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The Anomalous Century (or two or three)

 
 
Reply Mon 2 Feb, 2009 08:27 pm
This may sound like an exageration to most of you, but I'm of the opinion that the current financial crisis and 'recession' is really the beginning of the end of western civilization, or rather the end of an anamoly that we have begun to falsey assume is normal or enduring: mass society. For a long time I've worried about the gradual socialization of the U.S. and Europe, envisioning a future filled with ration cards, military triumphs and victory gin. However, I'm now starting to think that we are much more likely to end up with 1384 than 1984. Other threads here have recently suggested that western civilization is at a point of bifurcation; i.e. that there are only two courses available: cooperation, technocracy, the reign of reason, 'smart government' and that sort of thing versus total breakdown of society and collapse. I think the former is not going to happen and, while the latter is possible, I think some sort of fairly recognizable order will remain. So, I'd like to suggest a third option. Neo-feudalism, by which I mean a society that places little emphasis on labor, as there is no need because of advanced machanization, but which is not therefore egalitarian; a cashless economic system based on rewards and penalities, dues and allowances, rather than free capital. The essential feature of this would be that the objective of government would not be to 'do the people's business' but rather to reign; technological and demographic stability means no need for vehicles of social mobility; the world could be operated like a plantation. The land owners would have the power over those that worked, because the serfs really wouldn't have to work; i.e. there labor would be unneccessary. There would be no progress for which surpules are required. Only during the industrial revolution did democracy become wide-spread, because labor was neccessary, it had power. I think this for many specific reasons, there are trends moving in this direction now. But mostly, it seems to me that this experiment in democacy, or at least the sham of democracy, will in the future be seen as a short-lived abberation from the norm, which throughout history has been a hierachical society.

Thoughts?
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Theaetetus
 
  1  
Reply Mon 2 Feb, 2009 08:39 pm
@BrightNoon,
Wow! Now that is a loaded paragraph. We should probably figure out where to begin. Honestly, this is easily one of the most bleak outlooks on the future that ignores the potential of good ideas. I think the current crisis is only an issue to the powers that currently dominate the world. Their foundation is crumbling. On the current pace, new people will come to power, because the old sources of power have long dried up. There has been a progression away from entitlement since the dawn of time. This is only the next chapter of that transformation away from an entitlement society to a merit society.
BrightNoon
 
  1  
Reply Mon 2 Feb, 2009 08:48 pm
@Theaetetus,
I cerainly hope your right, but I don't think you are. The foundations of the current powers are crumbling, but at the same time they are constructing much sounder new foundations. It's all about the money. For example, if there is a severe currency crisis and a 'new bretton woods' (and there will be) the Federal Reserve might cede its dominance in finance to the IMF/WorldBank, but the same interests control both. What will have changed? The most powerful financial entity in the world will have shed its responsibility to any nation or elected body (however nominal that responsibility already is). As Henry Kissinger says, "Some crises are too good to waste."
0 Replies
 
Theaetetus
 
  1  
Reply Mon 2 Feb, 2009 08:53 pm
@BrightNoon,
But the value of money is based upon faith. If general people have no faith in money, then how can the financial industry create sounder foundations? As more people get screwed, more people will lose faith--the very faith that the new foundations would require. Honestly, I think that the new attempts to fix the crisis will be miserable failures. One more step towards a true merit based society. Entitlement has cause just about every single modern social problem today. Without its death, the current problems will never be solved--only delayed.
BrightNoon
 
  1  
Reply Mon 2 Feb, 2009 09:04 pm
@Theaetetus,
Alright, let's gte right down to it; we're both dancing around the issue. We're talking about dollar collapse aren't we, along with possibly the pound or euro? If that happens, expect a vigorous government reaction, in my opinion, a carefully preplanned reaction. Ben and Geitner likle to say they favor a strong dollar, but obviously doubling M3 in a few months dosen't lend credence to their statements. They are saying what they have to say to keep the game going a bit longer, while no doubt preparing for the future. I expect that the IMF and/or world bank will ultimately have to assist the U.S. and possibly Britain with debt consolidation as part of the new international system: i.e. whatever is going to replace the dollar as the world reserve currency. People aren't going to just wake up one day, find themselves without a currency, invent their own, and then elect responsible leaders. This crisis is going to cause chaos and fear, which is exactly what a government needs to remain in power and consolidate its position.
0 Replies
 
Theaetetus
 
  1  
Reply Mon 2 Feb, 2009 09:16 pm
@BrightNoon,
That fear, though, is exactly what inspires revolutions as well. You are looking at the issue from the side of the powers that be, and I am looking at it from the powers that may potentially be. The current powers that be will attempt to impose their will, but with more stupid ideas people will only lose more faith in the system. We both see the mechanisms of power, but both are focusing on opposite ends of the spectrum. Eventually the ruled can only take so much from the rulers, before the rulers are removed. History proves this truism.
BrightNoon
 
