19 July 2017

History Repeats: The Continuing Threat to Freedom and Democracy

Lately it has been popular in some circles to talk about the US being a 'late stage democracy' that has 'never been more ripe for tyranny.'

Sometimes they like to drag in Plato to give their thought pieces a gleam of higher learning and a supposed grounding in history.

But their pieces fall into that trap, that very sort of temporal vanity and self-centered preoccupation to despair that Newman notes so well in saying that "every century is like every other, and to those who live in it seems worse than all times before it."

Would you be surprised to hear that less than one hundred years ago there was an actual plot, bankrolled by some of the most powerful and famous figures of the American one percent, to use military force to depose a sitting American President and instead install a fascist in the White House who would be more compliant with their greed and lust for power?

The model for this takeover would have been similar to Benito Mussolini's infamous 'march on Rome.'

Would you be further surprised to know that some of these unrepentant financial figures then went on to help bankroll Hitler, and continued doing business with his atrocious regime even as their most vile business partners actively fought the US, their own country, in the war?

How well does this fit the efficient markets and rational actor models that so much of economic theory, and certain factions in modern political ideology, seems to rely?   If only we can get rid of government, and then people will be free to spread their natural goodness and take wing like angels.  Let us free the pathological and sociopaths from external constraints, and their better natures will surely rise to the occasion.  And if not, we can surely explain it to them with our economic learning.

It never ceases to amaze how many economic and social models of human behavior are based, not in history, but rather on simplistically convenient constructs and myths that serve the status quo and the power of Big Money.

A better model perhaps is to think that freedom and truth are always under threat by those who value neither more than their own obsessive lust for power and money,  beyond all reason.   That last is important to remember because the current liberal impulse is to simply blame bad information for some of the most outrageous abuses of power and privilege.  If only we could explain the economic benefits of general prosperity rather than relying on such weak tea as 'moral arguments.'

Alas, it seems to be the duty of each generation to defend what has been given to them by their forebears against the continuing threats of the perversion of knowledge and reason that is tyranny.  And what is odd about it is that it seems to catch each subsequent generation by surprise.

I am not sure that I understand why FDR and his administration did not take more dramatic action in pursuing such perfidy as the plot to overthrow the republic by the fortunate few.   It certainly was not for personal gain and power, as it seems to be the case of our more recent betrayers of justice in not pursuing the indictment and public prosecution of financial crimes.

We may have arrived at that time, that rendezvous with destiny, in which we either stand for truth and justice, or fall one by one in a contemptible struggle against the forces of injustice and duplicity.  But we are certainly not the first, and not even the most distantly distinctive in this challenge, as compared to our parents,  and grandparents, and great-grandparents.

Freedom in not a prize to be won and held forever.  Rather, it is a continuing commitment and state of mind to view certain principles above others.  And one of them is certainly not personal greed.