Sunday, April 29, 2012

Stance of Self-Limitation

     Every once in a while, you run across a sentence or a phrase that is unique: it seems so well-crafted, or so sensible, or has such explanatory power, that it just sticks in your head.    I ran across such a phrase a few years ago in a little book I have on my shelves.

     The little book is very modest in appearance.  It was written in the 1970s, before personal computers had become available, and the author produced it on his typewriter -- double-spacing for readability, and laying out the pages in the proper order for fronts-and-backs that printers know and self-publishing authors must learn.  A little line-drawn artwork reproduced on heavy paper served for a cover.  With some folding, collating, and stapling -- and a copyright notice -- he was self-published!  It was certainly a labor of love:  I doubt that he ever made a dime off of it.  (He gave me my copy.)

     The writer was Paul S. Knecht.  After earning a doctorate in education, he became a professor at a small university in South Dakota.  His interests were natural science, ecology, and theology, and he became well-known -- in his small circle -- for the field trips that he led to the Florida Everglades.  Every college and university, I suppose, has one or two outstanding teachers who earn the admiration and love of their students:  he was such a man -- his students told me so.

     The little 32-page book is titled, The Logic of the Bible: A Conceptualization.  Dr. Knecht called it "an etude . . . an attempt to integrate some major Biblical themes into a comprehensive unfolding theology."  It is a nice overview, and makes no claim of thoroughness, or proof, or newness, or originality.  He says in the preface, "This conceptualization of the Bible is not proffered as a new interpretation; rather it represents my best understanding of the apostles' faith and orientation in the things of God.  And because I believe they correctly understood God's eternal truth, it represents what I teach and what I would persuade others to believe and teach as well."

     But for all his genuine modesty, he was original.

     On his introductory page of  "Assumptions," (remember that this is a book of logic), he makes this memorable statement:

     "4.  God, in all of His Omnipotence is capable of and has chosen the stance of self-limitation in His earthly dealings with man."

     I love that sentence, juxtaposing God with limitation -- self-limitation.  Stance of self-limitation.  Has chosen the stance of self-limitation . . . in His earthly dealings with man . . . in all of His Omnipotence is capable of and has chosen . . .

     That precise phrase, "stance of self-limitation," is basically unique to Paul S. Knecht.  A couple of years ago I googled it, and Google could find it nowhere in cyberspace -- nowhere.   Today, I can find only a single sort-of reference.  Of course, now that I have published this article, it will eventually appear on search-engines.  The idea will probably be associated with my name;  but it really is from Paul Knecht.

     "God has chosen the stance of self-limitation."  I wonder:  if that idea were introduced into formal theological discussions, precisely as stated -- remember, it apparently never has been before -- would it change or improve or enlighten those discussions in any way?  I don't know.

     I do know that I find it an interesting notion to remember when I consider my own "great questions," and even when I study philosophical schools of thought.  Plato, Spinoza, Calvin, Heidegger, would you care to comment on this statement?  "God, in all of His Omnipotence is capable of and has chosen the stance of self-limitation in His earthly dealings with man."

     Thank you for that insight, Dr. Knecht.

*       *       *

     Dr. Knecht was injured in a motorcycle accident and spent the last years of his life as a quadriplegic.  He managed to remain happy -- "just glad to be alive."  He died in 2012.


Thursday, April 26, 2012

Wendell Berry Delivers 2012 Jefferson Lecture

"It All Turns On Affection"

     The Jefferson Lecture was established in 1972 by the National Endowment for the Humanities as an award "for distinguished intellectual achievement in the humanities."  The first recipient was Lionel Trilling.  Over the years, the award has gone to such people as Robert Penn Warren, Saul Bellow, Barbara Tuchman, Arthur Miller, and David McCullough.

     This year the award went to the essayist Wendell Berry.  He delivered the 2012 Jefferson Lecture at the Kennedy Center on April 23.

     You can find the full text of his speech here.

*       *       *

     Thanks to Counterpunch for getting the word out.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Truth in US Wars: Motivations

     Let us look at US political/military history for the last century or so, when the US has entered into major wars, either declared or undeclared.  Let us compare the apparent reasons for each conflict to the real reasons, and let us examine the outcomes.

I.  Spanish-American War, 1898.

     Apparent reasons:  (1)  "Remember the Maine!"  The US battleship blew up while moored in Havana harbor (what was it doing there?), and the blame was laid on saboteurs in the pay of the Spanish.  (2)  The people of Cuba needed our help to liberate them from the evil Spanish Empire.

