Thursday, December 29, 2011

Thomas Paine on revelation.

"It is a contradiction in terms and ideas to call anything a revelation that comes to us at second hand, either verbally or in writing. Revelation is necessarily limited to the first communication. After this, it is only an account of something which that person says was a revelation made to him; and though he may find himself obliged to believe it, it cannot be incumbent on me to believe it in the same manner, for it was not a revelation made to me, and I have only his word for it that it was made to him."
- Thomas Paine, Age of Reason, Part 1

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Thomas Paine, utilitarian.

"For the first and great question, and that which involves every other in it, and from which every other will flow, is happiness."
Thomas Paine, The Forrester's Letters, 1776.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Thomas Paine -- an association of vices revisited.

  [posted in honor of my friend Jim Lockhardt]

 "An association of vices will reduce us more than the sword."
Thomas Paine, American Crisis IX, 1780.

Everyone understands, don't they, that the financial industry and "big corporate" are accomplices in the subversion of the Congress ... not to exclude the government more generally, the military and even off-book elements. The corruption of government is a symptom. The infection is undue influence and the means is money or, as it's sometimes called, power. This has been the case, incidentally, since the establishment of the 1789 Constitution, the law-of-the-land in name. Money is king, not law. The corruption of government is a symptom. The infection is undue influence and the means is money or, as it's sometimes called, power (repeated, with apologies, for emphasis). This is not rocket-science. On the one hand, Congress was bribed into deregulating the financial sector while, on the other hand, Chicago and Austrian school economists blew hot air in the pants of anyone naive enough to believe their recycled "show me the money" theories. Short on education and long on petty greed, Americans ignored history and allowed over one  hundred years of hard-earned economic experience to go down the drain. Forty years of so-called free-market deregulation and what did we get? Trillions of dollars in exotic, non-productive financial instruments -- basically bets leveraged in different directions on crummy mortgages in an overheated housing bubble -- took down the economy. The bad mortgages were the initial domino. In terms of dollar amount (that's numbers of dominoes for you Fox News kool-aid drinkers out there), the bad mortgages and underwater homes are DWARFED by the vastly larger amounts of unfunded funny-money ... drrrrrr ... financial instruments that were placed as bets by  both for and against them. Anyone that believes deregulation is the cure under these circumstances needs -- in my ever humble opinion, of COURSE -- an examination of the cranium. The cure begins with publicly funded elections. And from the day the decision was made, it was clear to me that the only legal solution to the Supreme Court's "Citizens United" and other corporate person-hood precedent is a constitutional amendment.The republic was lost a long time ago. We 'Muricans prefer a comfortable lie to the bald truth. It an oligarchy ... an aristocracy of money. If we decide to move towards a freer society and equality under the law -- in my view the synonym for free society is democratic republic -- then we're going to have to struggle for it. We don't have one now and the powers-that-be will go neither willingly nor easily from their preeminent positions.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Lincoln on labor and capital.

 Pres. Lincoln on the supremacy of labor -- speech delivered to Joint Session of Congress 150 years ago today:

"It is not needed, nor fitting here [in discussing the Civil War] that a general argument should be made in favor of popular institutions; but there is one point, with its connections, not so hackneyed as most others, to which I ask a brief attention. It is the effect to place capital on an equal footing with, if not above, labor, in the structure of government. It is assumed that labor is available only in connection with capital; that nobody labors unless somebody else, owning capital, somehow by the use of it induces him to labor. This assumed, it is next considered whether it is best that capital shall hire laborers, and thus induce them to work by their own consent, or buy them, and drive them to it without their consent. Having proceeded thus far, it is naturally concluded that all laborers are either hired laborers or what we call slaves. And further, it is assumed that whoever is once a hired laborer is fixed in that condition for life.

“Now, there is no such relation between capital and labor as assumed, nor is there any such thing as a free man being fixed for life in the condition of a hired laborer. Both these assumptions are false, and all inferences from them are groundless.

“Labor is prior to, and independent of, capital. Capital is only the fruit of labor, and could never have existed if labor had not first existed. Labor is the superior of capital, and deserves much the higher consideration. Capital has its rights, which are as worthy of protection as any other rights."