the universe, but the universe can master Wall Street.