Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Conservatism, Wars of Aggression, and Economics

Before [1990], "race-baiting" referred to racists. Afterward, it referred [...] to people who oppose racism.

I'm not going to comment much, here. You can find the full paper on the UCLA's website.

I did not believe, only a little while ago, in the assumptions made here. Certainly i understood the similarities between the Conservative movement, but i did not understand the direct heritage it had in aristocracy. Lately, however, i have been paying more attention--now the "Aristocrats" makes up one of the three pillars (alongside "theocrats" and "corporatists") in my Republican Party analysis--and have come to change my mind.

Let me give you a real-world example to illustrate the article's accuracy.

Aristocracy thrives on deference, but direct deference to a person is seen as vile--at least by some--and people balk at that sort of setup. So instead, taking Walmart as an example, we now have deference to institutions and corporations. This deference to Walmart as a corporation, especially by its employees, manifests in one of the many rules about behavior: when travelling on the company dollar all employees are to travel coach, stay in the cheapest motel rooms possible, and if more than one employee is travelling at a time to stay in the same room. The stated reason is to save money--and this is, indeed, what the practice accomplishes. In a show of "good faith", though, even the executives follow this practice. The implication being that the deference is to the corporation--putting the good of the corporation above your own--and not to some group of aristocrats.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

In order to understand why you must consider where the money goes. The benefits of this practice are savings and those savings go somewhere--but where? Not, certainly, to the Walmart employees. Not, contrary to what a person might guess, to the customer. They go to the same place all savings in an entrenched corporatist/aristocratic organization go: to the organization itself and to those who control the organization. Those who control the organization, not coincidentally i assure you, are also often those who own the organization. Those same executives who submit to the same cheap travel accomodations are not submitting to the same effects--in fact, they get it better despite what you might intuitively believe (that being that they have it worse because they give up more). They get their slice of the savings--and at the least, they get their slice first and before the employees at-large--and even their own cheap accomodations turns into cash for them. However, the employees gain nothing directly from this bargain. So even though it might appear as though the situation is a case of collective sacrifice for the good of the whole the situation actually is a collective sacrifice for the good of the top few percent--the aristocrats.

In fact, even if this situation did not exist to enrich the already fabulously wealthy it would still not be a situation of collective sacrifice for the good of the whole. Collective sacrifice for the good of the whole would look more like employees getting the money saved back in their paychecks. Even at best this is collective sacrifice for the good of the corporation--not inherently problematic, but certainly not very good for the employees.

A political cartoon
For those who don't know, the Washington Post wrote in respones to the Downing Street Minutes that they were not news because everyone already knew everything they contained--importantly, though the WP carefully avoided mention, the DSM proving that Bush had decided to go to war prior to figuring out a reason and also that he in fact began that war prior to recieving congressional authorization. This is bullshit. First of all, this is proof--positive evidence and not mere speculation. Secondly it is certainly not something "everyone" new, and certainly not something the news was reporting on. Thirdly, i think perhaps the largest shocker of all: it implies the Washington Post knew the war was a fraud from the very start and probably before but pretended it was legitimate. That, if true, would be treason so far as i'm concerned. In the real definition of the word.

Finally: i'm going to tackle an issue of economics.

Recently i've heard a lot of talk from the usual suspects--those same aristocrats mentioned above, in fact--about how we must all sacrifice for the good of the corporation for if we don't we will be incapable of competing on the global stage. Specifically, and this should not surprise you, they are saying wages are too high and that minimum wage hurts companies' (especially the much-praised but more or less ignored "small business") ability to compete with companies that get their labor from India or China or various other places.

It should not be a surprise that i think this is bullshit.

Let me start out my exlanation with a truism: America cannot compete with India or China strictly in terms of wages without sacrificing a great deal of its prosperity.

Oh sure, the elites--the corporatists and the aristocrats and probably the theocrats also--will do fine as they always do. Better than ever, i'm sure, as debt-slavery (born into life with the debt of your parents, never work it off, pass it on to your children) would be a great boon to them. But the sort of prosperity people associate with America? Gone. No science, no technology, no infrastructure. Nothing. America would look, in a generation or two, like China.

China has a comparative advantage in terms of strict dollars-per-hour cost of their labor. If we try to compete with them we will literally be giving up every advantage we have in order that we could be still-not-really competetive with them in terms of strict dollar-per-hour cost of labor.

In other words, we're trying to make our weakness equal their strength. In terms of strategy: the absolute worst thing we could do.

In fact: i believe the corporate "rush to the bottom" on wages has only hurt--and in no way helped--the corporations. Of course, it has enriched the aristocrats and corporatists and that was the real goal all along.

So how, precisely, does America stay on top? I don't actually know.

Yeah, it's a tricky problem and i don't have a clear solution. Some people have suggested technology is the key--but technology is, i think, precisely the opposite of the key. Technology as a comparative advantage against China, for instance, would be very short-lived due to the low cost-of-reproduction of the post-industrial technology level. And it's only going to get worse for us. Eventually, if we try to play up technology, we would end up only one step ahead of China--at best--while they wait for us to take a step and then copy it. Even if those were big steps (such as the ones taken over the last hundred years or so) that will only make a certain amount of difference. China, and the rest of the world, could easily replicate them since we would no longer have our infrastructure advantage. That's not to say i think technology is useless--we're talking about improving the quality of life, in theory, worldwide and vastly so. But it is not the key to continued economic dominance of the United States.

I think science and information (not domination of information through copyright or suchlike but rather creation of information) are the best hopes, but that might be my personal bias.

On a smaller scale, let's take a look at Tim Pawlenty's Minnesota. Tim Pawlenty inherited a wealthy state that, according to the Accepted Republican Narrative, should have been a run-down Communist-Lite mish-mash of unemployed people standing in line for food stamps and business fleeing elsewhere. Of course, instead he got a wealthy state--one of the wealthiest in the nation per-capita--with a moderately successful welfare system and a vast array of powerful public services. The thriving--re-invigorated, even--economy was just the cherry on top of the smashing of the conventional wisdom.

But Pawlenty was going to change all that. He made a "no new taxes" pledge (he's one of the GNC--Grover Norquist's Chosen) and, by God, he was going to keep it even if it meant destroying Minnesota. In the interest of gaining "competetive advantage" with respect to taxes (Minnesota does have high taxes and this certainly does discourage at least some business) he slashed taxes and turned a record-level budget surplus into a record-level budget deficit. His regressive "fee" scam (he had to do something to save Minnesota from fiscal insolvency so he raised all "fees" and introduced new ones--this turned out to be essentially a tax on being poor) has only exacerbated the problem by hurting the lower and middle class. The "fees" reduce the ability of the poor to gain assistance, which reduces their ability to pay the fees, which turns into a damned death-spiral that sends Minnesota further into budget-deficit Hell.

But despite all that, the businesses that were staying away from Minnesota because of taxes still stayed away (at least, in terms of any meaningful scale) because Minnesota still was not competetive with well over half the nation strictly in terms of taxes. And it never will be unless it first gives up its great advantages.


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