     Real reasons:  (1)  Commercial interests in the US (including, but not limited to, sugar merchants) had coveted Cuba, as well as some other Spanish countries, for generations.   (2) It was a flashy way for the American Establishment to send a message, both at home and abroad, about America's expanding ambitions in the coming century.   (3) The US Navy needed a mission.

     Outcome:  Victory.  Obtained commercial control of Cuba.  Made quite a few insiders rich.  Cuban peasants not much freer with English-speaking government than with Spanish-speaking government.  Great press.  Sold many newspapers.  Made Republicans look good, especially Teddy Roosevelt.

    Blowback:  Latin America had one more reason to distrust the US, since everyone who didn't buy into the Yellow Press propaganda knew that the run-up to the war was pure horse-shit.  Thirty-some years later, President Franklin Roosevelt had to formally admit and apologize to Spain when he wanted to improve relations.  Nevertheless, more than twenty years after that,  in the late 1950s, American history books were still "remembering the Maine" to a new generation of school-kids, the baby-boomers, as if it were the gospel truth.  I personally remember this.

II.  Philippine Insurrection, 1899-1903.

   Apparent reasons:  (1) President William McKinley prayed about the future of the Philippines that he had captured -- I mean, taken possession of -- and God personally told him to help the little brown brothers become good Christians.  (Before that time, they were just Catholics.)  (2)  Apparently, the Filipinos didn't get the memo from God, because they resisted; so a large contingent of the US Army had to be sent to accomplish the Lord's will.
     Real reasons:  (1) America had major commercial interests in Japan and China, and needed a forward base for projecting power so they could compete successfully with European empires, primarily British, French, Dutch, and Portuguese.  (2)  The US Army needed a mission, since the Indians had all been rounded up and locked onto their reservations ten years earlier.

     Outcome:  Victory.  The US established its forward base and expanded its influence in the China Trade.  Cost was the lives of about 5,000 American soldiers, and 200,000 to a million or more Filipinos, but who's counting?

    Blowback:  There were not so many baptisms of new converts as President McKinley might have imagined or prayed for, but there was plenty of waterboarding and other forms of murder.  Maybe not too many people chose Protestant Heaven, but plenty of them were sent to Protestant Hell.  Well, like General Sherman said, War Is Hell, and he should know.

III.  World War I, 1917-1918.

     Apparent reasons:  (1) To make the world safe for democracy.  (2) To end all wars.

     Real reasons:  (1) To secure the commercial interests of British-Dutch-American families, corporations, and banks; that is, to advance the centuries-old Western imperial enterprise.  (2) To provide cannon-fodder in support of reason 1.  (3) To up-end the old aristocratic order in Europe in order to make way for a hoped-for and planned revolution based on social-darwin-marxist principles, with the British and Americans in the catbird seat.

     Outcome:  Victory abroad.  British-American empire briefly expanded.  Oil interests in the Middle East were secured.  German commercial competition was temporarily erased.  Plenty of enemy young men were killed, which might keep enemy nations in line for a generation.  As the old slogan had said, "Praise the Lord and pass the ammunition" -- well, the Lord had been duly praised, and the ammunition had been duly passed.  Apparently He was greatly pleased to grant victory to gallant American arms; at least, He was given the credit, or the responsibility.  Also, a British general, Allenby, won the battle of Armageddon, expelling the wicked Turks from the Holy Land, a second sign of Divine Approval.  Victory at home.  Pacifists imprisoned.  Dissenters threatened.  Communists opposed.

     Blowback:  Betrayal of alliances, starvation, treachery, debt, repudiation of promises, flu epidemic, epidemic of lies and false justifications.  In Europe, there had been a betrayal of an entire generation of young men by their fathers.  Many millions were dead.  Survivors of gassings and machine-gunnings stumbled home as life-long invalids.  Eventually, people in America began to doubt the old British war propaganda and the Wilsonian histrionics.  False "prosperity" was fueled by the irresponsibility of the Federal Reserve, which was followed by a real Depression.  America prepared to accept elements of the force-fed socialist-communist agenda as a result of the shenanigans of the capitalist class.

