Bloody shovel

Don't call it a spade

Who built whom

So last week there was quite a brouhaha over Cathedral priestess Elizabeth Warren telling businessmen that they couldn’t have made money if the state hadn’t helped. All business minded people in the US have risen in righteous outrage. Which is amusing. I mean the kind of speech that Warren gave is common sense in Europe. It’s drilled to schoolchildren. Nobody cares to contest its truth. But in the US there is a sizable population that grew up with Wild West movies and others who grew up reading Ayn Rand, which is the teenage jewish version of Nietzsche. And they won’t tolerate this insult against the individual drive.

tax farmers

But she’s right, isn’t she? Roads were there, courts are there, police is around. Not sure I agree about the value of the state-educated workers, but still, what’s all the fuss about? Of course it’s not about the objective fact that the state is everywhere so there’s always a rationale for collecting taxes. Any reader of history knows that states are little more than sanctimonious stationary bandits, but the fact is they build the infrastructure. Of course all the brouhaha is not about the reasonable point she makes, it’s about the wording. “You didn’t build that”. For business owners, whose status and self-regard depends on their having built something, well it sounds demeaning. And demeaning it was meant to be. Warren’s words were precisely chosen to lower the status of business owners, and raise those of the workers of the state. This kind of status disputes are the ones who get emotional very fast, and this one did.

But there is little substance to it. The point Warren was making could be useful to argue for higher corporate taxes, but those are high enough in the US already. The speech was made to capitalise on the growing sentiment of enmity against billionaires in the US. The economy is bad, the bankstas are scamming the whole country, and various developments mean that for the bulk of the population upward mobility is all but dead. Actually tens of millions will soon drop from the middle class, all while those pesky billionaires keep on adding to their wealth. They must be put in their place. If only rhetorically.

It has been my perception since long ago that the key to happiness isn’t friendship or love or self-actualisation. The real soma in human society is upward mobility. If people think there is a way for them to rise in status they will shut up and take it. If the economy is good people just shut up and put more hours to try to make it. But when it isn’t, and the usual social ladders aren’t there, people rush to the last resort: Class Struggle.

Class Struggle tells you that if the lower status people gang together, they can take power from the elites, and then they become high status. Upward mobility! Yes it’s violent, messy, and it never works out well. But it is the last hope for many people, which explains why communism never seems to die out. It can’t, it is a parasite that flourishes in a fundamental part of the brain.

Marx famously called religion the opium of the masses. Opium is sort of soothing and relaxing. Well he came up with something even better. Class Struggle is the cocaine of the masses. It wakes you up, it makes you move. It’s catnip for the proles. And it’s here to stay.

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5 responses to “Who built whom

  1. Vladimir August 17, 2012 at 04:19

    I think you’re way overestimating how prone ordinary people are to class struggle. My impression is that it exists only insofar as significant elements within the elites are pushing it.

    As long as the common folk see that the message they get from higher-status people is unanimously in favor of humble obedience, they will be humbly obedient. Bloody and disastrous revolutions happen only when renegade factions within the elite use rabble-rousing to advance their interests in the intra-elite struggles, and this goes out of hand. (The American Revolution was an interesting case in this regard — the faction within the elite that wanted secession from Britain roused the mob to achieve this goal, but then masterfully put them back in their place and imposed their own strong government.)

    • spandrell August 17, 2012 at 15:09

      Where did I say that Class Struggle is spontaneous? The ordinary people for all purposes don’t exist as a group. They are cannon fodder.

      Of course it’s elite factions who use it to get power for themselves. But they use Class Struggle because it’s easy to sell, it uses a fundamental psychological need which will never go away.

  2. Asdf August 17, 2012 at 13:38

    Lol Rand. It seems obvious from her porno novels the lust for alpha cock drives her entire philosophy.

    Yes, the issue is not controversial. But every side of every issue is Puritan in America. Nuance be damned, full bore on idealism.

  3. fnn August 17, 2012 at 16:19

    Reagan was more of a “Marxist” than BHO as POTUS:
    http://www.capitalismwithoutfailure.com/2011/12/bill-black-on-incidence-of-fraud.html

    On the prosecution of fraud following the Savings and Loan Crisis: Our agency filed over 10,000 criminal referrals that resulted in over 1,000 felony convictions. We worked closely with the FBI and the Justice Department, to prioritize cases—creating the top 100 list of the 100 worst institutions which translated into about 600 or 700 executives. We went after the absolute worst frauds.

    On the prosecution of fraud following the current crisis: We now have appointed anti-regulators. The FBI warned in open testimony in the House of Representatives, in September 2004, that there was an epidemic of mortgage fraud, and they predicted that it would cause a financial crisis if it were not contained. It was not contained. Since then we have had zero criminal referrals. They completely shut down making criminal referrals. Both the Bush Administration and the Obama Administration have not made it a priority to prosecute these elite criminals who caused this devastating injury…

    Ha, ha. “Communism With the Mask Off” indeed.

  4. Pingback: On Genteels « Bloody shovel

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