  1  
Reply Mon 2 Feb, 2009 09:44 pm
@Theaetetus,
Two things should be noted about revolutions. (1) Sucessful revolutiuons in the past were almost always financed, if not actually conducted, by a minority which subseqeuntly took power itself or at least profited at the people's expense. (2) Even if the masses were moved to revolution, the age of storming the Hotel d'Ville is over: i.e. military riot police, tear gas, machine guns, night vision, unmanned surveillance, facial recognition technology, etc. I don't know if you saw it, but I started a thread a while ago about democracy being partially a product of developments in military technology, which made warfare more egalitarian: rifles instead of armoured knights. The people and state had the same arms. Now, things have changed. The common people do not have the weaponry to contend with the state. Even asymetrical warfare, ala Vietnam, is less likely to suceed. By the way, let me note that I'm not really a pessimist, I'm just very worried. I want to sound the alarm before its too late. If it comes right down to it, I'll be there on the barricade, I just won't win. :perplexed:
Bones-O
 
  1  
Reply Tue 3 Feb, 2009 12:27 pm
@BrightNoon,
BrightNoon wrote:
Even if the masses were moved to revolution, the age of storming the Hotel d'Ville is over: i.e. military riot police, tear gas, machine guns, night vision, unmanned surveillance, facial recognition technology, etc.

Hell, if it were my revolution we'd be storming the Hotel du Vin... nick all the expensive plonk and wake up in a brave new world with the most awesome of hangovers.

BrightNoon wrote:

I don't know if you saw it, but I started a thread a while ago about democracy being partially a product of developments in military technology, which made warfare more egalitarian: rifles instead of armoured knights. The people and state had the same arms. Now, things have changed. The common people do not have the weaponry to contend with the state. Even asymetrical warfare, ala Vietnam, is less likely to suceed.

You've hit upon an idea that's been much in my mind of late, which is the neutering of the possibility of revolution. The true principle of national security is to protect the current form of the government from its own people. Any revolution requires communication, and that communication is the property the government. No matter how I tried to start one (by phone, by internet), I would be arrested before it got going and tried as a terrorist, a greatly convenient and rousing catch-all for any activity that comprimises the interests of, yup, national security.

BrightNoon wrote:

By the way, let me note that I'm not really a pessimist, I'm just very worried. I want to sound the alarm before its too late. If it comes right down to it, I'll be there on the barricade, I just won't win.

No, you're not a pessimist, because the alternative is no more inviting. My opinion of where your prognostications fall down is in your appraisal of who controls the national interests. You seem to believe it is the most obvious contender for the 'ruling class', the government. However, we are in this mess in the first place because of overriding interests, those of the corporations or, since the corporations have no self-interest, those who make money from them (the boardmembers, the executive officers, etc.). The most likely future, to me, is one of recovery, followed by recession, followed by recovery, followed by recession. Short of abandoning the free market, that is, and I don't think that's going to happen. The quick million dollars will always override the interests of the state and its people. Perhaps in the end they will bleed it dry and something like what you have described might come about, but I don't think this is the end.

Going back a bit...

BrightNoon wrote:

Neo-feudalism, by which I mean a society that places little emphasis on labor, as there is no need because of advanced machanization, but which is not therefore egalitarian; a cashless economic system based on rewards and penalities, dues and allowances, rather than free capital. The essential feature of this would be that the objective of government would not be to 'do the people's business' but rather to reign; technological and demographic stability means no need for vehicles of social mobility; the world could be operated like a plantation. The land owners would have the power over those that worked, because the serfs really wouldn't have to work; i.e. there labor would be unneccessary.

This really is just a dystopian restatement of the 'technological Utopia' America offered the world at the end of WWII, a propaganda device meant to compete with Russia's labour Utopia. The thing is, it's a myth, it doesn't work. Anyone who's lived through the technological revolution knows that technology ultimately increases labour, not saves it. People don't have time on their hands anymore because as timescales of an activity shrink, possibilities expand and realising possibilities requires labour. The technological utopia requires an end to this. Trends beg to differ.
BrightNoon
 
  1  
Reply Wed 4 Feb, 2009 07:16 pm
@Bones-O,
Bones-O! wrote:
You've hit upon an idea that's been much in my mind of late, which is the neutering of the possibility of revolution. The true principle of national security is to protect the current form of the government from its own people. Any revolution requires communication, and that communication is the property the government. No matter how I tried to start one (by phone, by internet), I would be arrested before it got going and tried as a terrorist, a greatly convenient and rousing catch-all for any activity that comprimises the interests of, yup, national security.


