Statism and Myth as a Tool of Survival and Perpetuation Part IX: Religion as the Opiate, and Nationalism as the Methamphetamine of the People
“Markets within nations inevitably produce groups of people who have more money and power than others. So, it would be odd if global markets did not create an international upper class of people whose economic interests had more in common with each other than with the majority of people who share their nationality.”
-Jeff Faux, The Global Class War: How America’s Bipartisan Elite Lost Our Future-and What It Will Take to Win It Back (Hoboken, N.J.: Wiley, 2006), 1.
“The market in which the new elites operate is now international in scope. Their fortunes are tied to enterprises that operate across national boundaries. Tehy are more concerned with the smooth functioning of the system as a whole than with any of its parts. Their loyalties-if the term is not itself anachronistic in this context-are international rather than regional, national, or local. They have more in common with their counterparts in Brussels or Hong Kong than with the masses of Americans not yet plugged into the network of global communications.”
-Christopher Lasch, The Revolt of the Elites: And the Betrayal of Democracy (New York: Norton, 1995) 35-36.
As ordinary people, we worry about ordinary things. We worry about our sphere of concern, those limited concerns which touch upon our ability to to provide for ourselves or our children. We tend to organize ourselves or identify ourselves as nationalists in many respects. Our modes of identification may additionally be oriented around racial, gender, or religious concerns. We think of money as the root of all evil, and disdain those individuals whose primary concern is with money or wealth above all else, including the implications for human life which the means in which money is attained and wealth is accrued often have.
Corporations externalize costs. The whole of their existence is an attempt to not only externalize costs, but to quantify those costs. This is accomplished in a variety of ways when those costs are uncertain. Chief among those ways is a maximum cap on the costs of litigation. The government is procured by large corporations and the interests they represent to limit the liability of those interests and concerns where potential litigation is concerned.
The reason for this attempt to quantify costs is simple enough: corporations need a figure that they can know. They need to know a figure because they need that figure to measure against the cost of things like compliance with environmental regulations and safety laws. If they can limit the costs of their potential liability with caps on litigation rewards to plaintiffs, they can construct a cost-benefit analysis which will enable them to decide whether or not compliance with the law is too expensive. It may be that the corporation can simply decide to pay the costs associated with non-compliance in those isolated incidents where lax safety and environmental compliance do result in injury to human life, or the loss of human life altogether.
This is the straightforward explanation of medical malpractice caps and civil liability caps. The explanation proffered by corporations is that such caps limit costs, because costs associated with litigation are inevitably externalized to consumers in the form of higher prices and workers in the form of lower wages. In this way, it is said that limiting civil liability for large corporations and the interests they represent is beneficial to the whole of society, even if the individual who is injured by a corporation is deprived of due process and a trial by a jury of his peers where those peers set the price of a corporation’s liability according to the evidence presented at trial.
The question ultimately comes down to one of process: does the jury or the legislature set damages in civil trials? The Seventh Amendment to the United States clearly indicates that juries were to set such damages in controversies exceeding $20 in value. The Fourteenth Amendment has generally been held to establish that the rights set forth in the Bill of Rights apply to the states, but the Seventh Amendment is a notable exception to this standard. However, when a state court is hearing a trial concerning a federally guaranteed right, where the right to a trial by jury is a “substantial part,” the court may not remove trial by jury for the elements thereof (http://www.gpoaccess.gov/constitution/html/amdt7.html).
Additionally, most states have constitutions which provide for the role of a jury in assessing damages, and so the legislature of that state may not egress its enumerated role by going into the enumerated role of a civil court. In short, determining damages is the role of a jury or a court under many state constitutions, and this eliminates legislative authority or power over such matters.
How does this relate to the state? Quite simply, it relates to the state in many ways: in order to reduce your standing as a potential plaintiff, the state attempts to deter you from filing suit by limiting the amount of damages you might conceivably get if the matter were left to a jury of your peers, given their likelihood to be more sympathetic to one of their peers as opposed to a large, multinational corporation whose officers violated the law or were negligent in their enforcement or obedience to that law. It is nothing more than an attempt to set their interests above your own by limiting the value of your interest to a set amount.
