December 25, 2014
Crisis:  Reich  +  Carlin
  "They who can give up essential 
   liberty to obtain a little temporary
   safety, deserve neither liberty
   nor safety."
   -- Benjamin Franklin [1]
   "All governments lie and nothing
   they say should be believed.
   -- I.F. Stone
   "Power tends to corrupt, and   
   absolute power corrupts
   absolutely. Great men are        
   almost always bad men."
   -- Lord Acton

Prev- crisis -Next


1. The Government Problem (Reich)
2. George Carlin


This is a Nederlog of December 25, 2014. It is a crisis log with an item about Robert Reich, and with some bits of George Carlin thrown in because of Christmas.

I am sorry this is a smaller Nederlog than I originally planned, but I slept very badly last night, and am today quite tired. Hopefully I will be fitter tomorrow.
1. The Government Problem (Reich)

The first item today is a crisis item by Robert Reich on his site:

This starts as follows:
Some believe the central political issue of our era is the size of the government. They’re wrong. The central issue is whom the government is for.
As I will outline below, this might just as well - or better - have been called "The People's Problem" or "Democracy's Problem", though Reich is right that there are quite a few issues about the government, such as: How much it should tax the different income groups; how much it should spend on various governmental ends; what it should and should not do; what laws it should enact, etc.

In fact, both questions - about the size of the government and whom the government is for - are mostly false simplifications that appeal only to superficial people: The size indeed depends on who it is for, and who it is for is clearly in some general and vague sense "the people who inhabit the country", but without any specifications of plans, proposals and taxes that answer also is far too vague.

Then again, Reich is right in empasizing that the present and previous American governments do not take ordinary people serious (except to mislead them in elections in key states) and in fact mostly work for the extra-ordinary people who are quite rich or who work for the government in high positions

And Reich gives quite a few examples of recent governmental actions that strongly favor the rich.

Thus, he mentions the partial repeal of Dodd-Frank, that again allows the banks to speculate with the people's money; health insurance business, food companies, defense contractors, agri-business, travel industry, and oil and gas industries, that all get special governmental support, subsidies or tax loopholes;
Big Pharma, that was especially helped by a prohibition on the government's using its bargaining powers to lower drug prices; and the great sums spend on corporate welfare are good examples of how the government helps the rich, and then he asks:
Why are politicians doing so much for corporate executives and Wall Street insiders? Follow the money. It’s because they’re flooding Washington with money as never before, financing an increasing portion of politicians’ campaigns.
Yes indeed: "Follow the money" - but then government should not serve the rich few merely because they have the money to buy politicians, but indeed it does.

Reich sums up as follows (and I am deleting some):

As wealth continues to concentrate at the top, individuals and entities with lots of money have greater political power to get favors from government – like the rollback of the Dodd-Frank law and the accumulation of additional corporate welfare. These favors, in turn, further entrench and expand the wealth at the top.

The size of government isn’t the problem. That’s a canard used to hide the far larger problem.

The larger problem is that much of government is no longer working for the vast majority it’s intended to serve. It’s working instead for a small minority at the top.

And that indeed is the problem - except that it is much less a problem of government, as it is a problem of democracy or of the people:

If the majority of the democratic electorate can be deceived into supporting a majority of politicians who support the rich much rather than ordinary people, which seems to be the case, democracy has turned into an empty formalism, that masks the underlying plutocratic oligarchy.

2. George Carlin

The second item is in fact a slightly edited repeat of last year, basically because I am today very tired, not having slept enough, and because George Carlin, at least since the early 1990ies, was a real philosopher, who addressed many philosophical problems with style and wit.

I only discovered George Carlin two years after he died, in 2010, but have been a fan ever since, and have seen most of the Carlin material on Youtube, and several times linked to selections from it.

I must have mentioned him in Nederlog before May 2, 2012, but that is the first time he is in the Nederlog-indexes, and I then did include my assessment of him:

George Carlin, although he never got any university degree, was a real philosopher who discussed real philosophical problems in ways that are accessible, amusing and instructive to real people who are not blessed by academic tenure for knowing how to perform some academic tricks passably well and without giving offense to the authorities or the public at large, and who call themselves "philosophers" because they teach it, and maybe also write about it in journals that are only read by their own kind.

Then again, in order to reach the public Carlin had to adopt the stance of a comedian - as few will pay to hear a talk about philosophy - a subject which he excelled in thanks to a combination of courage, individualism, intelligence and verbal wit.

He seems to me to be one of the very few Americans of his and my generation who dared to speak the truth about many accepted idiocies and injustices in an intelligent and intelligible way, and who also managed to get away with it, and indeed to make money by it, because he was genuinely witty, which is another talent academic philosophers rarely have, even if they believe they do (see Magee's interviews, if you were inclined to think otherwise: compare the verbal agility of these supposedly major 20th Century philosophers with the verbal agility, ready wit and logical clarity that Carlin displayed, also in direct discussion, as can be seen on YouTube).

All of that still holds, and indeed I also really think Carlin did far more good than any American philosopher of the 20th Century did, because he made a lot of sense, that very few people really do, and reached a far wider audience than any philosopher ever did.

This is especially so from 1992 onwards, as he himself indicates in the following item:
In fact, this is an interview from 2007, about a year before his death, and it is a good video with good questions, and I hadn't seen this before, although I have seen and linked other interviews with him.

Finally here is a quotation with links, that still work today, from May 2, 2012:
    1. George Carlin - Top 20 Moments (Part 1 of 4)
    2. George Carlin - Top 20 Moments (Part 2 of 4)
    3. George Carlin - Top 20 Moments (Part 3 of 4)
    4. George Carlin - Top 20 Moments (Part 4 of 4)

(And while you enjoy, realize this was no ordinary fool: He was one of the very few who dared to speak the truth about average mankind to average mankind, and who survived that and made money from it by sheer wit.)


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