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Casino Capitalism: Neoliberalism in Western countries

"When the capital development of a country becomes a by-product of the activities of a casino, the job is likely to be ill-done" ~ John Maynard Keynes

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Financialization is a process whereby financial markets, financial institutions, and financial elites gain greater influence over economic policy and economic outcomes. Financialization transforms the functioning of economic systems at both the macro and micro levels.

Its principal impacts are to (1) elevate the significance of the financial sector relative to the real sector, (2) transfer income from the real sector to the financial sector, and (3) increase income inequality and contribute to wage stagnation. Additionally, there are reasons to believe that financialization may put the economy at risk of debt deflation and prolonged recession.

Financialization operates through three different conduits: changes in the structure and operation of financial markets, changes in the behavior of nonfinancial corporations, and changes in economic policy.

Countering financialization calls for a multifaceted agenda that (1) restores policy control over financial markets, (2) challenges the neoliberal economic policy paradigm encouraged by financialization, (3) makes corporations responsive to interests of stakeholders other than just financial markets, and (4) reforms the political process so as to diminish the influence of corporations and wealthy elites.

Thomas Palley, See http://www.levyinstitute.org/pubs/wp_525.pdf

Speculation and gambling were always a part of Wall Street but since the 1930’s they were just a side-show, now they are the show.

Comment to Matt Taibbi article Fannie, Freddie, and the New Red and Blue t


Introduction

“The sense of responsibility in the financial community
for the community as a whole is not small. It is nearly nil.”

-- John Kenneth Galbraith, The Great Crash of 1929

The term Casino Capitalism generally is symonim of neoliberalism (also called economic liberalism), but it also point out to a specific phase of neoliberal transformation of capitalism. Politically it was slow motion corporate coup d'état, which started in 70th and is now accomplished in the USA and other Western countries which buries social-democratic (New Deal style) model of capitalism. 

It hypertrophied police functions of state (in the form of national-security state)  while completely avoiding economic sphere in ways other then enforcement of laws (with a notable exclusion from this top 1% -- "Masters of the Universe"). Like bolshevism it uses the state for the enforcement of the social system.  On top level this is crony capitalism for major corporation. On low level of medium and small business owners it presupposed a deregulated economy (in a sense of the "law of jungle" as a business environment).

Casino capitalism presupposes strong militarized state, suppressing all the attempts to challenge the new "nomenklatura" (much like was the case in the USSR).  It is quite different from traditional liberalism:

“Liberalism” can refer to political, economic, or even religious ideas. In the U.S. political liberalism has been a strategy to prevent social conflict. It is presented to poor and working people as progressive compared to conservative or Right wing. Economic liberalism is different. Conservative politicians who say they hate “liberals” — meaning the political type — have no real problem with economic liberalism, including neoliberalism.

In other words this is neoliberal model of corporatism during the period of "cheap hydrocarbons".  The period that is probably near the end and which by some estimate can last only another 50 years or so (less than 100 years).  The major crisis of casino capitalism in 2008 was connected both with financial excesses (caused by moving to semi-criminal ways of extracting return on capital, typical for casino capitalism),  but also with the rise of the price of oil and decrease of  Energy returned on energy invested (EROEI)In this sense the last low oil price period which started in late 2014 and ended in spring 2018 can be viewed as the "last hurrah" of the casino capitalism.

In understanding neoliberal transformation of the society since early 80th it is important to understanding of the key role of financialization in this process. When major services are privatized (education, healthcare, pension plans) financial institution insert themselves as intermediaries in this arrangement and make it the main source of their profits.  Also contrary to neoliberal propaganda this process is aided and abetted by state. State is used by neoliberalism as a tool of enforcing market relations even where they are not useless or even harmful (education). All this talk about irresolvable controversy between market and state is for gullible fools. In reality, being Trotskyism for rich, neoliberalism uses power of the state to enforce market relations  by force on reluctant population even in areas where this can do no good. That make really it close to Soviet social experiment, which lasted from 1917 to 1991 or almost 75 years. As Marx noted "History repeats itself, first as tragedy, second as farce."

A very good discussion of the role of Financialisation in entrenchment of neoliberalism in modern societies can be found in the book by Costas Lapavitsas. Some highlights are provided in his Guardian article Finance's hold on our everyday life must be broken

This extraordinary public largesse towards private banks was matched by austerity and wage reductions for workers and households. As for restructuring finance, nothing fundamental has taken place. The behemoths that continue to dominate the global financial system operate in the knowledge that they enjoy an unspoken public guarantee. The unpalatable reality is that financialisation will persist, despite its costs for society.

Financialisation represents a historic and deep-seated transformation of mature capitalism. Big businesses have become "financialised" as they have ample profits to finance investment, rely less on banks for loans and play financial games with available funds. Big banks, in turn, have become more distant from big businesses, turning to profits from trading in open financial markets and from lending to households. Households have become "financialised" too, as public provision in housing, education, health, pensions and other vital areas has been partly replaced by private provision, access to which is mediated by the financial system. Not surprisingly, households have accumulated a tremendous volume of financial assets and liabilities over the past four decades.

The penetration of finance into the everyday life of households has not only created a range of dependencies on financial services, but also changed the outlook, mentality and even morality of daily life. Financial calculation evaluates everything in pennies and pounds, transforming the most basic goods – above all, housing – into "investments". Its logic has affected even the young, who have traditionally been idealistic and scornful of pecuniary calculation. Fertile ground has been created for neoliberal ideology to preach the putative merits of the market.

Financialisation has also created new forms of profit associated with financial markets and transactions. Financial profit can be made out of any income, or any sum of money that comes into contact with the financial sphere. Households, for example, generate profits for finance as debtors (mostly by paying interest on mortgages) but also as creditors (mostly by paying fees and charges on pension funds and insurance). Finance is not particular about how and where it makes its profits, and certainly does not limit itself to the sphere of production. It ranges far and wide, transforming every aspect of social life into a profit-making opportunity.

The traditional image of the person earning financial profits is the "rentier", the individual who invests funds in secure financial assets. In the contemporary financialised universe, however, those who earn vast returns are very different. They are often located within a financial institution, presumably work to provide financial services, and receive vast sums in the form of wages, or more often bonuses. Modern financial elites are prominent at the top of the income distribution, set trends in conspicuous consumption, shape the expensive end of the housing market, and transform the core of urban centres according to their own tastes.

Financialised capitalism is, thus, a deeply unequal system, prone to bubbles and crises – none greater than that of 2007-09. What can be done about it? The most important point in this respect is that financialisation does not represent an advance for humanity, and very little of it ought to be preserved. Financial markets are, for instance, able to mobilise advanced technology employing some of the best-trained physicists in the world to rebalance prices across the globe in milliseconds. This "progress" allows financiers to earn vast profits; but where is the commensurate benefit to society from committing such expensive resources to these tasks?

The term "casino capitalism" was coined by Susan Strange who used it as a title of her book Casino Capitalism published in 1986. She was one of the first who realized that

  1. "The roots of the world's economic disorder are monetary and financial";
  2. "The disorder has not come about by accident, but has in fact been nurtured and encouraged by a series of government decisions." (p. 60). In other words its was a counter-revolution of the part of ruling elite (financial oligarchy) which lost its influence in 30th (dismantling New Deal from above in the USA (Reaganomics) or Thatcherism in the GB).

According to Susan Strange transformation of industrial capitalism into neoliberal capitalism ("casino capitalism") involved five trends. All of them increased the systemic instability of the system and the level of political corruption:

  1. Innovations in the way in which financial markets work due to introduction of computers;
  2. The sheer size of markets; (with the introduction of 401K the size of stock market multiplied, etc)
  3. Commercial banks turned into investment banks;
  4. The emergence of Asian nations as large players;
  5. The shift to self-regulation by banks (pp.9-10).

Now it is pretty much established fact that the conversion from "industrial capitalism" to neoliberal, completely financialialized "casino capitalism" is the natural logic of development of capitalism. In early and incomplete matter this trend was noticed at early 1990th by many thinkers. This is just the second iteration of the same trend which was interrupted by the Great Depression and subsequent WWII. So, in a way, replacement of industrial capitalism with financial capitalism in a natural tendency within the capitalism itself and corruption was contributing, but not decisive factor.  The same is true about globalization, especially about globalization of financial flows, typical for casino capitalism, which is a form of colonialism (neocolonialism).

Also this conversion did not happen due to lack of oversight or as a folly. It was a couscous choice made by the US and GB elite, both of which faced deterioration of rates of return on capital. Also unlike "industrial capitalism" which was more-or-less stable system, able to outcompete the neo-theocratic system of the USSR, the financial capitalism is unstable in the same sense as radioactive elements are unstable.  And this instability tend to increase with time. So there is probably natural half-life period for neoliberalism as a social system. It might be already reached in 2008.  In we assume that global victory of neoliberalism happened in 1990. It is just 18 years.  If we think that it happened in late 60th, then it is closer to 50 years.

The global crisis of neoliberal capitalism which started from bursting the USA subprime housing bubble in 2008 undermined ideological legitimacy of its central claim that "free markets" lead to faster and more uniform economic development of all countries. While the peak of its "ideological" power might be over (much like the peak of attractiveness of "command socialism" was over after WWII), it will exist in a zombie state for a long time due to economic and military power of the USA and G7.  And as we know from Hollywood films, zombies can be especially bloodthirsty. It probably will remain the dominant force for at least the next two decades pursuing the same policy of "forceful" opening of energy rich  and resource countries for western multinationals intact using color revolutions and local wars.  But as Napoleon quipped "You can do anything with bayonets, you just can't sit on them".

Conversion to neoliberal capitalism was a reaction on stagnation of industrial production and as such it was nurtured and encouraged by a series of government decisions for the last 50 years. Stagnation of industrial production made expansion of financial sector of paramount importance for the ruling elite and by extension for Congress which represents this elite. House vote 377:4 for Commodity Futures Modernization Act of 2000 is pretty telling in this respect.

There were also at least two important parallel developments.

Most respectable authors like Henry Giroux in his article in Counterpunch generally consider the term "casino capitalism" to be an equivalent to the term Neoliberalism. Here is a relevant quote from Henry Giroux's Authoritarian Politics in the Age of Casino Capitalism :

There is more at work here than simply a ramped up version of social Darwinism with its savagely cruel ethic of “reward the rich, penalize the poor, [and] let everyone fend for themselves,” [ii] there is also a full scale attack on the social contract, the welfare state, economic equality, and any viable vestige of moral and social responsibility. The Romney-Ryan appropriation of Ayn Rand’s ode to selfishness and self-interest is of particular importance because it offers a glimpse of a ruthless form of extreme capitalism in which the poor are considered “moochers,” viewed with contempt, and singled out to be punished. But this theocratic economic fundamentalist ideology does more. It destroys any viable notion of the and civic virtue in which the social contract and common good provide the basis for creating meaningful social bonds and instilling in citizens a sense of social and civic responsibility. The idea of public service is viewed with disdain just as the work of individuals, social groups, and institutions that benefit the citizenry at large are held in contempt.

As George Lakoff and Glenn W. Smith point out, casino capitalism creates a culture of cruelty: “its horrific effects on individuals-death, illness, suffering, greater poverty, and loss of opportunity, productive lives, and money.”[iii]

But it does more by crushing any viable notion of the common good and public life by destroying “the bonds that hold us together.”[iv] Under casino capitalism, the spaces, institutions, and values that constitute the public are now surrendered to powerful financial forces and viewed simply as another market to be commodified, privatized and surrendered to the demands of capital. With religious and market-driven zealots in charge, politics becomes an extension of war; greed and self-interest trump any concern for the well-being of others; reason is trumped by emotions rooted in absolutist certainty and militaristic aggression; and skepticism and dissent are viewed as the work of Satan.

If the Republican candidacy race of 2012 is any indication, then political discourse in the United States has not only moved to the right—it has been introducing totalitarian values and ideals into the mainstream of public life. Religious fanaticism, consumer culture, and the warfare state work in tandem with neoliberal economic forces to encourage privatization, corporate tax breaks, growing income and wealth inequality, and the further merging of the financial and military spheres in ways that diminish the authority and power of democratic governance.[v] Neoliberal interests in freeing markets from social constraints, fueling competitiveness, destroying education systems, producing atomized subjects, and loosening individuals from any sense of social responsibility prepare the populace for a slow embrace of social Darwinism, state terrorism, and the mentality of war — not least of all by destroying communal bonds, dehumanizing the other, and pitting individuals against the communities they inhabit.

Totalitarian temptations now saturate the media and larger culture in the language of austerity as political and economic orthodoxy. What we are witnessing in the United States is the normalization of a politics that exterminates not only the welfare state, and the truth, but all those others who bear the sins of the Enlightenment — that is, those who refuse a life free from doubt. Reason and freedom have become enemies not merely to be mocked, but to be destroyed. And this is a war whose totalitarian tendencies are evident in the assault on science, immigrants, women, the elderly, the poor, people of color, and youth.

What too often goes unsaid, particularly with the media’s focus on inflammatory rhetoric, is that those who dominate politics and policymaking, whether Democrats or Republicans, do so largely because of their disproportionate control of the nation’s income and wealth. Increasingly, it appears these political elite choose to act in ways that sustain their dominance through the systemic reproduction of an iniquitous social order. In other words, big money and corporate power rule while electoral politics are rigged. The secrecy of the voting booth becomes the ultimate expression of democracy, reducing politics to an individualized purchase—a crude form of economic action. Any form of politics willing to invest in such ritualistic pageantry only adds to the current dysfunctional nature of our social order, while reinforcing a profound failure of political imagination. The issue should no longer be how to work within the current electoral system, but how to dismantle it and construct a new political landscape that is capable of making a claim on equity, justice, and democracy for all of its inhabitants. Obama’s once inspiring call for hope has degenerated into a flight from responsibility.

The Obama administration has worked to extend the policies of the George W. Bush administration by legitimating a range of foreign and domestic policies that have shredded civil liberties, expanded the permanent warfare state, and increased the domestic reach of the punitive surveillance state. And if Romney and his ideological cohorts, now viewed as the most extremists faction of the Republican Party, come to power, surely the existing totalitarian and anti-democratic tendencies at work in the United States will be dangerously intensified.

History

Alternatively, we could have spent more time studying the work of Hyman Minsky. We could also have considered the possibility that, just as Keynes’s ideas were tested to destruction in the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s, Milton Friedman’s ideas might suffer a similar fate in the 1980s, 1990s and 2000s. All gods fail, if one believes too much. Keynes said, of course, that "practical men … are usually the slaves of some defunct economist". So, of course, are economists, even if the defunct economists are sometimes still alive.

Martin Wolf

 


 

 

Casino capitalism  is a nickname for nailibelism. Probably more properly nickname would be  financial corporatism. While the key idea of corporatism: that political actors are not individual people, but some associations and first of all corporations (which are officially considered to be "persons" and have rights as well as trade unions and some other associations) remains intact, financial corporatism is different from classic corporatism in several major ways:

Historically corporatism in various modifications became dominant social system after WWII and defeated "command socialism" as was implemented in the USSR. Here is an instructive review of corporatism history (The Economic System of Corporatism):

In the last half of the 19th century people of the working class in Europe were beginning to show interest in the ideas of socialism and syndicalism. Some members of the intelligentsia, particularly the Catholic intelligentsia, decided to formulate an alternative to socialism which would emphasize social justice without the radical solution of the abolition of private property. The result was called Corporatism. The name had nothing to do with the notion of a business corporation except that both words are derived from the Latin word for body, corpus.

The basic idea of corporatism is that the society and economy of a country should be organized into major interest groups (sometimes called corporations) and representatives of those interest groups settle any problems through negotiation and joint agreement. In contrast to a market economy which operates through competition a corporate economic works through collective bargaining. The American president Lyndon Johnson had a favorite phrase that reflected the spirit of corporatism. He would gather the parties to some dispute and say, "Let us reason together."

Under corporatism the labor force and management in an industry belong to an industrial organization. The representatives of labor and management settle wage issues through collective negotiation. While this was the theory in practice the corporatist states were largely ruled according to the dictates of the supreme leader.

One early and important theorist of corporatism was Adam Müller, an advisor to Prince Metternich in what is now eastern Germany and Austria. Müller propounded his views as an antidote to the twin dangers of the egalitarianism of the French Revolution and the laissez faire economics of Adam Smith. In Germany and elsewhere there was a distinct aversion among rulers to allow markets to function without direction or control by the state. The general culture heritage of Europe from the medieval era was opposed to individual self-interest and the free operation of markets. Markets and private property were acceptable only as long as social regulation took precedence over such sinful motivations as greed.

Coupled with the anti-market sentiments of the medieval culture there was the notion that the rulers of the state had a vital role in promoting social justice. Thus corporatism was formulated as a system that emphasized the positive role of the state in guaranteeing social justice and suppressing the moral and social chaos of the population pursuing their own individual self-interests. And above all else, as a political economic philosophy corporatism was flexible. It could tolerate private enterprise within limits and justify major projects of the state. Corporatism has sometimes been labeled as a Third Way or a mixed economy, a synthesis of capitalism and socialism, but it is in fact a separate, distinctive political economic system.

Although rulers have probably operated according to the principles of corporatism from time immemorial it was only in the early twentieth century that regimes began to identify themselves as corporatist. The table below gives some of those explicitly corporatist regimes.

Corporatist Regimes of the Early Twentieth Century
System Name Country Period Leader
National Corporatism Italy 1922-1945 Benito Mussolini
Country, Religion, Monarchy Spain 1923-1930 Miguel Primo de Rivera
National Socialism Germany 1933-1945 Adolph Hitler
National Syndicalism Spain 1936-1973 Francisco Franco
New State Portugal 1932-1968 Antonio Salazar
New State Brazil 1933-1945 Getulio Vargas
New Deal United States 1933-1945 Franklin Roosevelt
Third Hellenic Civilization Greece 1936-1941 Ioannis Metaxas
Justice Party Argentina 1943-1955 Juan Peron

In the above table several of the regimes were brutal, totalitarian dictatorships, usually labeled fascist, but not all the regimes that had a corporatist foundation were fascist. In particular, the Roosevelt New Deal despite its many faults could not be described as fascist. But definitely the New Deal was corporatist. The architect for the initial New Deal program was General Hugh Johnson. Johnson had been the administrator of the military mobilization program for the U.S. under Woodrow Wilson during World War I. It was felt that he did a good job of managing the economy during that period and that is why he was given major responsibility for formulating an economic program to deal with the severe problems of the Depression. But between the end of World War I and 1933 Hugh Johnson had become an admirer of Mussolini's National Corporatist system in Italy and he drew upon the Italian experience in formulating the New Deal.

It should be noted that many elements of the early New Deal were later declared unconstitutional and abandoned, but some elements such as the National Labor Relations Act which promoted unionization of the American labor force are still in effect. One part of the New Deal was the development of the Tennessee River Valley under the public corporation called the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA). Some of the New Dealer saw TVA as more than a public power enterprise. They hoped to make TVA a model for the creation of regional political units which would replace state governments. Their goal was not realized. The model for TVA was the river development schemes carried out in Spain in the 1920's under the government of Miguel Primo de Rivera. Jose Antonio Primo de Rivera, the son of Miguel Primo de Rivera, was the founder of Franco's National Syndicalism.

Corporatist regime typically promote large governmental projects such as TVA on the basis that they are too large to be funded by private enterprise. In Brazil the Vargas regime created many public enterprises such as in iron and steel production which it felt were needed but private enterprise declined to create. It also created an organized labor movement that came to control those public enterprises and turned them into overstaffed, inefficient drains on the public budget.

Although the above locates the origin of corporatism in 19th century France it roots can be traced much further back in time. Sylvia Ann Hewlett in her book, The Cruel Dilemmas of Development: Twentieth Century Brazil, says,

Corporatism is based on a body of ideas that can be traced through Aristotle, Roman law, medieval social and legal structures, and into contemporary Catholic social philosophy. These ideas are based on the premise that man's nature can only be fulfilled within a political community.
..........
The central core of the corporatist vision is thus not the individual but the political community whose perfection allows the individual members to fulfill themselves and find happiness.
...............
The state in the corporatist tradition is thus clearly interventionist and powerful.

Corporatism is collectivist; it is a different version of collectivism than socialism but it is definitely collectivist. It places some importance on the fact that private property is not nationalized, but the control through regulation is just as real. It is de facto nationalization without being de jure nationalization.

Although Corporatism is not a familiar concept to the general public, most of the economies of the world are corporatist in nature. The categories of socialist and pure market economy are virtually empty. There are only corporatist economies of various flavors.

These flavors of corporatism include the social democratic regimes of Europe and the Americas, but also the East Asian and Islamic fundamentalist regimes such as Taiwan, Singapore and Iran. The Islamic socialist states such as Syria, Libya and Algeria are more corporatist than socialist, as was Iraq under Saddam Hussain. The formerly communist regimes such as Russia and China are now clearly corporatist in economic philosophy although not in name.

The concept of Quite Coup

Sine ira et studio

Tacitus, see Wikipedia

The term "Quiet coup" which means the hijacking of the political power in the USA by financial oligarchy was introduced by Simon H. Johnson, a British-American economist, who currently is the Ronald A. Kurtz Professor of Entrepreneurship at the MIT Sloan School of Management and a senior fellow at the Peterson Institute for International Economics. From March 2007 through the end of August 2008, he was Chief Economist of the International Monetary Fund. The term was introduced in his article in Atlantic magazine, published in May 2009(The Quiet Coup - Simon Johnson - The Atlantic). Which opens with a revealing paragraph:

The crash has laid bare many unpleasant truths about the United States. One of the most alarming, says a former chief economist of the International Monetary Fund, is that the finance industry has effectively captured our government

The wealth of financial sector gave it unprecedented opportunities of simply buying the political power iether directly or indirectly (via revolving door mechanism):

Becoming a Banana Republic

In its depth and suddenness, the U.S. economic and financial crisis is shockingly reminiscent of moments we have recently seen in emerging markets (and only in emerging markets): South Korea (1997), Malaysia (1998), Russia and Argentina (time and again). In each of those cases, global investors, afraid that the country or its financial sector wouldn’t be able to pay off mountainous debt, suddenly stopped lending. And in each case, that fear became self-fulfilling, as banks that couldn’t roll over their debt did, in fact, become unable to pay. This is precisely what drove Lehman Brothers into bankruptcy on September 15, causing all sources of funding to the U.S. financial sector to dry up overnight. Just as in emerging-market crises, the weakness in the banking system has quickly rippled out into the rest of the economy, causing a severe economic contraction and hardship for millions of people.

But there’s a deeper and more disturbing similarity: elite business interests—financiers, in the case of the U.S.—played a central role in creating the crisis, making ever-larger gambles, with the implicit backing of the government, until the inevitable collapse. More alarming, they are now using their influence to prevent precisely the sorts of reforms that are needed, and fast, to pull the economy out of its nosedive. The government seems helpless, or unwilling, to act against them.

Top investment bankers and government officials like to lay the blame for the current crisis on the lowering of U.S. interest rates after the dotcom bust or, even better—in a “buck stops somewhere else” sort of way—on the flow of savings out of China. Some on the right like to complain about Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac, or even about longer-standing efforts to promote broader homeownership. And, of course, it is axiomatic to everyone that the regulators responsible for “safety and soundness” were fast asleep at the wheel.

But these various policies — lightweight regulation, cheap money, the unwritten Chinese-American economic alliance, the promotion of homeownership—had something in common. Even though some are traditionally associated with Democrats and some with Republicans, they all benefited the financial sector. Policy changes that might have forestalled the crisis but would have limited the financial sector’s profits — such as Brooksley Born’s now-famous attempts to regulate credit-default swaps at the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, in 1998—were ignored or swept aside.

The financial industry has not always enjoyed such favored treatment. But for the past 25 years or so, finance has boomed, becoming ever more powerful. The boom began with the Reagan years, and it only gained strength with the deregulatory policies of the Clinton and George W. Bush administrations. Several other factors helped fuel the financial industry’s ascent. Paul Volcker’s monetary policy in the 1980s, and the increased volatility in interest rates that accompanied it, made bond trading much more lucrative. The invention of securitization, interest-rate swaps, and credit-default swaps greatly increased the volume of transactions that bankers could make money on. And an aging and increasingly wealthy population invested more and more money in securities, helped by the invention of the IRA and the 401(k) plan. Together, these developments vastly increased the profit opportunities in financial services.

Not surprisingly, Wall Street ran with these opportunities. From 1973 to 1985, the financial sector never earned more than 16 percent of domestic corporate profits. In 1986, that figure reached 19 percent. In the 1990s, it oscillated between 21 percent and 30 percent, higher than it had ever been in the postwar period. This decade, it reached 41 percent. Pay rose just as dramatically. From 1948 to 1982, average compensation in the financial sector ranged between 99 percent and 108 percent of the average for all domestic private industries. From 1983, it shot upward, reaching 181 percent in 2007.

The great wealth that the financial sector created and concentrated gave bankers enormous political weight — a weight not seen in the U.S. since the era of J.P. Morgan (the man). In that period, the banking panic of 1907 could be stopped only by coordination among private-sector bankers: no government entity was able to offer an effective response. But that first age of banking oligarchs came to an end with the passage of significant banking regulation in response to the Great Depression; the reemergence of an American financial oligarchy is quite recent.

He further researched this theme in his book 2010 book 13 Bankers The Wall Street Takeover and the Next Financial Meltdown  (ISBN 978-0307379054), coauthored with James Kwak. They also founded and regularly contributes to the economics blog The Baseline Scenario. See also History of Casino Capitalism

The net effect of the ideological counter-revolution based on market fundamentalism ideology was that it restored the power of financial oligarchy typical for Gilded Age. As Simon Johnson argues that was partially done by subverting regulators and that oversize institutions always disproportionately influence public policy:

The second problem the U.S. faces—the power of the oligarchy—is just as important as the immediate crisis of lending. And the advice from the IMF on this front would again be simple: break the oligarchy.

Oversize institutions disproportionately influence public policy; the major banks we have today draw much of their power from being too big to fail. Nationalization and re-privatization would not change that; while the replacement of the bank executives who got us into this crisis would be just and sensible, ultimately, the swapping-out of one set of powerful managers for another would change only the names of the oligarchs.

Ideally, big banks should be sold in medium-size pieces, divided regionally or by type of business. Where this proves impractical—since we’ll want to sell the banks quickly—they could be sold whole, but with the requirement of being broken up within a short time. Banks that remain in private hands should also be subject to size limitations.

This may seem like a crude and arbitrary step, but it is the best way to limit the power of individual institutions in a sector that is essential to the economy as a whole. Of course, some people will complain about the "efficiency costs" of a more fragmented banking system, and these costs are real. But so are the costs when a bank that is too big to fail—a financial weapon of mass self-destruction—explodes. Anything that is too big to fail is too big to exist.

To ensure systematic bank breakup, and to prevent the eventual reemergence of dangerous behemoths, we also need to overhaul our antitrust legislation. Laws put in place more than 100years ago to combat industrial monopolies were not designed to address the problem we now face. The problem in the financial sector today is not that a given firm might have enough market share to influence prices; it is that one firm or a small set of interconnected firms, by failing, can bring down the economy. The Obama administration’s fiscal stimulus evokes FDR, but what we need to imitate here is Teddy Roosevelt’s trust-busting.

Caps on executive compensation, while redolent of populism, might help restore the political balance of power and deter the emergence of a new oligarchy. Wall Street’s main attraction—to the people who work there and to the government officials who were only too happy to bask in its reflected glory—has been the astounding amount of money that could be made. Limiting that money would reduce the allure of the financial sector and make it more like any other industry.

Still, outright pay caps are clumsy, especially in the long run. And most money is now made in largely unregulated private hedge funds and private-equity firms, so lowering pay would be complicated. Regulation and taxation should be part of the solution. Over time, though, the largest part may involve more transparency and competition, which would bring financial-industry fees down. To those who say this would drive financial activities to other countries, we can now safely say: fine.

Two Paths

To paraphrase Joseph Schumpeter, the early-20th-century economist, everyone has elites; the important thing is to change them from time to time. If the U.S. were just another country, coming to the IMF with hat in hand, I might be fairly optimistic about its future. Most of the emerging-market crises that I’ve mentioned ended relatively quickly, and gave way, for the most part, to relatively strong recoveries. But this, alas, brings us to the limit of the analogy between the U.S. and emerging markets.

Emerging-market countries have only a precarious hold on wealth, and are weaklings globally. When they get into trouble, they quite literally run out of money—or at least out of foreign currency, without which they cannot survive. They must make difficult decisions; ultimately, aggressive action is baked into the cake. But the U.S., of course, is the world’s most powerful nation, rich beyond measure, and blessed with the exorbitant privilege of paying its foreign debts in its own currency, which it can print. As a result, it could very well stumble along for years—as Japan did during its lost decade—never summoning the courage to do what it needs to do, and never really recovering. A clean break with the past—involving the takeover and cleanup of major banks—hardly looks like a sure thing right now. Certainly no one at the IMF can force it.

