Saturday, November 01, 2008
AMONG the numerous advantages promised by a well constructed Union, none deserves to be more accurately developed than its tendency to break and control the violence of faction. The friend of popular governments never finds himself so much alarmed for their character and fate, as when he contemplates their propensity to this dangerous vice. He will not fail, therefore, to set a due value on any plan which, without violating the principles to which he is attached, provides a proper cure for it. The instability, injustice, and confusion introduced into the public councils, have, in truth, been the mortal diseases under which popular governments have everywhere perished; as they continue to be the favorite and fruitful topics from which the adversaries to liberty derive their most specious declamations.
By a faction, I understand a number of citizens, whether amounting to a majority or a minority of the whole, who are united and actuated by some common impulse of passion, or of interest, adversed to the rights of other citizens, or to the permanent and aggregate interests of the community.
There are two methods of curing the mischiefs of faction: the one, by removing its causes; the other, by controlling its effects.
There are again two methods of removing the causes of faction: the one, by destroying the liberty which is essential to its existence; the other, by giving to every citizen the same opinions, the same passions, and the same interests.
It could never be more truly said than of the first remedy, that it was worse than the disease. Liberty is to faction what air is to fire, an aliment without which it instantly expires. But it could not be less folly to abolish liberty, which is essential to political life, because it nourishes faction, than it would be to wish the annihilation of air, which is essential to animal life, because it imparts to fire its destructive agency.
The second expedient is as impracticable as the first would be unwise. As long as the reason of man continues fallible, and he is at liberty to exercise it, different opinions will be formed. As long as the connection subsists between his reason and his self-love, his opinions and his passions will have a reciprocal influence on each other; and the former will be objects to which the latter will attach themselves. The diversity in the faculties of men, from which the rights of property originate, is not less an insuperable obstacle to a uniformity of interests. The protection of these faculties is the first object of government.[emphasis added by OW and note the protection of property is the first duty of government.] From the protection of different and unequal faculties of acquiring property, the possession of different degrees and kinds of property immediately results; and from the influence of these on the sentiments and views of the respective proprietors, ensues a division of the society into different interests and parties.
But the most common and durable source of factions has been the various and unequal distribution of property. Those who hold and those who are without property have ever formed distinct interests in society. [emphasis added - OW]Those who are creditors, and those who are debtors, fall under a like discrimination. A landed interest, a manufacturing interest, a mercantile interest, a moneyed interest, with many lesser interests, grow up of necessity in civilized nations, and divide them into different classes, actuated by different sentiments and views. The regulation of these various and interfering interests forms the principal task of modern legislation, and involves the spirit of party and faction in the necessary and ordinary operations of the government.
When a majority is included in a faction, the form of popular government, on the other hand, enables it to sacrifice to its ruling passion or interest both the public good and the rights of other citizens. To secure the public good and private rights against the danger of such a faction, and at the same time to preserve the spirit and the form of popular government, is then the great object to which our inquiries are directed.
Having outlined what they view as the problem, rich people possibly being outvoted by poor people, they next present the cure - having a republic instead of a democracy, and not just any republic but a large one:
In the first place, it is to be remarked that, however small the republic may be, the representatives must be raised to a certain number, in order to guard against the cabals of a few; and that, however large it may be, they must be limited to a certain number, in order to guard against the confusion of a multitude. Hence, the number of representatives in the two cases not being in proportion to that of the two constituents, and being proportionally greater in the small republic, it follows that, if the proportion of fit characters be not less in the large than in the small republic, the former will present a greater option, and consequently a greater probability of a fit choice.
In the next place, as each representative will be chosen by a greater number of citizens in the large than in the small republic, it will be more difficult for unworthy candidates to practice with success the vicious arts by which elections are too often carried; and the suffrages of the people being more free, will be more likely to centre in men who possess the most attractive merit and the most diffusive and established characters.
