Wednesday, August 09, 2006

The revolt of the Guelphs

Nothing appears more surprising to those who consider human affairs with a philosophical eye, than the ease with which the many are governed by the few. David Hume

Having spent much of the decade of the 90s traveling around the world, living in alien cultures, I have shared Hume's bemusement at the ease by which the many are governed by the few. Lately, as I watch that control weaken, I'm coming to see just how such a thing comes to pass, as I imagine Hume would have had he not died before the American and French Revolutions. It is, I believe, through the actions of those in what Daniel Dafoe calls "the middle station of life" that such control is maintained or lost. I bring this to your attention as it seems to me that those in this middle station, Dante lovers like myself might prefer "Guelphs", appear to be in revolt against the Empire or, to retain the Dante metaphor, the "Ghibellines."

When I refer to the Guelphs or those in the middle station I'm not referring to the entire middle class, but rather to the working aristocracy, if you will. That is, I refer to those who own, not at a distance, but hands on; the restaurant owner who cooks or tends bar, the grocer who will move boxes if other labor is not available, and the contractor who will pick up a nail gun are some examples. I'm referring to people who can survive in both worlds of ownership and labor, the bridge, if you will between the two classes.

Before I proceed, let me note that people slide in and out of such classes over the course of their lives as their changing sensibilities align with this or that group. Let me also note that these shifts are not always altruistic. Often the Guelphs simply take advantage of their increased awareness of popular discontent to grab some of the pure, isolated aristocracy's power. Yet, by virtue of their need to harness popular discontent, Guelph revolts more often than not leave the common man better off, if for no other reason than to forestall a new batch of Guelphs usurping their newfound power by the same mechanism.

In the United States, the last significant, successful Guelph revolt, in my opinion, occurred in the 30s. With the then aristocracy deaf to Herbert Hoover's calls to share the wealth, Volunteerism was the motto of his plea, a large segment of Guelphs saw an opportunity to upend the Gilded Age aristocracy.

This revolt was fairly vigorous as many of the Guelphs got stung by the collapse of the equity market, one of the modern means by which the Ghibellines align their interests with the Guelphs. The decades of the 80s and 90s which saw real incomes for the common man languish while the equity market soared, are an example of the effectiveness of this strategy. Conversely, the lack of wealth sharing (i.e. greater concentration of wealth into fewer and fewer hands) over the past 5 years sets the stage for what I believe will be the next Guelph revolt.

"Enough preamble, Dude,
you are probably thinking, "cut to the chase."

Sorry, I just got my hands on Dorothy Sayers translation of Dante's Inferno. I still prefer Longfellow's poetry but her analysis and explanatory notes left me with Guelphs and Ghibellines on the brain. Oops, another digression, quote the Commander in Chief, Let's Roll.

Specifically, I note a few recent developments that suggest to me a coming Guelph revolt:

1) the continuing and strengthening revolt in Mexico against the PAN led by Lopez Obrador

2) the Lieberman upset by Ned Lamont in yesterday's Democratic primary for US Senator

3) rising fears of the effects of a sustained anti-inflation campaign, which led the Fed to call and
end to its tightening campaign

4) rising popular dissent against the Iraq war in the US

5) rising international disgust with the heavy handed tactics of the Empire against civilian populations

6) reassessment of the limits of military power alone in dealing with civilian populations.

More generally, the pure aristocracy seems increasingly isolated from the common man, and seems, to me at least, to be caught in a prison of their own rhetoric, duped by the modern day Rasputins, the Neo-Cons. Propaganda is an effective means of controlling the masses, but a poor basis for effective policy. Eventually even the most disciplined minds who are forced to use propaganda fall prey to its effects. It's never good to believe your own bullsh*t.

Staying on the pragmatic track, how might this Guelph revolt manifest? Here's a few guesses from my very cloudy crystal ball:

1) The Lamont victory will embolden some to run on what the Ghibelline press now calls a "radical anti war platform" despite polls which show that the radicals are the war supporters.

2) The Democratic party which may take Congress, barring some Diebold election hijinks by Republicans which could ignite a Mexican type fury, will be more Gore-ish than Clinton-ish.

3) The Fed and eventually other Central Banks will tone down the war on inflation blaming the next round of price increases on "external events"

4) Gold and precious metals will increasingly be seen as safer than the fiat markets which are being looted to finance these apparently unwinnable and unpopular wars

5) Mexico will find its interests align more with Venezuela, Brazil and Argentina, than the US

6)The dream of reshaping the Middle East will be shelved for a generation, if not, expect a Shi'a revolution that mirrors the Chavez revolt

7)Russia and China will continue to grow in power

8) a new left-leaning mainstream press will emerge from the blogosphere

Whether these expected changes, if they do arrive, prove positive or negative I don't know.

Hopes for positive change will be high in the event of a Democratic takeover of one or both Houses of Congress, a forced resignation by Tony Blair in the UK or a cessation of hostilities in Iraq and Lebanon. Whether those hopes get fulfilled in the form of a rising gneral prosperity depends on the character and ability of those who find themselves with power. Efficient resource allocation tends to break down during revolts against the power structure.

I don't know Ned Lamont, Lopez Obrador or Gordon Brown, to name a few people who might find themselves in the driver's seat. My study of history leads me to believe you can see when change is in the air (here's someone much more respected than I who senses a slight foreboding). Whether that change results in a more or less robust civilization is beyond my ability to see. Sometimes conditions stay unsettled for decades.

I'll hope for the best.....and continue cutting wood for the winter...if you get my drift.

thanks for reading (if you got this far)


(2^P)-1 said...

Dave -- thank you for continuing to record your thoughts...
best regards,
an old reader from days of chaos

Dude said...

Thank you for continuing to read my occasional cathartic expressions.