Furthermore, it is in keeping with a tendency of the state to appeal to your sense of shared national identity on the one hand while simultaneously acting in a manner that contravenes your basic interests as an individual citizen. You are told that in order to have a more business friendly environment in your state, certain concessions have to be given, and if those concessions involve quashing your rights and prerogatives as a free citizens, so be it.
George Bernard Shaw said it best in his address to the Academy of of Political Science at the Metropolitan Opera House on in New York on April 11, 1933. In that address, entitled “The Future of Political Science in America, Shaw said that while our intent had been to prevent political dictatorship with our constitution, we enabled a society where “every ward boss is a dictator, every financier a dictator, every private employer a dictator.” That’s the view of the individuals who make up the world’s employers: that while the government should be in chains where their interests are concerned, it ought to be deployed at their behest against ordinary citizens who make up the working class in order to deprive them of a civil damages determined by their peers, or to establish that a corporation’s officers are exempt from personal liability when they act as officers of the corporation and break the law and violate the life, liberty, and property of others.
In the meantime, you and I are expected to buy an argument that based on national pride and a Protestant work ethic, we should just accept lesser standing before the law while our betters receive a higher standing before that same law. It’s the American way. It’s the free market way. Central to the statist concept of power is the myth and the narratives thereof which can be used to justify such nonsense.
There isn’t a free market anywhere on this planet. If anyone can find me a market exempt of tariffs and protectionism, I’ll be happy to investigate their findings and refute them. It just doesn’t exist. Moreover, much of what you and I are expected to swallow as free market doctrine is utter poppycock.
Free market advocates are quite in favor of limited liability and corporate structures in business. They abhor government interference in the market, but what is the corporation and what is limited liability other than government creations erected as direct consequences of government meddling in market economies? In a free market, many of the corporations who routinely overextend themselves by taking on highly leveraged positions would fall into insolvency and liquidation. Their shareholders would come in a distant second to their creditors during the unraveling of the company and its assets. Instead of a free market, these types clamor for government intervention, and say that it is necessary to stabilize markets and prevent upheavals which would occur at great cost to humanity. The reality is that markets would eventually stabilize as the inevitable consequence of the liquidation of insolvent companies and the emergence of stronger companies in the wake of their demise. The weak would be culled from the strong, and this is as it ought to be.
The cost to humanity is irrelevant to these types. The only individuals they consider to be a part of humanity are their own peers, and those peers are in the upper 10% of the world population, a socio-economic status which means that they partially own some 85% of the world’s wealth. They care only to evade being dropped into the bottom 90%, where they might be subjected to the same treatment as ordinary folks who don’t know enough to expect preferred treatment from their governments.
When these individuals talk of American greatness, it is not the greatness of America they speak of with such fondness. They speak of American greatness and fret about the demise of America because they realize that America is the best deal they can get. Failure is our national pastime, and we incentivize it with bailouts that spare the wealthy the natural consequences of their bad business acumens and fiscal hubris. All of the machinations they engage in, the linguistic contortions they attempt to accomplish, the sloganeering about free markets and capitalism, all of it is to establish advantages for their own interests and positions which will ensure that they never face a free market which judges them as impartially and coldly as it judges you or me.
This is not about promoting market forces as an arbiter of the fates of various businesses, it is about subverting and subjugating those forces through regulatory regimes which preserve the existing order and prevent any new order from ever emerging. Merit is not the criteria of success in business for these types. Merit is what they seek to quash and avoid ever having to meet.
At the end of the day, if you could work for 20 hours a week to enjoy the same standard of living you currently possess working 40 to 60 hours a week or more, depending on your situation, would you take the tradeoff? If you wouldn’t, why the hell not? Is it because you believe in hard work as opposed to smarter work?
A free market ensures that goods are more widely available at lower prices, a “natural price” defined by Adam Smith as the lowest price at which merchants can sell an item and still survive. Such a pricing mechanism, determined by market forces and a government committed to ensuring natural pricing as opposed to price fixing and collusion, would increase the standard of living for individuals who currently exist in desperate poverty. It would enable those individuals to do more with less.
