Capitalism and Republics:
A Patriot's Perspective
by Richard K. Moore
 

Once upon a time

... when kings and emperors ruled supreme, power was measured by territory, and wealth emerged from the productivity of the territory. Growth in power and wealth, when it occurred, came by conquest — an increase in territory. A ruler extracted his wealth from his realm, some fraction of the productivity of the territory. A ruler became, following his own self-interest, the custodian of his realm, motivated to maintain and enhance its productivity.

And then came Columbus

... and in his wake an unprecedented influx of wealth into the European economy, mainly in the form of silver. Spain was the primary expeditionary power, the owner of the imports. The sovereign of Spain was interested in pursuing conquest, and enjoying wealth, not in marketing silver. A deal was made with some bankers, who agreed to dispose of all the loot, at some negotiated price per ton.

This unprecedented influx of mineral wealth was a destabilizing influence on the territory-as-wealth paradigm. In the New World territories, for example, there was no ethic of custodianship. Rather the paradigm was to exploit maximally for immediate gains. In Spain itself, to the extent silver wealth could support the realm, to that extent was diminished the motivation to nurture the realm's productivity. Why till the field if you can buy what you need with stolen silver?

But more destabilizing than those developments was what arose out of the deal Spain made with the bankers. Not only was the territory-as-wealth paradigm undermined, but also territory-as-power. For a start, the bankers were not Spanish, and they weren't even based in a territory, nor did they identify with a territory. They identified to some extent with the relatively insignificant city-state of Genoa — they were Genoese — but they were a network of bankers, spread throughout the capitals of Europe, and their operations were on a European scale.

Spain gained wealth, and then spent it on its imperialist adventures, eventually declining when the silver stopped flowing. The bankers gained wealth as well, based on their marketing of the silver, but they didn't spend it — they invested it, they multiplied it, they accumulated it. They were the first modern capitalists, and as a group, a close-knit clique, they came to dominate European affairs. They had the power of finance; they could extend credit, and kings would come begging to their door when their treasury was in trouble, or when they wanted to launch some expensive campaign. And each such episode led to a greater accumulation of wealth by the bankers.

The power of finance was beginning to trump the power of territory. The Genoese bankers were not only accumulating wealth, they were gaining increasing discretionary power over nations (territorial entities), and the relationship between nations. They could extend credit to one, and deny it to the other, and they could then expect protection for their operations from the favored party, along with the returns on their investment.

The Spanish silver bubble eventually petered out, as all bubbles must, but the Genoese bankers didn't mind. They simply moved their capital elsewhere, to greener pastures. The ethic of these capitalist bankers, and ethics typically emerge from perceived self-interest, had nothing to do with territory and nothing to do with custodianship. Their relationship with Spain became the prototype of their attitude toward nations generally: exploit them maximally while you can. Get the money and run. There will always be something else somewhere to invest in, some war, some empire, whatever.

As Spain declined, the Dutch Colonies were emerging as a sea power and an economic power. The Genoese bankers began moving their investments to that growth opportunity, and in the process they outdid themselves. As the Dutch Colonies grew in wealth and power, a homegrown financial elite emerged, eventually eclipsing the Genoese and establishing a new center of European financial hegemony. And once again, the self-interest of that financial elite was distinct from the interests of territorial empire.

The cycle repeated, this time with Britain attracting investments and eclipsing the Dutch Colonies. London-based bankers emerged as the new center of financial hegemony, not just in Europe but in the world. And once again, the financier's relationship with Britain-as-territory-cum-empire turned out to be parasitic. The self-interest of finance-based elites, a.k.a. capitalists, inevitably leads to an ethic of maximal exploitation, not permanently attached to any particular territory or society, or to its welfare or productivity.

And then came the Enlightenment

... and with it a conscious re-evaluation of the whole basis of power and wealth in society. It was a time fertile with new ideas, and the consequences were destabilizing to the existing order of things. Republicanism emerged as a favored paradigm, took root among elites at various levels, and among ordinary people as well. Revolutions happened, and republics were established. The most prominent of these, and the most fully developed example of the republican model, was the U.S.A.

One of the themes of Enlightenment thinking, and the primary theme that sparked popular support for republican movements, had to do with democracy: the notion that people have inalienable rights, and that governments should operate with the consent of the governed. Another primary theme had to do with a coup d'etat, the removing from their positions of power monarchs and religious hierarchies. This was the theme that provided the primary motivation for the local colonial elites who were the leaders and organizers of the revolution.