The other point of difference is, the greater number of citizens and extent of territory which may be brought within the compass of republican than of democratic government; and it is this circumstance principally which renders factious combinations less to be dreaded in the former than in the latter. The smaller the society, the fewer probably will be the distinct parties and interests composing it; the fewer the distinct parties and interests, the more frequently will a majority be found of the same party; and the smaller the number of individuals composing a majority, and the smaller the compass within which they are placed, the more easily will they concert and execute their plans of oppression. Extend the sphere, and you take in a greater variety of parties and interests; you make it less probable that a majority of the whole will have a common motive to invade the rights of other citizens; or if such a common motive exists, it will be more difficult for all who feel it to discover their own strength, and to act in unison with each other. Besides other impediments, it may be remarked that, where there is a consciousness of unjust or dishonorable purposes, communication is always checked by distrust in proportion to the number whose concurrence is necessary.
The influence of factious leaders may kindle a flame within their particular States, but will be unable to spread a general conflagration through the other States. A religious sect may degenerate into a political faction in a part of the Confederacy; but the variety of sects dispersed over the entire face of it must secure the national councils against any danger from that source. A rage for paper money, for an abolition of debts, for an equal division of property, or for any other improper or wicked project, will be less apt to pervade the whole body of the Union than a particular member of it; in the same proportion as such a malady is more likely to taint a particular county or district, than an entire State. [emphasis added - OW]
The plan of those who devised the system of governance of the United States couldn't have been put more explicitly: size and diversity make a population much easier to control and a working class much less likely to "discover their own strength, and to act in unison with each other." Additionally, having a diverse society makes it more likely that political movements will be "checked by distrust".
With this master plan in mind much of subsequent United States history can be seen for what it was - part of a plan to ensure an elites domination over its own population. The push west to make the country an entire continent, no matter who they had to obliterate or how much they had to steal wasn't simply greed or the racism of "the white man's burden", it was part of the plan. In the same way, allowing - no, encouraging - virtually unlimited amounts of immigration wasn't just to have a bigger market, it was part of the plan to ensure the elites political domination over the country.
The present day United States represents the full execution of this plan. Though many don't realize it the U.S. is simply huge. Ask someone which is the most populated country in the world and most everyone will correctly answer China. Ask them which has the second largest population and a fair amount will correctly guess India. But ask them which has the third larges population in the world and you will generally get blank stares rather than the correct answer of the United States. Geographically it is also one of the largest countries especially if you don't count vast uninhabited regions in countries like Canada and Russia. Add to that the tremendous diversity of the population which the U.S. ruling elite has masterfully exploited throughout its entire history - black versus white, catholic versus protestant, northerners versus southerners, immigrants versus native born and it should be clear how a ruling class could easily hold on to power even in a democracy.
Of course, the U.S. hasn't always been a true democracy. But even looking at the history of its non-democratic aspects helps demonstrate the power of the ideas expressed above. For much of its early history the U.S. was a very limited democracy - suffrage was limited to those holding property, blacks, women and poor whites were excluded, there was no direction election of the president, and only indirect election of the Senate. And, of course, there were the famous "checks and balances" which meant even if the rabble did get ahold of part of the government the other branches would be able to hold it in check until the elite regained full control.
Over time some of the most undemocratic features have been repealed. Suffrage was expanded to non property owners. Women and blacks were allowed to vote. Direct election of Senators was allowed.
Some of these reforms were the result of popular struggles and movements. But at best that is only half the story. What they truly reflect is the ruling class successfully implementing its plan of control via huge size and diversity and therefore feeling comfortable enough in their positions of power to cede these reforms.
Today, with a country the size of a continent, a population of over 300 million people and one of the most diverse populations in the world the U.S. ruling class is more safe than ever in knowing that the huge working class they sit on top of isn't likely to "discover their own strength, and to act in unison with each other" anytime soon.
To get a little bit of a sense of how this works lets just think of an example. The Hispanic immigrants in the American south west are certainly hyper exploited. They work for brutally low wages, they often have no protection of any sort or any ability to assert any rights due to lack of legal status and consequently they suffer all sorts of abuse. Surely they should want to fight to improve their lot. And they do, in their own limited way.
Then look at the opposite corner of the continent and the industrial workers of the Midwest and Northeast. Not only are they being laid off fast and furiously but they are having their standard of living cut by half or sometimes even more. Formerly seen as the "aristocracy" of labor they might not yet be hyper exploited as the Mexican immigrants of the South West but they sure are headed in that direction.