In my view, the U.S. faces two plausible scenarios. The first involves complicated bank-by-bank deals and a continual drumbeat of (repeated) bailouts, like the ones we saw in February with Citigroup and AIG. The administration will try to muddle through, and confusion will reign.

Boris Fyodorov, the late finance minister of Russia, struggled for much of the past 20 years against oligarchs, corruption, and abuse of authority in all its forms. He liked to say that confusion and chaos were very much in the interests of the powerful—letting them take things, legally and illegally, with impunity. When inflation is high, who can say what a piece of property is really worth? When the credit system is supported by byzantine government arrangements and backroom deals, how do you know that you aren’t being fleeced?

Our future could be one in which continued tumult feeds the looting of the financial system, and we talk more and more about exactly how our oligarchs became bandits and how the economy just can’t seem to get into gear.

The second scenario begins more bleakly, and might end that way too. But it does provide at least some hope that we’ll be shaken out of our torpor. It goes like this: the global economy continues to deteriorate, the banking system in east-central Europe collapses, and—because eastern Europe’s banks are mostly owned by western European banks—justifiable fears of government insolvency spread throughout the Continent. Creditors take further hits and confidence falls further. The Asian economies that export manufactured goods are devastated, and the commodity producers in Latin America and Africa are not much better off. A dramatic worsening of the global environment forces the U.S. economy, already staggering, down onto both knees. The baseline growth rates used in the administration’s current budget are increasingly seen as unrealistic, and the rosy "stress scenario" that the U.S. Treasury is currently using to evaluate banks’ balance sheets becomes a source of great embarrassment.

Under this kind of pressure, and faced with the prospect of a national and global collapse, minds may become more concentrated.

The conventional wisdom among the elite is still that the current slump "cannot be as bad as the Great Depression." This view is wrong. What we face now could, in fact, be worse than the Great Depression—because the world is now so much more interconnected and because the banking sector is now so big. We face a synchronized downturn in almost all countries, a weakening of confidence among individuals and firms, and major problems for government finances. If our leadership wakes up to the potential consequences, we may yet see dramatic action on the banking system and a breaking of the old elite. Let us hope it is not then too late.

It is pretty interesting to see how financial oligarchy filters information provided to the population to fit their biases. For example, the key facts about repeal of Glass-Steagall law  (BTW Joe Biden voted for it) mostly hidden from the public: 

Commodity Futures Trading Commission — under the leadership of Mr. Gramm’s wife, Wendy — had approved rules in 1989 and 1993 exempting some swaps and derivatives from regulation. In December 2000, the Commodity Futures Modernization Act was passed as part of a larger bill by unanimous consent after Senator Gramm dominated the Senate debate...

"He was the architect, advocate and the most knowledgeable person in Congress on these topics," Mr. Donovan said. "To me, Phil Gramm is the single most important reason for the current financial crisis."

"The virtually unregulated over-the-counter market in credit-default swaps has played a significant role in the credit crisis, including the now $167 billion taxpayer rescue of A.I.G.," Christopher Cox, the chairman of the S.E.C. and a former congressman, said Friday.

But you will never find discussion of flaws and adverse consequences Phil Gram (or Greenspan for a change) initiatives in Heritage Foundation and other right-wing think tanks publications.

Stages of transformation

So what we are experiencing is a the completion of the transformation of one phase of capitalism to another. It happened in stages:

  1. Manufacturing stagnated and can't provide the "decent" rate of growth. Competition from re-built Europe and Asian markets severely stressed the US manufacturing. due to competition return of capital dropped and in several industries became negative.

  2. Computers brought innovations into financial markets. They make possible real time trading of induces like S&P500, complex financial instruments like derivatives, etc. Later they enables superfast trading (HFT). All those instruments dramatically increased the possibilities of extracting the rent by financial institutions from the society.

  3. Globalization kicked in due to new opportunities offered by high speed global communications (Internet). And that is not limited to outsourcing. Due to globalization the sheer size of the financial markets increased to the extent that they started to represent a different, new transnational phenomena allowing new types of redistribution of wealth to be practiced. Integration of Russian elite (oligarchs) is just one example of this process. In case of pro-western oligarchs (fifth column) West went to significant length to protect them and their racket (Mikhail Khodorkovsky - Wikipedia,)

  4. Commercial banks turned into investment banks to exploit this opportunity.

  5. Financial sector completely corrupted academic science converting most economists to pay prostitutes which serve their interests.

  6. Collapse of the USSR provided the financial sector major shoot in the arm and a golden, once in century opportunity to finance new half-billion consumers and stole for a penny on a dollar huge industrial assets and natural resources as well as put most of those countries in the debt (Latin-Americanization of xUSSR space). Harvard Mafia (with some support from London) did the bidding of western banks in xUSSR space. As more becomes known about the laundering of Russian money in Western banks, many in the United States will likely try to hide behind stories of faraway organized crime. But U.S. policy toward Russia has contributed to that country's sorry conditions--with the Harvard Institute for International Development's Russia project (HIID) playing a major role (Harvard's 'Best and Brightest' Aided Russia's Economic Ruin ). Professor Jeffery Sacks provided a bogus idea of "shock therapy" to achieve spectacular for Western banks result. As a result all xUSSR space became new Latin America with typical for Latin America problems like huge level of inequality, prostitution, child poverty, and prominent role of organized crime.

  7. Banks became dominant political force on western societies with no real counterbalance from other parts of the elite. The first president completely subservient to banking elite was elected in the USA in 1992. Bill Clinton regime lasted eight years and along with economic rape of xUSSR space in best colonial powers tradition, it removed what was left of financial regulations after the flurry of deregulation of the early 1980s. And they behaved as an occupying force not only in xUSSR space but in the USA as well. They deprived workers out of their jobs, they abolished the US pension system as it impede playing with population money and replaced in with widely inadequate 401K plans. They deprived municipalities out of their revenues and assets, while municipalities became just a den of bond traders looking for then next mark which give them the ability to put municipalities deeper in debt.

  8. Newly acquired political power of financial elite speeded the shift to bank "self-regulation" created huge shadow banking system which dwarf "official" under the smoke screen of "free-market" propaganda and PR from a coterie of corrupts academics (Chicago Scholl, Harvard Mafia, etc) . It engaged in pursuit of short term profits and self-enrichment of top brass which became new elite by-and-large displacing not only the old one, but also the newly minted IT elite of dot-com boom. Using newly acquired power financial elite remove all regulations that hamper their interests. Glass-Steagall was repealed at the last days of Clinton presidency, financial derivatives became unregulated.

  9. Deindustrialization kicked in. As financial speculation proved to be much more profitable to other activities deindustrialization kicked in the USA as the financial center of the world. Outsourcing which first was limited to manufacturing jobs now extent its reach on IT and decimate previously profitable sector and its export potential.

  10. Externalities can no longer be suppressed and economics became unstable. Growth of inequality, job insecurity, as well as frequency of financial crises were natural consequences of financialization of the economy. They create huge imbalances, like bubble in residential real estate which was blown with the help and full support of the USA government as a way to overcome dot-com crisis consequences.

  11. Debt crisis strikes. Growth of debt became unsustainable and produces the financial crisis of enormous proportions. By their reckless policies and greed financial sector caused huge financial crisis of 2008 and now they are forcing national governments to auction off their cultural heritage to the highest bidder. Everything must go in fire sales at prices rigged by twenty-something largest banks, the most corrupt institutions the world has ever known.

  12. Devastating "local" wars became "new normal". Due to financial crisis, the overconsumption in western economies came under threat. Debt expansion which led to overconsumption within the western economies affected (or infected) by financialization. To sustain the current standard of living financial expansion became the necessity. It took the form of a competition for spheres of influence in the area of energy supplies, which we see in post USSR space, Iraq, Libya and elsewhere. And central banks play critical role in financing wars. After all Banks of England was created with this exact purpose.

I think by 2008 when the second major financial crisis hit the USA, the transformation on the USA economy into casino capitalism, which is essentially implementation of neoliberal doctrine (or more correctly the US brand of corporatism) was by-and-large complete.

In short we are living in a new politico-economic system in which financial capital won victory over both labor and industrial capital. We might not like what we got, but financial elite is now a new ruling class and this fact is difficult to dispute. As a result. instead of the robber barons of the early 20th century (some of whom actually created/consolidated new industries), we have the top executives from investment banks, insurers and mortgage industry who represent a new Rentier class, much like old aristocracy.

They are living off parasitic monopolization of access to any (physical, financial, intellectual, etc.) kind of property and gaining significant amount of profit without contribution to society (see Rentier capitalism which is a very fuzzy term for neoliberal model of capitalism).

Casino Capitalism as a result of stagnation of industrial manufacturing

Stagnation of industrial manufacturing droved up financial speculation as the method to compensate for falling rate on return on capital. This stagnation became prominent during Reagan administration (which started the major shift toward neoliberalism), although signs of it were present from early 60th.

For example Chicago which was a manufacturing center since 1969 lost approximately 400K manufacturing jobs which were replaced mainly by FIRE-related jobs, In 1995 over 22% of those employed by FIRE industries (66K people) were working in executive and managerial positions. Another 17% are in marketing, sales and processional specialty occupations (computer system analysts, PR specialists, writer and editors).

Those changes in the structure of employment had several consequences:

  1. The stagnation of the underlying economy meant that capitalists were increasingly dependent on the growth of finance to preserve and enlarge their money capital.
  2. The financial superstructure of the capitalist economy could not expand independently of its base -- underlying productive economy — hence the bursting of speculative bubbles became a recurrent and growing problem.
  3. Financialization could never overcome stagnation of industrial production. It is just an opium for rich, not a structural adjustment of the stagnation-prone economy. But like addition to narcotics does to human body it does tremendous damage to real economy.
  4. Rapid increase in inequality is necessary to sustain the appetites of the elite in the system with fixed size of the pie. Politico-economic conditions might became even more unfavorable for labor. Stagnation of industrial production mean shrinking pie, which necessitates redistribution of wealth in favor of a new, all-powerful financial Rentier class. This redistribution resulted in partial wipe-out of large swats of middle class. For the past three decades, America has steadily converted itself into a nation of haves (as Bush II quipped "This is an impressive crowd -- the haves and the have mores! Some people call you the elite -- I call you my base". ) and have-nots. The cost of a college education rises rapidly at a time when wages for skilled labor stagnate, so access to college became against discriminated in favor of upper class of the society. Repressive apparatus and ideological brainwashing are too strong to mount effective resistance.

The key to understanding of Casino Capitalism is that it was a series of government decisions (or rather non-decisions) that converted the state into neoliberal model. In other words casino capitalism has distinct "Government property" mark. It was the USA elite, which refused to act responsibly in the face of changing economic conditions resulting from its own actions, and instead chose to try to perpetuate, by whatever means it had at its disposal, the institutional advantages of dollar as a reserve currency which it had vis-à-vis its main economic rivals and grab as large part of the world economic pie as it can. And this power grab was supported first of all by the role of dollar as currency in which oil is traded.

There might be some geo-strategically motives as well as the US elite in late 80th perceived that competitiveness is slipping out of the USA and the danger of deindustrialization is real. Many accuse Reagan with the desire to ride dollar status as a world reserve currency (exorbitant privilege) until the horse is dead. That's what real cowboys do in Hollywood movies... But the collapse of the main rival, the USSR vindicated this strategy and give a strong short in the arm to financialization of the economy. Actually for the next ten years can be called a triumphal ascend of financialization in the USA.

Dominance of FIRE industries clustered up and in recent years reached in the USA quite dramatic proportions. The old Bolsheviks saying "When we say Lenin we mean the Party and when we say the Party we mean Lenin" now can be reworded: "Now it we say US banks, we mean the US government and vise versa if we say US government we mean US banks".

According to the Center for Responsive Politics, the FIRE sector was and is the biggest contributor to federal candidates in Washington. Companies cannot give directly, so they leave it to bundlers to solicit maximum contributions from employees and families. They might have been brought down to earth this year, but they’ve given like Gods: Goldman Sachs, $4.8 million; Citigroup, $3.7 million; J.P. Morgan Chase & Co., $3.6 million; Merrill Lynch, $2.3 million; Lehman Brothers, $2.1 million; Bank of America, $2.1 million. Some think the long-term effect of such contributions to individual candidates was clear in the roll-call votes for the bailout.

Take the controversial first House vote on bailout of major banks on Sept. 29, 2008. According to CRP, the "ayes" had received 53 percent more contributions from FIRE since 1989 than those who voted against the bill, which ultimately failed 228 to 205. The 140 House Democrats who voted for the bill got an average of $188,572 in this election cycle, while the 65 Republicans backing it got an average of $185,461 from FIRE—about 23 percent more than the bill’s opponents received. A tinkered bill was passed four days later, 263 to 171.

According to the article Fire Sale (The American Conservative) half of Obama’s top ten contributors, together giving him nearly $2.2 million, are FIREmen. The $13 million contributed by FIRE executives to Obama campaign is probably an undercount. Democratic committee leaders are also dependent of FIRE contributions. The list includes Sen. Dodd ( please look at Senator Dodd's top donors for 2007-8 on openSecrets.org ) and Sen. Chuck Schumer ($12 million from FIRE since 1989), Rep. Barney Frank ($2.5 million), and Rep. Charlie Rangel ($4 million, the top recipient in the House). All of them have been accused of taking truckloads of contributions while failing to act on the looming mortgage crisis. Dodd finally pushed mortgage reform last year but by then as his hometown paper, The Hartford Courant stated, "the damage was done."

Casino Capitalism and Financial Instability

At the same time rise of financial capital dramatically increased instability. An oversized financial sector produces instability due to multiple positive feedback loops. In this sense we can talk about Financial Sector Induced Systemic Instability of Economy. The whole society became "House of cards", "Giant Enron" and "extension of Las Vegas". Reckless management, greed and out-right stupidity in playing derivatives games was natural consequence of the oversized financial sector, not just a human folly. In a way it was dramatic manifestation of the oversized financial sector negative influence of the economy. And in 2008 it did brought out economy to the brink of destruction. Peak oil added to suffocating effect on the economy of reckless gambling (and related debts) of financial sector producing the economic calamity that rivals Great Depression. Also, like Socialism, Casino Capitalism demands too much of its elite. And in reality, the financial elite much like Bolsheviks elite, is having its own interests above the interests of the society.

As Kevin Phillips noted "In the United States, political correctness, religious fundamentalism, and other inhibitions sometimes dumb down national debate". And the same statement is true for financial elite that became the center of power under the Casino Capitalism. Due to avalanche of greed the society became one giant Enron as money that are made from value addition in the form of manufacturing fade in significance to the volume of the money that is made from shuffling money around. In other was the Wall Street's locked USA in the situation from which there is no easy exit.

Self-reinforcing ‘positive’ feedback loops prevalent in Casino Capitalism trigger an accelerating creation of various debt instruments, interest of which at some point overwhelm the system carrying capacity. Ability to lend against good collateral is quickly exhausted. At some point apparently there is no good collateral against which lending freely was possible, even at high rates. This means that each new stage of financial innovation involves scam and fraud, on increasing scale. In other words Ponzi economy of "saving and loans" is replaced with Madoff economy.

Whether you shift the resulting huge private debt to public to increase confidence or not, the net result is of this development of events is a crisis and a huge debt that society needs to take. Actually the debt bubble in 2008 can only be compared to the debt bubble of 1933. The liquidation of Bear Sterns and Lehman was only a start of consolidation of finances and we need to find something that replace financial sector dominance in the national economy. It would be nice is some technological breakthrough happened which would lift the country out of this deep hole.

See Financial Sector Induced Systemic Instability of Economy for more details.

Neoliberalism as the Ideology of Casino Capitalism

Like Bolshevism was marked by deification of teaching of Marx and Lenin, converting them into pseudo-religious doctrine, the Casino Capitalism has its own deified ideological doctrine. It is the ideology of Neoliberalism. The latter as an ideology and an agenda seeks to topple democratic capitalism and replace it with a de facto unaccountable autocratic government which serves as channel of a wealth transfer from the public to a rentier elite. In a way it is a spectacular example of a successful (in a very negative sense) pseudo-religious doctrine.

Addiction of the societies to disastrous politico-economical doctrines are similar to addictions to alcohol and drugs in individuals. It is not easy to recover and it takes a long, long time and a lot of misery. As dissolution of the USSR aptly demonstrated not all societies can make it. In this case the USSR elite (nomenklatura) simply shed the old ideology as it understood that it will be better off adopting ideology of neoliberal capitalism; so it was revolution from above.  this abrupt switch created chaos in economics (which was applauded by Washington which under Clinton administration adopted the stance the Carnage needs to be destroyed and facilitated the process), criminal privatization of major industries, and pushed into object poverty the 99% of population of those countries. For some period under "drunk Yeltsyn" Russia sees to exist as an independent country and became a vassal of Washington.

This also means that "society at large" did not had effective brakes to the assent of financial plutocracy (aka financial oligarchy).  I would add to this the computer revolution and internet that made many financial transaction qualitatively different and often dramatically cheaper that in previous history. Computers also enabled creation of new financial players like mutual funds (which created a shadow banking system with their bond funds) , hedge funds, exchange-traded funds (ETFs), as well as high-frequency trading and derivatives.

From the historical view Reaganomics also can be considered to be the US flavor of Lysenkoism with economics instead of genetics as a target. Here is how Reaganomics is defined in Wikipedia

Reaganomics (a portmanteau of "Reagan" and "economics") refers to the economic policies promoted by United States President Ronald Reagan. The four pillars of Reagan's economic policy were to:[1]
  1. reduce the growth of government spending,
  2. reduce marginal tax rates on income from labor and capital,
  3. reduce government regulation of the economy,
  4. control the money supply to reduce inflation.

In attempting to cut back on domestic spending while lowering taxes, Reagan's approach was a departure from his immediate predecessors.

Reagan became president during a period of high inflation and unemployment (commonly referred to as stagflation), which had largely abated by the time he left office.

Please not that the Number 1 idea ("reduce government spending") was essentially a scam, a smoke screen designed to attract Rednecks as a powerful voting block. In a way this was a trick similar to one played by Bolsheviks in Russia with its "worker and peasants rule" smokescreen which covered brutal dictatorship. In reality all administrations which preached Reagonomics (including Clinton's) expanded the role of state and government spending. The number two was applied by-and-large to top 1%. The number three means deregulation in the interests of financial oligarchy and dismantling all social program that hamper profit of the latter (including privatizing of Social Security). The number fours is a scam, in the same sense as number one. As soon as financial institutions get in trouble, money are printed as if there is no tomorrow.

While the essence of Reagonomics was financial deregulation, the other important element was restoring the Gilded Age level of power of financial oligarchy which influence was diminished by FDR reforms. In this sense we can say that Reagan revolution was essentially a counter-revolution: an attempt to reverse the New Deal restrictions on financial sector and restore its dominance in the society.

Like it was the case in Bolshevism the ideology was developed and forced upon the society by a very small group of players. The key ideas of Casino Capitalism were formulated and implemented by Reagan administration with some contribution by Nixon (the role of rednecks aka "moral majority", "silent majority" as an important part of republican political base, which can be attracted to detrimental to its economic position policies by the smoke screen of false "moral" promises).

It was supported by each president after Reagan (paradoxically with Clinton having the most accomplished record -- he was the best Republican President in a very perverted way). Like in case of Lysenkoism opponents were purged and economic departments of the country were captured by principless careerists ready to tow the party line for personal enrichment. Like in case of Bolshevism, many of those special breed of careerists rotated from Republican Party into Fed and other government structures. A classic example of compulsive careerists that were used by finance sector to promote its interests was Alan Greenspan.

One of the key ideas of Reaganomics was the rejection of the sound approach that there should be a balance between too much government regulation and too little and that government role is important for smooth functioning of the market. In this area Reagan and its followers can be called Anarchists and their idea of 'free market" is a misnomer that masks the idea of "anarchic market" (corporate welfare to be exact -- as it was implemented). Emergence of corporate welfare Queens such as GS, Citi, AIG, are quite natural consequence of Reaganomics.

Reaganomics was a the US flavor of Lysenkoism with economics instead of generics as a target... It can and should be called Economic Lysenkoism.

The most interesting part of Reaganomics was that the power of this ideology made it possible to conditioned "working class" and middle class to act against their own economic interests. It helped to ensure the stagnation of wages during the whole 25 years period, which is close to what Soviets managed to achieve with working class of the USSR, but with much more resentment. This makes it in many ways very similar to Bolshevism as a whole, not just Lysenkoism (extremes meet or in less flattering way: "history repeats, first as a tragedy, then as farce).

Along with the term Reaganimics which implicitly stresses the deregulation, the other close term "market fundamentalism" is often used. Here is how market fundamentalism is defined (Longview Institute):

Market Fundamentalism is the exaggerated faith that when markets are left to operate on their own, they can solve all economic and social problems. Market Fundamentalism has dominated public policy debates in the United States since the 1980's, serving to justify huge Federal tax cuts, dramatic reductions in government regulatory activity, and continued efforts to downsize the government’s civilian programs.

Some level of government coercion (explicit or implicit ) is necessary for proper labeling of any pseudo-scientific theory with the term Lysenkoism. This holds true for both Market Fundamentalism (after all Reagan revolution was "revolution from above" by financial oligarchy and for financial oligarchy and hired guns from academia just do what powers that be expected) and, especially, Supply side economic. The political genius of those ideas is evident. Supply-side economics transformed Republicans from a minority party into a majority party. It allowed them to promise lower taxes, lower deficits and, in effect, unchanged spending. Why should people not like this combination? Who does not like a free lunch?

In this sense the Republican Party played the role very similar to the Communist Party of the USSR.

For example supply side economics was too bizarre and would never survive without explicit government support. This notion is supported by many influential observers. For example, in the following comment for Krugman article (Was the Great Depression a monetary phenomenon):

Market fundamentalism (neoclassical counter-revolution — to be more academic) was more of a political construct than based on sound economic theory. However, it would take a while before its toxic legacy is purged from the economics departments. Indeed, in some universities this might never happen.

Extreme deregulation and extreme regulation (Brezhnev socialism) logically meets and both represent a variant of extremely corrupt society that cannot be sustained for long (using bayonets as in the case of USSR or using reserve currency and increasing leverage as is the case of the USA). In both cases the societies were economically and ideologically bankrupt at the end.

Actually, elements of market fundamentalism looks more like religious doctrine than political philosophy — and that bonds its even closer to Lysenkoism. In both cases critics were silenced with the help of the state. It is interesting to note that Reaganomics was wiped into frenzy after the dissolution of the USSR, the country which gave birth to the term of Lysenkoism. In a way the last act of the USSR was to stick a knife in the back of the USA. As a side note I would like to stress that contrary to critics the USSR was more of a neo-feudal society with elements of slavery under Stalin. Gulag population were essentially state slaves; paradoxically a somewhat similar status is typical for illegal immigrants in industrialized countries. From this point of view this category of "state slaves" is generally more numerous that gulag inmates. Prison population also can be counted along those lines.

It look like either implicitly or explicitly Reagan's bet was on restoration of gilded Age with its dominance of financial oligarchy, an attempt to convert the USA into new Switzerland on the "exorbitant privilege" of dollar status as the global fiat currency.

Casino Capitalism is characterized by political dominance of FIRE industries (finance, insurance, and real estate) and diminished role of other and first of all manufacturing industries. It was also accompanied by the drastic growth of inequality (New Gilded Age). Its defining feature is "the triumph of the trader in assets over the long-term producer" in Martin Wolf's words.

Voodoo economic theories

Attempts of theoretical justification of Economic Lysenkoism fall into several major categories:

Those can be called pillars, cornerstones of Economic Lysenkoism. Each of the deserves as separate article (see links above).

Historically especially important was Chicago school of market fundamentalism promoted pseudo-scientific theories of Milton Freedman (Chicago School) as well as supply side economics.

Collapse of the USSR as ideological justification of Casino Capitalism superiority

The huge boost of Casino Capitalism was given by the collapse of the USSR in 1991. That gave a second life to Reagan era. Collapse of the USSR was used as a vindication of market fundamentalism. After it New Deal regulations were systematically destroyed. Dumped down variants of Nietzsche philosophy like bastardatized variant promoted by Russian emigrant became fashionable with an individual "creative" entrepreneur as a new Übermensch, which stands above morality.

"The word Übermensch [designates] a type of supreme achievement, as opposed to 'modern' men, 'good' men, Christians, and other nihilists ... When I whispered into the ears of some people that they were better off looking for a Cesare Borgia than a Parsifal, they did not believe their ears."[9] Safranski argues that the combination of ruthless warrior pride and artistic brilliance that defined the Italian Renaissance embodied the sense of the Übermensch for Nietzsche. According to Safranski, Nietzsche intended the ultra-aristocratic figure of the Übermensch to serve as a Machiavellian bogeyman of the modern Western middle class and its pseudo-Christian egalitarian value system.[10]

Brainwashing

The instability and volatility of active markets can devalue the economic base of real lives, or in more macro-scenarios can lead to the collapse of national and regional economies. In a very interesting and grotesque way it also incorporates the key element of Brezhnev Socialism in everyday life: huge manipulation of reality by mass media to the extend that Pravda and the USSR First TV Channel look pretty objective in comparison with Fox news and Fox controlled newspapers. Complete poisoning of public discourse and relying on the most ignorant part of the population as the political base (pretty much reminiscent of how Bolsheviks played "Working Class Dictatorship" anti-intellectualism card; it can be called "Rednecks Dictatorship").

The "heroes" or transformation of US economy to casino capitalism model

While transformation to casino capitalism was an objective development, there were specific individuals who were instrumental in killing New Deal regulations. We would single out the following twelve figures:

  1. Ronald Reagan (although first steps toward casino capitalism were made under Carter).
  2. Milton Friedman
  3. Alan Greenspan
  4. Phil Gramm
  5. Robert Rubin
  6. Larry Summers
  7. Helicopter Ben
  8. Bush II
  9. Bill Clinton
  10. Sandy Weill
  11. Jeffrey Sachs with his "shock therapy" racket
  12. Martin Feldstein

There is no question that Reagan and most of his followers (Greenspan, Rubin, Phil Gramm, etc) were rabid radicals blinded by ideology. But they were radicals of quite different color then FDR with disastrous consequences for society. Here again the analogy with Bolsheviks looms strong. In a way, they can be called financial terrorists inflicting huge damage on the nation and I wonder if RICO can be use to prosecute at least some of them.

In Bailout Nation (Chapter 19) Barry Ritholtz tried to rank major players that led country into the current abyss:

1. Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan
2. The Federal Reserve (in its role of setting monetary policy)
3. Senator Phil Gramm
4-6. Moody’s Investors Service, Standard & Poor’s, and Fitch Ratings (rating agencies)
7. The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC)
8-9. Mortgage originators and lending banks
10. Congress
11. The Federal Reserve again (in its role as bank regulator)
12. Borrowers and home buyers
13-17. The five biggest Wall Street firms (Bear Stearns, Lehman Brothers, Merrill Lynch,Morgan Stanley, and Goldman Sachs) and their CEOs
18. President George W. Bush
19. President Bill Clinton
20. President Ronald Reagan
21-22. Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson
23-24. Treasury Secretaries Robert Rubin and Lawrence Summers
25. FOMC Chief Ben Bernanke
26. Mortgage brokers
27. Appraisers (the dishonest ones)
28. Collateralized debt obligation (CDO) managers (who produced the junk)
29. Institutional investors (pensions, insurance firms, banks, etc.) for
buying the junk
30-31. Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC); Office of Thrift
Supervision (OTS)
32. State regulatory agencies
33. Structured investment vehicles (SIVs)/hedge funds for buying the junk

Early Researchers of Casino Capitalism

Hyman Minsky

Hyman Minsky argued that a key mechanism that pushes an economy towards a crisis is the accumulation of debt and the fact the financial system represents a positive feedback loop that tend to destabilize the system, creating ossilations in the form of boom and bust cycles. . He identified 3 types of borrowers that contribute to the accumulation of insolvent debt: Hedge Borrowers; Speculative Borrowers; and Ponzi Borrowers. That corresponds to three stages of Casino Capitalism of increasing fragility:

Growth of debt and increased levarate at some point create predocition of the crash. The stage of business cycle at which those preconditions are met is called "Minsky moment":

A Minsky moment is the point in a credit cycle or business cycle when investors are starting to have cash flow problems due to spiraling debt they have incurred in order to finance speculative or Ponzy investments.

At this point, a major selloff begins due to the fact that no counterparty can be found to bid at the high asking prices previously quoted, leading to a sudden and precipitous collapse in market clearing asset prices and a sharp drop in market liquidity.[1]

After the collapse of the USSR there were a lot of chest thumping of the status of America as a hyper power (American exceptionalism) and the "end of history" where neoliberalism that displaced Brazhvev socialism (and wiped out the socialist camp) was supposed to reign supreme forever.