That's a good point about communication. In 1776, the main way of organizing people was by word of mouth. Today, that is only way that a revolution could be organized, but now there is the competing and enormously more effective voice of state/corperate media. Good luck getting a trial if you're arrested as a terrorist BTW...:perplexed:

Quote:
No, you're not a pessimist, because the alternative is no more inviting. My opinion of where your prognostications fall down is in your appraisal of who controls the national interests. You seem to believe it is the most obvious contender for the 'ruling class', the government. However, we are in this mess in the first place because of overriding interests, those of the corporations or, since the corporations have no self-interest, those who make money from them (the boardmembers, the executive officers, etc.). The most likely future, to me, is one of recovery, followed by recession, followed by recovery, followed by recession. Short of abandoning the free market, that is, and I don't think that's going to happen. The quick million dollars will always override the interests of the state and its people. Perhaps in the end they will bleed it dry and something like what you have described might come about, but I don't think this is the end.


Let me say now, as I guess I didn't specify, the government is just the enforcement arm of the financial-military-industrial complex that has been in control for decades. Our government officials aren't imaginative enough to do anything like this on their own. Since the introduction of central banking in the U.S, there has been 'the business cycle,' which is not a natural phenomena (boom and bust is natural, but not when caused by montary policy and government intervention), and which now is coming to an end. Why? Because during every period of this cycle wealth was extracted from the nation at large and transferred to a few private interests and every time a recession (the bursting of an artificially generated credit-bubble) was prevented by 'injections of liquidity,' the system become less efficient and more dependent on debt. To use a metaphor that's cliche by now, its alot like an opiate addict who his doctor keeps 'healthy' by prescribing increasingly larger doses of opiates. Eventually, the amount of the drug required to keep the patient healthy is lethal. The U.S. has so much debt and so much inefficiency built in that the amount of money required to paper over this reccession will also destroy the system. More specifically, the Fed cannot prevent a depression without printing an amount of money that will cause horrific inflation unless at a later time they can raise interests rates so high that...you guessed it...we'll be right back into depression. The system is not going to recover. The only question is whether it will end in inflation or depression (or both), and what then will replace it.

Quote:
This really is just a dystopian restatement of the 'technological Utopia' America offered the world at the end of WWII, a propaganda device meant to compete with Russia's labour Utopia. The thing is, it's a myth, it doesn't work. Anyone who's lived through the technological revolution knows that technology ultimately increases labour, not saves it. People don't have time on their hands anymore because as timescales of an activity shrink, possibilities expand and realising possibilities requires labour. The technological utopia requires an end to this. Trends beg to differ.


Really? It seems to me that as technology advances, labor is saved as machines replace humans. This forces societies to either turn inward and provide elaborate social systems, or constantly expand to generate new employment. This is an exponential expansion. The west had that for while, but now there aren't enough resources/markets/etc for much more exponential expansion. A product of this exponential expansion, made possible largly by fractional reserve banking, has been a tendency to spend in the present wealth which we are anticipating in the future. In fact, we have become dependent on this, which is evident in the stagggering amount of debt in the U.S. and the world at large. In order for modern society not to collapse, the future has not only to be as prosperous as the present, but exponentially more so. This is not likely to happen. It seems to me that as a result of this development over the last century or so, and with the 'business cycle,' the few powerfuly interests that I referred ot earlier have acquired the rights to almost everything, via debt: i.e. when all this bad debt implodes, as it is beginning to do, those interests will take all the real assets which were essentially collateral for their insane derivatives, et alia. I see a new system in which the people own virtually nothing, but rather rent, pay fees, etc, to these 'plantation owners.' No doubt the guise of modern liberal democracy will be maintained as long as possible though.

This is where the 'cashless society' comes in. In an inflationairy regime, with fiat currency and fractional reserve banking, that means total control. Not only would an individual lose the ability to save (currencies could be devalued at will, instantly and electronically), he could simply be shut out of the system if he failed to comply. This is already being put in place. See RFID. Soon there's going to be no more paper currency and tierred shopping in this consumer society, meaning that when a person walks into a store, the quality of service and even the prices could be determined by his status (credit rating, employment, income, debt, etc.). A new hierarchical society under a paternal government; 'incidentally,' this was the objective of the Fabian Socialists, who organized in the late 19th and early 20th centuries and whose members ranked among the most important people in finance, industry and government. Their official emblem was the wolf in sheep's clothing. :whistling:
Theaetetus
 
