Reading Thorstein Veblen Again
How surprised was I reading Veblen this morning on awakening to find that this great American Economist and Sociologist deals with obsolescence in society and its institutions in chapter 8 of his masterpiece, one of my Holy Bibles, The Theory of the Leisure Class. Think about what Thorstein wrote on pages 132-33, "The situation of today shapes the institutions of tomorrow through a selective, coercive process, by acting upon men's habitual view of things, and so altering or fortifying a point of view or a mental attitude handed down from the past. The institutions--that is to say the habits of thought--under the guidance of which men live are in this way received from an earlier time; more or less remotely earlier, but in any event they have been elaborated in and received from the past. Institutions are products of the past process, are adapted to past circumstances, and are therefore never in full accord with the requirements of the present" [tgw: and this "habits of thought" concept is brilliant in what it leads to in the way of thinking about Economics, which is what we are talking about in everyday life--as Huey Newton said, it's all economics--everything--and that's a habit of thought].
Wow, to me, that's pretty powerful concluding. And this was written back at the intrusion of the Industrial Revolution into this country, back in the late 19th Century, folks. By an American Economist from Wisconsin. Of Norwegian extract.
I must go on quoting from these paragraphs of brilliance: "In the nature of the case, this process of selective adaptation can never catch up with the progressively changing situation in which the community finds itself at any given time; for the environment, the situation, the exigencies of life which enforce the adaptation and exercise the selection, change from day to day; and each successive situation of the community in its turn tends to obsolescence as soon as it has been established."
Amen, Brother Veblen. Praise the Spirit of the Sociologists and their once-brother and --sister Economists--but the Economists moved over to the Schools of Business in the 1950s, at the time C. Wright Mills wrote the book I consider another of my Holy Bibles, The Power Elite. And here's what C. Wright had to say about our "Chief Executives" in this great book:
"The trend within the corporate world is toward larger financial units tied into intricate management networks far more centralized than is the case today . Productivity has and will increase fabulously [tgw: it did in the 1980s and early '90s with the advent of the PC], especially when automation [tgw: computers and computer systems] makes it possible to interlock several machines in such a way as to eliminate the need for much of the human control at the point of production that is now required. That means that the corporate executives will not need to manage huge organizations of people; rather, in Business Week words, they will be 'operating great mechanical organizations using fewer and fewer people.'
"All this has not been and is not now inevitable; certainly the enormous size of the modern corporation cannot be explained as due to increased efficiency; many specialists regard the size now typical of the giants as already in excess of the requirements of efficiency. In truth, the relationship of corporate size to efficiency is quite unknown; moreover, the scale of the modern corporation is usually due more to financial and managerial amalgamations than to technical efficiency. But inevitable or not, the fact is that today  the great American corporations seem more like states within states than simply private businesses. The economy of America has been largely incorporated, and within their incorporation the corporate chiefs have captured the technological innovation, accumulated the existing great fortunes as well as much lesser, scattered wealth, and capitalized the future. Within the financial and political boundaries of the corporation, the industrial revolution itself has been concentrated. Corporations command raw materials, and the patents on inventions with which to turn them into finished products. They command the most expensive, and therefore what must be the finest, legal minds in the world, to invent and to refine their defenses and their strategies. They employ man as producer and they make that which he buys as consumer. They clothe him and feed him and invest his money. They make that with which he fights the wars and they finance the ballyhoo of advertisement and the obscurantist bunk of public relations that surround him during the wars and between them.
"Their private decisions, responsibly made in the interests of the feudal-like world of private property and income, determine the size and shape of the national economy, the level of employment, the purchasing power of the consumer, the prices that are advertised, the investments that are channeled. Not 'Wall Street financiers' or bankers, but large owners and executives in their self-financing corporations hold the keys of economic power. Not the politicians of the visible government, but the chief executives who sit in the political directorate ... hold the power and the means of defending the privileges of their corporate world. If they do not reign, they do govern at many of the vital points of everyday life in America, and no powers effectively and consistently countervail against them, nor have they as corporate-made men developed any effectively restraining conscience" [from C. Wright Mills, The Power Elite, "The Chief Executives"--it's linked over in our Blog List to the right of this page].