But this triumphal march of neoliberalism was short lived. The system proved to be self-destructive due to strong positive feedback look from the unregulated financial sector.

But in 2000 the first moment to pay the piper arrives. It was postponed by Iraq war and housing bubble, but reappeared in much more menacing form in 2008. In 2009 the USA experienced a classic Minsky moment with high unemployment rate and economy suppressed by (and taken hostage) by Ponzi finance institutions which threaten the very survival of the capitalist system and way of life. Huge injection freom the state halped to save the economy from disintration, but the price was very high. And  after 2009 the US economy entered the period prologed stagnation, called  the perios of "secular stagnation".

In events preceding 2008 the shift from speculative toward Ponzi finance was speed up by increased corruption of major players.  The drive to redistribute wealth up destroyed any remnants of the rule of the law in the USA. It became a neo-feudal two casts society with "Masters of the Universe" as the upper cast (top 1% ) and "despicables" (lower 80%) as the lower cast. With some comprador strata of professional in between (top 20% or so), who generally support the upper cast.

Loweer cast experienced deterioration of the standard of living, loss of well paying jobs to outsourcing and offshoring and in 2016 revolted electing Trump, who defeated Hillary Clinton, who became a real symbol of the corruption of neoliberal system. 

"As Minsky observed, capitalism is inherently unstable. As each crisis is successfully contained, it encourages greater speculation and risk taking in borrowing and lending. Financial innovation makes it easier to finance various schemes. To a large extent, borrowers and lenders operate on the basis of trial and error. If a behavior is rewarded, it will be repeated. Thus stable periods naturally lead to optimism, to booms, and to increasing fragility.

A financial crisis can lead to asset price deflation and repudiation of debt. A debt deflation, once started, is very difficult to stop. It may not end until balance sheets are largely purged of bad debts, at great loss in financial wealth to the creditors as well as the economy at large."

For more information see

Susan Strange

For Strange the speed at which computerized financial markets work combined with their much larger size and  near-universal pervasiveness is an important qualitative change, that changes the social system into what he called "casino capitalism".  She actually popularized the term "Casino Capitalism" with her important book Casino Capitalism  published in 1997.

One of the side effects of this change is that volatility extends globally. Approximately $1.5 trillion dollars are invested daily as foreign transactions. It is estimated that 98% of these transactions are speculative. In comparison with this casino Las Vegas looks like a aborigine village in comparison with Manhattan.

Notes:

Susan Strange (June 9, 1923 - October 25, 1998) was a British academic who was influential in the field of international political economy. Her most important publications include

For a quarter of a century, Susan Strange was the most influential figure in British international studies. She held a number of key academic posts in Britain, Italy and Japan. From 1978 to 1988, she was Montague Burton Professor of International Relations at the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE), the first woman to hold this chair and a professorial position in international relations at the LSE. She was a major figure in the professional associations of both Britain and the US: she was an instrumental founding member and first Treasurer of the British International Studies Association (BISA) [1] and the first female President of the International Studies Association (ISA) in 1995.

It was predominantly as a creative scholar and a forceful personality that she exercised her influence. She was almost single-handedly responsible for creating ‘international political economy’ and turning it into one of the two or three central fields within international studies in Britain, and she defended her creation with such robustness, and made such strong claims on its behalf, that her influence was felt—albeit not always welcomed—in most other areas of the discipline. She was one of the earliest and most influential campaigners for the closer integration of the study of international politics and international economics in the English language scholarship.

In the later period of her career, alongside the financial analyses offered in Casino Capitalism (the analysis in which she felt was vindicated by the South-East Asian financial crisis) and Mad Money, Strange's contributions to the field include her characterisation of the four different areas (production, security, finance and knowledge) through which power might be exercised in International Relations. This understanding of what she termed "structural power", formed the basis of her argument against the theory of American Hegemonic Decline in the early eighties.

Her analysis particularly in States and Markets focused on what she called the ‘market-authority nexus’, the see-saw of power between the market and political authority. The overall argument of her work suggested that the global market had gained significant power relative to states since the 1970s.

This led her to dub the Westphalia system Westfailure. She argued that a ‘dangerous gap’ was emerging between territorially-bound nation states and weak or partial intergovernmental cooperation in which markets had a free hand which could be constructive or destructive.

John K. Galbraith

Among important early critiques of casino capitalism was John K. Galbraith. He promoted a pretty novel idea that the major economic function of Governments is to strengthen countervailing powers to achieve some kind of balance between capital and labor.

While unions are far from being perfect and tend to slide into corruption due to "iron law of oligarchy" when thier management stop representing interests of thwe worksers and start to reprreesnt interest of thier own narry strate of fat cats,  there were the only sizable countewailing power that made the New Seal possible.

His prediction proved to be wrong as government actually represent the capitalist class and is not that interested in creating this balance, which was convincingly demonstrated by Thatcher and Reagan.  Both Britain and the USA start sliding into a new form of corporations, called neoliberalism which actually does not allocate any space for uniot at the negotiation table and strive for their complete elimination and "atomization" of work force, when each invididual is up to himself to find employment and group solidarity is suppressed by instilling neoliberal ideology in schools and universitites as well as via MSM (which in the USA surprisingly never were allowed to use the work neoliberlaism, as if it represents some secret Masonic cult)

And it does not look like there is any renewed support of unions right  (including important right to organize) at the  post subprime/derivatives/shadow_banking crisis stage of neoliberalism, when neoliberal ideology became sufficiently discredited to allow rise of populist politicians such as Trump. 

Still John K. Galbraith critique of primitive market fundamentalism of Milton Freedman and the whole pseudoscience of neoclassical economics which like Marxist political economy is one of there pillars of neoliberalism (along with Randism as philosophy and Neoconservatism or "Trotskyism for the rich" in politics), still has its value today. As Joseph Stiglitz noted (CSMonitor, Dec 28, 2006):

...In many ways, Galbraith was a more critical observer of economic reality.

Driven to understand market realities

Galbraith's vivid depictions of the good, bad, and ugly of American capitalism remain a sorely needed reminder that all is not quite as perfect as the perfect market models – with their perfect competition, perfect information, and perfectly rational consumers – upon which so much of Friedman's analysis depended.

Galbraith, who cut his teeth studying agricultural economics, strove to understand the world as it was, with all the problems of unemployment and market power that simplistic models of competitive markets ignore. In those models, unemployment didn't exist. Galbraith knew that made them fatally flawed

... ... ...

In his early research, Galbraith attempted to explain what had brought on the Great Crash of 1929 – including the role of the stock market's speculative greed fed by (what would today be called) irrational exuberance. Friedman ignored speculation and the failure of the labor market as he focused on the failures of the Federal Reserve. To Friedman, government was the problem, not the solution.

What Galbraith understood, and what later researchers (including this author) have proved, is that Adam Smith's "invisible hand" – the notion that the individual pursuit of maximum profit guides capitalist markets to efficiency – is so invisible because, quite often, it's just not there. Unfettered markets often produce too much of some things, such as pollution, and too little of other things, such as basic research. As Bruce Greenwald and I have shown, whenever information is imperfect – that is, always – markets are inefficient; hence the need for government action.

Galbraith reminded us that what made the economy work so well was not an invisible hand but countervailing powers. He had the misfortune of articulating these ideas before the mathematical models of game theory were sufficiently developed to give them expression. The good news is that today, more attention is being devoted to developing models of these bargaining relationships, and to complex, dynamic models of economic fluctuations in which speculation may play a central role.

Government's role

While Friedman never really appreciated the limitations of the market, he was a forceful critic of government. Yet history shows that in every successful country, the government had played an important role. Yes, governments sometimes fail, but unfettered markets are a certain prescription for failure. Galbraith made this case better than most.

Galbraith knew, too, that people aren't just rational economic actors, but consumers, contending with advertising, political persuasion, and social pressures. It was because of his close touch with reality that he had such influence on economic policymaking, especially during the Kennedy-Johnson years.

Galbraith's penetrating insights into the nature of capitalism – as it is lived, not as it is theorized in simplistic models – has enhanced our understanding of the market economy. He has left an intellectual legacy for generations to come. And he has left a gap in our intellectual life: Who will stand up against the economics establishment to articulate an economic vision that is both in touch with reality and comprehensible to ordinary citizens?

Galbraith was vindicated in his belief that the only economics possible is political economics and that government is always an agent of dominant class. As such it always pursue poklitics favorable to this class, just making marginal efforts to prevent the open revolt of lower classes.

In 2008 neoliberal economist such as Krugman and (to a lesse extent) Stiglitz both have eaten humble pie, because according to neoclassical economics the crises should not have happened. Both should now reread Galbraith's The Great Crash: 1929 (see also extracts).  Krugman also need to shred his previous writings with this mathiness execises of using differential equations to justify the dominance of financial oligarchy,  and eat them with borsch ;-)

BTW it is interesting that in 1996 neoliberal stooge Paul Krugman criticized limitations of Galbright vision in the following way:

To be both a liberal and a good economist you must have a certain sense of the tragic--that is, you must understand that not all goals can be attained, that life is a matter of painful tradeoffs. You must want to help the poor, but understand that welfare can encourage dependency. You must want to protect those who lose their jobs, but admit that generous unemployment benefits can raise the long-term rate of unemployment. You must be willing to tax the affluent to help those in need, but accept that too high a rate of taxation can discourage investment and innovation.

To the free-market conservative, these are all arguments for government to do nothing, to accept whatever level of poverty and insecurity the market happens to produce. A serious liberal does not reply to such conservatives by denying that there are any trade-offs at all; he insists, rather, that some trade-offs are worth making, that helping the poor and protecting the unlucky may have costs but will ultimately make for a better society.

The revelation one gets from reading John Kenneth Galbraith's The Good Society is that Galbraith--who is one of the world's most celebrated intellectuals, and whom one would expect to have a deeper appreciation of the complexity of the human condition than a mere technical economist would -- lacks this tragic sense. Galbraith's vision of the economy is one without shadows, in which what is good for social justice always turns out to have no unfavorable side effects. If this vision is typical of liberal intellectuals, the ineffectuality of the tribe is not an accident: It stems from a deep-seated unwillingness to face up to uncomfortable reality.

Similar limited understanding of Galbright is demonstrated in London Times (cited from comment to Economist's View blog) :

Some motifs of Galbraith’s work have entered popular consciousness. Galbraith wrote of private opulence amid public squalor, illustrating it with a memorable metaphor of a family that travels by extravagant private car to picnic by a polluted river.

Yet while arguing for increased public expenditure on welfare, Galbraith gave scant attention to the limits of that approach. His writings perpetuate a debilitating weakness of modern liberalism: a reluctance to acknowledge that resources are scarce.

In Galbraith’s scheme, said Herbert Stein, the former chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers: “The American people were only asked whether they wanted cleaner air and water . . . The answers to such questions seemed obvious — but they were not the right questions.”

Soros contribution to the understanding of growth of financial sector as source of new, global economic instability

This idea of "casino capitalism" as a driver of financial instability was developed further in the book The Crisis of Global Capitalism by prominent financial speculator and staunch neoliberal George Soros (1998), who after Minsky highlights the potential for disequilibrium in the financial system, and the inability of non-market sectors to regulate markets.

the latter is a prominant feature of Casino Capitalism, which can be defined as economic system were financial barons run amok.

Although the insights of the Soros critique of global capitalism are scarcely new, they were articulated with such candor and accuracy that the book made a significant impact. The following is a sampling of Soros' insights.
  1. Unregulated financial markets are inherently unstable. There is nothing new in this statement. It is just a repetition of what Keynes and Minsky said much more eloquently. But Soros made in important observation about the source of constant disequilibrium of markets under neoliberalism, the observation which permitted for him to achieve spectacular success as a financial speculator.  Soros observes that, contrary to conventional economic theory, financial markets are not driven toward a relatively stable and rational price by the objective value assessment of such things as the soundness of a company's management, products, or record of profitability. Rather they are constantly driven away from equilibrium by the momentum of self-fulfilling expectations -- a rising stock price attracts buyers who further raise the price-to the point of collapse. The recent massive inflation and subsequent collapse in the price of the shares of unprofitable dot-com companies illustrates Soros' point.

    Bank lending also contributes to the instability, because the price of real and financial assets is set in part by their collateral value. The higher their market price rises the larger the loans banks are willing to make to their buyers to bid up prices. When the bubble bursts, the value of the assets plummets below the amount of the money borrowed against them. This forces banks to call their loans and cut back on the lending, which depresses asset prices and dries up the money supply. The economy then tanks-until credit worthiness is restored and a new boom phase begins.

  2. Financial markets are amoral by definition. Following Napoleon Bonaparte ("Money has no motherland; financiers are without patriotism and without decency; their sole object is gain. "), Soros stressed that there is no meaningful place for individual moral behavior of financial oligarchy in the context of financial markets, because such behavior has no consequences for them other than to reduce the financial return of  a more  ethical actor.  In other words modern finance is breeding ground for ruthless sociopath, which we really observed during 2008.

    When I bought shares in Lockheed and Northrop after the managements were indicted for bribery, I helped sustain the price of their stocks. When I sold sterling short in 1992, the Bank of England was on the other side of my transactions, and I was in effect taking money out of the pockets of British taxpayers. But if I had tried to take social consequences into account, it would have thrown off my risk-reward calculation, and my profits would have been reduced.

    Soros argues that if he had not bought Lockheed and Northrop, then somebody else would have, and Britain would have devalued sterling no matter what he did. "Bringing my social conscience into the decision-making process would make no difference in the real world; but it may adversely affect my own results." One can challenge the Soros claim that such behavior is amoral rather than immoral, but his basic argument is accurate. His understanding that it is futile to look to individual morality as the solution to the excesses of financial markets is all too accurate.

  3. Corporate employees are duty-bound to serve only corporate financial interests. As such financial institution are closely related to organized crime and top layers of managers are essentially institualized criminals. Soros writes:

    Publicly owned companies are single-purpose organizations-their purpose is to make money. The tougher the competition, the less they can afford to deviate. Those in charge may be well-intentioned and upright citizens, but their room for maneuver is strictly circumscribed by the position they occupy.

     They are duty-bound to uphold the interests of the company. If they think that cigarettes are unhealthy or that fostering civil war to obtain mining concessions is unconscionable, they ought to quit their jobs. Their place will be taken by people who are willing to carry on.

    Though not specifically mentioned by Soros, this is why corporations were in the past (at least partially) excluded from the political processes (although it was never complete and it is well known fact that Crusades and Siege of Constantinople (1204) were financed by Genoese bankers upset by lack of access to the Byzantium markets). But at least formally other parts of the society can define their goals and the rules of the marketplace and suppress excessive appetities of banker, if nessesary by brute force.  Financial oligarchy is incapable of distinguishing between private corporate interests and broader public interests. And that situation became even worse with the the global dominance of corporatism in the form of neoliberalism.

  4. Financial markets are oblivious to externalities and are infected by "short-termism". Specifically the fact that a strategy or policy produces economic returns in the short-term does not mean the long-term results will be beneficial. The focus of financial markets is on short-term individual gain to the exclusion of both social and longer-term consequences. The fact that particular policies and strategies are effective in producing short-term financial returns does not mean they are more generally beneficial or desirable. Soros offers the example that running up a budget or trade deficit "feels good while it lasts, but there can be hell to pay later."

  5. The relationship between the center and the periphery of the capitalist system is profoundly unequal. The powerful countries at the center of the capitalist system are both wealthier and more stable than countries at the periphery because control of the financial system and ownership of productive assets allows them to shape economic and political affairs to their benefit.

    "Foreign ownership of capital deprives peripheral countries of autonomy and often hinders the development of democratic institutions. The international flow of capital is subject to catastrophic interruptions."

    In times of uncertainty financial capital tends to return to its country of origin, thus depriving countries at the periphery of the financial liquidity necessary to the function of monetized economies. "The center's most important feature is that it controls its own economic policies and holds in its hands the economic destinies of periphery countries."

  6. In the capitalist system greed (aka "monetary values") tend to displace social values in sectors where this is destructive to important public interests. Soros writes:

    Monetary values [under neoliberalism] have usurped the role of intrinsic values, and markets have come to dominate spheres of existence where they do not properly belong.

    Law and medicine, politics, education, science, the arts, even personal relations-achievements or qualities that ought to be valued for their own sake are converted into monetary terms; they are judged by the money they fetch rather than their intrinsic value."

    Because financial "capital is free to go where most rewarded, countries vie to attract and retain capital, and if they are to succeed they must give precedence to the requirements of international capital over other social objectives.

Ha-Joon Chang

One notable later researcher of casino capitalism, especially "free market" fundamentalism propaganda Cambridge University researcher Ha-Joon Chang. In 2011 he published a fascinating book 23 Things They Don't Tell You About Capitalism. Here is a Youtube lecture at LSE (23 Things They Don't Tell You About Capitalism  ). We will reproduce  two Amazon reviews that shed some light at the key ideas of the book:

William Podmore

Ha-Joon Chang, Reader in the Political Economy of Development at Cambridge University, has written a fascinating book on capitalism's failings. He also wrote the brilliant Bad Samaritans. Martin Wolf of the Financial Times says he is `probably the world's most effective critic of globalization'.

Chang takes on the free-marketers' dogmas and proposes ideas like

He notes that the USA does not have the world's highest living standard. Norway, Luxemburg, Switzerland, Denmark, Iceland, Ireland, Sweden and the USA, in that order, had the highest incomes per head. On income per hours worked, the USA comes eighth, after Luxemburg, Norway, France, Ireland, Belgium, Austria and the Netherlands. Japan, Switzerland, Singapore, Finland and Sweden have the highest industrial output per person.

Free-market politicians, economists and media have pushed policies of de-regulation and pursuit of short-term profits, causing less growth, more inequality, more job insecurity and more frequent crises. Britain's growth rate in income per person per year was 2.4 per cent in the 1960s-70s and 1.7 per cent 1990-2009. Rich countries grew by 3 per cent in the 1960s-70s and 1.4 per cent 1980-2009. Developing countries grew by 3 per cent in the 1960s-70s and 2.6 per cent 1980-2009. Latin America grew by 3.1 per cent in the 1960s-70s and 1.1 per cent 1980-2009, and Sub-Saharan Africa by 1.6 per cent in the 1960s-70s and 0.2 per cent 1990-2009. The world economy grew by 3.2 per cent in the 1960s-70s and 1.4 per cent 1990-2009.

So, across the world, countries did far better before Thatcher and Reagan's `free-market revolution'. Making the rich richer made the rest of us poorer, cutting economies' growth rates, and investment as a share of national output, in all the G7 countries.

Chang shows how free trade is not the way to grow and points out that the USA was the world's most protectionist country during its phase of ascendancy, from the 1830s to the 1940s, and that Britain was one of world's the most protectionist countries during its rise, from the 1720s to the 1850s.

He shows how immigration controls keep First World wages up; they determine wages more than any other factor. Weakening those controls, as the EU demands, lowers wages.

He challenges the conventional wisdom that we must cut spending to cut the deficit. Instead, we need controls capital, on mergers and acquisitions, and on financial products. We need the welfare state, industrial policy, and huge investment in industry, infrastructure, worker training and R&D.

As Chang points out, "Even though financial investments can drive growth for a while, such growth cannot be sustained, as those investments have to be ultimately backed up by viable long-term investments in real sector activities, as so vividly shown by the 2008 financial crisis."

This book is a commonsense, evidence-based approach to economic life, which we should urge all our friends and colleagues to read.

Loyd E. Eskildson

The 2008 'Great Recession' demands re-examination of prevailing economic thought - the dominant paradigm (post 1970's conservative free-market capitalism) not only failed to predict the crisis, but also said it couldn't occur in today's free markets, thanks to Adam Smith's 'invisible hand.' Ha-Joon Chang provides that re-examination in his "23 Things They Don't Tell You About Capitalism." Turns out that the reason Adam Smith's hand was not visible is that it wasn't there. Chang, economics professor at the University of Cambridge, is no enemy of capitalism, though he contends its current conservative version should be made better. Conventional wisdom tells us that left alone, markets produce the most efficient and just outcomes - 'efficient' because businesses and individuals know best how to utilize their resources, and 'just' because they are rewarded according to their productivity. Following this advice, countries have deregulated businesses, reduced taxes and welfare, and adopted free trade. The results, per Chang, has been the opposite of what was promised - slower growth and rising inequality, often masked by rising credit expansion and increased working hours. Alternatively, developing Asian countries that grew fast did so following a different version of capitalism, though to be fair China's version to-date has also produced much greater inequality. The following summarizes some of Chang's points:

  1. "There is no such thing as a free market" - we already have hygiene standards in restaurants, ban child labor, pollution, narcotics, bribery, and dangerous workplaces, require licenses for professions such as doctors, lawyers, and brokers, and limit immigration. In 2008, the U.S. used at least $700 billion of taxpayers' money to buy up toxic assets, justified by President Bush on the grounds that it was a necessary state intervention consistent with free-market capitalism. Chang's conclusion - free-marketers contending that a certain regulation should not be introduced because it would restrict market freedom are simply expressing political opinions, not economic facts or laws.
  2. "Companies should not be run in the interest of their owners." Shareholders are the most mobile of corporate stakeholders, often holding ownership for but a fraction of a second (high-frequency trading represents 70% of today's trading). Shareholders prefer corporate strategies that maximize short-term profits and dividends, usually at the cost of long-term investments. (This often also includes added leverage and risk, and reliance on socializing risk via 'too big to fail' status, and relying on 'the Greenspan put.') Chang adds that corporate limited liability, while a boon to capital accumulation and technological progress, when combined with professional managers instead of entrepreneurs owning a large chunk (e.g.. Ford, Edison, Carnegie) and public shares with smaller voting rights (typically limited to 10%), allows professional managers to maximize their own prestige via sales growth and prestige projects instead of maximizing profits. Another negative long-term outcome driven by shareholders is increased share buybacks (less than 5% of profits until the early 1980s, 90% in 2007, and 280% in 2008) - one economist estimates that had GM not spent $20.4 billion on buybacks between 1986 and 2002 it could have prevented its 2009 bankruptcy. Short-term stockholder perspectives have also brought large-scale layoffs from off-shoring. Governments of other countries encourage longer-term thinking by holding large shares in key enterprises (China Mobile, Renault, Volkswagen), providing greater worker representation (Germany's supervisory boards), and cross-shareholding among friendly companies (Japan's Toyota and its suppliers).
  3. "Free-market policies rarely make poor countries rich." With a few exceptions, all of today's rich countries, including Britain and the U.S., reached that status through protectionism, subsidies, and other policies that they and their IMF, WTO, and World Bank now advise developing nations not to adopt. Free-market economists usually respond that the U.S. succeeded despite, not because of, protectionism. The problem with that explanation is the number of other nations paralleling the early growth strategy of the U.S. and Britain (Austria, Finland, France, Germany, Japan, Korea, Singapore, Sweden, Taiwan), and the fact that apparent exceptions (Hong Kong, Switzerland, The Netherlands) did so by ignoring foreign patents (a free-market 'no-no'). Chang believes the 'official historians' of capitalism have been very successful re-writing its history, akin to someone trying to 'kick away the ladder' with which they had climbed to the top. He also points out that developing nations that stick to their Ricardian 'comparative advantage,' per the conservatives prescription, condemn themselves to their economic status quo.
  4. "We do not live in a post-industrial age." Most of the fall in manufacturing's share of total output is not due to a fall in the quantity of manufactured goods, but due to the fall in their prices relative to those for services, caused by their faster productivity growth. A small part of deindustrialization is due to outsourcing of some 'manufacturing' activities that used to be provided in-house - e.g.. catering and cleaning. Those advising the newly developing nations to skip manufacturing and go directly to providing services forget that many services mainly serve manufacturing firms (finance, R&D, design), and that since services are harder to export, such an approach will create balance-of-payment problems. (Chang's preceding points directly contradict David Ricardo's law of comparative advantage - a fundamental free market precept. Chang's example of how Korea built Pohang Steel into a strong economic producer, despite lacking experienced managers and natural resources, is another.)
  5. "The U.S. does not have the highest living standard in the world." True, the average U.S. citizen has greater command over goods and services than his counterpart in almost any other country, but this is due to higher immigration, poorer employment conditions, and working longer hours for many vs. their foreign counterparts. The U.S. also has poorer health indicators and worse crime statistics. We do have the world's second highest income per capita - Luxemburg's higher, but measured in terms of purchasing power parity (PPP) the U.S. ranks eighth. (The U.S. doesn't have the fastest growing economy either - China is predicted to pass the U.S. in PPP this coming decade.) Chang's point here is that we should stop assuming the U.S. provides the best economic model. (This is already occurring - the World Bank's chief economist, Justin Lin, comes from China.)
  6. "Governments can pick winners." Chang cites examples of how the Korean government built world-class producers of steel (POSCO), shipbuilding (Hyundai), and electronics (LG), despite lacking raw materials or experience for those sectors. True, major government failures have occurred - Europe's Concorde, Indonesia's aircraft industry, Korea's promotion of aluminum smelting, and Japan's effort to have Nissan take over Honda; industry, however, has also failed - e.g.. the AOL-Time Warner merger, and the Daimler-Chrysler merger. Austria, China, Finland, France, Japan, Norway, Singapore (in numerous other areas), and Taiwan have also done quite well with government-picked winners. Another problem is that business and national interests sometimes clash - e.g.. American firms' massive outsourcing has undermined the national interest of maintaining full employment. (However, greater unbiased U.S. government involvement would be difficult due to the 10,000+ corporate lobbyists and billions in corporate campaign donations - $500 million alone from big oil in 2009-10.) Also interesting to Chang is how conservative free marketing bankers in the U.S. lined up for mammoth low-cost loans from the Federal Reserve at the beginning of the Great Recession. Government planning allows minimizing excess capacity, maximizing learning-curve economies and economies of scale and scope; operational performance is enhanced by also forcing government-owned or supported firms into international competition. Government intervention (loans, tariffs, subsidies, prohibiting exports of needed raw materials, building infrastructure) are necessary for emerging economies to move into more sophisticated sectors.
  7. "Making rich people richer doesn't make the rest of us richer." 'Trickle-down' economics is based on the belief that the poor maximize current consumption, while the rich, left to themselves, mostly invest. However, the years 1950-1973 saw the highest-ever growth rates in the U.S., Canada, Australia, and New Zealand, despite increased taxation of the rich. Before the 'Golden Age,' per capita income grew at 1-1.5%/year; during the Golden Age it grew at 2-3% in the U.S. Since then, tax cuts for the rich and financial deregulation have allowed greater paychecks for top managers and financiers, and between 1979 and 2006 the top 0.1% increased their share of national income from 3.5% to 11.6%. The result - investment as a ratio of national output has fallen in all rich economies and the pace at which the total economic pie grew decreased.
  8. "U.S. managers are over-priced." First, relative to their predecessors (about 10X those in the 1960s; now 300-400X the average worker), despite the latter having run companies more successfully, in relative terms. Second, compared to counterparts in other rich countries - up to 20X. (Third, compared to counterparts in developing nations - e.g.. JPMorgan Chase, world's 4th largest bank, paid its CEO $19.6 million in 2008, vs. the CEO of the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China, the world's largest, being paid $234,700. Read more ›

Willem Buiter and the idea of long term stagnation

Willem Buiter in his FT article After the Crisis Macro Imbalance, Credibility and Reserve-Currency suggested that after financial crisis of 2008 there might be very long a painful deleveraging period aka secular stagnation.  He was right.

In short each financial crisis make recovery longer and longer. That's why the US will most likely face a long period of stagnation: the digestion of huge excessive debt of the private sector might well take a decade:

Since the excess of debt is relative to income and GDP, the lower the rate of growth, the longer the required period of digestion. This explains for the paradox of trying to stimulate consumption when the economy faces a monumental crisis provoked exactly by excessive debt and excessive consumption. A cartoon line best captured the spirit of it: "country addicted to speculative bubbles desperately searches a new bubble to invest in. "

... ... ...

The roots of the crisis are major international macroeconomic imbalances. Despite the fact that the excesses of the financial system were instrumental to lead these imbalances further than otherwise possible, insufficient regulation should not be viewed as the main factor behind the crisis. The expenditure of central countries, spinned by all sort of financial innovations created by a globalized financial system, was the engine of world growth. When debt became clearly excessive in central countries and the debt-financed expenditure cycle came to an end, the ensuing crisis paralyzed the world economy. With the lesson of 1929 well assimilated, American monetary policy became aggressively expansionist. The Fed inundated the economy with money and credit, in the attempt to avoid a deep depression. Even if successful, the economies of the US and the other central countries, given the burden of excessive debt, are likely to remain stagnant under the threat of deflation for the coming years. The assumption of troubled assets by the public sector, in order to avoid the collapse of the financial system, might succeed, but at the cost of a major increase in public debt. Fiscal policy is not efficient to restart the economy when the private sector remains paralyzed by excessive debt. Even if a coordinated effort to increase public expenditure is successful, the central economies will remain stagnant for as long as the excessive indebtedness of the private sector persists. The period of digestion of excess debt will be longer than the usual recessive cycle. Since imports represent a drain in the effort to reanimate domestic demand through public expenditure, while exports, on the contrary, contribute to the recovery of internal demand, the temptation to central economies to also adopt a protectionist stance will be strong.

