Archive for the left Category

Occupy Wall Street: The emerging global pro-democracy movement, where it stands, what it means, and where we go from here

Posted in activism, alternative, alternatives, analysis, civil liberties, class, common ground, consciousness, conservative, conservatives, constitution, corporate fascism, corporate rule, corporations, corporatism, corporatocracy, crisis of democracy, currency, democracy, democratic deficit, ecological crisis, ecology, economic collapse, economics, economy, elite, empire, empowerment, end-game, environment, fascism, fascist, Feudalism, freedom, geopolitics, globalism, globalization, human rights, imperialism, inspiration, labour, left, liberal, libertarian, libertarianism, Media, media analysis, money, must-read, oil, peace, people's movements, police state, policy, political economy, political theory, politics, politics of oil, psychology, resources, right, right wing, social theory, sociology, sovereignty, sustainability, the right, the world's other superpower, Uncategorized, war, war on democracy with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on October 19, 2011 by jtoddring

The Occupy Wall Street movement, which has already become a global grassroots populist pro-democracy movement, if we have eyes to see, has clearly already won a broad and growing base of support. What is needed now, I believe, is to further clarify and crystallize the issues – and I would say that many people now realize that the central issue is the question of whether we live in a plutocracy or a democracy, whether we have rule of the people, by the people, for the people, or rule by the super-rich 1% and the corporate elite. The second urgent task is to further broaden and build the emerging world-wide pro-democracy movement, and create a popular coalition that can reclaim democracy from the ruling corporate masters who are looting and pillaging at will, and who have usurped far too much power, politically, economically, and in the media. To this second aim, this brief reflection is geared. Unite the people now.

The Occupy Wall Street movement, or more accurately, the fast-growing global pro-democracy movement, has broad support from progressives, the left and labour, considerable support from students, youth, the environmental and peace movements and the liberal centre, and also, although it may be surprising to some, considerable support from the grassroots right.

What many do not understand is that the grassroots right is increasingly wary of and outraged by the same ruling corporate elite that the left has fought against for generations. A growing number of people who consider themselves conservatives are now highly aware that big business and the super-rich have taken over the political process as well as the economy and the media. They are not happy about this fact, to say the least.

There is common ground here, between left and right, liberal, conservative and progressive, and we should not be fooled by the corporate-dominated and corporate-owned media who always want to spin and sow division among the people. The power-hungry have always known that divide and conquer is the best and first line of defence of their vested interests and imperial powers. We should not be surprised when the corporate-run media both inflames and also inflates and exaggerates the divisions which do exist, and severely downplays the common ground that could unite the people. When the people unite, democracy will rule, and the ruling elite will be deposed from power – the elite know this very well, and therefore do everything they can to sow division and discord among the people. Do not let them win!

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At the level of the grassroots, many people are fiscal conservatives, and many fiscal conservatives realize that spending $1.5 trillion a year on imperial wars, the military-industrial complex and CIA black ops – and this is the figure that has been acknowledged by the U.S. government, by the way – is completely unsustainable, and is in fact, economic suicide. While there are major differences of opinion and views between right and left, there is also strong common ground – common ground that is routinely overlooked, and that is vital that we acknowledge and come to realize. Many fiscal conservatives realize that the vast sums spent on war and empire are leading to a collapse of the currency and a bankrupting of the nation. Many also realize that it is the vested interests of the corporate elite – the big oil companies and military-industrial contractors, for example – that drive the wars and the imperial hubris and sheer insanity.

The grassroots right and conservatives are not as out to lunch as most liberals, progressives and people on the left tend to believe. Neither right nor left has a monopoly on truth, on intelligence, or on moral high ground. The sooner we realize that none of us are infallible, that we can learn from one another, and most importantly, that we have a strong basis of unity in common ground, the better.

If the left and progressives and liberals can get over their long-standing self-righteousness and presumed superior moral high ground and intelligence, they will find that they have allies in surprising places. If the right will overcome their habitual paranoia and rabid, overly zealous partisan hatred and hostility toward the left, and realize that the vast majority of people on the left today are neither Stalinists nor statist authoritarians, they too will realize that they have allies in surprising places. We need to realize this now: there is common ground; and unless we find it, we are all in for a very dark time ahead. Divided we will fall – make no mistake about it.

The right and the left may forever disagree, and disagree strongly, on many major issues; but when it comes to the core issues, the most central and fundamental of issues, most people on both right and left are in favour of constitutional democracy, limited powers of the state, civil liberties, freedom and authentic democracy, and are opposed to any form of elite rule. This fact, and this common ground, is critically important for us all to realize now.

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On another line, many on the grassroots right and many who would call themselves conservatives, are libertarians. Traditionally, libertarianism has been a term that has been co-opted by the libertarian right. The libertarian right has traditionally been wary – rightly so – of excessive powers of the state; and it has also traditionally been laissez-faire, or willfully ignorant, as to the dangers of excessive powers in the economic realm. But this has been changing over the past two to three decades, and libertarians that were or are conservatives or rightist, have begun to realize what Thomas Jefferson knew very well two hundred years ago: excessive concentrations of either economic or political powers will result in tyranny.

A growing number of libertarians are now highly aware that in order to preserve constitutional democracy, civil liberties and freedom, the corporate elite must be pushed back, and firmly reigned in. Again, there is a good deal of common ground here between conservatives, liberals, progressives, right and left now, at least at the level of the grassroots.

Of course most politicians are partisan zealots: they have to uphold the charade that they represent widely differing views between widely differing political parties, and to mask the fact that both of the major political parties in the U.S., and most of the major political parties around the world, are bought and paid for by the same ruling corporate elite.  As George Carlin put it, “The politicians are there to give you the illusion that you have a choice. You don’t have a choice – you have owners. They own you. It’s a big club folks – and you ain’t in it. You and I are not in the club. And by the way, it’s the same club they use to beat you over the head with every god-damn day, telling you what to think, what to believe.”

We are presented with a false set of choices, and asked to choose between corporate lap dogs A, B, or C. More and more, the people are aware that this is no choice at all, and that the entire system is failing us, and has been co-opted, high-jacked, by the same 1% who control and dominate the global economy and the major media, and are pillaging the earth and the people.

It is time for the people to fully see through the smoke screen, to recognize that the central question at hand is whether we have a plutocracy in which the richest 1% rule over the rest, or whether we have government of the people, by the people, for the people, and to reclaim our democracy, our lives, our world and our future.

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Environmentalists are coming to realize that there will be no serious action to protect our environment or save our collective asses until and unless we depose the ruling corporate powers from their dominance over the political process, the economy and the media – that is, until we the people take the power back and reclaim our democracy and our future.

The progressives and the left generally realize that there will be no justice and no authentic democracy until and unless the people reclaim their power, take back their democracy, and push the corporate elite to the side, reigning them in and allowing decisions to be made, as they should and must, by the people, and not by the super-rich.

The labour movement is coming to realize that perpetual rear-guard action is necessary, but entirely insufficient to create a just and equitable society – that the goals of jobs, decent working conditions and pay, and a decent life for all, are impossible to attain until and unless the people reclaim their power and their democracy from the corporate elite who have usurped these.

The peace movement is beginning to realize that imperial warfare will never end until the military-industrial complex and the big oil companies, and more broadly, the reigning corporate elite, are deposed from power, and the people reclaim their democracy.

The traditionally wishy-washy and banal centre is coming to realize that the middle class dream of a peaceful, reasonably just, free and democratic society in which they and their children can do well and prosper, is a dream that is systematically being destroyed, that the middle class is being eviscerated and is falling into the underclass, and that these goals and values briefly exposited above are by now an impossibility until and unless the people say no to the corporate giants and the financial elite who have overstepped their bounds and come to dominate the entire political process, the economy and the planet. The habitually somnambulent and deferential centre is beginning to awaken.

This is already a broad coalition of interests, people and movements, and it will be even broader when the grassroots left, right and centre realize that they have a common foe: and that is the super-rich 1% and the corporate elite who are destroying democracy, civil liberties, constitutional rights and freedoms, waging unending, murderous and economically bankrupting imperial wars, and endangering all our lives and futures by continuing to disregard the environment in the pursuit of short-term profits and rape and pillage economics.