IV.  World War II, 1941-1945.

     Apparent reasons:  (1) To take revenge for the completely unexpected surprise attack by the treacherous Japanese upon a peaceful US Navy resting quietly in Pearl Harbor.  The wicked heathen Yellow people attacked on a Sunday morning, just when all of our God-fearing sailors were getting ready for church.  (2) To stop the almost invincible master plan of the Germans and the Japanese to conquer the entire world.  The Japanese were supposed to have planned to take everything west of the Mississippi River and the Germans everything east of it. (Or something like that:  see Frank Capra's  old "Why We Fight" war propaganda films.)

     Real reasons:  (1) To defeat Germany, a continental power seen as an economic rival to the waning British Empire.  (2) To secure complete American-British hegemony in the Pacific.   (3) To promote the dreams and plans of the Trotsky-internationalist wing of the Comintern for the advancement of a communist utopian revolution.  In the US, this would come to include imposition of central controls upon US economy in the name of war-time necessity: wage-price controls, women forced to work, husbands and fathers killed, children raised by grandparents, forced shortages, control of factory owners, managers, farmers, small-businessmen, dissenters, artists, writers and thinkers by military draft, bureaucracy, government favoritism, mal-investment, control of the press, dissemination of absurd and vicious propaganda, arrested dissenters, interned citizens and aliens.  (4) To advance the personal fortunes and personal power of America's ruling families.  (5) To offer another sacrifice to the War God, our Benefactor.

     Outcome:  Victory abroad.   All enemies devastated, and Eastern Europe and China brought under communist control, as planned, as a "natural" result of war horrors.  At home, America accepted the loss of political and economic liberty as being a war-time necessity and patriotic duty.

     Blowback:  There was some mild post-war reaction in the US against domestic totalitarianism.  And the use of atomic weapons raised the conscience of some people in and out of the military.  But it was also used to raise the fear level of the people, making them more agreeable to being controlled.

     Further blowback.  The generous sacrifice to the War God apparently backfired.  Development and use of atomic weapons appears to have whetted his appetite rather than appeasing it.

V.  Korean War, 1950-1953.

     Apparent reasons:  (1) Surprise invasion of South Korea by North Korea required immediate assistance of the United States to contain communism.

     Real reasons:  (1) Arrangements made with Stalin at Teheran (1943) and Yalta (1945) were proceeding according to plan (spheres of influence, controlled conflict)  (2) Arrangements made with Stalin at Teheran and Yalta were not proceeding according to plan (it seems that both Stalin and Truman were guilty of deviationism).  (3) The newly minted United Nations Organization needed a crisis to establish its role and legitimacy, and to further its purpose as a lever to be used by the one-world government crowd.  (4) Business had been depressed for the arms manufacturers and profits were way down.  They need a stimulus.  (5) The social controls that had been successfully imposed during World War II had had to be relaxed to conform to popular expectation.  This gave an excuse to re-impose them, by re-awakening fear mentality.  (6) The War God had indicated that he desired another sacrifice -- this time, the struggling Korean people would be most acceptable.

     Outcome:  Plenty of death and distraction, as planned.  Eisenhower was permitted to end the war, but hopes (and plans) were underway to provide for a new war, in Indochina, Hungary, or the Middle East.  Or all three, as it turned out.

     Blowback:  Warring powers learned to fight wars to inconclusion, rather than following the formula of demanding "unconditional surrender" as in World War II.

VI.  Viet Nam, 1965-1975.

    Apparent reasons:  (1)  An unprovoked attack by North Vietnamese on peace-keeping US naval vessels signaled a new communist aggression in Southeast Asia.  (2) The United States had to keep its solemn, moral SEATO treaty commitments so that the "dominoes" would not fall down.  (3)  America was in mortal danger, and "freedom" was in mortal danger, all around the world.

     Real reasons:  (1)  Certain arrangements made between interested parties as early as 1945 (Yalta) or 1943 (Teheran) were ready to be fulfilled.  (2) Business had been good for the arms manufacturers, and profits had not been bad; but on the other hand, a stimulus would be a big help, and a war would justify bigger expenditures.   (3) And after all, that is a main reason why Kennedy was murdered a year earlier -- he wasn't playing ball, at least not fast enough and hard enough; it was time to make the coup pay off.  (4) The War God wanted more innocent sacrifice.  The rice farmers and mountain people of Southeast Asia would fill the bill nicely.

     Outcome:  Defeat.  But on the other hand, the war profiteers really came out okay.  So, was it really a defeat?

     Blowback:  Some Americans began to lose their taste for war.  The American image around the world was tarnished.  While the world was also afraid of murderous Soviet bullying, they had discovered that American bullying could be just as unprincipled and murderous.