Willem Buiter also defined ‘cognitive regulatory capture’ which existed during the Greenspan years and when the Fed were just an arm of Wall Street.

This regulatory capture has resulted in an excess sensitivity of the Fed to financial market and financial sector concerns and fears and in an overestimation of the strength of the link between financial market turmoil and financial sector deleveraging and capital losses on the one hand, and the stability and prosperity of the wider economy on the other hand. The paper gives five examples of recent behavior by the Fed that are most readily rationalized with the assumption of regulatory capture. The abstract of the paper follows next. The latest version of the entire enchilada can be found here. Future revisions will also be found there.

Joseph Stiglitz on 5 steps to Casino Capitalism

Stiglitz is very unene and early Striglist was actually defender of neoliberalism (aka casino capitalism). Later he became a critic. In his 2008 Vanity Fair article Capitalist Fools Stiglitz identifies five key steps in transformation of American capitalism to Casino Capitalism (moments of failure as he called them):

No. 1: Reagan Fires Fed Chairman Volcker and Replaces Him With Greenspan in 1987:

Volcker also understood that financial markets need to be regulated. Reagan wanted someone who did not believe any such thing, and he found him in a devotee of the objectivist philosopher and free-market zealot Ayn Rand.

snip

If you appoint an anti-regulator as your enforcer, you know what kind of enforcement you’ll get. A flood of liquidity combined with the failed levees of regulation proved disastrous.

Greenspan presided over not one but two financial bubbles.

  1. Congress repealed the Glass-Steagall Act in 1999 under Bill Clinton (Glass-Steagall was a depression-era reform that separated commercial and investment banks)

I had opposed repeal of Glass-Steagall. The proponents said, in effect, Trust us: we will create Chinese walls to make sure that the problems of the past do not recur. As an economist, I certainly possessed a healthy degree of trust, trust in the power of economic incentives to bend human behavior toward self-interest—toward short-term self-interest, at any rate, rather than Tocqueville’s "self interest rightly understood."

Stiglitz also refers to a 2004 decision by the SEC "to allow big investment banks to increase their debt-to-capital ratio (from 12:1 to 30:1, or higher) so that they could buy more mortgage-backed securities, inflating the housing bubble in the process."

Once more, it was deregulation run amuck, and few even noticed.

  1. The Bush tax cuts, both on income and capital gains

The Bush administration was providing an open invitation to excessive borrowing and lending—not that American consumers needed any more encouragement.

  1. Faking the Numbers

Here he refers to bad accounting, the failure to address problems with stock options, and the incentive structures of ratings agencies like Moodys that led them to give high ratings to toxic assets.

  1. Paulson and the Flawed Bailout

Valuable time was wasted as Paulson pushed his own plan, "cash for trash," buying up the bad assets and putting the risk onto American taxpayers. When he finally abandoned it, providing banks with money they needed, he did it in a way that not only cheated America’s taxpayers but failed to ensure that the banks would use the money to re-start lending. He even allowed the banks to pour out money to their shareholders as taxpayers were pouring money into the banks.

Stiglitz concludes:

The truth is most of the individual mistakes boil down to just one: a belief that markets are self-adjusting and that the role of government should be minimal. Looking back at that belief during hearings this fall on Capitol Hill, Alan Greenspan said out loud, "I have found a flaw." Congressman Henry Waxman pushed him, responding, "In other words, you found that your view of the world, your ideology, was not right; it was not working." "Absolutely, precisely," Greenspan said. The embrace by America—and much of the rest of the world—of this flawed economic philosophy made it inevitable that we would eventually arrive at the place we are today.

The flawed economic philosophy brought by Reagan, and embraced by so many, brought us to this day. Ideas have consequences, especially when we stop empirically testing them. Republican economics have created great pain to America and harmed our national interest.

The flaw that Greenspan found was always there: self-regulation does not work. As Stiglitz said:

As an economist, I certainly possessed a healthy degree of trust, trust in the power of economic incentives to bend human behavior toward self-interest — toward short-term self-interest

Yes, for all their claims to science, the premise conflicts with tendencies of people.

This is the real legacy of Ronald Reagan and Alan Greenspan:

The whole scheme was kick-started under Ronald Reagan. Between his tax cuts for the rich and the Greenspan Commission’s orchestrated Social Security heist, working Americans lost out in a generational wealth transfer shift now exceeding $1 trillion annually from 90 million working class households to for-profit corporations and the richest 1% of the population. It created an unprecedented wealth disparity that continues to grow, shames the nation and is destroying the bedrock middle class without which democracy can’t survive.

Greenspan helped orchestrate it with economist Ravi Batra calling his economics "Greenomics" in his 2005 book "Greenspan’s Fraud." It "turns out to be Greedomics" advocating anti-trust laws, regulations and social services be ended so "nothing....interfere(s) with business greed and the pursuit of profits."

 Conclusions: From Animal Farm To Animal House

Instead of conclusion I will reproduce the post from Sudden Debt (March 17, 2008):

In Orwell's Animal Farm all animals are equal - except that some are more equal than others. All in the spirit of law, order and the proper functioning of society, of course. Fittingly, the animals that have chosen this role by themselves and for themselves, are the pigs.

Cut to US financial markets today. After years of swinish behavior more reminiscent of Animal House than anything else, the pigs are threatening to destroy the entire farm. As if it wasn't enough that they devoured all the "free market" food available and inundated the world with their excreta, they now wish to be put on the public trough. Truly, some businessmen believe they are more equal than others.

But do not blame the pigs; they are expected to act as swine nature dictates. The fault lies entirely with the farmers, those authorities entrusted by the people to oversee the farm because they supposedly knew better. While the pigs were rampaging and tearing the place apart, they were assuring us all that farms function best when animals are free to do as they please, guided solely by invisible hooves. No regulation, no oversight, no common sense. Oh yes, and pigs fly..

So what is to be done now? Two things:

In other words, the focus from now on should be on adding value by means of work and savings (capital formation), instead of inflating assets and borrowing.

Furthermore, we should realize that in a world already inhabited by close to 7 billion people and beset by resource depletion and environmental degradation, defending growth for growth's sake is a losing proposition. The wheels are already wobbling on the Permagrowth model; pumping harder on the accelerator is not going to make it go any faster and will likely result in a fatal crash.

Debt, and finance in general, should be left to re-size downwards to a level that better reflects the carrying capacity of our world. The Fed's current actions are shortsighted and "conservative" in the worst interpretation of the words: they are designed to artificially maintain debt at levels that myopically projects growth as far as the eye can see.

What level of resizing may be necessary? I hope not as much as at Bear Stearns, which got itself bought by Morgan at buzz-saw prices: $2 per share represents a 98% discount from its $84 book value. What scares me, though, is the statement by Morgan's CFO, who said the price reflected the risk the firm was taking, even though he was comfortable with the valuation of assets in Bear's books. It "...gives us the flexibility and margin of error that's appropriate given the speed at which the transaction came together", he said.

If it takes a 98% discount and the explicit guarantee of the Fed for a large portion of assets to buy one of the largest investment banks in the world, where should all other financial firms be trading at? ....Hello? Anyone? Is that a great big silence I hear, or the sound of credit imploding into a vacuum?


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[Oct 23, 2019] 'We Need a New Capitalism'

Oct 23, 2019 | news.slashdot.org

(nytimes.com) 427 writes in an op-ed : Yet, as a capitalist, I believe it's time to say out loud what we all know to be true: Capitalism, as we know it, is dead. Yes, free markets -- and societies that cherish scientific research and innovation -- have pioneered new industries, discovered cures that have saved millions from disease and unleashed prosperity that has lifted billions of people out of poverty. On a personal level, the success that I've achieved has allowed me to embrace philanthropy and invest in improving local public schools and reducing homelessness in the San Francisco Bay Area, advancing children's health care and protecting our oceans. But capitalism as it has been practiced in recent decades -- with its obsession on maximizing profits for shareholders -- has also led to horrifying inequality. Globally, the 26 richest people in the world now have as much wealth as the poorest 3.8 billion people, and the relentless spewing of carbon emissions is pushing the planet toward catastrophic climate change. In the United States, income inequality has reached its highest level in at least 50 years, with the top 0.1 percent -- people like me -- owning roughly 20 percent of the wealth while many Americans cannot afford to pay for a $400 emergency. It's no wonder that support for capitalism has dropped, especially among young people.

To my fellow business leaders and billionaires, I say that we can no longer wash our hands of our responsibility for what people do with our products. Yes, profits are important, but so is society. And if our quest for greater profits leaves our world worse off than before, all we will have taught our children is the power of greed. It's time for a new capitalism -- a more fair, equal and sustainable capitalism that actually works for everyone and where businesses, including tech companies, don't just take from society but truly give back and have a positive impact. What might a new capitalism look like? First, business leaders need to embrace a broader vision of their responsibilities by looking beyond shareholder return and also measuring their stakeholder return. This requires that they focus not only on their shareholders, but also on all of their stakeholders -- their employees, customers, communities and the planet. Fortunately, nearly 200 executives with the Business Roundtable recently committed their companies, including Salesforce, to this approach, saying that the "purpose of a corporation" includes "a fundamental commitment to all of our stakeholders." As a next step, the government could formalize this commitment, perhaps with the Security and Exchange Commission requiring public companies to publicly disclose their key stakeholders and show how they are impacting those stakeholders.

[Oct 23, 2019] Neoconservatism Is An Omnicidal Death Cult, And It Must Be Stopped by Caitlin Johnstone

Highly recommended!
Neocons are lobbyists for MIC, the it is MIC that is the center of this this cult. People like Kriston, Kagan and Max Boot are just well paid prostituttes on MIC, which includes intelligence agencies as a very important part -- the bridge to Wall Street so to speak.
Being a neoconservative should receive at least as much vitriolic societal rejection as being a Ku Klux Klan member or a child molester, but neocon pundits are routinely invited on mainstream television outlets to share their depraved perspectives.
Notable quotes:
"... Washington Post ..."
"... Neoconservatism is a psychopathic death cult whose relentless hyper-hawkishness is a greater threat to the survival of our species than anything else in the world right now. These people are traitors to humanity, and their ideology needs to be purged from the face of the earth forever. I'm not advocating violence of any kind here, but let's stop pretending that this is okay. Let's start calling these people the murderous psychopaths that they are whenever they rear their evil heads and stop respecting and legitimizing them. There should be a massive, massive social stigma around what these people do, so we need to create one. They should be marginalized, not leading us. ..."
Jul 18, 2017 | medium.com

Glenn Greenwald has just published a very important article in The Intercept that I would have everyone in America read if I could. Titled "With New D.C. Policy Group, Dems Continue to Rehabilitate and Unify With Bush-Era Neocons", Greenwald's excellent piece details the frustratingly under-reported way that the leaders of the neoconservative death cult have been realigning with the Democratic party.

This pivot back to the party of neoconservatism's origin is one of the most significant political events of the new millennium, but aside from a handful of sharp political analysts like Greenwald it's been going largely undiscussed. This is weird, and we need to start talking about it. A lot. Their willful alignment with neoconservatism should be the very first thing anyone ever talks about when discussing the Democratic party.

When you hear someone complaining that the Democratic party has no platform besides being anti-Trump, your response should be, "Yeah it does. Their platform is the omnicidal death cult of neoconservatism."

It's absolutely insane that neoconservatism is still a thing, let alone still a thing that mainstream America tends to regard as a perfectly legitimate set of opinions for a human being to have. As what Dr. Paul Craig Roberts rightly calls "the most dangerous ideology that has ever existed," neoconservatism has used its nonpartisan bloodlust to work with the Democratic party for the purpose of escalating tensions with Russia on multiple fronts, bringing our species to the brink of what could very well end up being a world war with a nuclear superpower and its allies.

This is not okay. Being a neoconservative should receive at least as much vitriolic societal rejection as being a Ku Klux Klan member or a child molester, but neocon pundits are routinely invited on mainstream television outlets to share their depraved perspectives. Check out leading neoconservative Bill Kristol's response to the aforementioned Intercept article:

... ... ...

Okay, leaving aside the fact that this bloodthirsty psychopath is saying neocons "won" a Cold War that neocons have deliberately reignited by fanning the flames of the Russia hysteria and pushing for more escalations , how insane is it that we live in a society where a public figure can just be like, "Yeah, I'm a neocon, I advocate for using military aggression to maintain US hegemony and I think it's great," and have that be okay? These people kill children. Neoconservatism means piles upon piles of child corpses. It means devoting the resources of a nation that won't even provide its citizens with a real healthcare system to widespread warfare and all the death, destruction, chaos, terrorism, rape and suffering that necessarily comes with war. The only way that you can possibly regard neoconservatism as just one more set of political opinions is if you completely compartmentalize away from the reality of everything that it is.

This should not happen. The tensions with Russia that these monsters have worked so hard to escalate could blow up at any moment; there are too many moving parts, too many things that could go wrong. The last Cold War brought our species within a hair's breadth of total annihilation due to our inability to foresee all possible complications which can arise from such a contest, and these depraved death cultists are trying to drag us back into another one. Nothing is worth that. Nothing is worth risking the life of every organism on earth, but they're risking it all for geopolitical influence.

... ... ...

I've had a very interesting last 24 hours. My article about Senator John McCain (which I titled "Please Just Fucking Die Already" because the title I really wanted to use seemed a bit crass) has received an amount of attention that I'm not accustomed to, from CNN to USA Today to the Washington Post . I watched Whoopi Goldberg and Joy Behar talking about me on The View . They called me a "Bernie Sanders person." It was a trip. Apparently some very low-level Republican with a few hundred Twitter followers went and retweeted my article with an approving caption, and that sort of thing is worthy of coast-to-coast mainstream coverage in today's America.

This has of course brought in a deluge of angry comments, mostly from people whose social media pages are full of Russiagate nonsense , showing where McCain's current support base comes from. Some call him a war hero, some talk about him like he's a perfectly fine politician, some defend him as just a normal person whose politics I happen to disagree with.

This is insane. This man has actively and enthusiastically pushed for every single act of military aggression that America has engaged in, and some that it hasn't , throughout his entire career. He makes Hillary "We came, we saw, he died" Clinton look like a dove. When you look at John McCain, the very first thing you see should not be a former presidential candidate, a former POW or an Arizona Senator; the first thing you see should be the piles of human corpses that he has helped to create. This is not a normal kind of person, and I still do sincerely hope that he dies of natural causes before he can do any more harm.

Can we change this about ourselves, please? None of us should have to live in a world where pushing for more bombing campaigns at every opportunity is an acceptable agenda for a public figure to have. Neoconservatism is a psychopathic death cult whose relentless hyper-hawkishness is a greater threat to the survival of our species than anything else in the world right now. These people are traitors to humanity, and their ideology needs to be purged from the face of the earth forever. I'm not advocating violence of any kind here, but let's stop pretending that this is okay. Let's start calling these people the murderous psychopaths that they are whenever they rear their evil heads and stop respecting and legitimizing them. There should be a massive, massive social stigma around what these people do, so we need to create one. They should be marginalized, not leading us.

-- -- --

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[Oct 23, 2019] The Four A's Of American Policy Failure In Syria

Notable quotes:
"... The first, Afghanistan, represents the epitome of covert American meddling in regional affairs -- Operation Cyclone , the successful CIA-run effort to arm and equip anti-communist rebels in Afghanistan to confront the Soviet Army from 1979 to 1989. The success of the Afghanistan experience helped shape an overly optimistic assessment by the administration of President Barack Obama that a similarly successful effort could be had in Syria by covertly training and equipping anti-Assad rebels. ..."
"... The second, Astana , is the capital city of Kazakhstan, recently renamed Nur Sultan in March 2019. Since 2017, Astana has played host to a series of summits that have become known as " the Astana Process ," a Russian-directed diplomatic effort ostensibly designed to facilitate a peaceful ending to the Syrian crisis, but in reality part of a larger Russian-run effort to sideline American regime change efforts in Syria. ..."
"... The resulting agreement, known as the Adana Agreement , helped prevent a potential war between Turkey and Syria by formally recognizing the respective sovereignty and inviolability of their common border. In 2010, the two nations expanded the 1998 deal into a formal treaty governing cooperation and joint action, inclusive of intelligence sharing on designated terrorist organizations (i.e., the PKK). The Adana Agreement/Treaty was all but forgotten in the aftermath of the 2011 Syrian crisis, as Turkey embraced regime change regarding the Assad government, only to be resuscitated by Russian President Vladimir Putin during talks with Erdogan in Moscow in January 2019. The re-introduction of the moribund agreement into the Syrian-Turkish political dynamic successfully created a diplomatic bridge between the two countries, paving the way for a formal resolution of their considerable differences. ..."
"... Russia backed Turkey's demand for a security corridor along the Turkish-Syrian border, and accepted Ankara's characterization of the American-backed Syrian Defense Forces (SDF) as "terrorists." This agreement, combined with Turkey's willingness to recognize the outcome of Syrian presidential elections projected to take place in 2021, paved the way for the political reconciliation between Turkey and Syria. It also hammered the last nail in the coffin of America's regime change policy regarding Bashar al-Assad. ..."
"... there's only a skewed version of reality, which portrays the American military presence in Syria as part and parcel of a noble alliance between the U.S. and the Kurdish SDF to confront the ISIS scourge. This ignores the reality that the U.S. has been committed to regime change in Syria since 2011, and that the fight against ISIS was merely a sideshow to this larger policy objective. ..."
"... One of the byproducts of the work initiated by ISOG was the creation of Syrian political opposition groups that were later morphed by the Obama administration into an entity known as the Syrian National Council, or SNC . When Obama demanded that Assad must step aside in August 2011, he envisioned that the Syrian president would be replaced by the SNC ..."
"... Faced with this diplomatic failure, Obama turned to the CIA to undertake an Afghanistan-like arming of Syrian rebels to accomplish on the ground what could not be around a table in Geneva. ..."
"... In 2013, the CIA took direct control of the arm and equip program, sending teams to Turkey and Jordan to train the FSA. This effort, known as Operation Timber Sycamore , was later supplemented with a Department of Defense program to provide anti-tank weapons to the Syrian opposition. ..."
"... American efforts to create a viable armed opposition ultimately failed, with many of the weapons and equipment eventually falling into the hands of radical jihadist groups aligned with al-Qaeda and, later, ISIS. The emergence of ISIS as a regional threat in 2014 led to the U.S. building ties with Syrian Kurds as an alternative vector for implementation of its Syrian policy objectives. ..."
"... While the fight against ISIS was real, it was done in the context of the American occupation of fully one third of Syria's territory, including oil fields and agricultural resources. As recently as January 2019, the U.S. was justifying the continued presence of forces in Syria as a means of containing the Iranian presence there; the relationship with the SDF and Syrian Kurds was little more than a front to facilitate this policy. ..."
"... But the American misadventure in Syria was never going to end well -- bad policy never does. For the American troops caught up in the collapse of the decades-long effort of the United States to overthrow the Assad government, the retreat from Syria was every bit as ignominious as the retreats of all defeated military forces before them. ..."
"... The U.S presidents all seemed to believe that they had /have the holy right to murder whomever they want and demand /take whatever their want. This is not good, but evil. May they and all of those who followed their orders "rot in hell". ..."
"... Ah yes, "falling into." Go **** yourself , Scott. https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2015/jun/03/us-isis-syria-iraq ..."
"... Why can't he use a euphemism for the US arming them? Americans are not ready for the truth. Tulsi got called out for calling a regime change war, a regime change war. We both know the US armed the terrorists, but the American people do not want to know. They have a (false) narrative that they are comfortable with. ..."
Oct 23, 2019 | www.zerohedge.com

The Four A's Of American Policy Failure In Syria by Tyler Durden Tue, 10/22/2019 - 23:25 0 SHARES

Authored by Scott Ritter via The American Conservative,

How events in Afghanistan, Astana, Adana, and Ankara all led to the victory of Russian diplomacy over U.S. force...

The ceasefire agreement brokered by Vice President Mike Pence and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Thursday accomplishes very little outside of putting window dressing on a foregone conclusion. Simply put, the Turks will be able to achieve their objectives of clearing a safe zone of Kurdish forces south of the Turkish border, albeit under a U.S. sanctioned agreement. In return, the U.S. agrees not to impose economic sanctions on Turkey.

So basically it doesn't change anything that's already been set into motion by the Turkish invasion of northern Syria. But it does signal the end of the American experiment in Syrian regime change, with the United States supplanted by Russia as the shot caller in Middle Eastern affairs.

To understand how we got to this point, we need to navigate the four A's that underpin America's failed policy vis-à-vis Syria -- Afghanistan, Astana, Adana, and Ankara.

The first, Afghanistan, represents the epitome of covert American meddling in regional affairs -- Operation Cyclone , the successful CIA-run effort to arm and equip anti-communist rebels in Afghanistan to confront the Soviet Army from 1979 to 1989. The success of the Afghanistan experience helped shape an overly optimistic assessment by the administration of President Barack Obama that a similarly successful effort could be had in Syria by covertly training and equipping anti-Assad rebels.

The second, Astana , is the capital city of Kazakhstan, recently renamed Nur Sultan in March 2019. Since 2017, Astana has played host to a series of summits that have become known as " the Astana Process ," a Russian-directed diplomatic effort ostensibly designed to facilitate a peaceful ending to the Syrian crisis, but in reality part of a larger Russian-run effort to sideline American regime change efforts in Syria.

The Astana Process was sold as a complementary effort to the U.S.-backed, UN-brokered Geneva Talks , which were initially convened in 2012 to bring an end to the Syrian conflict. The adoption by the U.S. of an "Assad must go" posture doomed the Geneva Talks from the outset. The Astana Process was the logical outcome of this American failure.

The third "A" -- Adana -- is a major city located in southern Turkey, some 35 kilometers inland from the Mediterranean Sea. It's home to the Incirlik Air Base , which hosts significant U.S. Air Force assets, including some 50 B-61 nuclear bombs . It also hosted a meeting between Turkish and Syrian officials in October 1998 for the purpose of crafting a diplomatic solution to the problem presented by forces belonging to the Kurdish People's Party, or PKK , who were carrying out attacks inside Turkey from camps located within Syria.

The resulting agreement, known as the Adana Agreement , helped prevent a potential war between Turkey and Syria by formally recognizing the respective sovereignty and inviolability of their common border. In 2010, the two nations expanded the 1998 deal into a formal treaty governing cooperation and joint action, inclusive of intelligence sharing on designated terrorist organizations (i.e., the PKK). The Adana Agreement/Treaty was all but forgotten in the aftermath of the 2011 Syrian crisis, as Turkey embraced regime change regarding the Assad government, only to be resuscitated by Russian President Vladimir Putin during talks with Erdogan in Moscow in January 2019. The re-introduction of the moribund agreement into the Syrian-Turkish political dynamic successfully created a diplomatic bridge between the two countries, paving the way for a formal resolution of their considerable differences.

The final "A" -- Ankara -- is perhaps the most crucial when it comes to understanding the demise of the American position in Syria. Ankara is the Turkish capital, situated in the central Anatolian plateau. In September 2019, Ankara played host to a summit between Erdogan, Putin, and Iran's President Hassan Rouhani. While the ostensible focus of the summit was to negotiate a ceasefire in the rebel-held Syrian province of Idlib, where Turkish-backed militants were under incessant attack by the combined forces of Russia and Syria, the real purpose was to facilitate an endgame to the Syrian crisis.

Russia's rejection of the Turkish demands for a ceasefire were interpreted by the Western media as a sign of the summit's failure. But the opposite was true -- Russia backed Turkey's demand for a security corridor along the Turkish-Syrian border, and accepted Ankara's characterization of the American-backed Syrian Defense Forces (SDF) as "terrorists." This agreement, combined with Turkey's willingness to recognize the outcome of Syrian presidential elections projected to take place in 2021, paved the way for the political reconciliation between Turkey and Syria. It also hammered the last nail in the coffin of America's regime change policy regarding Bashar al-Assad.

There is little mention of the four A's in American politics and the mainstream media. Instead there's only a skewed version of reality, which portrays the American military presence in Syria as part and parcel of a noble alliance between the U.S. and the Kurdish SDF to confront the ISIS scourge. This ignores the reality that the U.S. has been committed to regime change in Syria since 2011, and that the fight against ISIS was merely a sideshow to this larger policy objective.

"Assad must go." Those three words have defined American policy on Syria since they were first alluded to by President Obama in an official White House statement released in August 2011. The initial U.S. strategy did not involve an Afghanistan-like arming of rebel forces, but rather a political solution under the auspices of policies and entities created under the administration of President George W. Bush. In 2006, the State Department created the Iran-Syrian Operations Group , or ISOG, which oversaw interdepartmental coordination of regime change options in both Iran and Syria.

Though ISOG was disbanded in 2008, its mission was continued by other American agencies. One of the byproducts of the work initiated by ISOG was the creation of Syrian political opposition groups that were later morphed by the Obama administration into an entity known as the Syrian National Council, or SNC . When Obama demanded that Assad must step aside in August 2011, he envisioned that the Syrian president would be replaced by the SNC. This was the objective of the Geneva Talks brokered by the United Nations and the Arab League in 2011-2012. One of the defining features of those talks was the insistence on the part of the U.S., UK, and SNC that the Assad government not be allowed to participate in any discussion about the political future of Syria. This condition was rejected by Russia, and the talks ultimately failed. Efforts to revive the Geneva Process likewise floundered on this point.

Faced with this diplomatic failure, Obama turned to the CIA to undertake an Afghanistan-like arming of Syrian rebels to accomplish on the ground what could not be around a table in Geneva.

The CIA took advantage of Turkish animosity toward Syria in the aftermath of suppression of anti-Syrian government demonstrations in 2011 to funnel massive quantities of military equipment , weapons, and ammunition from Libya to Turkey, where they were used to arm a number of anti-Assad rebels operating under the umbrella of the so-called " Free Syrian Army ," or FSA. In 2013, the CIA took direct control of the arm and equip program, sending teams to Turkey and Jordan to train the FSA. This effort, known as Operation Timber Sycamore , was later supplemented with a Department of Defense program to provide anti-tank weapons to the Syrian opposition.

American efforts to create a viable armed opposition ultimately failed, with many of the weapons and equipment eventually falling into the hands of radical jihadist groups aligned with al-Qaeda and, later, ISIS. The emergence of ISIS as a regional threat in 2014 led to the U.S. building ties with Syrian Kurds as an alternative vector for implementation of its Syrian policy objectives.

While the fight against ISIS was real, it was done in the context of the American occupation of fully one third of Syria's territory, including oil fields and agricultural resources. As recently as January 2019, the U.S. was justifying the continued presence of forces in Syria as a means of containing the Iranian presence there; the relationship with the SDF and Syrian Kurds was little more than a front to facilitate this policy.

Turkish incursion into Syria is the direct manifestation of the four A's that define the failure of American policy in Syria -- Afghanistan, Astana, Adana and Ankara. It represents the victory of Russian diplomacy over American force of arms. This is a hard pill for most Americans to swallow, which is why many are busy crafting a revisionist history that both glorifies and justifies failed American policy by wrapping it in the flag of our erstwhile Kurdish allies.

But the American misadventure in Syria was never going to end well -- bad policy never does. For the American troops caught up in the collapse of the decades-long effort of the United States to overthrow the Assad government, the retreat from Syria was every bit as ignominious as the retreats of all defeated military forces before them. But at least our forces left Syria alive, and not inside body bags -- which was an all too real alternative had they remained in place to face the overwhelming forces of geopolitical reality in transition.


Duc888 , 44 minutes ago link

Who the **** cares? The sooner we're outta there the better.

Grandad Grumps , 48 minutes ago link

The U.S presidents all seemed to believe that they had /have the holy right to murder whomever they want and demand /take whatever their want. This is not good, but evil. May they and all of those who followed their orders "rot in hell".

Epstein101 , 52 minutes ago link

with many of the weapons and equipment eventually falling into the hands of radical jihadist groups aligned with al-Qaeda and, later, ISIS.

Ah yes, "falling into." Go **** yourself , Scott. https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2015/jun/03/us-isis-syria-iraq

Pardero , 20 minutes ago link

Why can't he use a euphemism for the US arming them? Americans are not ready for the truth. Tulsi got called out for calling a regime change war, a regime change war. We both know the US armed the terrorists, but the American people do not want to know. They have a (false) narrative that they are comfortable with.

enfield0916 , 56 minutes ago link

Bcuz RINOs and Neocunts in both parties!

Neoconservatism Is An Omnicidal Death Cult, And It Must Be Stopped

Pardero , 28 minutes ago link

Classic Johnstone. Good article.