On the right, there may be 10-20% of the population that is authoritarian and quasi- if not wholly fascist. On the left, there may be 10-20% that is naively, cynically or stubbornly elitist and authoritarian. The 60-80% of the people who are in between these two extremes of right and left prefer and strongly are in favour of constitutional democracy and the rule by the people – and opposed to rule by any kind of elite. This is the majority which we must now unite, and this majority which supports constitutional democracy and is opposed to any form of elite rule, spans both the left and right, liberals, conservatives and progressives. We can and must unite the majority now, and reclaim our democracy from the plutocrats and the – frankly speaking, and to put it plainly – crypto-fascists.

Act now. The time is late. And the time has come for a change.

Unite the people. It is time for the people to take back their democracy and to renew the world.

JTR,
October 19, 2011

The struggle is not between left and right – it’s between democracy and corporatism

Posted in activism, AFA, AFC, alternative, alternatives, American Freedom Agenda, American Freedom Campaign, American politics, analysis, banks, Barack Obama, civil liberties, class, collapse, common ground, consciousness, conservative, constitution, corporate fascism, corporate rule, corporations, corporatism, corporatocracy, crisis of democracy, crisis of legitimacy, democracy, Democrat, democratic deficit, Democratic Party, economic collapse, economics, economy, elite, empire, empowerment, end-game, fascism, fascist, freedom, geopolitics, globalism, globalization, imperialism, inspiration, left, liberal, money, national democracies, neoconservatism, neoliberalism, Obama, Patrot Act, peace, people's movements, police state, policy, political economy, political philosophy, political theory, politics, social theory, sovereignty, sustainability, the right, Uncategorized, war, war on democracy with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on October 6, 2011 by jtoddring

We must unite the people now, or the people and democracy both will lose

Not only are partisan loyalties and divisions increasingly irrelevant and out-moded, but divisions along ideological lines of left and right are also outmoded and largely obsolete. The major parties function as rubber-stamp agencies, spin doctors and propagandists for the same ruling corporate elite, as the majority of people are now very aware. Romney and Obama, the Republicans and the Democrats represent two wings of the same corporate-run machine. Obama’s record is clear. I cannot possibly support him. Handing billions to banking elites, pushing for immunity for banking elites, expanding war overseas, refusing to challenge the Patriot Act, supporting torture, renditions, the continued destruction of civil liberties…How much evil is too much to be considered acceptable as the lesser of two evils? He is not remotely supportable in good conscience. Supporting a lesser of two evils is no longer tenable or conscionable, if it ever was. But to return to the central point, partisan zealotry and ideological fixations hinder us, and obstruct the way forward. Likewise, ideological factions and ideological partisanship and divisions will only impede us from the task at hand. The task is to unite the people so that they can reclaim their democracy and their future. If we fail to understand this most crucial point, then we have lost before we have begun, and nothing of significance will be accomplished, save for the familiar chanting of “We’re in the right! You’re wrong! (Or evil, or stupid, etc.)” – while the world and our future continues to burn. On this most central point we must be perfectly clear, or we will see no change for the better, but only a continued accelerating slide into a dark age of neo-feudal corporatism, the complete and final destruction of democracy and human rights, further environmentally suicidal behaviour, and a two-tiered society of corporate rulers and pillaged underclass.

The wealthiest 1% of the population now controls more than 30% of the wealth of America – more than the bottom 50% of the people. The biggest six banks on Wall Street now control 60% of the wealth of the country. The people are being pillaged and looted. They must defend themselves and reclaim their future and their country.

We must stand now to reclaim our democracy. And standing we are. The central question now is not whether we are left or right, Democrats or Republicans, liberals, conservatives or progressives, but whether we are populist democrats, standing up for rule of the people, by the people, for the people, or whether we prefer a corporatocracy in which the richest 1% rules over the rest, and democracy and justice, the prosperity and well-being of the other 99%, the environment, human rights, our civil liberties and our future are systematically destroyed.

The old battle lines of right and left are no longer as relevant today as they once were. The primary struggle is not between right and left, but between the vast majority of the people who support and favour constitutional democracy, be they liberal, conservative or progressive, and the ruling corporate elite and super-rich one percent who have usurped far too much power, and have come to dominate the economy, the media and the political process. What is needed is for the people to reclaim their power and their democracy. In order for that to be achieved, it is absolutely necessary that the people unite.

Everyone who favours constitutional democracy over rule by the corporate elite, or any kind of elite, must unite now, in order that democracy can be reclaimed by the people. Once the people have reclaimed their democracy, then we can discuss and debate everything under the sun, democratically, and go from there. Until we have reclaimed our democracy from the corporate elite who now dominate economy, the media and the political process, the point is moot, for we are stone-walled.

If we wish for justice, for peace, for environmental sanity, for human rights and constitutionally protected civil liberties, or for prosperity and well-being for all, then we must above all, and before anything else, reclaim our democracy: and in order to do that, the people will have to unite.

What has been said before is entirely and extremely relevant now: “We must all hang together, or assuredly, we shall all hang separately. United we stand, divided we fall.” (Benjamin Franklin) If the people do not unite, they will be unable to reclaim their democracy from the corporate elite who have usurped it; and if the people do not reclaim their democracy, then there will be an even darker time ahead for the people and for the world. These are the simple facts which we now face.

It`s time for us to reclaim our democracy. Unite the people now.

JTR,
October 6, 2011

The system is broken: strategic voting, coalitions, and the political regime under which we live

Posted in activism, alternative, alternatives, analysis, Chomsky, class, collapse, common ground, communism, conservative, Conservative Party, conservatives, corporate rule, corporations, corporatism, corporatocracy, crisis of democracy, crisis of legitimacy, democracy, Democrat, elite, empowerment, Feudalism, geopolitics, globalism, globalization, good news, inspiration, left, liberal, Media, money, nation state, national democracies, Noe-feudalism, people's movements, philosophy, policy, political economy, political philosophy, political theory, politics, propaganda, reading, Republican, Republican Party, resources, right, right wing, social theory, sovereignty, the right, tipping point, truth on May 28, 2011 by jtoddring

While I can of course see the rationale for strategic voting, there is much to be said for voting with one’s conscience. When we consistently choose the lesser of two evils, our choices are reduced to evil, and the results are evil. When everyone holds their nose and votes, essentially, for one of the parties or candidates of the status quo, believing no other option is feasible or can succeed, this collective act of despair becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy: and low and behold, all other options are nullified – by our own act of choosing not to support them.

Put the blame where it belongs: the dominant parties are ensconced through the powers of the major media, which are controlled by the business and political elite who are in turn in bed with the party elite of the major parties: if we had a free press, and not a propaganda system, the people’s representatives would more closely resemble in action as well as words the views and values of the people, the great majority of whom by clear and consistent polls wish for more justice, equitability, sustainability, peace and compassion in the land and in the world.

How does a new party or a minor party build itself to a major force in politics? Certainly not by people choosing between the lesser of two evils and voting “strategically.” I’d almost be inclined to say that voting strategically is voting idiotically, for it is a vote of despair, a fatalistic action that presumes no major change is possible. While this is not entirely true, there is a great deal of truth to that picture painted. Maybe we should trust our conscience and common sense more often, and leave the horse racing to the track. This is not a game: it is our future.

Would it be better to vote for the devil if we thought he had a better chance of winning? Have we lost our reason and our faculties, our moral compass altogether? Politics is not about winning: it is about doing something virtuous in the world, for the benefit of all – or else it is truly a devil’s bargain, and we are both the prisoners and the captors ourselves. A vote is never wasted if it is the expression of our voice and true belief. Moreover, if it is an expression of our common sense and humanity, it would be a waste to thwart that and conceal it behind a shroud of “realpolitique” or imagined “realism.” When everyone defers to the present norm and the dominant powers, the present norm, no matter how profoundly abnormal or even pathological, becomes further entrenched, and real change, intelligent change, humane and sane and good-hearted change, becomes pushed ever farther off.

At the very least, we should make our views and values known, otherwise, democracy cannot function, and is reduced to a reification and endorsement of the existing structures of power and the dominant players. That scenario is dismal, to say the least. Let’s break it open. It is time to broaden the debate, broaden the discourse, and look to our options in a much wider field. The future is only as narrowed as our minds.

