Saturday, December 17, 2016

Broken Pincers

     There’s some absolutely brilliant analysis and commentary going on just now, stemming from the Trump election victory and the reactions to it. Two articles in particular, one from Dystopic and one from novelist Nitay Arbel, offer a sociopolitical structure in explanation – and it’s not one Americans are likely to approve.

     Please read them both. They provide a valuable structural model for what well as for what might follow the inauguration of Donald Trump, particularly the Senate’s consideration of his Cabinet nominees.

     Nearly three years ago, I wrote the following:

     The criterion for determining an organism's membership in a species is whether that organism can interbreed with a suitable partner conceded to be a member of that species. What matters, in other words, is whether there will be viable progeny -- and more important still, progeny of the same species that can go on to reproduce that species.

     There are some species that can interbreed with one another. The case that comes to mind at once is that of the donkey and the horse, who, when interbred, produce the mule. However, the mule is sterile, which excludes the mule from species classification and constitutes a disproof that donkeys and horses constitute a single species.

     A concept more closely analogous to species would be that of caste. The term has its strongest association with traditional Indian society, with its recognized castes. From highest to lowest, those are:

  • Brahmin (priests, scholars and teachers)
  • Kshatriyas (warriors, administrators and law enforcers)
  • Vaishyas (agriculturists, cattle raisers and traders)
  • Shudras (service providers and artisans)
  • Dalits (untouchables)

     Caste classifications limit social and economic mobility. One's caste binds one's marital possibilities absolutely; one is forbidden, sometimes de jure but more commonly de facto, to take a spouse from a different caste. (The technical term for this is endogamy.) A cross-caste couple will be excluded from the caste of the "higher" spouse, but oftentimes from the castes of both spouses. Worse yet, their progeny will be excluded from all castes, including the very lowest.

     Class distinctions, such as they are in Twenty-First Century America, bear some comparison to racial distinctions after the Civil War, but also to caste restrictions in caste-ridden societies.

     The classical Indian caste system is a good fit to the contemporary American political scene. Dystopic and Arbel demonstrate this with elan. The unease of American Brahmins – our deeply entrenched, almost entirely endogamous political elite – with the rise of a Vaishya to the highest executive post in the land reveals much about sociopolitical divisions, attitudes, and America’s de facto distribution of power, place, and status. But that’s just the beginning.

     One intruder at the Great Table, our Brahmins could perhaps endure...and hope to outlast. But that intrusive Vaishya insists that a coterie of Vaishyas and Kshatriyas join him there. As Arbel puts it:

     In the last several Presidential elections, Brahmandarin D candidates (Obama, Hillary) were pitted against Kshatriyas (McCain) or Vaishyas (Romney, Trump). Unsurprisingly, Brahmandarin presidents tend to appoint cabinet and senior aides from among the Brahmandarin caste, while Trump’s appointments came almost exclusively from the Vaishyas (Exxon CEO Tillerson for State, various other execs), and Kshatriyas (Mattis, Flynn, Kelly). It doesn’t matter that most of these people have real-world achievements to their names than a Robbie Mook type can only dream of: they are “ignorant” (read: insufficiently subservient to New Class shibboleths), “hate-filled”, etc. — All short-hand for “not one of us”.

     For those same people who keep on prating about how open they are to foreign cultures (the more foreign, the better to “virtue-signal”) are completely unable to fathom the mindset of their compatriots of a different caste: they might as well come from a different planet as from a different country.

     This move by Trump, should it succeed in surmounting the Senatorial hurdle before it, could at last shatter the decades-long pincer movement, first vaguely glimpsed by William Jennings Bryan’s Progressives and first effectuated by FDR, by which the proto-elite of the early Twentieth Century hoped to achieve complete and permanent political power over these United States.

     Ponder the following long snippet from a great work of analysis by a writer of the early Twentieth Century:

     Problem 4: To Reconcile and Attach to the Revolution the Two Great Classes Whose Adherence Is Indispensable, Namely, the Industrial Wage Earner and the Farmer, Called in Europe Workers and Peasants

     This is the problem for which revolutionary theory has yet to find the right solution, if there is one. The difficulty is that the economic interests of the two classes are antagonistic. If you raise agricultural prices to increase the farmer's income the wage earner has to pay more for food. If you raise wages to increase the wage earner's income the farmer has to pay more for everything he buys. And if you raise farm prices and wages both it is again as it was before. Nevertheless, to win the adherence which is indispensable you have to promise to increase the income of the farmer without hurting the wage earner and to increase the wage earner's income without hurting the farmer. The only solution so far has been one of acrobatics. The revolutionary party must somehow ride the seesaw....

