You may only read this site if you've purchased Our Kampf from Amazon or Powell's or me
• • •
"Mike and Jon, Jon and Mike—I've known them both for years, and, clearly, one of them is very funny. As for the other: truly one of the great hangers-on of our time."—Steve Bodow, head writer, The Daily Show

"Who can really judge what's funny? If humor is a subjective medium, then can there be something that is really and truly hilarious? Me. This book."—Daniel Handler, author, Adverbs, and personal representative of Lemony Snicket

"The good news: I thought Our Kampf was consistently hilarious. The bad news: I’m the guy who wrote Monkeybone."—Sam Hamm, screenwriter, Batman, Batman Returns, and Homecoming

December 31, 2007

I Miss The Fear

American business elites have gone completely bonkers in the last twenty years. The attack on Social Security is part of this, but by no means all. If they could, they'd return us to the 19th century, with child labor, 80-hour work weeks, union organizers mowed down in the street, and everything else.

What's the source of this bonkers-ness? Back in 1998, Doug Henwood attributed it to their diminished fear since the collapse of the Soviet Union:

...capitalists won't concede even social democratic reforms without the threat of expropriation, which was what the USSR symbolized for them.

I didn't believe this at the time because I was a cosseted middle class idiot. But since then I've realized Henwood was completely right. You don't have to take my word or Henwood's for this, though. Just ask Marriner Eccles, Chairman of the Federal Reserve from 1934-48. This is from William Greider's book Secrets of the Temple: How the Federal Reserve Runs the Country:

As a millionaire himself, Eccles was certainly not hostile to the private accumulation of wealth, though he did resent the stubborn adherence to the status quo preached by his fellow bankers and businessmen. They insisted depressions were "God-given and not man-made" events and that no one should interfere in the process, least of all government. "It became apparent to me, as a capitalist, that if I lent myself to this sort of action and resisted any change designed to benefit all the people, I could be consumed by the poisons of social lag I had helped to create," he explained.

So even during the thirties, with the depression and the Soviet Union staring them right in the face, only the most unusual and intelligent of America's business class were willing to share power and money. Today the unusual and intelligent club is far smaller, giving us Fed chairs like Alan "Parasites Perish" Greenspan. Unless something else comes along that frightens these people deeply, they will push and push and push until they've destroyed everything, including themselves.

—Jonathan Schwarz

Posted at December 31, 2007 03:30 PM

but...but...but...the monied classes are supposed to be far-sighted, looking to the future to create more money, sustaining that money machine that gives them money for other people's labor! They could not possibly be the ones destroying their money machine, could they?

Posted by: Carol at December 31, 2007 04:35 PM

...capitalists won't concede even social democratic reforms without the threat of expropriation

So I hear there's a bunch of empty houses out in the suburbs, whose owners just walked away, leaving the keys in the mailbox, after they couldn't keep up the mortgage payments. What say we re-occupy them and turn them into cooperative housing?

Why, some of those McMansions even have enough acreage to make a nifty collective farm.

Who's with me?

Posted by: SteveB at December 31, 2007 05:54 PM

SteveB, in all seriousness, this has the germs of a good idea. Something does have to happen to these houses, after all. I encourage you to think about it further and promulgate your views.

Posted by: Jonathan Schwarz at December 31, 2007 06:01 PM

They should fear me...
And if not me, shouldn't they fear you?
And if not you, us?
If not, why not?

Posted by: konopelli/wgg at December 31, 2007 06:06 PM

It's not so much the people, it's the predatory environment they operate in, the competition. Once they manage to create a cartel (like AT&T used to be, for example), they might easily turn back into more or less normal human beings again. Not always, but often. I think. This fed chairman you quote was himself outside of the predatory environment, that's why he could allow himself these thoughts.

