who can give up essential
liberty to obtain a little temporary
safety, deserve neither liberty
-- Benjamin Franklin
"All governments lie and
say should be believed."
"Power tends to corrupt, and
absolute power corrupts
absolutely. Great men
almost always bad men."
Wolin and Inverted Totalitarianism
2. Chinese newspaper editor sacked for
'war on terror'
3. The Guardian view on the Turkish elections: a victory
with a price
4. Apocalypse now: has the next giant financial crash
5. The Rigging of the
This is a Nederlog
of Monday, November 2, 2015.
This is a crisis
blog. There are 5 items with 6 dotted links: Item 1
is an excellent article by Chris Hedges plus a good one by
another writer about Sheldon Wolin,
who died at October 21, aged 93; item 2 is about an
apparent increase in authori- tarian attitudes in China; item
3 is about The Guardian's Editorial on Turkey, that
also has grown more authoritarian; item 4 is about
an article by Paul Mason on the global economy, that may be summarized
as: there may not be a crash right
now, but the economical situation is far from rosy; and item
5 is about an article
by Robert Reich that outlines how the many non-rich are plundered in
the USA (which led me to promiss Europeans that soon after the TTIP
gets signed, Europe will "enjoy" many of the features now limited to
the USA, that We Europeans all get for free from Obama, just
like the many Syrians refugees).
1. Sheldon Wolin and Inverted
The first item today is by
Chris Hedges on Truthdig and is about Sheldon Wolin
(<- Wikipedia) who died on October 21, aged 93, as is the second
item below, that is written by Richard Kreitner, and is on Common
I have added the second
article for those who want another view than that of Chris
Hedges, but will not review it here.
Chris Hedges starts as follows - and before quoting him, I'd like to
say that this is an excellent article that I strongly
recommend you to read all of:
Sheldon Wolin, our
most important contemporary political theorist, died Oct. 21 at the age
of 93. In his books “Democracy
Incorporated: Managed Democracy and the Specter of Inverted
Totalitarianism” and “Politics
and Vision,” a massive survey of Western political thought that his
former student Cornel West calls “magisterial,” Wolin lays bare the
realities of our bankrupt democracy, the causes behind the decline of
American empire and the rise of a new and terrifying configuration of
corporate power he calls “inverted totalitarianism.”
I say. I did not
know this. I think it is a pity, but indeed one who reaches 93 got
older than most, and I also do not know whether his health was still
good or bearable, though the interview he did in 2014 with Chris Hedges
- reviewed by me starting here
and ending here (with
links) - shows him to be still intellectually quite competent at 92.
Next, here are a number of quotations from Wolin and Hedges, that are
all quite good. (Again, I strongly recommend you read all of
this article: There is more that is good there than I quote here.)
his scholarship charted the devolution of American democracy and in his
last book, “Democracy Incorporated,” details
our peculiar form of corporate totalitarianism. “One cannot point
to any national institution[s] that can accurately be described as
democratic,” he writes in that book, “surely not in the highly managed,
money-saturated elections, the lobby-infested Congress, the imperial
presidency, the class-biased judicial and penal system, or, least of
all, the media.”
Yes, though I think I should
add that Wolin's understanding of "democracy" was considerably more
comprehensive than the minimalist understanding that now is common,
that insists that there is "democracy" if
most adults can vote and if the elections are mostly fair.
That second definition totally "forgets" about manipulating voters,
about adverti- sements, about big money whose dollars are now counted
as if they are votes, about the often lying and normally corrupt media,
or about the many Americans
who vote but do so from prejudice and not
from any realistic understanding of the issues, the
possibilities, and the choices.
So I agree considerably more with Wolin. Next, on inverted
totalitarianism is different from classical forms of totalitarianism.
It does not find its expression in a demagogue or charismatic leader
but in the faceless anonymity of the corporate state. Our inverted
totalitarianism pays outward fealty to the facade of electoral
politics, the Constitution, civil liberties, freedom of the press, the
independence of the judiciary, and the iconography, traditions and
language of American patriotism, but it has effectively seized all of
the mechanisms of power to render the citizen impotent.
This doesn't quite
clarify it to me, so I'd say - and I may be mistaken, both as regards
Wolin's intentions, and as regards the facts of the matter
- that inverrted totalitarianism gets expressed, in part at least, by:
totalitarianism, Wolin said when we met at his home in Salem, Ore., in
2014 to film a nearly
three-hour interview, constantly “projects power upwards.” It is
“the antithesis of constitutional power.” It is designed to create
instability to keep a citizenry off balance and passive.
