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Democracy for the Few by Michael Parenti,
2002 7th edition.
Reviewed by Matt Nuenke - August 2003.
Normally I would read a book, and if it were of enough interest, I would critique it. This book however, after about 15 pages, was so filled with invectives, simplistic anti-Westernism, with a longing for the days of Communism, that the best way to review it (without wasting too much time) was to scan it into a word document format, and as I read it, I responded to those paragraphs that seemed worthy of my time. It is hard to believe that this book is being used in universities to teach such garbage, but I think most Americans greatly under appreciate how strong Marxism remains in academia, among activists, and even in many of the liberal churches, or parts thereof. [My comments are italicized and in square brackets.]
Page vii Preface
The study of politics is itself a political act, containing little that is neutral. True, we can all agree on certain neutral facts about the structure of government and the like. However, the book that does not venture much beyond these minimal descriptions will offend few readers but also will interest few. Any investigation of how and why things happen draws us into highly controversial areas. Most textbooks pretend to a neutrality they do not really possess. While claiming to be objective, they are merely conventional or evasive, ignoring the darker side of U.S. political life.
[Or the book is highly biased, and pretends to look at the "darker side" but really only looks at one side - the Marxist/egalitarian side.]
For decades, mainstream political
scientists and other apologists for the existing social order have tried to
recast practically every deficiency in the U.S. political system into a
strength. They would have us believe that the millions who are nonvoters are
content with present social conditions, that high-powered lobbyists are
nothing to worry about because they perform an informational function vital to
representative government, and that the growing concentration of executive
power is a good thing because the president is democratically responsive to
broad national interests rather than special interests. Mainstream apologists
have argued that the exclusion of third parties is really for the best because
too many parties (that is, more than two) would fractionalize and destabilize
our political system, and besides, the major parties eventually incorporate
into their platforms the positions raised by minor parties - which is news to
any number of socialist and other reformist parties whose views have remained
unincorporated for generations. [The message then is that because the
government is not socialist like we would like it to be, it is therefore wrong
in every-which-way. Of course, the same bemoaning could be directed at any
extant government, so what is Parenti's point?]
[The message then is that because the government is not socialist like we would like it to be, it is therefore wrong in every-which-way. Of course, the same bemoaning could be directed at any extant government, so what is Parenti's point?]
Reacting to the mainstream tendency to turn every vice into a virtue, some radical critics of the status quo have felt compelled to turn every virtue into a vice. Thus they have argued that electoral struggle is meaningless, that our civil liberties are a charade, that federal programs for the needy are next to worthless, that reforms are mostly sops to the oppressed, and that labor unions are all complacent and collaborationist with management. These critics have been a much needed antidote to the happy pluralists who painted a silver lining around every murky cloud. But they are wrong in seeing no victories, no "real" progress in the democratic struggles fought and won. Democracy for the Few tries to strike a balance; it tries to explain how democracy is incongruous with modern-day capitalism and is consistently violated by a capitalist social order, and yet how popular forces continue to fight back and sometimes even make gains.
[Of course, democracy is incongruous not only with capitalism but with all forms of government. We only have representative democracy, with a limiting constitution of guarantees of freedom from democracy, that is now being threatened by a proactive court system that is setting policy. Democracy is then a vague, changing, and poorly defined system that by its very structure has inherent contradictions. But because humans have left the naturally egalitarian social structure of the hunter-gatherer tribal unit, humans have been stumbling along trying to bring order out of chaos. But a socialist system is far worse than any capitalist system, in my opinion.]
Democracy for the Few offers an interpretation that students are not likely to get in elementary school, high school, or most of their college courses, nor in the mass media or mainstream political literature. There are political scientists who spend their entire lives writing about American government, the presidency, and public policy without ever once mentioning capitalism, a feat of omission that would be judged extraordinary were it not so commonplace. In this book I talk about that forbidden subject, capitalism, the better to comprehend the underpinnings of the political system we are studying. It may come as a surprise to some academics, but there is a marked relationship between economic power and political power.
[It seems to me that first, we do discuss capitalism at length in the media and academia, and it "surprises" no one that economic power is interchangeable with political power.]
Unfortunately there are some individuals who believe that a structural analysis demands that we treat conspiracies as imaginary things and conscious human efforts as of no great consequence. They go so far as to argue that we are all now divided into two camps, which they call "structuralists" and "conspiracists." In this book I consider conspiracies (by which most people seem to mean secret, consciously planned programs by persons in high places) to be part of the arsenal of structural rule. No structure and no system exists without human agency. Ruling elements must consciously strive to maintain and advance the conditions of their hegemonic rule. The larger social formation and broader forces do not operate like mystical abstracted entities. They are directed by people who deliberately pursue certain goals, using all sorts of methods of power, including propaganda, persuasion, elections, fraud, lies, fear, incitements, coercion, concessions, and sometimes even secrecy and concerted violence and other criminal ploys. Watergate and Iran-contra are only two of the better publicized instances of this kind of criminal conspiracy in high places - undertaken in the service of structural interests. Rather than seeing conspiracy and structure as mutually exclusive, we might consider how the former is one of the instruments of the latter. Some conspiracies are imagined, some are real. And some of the real ones are part of the existing political structure, not exceptions to it.
[To bad Parenti does not understand human nature, especially evolutionary group behavior and dominance theory. If he did, he would realize that all humans desire power, wealth, access to mates, etc., but that many people have little means to rise above the masses to the pinnacle of an elite position of power or wealth. What is interesting when reading between the lines of any socialist's attempt to move others to take collective action against the existing power structure, is that coalition building is just another aspect of gaining power by taking it away from those who have it. Parenti wants power, and he wants us to help him take it away from those he dislikes. After all, this book is really just a series of diatribes against those who Parenti hates, while feigning concern for those that Parenti pretends to want to help.]
A number of professors who have used this book in their courses offered helpful suggestions for this new edition: Michelle Brophy-Baermann of the University of Wisconsin, Stevens Point; Kathryn Edwards of Ashland Community College, Kentucky; Dennis Hart, Kent State University; Christopher Leu, California State University, Northridge; Shellie Levine, Johnson State College, Vermont; Richard Stahler-Sholk, Eastern Michigan University; and William Stewart, California State University, Chico. Molly Hudgens, Beth Garber, Sarah Olsen, and Peggy Karp helped organize and file some portions of the mountainous materials I had accumulated for this edition. Alex Calabrese, Lauren Coodley, Sally Soriano, Kamela Wolf, Susan McCallister, and Kathy Lipscomb provided me with useful data. My editors at Bedford/St. Martin's, Marilea Polk Fried and Amy McConathy, offered valuable support and assistance. I wish to express my gratitude to all these fine people.
Page 1 Partisan Politics (Chapter 1)
How does the U.S. political system work? What are the major forces shaping political life? Who governs in the United States? Who gets what, when, how, and why? Who pays and in what ways? These are the questions pursued in this book.
Many of us were taught a somewhat idealized version of American government, which might be summarized as follows:
1. The United States was founded upon a Constitution fashioned to limit political authority and check abuses of power. Over the generations it has proven to be a "living document," which, through reinterpretation and amendment, has served us well.
2. The people's desires are registered through elections, political parties, and a free press. Government decision makers are kept in check by each other's power and by their need to satisfy the electorate in order to remain in office. The people do not rule directly but they select those who do. Thus, government decisions are grounded in majority rule - subject to the restraints imposed by the Constitution for the protection of minority rights.
3. The United States is a free and pluralistic nation of manifold social and economic groups. The role of government is to mediate the conflicting demands of these groups. Although most policy decisions are compromises that seldom satisfy all interested parties, they usually allow for a working consensus. Hence, every significant group has a say and no one group chronically dominates.
4. These institutional arrangements have given us a government of laws and not of individuals, which, while far from perfect, allows for a fairly high degree of liberty and popular participation.
This view of the United States as a happy, pluralistic polity assumes that existing political institutions operate with benign effect; that power is not highly concentrated nor heavily skewed toward those who control vast wealth; and that the state is a neutral entity with no special linkage to those who own the land, technology, and capital of this and other societies. These assumptions will be challenged in the pages ahead.
[I beg to differ. People know quite well that the rich are getting richer and the poor are getting poorer. But most people are quite happy with how things are, and do not want more government intervention leading to more socialism. Europe is far more socialistic than the United States, and they have far less than we do. I may even concur that enormous amounts of wealth in the hands of a few people seems rather absurd, but any means at an egalitarian solution will be far worse than the existing condition. Parenti has no solution - only complaints, because his analyses are based on unfounded Marxist principles rather than on a grounded empiricism in understanding human nature.]
The theme of this book is that our government more often represents the privileged few rather than the general public, and that elections and the activities of political parties are insufficient defenses against the influences of corporate wealth. It will be argued that the laws of our polity are written principally to advance the interests of the haves at the expense of the rest of us. Even when equitable as written, the law usually is enforced in highly discriminatory ways. This "democracy for the few" is a product not only of the venality of particular officeholders but a reflection of the entire politico-economic system, the way the resources of power are distributed.
[In virtually every country, under every political system, power flows to the few. So how does Parenti's socialism plan to change this? No real answers, just complaints about the human condition.]
The American people are not always passive victims (or willing accomplices) to all of this. The mass of ordinary people have made important political and economic gains, usually after long and bitter contests that have extended beyond the electoral process. This democratic struggle is an important part of the story that will be treated in the pages ahead.
This book tries to demonstrate that just about every part of the politico-economic system, be it the media, lobbying, criminal justice, overseas intervention, or environmental policy, reflects the nature of the whole, and in its particular way serves to maintain the overall system especially the system's basic class interests. Therefore, seemingly distinct issues and social problems are often interrelated.
[An observation that holds true again for all nations.]
The political system comprises the various branches of government along with the political parties, laws, lobbyists, and private interest groups that affect public policy. By public policy I mean the decisions made by government. Policy decisions are seldom neutral. They usually benefit some interests more than others, entailing social costs that are rarely distributed equally. The shaping of a budget, the passage of a law, and the development of an administrative program are all policy decisions, all political decisions, and there is no way to execute them with neutral effect. If the wants of A persons could be automatically satisfied, there would be no need to set priorities and give some interests precedence over others; indeed, there would be no need for policies or politics.
Politics extends beyond election campaigns and the actions of government. Decisions that keep certain matters within "private" systems of power - such as leaving rental costs or health care to the private market - are highly political even if seldom recognized as such. Power in the private realm is generally inequitable and undemocratic and often the source of conflicts that spill over into the public arena, for instance, management-labor disputes and racial and gender discrimination.
[Parenti seems here to equate democracy with egalitarianism, but they are not connected. The fact that there are winners and losers in any government policy decision merely begs for less government. For example, a libertarian democratic system with strong constitutional restrictions on government's role in our daily activities, is a viable alternative to socialism.]
Someone once defined a politician as a person who receives votes from the poor and money from the rich on the promise of protecting each from the other. And President Jimmy Carter observed: "Politics is the world's second oldest profession, closely related to the first." Many people share this view. For them, politics is little more than the art of manipulating appearances in order to sell oneself with the politician acting as a kind of prostitute. While not denying the measure of truth in such observations, I take a broader view. Politics is more than just something politicians do. It is the process of struggle over conflicting interests carried into the public arena. It also involves muting and suppressing conflicting interests. Politics involves not only the competition among groups within the system but the struggle to change the system itself, not only the desire to achieve predefined ends but the struggle to redefine ends and pose alternatives to the existing politico-economic structure.
[Parenti states the obvious in human behavior.]
The Politico-Economic System
Politics today covers every kind of issue, from abortion to school prayer, but the bulk of public policy is concerned with economic matters, which is why some writers refer to the "politico-economic system." The most important document the government produces each year is the budget. Probably the most vital functions of government are taxing and spending. Certainly they are necessary for everything else it does, from delivering the mail to making war. The very organization of the federal government reflects its close involvement with the economy: thus, one finds the departments of Commerce, Labor, Agriculture, Interior, Transportation, and Treasury, and the Federal Trade Commission, the National Labor Relations Board, the Interstate Commerce Commission, the Securities and Exchange Commission, and numerous other agencies involved in the economy. Likewise, most of the committees in Congress can be identified according to their economic functions, the most important having to do with taxation and appropriations.
Politics and economics are two sides of the same coin. Economics is concerned with the allocation of scarce resources, involving conflicts between social classes and among groups and individuals within classes. Much of politics is a carryover of this struggle. Both politics and economics deal with the survival and material well-being of millions of people; both deal with the fundamental conditions of social life itself.
This close relationship between politics and economics is neither neutral nor coincidental. Governments evolve through history in order to protect accumulations of property and wealth. In nomadic and hunting societies, where there is little surplus wealth, governance is rudimentary and usually communal. In societies where wealth and property are controlled by a select class of persons, a state develops to protect the interests of the haves from the have-nots. As wrote John Locke in 1689: "The great and chief end ... of Men's uniting into Commonwealths, and putting themselves under Government, is the Preservation of their Property." And Adam Smith, the premier exponent of early capitalism, wrote in 1776: "The necessity of civil government grows up with the acquisition of valuable property. And "Till there be property there can be no government, the very end of which is to secure wealth, and to defend the rich from the poor."
[Parenti tries to state that governments evolved because a few select people wanted to protect their wealth, when in fact hierarchical systems of social orders evolved when humans were first able to start accumulating wealth in the form of food surplus, then material wealth, etc. about 12,000 years ago. That is, when humans started to get wealthier, healthier and wise, they began to exploit others to get more wealth, health and wisdom. Like most Marxists, he has little understanding of human nature - he jumps from one observation to a generalization that has no basis in fact or history.]
Many political scientists manage to ignore the relationship between government and wealth, treating the corporate giants, if at all, as if they were but one of a number of interest groups. They label as "Marxist" any approach that links class, wealth, and capitalism to politics. To be sure, Karl Marx saw such a relationship, but so did more conservative theorists like Thomas Hobbes, John Locke, Adam Smith, and, in America, Alexander Hamilton and James Madison. Indeed, just about every theorist and practitioner of politics in the seventeenth, eighteenth, and early nineteenth centuries saw the link between political organization and economic interest, and between state and class, as not only important but desirable and essential to the well-being of the polity. "The people who own the country ought to govern it," declared John Jay. A permanent check over the populace should be exercised by "the rich and the well-born," urged Alexander Hamilton. Unlike most theorists before him, Marx was one of the first in the modern era to see the existing relationship between property and power as undesirable and exploitative, and this was his unforgivable sin. The tendency to avoid critical analysis of corporate capitalism persists to this day among business people, journalists, and most academics.
[This is simply not true. Capitalism has and continues to be under attack from the Left, and yet the Left has failed to provide a better system for improving the human condition. If Parenti wants to replace capitalism with a better system, that is one thing. However, to try to bring back a failed Marxist system of social analyses is quite another. Marxism is anti-empirical, dogmatic, and uninformative. Class struggles are not an issue - race and ethnicity are. Conflict around the world falls into power struggles between competing races, not competing classes for the most part. The relationship between power, success, and dominance - leading towards reproductive success - is fundamental to human behavior from our evolutionary past. Technology has altered the outcomes, but the drives remain in tact for power, wealth and sex.]
Power is no less political because it is economic. By "power" I mean the ability to get what one wants, either by having one's interests prevail in conflicts with others or by preventing others from raising their demands. Power presumes the ability to manipulate the social environment to one's advantage. Power belongs to those who possess the resources that enable them to shape the political agenda and control the actions and beliefs of others, resources such as jobs, organization, technology, publicity, media, social legitimacy, expertise, essential goods and services, organized force, and - the ingredient that often determines the availability of these things - money.
[And beneath those who have the power are those who have the intelligence. Whether we look at the average innate intelligence of different races and their ability to generate wealth, or individuals to do the same, on average the intelligent people are in demand and can manipulate the system to rise to the top. I agree that there is a great deal of luck for the very few who become super rich. But for the average worker, level of innate intelligence is the most significant factor that will dictate the ability to attain wealth and power. And once attained, the most intelligent will be able to sustain their high levels of wealth, while the less intelligent movie star or athlete may very well lose all of their money in the end. Wealth and power accrue to the smartest, and most determined (conscientious), people in society.]
Some people say our politico-economic system does not work and should be changed or overthrown; others say it does work or, in any case, we can't fight it and should work within it. Some argue that the existing system is "the only one we have" and moreover the only one we ever could have. They fear that a breakdown in this system's social order would mean a breakdown in all social order or a creation of something far worse. These fearful notions keep many people not only from entertaining ideas about new social arrangements but also from taking a critical look at existing ones.
[Humans are by nature very conservative, and that comes from our ability to use culture to form cooperative groups. Only humans have evolved to a level where what is learned is passed onto the next generation, making exploration and independence less necessary than following and imitating. Human evolution slowed down the maturation rate of children so that they could learn to be part of the social unit - or tribe. So yes, in comparison to chimpanzees for example, humans are followers and conformers. If Parenti understood these evolutionary principles, he might be able to contribute to breaking down our timidity towards change.]
Sometimes the complaint is made: "You're good at criticizing the system, but what would you put in its place?" implying that unless you have a finished blueprint for a better society, you should refrain from pointing out existing deficiencies and injustices. This book is predicated on the notion that it is desirable and necessary for democratic citizens to examine the society in which they live, possibly as a step toward making fundamental improvements. It is unreasonable to demand that we refrain from making a diagnosis of an illness until we have perfected a cure. For how can we hope to find solutions unless we really understand the problem? In any case, an abundant number of solutions and fundamental changes are offered in the closing chapter and in other parts of this book.
[Fair enough. However, whenever anyone tries to bring up notions like differences in intelligence or behavioral traits in individuals and in races, the Left screams foul! Parenti does not want an open discussion of the facts, he wants to attack capitalists, the bourgeoisie, and/or Western society. Like all Marxists, he is intolerant of a vague classification of bourgeoisie humans - the hate is real but its origin is strange and unrevealing. What I would like to know is why the hate? Does he desire power and hates those who have it?]
Political life is replete with deceit, corruption, and plunder. Small wonder that many people seek to remove themselves from it. But whether we like it or not, politics and government play a crucial role in determining the conditions of our lives. People can leave political life alone, but it will not leave them alone. They can escape its noise and nonsense but not its effects. One ignores the doings of the state only at one's own risk.
[Not really. Millions of illiterate welfare recipients do very well indeed compared to many people in other third-world nations. Marxists like to make conflicting observations why this is, but it seems that compassion itself, along with perhaps guilt, have made people provide for the poor with nothing in return. After all, getting rid of welfare would put downward pressures on wages, just what capitalists would want. So why do we have such a generous welfare package?]
If the picture that emerges in the pages ahead is not pretty, this should not be taken as an attack on the United States, for this country and its people are greater than the abuses perpetrated upon them by those who live for power and profit. To expose these abuses is not to denigrate the nation that is a victim of them. The greatness of a country is to be measured by something more than its rulers, its military budget, its instruments of dominance and destruction, and its profiteering giant corporations. A nation's greatness can be measured by the democratic nature of its institutions, by its ability to create a society free of poverty, racism, sexism, imperialism, and environmental devastation. Albert Camus once said, "I would like to love my country and justice too." In fact, there is no better way to love one's country, and strive for the fulfillment of its greatness, than to entertain critical ideas that enable us to pursue social justice at home and abroad.
Page 6 Wealth and Want in the United
States (Chapter 2)
Most people who talk and write about the U.S. political system never mention capitalism. But the capitalist economy has an overbearing impact upon political and social life, and so it deserves our critical attention.
Capital and Labor
One should distinguish between those who own the wealth of society and those who must work for a living. The very rich families and individuals whom we might call "the owning class" live mostly on investments: stocks bonds, rents, and other property income. The "employee class" or "working class" live mostly on wages, salaries, fees, and pensions. The latter includes not only blue-collar workers but everyone else who is not independently wealthy. The distinction between owners and employees is blurred somewhat by the range of affluence within both classes. "Owners" refers both to the fabulously wealthy stockholders of giant corporations and to the struggling proprietors of small stores. But the latter control a relatively small portion of the wealth and hardly qualify as part of the corporate owning class. Among the victims of big business is small business. Glorified as the purveyors of the entrepreneurial spirit, small businesses are just so many squirrels dancing among the elephants. Every year about seventy thousand or more of them are driven out of business as markets decline or bigger competitors move in.
[What he fails to mention is that small business is always the most dynamic in terms of growth. It is just false that large corporations keep gobbling up small businesses. Yes, many small businesses go under. Nevertheless, the successful small businesses eventually upset and displace large corporations. None of them is immune to failure, and capitalism is not the mechanism that encourages the government to step in and bail out failing corporations - it is the managerial state or the socialist state that tends to interfere in the free market system.]
Among the employee class are professionals and mid-level executives who in income, education, and lifestyle tend to be identified as "middle" or "upper-middle" class. Then there are some corporate lawyers, doctors, entertainment and sports figures, and top business executives who accumulate enough surplus wealth to live off the unearned income of their investments, thereby becoming in effect members of the owning class.
You are a member of the owning class when your income is very large and comes mostly from the labor of other people - that is, when others work for you, either in a company you own or by creating the wealth that allows your investments to increase in value. Hard work seldom makes anyone rich. The secret to wealth is to have others work hard for you. This explains why workers who spend their lives toiling in factories or offices retire with little or no wealth to speak of, while the stockholding owners of these businesses, who do not work in them and usually have never visited them, can amass considerable fortunes.
[This is clearly a lie. If a person looks at retired people in general, those who had average jobs their entire lives, they do very well. I am always amazed at how many retired people have two or more homes, and how well off they are, many of them retiring from rather humble blue-collar jobs. They travel, spend their winters in Arizona or Florida, etc. The fact is, for a vast majority of retired people, retirement does not mean anything less than financial security.]
Wealth is created by the labor power of workers. As Adam Smith noted in 1776, "Labor ... is alone the ultimate and real standard by which the value of all commodities can at all times and places be estimated and compared. It is their real price; money is their nominal price only."' What transforms a tree into a profitable commodity such as paper or furniture is the labor that goes into harvesting the timber, cutting the lumber, and manufacturing, shipping, advertising, and selling the commodity. In addition, there is the labor that goes into making the tools and whatever else is needed for production and distribution.
[Today however that labor relies on technicians who are intelligent, well-trained, and are essential for maintaining complex machinery, distribution networks, communications, and a host of specialty areas that must be filled to function well. Labor as specialist is needed to keep the industries profitable. It is not an oppressive arrangement, in that these skills can demand high salaries, liberal work rules, and the freedom to work where and when the person wants to. What is becoming apparent is that the future will require intelligence, and that brute labor will have a declining value to any social economic system. What socialists should be doing then is looking at the innate intelligence of the population group, and take steps to improve it through eugenics, rather than lamenting that many people just do not have a place in a highly technological world. They are no longer viable organisms. Their survival is artificial, dependent on compassion alone in a compassionateless natural order.]
Workers' wages represent only a portion of the wealth created by their labor. The unpaid portion is pocketed by the owners. Today, a private-sector employee is likely to work two hours for herself or himself (the value created and paid back in wages) and six or more hours for the boss (the value realized and pocketed by owners after expenses). The latter portion is what Marx described as "surplus value," the source of the owner's wealth. Capitalists themselves have a similar concept: "value added in manufacture." For example, in 1995, management estimated that the average General Motors autoworker added $150,000 to the value of products for which he or she was paid $38,000, or one-fourth of the value created. Workers employed by Intel and Exxon received only about one-ninth of the value they created, and in industries such as tobacco and pharmaceuticals, the worker's share was a mere one-twentieth of the value added. Between 1954 and 1994, the overall average rate of value added (the portion going to the owner) in the United States increased from 162 percent to 425 percent, far above the exploitation rate in other Western industrialized countries.
