Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Making the Good Book Safe for Capitalists

After having seen the victory of an unrepentant hyper-capitalist (worth some $42 million and change) in the GOP Florida primary yesterday, who is also the putative eventual Repup nominee, one also observes a barrage of PR defending capitalists and trying to tar anything remotely "socialist". This is understandable! If the richest barons and their scions of inherited wealth are to make even more advances under what (they believe) to be 8 yrs. of a capitalist -friendly administration, they have to pave the way with PR. They are basically trying to soften the electorate's mind and will to vote for Romney. (Though why any member of "the 99%" worth his creds would do that, apart from suffering from dementia or psychosis, is beyond me).

So the PR is blaring, especially in the reactionary op-ed pages of that vehicle of high finance, The Wall Street Journal. Typified by two pieces, one 'The Myth Of Starving Americans' (which basically pooh-poohs the notion that any Americans even kids are going hungry) and the other: 'What the Bible Teaches About Capitalism' by an Aryeh Speros. I will deal with the "myth of starving Americans" in a separate blog, but for now set my sights on Spero's nonsense.

As expected, Speros starts out with one of the most cherished tropes of the financial Right, that of "individual responsibility", i.e.:

"Regarding mankind, no theme is more salient in the Bible than the morality of personal responsibility, for it is through this that man cultivates his inner development leading to his own growth, good citizenship and happiness"

This is very important because it lays the ground work for the specious arguments to follow, while also pressuring the unemployed, the hungry receiving food stamps and on others on welfare, to commit the fundamental attribution error. As I noted in my book, The Elements of the Corporatocracy, this error:

"Tends to credit or blame individuals for their level of failure or success without considering the aspects of the social structure that impel or impede their progress. Thus, it results in praise of the system and condemnation of individuals who are defined as losers."

This in turn leads to workers, citizens, voters who are prepared to tolerate any amount of systematic abuse from a corrupt system, because they lay the blame on their own "lack of ambition" or lack of education, lack of whatever......whatever the rich fuckers assert they lack in specious tracts like Speros'.

So inevitably when one sees proto-financial hacks praising "personal responsibility" and laying the blame for joblessness, home foreclosure or hunger on ordinary citizens, one never sees equal attention paid to banks that do "robo foreclosures" on dutiful citizens, or Wall Street firms that hijack their clients' wallets with usurious fees, or investment banks that load their offerings with risky credit default swaps or mutual funds that operate by market timing or insider info to give heads ups to large institutional investors while little guys sink or swim. Or.....political whores on the take from the coffers of corporations who demand the whores do their bidding. Oh no!

Thus, Speros doesn't disappoint, and never once does he mention any of the latter vermin, taking care to keep his powder dry only for the average man or woman. This is epitomized in his next statement:

"The entitlement/welfare state is a paradigm that undermines that noble goal"

Hmmmm.....does it? Within that "entitlement-welfare state" Spero appears to forget or dismiss that millions of men and women must depend on food stamps or other assistance, NOT because they have no work or they don't work, but because in his capitalist mecca the only jobs on offer are low wage, and no benefits! Hence, to make ends meet, and because they run out of money by mid-month even working TWO jobs, they've no choice but to file for these "entitlements" Speros regards as so morally detrimental - true to his subliminal Calvinism.

Nor is this tack new. A brief foray into American religious history of the 19th century will identify the Rev. Josiah Strong, Secretary of The Evangelical Society of the United States, as one of the leading defenders of biblical capitalism. Indeed, in his controversial book, Our Country - Its Possible Future and Its Present Crisis, Strong set out his manifesto that those who were poor or couldn't succeed like the robber barons could only blame their own lack of moral fiber, or Christian righteousness. THEY were at fault!

Indeed, Strong's genius was to arrive at a "potion" that blended Herbert Spencer's Social Darwinism (increasingly finding favor with wealthy elitists and arch-capitalists) with Christian virtue, and a strict, constructionist view of The Constitution. Like Spencer, Strong pooh-poohed services for the poor and disabled as "encouraging a fundamental weakness in the society which induced corruption, sloth and all the other vices".

People needed to be put through a "caldron" and - if they can survive- they'd find God, spiritual life and work for their own wealth instead of bleeding it off the state. One of his favorite sayings- quotes was from Herbert Spencer, regarding all dependent citizens:

"If they are sufficiently complete to live, they do live, and it is well that they should live. If they are not sufficiently complete to live, they die, and it is best that they should die."

The capper was tying the amassing of great wealth to Christian virtue. Thus, one's wealth immediately became a barometer for one's morality or spirituality. In a real way, Speros merely regurgitates this vile bunkum with his own piece, but under the pseudo-righteous banner of the bible. But let's explore that further. Speros writes:

"The Bible's proclamation that 'Six days shall ye work' is its recognition that on a day -to-day basis work is the engine that brings about man's inner state of personal responsibility.'