(i) the fact that small groups of politicians and governmental
bureaucrats make decisions affecting the lives of many millions,
whose opinions are systematically not considered; by (ii) populations
that, it seems quit conscious- ly, have been educated to a far
lower level than they might have been, and would have been
at an earlier date; and by (iii) media that lie, deceive,
merely amuse or are silent about many important and relevant
matters they ought to honestly inform their readers or viewers of.
These are my guesses about inverted totalitarianism - but these
three points also are true (to the best of my knowledge, at
There is also this on inverted totalitarianism:
Especially the third paragraph
is quite true and quite clear (in my opinion).
also “perpetuates politics all the time,” Wolin said when we spoke,
“but a politics that is not political.” The endless and extravagant
election cycles, he said, are an example of politics without politics.
“Instead of participating
in power,” he writes, “the virtual citizen is invited to have
‘opinions’: measurable responses to questions predesigned to elicit
Political campaigns rarely
discuss substantive issues. They center on manufactured political
personalities, empty rhetoric, sophisticated public relations, slick
advertising, propaganda and the constant use of focus groups and
opinion polls to loop back to voters what they want to hear. Money has
effectively replaced the vote.
Next, there is this on the distinction between inverted and ordinary totalitarianism:
totalitarian regimes, such as those of Nazi fascism or Soviet
communism, economics was subordinate to politics. But “under inverted
totalitarianism the reverse is true,” Wolin writes. “Economics
dominates politics—and with that domination comes different forms of
That - speaking broadly, to be
sure - "economics dominates politics" may be illustrated by the
importance given (by neoliberals aka neoconservatives) to concepts like
profit, greed, and egoism (all
embraced as positive: profit dominates everything, and ought
to; greed is good and desirable; egoism is good and natural) and also
is illustrated by the importance of former and future
bankmanagers that meanwhile are in government, to get things even more
done as the banks like to seem them done.
Then there is this on the
corporate state (the state mostly run by and in the interests of
corporations, as is the present American state):
The corporate state,
Wolin told me, is “legitimated by elections it controls.” To extinguish
democracy, it rewrites and distorts laws and legislation that once
protected democracy. Basic rights are, in essence, revoked by judicial
and legislative fiat. Courts and legislative bodies, in the service of
corporate power, reinterpret laws to strip them of their original
meaning in order to strengthen corporate control and abolish corporate
He writes: “Why negate a
constitution, as the Nazis did, if it is possible simultaneously to
exploit porosity and legitimate power by means of judicial
interpretations that declare huge
campaign contributions to be protected speech under the First
Amendment, or that treat heavily financed and organized lobbying by
large corporations as a simple application of the people’s right to
petition their government?”
I agree with the first
paragraph, but am a bit doubtful about the second one, though indeed
this might be given as an example of inverted totalitarianism.
There is this on "the elites", which means here especially those with a
finished university education:
And the elites,
especially the intellectual class, have been bought off. “Through a
combination of governmental contracts, corporate and foundation funds,
joint projects involving university and corporate researchers, and
wealthy individual donors, universities (especially so-called research
universities), intellectuals, scholars, and researchers have been
seamlessly integrated into the system,” Wolin writes. “No books burned,
no refugee Einsteins.”
I think that is mostly
correct: What used to be called "the intellectuals" almost all have caved
in and support the status quo, because they have been
higher pay. (It is as simple as that: people and opinions can
be bought, and have been bought.)
There is this on the war on
“The war on terrorism,
with its accompanying emphasis upon ‘homeland security,’ presumes that
state power, now inflated by doctrines
of preemptive war and released from treaty obligations and the
potential constraints of international judicial bodies, can turn
inwards,” he writes, “confident that in its domestic pursuit of
terrorists the powers it claimed, like the powers projected abroad,
would be measured, not by ordinary constitutional standards, but by the
shadowy and ubiquitous character of terrorism as officially defined.”
I think this was a
bit better expressed by Goering:
Then there is this:
In his writings, Wolin
expresses consternation for a population severed from print and the
nuanced world of ideas. He sees cinema, like television, as
“tyrannical” because of its ability to “block out, eliminate whatever
might introduce qualification, ambiguity, or dialogue.”
I tend to agree. I
also tend to call this stupidity
rather than "tyrannical", but in either case Wolin objects to the same
things I do (and I don't have a television
since 1970): That pictures tend to “block out, eliminate whatever might introduce
qualification, ambiguity, or dialogue.”
There is a lot more
in Chris Hedges' article, and I repeat that I think you should read all
newspaper editor sacked for criticising Beijing's 'war on terror'
next item is by Tom Phillips on The Guardian:
This starts as follows:
That is - to interpret this:
The Chinese Communist Party is still firmly in power in China, or at
least wants to be seen as being firmly in power. Mr Zhao Xinwei must
A Chinese newspaper
editor has been sacked for criticising Beijing’s controversial war on
terror following the introduction of draconian new rules that outlaw
any criticism of Communist party policy.
