Thursday, September 20, 2012

The revolt of the oligarchs

   There can be no doubt that the ugliest thrust of the vulgar literature of Ayn Rand, and therefore of the platform of the Republican Party in 2012, lies in a rejection of political obligation. The gastronomic séance Mr Romney conducted in Boca Raton, the rat’s mouth of Florida, speaks of nothing so much as the celebration of the will to exploit, the noisettes d’agneau-sucking equivalent of Drill, Baby, drill. We are guided to suppose an upside of rape.

   It is alleged, that the manifest lewdness of Romney’s pitch of succour to the Caligulans is nothing more than a brisk sketch of the field of battle before him, and that when he prevails, he will remember to pick up the pieces of his mandate. This promise rings the hollower, not for the Ryanesque puerility of his division of the body politic, but for the momentum of the feeding frenzy embodied in that dinner: a shark is no leader of a school of fish. It is, of course, that very carnal gusto which was Ayn Rand’s, and motivated her besotted acolyte Alan Greenspan to decouple American banking from obligations of capital, itself.

   No, therefore, it is not true, that the art of political campaigning would warp American society and its tentative democracy. It is true, rather, that the warp of oppressive political victory, in the partisan seizure of the Supreme Court, has shattered the American body politic by the miconstruction of freedom -- in the present case, by freedom of speech, in the infamous Citizens United case. Thus, Paul Ryan’s lament at the Republican convention in Tampa, that political obligation leaves his partisans “unfree.” The poor dolt has his oligarchy, already, and he simply campaigns to pull its levers.

   Political bodies can be moved, and generally are, by relatively small numbers of men who possess wealth, offices, inherited status, or a monopoly on the means of violence. The defense of majority rule requires something more: a theory of equality stipulating that every man ought to have and must be provided with the same political force as every other man. Then the greater force can only be discovered by counting heads.

   The leading thinker in our time, with John Rawls and Ronald Dworkin, of the problem of political obligation, Michael Walzer framed the dilemma of majority rule as exactly that of Romney's rejection of John Locke's unified body politic; and it is no wonder, that he addressed this problem under the heading, the obligations of oppressed minorities. Bankers indeed, as Jamie Dimon and Robert Rubin, refugees respectively at JP Morgan Chase and Citibank, have lived to see themselves as oppressed minorities, as such merchants in fossils as the Koch brothers must always be. Who ever claimed it should be easy, to be misunderstood?

   We have come so far as to see, set free by his Party's kept Court to wield oppressive capital as an instrument of violence under the assertion of freedom of speech, a candidate for the Presidency articulating the pure, bright hope of Sheldon Adelson's Macao, that the shackles of avarice may be sundered in a bold, climactic surge of carnivorous candour. All along the heights of the Right, from Reagan's Peggy Noonan at Murdoch's Wall Street Journal to the latest blonde at his Fox News, we hear the amplified, resounding shrieks of the warrior wives as the catacombs of capital yield up the latest horsemen of the myth, as mountebanks we've known since Huckleberry Finn. 

   We're ready.

Michael Walzer
  Essays on Disobedience, War,
  and Citizenship
Harvard University Press, 1970©

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