The Other 99% of Us Can’t Buy Our Way Out of the Impending Global Ponzi Scheme Collapse

Todd Gitlin is Wrong:  Occupy Wall Street Protesters Aren’t “Anarchists,” The Tea Party Members Are.

Chris O'Meara / Associated PressProtesters chanting "We are the 99 percent" march in support of the Occupy Wall Street demonstrations on Thursday in downtown Tampa, Fla. About 400 people protesting against financial greed and corruption gathered Thursday, singing and waving signs at passing motorists.

We are seeing an accumulation of “wealth” by the super-rich to shame the Gilded Age.  The richest “400 people have more wealth than half of the more than 100 million U.S. households,” Politifact was grudgingly forced to agree that Michael Moore’s statement was correct.

I don’t think this is disconnected from the question I raised 2 years ago, “Is the global economy a Ponzi scheme?”  As Tom Friedman reported:

“We created a way of raising standards of living that we can’t possibly pass on to our children,” said Joe Romm, a physicist and climate expert who writes the indispensable blog We have been getting rich by depleting all our natural stocks — water, hydrocarbons, forests, rivers, fish and arable land — and not by generating renewable flows.

“You can get this burst of wealth that we have created from this rapacious behavior,” added Romm. “But it has to collapse, unless adults stand up and say, ‘This is a Ponzi scheme. We have not generated real wealth, and we are destroying a livable climate …’ Real wealth is something you can pass on in a way that others can enjoy.”

But I suppose it isn’t a full Ponzi scheme in one respect.  The super-rich have so much wealth that they can insulate themselves from the collapse far longer than everyone else, with their gated and moated communities, multiple homes in multiple climates, security guards, private jets and general insensitivity to the price of anything — and hence insensitivity to the value of everything.

If you have $1 billion, well, even if you lost half of everything, even if you lost 90%, you’d still have an incredible standard of living to pass on to your children, assuming you could stomach the misery of billions.

The other 99% of Americans and indeed the other 99% of all of humanity cannot buy ourselves out of the multiple, simultaneous, ever-worsening catastrophes that are inevitable if we don’t figure out how to use a small fraction of our staggering wealth to stop it (see “An Illustrated Guide to the Science of Global Warming Impacts: How We Know Inaction Is the Gravest Threat Humanity Faces“).

And so while in theory we could have the political power, the 1% have the equivalent economic power — and perhaps more, since, of course,  when you are that wealthy,  a considerably larger fraction of your income and wealth are “disposable.”  And so we have the phenomenon that the pollutocrats get richer and richer — and use that money to maintain their wealth (see “Denier Cash Machine Swells: Pollutocrat Koch Brothers Now Worth $50 Billion, Poised to Become Richest Men in America“).

The Kochs spend a lot of their money to ensure the destruction of a livable climate (see “Report: Koch Industries outspends Exxon Mobil on climate and clean energy disinformation“). They also spend on the Tea Party keep duping that movement into maintaining low taxes for the rich and ensuring that clean air and other regulations will be kept to a minimum if not gutted entirely.

And here is where I disagree with Todd Gitlin, professor of journalism and communications at Columbia, who wrote a piece on the Occupy Wall Street movement in the NY Times Saturday, “The Left Declares Its Independence“:

The Tea Party, for all its apparent populism, revolves around a vision of power and how to attain it. Tea Partiers tend to be white, male, Republican, graying, married and comfortable; the political system once worked for them, and they think it can be made to do so again. They revile government, but they adore hierarchy and order….

In contrast, what should we make of Occupy Wall Street? … And yet it remains true that the core of the movement, the (mostly young and white, skilled but jobless) people who started the “occupation” three weeks ago, consists of what right-wing critics call anarchists. Indeed, some occupiers take the point as a compliment — because that is precisely the quality that sets them apart from the Tea Party. Anarchism has been the reigning spirit of left-wing protest movements for nearly the past half century, as it is in Zuccotti Park.


It is true that the OWS folks don’t have much organization or demands, but while they may act in a  superficially anarchical manner, fundamentally they require government to redress the grotesque imbalance in wealth, because there is no other institution that can  stand up to the power and wealth of the plutocrats and pollutocrats.

The Tea Party doesn’t merely revile government.  If it were up to them, they would they would terminate most of its activities at almost every level.  They would be willing to destroy a livable climate — and all science-based environmental standards — if that meant the triumph of their anti-government ideology (see “Michele Bachmann: Let’s repeal clean air and clean water for our children“).

If that wasn’t clear from the climate and EPA debates, it was certainly clear from the debt ceiling debate (see “What if the CO2 Ceiling Debate Were Like the Debt Ceiling Debate“).  The Tea Party would let the government default before it agreed to any rational debt reduction strategy (i.e. one that involves even the slightest increase in taxation for the 1%).

And, indeed, the ultimate goal of the Tea Party, however unintentional, is anarchy, since that is the inevitable result of the unsustainable accumulation of wealth by the richest few at the expense of the many, the unsustainable abandonment of the many crucial activities of government, and the unsustainable energy policy we are stuck on (see “Memorial Day, 2030“).

The only way we could avoid collapse is if the 99% can stop the pollutocrat-driven Tea Party.  So far, the 1% are “winning.”

