How Revisionist History Works

 by Cristen Conger, How Stuff Works, History.com

https://history.howstuffworks.com/history-vs-myth/revisionist-history1.htm 

German students protest against the signing of the Treaty of Versailles in 1932. Reaction to the treaty after World War I marked the beginning of modern historical revisionism.

When you hear the word “square,” you need context to know whether it refers to the shape, the mathematical operation or a slang insult for a conventional person. The term “revisionist history” can be similarly vague when standing alone since it usually connotes one of the three perspectives discussed on the previous page.

Let’s consider the legacy of Thomas Jefferson to understand how you can apply these different perspectives. People accept that Thomas Jefferson wrote the Declaration of Independence and served as the third president of the United States. But another biographical fact is that Jefferson had a slave mistress named Sally Hemings, with whom he fathered children. Despite people’s discomfort with that nugget of information, DNA evidence in the late 1990s confirmed it was true. So what did that discovery mean for revisionist historians?

Revisionism Through Social and Theoretical Lenses

Historians refer to the years immediately following World War II as the age of historical consensus [source: Foner and Garraty]. A strong sense of patriotism and unity dominated the historical framework during that time. Then, that stability began to crack apart with the turmoil and uncertainty of the 1960s. No longer was the country sitting victorious after succeeding in World War II. The combination of the protracted war in Vietnam and the struggle for equality throughout the Civil Rights movement changed the tone across the United States radically. Technicolor Uncle Sam and victory gardens were replaced by race riots and student protests. Revisionist historians understood that these events affected groups in different ways, which reshaped the overall narrative of U.S. history.

Revisionism as a Means of Correcting the Facts 

Recounting­ historical events through the centuries can be similar to playing a game of telephone. Th­e first person starts with something simple, like the meeting of Capt. John Smith and Pocahontas in Jamestown. By the time the message reaches the last person in the circle, it’s become primped and polished into a colonial love story. Revising history can untangle that string of miscommunication.

Recounting­ historical events through the centuries can be similar to playing a game of telephone. Th­e first person starts with something simple, like the meeting of Capt. John Smith and Pocahontas in Jamestown. By the time the message reaches the last person in the circle, it’s become primped and polished into a colonial love story. Revising history can untangle that string of miscommunication. 

In the Disney version of the Pocahontas story, the Native American is a leggy, attractive woman who falls madly in love with Smith. Aside from the musical numbers, the plotline from the animated film isn’t too far from the history lesson that was taught in schools. But like the tale of George Washington and the cherry tree, that of Pocahontas and John Smith has been revised. Thanks to Smith’s journals and other written sources, we know now that the famous Native American was probably 11 years old when they met — there was no steamy romance or marriage between the couple. Instead, Pocahontas married a widower named John Rolfe and died around the age of 21 [source: LaRoe].

Revisionism as a Negative Term           

The inconsistent quality of revisionist theories, including those surrounding JFK’s assassination, contributes to the low credibility of historical revisionism.

In popular culture, revisionist history has become synonymous with telling lies or embellishing the truth. For instance, in 2003, President Bush used the term “revisionist historians” in reference to the media covering the war in Iraq. He claimed that certain reporters had wrongfully questioned the reasons for invading the Middle Eastern country and muddied the public’s opinion of the conflict. Some professional historians didn’t take kindly to Bush’s comment because it cast an unflattering light on the academic study of history. After all, they reasoned, all histories are revisionist at some point. A few years later, in 2006, Florida passed a law banning “revisionist and postmodernist history” from being taught in the state’s public schools [source: History News Network]. The language of Florida’s Education Omnibus Bill stated that students should learn facts, not “constructed” elements of American history — essentially equating revisionism with lies.

Why does revisionist history have a bad reputation? First, it’s associated sometimes with highly contentious theories, such as Holocaust denial. Recall the public furor in response to Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s 2007 speech at Columbia University, when he stated that the Holocaust didn’t happen. Historians emphasize that people who deny the events of the Holocaust during World War II aren’t practicing revisionist history but rather negationism. Another revisionism-related scandal occurred recently in Japan, also concerning World War II. The general of the Japanese air force authored an essay asserting that Japan was bullied into Pearl Harbor by the United States and only engaged in combat as a defensive measure [source: Economist].

 

“Free Trade” Was Never Really About Trade

Published on Thursday, June 20, 2013 by Common Dreams

by Stan Sorscher

We need to think differently about trade.

First, let me say that I am 100% in favor of trade. Trade is when we do what we do best, they do what they do best, and we trade. Trade, done right, will raise living standards.

If trade is good, then free trade must be better, right? So consider this old joke about “free trade.”

  • It’s not free.
  • It’s not trade.

Twenty years after NAFTA we can add that it doesn’t work. It’s bad for millions of workers, families and communities around the world.

“Free trade” is not free. Our free trade policy encourages production to leave the country. We’ve lost millions of manufacturing jobs. More than 60,000 manufacturing plants were closed between 2000 and 2010 as production moved overseas. These costs are real.

“Free trade” is not trade. Basically, trade is when each country makes things of value for export and gets things of comparable value in imports. In modern globalization, other countries manipulate their currencies, use tax strategies that distort exports and imports, and apply effective well-designed industrial policies to build manufacturing capacity. They export more products to us, and import fewer products from us.

Our trade deficits since NAFTA are over $8 trillion. With trade deficits this large, we are not trading. We are letting other countries produce for us. We borrow, de-industrialize, and ultimately fail to capitalize on future production opportunities. That’s not trade. That’s getting picked clean.

Additionally, language in trade agreements is not about “trade,” so much as protecting investors. The most charitable explanation I’ve heard for this is global businesses need strong “rule of law” in countries with weak legal systems. They can’t risk investing in Mexico, Peru or Jordan if their property could be taken from them. Patents and intellectual property must be protected from modern global piracy of one form or another. OK. Sure. Investors need rights.

In America, we solved the problem of protecting investor rights. We created rules for commerce among the 50 states. We innovated and helped investors prosper, AND we protected clean water and clean air AND we made social investments in schools, roads, power, arts and sciences, AND we set labor standards so workers could share in gains from productivity. Well, until recently, arguably.

The European Union also solved that problem, protecting investor rights among their 17 or 22 or 27 countries or whatever that number is, AND they invest in research and development AND educate their children AND promote sustainable energy AND share the gains from productivity with workers. Well until recently, arguably.

Modern democracies built policy solutions over generations of political engagement. We achieved an upward spiral, raising living standards for the most part.

However, free trade agreements pursue a very different political process, driven by global companies, and aimed primarily at investor interests.

Free trade agreements are bad for millions of people because they are not really about trade. More importantly, they limit the political process so investors are relieved of responsibility for protecting the environment OR recognizing labor rights or human rights, OR dealing with public health OR worrying about prudent financial regulation.

The overall result is downward pressure that weakens our political and social values, eroding civil society and public interest in all countries.

My Congressman made a compelling argument for public interest, based on his personal experience as a doctor in Africa. Global pharmaceutical companies use patents to charge prices far above market levels. We expect a public good in return. This goes horribly wrong when millions of people with treatable diseases are denied access to life-saving medicine because trade agreements favor investors over people. This is exactly the kind of question we want elected officials to resolve. That’s why we have democracies.

Instead, under “free trade” agreements, a trade tribunal will make those policy decisions for us and for millions of vulnerable people around the world. These shadowy tribunals will enforce rules written into “free trade” agreements, which are all about investor rights, not about trade and not about public interests.

Show me language in free trade deals that protects the environment. Show me language for worker standards. Show me free trade provisions for human rights, public health.

Here’s an easy one – show me any action to stop currency manipulation, which distorts trade, subsidizes global companies who produce offshore, and makes a mockery of any textbook principles of legitimate trade.

We are negotiating two giant new “free trade” agreements, which are not about trade. They are about global governance. One is called the Trans-Pacific Partnership, or TPP. So far, 11 Pacific-rim countries will be included. The other huge deal is for Europe.

The defining characteristic of these agreements is that investor rights will have priority over public interest. They weaken Democracy. They are not really about trade.

If the TPP and the European deal are signed, we will have locked in this new 21st century colonialism for generations to come.

It was never really about trade.

Stan Sorscher is on staff at Society for Professional Engineering Employees in Aerospace (SPEEA), a labor union representing aerospace engineers, scientists and technical workers, and is President of the Washington Fair Trade Coalition. He is active in trade, economic development, and other public policy issues.  Follow Stan on Twitter: www.twitter.com/sorscher

more Stan Sorscher


Article printed from www.CommonDreams.org

Source URL: http://www.commondreams.org/view/2013/06/20-10

The Myth of Human Progress

By Chris Hedges, Truthdig,  January 20, 2013

Clive Hamilton in his “Requiem for a Species: Why We Resist the Truth About Climate Change” [3] describes a dark relief that comes from accepting that “catastrophic climate change is virtually certain.” This obliteration of “false hopes,” he says, requires an intellectual knowledge and an emotional knowledge. The first is attainable. The second, because it means that those we love, including our children, are almost certainly doomed to insecurity, misery and suffering within a few decades, if not a few years, is much harder to acquire. To emotionally accept impending disaster, to attain the gut-level understanding that the power elite will not respond rationally to the devastation of the ecosystem, is as difficult to accept as our own mortality. The most daunting existential struggle of our time is to ingest this awful truth—intellectually and emotionally—and continue to resist the forces that are destroying us.

The human species, led by white Europeans and Euro-Americans, has been on a 500-year-long planetwide rampage of conquering, plundering, looting, exploiting and polluting the Earth—as well as killing the indigenous communities that stood in the way. But the game is up. The technical and scientific forces that created a life of unparalleled luxury—as well as unrivaled military and economic power—for the industrial elites are the forces that now doom us. The mania for ceaseless economic expansion and exploitation has become a curse, a death sentence. But even as our economic and environmental systems unravel, after the hottest year in the contiguous 48 states since record keeping began 107 years ago, we lack the emotional and intellectual creativity to shut down the engine of global capitalism. We have bound ourselves to a doomsday machine that grinds forward, as the draft report of the National Climate Assessment and Development Advisory Committee [4] illustrates.

