Thursday, June 08, 2006

Brave New World

-A Tale of Two Systems -

In 1776 the American Revolution was propelled by the idea that it was self-evident that all men are created equal.
(We could get into the contradiction of slaveowners making this declaration, or the exclusion of women, etc., but let's not. Whether Thomas Jefferson was a wealthy plantation owner or not is irrelevant.)
The minutemen, the ad hoc citizen's army who courageously defied the most professional army and navy in Europe, were clearly motivated by one shining hope. That hope was the idea that they could throw off the shackles of a political and economic system that was patently unfair. Feudalism gave some people 'birthright' privileges far above those enjoyed by the lower classes. They contributed little or nothing to society, while parasitically owning, controlling and consuming most of the resources. Most outrageously, they claimed that this situation was natural, and they had somehow been chosen by God to enjoy this disparity.

The system that the American Revolution put in place was touted as, "government of the people, for the people, by the people". Most significantly, a person's station in life under the new system would be determined by talent and hard work, rather than by one's parentage. The new country prospered, largely because the system provided motivation for hard work and development of talent. The writings of Benjamin Franklin best exemplify the optimism and faith in self-sufficiency that were characteristic of this era in history. America went from being a collection of unimportant colonies to a powerful nationhood in short order.

Good old American know-how was the lynchpin of the new country's success, and a system of meritocracy necessarily replaced the bad old system of know-who. Unfortunately, under the regime of Bush and his cronies, the worst elements of the old system have come back.

Conditions in the US are becoming far worse than those that precipitated the American Revolution. An arrogant privileged overclass are allowed to rewrite the rules that govern society to their benefit, with no regard to the harm caused to others. The concentration of wealth and power equals or exceeds that of feudal Europe, while opportunities for social advancement have declined to an all-time low. And yet the peasantry remains blithely complacent, apparently waiting to give their attention to this crisis only when it comes out in a movie starring Tom Hanks.

One distinction differentiates the modern corporate baron from the Peers of Olde England in the 18th century. The peers' capital was tied up in land, and could not conveniently be transferred to another country, whether that be a bank in the Caymans or a factory on the low-wage island of Saipan. This forced a noblesse oblige on the ruling class that is not in effect in this brave new world.

Project for the OLD American century posted this link today;

Cheneys Betting on Bad News

The 'nobility' of old could not act as Cheney and his cohorts have, against the interests of their own country, for to do so would have been to act against their own interests. It has taken over two centuries, but the American system has finally achieved the worst of all possible worlds.

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