Aug

21

Andrew Carnegie, robber baronThere is an aspect of the Robber Baron period that I did not touch on in my previous post.

The Panic of 1873 was brought on by the discovery that neither Jay Cooke nor Bethel Henry Strousberg was good for the money, but what followed was the first time in history that literally millions of people had money wealth– not just skills and courage and land tenancy or ownership but actual coin and cash.

We have no way of understanding the breadth and depth of popular political support for "hard" money and open trade (not "free" trade– but trade subject only to uniform ad valorem tax, without prohibition or prescriptive regulation).

Our current flexions are a reflection of how much "belief in the ready" has been replaced by demands for government promised annuities. The numbers for our Pyrite State are an illustration; California will– in a matter of weeks– once again be on the brazzle standard.

Our current FY state budget is $80B, and we have a $20B deficit. The unfunded liabilities for the state's employees pension plans have a present value of $400B– 6 years 8 months' worth of the total state tax revenues - assuming a discount rate of 4.5%. (The trustees, in their infinite wisdom, assume that they can make 8% each year from now until the rapture.)

Our latest Republican hero, the Governator (Nixon's spirit back from the grave) thinks it appropriate that the state's own pension funds should lend the Controller the money with which to make the legally required current contributions to the same fund. Amazingly, the trustees and the Democratic Controller appear to agree. No figure from California's past no matter how radical (neither Hiram Johnson nor Upton Sinclair) would have tolerated such obvious fraud.

This is– like the age of the Robber Barons– an age of technical wonderment; but it also is one of enormous moral stupidity. Just as the Robber Baron Supreme Court had no difficulty in voiding the 14th Amendment by denying individuals the standing to assert their rights, our Ninth Circuit is on the verge of making the same presumption– that only officially recognized institutions will have the standing to assert rights popularly enacted into California's Constitution.

One of the truly awful aspects of our current political world is that even our most intelligent radicals– people like William Greider– fail to see what everyone from John Lilburne to Richard Cobden took for granted– that the citizens' basic rights to contract, open trade and hard money were the necessary preconditions for popular liberty, whether you were talking about Athens in the 5th century BCE or England in 1650 or the world in 1875.


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1 Comment so far

  1. Gary Rogan on August 21, 2010 5:10 pm

    The last 78 years in America, and especially the last 50 years have been a slowly progressing national psychosis where larger and larger swathes of what is seemingly obviously true have become unmentionable in polite conversation. This has lead to a paralyzing inability to distinguish between what is true and what isn’t, and not just in the unmentionable areas, which in turn enabled multiple segments of society to deceive themselves and others into insolvency, financial and spiritual. There are signs that people are waking up from their slumber (or stupor) and at the moment they are simply confused and angry about where they are finding themselves. Where this will lead is very interesting.

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