It was those elites who wrote the U.S. Constitution, and that document did provide for certain popular rights and for popular representation. But it also gave special emphasis to property rights, and was generally designed to preserve the privilege and wealth of those who had been running affairs in the colonies before the revolution. They led the revolution, they designed the new Constitution, they became the new political leaders, and it was their agenda, their vision, that the new republic was to pursue.

These elites were commercially oriented — landowners, traders, shippers, manufacturers, businessmen, and bankers. They wanted a government that was stable, that represented their general interests, and that didn't interfere in their business affairs. The Constitution was well-designed for those purposes, with its strict protection of property rights, and its balance-of-power safeguards.

These elites were also expansionist minded. They had been active participants in the trade and commerce of the British Empire; Boston was the third busiest port in the Empire. International trade was expanding, the Industrial Revolution was underway, a continent lay open to be conquered and settled. The new republic provided an ideal framework for pursuing both territorial expansion and economic growth.

The founding fathers were well aware of the historical conflict between national interests and financial interests. They understood the dangers of private central banks with control over the currency. According to Benjamin Franklin, the final straw that sparked the revolutionary movement among elites came when the Bank of England outlawed the local currencies that had been established in the colonies. Thomas Jefferson expressed this viewpoint: "If the American people ever allow private banks to control the issuance of their currencies, first by inflation and then by deflation, the banks and corporations that will grow up around them will deprive the people of all their prosperity until their children will wake up homeless on the continent their fathers conquered."

Jefferson addressed this warning to the common people, but he and his circle knew that it was not only people who could be deprived of their prosperity, but the treasuries of nations as well. The republican movement, and America in particular, can be seen as an attempt to create a new form of territorial sovereignty, a form that would be robust enough to resist the domination of international capital. The balance of powers made it difficult for any one branch of government to sell out to the financiers, while the policy of staying out of Europe's wars served to avoid national indebtedness. Even local capitalists were constrained in their activities, as corporations were granted only limited charters for limited times.

International, territory-independent capitalism had emerged as a by-product of rapid economic growth in Europe, enabled by the rapid influx of mineral wealth. European imperialism continued to expand economic growth, while the center of economic activity migrated from one nation to another — and international capital always managed to come out on top, leaving once-dominant nations saddled with debt.

The new American republic, with its dynamism, and its resources and size — anticipating westward expansion — was poised to become a new center of economic growth. At last, the founding fathers hoped, a nation had been created that could pursue an expansionist agenda, while at the same time maintaining its economic sovereignty. This, I suggest, was the essence of the republican vision: to create a growth-oriented nation that could retain the benefits of its own enterprise, that could avoid entrapment by debt.

And then came the traitors

... the agents of international bankers who were eager to sink their vampire fangs into the neck of the growing republic. More than once they dipped their fangs, when by intrigue they succeeded in getting a central bank established in America. But each time the republic proved stronger, and the bank was disbanded by a later courageous President. Then in 1913 the traitors JP Morgan and Woodrow Wilson, by deceit and manipulation, managed to create the Federal Reserve Bank, on behalf of the vampires. Ever since that time there's been a great sucking sound in the land, of fangs at work; we call that sound the national debt.

For the next five decades the interests of the vampires and their republican host coincided, as had happened so often before in Europe. America grew to world dominance, economically and militarily. Meanwhile the vampires were kept well fed, and the grip of their fangs sank ever deeper; we call that grip systemic corruption.

In the early 1960s a final valiant attempt was made to restore the sovereignty of the republic, by the courageous patriot John F. Kennedy. He had taken steps to undermine the currency-making power of the Federal Reserve, and he was on the verge of ending the arms race and the adventurism that were sinking the republic into ever-deeper debt. But it was not to be. JFK had proceeded in spite of the warning Woodrow Wilson had given us about the vampires: "Some of the biggest men in the United States are afraid of something. They know there is a power somewhere, so organised, so subtle, so watchful, so interlocked, so complete, so pervasive that they had better not speak above their breath when they speak in condemnation of it."

JFK's assassination was a coup d'etat of the republic itself. Ever since, through ever-tightened control over the media and the political process, every President, major Congressperson, and Supreme Court Justice, has been carefully selected and prepared for their role in carrying forward the vampires' agendas, agendas that have increasingly deviated from the national interests of the republic.

