Well Georgia Sam he had a bloody nose
Welfare Department they wouldn’t give him no clothes
He asked poor Howard where can I go
Howard said there’s only one place I know
Sam said tell me quick man I got to run
Ol’ Howard just pointed with his gun
And said that way down on Highway 61. — Bob Dylan
Empire Burlesque has received an interesting communication from a Mr. John Howard. (Not, presumably, the former Australian Prime Minister, but obviously someone of equal intellectual heft.) Mr. Howard objects most vociferously to my excerpting of an analysis of the economic crisis by Professor Michael Hudson. (See Feudal Gestures: Bailout Barons and Their Modern Peons). Readers are invited to peruse his very long disquisition in full in the comments attached to that post, but below are a few clips:
But there is neither history nor logic to the idiotic myth that free markets must be controlled to prevent monopolies. There have never been monopolies that were not created by the coercive power of government. In other words, government is – in all cases – the cause of monopoly, not the cure. Further, even if a monopoly did occur voluntarily – it would be because all customers wished to trade with the one supplier – and would thus be a harmless market phenomenon. Harmless, except to those eaten by envy at the sight of great success and hungry to get violent with the winners in the voluntary marketplace….
Tossing around warmed-over Marxist rhetoric like “predatory” and “exploitation” when referring to fully-informed voluntary relations is nothing but the malicious rhetorical strategies of cheats who know they can’t win a debate on honest grounds. “Predatory debt”? Doesn’t that refer to irresponsible parasites who volunteer to borrow but then resent the responsibility to repay what they borrowed?
…There is no such thing as the public interest for the simple reason that there is no such thing as the public. There are only individuals. Some produce and deserve to keep what they produce. Others grab what others produce using violence. All the rhetoric about the public interest is put out by the violent grabbers pretending that their grabbing is in everyone’s interest and that producers keeping what they produce is, somehow, “exploitation”. Collectivism succeeds when fools accept the endless lies to excuse violence and theft. The market was not “protected by the rise in public regulation from the Sherman Anti-Trust law of 1890 to the Glass-Steagall Act and other New Deal legislation”. The market (free individuals who owned what they produced and traded volantarily) was robbed by those parasitic acts of Marxist violence – which Hudson and Floyd are now cheering, while lying that voluntary trades are “predatory” and “exploitive”. No better examples of predation, exploitation, theft and violence could be given than those two legislative atrocities…
Chris Floyd makes a great show of horror at the violence he sees from the military – and rightly so. But his horror, I suspect, comes from envy. He loves violence when it is aimed at those who have created more wealth than he has created and don’t want to share their popularity and wealth with him. He is a savage – hating only the maliscious [sic] violence which is not his.
Is it really worth responding to one who lives in such a fluffy cotton-candy paradise? One where “even if a monopoly should arise,” it’s just ’cause people love the supplier so much? A little dreamy dreamworld where, say, no gangsters exist to coerce control of markets by actual, real-life, here’s-a-bullet-in-your-gut violence, no human greed, no human drives for domination, no base desires, just shiny happy people painting rainbows all day long?
And should we not, in politeness, pass over Mr. Howard’s embarrassing muddle-headedness in regarding, say, a factory owner as a “producer” who deserves to keep what he “produces”? In fact, “his” goods are produced by the “collective action” that Mr. Howard so abhors. Or — gasp! — is he saying that the workers, being the actual creators of the product, should own the means of production? Oh lordy, we’ve got a Commie on the loose here! Quick, let’s all band together voluntarily to keep this radical from perpetrating his “Marxist violence” on the holy wealth creators!
[As for his description of everyone who is not “popular and wealthy” — i.e., those who must borrow money in order to survive in our system — as “parasites,” I think the only charitable reaction here is silence. The remark speaks loudly and voluminously for itself.]