70 Responses to The Other 99% of Us Can’t Buy Our Way Out of the Impending Global Ponzi Scheme Collapse

  1. Paul Magnus says:

    If you thought living on peanut butter and jelly sandwiches could get you through the recession, think again. The sandwich spread is seeing a major price hike.

  2. Paul Magnus says:

    peanut crop is not the only commodity to suffer from severe weather conditions. French wine and Italian pasta are some other endangered national exports impacted by climate change. Last week, a report claimed chocolate could become a luxury item if farmers in West Africa didn’t adapt to the warming climate.

  3. Paul Magnus says:

    The Occupied Wall Street Journal

  4. Mike Roddy says:

    I remember when Todd Gitlin wrote decent stuff for the California Pelican when I was at Berkeley. Like Hitchins and Revkin, recognition and success has made him sclerotic, and caused him to choke.

    That’s why our best senior writers, such as Bukowski and Thompson, never stopped being outsiders. Gitlin let all those academic awards and “fellowships” go to his head, and allowed them to prevent it from working. He’s just another sellout now.

  5. Peter Mizla says:

    Wealth disparity has not been this wide since the earlier Gilded Age. 1880- 1929.

    The natives are restless- and have begun to stir. We can hope the climate movement & occupy wall street can join.

  6. Rabid Doomsayer says:

    It will not, on the whole, be the current super rich that thrive in the coming anarchy. It will be the war lords, that will arise.

    The super rich thrive on us obeying the rules. It is a different sort of person that thrives with no rules. The Tea Party want a government so weak it would be utterly ineffective.

    Total anarchy is the worst possible outcome. China in the 1920’s Somalia today that is where we are heading.

    The current disparity in wealth is becoming unsustainable. Collapse is not yet inevitable, but inevitability is not far away.

    The 99% movement would see us move away from the brink.

    The 99% movement hold placards. Crush the 99% and there will be a next movement and the movement after next will hold guns and the one after that use them.

  7. Jay A Turner says:

    A simpler analogy is that there are two ways to look at an orchard: You can see firewood or you can see a rich resource that with proper care can provide an abundant harvest year after year, now and for generations to come.

    The slash and burn crowd are holding on to the belief that they have a right to get rich quick and that they have no responsibility to future generations. We have to disabuse them of that point of view.

  8. prokaryotes says:

    David Koch Flees from ABC News Over Iran Scandal Questions

    ABC News caught David Koch leaving his Park Avenue apartment this week, but the tea party billionaire quickly fled to his car, avoiding questions about a scandal involving his company’s trade with Iran.

    And all started with Koch’s when dealing with STALIN. Who is the communist here?

  9. Thomas Carlyle (nineteenth century British social critic) wrote that laissez-faire capitalism is “anarchism with a constable.”

  10. sydb says:

    If Gitlin were a British academic, I would suspect too many High Table dinners and that he was the one who always drained the Port decanter.

    These people are clearly both Stalinists, trying to tie the country in red tape, and anarchists at the same time, denouncing any Guvmint at all. Or maybe, they are people with a conscience and decent values, nauseated by the greed of corrupt criminal cleptocrats who’ve bought the government.

    It’s so hard to choose between the two.

  11. [please delete previous comment submission]

    Anarchy is not chaos.

    Whatever the composition is now, it’s simply a fact that Occupy Wall Street was organized at the beginning in large part by anarchists. For example, is run by anarchists. A lot of organization happened on Reddit, tightly overlapping with anarchist subreddits there.

    I would have hoped that someone like yourself who has spent so much time fighting for action, and seen your efforts essentially fail due to businesses’ effective control of the government, would realize that there is no solution within the current system.

    People are greedy, short-sighted, and mostly stupid. If we pin all our hopes on finding a solution from within current social structures, we will die. Human nature + current methods of social organization + limited resources = disaster.

    Anarchism through nascent internet technologies that finally make non-hierarchical organization possible on a large scale is our last best hope to avoid what you think of as “anarchy” (chaos).

    Some of this emerging technology:

  12. Mark says:

    Yes, the economy is a ponzi scheme, and (sadly) unless we figure out how to operate a steady-state form of capitalism, inflation (or deflation) will constantly eat away at a dollar’s value….

    ….to combat that erosion of wealth, we’ll pursue (yet more) economic growth.

    IMO, climate change is the most immediate manifestation of the real problem, but it’s only a symptom.

    The real problem is organizing our economy as an ecological ponzi scheme, under the the irrational belief in nonstop economic growth.

  13. opit says:

    There should be no surprise. Immediately Obama was confirmed elected there were predictions of American domestic insurrection. The crash of the bubbles after decades of manipulation simply means there is no way back to the economy of debt – essentially stealing from the world to maintain our lifestyle.
    Proposing to tax the world for the use of fire and send the proceeds to the UN / IPCC will simply ensure international inability to capitalize any adaptive measures…as that money will be bled off too.
    Seeing this, and realizing resource depletion is so bad that there are less than 3 yearsb of coal left in the Appalachians, people are desperate to change course before the complete collapse of our overheated economy based on theft and false ‘debt’ to foreign manipulators – the Rothschilds.
    And for all this still the fiddling about the oncoming ‘disaster of Anthropogenic Global Warming’ desperately distracting with mathematical modeling upon a supposed background of static stability rather than dynamic interaction…while water is polluted, mining gasps its last moonscaping of planetary suraface, and algal growth infests oceans and lakes ( as do jellyfish in the oceans )…
    And we should rely on the thieves who caused the problems to solve them ?
    I’d say that proposal sucks about as much as is possible.
    We don’t even have the resource depletion tax relief for deepwater oil drilling reversed in the wake of Deepwater Horizon – and applications for drilling in the Gulf of Mexico are up. Take a look at what is already underwater and leaking.
    It should stun you.