  1  
Reply Thu 5 Feb, 2009 01:30 am
@BrightNoon,
BrightNoon wrote:
Two things should be noted about revolutions. (1) Sucessful revolutiuons in the past were almost always financed, if not actually conducted, by a minority which subseqeuntly took power itself or at least profited at the people's expense. (2) Even if the masses were moved to revolution, the age of storming the Hotel d'Ville is over: i.e. military riot police, tear gas, machine guns, night vision, unmanned surveillance, facial recognition technology, etc. I don't know if you saw it, but I started a thread a while ago about democracy being partially a product of developments in military technology, which made warfare more egalitarian: rifles instead of armoured knights. The people and state had the same arms. Now, things have changed. The common people do not have the weaponry to contend with the state. Even asymetrical warfare, ala Vietnam, is less likely to suceed. By the way, let me note that I'm not really a pessimist, I'm just very worried. I want to sound the alarm before its too late. If it comes right down to it, I'll be there on the barricade, I just won't win. :perplexed:


While there are all of those horrible weapons that you speak of in the hand of the military and the police, I wonder how many members of these forces would actually attack people they may actually know, when ordered around by a failed government. Obviously, no matter how bad the economic situation gets in the U.S., the people still have it good compared to many regions of the world. It would take a lot for the people to revolt, and I highly question if the enforcers of the current powers would stand in the way by that point. Anyway, there is one option for revolution in the United States that many do not even think to consider--the voter revolt. But there is an argument against this even being a possibility in the 7th Treehouse of Horror episode of the Simpsons in season 8, in the segment Citizen Kang.

The aliens Kang and Kodos kidnap Bill Clinton and Bob Dole, and then take over their bodies so one becomes President of the United States. Homer is the only one that knows the true identities of the candidate and reveals their identities the day before the election. Kang and Kodos convince the people that to vote for a third party candidate would be a waste of a vote, so the people end up election Kang by way of Bill Clinton.

The moral of the story is that the two major parties are not the only options, but the people will continue to vote for candidates that do not represent their interests, because the system gives the illusion of only two candidates. Then again, I wonder if the Dems and Repubs would band together and overthrow the government before allowing others to dominate politics.

I am starting to think that a merit-based authoritarian power system is the way for humans to organize communities. People should be governed by the wise rather than the sly. I am sick and tired of stupid people governing, because they keep making stupid decisions. Democratic societies require a wise population base. Unfortunately people are generally too stupid for their own good, and thus, society suffers far more than it should. An authoritarian power structure does necessarily mean that people would not be free, but they could be freed from decisions that they do not have the wisdom to make.
Icon
 
  1  
Reply Thu 5 Feb, 2009 08:27 am
@BrightNoon,
Wow... Not a lot of hope in this thread. Haha

Let me say this: Regardless of what happens, there is one factor which everyone ignores until that last possible moment. The endurance of the human spirit. To be more specific, the will of mankind to survive and flourish. Each time mankind has seen "The End to All We Know", we have come back in with a stronger, wiser, better system. Eventually, we digress and collapse again but it is a cycle. Look at all the odds we have faced. Hell, the mere amount of time we have been on this planet is amazing considering what we now know about the chances of a global event (i.e. massive meteors, passing planets, earthquakes, ice ages, so forth).

So regardless of if the Western World falls, a new world will be brought up through the ashes. Society is very much like a Phoenix.

As far as revolution... Don't worry. I'll lead our people to freedom and peace through an Iron Fist. All Hail Icon!
0 Replies
 
Theaetetus
 
  1  
Reply Thu 5 Feb, 2009 09:23 am
@BrightNoon,
That would depend what you call hope. I find more hope in the idea that the United States fails than in continuing on with the status-quo. Sure things will get worse and then even worse, but sometimes great suffering creates wonderful opportunities.

You would probably do much better ruling the States than the Republicrats.
Icon
 
  1  
Reply Thu 5 Feb, 2009 12:02 pm
@Theaetetus,
Theaetetus wrote:
That would depend what you call hope. I find more hope in the idea that the United States fails than in continuing on with the status-quo. Sure things will get worse and then even worse, but sometimes great suffering creates wonderful opportunities.

You would probably do much better ruling the States than the Republicrats.

You're not the first person to suggest that... Maybe I should run for president.
0 Replies
 
BrightNoon
 
  1  
Reply Thu 12 Feb, 2009 05:34 pm
@Theaetetus,
Theaetetus wrote:
While there are all of those horrible weapons that you speak of in the hand of the military and the police, I wonder how many members of these forces would actually attack people they may actually know, when ordered around by a failed government. Obviously, no matter how bad the economic situation gets in the U.S., the people still have it good compared to many regions of the world. It would take a lot for the people to revolt, and I highly question if the enforcers of the current powers would stand in the way by that point.


(1) The Army has in recent years accelerated its programs of training with with local police. Active army units have been doing drills around the country for a decade or more during which they simulate the takeover of municpial government buildings, the construction of camps for the 'protection' of civilians, and combat with 'insurgents.' Last fall the Army Times reported that a veteran combat unit was returning from Iraq, to be assigned to NorthCom for use in the event of "civil unrest." The AT also reported that this brigade was equipped with some kind of new crowd dispersal system, which used non-lethal concentrations of microwaves.

