The Rape of Democracy

Eric Zuesse

On the one side are conservatives, who resent taxes and self-identify with rich people who say that government is basically a huge waste of money and only private business is efficient and productive.

On the other side are liberals, who don’t resent anything and who say that government is good enough to be worth the taxes that are paying for it.

Neither party is “pro-government,” and both parties are “pro-private-enterprise” or pro-corporate; so, what we actually have is two conservative parties, one of which — the conservatives — is extremely conservative. Neither party is progressive.

Those are the only two political parties that have a history and a donor-base that’s big enough to stand a chance of winning 99% of elections; so, third parties exist only to draw off more support from voters of one of the two real parties than from the other, and thus to throw elections in close races and thereby use their voter-base of fools so as to enable them to extort something from one of the two real parties. Otherwise, they’re simply stupid, all the way from their bottom to their top.

That’s the reality of the ideological ‘debate’ increasingly during recent decades: conservatism versus extreme conservatism, the latter of which is otherwise called “fascism.”

How did this ideologically monotonous, all-conservative, polity come about? Conservative donors have simply been winning. They especially won in the U.S. Supreme Court’s 5-Republican to 4-Democrat Citizens United decision that makes a corporation (either profit or nonprofit) a “person” with the special privilege to donate unlimited and even secret cash to any and all political campaigns.

In November 1933, the founder of today’s form of extreme conservatism or “fascism,” Benito Mussolini,” defined what fascism is, by saying (see page 426 there) that it’s “corporationsm”: he wrote that “the corporation plays on the economic terrain just as the Grand Council and the militia play on the political terrain. Corporationism is disciplined economy, and from that comes control, because one cannot imagine a discipline without a director. Corporationism is above socialism and above liberalism. A new synthesis is created.”

In other words, he said: corporations are more efficient than any government can be; so, governments should be run like corporations are — top-down by a decisive CEO — in order to get things done that government wants done, and to do it quickly and efficiently, not to waste money.

Mussolini’s teacher was Vilfredo Pareto, who defined the very concept of “efficiency” that’s used in today’s economic theory; he said that it’s simply transactions in which all participants are participating voluntarily. In other words: there is no government over them, no regulator of the economy; there are just trades, transactions, these being voluntary, like in the idealized economy. (But, he ignored what ‘voluntary’ means; he instead used a self-invented term “ophelimity” for that, in order to ward off questions to which he had no answer: all of the important questions — such as “Taxes aren’t voluntary; are they therefore automatically inefficient, bad, welfare-reducing?” And: “If someone buys or sells on the basis of misrepresentations, was the transaction ‘voluntary’?” Pareto was just a con-artist in the intellectual sphere, but a very successful one.)

Mussolini promised to “make the trains run on time”; he would be the CEO to do that, so that people could go efficiently about their private business, while he tried to minimize the role of government in the economy. To him, government was just a necessary evil, and should be run more like a corporation is run. Bureaucracy wasn’t seen as the evil; government bureaucracy was, and he wanted to reduce it to a minimum, transferring it to private corporations, which would supposedly be more “efficient.” He invented the privatization of what had been government, tax-supported, functions. In September 2009, the European University Institute issued their RSCAS_2009_46.pdf, titled “From Public to Private: Privatization in 1920’s Fascist Italy,” (subsequently retitled “The First Privatization: Selling SOEs” in the 2011 Cambridge Journal of Economics) by Germa Bel, who said in her summary: “Privatization was an important policy in Italy in 1922-1925. The Fascist government was alone in transferring State ownership and services to private firms in the 1920s; no other country in the world would engage in such a policy until Nazi Germany did so between 1934 and 1937.” She particularly noted: “In his first speech as a member of the Italian Parliament in June 1921, Mussolini said: ‘The State must have a police, a judiciary, an army, and a foreign policy. All other things, and I do not exclude secondary education, must go back to the private activity of individuals.’”

That policy was subsequently taken up by Augusto Pinochet in Chile, Margaret Thatcher in Britain, and Ronald Reagan in the U.S., because the ideology, fascism, gradually became normalized throughout the West, via corporate-backed people such as Milton Friedman and other extremist conservatives; and liberals merely rejected it, they didn’t offer any coherent ideology to replace it.

