Public Enterprise: Topic Not Completely Verboten

It’s hard to know what to make of such an event, which speaks volumes in several directions, not least being the patent idiocy of Donald John Trump and his many almost-all-white friends.

Nonetheless, Trump’s AG (itself a comical phrase), William Barr, is now talking about the United States purchasing controlling interests in Ericsson and Nokia.

Yahoo reports:

“American ownership of a controlling stake, either directly or through a consortium of private American and allied companies,” [Barr] said.

“Putting our large market and financial muscle behind one or both of these firms would make it a far more formidable competitor and eliminate concerns over its staying power.”

“We and our closest allies certainly need to be actively considering this approach.”

You, the loyal TCT reader, may have noticed something here: There is no mention, either in Barr’s statement or in the press coverage, of such ownership ruining the resulting endeavors.

How is it, you might wonder, that the public could possibly own and operate a competitive organization endeavoring to supply useful goods and services?

The answer, of course, is that it is possible for the public to own and operate a competitive organization endeavoring to provide useful goods and services.

The problem is that such possibilities are almost always unmentionable, due to the nature of existing power and privilege.

Every once in a while, though, an inept elitist will tip the overclass hand.

Great Souls

TCT interrupts its usual fare to announce the arrival of this marvelous new book by our friend Niranjan Ramakrishnan:

nr book

The price is steep, but I can assure you the author is as substantial and original on this topic as anybody could be. His parents were involved in the Quit India movement, and actually met Gandhi.  He himself is a Gandhi scholar, and a penetrating social critic.

FWIW, TCT considers the topic of whether nonviolence works better than violence to be right exactly at the center of Socialism 2.0. This book is certainly not limited to that question, but has much to say on it.

“Social” Networking?

facebook-logo1 I like the idea of trying to out-compete capitalists, especially if that were ever to become a policy and practice of nation-states and world government. I also like open source software, which is a pretty impressive example of the viability of the project. But, with all due respect and solidarity, I find ZSocial, the putative Facebook competitor, to be a hugely quixotic endeavor.

It doesn’t take much looking at Facebook pages and Twitter feeds to notice that “social” is hardly the essence of those operations, even from the user’s side. Legitimate information trading is certainly there, but also obviously a far-distant second to the dominant motive on display. That motive is vanity, bragging, “personal advertising.”

As such, TCT suggests that “social networking” is but a symptom of very-late-capitalist culture. It will have no place in a future progressive-survivalist socialist world. It is not just a trick to advance the penetration and power of big business marketing, but also a pure waste of time and electricity.

How and why does Z miss this basic point?

Al Gore Manifesto

human-history Stuart Staniford, who tracks peak energy problems, today suggests that those of us who hope to help engineer soft landings ought to abandon socialism in favor of Al Gore.  Speaking of human history, Staniford proposes that, “at least until we decide to engineer better human beings, a decent society will have an economic elite.”  To try to combat elites, in Staniford’s view, is to deny human nature.  The best we can do, he suggests, is to accept and nurture our overclass, in hopes of convincing “them, like Al Gore, to use a portion of their undoubted economic privilege in an attempt to move society in a direction of lower impact and less emissions.”

FWIW, I replied thusly:

If you are going to appeal to big history, I would suggest you stick with it. 5,500 years ago, permanent elites figured out how to keep surplus wealth for themselves as “property.” That, as you note, was the beginning of the end for egalitarian kinship societies.

Fair enough.

But when did anybody start making a serious attempt to check ruling classes and their stories of biological superiority? 1776/1789. Less than 250 years ago, on a 5,500-year timeline.

And when did socialists start trying to extend democracy to economic affairs? 150 years ago. And they also did so while making the mistake of dismissing existing democracy as mere bourgeois illusion. So, socialism 2.0 has barely started, here in the latest 20 years on that 5,500-year timeline.

And here you are, talking about the naturalness of elites? I don’t buy it, either as history or strategy.

The point of leftism is not absolute monetary equality. It is the extension of democracy over macro-economic choices.

Of course, the impending energy/eco crash is going to make modern wealth levels and our range of macro-economic options a lot smaller.

Capitalists, meanwhile, are militant ostriches and obstacles, like it or not, because they are trying to retain what is utterly unkeepable. Al Gore thinks electric cars are a sufficient answer.

Quote of the Day

This, from the wonderful and quixotic-in-the-good-way Joe Bageant, strikes me as deeply true, and deeply related to big business marketing, among other things:

Our faculty of ordinary encounter has been systematically broken down. In its place we now have our unique social hallucination. Never do we encounter anything directly, yet we get the illusion of encounter. This includes encounter with each other. Anyone who lives in meatspace with his or her fellow Americans could not deny 57 million of them health. In this society no one is any longer capable of recognizing anyone else. Instead, we see others as the screamers at the town hall meetings, or as communists who want to give free healthcare to illegals and establish death panels. Or as Christian fundamentalists, or as liberals or conservatives. Or as celebrities or as nobodies.