[These numbers just do not compute. First, industries are highly competitive and if the profits from one person's labor can return such vast rewards for the capitalist, then no one would be unemployed because any person hired makes so much money. The flaw in this reasoning is competition and the inability of corporations to sell all the goods they manufacture. If I am gouging by overcharging for my product, which is equivalent to making huge profits from employment of people alone, I would be put out of business by my competitor. Look at stores that are now rolling out self check out counters where customers can scan and bag their own items, then pay a machine either in cash or with a credit/debit card. If labor is so exploited and makes so much money for the corporation, why do they go to such lengths to reduce the number of required checkers in stores? In addition, in the United States where we are far less socialistic than in Europe, the average worker is far better off financially, as well as paying far less to the government in taxes. If Parenti had his way, he would nationalize the economy in the name of socialism, and the economy would fail just like it did in the Soviet Union.]
Workers endure an exploitation of their labor as certainly as do slaves and serfs. The slave or serf obviously toils for the enrichment of the master and receives only a bare subsistence. (James Madison told a visitor shortly after the American Revolution that he made $257 a year on every slave he owned and spent only $12 or $13 for the slave's keep.) Sharecroppers who must give a third or half their crop to the landowner are also obviously exploited. Under capitalism, however, the portion taken from the worker is not visible. Workers are simply paid substantially less than the value they create. Indeed, the only reason they are hired is to make money from their labor. If wages did represent the total value created by labor (after expenses and improvements), there would be no surplus value, no profits for the owner, no great fortunes for those who do not labor.
[I agree that it seems unfair that there is a small elite that "do not labor." But they are not necessarily capitalists. Some have won the lottery, some are super athletes, some have inherited their fortunes, and some were farmers who made millions selling their farmland to developers. It is simply false that lazy, shiftless capitalists sit around collecting money from "slave laborers" as if it were some kind of honeybee farm. Every economic niche is under pressure to perform competitively, and the failure to manage it well will lead to its collapse. Those who do not invest well, likewise, will lose their fortunes as the cost of living and taxes separates them from their resources. Capitalism is still the most productive means of income generation for all people that are participating in the economic system - with a handful at the top living off past good luck and a handful at the bottom living off welfare. But between the extremes, capitalism produces more wealth and goods for everyone than any other system yet devised.]
Company managers and executives are employees of the firm who represent the interests of the owner. Their task is to extract more performance from workers. Income from ownership is apart from workers' wages or even executives' salaries; it consists of profits - the money one makes when not working. The author of a book, for instance, does not make "profits" on his book; he earns an income (fancily misnamed "royalties") from the labor of writing it. Likewise, editors, proofreaders, printers, and salespersons all contribute labor that adds to the value of the book. Profits on the book go to those who own the publishing house and who contribute nothing to the book's marketable value. The sums going to owners are aptly called unearned income on tax accounts.
[Yet the public has endorsed new tax breaks (Bush's tax policies 2003) for "unearned income," the "death tax," and "earnings on stock dividends." I agree that the rich manipulate tax policies for their own advantage, but the only reason they are capable of doing so is that the average voter is not intelligent enough to understand the tax code and how they lose or benefit on average from different taxation policies. That is, not only are the capitalists rich, they are also far more intelligent on average than the average voter is. So of course, they influence tax policy for their own benefit. Is it fair? I am not sure we could even define what fair is when it comes to taxes, because it entails defining who should pay for government services. I do know that Russia has introduced a flat tax system of 13% and it seems to be working very well. And I will also propose an alternative taxation scheme that is neither socialistic nor capitalistic, but based on ownership. Whoever owns a nation should pay the taxes for its upkeep, aside from those workers/welfare recipients who should pay for their miscreant deeds (speeding tickets, cost to put out a fire in their residence, incarceration for crime along with a financial debt, etc.). Every year, the government would tax wealth rather than income. Wealth then would have to be created, it could not just be held onto. Everyone would be paying according to how much of the nation they own in terms of money, property, stock values, etc. Of course, such a system would be extremely problematic in terms of global markets because wealth would be transferred offshore. Still, it is an alternative way of looking at the basic question of who should pay for a nation's cost of operation.]
While corporations are often called "producers," the truth is they produce nothing. They are organizational devices for the exploitation of labor and accumulation of capital. The real producers are those who apply their brawn, brains, and talents to the creation of goods and services. The primacy of labor was noted 140 years ago by President Abraham Lincoln in a message to Congress: "Labor is prior to and independent of capital. Capital is only the fruit of labor and could not have existed had not labor first existed. Labor is the superior of capital and deserves much the higher consideration." Lincoln's words went unheeded. The dominance of the moneyed class over labor remains the essence of the U.S. economic system.
[The same could also be said about government, especially one that is socialistic. Governments produce nothing. Therefore, governments should not be allowed to collect taxes from people's labor. Thus, we have the core concept of not a socialist society, but a libertarian one.]
Accumulation and Expansion
Capitalists like to say they are "putting their money to work," but money as such cannot create more wealth. What they really mean is that they are putting more human labor to work, paying workers less in wages than they produce in value, thereby siphoning off more profit for themselves. That's how money "grows." Under capitalism, capital annexes living labor in order to convert itself into goods and services that will produce still more capital. All of Rockefeller's capital could not build a house or a machine or even a toothpick; only human labor can do that. Of itself, capital cannot produce anything. It is the thing that is produced by labor.
[Of course capital does not "put more human labor to work." Capitalism finances speculative and competing adventures in the free market system that the financiers hope will provide a return on their investments. Labor is just another cost of production, along with purchasing land, material, equipment, and paying taxes. Capitalists cannot just hire a bunch of people to do "work" as if work itself was some sort of commodity. The entire investment can make money or lose money. If capitalists do not provide for the creation of "labor opportunities," then it is left to the government, which is even more corrupt and less accountable than a free market system.]
The ultimate purpose of a corporation is not to perform public services or produce goods but to make as large a profit as possible for the investor. Steel magnate David Roderick once said that his company "is not in the business of making steel. We're in the business of making profits."' The social uses of the product and its effects upon human well-being and the natural environment win consideration in capitalist production, if at all, only to the extent that they do not violate the profit goals of the corporation.
[And sex is not performed just for procreation, but because it feels good. That does not make sex bad. Likewise, if capitalists invest in enterprises that result in people being employed, products being produced, investors being paid back, and the government paid taxes, why does the purpose matter? The result is an efficient economic system that is now more productive, less polluting, far safer, and provides so much excess capacity that many European nations take about half of the profits for redistribution - with much of it lost through government waste and corruption. Capitalists are not monopolies; if they are not efficient, they cease to exist. Socialism does not have to be efficient because the government elite has no competition - they dictate and the masses must obey. The capitalist elite is just replaced with the socialist elite - they are in fact no different with regards to intent, which in the end is to serve their own needs and desires.]
This relentless pursuit of profit arises from something more than just greed - although there is plenty of that. Under capitalism, enterprises must expand in order to survive. To stand still amidst growth is to decline, not only relatively but absolutely. A slow-growth firm is less able to move into new markets, hold onto old ones, command investment capital, and control suppliers. Hence, even the biggest corporations are beset by a ceaseless drive to expand, to find new ways of making money.
[Any reflection on human nature quickly reveals that greed is universal and not unique to capitalists. What seems to define a capitalist is any person who has the good fortune to have enough intelligence, desire, and perseverance along with a dollop of luck to better themselves. Those who enter government service have the same human drives and desires as capitalists. Parenti seems to infer that capitalists are a different human species, with different goals and aspirations as everyone else. I would have to submit that there is no evidence that human behavioral types are any more or less "greedy" whether one is a capitalist, a janitor, a politician, or a professor (though we could probably devise a behavior genetic test to try and find out if they differ - say in some abstract level of greed). Everyone finds their own niche and tries to do what they can to live out their lives as best they can. If diversity means differences, then the aggressive capitalist should be as valued as the drunken welfare recipient.]
Who Owns America?
Contrary to a widely propagated myth, this country's wealth does not belong to a broad middle class. The top 10 percent of American households own 98 percent of the tax-exempt state and local bonds, 94 percent of business assets, and 95 percent of the value of all trusts. The richest 1 percent own 60 percent of all corporate stock and all business assets. True, some 40 percent of families own some stocks or bonds, but almost all of these have total holdings of less than $2,000. Taking into account their debts and mortgages, 90 percent of American families have little or no net assets.
[Yet their lives are far better than those who live in nations where there is little capital investment. Every year, more and more Americans own their own homes. Every year, the average person lives longer and better. So what difference does it make if some people have billions of dollars, some people live in poverty, and most people do quite well considering the constraints on human nature? Socialism will certainly not make people any wealthier, because every socialist system is ultimately run by the same people who run the corporations, and greed and its cohorts are universal. Human behavior evolved over millions of years to accommodate a social structure of up to a maximum of 150 people, with warfare between tribes erupting over fear, threats, and resources. When, over the last 10,000 years or so, our human intelligence altered our social structure to allow for larger and larger units of governance, our ancient brains have not had time to adapt. If we want to eliminate greed, we will have to breed it eugenically out of the human genome. Otherwise, anticapitalists are just haters of the human condition that we are forced to work with. Like teaching chimpanzees sign language, there are genetic constraints on success. If Parenti wants to eliminate greed, he had better look towards eugenics, not the gulags' under Stalin. I'll take capitalism over totalitarianism thank you.]
The greatest source of individual wealth is inheritance. If you are not rich, it is probably because you lacked the foresight to pick the right parents at birth. Studies show that rags-to-riches is a rare exception. Most people die in the class to which they were born. A large majority of the "self-made" Forbes 400 superrich inherited fortunes or received crucial start-up capital from a family member.
[As a eugenicist, I agree that one way of increasing the quality of the gene pool is to implement a meritocratic society where wealth is more in accordance with talent by eliminating nepotism and the transfer of wealth from the person who created the wealth to those who don't deserve it. However, that is a very subjective determination. It also includes the elimination of arbitrary income redistribution. Parenti again does not advocate any type of fair system of government; he just simply hates capitalists, as homophobes hate faggots. It is no different. Instead of advocating socialism, he could equally advocate non-belligerent fascism, where a strong central government, presiding over a homogenous population, would implement meritocratic policies where neither labor nor big business would dominate the economy. Again the problem is finding a way to select who shall rule in the name of any particular dogma that will lead to the goals desired.]
The trend has been toward greater economic inequality. In the mid 1990s, corporate profits more than doubled; income from investments has been growing two to three times faster than income from work. Between 1980 and 1992, the five hundred largest U.S. industrial corporations more than doubled their assets, from $1.8 trillion to $2.7 trillion, while shedding over five million jobs. And the years that followed brought "the highest level of corporate profitability in the post-war era, and probably since the latter stages of the Bronze Age," according to the Wall Street Journal. During the last three decades, the richest 1 percent saw their average after-tax incomes soar by 115 percent - while the incomes of the bottom fifth declined by almost 10 percent.
[I agree that this is a concern, but not even the socialists are willing to advocate the reduction of cheap immigrant labor in order to make the lowest qualified workers more valuable. It is often stated that cheap immigrant labor performs jobs that others refuse to do for what the job pays. However, if the capitalists make so much money off the labor of others, as Parenti claims above, they will pay whatever the going rate is for the job to be filled, and wages will increase. This is the contradiction in the immigration issue. As cheap labor dries up, wages should increase and unemployment should decrease. So why do socialists almost universally advocate open immigration? I can only surmise that they believe it will eventually lead to class warfare and the replacement of the existing elite with themselves in control. No other explanation makes any sense.]
U.S. Census Bureau income studies refer to the "richest 20 percent" who earn thirteen times more than the poorest 20 percent. But dealing with quintiles greatly understates the real chasm between rich and poor. To be in the richest 20 percent, you need earn only $65,000 or more. In fact, the top 20 percent are not rich but mostly upper-middle class, if that. The very richest stratum consists of not more than a tiny fraction of 1 percent of the population. It controls most of the wealth and is not thirteen times but thousands of times richer than the poorest quintile. Few of the people who study income distribution seem to realize how rich the rich really are.
[I think this information is easy to obtain. I see it all the time, including in-depth analyses of tax policies that favor the rich - available on the Internet. Life is not meant to be fair or equitable, it just is. Some dog owners treat their pets poorly - I pamper mine to death. So domestic dogs are treated with a great deal of inequality depending who takes care of them. So what? Should we put into place some form of canine socialism, where dogs are rotated among caretakers, so that their lives are more equitable? Or should we instead just make sure that dogs are not abused? I would think the latter is more preferable. Parenti has excessive envy concerning the rich. Studies have shown that happiness is not determined by wealth, so what real difference does it make? If most people are doing well, enjoying their lives, then they have all the wealth they need to be happy.]
At the end of the twentieth century, sales of high-priced goods - luxury cars and condominiums, works of art, antiques, precious gems, yachts, and private jets - continued to boom. Income and wealth disparities were greater than at any time over the previous sixty years. As one economist put it: "If we made an income pyramid out of a child's blocks, with each laver portraying $1,000 of income, the peak would be far higher than the Eiffel Tower, but almost all of us would be within a yard of the ground."
[Probably two main factors are responsible for income inequality. First, some people, because of their talents, can command enormous salaries or will speculate in such a way that they become rich by their wits alone. Second, tax policy. The first is due to supply and demand; the second is controlled by the democratic process. Socialism has no solution for either of these. Eugenics however does solve this problem in two ways. First, it reduces the gap in talent between the extremes. That is, it selects intelligence whereby high intelligence becomes abundant and therefore is not as valuable as it is now. I know many people with high intelligence that prefer jobs where they are physically active over office work, like a carpenter. Now if many more people are available to fill the very demanding high intelligence positions, the salaries should become more equal with the carpenter's salary. In addition, if the average intelligence of the nation was say 130 rather than 100, far more people could understand the intricacies of government and human nature alike, and we could implement direct democracy via the Internet. Under such a system, government would merely implement, politicians would propose, and the people would decide what laws are passed. As far as I can tell, the success of democratic systems is determined by the average intelligence of the people, and it is probably still too low for democracy to work even in Western or East Asian countries with average intelligences above 100.]
Enormous wealth translates into enormous power. The power of the business class is like that of no other group in our society. The giant corporations control the rate of technological development, the availability of livelihoods, and standards of consumption and popular taste. They decide which labor markets to explore and which to abandon, sometimes relegating whole communities to destitution. They devour environmental resources, stripping our forests and toxifying the land, water, and air. They command an enormous surplus wealth while helping to create and perpetuate conditions of scarcity for millions of people at home and abroad. And as we shall see in subsequent chapters, they enjoy a predominant voice in the highest councils of government.
[The business class does have a great deal of power, but so do:
The teacher's unions.
The social welfare system.
The local real estate broker.
The historical preservationists.
The academic community.
The religious community.
The Sierra Club.
The legal profession.
The airline pilot's union.
The Red Cross.
Professional engineers and architects.
When we look at all of the interest groups, it becomes apparent that they all have their own axes to grind, and that when they apply their muscle to change laws, the special interest group is going to gain while the rest of society loses. I see very few laws passed where the impact is generally good for everyone. So why attack the capitalists? Power brokering groups are everywhere.]
Far from being neutral technocrats devoted to the public welfare, top corporate executives are self-enriching members of the owning class. Over the past fifteen years the salaries of chief executive officers (CEOs) of corporations rose an average 500 percent. In 1998, Disney CEO Michael Eisner pocketed $575 million, Gap CEO Millard Drexler took home $495 million, Yahoo CEO Timothy Koogle pulled in $476 million, while IBM CEO Louis Gerstner made off with $336 million. That same year, the nation's top five hundred companies handed out $10.4 billion in stock options, mostly to CEOs. At the top of this heap was Microsoft owner Bill Gates, whose net worth slumped from $85 billion to $63 billion, still leaving him the richest person in the United States as of 2000. One corporate chief, Richard Munro, admitted: "Corporate managers lead just about the most privileged lives in our society." Still, it should be remembered that the CEO's salary and bonuses represent but a tiny portion - usually not more than 3 or 4 percent - of the profits distributed to the corporation's superrich stockholders. In other words, there are others among the superrich who don't work and are far more privileged than the CEOs.
[The accumulation of wealth via scheming is pandemic in human culture. We all know, or should know, that the powerful hold great sway over our lives, and that these powerful people are not just a few wealthy families. Politicians also are manipulating the government for their own benefit, as well as every other interest group. All we can say about the above is that a few people have managed to accumulate great wealth and keep it from one generation to another. If they do not deserve it because they are using unethical or illegal means to accumulate and keep their wealth, then it is up to voters to change the situation. But it is not capitalism that is the problem, it is again as I have said, the very flaws that are inherent in representative democracy. The answer then is not to go back to calling for class warfare, but to fix the human condition by understanding human nature and improving our ability to control our frailties. Eugenics is the best way to make those changes permanent, rather than using forcible coercion to alter human behavior.]
We treat farmers as an interest group apart from business, at a time when a handful of agribusiness firms, big banks, and commercial corporations control most of our food supply and farmlands. Thus, R. J. Reynolds, with vast holdings in cigarettes, transportation, and petroleum, owns Del Monte - itself a transnational agribusiness. Five giant corporations dominate the domestic and world grain market. Just 1 percent of all food corporations control 80 percent of the food industry's assets and close to 90 percent of the profits."
[Large farms apparently are more efficient than small farms.]
Independent family farms are being driven deeper into debt or completely out of business because the price that agribusiness distributors pay them for their perishable crops is often below the costs of machinery, seeds, and fertilizers. Today, the combined farm debt is many times greater than net farm income. Only 2 or 3 percent of the cost of a farm commodity goes to the farmer, the rest to the corporate distributors. Of the less than two million existing farm families (down from six million in 1940), most survive by finding additional work off the farm.
[Parenti was telling us earlier how much money the capitalists can make off of every worker. Now he is saying that the labor a farmer uses to produce goods is not enough to pay for the investment. However, investment is what capitalists do. By investing in large farms, they reduce the overall cost of the product, and food becomes cheaper. That is why the small farmer cannot compete, because they are not efficient enough. Do you know any small car manufacturer, say a family owned business, that builds a few cars every year and sells them for a profit? They used to, but not anymore. Large corporations have made car making efficient because of volume, automation and size. The same is true for small farms being displaced by corporate farms, and small hardware stores being replaced by mega-hardware stores. Larger is many times more efficient than smaller - but not always. The market is still the best arbitrator for when bigger is more efficient.]
Contrary to popular belief, large commercial agribusiness farms do not produce more efficiently than small farms, especially when real costs are taken into account. The shift from family farm to corporate agribusiness has brought numerous diseconomies. The family farm uses less pesticides and herbicides, does not resort to genetic engineering, and is concerned about farm waste disposal and preserving the cleanliness of its ground water, which it uses for its own living purposes. Family farms treat their livestock in a healthier more humane way, are more economical in their use of fuel and topsoil, and, because they supply primarily local markets, they have lower transportation costs.
[My uncles were dairy farmers, and the above is just plain false. After trashing capitalists for exploiting labor, Parenti has to find excuses for why the small farmer cannot compete with agribusiness. I saw what went on at those farms, and they were not concerned with the environment or with the happiness of the lowly cow or pig. They were as callous as anyone working in a slaughtering house. They were farming to make money, not for some eco-ideal of being one with nature. Agribusiness, by being large, often draws attention to itself and is attacked for numerous transgressions such as polluting streams from environmentalists. They are under a lot more scrutiny than the small farmer, who can violate more rules just by being small and invisible.]
With the growth of corporate agribusiness, regional self-sufficiency in food has virtually vanished. The Northeast, for instance, imports more than 70 percent of its food from other regions. For every two dollars spent growing food in the United States, another dollar is spent transporting it. Giant agribusiness farms rely on intensive row crop planting and heavy use of toxic spraying and artificial fertilizers, causing millions of acres of topsoil to be blown away each year. The nation's ability to feed itself is being jeopardized, as more and more land is eroded or toxified by large-scale, quick-profit, biotechnological, commercial farming, not to mention the damage to people's health resulting from the consumption of foods produced by these chemicalized methods.
[I guess that is why we are living longer and better now, we are so toxified that pathogens leave us alone. In fact, natural foods eaten during our hunter-gatherer days more than 10,000 years ago were filled with toxins, before we started breeding less toxic strains of food. That was nature's way of keeping food from being eaten out of existence. If in fact land is destroyed and food prices rise, then small farming will return because it will be profitable, as well as millions of Americans returning to gardening to grow their own food. Until then, I will keep getting my food the old fashioned way, from the grocery store where we spend less and less of our income because food costs keep declining. I like it the way it is.]
On the big commercial agribusiness farms, the plight of the nation's two million landless farm laborers has gone from bad to worse. The pesticides and herbicides they are exposed to and their poor living conditions constitute serious health hazards. Their real wages (accounting for inflation) have dropped 20 percent or more over the last twenty years.
[This is a good reason to automate farming, putting a distance between the worker and the food produced using pesticides and herbicides. Then we can keep the lowly farm laborer safe, send the rest of them to other industries, where they can earn a good living, send their children to college, and all have a better life.]
Downsizing and Downgrading
Corporations are hailed by some as great job providers. If anything, many corporate measures are designed to eliminate jobs. The top two hundred corporations account for more than a quarter of the world's economic activity while employing less than one-hundredth of one percent (0.01) of the world's people. As one writer notes, "Today, the more people a company fires, the more Wall Street loves it, and the higher its stock price goes."
[Because downsizing shows that the corporation is becoming more efficient. Those who bring real talent to the labor market do well. Those who have little to offer suffer. This is a constant under either socialism or capitalism. The only difference is if it is big government or big business creating the jobs. When it is the government, the economy fails. Socialism is not a good alternative.]
The capitalist seeks to raise profitability by downsizing (laying off workers), speedups (making the diminished workforce toil faster and harder), downgrading (reclassifying jobs to lower-wage categories), and using more and more part-time and "contract" labor (hiring people who receive no benefits, seniority, or steady employment). Hundreds of thousands of better-paying manufacturing jobs have been eliminated, while some 80 percent of new jobs created have been in low-paying retail trade, restaurant, clerical, health, and temporary services. In recent downsizing, the ranks of managers and supervisors have been thinned along with workers - but much more slowly, so that a proportionately larger share of the national income goes to supervisors at the expense of production workers.
[Is it so surprising that any enterprise, including academic, military, government, social, non-profit, or business would not try to be more efficient? All of the above are carried out by all organizations, even non-profit ones, so why do socialists only vilify capitalists? What does he want them to do, lose money on their operations? It is pointless to look at each micromanagement decision when comparing economic systems - they must be looked as an entirety when comparing one against another, and people's lives are far better under capitalism than they are under socialism. There is of course one caution here when comparing countries, because some countries are homogenous racially - they do not have the same difficulties found in multicultural or multi-racial countries. Where there is ethnic conflict, social programs become far more problematic. For example, the Scandinavian countries are very socialistic. China is indefinable as it moves from communism to some form of totalitarianism. Japan for example is a nation without immigrants, and therefore without cheap labor that we claim to need in the United States to fill unwanted jobs. So when comparing economic systems, we need to be aware of the racial make-up as well as the average level of intelligence, natural resources, etc. Nevertheless, it seems that for the average American, capitalism is the best system for providing wealth and prosperity to the most people when we look at alternatives that are available under the current constraints of democracy.]
Wealth and poverty are not just juxtaposed, they are in a close dynamic relationship. Wealth creates poverty and relies on it for its own continued existence. Without slaves and serfs, how would the master and lord live in the style to which they are accustomed? Without the working poor, how would the leisured rich make do? With no underprivileged, who would be privileged?