VII.  Gulf War 1990-1991.

     Apparent reasons:   The poor (I mean very rich) people of Kuwait had been surprise-attacked by the evil dictator Saddam Hussein, and needed our immediate help to liberate their country.

     Real reasons:  (1)  The forty-five year cold war with Russia was rapidly coming to an unexpected end, and the arms industry faced a catastrophic depression.  A new villain must be quickly found.  Our long-time agent and puppet, Saddam Hussein, could be the right villain.  He could be persuaded to make the right mistakes.  (2) America needed a major dramatic victory to erase the very unpleasant lingering memories of Vietnam, and to remind us that war is, really, a good, fun, and exciting thing if done right.  After all, what good is being a sole superpower if you don't make war?  What is power for?  (3) Preserving the world flow of oil sounded like a righteous enough cause, even though the US didn't get a crucial amount of oil from Kuwait.  (4) Really, the War God wanted another sacrifice.  Peace would starve him.  This time, it would be the Muslims.

     Outcome:  Great victory.  Not enough death to satisfy the War God, but the following decade of "sanctions" and the resultant deaths of hundreds of thousands of Iraqis, especially children, could appease him somewhat.

     Blowback: military spending was not enough to keep the economy from a downturn in late 1991, and George H.W. Bush lost the presidency to a man less inclined to military adventures than himself.

VIII.  Afghanistan, 2001-Present.

     Apparent reasons:  (1)  Osama bin Laden, allegedly operating from a high-tech underground complex in Afghanistan, masterminded and directed the 9/11 attacks on America.  His evil Al-Qaida network therefore needed to be eliminated. (2) Bin Laden must be captured and brought to justice.

     Real reasons:  (1)  parts of the American and British oil cartel were deeply interested in Central Asian oil.  Afghanistan could be a strategic pipeline route to Asian and world oil markets, and therefore must be controlled.  Besides, playing in Russia's back yard would send them a strong message not to resist the "sole superpower."  (2)  The wealthiest American and British families had made fortunes running drugs all over the world for centuries.  These wealthy families had established and staffed the CIA and other security apparatus at the highest levels.  Their drug market was not limited to Colombia, Panama, and Southeast Asia -- it had included large quantities of opium from Afghanistan and elsewhere for about two centuries, if not more. (Read up on the Opium Wars.)  This war would help secure control and improve profit margins.  (3)  Certain elements in the American-British-Israeli "intelligence" apparatus know how to create false-flag terror operations.  In fact, they have done this over-and-over again in the quest for empire and "security."  The September 11 attacks were staged by selected security personnel to implicate the new patsy, bin Laden, and provide a pretext for entry into Afghanistan.  (4) In fact, Bin Laden must NOT be captured.  To capture him would really end the excuse for the war; and if captured, Osama Bin Laden would be able to testify that, in fact, he did NOT order the September 11 attacks.  Fortunately, he died a few months after the attack, and became nothing more than a shadow, whose myth and legend could be endlessly manipulated.  The name of the enemy would be shifted to the Taliban.  (5) Elements in the elite control structure that governs America-Britain-Israel wanted an excuse to humiliate the US military by forcing them to conduct another unwinnable war: it helps keep them morally off-balance and administratively pliable.  (6) The legitimacy of Bush's presidency had been kept in doubt, and the economy was also faltering.  He needed to be re-imaged as the tough War President.  (7) The War God wanted another sacrifice.  More Iraqis would be fine.  He could stoke Sunni-Shia tensions, too.  Even more Iraqis.

     Outcome:  Pro-Western puppet government installed in Kabul.  US spends hundreds of billions on war munitions, assuring generous contributions from defense contractors to politicians.  Republicans re-brand themselves as the only "patriots."  Democrats villified as appeasers and traitors.

     Blowback:  Federal government bankrupts itself.  Afghans fight back.  US military humiliated after being sent into another impossible situation.

IX.  Iraq, 2003-Present

     Apparent reasons:  Saddam has used chemical weapons on the Kurds, and is buying uranium from Niger with the intention of bringing a surprise nuclear attack on the United States, along with his biological warfare program.  He, along with Iran and North Korea, are the Axis of Evil.  Also, the Iraqis desperately want us to free them from this tyrant.

