Richard Nixon and the Cloak of Credulity
Program note: We’ve lost the legal battle to reclaim the Western White House and the Foundation won’t surrender the keys to the helicopter even though it’s simply sitting out behind the Library collecting layer upon layer of Yorba Linda dust. Consequently we’re relocating to more cordial climes where we hope to be better appreciated. Regular dispensings of wisdom will resume in about 10 days; until then we’re on a catch-as-can schedule.
You can’t imagine how popular the Harry Potter series is. We have weekends; everybody running around pointing sticks at each other, shouting “Levicorpus!” and giggling hysterically. Henry Asquith, who introduced me to The Mekons, does a brilliant Snape.
(I know what you’re thinking, the answer is no.)
There’s this fellow Charlie Pierce who writes at Esquire, reminds me somewhat of the late Hunter Thompson; subtract the fixation on guns and drugs, less a little apocalyptic fancy, and you get something similar. I like him better even though the things he says about me are similarly cruel if not to the level of the obituary Thompson wrote for me. I’ve seen mafia hits less bloody than that.
Pierce wrote something today that embodies a problem one sees a lot. People begin down a road and arrive at a point beyond which they simply will not go because their beliefs force them to see a brick wall despite that the road stretches on for miles.
Today we’re talking about crony capitalism, a subject arrived at through the vehicle of young Tank Romney.
The cronies take the capitalism out of crony capitalism, which is why it can flourish under ostensibly Communist systems, like China or the old Soviet Union, as well as it can flourish here. The cronies limit your vision. They cosset you against the world. They help you avoid the downturns and vicissitudes to which all of us fall heir. They can give you a false sense of how smart you are and, in turn, how much wealth and success are things that are yours by right, rather than things that you earn. They can turn you into George W. Bush. This is in no way a good thing.
Comes now Tagg Romney, Financial Wizard. With a little help from Daddy’s friends. For all the Romney palaver about the way the family has scrapped its way into the top 1 percent, it’s a long way from that cabin in Mexico. This is the world which the Romneys inhabit now — the world of starter trust-funds of $100 million, the world in which $244 million in investments comes from a simple handshake over dinner at Torrey Pines, money enough to buy you a lot of fine alibis when questions arise about the benefits of being in business with the son of a possible president of the United States.
Young Tugg Romney may be less an example of crony capitalism and more one of the nobleman’s son supported, as with the smaller President Bush, but he’ll do.
This isn’t a new problem; some of the best literature of the past 150 years or so involves crony capitalism or its kissing cousin suborned government, or both. From time to time the reality of it surfaces in a major way and leads to an outcry which prompts the practioners to lower their profiles for a while, possibly even sends a few into exile or the poorhouse or even the prison, but never erases the practice.
It isn’t new, and the road doesn’t stop where Charlie thinks it stops. He is sold, apparently, on the notion that there’s a brand of Capitalism which is somehow fair and just, and which is demeaned by the hijinks of Torque Romney and his ilk. Charlie has been stymied by Capitalism’s credulity cloak. It isn’t that he doesn’t see what’s there; it’s that what he sees isn’t there.
Let me make this perfectly clear: Capitalism actually does suck, even when it isn’t of the crony sort. It requires a losing class, who then have to rely on the social consciences of legislators, Presidents and superior capitalists, crony or otherwise, to provide them with sufficient table scraps to survive. Or, in truly desperate times, upon the ruling class’s fear of the losing class.
The great social responsibility contest between modern day Democrats and Republicans isn’t between social Darwinism and something else, but between a flatly homicidal social Darwinism and a somewhat more generous version. I have said this before and it is so.
Do people have a right to food, a right to decent shelter, a right to medical care, a right to provide for themselves? Under Capitalism, the philosophical answer, the systemic answer is no, they don’t. In the best of post-World War II times, some 10% of the labor force, and isn’t that a humanist description, are either out of work or underemployed. Now it’s closer to a third who are unemployed, underemployed or simply out of the game altogether. Food, shelter and medical care are made haphazardly available; people in the same social and economic condition may find help in one city or state and not another, depending upon the level of charity the authorities have elected to provide.
That’s not a factor of whether some people game Capitalism, or own it; it’s a native function.
Well, never mind all that. Possibly young Truckle believes his own bullshit. But the system is made to be gamed; more than that, it is itself a game run against the losers, the people who have no cronies and are forcibly kept from gaining them.