I am biased, but, dammit, Sociologists and Gestalt-thinking Economists have known exactly all these years what's wrong with Capitalism and Corporatism and Oligarchies and Monopolies--Marx said overproduction would bring Capitalism down--and that now includes overfinancing and overmerging and letting the Third World overproduce--storing overstocks in warehouses or consigning them out to outlet stores like Walmart of China--the lower the workforce's wages go, the lower the consumer index goes--nationally, that is, but maybe not Globally, Global Marketwise --not even Veblen or Wright could have visualized the Global Marketplace, unless Veblen looked upon the British Empire as a Global Marketplace in his day.
If C. Wright Mills were alive today he'd get a fine mad chuckle out of how the Wall Street financiers and bankers have managed to turn themselves into self-financing corporations with their CEOs now commanding powerful respect from the political nabobs in the District of Corruption who are bent on driving our economy down to a Third World level. Why? CHEAP LABOR!We the People of the USA are doomed unless we REVOLT, and unlike some pundits I read, I just don't see any Americans but the old left around lefties interested in revolting. Rebellion, yes. Kids love rebellions. So that's what we need a youth, Middle-Class, Blue-Collar Class, White-Collar Class REBELLION. We the People are, as Len Hall, the Existentialist Cowboy, says, being robbed blind by corporate and political conspiracies. Yes, conspiracies, which he says the commericial -corporate media poo-poo and ridicule and joke about--and when someone says, "Hey, George H. W. 'Pappy' Bush was present in Dallas during the assassination of JFK and he was also present in New York City having breakfast with Prince Bandar Bush watching 9/11 happening on teevee ," and the media replies, "Oh, come on, that was coincidence. Why, even Bill Clinton admitted that Pappy Bush was so great a man he had made him his new best friend."
And, by the bye, whatever happened to Prince Bandar Bush?--he was once the Saudi connection between our oil-desperate rulers and the oil-rich Saudis--but we don't hear much about the Bin Ladens these days--and certainly nothing about Osama Bin Laden-Bush-- remember when G.W. Bush was asked about why he'd stopped pursuing Bin Laden, how he smirked and said something like, "I'm not interested in him anymore." Case closed on bin Laden. Then G.W., the little asshole, declared the U.S. was turning the Afghanistan Foolish War over to NATO--it was their problem now. Of course, what's NATO without US armed forces?--nothing but a piddling bunch of Brits (and Canadians) and Dutch and Polish troops--oh yeah,NATO's in control. So how come old G.W. Bush-Barack Obama Pentagon head nutjob Bob Gates showed up in Afghanistan for a quick tour of inspection t'other day?--and, yep, sure enough, old Bob said as far as he could tell, the Afghanistan War was preceding in a splendid peachy-keen way--the Surge, yes, that great military tactic, was working--the Surge's inventor and great military patriot was G.W. Bush's great military find, General Betrayus , a man so impressive that when President Obama met him on one of his early political junkets to Baghdad right after he got to be Commander in Chief, he decided on the spot to keep this Bush holdover. He's one tough cookie, Obama proudly tooted, to then announce that he was keeping Betrayus and his Surge in business--"Bring 'em on," he said, beaming confidently in his choice for his Iraq War military commander.
"Hellfire," I scream at President Obama, "We the People elected you fucking president because you said you were going to bring us change--'Yes, We Can'--little did we know you were going to reduce our worth to CHANGE by falling in love with G.W. Bush's administration" and its cronies, its military genius package of Betrayus, McCrystalmeth , and Bobby Gates (and may I add facetiously to Obama asking him why he doesn't make Bill Gates Sec'y of Defense?--Bill could pay for the wars out of his pocket change--or with all those offshore billions he has stashed in the Billy Boy and Melinda Gates Foundation) and keeping so many of the Bushite goons intact, just as he kept G.W. Bush's money-thieving financial pricks intact, little crooks like Ben Bernancke , leaving them in their posts rationalizing that the guys who caused all our current crises are the ones who are best at fixing them. And fix them those bastards did, too, didn't they?