[That is easy to answer. Without the working poor or welfare recipients the capable would make do with the labor available. The productive worker, in ever greater demand, would push increased automation. Without the working poor or those on welfare or in jails, the wealthy could keep more of their money, with less social disruption, and live a better life. A more egalitarian society would flow naturally then from a more equal distribution of talents. Only eugenics can solve the problems of genomic inequality.]
Massive military expenditures "happen to be a particularly inflation-producing type of federal spending," admits the Wall Street Journal. The Civil War, World Wars I and II, the Korean War, and the Vietnam War all produced inflationary periods. Even during peacetime, huge defense outlays consume vast amounts of labor power and material resources, the military being the largest single consumer of fuel in the United States. Military spending creates jobs and consumer buying power while producing no goods and services. The resulting increase in buying power generates an upward pressure on prices, especially since the defense budget is funded partly through deficit spending - that is, by the government's spending more than it collects in taxes.
[One would think then that the military-industrial complex was behind President Bush's desire to attack Iraq in 2003. However, when we look at the players behind the scenes, up pops neoconservatives (with Colin Powell excluded). The State Department, the CIA, the military - none of these branches of government were pushing for war - it was the New York intellectuals and their insider friends like Rumsfeld, Cheney and Perle. These neoconservatives, who are really just reinvented Trotskyites, are hardly what we would call capitalists. They are mostly scholars or intellectuals, not industrialists. So where were the capitalists behind this war on terrorism? Except for a few interested corporations that might benefit from the war, most realized that it was not good for the economy and were on the sidelines. So much for evil capitalists.]
Market Demand and Human Need
Those who say that private enterprise can answer our needs seem to overlook the fact that private enterprise has no such interest, its function being to produce the biggest profits possible. People may need food, but they offer no market until their need (or want) is coupled with buying power to become a market demand. When asked what they were doing about the widespread hunger in the United States, one food manufacturer responded with refreshing candor: "If we saw evidence of profitability, we might look into this."
The difference between need and demand shows up in the international market also. When the free market rather than human need determines how resources are used, poor nations feed rich ones. Beef, fish, and other protein products from Peru, Mexico, Panama, India, and other Third World countries find their way to profitable U.S. markets rather than being used to feed the hungry children in those countries. The children need food, but they lack the money; hence, there is no demand. The free market is anything but free. Money is invested only where money is to be made. Under capitalism, there is a glut of nonessential goods and services for those with money and a shortage of essential ones for those without money. Stores groan with unsold items while millions of people live in acute deprivation.
[When socialists can show just one nation where only needs are considered, where a ruling elite can be trusted to act on the needs of people rather than pilfering from the many for themselves, then I will begin to listen. Until then, Marxists are no different than capitalists with regards to human nature. Both are going to try and manipulate the masses for their own benefit, and the best antidote is a highly intelligent electorate - not more propaganda.]
The human value of productivity rests in its social purpose. Is the purpose to plunder the land without regard to ecological needs, fabricate endless consumer desires, produce shoddy goods designed to wear out quickly, pander to snobbism and acquisitiveness, squeeze as much compulsive toil as possible out of workers while paying them as little as possible, create artificial scarcities in order to inflate prices - all in order to grab ever bigger profits for the few? Or is productivity geared to satisfying essential communal needs first and superfluous desires last, caring for the natural environment and the public's health and well-being? Does it expand educational opportunities and cultural life? Capitalist productivity-for-profit gives little consideration to the latter set of goals.
[Capitalism does provide the resources for social goals. Just like we let the honeybee produce the product without consideration of the honeybee's goals, the capitalist can be allowed to produce goods and services while society farms the profits for the collective good. We have passed laws to protect the environment, protect workers, etc. while reaping great rewards that are then given to whole sectors of the economy that are unproductive, but have been deemed worthy of government support. That is the best way to solve our common problems, while protecting our freedom to participate however we like to our life's endeavors. If a few get filthy rich, or a few succumb to despair, it is still life as nature has made it for millions of years. Nature cares little for equality, egalitarianism, or even happiness. Life has come about because of an accidental set of circumstances of replicating algorithms in DNA molecules. Everything after that is up for grabs. No rules, no goals, no doctrines other than the ones we make up to pass our time away.]
It is argued that the accumulation of great fortunes is a necessary condition for economic growth, for only the wealthy can provide the huge sums needed for the capitalization of new enterprises. Yet in many industries, such as railroads, aeronautics, nuclear energy, and computers, much of the initial funding came from the government (that is, from the taxpayers). It is one thing to say that large-scale production requires capital accumulation but something else to presume that the source of accumulation must be the purses of the rich.
[It can also come from the purses of the many. Neither the rich nor the government is required. Both must take their money from the masses, so why not just let the masses invest in the stock market, where capitalism can coexist with government spending. Under a free market system then, a few filthy-rich can be tolerated, but they are not needed, to build industry. What is required is a technological work force that is capable of ever increasing innovations that lead to increased efficiency, so that everyone can spend more time getting into endless debates about what is fair and proper.]
Giant corporations are subsidized by government for much of their research. And they leave a good deal of the pioneering research to smaller businesses and individual entrepreneurs. The inventiveness record of the biggest oil companies, Exxon and Shell, is strikingly undistinguished. Referring to electric appliances, one General Electric vice president noted: "I know of no original product invention, not even electric shavers or heating pads, made by any of the giant laboratories or corporations.... The record of the giants is one of moving in, buying out, and absorbing the small creators." The same can be said of recent advances in the software industry.
[If corporations did not exist then, to pay entrepreneurs for inventing new products, how would the products be developed into finished products? I sure wouldn't want a socialist bureaucracy deciding what invention should be promoted and which ones should be ignored. The free market system is the most meritocratic available, making everyone equal in their personal pursuits. A socialist system then really is little different from the capitalistic one, except the elite can never be displaced by failure because possible bankruptcy is taken out of the equation. Inefficiency will be institutionalized and will eventually collapse in failure. That has been the history of any socialist attempt to get rid of capitalism.]
One cause of low productivity is technological obsolescence. Unwilling to spend their own money to modernize their plants, big companies cry poverty and call for federal funds to finance technological innovation - supposedly to help them compete against foreign firms. Yet, these same companies might then produce huge cash reserves for mergers. For example, after laying off twenty thousand workers, refusing to modernize its aging plants, and milking the government of hundreds of millions of dollars in subsidies and tax write-offs, U.S. Steel came up with $862 billion to purchase Marathon Oil in 1981.
[The above is not the fault of capitalism, but the fault of government intervention. A socialist government would behave just like U.S. Steel writ-large. We have seen it happen in too many communist countries not to see the pattern. The solution is to keep government out of corporate bail-outs, not the capitalist system itself.]
During 1997-2000, inflation was slowing down, unemployment was at its lowest level in years, the federal budget showed a surplus for the first time in decades, corporate coffers were brimming with profits, and the stock market was soaring into the stratosphere. It was called the "Clinton prosperity." But a closer look revealed that real wages were below 1973 levels, consumer debt and personal bankruptcies were at record highs, and the gap between the rich and most other people was wider than at any time since the 1920s. "A rising tide lifts all yachts," as one wag put it. Low-income workers did not share in the prosperity and had yet to recover from the sharp erosion of earnings they had suffered over the previous two decades. The "Clinton prosperity" still left 32.2 million U.S. residents living below the poverty level, with a record number of people requiring the support of charitable food banks.
[The trend will probably continue and socialism will not be able to alter it. People, on average, are paid what they are worth, with a number of distortions built into any complex society. As the market demands greater and greater skills from its work force, the gap in wages between the skilled worker and the unskilled worker is going to increase. Everywhere there are different races within the same country, the race with the higher average intelligence dominates the economy (see Amy Chua's World on Fire or read my review of her book at my web site). The only way to make people more equal without totalitarianism, is to make them equal genetically.]
In capitalist societies, if people cannot find work, that is their misfortune. No free-market economy has ever come close to full employment. If anything, unemployment is useful to capitalism. Without a reserve army of unemployed to compete for jobs and deflate wages, labor would cut more deeply into profits. In recent years the official unemployment count has ranged around 5 to 7 percent, or over nine million people. But this figure does not include an estimated four to five million "discouraged" workers who have exhausted their unemployment compensation and left the rolls, millions of part-timers or reduced-time workers who want full-time jobs, nor the many forced into early retirement, those who join the armed forces because they cannot find work (and who are thereby listed as "employed"), and prison inmates who would have been listed as unemployed but for incarceration.
[Yet the same socialists want open borders, increased immigration, showing no concern for those who cannot find work. With a stable population, or even a decreasing one, the need for workers would increase, and unemployment would go down. Therefore, it is just false to assume that the Left is concerned about unemployment. They really are obsessed with their hatred for the capitalist. Take Germany for example. Their economic system is so socialistic that they have about a ten percent unemployment rate, while they use immigrant labor to perform jobs that Germans will not take. Why won't Germans take these jobs rather than be unemployed? Because the unemployment benefits are so generous that many Germans would rather collect unemployment than go to work. That is the pattern of socialism - a directed hatred for the bourgeoisie, not a real concern for the citizens of a country. They are at war with capitalism; they want to replace it with their own bureaucratic system where they will be the bosses. Same game, just under new management.]
The number of underemployed part-time workers jumped from 12.6 million to 27.8 million between 1965 and 1995. (Of course, some people on the job market prefer part-time work because of school or family obligations. But they do not make up the bulk of the part-time and some-time employees.) The median hourly wage of part-timers was about one-third less than full-time employees in the same occupations. The number of workers who found it necessary to hold down two jobs climbed from 3.7 million to 8 million between 1975 and 1995. Among the part-timers are millions of "contract workers," who are paid only for hours put in, without promise of regular employment. About one-fifth of them, more than a million, have returned to their previous employers, working at the same jobs but now at lower wages, without health insurance, paid vacations, pension fund, seniority, or hope of advancement. U.S. Labor Department statistics show that only about 35 percent of laid-off full-time workers end up with equally remunerative or better-paying jobs.
[Of course, contract work will continue to increase as the government egalitarians meddle with the free market system. Paid maternity leave, racial quotas, unemployment compensation costs, labor laws; these all drive the economy towards increasing independence between the worker and the employer for a myriad of reasons. One that is of great concern for any large organization is the impact of being forced to hire minority employees, primarily Blacks, who then become problem employees but cannot be disciplined or terminated because of their race. This is not unlike the breakdown in discipline in schools where teachers are forced to either teach to the unteachable, or just pass them through the system - all because no one wants to consider the obvious: different races have different innate cognitive abilities. So again, it is the Left that is destroying the worker-employer relationship.]
Technological advances and automation can expand worker productivity without bringing a commensurate gain in jobs. For example, Chrysler once announced an investment of $225 million for a new line of Dodge trucks that created only seventy jobs; at the same time Chrysler continued to lay off workers. Another cause of decline in better-paying jobs is the runaway shop: U.S. firms move to cheaper Third World labor markets, supposedly to maintain their competitiveness in the global economy. As one corporate executive put it, "Until we get real wages down much closer to those of the Brazils and South Koreas, we cannot pass along productivity gains to wages and still be competitive." In other words, working people will share in the growing profits only after they join the race to the bottom and are reduced to desperate Third World poverty-wage levels.
[Globalization may be a problem, as nations compete with each other for low wage jobs from foreign investments. However, the Left has no solution for it. The Right however does have the same concern for the citizens of their country and the quality of life. Pat Buchanan is a populist, not one I agree with on economic issues always, but nonetheless he has a nationalist perspective that believes the nation comes first. So instead of a socialist solution to the problems of globalization, why not a nationalist one? Each country competes with each other economically, with as much open trade as possible, but corporations are not allowed to operate globally indiscriminately. This solution could be rather brutal however, as it would prevent the nation from intervening in any way with other nations with regards to loan guarantees, foreign aid, etc. That is, it is expected that each nation stands alone with regards to their sovereignty - they alone are responsible for how foreign capitalists are regulated. That is, each nation's government is responsible for the welfare of its people - any exploitation by a foreign nation then falls on the government of that nation to correct the situation. No welfare programs from first world nations to third world nations that come with strings attached for open markets, free trade, etc. It is up to each nation to deal with foreign investors, not with foreign nations. (This does not include some treaties that may be necessary to control ocean dumping of toxic wastes for example - situations that need treaties of cooperation.)]
The Hardships of Working America
We hear that the United States is a middle-class nation, but actually most Americans are working-class. Their income source is hourly wages and their labor is manual, unskilled, or semiskilled. Even among white-collar service employees, the great majority are non-managerial and low-wage. Compared to twenty years ago, U.S. workers put in an annual average of 180 additional hours on the job - the equivalent of six more weeks of toil. They have more forced overtime, fewer paid days off, fewer benefits, less sick leave, shorter vacations, and less discretionary income. Middle-class families are deeper in debt. People are working harder for relatively less in order to generate sufficient income for themselves and their dependents, a necessity that has become more urgent as wages stagnate, higher-paying jobs disappear, and government income supplements are reduced.
[Of course there is a simple solution for workers who can't earn enough to support their families - don't have children! It is the responsibility of every individual to shape his or her own lives. Those who are struggling are for the most part people who do not have the talent to prosper. As technology demands more and more skill to contribute to corporate profits, the more these low skilled people are going to be left behind. A eugenics program then that promotes free enterprise and restricts public aid, will reduce the number of people in the future who are not equipped genetically to contribute to a new advanced culture. The eugenics' program meets economic, social welfare, and over population goals. Those who can will prosper and have children, those who can't will refrain from having children or suffer the consequences. For those who cannot contribute to society, I do not want to make life easier, I want to make life harder.]
One survey found that 70 percent of respondents felt less secure in their jobs and 73 percent reported greater stress on the job in recent years. Another showed that one hundred million U.S. residents are worried that their total family income is not enough to meet expenses. Even conservative business leader Mortimer Zuckerman allowed that "fewer than one job in five pays enough today to support a family of four."
[So how is the other 80% of the people staying alive? Not to mention the billions of people in the world who are far worse off than someone in the United States who is on welfare.]
Among the "working poor" can be numbered the thousands of janitors around the country who launched concerted struggles for a living wage in 2000. In Los Angeles, the 26-percent wage increase that striking janitors won would still leave them with an annual wage of only $19,000 by 2003, in an area where rents often run far higher than their total income. Then there are the farm laborers who toil for meager sums while working and living under distressing conditions, and the growing numbers of sweatshop employees who put in long hours for below minimum wages, plus the immigrant female domestics in affluent households who work twelve-to-fifteen-hour shifts, six days a week, for wages sometimes amounting to as little as two dollars an hour.
[And still illegal and legal immigrants are flooding into the United States, happy to have a job in a sweatshop, rather than no job at all. It seems we plainly have too many low-skilled people, we have no solution to provide them with the skills necessary, and the gap in wages between the talented and the non-talented will increase. The only solution is to eliminate diversity for homogeneity - shrink the differences between those with skill and those without, which means good breeding. Our current dysgenic trend can not be solved by regulating wages and jobs under a socialist system.]
Americans have been taught that they are the most prosperous people in the world. The truth is, of twenty major industrial countries, the United States ranks fifteenth in life expectancy and has the highest poverty rate, the highest infant mortality rate, and the highest rate of youth deaths due to accidents, homicide, and other violence.
[So let's find what demographic group falls into this category and encourage them to emigrate to those other countries, and then see how we rank in comparison? In the book The Bell Curve: Intelligence and Class Structure in American Life by Richard J. Herrnstein and Charles Murray, they have clearly shown that it is the unintelligent that fall into the above low prosperity indicators, and they are overwhelming Blacks and Amerindians (which includes Central American Indians as a racial group).]
The poor pay more for most things: 30 percent interest on auto loans for unreliable used cars, exorbitant rents in run-down unsafe buildings that slumlords refuse to repair, and installment sales that charge interest rates of 200 to 300 percent. Unregulated and extremely lucrative fringe "banks" and check cashing companies make billions of dollars annually by charging low income people fees of up to 10 percent to cash their paychecks or welfare and Social Security checks. Others make short-term loans to people who run short of cash between paychecks, a business that made an estimated 82 billion in 2000. Calculated on an annual base, the loan fees can be 500 percent or higher. Many of these storefront usury shops are owned or funded by major banks and corporations, including Chase Manhattan, NationsBank, Ford, and American Express. Their growth has been fueled by a decline in the number of households with bank accounts and an increase in low-income population.
[In short, people who are ill equipped to understand simple economic principles are taken advantage of by those who provide the only service that they can figure out how to use. Their stupidity makes them succumb to simplistic solutions when clearly they have alternative solutions available. Many of these people, who lack any ability at planning and controlling their lives, go for immediate gratification. This foresight is controlled by the executive brain - the prefrontal cortex - that was the last to evolve, and varies greatly between individuals and between races. There lies the problem with the underclass, their low intelligence.]
Especially hard hit are African Americans and Latinos, who are disproportionately concentrated in low-paying jobs, and endure unemployment and poverty rates about twice as high as that of Whites. For all the talk about affirmative action and favoritism to non-Whites, in fact, people of color continue to suffer racial discrimination in employment and other areas of life. One investigation demonstrated that when Whites and African Americans, who were deliberately matched in qualifications, applied for the same jobs, the Whites were three times more likely to be hired, and less likely to encounter discouragement and slighting treatment. Ethnic minorities are still turned down more often than Whites for home mortgages, regardless of income. There does exist a widespread unofficial "affirmative action," but it operates on behalf of middle- and upper-class Whites.
[Let me explain how credentialism can be used to make it appear that Blacks and Latinos are discriminated against. First, you apply affirmative action to educational institutions and force equal numbers from each race to get an equivalent number of degrees in various fields no matter how qualified they are. That is, you reject the relevancy of tests, blame any inequality in education on discrimination, and make sure that diplomas are handed out to minorities whether they are equipped for the job or not. Then you deprive companies from giving any kind of test to see if applicants are in fact as qualified as their credentials say they are. Once hired, employers notice and oddity, Blacks with the same credentials as Whites, Jews and East Asians seem to do poorly, and have other behavioral problems from absenteeism to petty theft. After a while, you become just a little bit weary of credentials, and realize that not all of them are equal. What is supposed to be a meritocratic system has been so distorted by quotas that an employer has no reliable tools left to determine who to hire, but they have come to expect that once hired, a problematic Black or Hispanic will be difficult to get rid of. Therefore, in terms of probability, it is much safer to hire a White than it is a Black. At least if they turn out to be problematic it is much easier to fire them.]
Women also number among the super-exploited. Of the more than fifty-eight million females who work, a disproportionately high number are concentrated in low-paying secretarial and service jobs. In the mid-1960s women averaged 69 cents for every dollar men made. After thirty years of struggle and hard work, they now earn 76 cents for every dollar men receive. At that rate, women will need another hundred years of sacrifice and struggle to achieve wage parity. Although twenty million mothers are working, 44 percent of single mothers remain below the poverty level. Two out of three adults in poverty are women.
The Human Costs of Economic Injustice
In 2000, thirteen million of the nation's children lived in poverty, a higher rate than twenty years before. Elected officials and children's advocates across the country cited low wages and high living costs as primary factors in the prevalence of child poverty. Children in poverty are more likely to be born at a low birth weight, die in infancy or early childhood, and contract serious ailments, including diseases associated with malnutrition. They are more likely to experience hunger, suffer from untreated illnesses, be exposed to environmental toxins and domestic and neighborhood violence, and suffer lethargy and delays in learning development. A Surgeon General's report found that young and elderly poor suffer a "silent epidemic of oral disease," from tooth decay to mouth cancer, due largely to poor overall health and inability to pay for dental care or dental insurance.
[Childhood poverty occurs because people who cannot take care of children have them anyway. It is not the fault of capitalism that people do not control their reproduction. Middle-class women seem to have no problem delaying pregnancy later in life after they have entered the work force, accumulated some wealth, and establishing some stability, usually with a stable partner. That is, childhood poverty is caused by the poor decisions made by the parents. Eugenics is the solution, not socialism.]
One of every five U.S. adults is functionally illiterate, including most unwed mothers. One of four inhabit substandard housing without adequate plumbing or heat. Housing is the largest single expenditure for many low-income families, consuming 60 to 70 percent of their income. Due to realty speculations, gentrification, condominium conversions, unemployment, low wages, and abolition of rent control, people of modest means have been squeezed out of the housing market in greater numbers than ever. Over two million affordable housing units have vanished during the last twenty years, forcing more and more families to double and triple up, imposing hardships and severe strains on domestic relations.
[If most unwed mothers are functionally illiterate, it is further evidence that it is their own low intelligence that is the problem. As for families having to "double or triple up," in order find a place to live, welcome to the world that most people live in under socialism.]
Over 30 percent of Americans have experienced some form of mental "disorder" such as serious depression. Tens of millions are addicted to alcohol, nicotine, or some other drug. Millions more are addicted to medical drugs such as amphetamines and barbiturates. The pushers are the doctors; the suppliers are the drug industry; the profits are stupendous.
[And the cause is genetic, along with environmental triggers. Genes make some people susceptible to depression and substance abuse, and when low intelligence is included, there is little hope for them to negotiate the complexities of modern society. They eventually succumb to depression or substance abuse because they cannot negotiate complexity. Intelligent people with genes for depression and/or substance abuse can more easily avoid the environmental conditions that cause these conditions, because they can plan their lives accordingly to reduce the risks. Eugenics can help parents select fertilized embryos that do not carry the genetic risks for mental disorders like depression.]
In sum, the story of the United States' great "affluence" has a grimmer side. The free market is very good for winners, offering all the rewards that money can buy, but it is exceedingly harsh on millions of others. It is not enough to denounce the inequities that exist between the wealthy and the majority of the population; it is also necessary to understand the connection between them. By its very nature, the capitalist system squanders our natural resources, exploits and underpays our labor, creates privation and desperate social needs, serving the few at great cost to the many.
[Actually is serves the vast majority very well. Once intelligence differences are factored in, it is apparent that the problem is not capitalism, though capitalism has its faults. The problem of poverty and despair has to do with the genetic inequality of people. If there were no smart people in the world, say no one had an IQ over 90, we would still all be living in small tribes of hunter-gatherers. Does Parenti really think that the world would therefore be a better place to live? It could be argued that small tribes of extant hunter-gathers are happier than people in modern society, but no one has provided any data showing this, and in fact, it looks like they are slightly less happy. Of course, socialists rarely talk about happiness itself. They are more concerned with power, class warfare and revolution. It is their game, just as it is a capitalist's game to try to accumulate large amounts of wealth. It is very difficult to assign any real purpose to life as it is, so why not embrace eugenics that gives some meaningful purpose to life, even if it is speculative and we can't prove that life will be better if everyone had a higher innate intelligence. Nevertheless, history has shown that socialism only leads to a further deterioration of the human condition, by whatever parameters one wants to apply.]
Consider the university. Private and public institutions of higher education are corporations run by boards of trustees with authority over all matters of capital funding and budget; curriculum and tuition; hiring, firing, and promotion of faculty and staff; degree awards and student fees. Daily governance is delegated to administrators, but decision-making power can be easily recalled by the trustees when they choose. Most trustees are successful business people who have no administrative or scholarly experience in higher education. Their decisions are covered by insurance paid out of the university budget, and on most fiduciary questions they rely on accountants. In short, they take no financial risks and offer no special expertise. Why then are they allocated so much power? Their main function seems to be to exercise oligarchic, ideological control over the institution.
[This sounds like sour grapes - Parenti wants to know why "his people" are not running things.]