(2) For now...:whistling:

I know, hopelessly optomistic, haha
0 Replies
 
EmperorNero
 
  1  
Reply Thu 27 Aug, 2009 08:06 pm
@BrightNoon,
Alrighty... I made this up myself. Let me know if I'm making any sense.

World historians usually accept that humanity has gone through three major stages of societal organization. The hunter-gatherer society, the agricultural society and the industrial society. With each transition there was a widening of what segments of society could be considered "in power" because their work effort was required, along with (the same) larger segments of society being considered free. (Yes, I'm somewhat of a Hegelist.)
In hunter-gatherer societies few strong adult males were the ones who hunted. Power was concentrated around few individuals in the tribe. The agricultural revolution sparked a change. Agriculture, though a more stable food supply, is more work intensive than hunting. It requires more members of the family putting in longer work hours. Power shifted towards a larger but still narrow audience. Understandably, that transition was at first rejected by the ones currently in power.
In the industrial age, as you noted, the work effort of large segments of society was required. At the same time democracies emerged. Large segments of society can be considered free in todays western civilization. (Yet power shifted to rich bankers. - How does that fit in?)
The reason I bring this up is: What's the next stage? Who's work effort will be required and as a result be in power? As you noted, mechanization does leave us with the larger populations work effort not really required any more. Will it be a return to a society with power in the hands of the few who control the mechanized factories?

Btw. The same thing happened in the roman republic. When the import of slaves in the late republican phase had the same effect as mechanization has today. (Most of roman conquests were before the roman empire!) The work of the citizens was no longer valuable. The republic was lost to authoritarian rule.
BrightNoon
 
  1  
Reply Mon 14 Sep, 2009 08:49 pm
@EmperorNero,
EmperorNero,

First, looking back, I think the logic of my first post here was flawed in many ways, so I'm not going to adress that. Let's start fresh with your idea.

1. I have to disagree with the idea that the progression from hunter-gather, to agricultural, to industrial society has corresponded to a progression towards broader, more democratic, authority. The only time in human history that a sort of egalitarianism worked in reality (i.e. not on a hippie commune) was in fact most of human history: i.e. the thousands of years before the domestication of plants and animals, farming, permament settlement, etc. Once all that arrived, so did hierarchy. Food surpluses allowed societies to sustain large non-farming elements, the largest of which was the aristocracy, its frivolities, and its bureaucracies. Mesopotamian cities were ruled by extremely narrow oligarchies which owned virtually all property and in fact practiced just the sort of corporatism (oligarchical collectivism) that I'm always talking about; the people worked more or less as serfs, equal to one another in terms of the dole they got from the state, while the rulers of the state were above the law and lived off the produce of the serfs. The same pattern exists in Bronze Age Egypt, Mycenae, the Levant, etc.

So, I think we can say that an increasing value for labor does not in itself lead to greater influence or freedom for the laborers, as I wrongly claimed in the beginning of this thread.

2. What then did cause the very real increase in freedom and influence for the common man around the time of the industrial revolution, if not the rising value of his labor?

Consider the pre-modern republican movements in Renaissance Italy and Greece. Venice and Athens were both thriving commerial centers, as opposed to farming states like France and Sparta. Could it be that the rising wealth of the 'new men,' the merchants and industrialists, became able to compete with the old landed aristocracy, and so their monopoly of power was broken and citizenship, rather than birth, became the qualification for participation in government? There is alot of evidence for this kind of movement in Greece during the 'dark ages' following the collapse of strictly hierarchical, Bronze age Mycenae. And also in Italy.

But then, doesn't this idea contrast with the fact (yes, not theory) that the business world, the corporations and banks, control the world today in a most undemocratic fashion? Maybe not. Maybe..the new boss is the same as the old boss. If there are brief periods in history when republican government forms, could it be only a temporary result of overthrowing the old hierarchical order? And then, once the new order is established, it rapidly becomes oligarchic again, albeit with new oligarchs? In other words, the landed nobillity that we imagine in Tsarist Russia or Bourbon France was simply replaced by a new nobility: the commercial.

I think this makes sense. While the commerical nobility, the new men of finance and industry and shipping, etc., need freedom to make their fortunes (e.g. need the free market, the end of serfdom, the end of class systems, etc.), and might be inclined to enlightened thought, once they (some of them) gain their position, they make an about face and do what they can do to preserve it. Or one might argue that, once this new commerical nobility reaches the summit of power, they begin to see the old aristocratics traditions in a more favoable light: they begin to enjoy the exercize of power over other people, and of ostentatious public displays, etc.

