The philosophy behind the throne
July 19, 2017 8:36 AM   Subscribe

Unfettered capitalism or democracy. You cannot have both.
Six months on and six ways Trump is 'dismantling' the US.
This is the playbook, as George Monbiot explains, of James McGill Buchanan - A despot in disguise: one man’s mission to rip up democracy.
Then there are are the men behind the cutain; Secretive Teams to Roll Back Regulations, Led by Hires With Deep Industry Ties.
What Is the Far Right’s Endgame? A Society That Suppresses the Majority.
posted by adamvasco (42 comments total) 82 users marked this as a favorite
 
Ooh nice, you've got the Monbiot piece here. That'll take up some time to read thoroughly.
posted by infini at 8:57 AM on July 19, 2017 [1 favorite]


An insightful (and new to me) background piece about the long-term process of dismantling democracy (mostly about foreign policy) by right wing figures is here: Mitch Jeserich's interview with Stephen Kinzer, national cultural correspondent for the New York Times, about his book "The Brothers: John Foster Dulles, Allen Dulles, and Their Secret World War." The brothers controlled both the overt and covert operations of U.S. foreign policy in the 50's: one was Secretary of State and one was the head of the CIA. Jeserich and Kinzer discuss these influential but often forgotten figures..
Actual interview starts around 6:30 min.
posted by growabrain at 9:27 AM on July 19, 2017 [5 favorites]


Wow. The Monbiot article scared me, and then the longer interview with the author (Nancy MacLean) in the Slate article has filled me with horror. Horrified recognition.
posted by janell at 9:27 AM on July 19, 2017 [7 favorites]


Commenting in this Ask.Me made me realize how much I am distracted from Climate Change by the current horrowshow. An awful lot of effort has been put in to stalling the health care bill, yay, successfully. But Pres. Pants-On-Fire and his Cabinet Cronies and the 115th Congress™, brought to you by Koch Industries, are doing their best to trash any existing environmental controls, to say nothing of Paris. And Maine's own Gov. LePage, a nasty little weasel (no offense to weasels), just vetoed a solar bill that everyone else in Maine wants. It's almost as if We're as doomed as doomed can be.
posted by theora55 at 9:28 AM on July 19, 2017 [1 favorite]


I mean, how much money do these people WANT? All of it, I guess. They want to own planet Earth, but by then there won't be anything left of it to enjoy.
posted by KleenexMakesaVeryGoodHat at 9:48 AM on July 19, 2017 [8 favorites]


It's not about having more. It's about keeping the undeserving from getting theirs.
posted by delfin at 9:52 AM on July 19, 2017 [23 favorites]


It's the tragedy of the commons on a global scale.
posted by tivalasvegas at 9:52 AM on July 19, 2017 [6 favorites]


And what are we, the undeserving, supposed to do with this information?
posted by KleenexMakesaVeryGoodHat at 10:06 AM on July 19, 2017 [2 favorites]


I've just had to come to terms with the fact that I fundamentally do not grok the desires these people have. Even raised by Objectivists as I was, I have just never been able to get it up for property rights to the degree necessary to follow that ideology to its logical conclusions. Caring that much about every last little scrap of your stuff just sounds like a lot of work, man. Sitting in judgement of the contents of other peoples' hearts and minds in relation to whether they ~deserve~ some stuff that, let's be real, I'm not even using? Exhausting.
posted by soren_lorensen at 10:07 AM on July 19, 2017 [37 favorites]


I mean, it only makes sense that the rightwing endgame involves suppressing the majority - that's what the right has done for most of modern history. The right has always been very comfortable with suppressing the rights of 50% of humanity by denying women the ability to own property or do anything without permission of father/husband; in this country the right has always been perfectly comfortable openly seeking to suppress the rights of Black people, first as slaves and then under Jim Crow. And of course, where are the "rights" of Native people?

The idea that an average, stable society can be run democratically is a new one - heretics and utopians aside.

To my mind, Buchanan and Koch and all these people basically illustrate why inequality is bad - because of their ideas, of course, and their power, but most of all because the very wealthy and their hangers-on are removed from the need to cooperate with others and so find it easy to develop pernicious beliefs. They have a little culture which values sucking up and flattery, and where none of the people who set the rules ever actually have to do anything they don't like or run any material risks. The more inequality we have, the more this class grows and the more they can spread their terrible, stupid ideas.