     The New Deal was going to redistribute the national income according to ideals of social and economic justice. That was the avowed intention. And once it had got control of money, banking, and credit it could in fact redistribute the national income almost as by a slide rule. The trouble was that if it gave the farmer a large share and left the wage earner's share as it was it would lose the support of labor. And if it used its power to raise all prices in a horizontal manner, according to the thesis of reflation, the economic injustice complained of by the farmer would not be cured.

     The solution was a resort to subsidies. If the prices the farmer received were not enough to give him that share of the national income which he enjoyed before the worldwide depression of agriculture, the difference would be made up to him in the form of cash subsidy payments out of the public treasury. The farmer on his part obliged himself to curtail production under the government's direction; it would tell him what to plant and how much. The penalty for not conforming was to be cut off from the stream of beautiful checks issuing from the United States Treasury. The procedure was said to be democratic. It is true that a majority of farmers did vote for it when polled by the federal county agents. The subsidies were irresistible. More income for less work and no responsibility other than to plant and reap as the government said. Nevertheless, it led at once to compulsion, as in cotton, and it led everywhere to coercion of minorities.

     The total subsidy payments to farmers ran very high, amounting in one year to more than eight hundred million dollars. And beside these direct subsidy payments, the government conferred upon the farmer the benefit of access to public credit at very low rates of interest with which to refund its mortgages.

     Actually, the farmer's income was increased. That was statistically apparent. Whether his relative share of the national income was increased, beyond what it would have been, is another matter. On the whole, probably not. For when the New Deal had done this for the farmer it had to do the equivalent or more for labor, and anything it did to increase labor's share would tend to raise the cost of everything the farmer bought. There was the seesaw again.

     What the New Deal did for labor was to pass a series of laws the purpose of which was to give organized labor the advantage in its bargaining with the employer. As these laws were construed and enforced they did principally three things. They delivered to organized labor a legal monopoly of the labor supply; they caused unionism to become in fact compulsory, and they made it possible for unions to practice intimidation, coercion, and violence with complete immunity, provided only it was all in the way of anything that might be called a labor dispute. The underlying idea was that with this power added to it, together with a minimum wage and hour act that made overtime a way of fattening the pay envelope, organized labor could very well by its own exertions increase its share of the national income enough to equal or to overcome the farmer's new advantage. And this organized labor proceeded forthwith to do.

     But there was at the same time an indirect subsidy to organized labor much greater than the direct subsidy paid to the farmer. Federal expenditures for work relief, amounting in the average to more than two billions a year, must be regarded as a subsidy to organized labor. The effect was to keep eight or ten million men off the labor market, where their competition for jobs would have been bound to break the wage structure. Thus union labor's monopoly of the labor supply was protected.

     Both the subsidies to agriculture and those to labor came out of the United States Treasury, and since the money had to be borrowed by the government and added to the public debt, you would hardly say the solution was either perfect or permanent. But from the point of view of revolutionary technique, that did not matter, provided certain other and more important ends were gained. What would those other ends be? One would be the precedent of making the federal government divider of the national income; another would be to make both the farmer and the union wage earner dependent upon the government — the farmer for his income and union labor for its power. Neither the farmer who takes income from the government nor the union wage earner who accepts from the government a grant of power is thereafter free.

     To my knowledge, only Garet Garrett has glimpsed the political significance of that set of strokes. By purchasing the allegiance of the Shudras – i.e., farmers and industrial laborers, America’s “workers and peasants,” – FDR’s Brahmins created a pincer that enclosed the Kshatriyas and the Vaishyas with political “management” of the economy from above and well nigh unbeatable popular support from below. The Lyndon Johnson Administration further buttressed the pincer with Great Society welfare state programs, adding the Dalits to its underpinnings.

     The pincer’s jaws protected a Big Government run almost entirely by American Brahmins for some eighty years. It seemed invulnerable, but it wasn’t immune to subornation by arrogance: specifically, the assumption of the Brahmins that the lower jaw of the pincer would never depart from the alliance.

     The electoral triumph of Donald Trump proved it.

     There’s no such thing as a one-sided pincer. The Brahmins whose grip on power was shattered by the events of November 8 will surely strive to re-establish the previous alliance with the Shudras. They might succeed if the incoming Trump Administration fails to deliver on the implied promises Trump has made to America’s working classes. But Trump, whose entire business career is built upon delivering on his promises, is probably smarter than that.

