Why Didn’t America Become Part of the Modern World?
December 4, 2020 at 9:47 AM - Views: 108 #383157eridaniParticipant
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After World War II, human beings learned a great lesson. Germany, driven to poverty by war reparations, had turned to fascism. Finally, a set of great minds made the link. Poverty. Ruin. Extremism. Fundamentalism. Fascism. Authoritarianism. War. All the gravest ills we know of, all the diseases of the body politic, are caused by poverty, which is the deprivation of possibility. And they understood, too, that poverty isn’t just financial — but it can also be a deprivation, for example, of social bonds, of opportunities, of meaning, of status, of purpose. There are many kinds of poverty, and money is just one.
(So these great minds set about rebuilding a world — yes, a whole world — which would be free of poverty. The explicit goal was to end war forever. Utopian? Sure. We’ve forgotten that today — they don’t teach it to us. Have you ever wondered why? It’s because today’s wise men are cynics, and cynics are fools. But I digress. A world without poverty, and thus a world without war. Were they successful? The world has in fact made long strides to eliminating extreme poverty. And that’s a result of the institutions these great minds created. The World Bank. The UN. And so on. A limited, but meaningful success. The point of these institutions was to invest in poor countries — and break the vicious cycle of violence which had come to rule the world.)
Europe took a special lead, though. After the war — quickly — it redesigned its societies to be places of equality, opportunity, and fairness. It understood that poverty had caused its ruin, opening the Pandora’s box of extremism, racism, hate, fascism. And so it quickly gave all its people — at least richer European countries — exactly all those things you thought of when I asked you “what do you think of when you think of a modern place?” Public healthcare, transport, media, finance, housing, safety nets, and so on. The time, money, and freedom to live with dignity. As a simple example, Britain’s NHS was the world’s first public healthcare system — created in 1948. Europe was trying to create a place where everyone had the bare minimum of a decent life — so war would never again recur. This was the birth of a truly modern society. It was a European creation — though in a way, I suppose, America lent military might. But the ideas, the will, the innovations — all these were European.
What was happening in America at the same time? It was still a segregated country. Europeans were building great public institutions — NHSes and BBCs and pensions systems, for everyone. America was building drinking fountains for “colored people”. How could it build a modern society? So while the world was becoming modern, eliminating inequality, poverty, injustice — America wasn’t. It was stuck in the past — and that is where it remains. Segregation might be gone — but America never really became a modern society in the way that we discussed earlier. It’s more like a failed modern state, a state that failed at being modern. It started late, and even then, took too few strides, too hesitantly — and is now collapsing before it reached the goal. Are these things linked, somehow?
Jesus: Hey, Dad? God: Yes, Son? Jesus: Western civilization followed me home. Can I keep it? God: Certainly not! And put it down this minute--you don't know where it's been! Tom Robbins in Another Roadside Attraction
December 4, 2020 at 1:05 PM #383190
December 4, 2020 at 2:10 PM #383199
December 4, 2020 at 2:18 PM #383201N2DocParticipant
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While I disagree with the stated virtues of the World Bank, The central thesis of the article is good. So long as the central tenet of our country is to punish people with poverty, we will never ‘be great’
December 4, 2020 at 2:33 PM #383207
December 4, 2020 at 2:47 PM #383212FasttenseParticipant
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From the article:
“So Americans devised a very different kind of society. It didn’t have a social contract — a set of public institutions which manage public goods for people, healthcare and transport and finance and childcare and so on — it’s thinkers supposed it didn’t need one. It only had markets. If markets rewarded the rich — while crushing the middle class and poor — so much the better. Markets were the truest judges of the worth of a person. And if a market thought a person was worth a billion dollars, and another one nothing, that was because the first person must be a billion times better a person than the second.
So in America, poverty wasn’t seen as a social bad or ill — it was seen as a necessary way to discipline, punish, and control those with a lack of virtue, a deficit of strength, to, by hitting them with its stick, to inculcate the virtues of hard work, temperance, industriousness, and above all, self-reliance. The problem, of course, was that the great lesson of history was that none of this was true — poverty didn’t lead to virtue. It only led to ruin.”