Break up the huge fortunes and those personality types won't develop as readily, plus the whole social world of sucking up to foundations in order to get a sinecure won't be self-sustaining.
posted by Frowner at 10:07 AM on July 19, 2017 [52 favorites]


KleenexMakesaVeryGoodHat: "And what are we, the undeserving, supposed to do with this information?"

Read it and weep.
posted by chavenet at 10:13 AM on July 19, 2017 [2 favorites]


Sitting in judgement of the contents of other peoples' hearts and minds in relation to whether they ~deserve~ some stuff that, let's be real, I'm not even using?

They never actually do that of course. It (i.e. everything they want) is theirs. Through ownership, by force if necessary. There's no emotional labour in wanting to own everything.

The only thing they bother about is making their desires stick. They lose sleep that their strategies aren't effective enough. Have they captured enough regulators? Do they have enough of congress to get those tax breaks? Have they intimidated their competition enough through the courts, and so on.
posted by bonehead at 10:18 AM on July 19, 2017 [3 favorites]


An insightful (and new to me) background piece about the long-term process of dismantling democracy (mostly about foreign policy) by right wing figures is here: Mitch Jeserich's interview with Stephen Kinzer, national cultural correspondent for the New York Times, about his book "The Brothers: John Foster Dulles, Allen Dulles, and Their Secret World War." The brothers controlled both the overt and covert operations of U.S. foreign policy in the 50's: one was Secretary of State and one was the head of the CIA. Jeserich and Kinzer discuss these influential but often forgotten figures..
Actual interview starts around 6:30 min.
posted by growabrain at 9:27 AM on July 19 [+] [!]



It's gonna take me a while to get to everything the Dulles bros did (because it was a terrible lot), but my podcast's got two series on Dulles machinations against Arbenz in Guatemala and Mossadegh in Iran. It's almost impossible to believe how blasé the Dulleses were about tearing down democracies abroad; it's no massive surprise that they (and Eisenhower) kept what they were doing as secret as they could at home.
posted by TheProfessor at 10:31 AM on July 19, 2017 [10 favorites]


[Couple of comments deleted. Let's keep this thread just for talking about the Buchanan stuff described in the post, the underlying philosophy/agenda, rather than bringing the item-by-item news updates in here. Those can go in the current catch-all.]
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 10:46 AM on July 19, 2017 [2 favorites]


This is relevant to this thread. I've pulled out a sentence, but worth taking a gander to add this to the framework adamvasco has FPP'd.

This is a war, then, between US-led capitalist globalization, and anyone who resists it.

Expect the headlines to get crazier than ever. They're already working the concern trolling hard for Africa. That wouldn't fly in the flimsiest of metafilter threads.
posted by infini at 10:57 AM on July 19, 2017 [2 favorites]




How much more obvious does this need to get?!?
posted by The Underpants Monster at 11:16 AM on July 19, 2017


Reading Monbiot's article seems to show that it was Buchanan who designed in the structural contradictions in the system that today provide Johan Galtung with evidence to support his theory of an implosion.

All of which, Galtung said, surfaced during the Bush era, and which now appear to have come to fruition through Trump. Such fascism, he told Motherboard, is a symptom of the decline—lashing out in disbelief at the loss of power.

Among the 15 structural contradictions his model identifies as driving the decline, are:

- economic contradictions such as 'overproduction relative to demand', unemployment and the increasing costs of climate change;
- military contradictions including rising tensions between the US, NATO, and its military allies, along with the increasing economic unsustainability of war;
- political contradictions including the conflicting roles of the US, UN and EU;
- cultural contradictions including tensions between US Judeo-Christianity, Islam, and other minorities;
- and social contradictions encompassing the increasing gulf between the so-called 'American Dream', the belief that everyone can prosper in America through hard work, and the reality of American life (the fact that more and more people can't).

posted by infini at 11:17 AM on July 19, 2017 [4 favorites]


[Couple deleted, whatever spirit it's offered in, let's skip the talk about killing.]
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 11:56 AM on July 19, 2017 [1 favorite]




World's eight richest people have same wealth as poorest 50%. And with dedicated leadership and focused effort, we can double that number!
posted by blue_beetle at 12:25 PM on July 19, 2017 [5 favorites]


From the Monbiot article:
"James Buchanan brought these influences together to create what he called public choice theory. He argued that a society could not be considered free unless every citizen has the right to veto its decisions. What he meant by this was that no one should be taxed against their will. But the rich were being exploited by people who use their votes to demand money that others have earned, through involuntary taxes to support public spending and welfare. Allowing workers to form trade unions and imposing graduated income taxes were forms of 'differential or discriminatory legislation' against the owners of capital."

