Thomas Jefferson struggled to create and to preserve a form
of government in which the masses would be protected from themselves. He
understood that they would fall prey to a monetary system (banking) when government
gained their support by appealing to purely material interests. This is the dynamic that
underlay Jefferson's seemingly fanciful ideas of the eternal
yeoman farmer and of looking overseas for manufacturing.
In the evolution of human society, the preservation of such a structure is clearly unrealistic. However, as an ideal, such a picture serves to preserve fundamental values and to transmit the concept of human liberty to future generations, including our own.
When man is removed from the land, money-making becomes his
primary activity in order to survive. When any group of persons is dispossessed
of their real property, then that group must master the money game. When the
majority of a nation is so dispossessed, the masses become dependent upon the
State's existing monetary system. Their political votes reflect what they perceive to be immediate short-term self interests and political demagoguery is so directed.
In a democracy where capitalism exists, the state soon becomes the organ of
financial security for the masses, regardless of the theoretical basis of either.
To criticize alternative economic systems on this basis is illogical. Warfare provides
the state's bankers the perfect means of mobilizing the masses to energetically
pull the economic levers: employment, manufacturing, distributing (and destroying) goods,
enhancing incomes and encouraging spending on material items, on distracting entertainment,
and on invented services that often involve new technology. Human survival becomes
inextricably linked to waste and despoiling of the environment. Ironically,
non-renewable natural resources required for man's organic survival become
toxic or vanish completely.
Randolph Bourne's social criticism was trencant although he
lacked, as an economic radical, the depth of perception and educational background he
brought to literary criticism (e.g.,
The History of a Literary Radical).
His "Seven Arts" columns strove to focus an immense intellect upon thorny
problems and imperfect solutions inherent in human society. He needs to be read
The State has become a bellicose leviathan (e.g., War is the
Health of the State) not because a rational nationalism, per se, needs or demands war, but because State capitalism has been granted ultimate financial responsibility for its citizens. Capitalism, when free, does reflect libertarian ideas. When monitored by government, capitalism discovered that warfare creates the penultimate panacea for its institutionalized illnesses.
The final paradigm of our failed democratic economic system pictures citizens living in vintage luxury automobiles, succumbing to the elements and to starvation as their gasoline runs out and as the means of growing and delivering agricultural products breaks down. Looking skyward, after the lights of their city have vanished, they will see the lights of a new international space station, the proud creation of cooperating governments.
The leaders of nations, cowed by the specter of atomic warfare, will spend billions and trillions on man's next great leap forward, having agreed to conquer the universe rather than persuade their citizens to murder one another during periods of economically salubrious warfare. Intellectual scientific curiosity has little impetus. For many, laboratory life and disinterested scientific inquiry must seem boring. Scientists will be just as useful in this new enterprise of nations as they were in the technics of warfare, a traditional professional activity.
Today, the idea of separating the financial elite from the reins of government may be as improbable as was Jefferson's idea of looking beyond the nation's vast natural resources and human energies for its manufacturing base. It is not going to happen due to either anarchist bombs or scholarly philosophical tracts.
As smart as they may be, there is no indication that mankind's wealthy leaders will ever realize that their own survival is linked to that of the rest of mankind, including intellectuals, students, workers, and their families. Their focus is on power and personal aggrandizement, unlike that of simpler folk. It precludes selflessly helping persons less fortunate, victims of nature's vicissitudes, disease, and poverty. It is just the way they are.
The present crisis illustrates just how different they are from you and from me. Money, for example, means something to us. It measures our time, our effort, and our productivity. Because it can be simply created out of thin air by them and given to whatever institutions (and owners) they decide to give it to, money means something entirely different to them. This is just one example. There are many others. What, if anything, can citizens do?
There is a possible solution. Citizens might learn to start backing and electing leaders committed to supporting the interests of their neighborhoods, not those of financial institutions. They might also decide to entirely stop supporting any government that relies on private bankers to establish economic policies. That would make a change we can really believe in.