Complex civilizations have a bad habit of destroying themselves. Anthropologists including Joseph Tainter in “The Collapse of Complex Societies,” [5] Charles L. Redman in “Human Impact on Ancient Environments” [6] and Ronald Wright in “A Short History of Progress” [7] have laid out the familiar patterns that lead to systems breakdown. The difference this time is that when we go down the whole planet will go with us. There will, with this final collapse, be no new lands left to exploit, no new civilizations to conquer, no new peoples to subjugate. The long struggle between the human species and the Earth will conclude with the remnants of the human species learning a painful lesson about unrestrained greed and self-worship.

“There is a pattern in the past of civilization after civilization wearing out its welcome from nature, overexploiting its environment, overexpanding, overpopulating,” Wright [8] said when I reached him by phone at his home in British Columbia, Canada. “They tend to collapse quite soon after they reach their period of greatest magnificence and prosperity. That pattern holds good for a lot of societies, among them the Romans, the ancient Maya and the Sumerians of what is now southern Iraq. There are many other examples, including smaller-scale societies such as Easter Island. The very things that cause societies to prosper in the short run, especially new ways to exploit the environment such as the invention of irrigation, lead to disaster in the long run because of unforeseen complications. This is what I called in ‘A Short History of Progress’ the ‘progress trap.’ We have set in motion an industrial machine of such complexity and such dependence on expansion that we do not know how to make do with less or move to a steady state in terms of our demands on nature. We have failed to control human numbers. They have tripled in my lifetime. And the problem is made much worse by the widening gap between rich and poor, the upward concentration of wealth, which ensures there can never be enough to go around. The number of people in dire poverty today—about 2 billion—is greater than the world’s entire population in the early 1900s. That’s not progress.”

“If we continue to refuse to deal with things in an orderly and rational way, we will head into some sort of major catastrophe, sooner or later,” he said. “If we are lucky it will be big enough to wake us up worldwide but not big enough to wipe us out. That is the best we can hope for. We must transcend our evolutionary history. We’re Ice Age hunters with a shave and a suit. We are not good long-term thinkers. We would much rather gorge ourselves on dead mammoths by driving a herd over a cliff than figure out how to conserve the herd so it can feed us and our children forever. That is the transition our civilization has to make. And we’re not doing that.”

Wright, who in his dystopian novel “A Scientific Romance” [9] paints a picture of a future world devastated by human stupidity, cites “entrenched political and economic interests” and a failure of the human imagination as the two biggest impediments to radical change. And all of us who use fossil fuels, who sustain ourselves through the formal economy, he says, are at fault.

Modern capitalist societies, Wright argues in his book “What Is America?: A Short History of the New World Order,” [10] derive from European invaders’ plundering of the indigenous cultures in the Americas from the 16th to the 19th centuries, coupled with the use of African slaves as a workforce to replace the natives. The numbers of those natives fell by more than 90 percent because of smallpox and other plagues they hadn’t had before. The Spaniards did not conquer any of the major societies until smallpox had crippled them; in fact the Aztecs beat them the first time around. If Europe had not been able to seize the gold of the Aztec and Inca civilizations, if it had not been able to occupy the land and adopt highly productive New World crops for use on European farms, the growth of industrial society in Europe would have been much slower. Karl Marx and Adam Smith both pointed to the influx of wealth from the Americas as having made possible the Industrial Revolution and the start of modern capitalism. It was the rape of the Americas, Wright points out, that triggered the orgy of European expansion. The Industrial Revolution also equipped the Europeans with technologically advanced weapons systems, making further subjugation, plundering and expansion possible.

“The experience of a relatively easy 500 years of expansion and colonization, the constant taking over of new lands, led to the modern capitalist myth that you can expand forever,” Wright said. “It is an absurd myth. We live on this planet. We can’t leave it and go somewhere else. We have to bring our economies and demands on nature within natural limits, but we have had a 500-year run where Europeans, Euro-Americans and other colonists have overrun the world and taken it over. This 500-year run made it not only seem easy but normal. We believe things will always get bigger and better. We have to understand that this long period of expansion and prosperity was an anomaly. It has rarely happened in history and will never happen again. We have to readjust our entire civilization to live in a finite world. But we are not doing it, because we are carrying far too much baggage, too many mythical versions of deliberately distorted history and a deeply ingrained feeling that what being modern is all about is having more. This is what anthropologists call an ideological pathology, a self-destructive belief that causes societies to crash and burn. These societies go on doing things that are really stupid because they can’t change their way of thinking. And that is where we are.”

And as the collapse becomes palpable, if human history is any guide, we like past societies in distress will retreat into what anthropologists call “crisis cults.” The powerlessness we will feel in the face of ecological and economic chaos will unleash further collective delusions, such as fundamentalist belief in a god or gods who will come back to earth and save us.

“Societies in collapse often fall prey to the belief that if certain rituals are performed all the bad stuff will go away,” Wright said. “There are many examples of that throughout history. In the past these crisis cults took hold among people who had been colonized, attacked and slaughtered by outsiders, who had lost control of their lives. They see in these rituals the ability to bring back the past world, which they look at as a kind of paradise. They seek to return to the way things were. Crisis cults spread rapidly among Native American societies in the 19th century, when the buffalo and the Indians were being slaughtered by repeating rifles and finally machine guns. People came to believe, as happened in the Ghost Dance [11], that if they did the right things the modern world that was intolerable—the barbed wire, the railways, the white man, the machine gun—would disappear.”

“We all have the same, basic psychological hard wiring,” Wright said. “It makes us quite bad at long-range planning and leads us to cling to irrational delusions when faced with a serious threat. Look at the extreme right’s belief that if government got out of the way, the lost paradise of the 1950s would return. Look at the way we are letting oil and gas exploration rip when we know that expanding the carbon economy is suicidal for our children and grandchildren. The results can already be felt. When it gets to the point where large parts of the Earth experience crop failure at the same time then we will have mass starvation and a breakdown in order. That is what lies ahead if we do not deal with climate change.”

“If we fail in this great experiment, this experiment of apes becoming intelligent enough to take charge of their own destiny, nature will shrug and say it was fun for a while to let the apes run the laboratory, but in the end it was a bad idea,” Wright said.

Source URL: http://www.alternet.org/environment/myth-human-progress

Links:
[1] http://www.truthdig.com/
[2] http://www.alternet.org/authors/chris-hedges
[3] http://www.amazon.com/Requiem-Species-Resist-Climate-Change/dp/1849710813/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1358027794&sr=1-1&keywords=requiem+for+a+species
[4] http://www.globalchange.gov/what-we-do/assessment/draft-report-information/public-review
[5] http://www.amazon.com/Collapse-Complex-Societies-Studies-Archaeology/dp/052138673X/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1358189509&sr=1-1&keywords=the+collapse+of+complex+societies
[6] http://www.amazon.com/Impact-Ancient-Environments-Charles-Redman/dp/0816519633/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1358026065&sr=1-1&keywords=%22Human+Impact+on+Ancient+Environments%22
[7] http://www.amazon.com/Short-History-Progress-Ronald-Wright/dp/0786715472/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1358189864&sr=1-1&keywords=a+short+history+of+progress
[8] http://ronaldwright.com/
[9] http://www.amazon.com/Scientific-Romance-Novel-Ronald-Wright/dp/0312199996/ref=la_B000APIF48_1_7?ie=UTF8&qid=1358027868&sr=1-7
[10] http://www.amazon.com/What-America-Short-History-World/dp/B002BWQ5V8/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1358026652&sr=1-1&keywords=what+is+america%3F
[11] http://www.legendsofamerica.com/na-ghostdance.html
[12] http://www.alternet.org/tags/climate-change
[13] http://www.alternet.org/tags/economics-0
[14] http://www.alternet.org/tags/growth-0
[15] http://www.alternet.org/%2Bnew_src%2B

The Self-Made Myth: Debunking Conservatives’ Favorite — And Most Dangerous — Fiction

AlterNet [1] / By Sara Robinson [2] April 25, 2012

The self-made myth is one of the most cherished foundation stones of the conservative theology. Nurtured by Horatio Alger and generations of beloved boys’ stories, It sits at the deep black heart of the entire right-wing worldview, where it provides the essential justification for a great many other common right-wing beliefs. It feeds the accusation that government is evil because it only exists to redistribute wealth from society’s producers (self-made, of course) and its parasites (who refuse to work). It justifies conservative rage against progressives, who are seen as wanting to use government to forcibly take away what belongs to the righteous wealthy. It’s piously invoked by hedge fund managers and oil billionaires, who think that being required to reinvest any of their wealth back into the public society that made it possible is “punishing success.” It’s the foundational belief on which all of Ayn Rand’s novels stand.

If you’ve heard it once from your Fox-watching uncle, you’ve probably heard it a hundred times. “The government never did anything for me, dammit,” he grouses. “Everything I have, I earned. Nobody ever handed me anything. I did it all on my own. I’m a self-made man.”

He’s just plain wrong. Flat-out, incontrovertibly, inarguably wrong. So profoundly wrong, in fact, that we probably won’t be able to change the national discourse on taxes, infrastructure, education, government investment, technology policy, transportation, welfare, or our future prospects as a country until we can effectively convince the country of the monumental wrongness of this one core point.

