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Member since: Wed Oct 13, 2004, 05:42 PM
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The increase in life expectancy in the US has just about flattened out!

In some low-income areas of the US the trend is actually negative! In much of the rest of the US, it was only from 0 to 2.5 years increase in the 20 years from 1987 to 2007.

Fifty Shades of Capitalism: Pain and Bondage in the American Workplace

AlterNet author Lynn Parramore is using the blockbuster BDSM fantasy blockbuster: Fifty Shades of Grey as a model for a discussion of the reality of capitalism in the 21st Century].

If the ghost of Ayn Rand were to suddenly manifest in your local bookstore, the Dominatrix of Capitalism would certainly get a thrill thumbing through the pages of E.L. James’ blockbuster Fifty Shades of Grey.

Great opening paragraph, picturing the bitch-goddess of the Free Market as a dominatrix. Maybe that gives us a window into the fantasy world of some of Rand's followers, like Paul Ryan. Ms. Parramore gives a brief synopsis of the novel, then launches into the essentially sadistic nature of 'late-stage capitalism:'

This has been coming for some time. Ever since the Reagan era, from the factory to the office tower, the American workplace has been morphing for many into a tightly-managed torture chamber of exploitation and domination. Bosses strut about making stupid commands. Employees trapped by ridiculous bureaucratic procedures censor themselves for fear of getting a pink slip. Inefficiencies are everywhere. Bad management and draconian policies prop up the system of command and control where the boss is God and the workers are so many expendable units in the great capitalist machine. The iron handmaidens of high unemployment and economic inequality keep the show going.

Parramore blames the free-market economists still dominating the Ivy Leagues schools, the "Very Serious People," as Paul Krugman labels them. These Very Serious People have loads of statistical models replete with charts and graphs; but no mention of the effect their policies are having on workers. There are exceptions:

Michael Perelman, one of a small group of heretical economists that questions this anti-human regime, draws attention to the neglect, abuse and domination of workers in his aptly named book, The Invisible Handcuffs: How Market Tyranny Stifles the Economy by Stunting Workers. He reveals that instead of a system of fair exchanges, we have “one in which the interests of employees and employers are sharply at odds.” This creates conditions of festering conflict and employers who have to take ever-stronger measures to exert control. Hostility among workers thrives, which results in more punishment. Respect, the free flow of information, inclusive decision-making – all the things that would make for a productive work environment -- fly out the window. The word of the manager is the law, and endless time and energy is expended rationalizing its essential goodness.


Naked domination was not always the law of the land. In the early 1960s, when unions were stronger and the New Deal’s commitment to full employment still meant something, a worker subjected to abuse could bargain with his employer or simply walk. Not so today. The high unemployment sustained by the Federal Reserve’s corporate-focused obsession with “fighting inflation” (code for "keeping down wages" works out well for the sado-capitalist. The unrelenting attack on government blocks large-scale public works programs that might rebalance the scale by putting people back on the job. The assault on collective bargaining robs the worker of any recourse to unfair conditions. Meanwhile, the tsunami of money in politics drowns the democratic system of rule by the people. And the redistribution of wealth toward the top ensures that most of us are scrapping too hard for our daily bread to fight for anything better. The corporate media cheer.

Partners engage in bondage / discipline play willingly for mutual pleasure; workers submit to their 'invisible handcuffs' only because a decade or more of recessions followed by 'jobless recoveries' has left them with few alternatives. However, a growing undercurrent of rage permeates the American workplace. Ms. Parramore uses the popularity of revenge films like Nine to Five and Horrible Bosses as examples of how close this rage is to the surface.

Fifty Shades of Capitalism: Pain and Bondage in the American Workplace is part of a new AlterNet series: "Capitalism Unmasked," in the AlterNet Economy section.

Is the GOP being run by the descendants of the Southern slave-owning aristocracy?