These are just some ideas that came to mind. I don't know if w can generalize too much about the causes of these trends. But I still maintain that, for whatever ultimate reason, high finance rules the world currently, and that they are using their influence to create something very undemocratic, which resembles feudalism, or Mesopotamian corporatism, except in that labor won't be needed much at all. I believe I said in another post that the oligarchs in hierarchical societies have always, and still do, view the common people as livestock to be bred and culled as suited their own needs. If the people's labor is no longer needed...its culling time.

EDIT: I want to come back and address all of this in greater detail, but I have to think more about it. I think the whole thing revolves not so much around personal liberty ala the bill of rights, but around the varying conceptions of property that have been popular throughout the ages. As a wise man one said, if you don't have the right to own property, you are property.
EmperorNero
 
  1  
Reply Tue 15 Sep, 2009 01:44 pm
@BrightNoon,
BrightNoon;90206 wrote:
1. I have to disagree with the idea that the progression from hunter-gather, to agricultural, to industrial society has corresponded to a progression towards broader, more democratic, authority. The only time in human history that a sort of egalitarianism worked in reality (i.e. not on a hippie commune) was in fact most of human history: i.e. the thousands of years before the domestication of plants and animals, farming, permament settlement, etc. Once all that arrived, so did hierarchy.


I checked up on my world history and you are correct.
It seems humanity was quite egalitarian pre the neolithic revolution.
Before your response, I already had the objection to my own theory of progression towards broader authority. Which is: slavery. Slaves work effort being required certainly didn't make them more free.
I could fix that by not counting slaves as people, which they weren't considered back then. But I don't like the idea of a progression as much as a continuous fourth and back.

BrightNoon;90206 wrote:
Food surpluses allowed societies to sustain large non-farming elements, the largest of which was the aristocracy, its frivolities, and its bureaucracies. Mesopotamian cities were ruled by extremely narrow oligarchies which owned virtually all property and in fact practiced just the sort of corporatism (oligarchical collectivism) that I'm always talking about; the people worked more or less as serfs, equal to one another in terms of the dole they got from the state, while the rulers of the state were above the law and lived off the produce of the serfs. The same pattern exists in Bronze Age Egypt, Mycenae, the Levant, etc.


My own readings back that up.

BrightNoon;90206 wrote:
2. What then did cause the very real increase in freedom and influence for the common man around the time of the industrial revolution, if not the rising value of his labor?

Consider the pre-modern republican movements in Renaissance Italy and Greece. Venice and Athens were both thriving commercial centers, as opposed to farming states like France and Sparta. Could it be that the rising wealth of the 'new men,' the merchants and industrialists, became able to compete with the old landed aristocracy, and so their monopoly of power was broken and citizenship, rather than birth, became the qualification for participation in government? There is a lot of evidence for this kind of movement in Greece during the 'dark ages' following the collapse of strictly hierarchical, Bronze age Mycenae. And also in Italy.

But then, doesn't this idea contrast with the fact (yes, not theory) that the business world, the corporations and banks, control the world today in a most undemocratic fashion? Maybe not. Maybe..the new boss is the same as the old boss. If there are brief periods in history when republican government forms, could it be only a temporary result of overthrowing the old hierarchical order? And then, once the new order is established, it rapidly becomes oligarchic again, albeit with new oligarchs? In other words, the landed nobillity that we imagine in Tsarist Russia or Bourbon France was simply replaced by a new nobility: the commercial.


A 'battle' between landowners and bankers over who gets to control the rest of us. Interesting.
I've recently read a commentary that our modern government essentially has one objective: To make us subsidize landowners. Think about it, we tax production. Which in contrast to a land value tax seems like a system specifically designed to place the tax burden on anybody but the landowners. And while I don't feel negative towards landowners, I can see how all government does - or should do - from building streets to policing, increases the value of the land in that area. So it seems our entire system is the government taking everyones money and using it to subsidize landowners.
What do you think about the idea of a land value tax?

BrightNoon;90206 wrote:
I think this makes sense. While the commercial nobility, the new men of finance and industry and shipping, etc., need freedom to make their fortunes (e.g. need the free market, the end of serfdom, the end of class systems, etc.), and might be inclined to enlightened thought, once they (some of them) gain their position, they make an about face and do what they can do to preserve it. Or one might argue that, once this new commercial nobility reaches the summit of power, they begin to see the old aristocrats traditions in a more favorable light: they begin to enjoy the exercise of power over other people, and of ostentatious public displays, etc.

These are just some ideas that came to mind. I don't know if w can generalize too much about the causes of these trends. But I still maintain that, for whatever ultimate reason, high finance rules the world currently, and that they are using their influence to create something very undemocratic, which resembles feudalism, or Mesopotamian corporatism, except in that labor won't be needed much at all. I believe I said in another post that the oligarchs in hierarchical societies have always, and still do, view the common people as livestock to be bred and culled as suited their own needs. If the people's labor is no longer needed...its culling time.