This is, of course, class war in the purest sense: the rich are one type of people, the workers another, and all struggle is read through that lens.

But class war has a social reality that is at least defensible. "The rich" and "workers" do have differentiated collective interests, for example. By contrast, Buchanan's impoverished understanding of collective social life is kind of astonishing for someone who was writing, as MacLean says, as "social philosopher." (I'm assuming both Monbiot and MacLean are basically correct in this characterization.) It's non-sensical.

The idea that "a society could not be considered free unless every citizen has the right to veto its decisions" is incoherent: social life is not possible without elements of the field of action that, ontologically, one does not and cannot "veto." No child can vote or veto whether to learn to think in English (or Spanish or whatever language you choose). I veto the conceptual category of "property"; I veto a system of inquiry that puts priority on property relations (which, btw, is Buchanan's); I veto the persistence of property over time because I prefer a usufructory system. What now? Without exaggeration, in my veto I have made, on Buchanan's account, everyone unfree.

My point is not really about the veto form, though--it's that his version of freedom relies on an individual who is inevitably socially produced through unfree means. That's all of us. And that shouldn't be threatening--we all have genetic parents, and social origins.

Freedom can't hinge on "interests" instantiated in a body, since those interests are socially produced without there ever being a choice involved. I have an interest in transactions being in English and not in Hindi, but I had no choice in what produced that interest in me. It was an "unfree" production. Even "economic freedom" hinges on acceptance of distributional and transactional norms, which any poor person would--in their own, liberal interest--veto.

Buchanan might have revised his priority on "freedom"--if in his conception, one's freedom means that others cannot be free, that's a poor basis for government--or revised his conception of freedom itself. But he chose autocracy: that some people's freedom is simply more important than others'.
posted by migrantology at 12:27 PM on July 19, 2017 [23 favorites]


The MacLean book about Buchanan seems to be facing a lot of criticism, though.

WaPo: Does ‘Democracy in Chains’ paint an accurate picture of James Buchanan? (lots of citations of alleged errors, misquotes...)

Vox: Even the intellectual left is drawn to conspiracy theories about the right. Resist them.

I'm not personally in a position to evaluate all of this but it does look to me as if MacLean has perhaps distorted some things to fit her narrative of the libertarian right, which is not helpful even if the broad strokes of that narrative seem correct.
posted by dnash at 12:30 PM on July 19, 2017 [6 favorites]


And with dedicated leadership and focused effort, we can double that number!

Almost there, it's now 6 people
posted by infini at 12:32 PM on July 19, 2017


As you can see, the problems of inequality are hardly unique to America. And even then, rampant inequality does not always mean an unhappy populace. Motley Fool publishes article that puts forth the above and compares the US to such unequal places as Saudi Arabia, Lesotho, South Africa, Brazil, Costa Rica.

Did I already mention the increasing shrillness in the media to gain back perceptions and other whatsitstrategy to rule the planet?
posted by infini at 12:38 PM on July 19, 2017


Its depressing, but not surprising.

At heart the conservative ideology is about social hierarchy and aristocracy. I once had a fairly long conversation with a very conservative friend of mine, now an ardent Trump supporter and as of several years ago no longer really a friend, about his opposition to unions. I think I annoyed him, because I didn't argue I just kept asking why he didn't like unions.

Finally he told me, and this is as near to a direct quote as I can manage 7 or so years after the fact, "look, the boss is **SUPPOSED** to have all the power, he's the boss. It's wrong to take that away."