Human beings make models ('hypotheses' in scientific terms) to explain how things work. In science, a hypothesis is judged by its utility in explaining known phenomenon and it's predictive capabilities; that is, how well does it explain new phenomena? Progressive futurist Sara Robinson has offered an interesting hypothesis to explain the behavior and ideology of the Republican party over the last few decades. Conservative Southern Values Revived: How a Brutal Strain of American Aristocrats Have Come to Rule America.

Ms. Robinson sees American politics as an historical struggle between elites:

For most of our history, American economics, culture and politics have been dominated by a New England-based Yankee aristocracy that was rooted in Puritan communitarian values, educated at the Ivies and marinated in an ethic of noblesse oblige (the conviction that those who possess wealth and power are morally bound to use it for the betterment of society). While they've done their share of damage to the notion of democracy in the name of profit (as all financial elites inevitably do), this group has, for the most part, tempered its predatory instincts with a code that valued mass education and human rights; held up public service as both a duty and an honor; and imbued them with the belief that once you made your nut, you had a moral duty to do something positive with it for the betterment of mankind. Your own legacy depended on this.


Which brings us to that other great historical American nobility -- the plantation aristocracy of the lowland South, which has been notable throughout its 400-year history for its utter lack of civic interest, its hostility to the very ideas of democracy and human rights, its love of hierarchy, its fear of technology and progress, its reliance on brutality and violence to maintain “order,” and its outright celebration of inequality as an order divinely ordained by God.

Ms. Robinson does seem to see rule by elites as inevitable in "a society as complex as ours."

David Hackett Fischer, whose Albion's Seed: Four British Folkways In America informs both Lind's and Woodard's work, described just how deeply undemocratic the Southern aristocracy was, and still is. He documents how these elites have always feared and opposed universal literacy, public schools and libraries, and a free press. (Lind adds that they have historically been profoundly anti-technology as well, far preferring solutions that involve finding more serfs and throwing them at a problem whenever possible. Why buy a bulldozer when 150 convicts on a chain gang can grade your road instead?) Unlike the Puritan elites, who wore their wealth modestly and dedicated themselves to the common good, Southern elites sank their money into ostentatious homes and clothing and the pursuit of pleasure -- including lavish parties, games of fortune, predatory sexual conquests, and blood sports involving ritualized animal abuse spectacles.

But perhaps the most destructive piece of the Southern elites' worldview is the extremely anti-democratic way it defined the very idea of liberty. In Yankee Puritan culture, both liberty and authority resided mostly with the community, and not so much with individuals. Communities had both the freedom and the duty to govern themselves as they wished (through town meetings and so on), to invest in their collective good, and to favor or punish individuals whose behavior enhanced or threatened the whole (historically, through community rewards such as elevation to positions of public authority and trust; or community punishments like shaming, shunning or banishing).

Ms. Robinson devotes considerable time to discussing how these differences in Yankee and Southern definitions of 'liberty' explain much of the Republican disdain for government and public service; when a Southern aristocrat seeks public office it's to further enrich his class, not to serve the 'public' good.

That world view explains a lot about the GOP in recent decades: How they've been able to reconcile the worldview of atheist Ayn Rand with the evangelical Christianity that forms a major backbone of their strength; Rand "updated the ancient slaveholder ethic for the modern age". It also explains why they're able to offer up "someone for president who so brazenly epitomizes the excesses of casino capitalism that have nearly destroyed the economy and overwhelmed our democracy," as Robert Reich has stated in a recent post.

Their disdain for public life even extends to a disdain for 'the D word:' Democracy. Part of the rewriting of history by the Texas State Board of Education is to edit out references to "democratic societies" and "representative democracy" and substitute "republic."

Sara Robinson is a progressive voice in a field usually dominated by conservatives and libertarians. So many of the writers bearing the 'futurist' label spend most of their time 'off in the ozone,' talking about transhumanism and life extension (While the US continues to fall behind the rest of the developed world in life expectancy; Sara Robinson focuses mostly on current trends and their future consequences.

She's currently the editor for AlterNet's Visions, an excellent resource for discussion of futurism from a progressive viewpoint.
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