Exactly.

BrightNoon;90206 wrote:
EDIT: I want to come back and address all of this in greater detail, but I have to think more about it. I think the whole thing revolves not so much around personal liberty ala the bill of rights, but around the varying conceptions of property that have been popular throughout the ages. As a wise man one said, if you don't have the right to own property, you are property.


Yes, maybe liberty is a symptom and focusing on it may be misleading.
It makes sense that liberty may be a symptom of what concepts of property the society proscribes to.

If you plot societal complexity or personal liberty on a graph (just how "awesome" society is), I think we agree that the recent spike has been caused by oil - the "oil slaves" that Chris Martenson spoke about. So there is freedom to go around. I think without oil we as people in our current situation would be worse of than humans throughout most of history.
This is just thinking out loud, I didn't complete this thought at all.
Might it be that if we filter out the spike caused by oil, we see the graph taking the form of a continuous up and down? Like a pendulum swinging fourth and back.
More later.
BrightNoon
 
  1  
Reply Thu 17 Sep, 2009 04:54 pm
@EmperorNero,
EmperorNero;90384 wrote:
A 'battle' between landowners and bankers over who gets to control the rest of us. Interesting...I've recently read a commentary that our modern government essentially has one objective: To make us subsidize landowners. Think about it, we tax production. Which in contrast to a land value tax seems like a system specifically designed to place the tax burden on anybody but the landowners. And while I don't feel negative towards landowners, I can see how all government does - or should do - from building streets to policing, increases the value of the land in that area. So it seems our entire system is the government taking everyones money and using it to subsidize landowners. What do you think about the idea of a land value tax?


Those are good points. The founders of the republic specifically forbade the government from laying taxes upon the labor of the people, as opposed to capital gains from investments, which were allowed. In all societies, as far as I know, there is a tendency not to tax wealth already in existence (whether land or stacks of gold bars), and in most societies (the hierarchical, authoritarian ones), most revenues come from taxes on labor, with lesser taxes on realized profits from trade and investment. In those instances, one could indeed say that the majority of the people are subsidizing the 'landed aristocracy,' with one caveat; the aristocracy don't neccessarily have to be landed in a literal sense; their wealth might be monetary or of some other kind. In any case, this system allows those who already have the majority of property, whatever it is, to keep that property, while the state is operated primarily on the backs of those who labor. As the aristocrats control the state, one might say that in any system such as this, where labor is taxed and accumulated wealth is not, the people are in effect serfs of the 'landed aristocracy.'

It is not a coincidence that the unconstitional federal income tax came into being around the same time as the federal reserve. Specifically, it was intended to provide the collateral (future labor of the people) against which the nation could borrow from the private bank; generally, it was a way t support the growing state, run by the aristocrats, on the back of the people, and not their own.

My personal preference is for taxation only on profits, whether corporate or individual, not labor and not accumulated wealth. We've already explained why a tax on labor amounts to serfdom, but why is a tax on 'land' (i.e. accumulated wealth of any kind) a bad thing? Well, for the same reason ultimately. As the wealth of the laborer is himself and his ability to labor, so the money or land of the aristocrat is his wealth. Practically speaking, taxing accumulated wealth is a huge disincentive for ambition and would retard growth. Moreover, unless we are going to assume that the government will redistribute that accumulated wealth to the poorer classes, breaking up the old fortunes of aristocrats won't do anything but increase the size of government, which the aristocrats still control.

I totally agree that the exploitation of oil, the greatest energy source mankind has ever found, is responsible for our exponential growth during the same period when more democratic government developed. I think we might apply the 'new men' idea here as well. Something that the marxist historians consistently miss when discussing the French revolution is that there was no great glass ceiling for the bourgois under the ancien regime; there was really no bourgoisie at all. The people who were championing enlightenment ideas, central to which were modern, republican understandings of property and laizze faire capitalism, were the nobility themselves! They were the intellectual basis for the revolution against feudalism and stagnation. These were the new men who eventually created (after the chaotic latter revolution and Napoleonic period, which was the temproary defeat of the republican idea by the lower classes and craftsmen, who actually opposed laizze faire capitalism: they wanted cheap bread, work, a place to live, not theories on efficient allocation fo resources...sound familiar?) republican government in France and inspired the same elsewhere in Europe. Eventually however, this same class, of financiers and industrial magnates, apparently began to oppose republicanism (once they became established and didn't want to risk competition?). It's my opinion that they funded the communists as an alternative to republicanism, which they could simulteineously oppose in public. Kind of like how BigPharma will run ads supporting some legislation they don't like because they know that, by doing so, the people will like it more and think its in their interest, por vice versa.