  14. Theodore says:

    The 99% cannot outvote the 1% because even a modest income is able to anesthetize those in possession of that income from the real pain of the poverty felt by many of those below them on the income scale. Few displays of political dementia are more disturbing than the sight of a person barely able to support himself vociferously defending the right of the wealthy to enrich themselves at the expense of the poor. It seems that huge numbers of abused, exploited and impoverished hopefuls see themselves as future captains of industry.

  15. Ernest says:

    My only caveat is not to demonize all rich people and corporations. There are those who deserve their riches (Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, ..). They add value to the economy.

    Then there are those who only transfer wealth to themselves through arcane means. They seem to be concentrated in the financial services industry.

    Then there are those who have contributed wealth to our energy intensive civilization, the fossil fuel industry, but are now turning into liabilities due to constraints of the environment. These are legacy systems seeking to hold on to power, to delay action as long as they can, accumulate as much as they can before the inevitable.

    In general, those who behave like demons deserve to be demonized.

  16. Mike Roddy says:

    I agree, Rabid. Afghanistan warlord societies are the future. We are the anachronism, with corporate market control, engineered food, and fat, car bound consumers.

  17. Bob Savage says:

    I disagree in some details. The current superrich will be able to afford the services of mercenaries, just as the merchant classes in the Italian Renaissance were able to afford Condottieri to defend the city-states. The Condottieri often became warlords, taking over the political systems, as well as “defending” the city-states, so in the end there might not be much difference, but in the short run the superrich (or at least some of them) will do just fine by maintaining private armies to protect their interests.

  18. Rob Jones says:

    In the short term it will be a gilded cage in the medium term it will become more of a prison and in the longer term they will be targets even for their own mercenaries.
    To think that wealth is a permanent insulator against an increasingly hostile climate and outraged population for more than a few years is evidence of insanity.

  19. Rob Jones says:

    You have nailed it. The aspirational wealthy I call them. Despite all evidence to the contrary these people believe that one day THEY will be the rich decision makers.

  20. Climate Hawk says:

    I can’t agree with your statement: “It is true that the OWS folks don’t have much organization or demands.” I was part of the OWS movement that surged to life in DC this past week. They’re very organized. And friends of mine who have visited the Wall Street occupation report the same thing. As for specific demands, they are percolating through the various General Assemblies that have been set up. One thing I think is clear from all these actions, the Corporate State has got to go. Indeed this message is so clear that I think the MSM is simply ignoring it. Todd Gitlin doesn’t know what he’s talking about either, but that’s been true for quite some time.

    I can also relay, from first hand experience, that in DC the Tar Sands Action is well known among demonstrators and well-respected. I doubt you would find many who don’t take Global Warming quite seriously.

    I think we are seeing the beginning of a movement that is growing in power and waxing revolutionary. I’m very encouraged altogether.

  21. Paul magnus says:

    This is a great blog. Tea partiers would say that you are all anti American…. Or Un American not sure.

    Of note, there are a lot of paper rich…. In the near future they will be rich no more,,,,

  22. Colorado Bob says:

    ” We have been getting rich by depleting all our natural stocks — water, hydrocarbons, forests, rivers, fish and arable land — and not by generating renewable flows. ”

    Half of all the copper ever mined has been dug-up in the last 25 years.

  23. Colorado Bob says:

    The 5.2 Billion dollar number on the agricultural losses in Texas do not include the peanut, pecan, melons, nursery plants, peaches , etc. etc.

  24. Colorado Bob says:

    The Case for Climate-Change Alarmism

    This may seem counter-intuitive, but only if you haven’t heard of climate-change’s “fat tail.” To put the significance of this fat tail in perspective, the “probability distribution representing the uncertainty in expected climate change implies that the risk of catastrophic outcome is more than forty thousand times more probable than that from an asteroid collision with the earth,” according to a recent report, “A Deeper Look at Climate Change and National Security,” by researchers at Sandia National Laboratory in New Mexico.

  25. Bill G says:

    Aren’t we doing much more than “depleting all our natural stocks”?

    The earth system – Gaia – is a self-regulating mechanism that is much more than the sum of its “stocks” or parts.

    Cutting trees, polluting water and air, fish, mining hydrocarbons does not just reduce or eliminate those things from earth. It disrupts and perhaps finally destroys a functioning system that makes up what we have come to know as our living planet.

    It is an important distinction that people should be aware of and Climate Progress can help.

  26. Bru Pearce says:

    Civilised societies at local, national and international levels are held together by laws and legal systems. New international law is urgently required so that polluters and destroyers can be held to account. I am hugely impressed by the work of Polly Higgins and urge you all to take a look at ERADICATING ECOCIDE laws and Governance to Prevent the Destruction of our Plant

    Putting the major polluters and deniers in the dock along with dictators for crimes against humanity is the way forward and may just be something that will really scare them into changing their behaviour.

