[UPDATE: I added a few brief comments toward the end of this post in an attempt to avoid one possible confusion. You’ll find them in brackets immediately following the Second Iron Law.]
I may have some more particular comments about the various unfolding “scandals” when I feel slightly better than terrible physically, which is how I feel at the moment. I heard some of Limbaugh’s comments on the IRS business this morning. Limbaugh’s typically penetrating wisdom caused me several minutes of uproarious laughter. He went on and on about how “mean” the IRS and the Obama administration were to go after their political enemies. This is “unAmerican!,” Limbaugh screamed. “America is aboutfairness,” he intoned, “about the idea that everyone has an equal shot.”
Along those lines, my favorite comments to date might be from a letter to the NYT:
I believe that all Americans, and not just the Republican Party, should seize on the issue of the Internal Revenue Service’s focus on conservatives.We should all be very concerned about a government agency using its power for political ends.
This is genuinely impressive. It is stupidity refined and shaped into a weapon of massive destructive power, stupidity that is positively metaphysical in its reach. Idiocy on this scale obliterates universes.
To use “its power for political ends” is what any and all government agencies do. That is the reason they exist. The State itself, including its various critical appendages (such as “the law”), is a weapon forged by the ruling class to protect and increase its own power and wealth. The State and its appendages are used against everyone else. Thusly, as explained by Albert Jay Nock:
The positive testimony of history is that the State invariably had its origin in conquest and confiscation. No primitive State known to history originated in any other manner. On the negative side, it has been proved beyond peradventure that no primitive State could possibly have had any other origins. Moreover, the sole invariable characteristic of the State is the economic exploitation of one class by another. In this sense, every State known to history is a class-State. Oppenheimer defines the State, in respect of its origin, as an institution “forced on a defeated group by a conquering group, with a view only to systematizing the domination of the conquered by the conquerors, and safeguarding itself against insurrection from within and attack from without. This domination had no other final purpose than the economic exploitation of the conquered group by the victorious group.”
The same is true of the United States, and it has been true since the time of the founding. As set forth in that article, one of the ruling class’s chief weapons in the founding of the United States was the Constitution itself.
What is notable about Limbaugh’s comments regarding “fairness” and “everyone” having “an equal shot,” and regarding the letter to the Times, is the universality of these particular delusions. In different terms (and sometimes in the same terms), every politician and almost every commentator now wailing and whining about how “outrageous” these abuses are offers the same perspective. This is true whether the politician or writer is conservative or liberal, or libertarian, or supposedly “radical.” And as detailed in theconcluding section of my article about how the Constitution betrayed the very brief and genuinely radical impulses behind the American Revolution, even writers such as Chris Hedges and Glenn Greenwald appeal to “the rule of law,” and the “original” understanding of the law’s purpose. In Greenwald’s case, it should be emphasized that what he hails as an ideal — “law has been completely perverted from what it was intended to be – the guarantor of an equal playing field which would legitimize outcome inequalities – into its precise antithesis…” — tracks perfectly the rationalization and distortion offered by America’s new ruling class to justify the Constitution. As stated by Terry Bouton:
[T]he governments that emerged from the Revolution often fostered massive inequalities of wealth. At the same time, they redefined “democracy” as an ideal that could be reconciled with those disparities. By transforming democracy into a concept that encouraged uninhibited wealth accumulation rather than wealth equality, the founding elite (and subsequent generations of elites) tamed what they could not defeat. They turned democracy from a threat into an asset by making it into a concept that supported their own ideals and interests.
In this manner, Greenwald not only misses the point entirely: he adopts and advances the State’s own propaganda and heralds it as a noble goal toward which we must strive (or to which we need to return). When a well-known “dissenting” writer absorbs the State’s propaganda to this extent, we are in very deep trouble. As, indeed, we are.
I want to mention briefly one other aspect of the all-too-familiar charade now playing out. Everyone, beginning but hardly ending with the asses in Congress, is demandinginvestigations! We must get to the bottom of this! We must fix these abuses, and make certain that nothing like this ever happens again! Every time we go through this routine, I’m reminded of something I wrote just before the midterm elections in 2006. Yes, my friends, almost seven bloody years ago. After setting forth the reasons for my conclusion that it wouldn’t matter a damn whether Democrats won or not — and who was right about that, hmm? — I wrote a passage which applies to any investigations, any time, conducted by Democrats or Republicans (or anyone else in the national government and, at this point, in government at any level):
Ah, but the Democrats will investigate the Bush administration’s endless crimes. The investigationswill restore honesty, decency and “true” American values to government. All the universes will be saved! Do people actually believe this nonsense? All such investigations will be exactly like all other government investigations of itself. People seem congenitally incapable of grasping that all politicians are now part of the same corrupt system, which aims only to protect itself and its existing prerogatives, as it simultaneously seeks to expand them. (The exceptions in the political class are so few that they don’t matter.) In the end, all such investigations and committee hearings will conclude just as the 9/11 investigation concluded (and any other investigation you care to name): some criticisms will be made, general fault will be found but no one in particular will be condemned in terms that might cause distress, and some new guidelines and regulations will be proposed and enacted. Neither party wants to judge the other too harshly or cause irreparable harm: they don’t want to, because they count on the same consideration in return. Both parties are happy to accede to this deal, for it is precisely how their system continues on its merry course, guaranteeing their lives of immense comfort and privilege, together with their hold on power. Many of the rest of us, both here and abroad, will be screwed, maimed or dead — and just when exactly did that concern the governing class?
And then, in a year or two or five, and as on every other similar occasion, inventive ways will be found to circumvent the brand spanking new guidelines and regulations — and the corruption and dishonesty will continue pretty much as before, via new routes and avenues. It’s all a charade, by means of which politicians, the major media, and “serious” commentators (and bloggers) can convince themselves of their own virtue, that this time they really mean it, and that everything will be different now. An interesting question is how many times people can fall for such complete bullshit, and still be regarded as serious, credible or intelligent to any degree at all.
It helps to perpetuate the charade — one that encompasses every aspect of domestic and foreign policy — that most people know nothing of history, either our own or that of other countries. It’s as if none of it ever happened before. For most of these people, it’s as ifnothing ever happened before. No wonder they so easily believe that this time will be different. For them, there are no other times at all.Everything is new to them, even and especially their own iniquity.
In the case of the present “scandals,” it may turn out that some scapegoats will have to be offered for sacrifice. If the scandals prove to be especially nasty and ugly, a few people may be fired; perhaps several individuals will eventually even go to jail. That doesn’t alter the dynamics I’ve described. In fact, I spoke of this phenomenon in “It’s not the sex. It’s never the sex“: …