As to the dominant political parties in North America, they are all – Republican and Democrat, Conservative and Liberal – beholden to the corporate elite who rule this continent. Whoever wins of this pack of four cronies and lapdogs, we get corporate rule; and whichever of them wins, we get either the fast-track or the sugar-coated program for bringing us a global neo-Dickensian corporate feudalism in which the elite rule, the privileged servile few prosper, and the rest suffer in misery and disenfranchisement. If we are serious about social change, then we need to break out of this stranglehold. A coalition is one way to break the hegemony of the forces of corporate power and their political lackeys, and that is something I would like to see emerge sooner rather than later.

What I believe could work, is now truly viable, and perhaps is our only hope within the arena of formal party politics, is a coalition that spans left, right and centre: it would be a coalition of everyone who prefers authentic democracy and rule by the people, to corporate rule and the rapidly emerging neo-feudal order. I will leave that to the organizers and political strategists to ponder, and hope that the call does not go unheeded. Our future is waiting.

For myself, while I admire the best and brightest of party activists, representatives and candidates – few and far between as they are – I have very little faith in the existing electoral and political system, for reasons of money and media corruption, and so, choose to focus my energies elsewhere. The system is broken. Everyone by now knows it, and the polls world-wide show a dramatic and profound crisis of legitimacy and loss of confidence in the political and economic structures and powers that rule us. To change this, the media monopoly must be broken, and serious, major and fundamental electoral reform brought in. However, the existing media powers and electoral financing system benefits the dominant political players and parties, so they are not willing to do what needs to be done, hence, the broken system perpetuates itself, via a self-serving political and business elite who dominate the political, economic and media spheres which are by now fully intertwined and mutually reinforcing. Choice under this political-economic system is largely an illusion: a small elite rule, and have for a very long time. As George Carlin so aptly put it, “You don’t have any choice – you have owners.” Or as John Lennon said, “You’re still fucking peasants as far as I can see.” Democracy is a dream yet to be fulfilled. (See C. Wright Mills, David C. Korten or Noam Chomsky if this is not immediately self-evident.)

A break must come somewhere, and the growing and deepening global crisis of legitimacy of the ruling powers and systems guarantees that it will come. Remember the collapse of the Soviet Union and the entire Communist bloc just a few short decades ago: when a crisis of legitimacy reaches its culmination, a breaking point occurs, and the game is over: the entire edifice collapses, and something new – depending upon what the people do, arises to replace the old order. “Let them eat cake” did not stave off the demise of the old regime. In fact, such smug and cold arrogance hastened the coming change, and every repressive action in defence of the old and dying system, fuelled the fires of the imagination, of indignation, and of revolution. Stay tuned, stay alert, and keep your good heart. As Yogi Berra said, “It ain’t over `till it’s over.” Remember Ozymandias. This is not the end of history, and democracy is yet being born.

J. Todd Ring,

May 27, 2011

On Libertarianism: Right & Left

Posted in anarchism, Bakunin, Bertrand Russell, capitalism, Chomsky, communism, conservative, corporate rule, corporatism, crisis of democracy, democratic deficit, Eric Fromm, fascism, globalization, Hobbes, Jefferson, Kropotkin, left, Lenin, libertarianism, Marx, neoliberalism, philosophy, Plato, political theory, politics, right, social theory, socialism, Thoreau, war on democracy, World Economic Forum with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on May 15, 2007 by jtoddring

“Unthinking respect for authority is the greatest enemy of truth.”

~Albert Einstein

Libertarianism is a term that has come to be identified with the right, with limited government, ideals of freedom, free market capitalism and laissez fair economics, however, the term originally meant libertarian socialism, a libertarianism of the left. The distinction of two kinds of libertarianism, or more appropriately, a spectrum of views within what is called libertarianism, is important. Both right and left libertarianism have a deep skepticism about excessive concentrations of state power, encroachments of government power in the lives of individuals and communities, and a belief that ultimately, “That government is best which governs the least.” Beyond this agreement, there are considerable differences between libertarianism of the right and that of the left. But before the distinctions between left and right libertarianism can be discussed, we need to clarify just what is essential to a libertarian perspective, and also, to distinguish between the ideal and the immediate in terms of advocating or working towards specific goals for human society.

Thoreau expresses a very clear and lucid view of the subject, recognizing the ideal, yet also the immediate reality: ideally, and “when men are ready for it,” no government, which we shall have, and which shall be a degree of liberation not yet seen or imagined; but in the immediate sense, not “no government, but at once, a better government.” In other words, work toward and keep in mind the ideal – freedom from state power messing up and intruding on the peoples’ lives, liberty and communities, but also seek more limited victories in the short term: a better government.

I HEARTILY ACCEPT the motto, — “That government is best which governs least”; and I should like to see it acted up to more rapidly and systematically. Carried out, it finally amounts to this, which also I believe, — “That government is best which governs not at all”; and when men are prepared for it, that will be the kind of government which they will have…..But, to speak practically and as a citizen, unlike those who call themselves no-government men, I ask for, not at once no government, but at once a better government. Let every man make known what kind of government would command his respect, and that will be one step toward obtaining it.

– Henry David Thoreau, On Civil Disobedience

Bertrand Russell also came to the same conclusion. His cool, rational conclusion, after a very fair-minded and objective analysis, was that anarchism – from the Latin, an-archos, meaning absence of an over-arching power, not chaos – is likely the best form of human society (as well as the full and self-consistent application of libertarian values), but we are not likely ready for it; in the short term, what he called libertarian socialism is the best order for society to which we can aspire. By that he meant limited government, with all government power kept as close to the community as possible, and as close the hands of the people as possible – as Jefferson urged – but also with strong values of voluntary free association and human cooperation for mutual aid and benefit (a la Kropotkin). Ideally, and in the short term, he recommended we work toward a society where power lies primarily, not in the hands of a few bureaucrats and lobbyists in a far away capital where power is centralized, but in the hands of the people at the level of community, with federations or networks of human cooperation and solidarity, trade and communication between and among communities and individuals for their mutual benefit and protection. Jefferson would certainly agree in spirit if not in all details.

Chomsky clarifies the distinction between long-term ideals and short-term goals within a reasonable and clear-headed perspective which is skeptical of concentrated political power, or any form of social power for that matter:

“Classical anarchist thought would have been more opposed to slavery, feudalism, fascism, and so on, than it would have been to parliamentary government. There was a good reason. Classical liberal thought, and anarchism coming out of it, were opposed to any concentration of power, that is, unaccountable concentration of power. It is reasonable to make a distinction between the more accountable and less accountable. Corporations are the least accountable. So, against the corporate assault on freedom and independence, one can quickly turn to the one form of social organization that offers … public participation and … that happens to be parliamentary government. That has nothing to do with being opposed to the State. In fact, it’s a sensible support for the State.” – Noam Chomsky

This is precisely why I can admire a democratic socialist like Hugo Chavez, who was democratically elected in closely monitored free and fair elections, who has introduced and held public referenda on every major decision faced by the people of Venezuela – a thought inconceivable to the elitist politicians of Washington, Ottawa, London, Paris or Berlin – and who is presently utilizing, with great popular democratic support, the institution of constitutional parliamentary democracy to protect the people of Venezuela from the greatest threat to human freedom and well-being on the planet today: the tyranny of unaccountable private empires – the global corporate raiders. It is no contradiction, therefore, to support libertarian socialism, or left libertarianism, while admiring a social democrat like Chavez. As Chomsky put it, it’s sensible support for the state – under certain limited conditions.

Chomsky as well expresses a view of libertarian socialism, and advocates for a society based on libertarian socialist principles of freedom along with voluntary cooperation and mutual aid. And Chomsky, as well or better than any other, clarifies the distinction of right and left libertarianism. Libertarians across the spectrum are opposed to excessive concentrations of political power, as it is viewed that such high degrees of concentrated political power in society have more often than not created more harm than good – a view that is shared among Jefferson, Thoreau, Bertrand Russell, Kropotkin, Chomsky and many others.