  27. Peter Mizla says:

    All interesting comments. However I simply see this era coming to and end like the last Gilded age did (Which lasted from about 1880-1914 (interrupted by WW1 & the Slight reforms of the Progressive era- and then ending in late 1929- when broad reforms where brought in by FDR and his progressives predecessors for the next 30 years.

    The reforms by Obama have not been enough to begin balancing out the huge disparity of wealth and inequality Occupy WS is crusading against. The where will be-another economic collapse-

    will this collapse be brought about by climate change? Or aided by it- likely. As Arthur Miller once said “An era can be said to end when its basic illusions are exhausted” and the expectations of this second Gilded Age are coming to an end.

  28. Raul M. says:

    Some once talked of the old art of communism.
    That there was private property but there was also community holdings. Say in farming there was community farms to serve the group. But individuals also could hold their one private farms. Don’t know why community holdings got such a bad rap.
    Group effort does have advantages.

  29. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    Occupy Wall Street is really encouraging, the real stirring of those that the global parasite class despise, and fear-other people. Lambs refusing the slaughter, at last.The elite also despise one another and themselves, and the activity of exploiting others, appropriating their wealth and the fruits of their labour and manipulating the duller, greedier elements to become complicit in their own destruction is the very reason they exist. They can act in no other way, can only ever get worse, as their greed is insatiable and their contempt for others limitless, so a confrontation is inevitable, and the sooner the better. We must be realistic, however. This is very possibly humanity’s last chance to avoid a calamitous collapse, economic and ecological, which will lead to billions of deaths. It would have been better if it happened thirty years ago, or last year, but it’s better late than never. And not only are the exploiters unmoved by the prospect of collapse, which they will do all within their power to ensure does not touch them, but they, I believe, actually see such a catastrophe as an opportunity to be rid of billions they no longer need to exploit, and who they greatly fear.
    If this and other emancipatory and revolutionary movements begin to look like succeeding, and success can only come from ending the current system as it is irredeemable, the Masters will fight back with exemplary savagery, you can bet on it. First them will smear, deride and vilify. Then they will set up patsies and fall-guys, the new ‘radical’ ‘anarchist’ ‘terrorists’. As we can see already occurring in Egypt, it is simplicity itself to foment a riot, set a few goons loose, then blame the victims and utilise the discord as an excuse for a crackdown. And, most dangerous of all, the danger that the confidence-trickster-in-chief, Obama, will pull his old subterfuges, pretend to hear the message, promise to ‘lead’ the movement, and then betray the gullible, yet again. But, God bless ’em-at least they’ve got off their knees and are fighting back.

  30. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    Of moral insanity, to be precise, and spiritual emptiness, a sure recipe for evil. This is a classic, irreducible battle, between life and death, justice and brute power, compassion and cruelty and good and evil.

  31. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    The problem is that the parasite class has been stealing other peoples’ orchards for centuries, often by murdering those others, then cutting the trees down to make match-sticks.

  32. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    Amongst Stalin’s first victims were the true Communists in the Soviet Union.

  33. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    Michael, I agree 100%. This may be humanity’s last chance to remove the incubus of an insatiable parasite class that has sucked the life out of societies and the planet’s biospheres at least since the ‘dawn of civilization’. If no new social organisation based on co-operation rather than corrupt competition, on the nurturing of life rather than the pursuit of profit maximisation and on human fraternity rather than atomised selfishness, arises, then we will go into that darkness in an orgy of destruction and violence.

  34. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    Beware the lower middle class, so easily manipulated, so thoroughly indoctrinated in impotent greed and downward envy and fawning admiration for the rich parasites who are destroying their lives. The Dunning-Krugerites, ferociously manipulated by the Rightwing MSM through their weak spots, their fearfulness and extensive neurasthenic network of hatreds. In this country the Murdoch Evil Empire is so utterly ruthless in propagating hatred for numerous ‘out-groups’, Moslems, Aborigines, unionists, ‘Greenies’ gays etc, that any hater has a smorgasbord of delights upon which to feast. Day in, day out, hate without end, Amen.

  35. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    I have to disagree. Jobs and Gates are and were massively over-remunerated. They stood on the shoulders of giants, manipulating technologies created over decades, if not centuries, created nothing ex nihilo, had hundreds of enablers and colleagues, and everything they created was physically constructed by working people, often toiling for a pittance. We must institute a maximum wage, a maximum individual wealth, and massively redistribute global wealth. No-one ‘earns’ a billion dollars-they exploit an inherently morally corrupt system to accumulate great wealth by appropriating the value created by others, others who are underpaid for their efforts, and increasingly so.

  36. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    The Tea Party is ‘astro-turf’ created by morally insane plutocrats, manipulating the Dunning-Krugerites, and it is fawned upon by a corrupt and iniquitous MSM. Occupy Wall Street is the real deal, created by idealists and the morally aware (and justly outraged)and the MSM sewer loathes them, the surest testament to their ethical stature that I can think of.