The Built-Together Realty

Brian Miller and Mike Lapham have written the book that lays out the basic arguments we can use to begin to set things right. The Self-Made Myth: The Truth About How Government Helps Individuals and Businesses Succeed [3] is a clear, concise, easy-to-read-and-use summary that brings forward a far more accurate argument about government’s central role in creating the conditions for economic prosperity and personal opportunity.

Miller, the executive director of United For a Fair Economy [4], and Lapham, a co-founder of UFE’s Responsible Wealth project, argue that the self-made myth absolves our economic leaders from doing anything about inequality, frames fair wages as extortion from deserving producers, and turns the social safety net into a moral hazard that can only promote laziness and sloth.

They argue that progressives need to overwrite this fiction with the far more supportable idea of the “built-together reality,” which points up the truth that nobody in America ever makes it alone. Every single private fortune can be traced back to basic public investments that have, as Warren Buffet argues in the book, created the most fertile soil on the planet for entrepreneurs to succeed.

To their credit, Miller and Lapham don’t ask us to take this point on faith. Right out of the gate, they regale us with three tales of famous “self-made” men — Donald Trump, Ross Perot and the Koch brothers — whose own stories put the lie to the myth. (This section alone is worth the price of admission — these guys so did not make it on their own!) Once those treasured right-wing exemplars are thoroughly discredited, the middle of the book offers a welcome corrective: interviews with 14 wealthy Americans — including well-known names like Warren Buffet, Ben Cohen, Abigail Disney, and Amy Domini — who are very explicit about the ways in which government action laid the groundwork for their success. Over and over, these people credit their wealth to:

* An excellent education received in public schools and universities. Jerry Fiddler of Wind River Software (you’re probably running his stuff in your cell phone or car) went to the University of Chicago, and started his computer career at the Lawrence Livermore Laboratory. Bookseller Thelma Kidd got her start at Texas Tech and the University of Michigan. Warren Buffet went to the University of Pennsylvania and the University of Nebraska as an undergrad. And beyond that: several interviewees paid for their educations with federal Pell Grants and Stafford loans.

Over and over, the point gets made: public universities — and the good public schools that feed them, and the funding programs that put them within financial reach — have hatched millions of American entrepreneurs who might not have been fledged without that opportunity to get an education.

* The support of the Small Business Administration and other government agencies. Ben Cohen notes that almost all the business training he and Jerry Greenfield had came from extension courses at the University of Vermont and Penn State, and small brochures produced by the SBA. And as they spun up, they also got an Urban Development Action Grant from the federal government. Other interviewees started their businesses in incubators or other quarters provided or arranged by their local city governments.

* A strong regulatory environment that protected their businesses from being undercut by competitors willing to cut corners, and ensured that their manufacturing inputs are of consistently high quality. Glynn Lloyd of Boston’s City Fresh Foods points out that nobody in the food business can get by without reliable sources of clean water; and that the USDA inspection process is an important piece of his quality control.

* Enforceable copyright and intellectual property laws that enabled them to protect good ideas. Abigail Disney recalls that her father, Roy Disney, and her Uncle Walt made and lost one great cartoon character — Oswald the Rabbit — because they didn’t have copyright protection. They didn’t repeat that mistake when Mickey Mouse was born three years later, launching the Disney empire.

* A robust system of roads, ports, airports, and mass transit that enabled them to reliably move their goods both within the US, and around the world. Kim Jordan of New Belgium Brewing (the makers of Fat Tire beer) points out that “Beer is heavy, and it needs to be transported in vehicles. Certainly, the highway system has been important to New Belgium Brewing.” Lloyd also points out that Boston’s excellent public transit system enables him to draw on a far wider employee base.

* The government’s role in creating the Internet, without which almost no modern company can function. Anirvan Chatterjee built Bookfinder.com (now a subsidiary of Amazon.com), the world’s biggest online used-book marketplace, as an entirely Internet-based company — an achievement that wouldn’t have been remotely imaginable without DARPA, the establishment and enforcement of common protocols, and significant congressional investment in the 1980s to take the Internet commercial.

* The ability to issue public stock in a fair, reliable, regulated marketplace  — a benefit that raised the value of several interviewees’ companies by about 30 percent overnight. Peter Barnes, founder of Working Assets, spoke with concern about the loss of trust in this system over the past decade. “The corporate scandals [Enron and Worldcom] caused people to stop trusting the numbers that companies were reporting. Imagine how much value is created by trust and the whole system that assures that trust?”

Besides the government, most of those interviewed also locate their companies in the context of a large community of customers they utterly depend on for their success. “It takes a village to raise a business,” says Nikhil Arora of Back to the Roots, a sustainable products company that came about through partnerships and grants from UC Berkeley, Peet’s Coffee and other interested parties.

Others are quick to acknowledge the contributions of their employees, without whom their companies wouldn’t exist. When Gun Denhart and her husband sold their company, children’s clothier Hanna Andersson, in 2003, they distributed a healthy portion of the sale proceeds to their employees, prorated on the basis of their length of service.

All businesses exist within a vast network of human connections — customers, vendors, employees, investors, and the communities that support their work. These stories make it clear: saying you did it all yourself and therefore don’t owe anybody anything is about as absurd (and self-centered) as saying that you raised yourself from babyhood, without any input from your parents, and therefore don’t have any further obligations to your family.

The Role of Luck and Timing

We all know wealth isn’t just a matter of hard work, brains or talent. Most of us probably know hard-working, brilliant, or extraordinarily talented people who aren’t being rewarded at anything close to their true value. So perhaps the most intriguing and useful part of the book is a long discussion of the many other essential factors that go into making someone wealthy — factors that are blithely brushed off the table whenever the self-made myth is invoked.

Rich conservatives have to downplay the role of luck. After all, if we think they’re just lucky, rather than exceptionally deserving of exceptional wealth, we’ll be a lot more justified in taxing their fortunes. But luck — the fortunate choice of parents, for example, or landing in the right job or industry at the right time — plays a huge role in any individual’s success. Timing also matters: most of the great fortunes of the 19th century were accumulated by men born during the 1830s, who were of an age to capitalize on the huge economic boom created by the expansion of the railroads after the Civil War. Likewise, the great tech fortunes almost all belong to people born between 1950 and 1955, who were well-positioned to create pioneering companies in the tech boom of the late 1970s and 1980s. Such innovative times don’t come along very often; and being born when the stars lined up just so doesn’t make you more entitled. It just makes you luckier.

Because Americans in general like to think we’re an equal society, we’re also quick to discount the importance of race, gender, appearance, class, upbringing, and other essential forms of social capital that can open doors for people who have it – and close them on those who don’t. The self-made myth allows us to deflect our attention from these critical factors, undermining our determination to level the playing field for those who don’t start life with a pocket fat with advantages.

What Changes?

The book winds up with specific policy prescriptions that can bring the built-together reality back into sharper political and cultural focus. The last section shows how abandoning the self-made myth for a built-together reality creates fresh justification for a more progressive income tax, the repeal of the capital gains exemption and raising corporate and inheritance taxes. It also makes a far more compelling philosophical backdrop against which progressives can argue for increased investment in infrastructure, education, a fair minimum wage, a strong social safety net, and better anti-discrimination laws.

But the most striking thing about the book — implicit throughout, but explicit nowhere — was the alternative vision of capitalism it offers. Throughout the book, Miller and Lapham seem to be making the tacit case that businesses premised on the built-together reality are simply more fair, more generous, more sustainable, and more humane. While far from perfect (Disney’s empire being one case in point), they are, as a group, markedly more aware of the high costs of exploiting their workers, their customers, the economy, or the environment. Owners who believe themselves to be beholden to a community for their success will tend to value and invest back into that community, and they seem to be far more willing to realize when they’ve got enough and it’s time to start giving back.

The implication is clear: if we can interrupt American’s long love affair with the self-made myth, we will effectively pull the center tent pole out from under the selfish assumptions that shelter most of the excesses of corporate behavior that characterize our age. This isn’t just another point of contention between progressives and conservatives; it’s somewhere near the very center of the disconnect between our worldviews. The Self-Made Myth is an essential primer that gives us the language and stories to begin talking about this difference, and the tools to begin to bend that conversation in some new and more hopeful directions.


Source URL: http://www.alternet.org/story/155149/the_self-made_myth%3A_debunking_conservatives%27_favorite_–_and_most_dangerous_–_fiction

Links:
[1] http://www.alternet.org
[2] http://www.alternet.org/authors/sara-robinson
[3] http://www.powells.com/partner/32513/biblio/9781609945060
[4] http://www.faireconomy.org/
[5] http://www.alternet.org/tags/self-made-myth
[6] http://www.alternet.org/tags/responsible-wealth
[7] http://www.alternet.org/tags/fair-economy

 

11 Most Absurd Lies Conservatives Are Using to Brainwash America’s School Kids

By Amanda Marcotte, AlterNet, March 11, 2013

Excerpt

If recent elections have taught us anything, it’s that young Americans have taken a decided turn to the left. Young voters delivered Obama the election: the under-44 set voted Obama and the over-45 set broke for Romney. The youngest voters, age 18-29, gave Obama a whopping 60% of their vote.

Now Republicans have a plan to try to recapture the youngest voters out there: Take over the curriculum in public schools, replace education with a bunch of conservative propaganda, and reap the benefits of having a new generation that can’t tell reality from right-wing fantasy.

How well this plan will work is debatable, but in the meantime, these shenanigans present the very real possibility that public school students will graduate without a proper education. To make it worse, many of these attempts to rewrite school curriculum are happening in Texas, which can set the textbook standards for the entire country [3] by simply wielding its power as one of the biggest school textbook markets there is. With that in mind, here’s a list of 11 lies your kid may be in danger of learning in school.

Lie #1: Racism has barely been an issue in U.S. history and slavery wasn’t that big a deal.

Lie #2: Joe McCarthy was right.

Lie #3: Climate change is a massive hoax scientists have perpetuated on the public.

