Sunday, July 23, 2017

Democracy in Chains: A True Horror Story


Preliminary Note: My knowledge of politics and economy is not adequate to give this book its full credit, but I felt it was important enough to write about. It describes the Far Right’s vision of a ‘good’ society, one that safeguards liberty for the few at the expense of elementary fairness and freedom for the many. Knowing that the majority of Americans do not share this vision, the billionaires backed Far Right has been working toward their goal by stealth. If you do not have time to read this 240-page masterpiece, just read the last chapter, the conclusion. It is horrifying.

‘Democracy in Chains: the Deep History of the Radical Right’s Stealth Plan for America’ is so disturbing, that it takes a while to realize its full significance. Nancy MacLean, a professor of history and public policy at Duke University, suggests that James McGill Buchanan, a libertarian economist and Nobel laureate who taught at George Mason University and died in 2013, inspired the billionaire Charles Koch’s campaign to “save capitalism from democracy — permanently.”

Almost 70 years ago, Buchanan was already promoting the ideas that define libertarianism: Individual freedom, unfettered capitalism and minimal government intervention. In his view, the majority cannot dictate what the individual should do, especially when that individual is rich. He was against everything that a progressive society values: public education, Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid and of course progressive taxation, i.e. everything that is essential to making a society more fair and just.

It all started with Brown v. Board of Education (1954), a Court case that declared state laws establishing separate public schools for black and white students unconstitutional. In response, Buchanan suggested privatizing public education, so that white families could send their children to white schools.

Another one of Buchanan’s ‘accomplishments’ is his Public Choice theory, for which he received the Noble Prize, oddly enough. It is a very cynical interpretation of politics and politicians, basically saying that politicians are driven by self-interest in their policy proposals, not by what is good for the public. Even though this is not proven by fact, this cynicism is now generally accepted as truth. Government is always bad and the free market is always better. This theory has benefited the libertarian cause, especially on the state and local level.

In Dark Money: The Hidden History of the Billionaires Behind the Rise of the Radical Right, investigative journalist Jane Mayer exposes a network of extremely wealthy libertarians, foremost among them Charles and David Koch, who are behind what is referred to as the Kochtopus. This beast’s tentacles reach in practically every corner of American society. Media pundits like Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh are its megaphones; it generously funds numerous think tanks like the Heritage Foundation, the Cato Institute and the American Enterprise Institute to give it a veneer of scientific respectability. It has set up fake grassroots projects, making it seem like the Koch brothers' ideas have popular support, and with its lobbying efforts and limitless contributions, it makes sure that candidates get elected that will pass favorable legislation (read Paul Ryan, Scott Walker and Karl Rove). It has influenced judges’ rulings (Citizens United) and last but not least, it has established an Academic beachhead, to influence the minds of young people.

The military calls this a full-spectrum dominance, ‘when air, surface and sub-surface as well as the electromagnetic spectrum and information space of a battle area is under an army’s control’.

Buchanan has been the Koch brothers’ inspiration and role model. He was not satisfied with changing public policy, but realized that true change happens on a constitutional level, which is why the Kochtopus has its tentacles reaching on so many levels.

One of the most important goals of the far right is to dismantle Social Security. Since it is too popular to do away with outright, the idea is to crab walk around it. You have to first convince people that it is not viable in the long run and that young people shouldn’t count on it when they retire. Then, you make higher earners pay more into it, so that you break the unity in support of Social Security by making it look like a welfare program. The ultimate goal of the Far Right is to privatize Social Security, so that it will be taken out of the hands of government, into the hands of capitalism. That is a good example of how to change the rules by stealth, which was Buchanan masterfully understood.

Again, it is easy to assume that it is ignorant to not believe in global warming. But it is because of the relentless campaigning to prove that it is not real, that only 44% of Americans believe in Climate Change.

Some people call the current drift toward the right ‘Dixiefication’, because, in early America, the wealthiest Americans were the Southern Plantation owners. Until the New Deal, the US was a third world country with no middle class. There were few public utilities, little infrastructure, and few great universities. Now, as in previous periods in which oligarchs had control, the citizens are taught to hate their own Government. This ideology detests taxation of any kind -- calling it "theft”.

The Nazi propagandist Joseph Goebbels said that ‘If you tell a great lie and repeat it often enough, the people will eventually come to believe it.’ Today the big lie of the Koch sponsored radical right is that society can be split between makers and takers. Never mind that Warren Buffet’s secretary pays a higher tax rate than the billionaire. There is no evidence to suggest that the ‘takers’ want to take from the ‘makers’. And why would the Koch brothers who already have so much want to take down those who just want ‘some more’, as Oliver Twist says? If that is not greed, then I don’t know what is.

Wanting to privatize education, prisons, health care, infrastructure, and suppress voting rights, wanting a government that protects the rights of the ‘few’ (super rich) at the cost of the rights of the many, that is the Far Right’s vision of a future America. The Trump administration is already in the process of dismantling public education, environmental protection rules and it tried to do away with Obamacare. It is making it harder for poor Americans to vote. It wants to privatize prisons and Trump’s infrastructure plan will benefit the private sector at the expense of taxpayers.

MacLean ends her book with this remark: ‘America will soon make a decision about its future. It will be a permanent, irreversible decision. Do we want to live in a country that guarantees liberty for the few - the liberty to concentrate vast wealth, so as to deny elementary fairness and freedom to the many? ‘ We might be outspent by the Far Right’s totalitarian capitalist view, but one thing is in our favor: we are the majority and what we want still matters. leave comment here