Naturally, we all abhor the terrible, blood-soaked “Marxist violence” of the Glass-Steagall act, in which leather-jacketed Chekists went from door to door, slaughtering and torturing and taking hostages in order to, er, let people who want to make massive fortunes running banks run banks, while letting people who want to make massive fortunes running investment houses run investment houses. My god, I’ll bet Stalin was grinding his teeth with — what is that emotion that so preoccupies Mr. Howard? — oh yes, envy. Old Uncle Joe never perpetrated “Marxist violence” like that, no sir! Can you even imagine the repressive evil of a regulatory system that allowed the creation of the greatest trove of private, elitist wealth in the history of humankind? One simply weeps to think of all the billionaires whose “wealth creation” was ended so cruelly by the “violence” of Glass-Steagall gunmen. Just think, maybe they could have been trillionaires!
Speaking of Stalin, it so happens that I lived in Russia during some of the high, palmy days of the kind of unrestrained “wealth creation” that Mr. Howard pines for, in the Yeltsin era. And indeed, it was truly wonderful to see the products produced by the unregulated wealth creators all over the streets of Moscow — shot down in doorways, sprawled on the metro steps, bleeding to death in their restaurant chairs, machine-gunned on the highway, burnt to death in their homes, bludgeoned in the small private businesses they tried to open in the territory of one of the unregulated wealth creators. Oh yes, it was a pink puffy paradise on earth, it was.
(Now of course, one gangster faction — or rather, a gangster/security goon coalition — has grabbed hold of the state in Russia, and the violence goes on. But it is probably outside the stark binary worldview of Mr. Howard to comprehend that someone could oppose both private and public violence and repression.)
Michael Hudson made the unremarkable observation that there have been mixed markets for four thousand years — i.e., throughout the recorded history of settled human communities. There will always be people trying to dominate and control other people, using whatever institutions and organizing principles are operative in any given society. Governments and gangs, elites and demimondes, cliques and factions, private grifters and public grafters: there’s always someone trying to horn in on the action and take the biggest slice for themselves. It doesn’t seem particularly outrageous to me that human communities might try various measures that seek to mitigate some of the more pernicious results of our common human propensity to fuck people over (and yes, use violence against them, as gangsters and governments and many “wealth creators” like to do) to gain advantage for ourselves.
I’m no dogmatist, of course — or a Marxist or a Marketist, or any other kind of cultist who believes that the incredibly muddled, imperfect, misfiring human brain can ever devise some perfect system of social organization. If one measure of mitigation doesn’t work — or is corrupted and turned to malicious (sorry, “maliscious”) advantage by some faction or other — then try something else. Or yes, if something can’t be mitigated without making things worse, then leave it alone.
[And since I’m talking about mitigating rapacious greed and power-seeking, with its attendant violence, I’m obviously not talking about violent mitigation here. But one needs to spell things out when the cultists are in a tizzy.]
Again, it is generally pointless to get into a wrangle with fundamentalists of any stripe. If Mr. Howard, bless his heart, wants to believe that fairies and pixies will protect us all from goons and gangsters seeking to, say, control the distribution or production of some good or service in their territory, why then, let him. I do, however, object to the wanton perversion of the English language when I run across it. To equate what was actually a very mild regulatory measure like the Glass-Steagall Act with “Marxist violence” — or with the actual, bone-crushing, life-taking, literal violence of the American war machine — is not just risibly fatuous and deeply, deeply ignorant; it is also, if I may borrow a term, “savage” in the extreme.
But let us not part in rancor. I certainly want to thank Mr. Howard for his astute long-distance psychoanalysis of my personality. Obviously, envy is the only possible reason that one could object to the violence, economic and otherwise, inflicted on ordinary Americans by noble, superior wealth creators and their stooges in government.
(And speaking of those stooges: poor Mr. Howard actually seems to believe that the U.S. government was not created to protect the power and privilege of the wealthy: a task it has carried out with remarkable fidelity and increasing efficiency for centuries. He actually believes that the egregious bagmen in Washington are somehow out to stifle and cripple and push down the rich! At the risk of indulging in the amateur, long-distance psychoanalysis favored by the fatuous, I would humbly suggest that Mr. Howard might profitably pay a bit more attention to reality, and less to hysterical condemnations of those who don’t properly split every hair of his fundamentalist beliefs.)
Finally, although I may indeed be “maliscious” in many ways, I solemnly promise Mr. Howard that I do not envy him his popularity and wealth. As far as I’m concerned, whatever he has of these commodities — and I’m sure he possesses both in abundance, especially the former — he can keep it all for himself.