The history of the world shows that this view is the most realistic perspective on government and political power. The opposing view, that government is the saviour and redeemer of humanity, has brought about Stalinism, Nazism, fascism, Maoism, and lately, neoconservatism, among other evils. The view that is opposed to the libertarian desire to keep political power firmly in check, sees government as a kind of benign big brother, a paternal or maternal figure, a parent that treats citizens like children, who need to be coddled and scolded, controlled for their own good. It is a dangerous elitism, breeding naturally authoritarianism. It comes from a fear of freedom, as social psychologist Eric Fromm correctly pointed out, and not just megalomaniacal dreams of power.

Plato was the most famous and influential of the “government as saviour” camp. The philosopher kings, the wise few, would rule with benign despotism over the hapless and ignorant many. Sounds desirable, maybe, until you reflect that if you do not trust people to govern themselves, how can you possibly trust them to govern others? (A flaw of basic logic which was not missed by Jefferson.)

Hobbes furthered the view, presenting the anthropologically ignorant and incorrect view that life before civilization, by which he meant life before centralized government, was “evil, nasty, brutish and short.” The revolution in anthropology that occurred in the 1970’s with the discovery of new and conclusive evidence about our human history prior to the age of empires, refutes Hobbes unequivocally. Hobbes knew nothing of anthropology, of course, and the data would not be revealed for another few centuries, but he was wrong, and we know that now – or at least, we can know that now, although almost no-one is aware that such a revolution has occurred in anthropology and our knowledge of human history: we live in a pre-Copernican time with regard to the general culture’s understanding of anthropology and human history; most still believe the sun revolves `round the earth, though the evidence to refute this fallacy has been made clear.

In any case, Hobbes was engaging in a kind of rational self-deceit. Hobbes view of human beings was jaundiced and pessimistic in the extreme. He felt, as many do, that if there was no powerful over-arching force to restrain human beings, they would instantly rip each other’s throats out, and everything would descend into a war of “all against all.” Again, the anthropological data refutes this terrified view, but even if one were to accept it for sake of argument, it simply begs the question. If you do not trust people, then why would you give a few people extraordinary power? Would this not seem even more dangerous? Who did Hobbes expect to govern us, aliens? Hobbes did not trust people, so he argued that some people have an all-powerful position in order that these people protect people from people. This should strike us as immediately self-contradictory, ridiculous and absurd.

As Jefferson said, “If you do not trust people to govern themselves, how can you trust them to govern others?” It is therefore not idealistic and utopian to think that government should be kept to a minimum of centralized, concentrated power, but on the contrary, it is a healthy and prudent skepticism that informs such a view.

(When you combine Plato, Hobbes and Machiavelli, you get the neoconservatives – or their mirror image, neoliberalism. You get wildy elitist, authoritarian, ruthless, predatory, self-delusional, megalomaniacal empire fetish. That is what we are experiencing now.)

Thoreau demolishes Hobbes’ fantasy-scape with a few strokes on the pen:

Must the citizen ever for a moment, or in the least degree, resign his conscience to the legislator? Why has every man a conscience, then? I think that we should be men first, and subjects afterward. It is not desirable to cultivate a respect for the law, so much as for the right. The only obligation which I have a right to assume is to do at any time what I think right. – Thoreau, “Civil Disobedience

Law never made men a whit more just; and, by means of their respect for it, even the well-disposed are daily made the agents of injustice. A common and natural result of an undue respect for law is, that you may see a file of soldiers, colonel, captain, corporal, privates, powder-monkeys, and all, marching in admirable order over hill and dale to the wars, against their wills, ay, against their common sense and consciences, which makes it very steep marching indeed, and produces a palpitation of the heart. They have no doubt that it is a damnable business in which they are concerned; they are all peaceably inclined. Now, what are they? Men at all? or small movable forts and magazines, at the service of some unscrupulous man in power? – Thoreau, “Civil Disobedience

The mass of men serve the state thus, not as men mainly, but as machines, with their bodies. They are the standing army, and the militia, jailers, constables, posse comitatus, etc. In most cases there is no free exercise whatever of the judgment or of the moral sense; but they put themselves on a level with wood and earth and stones; and wooden men can perhaps be manufactured that will serve the purpose as well. Such command no more respect than men of straw or a lump of dirt. They have the same sort of worth only as horses and dogs. Yet such as these even are commonly esteemed good citizens. Others, as most legislators, politicians, lawyers, ministers, and office-holders, serve the state chiefly with their heads; and, as they rarely make any moral distinctions, they are as likely to serve the devil, without intending it, as God. A very few, as heroes, patriots, martyrs, reformers in the great sense, and men, serve the state with their consciences also, and so necessarily resist it for the most part; and they are commonly treated as enemies by it. – Thoreau, “Civil Disobedience

Libertarianism: Right and Left

The libertarianism of the right has a view of power that does not keep to its own self-consistency. It views political power as potentially dangerous, having the great potential to be abused, and therefore needing to be kept in close check. But it does not recognize economic power as a power in society, which is an oversight that is hard to fathom, such power being so plainly obvious. Because libertarians of the right tend not to recognize economic power as a form of power in society, they are unconcerned with its concentrations – even when concentrations of economic power become staggeringly large, as they have over the past twenty or thirty years. This is an oversight that is frankly dangerous, if not delusional.

Libertarians of the left share the skepticism of highly concentrated political power, but, naturally, recognize the potential for harm and abuse from excessive concentrations of economic power. Thus, in the present order of things, corporate power is to be addressed equally, along side state or governmental power. To do otherwise is to contradict oneself, and worse, to leave the door open to serious and extreme abuses of power, and also, to fascism, which, as Mussolini said, is rightly called corporatism, since it is the merger of business and the state (and that is exactly what is happening now, and on a global scale) due to the lack of foresight to correct and put in check all forms of great concentrations of power in society.

Right libertarianism questions, challenges, and repudiates high levels of concentration of political power in society – and rightfully so, I believe – yet it is, or at least has been until recently, unwilling to question the role and nature of high levels of concentrations of economic power.

This is, once again, frankly, a gross oversight, and one that makes right libertarianism a contradiction in terms: you cannot advocate limitations on powers that unduly constrict human freedom and pose threats of tyranny in a self-consistent, coherent, or even rational manner, if you are only willing to look at one form of power in society, and remain blind to others. Economic power is every bit as real as political power – some would say more so.

The 500 biggest corporations on earth now have combined revenues that total three times the GDP of the world’s biggest national economy – that of the United States. If this does not constitute power in society, I’m not sure what would.

OK, well, corporations have immense power, but that does not mean it translates into political power – does it? They are competing with one another. Yes, they are competing with one another, and they also share common interests: drive labour costs and wages down, eliminate or circumvent labour and environmental standards, find the cheapest source of labour and resources and move there, then dominate them, open borders to free flow of capital, but not to labour…..The commonalities are pretty clear.

And do they meet, discuss common interests, work together cooperatively? Of course. Wouldn’t you if you were in their position?

Do teachers join together to pursue common interests, such as decent pay, pension plans, etc.? Do janitors get together to pursue common goals of better pay and working conditions?

It is obvious, or should be, that there are common group interests – or, heaven forbid we use the term, class interests – that bring otherwise competing parties together to pursue common goals. The corporate elite are no different. This is not a conspiracy, but simply common sense.

The world’s corporate elite gather, among other places, at Davos Switzerland, every year for the World Economic Forum, and there seek to push governments to their will, to advance common interests among the elite global investment class, the billionaire class, or the class of ruling oligarchs, to every extent that they are able to do so – and that is a considerable length.

The billionaires, and the large corporations they control, do not control the world – but they certainly dominate it, and they dominate virtually every nation and government on earth, as well as dominating the global economy, the financial system and most of the media. This is, by any sane or reasonable definition, hegemonic power: corporations and the billionaires who control them, now effectively rule the world. The only way to properly define such a system or order of things, is not democracy, certainly, but oligarchy – or plutocracy, or neo-feudalism, or most starkly, and what we are fast approaching in its full, ugly form: global, neo-feudal, corporate fascism.

It is impossible to deny the very real power of corporations in society without digressing into ideological fundamentalism and willful blindness. Refusing to challenge economic concentrations of power while espousing a libertarian philosophy is self-contradictory: right libertarianism is an oxymoron, a contradiction in terms.