     Real reasons:  (1) Our agent, Saddam Hussein, has outlived his usefulness.  After he fought our proxy war against the Iranians during most of the 1980s (using some pretty bad stuff that was sold to him by Rumsfeld and The Boys), he has lasted too long.  (2) We want to control Iraqi oil.  We can sell it to pay for the war that destroys Iraq.  Plus if we control it, we can screw the Chinese.   (3)  The Neo-Conservative (Israel-First Lobby) wants us to fight another war on their behalf -- this is how you show the Arabs/Muslims/Everybody just Who is in charge.  We need to "help" the Kurds.  (4)  If the Neo-Conservatives can mire the US military in another stupid war, this will create exploitable rifts in the US federal policy establishment.  (5) George W. Bush wants to prove to the War Party that he can really deliver, and assure his re-election as the War On Terror President.  (6) The arms manufacturers and middle-men need another "stimulus."  Yesterday's hundreds of billions are, after all, yesterday's.  Today is another day.  (7) Blackwater needs contracts for its mercenaries, and missions to justify them.  We need to involve this "Christian" soldiers-for-hire organization, in order to implicate Christianity in this war.   (8) The War God is impatient for more blood.  Innocent blood is the best, so be sure to break into residential neighborhoods, gun down whole families, and foment civil war.

     Outcome:  Mission Accomplished!  George Bush re-elected.  Arms suppliers richer than ever.   US military officer class bought off by revolving door with rich defense contractors.  Lots of soldiers killed and maimed, lots of civilians dead, wounded, sick, displaced.  Plenty of depleted uranium to poison Iraq for a generation.  War God temporarily happy.  Police state accepted by public in US.  Wall Street has a free hand to do anything, while nobody is looking.

     Blowback:  Congress reduces itself to a rubber-stamp money-laundering operation. US government goes bankrupt.  Wall Street thieves exposed.   War-worshipping evangelical church and religious right properly discredited for their role in enthusiastically promoting an aggressive and totally-uncalled-for war.   The lies of officialdom, both political and religious, become too blatant to completely ignore.   People begin to realize that they are dependent on the government for their prosperity, or their jobs.  War God unhappy as body count decreases, and demands fresh sacrifices in Libya, Syria, Yemen, Iran, Sudan, Egypt, Lebanon, Turkey, Pakistan, Bahrain, Somalia, etc.


     War has always been very good for the United States of America.  That is, it has been very good for its political ruling class.  Every war, without exception, has strengthened their control.

   Without war, we might have had a government for the general good of the people.  And there's not much money in that kind of government.

*       *       *

     Sorry that, in the interests of space and attention span, I had to overlook all the United Fruit wars, Nato wars, Caribbean interventions, Balkan adventures, Somali operations, air strikes, proxy wars, regime changes, coups d'etat, Cold War hot spots, assassinations, false flag operations, and the like.  And of course I skipped everything before 1898.  Oh well, another post . . .

     Speaking of other posts, I wrote one a few months ago called:  'Truth In US Wars: Naming.'

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Answering a Republican Party Survey

Guest post by Doug Overmyer

I received a Republican Platform Survey yesterday and was pleased that the Republican Party would consider my input in determining its planks.

I was puzzled that it appeared the survey would not be computer read.  At the end of it, it asked a loaded question about voting Obama out of office and then asked if I would support doing so.  The first box said essentially, "Yes, and here is my donation", the second box said, "No, but I will support the party with a donation."  The third box said, "No, but here is $15 to help tabulate my survey."  I then realized the survey was an elaborate and skillful fundraising letter, and that was all.  My favorite part was the request to use my own stamp and save the Party some money.  They must think we are idiots.

So I took a blank sheet of paper and wrote in big letters, "Stop killing Muslims.  Promote peace and prosperity for all."  Sealed it and am mailing it . . . Using THEIR postage.

*       *       *

Doug is a friend of Dr. Michael Bennett (Doctor Future of Future Quake).  In this email to Doctor Future, he adds, "I answered the questions quite differently than I would have in my pre-Future Quake days . . . Because of you, I have become a Ron Paul supporter."

Thanks, Doug, for permission to reprint this email.