The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) [5] has been hard at work pushing for laws requiring that climate change denialism be taught in schools as a legitimate scientific theory...The reality is that climate change is a fact that has overwhelming scientific consensus…To claim that climate change is a “controversy” requires one to believe that there’s a massive conspiracy involving nearly all the scientists in the world…

Lie #4: The Bible is a history textbook and a scientific document.T

Lie #5: Black people are the descendents of Ham and therefore cursed by God.

Lie #6: Evolution is a massive hoaxscientistshave perpetuated on the public.

Lie #7: Sex is awful and filthy, and you should save it for someone you love.

Lie #8: Dragons actually once existed.

Lie #9: Gay people do not actually exist.

Lie #10: Hippies were dirty, immoral Satan-worshippers.

Lie #11: Ayn Rand’s books have literary value.

Full text

If recent elections have taught us anything, it’s that young Americans have taken a decided turn to the left. Young voters delivered Obama the election: the under-44 set voted Obama and the over-45 set broke for Romney. The youngest voters, age 18-29, gave Obama a whopping 60% of their vote.

Now Republicans have a plan to try to recapture the youngest voters out there: Take over the curriculum in public schools, replace education with a bunch of conservative propaganda, and reap the benefits of having a new generation that can’t tell reality from right-wing fantasy.

How well this plan will work is debatable, but in the meantime, these shenanigans present the very real possibility that public school students will graduate without a proper education. To make it worse, many of these attempts to rewrite school curriculum are happening in Texas, which can set the textbook standards for the entire country [3] by simply wielding its power as one of the biggest school textbook markets there is. With that in mind, here’s a list of 11 lies your kid may be in danger of learning in school.

Lie #1: Racism has barely been an issue in U.S. history and slavery wasn’t that big a deal.

The Thomas B. Fordham Institute reviewed [4] the new social studies standards laid down by the rightwing-dominated Texas State School Board and found them to be a deplorable example of conservative wishful thinking replacing fact. At the top of list? Downplaying the role that slavery had in starting the Civil War, and instead focusing on “sectionalism” and “states rights,” even though the sectionalism and states rights arguments directly stemmed from Southern states wanting to keep slavery. There’s also a chance your kid might be misled to think post-Civil War racism was no big deal, as the standards excise any mention of the KKK, the phrase “Jim Crow” or the Black Codes. Mention is made of the Southern Democratic opposition to civil rights, but mysteriously, the mass defection of Southern Democrats to the Republican Party to punish the rest of the Democrats for supporting civil rights goes unmentioned.

Lie #2: Joe McCarthy was right.

The red-baiting of the mid-20th century has gone down in history, correctly, as a witch hunt that stemmed from irrational paranoia that gripped the U.S. after WWII. But now, according to the Thomas B. Fordham report, your kid might learn that the red baiters had a point: “It is disingenuously suggested that the House Un-American Activities Committee—and, by extension, McCarthyism—have been vindicated by the Venona decrypts of Soviet espionage activities (which had, in reality, no link to McCarthy’s targets).” Critical lessons about being skeptical of those who attack fellow Americans while wrapping themselves in the flag will be lost for students whose textbooks adhere to these standards.

Lie #3: Climate change is a massive hoaxscientistshave perpetuated on the public.

The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) [5] has been hard at work pushing for laws requiring that climate change denialism be taught in schools as a legitimate scientific theory. Unfortunately, as Neela Banerjee [6] of the L.A. Times reports, they’ve already had some serious success: “Texas and Louisiana have introduced education standards that require educators to teach climate change denial as a valid scientific position. South Dakota and Utah passed resolutions denying climate change.” Other states are taking the “teach the controversy” strategy that helped get creationism into biology classrooms, asking teachers to treat climate change like it’s a matter of political debate instead of a scientifically established fact.

The reality is that climate change is a fact that has overwhelming scientific consensus. In 2004, Science reviewed the 928 relevant studies [7] on climate change published between 1993 and 2003 and found that exactly zero of them denied that climate change was a reality, and most found it had manmade causes. To claim that climate change is a “controversy” requires one to believe that there’s a massive conspiracy involving nearly all the scientists in the world. So, your kids are not only not learning the realities of climate change, they are also learning, if indirectly, to give credence to conspiracy theory paranoia.

Lie #4: The Bible is a history textbook and a scientific document.

Texas passed a law in 2007 pushing schools to teach the Bible as history and literature in schools. Since that was already being done in most schools, the law was clearly just a backdoor way to sneak religious instruction into schools, and a report by the Texas Freedom Network (TFN) demonstrates [8] that many of them have taken full advantage. One district treats the Bible stories like history by “listing biblical events side by side with historical developments from around the globe.” Many other schools are teaching that the Bible “proves” that the Earth is only 6,000 years old. The Earth is actually over 4 billion years old.

Lie #5: Black people are the descendents of Ham and therefore cursed by God.

Among the courses justified by the 2007 Bible law, TFN found two school districts teaching that the various races are descended from the sons of Noah. All the Bible really says about the sons of Noah is that Ham was cursed by his father so that his descendents would be slaves, but American slave owners used this passage to claim that Africans must be the descendents of Ham and therefore their slave-owning was okay by God. Make no mistake. The only reason this legend has persisted and is popping up in 21st-century classrooms is that conservative Christians are still trying to justify the enslavement of African Americans over a century ago.

Lie #6: Evolution is a massive hoaxscientistshave perpetuated on the public.

Creationists have an endless store of creative ways to get around the Constitution and the courts when it comes to replacing legitimate biology education with fundamentalist Christian dogma. Various states have employed an extensive school voucher system that has allowed creationist dogma to flourish. College-age activist Zack Kopplin has been chronicling the problem, and has found various schools nationwide using taxpayer dollars to teach that evolution is a “mistaken belief” and that the Bible “refutes the man-made idea of evolution.” Why do these school administrators believe that scientists are hoaxing the public by making up evolution? Kopplin found a Louisiana school principal who claimed it’s because scientists are “sinful men” seeking to justify their own immorality, and another Florida school teaching that evolutionary theory is “the way of the heathen.”

Lie #7: Sex is awful and filthy, and you should save it for someone you love.

While things are improving, even in notoriously fact-phobic states like Mississippi and Texas, “abstinence-only” education continues to persist in school districts across the nation. TFN found that nearly three-quarters of Texas high schools are still teaching abstinence-only [9], which is based on the fundamental and easily disproved lie that premarital sex is inherently dangerous to a person’s mental and physical health. On top of this, TFN found that many schools are still passing on inaccurate information on condoms and STI transmission, usually exaggerating the dangers in a futile bid to keep kids from having sex. Unfortunately, even Texas school districts that use curriculum that educates correctly on contraception use are still trying to spin abstinence-until-marriage as a desirable option for all students, even though premarital sex is near-universal in the real world [10].  Abstinence-only may be discredited with the voters, but sadly it’s still very normal in Texas, other red states, and even across the nation [11].

Lie #8: Dragons actually once existed. 

As much as “Game of Thrones” fans might wish otherwise, dragons are not real and have never existed. But as reported by Mother Jones [12], Louisiana’s notorious voucher school system has let some crazy nonsense fly in the classroom, including the claim that dragons used to roam the planet. A book being used in Louisiana classrooms titled Life Science and published by Bob Jones University Press claims that “scientists” found “dinosaur skulls” that the book suggests are actually dragons. “The large skull chambers could have contained special chemical-producing glands. When the animal forced the chemicals out of its mouth or nose, these substances may have combined and produced fire and smoke,” the book claims.

Lie #9: Gay people do not actually exist.

After being beat back by gay rights and sexual health advocates, Republicans in the Tennessee legislature are once again trying to bring back the “don’t say gay bill.” The law would ban a teacher from admitting the existence of homosexuality [13] to students prior to the 8th grade, even if the students ask them about it. Instead, the bill would require turning a student who confesses to being gay over to his parents, with the legislators clearly hoping that punishment will somehow make the kid not-gay. The entire bill rests on and promotes the premise that homosexuality isn’t a real sexual orientation, but just the result of mental illness or confusion, and if it’s enforced, that message will come across to the students.

Lie #10: Hippies were dirty, immoral Satan-worshippers.

In the 1960s, it was common for conservatives to try to discredit the left by stoking paranoia about hippie culture and denouncing the supposed evils of rock ‘n’ roll. Forty years have passed, but in Louisiana, some school administrators are apparently still afraid that possessing a Beatles record means a young person is on the verge of quitting bathing and taking up a lifestyle of taking LSD and worshipping Satan at psychedelic orgies.

A history textbook snagged from a Louisiana school [14] funded by the voucher program tells students: “Many young people turned to drugs and immoral lifestyles and these youths became known as hippies. They went without bathing, wore dirty, ragged, unconventional clothing, and deliberately broke all codes of politeness or manners. Rock music played an important part in the hippie movement and had great influence over the hippies. Many of the rock musicians they followed belonged to Eastern religious cults or practiced Satan worship.” It’s unclear if the book also teaches that if you play a Queen record backward, you can hear Satan telling you to smoke pot, but that kind of critical information could also be conveyed during the teacher’s lectures on the subject.

Lie #11: Ayn Rand’s books have literary value.

Idaho state senator John Goedde [15], chairman of the state’s Senate Education Committee has introduced a bill that would require students not only to read Rand’s ponderous novel Atlas Shrugged, but also to pass a test on it in order to graduate. Goedde claims to mostly not be serious about this bill, but instead is using it as a childish attempt to piss off the liberals, but it’s still the sort of item parents need to watch out for.

After all, Texas textbook standards require that an obsession with the gold standard [16] be taught as a legitimate economic theory instead of the mad ravings of cranks that it is. We live in an era where no amount of right-wing lunacy is considered too much to be pushed on innocent children like it’s fact. Anyone who doubts that should just remember one word: Dragons.

