Sunday, September 21, 2008

Sieg Hank, Our End Of The Republic Moment And The New Dark Ages

On January 26 2005 I published an editorial on 'The Washington Dispatch' entitled 'War In The Graveyard Of Empires'.
It wasn't very good; but the sheer power which Hank Paulson is either assuming or having thrust upon him in order to ensure that The Great Dead Cat Gambit actually works makes me wonder whether my decision to label George W. Bush as 'Bush Augustus' might not have been far off the mark.
The greatest feat of Augustus's reign was not to find a city of brick and leave one of marble, but to assume the previous powers of the Republic to himself in a way which would have been previously unthinkable. Some scholars - if memory serves it was Le Glay, Voisin and Le Bohec - have postulated the thesis that Augustus was able to do this because the Republic had become unmanageable as a Republic; that the transition to Empire demanded that the nature of government change.
David Farrer has linked to a report which summarises the basics of the Financial Crisis Legislation. Article 8 states,
"Decisions by the Secretary pursuant to the authority of this Act are non-reviewable and committed to agency discretion, and may not be reviewed by any court of law or any administrative agency."
Pat Buchanan has written that,
"Hank Paulson of Goldman Sachs and Ben Bernanke of the Fed chose to bail out Bear Sterns but let Lehman go under. They decided to nationalize Fannie and Freddie at a cost to taxpayers of hundreds of billions, putting the U.S. government behind $5 trillion in mortgages. They decided to buy AIG with $85 billion rather than see the insurance giant sink beneath the waves.

An unelected financial elite is now entrusted with the assignment of getting us out of a disaster into which an unelected financial elite plunged the nation. We are just spectators."
On Friday September 19, Paul Krugman told BBC's Newsnight that, to all intents and purposes, Hank Paulson was now the President of the United States. I'd respectfully disagree - the nature of the extra-judicial, extra-electoral powers which it is proposed that Paulson assume are directly analogous to the powers of dictatorship which the Roman Senate voted to Augustus. The nature of the remedies which the American Republic's governing class seems to feel are necessary to cope with this crisis have thus gone beyond fears for the survival of mere constitutions and presidencies; how that nation will be governed in the future has just changed, just as the way the Roman Republic was governed changed. Last week, the United States of America underwent what was, to all intents and purposes, a coup d'etat; and nobody seemed to notice.
The USA, whose business was once described as business, has just been subject to the biggest management buy-out in history. It will not be without consequences.
The Sunday Telegraph has published an editorial on the financial metacrisis entitled 'Financial Crisis: Build a better capitalism'. It contains the following paragraphs -
"The lesson of the past year is indeed that capitalism needs to be saved from itself - but the temptation, in looking for a cure for its ills, will be to destroy its essence.

One of its most obvious ills is that, under the system we now operate, profits are privatised but losses are nationalised: individuals get to keep the millions they make, because when their decisions lead to losses, they do not pay - the rest of us do. That is not a viable "social contract". The lack of reciprocity inherent in it is simply not acceptable to any electorate"
As I have noted in the comments, the notion that profit is private and loss public and social is a precise re-statement of the definition of Italian fascist economic theory provided by Gaetano Salvemini in 1935. That profit will be private and loss social will grotesquely restrict the liberty of Americans, and, through the demands of taxation, turn them into serfs.
As I noted yesterday, none of the media's well-credentialled navel-gazers seem to be even close to getting a handle on the nature of this crisis, let alone its scale. In the Sunday Times, the old media Junker Simon Jenkins can only see fit to call for a public enquiry. Also in that paper, Andrew Sullivan hangs onto the lifebelt of his teenage Thatcherism and critiques the comparative records of John McCain and Barack Obama on fiscal conservatism - as if the outcome of the 2008 presidential election will actually matter to how the USA is going to be governed for the forseeable future.
In the Observer, the best that Henry Porter can do is rail against ostentatious wealth, while Will Hutton fails to recognise the fascism in front of his face and calls for such fascism to be imposed on the United Kingdom - a very British fascism, indeed.
Having sat in their ideological bunkers for so long, none of these boys actually get that this is beyond ideology; what is now being seen is the defeat of ideology, the reason for obtaining power, at the hands of power itself.
However, there are some particularly well-credentialled voices that seem to be silent.
One wonders what particular hole Niall Ferguson, the occasionally vocal Laurence A. Tisch Professor of History at Harvard, Scotland's Malcolm Gladwell and self-described 'fully paid-up member of the neo-imperialist gang', has dropped into. His insights into this crisis and how to solve it would be at best illuminating, at worst amusing.
On the other hand, we should be grateful for apparent silence from Jeffrey Sachs. Sachs is the sage of 'economic shock therapy', the program of insanity which brought Russia to the point of destruction in the 1990's. The second that anyone proposes shock therapy for the American and British economies is the second to turn your face to the wall like a Pompeian under the onslaught of Vesuvius, and pray.
Altogether now - Sieg Hank!

2 Comments:

Blogger devorgilla said...

I don't understand your point here Martin. Why is there no alternative between serfdom and fascism? The Telegraph merely asks the relevant question. It does not provide the re-balancing solution.

Freedom never was absolute. Even gun ownership has its controls. Rights have to be balanced by responsibilities. This is called civilisation.

Aristotle called it 'eudaimonia' the ethical harmony that must exist within the politeia if different competing 'goods' are to co-exist.

21 September, 2008 12:36  
Blogger Martin said...

Devorgilla,

My apologies if my point was not clear.

Of course there is - it's just that I don't perceive it to be a likely outcome of this metacrisis.

21 September, 2008 14:16  

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