WTFUD , 1 hour ago link

There must be loads of space in GITMO that can accommodate the IS/US Proxies on the run or in jail in NE Syria. Keep them in cold storage as such for when other opportunities present themselves down the road. I believe they'd go willingly too as they wont find Russia-SAA as accommodating and genial as their previous hosts.

Only a handful of Americans, Israelis, Brits, French and Saudis stood to benefit and despite this expensive epic failure, clusterfuck, those same bastards will be closing the book and calling the shots on the next genocidal mission impossible.

enfield0916 , 1 hour ago link

'Murica's OG baby daddy Israel had to make money off the wars, so did the "defense contractors".

vampirekiller , 1 hour ago link

" How events in Afghanistan, Astana, Adana, and Ankara all led to the victory of Russian diplomacy over U.S. force..." What about Aleppo? Alliteration is fun.........

gaasp , 42 minutes ago link

The four 'I's - Iran, Israel, five-I, and Istanbul.

Pardero , 1 hour ago link

These are provable facts, which back Tulsi Gabbard's characterization, 'regime change war' in Syria.

Where are the voices defending Gabbard for telling the truth?

White Nat , 1 hour ago link

Eight years of US fuckery in Syria for what? The US has no national interest in Syria.

The only beneficiary of all these failed machinations was to be israel.

And America is nothing but israel's little bitch thanks to zionist-occupied DC.

Time to take back control of our country from the israel-first jews.

And tell israel to **** off and pay for their own wars.

besnook , 1 hour ago link

you are talking about the miga president who just said today that war with iran is still on the table.

Ambrose Bierce , 1 hour ago link

1973 Yom Kipper War, high gas prices and a expensive ally running amok in Israel.

Over 50 years later and these lousy zionistas are still fighting a losing battle.

JBL , 25 minutes ago link

got back those petrodollars w oil

why u think troops are guarding syrian oil fields?

besnook , 1 hour ago link

the root of the failure of usa foreign policy all over the world is the opening that russia and china are creating for escape from the zionazi predation of countries in every corner of the globe. both russia and china are positioning themselves as an alternative or at least a foil for countries to help them resist the predatory dollar. ecuador is a great present example. morales was just re-elected in bolivia and brazil won't stay quiet for long as maduro hangs on in vz.

enfield0916 , 1 hour ago link

Outside the 50 states of USA, none of the land is ours and so ALL these ******* ILLEGAL wars & permanent bases are for one reason and one dumbass reason only.

For Israels security because the Oxford University Press and The Scofield Bible. (cue in the retarded kid Nathan's voice from Southpark)

https://gilad.online/writings/the-roots-of-christian-zionism-how-scofield-sowed-seeds-of-a.html

Roots Of Christian Zionism

U.S. Lawmakers Seek to Criminally Outlaw Support for Boycott Campaign Against Israel

**** all you lifelong (D) and (R) *** kissing retards! You deserve the govt you get, so **** YOU!

The Palmetto Cynic , 1 hour ago link

The forgot the most important "A" of them all: Assclownery. Without that none of this would have been possible.

MaxThrust , 1 hour ago link

The JUSA have been winning for a long time. Good to see someone else getting a chance.

Ruler , 1 hour ago link

Never should have been there in the first place.

Thanks Obama!

enfield0916 , 1 hour ago link

Never should've been any country that had NOTHING to do with 9/11.

"But, but, but they hate us for our freedoms!" - Bullllllshittt!

Ruler , 25 minutes ago link

Agreed, Afghanistan never made sense to me either.

[Oct 23, 2019] The Big One CA Fault Line Is Moving Scientists Say It Could Be Bad

Oct 23, 2019 | www.zerohedge.com

DirtySanchez , 34 minutes ago link

Weighing my options on what or whom to blame.....

I will go with the usual..... The godless and amoral cult of the satanic ***

ebworthen , 47 minutes ago link

They were warned in 1906, but despite this they kept building cities, towns, and communities on the fault line:

"The death toll remains the greatest loss of life from a natural disaster in California's history and high in the lists of American disasters." (source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1906_San_Francisco_earthquake ).

Not one damn thing any human can do about it, the Universe will have its way. Same with volcanoes, tornadoes, hurricanes, asteroids - out of our control. This preoccupation with us "doing something about it" is deluded hubris.

new game , 48 minutes ago link

I propose a name change to the San Putin fault. of course, then the blame would be on Russia...

Bone-Machine , 23 minutes ago link

Putin is sooooo yesterday. I'd rather go with the Quid Pro Quo Fault. Has a nice shake, rattle and roll to it.

Pendolino , 52 minutes ago link

"Creep is our friend,"

Is this a Biden promo?

[Oct 23, 2019] FBI-DOJ Likely to Throw the CIA and Clapper Under the Bus by Larry C Johnson - Sic Semper Tyrannis

Oct 23, 2019 | turcopolier.typepad.com

20 October 2019 FBI/DOJ Likely to Throw the CIA and Clapper Under the Bus by Larry C Johnson Larry Johnson-5x7

Law Enforcement versus the Intel Community. That's the battle we will likely see unleashed when the Horowitz report comes out next week. The New York Times came out Saturday with info clearly leaked from DOJ that can be summarized simply--the FBI was relying on the intel community (products from the CIA and NSA) under the leadership of Jim Clapper. If they relied on bad, unverified information it ain't their fault. They trusted the spies.

Let us start with a reminder of how damn corrupt the NY Times and its reporters are. Consider this paragraph penned by Adam Goldman and William Rashbaum:

Closely overseen by Mr. Barr, Mr. Durham and his investigators have sought help from governments in countries that figure into right-wing attacks and unfounded conspiracy theories about the Russia investigation, stirring criticism that they are trying to deliver Mr. Trump a political victory rather than conducting an independent review.

"Unfounded conspiracy theories?" What a damn joke. The facts of a conspiracy to take out Donald Trump or cripple him are very clear. Robert Mueller and Jim Comey lied when they claimed that Joseph Mifsud, who tried to entrap George Papdopoulus in London, was a Russian agent. Nope. He worked for western intelligence. Unless Comey and DOJ have a document or documents from the CIA or NSA stating that Mifsud worked for the Russians, they have no where to hide. Plus, prosecutor John Durham now has Mifsud's blackberries. What do you think is the likelihood that Mifsud was in communication with FBI or CIA or MI6 personnel? Very likely. Then there is Stefan Halper, who played a key role in a sophisticated counterintelligence operation that involved the FBI, the CIA British Intelligence and the media. The ultimate target was Donald Trump. Halper's part of the operation focused on using an innocent woman who had the misfortune of being born in Russia, Svetlana Lokhova, to destroy General Michael Flynn. Halper and Mifsud both were involved in targeting General Michael Flynn. Not a conspiracy?

Halper's nefarious activities included manufacturing and publishing numerous false and defamatory statements. Halper, for example, falsely claimed that Svetlana Lokhova was a "Russian spy" and a traitor to her country. He also circulated the lie that Lokhova had an affair with General Flynn on the orders of Russian intelligence. Not content to use the unwitting Svetlana as a weapon against General Flynn, Stefan Halper also acted with malice to destroy Svetlana Lokhova's professional career and business by asserting that she was not a real academic and that her research was provided by Russian intelligence on the orders of Vladimir Putin.

Thanks to Robert Mueller we have clear evidence of a conspiracy against Trump. Mueller's investigation of Trump "collusion" with Russia prior to the 2016 Presidential election focused on eight cases:

Proposed Trump Tower Project in Moscow --

George Papadopolous --

Carter Page --

Dimitri Simes --

Veselnetskya Meeting at Trump Tower (June 16, 2016)

Events at the Republican Convention

Post-Convention Contacts with Russian Ambassador Kislyak

Paul Manafort

One simple fact emerges--six of the eight cases or incidents of alleged Trump Campaign interaction with the Russians investigated by the Mueller team, the pitch to "collude" with the Russian Government or Putin originated with FBI informants, MI-6 assets or people paid by Fusion GPS, not Trump or his people. There is not a single instance where Donald Trump or any member of his campaign team initiated contact with the Russians for the purpose of gaining derogatory information on Hillary or obtaining support to boost the Trump campaign. Not one.

Simply put, Trump and his campaign were the target of an elaborate, wide ranging covert action designed to entrap him and members of his team as an agent of Russia.

We do not need to say anything about Dmitri Simes, who was unfairly smeared by even being named as target in the investigation. And the "non" events at the Republican Convention, pure nonsense.

The other six cases "investigated" my Mueller and his team of clowns are damning.

THE PROPOSED TRUMP TOWER PROJECT IN MOSCOW, according to Mueller's report, originated with an FBI Informant--Felix Sater. Mueller was downright dishonest in failing to identify Sater as an FBI informant. Sater was not just a private entrepreneur looking to make some coin. He was a fully signed up FBI informant. Sater's status as an FBI snitch was first exposed in 2012. Sater also was a boyhood chum of Michael Cohen, the target being baited in this operation. Another inconvenient fact excluded from the Mueller report is that one of Mueller's Chief Prosecutors, Andrew Weissman, signed the deal with Felix Sater in December 1998 that put Sater into the FBI Informant business .

All suggestions for meeting with the Russian Government, including Putin, originated with Felix Sater. The use of Sater on this particular project started in September 2015.

GEORGE PAPADOPOLOUS. Papadopolous was targeted by British and U.S. intelligence starting in late December 2015, when he is offered out of the blue a job with the London Centre of International Law and Practice Limited (LCILP) , which has all the hallmarks of a British intelligence front. It is Joseph Mifsud, working for LCILP, who introduces the idea of meeting Putin following a lunch with George in London.

And it is Mifsud who raises the possibility of getting dirt on Hillary. During Papadopolous' next meeting with Mifsud, George writes that Mifsud:

leaned across the table in a conspiratorial manner. The Russians have "dirt" on Hillary Clinton, he tells me. "Emails of Clinton," he says. "They have thousands of emails."

More than three weeks before the alleged Russian hack of the DNC, Mifsud is peddling the story that the Russians have Clinton's emails. Conspiracy?

CARTER PAGE. The section of the Mueller report that deals with Carter Page is a total travesty. Mueller and his team, for example, initially misrepresent Page's status with the Trump campaign--he is described as "working" for the campaign, which implies a paid position, when he was in fact only a volunteer foreign policy advisor. Mueller also paints Page's prior experience and work in Russia as evidence that Page was being used by Russian intelligence, but says nothing about the fact that Page was being regularly debriefed by the CIA and the FBI during the same period. In other words, Page was cooperating with US intelligence and law enforcement. But this fact is omitted in the Mueller report. The Christopher Steele dossier was used as "corroborating" intel to justify what was an illegal FISA warrant. The FBI lied about the veracity of that dossier. Conspiracy?

TRUMP TOWER MEETING (JUNE 9, 2016). This is another glaring example of a plant designed to entrap the Trump team. Mueller, once again, presents a very disingenuous account:

On June 9, 2016, senior representatives of the Trump Campaign met in Trump Tower with a Russian attorney expecting to receive derogatory information about Hillary Clinton from the Russian government. The meeting was proposed to Donald Trump Jr. in an email from Robert Goldstone, at the request of his then-client Emin Agalarov, the son of Russian real-estate developer Aras Agalarov.

The real problem is with what Mueller does not say and did not investigate. Mueller conveniently declines to mention the fact that Veselnitskaya was working closely with the firm Hillary Clinton hired to produce the Steele Dossier. Even the corrupt NBC News got these damning facts about Veselnitskaya on the record:

The information that a Russian lawyer brought with her when she met Donald Trump Jr. in June 2016 stemmed from research conducted by Fusion GPS, the same firm that compiled the infamous Trump dossier, according to the lawyer and a source familiar with the matter.

In an interview with NBC News, Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya says she first received the supposedly incriminating information she brought to Trump Tower -- describing alleged tax evasion and donations to Democrats -- from Glenn Simpson , the Fusion GPS owner, who had been hired to conduct research in a New York federal court case.

Unfounded Conspiracy?

PAUL MANAFORT. If Paul Manafort had rebuffed Trump's offer to run his campaign, he would be walking free today and still buying expensive suits and evading taxes along with his Clinton buddy, Greg Craig. Instead, he became another target for DOJ and intel community and the DNC, which were desperate to portray Trump as a tool of the Kremlin. Thanks to John Solomon of The Hill, we now know the impetus to target Manafort came from the DNC :

The boomerang from the Democratic Party's failed attempt to connect Donald Trump to Russia's 2016 election meddling is picking up speed, and its flight path crosses right through Moscow's pesky neighbor, Ukraine. That is where there is growing evidence a foreign power was asked, and in some cases tried, to help Hillary Clinton .

In its most detailed account yet, Ukraine's embassy in Washington says a Democratic National Committee insider during the 2016 election solicited dirt on Donald Trump's campaign chairman and even tried to enlist the country's president to help.

In written answers to questions, Ambassador Valeriy Chaly's office says DNC contractor Alexandra Chalupa sought information from the Ukrainian government on Paul Manafort 's dealings inside the country, in hopes of forcing the issue before Congress.

Manafort was not colluding, but the Clinton campaign and the Obama Administration were colluding with Ukraine.

GENERAL MICHAEL FLYNN . This is the biggest travesty. Flynn was being targeted by the intel community with the full collaboration of the FBI. Thanks to his new attorney, the Honey Badger Sidney Powell, there is an avalanche of evidence showing prosecutorial misconduct and an unjustified, coordinated effort by the Obama team to frame Flynn as catering to the Russians. It is a lie and that will be fully exposed in the coming weeks.

Any fair reporter with half a brain would see these events as pointing to a conspiracy. But not the liars at the New York Times. But the Times does tip us off to the upcoming mad scramble for life boats. It will it the FBI and DOJ against the DNI, the CIA and NSA. According to the Times:

It is not clear how many people Mr. Durham's team has interviewed outside of the F.B.I. His investigators have questioned officials in the Office of the Director of National Intelligence but apparently have yet to interview C.I.A. personnel, people familiar with the review said. Mr. Durham would probably want to speak with Gina Haspel, the agency's director, who ran its London station when the Australians passed along the explosive information about Russia's offer of political dirt.

There is no abiding affection between the FBI and the CIA. They mix like oil and water. In theory the FBI only traffics in "evidence." The CIA deals primarily with well-sourced rumors. But the CIA will argue they were offering their best judgement, not a factual conclusion. Brennan and Clapper will insist they were not in a position to determine the "truth" of what they were reporting. It is "intel" not evidence.

The Horowitz report will not deal with the CIA and NSA directly. Horowitz can only point out that the FBI folks insisted that they were relying on the intel community and had no reason not to trust them. This is likely to get ugly and do not be surprised to see the intel folks try to throw the FBI under the bus and vice versa. Grab the popcorn.


turcopolier ,

LJ

They should squeeze Clapper. When he has been shown the instruments of torture he will squeal like the human piggy in "Deliverance."

jonst said in reply to turcopolier ... ,
I agree 100%, Clapper can be flipped.
jonst ,
You seem to have faith Larry, and I am not offering this sarcastically, that the Misfud Blackberries still have relevant data on them. I would be very surprised, (albeit pleasantly so) and disappointed, if MI6 was that sloopy.
Jack , 20 October 2019 at 12:43 PM
Larry

Thanks for keeping on this story.

While I don't have much confidence in Barr & Durham actually indicting Brennan, Clapper, Comey, et al, nor do I believe that they'll lay out in clear terms the collusion between law enforcement, intelligence, corporate media, political operatives, foreign governments and intelligence agencies to frame a presidential candidate & campaign, I hope that some of these putschists will be made to pay at least a modest amount of their personal gains through their media and consulting gigs. As David Habakkuk has noted I hope the defamation lawsuit by Ed Butowsky is successful and that is then used as a template by others to go after all those complicit in this travesty.

What I find despicable is the hypocrisy and moralizing tone of all these smear merchants. These same characters now smearing Tulsi Gabbard using the same tropes. But even more, my utter disgust is with all the DC cocktail circuit propagandists in the media who are no longer even pretending.

I'm too old to see this happen, but my hope is that future generations will see the complete destruction of the political duopoly and the media-intelligence propaganda complex. They've been such a destructive force over the past five decades.

eakens , 20 October 2019 at 12:43 PM
It's going to be a full court press to get Trump out of office if we are expecting things to start shaking loose in weeks.
MP98 , 20 October 2019 at 12:43 PM
Anyone know who Durham is using as investigators?
Not the FBI,I hope.

[Oct 23, 2019] The idea of tribunes a a check on ruling financial oligarchy can probably be reinstituted under late neoliberalism

That creates somewhat artificial division with the ruling elite, which might help to prevent stagnation and degradation.
Oct 23, 2019 | www.nakedcapitalism.com

hemeantwell , October 22, 2019 at 12:50 pm

In trying to make up for my ignorance on Rome's history I came across P. A. Brunt's "Social Conflicts in the Roman Republic." His account of the innovation of the office of the tribune gave me a good sense of the intensity of those conflicts:

"In 494 a great body of the plebs sat down en masse outside Rome and refused to serve in the army. Such a 'secession' or strike undoubtedly occurred in 287, and similar revolutionary action must have been taken now, to account for the concession the patricians were forced to make: the creation of the tribunate of the plebs. The ten tribunes were plebeians annually elected by an assembly organized in voting units calle tribes; these were local divisions of the state, originally four within the city and seventeen in the adjoining countryside. This assembly was truly democratic at the start, when the tribes were probably more or less equal in numbers; the rich had no superior voting power.

The original function of the tribunes was to protect humble Romans against oppression by the magistrates; they did so by literally stepping between them and their intended victims (intercessio). The magistrates did not dare touch their persons, which were 'sacrosanct'; that meant that the whole plebs were sworn to avenge them by lynching whoever laid hands on them. But their power was confined to the city; outside the walls, Roman territory was still too insecure for any restriction to be allowable on the discretion of the magistrates to act as they thought best for the public safety. This limitation on tribunician power subsisted throughout the Republic, long after its rationale had disappeared." p.52

In this light, it seems that the obstructionist quality of tribunician power that Yves' refers to stemmed from the original need to allow plebs to put the kabosh on patrician power to avoid revolution. Another instance of when peace brought about by a veto power eventually makes the veto power appear unnecessary.

The limitation on the power of the tribunes in rural areas was relevant to a factor in Rome's development Brunt places a lot of weight on: the breakdown of plebian farmholding, in part through loss of land through absence brought about by conscription, but also by patrician gang violence. In his telling this alienation by dispossession was ongoing to varying degrees during the Republic.

MyLessThanPrimeBeef , October 22, 2019 at 1:50 pm

Tribunes.

Do we have something similar today, anywhere in the world?

likbez , October 23, 2019 at 12:29 am

Yes, I think so.

During the New Deal, the union leaders were effectively tribunes without veto power, but still considerable influence as they controlled a large number of voters belonging to respective unions.

Similar short story was with Russian "Soviets" -- worker and peasant consuls until Stalin centralization of governance. They were kind of power check on Bolshevik party Politburo (a kind of Senate, the Bolsheviks party nobility )

[Oct 23, 2019] The Pathocracy Of The Deep State Tyranny At The Hands Of A Psychopathic Government

Highly recommended!
If we assume that most politicians are latent psychopaths, they need to be more tightly controlled by the people. which means no re-election of Senators after two terms.
Notable quotes:
"... " Politicians are more likely than people in the general population to be sociopaths . I think you would find no expert in the field of sociopathy/psychopathy/antisocial personality disorder who would dispute this... That a small minority of human beings literally have no conscience was and is a bitter pill for our society to swallow -- but it does explain a great many things, shamelessly deceitful political behavior being one." ..."
Oct 23, 2019 | www.zerohedge.com

Authored by John Whitehead via The Rutherford Institute,

" Politicians are more likely than people in the general population to be sociopaths . I think you would find no expert in the field of sociopathy/psychopathy/antisocial personality disorder who would dispute this... That a small minority of human beings literally have no conscience was and is a bitter pill for our society to swallow -- but it does explain a great many things, shamelessly deceitful political behavior being one."

- Dr. Martha Stout, clinical psychologist and former instructor at Harvard Medical School

Twenty years ago, a newspaper headline asked the question: " What's the difference between a politician and a psychopath? "

The answer, then and now, remains the same: None . There is no difference between psychopaths and politicians. Nor is there much of a difference between the havoc wreaked on innocent lives by uncaring, unfeeling, selfish, irresponsible, parasitic criminals and elected officials who lie to their constituents , trade political favors for campaign contributions, turn a blind eye to the wishes of the electorate, cheat taxpayers out of hard-earned dollars, favor the corporate elite, entrench the military industrial complex, and spare little thought for the impact their thoughtless actions and hastily passed legislation might have on defenseless citizens.

Psychopaths and politicians both have a tendency to be selfish, callous, remorseless users of others, irresponsible, pathological liars , glib, con artists, lacking in remorse and shallow.

Charismatic politicians, like criminal psychopaths, exhibit a failure to accept responsibility for their actions , have a high sense of self-worth, are chronically unstable, have socially deviant lifestyles, need constant stimulation, have parasitic lifestyles and possess unrealistic goals.

It doesn't matter whether you're talking about Democrats or Republicans.

Political psychopaths are all largely cut from the same pathological cloth, brimming with seemingly easy charm and boasting calculating minds . Such leaders eventually create pathocracies: totalitarian societies bent on power, control, and destruction of both freedom in general and those who exercise their freedoms.

Once psychopaths gain power, the result is usually some form of totalitarian government or a pathocracy. "At that point, the government operates against the interests of its own people except for favoring certain groups," author James G. Long notes. "We are currently witnessing deliberate polarizations of American citizens, illegal actions, and massive and needless acquisition of debt. This is typical of psychopathic systems , and very similar things happened in the Soviet Union as it overextended and collapsed."

In other words, electing a psychopath to public office is tantamount to national hara-kiri, the ritualized act of self-annihilation, self-destruction and suicide. It signals the demise of democratic government and lays the groundwork for a totalitarian regime that is legalistic, militaristic, inflexible, intolerant and inhuman.

Incredibly, despite clear evidence of the damage that has already been inflicted on our nation and its citizens by a psychopathic government, voters continue to elect psychopaths to positions of power and influence.

According to investigative journalist Zack Beauchamp , "In 2012, a group of psychologists evaluated every President from Washington to Bush II using 'psychopathy trait estimates derived from personality data completed by historical experts on each president.' They found that presidents tended to have the psychopath's characteristic fearlessness and low anxiety levels -- traits that appear to help Presidents, but also might cause them to make reckless decisions that hurt other people's lives."

The willingness to prioritize power above all else, including the welfare of their fellow human beings, ruthlessness, callousness and an utter lack of conscience are among the defining traits of the sociopath.

When our own government no longer sees us as human beings with dignity and worth but as things to be manipulated, maneuvered, mined for data, manhandled by police, conned into believing it has our best interests at heart, mistreated, jailed if we dare step out of line, and then punished unjustly without remorse -- all the while refusing to own up to its failings -- we are no longer operating under a constitutional republic.

Instead, what we are experiencing is a pathocracy: tyranny at the hands of a psychopathic government, which " operates against the interests of its own people except for favoring certain groups ."

Worse, psychopathology is not confined to those in high positions of government. It can spread like a virus among the populace. As an academic study into pathocracy concluded , "[T]yranny does not flourish because perpetuators are helpless and ignorant of their actions. It flourishes because they actively identify with those who promote vicious acts as virtuous."

People don't simply line up and salute. It is through one's own personal identification with a given leader, party or social order that they become agents of good or evil.

Much depends on how leaders " cultivate a sense of identification with their followers ," says Professor Alex Haslam. "I mean one pretty obvious thing is that leaders talk about 'we' rather than 'I,' and actually what leadership is about is cultivating this sense of shared identity about 'we-ness' and then getting people to want to act in terms of that 'we-ness,' to promote our collective interests. . . . [We] is the single word that has increased in the inaugural addresses over the last century . . . and the other one is 'America.'"

The goal of the modern corporate state is obvious: to promote, cultivate, and embed a sense of shared identification among its citizens. To this end, "we the people" have become "we the police state."

We are fast becoming slaves in thrall to a faceless, nameless, bureaucratic totalitarian government machine that relentlessly erodes our freedoms through countless laws, statutes, and prohibitions.

Any resistance to such regimes depends on the strength of opinions in the minds of those who choose to fight back. What this means is that we the citizenry must be very careful that we are not manipulated into marching in lockstep with an oppressive regime.

Writing for ThinkProgress , Beauchamp suggests that " one of the best cures to bad leaders may very well be political democracy ."

But what does this really mean in practical terms?

It means holding politicians accountable for their actions and the actions of their staff using every available means at our disposal: through investigative journalism (what used to be referred to as the Fourth Estate) that enlightens and informs, through whistleblower complaints that expose corruption, through lawsuits that challenge misconduct, and through protests and mass political action that remind the powers-that-be that "we the people" are the ones that call the shots.

Remember, education precedes action. Citizens need to the do the hard work of educating themselves about what the government is doing and how to hold it accountable. Don't allow yourselves to exist exclusively in an echo chamber that is restricted to views with which you agree. Expose yourself to multiple media sources, independent and mainstream, and think for yourself.

For that matter, no matter what your political leanings might be, don't allow your partisan bias to trump the principles that serve as the basis for our constitutional republic. As Beauchamp notes, "A system that actually holds people accountable to the broader conscience of society may be one of the best ways to keep conscienceless people in check."

That said, if we allow the ballot box to become our only means of pushing back against the police state, the battle is already lost.

Resistance will require a citizenry willing to be active at the local level.

Yet as I point out in my book Battlefield America: The War on the American People , if you wait to act until the SWAT team is crashing through your door, until your name is placed on a terror watch list, until you are reported for such outlawed activities as collecting rainwater or letting your children play outside unsupervised, then it will be too late.

This much I know: we are not faceless numbers. We are not cogs in the machine. We are not slaves.

We are human beings, and for the moment, we have the opportunity to remain free -- that is, if we tirelessly advocate for our rights and resist at every turn attempts by the government to place us in chains.

The Founders understood that our freedoms do not flow from the government. They were not given to us only to be taken away by the will of the State. They are inherently ours. In the same way, the government's appointed purpose is not to threaten or undermine our freedoms, but to safeguard them.

Until we can get back to this way of thinking, until we can remind our fellow Americans what it really means to be free , and until we can stand firm in the face of threats to our freedoms, we will continue to be treated like slaves in thrall to a bureaucratic police state run by political psychopaths.


fudly , 4 minutes ago link

"There is no difference between psychopaths and politicians."

Could have just left it at that.

Is-Be , 13 minutes ago link

The solution, dear Zerohedge, is to pass a law demanding any official's psychological profile for public scrutiny. (By humans and by our superiors, Artificial Intelligence.)

(I think Is-Be just cracked a funny.)

BiloxiMarxKelly , 18 minutes ago link

http://www.ponerology.com/

Max.Power , 27 minutes ago link

The problem of democracy is that too many are unbelievably naive, and even more are poorly educated.

That's why propaganda always works, regardless of how absurd the narrative is.

herbivore , 29 minutes ago link

"Psychopaths and politicians both have a tendency to be selfish, callous, remorseless users of others, irresponsible, pathological liars , glib, con artists, lacking in remorse and shallow".

And the people who elect them are colloquially known as dumbasses.

IntercoursetheEU , 29 minutes ago link

The countries with the best psychopaths win ... they call it history.

Manthong , 32 minutes ago link

Gimme a break.

Just because they do not care about hurting people, are irritable, narcissistic, avaricious and lascivious does not mean they are psychopaths.

They are morally superior.

SocratesSolves , 22 minutes ago link

Bravo! The inner workings of psychopathy. All is justified. Included the Joker cults 911 mass murder with dancing after the fact. I want to see real dancing Israelis now. Dancing like hell to try to save their own murderous lives now. That's what we do with murderers out here in the west. We line them up and watch them DANCE for their lives.

Four chan , 22 minutes ago link

one could say gods chosen, or is this lie where the false sence of entitlement began?

Manthong , 21 minutes ago link

They are doing "God's work".

Don't worry about the slave trading, usury or death count thing.

PrintCash , 32 minutes ago link

What I find hilarious is the psychopathic politicians/bureaucrats/cia-fbi types/all matter of deep staters getting upset at Trumps words/tweets/style.

Pilfering the country for profit perfectly ok. Unseemly (by their standards) speech or tweets are not.

See, while they are pilfering Uncle Sam, ie you, they do it with charm (one of the strongest signs of a psychopath) and manners. What a narcissist/psychopath fears most is being outed as a fraud. And unfortunately, as long as Washington DC plays nice, throws in some lines about American values, helping the less fortunate, helping the kids, the majority fall in line with their pilfering, and whatever they want goes.

What they fear most about Trump is he hurts their Big Government brand. Either by his rhetoric, his logic, his investigative actions, or his brassness. This also includes Republicans, who only fell in line when the base forced them to fall in line.

