Ask the American Everyman about the political economy that
he calls home and the responses will always include words such as �freedom� and
�capitalism� especially if it is a compare and contrast sort of question, such
as: �Why did the United States defeat the evil Soviet empire in the Cold War?�
Well . . . Duh! Because we have a superior capitalist free market system!
Capitalism is king! Communism sucks! Everyone knows that!
America is the fertile soil that grows the Entrepreneur, the
Self-Made Man, Bill Gates, T. Boone Pickens, Warren Buffet, Paul Bunyan, and
the Jolly Green Giant. It is the bastion of the superior individual armed with
the righteous sword of capitalism that lays waste to all the inferior isms that
have blighted the planet heretofore. Capitalism and America are synonymous as
any word association test will quickly reveal, and Reagan�s proclamation of the
right to get rich, though not proposed as the 27th Amendment to the
Constitution, is nonetheless a proposition to which Everyman will subscribe. So
it seems. Getting rich is after all �the pursuit of happiness,� isn�t it?
You have to at least try to get rich, don�t you, even if you
aren�t Bill Gates or T. Boone Pickens material? If you don�t at least try to
grab the brass ring, you�re likely to end up concussed and sidelined in the
robust football game of American life. There�s the star player, the American
Idol, and the supporting cast of wannabes in the grand clamor of the
competitive drama called capitalism, and for those sour grapes out there in
loser-land that don�t applaud the excellence of the superior performers and
their great accumulations of wealth, well, let them eat food stamps and welfare
vouchers. Cry babies, bottom feeders, cripples, and mental defectives are an
unfortunate part of the grand landscape of Our Way Of Life. That�s just the way
it is and that�s the way the Founders of our great country put it together,
Not really. Adrian Kuzminski, a gentleman small landholder
in the Jeffersonian mode sans slaves, in his reflection on populism called
�Fixing The System: A History of Populism Ancient and Modern,� begs to differ.
The Declaration of Independence and the Constitution are not capitalist
manifestos. They are documents reflecting a frustrated populist yearning older
than Methuselah. The populist impulse is actually OEM programming in newly
extruded humans which is overwritten at a tender and early age by a reactionary
educational system in cahoots with the Microsoft Corporation, chief cyber
predator of laissez-faire capitalism.
Indeed, wise Professor Kuzminski informs us that populist
self-governance is the natural and spontaneous political condition of
aboriginal cultures, or what he calls �kinship societies.� The American
colonists, in the opinion of this writer, actually acquired their practical
notions of democracy not through readings of ancient Greek or Roman
commentators, or John Locke (1632-1704, English philosopher emeritus of
life, liberty, and the pursuit of property), or other Enlightenment scribblers, but through direct observation
of the American Indians and a process of osmosis, which they never admitted,
and which may explain why these tribal cultures were exterminated. We displaced
Europeans failed to cut the umbilical to Great Britain and did not achieve the
true democratic condition and individual liberty enjoyed by ignorant barbarians
who didn�t even have to work for a living. Resentment was inevitable. It was
just blasphemous the way those naked, illiterate savages felt so entitled!
The populist impulse within us all, overwritten as it is by
false programming, remains quite strong and when repressed turns ugly. The
repression of true popular sovereignty can lead to neurotic displacements like
genocidal aggression and torture, compulsive secrecy and national security
states, preemptive wars, fascism and state terror, rape, child abuse, domestic
violence, cancer, hemorrhoids, the heartbreak of psoriasis and other forms of
national and personal psychopathology we can plainly see today when we look in
We have ridden roughshod over our natural populist
inclinations. This process began quite early in our history when General
Washington suppressed the populist uprising of Daniel Shays and the
farmer/soldier revolutionary heroes on day one, you might say, of the new
Republic. And then Alexander Hamilton came along to administer the coup de gras
to any genuine democratic possibilities by indebting the new nation to the Bank
of England and the allied sleazy world of international finance of that day.
But now it is time for the return of the repressed and the
joyful abreaction of real democracy. It is past time. In truth, it may be too
late, but populists are hope fiends, forever delirious with great expectations.
We must, therefore, rediscover our true populist
understanding of political economy from the OEM source, or what Jefferson in
the Declaration called �The Laws of Nature and of Nature�s God� and whatever
else we can devise that resembles those kinship societies of yore before we
blow ourselves to smithereens. The most basic principle of populist political
theory must be understood just as aboriginal cultures always and everywhere
have understood it. This idea is expressed in the notion of the �commons.� As
the American Indians could not conceive of ownership of the land because it was
the common inheritance of all living creatures, so in modern societies it has to
be understood by citizens that all citizens have basic property rights. In
other words, all citizens simply by virtue of their birth are entitled to a
piece of the action.
