The reality of worldwide violence and oppression is indeed exacerbated by the power of Government. Libertarians are right to identify oppression with “too much Government” — however, thanks to years of re-branding efforts and deliberate obfuscation, most of them have their identification and analysis of the problem completely backwards. The most oppressive governments people face are corporate governments, and the most tyrannical forms are usually found at work-places and local areas, not at the Federal Government.
So called conservatives will talk about “the people” getting together to vote themselves somebody elses property, but they forget that it is usually the officers/governors of such public trusts who have the ability to even engage in this activity. For that reason a lot of what they say is pure projection. Our biggest problem is not too much democracy, but too little.
There is a lot of slickness, sophistry, involved. But that sophistry is easy to see through if one just slows down and applies analytical tools. Conservatives may have no shame in their attempts to rewrite, take over and rebrand, or obfuscate just about any subject, but it is nothing new.
The same thing has been going on since ancient times. The only way to keep people down is to convince them that what is obviously bad for them is somehow good in the long run, or to get them blaming the wrong people. The history of wars started through fraud, through desire for loot stretches from the time of the Assyrians (and back) to Dick Cheney’s fraud about Iraq.
We don’t have too much Democracy
Anyway the real problem with our world is not democracy but too much concentrated power, “governance” and resulting corruption in government. The root cause of this corruption is that hierarchy and oligarchy both
Indeed, the depth to which they mis-portray the nature and causes of that corruption has its root cause in their well funded efforts to support their patrons — who are usually the folks who benefit from and cause that corruption in the first place. We don’t have too much democracy — we have too little democracy. And we don’t cure democracy by doing away with it. It is wonderful that the latest manifestation of that corruption is occurring in Madison Wisconsin because that is the homeplace of Robert (Fighting Bob) LaFollete, who was a progressive and whose legacy is one worth emulating. Not that he was a perfect human being, as with all heroes one has to study them in context, learn from them, and keep ones thinking cap on:
From 1901 until 1906, La Follette served as Governor of Wisconsin. During his first term, he proposed to set up a railroad commission, impose an ad valorem tax on the railroad companies, and establish a direct primary system. The Stalwarts blocked his agenda, and he refused to compromise with them.
It is this legacy that the Republicans, with their long institutional, programic, and Readers Digest style memory, are seeking to undermine, dismantle, and ultimately bury. Modern Republicans hail from the “Stalwarts” who represented Big Business, the small businessmen of the small towns, and an alliance between people scared of immigrants and labor and these vested and power hungry people.
During the 1904 elections, the Stalwarts organized to oppose La Follette’s nomination and moved to block any reform legislation. La Follette began working to unite insurgent Democrats to form a broad coalition. He did manage to secure the passage of the primary bill and some revision to the railroad tax structure.
In the end LaFollette, and other progressives failed to reign in corporate power because of two things. One, there is a logic to organizing transportation into a national and world system that is based on facts and numbers not ideology. And two, there was a tremendous amount of money available to the Stalwarts through the railroads. The Stalwarts were the TEA party of their time. They had no problem with taxes on you and me. The “Taxed Enough Already” cry is the cry of folks who think they own the country and don’t want to collect taxes and fees — not pay them. Remember rents, fees, even interest, are akin to taxes. The best La Follette could hope for was moderation of the massive power and wealth aggrandizement these people were reaching for. Ultimately that wealth concentration destabilized the economy and was the root cause of the great depression.
And we can learn a lesson from LaFollette in how to fight back against the Tea Party from the way he dealt with the “Stalwarts”:
When the legislative session concluded, La Follette traveled throughout Wisconsin reading the “roll call”; that is, he read the votes of Stalwart Republicans to the people in an effort to elect Progressives. During this campaign, La Follette gained national attention when muckraking journalist Lincoln Steffens began to cover his campaign.
In absence of information lies trump facts.
Being well funded by corrupt sources cannot be fought by fund raising alone. For one thing that method of resistence has the risk that one will be corrupted by the same people who are corrupting ones opponents. For another, in the absence of good communication propaganda rules the roost.
