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liberalmike27 Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Sep-03-06 09:14 AM
Original message


The political system that is the subject of these critiques bears some resemblance to the initial design, though the framers would surely have been appalled by many subsequent developments, in particular the radical judicial activism that granted rights of persons to collectivist legal entities (corporations), rights extended far beyond those of persons of flesh and blood in recent international economic arrangements (mislabeled free trade agreements). Each such step is a severe attack against classical liberal principles, democracy, and markets. The enormously powerful immortal persons that have been created are, furthermore, required by law to suffer from moral deficiencies that we would regard as pathological among real people. A core principle of Anglo-American corporate law is that they must be dedicated single-mindedly to material self-interest. They are permitted to do good-works, but only if these have a favorable impact on image, hence profit and market share. The courts have sometimes gone further. The Chancery Court of Delaware observed that contemporary courts recognize that unless corporations carry an increasing share of the burden of supporting charitable and educational causesthe business advantages now reposed in corporations by law may well prove to be unacceptable to the representatives of an aroused public. The powerful means of publicity and propaganda of which Dewey spoke must be deployed to ensure that an aroused public does not come to understand the workings of the state-corporate system.

The initial design was articulated clearly by the most influential of the framers, James Madison. He held that power should be in the hands of the wealth of the nationthe more capable set of men. People without property, or the hope of acquiring it, he reflected at the end of his life, cannot bee expected to sympathize sufficiently with its rights, to be safe depositories of power over them. The rights are not those of property, which has no rights, but of property owners, who therefore should have extra rights beyond those of citizens generally. In his determination to protect minorities against majority infringements of their rights, the prominent Madison scholar Lance Banning observes, it is absolutely clear that he was most especially concerned for propertied minorities among the people. Madison could hardly have been unaware of the force of Adam Smiths observation that civil government, so far as it is instituted for the security of property, is in reality instituted for the defense of the rich against the poor, or of those who have some property against those who have none at all. Warning his colleagues at the Constitutional Convention of the perils of democracy, Madison asked them to consider what would happen in England if elections were open to all classes of people. The population would then use its voting rights to distributed land more equitably. To ward off such injustice, he recommended arrangements to protect minority of the opulent against the majority, subsequently implemented.

Failed States, by Noam Chomsky,a
pp. 207-08


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acmejack Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Sep-03-06 09:49 AM
Response to Original message
1. "Property rights" is the mantra of the right to this very day.
The rich have nothing but disdain for "those who choose not to work", a description I have heard applied to anyone from Katrina survivors to those on disability. Granted, many of them have worked, and worked quite hard to get where they are, but the contempt they hold us in is amazing.
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Peace Patriot Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Sep-03-06 11:37 AM
Response to Original message
2. Well, that's one side of the story. The other side is Thomas Jefferson's
Edited on Sun Sep-03-06 11:56 AM by Peace Patriot
great suspicion of corporations, which did not achieve permanent existence and the rights of individuals until the late 19th century; and, further, there have been strong counter-balances at work until very recently, which include the labor movement, populist movements like the one in California that busted the power of the railroad barons, events like the Great Depression which brought big business and big finance into disrepute and resulted in strong socialist counter-measures under FDR, but, most of all--the biggest counter-balance to corporate/financial power has been this: the democratization of the vote, and spread of the power of the vote to all citizens, which resulted (until recently--the Reagan era, aka, the Era of Greed), in a leftist (majorityist) political counter-force in government, by which politicians were obliged to protect workers rights and benefits, commonly-held insurance such as Social Security, programs for the poor, education, the environment, and all aspects of a good society that the populace desired or demanded, as well as being obliged to STOP heinous executive branch policies such as the war on Vietnam and the war on Latin American (notably, Nicaragua). The key to the balance of corporate/financial power with requirements of a good society has been voting rights and transparent elections.

Voting is the mechanism by which we exercise our sovereignty as a people. It is the MEANS of preventing tyranny. It is the practical, concrete ACT by which we enforce the will of the PEOPLE over the will of tyrants and would-be tyrants.