Zhao Xinwei, the editor
of the state-run Xinjiang Daily newspaper, was removed from his job and
expelled from the party after an investigation found him guilty of
“improperly” discussing, and publicly opposing, government policy in
China’s violence-stricken west.
have been courageous, as can also be seen from the following:
I can't take China's
government as neutral and honest, but the second paragraph
The former editor’s
“words and deeds” had gone against government attempts to rein in
religious extremism and terrorism, the official China News Service agency reported on
In Xinjiang, a sprawling
region of west China where Beijing is grappling with what
some describe as a low-level insurgency against Communist party rule,
the crackdown on dissent has been particularly intense.
at least suggests that more is the matter than the Chinese
government likes to
get known by the public.
Finally, there is this, that doesn't sound nice or liberal or
Zhao’s removal from the
job and the Communist party comes just over a week after Beijing
unveiled harsh new rules banning party members from “making groundless
comments on national policies”.
Those who “irresponsibly
make comments about national policies” or who “defame the nation, the
Party and State leaders or distort the history of the nation and the
Party” will be punished, the state-controlled Global Times tabloid newspaper reported.
“Party members who take
the liberty to decide or publicly comment on issues that they have no
place to, such as issues that should be decided by the CPC [Communist
Party of China] Central Committee, will also be subject to punishment,”
Beijing has shown an
increasing intolerance for dissent since Xi Jinping – a man some call China’s most
powerful leader since Mao - became Communist party chief in November
Yes, indeed. And while I do
not know about Xi Jinping, the first three paragraphs,
that seems to quote the Chinese government, are quite totalitarian.
3. The Guardian view on the Turkish elections: a victory
with a price
next article is by Editorial on The Guardian:
This starts as follows (and presumes you know
Erdogan won the last elections):
There is an old
Turkish proverb which says that a defeated wrestler always wants
another match. It could have been coined to describe the increasingly
dire situation of Turkey in recent years under Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. He is undoubtedly an
effective and shrewd politician, in that he initially offered a
programme and policies that appealed to both the traditional and the
more modern sectors of society, to religious people and to the more
secular classes, and to both ethnic Turks and to minorities, especially
This is more or less OK,
though I should like to add that (i) I know of hardly any
West-European or American politician that I would describe as "an instinctive democrat" or indeed as working in a state of "true
democracy" (there is no true
His Justice and Development
party, or AKP, has as a result been in charge for 13 years and he
himself at the helm for a decade. But he was never an instinctive
democrat, respectful of constitutional principles, or resigned to the
alternation in power essential in a true democracy, and his attitude to
any setback has always been to get round the obstacle by some other
democracy in Europe or the USA, certainly not in governments, and I
also see very few "instinctive democrats"), while (ii) I agree
that Mr Erdogan seems to me to be considerably more of an authoritarian
and a clever manipulator than many of his European colleagues, neither
of which seems good for Turkey (from my point of view, that is not
well informed about Turkey, but is well informed about
democracies, both real and purported).
Here is The Guardian's description of what Mr Erdogan tried to achieve,
and mostly did achieve:
answer is that he undermined the coalition-building that would have
given the country a stable government after the June election,
contriving to have it fail so that he could get this second chance.
This was cavalier, but characteristic.
Formulated differently, Mr
Erdogan seems to take (and to want to take) a quite authoritarian
course, that also only rewards himself and his own party.
In retrospect his years
in power have seen the reduction, one by one, of all independent
centres of power. He cut the Turkish military down to size, arguably a
necessary move, but the methods were dubious. He fell out with his
silent partner, the Gülen movement, and curtailed its influence in the
media and education. He has increasingly politicised the judiciary and
the law enforcement agencies, with Washington’s annual human rights report on
Turkey this summer only one of many recent condemnatory accounts.
There is also this:
One former member
of the AKP wrote recently that a process of purging it of moderates and replacing them
with conservative religious figures began years ago. “Those who asked
questions, offered constructive criticism or were generally disposed to
moderation” were thrown out, he claimed.
The first paragraph conforms
to what I said, and the second seems bad to me.
The worst development of
recent months has been the return to war with the PKK, the Kurdish
Here is The Guardian's judgement:
has got his majority back, but Turkey has been damaged in the process.
Its independent institutions have been undermined, its constitutional
rules have been disregarded, the relations between ethnic Turks and Kurds have deteriorated, and it is back in a
war it thought was over.
