A student of mine, who’s writing her masters’ thesis on the relationship between the Tories and Burke, found this brilliant campaign poster from 1929.
Tory Party poster, 1929
How to beat banksters and corporations at their own game and make Wall Street irrelevant:
Oligarch’s wealth and power is based on the people’s labor and on the exploitation of public resources which oligarchs control. Banks and corporations are the oligarchy’s tools. But the public can become the largest, most powerful bank and corporation against which all others would have to compete. It would be owned equally by all the people and would protect their public resources from being privatized and trashed by other corporations.
We could incorporate all three hundred million people and issue equal, non-transferable stock in trillions of dollars of public resources to all Americans before the oligarchy privatizes it all. The dividends we all accrue from leases would lift everyone out of poverty. We the People Inc. would control our wages and natural resources by equal votes at online stockholders meetings.
This is direct democracy through the back door, easily acceptable to both conservatives and liberals.
Loss of souls shifts accounts on the political ledger, methinks. Further past, Jeremy Bentham’s panopticon proposal prefigures our NSA Security State rather nicely.
Oh, wonderful! The biggest irony is that a UK Conservative is usually well to the left of a US Democrat.
“I’m not interested in politics. I vote Conservative” (unattributed). But. The Tories are apparently interested in saving eternal souls … socialism being godless and all. And. What’s more: promoting nasty, bossy, working class, long-nosed oiks – dressed as milkmen??
The poster message is not that surprising; it’s all very visceral for the bastard-children of Burke.
Wind on time a bit to post-war Britain (ca. 1945):
‘All these middle-class people, my parents, friends and relations and the like, were seething with a sort of repressed rage at the world around them. And what they were raging against was the post-war Labour government. It was impossible to have any kind of dialogue about the rights and wrongs of the National Health Service, which was about to come in, they talked as if this Labour government was an occupying power, that the Bolsheviks had arrived and were to strip them of everything they owned.’
(Attributed to J.G. Ballard; Kynaston, D., 2007. Austerity Britain)
The abuse of the words liberty and freedom by the right have caused me to doubt the validity of these terms in general. After years of nearly every reactionary think tank having the word “liberty” in it, hearing that word for me is like the canary in the coal mine. Even recent events like the Snowden scandal and the NSA carry this undercurrent with them. Lurking behind every incident, every point, no matter how valid, is the quiet ideological work of neoliberalism, working day and night to take power out of the hands of the state and place it in the hands of the corporate and capital.
Secondly, anyone who has read Heidegger can see the direct line from thinking on the right to strange notions of individual authenticity. Many people want to put Heidegger’s philosophy on one side and his politics on the other, treating them as separate entities. I’m not one of them. The only ethical suggestion you will find in Being and Time is to embrace authenticity and avoid the inauthentic, to avoid becoming “das man.” From the right angle, there’s something a little bit fascist about the notion of authenticity. You can see it even in this propaganda poster.
Great Poster. What might the equivalent “Liberal” poster envision.
Jonathan Haidt thinks Liberals are failing to counter the philosophical and moral positions that justify Conservative thinking in his book, The Righteous Mind: Why Good People Are Divided by Politics and Religion
For example, he thinks the moral lesson of Aesop’s fable,The Ant and the Grasshopper, is basic in Conservative thought, that people deserve the rewards of their labor, and conversely, rewarding the lazy is immoral, counter intuitive and corrosive to individuals and society. Liberals need to proffer rational arguments why their programs don’t take from those who work and give to those who don’t, and why their programs don’t create a culture that encourages neediness.
Mr Haidt thinks Liberals haven’t meet this challenge in the public arenas. Liberal propaganda concentrates on the plight of the poor and needy and promises to provide for all. While this is good and appealing, it doesn’t deal with the moral disposition that informs the Conservative mind.
Mr Haidt thinks we are heading towards destruction, where both sides demonize the other. The word “compromise” has already been deemed evil (as in compromising with evil), compared to the good meaning of the word (as when people of good intention work out a compromise for the good of all). He thinks most people are sincere on both sides, despite the leaders.
Getting back to the poster, how do we answer the notion that a more distributive and level society doesn’t mean oppression and bureaucracy.
The argument many liberals make is that the average and below average person wants to work.
If you ensure everyone is employed who wants to be employed and is paid a living wage, there would be far fewer people on welfare. However, if you create mass unemployment and mass homelessness and try to lessen the impact by mass welfare and mass imprisonment, you are creating a far worse problem than simply giving people what they want. What most people want is simple: The opportunity to have reliable work with basic benefits and the ability to provide for themselves and their families.
Another old liberal argument can be found in a particular form in Thomas Paine’s “Agrarian Justice”.
