Sun Mar 1st, 2009 at 05:41:50 AM EST
"Creative individuals and undeviating purpose and rationality achieve joy and fulfillment. Parasites who persistently avoid either purpose or reason perish as they should."
Alan Greenspan, Letter to the Editor of the NY Times, 1957, in defence of Ayn Rand's seminal work of ressentiment, Atlas Shrugged
I never thought I'd agree with Alan Greenspan on anything, ideologically speaking, until earlier this week. As the chief practitioner and high priest of Anglo-American, so-called "laissez faire" Capitalism, the great oracle of Objectivist Social Darwinism stood for everything which was wrong with first England, and shortly thereafter America, beginning in the late 1970's. The ideology he represented, rightfully seen as the reactionary, hateful musings of a bitter bourgeoise émigrée from the Soviet Union back when they were first published fifty years ago (Mr. Greenspan's letter, excerpt reproduced above, was in response to a NY Times book review critic who rightfully opined that Atlas Shrugged was "written out of hate"), has done more damage to human progress in the West than any other ideology in the post-war period.
Bubbles from the diaries - afew
But, I have to say, when he admitted it was time to pull the plug on the Anglo-American banking system and nationalise them all, I started to agree with him for once. Not on nationalisation; while I've always been in favour of permanent State ownership of the means of allocating Capital, Mr Greenspan only wants to do so temporarily, thereby socialising the losses all the while re-capitalising the profits once the State, fundamentally regressive in fiscal and social policy matters as it is in America, takes disproportionate sums of taxes from the less well off to bail out the wealthy yet again. No, it was a little more complicated than that.
Whenever I think of Greenspan, that quote he is famous for, reproduced above, comes to mind. Especially the part about "parasites," (and here, we all know to whom Mr Greenspan is referring...it is of course the lesser of our sisters and brothers, those to whose lot fortune was at best indifferent, at worst, encouraged by people like Mr Greenspan to be further debased). This is underlined by his casual treatment of the station of the weak, his invocation of the word perish adding an exclamation point, if one were necessary.
So, when Mr Greenspan started to admit that the Sorcerer's Apprentice-like degeneration of the Capital markets would require nationalisation, it wasn't the word nationalisation with which I found common cause; after all, the content of his ideal is still far far different from those who believe as I do in the equality of access to Capital. No, the words I heard ringing in my head, prompting agreement, were those reproduced, above, specifically, that it is time that the parasites perish.
But who are the parasites? Here in Europe, we need not look too far, to the UK, where Lord Goodwin continues to suck $1M/year from the public coffers, a reward for having stolen billions via the bank he steered into the ground, prompting taxpayer-financed bailout totalling £13 bn to date.
Even on our side of the channel, we are not immune, though our perpetrators have at least a good sense of propriety when faced with the results of their misdeeds.
Over in America, finding parasites is like shooting fish in a barrel. Robert Rubin who, as Clinton's Treasury Secretary, drove the deregulation which directly caused this mess and, once back in the private sector at Merrill Lynch, made tens of millions from it before his bank started taking billions from US tax payers to bail out the bank whose failure he helped bring about. President Clinton may have called Mr Rubin "the greatest treasury secretary since Alexander Hamilton," but for posterity, we all know what Mr Rubin is: a parasite.
Or John Thain, whose theft and malfeasance were even egregious, more outlandish than most, as he helped Rubin drive Merrill Lynch into the ground.
Or Richard Fuld, who stole his millions at the failed Lehman Brothers, busily protecting his ill-gotten assets as any thieve would: by all means necessary.
Or Mr Greenspan himself, who demonstrates, with that one pithy quote, that when the Capitalist engages in describing the parasitical, he or she in fact knows the subject well. A more appropriate example of the concept of projection there never was.
And it is indeed time that they, or more specifically, their reactionary, elitist ideals, for far too long animating principles of the countries in which most of us live, in fact it is far past time, that they perish.
And as for their persons, of course, the world has evolved. Try as they might, the Social Darwinists who brought us this mess were never able to turn us back to the days when we would have tarred or feathered (or worse) those who robbed us blind. But a little jail time sure wouldn't hurt. In a prison without a golf course, preferably.