So the Surge is working in Afghanistan. And what a sham that statement is. And from sham we get shame and how ashamed We the People should be over all this trickery and flim-flamming and lying and stealing and bullshitting and raping and murdering and torturing. But given that We the People aren't that ashamed of any of this, then it's OK that everything coming out of the mouths of the District of Corruption bullshitters are boldface LIES, then we can reason that the real reason Bob Gates was in Afghanistan, and I'm sure Hillary will be flying her Air Force jet over there soon, too, was for a totally different reason than simply checking on the war and how it's going. The reason our Sec'y of Defense risked his life to bumble into Afghanistan had to do with the Karsai Brothers stirring up trouble. President Karsai has been chirping that he wants US forces out of Afghanistan. Then President Karsai's drug-dealing brother, the Boss of Kandahar, is wanting the US to send some troops and more billions into Kandahar to protect his drug cartel's getting that all-important poppy juice out of a war zone and over to the USA so we can keep the lower classes doped up--though another reason General Bungler Gates is over there and surely Hillary's big behind is right behind is because Afghanistanis are making a run on the Bank of Afghanistan wanting their money out of that bank on rumors the Karsai Brothers are crooks. Now who do you think are the two major stockholders in this bank? I'll let you take a guess...(pause for guessing). If you said "The Karsai Brothers," you are correct sir or madam.
In the meantime while these old and new rich motherfuckers are playing war, the economy is still toast; unemployment is holding steady at 10%--higher of course in our minorities--especially our Blacks--here in New York City it is estimated there is 20% unemployment among Blacks; housing foreclosures are still going on full blast; banks and Goldman-Sachs-types are still living splendid lives, grubbing up billions and billions of dollars by buying up all our land, our buildings, our homes, our small businesses, our communications systems, our debts, our military--and, yep, Obama announced a day or so ago that in his ending combat duty in Iraq for our troops, he was going to use Blackwater and Raytheon and Dimecorp private armies to the tune of 50,000 to now do his bidding--his new Iraqi PRIVATE-ARMY combat force--though, well, yes, there will still be 50,000 U.S. combat troops left there also. And We the People put up with this shit! But then I forget the majority of the American people are dunderheads, spoiled-brat baby Baby Boomers, and religious freaks and believers in ghosts and gods that speak English and that it's alright to torture human beings but totally wrong to torture dogs (and cute pets). Ironically if football millionaire Michael Vick had of been pitting human beings against each in his fighting pit instead of dogs, he'd'a gotten a whole lot less prison time, if any at all. Fucking dog-fighting ruined this poor dumb bastard's football career, though as soon as he was out of the slammer, the NFL let him come back in and try to make a team. To add irony to ironies, don't you think the dog pounds around the USA, always packed full to the brim on most days of the week, gas thousands upon thousands of puppies, kitties, guinea pigs, snakes, monkeys, adult dogs, adult cats, an occasional pet rat? Americans are neurotic because they are hypocrites--and then I got to wondering, like does a Muslim get to swear on the Koran in US courts? What do Hindus swear on? What do Native Americans swear on in our courts? Atheists, what the hell do they swear on, a blank sheet of paper? Buddhists--what do they swear on? New York City is a mixed culture--one certainly not absolutely loyal to the Constitution of the USA or its Bill of Rights or honest in their pledging their allegiance to the flag of the USA, one nation UNDER GOD! Of course, a Muslim could say that pledge and easily transpose the English word for God into his more understandable Arabic or Persian word for God...like Allah, for example. And you know how dumb I am, I'll be damned if I know what does a Jewish person swear on in our courts? I used to be a court officer, but there was no swearing on any books in the court I was an officer of. It was a juvenile court where juveniles had no rights to speak on their behalves; I spoke for them; and the process didn't involve any kind of swearing on any kind of Holy Book.
The majority of the American people are suckers...but then surely I'm wrong. Surely Barack Obama is one slick son of bitch, slicker than the original slickster, Slick Willie Clinton, and what he's doing is letting the Repugnicuntheads put their necks in nooses.
I wish I could say he is that slick, but I don't think so. I think poor old Barack Obama's balls are being squeezed by two related gangs, the Bush Family balltwisters and the Clintonista ballsqueezers--especially that crooked bunch of Chicago Dupocrats, Rahm Emanuel and David Axlerod (both Clintonistas), who've really got old Barack's balls in a tight grip.
