Reform Week Part I

Societies go through reform in a few different ways. The most obvious way is revolution. We do not think of revolution as a reform, but it is a type of reformation. The stuff that does not work is swept away and new stuff is put in its place. The “sweeping” is often bloody as the stuff being swept is attached to people with a vested interest in it. That and every revolution is driven, in part, by revenge.

Similarly, conquest is a type of reform too. A neighboring power defeats the society, forcing it to restructure itself in response. Maybe that is as a vassal state or simply as a weak and defeated minor power as it retools for the world in which it finds itself. The Gallic sack of Rome in 390 BC ushered in a period of reform that set the stage for Roman domination of the West.

The usual way in which we think of social reform is the voluntary type where changes are initiated either in response to crisis or in response to defects in the current arrangements. The changes ushered in after the 1929 stock market crash are an obvious example of reform in the face of crisis. The 12th Amendment that altered the selection of the President is an example of the ruling class fixing something that did not work as intended.

Peaceful reform does not spring from thin air. The world changes and the current arrangements no longer satisfy the needs of the people in charge. The key point here is that this sort of peaceful reform is top-down, not bottom up. It may be spurred by popular unrest, but this sort of reform is in the interests of those in charge or those just taking charge, like our technological elites who got rich in the last generation.

In America, the last big reform period was after World War II. Yankee reformers blasted away the old system for managing blacks and they replaced it with a form of riot insurance we call the Welfare State. Youth culture and the sexual revolution came at the tail end of that reform period, as the ruling elite reconfigured the majority coalition that would dominate politics for the next fifty years. Steve Sailer’s coalition of the fringes is an entirely artificial arrangement that suits the needs of the ruling class. At least it used to.

The ructions going on today in the two parties are the result of old systems no longer up to the task of meeting the challenges of the day. The current arrangements evolved in a bygone era. The Cold War is long over yet we still have a political arrangement organized around fighting the Red Menace at home and abroad. America’s foolish blundering into the Arab world is the result of a system looking for a new enemy.

Reform is long overdue.

The question is what the nature of the next reform movement will be. The reforms of the 50’s and 60’s were cultural. The country was doing simply fine economically and the large financial interests had been tamed before the war. First came the knocking down of the racial institutions, followed by new political institutions to fill the void. Then the family institutions were plowed under in the sexual revolution. Things like gay rights and tranny rights today are mostly just nostalgic echoes of those reform movements of the 70’s.

The current age is nothing like the period following World War II so it is unlikely that the coming reform period will be anything like that time. That is why the causes of this Great Progressive Awakening have seemed so silly and pointless. They are silly and pointless. The one substantive effort at economic reform, Obamacare, devolved into a festival of vengeance against Christians, traditionalists and the white middle-class. The Left’s reformist impulse has long since burned out. What’s left is just spite.

This age is much more like the period starting at the end of the 19th century and running into the early 20th when taking on the monsters of industry was the priority. The Sherman Antitrust Act was passed in 1890. The Clayton Antitrust Act was passed in 1914. Of course, Teddy Roosevelt made his bones in trust busting at the turn of the century. Financial reforms followed the crash of ’29, along with additional laws like the Robinson-Patman Act to limit corporate consolidation.

If you look at the economic reforms of that generation, the goal was to limit the power and influence of new industrial barons. Concentrations of wealth are the great threat to republican government so the logical response to it is to break up the large interests. A century ago, that meant trust busting and strong limits on the economic activity of the super rich. It also means laws against the sort of reckless risk taking at the root of every financial crisis.

This time around things are a bit different, but the same problems exist. The coming period of reform will be economic, aimed at returning power to the political class. That will also mean political reforms that will be necessary to enforce the economic reforms. Again, reform is about the people in charge and the public is secondary. Even so, the brewing unrest is the opening that allows reformers to usher in changes. In the coming decades, those changes will be economic and political.

More tomorrow.