Or, as James Fitzjames Stephen put it back in in 1874: "To obey a real superior, to submit to a real necessity and make the best of it in good part, is one of the most important of all virtues - a virtue absolutely essential to the attainment of anything great and lasting"

The part that scares me isn't so much that the Kochs and other billionaires want all the money, all the power, and deeply resent that we plebes have any at all. That I oppose but take as a natural part of the sort of sociopathic brain that seems necessary to become a billionaire.

The part that scares me, the part that keeps me up at night and makes me fear for the future is that a lot of non-billionaires are fully, 100%, in support of the billionaires owning literally everything and having not even table scraps for themselves.

If it were just a tiny handful of our fellow citizens who were Quislings for the plutocrats it wouldn't be a real problem. But it seems that close to 50% of America is not merely totally fine with a plutocratic oligarchy running everything, but believes that is the optimum state of affairs.

It's depressing to learn that my darker suspicions about the billionaire plutocrats working to actively undermine democracy were correct, but not surprising.

It's terrifying to remember that close to half of America are willing, eager even, participants in that project and that they look forward to their coming serfdom with genuine glee and happiness.
posted by sotonohito at 12:45 PM on July 19, 2017 [46 favorites]


I mean, it only makes sense that the rightwing endgame involves suppressing the majority - that's what the right has done for most of modern history.

If you look at our political paradigm as stemming from the French and American revolutions, this is the entire point of The Right.

Here's a valuable interview with Wendy Brown about her book "Undoing the Demos: Neoliberalism's Stealth Revolution."

Neoliberalism is the latest in a long line of reactionary ideological adjustments opposing the basic premise of enlightenment egalitarianism. So of course a lot of people simply don't believe it exists.
posted by Ray Walston, Luck Dragon at 1:08 PM on July 19, 2017 [7 favorites]


sotonohito, you're familiar with the 53% movement, right?

That's just a link to a Google image search, but it's a (still somewhat alive) reaction to Occupy Wall Street where people post pictures of themselves holding handwritten stories of how they've been exploited, overworked, underpaid, and are really, really proud of it.
posted by TheProfessor at 1:50 PM on July 19, 2017 [7 favorites]


heh, that image search link also included this site that's selling a shirt aimed at white women who are not part of the 53% of white women that voted for drumpf, and all proceeds go to PP!
posted by numaner at 2:11 PM on July 19, 2017


This is the Trump thread? I don't think it's ever gone three hours without a post. I'm scared.
posted by dances_with_sneetches at 5:46 PM on July 19, 2017 [1 favorite]


counterpoint on Namibia . The gaming is terrible but it's worth getting past, and the author does apologise without reservation in the comments.
posted by smoke at 7:49 PM on July 19, 2017


Framing, not gaming.
posted by smoke at 8:39 PM on July 19, 2017


the vast, vast length of human history has consisted of a very wealthy few dictating to everyone that it is right and moral to worship them and that ordinary people have no inherent political rights. the koch buchanan viewpoint from these articles would fit right in with the likes of edmund burke and the anti-revolution slime of the late 18th c. just shows you the staying power of this idea that after 200 some odd years of being out of fashion, it is still going strong.
posted by wibari at 10:53 PM on July 19, 2017 [1 favorite]


It's terrifying to remember that close to half of America are willing, eager even, participants in that project and that they look forward to their coming serfdom with genuine glee and happiness.

People just don't want to think. I don't mean that in a value judgement way. I mean that as a way of saying that, en masse, people want to be relieved of the burden of making any decisions at all. It's much easier to be told what to do, and many people are totally fine with that. It's reducing what I'll call cognitive friction. Think of something like, well, any hierarchical system from religion to government to jobs. All you have to do is this list of things and then everything will be okay and you won't have to worry.
posted by Ghostride The Whip at 10:57 PM on July 19, 2017 [5 favorites]


This is the Trump thread. Turns out the old one lives on ... for now. Breathe easy, dances_with_sneetches. That thread did not go for 3 hours without a post.
posted by Bella Donna at 12:59 AM on July 20, 2017


This is the Trump thread?

Specifically, no, this is not the new "Trump thread" per LobsterMitten.
posted by dhartung at 1:04 AM on July 20, 2017


"A society that suppresses the majority"
What majority? The very concept of "majority" is being butchered and smashed into a pulp.