I won't elevate these latter-day collaborators by calling them traitors, because they have been simply cogs in a political process that as a whole has become treasonous. The very culture in Washington has become one of subservience to financial and corporate elites. Our leaders' mouths speak words of patriotism, or reflect popular concerns, but their souls, as in a horror film, are possessed by vampires.


Puppets they were, and puppets they be,
surrounded always by grand pageantry.
Great words they told us, and sometimes were witty,
as they danced to the tune of this little ditty.

Lyndon Baines Johnson, bless his poor soul,
drove the economy into a deep hole.
While Vietnam made the treasury bereft,
a weapons-economy is what we were left.

Nixon went on with the dogs of war,
racking up body-counts to his score.
He tossed out gold to vampires' delight,
but he had to go as his ratings were slight.

In Vietnam's wake dreaded peaceniks abounded,
so Carter stepped in, and the hawks rebounded.
He plays the bungler while hostages cower,
and thus the humbled right was swept back to power.

Reagan the salesman plied well his trade,
of economic destruction he was not afraid.
He talked loud of freedom and lies to us fed,
while looting ran rampant and capital fled.

Bush the Elder the deserts did storm,
new weapons were tested and showed deadly form.
For full-spectrum dominance no cost was spared,
and a New World Order was proudly declared.

Clinton brought liberals back to the fold,
while setting the stage for treason most bold.
He split up the Balkans to get at their wealth,
but his main job was NAFTA, subversion by stealth.

Bush the Junior, from a family of Nazis,
blew up the Trade Center and blamed it on proxies.
Constitution and economy he put to the axe,
preparing for treason's final contracts.

Obama the silver-tongued devil did say,
big changes for us he would bring in his day.
To the clutching vampires he wrote out blank checks,
now in debt forever, we're up to our necks.

The republican vision has thus had its day,
the American dream has just passed away.
The vampires now have the world in their fangs,
delivered by our leaders in traitorous gangs.

A New World Order they're bringing to thee,
Ein Bank! Ein Führer! Eine Welt! is to be.
Perhaps it is time, my good friends to think,
of what brave people do, when they stand on the brink.

We played junior partner in the republican dream,
the dream turned to nightmare, but no use to scream.
It's all up to us now, the whole world to save,
from the vampires' clutches, lest we all be slave.

Only together do we stand a chance,
so neither with party nor creed take a stance.
On theory and religion, we'll never agree,
just try it, and sooner or later you'll see.

What binds us together is our brotherhood,
you'd think that by now it was well understood.
Take the hands of your neighbors and all who surround you,
and help build the world that you want around you.

The path of big scale has shown us its ways,
with resources squandered, while poverty stays.
The small scale local is where we can start,
and mutual-sufficiency must be our art.

Sounds boring and humble I can only agree,
but who said that life was to be just a spree?
Yet when we together find community,
I think our rewards will be ample to see.

The big system's broken, it never was sound,
we need to start over, right from the ground.
It won't be easy and problems abound,
But others have scouted and answers were found.

As for the vampires, in their penthouse lairs,
their power lies not in their notes and their shares.
It's only because all of us do their bidding,
that they still upon their grand thrones are sitting.

When we get our community voices together,
they'll be brought down like a falling feather.
The global strike is our peaceful weapon,
their minions don't show, when their buttons they press on.


© 2009 Richard K. Moore

This article and poem originally appeared
on Richard K. Moore's mailing list, March 7, 2009.

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Further reading (articles on this website):


Note added by Peter Meyer, 2009-03-12:

In addition to the tactics of the general strike and non-violent non-cooperation with oppressors, one might learn something useful from a study of the tactics used by the French and Danish resistance movements against the Nazis during World War II.

The last is a review of Ackerman and Kruegler's Strategic Nonviolent Conflict: The Dynamics of People Power in the Twentieth Century. The authors of this book ...

demonstrate that the political orientation of the target regime is not the most important factor in whether or not a particular movement succeeds. Instead, the authors argue that what makes or breaks a resistance movement is how well it implements certain principles of nonviolent conflict ... [e.g.] formulating functional objectives, developing organizational strength, and attempting to secure external assistance.

Resistance becomes revolution when and only when the military (or whatever are the main instruments of violent repression) switches sides and changes its allegiance from the regime to the people. Therefore the military must be persuaded (if its members cannot see it for themselves, as they did clearly in Vietnam) that the corporate and financial ruling elite, from which it was previously willing to take orders, no longer deserves its allegiance.

Join the Global Resistance today!


See also: Radical Peace: An Interview With Prof. William T. Hathaway


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