Epstein101 , 35 minutes ago link

Big Tech Oligarchs' Best Tool for Censoring the Internet: The ADL

SocratesSolves , 18 minutes ago link

Just another *** shell game

Omni Consumer Product , 37 minutes ago link

Ahh, now we're talking about topics of substance:

There is no form of government, no perfect "ism" that can withstand the real-world effects of psycopaths at the top.

Until that problem is solved, history will continue to repeat.

http://pathocracy.net/

[Oct 23, 2019] The Rise and Fall of the Roman Republic Part 1 of 4 Structure and Background naked capitalism

Oct 23, 2019 | www.nakedcapitalism.com

The Rise and Fall of the Roman Republic: Part 1 of 4: Structure and Background Posted on October 22, 2019 by Yves Smith Yves here. Historical lessons for the present are a favorite topic here, and particularly from the Roman Republic and the later empire. So enjoy! I'm sure some of you will qualify or add to these views.

By Newdealdemocrat. Originally published at Angry Bear

"Mortal Republic: How Rome Fell into Tyranny," by Edward J. Watts
"The Storm Before the Storm,: The Beginning of the End of the Roman Republic" by Mike Duncan
"Ten Emperors: Roman Emperors from Augustus to Constantine," by Barry Strauss

I've recently mentioned that lately I've been unable to read most American history books, with their currently unwarranted chipper optimism. Instead my recent reading has focused on other periods of crisis.

One question I've been considering is, just how rare, and how stable have Republics historically been? There are few antecedents for the experience of the US, because it has aspires to both be a Republic under the rule of law and simultaneously a superpower. In fact I believe there are only four, in reverse historical order:

The British Empire (yes, I know, it's technically a monarchy, but it has been a parliamentary democracy really ever since the Glorious Revolution 400 years ago). The Dutch Republic (I'm not sure if this really qualifies, since it was more a confederation of principalities, but it was styled a Republic, and it did have global interests.) The Republic of Venice (this is a dark horse contender, but this Republic lasted almost 1200 years, from roughly 600 A.D. until it was conquered by that other "republican," Napoleon, in 1797). The Roman Republic.

In these four posts, I'm going to summarize what I've learned about the Roman Republic from the three books that lead this post.

While we're all familiar with Julius Caesar crossing the Rubicon, and probably all had to read Shakespeare's Tragedy of that name (but really about Brutus and Cassius) in high school, I don't think much attention has been paid in modern education to the Roman Republic, which lasted 450 years – almost as long as the subsequent western Roman Empire – and was avowedly the model that inspired the Framers of the American Constitution. None of the books that have come out in the past few years, to my knowledge, have discussed either the Roman Republic or other historical antecedents to the US. I believe studying the rise and demise of the Roman Republic, which during its existence was extremely – probably too – successful, is well worth the effort.

Without intending so, I read the above three books in reverse chronological order above. "Ten Emperors" was first, followed by "The Storm Before the Storm." Unfortunately this latter book (in my opinion) wound up being a chronological blow-by-blow vomiting of not well organized facts. It desperately needed a list of "dramatic personae" with at least a couple of lines describing the most prominent 20 or 30 individual's role, so that when they re-appeared after a 30 or 80 page hiatus, I could recollect who they were. It also needed an initial chapter setting forth the basic governing details of the Republic, and most importantly the roles of the Senate and the Assemblies. In the end it left me so unsatisfied I went back and found "Mortal Republic," which was a much more orderly and understandable if less detailed treatment.

If you are interested in the material, I recommend you read "Mortal Republic" in segments, and then read so much of "The Storm Before the Storm" to fill in the details until you reach the same chronological point. Once you do that, when you start the final book, you will see that the process of Imperial succession in the Empire was very much like the power struggles in the last 60 years of the Republic, and in particular sets forth Augustus's programme and genius in more detail.

To cut to the chase , the Roman Republic, which was previously quite stable (as Republics, once they last a generation or more, tend to be), was toppled by a series of hammer-blows that fell over roughly a 100 year period. The shortest version is that the type of factional political violence that brought down the Weimar Republic in 10 years took 100 years to infect and ultimately destroy the Roman one.

There were three levels of causes for this fall, in order of importance:

The de facto requirement that all senior magistrates and in particular the consuls (analogous to Presidents) be military commanders, who frequently raised, and increasingly paid for, their own armies. The increasing breaches of "mas maiorem," or the customs and norms by which the Republic had operated, on all sides. The split between the oligarchical "optimates" who dominated the Senate on the one side vs. the "populares" or ordinary Roman plebeians who dominated the Assemblies, and also the Italian allies who were not Roman citizens, on the other.

More basically put, #3 was the substantive source of disagreement over which all parties were willing to go to extremes; #2 was the procedural unraveling of the manner of government; and #1 over time ensured the rise of what we would now call "caudillos," or political generals, who had the force to overthrow it.

Both histories I have read suggest that the "turning point" where the stresses started to undermine the Republic was after its greatest triumph: the defeat and obliteration of Carthage after the third Punic War.

The Structure of the Roman Republic

From its founding as a trading point on the Tiber River until roughly 600 B.C., Rome was ruled by Etruscan kings, who were then overthrown and the Republic was founded. On a broader historical scale, it seems that Republics are actually pretty sturdy forms of government once their institutions take root after a generation or two. That's good news at the present, where at very least, for example, Russians and Iranians are getting used to the concepts of having elections and courts.

The Roman Republic was a system by which "Assemblies" of the tribes of Romans directly elected the executive officers of the Republic for one year terms. Meanwhile the Senate, essentially a council of notables, gave direction to those executive officers in the carrying out of their duties. The lowest level official was a "quaestor," basically an aide de camp and accountant for a legion; followed by aedile, in charge of religious observances and festivals. The next rung higher was "praetor," similar to a colonel or brigadier general in an army, who also acted as a "president pro tempore" when the highest officials were absent. Finally, the highest office was "consul," of which two were chosen every year, as co-chief executives, lead prosecutors, and commanders-in-chief of the legions. Upon completion of their terms, consuls joined the Senate.

Another important office was that of the 10 Tribunes. These were explicitly open only to plebeians, and were designed to protect their interests. Each of the 10 Tribunes could propose legislation before the Assemblies, and veto legislation proposed by others. Further, none of the other Tribunes could override the veto of any single one. As we'l see, this chokepoint proved a weakness in the structure of the Republic. Additionally, there were also "military tribunes" in the legions, who represented the interests of the soldiers.

Finally, in case of emergency the Republic allowed for the office of "dictator." Most importantly, for the first 400 years of its use, this office had a strict 6 month time limit, which was faithfully respected. At the conclusion of the 6 months, the dictator was required to hand back power to the normal offices, and the status quo ante structure of government was to resume. The most famous of these was Cincannatus, who returned to his farm after his six month office expired.

So powerful was the civic pride in the Republic that, when the Macedonian Pyrrhus (of "Pyrrhic victory" fame) tried to bribe a relatively poor Roman general, Fabricius, Fabricius refused by rejoining that the Roman Republic provided those who went into public service with higher honors than mere wealth could supply. In any event, by 300 B.C. Rome had brought all of Italy except for the far north under its domination. The other Italian city-states were called "allies," but really they were tributaries, their form of tribute being the provision of soldiers to fight in Rome's legions. Upon reaching adulthood, Roman males owed 10 years service in the legions. Importantly, the pattern was the planting of crops in the early spring, then going off to fight in the legions' campaigns during the summers, and returning to harvest the crops in late autumn.

In any event, the accounts agree that matters began to change after 146 BC , when Rome simultaneously was victorious over Carthage and also Corinth in Greece. Both treatments of the Republic pick up at that historical turning point. Little known fact: Carthage was also a democracy, in fact the Romans considered it "too" democratic. Someone go tell Tom Friedman that two countries having democratic institutions does not mean that they all go happily ever after to McDonald's.

But it was with the conquest of Carthage, that by happenstance coincided with the sacking of Corinth in Greece, also by Rome, that the scrappy little Roman Republic, which was founded roughly in 500 B.C., and had grown to the dominant power in Italy such that the other city states on the peninsula were its inferior "allies," simultaneously turned into an empire, dominating the Mediterranean from Spain to Greece on the European side and present day Algeria and Tunisia on the African side.

The inhabitants of those unfortunate cities who weren't slaughtered were sold into slavery, and the treasuries of each were sacked, the riches transported to Rome. Rome also thereby came into possession of extensive silver mines located in Carthage's lands of present-day Spain. In short, overnight Rome became filthy rich as well as controlling an empire in the central and western Mediterranean.

But this very wealth permanently upset the balance between the landowning oligarchs in the Senate vs. the ordinary urban plebeians and rural farmers. For it was the Senate that had the power of the purse, and thus the power to distribute the land, gold, silver, jewels, slaves, and other loot plundered from the vanquished states, as well as the new precious ores mined in Spain. And, unsurprisingly, they allocated it to themselves. Even worse, because the wars in North Africa, Greece, and Spain lasted years, the legionnaire farmers spent multiple years away from their fields. When they returned home, they were victors, but their farms had fallen into ruinous disrepair. For all intents and purposes, they had to sell -- and the buyers who had money were frequently none other than the wealthy Senators.

A second form of gross inequality was between Roman citizens and their Italian allies. Because while the allies were vital to Rome's military success, the allies could be treated as slaves if the Romans wished to do so.

A final form of inequality affected the affluent or wealthy merchant class, called variously Knights or Equestrians, because they could afford to own horses, and thus serve as cavalrymen during military campaigns, depending on the account. But because they were not "old money," their path to the top rungs of power was blocked by the oligarchs who controlled the Senate.

The huge inequalities just described gave rise to seething resentment by both the urban and rural plebeians as well as the Italian allies and the Equestrian class as well. The essential story of the Roman Republic between 146 BC and its fall a century later was the refusal of the oligarchs who usually controlled the Senate to make any significant compromises to this state of affairs, and the increasing violence used both by the opposing classes to wrench change, and the oligarchs to resist it.

(Continued in part 2)

michael hudson , October 22, 2019 at 6:37 am

Me: Oh, dear. This isn't "wrong" factually, but it misses the essence of Rome, inborn class war of creditors vs debtors.

The Republic was never remotely a democracy. It was always run by the autocratic Senate. The wealthiest 10% controlled the majority of votes which – like the DNC today – was weighted by wealth categories. 90% of the population's votes counted for just 10%. Leaders proposing more democratic economic policies were murdered, century after century. Assassination was a normal tool of the oligarchy.

Rome under the kings was stable. It was the America of its day, attracting immigrants with their wealth, followers and slaves. They were traditionally non-Roman – Sabine (Numa), Latin, or from Veii (probably Servius), and although chosen by the Senate, they kept the oligarchy from waging the class war that ensued under the Republic. In 504 Appius Claudius brought his wealth and 5,000 men from Sabine territory and was admitted to the Senate. His namesakes throughout Roman history were intransigent opponents of democracy, triggering Secession of the Plebs (494 and 450) and subsequent confrontations. They were sort of like the post-Batista Cubans fleeing to Florida and becoming ultra right-wingers.

Fast forward to the Punic Wars. Toynbee wrote a book saying that the aftermath in 201 was Hannibal's Revenge. The oligarchy gave the rich campagna lands to itself instead of settling war veterans. Greek and Macedonian slaves stocked the great plantations being assembled. This led Tiberius Gracchus and his brother to press for limits on public land grabbing. They and their followers were killed, as were those of Marius (by the prescriptions of Sulla) and of Catiline.

I'm writing the 2nd volume of my history of debt to review the collapse of antiquity. The social struggles were all about debt and land redistribution.When Yves finishes posting this series, I may provide a sample chapter.

vlade , October 22, 2019 at 9:25 am

republic != democracy

The UK doesn't claim to be a republic, but does claim to be a democracy (although technically since the UK's executive is elected and not inherited, it'd be a republic. Sort of republican monarchy).

The US claims to be a republic ah well.

Titus , October 22, 2019 at 11:10 am

Vlade – there is how one is 'organized' and then how one seems to function as to how one actually functions. Definitions matter at least in knowing A from B.

UK wise if in Commons MPs are going to say as they having being lately that they must 'act' in the best interest of blah, blah – note not represent, but 'act in', then I don't know why people even bother to vote.

With Parliament being Sovereign, they do as they like. As to the US well Lincoln did what he had to be win the war but that and changes to how Senators got elected, and the ever present electoral college, if we have a republic I don't know who is being represented (I do but it's depressing).

Rome, all I have to say is, to me it's amazing how many emperors got whacked or killed in battle. Not a place I would have wanted to live in. Yes, I use 'titus' as in Titus.Andronicus.

Synoia , October 22, 2019 at 1:19 pm

The UK is a "Parliamentary Monarchy," In no way does it describe itself as a republic.

"Parliamentary Monarchy" is a typical British ambiguity.

SufferinSuccotash , October 22, 2019 at 10:05 am

Assassination only became a common weapon in Roman politics towards the end of the second century (the murder of Tiberius Gracchus is considered a major turning point). Up to that point the nobility favored co-optation instead.

Starting in 367 the consulship was open to plebeian candidates and within a few decades plebeians were able to gain access to every high office in the Republic. Wealthy plebeians, that is. You needed money and aristocratic connections to get elected (nobles had extensive followings of clients whose votes they could deliver).

Plebeians who served in high office were then eligible for membership in the Senate. Welcome to the club. The newly-ennobled senators could bring their wealth into play, marrying into old (and sometimes not too wealthy) patrician families.

A familiar story. And of course our shake-and-bake aristocrats would "forget where they came from" and become lifelong supporters of the oligarchy.

Colonel Smithers , October 22, 2019 at 11:33 am

Thank you.

"And of course our shake-and-bake aristocrats would "forget where they came from" and become lifelong supporters of the oligarchy." Not just in the US, but the mother country, too.

The deracinated elite known as the Chipping Norton Set, which also includes its Notting Hill and Primrose Hill outposts in London, is a mix of aristocracy, vide David Cameron, and new money (or "nouves" as old money calls them, as per what Alan Clark said about Michael Heseltine and other Tory MPs), vide Michael Gove and his wife Sarah Vine, currently gunning for Meghan Markle.

Synoia and I went to schools with both types. At my alma mater, it was interesting to observe the "nouves" trying so hard to fit in. The (now) peers I knew, four earls, a viscount, a baron and two baronets, were easy going and had a sense of paternalism, quite different from Thatcher's children.

Joe Costello , October 22, 2019 at 12:02 pm

Rome wasn't a democracy has been a constant meaningless statement, starting with many of the US founders, even to the point more recently in Symes book "The Roman Revolution" where many argue Rome wasn't a "republic"!

Both words, one Greek, one Latin simply define systems that may best be described as some sort of self-government, where the general populous – the citizenry – had some sort of direct role in politics and governance, leadership changed by elections as opposed to monarchies, "oligarchies" and "dictatorships," once again mixing Greek and Roman terms.

Democracy in Athens wasn't even democracy as defined by notions in many academics' heads. After all they had slaves, how could it be a democracy? The Greek assembly wasn't the only institution of government in Greek democracies, the "demes" were numerous local structures connected horizontally as much as vertically and more fundamental, along with various hierarchical tribe elements, wealth factors etc., similarities the Romans shared.

The Senate in Rome ran foreign affairs, the assemblies, whether organized by tribe or military unit were composed of every citizen and passed legislation and elected officials and yes the votes were weighted, but that doesn't discount them. The Senate certainly didn't have authoritarian control. And yes, the history of Rome was constant struggle between the plebs and patricians, for example the plebs sitting out of battle till the office of Tribune was instituted, the simplistic claim Rome wasn't "democracy" is to miss the whole 450 year plot of the republic.

In fact, Machiavelli in his "Discourses on Livy" states this struggle was at the heart of the dynamism of the Roman republic.

It can also be noted for all our neo-socialists, it was this "class" struggle that formed the foundation of Marx's thought and where he got the idea of the "proletariat" as a revolutionary class, though how one could look at the Roman proletariat in the republic's last half-century as revolutionary is more than a mystery.

In short, to simply throw away the Roman republic as not being democratic is both wrong and removes from Western history one of the few examples of self-government we have, as opposed I suppose to some sort of Platonic notion of "democracy" which never existed.

hemeantwell , October 22, 2019 at 12:50 pm

In trying to make up for my ignorance on Rome's history I came across P. A. Brunt's "Social Conflicts in the Roman Republic." His account of the innovation of the office of the tribune gave me a good sense of the intensity of those conflicts:

"In 494 a great body of the plebs sat down en masse outside Rome and refused to serve in the army. Such a 'secession' or strike undoubtedly occurred in 287, and similar revolutionary action must have been taken now, to account for the concession the patricians were forced to make: the creation of the tribunate of the plebs. The ten tribunes were plebeians annually elected by an assembly organized in voting units calle tribes; these were local divisions of the state, originally four within the city and seventeen in the adjoining countryside. This assembly was truly democratic at the start, when the tribes were probably more or less equal in numbers; the rich had no superior voting power.

The original function of the tribunes was to protect humble Romans against oppression by the magistrates; they did so by literally stepping between them and their intended victims (intercessio). The magistrates did not dare touch their persons, which were 'sacrosanct'; that meant that the whole plebs were sworn to avenge them by lynching whoever laid hands on them. But their power was confined to the city; outside the walls, Roman territory was still too insecure for any restriction to be allowable on the discretion of the magistrates to act as they thought best for the public safety. This limitation on tribunician power subsisted throughout the Republic, long after its rationale had disappeared." p.52

In this light, it seems that the obstructionist quality of tribunician power that Yves' refers to stemmed from the original need to allow plebs to put the kabosh on patrician power to avoid revolution. Another instance of when peace brought about by a veto power eventually makes the veto power appear unnecessary.

The limitation on the power of the tribunes in rural areas was relevant to a factor in Rome's development Brunt places a lot of weight on: the breakdown of plebian farmholding, in part through loss of land through absence brought about by conscription, but also by patrician gang violence. In his telling this alienation by dispossession was ongoing to varying degrees during the Republic.

MyLessThanPrimeBeef , October 22, 2019 at 1:50 pm

Tribunes.

Do we have something similar today, anywhere in the world?

run75441 , October 22, 2019 at 10:09 pm

lambert:

I would like to read it also. Let me know when it is up.

RBHoughton , October 22, 2019 at 10:09 pm

Same here but for the meantime ..

Carthaginian silver from Spain poisoned Rome as assuredly as South American silver poisoned Spain. There is a rule operating there which our men of commerce probably don't like much.

Amfortas the hippie , October 22, 2019 at 6:50 am

my favorite part of that story happened before what's laid out here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Conflict_of_the_Orders

makes one feel a little Wobbly.

"we are many, they are few"

Lee , October 22, 2019 at 8:51 am

Also of interest is the Social War, 91-88 BC, in which tributary Italian tribes fought, not for independence but for Roman citizenship. Somewhat analogous to modern civil rights movements. Interestingly, the Romans won the war but in order to avoid further costly conflict, acceded to the tribes' demands.

And then of course there's this: What Have the Romans Ever Done for Us?

pretzelattack , October 22, 2019 at 6:56 am

a very interesting series. i hope to hear about the gracchi brothers.

Joe Well , October 22, 2019 at 7:01 am

I've been unable to read most American history books, with their currently unwarranted chipper optimism.

Only true for mass market history, particularly by non professional historians, who have to be chipper to sell books and/or get MSM attention.

Academic historians (I am tempted to say "real" historians) such as Eric Foner, to pick one example among 10000s, are quite damning in their analyses.

Seriously, people. You need to step away from the mass media to get a clear view of anything, even the past.

Titus , October 22, 2019 at 11:19 am

Who are you talking about? Having read, "A. Lincoln: A Biography", by White Jr., Ronald C, I can tell you it is not a 'chipper' book, assuming I know what that is. It is one of the most intense books I've ever read – you get to be Lincoln the whole time he was President, it is white hot painful.

Joe Well , October 22, 2019 at 3:59 pm

Maybe instead of "chipper" they meant "hagiographic." I am not familiar with that work by Ronald C. White, but the blurb includes the phrase, "offers a fresh and compelling definition of Lincoln as a man of integrity."

Many people would say that Lincoln's greatest contribution was getting assassinated, paving the way for Radical Reconstruction, which he was against. I do not expect a book making that case to appear in any airport magazine rack.

JBird4049 , October 22, 2019 at 4:55 pm

Maybe a book could be found titled the greatest tragedy, the assassination of Abraham Lincoln. His death just added anger to the North's desire for payback. There was simultaneously too harsh and too lenient treatment of the Southern Slaveocracy. Followed by the abandonment of the Southern governments then under the control of the black leadership in 1877 with the withdrawal of the army. The country then ignored the very violent takeover of the South by the waiting white elites causing the undoing much of the conflict and death of the previous thirty years. A worse of all outcomes except the continuation of slavery you could say. Although with the new forms of slavery created in the South after Reconstruction were not technically slavery, they were damn close at times.

Colonel Smithers , October 22, 2019 at 11:39 am

Thank you, Joe.

"Only true for mass market history, particularly by non professional historians, who have to be chipper to sell books and/or get MSM attention." As above, we have the same problem in the mother country. Boris Johnson, Jacob Rees-Mogg and Jeremy Paxman write for a certain audience and are often serialised in the Daily Mail and given air time on state broadcasters like the BBC and Channel 4. The trio have been joined by once serious historians Simon Schama and David Cannadine. It would be difficult for an EP Thompson or Eric Hobsbawm, whose daughter is a staunch Blairite, just like the children and grandchildren of Wedgie Benn, to get published or air time now.

Joe Well , October 22, 2019 at 4:09 pm

The gap between academic British history and the propaganda peddled by the likes of British state media organ bbc.com (let alone Boris Johnson) is astounding. Just one example: I once forced myself to read a bbc.com article that explained how Britain's primary role in the history of slavery was to end it, and have encountered that unique version of history in a few other British mass-media productions.

And did you know that in London there is an actual place called the Imperial War Museum, and it is not some kind of collection of Marxist diatribes and Global South protests, it is a state-funded temple of reverence for Britain's wars (and admittedly some solid academic history)?

It is as if an entire country were naked and they were the only ones who didn't know it or else thought they were hiding it.

Janie , October 22, 2019 at 2:09 pm

Echoing recommendation of Eric Foner.

RBHoughton , October 22, 2019 at 10:17 pm

We have had that problem in UK all my life. State historians have conspired to create a clean and uplifting version of British history, over the last 200-300 years, and it is only now that we Poms are beginning to get our real history, courtesy of Andrew Roberts (on Napoleon) and David Starkey (on most everything else).

One hopes that academics are respectable people. Can they look in the mirror and recognise the problem?

Harry , October 22, 2019 at 7:14 am

You know, Machiavelli wrote quite a thorough treatise on this subject. Discourses on the first decade of Titus Livius

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Discourses_on_Livy

Amfortas the hippie , October 22, 2019 at 1:05 pm

and Livy what we have of him is very readable and engaging, too.

The Rev Kev , October 22, 2019 at 7:26 am

I am afraid that Newdealdemocrat's views on Republican Rome do have to be heavily qualified. And I won't mention that the British Empire and the Republic of Venice were actually oligarchies. Wait – I just did!
Anyway, when he gets to the part about the Punic Wars he tends to mash the events of the different wars together. The Romans were not the same people that they were at the beginning of these wars. The social conditions and mores had changed too much. A serious use of a timeline is needed so a bit of context here. The three Punic wars were epic on scale and amounted to world wars at the time. In the second war, Rome went right to the brink and was nearly snuffed out but managed to hold the line. When the British were fighting the French during the Napoleonic wars, a lot of British were equating their struggles to the 2nd Punic War. Here is how it went.
During the first Rome and Carthage went at it for over twenty years until it finally ended. After a break of twenty years, the went at it again for another seventeen years. After that war was over, you had peace for about fifty years until the last war which only lasted three years and after hard fighting, Carthage was no more. And no, it was not really a Republic at all. So all in all these three wars were spread over nearly 120 years. So lets equate that with a history of the United States.
Suppose that the US were fighting a country going from the Spanish-American war until the end of WW1. Then they fought this enemy again from WW2 to near the beginning of the Vietnam war. The final war would have broken out a few years ago and just finished. So using this idea, would Newdealdemocrat argue that the Americans of the 1890s were like the Americans of the 1940s & 1950s who would be like modern Americans? Too much water has passed under the bridge and so it was with the Romans. And certainly you cannot mix up events from these different American eras without a serious misrepresentation of history.

vlade , October 22, 2019 at 8:38 am

Re Venice – a republic can be an oligarchy – the point is that the executive is elected (from some body), not inherited.

From that point, Venice wasn't a republic until about 1000AD, when the Concia started to form (of all free men). Before that it was appointment from Byzantium. The democratic attempt changed to oligarchic in about 1300. As a republic it was still pretty stable due to the extremely convoluted (on purpose) sortition election mechanism, which was making it pretty hard to impossible to rig future Doges w/o very large consensus in the electorate.

The Rev Kev , October 22, 2019 at 8:57 am

Granted that a republic can be an oligarchy and a good example was East Germany which was called the German Democratic Republic. I am here to say though that I spent a few hours in that place and it definitely did not feel like a democratic republic. A few months ago I read a history of the Republic of Venice and from what I read, it had the same feel as East Germany once did with its strict controls and ruthlessness.

vlade , October 22, 2019 at 9:30 am

Indeed (and most of the Soviet-block countries were republics and 'people's republic' and 'democratic', when they were none of these. DPRK is a prime example none. Not democratic, not peoples' not republic, and partially Korea).

I just want to be reasonably precise, as lots of people assume that democracy and republic are equal. I don't know whether the author was making that assumption too, or was looking at republic in the wider sense.

The US can be a republic and not being democratic at all .

DJG , October 22, 2019 at 9:24 am

vlade and Rev Kev: The Serenissima is fascinating, and it is hard to draw lessons because it was a highly contradictory place. Venetian justice was supposed to have been relentless and severe–yet histories tend to clump the repression. Over the long span of time, Venice wasn't such a bad place to live, and the Republic had a reputation for being more just than any of the surrounding states. (Although I just peeked at the list of doges, and it was hard to be a doge in the 900s or so.)

The Republic was highly skeptical of the Inquisition and kept it under control. Compared other Catholic–and Protestant–states, the Venetians didn't allow the mass panic and miscarriages of justice that the Inquisition was famous for.

What the Venetians were good at was a kind of civic esprit de corps–all Venetians seem to have been committeed to the city. There was considerable openness–Venice was a center for book publishing for centuries. Of course, those in charge of the Republic kept the university in Padua. On the other hand, Galileo taught at Padua, without incident. Marin Falier and his attempted coup were a notable exception, which is why history books dwell on those events.

Venetians loved minutiae, which may be their odd distinguishing characteristic. They saved everything, in their enormous archives–every record, every blunder, every victory. They made officials obtain a countersignature–that skepticism, slight lack of trust, was everywhere.

And what may make them the most exceptional was their island empire: They rule the Ionian islands in Greece pretty much to the end of the Serenissima. Yet they weren't insular. There was a reluctant tolerance–the Ghetto in the city itself, the Armenian monasteries in the lagoon, the large populations of Greek Orthodox on Crete and Cyprus whom they did not bother much.

Much to contemplate here: But most USonians consider Venice these days to be a shopping mall. It is hard to find decent books in English on the complicated history of Venice.

vlade , October 22, 2019 at 9:33 am

John Julius Norwich, History of Venice.

Synoia , October 22, 2019 at 1:12 pm

Gibbon Decline & Fall of the Roman Empire, although I find Gibbon biased

John Julius Norwich, Byzantium, as one cannot focus on Rome and not Byzantium, and their adoption of Christianity

And reflect and the stunning success of the Roman Catholic Church which converted Western Europe to its Spiritual Leadership.

Conrad , October 22, 2019 at 1:59 pm

Gibbon covers the history of Byzantium right up to the fall of Constantinople.

MyLessThanPrimeBeef , October 22, 2019 at 3:02 pm

Their naval shipyard was quite impressive in turning out warships efficently.

Titus , October 22, 2019 at 11:24 am

Rev, excellent. I would only add the Romans really hated Carthage and today was the first time I ever heard they were a republic.

Synoia , October 22, 2019 at 1:23 pm

Carthage delenda est!

Something about elephants and a surprise from the North.

