What is going on with the budget battle is a bit of an escalation from the Reagan years, or even the Clinton years. In the Reagan years, the “revolution” was driven by an alliance between social conservatives who were rallied around emotional issues like abortion, womens rights, or suffrage for black people — and economic conservatives who really didn’t give a rats behind for the social issues (most of them were libertarians on social issues or even elitist) but who knew how to manipulate issues and that those issues would get them votes.

With time the social conservatives merged with the economic conservatives as two phenomena happened; one the social conservative leaders made money through their politics, and two the power of the voices against them was attenuated and weakened. And two, economic leaders gradually embraced the dogmas of social conservatism under the relentless and massive bombardment of years of propaganda. The Catholic Church and other groups funded propaganda and training to re-frame and push the abortion issue by continually pushing the ethics boundaries. These arguments convinced people to embrace both economic and social conservatism on a faith level. Business people at all levels were convinced to buy “trickle down” explanations for economic issues. And many of them accepted conventional moralistic views of abortion and other social issues with them.

But even so, up until recently even the most professed of conservatives gave at least lip service to protecting the “safety net” of ordinary people. It is only in recently years that there has been any traction for notions like the “Government” as a “pig with a million teats.”

The Horatio Alger Myth

Economic conservativism has always been business driven and reflected the parochial views and concerns of business people. It seems plausible that a governing economy and collection of public goods and services should operate in aggregate in much the same way that the private projects, enterprises and businesses that make them up. That is it seems a tautology that governments can’t spend more than they bring in, that people should be able to take care of themselves without government help, and that “government help” can be bad for people morally as they should be able to use ingenuity and enterprise to pull themselves up by the bootstraps. This philosophy has been a tenet of faith for American business oriented people whether they worked in a factory and dreamed of inventing the next apple, or sold apples in the street and dreamed of franchising them. The Horatio Alger myth was marketed as an alternative to progressive anarchist and communist ideas more than a 120 years ago and has been a powerful force for protecting the status quo ever since.

I don’t have direct access to Georges Sorel’s writings from a hundred years ago, but when he defended the power of myth making and advanced the notion that myths like the “general strike” could help socialists do battle for the working man, I wouldn’t be surprised if he didn’t refer to them. Of course the chronology could be backwards, and it could be that the Horatio Alger myth was created by people familiar with Sorel’s concepts and doing battle with revolutionary myths. In either case we’ve been battling a battle between competing myths and ideologies ever since, and the casualties have been high with reality being the first one. Georges Sorel was advancing revolutionary myths, which while they’d been picked up by the Communists actually draw upon the American and French Revolution for their inspiration. The world divides into the Generals who understand and use myths, the “priests” who follow those generals into battle and preach them, and followers who are usually befuddled, confused, recruited and used by both sets of myths. Buddhism calls such people the “three powerful enemies”. This is a generalized phenomena because people are perverse and can use any idea in a self interested manner.

Marx had no chance against the Three Powerful Enemies, neither did Paine, Gandhi, Nichiren, nor Martin Luther King. As the Stones sing:

“Please to meet you, hope you guessed my name. I guess what is troubling you is the nature of my game!”

Fighting the Myth Generals

But the insanity of the whole thing is that people can, will and sometimes have to, do battle, even knowing that their groups are fraught with delusion and full of mistaken ideas, because myths are a powerful inward reality of their own, and sometimes the “real reality” around a collection of “myth generals” can only be established by fighting those people. We are in such a fight now.

Myth Generals can be thought of as “evil” or “deluded” sages — who have part of reality right and because of that are very good at the tactics they need in order to win the immediate battles they are fighting. Napoleon was a master at artillery use — and it was a whiff of artillery that ended the Republic and brought in the Napoleonic Imperial period in the French Revolution. Our modern crop of Republicrat, neo-liberal, neo-conservative, neo-libertarian politicians are in Washington on the premise that the country is broke and once they’ve finished transiting its assets the their 400 patrons it darn well will be. They are acting out 30 years of propaganda from the American Heritage Foundation, American Enterprise Institute, and its priests on the internet, and are determined to punish the Federal Government as a scapegoat for Wallstreet’s sins, while shifting power back to wallstreet — since Wall Street is paying them.

Out of gratitude to wall street they’ve defenestrated Consumer and Banking protections, and gone after policies that helped maintain the middle class and prevent abject poverty. All in the theory that somehow private companies will trickle down on their employees from their upstairs bathrooms. At least that is how I see it because I’ve never seen any actual evidence that private companies actually invest in anything that takes more than 5 years to pay back — and that they usually won’t even invest in anything that takes more than 2 years to pay back. I can’t understand what other logic they have because none of their other arguments amount to anything but lies.

Comparing to Nichiren teachings.

The only thing to do is to do battle with them. We are like the folks who innocently helped Gotoba to restore the Emperor to power only to find out that he was even more incompetent at running the country of Japan than the Bakufu had been. Nichiren’s teachings about the restoration of Buddhism and its connection to political prosperity were tenuous at best, and if there’d been a Nichirenist Government it would have looked like the Tyranny that led Kyoto to be at war with the rural districts around it in the 1300′s. Myths are myths, and good government takes good constitutions. Religion comes into this in the ethics of the officers and the virtuousness of officials — all of which we learn require checks and balances as nobody can be relied on to be virtuous no matter what they profess in public.

We need reforms. We need to recognize that they are in the realm of real life, and we need to recognize that dealing with delusion means putting checks and balances on our sages as well as on ordinary people. The question in the rise of corruption is “who will watch the watchers.” And the observation that informs that observation is that in one account the only difference between the Buddha and Devadatta was the voice. That voice comes from the ability of people to engage in call and response. The virtuous call to the young. And the Young respond with virtue. The corrupt simply offer silence. The voice of the Buddha is the voice of enlightened people. When it is only one there are no guarantees, but when it is a multitude, there is hope.