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December 02, 2008

The System

How do hardcore radical weirdos refer to the status quo in the United States? As "the system":

A judge dismissed eight indictments Monday brought by a South Texas prosecutor against high-profile figures including Vice President Dick Cheney, former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales and a state senator.

The order by Administrative Judge Manuel Banales ended two weeks of proceedings that some courtroom veterans declared the most bizarre they had ever witnessed.

It also began to dim the lights on the rocky tenure of outgoing Willacy County District Attorney Juan Angel Guerra, who even in thorough defeat saw the outcome as confirmation of the very conspiracy he had pursued.

"I expected it," Guerra said immediately after the hearing. "The system is going to protect itself."

But what about people at the very apex of American society—how do they refer to the status quo? It turns out they also talk about "the system."

These are excerpts from the 1971 "Powell Memo" by Supreme Court Justice-to-be Lewis Powell. He refers to "the system" about fifteen times:

[T]here always have been critics of the system...In most of these groups the movement against the system is participated in only by minorities...The boards of trustees of our universities overwhelmingly are composed of men and women who are leaders in the system...Although New Leftist spokesmen are succeeding in radicalizing thousands of the young, the greater cause for concern is the hostility of respectable liberals and social reformers. It is the sum total of their views and influence which could indeed fatally weaken or destroy the system...The foregoing references illustrate the broad, shotgun attack on the system itself...businessmen have not been trained or equipped to conduct guerrilla warfare with those who propagandize against the system, seeking insidiously and constantly to sabotage it...If our system is to survive, top management must be equally concerned with protecting and preserving the system itself.

Indeed, Powell sounds much like The Communist Manifesto:

[M]odern bourgeois private property is the final and most complete expression of the system of producing and appropriating products that is based on class antagonisms, on the exploitation of the many by the few.

Or as Noam Chomsky has said:

[B]usiness is very class conscious, in fact very Marxist. If you read the business journals they sound like vulgar Marxism...It’s sort of laughable. But they don’t have to read Marx—they know the basic story.

—Jonathan Schwarz

Posted at December 2, 2008 09:43 AM

Powell was referring to "the enterprise system." Aka: business.
And all you need to see in five minutes of looking is the evolution of the famous "The business of America is business" quote attributed to Calvin Coolidge.
What he really said was "After all, the chief business of the American people is business." But then he added: "Of course, the accumulation of wealth cannot be justified as the chief end of existence."
Cal, it can. It has been.
And whom was Cal talking to on that January day in 1925? Yes, The American Society of Newspaper Editors, in whose rags the misquotation has appeared thousands of times. No "after all," no "chief," and no afterthought, in which Cal goes on to talk about the "idealism" of the American people.
But as we have learned, idealism is not an asset, adds no value, and doesn't help the bottom line. Why it isn't even one of the habits of highly successful managers, leaders or thieves.
Poor Cal. He misunderestimated the System. Some of us no longer do, but we can't make a dent.
Chomsky speaks about manufacturing consent in Chile and they cheer. At Harvard, they shrug their shoulders and say "It is what it is."

Posted by: donescobar at December 2, 2008 10:32 AM

Personally, I prefer "the Man" to "the system". 'The Man is holding us down', 'stick it to the Man' - how do you do this with "the system"?

Besides, I assume that there's virtually no chance that people inside the system will use "the Man" in their memos and journals.

Posted by: abb1 at December 2, 2008 10:55 AM

INTEREST gathers by the nano-second, that's just the way credit works, the way of charging interest. As far as getting Dick or Alberto into court, the prosecutor is just ONE guy so I guess the job is left up to U&I. Call Pelosi @ 1-202-225-0100 DEMAND IMPEACHMENT.

Posted by: Mike Meyer at December 2, 2008 11:51 AM

Well if hardcore radical weirdos and people at the very apex of American society agree, doesn't that mean that the system is working?

Posted by: radish at December 2, 2008 12:26 PM

Ask the patrons emerging from lunch or dinner at the Cafe Milano in Georgetown if the system is working, and you'll hear "It is for me."
You care if it's working for the forklift operator in Akron or the teacher's assistant in Syracuse? Well, are they calling for the dismantling of the system? No. They just want a bigger or better piece of it.

Posted by: donescobar at December 2, 2008 12:43 PM

If they just want a bigger piece of it, that's the definition of 'system working'.

Posted by: abb1 at December 2, 2008 02:05 PM

Dubya said it in the Gibson interview, "...we will safeguard the system"

Posted by: scats at December 2, 2008 04:21 PM

Are there still really people who think Pelosi would support impeachment of Bush? I Hope that's satire, Mike, but I know it's not.

Posted by: Marcus at December 2, 2008 06:09 PM

Marcus: I've got NO illusions about Madam Speaker, I was wondering about YOU. Is IMPEACHMENT off YOUR table?

Posted by: Mike Meyer at December 2, 2008 08:24 PM

In Britain, the accepted term is (and always has been) The Establishment, and it's existence is pretty uncontroversial... The disagreement is as to whether it's a good thing or not.

Posted by: Dunc at December 3, 2008 07:27 AM