27 thoughts on “Reform Week Part I

  1. Pingback: The War on Cash | High Quality News Blog

  2. The Cold War is OVER? Are you KIDDING us?
    Have we all NOT heard of “Little Obama” ice cream in Russia?
    I don’t know if it comes in any “Berry” flavors.

  3. After reading Reform Week part 1, For some reason I felt inclined to thumb through a little of Gibbon’s History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire and and Durant’s Story Civilization.

    We might be ready for another reformation (and of course, all it’s unintended consequences.) unless perhaps we’re living in the last days of civilization. Not only do we have the barbarians at the gates, which are wide open, we also have then in the universities and schools throughout the land.

    It was good while it lasted.

  4. Severian: If I could put just two checks on the bankers, it would be to prevent them from consolidating the mortgage assets pool across all 50 states and to force banks to chose between equities and real assets… one or the other but not both. That severely limits their power and prevents about 90% of the excesses. I know that is essentially Glass-Steagall, but it worked before and I think it would work again.

    I’m always stumped by the European insistance that American culture is a “young” culture. Did Captain John Smith land at Jamestown, sow dragon’s teeth, and up popped Americans?

    What we really are is a small-c creole culture. Just as when you take a bunch of people who speak different languages together and force them to cooperate, they first synthesize a pidgin to communicate, which then evolves into a creole, so we have evolved.

    • I’d certainly give it a try! Regulations have to be simple to work — in a battle between politicians, many of whom have never held a day job, and guys who went to school for years in order to understand an insanely complex, arcane subject like finance, who do you really think is gonna win? You can’t make it idiot proof — witness our Supreme Court’s gyrations on Obamacare and gay “marriage” — but at least when that happens, you know who to blame, as “not a tax” is “it’s a tax” only in the twisted mind of John Roberts.

  5. The great ship USS America was holed three times, 1913, 1920, and 1965. By now even the productive class is incapable of acting in their own interest or knowing what that is. The democratic tyranny is not one of an odious king, who does not care what you think. The democratic tyranny needs to be inside your mind, and it is.

    The productive class cannot advance and will only shrink until the end of this form of rule, as if there is an end. The only American future that could actually be expected is Brazilian, and that is being optimistic.

  6. I don’t see how shifting wealth and power from business leaders to political leaders solves the problem of concentration of wealth and power. This looks like plain looting to me.

    In fact, maybe that’s the difference this time: it’s the concentration of political power in a small, insular elite which needs to be fixed. Break up the Government Trust.

  7. Karl, America culture and institutions have had 400 years to evolve on this continent and thousands of years before in England. It’s been 240 years since the grown ups got divorced not since when the baby was born. Is culture east of the Oder younger than culture on the Rhine? Is Scandanavian culture older German? Or just the settlements? And while America has had hundreds of years experience with Democracy and having our petty states united, Germany has decades of experience with either and the effects it has on culture and it shows. maybe wagen das finger less no?

    • I wouldn’t count 400-years since you weren’t actually “America” until after your independence from England. Up until then, you were all English citizens under the crown except for those west of the Mississippi who were either under French or Spanish rule. So you only get credit for being American since you became “Americans”, in 1776. However, it doesn’t take anything away from the benefits you enjoyed from European influence prior to 1776.

      The Germanic tribes were here long before the Romans crossed the Alps, so we consider ourselves as ethnic Germans going well back 2,000 years.

      • Karl surely the ones east of the of the Elbe have only had a thousand or so years to evolve. the sorbs have been their longer surely they are a more advanced form of man.

          • its only been this century you’ve got everyone speaking the same language no? language far different then the gap between New York and London. no common legal code, no common government, until recently. with time your people might gain wisdom. you do have a hell of a creation myth.

