©2012 Douglas Harvey
It is interesting that the word “fraud” has been much in the news of late, most recently attributed to Barclay’s and the LIBOR scandal, with mention of an “investigation” that could result in “prosecutions.” As a student of history, I feel compelled to note that we’ve seen things like this before, although perhaps not on such a broad scale with such a desperate and deeply embedded defense of the capitalist system.
John Locke described his version of a Social Contract between society and government in his Second Treatise on Government. Many know the particulars – people are born with “natural rights”: life, liberty, and property. Government is created by the people to protect these rights, and if it fails it is their duty to replace it. He went on to say that if the people need to change the government, it is much easier to change the people than it is to change the form. Locke was silent on what one should do if one was property, but we can let that go for the moment.
Locke was writing in the 1670s, although his treatises were not published until the “Glorious” Revolution in England in 1688. You may recall this event as well – where the Catholic King James II was essentially forced out by the bourgeois Parliament, who then brought in his sister Mary and her husband William from The Netherlands to “rule” England. The catch was that they had to share power with Parliament, dominated as it was by mercantile interests – planters, merchants, shipping interests; in short, those who were profiting from economic empire. Locke’s “social contract” provided the rationale for this coup undertaken to gain control of the governmental resources of what was rapidly becoming the largest empire in the world. I guess that explains what is meant by “property.”
“Glorious,” eh? Now the Bank of London could be formed, a mechanism whereby the bourgeoisie could loan money to the government which would in turn use that money to pursue the ends of the bourgeoisie. (King William’s royal nickname has become, after all, “Billy the Bourgeois King.”) Repayment of the “loan” would ultimately be underwritten by British taxpayers (sound familiar?). The first big “scandal” was the South Sea Bubble, where investors lost millions in a scheme to “develop” the Caribbean region. Investments were secured by hyping the bulletproof nature of the investment, (it’s goin’ to the sky -- you can't lose!!!).
Meanwhile, slaves (humans that were permanently property) and indentured servants (humans that were temporarily property) were brought to the New World to produce wealth for their masters on land secured by hook or by crook from the natives. As for the indentured servants, these were simply people who had become proletarianized, that is, they were forced off the land in their own country and had to fend for themselves the only way they could, by selling their labor (sound familiar?). Once their service was done, they might be awarded a piece of land as a way to start anew and help provide a market for goods manufactured in Britain. They would then hire indentures to work for them and the cycle would be perpetuated.
Proletarianized people are dependent people. For example, in order to support the buyers of their labor, they need to purchase the goods they produce (dwell, for a moment, on THAT absurdity). In this system, if one can’t sell one’s labor in order to buy the goods thus produced, one is screwed. Even if employment is obtained, it is a great struggle to join with fellow workers to force better pay and working conditions – something not be forthcoming without a fight, history has shown. In other words, employed or not, poverty is staring you in the face.
This absurdity remains largely unacknowledged while the prospect of poverty is said to be a good thing: one will be motivated to go to work – a notion perpetuated by those who are dependent on your labor. In the event that that isn’t enough to get you to work, those who live off of others’ labor spend large amounts of wealth convincing the working class to purchase various and sundry products they themselves manufacture. These products and the production of them have proven to be a significant bio-hazard as we cross the population boundary of seven billion humans. It’s not “global warming” that’s the fraud.
Now how much would you pay!!! But wait!!! There’s more!!!
In order to be rid of the annoying need for resources and markets, using micro-chip technology, bad loans can be made and sold at a very high speed. With complicit governments and regulators on board, these loans will ultimately be covered by . . . ta dah! The workers! Or, better still, loans can be made to governments (unwitting or complicit) that they can’t possibly repay. When the due date arrives, governmental functions become privatized and these predatory capitalists obtain new market sectors. Hello Greece! I got some land in Florida . . .
See how well these free markets work!!!
Consider, for a moment, the cultures replaced by this system, including the societies from whom those in perpetual servitude were taken. They had not developed this bourgeois notion of accumulation to any great extent. Villagers in much of North America, for instance, would travel frequently, making their annual rounds to a wide variety of food sources. It was not unusual for even the most sedentary of them to move entire villages every few years. Accumulation, under these circumstances, was a detriment, and yet poverty in terms of hunger, a lack of shelter, isolation, etc., were virtually unknown. Laboring for sustenance was not something one spent a lot of time on.
Fear of famine was virtually non-existent. Europeans remarked that indigenous Americans could be found playing a ball-game in lieu of stockpiling food. Why? The land was rich, food was plentiful – it will be there tomorrow. As for material goods – why would you want more than you need? You just have to move the stuff around and it gets in the way. Immersed in the bounty of the earth, indigenous peoples were time rich. Do you have time to make an arrowhead out of stone or moccasins from brain-tanned deer hide and porcupine quills?
Lucky us!!! Capitalism has given us so much free time!!!
The economic system currently dominating the world is based on fraud. It has finally come down to a kind of shell game that relies on blatant deception – a ponzi scheme – to stay afloat. In addition, we are altering the planet in ways we are only beginning to understand, and it could quite possibly be disastrous for the only home we will ever have -- the home out of which we emerged. What can our hunter-gatherer / village agriculturalist forebears teach us about backing out of this blind alley Big Capital has taken us down? Simplifying our lives and immersing ourselves in our surroundings is surely a part of the answer. Arresting and jailing the fraudsters and "occupying" the corrupt system must be a part of it as well.
July 15, 2012