Monday, April 16, 2012


Two poems by Justin Adams



Bath-Sheba, Et Cetera

It started with one who would not.
Though she was promised.
I was fourteen then.
To her discredit, she dyed her hair
and married a corpsman.
It’s what she wanted. What her father wanted.
The Bible told her so.
And another spent weekends
braiding her hair,
to stand on the corner of the roof,
to know the wind
would not and what’s more
could not unwind such braids.
The next an out-of-towner,
but so was I.
And we found places.
Soon, a league’s distance
or more I desired.
While mother thought her laden.
(I never.)
Yet another at the time
penciled me in
in the pressing pit
between olive skins and grapes.
She kept me quiet and quaint.
That summer I sat
on her floor and ate leftovers
in a dusty sweat.
I told her so once.
She looked at me for a full minute.
Later, I prayed
with a priest
over shewbread
over a girl
who said she found
Gideon’s fleece,
though hers for a time
was found to be dry.
But who was on the roof
most nights. That’s right.
I thought her above affection.
But she readily scrambled eggs
with me near.
Though others did as well.
She was the smart one.
She told me what I had done.
On Rosh Hashanah, the new year,
I sped for outlying towns,
for a poet. For a virgin. Perhaps.
She tore corners from my books
to, at least, chew.
God those were long arms.
Returning home, a memory came
with shorter than previous hair.
I gave her lunch.
And listened. She thanked me
for my consideration,
but was sorry to inform me
I was a poor dancer.
This went on for two years.
More recently, I heard Abel
means temporary, fading as a morning fog,
And so he was.
His sister too,
walking in the transience
of her own name,
fell thick,
cloaking her own vision,
in regular cycles,
and leaving, knowing not
she would be here still
in a vapor, rising
falling to be known again.



They go barren to workplace
inanimately ornamented
pursuing purchases
to hang about themselves
in thick cloister.
They remain non-communicant
asking what will become of my geometry
when bisected at curious right angles?
We bear no such acquaintance.
They go barren to workplace
jutting with jargon
not too cheap,
god or mammon notwithstanding,
come as y’please
secreted sufficiently small,
and do in deed,
they do go to workplace
and there, and there
they barren go.

Copyright retained by Justin Adams.  Presented here with his permission.  Thank you, Justin.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Again, William Blake

     The Church, like her Lord and Lover, is possessed of many treasures.  Some of these treasures are hidden, in the field; some are yet to be found, like the Lost Sheep; some treasures lie in the coded riddles that can be found in the Holy Scriptures; others, in church bells and cathedrals; yet others in gifts of healings, or in holy sacraments; yet more, in the secret prayers of her people, and in the lives of the saints.  All of her treasures are blessed, and all of them, in their way, not only transcend the mortal world, but transform it.

     I would like to say a word for her poets; and at this moment, one in particular -- William Blake.

     It is a special grace that poets need not be, like Holy Scriptures (or the Pope), infallible.  It is enough that they bring the truth, and the spirit, to lighten the mind and the heart.  The rest, as they say, is up to God.

     Eternity is in love with the productions of time, Blake said.  And in that single phrase, if one can hear it, he eased away many puzzlements and resolved many poorly-formed "theological questions" that have perplexed church people, and others -- perplexed them, sometimes, for a lifetime, or for generations.

     Eternity is in love with the productions of time.  Of course the Holy Apostle (or was it Christ Himself?) had said it more thoroughly, more authoritatively, more substantially, long before, in Holy Scripture:  God so loved the world.

     I rejoice, with William Blake, that he found the grace to say it in his own words.  Blessings be upon all the poets of God.  They are truly among the treasures of Christ.

*       *       *

     You may enjoy two earlier posts:

     Ben Carmack's Saint William Blake and my own William Blake, Charles Williams, And Anglican Spirituality.

Friday, April 6, 2012

From Producers to Predators

     William Lazonik, a professor of economics at UMass Center for Industrial Competitiveness, has written a short essay titled, "How American Corporations Transformed from Producers to Predators."  (You can read it here, at the website, 'Naked Capitalism.')

     I do not recommend this article as being one that is deeply insightful (in contrast to references I have made to other professional economists such as Henry Hazlitt, Paul Craig Roberts, or other worthy men), but I do recommend it as somewhat enlightening as to what is going on in ivory towers, or in the blogosphere, concerning the very unquiet financial state of The Union.  And even more enlightening than the article, perhaps, is the set of comments that it generated. 

     Mr. Lazonik's main point about "what went wrong" is that a "fundamental transformation in the investment strategies of major U.S. corporations is a big part of the story."  I think that he is correct, and that we pretty much all understand that, at this point.  The weakness of his viewpoint, as I see it, is that it pretty much confines the problem to the past thirty or forty years.  The fundamental problems in Anglo-American, um, "economics" (I was going to say, "mercantilist capitalism")  are much older, and much deeper, than this latest (admittedly disastrous) phase and its peculiarities.