See more stories tagged with:

texas [17],

textbooks [18],

racism [19],

joe mccarthy [20],

climate change [21],

amanda marcotte [22]


Source URL: http://www.alternet.org/education/11-most-absurd-lies-conservatives-are-using-brainwash-americas-school-kids

Links:
[1] http://www.alternet.org
[2] http://www.alternet.org/authors/amanda-marcotte-0
[3] http://www.nybooks.com/articles/archives/2012/jun/21/how-texas-inflicts-bad-textbooks-on-us/?pagination=false
[4] http://www.edexcellencemedia.net/publications/2011/20110216_SOSHS/SOSS_USHistory_Texas.pdf
[5] http://www.counterpunch.org/2013/02/01/alec-bill-in-three-states-to-require-climate-change-denial-in-schools/
[6] http://articles.latimes.com/2012/jan/16/nation/la-na-climate-change-school-20120116
[7] https://www.sciencemag.org/content/306/5702/1686.full
[8] http://tfninsider.org/2013/01/16/new-tfnef-report-texas-public-school-bible-classes-teach-races-come-from-noahs-sons-biblical-literalism-6000-year-old-earth/
[9] http://www.tfn.org/site/DocServer/Report_final_web.pdf?docID=2941
[10] http://www.guttmacher.org/media/nr/2006/12/19/index.html
[11] http://thinkprogress.org/health/2012/10/10/987411/federal-funds-abstinence-only-programs/
[12] http://www.motherjones.com/blue-marble/2012/07/photos-evangelical-curricula-louisiana-tax-dollars
[13] http://www.advocate.com/politics/2013/01/30/tenns-dont-say-gay-bill-back-and-it-could-out-students-their-parents
[14] http://thinkprogress.org/justice/2013/03/11/1697601/textbook-for-louisianas-voucher-schools-teaches-hippies-are-dirty-rock-musicians-worship-satan/
[15] http://www.spokesman.com/stories/2013/feb/05/bill-requires-all-idaho-kids-read-atlas-shrugged/
[16] http://tpmmuckraker.talkingpointsmemo.com/2010/03/conservative_bloc_dominates_latest_texas_textbooks.php
[17] http://www.alternet.org/tags/texas
[18] http://www.alternet.org/tags/textbooks-0
[19] http://www.alternet.org/tags/racism-0
[20] http://www.alternet.org/tags/joe-mccarthy
[21] http://www.alternet.org/tags/climate-change
[22] http://www.alternet.org/tags/amanda-marcotte-0
[23] http://www.alternet.org/%2Bnew_src%2B

Myth and Its Dangers

by Gary Hart, published by HuffingtonPost.com, October 7, 2012

Excerpt

“For the great enemy of truth is very often not the lie — deliberate, contrived, and dishonest — but the myth — persistent, persuasive, and unrealistic. Too often we hold fast to the clichés of our forebears. We subject all facts to a prefabricated set of interpretations. We enjoy the comfort of opinion without the discomfort of thought.” John Kennedy, speech at Yale University during the Cold War

…Myths in politics… “Widely held but false idea” is one dictionary definition of myth in common usage…myths abound in recent American political history. Perhaps the most glaring and consequential was the myth that Iraq under Saddam Hussein possessed weapons of mass destruction…Myths in politics are dangerous… Reason and facts are sacrificed to opinion and myth. Demonstrable falsehoods are circulated and recycled as fact. Narrow minded opinion refuses to be subjected to thought and analysis. Too many now subject events to a prefabricated set of interpretations, usually provided by a biased media source. The myth is more comfortable than the often difficult search for truth. If this strange world were the product of mere laziness it might be understandable. But today’s political myths are more perverse. They are a conscious hiding place from a changing, challenging, and often uncomfortable new world….Myths which have no basis in truth, or which do not operate as metaphors for religious truth, eventually fade away with the passing of those who perpetuate them and in the face of reality and fact. But the most dangerous myths create demons where none exist, the demons being anyone who disagrees with the myth-makers. In the meantime, however, they serve not only to delude the deniers but to frustrate our Founders’ belief in the progress of the human mind.

Full text

Myths play a central role as metaphor in many world religions, according to Joseph Campbell. In The Hero With a Thousand Faces and The Power of Myth he studied the world mythologies, found common themes in a wide variety of cultures, and reached a startling conclusion: myths, he said, come from dreams and, therefore, people around the world have common dreams. It is a profound and still controversial insight for religion, psychology, and human culture. Students in all these fields continue to consider the power of myth.

Myths in politics, however, play a much different role. “Widely held but false idea” is one dictionary definition of myth in common usage. For reasons that are still unclear, myths abound in recent American political history. Perhaps the most glaring and consequential was the myth thatIraq under Saddam Hussein possessed weapons of mass destruction.

There are other cases in point. Barack Obama is a Muslim born inKenyaand therefore not an American citizen. These are myths, yet they are widely believed in certain circles. Poor people are poor by choice. A classic myth. A rising tide lifts all boats. Much more true when we were an industrial society and manufacturing products created jobs. Much less true when the economic tide is one of finance and money manipulation which lifts the gilded yachts but not the rowboats of the rest of us. Jobs are not created when crackpot financial schemes make hedge fund managers rich. Thus, a myth.

Myths in politics are dangerous. In an important speech at YaleUniversityduring the Cold War, John Kennedy said:

“For the great enemy of truth is very often not the lie — deliberate, contrived, and dishonest — but the myth — persistent, persuasive, and unrealistic. Too often we hold fast to the clichés of our forebears. We subject all facts to a prefabricated set of interpretations. We enjoy the comfort of opinion without the discomfort of thought.”

He was speaking of the myths on both sides that perpetuated a Cold War in a dangerous way.

Exactly 50 years later, no assessment comes closer to describing much of our current political world. Reason and facts are sacrificed to opinion and myth. Demonstrable falsehoods are circulated and recycled as fact. Narrow minded opinion refuses to be subjected to thought and analysis. Too many now subject events to a prefabricated set of interpretations, usually provided by a biased media source. The myth is more comfortable than the often difficult search for truth.

If this strange world were the product of mere laziness it might be understandable. But today’s political myths are more perverse. They are a conscious hiding place from a changing, challenging, and often uncomfortable new world. Globalization, immigration, cultural and racial diversity are threatening and frightening to many who wish to freeze the former comfortable world in time and prevent any change.

Myths which have no basis in truth, or which do not operate as metaphors for religious truth, eventually fade away with the passing of those who perpetuate them and in the face of reality and fact. But the most dangerous myths create demons where none exist, the demons being anyone who disagrees with the myth-makers. In the meantime, however, they serve not only to delude the deniers but to frustrate our Founders’ belief in the progress of the human mind.

Gary Hart is President of Hart International, Ltd.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/gary-hart/myth-and-its-dangers_b_1946636.html?utm_hp_ref=daily-brief?utm_source=DailyBrief&utm_campaign=100812&utm_medium=email&utm_content=BlogEntry&utm_term=Daily%20Brief

23 Things They Don’t Tell You About Capitalism: Item #1 — There’s No Such Thing as a Free Market

By Ha-Joon Chang, Bloomsbury Press, Posted on Alternet.org, January 31, 2011 

Editor’s Note: Many books have tackled the great recession of 2008, the second worst economic crisis in history, after the depression. But I doubt there is one book, written in response to the current economic crisis, that is as fun or easy to read as Ha-Joon Chang’s 23 Things They Don’t Tell you About Capitalism. I’d never heard of this Korean economist, probably because he lives in England and teaches at Cambridge, but he is well known in economic circles, and well respected. 

It is no secret that the American society is dominated by the super rich, held for hostage by the banks, dominated in the Nation’s Capital by the tens of thousands of lobbyists and their big bucks, as the Republican party and their corporate Tea Partyists provide cover for giant theft of many billions of wealth for the very rich, with of course the cooperation of the Democrats who supported the extension of the Bush tax cuts for the very wealthy(Check out Rachel Maddow’s op-ed, which explains why Dwight Eisenhower, who taxed the rich to balance the budget, which be a radical in today’s political reality). In this very discouraging environment it is hard to imagine scenarios where normal folks, every day voters, the non-rich, who are not represented by lobbyists, can have much influence.

 

On top of that, making change even harder, is an enormously effective propaganda system that perpetuates inaccurate and often destructive myths about virtually every element of capitalism and the US and global economy. And top economic officials in the Obama administration and leading mainstream economists often perpetuate these myths, and the corporate media marches along side repeating them like the gospel.

 

So, as far as I am concerned there never can be too much truth-telling to attempt to pull away the curtain of propaganda and disinformation that shrouds our economic thinking and actions. I am not under the illusion that the facts will set us free. As research has shown, when people connect their opinions to a set of values or leaders, they will not be open to changing their mind, and presentation of contrary “facts,” may make them dig in more clinging their their misinformation. But when it comes to the economy, the propaganda system has been so pervasive, and supported by conventional wisdom that people who need to know better, buy into it, and yes that includes liberals and progressives who have a kind of inertia of the mind of their own. It is hard to change one’s sense of things.

 

AlterNet’s Economics editor Joshua Holland made a nice contribution to this public education effort this Fall with his book: The Fifteen Biggest Lies about the Economy Now we have the funny, and sharp Chang. What follows is chapter one of his book: “There is No Such Thing as a Free Market.” Other chapters are quite revealing such as: ” The Washing Machine Has Changed the World More than the Internet;” “More Education, in Itself, Is Not Going to Make a Country Richer;” “The U.S. Does Not Have the Highest Living Standard in the World;” “Companies Should Not Be Run in the Interest of their Owners.”