Anyway, I digress.
0 Replies
 
EmperorNero
 
  1  
Reply Thu 17 Sep, 2009 06:05 pm
@BrightNoon,
The old boss is trying to keep the newcomer from taking his place. George Orwell said it best: Society always organizes itself into three classes. The lower class being too oppressed to know what's going on. The middle class wanting to become the upper class. And the upper class wanting to prevent that.
The reason we tax productivity of the middle class in most of the free world is to crush it and prevent it from challenging the upper class. We deliberately devised systems where neither the rich or the poor pay any taxes.

As for your objections to the land value tax; I think it won't be an disincentive for ambition.
Not to get too far into that, but they explain it on wikipeda.
This does not apply to LVT, which is payable regardless of whether or how well the land is actually used, because the supply of land is inelastic, market land rents depend on what tenants are prepared to pay rather than on the expenses of landlords

Some interesting points in your last paragraph.

I think I agree with the future outlook from the OP. With a sort of venus-project-like technology advancement, yet only a narrow plutocracy enjoying the benefits. And the rest of the population being off similarly to the roman citizens that were just hanging around being fed by the government when they lost their land when slaves came in.
Why shouldn't this lead to an egalitarian society? Why should it? The plutocracy would lose their advantage.

What I wondered is whether we could find some sort of pattern that would predict this, as I tried with that wrong 'gradual broadening of labor' theory a few posts back. Looking at property definitions could be a solution. But I have to think about it some more.
0 Replies
 
EmperorNero
 
  1  
Reply Wed 5 May, 2010 02:52 am
@BrightNoon,
BrightNoon;46738 wrote:
It seems to me that as technology advances, labor is saved as machines replace humans. This forces societies to either turn inward and provide elaborate social systems, or constantly expand to generate new employment. This is an exponential expansion. The west had that for while, but now there aren't enough resources/markets/etc for much more exponential expansion. A product of this exponential expansion, made possible largly by fractional reserve banking, has been a tendency to spend in the present wealth which we are anticipating in the future. In fact, we have become dependent on this, which is evident in the stagggering amount of debt in the U.S. and the world at large. In order for modern society not to collapse, the future has not only to be as prosperous as the present, but exponentially more so. This is not likely to happen. It seems to me that as a result of this development over the last century or so, and with the 'business cycle,' the few powerfuly interests that I referred ot earlier have acquired the rights to almost everything, via debt: i.e. when all this bad debt implodes, as it is beginning to do, those interests will take all the real assets which were essentially collateral for their insane derivatives, et alia. I see a new system in which the people own virtually nothing, but rather rent, pay fees, etc, to these 'plantation owners.' No doubt the guise of modern liberal democracy will be maintained as long as possible though.


First, about debt. I don't think the monetary problems we are running into are caused by reaching the physical limits of resources, as the crash course alleges, any more. Maybe see my thread about resource economics for elaboration. It is simply not necessary for this explanation that we are reaching the physical limits of growth. We simply are a family, that has three cars, a boat, takes expensive vacations, and wastes money in general. All financed by credit. And we started paying off the interest of the old debt with more debt. And now we are about to default because we would never produce our way out of it. It's not really necessary for that family to have reached the limit of growth, they just made unsound financial decisions.

Second, about the prospect of collectivist feudalism, as you describe in the quoted paragraph. It sounds very plausible, but here's why I think it won't happen. I will apply the same thinking as in my thread about resource economics. I.e. that assessing the current situation and extrapolating it into the future (technical assessment) will likely produce mistaken predictions. What produces more accurate results (and why Julian Simon won his bet against Paul Ehrlich) is looking at the trend, and unless there is reason for that trend to change we predict it will continue. On this issue this would mean looking at the trend of individual freedom (defined as the ability to be free from coercion) in, say, the last 300 years. And that trend clearly moves, I think, towards greater freedom. Just in the last 30 years we saw Thatcherism in Britain, Reagonomics in the US, liberalization in China, deregulation in India, shock therapy in South America, and not the least, the fall of command-type economies of eastern Europe. The media might want to convince us that our Marxian evolution towards communism is inevitable (which of course would fail and spawn the form of authoritarianism you describe). But I see it the other way around; we are observing a evolution of liberty, and socialism, fascism and communism are mere bumps in the road.
So that's why I think that trend will continue even though it seems so plausible at the moment that the oligarchs are gonna get their way. No doubt that they want that, and no doubt that the unwashed masses and 'intellectuals' are misguidedly aiding them, but that's probably always what the outlook had been, if people had have time to thing about it.
So I do not think humanity as a whole in the long term is converging upon authoritarianism, but we might witness a bump in the road which will last longer and come at a greater human cost than the evil empires of the 20the century combined.

And please disregard my last (old) post, seems kind of silly now.
 

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