  37. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    Sorry, Peter, but Obama’s ‘reforms’ are approximating to zero. He’s served his real masters, the plutocrats, and Wall Street in particular, in contrast, with a servility that is really something to behold. They will expect him to earn his keep now, in demolishing this nasty movement that so clearly is beginning to worry them, to judge from the efforts being expended to smear and denigrate it.

  38. Joe Romm says:

    Gates over-remunerated, Jobs not. Monopoly vs. Creativity.

  39. David Smith says:

    I am troubled by the association of the concept “Anarchism” in reference to the OWS movement. They are not advocating that government is bad. Though I am an outside of the activities in NYC I have participated in the planning meeting of Occupy Raleigh, in NC. They appear to be pursuing a structure like the town meetings I use to attend when I lived in western Massachusetts. They meet, debate, make decisions and carry out those decisions. This is the basic system of governance in our country and it has been going on for 235 years. This is not anarchy. This is home grown democracy where everyone gets a vote and money has no influence.

    I followed your anarchy link. I don’t think that that the OWS sentiment is that government is bad. The structures of our government are good, but because of undue influence, the government is no longer representative of “the people”. Players with money (the 1%) have corrupted the system. I get one vote while the 1% have finessed there way to be the majority.

    OWS, in my opinion is about corporate corruption in government. Corporations are authoritarian, top down organizations. They represent the interests of the board rooms and the CEOs. This structure conflicts directly with our representative democracy. It is not surprising that these systems come into conflict from time to time.

    OWS may seem chaotic and uncontrollable, but it is not anarchic.

  40. Peter Mizla says:


    Obama’s reforms are I agree worthless. The reforms in the Progressive era where far more reaching- but they still where not enough to prevent the implosion of 1929.

    So what does thus say about where we are going today. It means these protests will grow- eventually they will drown out the rich, prosperous plutocrats of the T Party.

    Where does Global warming fit into this fascinating time of American society? It fits hugely- and will become more prominent.

  41. John Tucker says:

    Actually its all kinda wrong. The Tea Party is mostly comparable to populist Fascist movements.

    Post 1968 France/US non violence movement the left became more of a Anarchist movement where ¨Anarchy¨ became government decentralized down to empowering the individual. The opposite of classical associations of anarchy and chaos.

    Fascism is of course approachable from the left, whether these leftist populist protests morph into such a direction remains to be seem.

  42. John Tucker says:

    If anyone is actually interested:

    Pretty good article, interestingly comparable situation – the categorization of ¨failure¨ is probably incorrect and based in older misconceptions of what constitutes political success.

    May 1968 in France ( )

  43. Joe Romm says:

    Ass backwards!

  44. Lionel A says:

    And as for the myth that glaciers are advancing this article informs that the IPCC ‘Himalaya-gate’ nonsense was just that, nonsense:

    Rivers of ice: Vanishing glaciers

  45. Mike Roddy says:

    Mulga- read Life Against Death, by Norman O. Brown, if you haven’t already. Thanatos is upon us, and we must defeat it.

  46. Adrian says:

    I agree with you David.

    OWS is not anarchic. Non-hierarchic organization is, IMHO, the opposite to anarchy. Complex, dynamic non-hierarchic organization looks chaotic, but follows rules of its own, even if we don’t grasp them–natural systems, for example.

    The only reason that the OWS folks’ demands seem inchoate is because they are addressing a complex, interconnected pattern of problems caused by the complex, relationships of government/money/corporations/legal structures–which have disastrous results for the environment, people, (the real) economy and so forth.

    Simple sound-bite demands don’t address the enormity of the problem. Solutions are going to require action on many fronts and will thus be complex in and of themselves.

  47. Christiane says:

    Are you joking? Jobs eschewed paying taxes by taking a $1 paycheck and living off of capital-gains-free dividends from Disney. His company made billions by paying indentured servants in Asia a pittance and designing planned obsolescence into his products. But his $1 paycheck made him look like a saint, and Apple’s mostly-for-show recycling program received praise from treehuggers everywhere. And this isn’t even the tip of the iceberg; how much “creativity” did it take to purchase others’ patents, and then sue the pants off of anyone that represented competition? What was that quotation from “The Usual Suspects,” something about the devil convincing others he didn’t exist? I suppose the greatest thing Jobs ever did was convince everyone he was a progressive do-gooder.

  48. Adrian says:

    I’m not sure that the old labels and categories–anarchist, fascist, right, left, liberal, conservative, libertarian–even make sense anymore. There are too many weird hybrids, inconsistencies and alliances.

    Look at the alliance between the libertarian Kochs and their ilk and social conservatives, for example. The tea party would like to tear down government yet would regulate private life. “Christianist” evangelical groups claim the Bible and religion, yet deny Christ’s message that we should help the poor. Obama, that “right of center” president is called a “socialist.” (Begging the questions of what those terms mean any more).

    Time for a reassessment of what’s going on socially, politically, and economically, and maybe come up with some new concepts and labels. I submit that the current slow motion multi-pronged, engulfing environmental crisis has already changed the underlying assumptions and fundamental rules of political theory/engagement (not to mention life on earth)– but that realization hasn’t yet completely emerged as one of the givens.

    BTW, Jane Mayer’s excellent piece on how Art Pope has bought North Carolina provides a good example of much that Occupy Wall Street is protesting, and why.