REALLY? So, what if millions ARE working - even at two low wage jobs- but they can't earn enough to feed their kids through the month? Are they to still deny themselves food stamp assistance or what you call "entitlements that undermine that noble goal". So is it more moral to starve than reach for what Speros would call a government "handout"? And how far will that pridefulness get the citizen? Maybe to the grave?

I also want to challenge that "bible proclamation" and I note here that all the citations Speros invokes come from the Jewish Old Testament, reflecting its harsh, genocidal task master god, and not the New Testament. Let me instead hurl this quote from Luke12: 27-28 back at Speros:

"Consider the lilies of the field. They toil not, they spin not, yet Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed as one of these".

So, is this bullshit, or does it mean something? The parable is obviously making a comparison between the lilies that "toil not" and implying humans have far more to gain than lilies that do nothing. In effect, humans would be expected to benefit equally by not compounding their needs beyond the likes of lilies, i.e. with the burdens of mammon. Indeed, speaking of "mammon" we also see from this same gospel (Luke 16: 13-14):

"No servant can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one and love the other or else hold to the one and despise the other.

Ye cannot serve God and Mammon."

But let us clearly grasp here that Mammon is exactly what the capitalist serves. It is why he strives to maximize profits, often at the expense and welfare of his workers using the diabolical mechanism of labor value expropriation and exploitation which I explained in an earlier blog, i.e.

As noted therein, say the labor value sold as a product was L, and V is the labor value embodied in the production of the item, then the surplus value S is:

S = L - V

As an illustration, assume that a craftsman working for a company is paid $10 an hour to make beautiful mahogany chairs by hand. He takes 10 hours to make one chair, thereby imparting a discrete labor value of 10hr x $10/ hr = $100 into the chair, invested in his blood, sweat and maybe tears. The chair is then sold at retail for $1,000 by the company. Then the surplus value S is:

S = $1,000 - $100 = $900

Hence, in this light, V is the paid labor and S is the unpaid labor. The amount of labor expropriated is therefore equal to $900.

In other words, the capitalist feathers his own bed at the expense of his workers and their kids. Clearly this methodology was known even 2,000 years ago in Roman-occupied Judaea. as we note the words (Matthew 19: 23-24):

"Truly, I say to you it will be hard for rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. It is easier for a camel to pass through the idea of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God."

Obviously, the warning encompasses the inevitable distraction the rich person will likely have, i.e. to obsess over his own ill-gotten material gains (if he employs expropriation of labor, which is what any minimum wage job does) but it also addresses how the rich man leaves his workers - in a kind of laboring poverty.

This is also why Speros' next quote is also laughable:

"The Bible speaks positively of payment and profit, 'For why else should a man so labor but to receive reward?"

But moving beyond the archaic Hebrew OT (which Speros clearly has a 'Jones' for), one finds the words of Yeshua actually condemn all those filfthy rich who don't properly pay their workers and enrich themselves by not paying a living wage by which to feed and clothe their families. As from Matthew 25: 41-42:

"Depart from me ye crused into the eternal fire prepared for ye. For I was hungry and you gave me no food, and I was thirsty and you gave me no drink and I was naked and you clothed me not"

The passage can be interpeted in terms of withheld charity, but also withheld economic justice for one's workers. For if the rich man expropriates his workers labor, he isn't allowing enough wages ("rewards") for food, or clothing ....hence is meeting the conditions for perdition.

Lastly, a glaring omission - even from Speros' bet OT, is worth a look. He babbles:

"The mechanism of capitalism, as manifest through investment and reasoned speculation, helps facilitate our partnership with God by bringing to the surface that which the Almighty embedded in nature."

Not once noting that in the ancient Jewish (as well as Muslim) financial code, interest was looked upon as evil as "capital gains" would be in that day if such instruments existed then that deliver those gains today. Thus, "reasoned speculation" (by which Speros must mean that which pads the ancient capitalist with returns) is a myth. It never existed other than in certain Pharisee quarters, which lot Yeshua rightly condemned as "whited sepulchres". (Not merely for their hypocrisy).

Indeed, one can make the case that truly righteous Jews would have seen the danger of excess returns or any returns beyond what was needed for day to day living as paving the way for a possibly corrupt political system by which their leaders might be bought. "Investment" yes, that would be accepted, but only with all returns plowed back into the operation, and workers' wages (and mouths) as well! Not kept for the rich to buy new palm oils to massage themselves, as the 1% do today with their rose wine wraps!

As for "bringing to the surface that which the Almighty embedded in nature", maybe not! For all those trillions of tons of dinosaur detritus we've brought up as oil, is now contributing to some 35 gigatons of carbon deposited in our atmosphere each year. A burden that will soon likely trigger the end of our world, meaning its conversion to another Venus.

Perhaps we need to pick and choose those parts of the Bible we base our priorities upon. A word to the wise to the arch-capitalists who will slobber over Speros' piece!

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