  8. “Concentrations of wealth are the great threat to republican government so the logical response to it is to break up the large interests.” Or to co-opt them. Over at our group blog, our Four Regular Readers have gotten so tired of me harping on Fascism that I just call it (((SexyFunTime))) now… but it’s the truth, and it needs to be said. If you can’t stop picturing a ranting fellow with a funny mustache, think of Japan’s version of the kokutai, 1926-1945. A guaranteed minimum standard of living, internal and external security, and above all a sense of national purpose for all the superfluous young men left behind by Modernity… it works. It’s far easier to keep Goldman-Sachs and Citibank on the leash with “treason to the national community” than with another iteration of Glass-Steagall or whatever other suite of “regulations” we have to pass to find out what’s in them (and that liberals can’t be bothered to understand anyway). Nb. to aspies: I am NOT advocating Fascism. I think it’s horrible. But I also think it’s inevitable (either that, or civil war to the knife, followed by genocide of the losers).

    • America has been mildly fascist since the 30’s. We don’t use the term because it carries baggage we really don’t like and really does not fit. American corporatism is different in nature form the European experiments, but there is a lot of overlap. The coordination between banking, business and politics is something Mussolini would instantly recognize. What’s not included in the America version is the labor component.

      I think we may be headed for a slow peeling back of the 20th century American corporatism. That means bringing finance to heel and breaking up the big tech players.

      • ZMan, I’m surprised to hear you parrotting the current misguided trope that America is “fascist”. It’s patently absurd. The fashionable jumping off point for this point of view is Mussolini’s alleged quote: “Fascism should more properly be called corporatism because it is the merger of state and corporate power.” Unfortunately, Mussolini never actually said this (Good analysis at this link: Fascism has nothing to do with Corporatism; and furthermore, the legal groundwork for modern American corporatism was largely laid down between 1865 and 1910– long before 20th century fascism was established or even conceived. I strongly suggest you read Ted Nace’s “Gangs of America”, it is an invaluable resource on the relentless rise of corporate power over the last 150 years. As an aside, you cited the “trust busting” efforts of the early 20th century and implied they amounted to a meaningful reform; the fact is, they didn’t effectively amount to anything as corporate interests quickly and quietly moved in different directions. The real “reform” happened completely under the radar, and was in fact inimical to public interest.

        But not only are modern publicly-traded corporations not fascist, a strong case can be made that they are in fact communist institutions. These are large international institutions, nominally owned by hundreds of thousands of people who have no effective say in their governance, and who receive virtually no ongoing benefit due to the virtual elimination of dividends in favor of “capital growth”, and commanded by an unaccountable international executive elite who are highly compensated via stock option schemes and gigantic salaries. Or, put another way, the workers own the means of production, which is managed allegedly for their benefit by a carefully indoctrinated elite class who skim off most of the value for themselves. Sounds like communism, frankly.

        Going in a different direction, consider that the opening of the Soviet archives in the early 1990s proved conclusively that the FDR and Truman administrations were riddled with Communist agents…and when Joe McCarthy made an honest attempt to uncover these facts, he was vilified and hounded out of office and into an early grave. By the early 1960s, after only a few decades of effort, virtually every plank and goal of the communist party had been instituted to some degree by the Federal Government. (

        That so many people have the idea that the USA is even remotely “fascist” is a testament to how well the “progressive” Cultural Marxist propaganda machine has done its job.

      • Yeah, Hitler spent a lot of time crushing organized labor, and America has always been way more “capitalist” than our friends across the pond. But the New Deal was unquestionably Fascist….unless, as so many people these days seem to, you think Fascism absolutely requires armbands and Party rallies and invading Poland. But the armbands-and-rallies stuff is coming. Americans won’t openly embrace “racism,” but the only defense against identity politics is identity politics, and when the federal bennies spigot gets dialed back a notch, all the other groups are going to ruthlessly go after theirs…. whites are going to have to, and the Left has shown us how easy it is to achieve “coordination” (gleichschaltung, for the pedants) without any overt police-state antics. That’s the part of Fascism I want to emphasize — the cultural stuff. Given Social Security, and the fact that Prudential wrote Obamacare, we’d hardly need to change a paragraph in the law to get to the economic version. How many young American men do you think would join the Brownshirts right now if they called themselves something other than “Brownshirts”? Culture precedes economics.