A fact of real significance in any understanding of political power in America is that almost all "our" cultural institutions are under plutocratic control, linked to the business system, ruled by non-elected, self-perpetuating groups of affluent corporate representatives who are answerable to no one but themselves. We the people have no vote, no portion of the ownership, and no legal decision-making power within these institutions.
[In the Culture of Critique, Kevin MacDonald discusses the institutions that shaped American public opinion, because society is always told by powerful groups what to think. Humans are natural followers of what they are told is the current "correct opinion" in every society. In the early 1900s, the business, military and religious institutions shaped public opinion. Today, it is the government, academia, and the media. If you look then at public opinion you will see a mixed pattern of opinions and attitudes, many mainstream and many not. What Parenti seems to deride is that there is not a 100% consensus for his socialism. Again, I am not aware of any nation that differs from rule by the elite who control public opinion. But the elite is as much the media as it is big business, and quite often Left leaning. Probably Switzerland comes closest to local control of the political process, and maybe it should serve as a model for the United States, using local plebiscites to decide policies. But certainly, socialism only substitutes one oppressive system with another. If socialists really believe in true democracy, then they should be moving towards more local control and direct democracy rather than central control.]
Promoting Ideological Orthodoxy
We are taught to think that capitalism is an inherent part of democracy. Little is said about how capitalism also flourishes under the most brutally repressive regimes. Transnational corporate interests have supported the overthrow of democracies in numerous Third World countries and the installation of rightwing dictators who make their lands safe for corporate investments. The private enterprise system, it is said, creates equality of opportunity, rewards those who show ability and initiative, relegates the parasitic and slothful to the bottom of the ladder, provides a national prosperity that is the envy of other lands, and safeguards (through unspecified means) personal liberties and political freedom.
[Then the other question is why capitalism is discussed along with democracy like the evil twin. The title of this book is Democracy for the Few, not Capitalism for the Downtrodden. Again, I believe in national sovereignty, and this is what is the problem, not capitalism itself or democracy. Nations interfere in each other's affairs, and socialists are just as much at fault as any other ideology. They likewise are not satisfied with improving the lot of people in one nation, but aggressively advocate programs that will transfer funds from richer nations to poorer nations. As they advocate this transference of wealth, the capitalists in turn want to extract wealth from the poor nations to their own profit line. Neither side believes in non-intervention, and that is what is so sinister for both socialists and capitalists - they look at people as just sets of objects to be manipulated according to their preferred ideologies.]
The private enterprise system places a great deal of emphasis on commercial worth: how to sell, compete, and get ahead. As Ralph Nader notes, the free market "only stimulates one value in society - the acquisitive, materialistic, profit value." What about the values relating to justice, health, occupational and consumer safety, regard for future generations, and accountability in government?
[Again, capitalism produces a great deal of wealth that government can use to fund health, safety, a clean environment, and improvements in the efficiency of government operations. Socialism destroys the very wealth that allows government to improve these values, as well as destroying justice, by treating some races as more equal than others.]
Among the institutions of plutocratic culture is our educational system. From grade school to graduate school, students are instructed to believe in America's global virtue and moral superiority and to hold a rather uncritical view of U.S. politico-economic institutions. Surveys show that most youngsters believe that our political leaders are benevolent and know best. Teachers tend to concentrate on the formal aspects of representative government and accord scant attention to the influences that wealthy, powerful groups exercise over political life. Instructors who wish to introduce critiques of U.S. politico-economic institutions do so often at the risk of their careers. Students who attempt to explore controversial issues in student newspapers have frequently been overruled by administrators and threatened with disciplinary action.
[The same can be said about race. While schools benignly accept the free market system as ideally American, they also teach many Marxist/egalitarian programs such as multiculturalism, diversity, and especially taboo is any mention of differences between races in average intelligence, even though this is well understood to be the fact among academics in the fields concerned with this issue.]
While sometimes portrayed as being above worldly partisan concerns, the average American university performs a wide range of research and training services that are essential to military and corporate interests. The "neutral" university also has a direct investment link to the corporate structure in the form of a substantial stock portfolio.
[Where else would universities invest their money? Capitalism or the stock market provides a high return on investments, but that doesn't mean universities become propagandistic tools for corporations. Universities are over represented by the Left, and the more conservative programs like engineering, science, and business schools tend not to be ideological but practical. Indoctrination of political dogma is more associated with the liberal arts, where Whites are forced to listen to stories about how they are inherently evil because of what their ancestors did to Native Americans or Black slaves - with little discussion about how it was Whites themselves from the North who opposed slavery, and how the Native Americans have been subsidized by tax payers rather than becoming full-fledged Americans living by the same rules and regulations as everyone else.]
Economic sanctions are used to punish dissent and reward political conformity. In academia, politically outspoken faculty and even students have suffered negative evaluations and loss of stipends, grants, and jobs. Likewise, journalists, managers, bureaucrats, and most other professionals who wish to advance in their careers learn to go along with things as they are and avoid expressing views that conflict with the dominant economic interests of capitalist society.
[This is of course a lie. If any group has been vilified, threatened and harassed, it has been such scientific giants like J. Phillipe Rushton, Sandra Scarr, Arthur Jensen, Michael Levin, Glayde Whitney, and many others because they published data on racial differences, or pointed to the failures of programs like Head Start. It might be said that universities are conservative with regards to economics, but Marxist when it comes to race.]
We are admonished to "get ahead." Ahead of whom and what? Of others and of one's present material status. This kind of "individualism" is not to be mistaken for the freedom to choose alternative political and economic practices. People are expected to operate individually but in more or less similar directions. Everyone competes against everyone else but for the same things. "Individualism" in this corporate-dominated culture refers to privatized ownership and consumption. We are expected to get what we can for ourselves and not be too troubled by the problems faced by others. This attitude, considered inhuman in some societies, is labeled approvingly as "ambition" in our own and is treated as a quality of great social value.
[Of course, this is nonsense as the social welfare system is very adequate to take care of those who need help. But should everyone deserve help? Parenti is not happy with the many helping the few when they need help. We do that already. He wants to flatten all wealth so that everyone is equal in terms of wealth. At least that is what he seems to want. Of course the more socialistic we become, the more our money will flow to the bureaucrats rather than to those in need. Jesse Jackson is a good example of a social activist who uses the tears flowing for the oppressed to line his own and his friends pockets with corporate "shake-downs." If capitalism were so entrenched, they would not allow Jackson's extortion practice but would stand up to it collectively. Instead, in every case, they yield to Jackson's demands. The welfare state is very alive and well.]
Along with racism and sexism, there is class bigotry, one of the most widely held forms of prejudice in American society and the least challenged. Since material success is treated as a measure of one's worth, then the poor are not worth much and society's resources should not be squandered on them. In capitalist society, the poor in general are condemned as personally deficient and lacking in proper values, the authors of their own straitened circumstances. Rarely are they seen as the victims of poverty-creating economic forces: high rents, underemployment, low wages, unattended illnesses, disabilities, and other such blessings of the free-market paradise. To paraphrase the American humorist Will Rogers, it is no crime to be poor, but it might as well be.
[Class bigotry is of course what Parenti's arguments are all about. He wants to convince the reader that there is one over riding system in the United States, the capitalist system. And also that everything that is done is controlled by the capitalists. All one has to do however is look at how much money is transferred from the have to the have-nots, consider quotas for Blacks, Amerindians and Hispanics, contracts awarded to minorities based on the color of their skin and not their economic status, and it becomes plain to see that there are multiple forces that shape the American political system. There is just as much influence on that system from the welfare/educational/social services-complex as from the business community. Businesses compete with each other, and are usually quite willing to neglect transfer of payments to the undeserving, because it is not worth bad press or their bottom line.]
With job downsizing, wage cuts, inflation, and growing tax burdens, many people have been working still harder just to stay in the same place. In a society where money is the overriding determinant of one's life chances, the competitive drive for material success is not merely a symptom of a greed-driven culture but a factor in one's very survival. Rather than grasping for fanciful luxuries, most Americans are still struggling to provide for basic necessities. If they need more money than was essential in earlier days, this is largely because essentials cost so much more.
[Anyone who is truly struggling to survive probably has very little talent to trade for a sufficient income. This is again the outcome of an increasing technological society that values intelligence over brawn. The solution will have to be to increase the average innate intelligence of people, or let the underclasses wallow in misery. Gated communities by the middle and upper classes will isolate them from the misery outside, just like other countries in the world like Brazil, Indonesia, and even China.]
Because human services in America are based on ability to pay, money becomes a matter of life and death. To have a low or modest income is to run a higher risk of insufficient medical care and job insecurity, and to have less opportunity for education, recreation, travel, and comfort. The desire to "make it," even at the expense of others, is not merely a wrong-headed attitude but a reflection of the material conditions of capitalist society wherein no one is ever really economically secure except the superrich, and even they forever seek to augment and secure their fortunes.
[What Parenti fails to understand is that humans are always in competition, just like animals, for reproductive success. For humans, that means that the accumulation of wealth is just one of many innate drives that we have, some people more than others, but quite universal in human nature. It was never "placed" there by capitalism, but evolved as part of our species. It will not go away because he personally doesn't like it, or he personally has other drives that overshadow pure greed. It might be fair to say that Parenti's greed is a desire for admiration and moral capital, but these are just other forms of greed.]
Right, Left, and Center
Political ideologies traditionally have been categorized as rightist, centrist, and leftist. Here I will try to draw the broad outlines of the three tendencies, without doing justice to all their shadings and ambiguities. What is called the political right consists of conservative and reactionary individuals, including most corporate elites and many persons of high income and wealth, who advocate "free market" capitalism and defend business as the primary mainstay of the good society. Conservative ideology preaches the virtues of private initiative and self-reliance. It says that rich and poor pretty much get what they deserve, that people are poor not because of inadequate wages and lack of economic opportunity but because they are lazy, spendthrift, or incapable. The conservative keystone to individual rights is the enjoyment of property rights, especially the right to make a profit from other people's labor and enjoy the privileged conditions of a favored class.
[I agree that conservatives ignore science, and believe that people are lazy rather than genetically ill-equipped for modern society. Steve Forbes was on television just last week (7/19/03), espousing how great America was, how we would never be displaced as a leading economic powerhouse, and all we had to do was educate our children adequately. He embodies the viewpoint of the na´ve conservative that has no understanding of general intelligence, evolution, or human nature. Like a Marxist, he thinks values are created and propagated by the culture without regards to our true natures. In short, conservatives are not part of the empirical Right, that views human behavior as a continuum from our evolutionary past, and must be understood on that basis. We ignore our humanness at our own peril. Eventually, eugenics must return, once educational/environmental solutions to low intelligence/knowledge are finally given up after decades of failure.]
On the political left are the progressives and socialists. They want to replace or substantially modify the corporate capitalist system with a system of public ownership, in which many of the large corporations are nationalized, and smaller businesses are under cooperative ownership or at least better regulated for the common interest. Some progressives will settle for a social democracy, with strong labor unions and effective controls on the powers and privileges of business. They argue that untrammeled free-market capitalism uses the land, labor, resources, and technology of society for no goal other than the accumulation of capital, and concentrates economic wealth and political influence in the hands of a privileged few, while creating poverty for millions at home and abroad.
[Nationalization of industry has never provided a better life for the poor, but in fact merely destroys the economy. In addition, the rich and powerful merely shift from the private sector to high paying government jobs where corruption replaces capitalism, black-markets start to provide services that the government can't, and everyone is left with less in the end, including the poor. There is no way to control human behavior where an individual can be trusted to be an ascetic servant for the poor, without regards to their own well-being. This is what most people know intuitively and it is why educated people reject socialist central planning. The planners just become more corrupt than capitalists because now there is one gigantic monopoly: the government.]
A democratically responsive government, progressives insist, has an important role to play in protecting the environment, advancing education, and providing jobs for everyone able to work, occupational safety protections, secure retirement and disability pensions, and affordable medical care, education, and housing.
[And in fact, that has been the trend over the last 100 years. Issue by issue, the United States has moved from free enterprise to the managerial state where everyone's needs are guaranteed by the state. However, it can only be extended or sustained if the economy is vibrant, and the excess wealth can be used for these social programs. (I am not endorsing the managerial state, merely pointing out to Parenti that the progressives and socialists have been winning these issues over the long run.)]
Most leftists and progressives reject the now defunct communist societies as models for U.S. socialism, pointing out that countries such as the Soviet Union come from a different tradition, a history of serfdom and poverty, hostile capitalist encirclement, and foreign invasion. Yet some progressives note that whatever the faults, past crimes, and social problems of communist societies, their citizens did have a guaranteed right to a job; were free from hunger and homelessness; had free medical care and free education to the highest level of their ability; and enjoyed such things as subsidized utilities and transportation, free cultural events, and a guaranteed pension after retirement - entitlements that were taken away from them soon after their countries turned to free-market "democratic capitalism."
[And most of them have gladly given up exactly what Parenti advocates, and prefer capitalism to socialism. It will be many decades before the damage of a centralized controlled economy can return these nations to full productivity, but the millions of people who were slaughtered will never come back.]
Socialists are distinguished from liberal reformers in their belief that our social problems cannot be solved within the very system that is creating them. They do not believe that every human problem is caused by capitalism but that many of the most important ones are, and that capitalism propagates conditions that perpetuate poverty, racism, sexism, and exploitative social relations at home and abroad. Socialists believe that U.S. corporate and military expansionism abroad is not the result of "wrong thinking" but the natural outgrowth of profit-oriented capitalism. To the socialist, U.S. foreign policy is not beset by folly and irrationality, it unfortunately has been quite successful in maintaining the interests of multinational corporations, crushing social change in many countries, and establishing a U.S. financial and military presence throughout much of the world.
[Note that a eugenic isolationist-nationalist state can solve the problem of "poverty, racism, sexism, and exploitative social relations at home and abroad." As discussed above, the state would make sure that the far majority of people could compete in the work force through practicing eugenics. Since then there would only be a few people that would fall-through-the-cracks, there would be ample resources to take care of them. There would be no racism because the nation would be homogenous. There would be no sexism, because a bright and educated public would understand the subtleties of differences in the sexes and become more tolerant. There would be no exploitative relations at home, because direct democracy would put people in charge of their governments. And there would be no exploitation abroad because the nation would be involved in non-belligerent open trading where each nation takes care of its own.]
The pattern of using the public's money and resources to subsidize private enterprise continues to this day. Every year, the federal government doles out anywhere from $125 billion to $167 billion (estimates vary) in corporate welfare, in the form of tax exclusions, tax credits, reduced tax assessments, excessive depreciation write-offs, price supports, loan guarantees, payments in kind, research and development grants, subsidized insurance rates, marketing services, export subsidies, irrigation and reclamation programs, and research and development grants.
[The government of course is in the business of taking money from society and then redistributing it back to society, according to programs and needs that are too numerous to list. Various private enterprises then get some of the benefits back from the government that they pay in. The real question is, if we balance the books, how much does any one-group get from the government in comparison to how much they pay? In terms of all taxes paid, including payroll taxes by employees, jobs provided, and trade exchanges with other nations, very few industries take more from society than they provide (and that includes federal, state and local taxes and benefits). The only real question then becomes is it fair? And that can only be answered by comparing different companies or industries payments made with benefits received. The habit that the Left has of accusing capitalists of getting "corporate welfare is "absurd" at face value. I will agree that it is probably inefficient to give subsidies to some industries, the most ridiculous of course being certain farming industries for historical reasons as much as need. But it is safe to say that a socialist government like Parenti wants, would give even more money to corporations because now, they would be state owned and controlled, and highly inefficient. I could equally come up with a list of "religious welfare" benefits for mosques, synagogues, and churches - but again for historical reasons they have been allowed to own property without paying property taxes, while using social services like any other group or industry. Corporations are not people, and the only question for a socialist or a capitalist - is whether "people" are paying their fair share of taxes. When it is looked at this way, those on public aid or welfare, those who have never worked and contribute nothing to society, but generation after generation takes money from those who work, they are the ones who are engaged in social theft. They are the freeriders that should be eliminated from society.]
State and local governments also let big business feed at the public trough. They compete with each other in attracting new businesses and keeping old ones from leaving. In 1999 Pennsylvania gave $307 million to a Norwegian engineering firm to open a shipyard in Philadelphia; Alabama gave $253 million to Mercedes-Benz (now Mercedes-Benz/Chrysler) to build an assembly plant, including a $30 million training school - in an area where public schools were underfinanced and overcrowded. North Carolina annually gives tens of millions of dollars to the insurance and banking industries. California has handed out billions in tax-exempt bond-financing to Shell, Mobil, Chevron, PG&E, and other transnational corporations, while New York City gave huge tax breaks to General Motors, Merrill Lynch, Disney, and dozens of other rich companies. In cities across the country, taxpayers were being made to pay hundreds of millions for new sports stadiums, while the wealthy owners of professional teams pocketed record profits.
[The above is not capitalism of course, but rather a desire to have jobs, something that socialism fails at miserably. I personally feel it should be illegal for state or local communities to try and "buy" jobs by making it lucrative to corporations to move to an area or pay them to stay. But the overall revenue gained by having people employed is a social value the public is willing to incur. Likewise, for sports facilities, the people want their sports teams and are willing to pay money to keep them at home. I don't agree with these policies, but in the end, we still have a dynamic system that allows people to live a much better life than if it was controlled by a socialist monopoly. If anything, most of the objections Parenti has with regards to corporate favors from the government, is because we are not capitalistic enough. We view creating jobs as part of our socialistic duty. A truly libertarian-capitalistic society would keep government out of business decisions, with a simple flat tax imposed on everyone, and people having the freedom to make their own decisions based on the reality of the market place.]
Taxes: Helping the Rich in Their Time
The capitalist state uses taxation as well as public spending to redistribute income in an upward direction. Taking into account all taxes at the federal, state, and local levels, as well as Social Security payments, we find that lower-income people pay a higher average percentage of their earnings (12.5 percent) than do the richest (7.9 percent). The higher the income, the greater are the opportunities to enjoy lightly taxed or tax-free income, including tax-free state and municipal bonds and tailor-made write-offs.
[Of course, none of this would change under a socialist government. Under state-owned socialism, everyone would be taxed more, goods and services would shrink, industries would be propped up using public funds at an even greater rate, and the rich would continue to evade taxes. No socialist state has been able to eliminate the privileged - they just move from the private sector to the public sector, and the average person suffers.]
In the last two decades, income from property ownership (dividends, interest, rents) has risen three times faster than income from work. The rich have grown richer, while their tax burden has grown lighter. The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) reports that thousands of U.S. residents in the highest bracket pay less than 5 percent of their income in taxes. Almost 2,400 paid no taxes at all in the mid-1990s, and the number has been growing since then. In 1991, billionaire presidential contender Ross Perot pocketed $285 million from his investments and paid $15 million in federal taxes, quite a large sum, yet it represents only about 6 percent of his earnings. Meanwhile, a schoolteacher who makes $35,000 might pay only $6,500 in federal income tax, much less than Perot; yet that sum represents upwards of 20 percent of her modest salary, and does not count the regressive sales and excise taxes and state income tax she also must pay. Still, the regressive principle seems to hold: the higher the bracket, the lower the actual rate of tax payment after deductions and write-offs. Each year a dozen or more billionaires give up their U.S. citizenship and move to the Bahamas or other offshore tax havens, thereby saving millions on income and estate taxes. (They are still allowed to spend 124 days a year in the United States.) Many of the superrich employ various stratagems to evade capital gains taxes (the federal tax on profits from the sale of stock, land, or other assets). Most capital gains taxes are now paid by smaller investors who own mutual funds.
[Note the contradiction here - it is claimed that the wealthy do not pay anywhere near their fair share of the taxes, AND the wealthy also will give up their citizenship to not pay taxes. Something is wrong here, but it also shows how a socialist state cannot tax the wealthiest people - they simply move their assets and themselves somewhere else. That is why socialism is such a disaster, it cannot prevent the flight of capital. And in the end, the declining wealth and increased unemployment from nationalized industries just makes corruption even worse. There is one other anomaly in Parenti's scenario - most people do not seem to mind paying taxes! Maybe much of this is due to propaganda or ignorance, I'm not sure. I would like to see far less government, a simple tax system that is fair, and let me decide how to spend my money and prepare for my retirement. But if the latest Bush tax cuts are any indication, the public is not concerned with the wealthy getting the lion's share of the goodies, as long as their taxes do not increase.]
To summarize the main points of this chapter: In almost every enterprise, government has provided business with opportunities for private gain at public expense. Government nurtures private capital accumulation through a process of subsidies, supports, and deficit spending and an inequitable tax system. From ranchers to resort owners, from brokers to bankers, from automakers to missile makers, there prevails a welfarism for the rich of such stupendous magnitude as to make us marvel at the corporate leaders' audacity in preaching the virtues of self-reliance whenever lesser forms of public assistance threaten to reach hands other than their own.
[Yet we live in a country that has far more wealth and opportunity than any other country. I would argue also, that this wealth would be even greater, and less concentrated in the hands of the few, if the intelligence of the many were higher. That is, capitalism can be consistent with democracy when we replace representative democracy with direct democracy, and the average person will be intelligent enough to be able to understand the issues and participate. The reason that the rich can manipulate the system has nothing to do with capitalism, and everything to do with the ability of the rich to influence decision-making and to demand special consideration. However, the same is true with the social welfare system, where advocates get the government to pay more and more money for teacher's salaries and to welfare recipients. There are many special interest lobbies, not just those for the rich. It is the nature of representative democracy for politicians to make deals to be reelected. Socialism suffers from the same dilemma writ large. Promising a better life for the underclass, while not being to reduce the power of the upperclass, the system declines into inefficiency.]
To keep America on its arms-spending binge, the corporate defense contractors propagate the military's cause with campaign contributions, lobbying, and mass advertising. The Department of Defense spends hundreds of millions on exhibitions, films, publications, and a flood of press releases to boost various weapons systems. It finances military-related research projects in the sciences and social sciences at many institutions of higher learning. In hundreds of conferences and thousands of brochures, articles, and books written by "independent scholars" in the pay of the Pentagon, the military viewpoint is lent an appearance of academic respectability.
[America's obsession with military might has nothing to do with capitalism, because only a few industries prosper while many others have to also pay the costs of military world policing. The Left attacks our excessive military expenditures as does the isolationist Right. Both sides agree that our nation does not need the awesome power we have accumulated, but the reason as to why is flawed. Most Americans really do feel threatened, basically through the media and the government's indoctrination that we are somehow vulnerable to external threats. To state that Iraq was any kind of direct threat to the United States was absurd, but believed by most Americans before the war. Humans are easily influenced to fear an enemy when the government makes even the weakest of cases for going to war or for military expenditures. I'll go out on a limb on this one, but I think at least a large share of any nation's military expenditures, when they are in excess of real need, is do to little boys (the government elite and military) wanting to play with big toys - power is addictive, and martial power is even more thrilling, especially when it can be applied without risk by the powerful. This is true whether the elite is socialist, capitalist, or indifferent. It is simply human behavior.]
The World Bank and IMF are supposed to assist nations in their development. What actually happens is another story. A poor country borrows from the World Bank to build up some aspect of its economy. Should it be unable to pay back the heavy interest because of declining export sales or some other reason, it must borrow again, this time from the IMF. But the IMF imposes a "structural adjustment program" (SAP), requiring debtor countries to grant tax breaks to the transnational corporations, reduce wages, and make no attempt to protect local enterprises from foreign imports and foreign takeovers. The debtor nations are pressured to privatize their economies, selling at scandalously low prices their state-owned mines, railroads, and utilities to private corporations. They are forced to open their forests to clear-cutting and their lands to strip-mining, without regard to the ecological damage done. The debtor nations also must cut back on subsidies for health, education, transportation, and food, consuming less in order to have more money to meet debt payments. Required to grow cash crops for export earnings, they become even less able to feed their own populations.
