Quote of the day--honest douchebag edition

>> Tuesday, September 27, 2011

This is something else:

Well, no, a lot of us can't make money off of an economic collapse for all sorts of reasons, including one of those pesky "conscience" things you hear about now and again.

People don't seem to maybe remember, but the '30s depression, the depression in your '30s, wasn't just about a market crash: it was also about labor riots and a rise in organized crime in the United States, Britain and France; Germany and Italy becoming failed states until ultra-right-wing, totalitarian fascist regimes rose to power through a combination of street violence and subversion of democratic processes, setting the stage for the Second World War in Europe; a militarily adventurous Japan that attempted to compensate for the home islands' resource-poverty by aggressively invading neighbors, setting the stage for the Pacific War; the complete and final implosion of democratic China; etc. But, you know, there were some people who were prepared to make money from all that--people who owned munitions plants, f'r'instance.

Okay, look, I don't want to be overly-reductionist and simplistic here: the violence of the 1930s had a lot of different causes, some of them global and systematic and others very place-and-time specific. But The Great Depression didn't help, to say the very least. States like China and Spain that were already well along on their way to failing failed harder while historically more prosperous states like the U.S., U.K. and France staggered through a series of political and economic crises driven by things like high unemployment and devaluation of the currency. The economic crisis in Germany paved a path straight from Munich to Berlin for the NSDAP to goosestep down.

It's possible that the glib Mr. Rastani of the above video clip ought to recall that much of the localized violence in the years preceding WWII was directed at the profiteers, or those who were perceived as profiteers. In the United States, thank goodness, it hardly got beyond blood and smoke in the streets and people who held up banks at gunpoint becoming revered local heroes; at the other extreme, the Germans decided the only way to be sure they hadn't missed rounding up any Jewish financiers was to gas every last Jew they could get their hands on. In much of the western world, at least, the crisis ultimately drove liberal reforms: in the United States, f'r'instance, the Democrats seized the opportunity to reinvent themselves, transforming almost overnight from the rural farmers' party to the working-schlub-just-trying-to-get-by party (whether that was driven by idealism, some kind of snooty noblesse oblige or sheer cynical calculation hardly matters); i.e. for better or worse we didn't end up in a multi-faction civil war between a corrupt, ineffectual "legitimate" government, armed warlords, and countryside communist guerrillas fond of shooting landlords (and make no mistake: "we shoot landlords" was an enormously popular campaign plank for the Chinese Communist Party).

Yeah, I mean, I don't think Rastani needs to worry about the armed mob yet. Or the Third World War, though violence certainly burns and bleeds its way through much of the impoverished world and the United States appears to be in the awkward position of having that good ol' liberal bogeyman, the military-industrial complex, remain one of our strongest growth sectors.1

David Atkins, who posted this clip where I first saw it, does a great job drubbing Rastani for his sociopathy while damning him with faint praise for his honesty. Rastani isn't saying anything anybody didn't already know about how commerce operates if they thought about it. The market is relentlessly amoral, rewarding good and bad behavior just alike so long as it's profitable to do so (and only punishing bad--or good--behavior when it's profitable to do that instead). But the thing that also needs to be understood is that Rastani's views are also thoughtless and ignorant, and deserve to be drubbed for that: the nihilistic just-make-sure-you-get-yours ethos he merrily advocates isn't just cruel, it's also stupid, unless you like the prospect of finding yourself first with your back against the wall when the revolution comes. If empathy isn't enough to make you virtuous, why don't you try reason? It doesn't really do anyone any good to have blood running in the streets, buildings on fire, mere anarchy loosed upon the world (to borrow a felicitous phrase). You know I don't want a bunch of Goldman Sachs guys driven naked and torn down the streets by the angry mob not because they're such nice guys and not just because inflicting suffering on a person is simply wrong, okay, but also because the next scene in the tragedy is riot cops sweeping in to rescue the GS guys and the scene after that is somebody throwing something and the scene after that, maybe the guns come out. And all that is before things get really barbaric.

Nobody ought to want that.

UPDATE 2011-09-27, 10:30 P.M.: Mr. Rastani may, in fact, be nothing more than a bullshit artist. Ah, well. I don't know that it changes the main point, but I figured I ought to acknowledge the fact.

1It's hard for me to even write the phrase "military-industrial complex" without rolling my eyes, you know, because of the way the phrase conjures images of seedy-looking hippies shaking petulant fists at The Man, or of Kevin Costner doing his best (i.e. not-very-good) Jimmy Stewart impression in JFK. But look, the one area where practically no conservatives will blink at the Federal government forking out billions of dollars is when those billions are going to military contractors and subcontractors. There are few small-government, pork-cutting Representatives in Congress who will actually volunteer to have the military bases in their home districts shut down, no matter how antiquated or strategically unnecessary those facilities might be; military bases produce their own vibrant artificial economies. And firing drones at targets scattered across the Middle East may be the depressing postmodern version of that Keynesian cliché, the one man hired to dig a ditch which another man is hired to fill in; we hire people to manufacture components and people to assemble the components and people to transport the assembled thing and men to point and shoot this device that destroys itself digging a hole, necessitating continued employment of all these people to replace the disposable hole-digging-machine so long as additional holes need to be dug in the desert and mountains of southwest Asia and north Africa. And this is what I'm using MIC as shorthand for, not meaning to suggest some sort of grand conspiracy that most likely exceeds the competence of most of the people who'd have to be involved in it, who I think are probably mostly idiots and jackasses scrambling for a buck.


Steve Buchheit Wednesday, September 28, 2011 at 10:59:00 PM EDT  

On a side note, I've been thinking of history and what happens when certain groups are disenfranchised.

When the rich/upper class become disenfranchised, you get the Velvet Revolution or the Russian Oligarch (Silent) Revolution (although violent to Ceausescu, fairly bloodless changes of power)

When you disenfranchise the middle you get the American Revolution, the October Revolution or the Arab Spring (somewhat bloody to less bloody).

Finally when you disenfranchise the poor you get the Taliban, Vietnam, Khmer Rouge, and the French Revolution (exceptionally bloody with the added flourish of purges and societal restructuring). Not to mention the labor riots of the mid 1800s to early 1900s.

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