The Cold War against the communists had given fascism a privileged position: one couldn’t talk against “the free market” without running up against Joseph R. McCarthy’s anti-communist witch-hunts in the U.S., or other people’s similarly far-right nationalist demagoguery, which meant that there was really no acceptable alternative to fascism, in the West.

Then, when communism fell, and when it became replaced (under the guidance of the Harvard economics department, thoroughly Paretian of course) in the 1990s, with fascisms, and massive privatizations of previously state-owned assets, there was no clear alternative anywhere to fascism. Mussolini had won WWII, after his death — first in the communist countries, then in the rest. Aristocrats were now firmly in control worldwide.

What the conservatives on the U.S. Supreme Court did in their Citizens United decision was simply to carry this privatization-ideology more fully into the sphere of U.S. political campaigns. The five fascist ‘Justices’ didn’t refer to Benito Mussolini, but, if they had been honest, they would have — and they wouldn’t have referred at all to the U.S. Constitution, which, certainly in its original intent, was anti-corporate.

The author of the Declaration of Independence and the third U.S. President, Thomas Jefferson, wrote, on 12 November 1816, to his long-time friend Dr. George Logan of Philadelphia, about the “profligacy” of England’s government, wasting resources to prop up its international corporations, which Jefferson said had brought about “the ruin of its people” in order to benefit aristocrats. He said, “This ruin [in England] will fall heaviest, as it ought to fall, on that hereditary aristocracy which has for generations been preparing the catastrophe [meaning creating the catastrophe (by corrupting the government), not meaning to prepare for the catastrophe]. I hope we shall take warning from the [English] example [e.g., the British East India Company] and crush in it’s [sic] birth the aristocracy of our monied corporations which dare already to challenge our government to a trial of strength and bid defiance to the laws of our country.”

On 26 December 1827, he wrote to William B. Giles, warning that “younger recruits, who, having nothing in them of the feelings or principles of ’76, now look to a single and splendid government of an aristocracy, founded on banking institutions, and moneyed incorporations under the guise and cloak of their favored branches of manufactures, commerce and navigation, riding and ruling over the plundered ploughman and beggared yeomanry. This will be to them a next best blessing to the monarchy of their first aim, and perhaps the surest stepping-stone to it.” He was forecasting fascism, as America’s enemy.

Benjamin Franklin was equally clear about this. In James Madison’s extensive account of the proceedings at the U.S. Constitutional Convention that wrote the U.S. Constitution, Madison recorded, on 10 August 1787, concerning a proposal that had been put forth by a certain proponent of slavery, Charles Pinckney (sometimes spelled “Pinkney”), to restrict voting only to people who had property, that (in Madison’s paraphrase of Benjamin Franklin’s speech), Franklin had asserted on this date, that:

“the possession of property increased the desire of more property — Some of the greatest rogues he was ever acquainted with, were the richest rogues. We should remember the character which the Scripture requires in Rulers, that they should be men hating covetousness — This Constitution will be much read and attended to in Europe, and if it should betray a great partiality to the rich — will not only hurt us in the esteem of the most liberal and enlightened men there, but discourage the common people from removing to this Country.” (Precursing the Statue of Liberty: it didn’t just happen — our Founders were planning for it.)

Madison immediately added there:

“The Motion of Mr. Pinkney was rejected by so general a no, that the States were not called.”

Not only did Franklin’s statement sway the entire convention; it caused Madison himself, ever-afterwards, to change his mind from ambiguity to clearly favoring persons over property. Thus, in 1821, he wrote that:

“there are various ways in which the rich may oppress the poor; in which property may oppress liberty. …  It is necessary that the poor should have a defence against the danger. … Under every view of the subject, it seems indispensable that the mass of citizens should not be without a voice, in making the laws which they are to obey, & in choosing the magistrates, who are to administer them, and if the only alternative be between an equal & universal right of suffrage for each branch of the Govt. and a confinement of the entire right to a part of the citizens, it is better that those having the greater interest at stake namely that of property & persons both, should be deprived of [that] half their share in the Govt.; than, that those having the lesser interest, that of personal rights only, should be deprived of the whole.”

