Thursday, September 17, 2009

Clarifying a Violent View

I got a few emails suggesting I had "gone off my rocker" in forecasting "blood and death" as a likely outcome in the current battle between Big Finance (and their lobbyist The Fed) and the people.


One alternative would involve the Fed and Big Finance backing down voluntarily, but if the events of last year didn't inspire a desire to retrench....well, what's it going to take?

I'm not, by the way, the first to suggest the possibility of violence. Perhaps he was speaking figuratively, but President Obama told Big Finance a few months ago, "My administration is the only thing between you and the pitchforks."

I suspect, however, the disagreement between my forecast and more reasonable-natured views lies in the respective senses of human nature. I base my sense on my read of history and the assumption that humans haven't changed much in the past few thousand years or even the past hundred. Nor do I think the US is immune to such conflicts.

I noted the Whisky Rebellion as an example of US intra-national violence in the last essay. While it was the first such example, it certainly wasn't the last. Estimates vary, but some 650K people died while the question of the limits of states' rights was decided in the Civil War.

The last time Big Finance squared off against the people in this country, i.e. as the Progressive Movement formed, blood and death were not uncommon outcomes. While I don't agree with his populist self-righteousness, Howard Zinn's facts in The People's History of the United States are not disputed. Police and private security guards gunned down strikers while Unions, in their turn, destroyed property and intimidated labor through all means available, including murder. According to one (increasingly ironic) read of history, the Fed itself was created, in part, to help ameliorate the effects of inevitable recessions and forestall violence.

More recently, the question of the rights of African Americans was settled in blood and death in what can be seen as an echo of the Civil War.

To be clear, I am not an advocate of violence. I'm an observer who, by way of analogy, isn't surprised to see two hungry dogs fight to the death over a scrap of meat. If you don't want them to fight, keep them fed. Sometimes though, avoiding conflict is far more difficult.

The founders of this nation, as is clear in much of their private thoughts (diaries and letters), were well aware that the unresolved issue of slavery would haunt the nation in the future (the contrary view was the nation wouldn't form if a resolution was required). Such things can be foreseen, if not always avoided.

A further point, if I may, about the meaning of resolution. In the context of this essay an issue is resolved when people are no longer willing to fight. Whether the resolution is durable is another issue entirely. Time will tell.

The relationship of money and government and the people remains unresolved. A resolution of some sort will, in my view, be required before the nation gets back on its feet, so to write. This, it seems to me, is THE political issue of the generation. I do not envy those tasked with resolving it.