[The IMF could not wield the power it has if it was not for capitalism's ability to produce wealth. It is well understood, though I also find it disconcerting, that those who have the wealth create the jobs and industries to produce more wealth. Socialism's failure to find an alternative to capitalism's power to produce is not an indictment but rather a vindication for capitalism's effectiveness. The real problem again is the lack of national sovereignty, which can be abused by communism, fascism, capitalism or theocratic nations - it has little to do with the forms of government, and everything to do with observing the rights of nations. A nationalist approach would solve many of these problems, but still capital flowing from one country to another will continue as long as some countries have the power to create wealth. Again, this is due to the innate talents of the population, with some small input from natural resources, to create far more wealth when the innate average intelligence is high. Socialism cannot solve this problem of human talent deficits - only eugenics can.]
Throughout the Third World, real wages have declined, and national debts have soared to the point where debt payments absorb almost all of the poorer countries' export earnings. Some critics conclude that IMF and World Bank structural adjustments do not work; the end result is less self-sufficiency and more poverty for the recipient nations. Why then do the rich member states continue to fund the IMF and World Bank? It is because foreign loan programs do work. Their intent is not to uplift the masses in other countries but to serve the interests of global finance, to take over the lands and local economies of Third World peoples, indenture their labor with enormous debts, privatize public services, and eliminate the trade competition these countries might have posed had they ever really been allowed to develop. In these respects, foreign loans and structural adjustments work very well indeed.
[Again, they work to the benefit of the predator state, because of the talent of the predator over the victim, not because of any particular political system on either side. When one nation has all of the talent and the wealth, they can take advantage of the less able nation. Look at North and South Korea. The average intelligence of Koreans is about 105, but under communism the North is starving, and under capitalism the South is thriving. I'm sure Parenti could find a lot of just-so stories about how the West has likewise oppressed the South Koreans, but the evidence is that they have a robust, expanding economy that is rapidly overtaking Japan. The Eastern Asians then can compete effectively with the West as long as they are NOT hindered by socialism. Capitalism is working very well in these countries (Taiwan, Japan, South Korea, Hong Kong, and even Mainland China as they slowly move towards the free market). The South Asian countries do not do as well because the native populations there have a low average intelligence of around an IQ of 90.]
If we define "imperialism" as that relationship in which the ruling interests of one country dominate, through use of economic and military power, the land, labor, resources, finances, and politics of another country, then the United States is the greatest imperialist power in history. The American empire is of a magnitude never before seen, with military bases that ring the entire globe, a nuclear overkill capacity of over 8,000 strategic weapons and 22,000 tactical ones, ground and air forces ready to strike anywhere, and a fleet larger in total tonnage and firepower than all the other navies of the world combined. With only 5 percent of the earth's population, the United States expends one-third of the world's military funds.
[This of course has nothing to do with capitalism, or democracy, but rather with the human condition where the public can be indoctrinated into backing their nation's foreign policy. Parenti and I are on extreme polar ends of the political spectrum, but while he criticizes human behavior, eugenicists try to understand it so that we can change humans and change the political structure that allows imperialism to take root. Certainly, socialist states are just as brutal and imperialistic as capitalist states. Parenti sees the problems, but his solutions would only increase despair for everyone except the ruling elite that would be left in place to rule our lives for their own benefit. Socialism has not solved the problem of a self-serving elite taking the place of the self-serving capitalist. They are the same people.]
During the Reagan-Bush-Clinton era (1981-2000), billions of dollars were slashed from college scholarships, legal services for the poor, remedial education, school breakfast programs, maternal and child health care, and assistance to the aged, blind, and disabled. Programs employing hundreds of thousands of people - mostly women - to staff day-care centers and libraries and offer services to the disabled and aged were abolished. A study by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services shows that, because of lack of funds, only 15 percent of the low- and moderate-income children eligible for government-funded child care are getting it.
[Levels of poverty and despair of course are hugely exaggerated by those people who work in the social-welfare-industry, 100s of thousands as Parenti admits. Money spent on the poor largely goes to these administrators, and they become the stakeholders that do the lobbying on behalf of the poor, whether the poor really exist as described above or not. For example, very few people it has been determined are actually homeless. Most of the street people one sees are mentally ill, drug addicts or alcoholics, who prefer being on the street rather than in shelters. The administrators of numerous social programs have their own welfare at stake in terms of jobs, and it is their mission to claim that far more people are far worse off than they really are. Since Bush scaled back welfare, there has been a steady decline in the welfare roles, with little adverse impact as was predicted. By cutting back assistance, these welfare recipients were forced to go out and find jobs, as is only fair.]
Another environmentally harmful activity is excessive procreation. As the world's population climbs beyond six billion, there is more toxic effusion, ecological disruption, and extinction of other species. Food sources are not keeping up with population growth, either on land or sea. Large commercial fleets are driving out small-scale fishermen (much as agribusiness is driving out the family farmer), and by over-fishing they are wiping out the world's fish supply. Many chemicals widely used in industry and commercial agriculture are endocrine disrupters and hormone mimickers. Working their way into the food chain, they undermine the health and genetic viability of humans (as well as hundreds of other species). Toxic waste dumps and incinerators are situated predominantly in or near low-income African-American, Latino, and Native American communities, contributing to inordinately high cancer rates among these populations. Unusually high levels of leukemia and brain and testicular tumors have been found among children who live near utility power plants and toxic sites.
[At some point, when we cannot feed the people on earth, we will be forced to address the improvement of the human genome, or slide back into a dysgenic hell where we will return to primitive subsistence living and tribal warfare. People now studying our genetic code, have realized that the junk DNA that was once thought to be just left over and useless, now know that this material can accelerate evolution when the ecology changes rapidly, creating new cultures that lead to genetic changes. If this crisis is quick enough and severe enough, the ecological stress will lead to an improvement in the human gene pool. If it happens too slowly, then technology may be able to support an ever-increasing number of the underclass to a point where they could overwhelm the higher intelligent races. For this reason, the quicker we succumb to an unsustainable ecological crisis, the higher the probability will be that we will go through what is known as a bottle-neck effect: billions of people will die, and those who survive will be the resilient, and hopefully far more intelligent people. The result will be the necessary adjustment in our species' genome to make room for true direct democracy by increasing overall intelligence and further integration of the minds disparate mental modules (Mithen, 1996).]
Page 118 Unequal before the Law -
Behind the government's democratic facade, there stand the police, courts, prisons, and various agencies of the national security state, all prepared to defend the existing politico-economic order. Although we have been taught to think of the law as a neutral instrument serving the entire community, it is often written and enforced in the most tawdry class-biased ways, favoring the rich over the rest of us. The very definition of what is lawful contains a class bias. The theft of merchandise from a neighborhood store is unlawful, but the theft of the store itself and the entire surrounding neighborhood in an "urban renewal" program instigated by speculators and public officials is hailed as an act of civic development.
[And yet, environmental activist groups stop billions of projects proposed by developers/industrialists; opponents of nuclear waste entombment in certain states (not in my back yard) block the wastes' safe disposal; teacher's unions stop experiments in alternative, privatized education; historical preservations tell owners what they are allowed to do with their own properties; the public is taxed for cultural programs and art exhibitions that are offensive to many groups in the name of diversity; quotas are forced on businesses to hire a certain number of minorities even if they are not qualified for the positions; and our educational systems teach White males that they are inherently evil and privileged, and are to blame for all the world's problems; etc. The rich may be favored by the government over the rest of us, but minorities are also favored over the majority, because there are many interested groups that extract from the government their own preferred agendas. The Left, as well as the rich, have raped the non-aligned White middle class without so much as a whimper.]
One of the more egregious instances of corporate malfeasance involved DuPont, Ford, General Motors, ITT, and other companies whose factories in Germany produced tanks, bombers, synthetic fuels, and synthetic rubber for the Nazi war machine during World War II. After the war, rather than being prosecuted for aiding and abetting the enemy, ITT collected $27 million from the U.S. government for damages inflicted on its German plants by Allied bombings. General Motors received over $33 million for damages. U.S. plants usually were spared from Allied bombing. Thus while the German city of Cologne was leveled, its Ford factory - providing armed vehicles that the Nazi military used to kill American troops - was untouched; indeed, it was used by German civilians as an air-raid shelter. At least fifty U.S. transnational corporations operated in Germany from 1933 to 1945, the years the Nazis were in power. Before the war, as the New York Times reported on its front page, Boeing was arming Nazi Germany with a "mighty" air fleet, for which the company waxed rich in profits. Faced with class-action law suits in 1999-2000, growing numbers of corporations now admit having used and profited greatly from unpaid slave labor supplied from Nazi concentration camps. No U.S. corporate head was ever prosecuted for complicity in these war crimes.
[Yet again, the Soviet Communists murdered 60 million and the Chinese Communists 35 million of their own people in the name of socialism, and Parenti never mentions these horrors. Yes, humans are a nasty lot. However, crimes against humanity are not caused by capitalism, nor does capitalism concern itself with these matters. Had the Nazis won, and had communism been crushed, these companies would be held in esteem rather than vilified. To the winner goes the ability to write history as they see it.]
Corporate crime is not a rarity but a regularity. The Department of justice found that 60 percent of the 582 largest U.S. companies have been guilty of one or more criminal actions, be it tax evasion, price-fixing, illegal kickbacks, bribes to public officials, consumer fraud, or violations of labor codes, workplace safety, and environmental laws. The Department of Labor found that corporations have filched hundreds of billions of dollars from worker pension funds. Top banks routinely blur the line between crime and capital by accepting and laundering money from shady operations. The global trend toward privatization of state assets and diminished government supervision promotes illicit activities.
[How bizarre that after watching the corruption in other countries, capitalist, socialist or fascists, Parenti thinks that the state could clean up corruption. The state in fact is usually complicit in the corruption, that is why it is not often prosecuted. When there is a separation between the government and business, there can be more enforcement of corporate crime. I agree that white-collar crime should be prosecuted more often and more severely, but that will come about when there is less socialism, not more.]
In general, rightists - be they officials of pro-capitalist governments or individuals fleeing left-wing governments - enjoy easy entry into the country. While leftists - be they representatives of governments like Cuba or individuals fleeing repressive pro-capitalist regimes - are excluded. Not surprisingly so, since the left generally opposes the privileged corporate class order and its attendant inequities, while the right supports them. In fact, that is the major difference between left and right.
[First, it is very hard to even define the right or the left. Who exactly is the right? Christian fundamentalists who oppose godless communism but also are opposed to corporate greed and corruption? Conservatives are not all necessarily capitalists as far as globalization versus egalitarian goals are concerned. Very, very few of the elite on either the right or the left have the power to change public policy. It is fair to say that the United States is in no way a right wing country, where even President Bush seems to declare his allegiance to diversity, multiculturalism, immigration and affirmative action - all causes of the new Marxism posing as liberalism. The moralizing gods of the left have taken over both the Republican and Democratic parties. There is no connection with any right wing group that sees itself defined as "capitalism." Individuals, from both the left and the right, have their own personal views with regard to equality, public policy, etc. The United States is made up of many ideologies, many focused, some quite general and open, but I see few people who claim they are "capitalists," because few people see themselves as in any position to have the money to be engaged in capital formation and investment. Only a few of the very rich, large banks, financiers, and a few others have the resources to engage in capitalist ventures. The rest of us stand on the sidelines - hoping that what develops helps rather than hurts our own personal situation.]
In December 1999, in Seattle, Washington, a major demonstration involving over eighty thousand trade unionists, environmentalists, and progressives of all stripes was launched against a meeting of the World Trade Organization (WTO), the internationalist capitalist organization that fosters free market oligarchy (rule by the elite few) over democratic sovereignty. In early 2000, another major demonstration, this time against the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Bank took place in Washington, D.C., followed by large demonstrations that summer in Philadelphia against the Republican presidential nominating convention, and in Los Angeles against the Democratic convention. In each instance, police acted repressively, closing down protest offices on flimsy excuses, beating, gassing, and arresting hundreds of nonviolent protestors without justifiable cause in "preemptive raids." In Philadelphia, one protest leader was held on a million-dollar bail, later reduced to $100,000. Charges against him were eventually dropped for lack of evidence.
[All during the Soviet domination of world communism, they acted similarly towards their client states. From the Comintern in the Soviet Union, communist parties were told how to act, how to think, and what to do with funding coming from the Soviets. So how was that different than a few elite now trying to control other countries economies through financial means? The same actors, different ideologies. A socialist world that would replace what is in place today, a mixture of communism and socialism, would just replace oppressive capitalism with oppressive socialism, demanding that states abide by prescribed rules as dictated by the socialist elite. The only difference is their would be an overall decline in available wealth, as that has been the pattern under socialism. Nationalist states on the other hand, as formulated by isolationists, can be as capitalist or egalitarian as they like, but without interfering in the internal affairs of other sovereign states. Conflict then is reduced between states, and it is then up to the people within each state to work for the kind of society they want to live under. That is the only safe way of establishing governments that are responsive to the needs of the people - let competition between states, without any external belligerency from economic or martial threats, determine successful forms of government. When failed state policies are glaringly apparent to everyone because of the competition between states, it will be up to the people to change the state apparatus by any means necessary, from the inside, not by external force.]
Cozy with Right-Wing Violence
In contrast to the way they treat the left, federal agents have done little to discourage violent right-wing extremist groups and sometimes have supported their activities. In San Diego, the FBI financed a crypto-fascist outfit called the Secret Army Organization, whose operations ranged from burglary and arson to kidnapping and attempted murder. The Senate Intelligence Committee revealed that the FBI organized forty-one Ku Klux Klan chapters in North Carolina. Paid FBI informants in the Klan did nothing to stop Klan members from committing murder and other acts of violence. In some instances, as in the Greensboro (North Carolina) massacre of four members of the Communist Workers Party, they assisted the murderers by procuring weapons for them and directing them to the right location.
[Notice Parenti does not give dates. There may have been a time when the FBI was cozy with the Klan, but the shift in ideology in the Unites States has put all Right Wing extremist groups on government hit lists. If anything, they have infiltrated the Klan, The World Church of the Creator (leading to the incarceration of Matt Hale), and they extradited revisionist Ernst Zundel to Canada without a hearing, while other illegal immigrants are allowed to stay in the United States. Today, it is far more dangerous to be associated with the extremist Right, anti-Israel Right, militias, anti-tax groups, etc. than it is to be a radical Marxist. The shift in the United States towards the moralizing gods of diversity, multiculturalism, and antiracism, while allowing capitalists to dominate foreign markets, is a testament to how coalitions that form, may make no sense in terms of the Left versus the Right. The United States today is a pluralist society ideologically, and is constantly shifting as shown by events since 9/11. Simplistic statements as made by Parenti, sees one vast capitalist conspiracy where none exists.]
U.S. intelligence agencies do more than just gather intelligence; they have perpetrated terrible crimes. One could fill a whole book delineating the CIA's crimes against humanity, and whole books have been written. In countries like Guatemala, Greece, Brazil, Chile, Indonesia, Argentina, Zaire, and the Philippines, U.S. national security forces have used every means to overthrow populist or democratically elected governments, and install reactionary regimes that were totally accommodating to U.S. corporate interests. What a 1968 State Department memorandum had to say about Guatemala could apply to any number of places, namely that the government used indiscriminate "counter-terror" to combat insurgency. "People are killed or disappear on the basis of simple accusations.... Interrogations are brutal, torture is used and bodies are mutilated. We [the U.S. government] have condoned counter-terror.... We encouraged the Guatemalan Army to do these things."
[Parenti's litany of abuses by the Central Intelligence Agency is pretty well known by scholars, but not known by the public. A person has to read more than the newspapers or watch the evening news, to understand foreign policy. The information is filtered and fed to the public as propaganda. But that is true no matter which party is in power or which ideology is being promoted over another. Like the Soviet Union once was, the United States is a superpower, and as such it does quite what it wants. Neither socialism nor even some new and effective form of democratic government could change the observation that people can be made to fear different real or manufactured threats, and they will allow their government rogues to become belligerent bullies. It seems that every empire follows the same path into ruin. But it should be understood in terms of human nature, and not as some simplistic outcome because of capitalism. The powerful elite, when they are not held in check, no matter what type of government, will manipulate the system in ruthless pursuit of their objectives. Parenti tells us what we already know, though he exaggerates as wildly as the apologists that deny all U.S. transgressions. The linkage between abuse of power, capitalism, and democracy just is not viable, because we find the same abuses of power under EVERY form of government.]
CIA involvement in Central America contributed to the U.S. cocaine epidemic of the 1980s. CIA planes transported guns and supplies down to right-wing mercenary troops in Nicaragua, the "contras," and pro-capitalist political and military leaders in other Latin countries; the planes then were reloaded with cocaine for the return trip to the United States. The CIA itself admits having known and done nothing about narcotic shipments to inner city populations in this country. Even the usually compliant New York Times reported that a CIA "anti-drug unit" was involved in cocaine trafficking at that time. Drug infestation can serve as a useful social control mechanism. National security authorities prefer to have young African-American and Latino males shooting themselves up with needles and each other with guns rather than organizing militant revolutionary groups as in the 1960s.
[Then why was Reagan so obsessed with the war on drugs? Why not downplay the problem, as is done in Europe? I agree that covert operations people like using drugs as a source of revenue, but to then claim that there is a Right Wing conspiracy to keep African-Americans high and killing each other is absurd. It makes for bad press, both domestic and foreign.]
A former chief of an elite DEA unit observed: "In my 30-year history in the Drug Enforcement Administration and related agencies, the major targets of my investigations almost invariably turned out to be working for the CIA." In November 1993, former director of the DEA Robert Bonner and DEA agent Anabel Grim appeared on a CBS 60 Minutes segment entitled "The CIAs Cocaine," and detailed the agency's massive theft of cocaine from DEA warehouses. The cocaine was later sold on U.S. streets. Meanwhile, DEA efforts at thwarting the drug outflow from Burma have been stymied by the CIA and State Department, who seem to be in a cozy relationship with Burma's viciously repressive but corporation-loving, drug-running, military dictatorship.
[Again, there is no conspiracy to smuggle drugs into the U.S. for any purpose other than to supply money to covert operations. The above proves that there is not collusion, but in fact a great deal of tension between the CIA, DEA and other government organizations. They are often at odds with each other, and missions are constantly changing. However, Parenti keeps trying to assert that America is a capitalistic, Right Wing conspiratorial dictatorship in hiding - lurking behind every mischief and human tragedy. It is the standard Marxist chant, all bad comes from evil White men, all tragedies are the fault of one race and one gender. All other humans are just being oppressed and cannot be held accountable for any of the wrongs of the world.]
Page 164 Who Governs? Elites, Labor,
and Globalization - Chapter 11
No politico-economic system automatically maintains and reproduces itself. Constant effort must be made to fortify the existing hegemonic order. Those who control the wealth of this society, the owning class, have an influence over political life far in excess of their number. They have the power to influence policy through the control of jobs and withholding of investments. They directly influence the electoral process with their lavish campaign contributions. And they own or exercise trusteeship over social and educational institutions, foundations, think tanks, publications, and mass media, thereby greatly influencing society's ideological output, its values, and its information flow. In addition, the stewards of corporate capitalism make it their business to occupy the more important public offices or see that "reliable" persons loyal to them do so.
[Well, they haven't been doing a very good job of keeping the masses in line with all their power. Affirmative action, quotas, huge legal settlements from tobacco companies, keeping oil companies from drilling for oil and making us dependent on foreign oil, shakedowns by Jesse Jackson, inc. because they tremble from the thought of being targeted by minorities, special training of employees (indoctrination) in diversity, the list goes on and on. There are numerous books on how the Marxist Left has taken over the government, the courts, academia and the press. What is really happening is yes, the rich do have a great deal of power, but they share it with all kinds of other special interest groups. When every political action is tabulated, it is oftentimes hard to tell who is winning - the Marxists or the free market advocates. Often times, policies just do not fit neatly into one category or another. The current war on terrorism and the invasion of Iraq is a case in point. Is it for oil or to protect Israel, or is it for power alone? No one can quite tell, because the handlers behind Bush all have slightly varying perspectives aside from liking the superpower status of U.S. might and believe in using it. True capitalists do not want to pay a billion dollars a week to reconstruct Iraq, they are far too pragmatic to embrace such an approach. It is a net loss in terms of capital, with only a few players making money while other industries suffer from the economic slowdown of a war economy.]
Governmental and business elites are linked by financial and social ties. Many go to the same schools, work in the same companies, intermarry, and vacation together. For almost a century, the top politco-economic elites have gathered every summer at Bohemian Grove, a luxurious male-only retreat in a California redwood forest, owned by the Bohemian Club of San Francisco. The guest list includes every Republican U.S. president and some Democratic ones, many top White House officials, and directors and CEOs of large corporate and financial institutions. Elites also meet at the Knickerbocker Club in New York and various other well-served sites. These gatherings serve as a way of exchanging information, coordinating efforts, deciding what candidates to support for what openings in public life, what policies to pursue at home and abroad, how to roll back popular forces and increase profit margins, and how to manipulate money supplies, markets, and public policies. When powerful people confabulate and collude, they become even more powerful.
[And how would this be any different under socialism? The same people would be vacationing, colluding, and basically taking everything for themselves while paying lip-service to egalitarianism and efficiency. The only difference again is there would be far more poverty, and ever more speeches about how a few bourgeois holdout scoundrels were keeping the socialist state from becoming the promised utopia. And we know what happens then: people are rounded up into concentration camps for reeducation and or slave labor and death.]
The Ideological Monopoly
Across the country, newspapers offer little variety in perspective and editorial policy, ranging mostly from moderately conservative to ultraconservative, with a smaller number that are blandly centrist. Most "independent" dailies, along with the chains, rely heavily on the wire services and on big circulation papers for stories, syndicated columns, and special features.
[The media has more often than not been accused of being liberal, with 90% of newspaper journalists being favorable to the Democratic Party. So how does a Leftist media all of a sudden become Rightists? Because Parenti obviously is so far to the Left that virtually anyone but a Marxist is conservative or Right Wing. Well, I think the world has had their fill of Marxist utopianism. And yet, Parenti's book is being used in universities by Marxist academics who push his hate filled agenda against "White males" or capitalists (I'm not sure he really differentiates between the two).]
News reports on business rely almost entirely on business sources. The workings of the capitalist political economy remain virtually unmentioned. The tendency toward chronic instability, recession, inflation, and underemployment; the transference of corporate diseconomies onto the public - these and other such problems are treated superficially, if at all, by pundits who have neither the inclination nor the freedom to offer critical observations about our capitalist paradise. Poverty remains an unexplained phenomenon in the media. Whether portraying the poor as unworthy idlers or simple unfortunates, the press seldom if ever gives critical attention to the market forces that create and victimize low-income people.
[In truth, there is in fact a total ban on mentioning the real cause of chronic unemployment - the low intelligence of African Americans and Mexicans/Amerindians. The American Psychological Association has agreed substantially with the conclusions in "The Bell Curve," the 1994 best seller that substantiates the correlation between innate intelligence and prosperity. Since 1994, the Left has not been able to provide one environmental explanation for the low average intelligence of the above minorities, and yet the liberal media will not mention the well established differences in intelligence between different races because egalitarianism is so entrenched the American dogma. From a behavioral genetics perspective, America looks much more Lysenkoist (Marxist radical environmentalism) than scientific. The media has a total lockdown on any discussion of racial differences in behavior or intelligence, except for the occasional program attacking the scientists that want an open discussion of these issues. From this perspective, America appears to be solidly Marxist.]