Would a laissez-fair, free-market capitalist, who supports only limited government – a libertarian as it is known on the right – be considered an oxymoron or a self-contradiction if he was also a slave owner? Of course. But it is not very different if a libertarian advocates checks and balances on political power, yet does not question the giant corporate monopolies and oligopolies that now wield more power than democratically elected governments.

Right libertarianism is truly a contradiction in terms, unless by that you mean a conservative libertarian, who also questions and challenges excessive concentrations of corporate, economic and financial power, and not only state or governmental power. U.S. Congressman and 2008 Presidential candidate Ron Paul, for example, I would describe as a conservative libertarian in this sense. He has his head on his shoulders when it comes to corporate powers, as far as I can tell. He is not stuck in ideological dogmatisms.

The left is equated – wrongly – with heavy-handed, bureaucratic, if not totalitarian government – or at least this is the view of the left that we get from the right wing; however, there are, broadly speaking, two wings or schools of thought within what has been called the left, and only one of the two fits the above description.

In the socialist movement of the 1800’s there was a definite rift, and a fierce debate, between the two very different currents of thought within what is loosely described as the political left. Marx led the wing we are most familiar with, Bakunin the other. Bakunin and the libertarian socialists were ousted, lost the battle, and were to some considerable degree eclipsed from history – at least until very recently. Bakunin warned that Marxist ideas would lead to a new form of tyranny – and of course he was right. The Soviet Union was the prime example, and Bakunin predicted the tyranny long in advance.

Now, with the Marxist-Leninist school of thought being in full disgrace within the left, as well as within the broader community of humanity world-wide, and with global neoliberal corporate capitalism experiencing a deep and profound, and rapidly growing crisis of legitimacy world-wide, with rapidly rising popular discontent, people are beginning to look for alternatives – and the alternative is becoming clear to many. That is, in the short term: a freedom-loving and anti-authoritarian, democratic socialism in the short term; and libertarian socialism in the longer term. I would say they deserve our thoughtful attention, and merit respectful consideration, at the very least, and to put it most mildly.

The War on Democracy: Unchecked Power Out of Control

Under what we should more honestly call monopoly capitalism, the era of the small shop owner being the primary economic player having long ago vanished, corporate power has become so concentrated – that is, economic power has become so enormously concentrated – that it now threatens to engulf and eviscerate all remaining democratic power of societies world wide. We should be concerned. Jefferson warned of this 200 years ago. We did not listen. We are now facing the results of our lack of foresight.

Those on the right and the left with a libertarian perspective would do well to communicate. There is a natural alliance here, if we can learn to speak in ways that are mutually understandable. There is no time for bickering or ideological warfare. We need to get together to protect the basics: decent, although flawed, human, imperfect limited government, within the framework of constitutional democracy and basic human rights and freedom.

If we do not come together, and not just right and left libertarians, but more traditional liberals, conservatives, social democrats, greens and progressives, and all who oppose the, by now undeniable, drift into oligarchy and corporate fascism, and stand together for constitutional democracy, civil liberties, human rights and freedom, all other considerations will become merely abstract, and we will find ourselves living in a brave new world, and a very dark age,  leading rapidly to ecological collapse and the end of human life on earth.

Jamie Brownlee sums up the current, central challenge to humanity at this time, in one brief and extremely lucid passage:

“At present, the state is the only institution large enough to act as a counterweight to corporate power; therefore, short-term goals should involve defending, even strengthening, those elements of the state that are accountable to public input (which are the ones constantly under attack by private power.) Opening up the state to democratic participation and improving the effectiveness and accountability of state regulation are the most realistic interim strategies for dealing with the corporate threat and the practical problems of tomorrow—problems on which people’s lives depend. In the short-term, then, political activism that directly targets corporate power should be complimented by efforts to re-democratize the state and government.”

– Jamie Brownlee, Ruling Canada, Corporate Cohesion and Democracy, 2005

As constitutional lawyer Joel Bakan, author of, The Corporation, has said, if the typical corporation really was a person, then by an exact psychological definition, it would have to be labelled as a sociopath. Even if we did not have grave misgivings about excessive concentrations of power in human society, as we should, these are not the kind of powers which we should wish to govern and rule our nations or the world. Clearly, it is time for a change – a real change, and now. The urgency cannot be overstated, or emphasized enough.

First things first – let us recapture, reclaim and renew our democracy, and “crush in its infancy”, as Thomas Jefferson said, the oligarchy, the new empire, and the excessive powers of “the new moneyed aristocracy,” which now threaten, not only democracy and freedom, but all life on earth. Then we can decide where to go from there. On this point, we must be clear.

We must gain the clarity that is urgently needed at this time, and unite and inspire, and empower the people. And we must act decisively, and now.

J. Todd Ring

April 15, 2007

Further reading:

Writings of J. Todd Ring

Amazon.com: Civil Disobedience and Other Essays (Dover Thrift Editions): Books: Henry David Thoreau

Amazon.com: Roads to Freedom: Socialism, Anarchism & Syndication: Books: Bertrand Russell

Amazon.com: The Chalice and the Blade: Our History, Our Future: Books: Riane Eisler

Amazon.com: The Ecology of Freedom: The Emergence and Dissolution of Hierarchy: Books: Murray Bookchin

Amazon.com: Escape from Freedom: Books: Erich Fromm

Amazon.com: The Power Elite: Books: C. Wright Mills,Alan Wolfe

Amazon.com: The Corporation: The Pathological Pursuit of Profit and Power: Books: Joel Bakan

Economist’s View: You’ll Miss Us When We’re Gone

Economist’s View: Can Democrats and Libertarians Find Common Ground?

“Their Libertarianism and Ours” – from:

Amazon.com: Don’t Think, Smile!: Notes on a Decade of Denial: Books: Ellen Willis

On Libertarianism: Right & Left

Posted in Chomsky, democracy, far right, Hobbes, Jefferson, left, libertarian socialism, libertarianism, philosophy, political philosophy, political theory, politics, Ron Paul, social theory, Thoreau on April 15, 2007 by jtoddring

“Unthinking respect for authority is the greatest enemy of truth.”

~Albert Einstein

Libertarianism is a term that has come to be identified with the right, with limited government, ideals of freedom, free market capitalism and laissez fair economics, however, the term originally meant libertarian socialism, a libertarianism of the left. The distinction of two kinds of libertarianism, or more appropriately, a spectrum of views within what is called libertarianism, is important. Both right and left libertarianism have a deep skepticism about excessive concentrations of state power, encroachments of government power in the lives of individuals and communities, and a belief that ultimately, “That government is best which governs the least.” Beyond this agreement, there are considerable differences between libertarianism of the right and that of the left. But before the distinctions between left and right libertarianism can be discussed, we need to clarify just what is essential to a libertarian perspective, and also, to distinguish between the ideal and the immediate in terms of advocating or working towards specific goals for human society.

Thoreau expresses a very clear and lucid view of the subject, recognizing the ideal, yet also the immediate reality: ideally, and “when men are ready for it,” no government, which we shall have, and which shall be a degree of liberation not yet seen or imagined; but in the immediate sense, not “no government, but at once, a better government.” In other words, work toward and keep in mind the ideal – freedom from state power messing up and intruding on the peoples’ lives, liberty and communities, but also seek more limited victories in the short term: a better government.

I HEARTILY ACCEPT the motto, — “That government is best which governs least”; and I should like to see it acted up to more rapidly and systematically. Carried out, it finally amounts to this, which also I believe, — “That government is best which governs not at all”; and when men are prepared for it, that will be the kind of government which they will have…..But, to speak practically and as a citizen, unlike those who call themselves no-government men, I ask for, not at once no government, but at once a better government. Let every man make known what kind of government would command his respect, and that will be one step toward obtaining it.