Leftist (majorityist) commentators like Chomsky (and he's the best of them) make a huge mistake in ignoring the recent corporate takeover of our election system, with which Bushite (fascist) corporations are now "counting" all our votes with TRADE SECRET, PROPRIETARY programming code and virtually no audit/recount controls, in the new electronic voting systems installed during the 2002-2004 period. This corporate control of election results was engineered by the biggest crooks in the Anthrax Congress, Tom Delay and Bob Ney (abetted by Bilderberg 'Democrat' Christopher Dodd--with MOST Democrats voting in favor of it). They poured nearly $4 billion of taxpayers' money into the pockets of 3 main Bushite electronic voting corporations (Diebold, ES&S and Sequoia) to remove transparency from our election system and, in effect, end our right to vote.

The balance of corporate/financial power with the requirements of a good society may have been flawed, and not well balanced enough to prevent the Reagan Era of Greed and the current Bush Era of Out-of-Control Greed, Torture and Murder, but it was nevertheless a notable achievement of the American people while it worked.

And the key to reversing the current rule by fascist corporations and Bushites is the restoration of TRANSPARENT ELECTIONS.

-----------------------

Chomsky may know more than anyone on earth about leftist (majorityist) movements, but he doesn't seem to know much about starting one. That takes brilliant and timely ACTION--most often inspired from below, from the grass roots, by ordinary people--in combination with identifying THE PROBLEM, which also, most often, comes from below (where ordinary citizens meet fascist policy on the ground--for instance, the Montgomery Bus Boycott, spurred by one woman's refusal to sit at the back of the bus).

50% of the voters in Los Angeles, California, are now voting by Absentee Ballot--because they DON'T TRUST these new electronic voting systems (and they have a particularly corrupt head of elections--Diebold shill Connie McCormack). Absentee Ballot voting has increased dramatically everywhere during the last four years (most states have some form of AB voting). Absentee Ballot voting is the MEANS of getting rid of corporate controlled electronic voting machines. It has come from below--the effort of ordinary citizens to protest the lack of transparency by their individual action--voting by Absentee Ballot. What they want is a PAPER BALLOT, HAND-COUNTED. This nails the problem down precisely. Our votes are NOT being properly counted by these SECRETLY CODED machines. And if AB voting gets big enough--if, say, all those who despise the Bush Junta (60% to 70%) vote by Absentee Ballot--this will bring about the END of the election theft industry.

How can they continue with SECRET vote counting if no one will vote on their shiny new election theft machines?

Chomsky (much as I love him) also does not have enough respect for the inspiration that people feel about the first American Revolution--that beacon of light shining through the centuries into our era. The Absent Ballot protest is OUR "Boston Tea Party." Chomsky may have no sympathy for the merchants who didn't want to pay the British tea tax. Their unique method of protest--dumping the tea in the harbor--nevertheless resonates to this day. BOYCOTT the goddamned voting machines! DON'T vote on them! Vote, but vote ON PAPER!

Goal of the Absentee Ballot protest: FLOOD these corrupt election officials with MOUNTAINS of paper Absentee Ballot votes, and create sufficient panic and crisis in the election theft industry to FORCE reform NOW! If no one will vote on these machines, it will FORCE local/state election officials to the table, where election reform activists will then have the demonstrated power of the citizenry behind them in the DEMAND for a return to TRANSPARENT, VERIFIABLE vote counting. The powers-that-be are NOT going to give us back our right to vote voluntarily. We MUST force the issue.

The Absentee Ballot protest and the coming Congression elections: A big AB voting protest has many benefits--potentially huge ones--and NO downside. It will HELP turnout. A voting protest aimed at UN-rigging the system is a great motivator for disillusioned non-voters. It will result in more scrutiny on how AB votes are handled, and more light flooding through the whole system--where a new "culture of secrecy" has taken hold, imitative of corporate secrecy. (Try to get information out of election officials these days--they treat citizens and voters like the enemy.) AB votes are not "safe" either--and will not insure accurate vote counts this November (that is impossible). But we MUST start SOMEWHERE in UN-rigging this system. And the time is NOW. This fascist government is planning ANOTHER WAR that nobody wants. They are deaf to us because they are no longer dependent on us for their power--their power now comes from electronic vote rigging.

Finally, a protest NOW--to jump-start reform--may save the '08 primaries and general election from SECRET corporate vote counting. The current Congressional elections are extremely important--and we have no hope of an accurate vote count in them. Although the election reform movement is growing by leaps and bounds--with lawsuits, web sites, books, articles, reports, new groups and new public awareness--there is nothing on the horizon to prevent Stolen Election III this fall. The AB voting protest will NOT harm any Congressional election, and may well, on the contrary, HELP--with bigger turnout and more paper ballots for statistical analysis (paper vs. electronic) and challenges of suspicious results.