Alexander Hamilton was fairly quiet about this matter at the Convention, but he had already been fully on record as having written, on 23 February 1775, in his The Farmer Refuted, that:

“no Englishman who can be deemed a free agent in a political view can be bound by laws to which he has not consented, either in person or by his representative. … It is therefore evident, to a demonstration, that unless a free agent in America be permitted to enjoy the same privilege [as in England], we are entirely stripped of the benefits of the constitution, and precipitated into an abyss of slavery. For we are deprived of that immunity which is the grand pillar and support of freedom. And this cannot be done without a direct violation of the [then-existing British] constitution.”

Hamilton was saying that one of the reasons a revolution against the King was necessary is that the King was violating the British Constitution, by denying all (non-slave) colonists an equal right to vote, irrespective of how wealthy they might happen to be.

However, the fascist jurist Antonin Scalia famously said, with glee, in the 12 December 2000 Bush v. Gore case (5 conservatives beating 4 liberals), that, “the individual citizen has no federal constitutional right to vote for electors for the President of the United States.” Scalia refused to mention that that’s not because the original intent of the Founders wasn’t overwhelmingly in favor of equal voting rights for all non-slaves. (But women were yet another traditionalist issue too hot to touch in that era.) Scalia’s Constitutional “originalism” rejects the original intent of the Founders, but instead is based upon the bigoted intent of the most-conservative Americans and even Britishers during that time, as constituting our Constitution’s “original intent”; and, so, Scalia is unalterably opposed to the concept of one-person-one-vote, and he does all that he can to amplify the voting-power of the wealthy, via increasing the influence of money over our ‘elections.’ This naturally tends to transform one-person-one-vote into one-dollar-one-vote (which is the fascist ideal: rule by dollars, instead of rule by voters).

The entire thrust of Republican Supreme Court ‘Justices,’ in regards to electoral disputes, has been based far more upon the attitudes and values of people such as Benito Mussolini, than reflecting people such as Benjamin Franklin. Big-money has taken over, and liberals haven’t provided any alternative to that ideology. But Franklin did. And Jefferson did. And Madison did. And Hamilton did. Many of America’s great Founders did.

This fact is being ignored, because the wealthy interests who have financed conservative scholars don’t want it to become known. And liberal aristocrats, such as George Soros, serve more to distract such debates than to finance authentically progressive scholars, such as Zephyr Teachout, the author of the brilliant “Constitutional Purpose and the Anti-Corruption Principle”. In a briefer and more down-to-earth vein than Teachout’s, is my own “Conservatives on the U.S. Supreme Court Are Wrong: The Original Intent of the U.S. Constitution Was Progressive.” Such progressive writings are marginalized, because people like Soros, Gates, the Kochs, and the Waltons, are of only two basic types: some of them (the few ‘liberal’ aristocrats) ignore the ideological issue, but the others of them are strongly ideological, finance conservative scholars, and thus determine what type of thinking is ‘respectable’, and what types are not. (Truth doesn’t equate with their ‘respectability’.)

The conservatives have pre-empted a true jurisprudence of original intent, in order to block an authentic one coming from the progressives, just as the fascists have pre-empted a true “welfare”-based economics, in order to block an authentic one coming from any progressives. Thus, what we’ve got is unscientific, mythological, jurisprudential theory, and economic theory — both. Both of these conservative efforts have succeeded, because of enormous aristocratic money behind them. In scholarship, merit is starved; corruption is fed. Truthful scholarship and truthful politics are thus the two legs that are needed in order for a culture to be able to walk toward an authentic liberty, a liberty of the public (away from the aristocracy), but both legs are crippled with corruption; and, so, what prevails in both law and economics is instead the well-funded fascism. It has nothing to do with truth. Truth is what corruption blocks. Corruption is inimical to truth.

Thus, corruption wins; truth loses. That’s the problem. When there is great inequality of wealth, the truth gets drowned-out by lies. It’s been happening in America, and around the world. More and more money is going into the promulgation of lies, because that’s what any aristocracy thrives upon, quite naturally. Without those lies, the public would recognize: the aristocracy’s authority is founded on fraud.


Investigative historian Eric Zuesse is the author, most recently, of They’re Not Even Close: The Democratic vs. Republican Economic Records, 1910-2010, and of  CHRIST’S VENTRILOQUISTS: The Event that Created Christianity.