 

Chan’s main point is the recent economic disaster wasn’t by accident, that active government can promote economic dynamism, that tax cuts for the rich simply redistribute wealth upward, and that we will continue on the path to economic disaster,with no end in sight, unless the collective wisdom, goes in a different direction. — AlterNet Executive Editor Don Hazen

 

The following is an excerpt from

23 Things They Don’t Tell You About Capitalism (Copyright © 2011) by Ha-Joon Chang. Reprinted with the permission of Bloomsbury Press.

 

Thing 1: There is no such thing as a free market

 

What they tell you

 

Markets need to be free. When the government interferes to dictate what market participants can or cannot do, resources cannot flow to their most efficient use. If people cannot do the things that they find most profitable, they lose the incentive to invest and innovate. Thus, if the government puts a cap on house rents, landlords lose the incentive to maintain their properties or build new ones. Or, if the government restricts the kinds of financial products that can be sold, two contracting parties that may both have benefited from innovative transactions that fulfill their idiosyncratic needs cannot reap the potential gains of free contract. People must be left “free to choose,” as the title of free-market visionary Milton Friedman’s famous book goes.

 

What they don’t tell you

 

The free market doesn’t exist. Every market has some rules and boundaries that restrict freedom of choice. A market looks free only because we so unconditionally accept its underlying restrictions that we fail to see them. How “free” a market is cannot be objectively defined. It is a political definition. The usual claim by free-market economists that they are trying to defend the market from politically motivated interference by the government is false. Government is always involved and those free-marketeers are as politically motivated as anyone. Overcoming the myth that there is such a thing as an objectively defined “free market” is the first step towards understanding capitalism.

 

Labor ought to be free

 

In 1819 new legislation to regulate child labor, the Cotton Factories Regulation Act, was tabled in the British Parliament. The proposed regulation was incredibly “light touch” by modern standards. It would ban the employment of young children – that is, those under the age of nine. Older children (aged between ten and sixteen) would still be allowed to work, but with their working hours restricted to twelve per day (yes, they were really going soft on those kids). The new rules applied only to cotton factories, which were recognized to be exceptionally hazardous to workers’ health.

 

The proposal caused huge controversy. Opponents saw it as undermining the sanctity of freedom of contract and thus destroying the very foundation of the free market. In debating this legislation, some members of the House of Lords objected to it on the grounds that “labor ought to be free.” Their argument said: the children want (and need) to work, and the factory owners want to employ them; what is the problem?

 

Today, even the most ardent free-market proponents in Britain or other rich countries would not think of bringing child labor back as part of the market liberalization package that they so want. However, until the late 19th or the early 20th century, when the first serious child labor regulations were introduced in Europe and North America, many respectable people judged child labour regulation to be against the principles of the free market.

 

Thus seen, the “freedom” of a market is, like beauty, in the eyes of the beholder. If you believe that the right of children not to have to work is more important than the right of factory owners to be able to hire whoever they find most profitable, you will not see a ban on child labor as an infringement on the freedom of the labor market. If you believe the opposite, you will see an “unfree” market, shackled by a misguided government regulation.

 

We don’t have to go back two centuries to see regulations we take for granted (and accept as the “ambient noise” within the free market) that were seriously challenged as undermining the free market, when first introduced. When environmental regulations (e.g., regulations on car and factory emissions) appeared a few decades ago, they were opposed by many as serious infringements on our freedom to choose. Their opponents asked: if people want to drive in more polluting cars or if factories find more polluting production methods more profitable, why should the government prevent them from making such choices? Today, most people accept these regulations as “natural.” They believe that actions that harm others, however unintentionally (such as pollution), need to be restricted. They also understand that it is sensible to make careful use of our energy resources, when many of them are non-renewable. They may believe that reducing human impact on climate change makes sense too.

 

If the same market can be perceived to have varying degrees of freedom by different people, there is really no objective way to define how free that market is. In other words, the free market is an illusion. If some markets look free, it is only because we so totally accept the regulations that are propping them up that they become invisible.

 

Piano wires and kungfu masters

 

Like many people, as a child I was fascinated by all those gravity-defying kung fu masters in Hong Kong movies. Like many kids, I suspect, I was bitterly disappointed when I learned that those masters were actually hanging on piano wires.

 

The free market is a bit like that. We accept the legitimacy of certain regulations so totally that we don’t see them. More carefully examined, markets are revealed to be propped up by rules – and many of them.

 

To begin with, there is a huge range of restrictions on what can be traded; and not just bans on “obvious” things such as narcotic drugs or human organs. Electoral votes, government jobs and legal decisions are not for sale, at least openly, in modern economies, although they were in most countries in the past.

 

University places may not usually be sold, although in some nations money can buy them – either through (illegally) paying the selectors or (legally) donating money to the university. Many countries ban trading in firearms or alcohol. Usually medicines have to be explicitly licensed by the government, upon the proof of their safety, before they can be marketed. All these regulations are potentially controversial – just as the ban on selling human beings (the slave trade) was one and a half centuries ago.

 

There are also restrictions on who can participate in markets. Child labor regulation now bans the entry of children into the labor market. Licenses are required for professions that have significant impacts on human life, such as medical doctors or lawyers (which may sometimes be issued by professional associations rather than by the government). Many countries allow only companies with more than a certain amount of capital to set up banks. Even the stock market, whose underregulation has been a cause of the 2008 global recession, has regulations on who can trade. You can’t just turn up in the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) with a bag of shares and sell them. Companies must fulfill listing requirements, meeting stringent auditing standards over a certain number of years, before they can offer their shares for trading. Trading of shares is only conducted by licensed brokers and traders.

 

Conditions of trade are specified too. One of the things that surprised me when I first moved to Britain in the mid-1980s was that one could demand a full refund for a product one didn’t like, even if it wasn’t faulty. At the time, you just couldn’t do that in Korea, except in the most exclusive department stores. In Britain, the consumer’s right to change her mind was considered more important than the right of the seller to avoid the cost involved in returning unwanted (yet functional) products to the manufacturer. There are many other rules regulating various aspects of the exchange process: product liability, failure in delivery, loan default, and so on. In many countries, there are also necessary permissions for the location of sales outlets – such as restrictions on street-vending or zoning laws that ban commercial activities in residential areas.

 

Then there are price regulations. I am not talking here just about those highly visible phenomena such as rent controls or minimum wages that free-market economists love to hate.

 

Wages in rich countries are determined more by immigration control than anything else, including any minimum wage legislation. How is the immigration maximum determined? Not by the “free” labor market, which, if left alone, will end up replacing 80–90 per cent of native workers with cheaper, and often more productive, immigrants. Immigration is largely settled by politics. So, if you have any residual doubt about the massive role that the government plays in the economy’s free market, then pause to reflect that all our wages are, at root, politically determined.

 

Following the 2008 financial crisis, the prices of loans (if you can get one or if you already have a variable rate loan) have become a lot lower in many countries thanks to the continuous slashing of interest rates. Was that because suddenly people didn’t want loans and the banks needed to lower their prices to shift them? No, it was the result of political decisions to boost demand by cutting interest rates. Even in normal times, interest rates are set in most countries by the central bank, which means that political considerations creep in. In other words, interest rates are also determined by politics.

If wages and interest rates are (to a significant extent) politically determined, then all the other prices are politically determined, as they affect all other prices.

 

Is free trade fair?

 

We see a regulation when we don’t endorse the moral values behind it. The 19th-century high-tariff restriction on free trade by the U.S. federal government outraged slave-owners, who at the same time saw nothing wrong with trading people in a free market. To those who believed that people can be owned, banning trade in slaves was objectionable in the same way as restricting trade in manufactured goods. Korean shopkeepers of the 1980s would probably have thought the requirement for “unconditional return” to be an unfairly burdensome government regulation restricting market freedom.

 

This clash of values also lies behind the contemporary debate on free trade vs. fair trade. Many Americans believe that China is engaged in international trade that may be free but is not fair. In their view, by paying workers unacceptably low wages and making them work in inhumane conditions, China competes unfairly. The Chinese, in turn, can riposte that it is unacceptable that rich countries, while advocating free trade, try to impose artificial barriers to China’s exports by attempting to restrict the import of “sweatshop” products. They find it unjust to be prevented from exploiting the only resource they have in greatest abundance – cheap labor.

 

Of course, the difficulty here is that there is no objective way to define “unacceptably low wages” or “inhumane working conditions.” With the huge international gaps that exist in the level of economic development and living standards, it is natural that what is a starvation wage in the U.S. is a handsome wage in China (the average being 10 per cent that of the U.S.) and a fortune in India (the average being 2 per cent that of the U.S.) Indeed, most fair-trade-minded Americans would not have bought things made by their own grandfathers, who worked extremely long hours under inhumane conditions. Until the beginning of the twentieth century, the average work week in the U.S. was around 60 hours. At the time (in 1905, to be more precise), it was a country in which the Supreme Court declared unconstitutional a New York state law limiting the working days of bakers to 10 hours, on the grounds that it “deprived the baker of the liberty of working as long as he wished.”

 

Thus seen, the debate about fair trade is essentially about moral values and political decisions, and not economics in the usual sense. Even though it is about an economic issue, it is not something economists with their technical tool kits are particularly well equipped to rule on.

 

All this does not mean that we need to take a relativist position and fail to criticize anyone because anything goes. We can (and I do) have a view on the acceptability of prevailing labour standards in China (or any other country, for that matter) and try to do something about it, without believing that those who have a different view are wrong in some absolute sense. Even though China cannot afford American wages or Swedish working conditions, it certainly can improve the wages and the working conditions of its workers. Indeed, many Chinese don’t accept the prevailing conditions and demand tougher regulations. But economic theory (at least free-market economics) cannot tell us what the ‘right’ wages and working conditions should be in China.