– Henry David Thoreau, On Civil Disobedience

Bertrand Russell also came to the same conclusion. His cool, rational conclusion, after a very fair-minded and objective analysis, was that anarchism – from the Latin, an-archos, meaning absence of an over-arching power, not chaos – is likely the best form of human society (as well as the full and self-consistent application of libertarian values), but we are not likely ready for it; in the short term, what he called libertarian socialism is the best order for society to which we can aspire. By that he meant limited government, with all government power kept as close to the community as possible, and as close the hands of the people as possible – as Jefferson urged – but also with strong values of voluntary free association and human cooperation for mutual aid and benefit (a la Kropotkin). Ideally, and in the short term, he recommended we work toward a society where power lies primarily, not in the hands of a few bureaucrats and lobbyists in a far away capital where power is centralized, but in the hands of the people at the level of community, with federations or networks of human cooperation and solidarity, trade and communication between and among communities and individuals for their mutual benefit and protection. Jefferson would certainly agree in spirit if not in all details.

Chomsky clarifies the distinction between long-term ideals and short-term goals within a reasonable and clear-headed perspective which is skeptical of concentrated political power, or any form of social power for that matter:

“Classical anarchist thought would have been more opposed to slavery, feudalism, fascism, and so on, than it would have been to parliamentary government. There was a good reason. Classical liberal thought, and anarchism coming out of it, were opposed to any concentration of power, that is, unaccountable concentration of power. It is reasonable to make a distinction between the more accountable and less accountable. Corporations are the least accountable. So, against the corporate assault on freedom and independence, one can quickly turn to the one form of social organization that offers … public participation and … that happens to be parliamentary government. That has nothing to do with being opposed to the State. In fact, it’s a sensible support for the State.” – Noam Chomsky

This is precisely why I can admire a democratic socialist like Hugo Chavez, who was democratically elected in closely monitored free and fair elections, who has introduced and held public referenda on every major decision faced by the people of Venezuela – a thought inconceivable to the elitist politicians of Washington, Ottawa, London, Paris or Berlin – and who is presently utilizing, with great popular democratic support, the institution of constitutional parliamentary democracy to protect the people of Venezuela from the greatest threat to human freedom and well-being on the planet today: the tyranny of unaccountable private empires – the global corporate raiders. It is no contradiction to say support libertarian socialism, or left libertarianism, while admiring a social democrat like Chavez. As Chomsky put it, it’s sensible support for the state – under certain limited conditions.

Chomsky as well expresses a view of libertarian socialism. And Chomsky, as well or better than any other, clarifies the distinction of right and left libertarianism. Libertarians across the spectrum are opposed to excessive concentrations of political power, as it is viewed that such high degrees of concentrated political power in society have more often than not created more harm than good – a view that is shared among Jefferson, Thoreau, Bertrand Russell, Kropotkin, Chomsky and many others.

The history of the world shows that this view is the most realistic perspective on government and political power. The opposing view, that government is the saviour and redeemer of humanity, has brought about Stalinism, Nazism, fascism, Maoism, and lately, neoconservatism, among other evils. The view that is opposed to the libertarian desire to keep political power firmly in check, sees government as a kind of benign big brother, a paternal or maternal figure, a parent that treats citizens like children, who need to be coddled and scolded, controlled for their own good. It is a dangerous elitism, breeding naturally authoritarianism. It comes from a fear of freedom, as social psychologist Eric Fromm correctly pointed out, and not just megalomaniacal dreams of power.

Plato was the most famous and influential of the “government as saviour” camp. The philosopher kings, the wise few, would rule with benign despotism over the hapless and ignorant many. Sounds desirable, maybe, until you reflect that if you do not trust people to govern themselves, how can you possibly trust them to govern others? (A flaw of basic logic which was not missed by Jefferson.)

Hobbes furthered the view, presenting the anthropologically ignorant and incorrect view that life before civilization, by which he meant life before centralized government, was “evil, nasty, brutish and short.” The revolution in anthropology that occurred in the 1970’s with the discovery of new and conclusive evidence about our human history prior to the age of empires, refutes Hobbes unequivocally. Hobbes knew nothing of anthropology, of course, and the data would not be revealed for another few centuries, but he was wrong, and we know that now – or at least, we can know that now, although almost no-one is aware that such a revolution has occurred in anthropology and our knowledge of human history: we live in a pre-Copernican time with regard to the general culture’s understanding of anthropology and human history; most still believe the sun revolves `round the earth, though the evidence to refute this fallacy has been made clear.

In any case, Hobbes was engaging in a kind of rational self-deceit. Hobbes view of human beings was jaundiced and pessimistic in the extreme. He felt, as many do, that if there was no powerful over-arching force to restrain human beings, they would instantly rip each other’s throats out, and everything would descend into a war of “all against all.” Again, the anthropological data refutes this terrified view, but even if one were to accept it for sake of argument, it simply begs the question. If you do not trust people, then why would you give a few people extraordinary power? Would this not seem even more dangerous? Who did Hobbes expect to govern us, aliens? Hobbes did not trust people, so he argued that some people have an all-powerful position in order that these people protect people from people. This should strike us as immediately self-contradictory, ridiculous and absurd.

As Jefferson said, “If you do not trust people to govern themselves, how can you trust them to govern others?” It is therefore not idealistic and utopian to think that government should be kept to a minimum of centralized, concentrated power, but on the contrary, it is a healthy and prudent skepticism that informs such a view.

(When you combine Plato, Hobbes and Machiavelli, you get the neoconservatives – or their mirror image, neoliberalism. You get wildy elitist, authoritarian, ruthless, predatory, self-delusional, megalomaniacal empire fetish. That is what we are experiencing now.)

Thoreau demolishes Hobbes’ fantasy-scape with a few strokes on the pen:

Must the citizen ever for a moment, or in the least degree, resign his conscience to the legislator? Why has every man a conscience, then? I think that we should be men first, and subjects afterward. It is not desirable to cultivate a respect for the law, so much as for the right. The only obligation which I have a right to assume is to do at any time what I think right. – Thoreau, “Civil Disobedience

Law never made men a whit more just; and, by means of their respect for it, even the well-disposed are daily made the agents of injustice. A common and natural result of an undue respect for law is, that you may see a file of soldiers, colonel, captain, corporal, privates, powder-monkeys, and all, marching in admirable order over hill and dale to the wars, against their wills, ay, against their common sense and consciences, which makes it very steep marching indeed, and produces a palpitation of the heart. They have no doubt that it is a damnable business in which they are concerned; they are all peaceably inclined. Now, what are they? Men at all? or small movable forts and magazines, at the service of some unscrupulous man in power? – Thoreau, “Civil Disobedience

The mass of men serve the state thus, not as men mainly, but as machines, with their bodies. They are the standing army, and the militia, jailers, constables, posse comitatus, etc. In most cases there is no free exercise whatever of the judgment or of the moral sense; but they put themselves on a level with wood and earth and stones; and wooden men can perhaps be manufactured that will serve the purpose as well. Such command no more respect than men of straw or a lump of dirt. They have the same sort of worth only as horses and dogs. Yet such as these even are commonly esteemed good citizens. Others, as most legislators, politicians, lawyers, ministers, and office-holders, serve the state chiefly with their heads; and, as they rarely make any moral distinctions, they are as likely to serve the devil, without intending it, as God. A very few, as heroes, patriots, martyrs, reformers in the great sense, and men, serve the state with their consciences also, and so necessarily resist it for the most part; and they are commonly treated as enemies by it. – Thoreau, “Civil Disobedience

Libertarianism: Right and Left

The libertarianism of the right has a view of power that does not keep to its own self-consistency. It views political power as potentially dangerous, having the great potential to be abused, and therefore needing to be kept in close check. But it does not recognize economic power as a power in society, which is an oversight that is hard to fathom, such power being so plainly obvious. Because libertarians of the right tend not to recognize economic power as a form of power in society, they are unconcerned with its concentrations – even when concentrations of economic power become staggeringly large, as they have over the past twenty or thirty years. This is an oversight that is frankly dangerous, if not delusional.

Libertarians of the left share the skepticism of highly concentrated political power, but, naturally, recognize the potential for harm and abuse from excessive concentrations of economic power. Thus, in the present order of things, corporate power is to be addressed equally, along side state or governmental power. To do otherwise is to contradict oneself, and worse, to leave the door open to serious and extreme abuses of power, and also, to fascism, which, as Mussolini said, is rightly called corporatism, since it is the merger of business and the state (and that is exactly what is happening now, and on a global scale) due to the lack of foresight to correct and put in check all forms of great concentrations of power in society.