Facts Defeat lies when coupled with reality
This is one of the core problems with our current politics. Politics is the art of getting things done. Really negative Politics, what people usually mean when they disparage “politics” as if it were one of Athena’s Daughters, is the art of sabotaging, corrupting, blocking and fighting the efforts of ones opponents. While sometimes it is necessary to fight something, one should always be conducting such fights with the goal of improving the system, not destroying, degrading, or dispossessing enemies. Confrontation is about confronting reality — not simply beating up the “opposing team.” One has to consider viable alternatives and keep them in mind until such time as there is no alternative. Only when the alternative is personal death, dismembership or slavery is conflict inevitable. And even then any force used should be strategically aimed at bringing ones opponents to a table to bargain. One has to leave the door open because eventually even wars end and these people, or their relatives, will still be around.
Thoughtful Analysis to win over the opponent.
One should always consider one’s opponents ideas and not arrogantly dismiss them. For one thing a really effective debate occurs not when one has a ready repartee available for their assaults, but when one truly analyzes what they are saying and comes to a reasoned analysis of it. I don’t know about you, but it is impossible for me to concentrate and really hear what someone is saying unless I suspend disbelief and my own internal chatter [which is hard for me to do but I'm learning]. Once I’ve truly listened with my inner ear and my third eye. I can see right through any spin, obfuscations, and lies to any corrupt core I can perceive — while at the same time I can hear the Point of View, truths, and disclosures contained in the persons language. Inadvertently even the most adept liars can not match reality. Sometimes I have to listen to many people before I can get to the truth. For example when I was studying Von Mises; One person, coming from the right would tell me that Von Mises saved Austria from Unions and hyper-inflation. Then another would be excusing Dolfuss and saying that not all Fascists were bad [presumably because this one hired Von Mises to work for him]. And then I’d read his writings and find that there was much I could agree with, but other things where he obviously was not willing to even consider contradictions between his models and concepts and reality. He says A-priori, another economist deconstructs his arguments…. Who has time for that? I take the time because I want to come to the right answers. We can’t all do that all the time, but we can look for people who do that sort of thing, and we find that some will do it when they are wearing their thinking cap, and the best liars tell only the truth — just in a very devious way.
Abraham Lincoln won his debate with Stephan Douglas over a period of years, not days. After losing his election for Senator he went back to the books and proved that the Founding fathers had not, in fact, prohibited the Federal Government to interfere in States rights over slavery. On the contrary the Federal Government regulated slavery from the founding of the country and whatever their faults the Federalists were on record as being for the abolition of slavery. The Southerners were lying (and still are) about what they wanted to do. Rather than being merely — provided they are founded on real facts and ones own alternatives are not viable. Even if the opponent alternatives are not viable, the exercise is rewarding because it can help one define the constraints, risks and opportunities involved in ones own projected principles, methods, and plans. Failure teaches if one is willing to learn.
Responding with Violence
Of course Lincoln’s battle with Douglas illustrates the perils of truthfulness. The truly disturbed, twisted, tyrannical and oppressive don’t respond well to truth. It affects their bottom line, and that has been the real problem with the “South” which at this point is a nationwide mentality. Slavery, dispossession, cheating workers and employees out of their pensions and pay, are a way of life for some people, and they are used to exercising tyranny with impunity. This is especially true on Wall Street and in the banking community, but I’ve run into it with business dealings myself. The Supreme Court long ago ruled that private corporations have few fiduciary duties except to their stockholders, and that shows not only in the behavior of private corporations, but ones that ostensibly have a public trust such as State, County or local governments, and non-profits. Corruption is corrosive because it involves calculations of benefit versus cost. And right now, the usual cost for fraud is that someone gets scapegoated, maybe gets prosecuted, and the rest go right on with their dirty dealing and efforts to make that dirty dealing legal. We have the best government money can buy.