What is considered a political or nonpolitical film is itself a political judgment. Movies that challenge orthodox values and stereotypes are seen as political, not movies that reinforce conventional standards. Almost all mainstream entertainment is political in one way or another. Even movies and television shows that do not promote a specifically political storyline may propagate images and themes that support militarism, imperialism, racism, sexism, authoritarianism, and other undemocratic values. In the entertainment world, adversities are caused by ill-willed individuals and cabals, never by the injustices of the socioeconomic system. Problems are solved by individual derring-do rather than by organized collective effort. Conflicts are resolved by generous applications of murder and mayhem. Nefarious violence is met with righteous violence, although it is often difficult to distinguish the two. Studies indicate that people who watch a lot of television have a higher fear of crime and of urban minorities than those who do not. Crime shows condition viewers into accepting authoritarian solutions and repressive police actions.
[But more often they promote group-identity themes like diversity, multiculturalism, gay rights, and anti-White bias as part of the celebration of group victimhood. Even such shows as MTV and Sesame Street are closely monitored so that the message of diversity and racial mixing is part and partial of the mainstream message. These are the real undemocratic themes, where group rights have displaced liberal values and individualism. I have noticed that just within the last year or so, we are seeing for the first time a quantum leap in Black/White interracial love relationships and love-making scenes in the movies and on television. The message is clear, all the while we are encouraged by Dr. Laura and other Jewish advocates that people should marry within their own religion. The message is clear, Jews should marry only Jews, but Whites should want to have sex with Blacks or they are ipso facto racists.]
Over the years, in response to pressures from viewers, there have been changes in gender and ethnic portrayals. Women and ethnic minorities now are sometimes depicted as intelligent and capable persons, occupying positions of authority and power. Despite these advances, gender and ethnic stereotypes still abound. Women and ethnic minorities appear in leading roles far less often than White males. They are still marketed as sexual objects in ads and storylines, often as the object of male rapacity and violence.
[Of course, this is a lie. Viewers have not asked for changes, special interest groups have. If there is any distortion in portrayals of groups, it is that Whites are racists, Blacks are discriminated against, and homosexuality is a good wholesome value to be cherished. These are agendas pushed by the group-identity Marxists that have proclaimed a hierarchy of victimhood where race, then gender and then the disabled are pandered to - while racism and intolerance by Whites and even worse yet, by Christian fundamentalist Whites, are the evil perpetrators of injustice. For Marxists, class conflict just never materialized for them to carry on their revolution, so now they have turned to group-identity conflict to forward their agenda.]
Many areas of the country are awash in talk shows and news commentary that are outspokenly ultra-rightist, pro-capitalist, militaristic, anti-union, antifeminist, and anti-immigrant. Wealthy conservatives have poured millions of dollars into building the religious right's radio network, consisting of 1,300 local stations, and its television network, the Christian Broadcasting Network, which has as many affiliates as ABC. There is a significant religious left in this country, dedicated to peace and social justice issues, but it gets no substantial financial backing and therefore owns no major media outlets.
["Wealthy conservatives?" I doubt that very much, because fundamentalists, from the poor to the rich, are suckers for giving money to televangelists. However, Parenti just can't stand the thought that a strong Christian fundamentalist broadcasting network could be financed by anything but a few evil capitalists, bent on bending the minds of the religious masses. The Left has been unable to produce the same kind of mass following that gives 'til hurts, but devoted Christians will. But isn't this the grass-roots democracy that Marxists embrace? Not hardly, not unless they have control of the message as well as the money.]
Denied access to major media, the political left has attempted to get its message across through small publications that suffer chronic financial difficulties and sometimes undergo harassment from police, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, rightist vigilantes, the Internal Revenue Service, and the U.S. Postal Service. Skyrocketing postal rates effect a real hardship on dissident publications. While defending such increases as economically necessary, the government continues to subsidize billions of pieces of junk mail sent out every year by business and advertising firms.
[The Nationalist Right has the same restraints, hardships, and overt harassment by the same organizations. However, we have turned to the Internet to get our message out. What does the Left say about using the Internet as a means for more democracy? They want to censor it, shut it down, filter the message, whatever it takes to get the Nationalist Right totally excluded under the rubric of hate speech. The United States is the only Western nation that has a guarantee of freedom of speech that allows open discussion of racial differences between groups, and it is driving the Marxists mad. They are putting forth all kinds of arguments to try to get this freedom banned.]
On most fundamental economic class issues, the similarities between the parties loom so large as frequently to obscure the differences. Both the Democratic and Republican parties are committed to the preservation of the private corporate economy; huge military budgets; the use of subsidies and tax allowances to bolster business profits; the development of whole new industries at public expense; the use of repression against opponents of the existing class structure; the maximization of corporate power through global "free trade" agreements; and the defense of the multinational corporate empire with intervention against non-complying nations and rebellious elements abroad. In short, most Republican and Democratic politicians are dedicated to strikingly similar definitions of the public interest, at great cost to the life chances of underprivileged people at home and abroad. This is especially true of the overlap between Republicans and "New Democrats" or Clinton Democrats, who have been the party of the business subsidies, tax breaks, and big military budgets almost as much as the GOP. So, William Winpisinger, former president of the International Association of Machinists was moved to comment, "We don't have a 2-party system in this country. We have the Demopublicans. It's one party of the corporate class, with two wings - the Democrats and Republicans.
[The Democrats and Republicans also agree on the left wing dogma of open immigration, multiculturalism, diversity, and affirmative action - all anti-White programs from the bowels of Marxists in academia, the media and government. If the political parties were being controlled by the corporations, why then haven't we seen any shift against these leftist agendas? Again, both parties pander to many different interest groups, not just big business. If it was otherwise, we would not have affirmative action, gay rights, gender equality, and all the other burdens that are placed on the business community that favors minorities over Whites.]
Often the purpose of redistricting is to weaken the electoral base of progressive members in Congress, state legislatures, or city councils, or dilute the electoral strength of new or potentially dissident constituencies. In Philadelphia, a Latino community of 63,000 anticipated control of at least one and possibly two seats in the Pennsylvania Assembly. Instead, their cohesive community was divided into a number of districts, none of which had more than a 15 percent Latino population. Chicago's Puerto Rican and Mexican-American community suffered a similar plight. The New York City Council split 50,000 working-class Black voters in Queens into three predominantly White districts, making them a numerical minority in all three. And in Los Angeles County and nine Texas counties, heavy concentrations of Latinos were divided into separate districts to dilute their voting power.
[Parenti would have you believe that gerrymandering, or drawing voting district boundaries to favor a party or a minority group, is always against the minority group. The opposite is actually the case, where minority districts are laboriously drawn to make sure that minorities get more seats. Chicago, contrary to what he states above, has forced more Latinos onto the City Council by gerrymandering. What Parenti seems to do throughout this book, is make statements that are true at a point in time, but overall is false for the situation he discusses. For example, maybe say forty years ago there was one case of gerrymandering against Blacks, but in every case since gerrymandering has favored minorities per the current zeitgeist. He repeatedly lies by using singular cases that are aberrations rather than the norm. By not designating the date, he can reach back as far as he likes in history to make what sounds like a current statement. This is just one of the many duplicitous means he uses to advance his Marxism - should we be surprised?]
Most government policies favor large investor interests at a substantial cost to the rest of the populace. Long and hard democratic struggles have won some real benefits for the public, yet inequities and social injustices of immense proportions continue and even worsen. There is commodity glut in the private market and chronic scarcity in public services. While the rich get ever richer, possessed with more money than they know what to do with, the majority of the populace lives in a condition of economic insecurity. While defense contractors at home and military dictatorships abroad fatten on the largesse of the U.S. Treasury, human services go begging.
[One of the greatest causes of inequities, given the need for an intelligent and highly trainable workforce, is the open immigration policies that let in immigrants like Amerindians, South Asians, Semites, and Blacks who have a low innate intelligence. For the Blacks already here, if immigration was limited to only high intelligent immigrants, we could prosper as a nation while spending resources on the downtrodden that are already citizens - not an ever expanding group due to immigration.]
The pluralists have little to say about the pervasive role of political repression in U.S. society: the purging and exclusion of anticapitalist dissidents from government, from the labor movement, the media, academia, and the entertainment world; along with the surveillance and harassment of protest organizations and public-interest groups. Pluralists seem never to allude to the near-monopoly control of ideas and information that is the daily fare of the news and entertainment sectors of the mass media, creating a climate of opinion favorable to the owning-class ideology at home and abroad. Nor are the pluralists much troubled by the rigged rules under which the two major political parties operate, or by an electoral system that treats vast sums of money as a prerequisite for office.
[Parenti fails to mention the monopoly of ideas that advocates multiculturalism, group identity, diversity, and pro immigrant minorities over the White majority. The Left has boldly enforced a new dogma based on falsehoods and hate against the West, especially WASP males. Everything is done not only to denigrate and humiliate White males, but an entire culture has claimed group rights supercede individual rights, and it is alright to discriminate against individuals for group supremacy, as long as the group is some specified and acceptable minority under a Marxist ideology. All other divers groups need not apply for preferential treatment.]
Does this amount to a "conspiracy theory" of society? First, it should be noted that conspiracies do exist. A common view is that conspiracy exists only in the imaginings of kooks. But just because some people have fantasies of conspiracies does not mean that all conspiracies are fantasies. There was the secretive plan to escalate the Vietnam War as revealed in the Pentagon Papers; the Watergate break-in; the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) COINTELPRO disruption of dissident groups; the several phony but well-orchestrated "energy crises" that sharply boosted oil prices in the 1970s; the Iran-contra conspiracy; the savings and loan conspiracies; and the well-documented conspiracies (and subsequent cover-ups) to assassinate President John Kennedy, Martin Luther King, and Malcolm X.
[But are there really conspiracies by whole classes of people? Is there a union conspiracy, a Black conspiracy, a socialist conspiracy, or a vast Right Wing conspiracy? Of course not, because there is no mechanism to keep the diverse players in line. If there ever was a monolithic voting block, I would have to say it would be African Americans that are more homogenous in thought and attitudes, and even here many are opposed to affirmative action, set asides, and quotas. So a conspiracy by capitalists is simply absurd.]
Ruling elites admit to conspiring in secret, without being held accountable to anyone; they call it "national security." But when one suggests that their plans (whether covert or overt) benefit the interests of their class and are intended to do so, one is dismissed as a "conspiracy theorist." It is allowed that farmers, steelworkers, or schoolteachers may concert to advance their interests, but it may not be suggested that moneyed elites do as much - even when they actually occupy the top decision-making posts. Instead, we are asked to believe that these estimable persons of high station walk through life indifferent to the fate of their vast holdings.
[They may not be indifferent to their wealth, but they certainly do not think in unison. As of late, we have been hearing a lot abut neoconservatives. Do they have anything in common with paleoconservatives? Not much as far as I can tell. And how about socialist capitalists, moneyed people who advocate socialism but also have wealth and power like the Kennedys? Then there are the nationalists, who are far right wing but probably as working class as the socialists, if not more so. Using an analogy to declare that conspiracies in small tightly controlled groups is possible, therefore all capitalists belong to some vast conspiracy, is asinine and intellectually dumbfounding. The only way to sustain any such argument is through an extreme hatred for what is seen as the bourgeois class, which I also defy anyone to define in any but extremely abstract terms.]
Although there is no one grand power elite, there is continual cooperation between various corporate and governmental elites in every area of the political economy. Many of the stronger corporate groups tend to predominate in their particular spheres of interest, more or less unmolested by other elites. In any case, the conflicts among plutocratic interests seldom work to the advantage of the mass of people. They are conflicts of haves versus haves. Often they are resolved not by compromise but by logrolling, involving more collusion than competition. These mutually satisfying arrangements among "competitors" usually come at the expense of the public interest. To be sure, the demands of the unfortunates may be heard occasionally as a clamor outside the gate, and now and then concessions are granted to take the edge off their restiveness.
[How is it then that we see very powerful corporations collapse almost overnight, like Arthur Anderson, Enron, United Airlines (close but not out), and numerous others slowly failing over time. There is no collusion that safeguards corporations from failure, and they are certainly competing primarily with each other, not between them and the so-called masses. Workers and industry are linked, they rely on each other. Companies on the other hand do not sit around colluding against the masses of the world but instead are interested in market share. They are obsessed with their competitors. Do they try and influence others for their own benefit? Of course they do, so does everybody as individuals or as members of groups. Everyone is trying to influence others for their own agenda - that is what this book is all about. Under Parenti's Marxism, these free exchange of ideas and agendas would be banned, and there would be only one conspiratorial elite - the ruling Marxists.]
One might better think of ours as a dual political system. First, there is the high visibility system centering around electoral and representative activities, including campaign contests, political personalities, public pronouncements, and certain ambiguous presentations of issues that bestir presidents, governors, mayors, and their respective legislatures. Then there is the low visibility system, involving in muti-billion-dollar contracts, tax write-offs, grants, loss compensations, subsidies, leases, and the whole vast process of budgeting, protecting, and servicing transnational companies, now ignoring or rewriting the law on behalf of the powerful, now applying it with full punitive vigor against heretics and "troublemakers." The high visibility system is taught in the schools, dissected by academicians, endlessly gossiped about by news commentators. The low visibility system is seldom acknowledged.
[And one can be assured that it is no different in the United States than it is in every other country.]
Defenders of the existing system assert that the history of "democratic capitalism" has been one of gradual reform. To be sure, important reforms have been won by working people. To the extent that the present economic order has anything humane and civil about it, it is because of the struggles of millions of people engaged in advancing their living standard and their rights as citizens. It is somewhat ironic to credit capitalism with the genius of gradual reform when (a) most economic reforms through history have been vehemently and sometimes violently resisted by the capitalist class and were won only after prolonged, bitter, and sometimes bloody popular struggle, and (b) most of the problems needing reform have been caused or intensified by capitalism.
[Parenti fails to mention that many of the reforms were only allowed by the Supreme Court because of a changing ideology, one that has moved from individualism and the free market to become more socialistic. Governments are constantly changing, but if capitalists were truly in control, they would have been able to keep the ruling elite from moving towards socialism. Democracy in the end did result in slowly moving towards social democracy, and we continue our march towards socialism and egalitarianism. Capitalism, if anything, is being controlled and reigned in on every front, contrary to what he asserts.]
Fundamental reform is difficult to effect because those who have the interest in change have not the power, while those who have the power have not the interest, being disinclined to commit class suicide. It is not that officeholders have been unable to figure out the steps for egalitarian change; it is that they are not willing to go that way. For them the compelling quality of any argument is determined less by its logic and evidence than by the strength of its advocates. The wants of an unorganized public with few power resources of its own seldom become marketable political demands; they seldom become imperatives to which officials find it in their own interest to respond, especially if the changes would put the officeholder on a collision course with powerful moneyed interests.
[Most Americans in fact reject socialism in large doses, and do not want the free market destroyed. In addition, the only way the elite can dupe the voting public is because humans are by nature followers. What one sees repeatedly in Marxism is a new elite that wants to lead the working masses to freedom - and repeatedly these very masses ignore the Marxist elite. Reform is not necessary when the political system we have is responsive as it needs to be, in small incremental doses, of taking care of people's needs. Some people of course will always find themselves in poverty and despair, but they also have a great deal of personal responsibility in their conditions, whether it is genetic or environmental. Americans prefer personal responsibility to a totalitarian system where freedom is lost for an egalitarian dream that can never be attained under the current genomic determinates of human nature. This is the lesson the Left has never accepted - humans are not putty to be molded by the crushing-vice of Marxist oppression.]
Furthermore, the reason our labor, skills, technology, and natural resources are not used for social needs is that they are used for corporate gain. The corporations cannot build low-rent houses, feed the poor, clean up the environment, or offer higher education to all qualified people regardless of their ability to pay - because their interest is not in social reconstruction but in private profit. State-supported capitalism cannot exist without state support, without passing its immense diseconomies onto the public. Our social and ecological problems are rational outcomes of a basically irrational system, a system structured not for satisfying human need but magnifying human greed.
[History however proves that the capitalist system is the only one that provides such abundant wealth, that it is possible to provide for the needy in ever increasing ways and degrees. Never has the poor been so well cared for. The only problem then is are the numbers of needy people - those who lack the necessary abilities to provide for themselves - so great that they will overwhelm the limits of compassion, that is, a manageable minority in society? This is the impossible task of Marxism, as the inefficiencies of state owned monopolies reduces overall wealth, as it destroys the incentive to work, as resources are invested irrationally, and as more and more people take advantage of the welfare state rather than contributing, the system sinks into despair and backwardness, while the human condition as well as the environment deteriorates. Socialism is no answer for what Parenti sees as the evils of capitalism.]
How can we speak of the U.S. politico-economic system as being a product of the democratic will? What democratic will demanded that Washington be honeycombed with high-paid corporate lobbyists who would regularly raid the public treasury on behalf of rich clients? What democratic mandate directed the government to give away more monies every year to the top 1 percent of the population, in interest payments on public bonds, than are spent on services to the bottom 20 percent? When was the public consulted on Alaskan oil leases, interest rates, and agribusiness subsidies? When did the public insist on having unsafe, overpriced drugs and genetically altered foods and a Food and Drug Administration (FDA) that protects rather than punishes the companies that market them? When did the American people urge the government to go easy on polluters and allow the utility companies to overcharge consumers? When did the voice of the people clamor for unsafe work conditions in mines, factories, and on farms? How often have the people demonstrated for multibillion-dollar tax breaks for the superrich and a multibillion-dollar space shuttle that destroys the ozone layer and leaves us more burdened by taxes and deprived of necessary services? When did the populace insist that the laws of the land could be overruled by a non-elective three-member World Trade Organization (WTO) panel in service to the transnational corporations? What democratic will decreed that we destroy the Cambodian countryside between 1969 and 1971 in a bombing campaign conducted without the consent or even the knowledge of Congress and the public? When did public opinion demand that we wage a mercenary war of attrition against Nicaragua; or invade Grenada and Panama; or slaughter 100,000 Iraqis; or occupy Somalia; or support wars against popular forces in El Salvador, Guatemala, Angola, Mozambique, the Western Sahara, and East Timor; or subvert progressive governments in Chile, Indonesia, Yugoslavia, and a dozen other countries?
[I concur that democracy is flawed, but it will only get worse under socialism. If we are to build upon our current democratic system to make it more accountable to the public will, then it must begin to become a real democracy and not a representative one. With an intelligent, highly involved population, direct democracy can solve these problems, eliminating the political elites who serve themselves over their constituencies. For the first time since we left the small hunter-gatherer way of life, we have the technology to implement direct democracy, but it can only be had when the people have a high intelligence to understand the issues. Eugenics is the permanent solution to the failures of representative democracy.]
Far from giving their assent, ordinary people have had to struggle to find out what is going on. And when public opinion has mobilized, it is in the opposite direction, against the worst abuses and most blatant privileges of plutocracy, against the spoliation of the environment, and against bigger military budgets and armed interventions in other lands.
[Ergo, when things go too far astray, even representative democracy undergoes the necessary corrections.]
Democracy as Class Struggle
The ruling class has several ways of expropriating the earnings of the people. First and foremost, as workers, people receive only a portion of the value their labor power creates. The rest goes to the owners of capital. On behalf of owners, managers continually devise methods - including speedups, downgrading, layoffs, the threat of plant closings, and union busting - to tame labor and intensify the process of capital accumulation.
[If labor is so undervalued by corporations, then people performing the work can form their own companies and compete directly. Parenti does not seem to understand how difficult it is for corporations to find and retain good workers, and to keep the employees they have, by paying whatever it takes to keep them. The free market, because it requires competent employees in order to make a profit, self adjusts with regards to how much is paid to employees. Uncompetitive companies go under. New companies form with new talent and new ideas to compete with existing companies, where existing companies because of their own inefficiencies "outsource" to these new efficiently run companies. Capital alone does not set up these competitive forces in the free market system, but the combination of capital and talent together. Capital alone can only purchase goods, services and labor - it takes talent to make it work profitably. In my experience, people are paid very well for the work they perform, and I am constantly amazed at how much people make today, not how underpaid they are. The talent is visible at every level. I see people in fast food restaurants or at store check out counters who vary radically in how they can perform their jobs - and it matters when you get home and have a happy meal or find the order all screwed up. One mistake by an employee and a company can lose a customer. All labor is not equal, and companies are willing to pay a fair salary for adequate work performed. Yes, there are wide disparities, but that is true in every facet of life. But overall, the system works quite well with companies competing for good workers, and good workers looking to work for good companies. It is a two way street, and not oppressive as Parenti makes it seem to be.]
Second, as consumers, people are victimized by monopoly practices that force them to spend more for less. They are confronted with increasingly exploitative forms of involuntary consumption, as when relatively inexpensive mass-transit systems are eliminated to create a greater dependency on automobiles; or when low-rental apartments are converted to high-priced condominiums; or a utility company doubles its prices after deregulation.
[And what would we have under Marxism? Total monopolies where the situation would be far worse. Mass transit has to be subsidized by the state because people prefer cars. People have to find homes that are in accordance with what they can afford. They have no right to live as they please where they please. Moreover, utility companies that compete with each other will eventually reduce prices. When Reagan deregulated the airlines, prices fell for consumers, while the business travelers were paying far more than the family vacationers. However, if you believe Parenti, capitalists should be conspiring to keep business travel cheap while sticking it to the consumer. It doesn't work that way, not under a free market system.]
Third, over the last thirty-five years or so, working people, as taxpayers, have had to shoulder an ever larger portion of the tax burden, while corporate America pays less and less. Indeed, the dramatic decline in business taxes has been a major cause of growth in the federal debt. As we have seen, the national debt itself is a source of income for the moneyed class and an additional burden on taxpayers.
[Parenti conflates corporations with the wealthy, but they are not the same. Many wealthy people do not own corporations; they own stock in many corporations. It would make good sense to eliminate all taxes from corporate earnings, to make them more competitive internationally. But earnings have to be either reinvested or given to stockholders or owners, and this is where the taxation should take place. People should pay taxes, not corporations, anymore than a highway should pay taxes, instead of the drivers who use the highway. I agree that the rich do not pay their fair share of the taxes, especially unearned income, but that is a debate between what is good for the economy and what is fair. It appears to me that the current trend is for the rich to pay less in taxes, and it is only possible because most Americans see a gain for themselves while not looking at the issue of fairness. The question of who pays the taxes is extremely complicated, with many alternatives, but there is no doubt that the pendulum will continue to swing between tax breaks for the rich, followed by soaking the rich policies, and back again in an endless cycle of political gamesmanship.]
Fourth, as citizens the people get less than they pay for in government services. The lion's share of federal spending goes to large firms, defense contractors, and big financial creditors. The public endures the hidden diseconomies shifted onto them by private business, as when a chemical company contaminates a community's air or groundwater with its toxic wastes, or when there is a general deterioration in the quality of life.
[We have seen these diseconomies, and they are tolerated in small doses in capitalistic countries, while they become standard practice in state run economies. Socialism is by its very nature, an economic system of diseconomies.]
The existing system of power and wealth, with its attendant abuses and injustices, activates a resistance from workers, consumers, community groups, and taxpayers - who are usually one and the same people. There exists, then, not only class oppression but class struggle, not only plutocratic dominance but popular opposition and demands for reform.
[When the demand for reform truly materializes, then it will happen. Democracy is still the will of the people, regardless if the people have the will or the intelligence to use it effectively.]
