• "God invented war so Americans could learn geography" -- Mark Twain.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Murkan Mantra, Bimbo Bugaboo & Robinson Crusoe

The News: Speaking for millions, Joe (Wurzelbacher) the Plumber has denounced candidate Obama's plan for a 3% tax rate increase on incomes over $250,000 as "un-American". According to Joe, Obama “wants to distribute wealth. ... that’s kind of a socialist viewpoint. You know, I work for that. You know, it’s my discretion who I want to give my money to; it’s not for the government decide that I make a little too much and so I need to share it with other people. That’s not the American Dream.”

The Note: Actually Joe, it's known as "society" and all societies are "socialist" to the extent that every single society that has ever existed has depended on distributing wealth. Society could not exist otherwise. Building a road, setting up a school, providing for fire-brigades, doing any of the thousands of things societies do, all require "distributing wealth" -- taking wealth from some people and distributing it to others for other purposes.

The knuckleheadedness of Joe the Dumber and fellow-travelling morons is beyond belief.... In fact, beyond belief of even the average, hard-clobbering Neanderthal.

Joe's "Socialism Bugaboo" is the correlative of a deeper dementia -- what Karl Marx called Robinsonades, the mythical capitalist apology which foists the notion that every man is his own Robin Crusoe as if "society" were no more than a collection of islands.

The core fallacy of the Robinsonade is to confuse self-reliance with self-sufficiency. Self-reliance is a good thing. All animals practice it; man should do no less. But unless man is to live like an animal, sheltering under a bush and cracking nuts with his teeth, self-reliance is not sufficient. To enjoy even the most minimal tools, shelter, clothing and simple variety of food-stuffs requires the time, talent and treasure of others. No man could possibly do it all himself; not even Robinson Crusoe who survived only because he was able to salvage a treasure trove of tools and basic supplies from the wrecked ship -- tools and supplies which had been provided by none other than society.

The vast and bountiful expanse of a continent that helplessly awaited the rape and plunder of English settlors gave rise to the Robinsonade's aura of self-evidency. Anglo-Americans eagerly swallowed the lore that all they had to do was Go forth and chop. It was as if the Pioneer on the Hilltop, basking in God's silvery rays, became the illusion we used to hide our sins of despoilation, aggression and plunder.

Of course, it was all utter nonsense because the Robinsonade is nonsense. If this continent was settled and civilized it was not through individual effort but through social organization. The earliest colonial settlements, both in Massachusetts and Virginia, were chartered affairs -- complex social contracts which, particularly in the Bay Colony, regulated every aspect of social and economic life. ... to say nothing of mandatory tithes. The early push West, through the Cumberland and Altoona passes and via the Eerie and Baltimore-Ohio canals, were municipal enterprises, organized and underwritten by the governments of Baltimore, Philadelphia, and New York. The long caravans of wagons, winding their way West were likewise ad hoc cities on wheels, drawn up by charter, requiring subcription and above all highly regulated norms of conduct. In short, nothing was possible and nothing is possible without social division of labor and allocation of value -- without a distribution of "wealth" in its various forms.

And yet despite this obvious social fact, evident to the first jungle-men and to all men ever since, the Republican Party repeatedly sounds the Robinsonade as millions of mindless morons like Joe the Dumber reflexively jump to the call. "It’s not for the government decide that... I need to share [my wealth] with other people."

If Joe allocated a tenth of the energy he spends on egotism to taking a look about, he would realize that the government is always deciding how much he must share; and that what the government under successive neo-liberal administrations has done, is to share his wealth upwards towards Big Plunder and Big Hoard and Big Hedge. Sometimes government does this by regressive tax policy and at other times through complex "unseen" financial manipulations that devalue the worth of Joe's dollar.

Of course, the malevolents that run the Republican Party understand which way is up, even if Joe doesn't and the only thing more nauseating than Joe's stupidity is their venality, cunning and hypocrisy.

©WCG, 2008