     Mr. Lazonik seems to imagine an older good time of American corporate responsibility -- he cites the 1950s, when Charles Wilson famously said (slightly misquoted, but only slightly) that what was good for General Motors was good for America -- when the economic welfare of big corporations and the economic welfare of America, or of the world, were supposedly harmonious.  I'd have to say, there was no such time.  Corporatism as the embodiment of usury-based finance has generally (always?) been antagonistic to equality, equity, and the liberties of the common people.

     For explanations, we must be willing to go at least as far as Ron Paul goes, and turn the clock back to 1913 and the creation of the Federal Reserve as a permanent legal establishment.

     Or better, we could go with Murray Rothbard to explore the rise of the great banking houses in the United States during and after the Civil War.  Or even to the Nicholas Biddles or the Boston Brahmins and the Panic of 1837.

     Or to the 1780s, with the political rise of Alexander Hamilton and the Federalists and their Wall Street allies.

     You can even run the clock back to before the beginnings of the United States.  The establishment of the Bank of England in 1694.  The British East India Company.  The Virginia Company.  The financing of Florence, Venice, and the Crusades.  Go back even farther to the empires of the ancients.

    An imperial economy is, by its very name and nature, a command economy.   Corporations are simply the current name for how that command economy is administered.  They serve the emperor.  And if not him, then they serve the real powers behind him.  They do not serve the people.  So far as I can tell, they never have.

     So:  I think Mr. Lazonik's article lacks a bit in terms of context and historical perspective.  But it does give us clues that there is trouble in the Establishment.  And the comments which follow the article tell us that there are some informed and articulate critics, which offers a ray of hope -- or maybe just the comfort of shared concern.

     I think it was well worth the read.  Thanks for the link, Peter.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Resistance, Submission, and the Third Alternative

     Once upon a time, when I was reading a great deal of military history (and specialized history of World War II in particular), I read a book on famous prison escapes.  These were stories of actual escapes from high security prisons, including military prisons.

     In that very well-researched and well-written book, one thought particularly captured my attention, and has stuck in my memory for a long time:   the author commented that certain methods of escape would not be covered in the book.

     Would not be covered -- why?  Well, he wouldn't exactly say.  He hinted that these were ideas that might naturally occur to prisoners, perhaps only after considerable time in incarceration.  These ways and means might not be widely known among prison guards.  If the guards did know, they might be, well, on their guard.  So, taking the side of any future prisoners to whom the ideas would occur,  the author refused to expose these methods -- thereby keeping it unlikely that some prison-industrial complex would thwart them.

     I rather liked the whole idea, whatever it is.  I still do.

     There is another idea that I like, by no means original to me.  It is variously known as "Sullivan's Law" and "an old Jewish saying."  (That sounds mutually exclusive to me, but maybe not:  in the spirit of the "law" itself,  I'll call it "unattributed.")  The idea can be simply stated:

     When faced with two alternatives, choose the third.

     Like it?  I've found it very useful, myself:  in career choices, in conversations, in ordinary  thinking.  Maybe you have consciously done the very same thing:  when facing two alternative viewpoints, develop a new one.  Can't decide whether to eat at the Thai restaurant, or stay home and watch a new movie?  Go ride a motorcycle.  Don't know whether to support Candidate A or Party B?  Go start a project with Non-political S.  Sometimes, these two-way choices are nothing more than imposed, or self-imposed, distractions. 

     Let's see:  Republican or Democrat?  Capitalist or Communist?  Liberal or Conservative?  Gold Standard or Fiat Money?  Rational or Irrational?  One or Zero?   Can you think of third, or even fourth, alternatives to any or all of these binary choices?  Good.

     We live in interesting times.  Some of us feel very aware of an imposing, encroaching New World Order.  (Many others have no such awareness.  Or have a different awareness.  Or call the feeling by another name.)

     What to do?  Submit, or Resist?

     Good question.  Important question.  But may I also propose: Seriously consider the Third Alternative.  Is there a fresh approach; or even a -- ?  Ah.

     And while we're on that subject, seriously consider this also:  Let us not much discuss it.  Properly sought after, a third alternative will occur to us -- as certain modes of thought, and certain modes of operation, ought to be reserved to the prisoners who need them and desire them.

     You know what I mean:  it's called "need to know."  That sort of thing.

     Blessings to you.