Karl Marx rightly recognized religion as the opiate of the masses, an instrument by which the powerless had been seduced into accepting a subservient position under the auspices of the idea that God endows the rich with their wealth regardless of their labors and the rest of us should just line up behind the arrangement unquestioningly. I don’t deny God as Marx did, for I am a firm believer in his existence and in the truth contained in various biblical passages.
I look at Amos 8:4-7, which decries those who swallow up the needy and cause the poor of the land to fail by falsifying the balances in order to defraud them of their silver in commercial exchanges, and which concludes by saying that the Lord will never forget their works. Exodus 23:6 further establishes that wresting justice from poor people in a lawsuit is expressly prohibited.
As you read this, and you consider that my advocacy is for a reality in which statism is abolished or at least severely curbed, consider God’s warning to the children of Israel when they requested a king to succeed Samuel in I Samuel 8:6-18:
“But when they said, “Give us a king to lead us,” this displeased Samuel; so he prayed to the LORD. And the LORD told him: “Listen to all that the people are saying to you; it is not you they have rejected, but they have rejected me as their king. As they have done from the day I brought them up out of Egypt until this day, forsaking me and serving other gods, so they are doing to you. Now listen to them; but warn them solemnly and let them know what the king who will reign over them will do.”
Samuel told all the words of the LORD to the people who were asking him for a king. He said, “This is what the king who will reign over you will do: He will take your sons and make them serve with his chariots and horses, and they will run in front of his chariots. Some he will assign to be commanders of thousands and commanders of fifties, and others to plow his ground and reap his harvest, and still others to make weapons of war and equipment for his chariots. He will take your daughters to be perfumers and cooks and bakers. He will take the best of your fields and vineyards and olive groves and give them to his attendants. He will take a tenth of your grain and of your vintage and give it to his officials and attendants. Your menservants and maidservants and the best of your cattle and donkeys he will take for his own use. He will take a tenth of your flocks, and you yourselves will become his slaves. When that day comes, you will cry out for relief from the king you have chosen, and the LORD will not answer you in that day.”
Tell me, does this passage sound at all like what we endure under our government today? Does our government not seize our earnings, at rates well beyond ten percent, in order to make weapons of war and provide wages and benefits for the attendants of that government who make a good living for doing what is arguably an inferior job, given their history of constantly failing to ensure the safety and security of the American people? Two World Trade Center bombings; the bombing of the Chinese embassy in Belgrade by the CIA in a “mistake;” the debacle that was an infrastructure failure when Katrina’s surge flooded New Orleans in part because the Army Corps of Engineers dredged a ship channel through wetlands which led that surge directly into the heart of New Orleans and into shoddily constructed levees and canals; and a Christmas Day bombing that wasn’t intercepted or stopped by our national security apparatus or our intelligence communities, but instead by ordinary people who apprehended and restrained the Nigerian born bomber in order to stop him? What, exactly, are we paying trillions of dollars for?
Is it a defense budget that represents a total greater than the defense budgets of the rest of the world combined, even though that expenditure isn’t sufficient to the task of extinguishing an enemy whose fighters dwell in caves? Or a navy that by itself is larger than the next thirteen largest navies combined, with 11 of those 13 navies being our allies to boot?
The people of Israel thought they were getting a real deal with a king. They’d be like everyone else, and isn’t that what we all want to be in the end? Isn’t that our folly as human beings? We aspire to be as mediocre as our peers, to bring upon ourselves their problems and foibles in our own endeavors as a nation. Ladies and gentlemen, republican democracy has become the kingship of yesteryear. It doesn’t deliver on the advertised expectation for anyone but the king and his attendants, who manage to get by quite well on their parasitic gleanings from the hard earned money of the people they rule over.
If religion is or was the opiate of the people, then nationalism has become their methamphetamine, and it has inured them to the genocides, unwarranted invasions, and constant security crises whipped up out of thin air by warmongers and the corrupt military industrial establishment they represent. It doesn’t have to be this way.