  49. Anarchy Wolf says:

    Fascism is really more about authoritarianism than about the left/right paradigm, so it is indeed possible for leftists to be fascistic, and it will remain to be seen what becomes of all of this.

  50. thomasrodd says:

    Anarchism is the hypothesis that people do better when not coerced or centrally directed — that bottom-up, face-to-face human groups are in general the most creative, graceful, and efficient. Science remains one of the most anarchistic enterprises. Anarchism recognizes that emergencies require centralized power and direction — but argues that such power and direction far too often remain long after they are needed. A lot of evidence supports this hypothesis. Todd Gitlin is a fairly astute poltical thinker, and with all respect, he has a better idea of what the anarchist attitude is than Joe Romm or the general crowd of posters on this blog. So lighten up and don’t be so crabby!

  51. Ernest says:

    I’ve thought about going “off grid” perma-culture and all. What are the survival strategies in the 2020’s when there are food and water shortages? But would this even work if the climate does not cooperate? (So the “individualistic” or even “local community” route is also not a solution?)

  52. Joe Romm says:

    One can redefine anarchism, but then take your debate elsewhere.

    “Anarchism is generally defined as the political philosophy which holds the state to be immoral, or alternatively as opposing authority in the conduct of human relations. Proponents of anarchism (known as “anarchists”) advocate stateless societies as the only moral form of social organization.”

    That is much closer to the Tea Party view.

  53. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    Christiane, I agree completely. Jobs was a master of PR, and the orgy of soppy condolences almost reminds me of the mass hysteria when Princess Di passed over. A business tycoon is a business tycoon-mahatmas they ain’t.

  54. Ernest says:

    Huge wealth disparities amongst individuals certainly bothers me. By itself, I don’t see this as the main issue. It’s the consolidation of power, the undue influence over the political system at the expense of everyone else that is most problematic. Here it’s not just rich individuals, but institutions (corporations, media), allied with not so rich fundamentalists, a certain economic theory/ideology that is still widely held in the mainstream, that will prevent us from dealing with the climate problem.

    While the 99% vs. 1% wealth issue is a nice slogan/shorthand/symbol for illustrating a very basic problem, it also misses some nuances for effectively dealing with the problem.

  55. Peter Mizla says:

    Fascism as described by most political scientists;

    According to most scholars of fascism, there are both left and right influences on fascism as a social movement, and fascism, especially once in power, has historically attacked communism, conservatism and parliamentary liberalism, attracting support primarily from the “far right” or “extreme right.”

    Marx said

    Fascism in power is the open, terrorist dictatorship of the most reactionary, the most chauvinistic, the most imperialistic elements of finance capitalism.


    Fascism advocates a state-directed, regulated economy that is dedicated to the nation that supports the use and primacy of private property and private enterprise; the use of state enterprise where private enterprise is failing or is inefficient; pursues autarky; and is hostile to: finance capitalism, plutocracy, the “power of money”, and internationalist economics

  56. Lionel A says:

    Do you know the history of MS-Dos?

    Just wondered.

    I too have felt the chill wind of the Microsoft effect.

    And think about all those workers in asian and african sweatshops with few rights and poor working conditions who enabled the low cost of that IT kit.

    As for the B&M Gates Foundation – I wonder what value the tax privaleges that come with that?

  57. Merrelyn Emery says:

    Adrian, the rules, or actually the design principles, were discovered in 1967 and have been researched and put into action ever since. The first principle produces representative democracy, the second produces participative democracy and an absence of both principles produces what you are calling here ‘anarchy’, called ‘laissez-faire’ in the scientific literature.

    The critical factor is the location of responsibility for coordination and control.

    You can check them out at, ME

  58. Lionel A says:

    So Beck is too stupid to change his tune and negotiate instead of enervating the 99%.

  59. Merrelyn Emery says:

    Bill, you are spot on. Too many of our sciences have ignored systems thinking despite this being the reality with which we live. That is why we must be prepared for many more unpredicted events like the new Arctic ozone hole, ME

  60. Schiamachy says:

    We in OZ are fighting against the same forces as you as the local corporates are importing US measures to gain control. Thought this review might be interesting to you all.