----------------------------

Bust the Machines--Vote Absentee this November! Throw Diebold, ES&S and all election theft machines into 'Boston Harbor' NOW!
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Peace Patriot Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Sep-03-06 02:29 PM
Response to Original message
3. Two further criticisms of Chomsky:
Aside from the Academic Left's gravest fault--its failure to focus on the Corporate takeover of vote counting--Chomsky also suffers from two blind spots...

1. A healthy merchant culture has always--ALWAYS--been the basis of enlightened policy and democratic rights. Societies that curtail trade and free markets (truly free markets--not the monopolistic crap we have today)--that is, societies ruled by monarchs, by religious prelates (the Roman Catholic and other religious tyrannies), by phony peoples' dictators (i.e., Stalin), and today--by the new tyrants--monstrous business corporations with the trappings of royalty--ALWAYS FAIL to respect the dignity of the individual and the freedoms by which progressive leaders and the poor and middle class (workers, peasants, farmers, small business people) gain power. A merchant culture spreads egalitarian ideas--in opposition to kings, nobles, priests/preachers, and other tyrannical centralized powermongers. It brings local populations into contact with other cultures and creates cosmopolitan values of tolerance, free speech and freedom of religion. Trade is natural, normal human behavior--and may even be based on a genetic NEED for variety and color, in products and people, and an inherent need for adventure. And the manifestation of this culture in the United States, in its earliest decades--the Revolutionary years--was a PRIME EXAMPLE of the POSITIVE impact of a free market merchant culture on ORDINARY people (the workers, the unpropertied). Enfranchisement (the vote), freedom of speech, freedom of religion, freedom from search and seizure, free political discourse and activity were an inspiration and a great boon to the poor and the semi-poor. And, boy, did they run with it! LOOK what happened as a result--the eventual enfranchisement of women and former slaves, the freeing of the slaves, the labor movement, and the creation of unparalleled prosperity for ordinary people, and unparalleled political power. Chomsky simply does not give enough emphasis to the freedom that derives from free trade, and from the smaller accumulations of wealth--in average size businesses--that promote education, enfranchisement and community and political action for the common good.

2. Successful revolutions against tyrannical power have always--ALWAYS--resulted from the alliance of the middle class (the bourgeoisie--professionals, including teachers and intellectuals, and small business people) and the lower class (workers, servants, skilled craftspeople, slaves), sometimes with allies in the upper class, sometimes not. The key is the common interest of the people in the bottom rungs of a tyrannical economic structure. When that bourgeoisie is eliminated from the picture, the revolution fails--or itself becomes tyrannical and KILLS trade and all the benefits of trade (as happened in both the Russian and Chinese revolutions). On the other hand, economic tyrannies are built from the alternative alliance of a merchant class gone bad with a fascist upper class (the U.S. today), and THEIR common interest in exploiting and robbing the lower classes (and today that means the lower classes all over the world as well as in the U.S.). This latter is ALSO an unbalanced society that is doomed to fail, because corporate fascism kills true free trade, and will kill--and is killing--the merchant class in the United States (the inventors, the adventurous, the clever, the educated, the skilled, the professionals, the employers who are closest to their workers). The check and balance on a harmful alliance between the merchant class and upper class fascists has always been the voting power of the lower classes. In the U.S., that voting power has been eliminated--with the corporate takeover of our election system--and in most of the countries where US-based global corporate predators now prowl, it did not exist in the first place or is too weak to counter the corporate invasion (Cambodia, for instance, and Saipan--and Jamaica--the sweatshop regions). In places where the voting power of the lower classes has been enhanced--in most South American countries, for instance--resistance to corporate invasion has become very strong, and is winning--and much healthier MIXED socialist/trade economies are resulting. The merchant class, skilled labor and professionals pay for schools--and demand quality, open-mindedness and egalitarianism in education. They pay for roads--and build good ones. They pay for hospitals. They pay for everything of value in a good society, and the political power of the poor reinforces and maintains those achievements (brings pressure from the left upon merchants and professionals who become too rich, too greedy, and too politically corrupt). Yes, the Founders of our Republic included many advocates of the propertied class and the upper class (such as they were in those days--the non-royalist ones), but they ALSO included great dreamers of egalitarianism like Thomas Jefferson and Tom Paine, who insisted on unheard of freedoms for ordinary citizens being built into the Constitution. And Jefferson in particular was a believer in universal education and easy access to information--the means of upward mobility for the poor. (He founded the U. of Virginia--inspiration for wide access to education--and the Library of Congress--inspiration to all open access libraries). These values came straight from the merchant class of Europe and America. Freedom of thought, freedom of speech, tolerance, and the inherent value and dignity of the individual (as opposed to the "subjects" of a monarchical or religious state). The rich will ALWAYS use their power to get richer. And the powerful are ALWAYS tempted to "unify" their power, if left unchecked. Those were the givens. The remarkable thing about the American Revolution was the systematic effort to CURTAIL the power of the rich and the tyrannical, and to subject those forces to regulation by the will of the people. This was an astonishing achievement for its time. That's WHY the American Revolution had such an impact on the rest of the world. To focus on the ill motives (or selfish motives) of the rich and powerful--as Chomsky does--is to entirely miss WHY the American Revolution succeeded, and WHY its basic principles resonate to this day. Chomsky does bring a counter-balance--a vitally needed leftist (majorityist) perspective--to discussions of history, policy and government--but he also has blind spots, and this is one of them: the alliance of the merchant class and the lower classes in BENDING the American Revolution toward THEIR values--open-minded, egalitarian values--which resulted in the magnificent populist movements of later ages.