Yet, like Black Americans, I keep apologizing for Barack and hoping he will pull a magic rabbit out of his political bag of tricks, but I don't see it. I think like all politicians he's pulling big campaign-contribution bucks out of his Honest Abe Lincoln topper. Would it surprise you if this motherfucker's agenda might be to get the Reaganite-Neo-Con bunch of assholes back into power, or is he laying the yellow brick road down for Saint Hillary RODHAM (or does she not demand you put that name between her and Clinton anymore?) Clinton to go up against Sarah Palin in one of the jokiest presidential elections in this new Century or ever. The trouble is, Barack Obama has succeeded at why he really got into politics: he and his wife are now certified millionaires; plus he's gonna get his presidential salary and privileges for the rest of his life, which if he loses in 2012, will still be a good long time, time enough for him to enjoy gracefully one hell of a Western-White lifestyle for the rest of his life.
Obsolescence in deprogressive action. Taking us back to the Stone Age--General Curtis LeMay's reason for his Strategic Air Command--to be able at any given moment to send a brace of invincible US bombers to a point of dissent with American diplomacy--not accepting our way of life--and bomb the motherfuckers back to the Stone Age--and don't be surprised to find out Generals and Admirals and Bob Gates use expletives in their common conversations. Bob Gates to Karsai: "What in the fuck are you towelheaded sons of bitches up to over here? You're helping the fucking Taliban? What the fuck's wrong with you, you camel-jockeying piece of desert crap?" Richard Nixon used such foul language he embarrassed Bobby "No Blemishes" Kennedy, that little asshole. "Er-ah,pleez , Mister President, I, a Kennedy, cannot tolerate that kind of language. We are practicing Catholics, you know." "Hey, Bobby," Nixon shouts back, "how many of those baby-faced priests put your little boy devil into the opened 'O' pit of Hell behind the altar or back in the Rectumry . Here, Bobby, have a slug of Jack Black out of my lovely wife Pat's private stock, or would you rather have a line of coke? Where's Henry...I think we should kneel and pray before we indulge in these earthly pleasures."
Idiots. I'm surrounded by idiots. Idiots who have the majority control of my life. Idiots who demand I prove who I am all day long. To get in most office buildings now in NYC you need two pieces of ID or a passport. Over at the Time & Life Building, they've put up steel-pipe barricades up all around their elevator banks with gates you can only enter by swiping your ID card in their key slots or by getting a pass or a permission slip from one of the big tall Black security guys stationed at those gates. I refuse to show any ID when I try and enter buildings and so far I've managed to not have any trouble with the few I've had to enter over the past 5 years since I lost my corporate ID when I was fired from my job in advertising--and I was FIRED, not outplaced, fucking FIRED. Why? My attitude didn't fit the company vision. These companies enslave their workers by promoting these Visions--and all Visions are the same--they tell workers that they must be proud to be working for whatever company it is; then they tell you that the Vision includes you dressing properly; behaving properly; using email properly; using the phones properly; coming to work on time and willingly working without bitch until your supervisor tells you you can leave. Fuck the Vision, I said, and they fired me. I was too visionary for them--they were already way obsolescent in my eyes.
And, oh yeah. There was another oil explosion in the Gulf of Mexico yesterday. This one on a platform run by Mariner Drilling. Guess who the top three executives at Mariner are? I pause to let you guess.... If you said three ex-Enron executives, you are correct sir or madam.
As C. Wright Mills reported back in 1956, these Global Marketplace corporations are so intertwined--they all know each other. I heard Larry "the Liar" King one night interviewing Pappy and Babs Bush on his show that nobody really watched--he never had good ratings--and during the interview Babs starting tooting her little horn on the fact she and Pappy had just been to a social affair with Blaine Trump...whoooo, privileged...and then she mentioned who was there and how glad they were to see their old pals, some they hadn't seen since Pappy was president--and Larry King stopped her and said, "You people know everybody. I can't mention a name that you didn't have dinner with last night or that you went to the theater with a day or so ago." And it is my honest opinion that Pappy was our worst-ever president and not his ignorant Yaley privileged son--I mean it was Pappy's old poison sperm that gave us Georgie Porgie Spoiled Brat Bush, one of the world's great human killers--remember, when he was governor of Texas he put the needle in 157 people--guilty or not--as Georgie Pie joked about killing the Mexican woman who had murdered somebody but then had gotten Christianity and started being a candidate for sainthood so Georgie Porgie responded to her appeal for clemency by speeding up her DEATH--saying, heckfire, he was doing her a favor by killing her--sending her to Heaven on the Death Penalty Express--puttin' her in the arms of Jesus immediately...that is if she really were saved--like Georgie Porgie was saved that time he almost OD'd on coke and almost drank himself into a stupor.
