Monthly Archives: October 2011

Corporate Personhood: A No Brainer

Notwithstanding the fact that I am a strong supporter of the Occupy Wall Street movement, I believe that two of the ideas embraced by many of its adherents, corporate personhood and political campaign finance reform, are complete no brainers which will lead the movement nowhere.

Corporate personhood refers to the fact that over the past half century or so corporations have managed, in the eyes of the law, to acquire for themselves many of the rights heretofore associated only with humans.  The veracity of this statement is unassailable, but so what?

To curb the power of megacorporations those concerned about corporate personhood have proposed a series of constitutional amendments and changes in the law aimed at making it easier to control their behavior.  These same political activists also advocate political campaign finance reform as a complementary tool for reining in large corporations.  There is only one problem with these Pollyannaish proposals.  Our government is owned, operated, and controlled by Corporate America and Wall Street, who like things just the way they are.  There will be no constitutional amendments or legal changes limiting the rights of corporations.  Meaningful campaign finance reform is utter fantasy.

Unfortunately, all too few of the Occupy Wall Street supporters have come to terms with the fact that the U.S. Government is fundamentally unfixable.  They fail to realize that because of its sheer size, the United States is unsustainable, ungovernable, and, therefore, unfixable.  Just as it was impossible to manage 280 million people in the Soviet Union from one central bureau in Moscow, so too is it impossible to manage 310 million people from Washington.  The United States is simply too big to manage.

Given the lack of feasibility of political reform, that leaves us with only two options – rebellion or peaceful dissolution, otherwise known as secession.  In the words of Kirkpatrick Sale,

So far the level of dissent with the U.S. has not reached the point of rebellion or secession–thanks both to the increasing repression of dissent and escalation of fear in the name of  “homeland security” and to the success of our modern version of bread and circuses, a unique combination of entertainment, sports, television, internet sex and games, consumption, drugs, liquor, and religion that effectively deadens the general public into stupor.

Just as armed rebellion gave birth to the United States in 1776, so too could some combination of stock market meltdown, economic depression, crippling unemployment, monetary crisis, skyrocketing crude oil prices, double-digit inflation and interest rates, soaring federal deficits and trade imbalances, curtailment of social services, repeated terrorist attacks, return of the military draft or environmental catastrophe precipitate a violent twenty-first century revolution against Wall Street, Corporate America, and the U.S. Government.  However, we also reject this option, because we are opposed to all forms of violence.

There is, then, just one viable option:  peaceful dissolution, which might plausibly be initiated by the secession of states like Alaska, Hawaii, Texas, or Vermont.  Secession represents the only morally defensible response to the American Empire.

The Occupy Wall Street movement just might create a window of opportunity for a new world disorder – a disorder that rejects cant and dogma; a disorder that fosters creativity, possibility, and seething human enterprise; a disorder, most importantly, that promotes the decentralization of governance.  The term we use to describe this new world disorder is, genteel revolution.

The sooner the Occupy Wall Streeters figure out that the Empire is not fixable, the better off we will all be.

Thomas H. Naylor

October 27, 2011

Founder of the Second Vermont Republic and Professor Emeritus of Economics at Duke University; co-author of Affluenza, Downsizing the USA, and The Search for Meaning.

New York Chic

One of the things I remember most about becoming a student at Columbia University in 1957 was the arrogance of the Columbia College football fight song.  “Oh, who owns New York?  Why, we own New York.  C-O-L-U-M-B-I-A.”  A not so subtle reminder of the fact that Columbia once owned Rockefeller Center.

American exceptionalism pales in comparison to the hubris of New Yorkers.  Most Americans believe that the United States is the greatest nation in the world.  All New Yorkers know that New York City is the greatest city on the planet.  Former New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, “the nation’s mayor,” raised such pretentiousness to heretofore unseen levels.  Mayor Michael Bloomberg is no less arrogant.

New York City is the economic, financial, marketing, cultural, moral, and political epicenter of the world.  Although Washington, D.C. is the nominal capital of the United States, New York City is the de facto capital, since the U.S. Government is owned, operated, and controlled by Corporate America and Wall Street.

Brooklyn writer Christopher Ketcham recently published a scathing indictment of New York City in Orion Magazine based on a study by the New York think tank called the Fiscal Policy Institute.  According to the study New York has the most inequitable distribution of income of any of the twenty-five largest cities in the United States.  In 2007, those households in the top one percent income bracket received nearly forty-four percent of all of the income in New York City.  These so-called “One Percenters” had an average annual income of $3.7 million.  Ketcham notes that the One Percenters consist of only 34,000 households, about 90,000 people, out of a population of 9 million.  And who are these One Percenters?  They work for Wall Street based stock brokers, investment banks, hedge funds, credit card companies, and insurance companies.  Their employers include the likes of Goldman Sachs, J.P. Morgan, Merrill Lynch, and Deutsche Bank.

Ketcham describes New York One Percenters as, “Sociopaths getting really rich while everyone else just sits on their asses and lets it happen.”  Maybe the Occupy Wall Street demonstrators read his piece?

New York City is all about money, power, speed, greed, and looking out for number one.  It is the global capital of technofascism – affluenza, technomania, cyber-mania, megalomania, robotism, globalization, and imperialism.

My favorite art exhibit in New York City is the large room in the Guggenheim Museum whose four walls are completely covered with 100,000 one-dollar bills.

New Yorkers are primarily into having – owning, possessing, manipulating, and controlling – money, power, people, things, wealth, culture, media, and ideas.  In the words of theologian Paul Tillich, “they are separated from themselves, from others, and the ground of their being.”

Christopher Ketcham has few kind words for the city’s culture which he describes as “cultural nihilism” dominated by “neohipsters.”  “The neohipster is a creature of advertisers:  affluent and status-anxious, which means that he is consumerist and, in the manner of all conspicuous consumers, conforming to the demands of narcissistic chic.”

No one hypes New York chic more effectively than The New Yorker, the magazine for effete snobs.  Both The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal are firmly committed to promoting Wall Street, globalization, American imperialism, and unconditional support for the terrorist state of Israel.

New York City is nothing less than the modern equivalent of the Tower of Babel.  It is too big, too crowded, too undemocratic, too regimented, too intrusive, too polluted, too noisy, too commercial, too materialistic, and too dehumanized.  It has too much traffic, too many policemen, too much crime, too much drug addiction, and too little sense of community.

The Columbia College football fight song gets right to the heart of what New York City is all about – ARROGANCE!!

Thomas H. Naylor

October 10, 2011

Founder of the Second Vermont Republic and Professor Emeritus of Economics at Duke University; co-author of Affluenza, Downsizing the USA, and The Search for