Right libertarianism questions, challenges, and repudiates high levels of concentration of political power in society – and rightfully so, I believe – yet it is, or at least has been until recently, unwilling to question the role and nature of high levels of concentrations of economic power.

This is, once again, frankly, a gross oversight, and one that makes right libertarianism a contradiction in terms: you cannot advocate limitations on powers that unduly constrict human freedom and pose threats of tyranny in a self-consistent, coherent, or even rational manner, if you are only willing to look at one form of power in society, and remain blind to others. Economic power is every bit as real as political power – some would say more so.

The 500 biggest corporations on earth now have combined revenues that total three times the GDP of the world’s biggest national economy – that of the United States. If this does not constitute power in society, I’m not sure what would.

OK, well, corporations have immense power, but that does not mean it translates into political power – does it? They are competing with one another. Yes, they are competing with one another, and they also share common interests: drive labour costs and wages down, eliminate or circumvent labour and environmental standards, find the cheapest source of labour and resources and move there, then dominate them, open borders to free flow of capital, but not to labour…..The commonalities are pretty clear.

And do they meet, discuss common interests, work together cooperatively? Of course. Wouldn’t you if you were in their position?

Do teachers join together to pursue common interests, such as decent pay, pension plans, etc.? Do janitors get together to pursue common goals of better pay and working conditions?

It is obvious, or should be, that there are common group interests – or, heaven forbid we use the term, class interests – that bring otherwise competing parties together to pursue common goals. The corporate elite are no different. This is not a conspiracy, but simply common sense.

The world’s corporate elite gather, among other places, at Davos Switzerland, every year for the World Economic Forum, and there seek to push governments to their will, to advance common interests among the elite global investment class, the billionaire class, or the class of ruling oligarchs, to every extent that they are able to do so – and that is a considerable length.

The billionaires, and the large corporations they control, do not control the world – but they certainly dominate it, and they dominate virtually every nation and government on earth, as well as dominating the global economy, the financial system and most of the media. This is, by any sane or reasonable definition, hegemonic power: corporations and the billionaires who control them, now effectively rule the world. The only way to properly define such a system or order of things, is not democracy, certainly, but oligarchy – or plutocracy, or neo-feudalism, or most starkly, and what we are fast approaching in its full, ugly form: global, neo-feudal, corporate fascism.

It is impossible to deny the very real power of corporations in society without digressing into ideological fundamentalism and willful blindness. Refusing to challenge economic concentrations of power while espousing a libertarian philosophy is self-contradictory: right libertarianism is an oxymoron, a contradiction in terms.

Would a laissez-fair, free-market capitalist, who supports only limited government – a libertarian as it is known on the right – be considered an oxymoron or a self-contradiction if he was also a slave owner? Of course. But it is not very different if a libertarian advocates checks and balances on political power, yet does not question the giant corporate monopolies and oligopolies that now wield more power than democratically elected governments.

Right libertarianism is truly a contradiction in terms, unless by that you mean a conservative libertarian, who also questions and challenges excessive concentrations of corporate, economic and financial power, and not only state or governmental power. U.S. Congressman and 2008 Presidential candidate Ron Paul, for example, I would describe as a conservative libertarian in this sense. He has his head on his shoulders when it comes to corporate powers, as far as I can tell. He is not stuck in ideological dogmatisms.

The left is equated – wrongly – with heavy-handed, bureaucratic, if not totalitarian government – or at least this is the view of the left that we get from the right wing; however, there are, broadly speaking, two wings or schools of thought within what has been called the left, and only one of the two fits the above description.

In the socialist movement of the 1800’s there was a definite rift, and a fierce debate, between the two very different currents of thought within what is loosely described as the political left. Marx led the wing we are most familiar with, Bakunin the other. Bakunin and the libertarian socialists were ousted, lost the battle, and were to some considerable degree eclipsed from history – at least until very recently. Bakunin warned that Marxist ideas would lead to a new form of tyranny – and of course he was right. The Soviet Union was the prime example, and Bakunin predicted the tyranny long in advance.

Now, with the Marxist-Leninist school of thought being in full disgrace within the left, as well as within the broader community of humanity world-wide, and with global neoliberal corporate capitalism experiencing a deep and profound, and rapidly growing crisis of legitimacy world-wide, with rapidly rising popular discontent, people are beginning to look for alternatives – and the alternative is becoming clear to many. That is, in the short term: a freedom-loving and anti-authoritarian, democratic socialism in the short term; and libertarian socialism in the longer term. I would say they deserve our thoughtful attention, and merit respectful consideration, at the very least, and to put it most mildly.

The War on Democracy: Unchecked Power Out of Control

Under what we should more honestly call monopoly capitalism, the era of the small shop owner being the primary economic player having long ago vanished, corporate power has become so concentrated – that is, economic power has become so enormously concentrated – that it now threatens to engulf and eviscerate all remaining democratic power of societies world wide. We should be concerned. Jefferson warned of this 200 years ago. We did not listen. We are now facing the results of our lack of foresight.

Those on the right and the left with a libertarian perspective would do well to communicate. There is a natural alliance here, if we can learn to speak in ways that are mutually understandable. There is no time for bickering or ideological warfare. We need to get together to protect the basics: decent, although flawed, human, imperfect limited government, within the framework of constitutional democracy and basic human rights and freedom.

If we do not come together, and not just right and left libertarians, but more traditional liberals, conservatives, social democrats, greens and progressives, and all who oppose the, by now undeniable, drift into oligarchy and corporate fascism, and stand together for constitutional democracy, civil liberties, human rights and freedom, all other considerations will become merely abstract, and we will find ourselves living in a brave new world, in a very dark age.

  1. Todd Ring

April 15, 2007

Further reading:

Writings of J. Todd Ring

Amazon.com: Civil Disobedience and Other Essays (Dover Thrift Editions): Books: Henry David Thoreau

Amazon.com: Roads to Freedom: Socialism, Anarchism & Syndication: Books: Bertrand Russell

Amazon.com: The Chalice and the Blade: Our History, Our Future: Books: Riane Eisler

Amazon.com: The Ecology of Freedom: The Emergence and Dissolution of Hierarchy: Books: Murray Bookchin

Amazon.com: Escape from Freedom: Books: Erich Fromm

Amazon.com: The Power Elite: Books: C. Wright Mills,Alan Wolfe

Amazon.com: The Corporation: The Pathological Pursuit of Profit and Power: Books: Joel Bakan

Economist’s View: You’ll Miss Us When We’re Gone

Economist’s View: Can Democrats and Libertarians Find Common Ground?

“Their Libertarianism and Ours” – from:

Amazon.com: Don’t Think, Smile!: Notes on a Decade of Denial: Books: Ellen Willis

An Open Letter to the NDP

Posted in alternative, Canada, Canadian, corporate fascism, corporate rule, corporatism, coup, deep integration, democracy, fascism, freedom, geopolitics, globalism, globalization, inspiration, left, liberal, Martial Law, NACC, NAU, NDP, neoliberalism, North American Union, police state, policy, political economy, politics, Security and Prosperity Partnership, SPP, Tommy Douglas, U.S. on March 10, 2007 by jtoddring



I would like to tell you why I will not – why I cannot, in good conscience – support the New Democratic Party of Canada at this time, even though there is much in your platform I do support.

A Lack of Vision, and An Absence of Boldness:

As a party that values and seeks to promote justice, fairness and equality, among other noble and democratic goals, the party of Tommy Douglas, the NDP would be the natural choice for me – but for two reasons. First, for at least forty years the NDP has stubbornly clung to a losing strategy of vying for the centre with the Liberals. (The Wobblies and the New Politics Initiative, if I’m remembering the name correctly, tried and failed to correct this timid and strategically foolish tendency.)

If you seek to compete with the Liberals for the centre, you will continue to lose – it is that simple. If the NDP does not present a clear and bold alternative to the current slide into corporate rule – which in reality amounts to a slide into corporate fascism – the NDP will fail to inspire Canadians, and will continue to be a minor party, not a leading party. Currently, the NDP has no clear or compelling vision to present as an alternative to the failed ideology of corporate-led globalization, otherwise known as neoliberalism. This is a vacuum of leadership. And the entire party, not just its official leader, is responsible.