 

I don’t think we are in France any more

 

In July 2008, with the country’s financial system in meltdown, the US government poured $200 billion into Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the mortgage lenders, and nationalized them. On witnessing this, the Republican Senator Jim Bunning of Kentucky famously denounced the action as something that could only happen in a “socialist” country like France.

France was bad enough, but on 19 September 2008, Senator Bunning’s beloved country was turned into the Evil Empire itself by his own party leader. According to the plan announced that day by President George W. Bush and subsequently named TARP (Troubled Asset Relief Program), the U.S. government was to use at least $700 billion of taxpayers’ money to buy up the “toxic assets” choking up the financial system.

President Bush, however, did not see things quite that way. He argued that, rather than being “socialist” the plan was simply a continuation of the American system of free enterprise, which “rests on the conviction that the federal government should interfere in the market place only when necessary.” Only that, in his view, nationalizing a huge chunk of the financial sector was just one of those necessary things.

 

Mr. Bush’s statement is, of course, an ultimate example of political double-speak – one of the biggest state interventions in human history is dressed up as another workaday market process. However, through these words Mr. Bush exposed the flimsy foundation on which the myth of the free market stands. As the statement so clearly reveals, what is a necessary state intervention consistent with free-market capitalism is really a matter of opinion. There is no scientifically defined boundary for free market.

 

If there is nothing sacred about any particular market boundaries that happen to exist, an attempt to change them is as legitimate as the attempt to defend them. Indeed, the history of capitalism has been a constant struggle over the boundaries of the market.

 

A lot of the things that are outside the market today have been removed by political decision, rather than the market process itself – human beings, government jobs, electoral votes, legal decisions, university places or uncertified medicines. There are still attempts to buy at least some of these things illegally (bribing government officials, judges or voters) or legally (using expensive lawyers to win a lawsuit, donations to political parties, etc.), but, even though there have been movements in both directions, the trend has been towards less marketization.

 

For goods that are still traded, more regulations have been introduced over time. Compared even to a few decades ago, now we have much more stringent regulations on who can produce what (e.g., certificates for organic or fair-trade producers), how they can be produced (e.g., restrictions on pollution or carbon emissions), and how they can be sold (e.g., rules on product labelling and on refunds).

 

Furthermore, reflecting its political nature, the process of re-drawing the boundaries of the market has sometimes been marked by violent conflicts. The Americans fought a civil war over free trade in slaves (although free trade in goods – or the tariffs issue – was also an important issue). The British government fought the Opium War against China to realize a free trade in opium. Regulations on free market in child labour were implemented only because of the struggles by social reformers, as I discussed earlier. Making free markets in government jobs or votes illegal has been met with stiff resistance by political parties who bought votes and dished out government jobs to reward loyalists. These practices came to an end only through a combination of political activism, electoral reforms and changes in the rules regarding government hiring.

 

Recognizing that the boundaries of the market are ambiguous and cannot be determined in an objective way lets us realize that economics is not a science like physics or chemistry, but a political exercise. Free-market economists may want you to believe that the correct boundaries of the market can be scientifically determined, but this is incorrect. If the boundaries of what you are studying cannot be scientifically determined, what you are doing is not a science.

 

Thus seen, opposing a new regulation is saying that the status quo, however unjust from some people’s point of view, should not be changed. Saying that an existing regulation should be abolished is saying that the domain of the market should be expanded, which means that those who have money should be given more power in that area, as the market is run on one-dollar-one-vote principle.

 

So, when free-market economists say that a certain regulation should not be introduced because it would restrict the “freedom” of a certain market, they are merely expressing a political opinion that they reject the rights that are to be defended by the proposed law. Their ideological cloak is to pretend that their politics is not really political, but rather is an objective economic truth, while other people’s politics is political. However, they are as politically motivated as their opponents.

 

Breaking away from the illusion of market objectivity is the first step toward understanding capitalism.

 

Support AlterNet by purchasing your copy of 23 Things They Don’t Tell You About Capitalism through our partner, Powell’s, an independent bookstore.
Ha-Joon Chang teaches in the faculty of economics at the University of Cambridge. His books include “Bad Samaritans: The Myth of Free Trade and the Secret History of Capitalism” and “Kicking Away the Ladder.”

© 2011 Bloomsbury Press All rights reserved.
View this story online at: http://www.alternet.org/story/149688/

Progressive Narrative

A Liberal Translation       

How the Mainstream Press Bungled the Single Biggest Story of the 2012 Campaign 

Why Are Americans So Easy to Manipulate and Control?  

What Defines a Meme? 

Competition among memes in a world with limited attention

Articulating the Future for Progressivism

Conspiracy World — Editorial New York Times

America’s Duopoly of Money in Politics and Manipulation of Public Opinion

What to Watch for in the Presidential Debates by George Lakoff on Octo­ber 2, 2012 in Cog­ni­tive Pol­icy Works

Myth and Its Dangers

The Fascinating Story of How Shameless Right-Wing Lies Came to Rule Our Politics By Rick Perlstein

** Obama Returns to His Moral Vision: Democrats Read Carefully! by George Lakoff, GeorgeLakoff.com, April 17, 2011 - Cognitive linguist and expert on messaging analyzes Obama’s spech on vision and values -
The policy topic happened to be the budget, but he called it “The Country We Believe In” for a reason. The real topic was how the progressive moral system defines the democratic ideals America was founded on, and how those ideals apply to specific issues. Obama’s moral vision, which he applied to the budget, is more general: it applies to every issue.
All politics is moral. Political leaders put forth proposals on the assumption that their proposals are the right things to do, not the wrong things to do. But progressives and radical conservatives have very different ideas of right and wrong.
The basic idea is this: Democracy is based on empathy, that is, on citizens caring about each other and acting on that care, taking responsibility not just for themselves but for their families, communities, and their nation. The role of government is to carry out this principle in two ways: protection and empowerment.

** The Country We Believe In by President Barack Obama, The White House,Office of the Press Secretary, April 13, 2011

** Mocking the Right’s ‘Free Market’ Agenda Is Almost Too Easy — A Real Problem Is That the Dems Don’t Challenge It By Elizabeth DiNovella and Thomas Frank

** The Biggest Idea in Obama’s Speech: A Common Good by David Callahan, www.policyshop.net, January 26, 2012

** The Constitution is inherently progressive by John Podesta and John Halpin, Politico.com, October 10, 2011

** This is Your Story – The Progressive Story of America. Pass It On by Bill Moyers, Text of speech to the Take Back America conference  June 4, 2003 sponsored by the Campaign for America’s Future, Published on June 10, 2003 by CommonDreams.org

The New Vision — The speech I want the Democratic nominee to give By Theodore C. Sorensen

The Mess We’re In: The Challenge of Melodramocracy by Wim Wenders,  Dogcanyon.org, March 8,  2010

More Poetry, Please by Thomas Friedman, New York Times, November 1, 2009

 

American Dream or Nightmare?

America Is Far from #1,  AlterNet by Eric Zuesse, February 7, 2013 — “The Global Competitiveness Report 2012–2013,”  by the World Economic Forum, is the latest annual ranking of 144 countries, on a wide range of factors related to global economic competitiveness…Gross Domestic Product is the only factor where the U.S. ranks as #1…Health Care has the U.S. ranking #34 on “Life Expectancy,” and #41 on “Infant Mortality.” Education in the U.S. is also mediocre…The U.S, overall, is very far from being #1 – not really in contention, at all, for the top spot. The rankings suggest instead that this nation is sinking toward the Third World…

The Price of Inequality and the Myth of Opportunity by Joseph Stiglitz… to what extent do an individual’s life chances depend on the income and edu­ca­tion of his or her parents? Nowadays, these numbers show that the American dream is a myth…The clear trend is one of concentration of income and wealth at the top, the hollowing out of the middle, and increasing poverty at the bottom…most importantly, America’s inequality is undermining its values and identity…America can no longer regard itself as the land of opportunity that it once was. But it does not have to be this way: it is not too late for the American dream to be restored.

We’d All Be Much Wealthier If We Acted Like a Society—Instead We Prop Up the Private Wealth of a Small Number of Elites

Crumbling American Dreams By ROBERT D. PUTNAM, New York Times,  August 3, 2013

United States of Paranoia: How the FBI Spied and Lied So Conspiracy Theorists Would Sound Crazy, August 20, 2013 

Why Life in America Can Literally Drive You Insane By Bruce E. Levine AlterNet, July 30, 2013

8 Shocking Ways America Leads the World By Lynn Stuart Parramore, AlterNet, July 29, 2013

1. Most expensive place to have a baby

2. Obesity

3. Anxiety disorders

4. Small arms ownership

5. Most people behind bars

6. Energy use per person

7. Health expenditures

8. Cocaine use

The Price of Inequality and the Myth of Opportunity by Joseph Stiglitz,
June 6, 2012 by Project Syndicate, posted on CommonDreams.org … to what extent do an individual’s life chances depend on the income and edu­ca­tion of his or her parents? Nowa­days, these num­bers show that the Amer­i­can dream is a myth…The clear trend is one of con­cen­tra­tion of income and wealth at the top, the hol­low­ing out of the mid­dle, and increas­ing poverty at the bottom…It might not be so bad if there were even a grain of truth to trickle-down eco­nom­ics – the quaint notion that every­one ben­e­fits from enrich­ing those at the top… Amer­ica grew far faster in the decades after World War II, when it was grow­ing together, than it has since 1980, when it began grow­ing apart….pol­i­tics is shaped by money…But grow­ing inequal­ity is not inevitable. There are mar­ket economies that are doing bet­ter, both in terms of both GDP growth and ris­ing liv­ing stan­dards for most cit­i­zens. Some are even reduc­ing inequalities…But, most impor­tantly, America’s inequal­ity is under­min­ing its val­ues and iden­tity…Amer­ica can no longer regard itself as the land of oppor­tu­nity that it once was. But it does not have to be this way: it is not too late for the Amer­i­can dream to be restored.

