The arguments about progressivism versus liberalism miss the point. ALL GOVERNMENTS ARE DICTATORSHIPS. A dictatorship is any government that imposes rules and regulations upon the entire electorate. Since the entire electorate includes people who did not vote for that government, that government rules over them without the consent of the governed. Therefore, all governments are dictatorships to one extent or another. It doesn’t matter whether the rules are reasonable or extreme, because one person’s idea of reasonable is another person’s idea of extreme.
Governments attempt to find the mean between these extremes. All governments fail in this function because all governments are under the control of a ruling oligarchy. Oligarchies all share one characteristic: they believe they have a right to rule because they have bought the government.
Democracy only exists on election day. From election day to inauguration day, we are basically living in a period of anarchy, with one administration in power and another about to assume power.
All Governments are Criminal Enterprises
From time immemorial, governments have only existed for one purpose: the production and consolidation of wealth. It doesn’t matter whether one government taxes the poor less than another government. Taxing the poor takes money from the poor to support the power structure that defends the rich from the poor.
If you are truly being honest with yourself, you must see that there is no way around this argument. The reason we have the impossibly complicated tax code we have is to provide loopholes for the wealthy and the powerful to pay less than they would otherwise. The poor don’t use the loopholes. Being poor, they don’t need them.
All governments are criminal enterprises. Ancient war lords took lands from freeborn peasants, consolidated the parcels and gave them to their henchmen in exchange for their service in the war lord’s wars. In the course of this process, the war lords became kings, and the henchmen became dukes and earls. No duke or earl ever paid a serf a wage equivalent to what a freeborn peasant might earn from the same land. No corporation ever pays their employees enough because, when you pay an employee “enough,” the employee becomes your partner, not your underling.
We all know these things. We all know that the only way to redress these grievances is through revolution, but we also know that all revolutions end up perpetuating the same corrupt systems of government because all systems of government are essentially corrupt.
I figured this out in 1968 and, since then, I have always seen myself as just another prisoner of a system that essentially created itself. Would any of us really want to vote for the system of government that now rules over us?
We All Dance to the Devil’s Tune
I don’t think so, but the evidence is that many of us are fully engaged in supporting the system that oppresses us because we want to live better (more affluent) lives and the only way to achieve that relative affluence is to serve the system. The lawyer who defends the poor serves the system. The doctor who treats the poor serves the system. The teacher who tries to imbue a higher consciousness in the student also serves the system. Reporters serve the system that abuses them. The garbage man who collects the garbage serves the system.
I’ve talked to enough lawyers, doctors, teachers and reporters to know that very few of them are happy with their lives. Garbage men are usually happier.
These are facts. Lawyers routinely lie to their clients because they are required to lie by the exigencies of the situation. Doctors routinely lie to the patients because they are required to lie by the complexity of the medical issues. Teachers routinely lie because they are required to lie by the curriculum to which they are forced to teach. Reporters are required to lie by the corporations that employ them. The list is endless. In the end, it turns out that, in one way or another, we are all always lying to each other.
Except for the garbage men. Garbage men do not have to lie to anyone, which makes collecting the garbage a more noble profession than the lawyer, the doctor, the teacher or the reporter.
Working Within the System to Change the System
People like you ask people like me to show them an alternative, to provide a remedy where no remedy exists. For generations, people like you have encouraged people like me to “work within the system to change the system.” My experiences working within the system is that the system borrows your soul and never gives it back again. How has that been working out for you? It sucks for me.
Why I No Longer Promote Revolution
I do not promote violent revolution because with only ONE notable exception, revolutions always lead to greater repression and less freedom. We were that exception, at least for a little while. While we extol the virtues of our New Constitution, we lose sight of the fact that we were far more free under the Articles of Confederation than we are under the Constitution.
The reason that the Constitution has been amended 27 times was to correct some of the defects in the Constitution that made us less free, except for the ones, like Prohibition or the Internal Revenue Amendment, that took some of those freedoms back again.
So, I do not promote violent revolution, nor do I promote passive revolutions because passive revolutions end up creating the same kind of repressive government that a violent revolution would impose. The means do not justify the end.
The Impossible Tribe
No social organization larger than the tribe can ever be a free society, and tribal societies were only free because if you didn’t like the tribal society you were in, you were always free to leave and start your own society.