MyLessThanPrimeBeef , October 22, 2019 at 3:00 pm

A Roman politician could go far with "Remember Cannae."

lyman alpha blob , October 22, 2019 at 2:13 pm

I'm not sure it's exactly clear how their government compares to modern types. The best place to look is Polybius, who was alive during the final Punic war. Here's what he has to say –

51 1 The constitution of Carthage seems to me to have been originally well contrived as regards its most distinctive points. 2 For there were kings, and the house of Elders was an aristocratical force, and the people were supreme in matters proper to them, the entire frame of the state much resembling that of Rome and Sparta. 3 But at the time when they entered on the Hannibalic War, the Carthaginian constitution had degenerated, and that of Rome was better. 4 For as every body or state or action has its natural periods first of growth, then of prime, and finally of decay, and as everything in them is at its best when they are in their prime, it was for this reason that the difference between the two states manifested itself at this time. 5 For by as much as the power and prosperity of Carthage had been earlier than that of Rome, by so much had Carthage already begun to decline; while Rome was exactly at her prime, as far as at least as her system of government was concerned. 6 Consequently the multitude at Carthage had already acquired the chief voice in deliberations; while at Rome the senate still retained this; 7 and hence, as in one case the masses deliberated and in the other the most eminent men, the Roman decisions on public affairs were superior, 8 so that although they met with complete disaster, they were finally by the wisdom of their counsels victorious over the Carthaginians in the war.

http://penelope.uchicago.edu/Thayer/E/Roman/Texts/Polybius/6*.html

Worth reading the beginning of book 6 too where he compares the different types of governments and how they evolve, or more likely, devolve. Here he seems to be making that case that whatever form of republic or democracy the Carthiginians once had, it had devolved to mob rule by the time of the Punic wars.

lyman alpha blob , October 22, 2019 at 4:24 pm

I had a comment that skynet seems to have eaten. Anyway, check out what Polybius has to say about it – section 51 is the relevant part.

http://penelope.uchicago.edu/Thayer/E/Roman/Texts/Polybius/6*.html

Another Scott , October 22, 2019 at 7:28 am

I'd like to wait for the entire series before commenting too much, but based upon my readings on the subject, the connection between oversees military operations and the disposition of the farmers is incredibly important. It seems to underlie many of the subsequent problems that contributed to the Fall of the Republic. Without the farmers being forced off their lands after fighting wars in Africa, Greece, and Spain, they would not have become reliant upon generals for patronage nor joined the poor masses in Rome itself.

SufferinSuccotash , October 22, 2019 at 8:54 am

Describing Britain as a "parliamentary democracy" for the past 400 years seems a little far-fetched. "Constitutional monarchy" would be more accurate, with the monarch sharing power with Parliament. Parliament itself was a highly elitist affair, dominated by the "landed classes" (aristocracy & gentry) and chosen by a tiny and well-managed electorate. In addition, monarchs retained a great deal of power over the choice of ministers. This state of affairs lasted well into the 19th century. The young Queen Victoria was the very last monarch to attempt (unsuccessfully) to keep a Prime Minister in office without parliamentary approval. And democracy (defined as universal suffrage or something close to it) had to wait until the Reform Bills of 1867 and 1884. By the time a parliamentary democracy exists the Empire has become a well-established fact.

RBHoughton , October 22, 2019 at 10:25 pm

I believe it was the Irishman Castlereagh who almost single-handedly brought down the monarchy because of the unparliamentary George III, specifically the attempted seizure of South America. Once that powerful and knowledgeable King was pushed aside, the next couple of clowns were dog's meat to politicians determined to center power on the Commons. The MO was to give a bit and take a lot and thus whittle down the Civil List to a point no future British monarch had independent power.

DJG , October 22, 2019 at 9:27 am

I think that the writer misunderstands Roman offices. An aedile was more of an inspector of public works. The word edile / edilizia is still used in Italian for building / construction.

The college of pontifexes were the ones in charge of festivals and religious events. And there were complicated qualifications for membership (involving social class) as well as complicated rules of behavior expected of these priesthoods.

Janie , October 22, 2019 at 2:07 pm

Related to edifice, although a quick look-up did not show aedile as a root?

shinola , October 22, 2019 at 10:08 am

Thanks for this post – very interesting. Looking forward to the next 3 parts.

MyLessThanPrimeBeef , October 22, 2019 at 12:14 pm

The de facto requirement that all senior magistrates and in particular the consuls (analogous to Presidents) be military commanders, who frequently raised, and increasingly paid for, their own armies.

-- -

We can look to Marius for that.

From Wikipedia*:

Marius and his contemporaries' need for soldiers cemented a paradigmatic shift away from the levy-based armies of the middle Republic towards open recruitment. Thereafter, Rome's legions would largely consist of poor citizens (the "capite censi" or "head count") whose future after service could only be assured if their general could bring about land distribution and pay on their behalf. In the broad sweep of history, this reliance on poor men would make soldiers strongly loyal not to the Senate and people of Rome, but to their generals whom would be perceived as friends, comrades, benefactors, and patrons of soldiers.[57]

*We can find this subject, Marius military reform, covered in many places, some not as readily quotable as Wikipedia, which is cited here as an introduction to those who are not already familiar with. People who want more details can do further research, and those who object to part or parts of the above can raise them here for readers to discuss/debate or to correct/update.

Susan the Other , October 22, 2019 at 12:18 pm

Well even the billionaires are panicked now. Whereas traditional oligarchs have sewn their diamonds in their petticoats and still been massacred. That's very symbolic. Talk about blood diamonds. It's possible that we are facing the end of an era. To go forward now we can no longer take from the environment frivolously, beyond our needs. And we will be required by Nature to leave the world better than we found it. In my mind that leaves all dysfunctional governments looking pretty stupid.

Kingfish , October 22, 2019 at 1:54 pm

I recommend Colleen McCullough's First Man in Rome and the subsequent books. It's historical fiction but is heavily based upon the original sources and provides an entertaining way to study the fall of the Roman Republic.

The post briefly touches upon it but the rise of the commercial class played directly into Plato's cycle of governments. The landed aristocracy (Senate) became threatened by the commercial class (Assembly). This will explode when Marius and Sulla go to war with each other as the Assembly took away Sulla's rightful command and gave it to Marius.

Of course, back then, losing in politics increasingly became a case of losing your head, citizenship, or all property. A strong motivation to stay in power regardless of the cost.

The Historian , October 22, 2019 at 2:01 pm

This ought to be an interesting series! I am hoping Newdealdemocrat doesn't just regurgitate the books he/she mentions but gives us some critical insight of his/her own.

Obviously the Roman Republic is important to Americans since the Founding Fathers were enamored of Polybius's writings, but it sad they weren't equally interested in understanding the reasons the Roman Republic collapsed; they might have put more protections into our Constitution. But in fairness to them, perhaps there just wasn't that much literature on the subject of the Roman Republic's collapse at that time since it seem that writers previous to 1776 were more interested in the collapse of the Roman Empire than in the Roman Republic.

The collapse of the Roman Republic was very complex and cannot be simplified down into just one thing or one set of things so I tend to discount those writers who do that. And every historian that has written about the Roman Republic/Empire's collapses is ethnocentric and weights history based on what is important to him/her and I don't expect this writer to be any different. Since I don't know how a writer can avoid understanding history in terms of his/her own culture instead of the culture that existed at the time, I usually try to find out who the writer is and what is important to him/her and then I read his/her history within that context. Since I don't know anything about this writer, I am inclined to withhold judgement on the validity for now. But even those writers on the Roman Republic who were obviously biased have provided valuable insights. I am hoping for at least that and maybe more from this writer.

Jeremy Grimm , October 22, 2019 at 2:03 pm

As the 2nd millennium passes into the 3rd I believe it grows plain our Empire is crumbling and I fear its last days will come in my lifetime. Empires have ended before – but this time is different. This end will be far more complete, further reaching, and perhaps more final than any collapse which occurred in the past. This collapse will signal the end of Empire but also the end of the Age of Fossil Fuels. And the scale of our collapse will dwarf the scale of all the collapses of the past. It is strange and eerie to live through last days – strange days watching the emergence of signs of collapse.

Our civilization is built on the power we obtain from burning fossil fuels. But fossil fuels are finite. We extracted and burned them at such a rate as now seems unimaginable. They were a legacy of energy and chemicals such as might have nurtured Humankind for many millennia. We wastefully burned-up this legacy in less than a century. And now our bright candle's wick burns close to the pan as we burn what remains of our fossil fuel legacy. If Humankind's capacity to replace fossil fuels relies upon the use of fossil fuels to discover and build that replacement – our bridge to the future – I fear we have so completely burned that bridge and all the bridges behind us. Our collapse will come before we see full scope of the wonders Climate Chaos holds in promise. Not only have we burned our bridges, we have so changed our world that our survivors will face constantly changing and difficult adaptations for many millennia to come.

If only the collapse of our Empire were more like the collapse of Rome or the other Empires mentioned.

Janie , October 22, 2019 at 2:14 pm

Many thanks to Yves for this post and to the commentariat for their excellent contributions. Another trip to the library is in order; as often happens, I am made aware of huge gaps in my knowledge.

Lambert Strether , October 22, 2019 at 2:15 pm

It's too bad that Duncan's book seems to have had structural issues, because I like the podcast so much. Oh well!

Summer , October 22, 2019 at 5:35 pm

At what point can one come to the conclusion that modelling after fallen Republics is a design for an eventual fall?
Conveniently or not .

RubyDog , October 22, 2019 at 7:12 pm

I think he is a little harsh on Mike Duncan's "The Storm Before the Storm."

"Unfortunately this latter book (in my opinion) wound up being a chronological blow-by-blow vomiting of not well organized facts."

There are many ways to tell the story of history, and there is not such thing as an unbiased, factual account, given the intellectual and ideological biases of any given author, and the necessary basis in available sources that are in themselves biased to begin with. That being said, Mike Duncan's book (which I just finished) tries to give a chronological account of "what happened", and (in my opinion) does so in a clear and coherent fashion, allowing the reader to draw their own conclusions and interpretation. I wouldn't want people to avoid the book due to one person's opinion. I agree though that it's helpful to read as many different takes on a given historical topic as one has the time and inclination for, as there is no one "correct" or "best" interpretation.

If you like podcasts, "Death Throes of the Republic", by Dan Carlin, covers the same territory in Carlin's highly engaging and addictive style.

Jack Parsons , October 22, 2019 at 10:07 pm

Duncan's book is derived from his podcast of the same name. I haven't listened (I'm an "I, Claudius" guy) but his "Revolutions" podcast is very very good.

It might be that his Rome podcast works better than his book.

Michael Meo , October 22, 2019 at 8:57 pm

As my mite to the discussion I'd like to recommend as a valuable contribution to the history of the fall of the Republic Gareth Sampson's The Collapse of Rome. Marius, Sulla, and the First Civil War (91-70 BC) , Barnsley, South Yorkshire, Pen & Sword Military, 2013, 284 pp. Sampson's thesis is, as has been already pointed out, that the Republic was inalterably changed by the Social War and Sulla's assault on Rome when he returned from the East.

[Oct 22, 2019] US foreign policy is now based on virtual facts

Being a neoconservative should receive at least as much vitriolic societal rejection as being a Ku Klux Klan member or a child molester, but neocon pundits are routinely invited on mainstream television outlets to share their depraved perspectives.
Notable quotes:
"... Some of the "virtual facts:" ..."
"... The Soviet Union never ended. Russia is still communist and an inevitable and indeed indispensable enemy of the US. Anyone who challenges that certitude is an obvious agent of the Russian government. ..."
"... Iran is the "greatest supporter of terrorism" in the world." ..."
"... The Syrian Arab Government is an abomination on the scale of Nazi Germany and must be destroyed and replaced by God knows what . ..."
"... Saudi Arabia is a deeply friendly state and ally of the US. ..."
"... It is beyond scary to see just how entrenched and powerful Deep State is and how it involves/controls both political parties ..."
"... I doubt there is any magic bullet website or other source of information that would turn people over night. A good start would be encouraging them to read transcripts of various Putin and Lavrov speeches and pressers, also Valdai Club, economic forum ect. ..."
"... The colonel's complaint implicitly assumes that things were not always thus. My adult experience since I saw a war up close has been that the "facts" of our public discourse are always simplified and usually grossly distorted. ..."
"... Not only are the MSM married to a narrative but they feel compelled to attack the few who ever challenge the orthodoxy. For example, 'Tulsi Gabbard met with the war criminal Assad'. ..."
"... It is certainly true that Russia is being demonized in all the MSM I have sampled. A frequent criticism is that Putin, like Assad, and earlier Saddam and Quadaffi, is essentially an illegitimate ruler of his country, ruling through brute force and without the consent of his countrymen. (Thus the WaPo editorials routinely call Putin a "thug", just as they call Assad a "butcher".) ..."
"... Not to defend Trump and his balance sheet mindset with respect to the Saudis, the reality is that both parties and presidents from George H.W to Bill Clinton to W and Obama have treated the Saudi monarchy as our "friend", even when they sponsored the terrorists that attacked us on 9/11. ..."
"... Tony Blair became a wealthy man after his prime ministership on the back of money thrown his way by the Arab sheikhs ..."
Oct 22, 2019 | turcopolier.typepad.com

Mika B remarked a couple of years ago on the show that she and her sex slave stage in the early morning that the social media were out of control because it is the job of the MSM to tell people what to think. The Hillary stated recently that life was better when there were only three TeeVee news outlets because it was easier to keep things under control. Now? My God! Any damned fool can propagate unauthorized "facts." What? Who?

Well, pilgrims, the US government (along with our British and Israeli helpmates and masters) are the preeminent creators and purveyors of the manufactured virtual facts on which we base our policy. These "facts" are "ginned up" in the well moneyed hidden staff groups of "hidden" candidates that are devoted to the seizure of power made possible by a deluded electorate. These "facts" are then propagated and reinforced through relentless IO campaigns run by executive "bots" in the MSM and in such remarkable and imaginative efforts as the "White Helmets" film company manned by jihadis and managed by clubby Brits left over from the Days of The Raj (sob). These "facts" are now so entrenched in the general mind that they can be used to denounce people like Rep. (major ) Gabbard as traitors because they challenge them.

Some of the "virtual facts:"


Harper , 21 October 2019 at 07:50 PM

Yes I fully concur. We have gone from fact-based news to faith-based fake news led by the MSM. I recall at the start of the Iraq War in March 2003, the line was out that British PM Tony Blair was George W. Bush's "poodle," forgetting entirely that it was the first of the British "dodgy dossiers" that made the totally discredited claim that Saddam had gotten tons of yellow cake from Niger. So the British have no military resources but they continue to maintain the idea that they can manipulate the U.S. and make up for the demise of the old British empire.

The Steele dossier was the second British "dodgy dossier" that got the ball rolling on Trump the Russian mole and Putin's "poodle."

So much fraud. But now social media must be patrolled and anyone daring to challenge the voice of the MSM must be purged by Google, Facebook, Twitter et al.

My question is: When will the machinations of the Big Lie MSM Wurlitzer cross the line and trigger the backlash that they secretly fear so much? MSM has to destroy Trump by 2020 or else his "fake news" polemic will stick... because there is no much truth to it. The messenger may be crude, but he has the bully pulpit to have a real impact.

I await the release, as Larry Johnson pointed out, of the Horowitz IG report on the origins of the fake Trump-Russia collusion line. Also the pending Barr-Durham larger report which is zeroing in on John Brennan.

Fred -> Harper... , 22 October 2019 at 08:28 AM
Harper,

"MSM has to destroy Trump by 2020 or else..."
The MSM are joined by all those folks who were wined, dined, and degraded by Jeffrey Epstein and Hollywood hero Harvey Weinstein. Nobody seems to care about who Jeffrey abused, or who enjoyed his island paradise. Harvey, he's about to buy a free ride out of jail. Meanwhile we jail idiots who "bribe" there kids way into that "elite" institution - UCLA.

Vig said in reply to Harper... , 22 October 2019 at 11:31 AM
Great response Harper,

an ideal study would no doubt want to look into the Italy-GB-US angle already concerning the "first dossier", or whatevers. Didn*t that have mediawise an intermediate French angle?

But is that what is looked at? At present?

VietnamVet , 21 October 2019 at 08:03 PM
Colonel,

This is what happens when the deciders believe their own propaganda. The media now says that a residual force of American troops and contractors will stay behind at the Deir ez-Zor oil fields and Al-Tanf base near the Jordon border. The media moguls dare not mention that the real intention is to prevent the Syrian Arab Army from retaking its own territory or that Turkey is seizing thousands of square miles of Syria. Syrians with Russia, Chinese and Iranian aid won't quit until Syria is whole again and rebuilt. This means that America continues its uninvited unwinnable war in the middle of nowhere with no allies for no reason at all except to do Israel's bidding and to make money for military contractors. The swamp's regime change campaign failed. The Houthis' Aramco attack shows that the gulf oil supply is at risk and can be shut down at will. Continuing these endless wars that are clearly against the best interests of the American people is insane.

CK said in reply to VietnamVet... , 22 October 2019 at 10:05 AM
It strikes me, as a matter of observable fact, that the Houthi attack had almost no long run affect on oil production. Everything was back to normal within 10 days. I think that the attack was allowed to occur for exactly one reason and that was to start a shooting war between the USA as KSA's great defender and Iran as the horrible nation that has a mild dislike for Israel.
It failed. So far.
To believe that the 24/7/52 AWACS, Ground radar, Israeli radar, and the overlapping close in radar coverage of the Saudi oil fields all failed to detect the drones and cruise missiles is to believe in more miracles than I can handle on a good day. It also means that assets in other parts of this world covered by these same type of radars are just as vulnerable to local disaffected groups.
j , 21 October 2019 at 08:22 PM
The FUKUS thinks we are all a bunch of brainless sheep to be led by a ring in our noses. The 'Muktar' is clueless regarding our Saudi brethren, he's supposed to administer how the overlords say he's to administer, nothing more. The CIA administration still has a hard-on because they blew it regarding Iran and they're still embarrassed about it.

In two days, counting closer to a day and a half will be the sad anniversary (October 23) where the Israeli government willfully with forethought let our Marines and other service personnel bunked with them at the barracks in Beirut die needlessly, because Nahum Admoni wanted U.S. to get our noses bloodied.

Never mind that the Russians lost close to 30 million to the brotherhood of the Operation Paper Clip, and the Bormann Group that today controls from behind the scenes most of the World's money thanks to Martin creating over 750 corporations initially to start with, that has expanded like a Hydra. Any time that truth (Russia is no longer Communist) rears its ugly head, the Bormann group goes into overdrive to ensure that the big lie perpetuates.

The FUKUS think we're all a bunch of sheep to be led off a cliff, and the propaganda mills have created the trail right up to the edge of the precipice that the sheep are trotting.

Heaven help our children and grandchildren.

Larry Johnson , 21 October 2019 at 08:29 PM
Amen. The landslide of disinformation and bullshit disseminated on a daily basis by a pliant media is happily lapped up by ignorant, uninformed Americans. I've had quite an exchange with a liberal friend of mine who was shrieking MSNBC talking points on Syria and the Kurds. Mind you, this fellow never served a day in the military. Never held a clearance in his life. Didn't know a thing about JOPES and how Special Ops forces use a series of written orders signed off on by the CJCS. Yet, he was qualified to criticize Trump. At the same time not one of his kids or grandkids are signed up to fight on that frontline. I told him politely to STFU and get educated before trying to comment on something he knows nothing about.
Thanks Colonel.
JJackson said in reply to Larry Johnson ... , 22 October 2019 at 06:41 AM
I am British and did consider the military in my youth but if I were that age now I would not. Having seen what my political master, and yours, have asked the military to do the danger of being sent on some counter product regime change mission or to prop-up someone I would rather fight is just too great. I would only end up refusing to follow orders which I understand the military takes a rather dim view of.
Vig said in reply to JJackson... , 22 October 2019 at 12:03 PM
... regime change mission or to prop-up someone I would rather fight is just too great.

once upon a time, and strictly I had opted not to believe either side before that, but yes, at one point I wondered fully aware they may be legitimate complaints, how would the UCK, or the Kosovo Liberation Army become the "Western" partner in war.

In hindsight I was made aware of this one grandiose British officer ... once upon a time.

Fred -> JJackson... , 22 October 2019 at 12:04 PM
JJackson,

"if I were that age now..." That is the same line used by the American left since the '60s.
"I would only end up refusing to follow orders..."
Samantha Power at the UN and James Comey at the FBI both had a "higher loyalty" than to the elected government or the Constitution on which it is based. That's why they are busy trying to subvert it.

The Twisted Genius , 21 October 2019 at 10:01 PM
There's a lot of truth there, Colonel. Life would be better with just three TV new outlets, huh. Which three? Can you imagine being limited to three cable new outlets? Actually most people probably limit themselves to three news outlets or less. They find an echo chamber and stick with it. I thank God I don't have cable or satellite TV and I have too many interests to engage with talk radio.

I couldn't agree more with your characterization of "virtual facts" about Iran, Syria and Saudi Arabia. I also agree that those who continue to view Russia as an implacable enemy bent on our destruction and world domination are liars and/or fools. The Soviet Union was just a phase, a phase now past. Russia never ended. Conversely, those who insist that Russia is a newly minted nation of glitter farting unicorns incapable of nefarious behavior are also fools and/or liars. Russia is a formidable competitor, fully capable and willing to take prudent actions in pursuit of her interests. We should respect her and seek cooperation where we can and tolerance where we must.

How the never-Trumpers treat Tulsi Gabbard is shameful. What Clinton recently said is mild compared to what others have been saying for quite some time. Calling Tulsi a Russian asset is foolishly wrong. That Russia may prefer Tulsi over other potential Presidential candidates should be seen as a positive thing. A policy of mutual respect, cooperation and tolerance between our two countries would benefit the entire world.

Sbin , 21 October 2019 at 10:21 PM
The nonsense is endless.

America needed to restore the Kuwait monarchy for freedom and democracy. Remember defense Secretary Dick Cheney sending captured Iraq arms to the Taliban.

Same play book was used to run Libyan arms through Bengazi to Wahhabism freedom fighter "ISIS" and the al Lindsey McCain head choppers.

Babak Makkinejad -> Sbin... , 21 October 2019 at 11:25 PM
The nonsense will end since not even the United States can endure these costs. Did you hear Trump? 8 trillion yankee dollars and nothing to show for it.
Fred -> Babak Makkinejad... , 22 October 2019 at 08:23 AM
Babak,

He left out thousands dead and injured and not a single one of them a politician, banker, professor or news anchor.

walrus , 21 October 2019 at 11:43 PM
What is highly alarming, almost terrifying, is that really well educated people who have achieved great things in their careers and are pillars of society believe this crap.

I had dinner guests last week; a former Chairman of a bank and his wife who is a highly acclaimed Professor of public Health and Epidemiology who told me how awful Trump and Putin are neither of these friends are what you could remotely classify as Social Justice leftists.

My problem is that I don't know where to start to try and put them right without them thinking I'm a tinfoil hatted conspiracy nut. I wish there was a website dedicated solely to purveying basic truthful information that is not perhaps as esoteric as SST. Should I try and start one or are there already good examples to point to?

Voatboy -> walrus... , 22 October 2019 at 05:10 AM
https://www.wanttoknow.info/ is a useful resource for educating citizens.
John B said in reply to walrus... , 22 October 2019 at 09:21 AM
I'm thinking this is so far and so deep there is nothing that can or will be done. Trump's election and presidency has lifted the curtain on the puppet show. This recent Syria troop removal is Trump's second attempt at openly declaring troops will be pulled out of Syria only to have the military has said, "Um, no, we will stay and simply relocate."

Trump openly called for FISA warrants to be declassified only to have the DOJ and FBI either ignore and defy him. Groups like Judicial Watch and others go into court to get the requested information through FOIA and DOJ and FBI lawyers and the courts block them.

It is beyond scary to see just how entrenched and powerful Deep State is and how it involves/controls both political parties. Trump has faced hurricane winds of opposition from day one and has been constantly subverted by his own party and his own people. I don't know how he can get up every day and continue to fight the obvious and concerted Deep State coup against him. I pray for him. I pray the rosary for him.

There are members within Trump's own party who have agreed that there should be an investigation into the impeachment of Trump for running a yellow light (at most). Again, members of his own party. Renowned Constitutional lawyers John Yoo and Alan Dershowitz, from Cal-Berkeley and Harvard laws schools respectively, have said that not only has Trump done nothing, even remotely, which could trigger an impeachment inquiry but if Congress were to do so it would be unconstitutional and illegal. But alas, who would enforce this? Deep State snakes like John Roberts at the Supreme Court? Robert has already signed off on the coup ( https://slate.com/news-and-politics/2019/10/john-roberts-mitch-mcconnell-trump-impeachment-trial.amp).

The only thing that separates America from falling into the abyss is Trump, a handful of people in Washington, a few conservative talk show hosts, and about 40% of America. Many people have talked a good game at points but I think in the end are just double agents of the dark side/Deep State (Lindsey Graham, Mitch McConnell, ... IG Horowitz, etc.). And some, such as Chris Wray, are unabashed dark side/Deep State agents in good standing.

As St. Thomas More said, "The times are never so bad that a good man cannot live in them." I have faith in Barr. I have faith in Durham. Two men whose Catholic faith is integral to every aspect of their lives and work. But with as pervasive, entrenched, and powerful as the Deep State is I'm skeptical they have the power to do anything. Btw, here's U.S. Attorney John Durham's lecture before the Thomistic Institute at Yale (hosted by the Dominican Order): https://soundcloud.com/thomisticinstitute/perspective-of-a-catholic-prosecutor-honorable-john-durham

One thing that really amuses me is that the marionettes of Deep State in the media and politics actually believe that once Trump is gone their puppet show theatre can resume like nothing happened. Sorry, but there is no coming back from this. They will be lucky if the worst thing that happens is a sizable part of of the American populace protests by throwing sand in the gears. I'm afraid it will end much worse.

Peter AU 1 said in reply to walrus... , 22 October 2019 at 01:12 PM
I doubt there is any magic bullet website or other source of information that would turn people over night. A good start would be encouraging them to read transcripts of various Putin and Lavrov speeches and pressers, also Valdai Club, economic forum ect.

Most only get to see the odd sentence or paragragh in western MSM with an entirely fictional story built around it, so perhaps and MSM piece like that and the transcript of the relevant presser or speech alongside it.

I suspect the fine detail in Putin and Lavrov's replies to press questions rather than cliches would surprise many people.

Glorious Bach said in reply to walrus... , 22 October 2019 at 02:29 PM
Walrus--100% my experience as well. Many dinners with "liberal" even "progressive" friends, mostly of the retired kind require great psychic energy. Their Overton Window is 1"-square, making exchanges very difficult to squeeze even minimal bits of political reality.

My daily blog tour, like MW's above, takes me through: Moon of Alabama, Naked Capitalism, SST, Caitlin Johnstone, Grayzone and a few others. I'm intel gathering -- but I need to figure out how to convey broader perspectives even to my 40-45 year-old children and their friends. Inside the Beltway assumptions are hard to de-program.

Vegetius , 22 October 2019 at 12:13 AM
The CIA is a clear and present danger.
b , 22 October 2019 at 01:31 AM
While I agree with the essence of the post I disagree with the characterization of SOHR. It tends to get its stuff right. I have listed several significant events where SOHR disagreed with the official narrative: On Sources And Information - The Syrian Observatory For Human Rights . Those are exactly the moments where SOHR is disregarded by the pressitude.

It is the selective quoting of such sources that paint them as partisan even as they try to stay somewhat neutral.

---
@Pat - Any comment to the Gen. McRaven op-ed in the NYT?
Our Republic Is Under Attack From the President
If President Trump doesn't demonstrate the leadership that America needs, then it is time for a new person in the Oval Office.

Isn't it a call to mutiny? It seems to me to be far beyond the allowed political comment from a retired General.

Anonymous , 22 October 2019 at 01:34 AM
Those that look up the pole, all they see is assholes. Those that look down all they see is assholes, but those that look straight ahead, they see which path to take.
fredw , 22 October 2019 at 08:13 AM
The colonel's complaint implicitly assumes that things were not always thus. My adult experience since I saw a war up close has been that the "facts" of our public discourse are always simplified and usually grossly distorted.

Is the Iranian regime terrible? Well, yes, but it is also a regime that holds real elections and often loses them. Not in the same league of awful with Nazi Germany or the Soviet Union.

Similarly with the other examples. The "facts" have in each case a basis in truth but do not by themselves give a true picture. Is our discourse more unfair to Russia than it was to Nasser's Egypt? Is our promotion of Saudi Arabia any worse than our adulation of Chiang Kai-shek?

Christian J Chuba , 22 October 2019 at 08:30 AM
Not only are the MSM married to a narrative but they feel compelled to attack the few who ever challenge the orthodoxy. For example, 'Tulsi Gabbard met with the war criminal Assad'.