We need a party that presents a clear and bold alternative to the present and accelerating corporate dominance of our society. The NDP currently offers nothing of the sort. It is a party fighting for small victories, while the greater struggle to protect and enhance democracy, human rights, the environment and quality of life for all, is being lost. This approach is akin to fighting a raging forest fire with a garden sprinkler: you are not only losing, you are not even successful in rear-guard action. (The Liberals have an even worse record for compliance with a corporate-led agenda, but that is hardly reassuring. And while the Conservatives are the party for gung-ho get-on-board-with-corporate-rule, the NDP is hardly a serious alternative, as it offers nothing of substance.)

At present, the NDP is fighting a forest fire with a garden sprinkler and running backwards as fast as it can. We are losing ground rapidly, not gaining it. This is worse than useless – it gives a false sense of action. It is rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic, and patting ourselves on the back for all the good work we’re doing. This has to stop, or the NDP will become another Tony Blair party – so sold out to compromise that they are virtually indistinguishable from the Conservatives. The other two alternatives for the NDP are irrelevance, or new birth. I would sincerely hope for the latter.

Silence on the Most Urgent Issue of the Day: The SPP

The second reservation I have about the NDP is just as great. You have a bold spokesperson with NDP trade critic Peter Julian, along with Dennis Bevington and a few others, but the party is otherwise frighteningly silent on the single greatest issue of the day, and the most urgent issue for Canada at this time: the Security and Prosperity Partnership and the rapidly unfolding deep integration of Canada into a militarized, undemocratic, corporate dominated North American Union. Where are you on this, and why are you so strangely – disturbingly – silent?

(Of course, the Liberals were the party to sign the SPP to begin with, under Paul Martin, and the Conservatives under Stephen Harper are racing to implement this stealth take-over of Canada. But at present at least, the NDP is little better, offering nothing but a yawning chasm of silence on this critical issue of deep integration with the U.S.)

While the NDP focuses on other issues, the SPP is being implemented – quietly, undemocratically, and rapidly. If we do not stop the SPP, we will have no country left, and no democracy – which would mean that we have lost on ALL issues of social or ecological significance.

In Conclusion:

Until the NDP finds its spine, and presents a bold vision, a bold and clear alternative to the continued and rapidly accelerating slide into global corporatocracy; and until the NDP makes the SPP and deep integration with the U.S. a key and core electoral issue, I will not – I cannot in good conscience – support this party.

I hope you will address these issues. I know there are a great number of good people, intelligent people, people of integrity and experience in this party. I hope this good-hearted, intelligent depth of character will come forth now. We need it. God help us if we don’t find it – either in the NDP, or more importantly, in ourselves as citizens and human beings.

What Must Be Done: When corporatism and Leninism have both failed – part one

Posted in activism, alternative, class, common ground, corporate fascism, corporate rule, corporatism, crisis of legitimacy, democracy, empire, empowerment, end-game, fascism, freedom, geopolitics, globalism, globalization, history, human rights, imperialism, inspiration, labour, left, liberal, Martial Law, neoliberalism, peace, people's movements, police state, policy, political economy, political theory, politics, right wing, social theory, sociology, the right, the world's other superpower, tipping point, war on March 5, 2007 by jtoddring


For a future (worth living) to be possible

With the clear and accelerating hyper-concentration of power in the world, primarily via the hyper-concentration of corporate economic and financial power, which now threatens to swallow any last vestiges of democracy, freedom and human rights, we clearly need a united grassroots citizen’s movement to restore and protect the basics: democracy, fundamental human rights, and freedom. If we fail to create such a united popular force, we will see the full emergence of a global corporate feudalism – a phenomenon which is already well underway.

Serious thought and action must be directed toward creating a broad-based citizens’ coalition to defend democracy, and to create the possibility, and the actuality, of a more peaceful, just, sustainable and democratic world. In order to accomplish this, some form of federation of citizen’s movements is needed. We do not necessarily have to join or form a particular political party, nor are party politics the central issue. What is required is a citizen’s movement, broad enough, empowered enough, bold enough, and sufficiently united across its diversity, to create the kind of popular pressure and initiative that makes change happen. The great accomplishments of our collective human history have come about in this way: leadership from below. We should not expect it to be any different today.

If we look to history, who led the changes in society brought about by the civil rights movement? People like Rosa Parks, the students who started the lunch counter sit-ins, the ordinary citizens who launched the Montgomery bus boycott, and the millions of ordinary people who stood up, spoke out and created the people’s movement that led to great changes.

Who led the movement for universal suffrage? The right to vote, first by non-property owners, then by women, was not gained by a decree from on high, but by the struggles of ordinary men and women working together to create change.

Who brought down the Vietnam war fiasco? Not JFK, who launched the bombing on South East Asia, not LBJ, who stepped it up, not Nixon or Kissinger, who took the aerial bombardment to literally genocidal levels, not the corporate elite who backed, armed, and heavily profited from the venture, and not the political “leadership” of the major parties. It was the grassroots, again. It took 14 years then, before a grassroots coalition could be built strongly enough to bring the war to an end. And should there be any doubt as to how the war ended, take the statements from then National Security adviser to the U.S. government, chief intellectual-in-residence to the political power elite of the United States, Henry Kissinger. He made it clear to his boss in the White house that in order to win the war in Vietnam, more troops would have to be sent, but if more troops were sent from America, stability could not be assured at home. The crisis at home, the crisis of legitimacy brought on by this gruesome war, the crisis precipitated by a great and powerful citizen’s movement that demanded an end to this unjust and horrific war, was at a level by the mid-70’s that the war in Vietnam became unsustainable. The citizen’s movement ended the war, as Kissinger himself admitted directly.

In European and North American history, who led and ultimately succeeded in the efforts to bring about a work week that is 40 hours, and not 80 or more, as it had been? Who led and ultimately succeeded in raising wages, first above starvation levels, then above meager subsistence levels, to a point where a decent life is possible – despite the roll-backs of the last twenty years? Who led and ultimately succeeded in ending the worst workplace safety dangers – something most people take entirely for granted? Who led and ultimately succeeded in the drive for social programs to benefit the old, the poor, the ill or injured? Who led and ultimately succeeded in giving the people of the Western world the standard of living we now have? Not the unalterable laws of capitalism – the barons of capital opposed all of these initiatives. Not the political elite – the political elite opposed all of these initiatives, until the public demand for them was so powerful it could not be opposed any longer, and the political elite took credit for a concession they had fought for years, if not decades or centuries. It was primarily the labour movement, along with other popular movements, that won the people of the Western world these gains.

Who broke the back of the biggest empire the world had ever seen – the British Empire – the empire that controlled two-thirds of the globe c. 1940? Not another military superpower. Not America, the now self-proclaimed global super-cop, judge, jury and executioner, exporter of “democracy” through the barrel of a gun. Not Superman, the Lone Ranger, extraterrestrials or some other fantasy rescuer. It was one little Indian of great stature, Mahatma Gandhi, and more importantly, millions of ordinary heroes.

Who initiated, led, and brought considerable gains for the earth and humanity with the environmental movement? Again, not the political or corporate elite, who fought these initiatives tooth and claw the whole way, only to take credit for every concession that they yielded to popular pressure. To be fair, there have been and are business people and politicians who have sought and contributed to positive developments in society and in environmental protection – of course – but the initiative and the pressure, the drive and the creative force has always come, almost without exception, from below – from the people themselves. It is no different now.

The question that confronts us now is, will “the world’s other superpower” – as the business press, as well as the UN Secretary General has called the world’s citizenry – come together in sufficient unity to oppose the destruction of democracy and the earth? Is it going to be a bang, a whimper, or a shout of joy and determination that ends, not the world, but the world as it was – out of balance, out of harmony, out of time? If it is not a global citizen’s movement that is decisive in this question, then arguably it will be either a bang or a whimper. We cannot afford to let this happen. It must be a collective shout of joy, a determined and powerful “no” to violence, destruction, and the prey of the few upon the many – an emphatic “yes” to the future of life on earth. We must rally unity amid diversity now.

J. Todd Ring

March 2007

Part Two: What Must Be Done: When corporatism and Leninism have both failed