Word up is that President Obama is not only NOT going to retax the rich but he's GOING TO GIVE THEM MORE TAX BREAKS! And you don't believe in conspiracies?
And British Petroleum, as we've designated them now Saint British Petroleum (the miracle of the disappearing oil), is telling President Obama and We the People that if we don't allow them to drill, drill, drill, and keep on drill, drill, drilling until the whole bottom of the Gulf of Mexico erupts they're not going to fulfill their promise to set up that 20 billion dollar escrow account or finish paying for the clean up--and this bunch of fucking limey pricks spent 94 million dollars on those "Fuck you, We the People of the USA" television and print ads where these common old ordinary hardworking Gulf Coast folks tell you how responsible and saintly British Petroleum is being in this mess caused by them and their criminal corner-cutting accounting practices, etc. So far all of the people in those ads, except their new U.S. CEO, have been Blacks--two Black men and a Black woman. In other words, BP is reneging on their promise to pay restitution to the Gulf Coast businesses they ruined and the Gulf Coast fishermen they've put out of the fishing business and their promise to pay for the oil clean up. The problem with this is, you see, President Obama believes the idiot notion that corporations will do the right thing in the end after they've fucked up our Gulf Coast--hell, maybe the whole Gulf Oil of Mexico--they'll rectify it and ask forgiveness for their sins and be forgiven--or maybe they've stolen several trillion dollars from us through fraudulent financial schemes and conspiracies. Not to worry, they'll have a CHANGE of heart and again repent of their sins and be forgiven. It's Reaganomics, folks. The Trickle Down Theory of Milton Friedman. The Voodoo Economics of George H.W. Bush. The false logic of David Stockman. Obama has already said he loved the economics of Reagan--yes he did say that--and he also said he was going to be an Abe Lincoln-Ronald Reagan Dumbocrat who wasn't going to LOOK BACK. I wish we all would shout out really loud: "OBAMA, you motherfucker--" I mean, come on, let's use the language of the streets to get this guy's attention--"You jive-ass motherfucker--nationalize British Petroleum!--confiscate their assets--you can do the same as the DEA when it confiscates the properties and assets of drug cartel people they catch or like the Justice Department did to Bernie Madoff's properties and assets. Confiscate BPs assets and drive that worthless wreckless gold-digging company back to Britain, where their Margaret Thatcher economy is tumbling down lower every day." On the other hand, I know President Obama will do nothing of the sort. Instead, he will concede to BP's demands--plus, I think he will soon bail BP out as too big to fail. You don't believe me? OK. Shall we wait and see? Or shall we REBEL?
I am sitting here waiting for Earl. All the local weather babes are trying to scare the hell out of us up here on the East Coast. Of course this storm isn't as big and bad as those weather babes were predicting (in fact, it's blown out to die in the middle of the North Atlantic already)--though they are trying to scare the hell out of Long Island people though I just read where Earl's probably gonna miss Montauk by several hundred miles and head on up toward Greenland maybe battering some of Massachusetts or Maine (which it didn't). Shit. In other words, Earl is petering out and soon we will get some cooling rains (here in New York City we didn't even get any rain). I had an hallucinatory moment yesterday morning when I swore I could feel Earl already lurking about our barometers. You notice, weather babes don't give barometer readings anymore? They don't give wind speeds either, unless there's a hurricane on its way. I remember when NYC was in the path of a monstrous hurricane back in the 80s--"It's coming right up Broadway," the weather babes were warning. The day it hit was one of the stillest days I've ever experienced in this city. And I had taped up my big bay window, too, some of that tape residue still clinging to that plate glass. My statement to Earl, "Bring it on."
The The Daily Growler Favorite EARL: Earl K. Long/Huey's Brother--thanks to Life Magazine's archives, this is a photo of Governor Earl K. Long having a nervous breakdown in the Louisiana House. A true EARL.
Already all I've written is obsolete.
for The Daily Growler