The loop is closing. Behaviourism for the 99%. When the "majority" can be trained with psychological engineering and algorithm-driven conditioning, you have captured a permanent bloc. It's no longer necessary to distinguish this bloc as the majority. A majority against what? There's no longer a minority to monitor, humiliate, suppress, and crush. The majority self-polices fine. When this majority opens their mouths they generate fluent and coherent speech that spans the whole idea landscape of everything that holds up this hierarchy together, and precisely keeps itself from overstepping the boundary. The non-majority is literally unthinkable and unspeakable.

If any of you have had some passing interesting in China you'll know this is where they're heading. And in the past 30+ years there has been no significant ideological differences between China and the US. There have only been the inevitable conflicts of interest. They're converging, in open admiration of each other.

I don't think this is going to get better soom. In fact, I think it's already eating my brain.
posted by runcifex at 1:17 AM on July 20, 2017 [1 favorite]


Ghostride The Whip: I would really disagree, or at least say that people don't want to think is not a very helpful framing. I would say people are biased toward simple and convenient answers. People may not want to think (or they may!), but they still justify their beliefs and feelings, and dismissing them as stupid is not helpful.

More generally, I would be a bit more charitable than sotonohito's characterization as conservatives as simply favoring the concentration of power and wealth in business just because and argue that they justify their beliefs with two main reasons. First, they think that there is no alternative: communism failed and we are competing with other countries in a dog-eat-dog world. We need strong authority and no rights because otherwise people take advantage of your hard-earned money.

Second, they reserve all of their critical thinking for the government, which can do no right: it is the enemy and everyone in it is the enemy (unless they proclaim loudly enough that government is the enemy or can make it obvious enough that they are supporting the public interest by taking away government services for brown people or the environment).

This is where I find ideas like motivated reasoning super interesting (and super scary for my own understanding of the world) because conservative rhetoric starts with the idea that any government action is inherently bad. The core of this claim is Milton Friedman's statement "it's [not] possible to do good with other people's money." (...because good only comes from selfishness mediated by Adam Smith's invisible hand of the market) And from there anything government does that is good is ignored and everything bad is due to the idea of government itself, not bad actors or badly set up incentives, etc... And similarly, self-interested actions, mediated by an uncritical acceptance of market forces as arbiters of the collective interest, become virtuous because they are good not just for the person but for society.

There is also a huge rhetorical disconnect in the terrain of victimhood and entitlement that is based on a lot of myths and misinformation.
posted by ropeladder at 1:24 AM on July 20, 2017 [3 favorites]


smoke, i would always read South African perspectives on Namibia with a pinch of salt.
posted by infini at 2:02 AM on July 20, 2017


None of this would have come to pass if the Media weren't so fucking awful.
How Breitbart Media's Disinformation Created the Paranoid, Fact-Averse Nation That Elected Trump.
Democrats and progressives turned to wider and more reputable sources.
The pro-Trump media specialized in what CJR called “disinformation,” where facts are presented in isolation or stripped of context, and then exaggerated or hyped to produce false sense of alarm or crisis. This is more sophisticated than merely lying, they said.
posted by adamvasco at 7:01 AM on July 21, 2017 [1 favorite]


Pentagon study Declares American Empire Is 'Collapsing' article by Nafeez Ahmed
Report demands massive expansion of military-industrial complex to maintain global "access to resources."
At Our Own Peril: DoD Risk Assessment in a Post-Primacy World downloadable pdf.
posted by adamvasco at 8:01 AM on July 21, 2017


Slate:
...by the mid-1970s [Buchanan] concluded that … there was no way that people who were not wealthy, who were not large property owners, would agree to the kind of rules he was proposing. So that was a very dark work. It was called The Limits of Liberty. He actually said in that work that the only hope might be despotism.

And he went from writing that to advising the Pinochet junta in Chile on how to craft their constitution. This document was later called a “constitution of locks and bolts,” [and was designed] to make it so that the majority couldn’t make its will felt in the political system, unless it was a huge supermajority.
This is in no way a new line of thought; the US Constitution was itself crafted on a very similar basis.
posted by flabdablet at 6:45 AM on July 27, 2017


« Older I'll wipe your scores clean, wipe, wipe, wipe   |   The Beginning of Urban Heavy Rescue Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments