Monday, November 03, 2008


The Great Reductio

Sidney Blumenthal: McCain is on the verge of a defeat that marks the end of the Republican era | Comment is free | The Guardian

Now, certain factors that have dominated US politics for 40 years seem destined to recede to the far corners. In economics, supply-side panaceas and deregulation created the worst crisis since the Great Depression, requiring a conservative Republican administration to part-nationalise banks, something unimaginable under any Democratic administration. In foreign policy, neoconservatism led to the morass in Iraq and Afghanistan while undermining the western alliance. In social policy, the evangelical right battered science, the separation of church and state, and the right to privacy. Finally, the conservative principle of limited government has become a watchword for incompetence, cronyism, corruption, hypocrisy, and contempt for the rule of law.

Pray, brethren, that in 24 hours this nightmare will be over.

Americans put their faith in what Bush senior in an unguarded moment called Voodoo Economics. The Market would work--in the short run before we were all dead. We would go deeper and deeper into debt but grow our way out. We even managed to persuade policy-makers in other countries to follow our lead--at least gingerly. And now we've pulled down the world economy. Reductio.

But it wasn't simply recondite economics that that drove us, and the world, into this pit. It was the American Dream--the vision of the Good Life as one of endless drudgery and unlimited consumption. When a woman at a Republican rally prior to Election 2004 complained that she was working at 3 jobs, Dubya didn't even get it. His response was, "Good for you!" That's the American way: spend all your waking hours during the week working and your weekend shopping until you drop. After that drudgery you're brain-dead and don't have the ability to enjoy anything but buying more and more and more crap.

Of course some people still don't recognize a reductio when they see one. So McCain is still chanting the mantra of "Wealth creation, not wealth redistribution." Pump more money in at the top and it will, eventually, trickle down. When? Cut taxes on businesses and they'll create more jobs--so that more people can spend more of their time in mind-numbing drudgery, and buy more and more stuff to create more rotten service sector jobs where more people can spend even more of their time doing miserable shit work.

Of course it hasn't worked. Unemployment is up, people are losing their houses and can't afford more stuff. But even if, per impossibile, it had this is surely a vision of hell--days of drudgery and constraint, buried alive until the magical moment on Saturday when you go to the mall for a brief ecstasy of consumption.

There was bit on the Animal Channel about a species of frog that spends most of its lifecycle buried alive. They hatch, swim around for a bit as tadpoles and then burrow into the mud where they stay for months until the rains come. Then they dig themselves out, copulate, and die, within the course of a day. That is exactly the American Dream--the work ethic. Spend most of your life buried alive, at work, and then, for a brief moment in the sun, eat, copulate and shop. Of course you don't die right away after that--you just burrow back into the mud for another week of work, buried alive. Arbeit macht frei: "Good for you!"

I suppose it's a vicious circle. Here were people locked into the Wheel--didn't the Buddha have something to say about this? But the only thing that got them out was that the Wheel stopped so that they couldn't consume any more--and some couldn't work any more. Seems like a more interventionist deity trumped the Buddha there.

Let us pray.

4 comments:

Andrew said...

This is very nice, and perhaps explains the behaviour of Palin family when they finally got to shop on Fifth Avenue.

But has Latin changed in its journey to California? I always said reductio, with a "t".

H. E. said...

Ouch! And this is one of the tools of my trade. I've just spent the past week in logic talking about reductio proofs, aka indirect proof, proof by contradiction.

You must come out here--I can give you a tour of our major shopping malls, which have taken over most civic functions. Some include churches and schools. UC Irvine merges seamlessly into an architecturally matched mall that features a surf shop, nail salon and a number of the trendier clothing outlets.

Chris said...

Really? I realize that it may be the biggest recession of the stock market since then, but "worst crisis"?

H. E. said...

Looks pretty bad from where I sit, in one of the forclosure hotspots. And the unemployment figures that came out today are pretty grim.

I don't know if this is the "worst crisis" since the great depression because I wasn't around that long but quite apart from the stock market things look pretty grim on the ground. Moreover, Americans fortunes are now tied to the stock market in a way that they weren't in 1929 since most retirement plans are now 401ks.

So this wipes out every scrap of security--house, job and retirement savings.