Entitlement is the keyword. In our day, only the rich
are entitled, even though in their hypocrisy, induced by the profound confusion
and myopia of great wealth, they will say things like: �I do not believe in
inheriting your position in society based on what womb you come from . . .�
(Warren Buffet, engaged in obscene public acts of philanthropy with Bill Gates,
Professor Kuzminski�s brilliant analysis states the
fundamental misunderstanding at the heart of our social ills clearly and
succinctly: �For Locke, property has to be earned, it has to emerge out of a
state of nature through labor; but for populists, property is already there,
the free gift of nature, the natural capital that is the common inheritance of
the earth for every man and woman: the land, air, and water without which one
cannot live, let alone labor.�
Populism is a bone fide ism, like any of the more familiar
isms: communism, socialism, capitalism, libertarianism, anarchism, and so on
and was first articulated, Kuzminski reminds us, by Phaleas of Chalcedon, who
laid down the aforementioned basic principle of populist entitlement in the
early 4th Century b.c.e. .
Populism is not merely one theory of political economy among several, it is the
OEM modus operandi populus informing the behavior of people while they were
still �savages,� prior to the great confusion introduced by the civilized
capacity to read and write.
Populism does not exist today. It emerged during the 19th
Century in perhaps the greatest mass movement in US history, culminating in the
People�s Party, but it was defeated by the vested interests of finance capital,
big bellied guys with top hats, vests, diamond stick pins, and pinky rings.
�The rights of capital since then have been increasingly institutionalized and
legalized and the rights of persons have been increasingly discounted and
marginalized,� notes Professor Kuzminski. Only the term �populism� and
�populist� remain to be misunderstood and misinterpreted. Just a faint echo of
populism can be heard today such as in the faux populist book by David Sirota, The
Uprising. Poor Sirota! He will surely be distressed to learn that he is not
a populist, but is instead a progressive antidemocrat in the thrall of laissez
faire finance corporatism.
A true populist political economy can exist only when a
participatory democratic political apparatus is combined with a publicly
controlled monetary system.
We have no democracy in the United States. Voting is not
participation. �Voting in the modern sense is largely, if not wholly,
meaningless as a political act,� Kuzminski points out. �Indeed, delegating
one�s political rights to someone else, to a representative, is the very
antithesis of democracy unless that elected representative be directly
accountable to constituents on a face-to-face basis. Only in the crudest and most
desperate sense -- as in the opportunity to choose the �lesser evil�- does
voting serve as the roughest of checks on otherwise unaccountable government.�
Have you ever had a face-to-face with your elected
representatives, state or federal? Neither have I. They usually want to give
out autographs, not listen to your bullshit.
Democracy entails direct political involvement by citizens
in the conduct of their public affairs. Voting is a merely symbolic act to
legitimize the political activity of a broadly unaccountable political class.
The work of Mark Crispin Miller and others (Loser Take All, 2008) amply
demonstrates to what nadir of meaninglessness voting has sunk since the
introduction of computerized voting machines. It has been factually demonstrated
that G. W. Bush lost both the 2000 and 2004 elections through corruption and
manipulation of the electoral apparatus and in spite of this, the political
class remains unaccountable to the people it purports to represent. Who
oversees the overseers? In words of stern consolation, Justice of the Supreme
Court Antonin Scalia, the shameless blowhard who spearheaded the illegal
intervention of the Supreme Court into the electoral affairs of the State of
Florida in 2000, admonishes the American people to �get over it!�
In other words, friends, shut up and do what you�re told.
The perversion of the meaning of democracy persists and the
public sleepwalks in an Orwellian state of doublethink while their illegitimate
Decider in Chief orders his military and intelligence operations to lay waste
to foreign lands in the name of spreading this antidemocracy around the globe.
Okay, we have no real democracy. I delegate my power to act
politically to someone else and hope he or she doesn�t go too hog wild in the
pork barrel behind closed doors. But this isn�t the worst of it. There�s the
little matter of the private financial system, the so-called Federal Reserve
System, owned and operated by and for the financial elite, which has by the
latest reckoning so egregiously screwed up the financial affairs of this nation
that most economists of sound mind proclaim us to be at the brink of the mother
of all depressions.
You say you�ve had enough doom and gloom and you�re going to
browse on out of here? But wait, there�s good news! It�s called Populism and
the Hope Springs Eternal Party.
Here�s what you do: get on over to Amazon and pick up Fixing
the System: A History of Populism,
Ancient and Modern by Adrian Kuzminski, so
you can find out what you�ve been missing and how we can fix things to our
liking. It�s all there in a familiar and cozy Times New Roman with an
attractive cover you can stare at while you�re high. You�ll discover that
Thomas Jefferson didn�t much like the US government after Alexander Hamilton
started tinkering with it and came up with a solution called �ward republics�
that would have been as workable then as it would be now. True democracy did
once exist in this country, in Vermont before it caved into the federal system.
That should cheer you up.
And you�ll also discover a whole new monetary system that
works for the benefit of all, without penalizing the rich. We don�t want to kill the rich and eat
them. Populists aren�t communists or socialists, you know. They�re patriotic,
hard working, spit in the grass Americans who just want their country back.
You�re probably a Populist yourself.
Above all, be of good cheer!
Joseph Danison is a novelist and commentator in
Western North Carolina. Contact him at www.renovationpress.com.