Wow, he put into words what I have difficulty articulating. This is a very good analysis.
This description explains the dumbest idea to ever be implemented following the total collapse of an economic system in the US – austerity.
December 4, 2020 at 3:03 PM #383214MizzGrizzParticipant
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@fasttense, that our first political austerian was Jimmy Carter,partly echoing the policies of his Rockefeller sponsors and partly his own preference for sitting by a candle end.
Ronald Reagan ran as an anti-austerian in 1980 and that got him elected.Of course,he was pulling a bait and switch just as Carter had done,but few knew that then.
December 4, 2020 at 3:07 PM #383216djean111Participant
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Back in the mid-nineties, I was working for a Large Telephone Company, and the feeling I got was that they intended to dribble out landline service and telephones to countries that were not already all hooked up with landlines. I was on a truly wondrous vacation, New Zealand and Australia. 1995. We rented a car in New Zealand, and were driving from Christchurch to the mountains, and had to stop on a blacktop in the middle of nowhere because huge flock of sheep. Just sitting there, watching the sheep, when I spotted the shepherd. He was talking into a cell phone. I started laughing. boyfriend said what is so funny, I said my company thinks other countries are backward because they don’t have POTS all over and think they will be hailed as saviors and showered with money. Nope! Looks like New Zealand is gonna skip that part and go right into the future. Same with rolling out expensive cell phone plans in India – folks there were using the cell phones to let others know they were going to call them from a landline. Used them pretty much as pagers until wireless plans got cheaper. I think the corporate US sees the rest of the world as a piggy bank. And the MIC sees the rest of the world as something they should be running for the benefit of the corporate US. just my opinion. If the US was running the world they would privatize everything.
December 4, 2020 at 3:23 PM #383223salemcourtParticipant
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They fully supported all the wars that US unleased on all the black and brown people around the world, while they diverted their resources to help their people with social programs. They were able to exploit these wars for their own gains while they played America as a big sucker. If you look at the top 10 countries exporting arms to all these wars that they have supported, European countries make up 5 of them. The others being the US, Russia, Isreal, China, and South Korea.
December 4, 2020 at 4:14 PM #383230
Yes, fuck Europe. They sent their toxic settlers to genocide and enslave and pollute a beautiful place with beautiful people… 😉
BTW European descendants of generations and generations of various forms of slavery learned progressive ideals of freedom and equality from the First Nations, who had been engaged in highly innovative social study and experimentation for a long time.
For example and especially, the highly complex and decentralized Elders institution is major evolutionary step of social forms of shamanhood compared to the Siberian individuated shaman institution. But that’s something that European Modernity willfully blinded itself to through Great Wich Hunt and pseudo-scientific Post-Cartesian paradigm of amputation of introspection from empirical methodology. Going totally against the Socratic maxim Gnothi Seauton.
December 4, 2020 at 7:43 PM #383274Two way streetParticipant
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upgraded their National Constitutions and therefore made the changes that reflected what We fought against. That was with the exception of the United States of America. We still accept and run legal slavery operations-the Electoral College, $7.25 minimum wage, Joe’s private peonage prison programs, debt, student debt, unfair taxing, and lots more made legal by a corrupt Congress; the list goes on and on.
Japan’s Constitution was completely rewritten by the US. I wrote on the board last night that We workers need a Constitutional Convention. We need new endings and finding to happen in our America.
(Term limits need to be set on Supreme Court Judges as well a refining the Constitution of the United States of America.)
2020-2024 Campaign Season: We the People are in the fight for our lives and livelihoods.
December 4, 2020 at 5:12 PM #383242retired liberalParticipant
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It’s OK to show killing people, on camera, on prime time TV, blood and all, but we can’t be allowed to see too much skin.
Our genocide, for the most part, has been exported to other countries, with the excuse we are fighting for our freedom. Freedom from, or for what, is never really explained. Just show the Stars & Stripes flying in the background, to show our patriotism.