There is a tradition of popular struggle in the United States that has been downplayed and ignored. It ebbs and flows but never ceases. Moved by a combination of anger and hope, ordinary people have organized, agitated, demonstrated, and engaged in electoral challenges, civil disobedience, strikes, sit-ins, takeovers, boycotts, and sometimes violent clashes with the authorities - for better wages and work conditions, a safer environment, racial and gender justice, and peace and nonintervention abroad. Against the heaviest odds, dissenters have suffered many defeats but won some important victories, forcibly extracting concessions and imposing reforms upon resistant rulers.
[At one time, workers may have been oppressed to the point of becoming vocal, even violent. However, today, with well-established socialism acting in cooperation with capitalism, most activists described above are not workers but middle to upper class elitists. Few working class people care about such issues as globalism, the Palestinians, or even homelessness. The advocates for reform are not your average American, but political activists who will always be with us no matter what takes place, because they enjoy the feeling of hatred, its emotional high, against an evil force - the dreaded capitalist. Capitalists are the new witches and wizards of the past, with their secret potions, corrupting our godly communities, and the Marxists must expose them as evil interlopers.]
In 1999-2000, massive demonstrations composed of persons from various nations and all walks of life have been directed against the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the World Bank, and the WTO in cities in the United States, Europe, India, Australia, and elsewhere. At the local level, too, people have organized against the relentless incursions of the trans nationals.
Democracy is something more than a set of political procedures. To be worthy of its name, democracy should produce substantive outcomes that advance the well-being of the people. Many of the struggles for political democracy - the right to vote, assemble, petition, and dissent - have been largely propelled by the struggle for economic and social democracy, by a desire to democratize the rules of the political game so as to be in a better position to fight for one's socioeconomic interests. In a word, the struggle for democracy has been part of the class struggle against plutocracy.
Through the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, the moneyed classes resisted the expansion of democratic rights, be it universal suffrage, abolition, civil liberties, or affirmative action. They knew that the growth of popular rights would only strengthen popular forces and impose limits on elite privileges. They instinctively understood, even if they seldom publicly articulated it, that it is not socialism that subverts democracy, but democracy that subverts capitalism.
[Yet the capitalists have not been able to deter democratic reforms, changes, fine-tuning, and progress to the betterment of everyone involved. The lowest person on welfare is far better off than the average sub-Saharan Black because capitalism works, people here are innately intelligent and productive, and we are capable of making changes when necessary.]
The conservative agenda is to return to the days before the New Deal, to a country with a small middle class and an impoverished mass, when the United States was a "Third World" nation long before the term had been coined. As Paul Volcker said, when he was chair of the Federal Reserve, "The standard of living of the average American has to decline." Wages are held down by forcing people to compete more intensely for work on terms increasingly favorable to management. Historically, this is done by (a) eliminating jobs through mechanization, (b) bringing immigrant labor into the country, and (c) investing in countries that offer cheaper labor markets and other favorable terms. In addition, in the 1980s the Republican administration eased child-labor laws, lowered the employable age for some jobs, and raised the future retirement age, thus increasing the number of workers competing for jobs.
[Actually, there are very good reasons for changes in labor laws that have nothing to do with cheap labor. Firsts, the Left has been and remains, adamantly for open immigration, the leading cause of any labor over-supply that exists. But the relaxing of "child-labor laws" was due to the absurdity of not allowing a person's relatives to be employed to help out the family business, or teenagers to get after school jobs to earn a little extra cash as well as teach them the value of work. I started working when I was 15 in a grocery store, and it was exhilarating. I loved the extra money it provided me, the freedom, and the camaraderie I found. As for raising the age of retirement, it only makes sense that with the demographic change, and people live longer, they should be productive for a few more years. It is projected in some countries in the future that there will be one worker for every retired person. Such an imbalance cannot continue unless we either reduce retirement pensions, continue expanding the world population, or enslaving the worker for the benefit of the retirees. It seems fair that we need to strike a balance, and ask people to work a few more years, as they can expect to live many more years still after they retire. There is no free lunch.]
Another way to depress wages is to eliminate alternative sources of support. The historical process of creating people willing to work for subsistence wages entailed driving them off the land and into the factories, denying them access to farms and to the game, fuel, and fruits of the commons. Divorced from this sustenance, the peasant became the proletarian. Today, unemployment benefits and other forms of public assistance are reduced in order to deny alternative sources of income. Public jobs are eliminated so that more workers will compete for employment in the private sector, helping to depress wages. Conservatives seek to lower the minimum wage for youth and resist attempts to equalize wages and job opportunities for women and minorities, so keeping women, youth, and minorities as the traditional underpaid "reserve army of labor" used throughout history to depress wages.
[As the labor pool dries up, as people have fewer children, and if immigration is greatly reduced, there will be a labor shortage! And as Parenti seems to like to point out, capitalists make so much money on every worker that they will be forced to increase wages for everyone. We don't need a minimum wage with a declining population - the market will easily adjust to the true value of each person's contribution.]
Still another way to hold down wages and maximize profits is to keep the workforce divided and poorly organized. Racism helps to channel the economic fears and anger of Whites away from employers and toward minorities and immigrants, who are seen as competitors for scarce jobs, education, and housing. When large numbers of workers are underpaid because they are Black, Latino, or female, this holds down the price of labor and increases profits.
[Racism of course is really just a code word for the resentment felt for reverse discrimination. There is no discrimination against minorities that is not the result of unfair quotas, set-asides, and diversity programs that discriminate against Whites. In fact, diversity has been so embraced by the business community and the military that they argued in its favor before the Supreme Court in the June 23, 2003 decision on the Grutter-Gratz decision. The wages, when adjusted for the average intelligence of different races, as well as the fact that men enter earlier and stay longer in the labor force than women on average, testifies to the fact that there is no racism today - at least not when it comes to hiring minorities.]
When democratic forces mobilize to defend their standard of living, democracy proves troublesome to capitalism. So the ruling class must attack not only the people's standard of living but the very democratic rights that help them defend that standard. Thus, the right to strike and to bargain collectively come under persistent attack by both the courts and legislatures. The laws against minor parties are tightened and public funding of the two-party monopoly is expanded. Federal security agencies and elaborately equipped local police, abetted by the courts, repress community activists and weaken our right to protest. And U.S. leaders enter into a series of international trade agreements to bypass our democratic sovereignty altogether and secure an unchallengeable corporate supremacy.
[More conspiracy paranoia that is hard to understand when so generalized!]
The Roles of the State
The capitalist state is more than a front for the economic interests it serves; it is the single most important instrument that corporate America has at its command. The power to use police and military force, the power of eminent domain, the power to tax, spend, and legislate, to use public funds for private profit, to float limitless credit, to mobilize highly emotive symbols of loyalty and legitimacy, and to suppress political dissidents - such resources of the state give corporate America a durability it could never provide for itself. The state also functions to stabilize trade arrangements among giant corporations. Historically, "firms in an oligopolistic industry often turn to the federal government to do for them what they cannot do for themselves - namely, enforce obedience to the rules of their own cartel."
[And Parenti's form of totalitarianism, under Marxism, would not only be far worse, but people could also go to bed at night worrying about that dreaded knock on the door where they would be carted off to a slave labor camp, in the name of socialism. That is how Parenti would deal with the purported bourgeois - we have seen it before too often to ever go down that road again. And as the economy collapses, more and more people are labeled as the enemy, and more and more are worked to death or killed as enemies of the people.]
The state is also the place where liberal and conservative ruling-class factions struggle over how best to keep the system afloat. The more liberal elements see that by granting democratic concessions to those who make and buy its products they can keep capitalism from devouring itself. If conservative goals are too successful, if wages and buying power are cut back too far and production increased too much, then the contradictions of the free market intensify and so do its self-destructive instabilities. Profits may be maintained and even increased for a time through various financial contrivances, but overcapacity and overproduction lead to economic collapse, unemployment grows, markets shrink, discontent deepens, and small and not so small businesses perish.
[Parenti makes this sound like the Protocol of the Learned Elder's of Zion (the faked international Jewish conspiracy to take over the world). I don't know if he actually believes that group conflicts are not real but are in fact all conspiratorial, but Marxists use these conspiracy arguments over and over again, in different forms, to try and explain away any outcome that they cannot see as being a failure alone. That is, capitalism only APPEARS to work because the handlers, the elite, make it appear that way to fool the masses.]
As the pyramid begins to tremble from conservative victories, some of the less myopic occupants of the apex develop a new appreciation for the base that sustains them. For the rightist free marketeers, however, if demand slumps and the pie does not expand as swiftly as before but the slice that goes to the owning class continues to grow, then the economy is "doing well." Furthermore, too much already has gone to the people and into the nonprofit sector. As the common lot of the citizenry advances, so do their expectations: from adequate wages to job security, from an eight-hour day to paid vacations, from job seniority to retirement pensions, from decent housing to home ownership, from public grade schools for their kids to affordable higher education, affordable medical care, good public services, and a clean environment. Every dollar spent on such things is one less dollar to be siphoned away by the corporate owners, as they are keenly aware.
The state must act to resolve problems at the international level. One way to ease the economic competition between capitalist nations is to destroy the competing capital of other countries either by underselling and driving them out of business as in much of the Third World, or by privatization and deindustrialization as in Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union, or by sanctions and massive bombings of a country's industrial and ecological base as in Iraq and Yugoslavia. A state that has achieved world superpower status, such as the United States, has a special advantage in such aggrandizing stratagems, and is about the only one that can realistically entertain a global agenda.
[Wars have to be supported by public approval; so how does this come about? Is the American public so easily duped? Well, if people are so easily led astray, so easily manipulated, and unable to change the politics that they control for their own benefit rather than the benefit of capitalists, then what is wrong with "the people?" Why is all this conspiracy obvious to Parenti, but most Americans just can't see it? When we invaded Iraq for the second time, there was an enormous amount of debate about why we did it: For oil, for Israel, for globalization, for jingoism, for world domination or hegemony? In fact, no one is quite sure. There seemed to be many explanations, but none of them really range true, and this debate was taking place among very intelligent policy analysts, academics, peace activists, etc. A better way of explaining human behavior and the institutions we create, is to understand how we think and behave. That is, turn away from Marxism for an empirical understanding how our brains and our cultures coevolved, and just maybe we can use this knowledge to build a better future. Fall into the dogmatism of Marxist hatemongering, and we will fall back into barbarism and genocide.]
The state best protects the existing class structure by enlisting the loyalty and support of the populace. To do so, it must maintain its own legitimacy in the eyes of the people. And legitimacy is preserved by keeping an appearance of popular rule and neutrality in regard to class interests. More important than the constraints of appearances are the actual power restraints imposed by democratic forces. There is just so much the people will take before they begin to resist. Marx anticipated that class struggle would bring the overthrow of capitalism. Short of that, class struggle constrains and alters the capitalist state, so that the state itself, or portions of it, become an arena of struggle.
[Again, there is no class struggle. Humans do easily form groups, but they are not usually based on class, but can range from the arbitrary (following a sports team) to highly salient (siding with one's kin or race). Class is just one of many coalition forming groups that humans may or may not be interested in joining, and currently Americans are not interested in class disparities in income any more than they are united in hating all Arabs. So, they will take no action for example against Bush's tax cuts for the rich, but will probably re-elect him so that he can stop terrorism - the current jingoist mood of the nation.]
Having correctly discerned that "American democracy" as professed by establishment opinion makers is something of a sham, some people incorrectly dismiss the democratic rights won by popular forces as being of little account. But these democratic rights and the organized strength of democratic forces are, at present, all we have to keep some rulers from imposing a dictatorial final solution, a draconian rule to secure the unlimited dominance of capital over labor.
The vast inequality in economic power as exists in our capitalist society translates into a great inequality of social power. More than half a century ago the Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis commented, "We can have democracy in this country, or we can have great wealth concentrated in the hands of a few, but we can't have both." And some years earlier, the German sociologist Max Weber wrote: "The question is: How are freedom and democracy in the long run at all possible under the domination of highly developed capitalism?" That question is still with us. As the crisis of capitalism deepens, as the contradiction between the egalitarian expectations of democracy and the demoralizing thievery of the free market sharpens, the state must act more repressively to hold together the existing class system.
[I see no increase in repression, nor do I see any crisis in capitalism. What we do see is the global expansion of capitalism, with some countries losing and some gaining. Disruptions will occur as under any political system. But a global war is far more likely to break out in the next few years over racial conflicts and fears rather than from economic disruptions and shifts in jobs and economic prosperity. Capitalism is fully compatible with democracy, as they both keep evolving to solve the myriad of problems that humans face naturally on a globe filled with competitive organisms. Humans overall do not do too badly in the game of survival, but we must keep improving our cultural institutions and our genetic make-up in the arms race that always lies ahead.]
Why doesn't the capitalist class in the United States resort to fascist rule? It would make things easier: no organized dissent, no environmental or occupational protections to worry about, no elections or labor unions. In a country like the United States, the success of a dictatorial solution to the crisis of capitalism would depend on whether the ruling class could stuff the democratic genie back into the bottle. Ruling elites are restrained in their autocratic impulses by the fear that they could not get away with it, that the people and the enlisted ranks of the armed forces would not go along. A state that relies solely on its bayonets to rule is exposed as an instrument of class domination. It loses credibility, generates resistance rather than compliance, and ignites a rebellious and even revolutionary consciousness. Given secure profit margins, elites generally prefer a "democracy for the few" to an outright dictatorship.
[According Maxists, the capitalists already own most of the wealth and their share is increasing. Why would they want to risk their wealth by changing the system?]
Representative government is a serviceable form of governance for corporate America, even if often a troublesome one, for it offers a modicum of liberty and self-rule while masking the class nature of the state. Rather than relying exclusively on the club and the gun, bourgeois democracy employs a cooptive, legitimating power - which is ruling-class power at its most hypocritical and most effective. By playing these contradictory roles of protector of capital and "servant of the people," the state best fulfills its fundamental class role.
[The state of course cannot be reified into an entity. The state, like the family, is made up of individuals who are not in agreement on many things and cannot be manipulated as if there were one coherent objective.]
What is said of the state is true of the law, the bureaucracy, the political parties, the legislators, the universities, the professions, and the media. In order to best fulfill their class-control functions yet keep their social legitimacy, these institutions must maintain the appearance of neutrality and autonomy. To foster that appearance, they must occasionally exercise some critical independence and autonomy from the state and from capitalism. They must save a few decisions for the people, and take minimally corrective measures to counter some of the many egregious transgressions against democratic interests.
[Whenever anyone puts forth hypotheses that can be falsified by testing assumptions, if the hypotheses are weak and just-so stories, they become problematic and an escape clause is required - like the above. The conspiracy can't be seen, because the conspirators are so good at making us believe it doesn't exist. Rush Limbaugh is a master of this type of propaganda. Everything is generalized, rationalized, and qualified in such a way that no real message is left at the end of the day but "liberals are wrong and conservatives are right." By talking in contradictions, the emotions are stirred, but we get no closer to understanding how any particular system works. Conservatives and Leftists alike generally do not embrace any kind of testable theories in politics, culture, economics or human nature. The observations are simplistic, slippery, and cannot be anchored in order to build upon some knowable facts to expand our knowledge base. This is in sharp contrast to the theories put forth in the hard sciences, where every perspective is debated at length, until a fairly consistent set of assumptions find their way into acceptance, while new theories are developed and tested. It is an endless cycle of building upon what is known, because every theory has to be stated in such a way that it can be clearly falsified by testing it. Parenti's assertions are not testable and therefore not scientific. But of course, that has been well understood for many years with regards to Marxist dialectics.]
What Is to Be Done?
Here are some of the things that need to be done to bring us to a more equitable and democratic society:
Reform the electoral system. To curb the power of the moneyed interests and lobbyists, minor-party as well as major-party candidates should be provided with public financing. In addition, a strict cap should be placed on campaign spending by all candidates and supporters, with no loopholes allowed. The various states should institute proportional representation so that every vote will count and major parties will no longer dominate the legislature with artificially inflated majorities. Also needed is a standard federal electoral law allowing uniform and easy ballot access for third parties and independents. We should also abolish the electoral college to avoid artificially inflated majorities that favor the two-party monopoly and undermine the popular vote.
[Maybe these changes could help, but direct democracy is still far better, and makes unnecessary many of the following proposals.]
Encourage voter participation by having (a) more accessible polling and registration sites in low-income areas; (b) an election on an entire weekend instead of a workday (now usually Tuesday) so that persons who travel long distances and work long hours will have sufficient opportunity to get to a polling place; (c) ballots that do not confuse voters or lead to fraudulent counts; (d) federal protection against attempts by local authorities to suppress or intimidate voters, as was done by Republican officials in Florida during the stolen election of 2000.
[For anyone wanting to vote in an intelligent manner, none of the above are impediments. Voters were not intimidated in Florida, and the election was not stolen, because virtually no follow-up stories have emerged to sustain these charges. Journalists would love to rehash the debacle of that election, but the bottom line is that it was a partisan fight, extremely complicated with regards to interpreting numerous Florida State and Federal laws, and the Republican Party won. We can't even bring ourselves to have a constitutional convention to abolish the Electoral College, how would we bring about all of the other changes Parenti is asking for?]
The District of Columbia should be granted statehood by Congress. As of now its 607,000 citizens are denied full representation in Congress and genuine self-rule. They elect a mayor and city council but Congress and the president retain the power to overrule all the city's laws and budgets. Washington, D.C., remains one of the U.S. government's internal colonies.
[A minor change, or reincorporate the people living there into one of the adjoining states.]
Democratize the judiciary. Do away with oligarchic court power and lifetime judgeships, and wage a vigorous criticism of conservative judicial activism. According to one poll, 91 percent of the citizenry want the terms of all federal judges to be limited.
[The judiciary has been used by the Left over the last few decades to implement liberal policies like busing, outlawing testing of job applicants, declaring diversity as a an authentic state objective, etc. Why should we be criticizing conservatives, and not liberals? The courts have taken on a more activist role in politics, but limiting their tenure or making them more responsible would also make democracy more susceptible to majority rule over minority rights. The role of the courts was to keep democracy from running amuck - that goal has been somewhat met, but Parenti's proposals would only weaken that role of government.]
Democratize the media. The airwaves are the property of the U.S. people. As part of their public-service licensing requirements, television and radio stations should be required to give - free of charge - public air time to all political viewpoints, including dissident and radical ones. The media should be required to give equal time to all candidates, not just Democrats and Republicans. Free air time, say, an hour a week for each party in the month before election day, as was done in Nicaragua, helps level the playing field and greatly diminishes the need to raise large sums to buy air time. In campaign debates, the candidates should be questioned by representatives from labor, peace, consumer, environmental, feminist, civil rights, and gay rights groups, instead of just fatuous media pundits who are dedicated to limiting the universe of discourse so as not to give offense to their corporate employers.
[I agree that more open discourse is desired, so I would add to the list: nationalist, fascists (who are also egalitarian), racialists, eugenicists, militia groups, etc.]
Cut military spending and accelerate peacetime conversion. The military spending binge of the last two decades is the major cause of the enormous national debt, the decaying infrastructure, and crushing tax burden. Military spending has transformed the United States from the world's biggest lender into the world's biggest debtor nation. To save hundreds of billions of dollars each year, we should cut the bloated, wasteful, and destructive "defense" budget by two-thirds over a period of a few years. The Pentagon now maintains a massive nuclear arsenal and other strike forces designed to fight a total war against another superpower, the Soviet Union, that no longer exists. To save additional billions each year and cut down on the damage done to the environment, the United States should stop all nuclear tests, including underground ones, and wage a diplomatic offensive for a nuclear-free world.
[As a eugenicist/nationalist, I would also like to see the military reduced to strictly a defensive force.]
Washington also could save tens of billions of dollars if it stopped pursuing armed foreign interventions. "Power Projection" forces and most of the navy's carrier battle groups could be eliminated with no loss of national security, along with the U.S. Central Command (formerly the Rapid Deployment Force).
[Again, I would add that I would desire no foreign interventions of any kind, including military or humanitarian. Each country must rise or fall on its own.]
The depressive economic effects of ridding ourselves of a war economy could be mitigated by embarking upon a massive conversion to a peace economy, putting the monies saved from the military budget into human services and domestic needs. The shift away from war spending would improve our quality of life and lead to a healthier overall economy.
[I would much rather use the money saved to pay for voluntary sterilizations of the welfare class, or more specifically anyone with a low IQ. In this way, we will eventually have a more egalitarian society because there will not be as much disparity it innate intelligence.]
Abolish the CIA and the national security state. Congress should eliminate all national security agencies, since they do little to enhance our national security, their goal being to make the world safe for the Fortune 500. Prohibit covert actions against anticapitalist social movements. End U. S.-sponsored counterinsurgency wars against the poor of the world. Eliminate all foreign aid to regimes engaged in oppressing their own peoples. The billions of U.S. tax dollars that flow into the Swiss bank accounts of foreign autocrats and militarists could be better spent on human services at home. Lift the trade sanctions imposed on Cuba, Iraq, and other countries that have dared to deviate from the free-market orthodoxy.
[Concur, but expand the prohibitions to any involvement in foreign meddling.]
The Freedom of Information Act should be enforced instead of undermined by those national security flacks who say they have nothing to hide, then try to hide almost everything they do.
Economic reform. Reintroduce a steeper progressive income tax for rich individuals and corporations - without the many loopholes and deductions that still exist. Strengthen the inheritance tax instead of eliminating it, but with dispensations for small farmers and other small property-holders. Give tax relief to the working poor and other low-income employees. At present, corporations have more rights than do citizens. They should be rechartered to limit their powers and make them subordinate to popular sovereignty. As was the case in the nineteenth century, corporations should be reduced to smaller units with employee and community control panels to protect the public's interests. They should be prohibited from owning stock in other corporations, and granted charters only for limited times, such as twenty or thirty years, and for specific business purposes, charters that can be revoked by the government for cause. Company directors should be held criminally liable for corporate malfeasance and for violations of occupational safety, consumer, and environmental laws.
[Institute a 13% flat tax as was done in Russia, and make government live within its means.]
Reform labor law. Abolish anti-labor laws like Taft-Hartley. Provide government protections to workers who now risk their jobs when they try to organize. Prohibit management's use of permanent replacement scabs for striking workers. Penalize employers who refuse to negotiate a contract after certification has been won. Repeal the restrictive "right to work" and "open shop" laws that undermine collective bargaining. Lift the minimum wage to a livable level. In California, Minnesota, and several other states, there are "living wage movements" that seek to deny contracts and public subsidies to companies that do not pay their workers a living wage.' 1 Repeal the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT), which place national sovereignty in the hands of nonelective, secretive, international tribunals that can overrule the pro-labor, environmental, and consumer laws of any federal or state government, and further undermine living standards throughout the world.
[Better yet, make everyone more equal in ability so that the economy is so strong, technology so dynamic, that everyone is a virtual contractor able to demand high wages because they have real talent and worth.]
Reform Social Security. But do it in a progressive direction by cutting 2 percent from the current 12.4 percent Social Security flat tax rate, and offset that lost revenue by eliminating the cap on how much income can be taxed. At present, earnings of more than $76,200 are exempt from FICA withholding tax. This change would give an average working family a $700 tax relief and would reverse the trend that has been reducing taxes for the wealthy while raising FICA payroll taxes for the rest of us. Eliminate offshore tax shelters and foreign tax credits for transnational corporations, thereby bringing in over $100 billion in additional revenues. And put a cap on corporate tax write-offs for advertising, equipment, and CEO stock options and perks.
[Intelligent people can decide how to invest their money for their retirement. If they make poor decisions, they do not get to retire - it is up to them.]