Here we have to clear examples of very aggrieved groups in the United States. They are both highly exploited. Conditions are getting significantly worse for both groups. And of course it is the same ruling class leading the assault on both of these groups. Without any doubt these groups have a common fight and should therefore make common cause and work together to resist their exploitation.
Do they? Not at all. The plan laid out by James Madison in Federalist Paper 10 works to perfection in ensuring they don't join forces, or in Madison's own words, "act in unison". They are thousands of miles from each other. They don't speak the same language, both literally and figuratively. The elite controlled media successfully ensures they are at each others throat. The industrial workers of the north hear the word "Mexican" and they think of the country where so many of their jobs are disappearing to. The Mexican immigrants themselves probably think white or african-american auto workers are all a bunch of racists who want them thrown out of the country. Consequently these two groups who suffer the same exploitation at the hands of the same elite and who should most definitely should unite to fight for their common interests never do. For that matter they don't even speak to one another.
That is just one example for illustrative purposes. But multiply it by a hundred or even thousand times and you get a sense of why the United States ruling class can at the same time preside over one of the freest and most democratic countries yet at the same time be one of the safest and most powerful elites with virtually no internal challengers for power.
It is Madison's plan, rather than any supposed backwardness on the part of the U.S. working class that accounts for the dominance of the U.S. elite. There have been many movements by the U.S. working class. The uprisings of the steel workers of Western Pennsylvania. The Wobblies in the western U.S.. The socialists who won significant electoral victories in Wisconsin and other parts of the mid-west. Even the mass populist movement of Huey Long in the South qualifies. [as an aside in spite of how well this system allows the ruling class to dominate with out resorting to repression as the history of some of the above shows, such as with Huey Long, they won't hesitate to use violence and repression when they need to]
Yet in each and every case the plan of containment worked perfectly. The movements may have burned furiously in a given area and for a given time but they never once became national movements. Virtually every country in Europe has had a nation wide general strike at some time in its history. The United States never has. Organizing a general strike over an entire continent amongst groups intentionally divided and sown with mutual mistrust has been virtually impossible - exactly as the "founding fathers" had hoped it would be.
Turning from that background to the present day the image that American workers are somehow the priveledged benificiaries of U.S. imperialism is more false with every day that goes by. American workers, and yes most Americans are most definitely working class, are the most exploited of any advanced nation. Worse still, that exploitation has gotten significantly worse over the past three decades and every indication is it will continue to intensify. Both parties of big business, with their complete dominance over political life in the U.S. aided by the division of all potential challengers and their lock grip of all mass media, are united in their determination to further enrich their paymasters at the expense of American workers. Barack Obama may have some changes in mind but taking the elites foot off the throat of the working class certainly isn't one of them.
[as an aside it should be mentioned that the working class will be attacked much more and more effectively under Obama than it could have ever been by Bush just as Clinton attacked American workers more effectively than Reagan and Bush I could ever dream of]
The American working class has been under systematic attack for decades. Being the sophisticated ruling class that it is there is nothing accidental or unplanned about this assualt. It is not some unintended side effect of "globalization" or technology as true simpletons like Thomas Friedman try to portray. And once again, the U.S. elite did little to hide its plans or intentions. In fact they were very open about them, for those who paid attention. Indeed, their plans were all over the airwaves and in the papers a couple of decades ago. Here is one enunciation of those goals from the New York Times a little over twenty years ago:
For the first time, American manufacturers are talking openly about a new and startling wage goal: They want to greatly narrow the gap between what they pay their factory workers and the earnings of workers in South Korea, Brazil and a handful of other third world countries.