Also, they themselves don't necessarily like this environment (except for the obvious psychopaths, of course). If you could offer them a deal: meet certain conditions (high wage level, good working conditions, moderate prices) and we will limit the competition to the extent that you will always have guaranteed reasonable profit - they would've gladly accepted it. I think. Like it's done in the US with privately owned public utilities (unless they're all deregulated now).

I don't think the Soviet Union/threat of expropriation affect the business elite at all. They have the quarterly balance sheet to worry about. Was it Lenin who said: the capitalists will sell us the rope we'll use to hang them.

Posted by: abb1 at December 31, 2007 07:22 PM

I like to go back to the GOLD STANDARD, but that's rightwing, I guess.

Posted by: Mike Meyer at December 31, 2007 08:57 PM

If by "right wing" you mean "lunatic", then sure, why not?

Posted by: McDuff at December 31, 2007 10:19 PM

McDuff: YOU don't like GOLD? Ever had any? It's even concidered a good investment on wallstreet. People buy and sell GOLD right now, today and have for thousands of years. I suppose YOU are one of those 'I want OIL to support MY dollar so I can PAY to have half the world murdered so I can PAY MY DEBTS' kinda guy.

Posted by: Mike Meyer at December 31, 2007 11:27 PM

Why Gold?

why not antimony? i like the sound of an antimony-based currency :)

Posted by: almostinfamous at January 1, 2008 09:18 AM

Why not common sense? It's rarer than antimony.

Posted by: bobbyp at January 1, 2008 11:55 AM

Will the guy on the corner accept antimony or commonsense in exchange for that turnip YOU desire for supper?

Posted by: Mike Meyer at January 1, 2008 12:36 PM

WTF does the gold standard have to do with anything? What do you think you are getting out of that?

Posted by: Ed Marshall at January 1, 2008 02:45 PM

Ed Marshall: Close off the ability of Congress to EASILY BORROW vast sums of money for USLESS WARS.

Posted by: Mike Meyer at January 1, 2008 03:56 PM

That has absolutely no relationship to the U.S. governments ability to borrow. If everyone bought into the superstitious nonsense behind the sentiment against fiat currency, they would ONLY be able to borrow using gold back currency.

I don't know who you have been hanging out with but the government gets it's money exactly where they say they get it from, your back pocket, and they can borrow because institutions believe that the U.S. is creditworthy because it's going to be able to continue to derive it's revenue from you.

Posted by: Ed Marshall at January 1, 2008 04:26 PM

Ed Marshall; Then why have an OIL BACKED dollar? If one need only have TAXPAYERS to make a line of credit work. LENDERS ALL WANT COLLATERAL of some sort, YOUR word or MINE that WE will pay out of OUR collective pockets is often NOT collateral, whereas GOLD IS ALWAYS GOOD COLLATERAL on any type of loan.

Posted by: Mike Meyer at January 1, 2008 06:47 PM

No, in the sense that oil backs the dollar, you would have oil backing the gold standard dollar. This litteraly doesn't make one bit of sense.

Posted by: Ed Marshall at January 1, 2008 07:29 PM

Whether The Dollar is backed by oil, gold or sparrow beaks, people will still fight, kill and die for it. If we're gonna Back The Dollar at all, I humbly suggest Diazinon.

[insert snide Che shirt or hemp underwear comment here]

Posted by: Arvin Hill at January 1, 2008 10:11 PM

The counterfeiting racket known as the Federal Reserve creates hundreds of billions of dollars each year out of thin air. This counterfeiting enables the government to regard debt as meaningless and fund really important social projects like murdering, torturing, and ethnically cleansing millions of Iraqis without having to raise taxes. It also causes consumer prices to perpetually increase as the dollar gets continually devalued.

Abolishing the Fed and returning to a commodity backed currency (i.e. gold) is probably the single best change America could make.

Posted by: Cous Cous at January 2, 2008 12:10 PM

no one got the joke? i must make better jokes. another resolution unlikely to see february

Posted by: almostinfamous at January 2, 2008 09:42 PM