Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Liberal historical mythology exposed yet again

With the minds of the masses firmly molded by state schools and state-sanctioned corporate media, it's not much of a surprise that the common mythology regarding the Progressive and New Deal era reforms and the role of government in dealing with business in general still reigns supreme despite being thoroughly debunked. It's a good thing that the technological marvel that is the interweb allows people a greater chance of eventually discovering things that otherwise would remain stuck in the memory hole. It is important that certain historical truths keep being repeated in order to heighten the odds that more people will come across and learn from them. Many may be reluctant to acknowledge such things, but they won't be able to avoid them forever.

Joe Vecchio is the latest liberal blogger to engage in the ridiculous practice of lumping all libertarians together and condeming them while praising government's role in keeping big business in check. Over at Karmalised, Diane Warth exposes who the real sucker is in response to Vecchio's parroting of historical mythology. Part of her response points to a reality of the New Deal era reforms that even libertarians don't usually point out - the role of such reforms in promoting a form of affirmative action for whites at the expense of blacks. She includes a link to a New York Review of Books review of a Ira Katznelson book that deals with the subject. This is an important aspect of the real role of government that needs to be brought to peoples' attention more often.

The real historical role of government has been to give privledge to a select few at the expense of others, with moneyed elites usually being the beneficiaries. Kevin Carson brought all of this up once again in a must read post that reveals the silliness of what he calls "a by-the-numbers critique of libertarianism" (his post also brings up a Daily Kos blog entry).

Not all libertarians are selfish pot-smoking Republicans who engage in corporate idolatry, so any generalized "by-the-numbers" critique is only going to apply to some people. Additionally, those who engage in such critiques are the ones who bought into the historical mythology of the state keeping big business in check. As Carson puts it:
Of course, anyone who's read Gabriel Kolko or G. William Domhoff knows that the leading figures in formulating the Progressive and New Deal agendas were representatives of big business. It really makes you wonder what kind of "party of the common man" has GE's Gerard Swope in the role of Hjalmar Schacht, or routinely has cabinets made up of investment bankers and corporation lawyers. Shit, the next Democratic president-elect ought to just have the treasury seat in his cabinet endowed, and call his appointee the Goldman-Sachs Secretary of the Treasury. What was that about the plutes rigging the system for their own benefit, again? And Vecchio accuses libertarians of "[k]nowing nothing about history"!

UPDATE: It turns out that Joe Vecchio has written a new post in which he admits that he over-generalized libertarians. He then displays confusion over what his defense of the New Deal has to do with criticizing libertarians, which is puzzling to say the least. He then predictably goes back to displaying ignorance on, well, much of anything other than knowing that his father was somehow better off because of the New Deal.

Kevin Carson then proceded with a follow-up of his own. One of the highlights of this is his reference to Tolstoy's Parable, which is something that he has referred to before but never provided a link to until now (thanks Kevin!). He goes on to explain that:
As I see it, welfare statism is well illustrated by the human farmer in Tolstoy's Parable. Corporate liberals are like a farmer who's smart enough to figure out that he'll get more work out of his animals in the long run if he takes good care of them; Banana Republicans, on the other hand, figure they'll come out ahead by working the animals to death and then replacing them. If I had to choose between systems of class exploitation, I guess I'd prefer to be smothered with paternalism in the Brave New World of social democracy than to get a jackboot in my face in the Orwellian world the neoliberals have planned for us.

I don't want to have to make that choice, though. I prefer a world where we keep our full labor-product in the first place, instead of having a fraction of our stolen surplus labor doled back to us to keep us docile; and in which ordinary people control the circumstances of our daily lives, through cooperative production and mutual aid associations, instead of being managed by big government and big business overlords. To get there, we have to roll back the state.

He then addresses comments made by Vecchio in response to Diane Warth's blog post and makes a key point that liberals and leftists need to realize (and libertarians need to keep in mind):
You accused Diane Warth, in her comment thread, of alienating her potential allies. Pot, meet kettle. There are lots of libertarians out there who oppose corporate power and the rule of the plutocracy, and want to break the unholy alliance of big government and big business. We are your potential allies. By dismissing all of us as pot-smoking Republicans, or as mindless apologists for concentrated wealth, you are doing yourself a disservice.

I simply have to post something here that almost made me wet my pants laughing. Someone who commented to Joe Vecchio's post wrote the following:
Joe, you probably got quoted and flamed because your description of Libertarians is so close to the truth for their comfort. What we have in this country now is the endgame of Libertarian philosophy: government of the people, by the rich and for the rich. Those whining about the New Deal have conveniently forgotten that it was the only thing standing between them (and us) and a Communist takeover.
WOW! That is, perhaps, the funniest, most ridiculous comment I have ever read! This should be proof enough that state schools should be nuked into oblivion! It may not be nice, but I can't help but laugh.


Blogger Kevin Carson said...

Thanks for the link!

I also thought that remark about the threat of "communist takeover" was quite telling. It reminded me, at least, that there was actually a labor movement before FDR breathed it into existence with "Fiat Wagner!" Not only did Wagner put the labor bureaucrats in the position of enforcing contracts on the rank and file, and create a Fordist culture of "letting management manage" in return for annual COLA raises. It also made possible Taft-Hartley, which (incidentally) outlawed all the labor tactics that were working so well before Wagner came along.

Thanks to the illegality of secondary sympathy and boycott strikes (which once enabled labor to plan a strike strategically, like a general staff, with multiple echelons of defense up and down the production chain), a conventional strike by NLRB rules is nothing but a glorified lockout.

6:46 PM  
Anonymous Diane said...

freeman - Joe reminds me of my 5th grade history teacher. I'm being lectured to by someone who has just one book on the shelf and the state approved it.

12:24 AM  

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