That does not mean that businessmen want wages to plunge from the $13.09 an hour that is the average total compensation of the United States factory worker. ''Wages overseas will come up, but one way or another, the gap will have to close,'' said Robert E. Mercer, chairman of the Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company. Walter Joelson, chief economist at General Electric, added: ''Let's talk about the differences in living standards rather than wages. What in the Bible says we should have a better living standard than others? We have to give back a bit of it.'' [Note: we can rest assured that "economist" didn't think his own wages or his CEO's wages were un-Biblically high and didn't include himself in that group that had to "give back a bit of it". - OW]
However the case is put, a common view is emerging. ''Many manufacturers now feel that we are not going to be able to afford the wage difference,'' said Jerry Jasinowski, chief economist at the National Association of Manufacturers. Their concern is directed mostly at six countries whose modern, high-tech factories turn out products often competitive with ours. The six are South Korea, Brazil, Mexico, Hong Kong, Taiwan and Singapore - and each has an average factory wage of less than $3 an hour.
The new wage talk seems to mean several things. First, it underscores a determination by business to hold on to the wage and benefit concessions won in the early and mid-1980's - and not give them back to labor, even though American products are becoming more competitive on world markets and exports are rising. Second, by focusing on the wage gap, United States manufacturers are shifting the pressures they bring to bear on the labor movement. The concern had been that American factories would be closed, workers laid off and operations moved to low-wage foreign countries. That threat still exists, but a greater effort is being made to keep factories here and to import the low foreign wages, said Harley Shaiken, a labor economist at the University of California at San Diego. ''We'll never close the gap, but that has become a kind of goal,'' he said.
Bringing wages of the American working class down to the levels of the third world - that was the plan. For some service sector workers they are almost there. And the industrial working class is heading rapidly in that direction. With their unions now either destroyed or impotent even the creme de la creme of the U.S. working class, the auto workers, are being steadily driven down towards being minimum wage workers. If you had mentioned auto workers being forced to work for such low wages two decades ago you'd have been laughed at. But the U.S. ruling class were dead serious in their announced attentions and have gone a long ways in carrying them out.
So for those thinking the current financial crisis will bring to U.S. workers a decline in their standard of living that they haven't known before, that simply isn't true. American workers have been under full assault for decades now. The current crisis may intensify that reduction in their standard of living but the trend has been both sharp and clear for a long time.
Sorry for such a long winded and depressing introduction. It is certainly no fun looking out at such a bleak landscape in the United States. Without a doubt the U.S. working class is in a far worse position than any working class in any advanced country. It has a lower standard of living than most, it has virtually no means to defend itself given that its "unions" are bureaucratic shells of what they once were, it has absolutely no access to the mass media, and last, but not, least it has no political representation at all.
Unfortunately, even workers re-taking control of their own trade unions won't be easy. Many of the same things that help the ruling class easily maintain control of the state also serve to help bureaucrats maintain control within unions. Unions in the U.S. are mainly large national unions with a diverse membership that is spread over the entire continent. Further, arcane and self serving labor laws make many unions less than democratic.
In this bloggers opinion helping those workers pick themselves up of the floor and win control over their union is the only way for the Left in the United States to have any chance of advancing a meaningfull agenda.
Friday, October 31, 2008
But if I am going to beat him up over all the bad and self-centered things I think he has been doing I should still at least recognize some of the very good things he does.
The social mission Jose Gregoria Hernandez certainly falls into that category as it is a Mission to census and help all Venezuelans with disabilities. It certainly deserves to be commended.
Venezuela, like most Latin Americans societies, has a heavy emphasis on youth and beauty. This had led to people with disabilities being shunned and thought of as people who should stay in their homes or shelters and not be seen. Travelling throughout Latin America it is impossible not to notice that virtually nothing is done to accommodate their special needs. And it makes sense; why accommodate what you want to pretend doesn't exist?
That makes this Mission unique in the sense of even though I don't know much about what its actual accomplishments are in a certain sense it doesn't matter (though I have noticed Venezuela has done stuff like give greater access to mass transit to disabled people). That these people are finally recognized, acknowledged to exist, and seen as full human beings to be helped rather than an embarrassment to be hidden is a HUGE step forward for Venezuela and Latin American.
So for those who are wondering how a large majority of Venezuelans can still view Chavez as a good guy, well here is part of the answer. Just treat human beings like human beings. It really does go a long way. Just read the comments section on the link and you'll see.
PS, now that Chavez has seen fit to do this good deed now maybe we can get him to work on fining or suing out of business all of the Venezuelan employers who blatantly and openly discriminate based on age. People over 30 are people too!!