I never thought I would find myself defending "free trade." But of course I use this phrase differently than the global corporate predators who have seized power in our land and are ravishing the earth. I am using the phrase in its historical meaning all the way back to the Phoenicians--those brilliant sailors and "free tradists" who spread mathematics and their written alphabet hither and yon. The architects of Solomon's Temple, and their progeny, the free masons who built the magnificent cathedrals of Europe. The knowledgeable ones. The Druids. Those who disdained land-based empires for the freedom of the seas, and were the first scientists of travel--with their esoteric knowledge of the heavens and the ocean currents. Those who took THINGS from one place to another--precious stones, purple cloth, beautiful bowls, raw materials, trinkets--and whose prosperity entirely consisted of their knowledge of how to get from here to there, with cargo and sailors in tact. The original merchants. Their greatest enemy--in the end--was the centralized tyranny of Rome, which eventually--combined with the tyranny of the spirit that was the 5th to 15th century Roman Catholic Church--pretty much killed free trade in Europe for a thousand years. Free trade (real free trade) = the free mind. They cannot be disassociated--except when free trade becomes giant monopolies on trade, as it is now.

The remedy: free and fair elections. The vote of the majority--which inherently means the votes of the poor. The balancing power.
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bhikkhu Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Sep-03-06 03:25 PM
Response to Reply #3
4. agreed, though I am indebted to Chomsky
like anyone he does have a personal point of view which is blind to some things, and unnecessarily pushes others.

I would add that one illusion of all the "spirit of the age" type visions emphasising free and fair elections is the form of world such elections may result in. I am inclined to view the history of humanity as a history of fairly regular cycles of enlightened peace and desperate war. It is unlikely that any form of government may affect the cycle or bring about any lasting global peace, however much we might naturally desire it, against the apparent face of human nature.
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Peace Patriot Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Sep-04-06 12:32 PM
Response to Reply #4
5. "Desperate war." Hm. I see a big, big difference between all wars of the
past--including both instigated, aggressive wars, and defensive wars--and the Bush Junta corporate oil war, in that humanity had created international institutions for resolving disputes and for consensus peacekeeping--including effective methods of controlling WMDs--and these were deliberately side-lined by the corporate rulers--the puppetmasters of the Bush Junta--in their lust to slaughter tens of thousands of innocent people to get at that oil. They have simultaneously been trying to convince us to hate all Arabs and Muslims, and to become a militaristic, warlike society in response to a preventable assault on our people (9/11) supposedly by a terrorist cell within our own borders--a problem that had ABSOLUTELY NOTHING TO DO with the country they invaded and destroyed--Iraq. They are trying to make us bloodthirsty and stupid. They really hated the American peoples' response to Vietnam--our revulsion at unjust war. They have tried every way they can to turn that around, but they have not succeeded. 56% of the American people instinctively opposed the war on Iraq, way back before the invasion, in Feb. '03. I'll never forget that stat. And opposition to this war/occupation and its perpetrators is now up to 65% to 70%, with a whopping 84% (in a recent poll) opposed to any US participation in a widened Mideast war.

