Sunday, October 12, 2008

On Hypocrisy and History Repeating by Preston Picus

On Hypocrisy and History Repeating
by Preston Picus

A reading of Trotsky’s autobiography will give the reader a sense of the powerful intellect denied the Russian people by Stalin’s madhouse power grab. Assuredly the Russians would not have been starved and murdered in such great numbers if Stalin hadn’t beat out Trotsky, but the question remains: could Trotsky have defeated Hitler.

Hard to say.

But another thing that can’t help but creep its way into the wary reader’s perspective through his autobiography is this: Trotsky never did any real work. That is, he was never inclined to roll up his sleeves and dig in with a shovel or pitch fork. He never pulled twelve hour shifts at a factory. Neither did Stalin, which you would expect, but Trotsky’s relatively easy life as an intellectual is a very hard thing to rationalize. He claimed to be working for the workers, he wanted a revolution of the proletariat, but he was among the prevailing intellectual elite which benefited from the work done by the lower classes in a projectedly classless society.

And this is the problem with Communism and why it can never work: Inherent hypocrisy. The communist proposal is an ‘everyone is equal’ kind of idealism which looks beautiful on paper but is very weak in practice. Prying the ‘means of production’ from the grip of the current ruling class and handing control over to the workers does little more than change the holders of power.

It is entirely impossible that every single person own the means of production equally and in application it turns out that there will have to be leadership. Leadership implies inequality. For all the talk, the President of a communist country will never go hungry though millions of his countrymen may starve to death. For all the speeches and all the declarations, the administration of any communist government will afford themselves better housing than can possibly be afforded the least fortunate of the proletariat.

This isn’t a new critique, but it is a fair critique. The Communist philosophy fails to defeat the Capitalist ideology because it begins with an inherent hypocrisy. Under a true Capitalistic system there is no inherent hypocrisy: the foundation of Capitalism is private enterprise. You can have it if you can get it. A millionaire is a millionaire as long as he can hold onto his money and nobody is entitled to complain that they’ve gotten the short end of the stick.

Certainly there are limits to the system of Capitalism. It is not productive when a lame-brained failure born to a rich daddy gets to have everything he wants whenever he wants it. It is an obvious detriment to society when inefficient CEO’s can sink their companies and write themselves 39 Billion Dollars worth of bonuses, passing the cost of their mismanagement on to the taxpayers. And there is no upside for the common man when Public Bribers are allowed to purchase congressmen away from the electorate in an effort to gain government endorsement for their otherwise unpopular business pursuits.

But for all the failures, the strength of the Capitalistic system is that the hypocrisy is not inherent, it is not in the structure of the ideology. In some instances a Capitalistic economy simply fails to regulate itself properly and so the faults are maintained by the greediness, by the overreaching tendencies of those most monstrous of lunatics, by the fat, ugly, ill-intentioned business elite.

Communism fails because it begins with a lie: everyone will be given equal ownership. If this is so, will everyone fit in the Kremlin? Will everyone have the same food on the table? Will everyone have the ability to travel the world in the Presidential jet? Communism fails because the initiation of a doctrine cannot be predicated upon falsity.

An extension of this logic lays bare another ideological struggle, this one current in the American political atmosphere. The Conservative, as far as American politics is concerned, is alleged to be the limiter of government expansion, the curtailer of government spending, the warrior who fights back against the extending giant of government bureaucracy.

However, the problem is in the basic nature of the beast and it begins with a simple postulate: All politicians want ‘more power.’ If they don’t want power, why are they fighting so hard to be in charge?

As soon as a politician becomes elected he or she has a controlling interest in the workings of the government. Here is the duality: the Conservative politician upon election is ‘in charge’ of the machine he or she has promised to weaken and curtail. It is a conflict of interest. Working to expand his or her own power, the Conservative will benefit from the expansion of the government which he or she now controls.

The American Conservative politician has promised to cut taxes, has assured the constituency that he or she is going to limit government, but now in charge of the very government which he or she has promised to weaken, the politician finds it impossible to both expand his or her power with as much vigor and efficiency as he or she desires while whittling away at the very machine which renders him or her so very powerful.

The Liberal politician, on the other hand, also wants ‘more power.’ However, his stated goal is to expand the government so that when he gets into office he is able to pursue ‘more power’ without falling into the problematic hole of inherent hypocrisy illustrated by both the Communists and the Conservatives.