We cannot do this today because there is nowhere to go that isn’t controlled by a government or a corporation or some private individual who will not take kindly to you squatting on their land to start your own tribe.
The capitalist argument has always been that corporations are owned by their shareholders and that anyone could become a shareholder simply by buying stock in the corporation. I do not believe this. Small shareholders are in the same position as individual voters, powerless and captive to the fluctuations in stock prices that are controlled by the large shareholders.
Half a lifetime ago, some of us believed that there was another way to live and work together, cooperatively and harmoniously, toward our collective goal of a just and balanced society. We tried. We really tried…but, just like Peter Fonda says in the 1969 film, “Easy Rider,” we blew it….and that was the year we blew it, because everything started to fall apart that year. By the time most of you had heard about communes and collectives, it was already over.
I can tell you that some of those people — some of whom I actually knew back then — have become governors and senators, founders of corporations, movers and shakers…but the world remained the same. Nothing really changed.
Whenever a reformer sets out to change the world, the world changes the reformer. There are small victories, here and there. Sean Penn is fighting for Haiti. Matt Damon is fighting for clean water. There are others — many others — who fly below the radar, who would not appreciate it if their names were mentioned, but their efforts are drops in the bucket and the bucket has no bottom to it.
The Stacked Deck We’re Being Dealt From
We — all of us — really want to believe the power of the ballot, even though we know that the deck is stacked against us and that that the dealer is crooked. The media is owned by the advertisers. The winners are always going to be those who control the media, because the media controls the vote, not the other way around. Yes, Donald Trump spent less in 2016 than Hillary Clinton, but he got eight times more media coverage than Clinton got. It turns out that the media is driven by the media itself. The more attention you get, the more media you get.
It is really time — no, it is really long past time — for us to wake up and smell the bullshit.
The only solution to this existential dilemma is a radical reorganization of the structure of society itself. With one glaringly obvious obstacle, we could build self-sustaining cooperative communities designed to protect and serve the people who live there. We could, if we wanted to, build collectively owned businesses that could compete with and defeat the mega-corporations that control us.
We could build a cooperatively-owned, nonprofit version of Facebook, for example, that would not need advertising revenue and therefore could not be controlled by special interests. We know how to do this because some of us are actually working for Facebook right now….and that’s just one example.
Hints Toward a Solution
One hundred years ago, Henry Ford hit upon a marketing model that turned his struggling automobile company into an industry giant. It was a very simple idea. He paid his workers enough so that, with the company discount, they could afford to buy his cars. How many of Elon Musk’s employees can afford to buy a Tesla? (That’s why he’s struggling to turn out the Model 3, the car his employees can afford.)
These are examples of collective action in the service of capitalism. The people at the top — Ford’s heirs and the well-meaning Elon Musks of the world — are still skimming the rewards, still paying employees a pittance of the value their work creates. Without the capitalist tax, the profit that has to be built into every transaction in a capitalist society, there would be enough for everyone.
Well, actually, no, that’s not true. If you divided the total gross product of the United States by the total population of the United States, each person would end up with around $36,000…but that would leave us with no money to maintain our current capitalist society, or to build a new society based on a socialist model.
The Inescapable Conundrum
Without the concentration of capital, it is impossible to build cooperative models to compete with capitalist models. Therefore, into order to defeat capitalism, the people who believe in collective cooperation (a much nicer term than socialism) must be become capitalists in order to finance their socialist dreams, and once you dip your toe into that capitalist pool something reaches up from the depths and pulls you all the way in. Happens all the time.
Try as much as you want, the oppressive governments that control the world will never let you get away with it. They will tax your venture into oblivion, or pass laws to protect the capitalist corporations you are competing against. Check out the history of the Tennessee Valley Authority or the history of the Republican assault on the U.S. Postal Service.
It has been estimated that in order to consider yourself a free person, unobliged to any one else, you need a net worth of at least $10 million at age 60. Anyone with less than that amount squirreled away is a wage slave, and there is very little difference between a wage slave and a slave. That difference really boils down to where you sleep at night.
If you found this to be a depressing read, good. Image how I felt writing it. Why did I write it? You can’t solve a problem until you admit the problem exists. The problem exists. I’m not smart enough to solve it, but you might be.