It would do our vaunted free press wonders if they traveled to Damascus instead of repeating the same tired talking points about Syria. I'll never forget the look on Gabbard's face when she talked about the Syrians came up to her and said, 'why are you attacking us, what did we do to you'. Meeting real people can undo a lifetime of blather and must be stopped at all cost.

turcopolier , 22 October 2019 at 08:56 AM
b Perhaps memory fails me but I think SOHR propagated the SAG gas attacks mythology. I have stated that McRaven should be recalled to active duty and court-martialed. I could find several punitice articles in UCMJ under which he could be charged.
CK said in reply to turcopolier ... , 22 October 2019 at 10:21 AM
When McCain returned from the Hanoi Hilton he could have been prosecuted for treason he was not because "peace with honour" overrode UCMJ and honour. McRaven is being offered up as a distraction. Call him back to active duty yes, and assign him somewhere dreary, unimportant and far from CONUS. Ignore the stuff he is blathering while he is retired, if he repeats blather while on active duty then the navy might be able to recover some honour.
Elora Danan said in reply to turcopolier ... , 22 October 2019 at 12:50 PM
No...your memory does not fail you, Colonel, the SOHR was the main source cited at MSM level on the alleged protests which gave place to the destruction of Syria and the legitimation and labelling of alleged "moderate rebels" which then resulted being but terrorist jihadi groups brought mainly from abroad under financing and mtrainning of non Syrian actors...

The source on the alleged atrocities commited by Assad was SOHR at the first years of the war on Syria, along with Doctors Without Borders and "special envoys" by British and French main papers reporting from the former, and first, "Baba Amr" caliphate in Homs....I am meaning the times of Sunday Times´ Marie Colvin and the other woman from Le Figaro , who then resulted or KIA or caught amongst the jihadists ranks along with other foreign "special envoys" who then were released in a truce with Assad through a safe corridor, especially made for that end, to Lebanon.

I fear SOHR was the source of the super-trolling consisting on inundating the MSM comments sections, like that of El País , with dozens of vertical doctored photographs every time any of us aware entered commenting to debunk their fake news.
I remember this since that was the starting point of Elora as net activist...( till then, just a baby, peacefully growing up...unaware....but had no election, felt it was a duty, since, as you comment here, so few people aware...Having known Syria few years before she could not believe what they were telling about Assad, who, eventhough not being perfect, as it has been long ago proved any other leader in the world is, had managed to show the visitant a flourishing Syria where misery present at other ME countries was almost absent...

It is only lately, when the Syrian war was obviously lost for the US coalition, that the SOHR started contradicting some fake claims by the White Helmets, especially last two alleged chemical attacks, if Elora´s not wrong.

Why this, why now, why in this form? Probably those powers behind SOHR trying to secure a part in the cake of reconstruction and future of Syria...since, it got obvious, love for Syria is not amongst one of their mottos...

Dave P. said in reply to Elora Danan... , 22 October 2019 at 04:04 PM
This news just broke:
Trump approves $4.5 million in aid for Syria's White Helmets

WASHINGTON -- US President Donald Trump has authorized $4.5 million in aid for Syria's White Helmets group, famed for rescuing wounded civilians from the frontlines in the civil war, the White House says today...

https://www.timesofisrael.com/liveblog_entry/trump-approves-4-5-million-in-aid-for-syrias-white-helmets/

Steve , 22 October 2019 at 09:41 AM
Col Lang,
I'm an extremely grateful for you and your blog. We are all very fortunate to have you.
PeterVE , 22 October 2019 at 09:58 AM
Thank you for this refuge from the noise. How long before the strangling of information makes its way here, and to Craig Murray, Naked Capitalism, and others who look on with clear eyes?
Terry , 22 October 2019 at 10:13 AM
Humans are copy/paste artists and generally not very good at creative thinking. When shown a series of steps to achieve a reward people will repeat all the steps including clearly unnecessary ones. Monkeys will drop unnecessary steps and frequently show more creativity by using a different method to achieve the reward instead of copying.

The old story goes how a woman always cut the ends off a roast before putting it in a pan. When her daughter asks why she doesn't know, asks her mother who doesn't know and asks the great grandmother who laughs and says her pan was too small.

I suspect it is a functional tradeoff that lets us transfer great amounts of cultural information and maintain a civilization of sorts. It creates a tough environment for innovators and allows for easy manipulation of the majority.

Nature of course always has a sprinkling of minority traits in the gene pool to allow for sudden changes in the environment. Most likely those of us that are more critical thinkers and like in depth, multi-dimensional viewpoints and historical knowledge are always going to be standing by watching the crowd do their copy/paste thing.

The rise of the internet giving easy access to more "sources" means more fragmentation in worldviews than ever before depending on where people copy/paste from.

prawnik , 22 October 2019 at 10:56 AM
To be fair, Russia is portrayed as a sort of resurrected Soviet Union intent on world conquest when the audience are conservatives.

Russia portrayed as a fascist theocracy when the audience are liberals.

prawnik , 22 October 2019 at 11:05 AM
Re: only three TV channels and they all said the same thing!

Once Upon a Time, not so long ago, publishing news was hard. For one thing, you needed a printing press, which was big, expensive and required housing and specialized technicians to operate it. Not only that, but a printing press cost money for every sheet of paper printed, and you had to spend more money to distribute what he printed.

They say that "freedom of the press belongs to those who own one" but there's more! Unless you were already rich and planned to publish as an expensive and time-consuming hobby, you needed an income stream. You would get some money from subscriptions, but subscriptions are really a means to sell advertising. Dependence on advertising meant that there were some people the publisher had to keep happy, and others he could not afford to annoy.

Anyone who knows anything about local news knows this. At best, it's a tightrope walk between giving subscribers the news they want to know, and not infuriating your advertisers. The result was a sort of natural censorship. Publishers had to think long and hard before they published anything that would tork the bigwigs off. The fact that a publisher was tied to a physical location and physical assets also made libel suits much easier.

The same thing applied to broadcast TV, only more so. It took orders of magnitude more money, and you were restricted to a limited amount of bandwidth.

The internet changed all that. Now, any anonymous toolio with a laptop ($299 cheap at WallyWorld) and WiFi (free at many businesses) can go into the news publishing business by nightfall, and with worldwide distribution and an advertising revenue stream, to boot. Marginal cost of readership is zero.

Needless to say, this development has The People That Matter very concerned, and they are working hard to stuff that genie back into the bottle.

casey , 22 October 2019 at 11:32 AM
For what it's worth, I found the late Udo Ulfkotte's personal-experience book "Bought Jounalism" to be quite interesting on this topic, as it details the kind of nuts-and-bolts of print-media prostitution. But I would really like to see an org-chart sometime of the overlapping, possibly competing, mission control centers (if that's the right phrase) that control the various "Wurlitzer" messaging and who, ultimately, is on charge of these. It has been intriguing to watch, since Kerry uttered his "the Internet makes it very hard to govern" line years ago, the blurry outline of a vast operation to shut down any non-approved media messages, now including all social media. To give credit where credit is due, "they" sure have done a bang-up job in feeding bullshit across all platforms down the throats of a Western people, like a goose being fattened up for foie gras.
Jack , 22 October 2019 at 12:04 PM
"...the US government (along with our British and Israeli helpmates and masters) are the preeminent creators and purveyors of the manufactured virtual facts on which we base our policy."

Sir

I've been perplexed for some time what the objectives are of these virtual fact creators? When one digs into who the movers & shakers are in the virtual fact creation apparatus then it seems very much analogous to the Jeffrey Epstein orbit. Folks bound together through the carrot of extraordinary personal gain and the stick of personal destruction. Your Drinking the Koolaid, is a seminal work in exploring how these virtual facts are created and how those who challenge the creation are marginalized and even destroyed personally.

IMO, policy making on the basis of virtual facts extends beyond foreign policy to economic and financial policy as well as healthcare policy in the US. The symptoms are seen in growing wealth inequality and increased market concentration globally and financial policy completely unmoored from common sense and sophistry an important element in virtual fact creation.

We're seeing signs of the early breakdown in social cohesion with social unrest in France, Spain, Hong Kong, Chile, Lebanon, Ecuador. Brexit and the election of Trump despite the intensity and vitriolic nature of how the media was used against them. The impeachment of Trump another tool in the desperate attempt to retain and consolidate power. Maybe we're in the Fourth Turning as Howe & Strauss label it.

Keith Harbaugh , 22 October 2019 at 12:43 PM
"The Soviet Union never ended. Russia is still communist ..."
In the interest of specificity and accountability, where/who in the MSM are asserting that?
You (PL) are making a serious charge.
Just who is guilty of perpetrating such a blatant falsehood?
Terry said in reply to Keith Harbaugh... , 22 October 2019 at 04:19 PM
Google "Russia like USSR". It has to be google tho, not Qwant or Duckduckgo. The bias is thick on google.

Back in the U.S.S.R.? How Today's Russia Is Like the Soviet Era
https://www.nbcnews.com/news/world/back-u-s-s-r-how-todays-russia-soviet-era-n453536

Russia vs. Ukraine: More Russians Want the Soviet Union and Communism Back Amid Continued Tensions

https://www.newsweek.com/russia-vs-ukraine-soviet-union-communism-1264875

Putin's Russia is becoming more Soviet by the day

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/democracy-post/wp/2018/02/26/putins-russia-is-becoming-more-soviet-by-the-day/

Joseph Stalin: Why so many Russians like the Soviet dictator

https://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-47975704

Putin says he wishes the Soviet Union had not collapsed and many Russians agree.

www.washingtonpost.com/news/worldviews/wp/2018/03/03/putin-says-he-wishes-he-could-change-the-collapse-of-the-soviet-union-many-russians-agree/&usg=AOvVaw22Q9M8lhhTo8IYh6rl-FCi

oldman22 , 22 October 2019 at 01:04 PM
John Helmer has today published a comprehensive piece on Syria.
The details of history and current affairs are comprehensive.
Highly recommended, a reference work.
His cartoon is good too!
http://johnhelmer.net/oil-and-water-dont-mix-the-solution-to-the-war-in-syria/print/
oldman22 , 22 October 2019 at 01:13 PM
pardon me, should have said the article that John Helmer published
was written by Gary Busch
divadab , 22 October 2019 at 01:15 PM
well it seems to me that the groundwork is being laid for an authoritarian state - and it already has sophisticated tools that are unprecedented in their scope and depth and ability to store data. And the whole enterprise is based on three rules:
1) secrecy - data is restricted to "insiders";
2) deception - the "outsiders" (you know, the citizens) are regarded as a herd of cattle to be managed - with lies and disinformation so we don't get any ideas;
3) ruthless enforcement to dehumanize and destroy dissent. Just consider the torture and destruction of Journalist Julian Assange: https://www.craigmurray.org.uk/

Not sure what the appropriate response is but I spend a lot of time at my camp working in the woods. Thanks, Colonel Lang, for maintaining this site.

turcopolier , 22 October 2019 at 01:24 PM
Elora Danan

You are more and more interesting.

turcopolier , 22 October 2019 at 01:28 PM
Keith Harbaugh
This is my opinion. I am uninterested in proving anything to you. If you listen to what is said on the MSM (including Fox) it is evident that in the "minds" of the media squirrels Russia is just the USSR in disguise. Try listening to what they are saying as sub-text.
Jackrabbit , 22 October 2019 at 02:21 PM
Thank you pl!
Keith Harbaugh , 22 October 2019 at 02:25 PM
The request was not just for my benefit, but with the thought that it would be useful to document the occurrences of such clearly false statements in the media.

It is certainly true that Russia is being demonized in all the MSM I have sampled. A frequent criticism is that Putin, like Assad, and earlier Saddam and Quadaffi, is essentially an illegitimate ruler of his country, ruling through brute force and without the consent of his countrymen. (Thus the WaPo editorials routinely call Putin a "thug", just as they call Assad a "butcher".)

I am certainly not endorsing that view, just reporting what I hear and read. When I hear that, I harken back to my graduate school days, when the same sort of charges were leveled against America, which was usually spelled "Amerika", or sometimes "AmeriKKKa", and described as a racist, imperialist, fascist country whose establishment must be "Smashed". I believe the core group of people who so wanted a revolution in America in 1970 (which they essentially got, as we have seen over the last 50 years) are much the same as those now demonizing Russia.

Here is some specificity on their complaints against Russia back then: They were not opposed to the USSR, or communism. Many of them were in effect communists. The cry among many was : "Marx, Mao, and Marcuse" (Herbert Marcuse was a former Brandeis professor who extolled cultural Marxism). What they did have, in spades, was a feeling that their ancestors had been victimized by the Czarist regime in Russia, which, among other supposed sins, had not done enough to prevent pogroms against them. They seemed to have a deep fear of the Russian people, based on their long experience with them.

My suspicion (actually, belief) is that the opposition to Putin is based on the fact that he is sometimes viewed as a throwback to the the Czars, and that is definitely not something looked upon favorably by many Jews.

arze , 22 October 2019 at 02:33 PM
This is SOHR, Tweet, Dec. 6, 2014

"Regime forces use Chlorine gas to stop ISIS advances in Der-Ezzor military airport http://fb.me/4qb09QhnH
3:01 AM - 6 Dec 2014"

https://twitter.com/syriahr/status/541185710443995136?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw%7Ctwcamp%5Etweetembed&ref_url=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.dw.com%2Fen%2Fsyrian-observatory-reports-assad-gas-attack-on-is%2Fa-18113807

blue peacock , 22 October 2019 at 03:33 PM
Col. Lang,

"Trump has a balance sheet where a soul should be and that is the basis for the belief that MBS and/or his "country" are our friends."

Not to defend Trump and his balance sheet mindset with respect to the Saudis, the reality is that both parties and presidents from George H.W to Bill Clinton to W and Obama have treated the Saudi monarchy as our "friend", even when they sponsored the terrorists that attacked us on 9/11.

Tony Blair became a wealthy man after his prime ministership on the back of money thrown his way by the Arab sheikhs.

[Oct 22, 2019] SJWs As Bourgeois Bolshies by Rod Dreher

Oct 22, 2019 | www.theamericanconservative.com

October 22, 2019, 2:09 AM

LGBT Pride poster in Soviet Style ( Design Boom ) I'm reading one of the best books I've ever seen, historian Yuri Slezkine's The House of Government: A Saga of the Russian Revolution . It's a massive -- over 1,000 pages -- history of the Bolshevik movement, focusing on the people who lived in a vast apartment building constructed across the Moskva River from the Kremlin, for party elites. In the 1930s, during the purges, it was the most dangerous address in the country. The secret police came for people there all the time.

The book has given me a breakthrough in understanding why so many people who grew up under communism are unnerved by what's going on in the West today, even if they can't all articulate it beyond expressing intense but inchoate anxiety about political correctness. Reading Slezkine , a UC-Berkeley historian, clarifies things immensely. Let me explain as concisely as I can. All of this is going into the book I'm working on, by the way.

In my book, I identify two main factors that make the "soft totalitarianism" we're drifting into different from the hard totalitarianism of the communist years. One is the vastly greater capabilities of surveillance technology, and its penetration into daily life in this current stage of capitalism. The other is the pseudo-religion of Social Justice, the holy trinity of which is Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion. The mathematician James Lindsay last year wrote an insightful essay analyzing Social Justice ideology as a kind of postmodern religion ("faith system," he writes). Reading Slezkine on Bolshevism illuminates this with new depth.

To be clear, Social Justice religion is not the same thing as Bolshevism, which conquered a nation and turned it into a charnel house. But the psychological dynamics are so similar that I can understand now why Soviet-bloc emigres feel in their bones that something wicked is coming, and coming fast.

I'm going to give a brief overview of the ideas in this part of Slezkine's book. Slezkine describes the Bolsheviks as "millenarian sectarians preparing for the apocalypse." He gives a short history of apocalyptic sects, which he said began in the Axial Age , the period between the 8th and the 3rd centuries BC that saw parallel developments in civilizations -- Chinese, Indian, Middle Eastern, Greco-Roman -- that caused a fundamental shift in human consciousness. The Axial Age introduced some concepts that are still with us today, including the idea that history is linear. Religion and philosophical systems of the Axial Age developed a sense of separation from the Real (that is, what is material), and the Ideal (what is transcendent). They also introduced the idea that time would culminate in a final battle between Good and Evil that would result in the End of History and the everlasting reign of Justice. The rich will be conquered, and the poor will triumph.

Slezkine writes at some length about these themes in the Hebrew Bible (Old Testament), but points out that they also existed in parallel in other religions of the era. The two Abrahamic religions that emerged from Axial Age Judaism -- Christianity and Islam -- modified these same concepts for themselves. The Book of Revelation in the Christian Bible is the standard Western account of the Apocalypse, but not the only one.

In the 16th century, the radical Protestant theologian Thomas Müntzer , leader of an apocalyptic Reformation sect, led an armed revolt against the Catholic Church, Martin Luther, and feudal authority. He and his followers believed the Last Days were upon the world, and that revolutionary violence was necessary to prepare for them.

These movements, says Slezkine, often depend on the virtuous mutually surveilling each other to keep everyone in line. Calvin's Geneva was like this, and had laws prescribing the death penalty for relatively minor violations of its purity code. In the 17th century, the English Puritan movement under Thomas Oliver [the mistake was mine -- RD] Cromwell (the "Puritan Moses") was in this same vein.

The Enlightenment birthed apocalyptic millenarianism without God. Slezkine doesn't mention him, but I want to put in a plug for the book Black Mass by the English political philosopher John Gray, which I wrote about here. Gray is an atheist, but he cannot stand the militant atheism of people like Richard Dawkins and the late Christopher Hitchens. In the book, Gray writes about how the instinct for utopia, born out of religion, keeps surfacing in the West, even without God. Nothing is more human, he writes, than to be prepared to kill and die to secure meaning in life. More Gray:

Those who demand that religion be exorcised from politics think this can be achieved by excluding traditional faiths from public institutions; but secular creeds are formed from religious concepts, and suppressing religion does not mean it ceases to control thinking and behaviour. Like repressed sexual desire, faith returns, often in grotesque forms, to govern the lives of those who deny it.

Slezkine writes that this same apocalyptic millenarianism erupted in anti-Christian form in the French Revolution. The Jacobins were Enlightenment apocalyptics, believing in the triumph of Reason, Science, and Virtue. And they were proto-Bolsheviks. Robespierre, in a 1794 speech to the National Assembly, praised "virtue, without which terror is destructive; terror, without which virtue is impotent. The Terror is nothing but justice, prompt, severe, inflexible; it is thus an emanation of virtue."

In 19th century America, millenarianism took more gentle forms, but was still popular. Baptist preacher William Miller prophesied the end of the world in 1843, and reached a national audience with his forecast of doom. It didn't happen, but his work gave rise to the Adventist movements, which are still with us today. Joseph Smith, founder of the Latter-Day Saints faith, was another millenarian -- a more successful one.

Slezkine says that apocalyptic millenarianism in 19th century Europe often took the form of nationalism. Karl Marx advocated German nationalism as the first step in the worldwide communist revolution. Following Hegel, History was Marx's god. Slezkine:

[F]aith in progress is just as basic to modernity as the Second Coming was to Christianity ('progressive' means 'virtuous' and 'change' means 'hope'). 'Totalitarianism' is not a mysterious mutation: it is a memory and a promise; an attempt to keep hope alive.

By "totalitarianism," he means the system by which apocalyptic millenarians enforce the conditions they believe will constitute the New Jerusalem -- the utopia in which their sect believes.

The Marxist faith system prophesied a worldwide conflagration -- Revolution -- that would see the saints (the Proletariat) cleanse the world of the wicked (the Bourgeoisie) and their false religion (Capitalism). The Revolution would establish Communism: a paradise in which the state would wither away, because the cause of man's alienation would have been dealt with. Marx despised religion, but he did not believe that his system was religious at all. It was, he taught, entirely scientific -- thus making Marxism entirely compatible with what Enlightenment-era elites believed was the prime source of authority.

In Russia of the late 19th century, there was a great deal of apocalyptic fervor, and, of course, a number of Marxist and other left-wing revolutionary groups. The Bolsheviks were the most ruthless and disciplined of them all. Slezkine says it doesn't matter whether the faith of the Bolsheviks was really a religion or not. The fact is, it functioned like one. If religion is a set of agreements about sacred realities, though sacred realities believed to be objectively true, and the community organized around those beliefs, then every state on earth is religious. The Bolshevik "faith" united people, focused them around what Slezkine calls "the ultimate conditions of their existence," and told them what they had to do.

For the pre-revolutionary Bolsheviks, the priests and the prophets were their intellectuals, who were "religious about being secular." Writes Slezkine: "A conversion to socialism was a conversion to the intelligentsia, to a fusion of millenarian faith and lifelong learning."

The Bolshevik faith was initially spread among the intellectuals primarily through reading groups. Once you adopted the Marxist faith, everything else in life became illuminated. The intellectuals went into the world to preach religion to the workers. These missionaries, says Slezkine, appealed to and tried to intensify hatred in the hearts of their listeners. They spoke to the moral sense within the common people, and gave them what, if taken in a strictly religious sense, would be called prophetic revelations.

The pre-revolutionary Bolsheviks denounced "Philistines" -- people who are sunk in their everydayness, and lack revolutionary consciousness. It is chilling to read the lines of description they had for people like this. Slezkine calls the Philistines the "stock antipode of the intelligent" -- that is, the kind of person that a member of the intelligentsia saw as his exact opposite. In pre-revolutionary Russia, the intelligentsia saw themselves as a kind of secular priesthood. The way they wrote about their enemies, and the way they rhapsodized about revolution, was utterly fanatical and inhuman. Slezkine:

The revolutionaries were going to prevail because of the sheer power of their hatred. It cleansed the soul and swelled like the flood of the real day.

The "real day" is the day of Apocalypse, when the truth is fully made manifest, and all evil, injustice, and lies are cleansed from the earth. It would come about through "sacred fury." Slezkine quotes Bolshevik memoirs recalling the revolutionary days of 1917-18. Pure ecstasy, like the day of Pentecost in the New Testament.

Slezkine draws this interesting distinction:

Marx and Engels were not utopians – they were prophets. They did not talk about what a perfect system of social order should be and how and why it should be adopted or tested; they knew with absolute certainty that it was coming – right now, all by itself, and thanks to their words and deeds.

The Bolsheviks, however, did have a complex plan for creating utopia. Reading Slezkine, you can't help but be impressed by the power and discipline that Lenin and his lieutenants exercised. He was one of the most evil men who ever lived, Lenin -- Slezkine's accounts of Bolshevik mass murder of class enemies on Lenin's orders make Robespierre's bloodthirstiness seem like amateur hour. But he was a true revolutionary genius.

For young people in pre-revolutionary Russia, being part of these leftist groups "gave one a great sense of purpose, power, and belonging." Note this: one reason for the advance of revolutionary consciousness is that parents, despite depending on the stability of Tsarist autocracy, would not turn away from their radicalized children. Slezkine: "The 'students' were almost always abetted at home while still in school and almost never damned when they became revolutionaries."

Bolshevism in power tried to destroy the traditional family, seeing it as an incubator of capitalism. Slezkine writes about how this form of Bolshevik radicalism had to give way to a more conservative ideology of the family, because it caused problems that Soviet society could not deal with.

In power, Bolsheviks carried out apocalyptic destruction of the old order, including the mass murder of class enemies. I have just now arrived at the point in Slezkine's narrative in which he describes the "Great Disappointment" -- a term (borrowed from the Millerites) for the experience of the New Jerusalem not having arrived as promised. As I understand it, Slezkine will describe the homicidal spasms of the 1930s, under Stalin, as the vengeful Bolshevik reaction to utopia's failure. Utopia can only have failed because its proselytes were weak in faith -- and therefore deserve to be punished for their infidelity.

So, what does this have to do with our own Social Justice Warriors? There are clear parallels. Again, I encourage you to read James Lindsay's analysis of the postmodern faith system of Social Justice for more. I believe that this is what those who lived under communism intuit from the Social Justice Warriors -- I mean, why it frightens them:

Like the early Bolsheviks, the SJWs are radically alienated from society. They regard ordinary people as the intelligents regarded the so-called Philistines: with visceral contempt.

Justice depends on group identity. For Marxists, the line between Good and Evil ran between classes: the Proletariat and the Peasants on one side, the Bourgeoisie on the other. Marxism sees justice as entirely a matter of taking power away from the Bourgeoisie, and giving it to the revolutionary classes. Some in the bourgeoisie acquired revolutionary consciousness, and aided the Revolution.

Similarly, for the SJWs, the line also passes between groups, based on group identity. The Oppressors are whites, males, capitalists, heterosexuals, and Christians. The Oppressed are ethnic minorities, women, anti-capitalists, LGBTs, atheists, and other "marginalized" people. Justice is about taking power from the Oppressors and giving it to the Oppressed. Some among the Oppressors acquire revolutionary consciousness and aid the revolution; they are called "allies," and practice "allyship."

Social Justice Warriors, like the early Bolsheviks, are intellectuals whose gospel is spread by intellectual agitation. It is a gospel that depends on awakening and inspiring hatred in the hearts of those it wishes to induce into revolutionary consciousness. This is why it matters immensely that they have established their base within universities, where they can train those who will be going out to work in society's institutions in ideologized hatred.

SJWs believe that science is on their side, even when their claims are unscientific. They are doing the old post-Enlightenment utopian trick of making essentially religious claims, but claiming that they are objectively true. Quote from a Times story: "We're all born nonbinary. We learn gender."

SJWs are utopians who believe that Progress requires smashing all the old forms for the sake of liberation. After we are freed from the chains that bind us, we will experience a new form of life. From a June 4 New York Times Magazine story on destroying gender binaries :

Our talk shifted again from the past to the future. Jacobs spoke about foreseeing a time when people passing each other on the street wouldn't immediately, unconsciously sort one another into male or female, which even Jacobs reflexively does. "I don't know what genders are going to look like four generations from now," they added, allowing that they might sound utopian, naïve. "I think we're going to perceive each other as people. The classifications we live under will fall by the wayside."

Among the voices of the young, there are echoes and amplifications of Jacobs's optimism, along with the stories of private struggle. "There are as many genders as there are people," Emmy Johnson, a nonbinary employee at Jan Tate's clinic, told me with earnest authority. Johnson was about to sign up for a new dating app that caters to the genderqueer. "Sex is different as a nonbinary person," they said. "You're free of gender roles, and the farther you can get from those scripts, the better sex is going to be." Their tone was more triumphal: the better life is going to be. "The gender boxes are exploding," they declared.

In the case of transgender SJWs, parents can become the greatest advocates for their children, as in pre-revolutionary Russia with the radical youth. A distressed parent of a female-to-male transgender told me that in her child's high school, the pressure on parents from other parents to suppress all doubts about transgenderism was intense. Here, from that same NYT Magazine piece I quote above, is another anecdote:

Kai grew up in the Maryland suburbs outside Washington; both his parents are economists. He came out to them as genderqueer a year and a half ago, and they, as he put it, were willing "to step through the door" he held wide for them, the door into his way of seeing himself. They read a piece of creative writing he gave them, a meditation using Dadaism to explicate the nonsense of either-or. His mother asked if she could buy him new clothes. "Shopping for clothes was something we'd always done," he said. "It was her way of saying, 'I want to keep being part of your life.' That was really stepping through the door. And then, all the nerve-rackingness of shopping in the men's section of a department store and trying on pants and worrying about how people are looking at you and reading your gender, it would have been really hard to do on my own. But my mother was there. Just like when we'd shopped together before. And that made it normal."

Here's an interesting difference: from what I can tell, most SJWs don't have a clearly envisioned utopia. What will the world look like when whiteness is once and for all defeated? When toxic masculinity has been fully vanquished? And so forth. They don't know; all they know is that these things must come to pass, and will come to pass. We have to first destroy the old world and its corrupt structures. From the point of view of someone who stands to be smashed by these revolutionaries, it doesn't really matter whether or not they have a plan for what to do after you're overthrown.

Here's another interesting difference, and an important one: SJWs may want to destroy the oppressive practices, but unlike the Bolsheviks, they don't want to destroy the institutions of society. Rather, they want to conquer them and administer them . The religion of Social Justice has already conquered the university, as James Lindsay points out, and is moving quickly into other institutions: media (the NYT is its Pravda ), law, tech, entertainment, and corporate America. The Social Justice faith system can be easily adapted by the institutions of bourgeois capitalism -- a fact that conceals its radicalism.

The people who have lived in societies suffused with this kind of ideology -- emigres from Soviet-bloc countries -- can see through the veil. With this new book I'm working on, I'm going to do my best to help readers see through their eyes. Meanwhile, if you are really interested in the Russian Revolution, I strongly urge you to read The House Of Government -- all 1,128 pages of it. Yuri Slezkine is a masterful storyteller. It reads like a novel.

[Oct 22, 2019] The main line of Republican attacks on Warren might be that she is not trustworthy

Oct 22, 2019 | www.nakedcapitalism.com

Warren (D)(1): "Elizabeth Warren to put out plan on how to pay for 'Medicare for All'" [ CNN ]. • "Pay for" being both delusional and a question nobody, including Warren, ever asks about war, and "taxes on the middle class" being, shall we say, a well-worn, content-free trope.

Warren (D)(2): "Why Criticize Warren?" [Nathan Robinson, Current Affairs ]. "What will the right's main line of attack against Warren be? I think you can see it already, actually: They will attempt to portray her as inauthentic and untrustworthy. She will be painted as a Harvard egghead who has suddenly discovered populism for self-serving reasons, a slippery elite who isn't