          • Economically, Fascism is a partnership of big business and government, where big business is the junior partner. Agriculture subsidies, price controls, wage controls, all designed to artificially boost employment past what the market would bear under normal conditions. Massive public works projects from the WPA and youth make-work projects like the Civilian Conservation Corps are the equivalent of rearmament (Germany actually overheated its economy in the mid-30s, as rearmament caused massive labor shortages (increasing your army from the Versailles-mandated 100,000 to 2+ million will do that)). Then there’s social insurance (Social Security), and let’s not forget the propaganda and FDR’s attempt to pack the Supreme Court… a good rule of thumb is, if you can’t tell where the government ends and the large conglomerates begin, it’s (economic) Fascism.

          • Your first sentence is incorrect; your entire argument is built on a faulty premise.

          • His first sentence is not incorrect. FDR and his progs openly embraced the European fascist until Adolf ruined their crush. For years I’ve heard main line American progs at the NYT lament that they don’t have the power to, well, dictate that the boys in China do. Of course The One proved them wrong about that, not that they will notice until Trump does it.

          • Really? Frankly, you could make a much better argument that FDR openly embraced communism. Take a look at the communist party planks, then take a look at the New Deal. FDR’s administration was riddled with communist agents; we know this as a fact ever since the soviet archives were opened in the early 90s. If FDR was a fascist, why did he side with the communists during WW2? Both Germany and the Soviet Union invaded Poland in September 1939, yet Britain and France–who were obligated by treaty to declare war on BOTH invading parties– only declared war on Germany… and the US was happy to follow suit. And despite Lenin and Stalin killing tens of millions of people during the 1920s and 1930s, one of the first things that FDR did upon assuming office was to formally recognize the Soviet Union.

            FDR was a communist, not a fascist. There really isn’t any other way to interpret the facts.

          • Mussolini was a huge fan of FDR. Malcolm Crowley, an intellectual giant in New Deal liberalism wrote glowingly of Mussolini. The American Left was so smitten with Il Duce that Hollywood was negotiating with his son on a movie about him. Then you know who came along and fascism became a dirty word.

          • I fail to see the incompatibility of communism and fascism. The left has not failed to grasp the connectivity either. Forward!

  9. If the West is to free itself from the clutches of the plutocracy, reform of national monetary systems, sovereign debt issuance and management, anything and everything that wrests control from the charlatanry of finance capitalism and the ledger-book prestidigitators who profit from “lending” funds they create from nothing will be the first order of the day for any nationalist political party worthy of the name. The danger, of course, is that by putting monetary matters into the hands of politicians in “democracies” that degenerate into ochlocracies, citizens must ensure that strict limits are placed upon monetary inflation meant to pacify voters. At this stage of the game, I’d be willing to take that chance.

  10. While Europeans have had literally thousands of years to evolve and develop into what we are today, Americans have manged to compress all that they have become into less than 250 years. While that is impressive, it has its price.

    Is it any wonder that American cultural, social and economic systems are under a constant state of stress? In less than a single generation (say two decades), morals, traditions and values are imposed and discarded so quickly, before one has the chance to deal with one change, something new comes along.

    That’s not to say the rate and frequency of change won’t happen here as it does there…it would seem the rate of change is increasing everywhere. And not for the better.

    • “In less than a single generation (say two decades), morals, traditions and values are imposed and discarded so quickly, before one has the chance to deal with one change, something new comes along.”

      Karl, I’d suggest that that analysis applies just as well to Germany as it does the United States. Your society has been thoroughly ripped apart by leftism and nihilism in the last 50 years. From where I sit, Germany has abandoned its heritage and embraced a Godless culture of death and is committing suicide right before our eyes. At least we here in America have 250 years of experience in pushing back frontiers and adapting to continuously changing internal conditions. And we have two oceans between us and the rest of the world. Frankly I like our chances a little better than yours.

      • @ BB – Absolutely correct. While we in Europe struggle with the Islamic issue, you Americans will continue to struggle with the south of the border issue. Unfortunately, our political elites see things the same way – and ignore common sense and good judgment at nearly an identical level.

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