I discern between the nation and the state by classifying the state as those assorted and sundry bureaucracies and what not who parasitize us, ostensibly while promoting our own interests; while they in fact proceed on courses which run counter to those interests by fomenting wars under false pretenses and insisting that we can sow liberty on the end of a rifle butt. Franklin Delano Roosevelt may have gotten a good bit of his tenure wrong while president, but he had one thing right: “In the truest sense, freedom cannot be bestowed; it must be achieved.” Try to instruct the nation-builders among our neoconservative types as to this reality. Tilt at windmills if you dare.
America is an ideal, an ideal which decrees that men should be free to pursue their lives, liberties, and that which makes them happy. Samuel Hendel, a political science professor and civil rights defender, said that in order for freedom to be meaningful in an organized society, it had to “consist of an amalgam of hierarchy of freedom and restraints.” For ordinary people, that’s true. Our freedoms consist of such an amalgam, and in recent years and decades, the balance of that amalgam has tilted towards the side of restraint as the government has arrogated wide latitude to intercept our emails, phone calls, inspect our library records, detain us indefinitely without charges, hearings, or legal representation, and we have bought into this in the name of national loyalty and patriotism.
I wonder how many people who have money find themselves on watchlists. I wonder how many of those individuals who summer in the Hamptons find themselves being searched every time they take a flight.
You may choose to buy the myth and you may even call it your truth. There is no deceit so cruel as the deceit which is voluntarily self-imposed. As a free individual you have the right to deceive yourself. But your choice should not be binding on others, and what you should realize is that your failure to actively resist the encroachments of our government on the lives of citizens who don’t look, talk, or act like you and your friends do is a failure to defend the ideals which make our nation what it is and which provide the clearest evidence that our state has departed on a fundamental level from the nation it claims unity with. It is treason.
According to Thomas Paine, “He that would make his own liberty secure, must guard even his enemy from opposition; for if he violates this duty he establishes a precedent that will reach himself.” You may not identify with the Muslim or the individual of Middle Eastern descent who finds himself apprehended for no crime, detained without charges or hearings, and renditioned to a nation where torture is the normative standard of interrogation, but you are obligated to speak out anyway if your commitment to freedom is real and true.
Those individuals who occupy positions of power no longer entertain the delusion that nationalism is of any real concern to them or their peers. They identify more with others who possess real power and self-determination, the sort of power and determination which ensures that the rules which apply to regular people on vacation who find themselves arrested at airports and funneled abroad to Syria will not apply to them. The law has no efficacy or legitimacy if it isn’t applied equally.
Far from being a means of establishing order and fairness, it is perverted into a vehicle whereby preferential treatment is assured for some and your own position of inferiority is permanently cemented into place. The rules are being and have been rewritten over the past years and decades, and the only question is whether or not you will resist in a significant and meaningful way against the tyranny which is being foisted upon us by them. You have no reason to defend the existing order: it isn’t capitalism. It isn’t a free market. It isn’t morally in alignment with the Bible. It isn’t freedom, or democracy, or even a republic. It’s statism, and while it appropriates each of the aforementioned items as disguises to mask its innate ugliness and gain legitimacy in the minds of those ignorant enough to buy the charade, it is simply tyranny and thuggery when one scrutinizes. It is the means by which the favored have preserved a system of perpetual inequality and deprived others of the rights their forefathers fought and died to ensure.
Would you see your Constitution reduced to mere ink and paper, or do the ideals that make our nation what it is really mean something to you? Does due process, equal protection of the law, and protection against unreasonable search and seizure mean something to you? Does freedom of speech? Does the right to petition your government for a redress of grievances and have that government actually listen to you mean something?
Stop imbibing the nonsense, the statism which dresses itself up in the flag while it goes about dismantling your liberties and privileges as a citizen. Stop defending a market of tariffs and privileges for large corporations and banks who can commit fraud with impunity and take on liabilities which your children and your children’s children will pay as capitalist free market economics. Stop saying that it’s patriotic or biblical. It isn’t any of those things, and you dishonor the merit in each of those things by falsely linking them to our statist reality. Start using your ability to discern between the true and the false, and call it for what it is: tyranny.