Improve agriculture and ecology. Distribute to almost two million needy farmers the billions of federal dollars now handed out to rich agribusiness firms. Encourage organic farming and phase out the use of pesticides, chemical fertilizers, hormone-saturated meat products, and genetically modified crops. Stop the agribusiness merger mania that now controls almost all of the world's food supply. Agribusiness conglomerates like Cargill and Continental should be broken up or nationalized.
[Let agriculture join the free market system and keep government out of it.]
Engage in a concerted effort at conservation and ecological restoration, including water and waste recycling and large-scale composting of garbage. Phase out dams and nuclear plants, and initiate a crash program to develop thermal, tidal, and solar-energy sources, along with a massive cleanup of the land, air, and water, and programs to protect wildlife and restore damaged coastal areas. Decentralized production of solar energy should be subsidized by federal, state, and local governments. It would bring thousands of new jobs to communities that would no longer have to pay out hundreds of millions of dollars every year to transnational oil and gas cartels.
[Adopt a nationalist-eugenic state where the ecology is as cherished as the people - aesthetics will include appreciation for not only nature but the human species and its development to higher levels of civility. Intelligent people are better able to control simplistic materialism, and can take more joy in intellectual pursuits that do not destroy the environment.]
Develop rapid mass transit systems within and between cities for safe, economical transportation, and develop zero-emission vehicles to minimize the disastrous ecological effects of fossil fuels. Ford had electric cars as early as the 1920s. If research and development had continued, by now we would have affordable and proficient electric vehicles. As it is, Stanford Ovshinsky, president of Energy Conversion Devices, claims that a newly developed electric car now has a long driving range on a battery that lasts a lifetime, uses environmentally safe materials, is easily manufactured, with operational costs that are far less than a gas-driven car - all reasons why the oil and auto industries are not supportive of electric cars.
Improve health care and safety. Institute a "Universal Medicare" that would allow all Americans to receive coverage similar to the Medicare now enjoyed by seniors, but a coverage that includes alternative medicines such as herbal treatments, acupuncture, homeopathy, and chiropractic. People of working age would contribute a sliding scale portion of the premium through payroll deductions or estimated tax payments for the self-employed, and employers would match those payments dollar for dollar. Or funding might come from the general budget as in the single-payer plan used in Canada and elsewhere, providing comprehensive service to all. There is no reason to spend tens of billions more on health-care insurance (as proposed by President Clinton) when we already expend vastly more per capita than any other nation. Under single-payer health care, the billions of dollars that go as profits to health maintenance organization (HMO) executives and stockholders would be used for medical treatment.
[Let each person decide how much they want to invest in medical care and/or insurance, including deciding how long they want to live with debilitating disease or end of life medical costs. Most medical costs are attributed to caring for those who will die in a short time, those at the end of their natural life. Intelligent people, I believe, have the ability to cope better with the knowledge that there is no shame or fear in exercising their right to a living will, and not wanting to burden society with immense costs is sustaining a life not worth living. Then we can use our medical technology to improve the quality of our lives, including living longer but in good health to enjoy it.]
Thousands of additional federal inspectors are needed for the various agencies responsible for the enforcement of occupational safety and consumer protection laws. "Where are we going to get the money to pay for all this?" one hears. The question is never asked in regard to the gargantuan defense budget or enormous corporate subsidies. As already noted, we can get the additional funds from a more progressive tax system and from major cuts in big business subsidies and military spending.
[An intelligent work force is better able to understand occupational dangers, including researching dangers on their own and demanding safe work environments. Research has shown that intelligent people are less prone to accidents.]
Revise fiscal policy. The national debt is a transfer payment from taxpayers to bondholders, from labor to capital, from have-nots and have-littles to have-it-alls. Government could end deficit spending by taxing the financial class from whom it now borrows. It must stop bribing the rich with investment subsidies and other guarantees, and redirect capital investments toward not-for-profit public goals. The U.S. Treasury should create and control its own money supply instead of allowing the Federal Reserve and its private bankers to pocket billions every year while creating a privatized money supply.
[Require the government to operate within their allotted budget.]
Eliminate gender, racial, and political injustice. End racial and gender discriminatory practices in all institutional settings, including the law and the courts themselves. Vigorously enforce the law to protect abortion clinics from vigilante violence, women from male abuse, children from adult abuse, homosexuals and minorities from police brutality and hate crimes. Release the hundreds of dissenters who are serving long prison terms on trumped-up charges and whose major offense is their anti-capitalism. And release the thousands who are enduring astronomical incarceration sentences for relatively minor drug offenses.
[Enforce the 14th amendment, and eliminate reverse discrimination against Whites.]
Improve employment conditions. Americans are working harder and longer for less, often without any job security. In 1960, a man who graduated from college with a C average could earn enough to buy a three-bedroom house and support a wife and three children. Today in many parts of the country it takes two childless adults working full time to afford rent on a one-bedroom apartment. We should initiate a thirty-six-hour work week with no cut in pay. Many important vital services are needed, and many people need work. A Works Progress Administration (WPA), more encompassing than the one created during the New Deal, could employ people to reclaim the environment, build affordable housing and mass transit systems, rebuild a crumbling infrastructure, and provide services for the aged and infirm and for the public in general.
[Keep the government out of regulating how hard people want to work to accrue the money they desire. Most people have wide latitudes with regards to how much they want to work, and the American work ethic would probably mean that people with more time would just find a second job rather than help unemployment. But for starters, stopping all immigration, returning all illegal immigrants to their homelands, would greatly reduce unemployment and firm up wages for the lowest earning segments of society.]
People could be put to work producing goods and services in competition with the private market. The New Deal's WPA engaged in the production of goods, manufacturing clothes and mattresses for relief clients, surgical gowns for hospitals, and canned foods for the jobless poor. This kind of not-for-profit public production to meet human needs brings in revenues to the government both in the sales of the goods and in taxes on the incomes of the new jobs created. Eliminated from the picture is private profit for those who live off the labor of others - which explains their fierce hostility toward government attempts at direct production.
[All public services should compete with the private sector, so have the public sector bid against the private sector and see which one can produce the goods and services for the least amount of money.]
The Reality of Public Production
None of the measures listed above will prevail unless the structural problems of capitalism are themselves resolved. What is needed then is public ownership of the major means of production and public ownership of the moneyed power itself - in a word, socialism.
[In a word, the return of the totalitarian state. No thanks.]
But can socialism work? Is it not just a dream in theory and a nightmare in practice? Can the government produce anything of worth? As mentioned in an earlier chapter, various private industries (defense, railroads, satellite communication, aeronautics, the Internet, and nuclear power, to name some) exist today only because the government funded the research and development and provided most of the risk capital. Market forces are not a necessary basis for scientific and technological development. The great achievements of numerous U.S. university and government laboratories during and after World War II were conducted under conditions of central federal planning and not-for-profit public funding. We already have some socialized services and they work quite well when sufficiently funded. Our roads and some utilities are publicly owned, as are our bridges, ports, and airports. In some states so are liquor stores, which yearly generate hundreds of millions of dollars in state revenues.
[I agree that transportation systems must be controlled by the state because they are needed to move about between private properties. However, the free market is quite capable of scientific advancement. If however, an area of research and development is too long-term or too expensive for the private sector, that is a legitimate role for government, at least during the initial phases until it can be turned over to the private sector.]
There are credit unions and a few privately owned banks, like the Community Bank of the Bay (Northern California), whose primary purpose is to make loans to low- and middle-income communities. We need public banks that can be capitalized with state funds and with labor union pensions that are now in private banks. The Bank of North Dakota is the only bank wholly owned by a state. In earlier times it helped farmers who were being taken advantage of by grain monopolies and private banks. Today, the Bank of North Dakota is one of the leading lenders of student loans in the nation and an important source of credit for farmers, small businesses, and local governments. Other states have considered creating state banks, but private banking interests have blocked enactment.
[The existing banking sector meets the needs of our economy, so leave the government out of it.]
Often unnoticed is the "third sector" of the economy, consisting of more than 30,000 worker-run producer cooperatives and thousands of consumer cooperatives, 13,000 credit unions, nearly 100 cooperative banks, and more than 100 cooperative insurance companies, plus about 5,000 housing coops, 1,200 rural utility co-ops, and 115 telecommunication and cable co-ops. Employees own a majority of the stock in at least 1,000 companies. Labor unions have used pension funds to build low-cost housing and to start unionized, employee-owned contracting firms.
[Cooperatives are just mini-capitalists joining together for a collective goal. I would like to see more employee owned companies, but this is not a departure from free market principles but an expansion on available types.]
There are also the examples of "lemon socialism," in which governments in capitalist countries have taken over ailing private industries and nursed them back to health, testimony to the comparative capacities of private and public capital. In France immediately after World War II, the government nationalized banks, railways, and natural resources in a successful attempt to speed up reconstruction. The French telephone, gas, and electric companies were also public monopolies. Public ownership in France brought such marvels as the high-speed TGV train, superior to trains provided by U.S. capitalism, and the Minitel telephone computer, a communication-information service far in advance of anything offered by AT&T or other private U.S. companies. The publicly owned railroads in France and Italy work much better than the privately owned ones in the United States (which work as well as they do because of public subsidies).
[But the freedom that Americans have in driving their own cars is far superior to the French trains. The question is, was the French initiatives economically sound? The Concord supersonic plane development consortium ended in failure.]
The state and municipal universities in the United States are public and therefore "socialist" (shocking news to some of the students who attend them), and some of them are among the very best institutions of higher learning in the country. Publicly owned utilities in this country are better managed than investor-owned ones; and since they do not have to produce huge salaries for their CEOs and big profits for stockholders, their rates are lower and they put millions in profits back into the public budget. Then there is the British National Health Service, which costs 50 percent less than our private system yet guarantees more basic care for the medically needy. Even though a Tory government during the 1980s imposed budget stringencies on British health care "in order to squeeze economies from the system at the expense of quality," a majority of Britons still want to keep their socialized health service.
[How much better could schools be if they were private, how much more efficient, and for that matter progressive? Universities are now going high tech and online, with new challenges from entrepreneurs. The very intelligent students should be able to have minimal guidance, and essentially use self-teaching rather spend hours in boring lectures, when the information is available in so many other forms. As for comparing the efficiency of any publicly owned utility or service, the two compete. That is, privatization of public jobs is more efficient in many cases, but the best approach is to let the public sector bid against the private sector to see which one will be more efficient, not assume that when the government controls the market it will be efficient.]
Free marketeers in various countries do what they can to undermine public services by depriving them of funds and imposing various restrictions. As the quality of the service deteriorates, they then claim that it "doesn't work" and they impose further cutbacks and eventually privatization. Privatization usually is a bonanza for rich stockholders but a misfortune for workers and consumers. The 1987 privatization of postal services in New Zealand brought a tidy profit for investors, wage and benefit cuts for postal workers, and a closing of more than a third of the country's post offices. Likewise, the privatization of the telephone and gas industries in Great Britain resulted in dramatically higher management salaries, soaring rates, and inferior service.
[This is clearly a gross distortion, a lie, to put all failures on the evil capitalists. The free market system operates under numerous bureaucratic constraints from government, but I am not aware of how or why corporations would undermine existing public services. After all, businesses use public services as well as the public, would they collectively conspire to destroy a service just so that a competitor could take it over? That is hardly how companies operate. They are primarily competing against each other.]
A growing public sector is potentially a great danger to the free marketeers. Rightist governments rush to privatize because public ownership does work. Were the not-for-profit public sector to provide an ever expanding array of goods and services, what would be left for the private investor who profits from other people's labor?
[That's right, a right wing government will rush to privatize, dragging down the economy, and then losing the next election. The reason that rightists governments privatize is because they are more interested in efficiency and growth, than is the ideological hatred that underpins socialism's desire to supplant one power elite with their own. I can sympathize with the absurdity of higher and higher CEO salaries, even when they do not produce profits, or the use of golden parachutes, placing each other on one another's boards, etc. However, these problems are just inefficient factors in the free market system, loopholes if you will in the idealistic meritocracy. They can be solved through reform legislation, promoting employee ownership of corporations, taxing stock transactions to slow down speculation, etc. Virtually every objection to capitalism that Parenti puts forth can be solved through existing legislation and national sovereignty without socialism. Capitalism, free markets, and an individualistic and meritocratic economic system is quite capable of progressing, through the popular will of new legislation, and eliminate the obvious problems. This all hinges of course on the ability of any voting public to understand the complex issues, to understand human behavior and our vulnerability with regards to group conflict, jingoism, propaganda, and partisanship, so that we can overcome the shortcomings of representative democracy. Capitalisms few failures then, along with its many successes, can be solved if we are smart enough, and that is where eugenics comes in. Capitalism can provide the resources to undertake a eugenics program that will breed a nation of people who are capable of controlling the elite, not following them blindly.]
Most socialists are not against personal-use property, such as a home, a plot of land, and private possessions, nor even small businesses if they are not used to exploit others. Nor are most against modest income differentials or special rewards to persons who make special contributions to society. Nor are they against having an industry produce a profit, as long as it is used for the needs of society. The benefits as well as the costs of the economy should be socialized.
[Capitalism is socialized, in that it meets the needs of society. Moreover, it does it much better than socialism does.]
There is no guarantee that a socialized economy will always succeed. The state-owned economies of Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union suffered ultimately fatal distortions in their development because of (a) the backlog of poverty and want in the societies they inherited; (b) years of capitalist encirclement, embargo, invasion, devastating wars, and costly arms buildup; (c) excessive bureaucratization and poor incentive systems; (d) lack of administrative initiative and technological innovation; and (e) a repressive political rule that allowed little critical expression and feedback. At the same time, it should be acknowledged that the former communist states transformed impoverished countries into relatively advanced societies. Whatever else may be said about them, they achieved what capitalism cannot and has no intention of accomplishing: adequate food, housing, and clothing for all; economic security in old age; free medical care; free education at all levels; and a guaranteed income in countries that were never as rich as ours.
[This is of course an extremely grotesque lie, one that could only be swallowed by someone not familiar with the atrocities of communism in every country where it occurred. People went wanting, no one except the elite had a decent standard of living, people were systematically slaughtered or sent to slave labor camps, and freedom was nonexistent. One could say that under slavery, people were also well cared for - in fact this argument was used to justify slavery. The slaves were better off than if they were free in Africa and they would not go to heaven because they are Christians to boot. Not a very sanguine way of comparing political systems.]
As the peoples in these former communist countries are now discovering, the "free market" means freedom mostly for those who have money and a drastic decline in living standards for most everyone else. With the advent of "free-market reforms," inflation diminished workers' real wages and dissolved their savings. Health and education systems deteriorated. Unemployment, poverty, beggary, homelessness, crime, violence, suicide, mental depression, and prostitution skyrocketed. By 70- and 80-percent majorities, the people in these newly-arrived free-market countries testify that life was better under the Communists. The breakup of farm collectives and cooperatives and the reversion to private farming has caused a 40-percent decline in agricultural productivity in countries like Hungary and East Germany - where collective farming actually had performed as well and often better than the heavily subsidized private farming in the West.
[If you believe the above, then you are obviously blinded by hatred for anything Western, and I doubt very much you made it this far in reading my responses.]
Whether socialism can be brought about within the framework of the existing modern capitalist state or by a revolutionary overthrow of that state is a question unresolved by history. So far there have been no examples of either road to socialism in modern industrial society. The question of what kind of public ownership we should struggle for deserves more extensive treatment than can be given here. American socialism cannot be modeled on the former Soviet Union, China, Cuba, or other countries with different historical, economic, and cultural developments. But these countries ought to be examined so that we might learn from their accomplishments, problems, failures, and crimes. Our goal should be an egalitarian, communitarian, environmentally conscious socialism, with a variety of participatory and productive forms, offering both security and democracy.
[A better goal is a nationalist one of freedom, egalitarianism, communitarianism based on kith and kin, along with an even stronger environmental commitment to not only preserving the environment, but eliminating the human blight of poverty, ignorance, and despair that always occurs under socialism. As a failed economic system, the physical environment deteriorates into ugliness, and the environment is sacrificed for productivity.]
What is needed to bring about fundamental change is widespread organizing not only around particular issues but for a movement that can project both the desirability of an alternative system and the possibility and indeed the great necessity for democratic change. There is much evidence - some of it presented in this book - indicating that Americans are well ahead of political leaders in their willingness to embrace new alternatives, including public ownership of the major corporations and worker control of production. With time and struggle, as the possibility for progressive change becomes more evident and the longing for a better life grows stronger, we might hope that people will become increasingly intolerant of the monumental injustices of the existing free-market system and will move toward a profoundly democratic solution. Perhaps then the day will come, as it came in social orders of the past, when those who seem invincible will be shaken from their pinnacles.
[The evidence indicates that with expanding wealth, fewer and fewer people even bother to vote, satisfied that things are moving along very well. There is a lot of griping of course, that is our human nature. But there is little interest in going out of one's way to change anything, because most people are quite content with their lives, at least not enough to bring about change by getting involved. That tells me that capitalism is either a very successful system that people want to keep, as long as it has some egalitarian components, or people are just too ignorant to know how really miserable they are but they just can't see it.]
There is nothing sacred about the existing system. All economic and political institutions are contrivances that should serve the interests of the people. When they fail to do so, they should be replaced by something more responsive, more just, and more democratic. Marx said this, and so did Jefferson. It is a revolutionary doctrine, and very much an American one.
[Dittos - now on with a nationalist/eugenic's political system that will be prosperous instead of reactionary and oppressive.]
Conclusion on Parenti's viewpoint and
It is easy to put any country, especially a large one like the United States, which due to its power and economic strength gets involved in other's countries affairs - the United States is a global meddler. That would probably be true of any nation our size, unless it was specifically forbidden by non-interventionist doctrine. Isolationism or non-intervention however is not a doctrine of the Left or the Right, but is almost more a proclivity when the nation's elite has the power to meddle, it will. So much of Parenti's criticisms are just a standard shopping list of grievances, one that could be assemble against any government or people. It does not address the issue, is the United States, in comparison to other countries, some how different? He never attempts a comparative type analysis; it is just an ad hominem attack against a system he hates.
He also fails to differentiate what he means by a capitalist. If we dispense with the word capitalist, and instead separate people who work for a living versus those who do not, then we have the rich at the top who live off of their accumulated wealth, and those at the bottom on welfare who live off other people's wealth. Socialism condemns the rich who have accumulated wealth and do not work, while excusing those on welfare who do not work. Is that really fair, since at least the non-working rich pay taxes therefore they are paying their own way?
If however Parenti is concerned with the increasing gap between all wage earners, that is entirely a different, and is a matter of how much a nation is relying on a meritocracy versus a controlled economy. It is a matter of unionism, markets, minimum wages, and the individual abilities of people to compete in the workforce. These are concerns that are dealt with in democratic nations whether they are socialist, capitalist, or somewhere in between.
If Parenti's main concern is that our democratic system has been high-jacked by the elite, what elite is he looking at? Capitalists are just one elite group of many, and the last time I looked I didn't see an organization that was dedicated to lobbying for all capitalists in Washington. The American public is overwhelmingly against open immigration and affirmative action, are these programs pushed by the capitalists? Hardly, they are programs pushed by the Left. How about minimum wages? Again, they have been raised over the years - no capitalist plot here that we can find. Bush's latest tax policies seem to help the rich more than the poor, but liberals I am sure will reverse this in the near future as the pendulum swings towards soaking the rich.
Parenti therefore does not have a coherent critique of American politics, just a litany of faults - some valid, some not, some quite irrelevant to his main argument. He states that under a socialistic form of government, where the government owns and operates all industry "for the people," the faults he finds in the American political system would vanish. The problem is, he cannot point to a single nation where the state has controlled industry where it has not resulted in a massive economic failure. Some services, some times, under some current situations, are better provided by the government than by private companies. However, any failure in the democratic system is outside of arguments between private and public run companies - it is about who and how a people shall select and control those who make policy. Most democracies in the West seem to work quite well, with all of them having their share of problems. Socialism however is no solution to extant democratic systems. I contend, we need smarter people, who can understand how indoctrination works, and reject these simplistic arguments from - yes - the academic Marxist elite.
Finally, Parenti never mentions Jewish influence in America, and this is an omission that is odd given his penchant for believing in conspiracies. That aside, if there is an elite capitalist group in the United States, it is dominated first by Jews, then East Asians, and then only Caucasians.
A recent article in the summer 2003 issue of The Occidental Quarterly, by the human evolutionist researcher Kevin MacDonald entitled "UNDERSTANDING JEWISH INFLUENCE I: BACKGROUND TRAITS FOR JEWISH ACTIVISM" he states (see http://www.theoccidentalquarterly.com):
"Recent data indicate that Jewish per capita income in the U.S. is almost double that of non-Jews, a bigger difference than the black-white income gap. Although Jews make up less than 3% of the population, they constitute more than a quarter of the people on the Forbes list of the richest four hundred Americans. Jews constitute 45% of the top forty of the Forbes 400 richest Americans. Fully one-third of all American multimillionaires are Jewish. The percentage of Jewish households with income greater than $50,000 is double that of non-Jews; on the other hand, the percentage of Jewish households with income less than $20,000 is half that of non-Jews. Twenty percent of professors at leading universities are Jewish, and 40% of partners in leading New York and Washington D.C. law firms are Jewish.
"In 1996, there were approximately three hundred national Jewish organizations in the United States, with a combined budget estimated in the range of $6 billion - a sum greater than the gross national product of half the members of the United Nations. For example, in 2001 the ADL claimed an annual budget of over $50,000,000. There is also a critical mass of very wealthy Jews who are actively involved in funding Jewish causes. Irving Moskowitz funds the settler movement in Israel and pro-Israeli, neoconservative think tanks in Washington DC, while Charles Bronfman, Ronald Lauder, and the notorious Marc Rich fund Birthright Israel, a program that aims to increase ethnic consciousness among Jews by bringing 20,000 young Jews to Israel every year. George Soros finances liberal immigration policy throughout the Western world and also funds Noel Ignatiev and his "Race Traitor" website dedicated to the abolition of the white race. So far as I know, there are no major sources of funding aimed at increasing ethnic consciousness among Europeans or at promoting European ethnic interests. Certainly the major sources of conservative funding in the U.S., such as the Bradley and Olin Foundations, are not aimed at this sort of thing. Indeed, the Bradley Foundation has been a major source of funding for the largely Jewish neoconservative movement and for pro-Israel think tanks such as the Center for Security Policy….
"These characteristics have at times been noted by Jews themselves. In a survey commissioned by the American Jewish Committee's study of the Jews of Baltimore in 1962, 'two-thirds of the respondents admitted to believing that other Jews are pushy, hostile, vulgar, materialistic, and the cause of anti-Semitism. And those were only the ones who were willing to admit it….'
"A common tactic has been to charge that critics of Israel are anti-Semites. Indeed, George Ball, a perceptive critic of Israel and its U.S. constituency, maintains that the charge of anti-Semitism and guilt over the Holocaust is the Israeli lobby's most effective weapon - outstripping its financial clout. The utility of these psychological weapons in turn derives from the very large Jewish influence on the U.S. media. Historian Peter Novick notes regarding the importance of the Holocaust in contemporary American life: 'We [i.e., Jews] are not just the people of the book, but the people of the Hollywood film and the television miniseries, of the magazine article and the newspaper column, of the comic book and the academic symposium. When a high level of concern with the Holocaust became widespread in American Jewry, it was, given the important role that Jews play in American media and opinion-making elites, not only natural, but virtually inevitable that it would spread throughout the culture at large.'"
(Kevin MacDonald will be publishing two more articles on Jewish influence in The Occidental Quarterly under "Zionism" and the "neoconservatives.")