     The principal loci of opposition to Trump and his Kshatriya and Vaishya lieutenants will be the establishmentarian segments on Capitol Hill and the “Brahmins by adoption” who populate the alphabet agencies of the federal bureaucracies. Trump’s Cabinet selections strike me as indications that he’s fully aware of this and ready to do battle over it. Should those secretary-designates prove effective at neutering the remnants of Brahmin control embedded in the federal system, we could experience the most profound upheaval American politics has known since the days of Woodrow Wilson.


Howard Nelson said...

Beware as well the Fourth and Fifth Estates -- the forever undead MSM (Mean-Spirited Mediocrities) and the BB (Buggering Bureaucracy). These ever-adapting cancers in our culture call for us to maintain an ever-effective immune system.
Teach your children well and continue your own education.

Anonymous said...

This writing brought some clarity to a problem I've been having for some time. How is it that people I know deny reality to the point of being a 'good liberal'? The clarity is this: they think they are Brahmin but do not realize the true Brahmin view them too as Dalits. While the Brahmin will call me and those like me 'bitter clinger', 'deplorable', and pick any '-aphobe' (just different terms for Dalits) my fellow ignorant Dalits are fooled. It appears they think if they parrot and mimic the Brahmin that they are in fact Brahmin. I believe another term for these types is 'useful idiot'. At least now I understand how they can be so and just not understand their role. Well, until it is too late anyway.

Ronald Jones said...

Dear Mr. Porretto
Not a comment for publication, per se, but I thought you would like to see how I have incorporated your post on the "Broken-Pinchers" into my American history lessons. We are an IB school in Smithfield, North Carolina, and I teach kids who are damn smart.
I copied and edited Garrett's article at Mises on how the New Deal solved the problem between farmers and industrial workers. I added some information on the Great Society's support to the underclass. After reading and discussion, posed the following question:

Extend your thinking and extrapolate the effects of recent events:
1) the continued growth of the underclass, requiring increasing custodial care by government (i.e. the Welfare State created by the Great Society program) to keep them from an uprising, and
2) the recent push of global elites towards international trade agreements (NAFTA, TPP) and the “off-shoring” of US industrial production, coupled with
3) vastly increased and unregulated immigration of unskilled (read: cheap) labor
First, how has the actions of the previous three Administrations (B. Clinton, Bush 2 and Obama and the potential continuation under H. Clinton) undone the Democratic Party’s brilliant New Deal/Great Society alliance and social/economic contract between the Democratic Party and the American farmers and workers?
Second, how have these pressures given rise to President Trump?

This young woman's (she is a Senior) answer is astonishing, and gives me great hope for our country.

"We continue to use this tactic of bribing unemployed and poor Americans to keep them happy and quiet. The underclass has continued to grow because many Americans believe if they can get the money without labor, then there is no need to get a job. By paying off the poor, this gives Americans a new respect for the United States and are happy with the government. The immigration not being regulated has brought many non-Americans into our country and have taken away many of the scarce jobs and the lower paying jobs because immigrants are willing to work for less. This creates more unemployed Americans resulting in more increase of the underclass and more money the government has to give as welfare. The issue with big corporations pushing toward becoming global is that when a large company moves across the globe to a country where the labor is cheaper, although the prices for the items may be lower because they do not have to pay the workers as much, the Americans lose job opportunities which also goes back to more underclass Americans.

All of these points have all been slowly deteriorating for a long period of time and now all the corruption is coming to light with the recent election. The democratic party has moved away from “buying off” the working class and this is why Trump succeeded in the election. The issue was that H. Clinton focused solely on the rich and those of importance and lost the connection and carefully built relationship between democrats and the working class. Trump saw this opportunity and seized it by campaigning to get the attention of all the American workers. A recent event that Trump has enforced is an immigration ban of 7 countries. This is one step he has taken to reduce the increase and unregulated immigrants coming into America. FDR’s New Deal and LBJ’s Great Society created a stable mutualistic relationship with the workers and underclass of America. For nearly 80 years, this tactic has kept the alliance strong, but in recent events this relationship has shifted to parasitic, meaning that the democratic party benefits, while the workers are being affected in a negative way. This is because of the immigrants taking away jobs, as well as multi-million dollar corporations being able to transport their businesses somewhere else. This has shifted working and underclass Americans to Donald Trump because he has shown promise in keeping their best interest."

Not bad, huh?

Keep up the good work, I shall as well.

Ron Jones