    Title: The corporate war against democracy
    (University of NSW Press, 1995. 214 pp., $19.95)
    Review of Alex Carey, Taking the Risk out of Democracy: Propaganda in the US and Australia
    Reviewed by Alex McCutcheon in Green Left Weekly
    As Alex Carey sees it, “The twentieth century has been characterized by three developments of great political importance: the growth of democracy, the growth of corporate power, and the growth of corporate propaganda as a means of protecting corporate power against democracy”.
    Throughout this book of collected essays with its unified theme, Carey succeeds in showing the reader that far from being a natural outcome of “market forces” or some natural “law of nature”, the present hegemony that corporations enjoy has been the result of a consciously pursued goal whose origins lie within corporate America.
    Carey makes the crucial (and often forgotten) point that in a technologically advanced democracy, “the maintenance of the existing power and privileges are vulnerable to popular opinion” in a way that is not true in authoritarian societies. Therefore elite propaganda must assume a “more covert and sophisticated role”.
    In the US, corporate propaganda has played upon the high level of religious beliefs in the community, beliefs which leave its citizens predisposed to see the world in “Manichean terms”. This outlook leads towards a preference for action over reflection, a “pragmatic orientation” that is perfectly suited to the corporate aim of identifying positive symbols with business, while assigning negative values to those that oppose them, such as labour unions and welfare provisions.
    The organised dissemination of these symbols had its initial impetus in groups such as the National Americanization Committee, which succeeded in manipulating nationalist and patriotic symbols during World War I to associate corporate values with the “American way of life”. The psychological power of this association cannot be discounted: it has proved to be an enduring feature of the political climate in the US today.
    Since then the corporate agenda has embraced all areas of society – media, schools, academia and the workplace – with focuses on different levels from “grassroots” to “tree-tops”. It has succeeded via the mass media in identifying capitalism with democracy and in portraying any challenge to corporate elites as either “subversive” or “extremist”.
    This campaign to vilify those who do not adhere to the desired apathy is exemplified by the shameful way in which some industrial psychologists portray economic interests of employees to be somehow neurotic or dysfunctional. Their shabby efforts to lend an air of science to this field are put under the spotlight by Carey and found severely wanting.
    The US system of corporate propaganda has since been exported wholesale to Australia, with little if any concession to local cultural values.
    Carey argues passionately for a society that encourages people to become genuine citizens able to participate in meaningful ways in their immediate environment. To achieve this a diversity of views must be promoted.
    However, public exposure to views other than corporate has been greatly feared by elites, who rightly believe that their power and privileges would increasingly come into question. In the absence of an environment such as that Carey argues for, procedural democracy occurs, whereby the populace is merely called upon to ratify corporate decision making.
    Noam Chomsky has advocated that citizens undertake a “course of intellectual self-defence” to arm themselves against the one-sided view of the world that is presented to them through the media. In this respect, Taking the Risk out of Democracy is an important contribution towards understanding the reasons for the current conformity.
    As well, it leaves one in no doubt that despite the “harmony” in society that conservatives invariably extol, there is a highly conscious class war being fought from the top.

  61. From Peru says:

    “And, indeed, the ultimate goal of the Tea Party, however unintentional, is anarchy, since that is the inevitable result of the unsustainable accumulation of wealth by the richest few at the expense of the many,(…)”

    In this I strongly disagree. What the Koch brothers have as a unintentional goal is not anarchy, is utter chaos: a post-industrial Dark Ages.

    Anarchy is not chaos, but an ideal system that is characterized to be classless and stateless. Anarchy is also known as “pure communism”. See here:

    This ultimate goal of a classless and stateless society is the common objetive of both anarchists and marxists. They however strongly disagree on the path to it.

    Some of the OWS protesters might be anarchists, other may be marxists, but almost surely most of them are just “Outraged” (here in Peru in the spanish-speaking news the OWS movement is called the “indignados”(outraged), alike the movement in Spain): people utterly outraged by the actions of a small minority of plutocrats that have caused the global crisis and are benefiting from it instead of being forced to repair it.

    In any case, people like the Koch brothers are the exact opposite of the Anarchists.

  62. Solar Jim says:

    What if humanity discovered that of the two essential descriptions which all physical phenomena on Earth may be categorized, Matter and Energy, we have placed fossil matter (solid, liquid and gas), as well as uranium, in the wrong category of “Energy?” What if our technocratic determination of energy efficiency were based on pure fraud?

    Would we then have an economy of explosives? That is, an economy of massive ecocidal contamination, from essentially permanent radiological poison and carbonic acid production based on fraudulent (or corrupted) concepts of “economics?” Could this be described as black-gold-monetized, fuels-of-war, dystopic, poisonous, plutocratic, authoritarian ecocide? Greed and corruption of corporate controlled, petro-nation-states indeed.

    Thank you to all participants of Occupy Wall Street. It seems only you understand the first principle of the American Revolution, revolution. Can there be such a thing as a globalized, political revolution for truth, justice and equality which puts an end to globalized, fuels-of-war, nation-state sanctioned (and fascistic) plutocracy?

    We are all in revolution about the sun and “the arc of history bends toward justice.”

  63. Exactly. These protesters are fighting for the rule of law, not against it. It is perhaps one of the most drastic ironies of history that currently many of the ‘lawmakers’ are against them.

  64. Wee Willie says:

    “..public exposure to views other than corporate has been greatly feared by elites, who rightly believe that their power and privileges would increasingly come into question..”

    Sorry…we the meek and many who are too BIG to FAIL have already gone past the point of questioning the values, principles and motives of the corporate elite and their wealthy cronies…they made their choice and have chosen the wrong side of history, once again…C’est la Vie!

    No longer does it surprise me to see that little evidence of past advanced technological civilizations exists. Could it be that they too perished by the insanity of the wealthy of their times? Or, did Divine intervention suddenly appear to save them from their wayward ways?

    I also wonder, how much money and assets does one need to feel safe, secure and healthy in the world today? What…$1 million? $2 million? $3 million? Maybe $10 million is what it really takes for our most insecure people to feel safe and secure.

