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Is Class War as Inevitable as the Return of Karl Marx?

Contrary Brin - Tue, 02/07/2017 - 15:39
I've long written how we should envision America as a continuing revolution against the failed feudal model that crushed human hope in 99% of human societies, across 6000 years. Indeed, our major issues today have little to do with the hoary, lobotomizing “left-right axis.” Not when Enterprise, markets, entrepreneurship and national defense all do vastly better across Democratic administrations, and the state gathers more power into its hands, across Republican ones. 

As shown repeatedly by varied thinkers and economists at the Evonomics site, if he were alive today, Adam Smith would be a vigorous Democrat. (Liberals who reflexively denounce Smith are fools.)
Yet, the “left-right” metaphor, reclaims a bit of meaning, if you go back to its roots

Way back in 1789, a bankrupted Louis XVI summoned the French Estates General. When, to his shock, nobles and clerics joined elected commoners in common assembly, the nobles and churchmen sat on the right and the levelers on the left. That is the source of the metaphor.

Then (as now) most (not all) of the nobles insisted on retaining their gross taxation privileges and spectacular disparities in wealth – their inherent right to cheat and not compete fairly. Short-sighted to the last, they would pay a high price for insatiability.
Fast forward to 2017. We’ve been warned for years that rising disparities in both wealth and power would warp the flat-open-competitive arenas that made our civilization the wonder of all ages. Democracy, markets, science, courts – all fail when distorted by cheating.
As Will and Ariel Durant said in Lessons of History: 
"…the unstable equilibrium generates a critical situation, which history has diversely met by legislation redistributing wealthor by revolution distributing poverty.” 
Karl Marx and his followers were stunned that Americans kept choosing the former over the latter! The Marxists’ jaundiced view of humanity saw our species as reflexive pawns of class imperatives, not sapient beings, able to recognize the edge of a cliff and steer away from it. 

Dogmatists of both the right and the left ignore how the American Founders, in the 1780s, seized up to a third of the land in the former colonies from lordly owners and redistributed it to a favored middle class. A "leveling" far greater than anything done by FDR. That class re-set was accomplished peacefully over here… but with much blood in 1790s France.
Each generation faces trends in human nature that try to re-assert feudalism. Hence, one more anti-feudal re-set was performed by the Jacksonians. Another came after bloody Civil War. Later the Progressives, led foremost by Theodore Roosevelt, gave us a neutral Civil Service and laws against market-warping monopolies. (Both reforms under vigorous attack, today.)
Then again, when plutocracy threatened to drive average Americans into radicalism, another Roosevelt led our parents in the Greatest Generation to perform the most successful re-set of all, both reducing disparities to their lowest levels in history and fostering the greatest burgeon of enterprise and wealth of all time. Moreover, the smartest of the rich – those capable of reading Marx and seeing the alternative – supported FDR! The Gates-Buffetts of their day, they figured it was better to be merely very rich, in a happy, middle-class society, than to lose it all in revolution.

== Enemies of Marx keep him alive! ==
Indeed, the terrific Evonomics site (one of the best online) repeatedly shows that our moderate-reformist ancestors had the right idea. This article “The Science Is In: Greater Equality Makes Societies Healthier” by Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett (authors of The Spirit Level: Why Greater Equality Makes Societies Stronger) agrees with one catechism of the right: that the Greatest Generation of the 40s and 50s were smart and wise! 
Everyone benefited from that era – which the Trump-lumpens dimly nostalgize as the very time when “America was Great.” Forgetting that their parents adored FDR above all other living humans. The creative tsunami that happened then -- under high Rooseveltean tax rates and with strong unions -- made us wealthy enough to take on many challenges, like racial and gender justice and discovering planetary care. 

But the lesson of history is clear: all class re-set solutions tend to get undermined, over time. Cheaters find ways to cheat ... and hence...
...those pesky Marxists never really went away. Naturally, they hold that every successful re-set only saves capitalism for another generation. Their dismal assumption – clutched tenaciously - is that human nature is fixed!  (No wonder Marxists hate science fiction, despite old Karl being one of the greatest sci fi writers of all time.)

Moreover, they forecast that a wave of plutocrats will come that is too stupid and self-obsessed to realize how much better off they are, to be merely-way-rich in a confident, middle class society.
Seeking, by dullard reflex, to restore feudal lordship, they will perch above a festering maelstrom of resentment. Oh, and the folks they oppress will have technologies that make WMDs seem tame. Oh, how very smart you Murdochs and Kochs are. Driving all the scientists and techies to the left. Real smart.
== The crisis of capitalism ==
Some are less foolish. Klaus Schwab, founder and president of the World Economic Forum (WEF), might seem a central figure of the whole Davos-Bildeburger cabal of giga-aristocrats that some see behind every world conspiracy. But – as I depict happening in Existence – some of the top elites on this planet aretrying desperately to figure out how they can make a soft landing… to stay rich and privileged in a world that’s healthy and prosperous and (above all) not stewing with revolution.
“As well as getting growth higher (and dealing with wealth disparity) , the WEF identified four areas that need to be addressed urgently: the need for long-term thinking in capitalism; a recognition of the importance of identity and inclusiveness in political communities; mitigating the risks and exploiting the opportunities of new technologies such as driverless cars; and strengthening global cooperation.”
Oh, but the Marxists do have a point about human nature. Those born and raised in wealth tend to, like the French nobles and like Donald Trump, envision themselves the way flatterers describe them, as geniuses. The Saudi Royal House, for example, whose relentless efforts to plant the seeds of caliphate have borne bitter fruit. Or Rupert Murdoch, who worked so hard to train the populist-confederate beast, only to see it seized by a new rider, an impudent Svengali.
Trump frightened the Lords of the Right for a bit. Throughout the presidential primaries and the general election, the Koch brothers were steadfast in their refusal to support Trump, consistently critical of his candidacy. Charles Koch even once described choosing between Trump and Clinton as picking “cancer or a heart attack.”
Only now those masters think they have the Trump Problem sussed. Knowing how dangerous the brothers are, DT has surrendered to them control over much of his cabinet! See this chart to grasp just how many fingers the Kochs now have, pulling strings over our heads.  No wonder enemy #1 is a free press.

. . ...a collaborative contrarian product of David Brin, Enlightenment Civilization, obstinate human nature... and http://davidbrin.blogspot.com/ (site feed URL: http://davidbrin.blogspot.com/atom.xml)

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