While a person may not agree with the stated goals of the Liberal ideology, just as a person may not agree with the seemingly unfair aspects of Capitalism, one cannot ignore the fact that both Liberalism and Capitalism avoid an inherent hypocrisy, the likes of which cripples the most basic principles in both Conservativism and Communism.

Today the United States faces an economic crisis and a very large proportion of the economic failures we experience are the effect of this self-conflicted ideology of Conservativism. The problematic approach that these so called ‘Conservatives’ have taken is to both expand and limit government at the same time. While this seems logically impossible, a quick study of the leader of this era of extreme hypocrisy, Milton Friedman, typifies the inextricably illogical behavior behind such a disaster of reasoning (see: The Defeat of Reason, Milton Friedman and the Modern Conservative Movement).

At the end of this great economic disaster there will be very much political infighting, as it were, to determine who is ‘responsible’ for the troubles assailing these United States at the end of the first decade of this 21st century. Both sides, Republican and Democrat, will point their fingers across the isle and neither group of politicians, with their lying, cheating, stealing and bumbling inefficiency should be afforded tolerance. However, the great failure of our modern era is the failure of the American Conservative and the wasting of the American potential through the inherent hypocrisy of American Conservativism.

Dangerous days approach, and while the American Conservative feels in his or her heart that they are best suited to navigate these troubled waters, one cannot trust such an ideology any more than one can trust in the eventual fulfillment of the promises of Communism. No matter how dedicated the proponent, inherent hypocrisy is impossible to overcome. The system is set to crash because the foundations are demonstrably weak.

While many may argue with the premise of this essay, I must point out that to say such things is not merely a theoretical systematizing of logic. A scarily similar scenario has been played out in the recent history of the United States. As we approach this Presidential election of 2008, it is fitting to end this exposition with a very brief skeleton of comparison of the White House leadership in the years leading up to the Great Depression of 1929 and the coming economic ‘recession’ or ‘slowdown’ or (god forbid) ‘depression’ of 2009.

The thirty year lead up to the Great Depression began with 12 consecutive years of Republican Presidency (Teddy Roosevelt 1901-1909 and Taft 1909-1913). This corresponds to the twelve years of Reagan (1981-1989) and Bush Sr. (1989-1993).

Then in 1913 Woodrow Wilson, a Democrat, took charge for eight years, until 1921. This corresponds to the Clinton administration in our time (1993-2001).

After Wilson, the United States suffered two Presidents often ranked in the top five of ‘the least successful Presidents of United States of America.’ These were both Republican Presidents, first Harding (1921-1923) who died in office during a scandal, and his successor Coolidge (1923-1929). These eight years of bad conservative leadership correspond to the eight years of our current administration (Bush Jr. 2001-2009).

The election of 1928, from a historical perspective, was pivotal for the United States. Although unknown at the time, the country was on the brink of an epic economic collapse. In the shadow of the crash on Wall Street and the coming depression, the country turned, as it were, to four more years of Conservative policy. It is instructive to note that Hoover, the President who took office in 1929, was not able to stem the bleeding of the economy and as a result Hoovervilles, the popular name for the shanty towns built by homeless men and women around the country during those bleak years of hardship, are the great legacy of that failed Presidency.

We are now set to make a very similar choice, and though it is 2008 and not 1928, the similarities are dramatic. In the last 28 years we have had 20 years of Republican leadership. In the 28 years leading up to the Great Depression we had 20 years of Republican leadership and in very similar fashion. In the election of 1928 another Republican was elected President and the results are written in the history books. The question then is this: Shall we choose another Conservative in 2008?

Given the nature of the American Conservative and the inherent hypocrisy which corrupts and eventually cripples his or her ability to effectively reason and govern, it seems dubious that the people of the United States should remain steadfast in their belief in the Conservative movement at all. If it were not for the fact that there are only two parties in this country, (both of which have a stranglehold on their position, effectively preventing a viable third party for more than 150 years now) the Republicans would be a very unpopular group of people at this point.

Plainly, a third candidate would be preferable to either the Republicans or the Democrats. However, because a viable independent does not readily present him or herself, the question of leadership is limited for this election of 2008 to two specific answers. I understand the hesitancy of the typically Conservative voters to back a Democrat, but I imagine that the old maxim must be ringing eerily in the ears of the learned: Those who do not heed history are doomed to repeat it.

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