    If so, then what I would peopose is to place wealth limits on our system of runaway capitalism, such as $10 million for any single family (spouses & two children under 18) to have in cash and assets. Those with more than that will simply have to give away their excess wealth to relatives and friends until they also have $10 million. Whatever is left over in individual societies the world over, like the US, will go to the rest of the citizens equally.

    However, the 1% ponzi-schemers own 45% of US assets, or about $40 Trillion, much of which was obtained by ill-gotten means such as thru fast-fix tax loop-holes, employee exploitation and pump & dump equity schemes in market manipulations.

    Therefore, perhaps the best idea is to take their $40 Trillion as retribution and divide it equally among the 75 million families in America. If so, then each family would receive (in cash, land & other assets) about $533,333 each, or about $133,000 per person, based on a family of four.

    Of course, that would make too much sense since such a move would lead to an economic boom and era of prosperity like the world has never seen, and it would reduce the number of poor to just 1% (the formerly wealthy) in many developed and emerging countries. Such a plan may also lead to an amazing level of prosperity for sub-Saharan countries in Africa and elsewhere in the world where poverty is the norm, rather than the exception since an economic boom would also require many more workers than are available today (of working age, healthy, etc).

    Then again, I could simply slug it out on my own with BIG OIL and ENERGY over the proliferation of a new clean energy technology for energy storage and generation that will subvert their roles to that of back-up energy suppliers while reversing global warming (450ppm) by 2040.

    Who knew that such things were possible if we all stood up at once for what we truly believed in and need. Unless, of course, $10 million is just too little for you to feel safe and secure with. This can be done and in much quicker time than anyone thought possible without the need for violence, bloodshed and persecution of others rights to live as they choose.

    Similarly, I would also place corporate limits on advertising spending for media formats, such as TV, print, radio, internet, etc. in order to level the playing field and allow businesses to comepte fairly and within their new wealth limits. I would also abolish any form of Congressional lobbying from corporate sponsors and hold individual contributors to political campaigns accountable for the credibility and integrity of their candidate’s promises to their constituents if elected, if we even need that form of government anymore, which we may not.

    I could go on…but what’s the point? We shall see what we shall see soon enough.

  65. Mimi K says:

    The great big story I see playing out is between two opposing evolutionary strategies for survival.

    One is the Rich Die Last evolutionary plot in which whoever has the most energy/food/fuel/resources dies last. Time-limited survival of the Greediest. The corporate takeover of all planetary resources will allow a scant 1% of humanity to survive, but only for a while.

    This evolutionary plot is, of course, the “survival of the fittest,” which, as readers of this blog undoubtedly know, is Herbert Spencer’s perversion of Darwin to justify capitalism. So, one big plot line is the ultimate end of the survival of the fittest capitalist experiment: the survival of the rich few for a BIT LONGER than the rest of us.

    The alternative evolutionary plot is “mutual aid,” introduced by Kropotkin (a Russian anarchist, interestingly). In Kropotkin’s view, species survive through energy exchanges that are mutually beneficial.

    Mutual Aid contradicts capitalism, of course.
    BUT, the mutual aid evolutionary strategy has the potential to secure LONG TERM survival of the human species, as against the extended life span of the rich few.

    As I see it, the very (very!) deep human question before us is what our evolutionary story will be, the story of the rich die last as unchecked (i.e., anarchic) capitalism continues on its MAD path of mutually assured destruction of people and planet?

    OR will the human evolutionary story be that, in a global crisis that threatened ALL humanity, mutual aid directed toward MUTUALLY ASSURED VITALITY for people and planet is how humanity survived and continued to thrive on earth?

  66. Wee Willie says:

    Mimi K, I concur with your synopses of the current global condition where its 1% vs. 99% system of uneasy coexistence exists today, and where I choose MAV–Mutually Assured Vitality as the major criteria for evalutating a truly successful civilization. So civilized that it may be trusted to mingle among other more highly evolved civilizations of the cosmos who choose to observe rather than intervene as if to see if our mettle as a species is worthy of further evolution along side them in relative peace. However, it may be just as plausible that we are not seen as worthy of that notable human moment in our evolution and instead, we are simply allowed to die out as a failed species by natural causesl such as a major asteroid impact.

    Perhaps it is also true that in order for our moment in the Sun to arrive, those of great wealth and presumably greater access to empirical knowledge which the rest of us may only speculate about, must first divest their hold on the wealth they have amassed before becoming eligible to advance further as a species. My guess is that most wealthy individuals in excess of $10 million in total assets in this world will wait until the last possible moment before performing such an empathic act, which will be too late for everyone.

    IMO I believe it is likely that more advanced civlizations would have developed a form of mutual aid in the exchange of energy, possibly what they call an “erg”–a unit of energy for every beat of one’s heart, perhaps. However, what can be done for the heartless? In their case, molecular reorganization may be their only hope.

    Still, we remain on the threshhold of a Dream…AND until we choose to end our nightmare as a civlization united, we will never live the dream we could all enjoy together…Hmmm..

  67. Ron Peterson says:

    The Fascist movement was not around at the time of Marx, so he didn’t have any comments on it.

    Fascism is an invention of Mussolini, an alliance of corporations and government. See

    Productivity increases have made the 40 hour work week a path to high unemployment.

    Solow got a Nobel prize in economics for showing that science and technology is the primary cause of economic progress.