If something is taken from the public to enrich the elite few, the public individually and collectively should receive benefit for that transfer to privatized profit. The elite few didn’t work or in any other way earn having politicians give them natural resources from public lands at below market prices. If conservatives are serious about work, then they should be personally affronted by this type of activity that contradicts their own professed principles.
In light of this, liberals should speak more about our Anglo-American traditions. One of the most ancient of these traditions is the commons which goes back to the Charter of the Forests which was related to the Magna Carta.
The American Revolution began in town commons. Until Reconstruction, this tradition of the Commons was honored in America. A person was free to hunt or gather on any property that wasn’t fenced in. This was to keep the elite from claiming all the land and then denying it to everyone else. The idea was that one should only own as much land as they could work (i.e., Lockean land rights). If you weren’t using land, you had no right to deny its use to others.
One explanation I’ve heard for this changing was that people didn’t like it that free blacks could simply live off the land and be free to live by their own hard work (the elites probably didn’t like that poor whites could do the same thing as well). They wanted to find ways to force blacks into servitude. This is how many blacks ended back on the same plantations they had left, trapped in indebted sharecropping instead of slavery, but basically the same.
The problem is that the average liberal doesn’t control the media narrative. Many liberals are already making these arguments, but they have little power to force anyone to listen. You can always go to alternative media with their relatively small audiences which is mostly just preaching to the choir. It isn’t just about having the right message. You also have to have the right media to have your message heard.
Many liberals do not recognize the positive role unemployment plays for capital in driving down wages, making job applicants more desperate and willing endure things they would otherwise never consider, and herding the population into a narrow set of careers which further serve to maintain this economic regime. Unemployment is only a “problem” for our current economic regime if you look at it from this supposed “liberal” angle. From the position I have just outlined, the economic regime is functioning exactly as it is supposed to.
In short, poverty and unemployment play the same role economically as prison does legally. You could even go so far as to say that the same sentiment which makes conservatives favor prison also makes them favor poverty. They love the use of these as a threat to keep people in line. A good case can be made that there exists a maximum ratio of people you can have unemployed or in prison before a given regime collapses, but this would be pure speculation and extremely difficult to calculate in a useful or meaningful way.
I basically agree with you.
Those in power actually don’t mind mass welfare, just as long as the rich keep getting richer. They fully understand that if mass welfare ended and/or those unjustly imprisoned were released, there would be revolution in very short order. The mainstream political debates for and against welfare is just a charade, a puppet show to distract us. No one is going to end welfare or even severely defund it. It is part of the social control.
It is as you say. It is meant as a threat to the vast majority of the population. It keeps them in line, keeps them obedient and submissive… just to get another scrap of bread or stay out of prison. Keep your head down and avoid the attention of the authorities. Those who most threaten the power structure must be threatened by those in power.
Benjamin and Roquentin, thanks.
I agree, people want to work. Furthermore, the role of government is to make sure they have jobs that pay living wages. Then does the notion of American Freedom make sense. Choosing between starvation and submission to exploitive employment is not Freedom.
I agree “safety nets” can work in favor of our drift toward plutocracy when there is no clear and reasonable path out of the net. I call it “chump change.” At the peril of alienating those who share liberal sensibilities, I’d say our tax system performs the same function. “Chump change” benefits to low income people diverts unity, turning low income people against middle taxpayers who are increasingly stressed, while the rich get richer.
It’s my observation that poor people are intelligent, resourceful and ambitious but mining this resource is increasingly subverted by political rigormortis.
It’s also clear that all people can be diverted, turned against their common good by creating conditions of competition (for “chump change”, racial and ethnic competition). In our rich Nation this competition and drift towards plutocracy is shameful.
I think Obama and our leading Democrats have not made the concise arguments you guys are exploring, despite their gifted eloquence.
“Liberal propaganda concentrates on the plight of the poor and needy and promises to provide for all. While this is good and appealing, it doesn’t deal with the moral disposition that informs the Conservative mind.”
This “disposition” is called fear. And actually most libs I know talk a lot about the middle class, what’s left of it. Haidt’s theories don’t account for what we see in the world I live in. Conservatism is about fear. Fear of loss of privilege in “their” America. Fear of gay people, brown people, etc. I can literally see the fear in their faces when they speak about the “other”. What I hear is,”Those People” should not have the same status as me”! That’s what i see in my teabagger relatives and neighbors.
.The ideology (religion, market, etc) is the justification for the fear and hate, not the reason. It’s plain old tribalism and self interest disguised as a virtuous narrative about bootstraps and other Horatio Alger mythology. You will notice that conservatives don’t turn down gov’t subsidies and war profits given by the gov’t. It’s only when “those people” get earned benefits that they are morally suspect as creating dependency. Moral hazard is for other people.
People are not primarily motivated by ideology, but by basic human needs and wants. some of us have a little empathy to counter our fear. Conservatism is all about conserving privilege and power.. Haidt is confusing justification with motivation.
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