The powers that be are now enslaving the people of this country. Making serfs of honest, hard working people. Evicting families and massive job losses, to makes sure the masses will be held down in their proper places.
We are an arrogant species, believing our fantasy based "facts" are better than the other person's fake facts.
If you are wrong, it will be because you are not cynical enough.
Both major political parties are special interest groups enabling each other for power and money, at the expense of the people they no longer properly serve…
Always wear a proper mask when out and about. The life you save could be both yours and mine.
December 4, 2020 at 5:39 PM #383245HassleCatParticipant
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European countries adopted social welfare capitalism, which is not a bad system, particularly when operated on the model of democratic socialism. But not everybody was on board. Spain endured Franco, about the closest thing I could imagine to a post WWII Nazi regime. Britain had generous social welfare capitalism until Maggie Thatcher sold it to her friends for pennies on the pound. And so on.
December 4, 2020 at 7:00 PM #383260
Social welfare capitalism has always been antisocialist policy since Bismarck invented wellfare state and Mussolini created public pension system. Of course Mussolini considered himself socialist and promoted authoritarian “socialism” based on a corporatist version of public ownership and top down management by state, which is pretty much the opposite of what libertarian socialism means.
New Deal, Mussolini and social democracy can have important differences of nuance, but in terms of basic economics all fit well under the same concept of social welfare capitalism – as does also Leninism.
And genuine socialists and communists have tended to go along with that for the ethical reasons of alleviating immediage suffering instead of accelerating revolutionary tensions, thus participating in recreation of capitalism.
The model of social welfare capitalism – whether in form of social democracy, social liberalism or fascism – became obsolete in the collapse process that began 2008 and continues and intensifies.
December 4, 2020 at 7:24 PM #383269closeupreadyParticipant
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Ask a Martian, and it answers, “what difference does it make?”
The opinions and personal views expressed herein are solely those of the author, and should never be taken seriously.
December 4, 2020 at 9:04 PM #383295doh1304Participant
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Mark Blyth lost his position with us by saying, almost correctly, that when we embraced “full employment” we created a power imbalance in the worker/employer relationship that inevitably led to the wage/price spiral and Thatcherisn/Reaganism. As far as that goes he was right, but he misses an essential point – we tried to create an egalitarian society without eliminating gross inequality. By allowing the creation and retention of vast wealth we made the wage/price spiral and eventually neoliberalism inevitable.
We think in terms of capitalist v worker. Really there is a third party, the resource provider. There is also a natural alliance, the worker-resource provider v the capitalist. But the capitalists broke that natural alliance by transforming the worker into the consumer. In America Reagan broke the wage/price spiral by government subsidies (calling it “tax cuts”) and eventually – almost immediately – imperialism. Rather than workers demanding a fair wage we demanded cheap gas, and we had to kill the people who sat on “our” oil to get it. Of course that only lasted a generation. Now the capitalists – to continue their system – must demand universal wage concessions, a downward wage/price spiral.
December 4, 2020 at 9:40 PM #383303
There is much strength and value in pre-modern traditions. As well as post-modern and metamodern analysis of faults and shortcomings of eurocentric modernism.
The general libertarian sentiment (as pre-polarized neither left nor right) of especially rural America has very much in common in Luddite rebellious reaction to combination of capitalism and modernism. Luddite rebellion was not against technology as such, but against capitalist ownership of industrial means of production (patent rights is actually the main issue and divide, and even anarcho-capitalists generally reject validity of copy-right and intellectual property) and social downgrade into wage slavery from relative independence and freedom.
Looking from this context, fascism – which Mussolini defined as productionism – is the most radical form of capitalism. Production for the sake of production, growth for the sake of growth. In contrast, socialism as comprehended by caring classes is not about productionism but fair and inclusive distribution. Nozick, a brilliant American philosopher, offered a very convincing criticism of the idea that fair distributionism could ever be organized in top down manner by any, even most well meaning centralized authority.
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