Apocalypse now: has the next giant financial crash already
next article is by Paul Mason on The Guardian:
This starts as follows:
The 1st of October
came and went without financial armageddon. Veteran forecaster Martin Armstrong, who
accurately predicted the 1987 crash, used the same model to suggest
that 1 October would be a major turning point for global markets.
Some investors even put bets on it. But the passing of the predicted
global crash is only good news to a point. Many indicators in global
finance are pointing downwards – and some even think the crash has
I say, but I grant that
October 1 passed without me realizing that Martin Armstrong had
forecast that then another financial armaggedon would start.
Then again, it might have been true, and Paul Mason also seems
mostly correct in believing that the economical situation still is dire.
Here is some of his evidence:
Since 2007, the
pile of debt in the world has grown by $57tn (£37tn). That’s
a compound annual growth rate of 5.3%, significantly beating GDP.
Debts have doubled in the so-called emerging markets, while rising by
just over a third in the developed world.
Incidentally, "tn" =
"trillion" = "a thousand billion" = "a millon millions", and the
quotation shows that the debts are rising a lot more than the
GDP (which is far from healthy).
Here is the main cause:
cause of this debt glut is the $12tn of free or cheap money created by
central banks since 2009, combined with near-zero interest rates. When
the real price of money is close to zero, people borrow and worry about
the consequences later.
In other words: six
years later, all that austerity has brought ordinary people
is more austerities (while the real rich really got a whole lot
And here is something else:
volumes have contracted tangibly since December 2014, according to the Dutch government index, while the value of
global trade in primary commodities, which scored 150 on the same index
a year ago, now stands at 114.
In other words: There is
a whole lot less global trade, and there is also this:
China – the engine
of the post-2009 global recovery – is slowing markedly. Japan just
revised its growth projections down, despite being in the middle of a
massive money-printing programme. The eurozone is stagnant. In the US,
growth, which recovered well under QE, has faltered after the
withdrawal of QE.
It doesn't seem to be
going well, in brief. Whether that is a sign that the next crash is
starting, I simply don"t know.
5. The Rigging of the American Market
The final article today is
by Robert Reich on his site:
This starts as follows:
Much of the national
about widening inequality focuses on whether and how much to tax the
redistribute their income downward.
But this debate ignores
redistributions going on every day, from the rest of us to the rich.
These redistributions are hidden
inside the market.
The only way to stop them
to prevent big corporations and Wall Street banks from rigging the
For example, Americans
for pharmaceuticals than do the citizens of any other developed nation.
That’s partly because
legal in the U.S. (but not in most other nations) for the makers of
drugs to pay the makers of generic drugs to delay introducing cheaper
equivalents, after patents on the brands have expired.
This costs you and me an
billion a year – a hidden upward redistribution
of our incomes to Pfizer, Merck, and other big proprietary drug
executives, and major shareholders.
Note that the beginning
states Robert Reich's quite correct general point (ordinary Americans
pay far more than they should), which is illustrated by the
rest, of which the high prices for drugs is one example.
I would like to say here
that I think it very probable that as soon as the TTIP has been
approved, this will get "corrected": The Europeans will soon have the
same primitive relations as the Americans have, and pay a lot
more for their drugs, simply because profits come first, and
are vastly more important than people's
rights, democratically agreed principles, or national laws.
But this was an aside. Here
is more by Reich on how ordinary Americans are plundered by the rich:
Likewise, the interest we
on home mortgages or college loans is higher than it would be if the
that now dominate the financial industry had to work harder to get our
As recently as 2000,
America’s five largest banks held 25 percent of all U.S. banking
they hold 44
percent – which gives them a lock on many such loans.
If we can’t repay, forget
bankruptcy. Donald Trump can go bankrupt four times and walk away from
debts, but the bankruptcy code doesn’t allow homeowners or graduates to
reorganize unmanageable debts.
Again, as soon as the TTIP
will have been agreed, America's banks will soon be able to likewise
plunder ordinary Europeans (for profits come first, etc.)
Here is another
example of trickling up rather than down:
Why have average
domestic airfares risen 2.5% over the past, and are now at their the
since the government began tracking them in 1995 – while fuel
prices, the largest single cost for the airlines, have
Because America went from
nine major carriers ten years ago to just four now. Many airports are
served by one or two.
Precisely - and four
or two big corporations can make a lot of easy (and secret) deals (all
of which fleece the customer even more).
Add it up – the extra
paying for pharmaceuticals, Internet communications, home mortgages,
loans, airline tickets, food, and health insurance – and you get a
of the average family’s budget.
Quite so - and thanks to
that noble liberal progressive democratic president Obama, as soon as
the TTIP gets approved, then all these enormous advantages
will be enjoyed by ordinary Europeans as well!