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The New Aristocrats of Finance Pose a Serious Threat to Our Democratic Way of Life

Across our political system, we have lost checks and balances. It's time take back what's ours.
 
 
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Let's face it, what a America needs is good clean fight. A fight that brings in everyone, redefines categories and alliances, cleanses our putrid politics, and establishes a healthy politics for the 21st century. At this point, there's just no way around it. Our politics is so defiled, our economy so completely in the clutches of a rabidly greedy few, and our government wallows in incompetence to the point of criminality, that the only cure is for the American people in unison to stand up, take responsibility, and claim what is rightfully ours. History shows this is never done without a fight.

I've always hated the term "American exceptionalism", more for how it was defined, than the concept itself. In the last decades, American exceptionalism has too often been defined as industrial capitalism, ribald consumerism, and militarism. But if we've learned anything in the last decades, these traits were easily transferred across the globe. However, what was not so easily transferred, and what historically is truly exceptional is this republic. In recorded history, the existence of republics, of self-government, has been the exception, and this republic with all its faults has indeed been exceptional. Here the masses of Europe, who for millenia tore each other apart, united under the banner of universal equality, intermixed, intermarried, and thrived. Over the centuries, fitfully and in small steps, and with still a ways to go, people from every other part of the world have slowly in some cases, and more rapidly in other, been brought into the mix.

In the last decades, under a confused, and too often misguided segregation into political individualism, call it identity politics, we have lost the more encompassing definition of what it is to be an American. Most importantly, and to our great detriment, in this quest for hyper-individual identity, we have lost our egalitarian ethic, that uniting and necessary glue in what can sometimes be the babble of republicanism. In the great declaration that announced the birth of this republic, before its proclamation of "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness", before "unalienable rights", comes the foundation for this democracy, for all democracy, the principle that "all men are created equal". And it is whenever aspiring to this principle, and often as not falling short, that America has turned to our better selves, when we are indeed exceptional.

Today, one can say for the first time in this republic's existence, the egalitarian ethic, the very foundation of this republic is itself endangered. You could have a very long discourse listing reasons on why this is, but I'll use one example. We are at the point of institutionalizing a financial aristocracy in this country and make no mistake, that will be the end of this republic. Yves Smith has a nice piece on one aspect of institutionalizing aristocracy in this country, their pathetic attempt at founding a sense of noblesse oblige, which has always been one of history's great inside jokes. Across times, all aristocracies have been predatory, parasitic, and ruthless. Yet any aristocracy, if it is too last long, must develop a sense of noblesse oblige. You can only bleed the little people so much, without "noble" limits, the vast bottom will collapse or rebel. A sense of noblesse oblige has always been missing from the United States for it was born destructing aristocracy in all its forms, being against aristocracy has always been an American unifying element. It is an illusion that America's neo-aristocracy seems more greedy and glutenous than others through history. This illusion exists only because there is no facade of institutionalized noblesse oblige, simply because noblesse oblige is antithetical to the republican ethic of egalitarianism. An egalitarian ethic is defined by equal opportunity, fairness, and an understanding of general welfare. In operation, it depends on the republican mechanisms of checks and balances for all manifestations of power be they political, economic, or cultural.

Across our democratic system, we have lost checks and balances. We have watched the burgeoning of an obscene aristocracy. The foundational check and balance for any republican system is the citizenry itself, and whether voluntarily or through coercion, this check and balance has badly deteriorated. It is time for us to unite as citizens, and uniting against aristocracy is essentially American, nor matter what our backgrounds or situation. We must redefine not that what makes us individuals, but that which makes us citizens of this republic. It is time to stand up to this nascent aristocracy and reclaim our power. Make no mistake, this will not be done without a fight, so ladies and gentlemen, let's have at it. It is your right, more importantly, it is your responsibility.

Read more of Joe Costello's work at Archein. He's been involved in communications, energy and political economy for three decades. He was communications director for Jerry Brown's innovative 1992 presidential campaign and was a senior adviser for Howard Dean's effort in 2004. He's spent two decades thinking and acting on the confluence of information technologies and democratic political economy. He has written extensively on politics, finance and energy.
 
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