So, something is very wrong here. MOST Americans never wanted this war, and don't want it now. The issue is therefore NOT one of "human nature," but rather one of the deliberate, systematic disempowerment and disenfranchisement of this anti-war MAJORITY, which supposedly lives in a democracy, where the people supposedly rule.

You talk about "human nature"--and it has (we have) an unquestionable tendency to be LED INTO war, although those catastrophes are more spaced out than we realize (they take up a lot of history, due to their drama, while in truth hundreds of years of peaceful farming, trade and human development may go by in between warlike moments). But I think this actually rather rightwing attitude--that human nature is bad, and inevitably warlike, and that this will ALWAYS be true--looks at history the wrong way round. History is that which has gone by. There is nothing at all inevitable about ANY of the qualities of humanity that it displays to our very truncated (time-warped) consciousness. And the evidence TODAY is that only a small minority likes war--the few powermongers among us--and that they have to go to truly extraordinary lengths of lying, deceit, stolen elections, and 24/7 propaganda to create the ILLUSION of support for unjust, illegal, unnecessary slaughter for their own venal war and oil profiteering purposes.

Again, the question is not what "human nature" is--in history, now, or in the future. The question is, can the majority, who love peace, RESTORE their democratic right to elect a peace-minded government--a government that views war as a last resort, that works through international institutions to prevent war, and that resists fascist alliance with global corporate predators like Chevron, Exxon Mobile, Enron, Bechtel and Halliburton?

Human beings are the most incredibly adaptable of the more complex creatures on earth. We HAVE learned to prefer peace, and have gone to great trouble and sacrifice to create governments in which executive tyranny (almost always manifested in unjust war) can be checked and balanced, and to create international mechanism for FURTHER checks and balances on tyrannical countries. If we were to describe "human nature" in this context, the most accurate description would be that a tiny percent of us tend to be cold, callous sons of bitches, who don't mind sacrificing OTHER peoples' lives for their own greed, and that MOST of us have not yet learned effective ways of preventing them from doing so. We tried and failed--in this country anyway (other countries seem to be doing better than we are on this matter). The bad guys now have their own corporations "counting" all our votes with TRADE SECRET, PROPRIETARY programming code, in high-speed, invisible "black box" operations that we have no legal right to look into.

Score one for the few--the warmongers, the bloodthirsty, the greedy. How to restore balance, and put the United States back on the long human trek toward peace, tolerance, equity and justice--a trek that we once led?
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bhikkhu Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Sep-04-06 04:00 PM
Response to Reply #5
6. generally agreed, but the devil is in the details...
(and it is always rewarding here to toss off an overly simplified post and receive a very well thought and intelligent response)

as far as the preponderance of peace over war, generally it is so. In history it might be found that the more habitually militaristic a society is inclined to be, the more that militarism becomes symbolic and ritualized, as in the "counting coup" of the American Indians, or the jousts of medieval Europe. And history books have to rely on "the news" of the past, where "if it bleeds it leads" was as much the rule for what gets written and remembered. Centuries of peaceful farming in various regions and times are likely to go unnoticed and uncounted.

My perspective on human nature is likely skewed by the current militarism, but I don't find that there is a point where one can find an end to it searching back for causes. Perhaps a cause for each of our wars can be isolated, or perhaps a common thread can be isolated as a cause for them all...but the deeper one looks the more it seems that there is no underlying flaw that can be "eliminated" or taught out of the populace, but rather a mild natural human tendency to incite and participate on conflict.

Hobbs would have taken this observation and come to a typically right-wing conclusion, that human nature is essentially bad and must be controlled by the harsh rule of a strong government. I would rather take this observation and accept that humanity in a condition of freedom will naturally engage in conflicts, that no absolute peace or absolute security can be found, and that it is on the whole more beneficial to the happiness of the many to accept that reasonable measures of individual freedom will result in some disorder, some conflict, some undesirable behavior.

Having a firm confidence that human nature is good, or for all practical purposes should be considered good, the often devastating wars against human nature that social engineers (marxist, maoist, neocon, etc) have instigated are avoided.

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