War is the result of tyranny
And when one tangles with a deeply corrupt institution, such as the Southern United States of 1860, the reaction to even moderate attempts at moderating their tyranny is rage and warfare. That is what happened to Lincoln. He made a moral argument that undermined the lies and pretensions of southerners and they couldn’t handle it. I know, one corner of my family was on the wrong side and I heard the stories. They didn’t add up.
But this rebranding, rewriting, dissembling and dishonesty is older than the south. Joan of Ark was burned at the stake because she asked a peasants question about the behavior of the English and neither they nor the lords of France could handle it. The Romans degraded their own Republic, and Christian Romans destroyed the Western Empire from within. Outside Barbarians get blamed, but it is always the inside barbarians who open the doors for them. Constantinople probably would have fallen anyway, but a Greek Defender opened the Doors and hastened the end for the new Sultan. His reason was that he hated the “Franks” who were defending the city walls ane the Ecumenicism of the Emperor. Better to be a slave of the Turks than an ally of Rome was the Greek feeling. They got to be slaves for 400 years.
Fighting Successfuly means Truth Telling
So the means for defeating a well funded opponent is the combination of honesty/Truth Force, integrity, calling out the dishonesty of the enemy (one cannot do this successfully and in a sustained manner unless oneself is virtuous), organizing to communicate, and the recognition that the “Turks” are not better than an integral and well governed government.
Methods for use in our times
One can reach a very broad audience simply by getting ones followers to spread the word. LaFollette demonstrated this 100 years ago:
With the press coverage and his successful re-election, La Follette rose to become a national figure. His message against “vast corporate combinations” attracted more journalists and more progressives.
This strategy works. However, it wasn’t just the press coverage, it was the underlying integrity of the message he delivered. The railroads were demonstrably swindling their users and stakeholders with high prices, violence against workers, and by their legal and illegal combinations. And they were supported by a general systemic collaboration between local government (police and executives) and business governors. Labor violence was a top down feature, not merely something instigated by outsiders, and being spied on, treated arbitrarly and with threats and violence, and being subject to cruel, dangerous, and often poisonous working conditions. These were features of working life for most laborers and lower level white collar workers. That is why LaFollette’s strategy worked.
As governor, La Follette championed numerous progressive reforms, including the first workers’ compensation system, railroad rate reform, direct legislation, municipal home rule, open government, the minimum wage, non-partisan elections, the open primary system, direct election of U.S. Senators, women’s suffrage, and progressive taxation. He created an atmosphere of close cooperation between the state government and the University of Wisconsin in the development of progressive policy, which became known as the Wisconsin Idea. The goals of his policy included the recall, referendum, direct primary, and initiative. All of these were aimed at giving citizens a more direct role in government. The Wisconsin Idea promoted the idea of grounding legislation on thorough research and expert involvement. To implement this program, La Follette began working with University of Wisconsin–Madison faculty. This made Wisconsin a “laboratory for democracy” and “the most important state for the development of progressive legislation”. As governor, La Follette signed legislation that created the Wisconsin Legislative Reference Library (now Bureau) to ensure that a research agency would be available for the development of legislation.
From the Devious to the Ridiculous
I started this article after reading about Emma Goldman on a Von Mises site. The incongruity started my mind into the ferment which is recorded here. Rebranding is an old trick of cons and conservatives. Examples of this range from efforts to prevent workers from being able to bargain with their employers [and calling that "Right to Work" -- which is a lie] to articles trying to claim various past personages as “libertarians.” The authors probably actually believe they are carrying on her tradition despite being anti-labor, anti-working man, anti-women, and basically anti truthfulness and integrity. They do have traits in common with her because she was a rationalist in a time when rationalism had become a common faith of most elites and educated folks. Still Emma Goldman as one of theirs while standing for the opposite of everything she stood for that was positive is so incongruous as to not merit serious consideration. Even so the article is still worth reading because it has some facts in it and whenever there are actual facts presented one can form ones own opinions…. Still these websites and think tanks are such cons, the more I study them and fact check them the more I’m amazed at how much influence money can buy in the intellectual (or pseudo-intellectual) sphere.