America’s Unlevel Field By Paul Krugman, New York Times, January 8, 2012 – …Mitt Romney…insisted that where Roosevelt believed that “government should level the playing field to create equal opportunities,” Mr. Obama believes that “government should create equal outcomes,” that we should have a society where “everyone receives the same or similar rewards, regardless of education, effort and willingness to take risk.”.. this portrait of the president as radical redistributionist was pure fiction. What hasn’t been as widely noted, however, is that Mr. Romney’s picture of himself as a believer in a level playing field is just as fictional. Where is the evidence that he [Romney] or his party [Republican] cares at all about equality of opportunity? Let’s talk for a minute about the actual state of the playing field…America actually stands out as the advanced country in which it matters most who your parents were, the country in which those born on one of society’s lower rungs have the least chance of climbing to the top or even to the middle…So where is the evidence that Mr. Romney or his party actually believes in equal opportunity? Judging by their actions, they seem to prefer a society in which your station in life is largely determined by that of your parents — and in which the children of the very rich get to inherit their estates tax-free. Teddy Roosevelt would not have approved

Still United: Ninety per cent of Americans still believe in hard work and the American Dream By Associated Press, May 11, 2013 -Can we agree on this? Americans still think alike much of the time even if our politicians don’t…Maybe the great division in politics these days lies between Washington and the rest of the nation. 

A movement to reclaim the American Dream

What are Your Chances of Economic Success? By Joseph Stiglitz, Project Syndicate, June 13, 2012

Chris Hayes: Why America’s Meritocracy Is Just a Myth By Joshua Holland
AlterNet, June 13, 2012

Young People Tire of Old Economic Models By Andrew C. Revkin

Third World America: Is Anyone Listening? by Jeremy Rifkin, author of  The Empathic Civilization: The Race to Global Consciousness in a World in Crisis Huffington Post, September 9, 2010

The Future of the American Dream by William Greider, The Nation, May 8, 2009

The Biggest Engine of Economic Growth?  8 Ways Taxpayers and the Government Are Necessary to Capitalism

Vision: As the American Capitalist Economy Craters, Promising Alternatives Emerge By Gar Alperovitz, The Nation, May 26, 2011

 

1. Most expensive place to have a baby

2. Obesity

3. Anxiety disorders

4. Small arms ownership

5. Most people behind bars

6. Energy use per person

7. Health expenditures

8. Cocaine use

 

We’d All Be Much Wealthier If We Acted Like a Society—Instead We Prop Up the Private Wealth of a Small Number of Elites 

Truth and Lies

“In a time of deceit, telling the truth is a revolutionary act.” — George Orwell

The Death of Honesty by William Damon (Senior Fellow and member of the Virtues of a Free Society Task Force), Hoover.org, January 12, 2012 -A basic intent to be truthful, along with an assumption that people can be generally taken at their word, is required for all sustained civilized dealings…No civilization can tolerate a fixed expectation of dishonest communications without falling apart from a breakdown in mutual trust.… Our serious problem today is not simply that many people routinely tell lies…The problem now is that we seem to be reaching a dysfunctional tipping point in which an essential commitment to truthfulness no longer seems to be assumed in our society. If this is indeed the case, the danger is that the bonds of trust important in any society, and essential for a free and democratic one, will dissolve so that the kinds of discourse required to self-govern will become impossible. …As the Founders of our republic warned, the failure to cultivate virtue in citizens can be a lethal threat to any democracy.

What Would Machiavelli Do? The Big Lie Lives On by Thom Hartmann CommonDreams.org, August 26, 2004

Will Republican Voters Believe Anything? The Right’s Hyperbolic, Dysfunctional World 

United States of Paranoia: How the FBI Spied and Lied So Conspiracy Theorists Would Sound Crazy By Jesse Walker, August 20, 2013

The Politics of Lying and the Culture of Deceit in Obama’s America: The Rule of Damaged Politics  by Henry A. Giroux - Sep­tem­ber 21, 2009 — In the cur­rent Amer­i­can polit­i­cal land­scape, truth is not merely mis­rep­re­sented or fal­si­fied; it is overtly mocked… it becomes dif­fi­cult to dis­tin­guish between an opin­ion and an argument …At a time when edu­ca­tion is reduced to train­ing work­ers and is stripped of any civic ideals and crit­i­cal prac­tices, it becomes unfash­ion­able for the pub­lic to think crit­i­cally. Rather than intel­li­gence unit­ing us, a col­lec­tive igno­rance of pol­i­tics, cul­ture, the arts, his­tory and impor­tant social issues…What is the social cost of such flight from real­ity, if not the death of demo­c­ra­tic pol­i­tics, crit­i­cal thought and civic agency? …The pol­i­tics of lying and the cul­ture of deceit are wrapped in the logic of absolute cer­tainty…Democ­racy is frag­ile, and its fate is                                                                   always uncer­tain…We now find our­selves liv­ing in a soci­ety in which right-wing extrem­ists not only wage a war against the truth, but also seek to ren­der human beings less than fully human by tak­ing away their desire for jus­tice, spir­i­tual mean­ing, free­dom and individuality…/the-politics-of-lying-and-the-culture-of-deceit-in-obamasamerica-the-rule-of-damaged-politics/

US Running on Myths, Lies, Deceptions and Distractions by John Atcheson, Com­mon Dreams, Feb­ru­ary 20, 2012…the country is running on lies, myths, deceptions and distractions… a few of the most destructive lies and myths.1.Corporations and the uber rich are the job creators2.Government can’t create jobs…
3.The deficit is our main problem, therefore we need an austerity budget…
4.Republicans actually care about deficits: Let’s put a stake in the heart of this one right now. Reagan and the two Bushes created more than 66% of the country’s debt — an amount equal to more than twice as much as all other President’s combined (including Obama). Did you hear any complaints while this record breaking debt was being wracked up? Not a word. Clinton, it’s worth remembering, had a surplus.
5.Republicans favor small government: In fact, the size of government exploded under Reagan and Bush II, and we didn’t hear a peep out of Republicans. In the last thirty years, only Clinton reduced the size of government significantly, and he did so while declaring “the era of big government” to be over. What they really favor is weak government, which brings us to …
6.Regulations stifle the economy; deregulation unleashes economic growth…
7.Climate Change is “just a theory” and we can’t afford to address it: Leaving aside the fact that in the pantheon of science, “theories” are reserved for issues that are about as certain as the scientific method allows, the scientific consensus on global warming is as strong as it gets.…Thanks to Republican denial, Democratic complicity and press malfeasance, we’re literally sleepwalking into the worst catastrophe the human race has ever faced.
8.Republicans want to protect your freedom. Except when they want to tell you who you can sleep with, who you can marry, whether or not you can use birth control; when and whether you can choose to die; or when they want to tap your phone or detain you without due process, of course. So why is it that these myths and lies – so easily disproven – persist. Indeed, why have they become conventional wisdom for many Americans, and why do they shape the national debate? Here’s where the Democrats, distractions and the press’s malfeasance comes in. Republicans throw up a lot of flack to keep people from focusing on the fact that they’re basically getting screwed by the 1%.…it only works because Democrats are too wimpy – or too complicit – to confront this bait-and-switch bullshit… It doesn’t help that Democrats are feeding at the same corporate trough… But the real culprit is the press – they’ve simply abrogated their responsibility to give people accurate, truthful information… We are now stuck with a media that puts “balance” or “objectivity” before truth.… At the end of the day, trying to run a country according to the rules of fantasy island isn’t a recipe for success. But it does serve the interests of the 1%.

The Fascinating Story of How Shameless Right-Wing Lies Came to Rule Our Politics By Rick Perlstein, Mother Jones, May 26, 2011 — It takes two things to make a political lie work: a powerful person or institution willing to utter it, and another set of powerful institutions to amplify it. The former has always been with us…So why does it seem as if we’re living in a time of overwhelmingly brazen deception? What’s changed?…a network of media enablers helps it to make a sound — until enough people believe the untruth to make the lie an operative part of our political discourse.…right-wing ideologues “lie without consequence,” as a desperate Vincent Foster put it in his suicide note nearly two decades ago. But they only succeed because they are amplified by “balanced” outlets that frame each smear as just another he-said-she-said “controversy.”…What’s new is the way the liars and their enablers now work hand in glove. That I call a mendocracy, and it is the regime that governs us now.

What Would Machiavelli Do? The Big Lie Lives On by Thom Hartmann, CommonDreams.org, August 26, 2004 …The Big Lie is alive and well today in the United States of America, and what’s most troubling about it is the basic premise that underlies its use. In order for somebody to undertake a Big Lie, they must first believe Niccolo Machiavelli’s premise (in “The Prince,” 1532) that the end justifies the means…
Believing that the end justifies the means is the ultimate slippery slope. It will ultimately kill any noble goal, because even if the goal is achieved, it will have been corrupted along the way by the means used to accomplish it…

Fiscal cliff fictions: Let’s all agree to pretend the GOP isn’t full of it

Revenge of the Reality-Based Community

Obama: A pragmatic moderate faces the ‘socialist’ smear by Norman J. Ornstein, Washington Post, April 14, 2010

Who Are You Going To Believe: Karl Rove Or Your Lying Eyes? by Paul Blumenthal, HuffingtonPost.com, May 7, 2012

Ideological Hypocrites By E.J. Dionne,Washington Post, February 20, 2012

The Post-Truth Campaign By Paul Krugman, New York Times, December 22, 2011

Shameless GOP Lies: Is There Any Limit to What Republicans Will Say — And What People Will Believe? By Ernest Partridge, The Crisis Papers, posted on Alternet.org, April 20, 2011 — Is there any limit to the outrageousness of the GOP lies? Is there any limit to the capacity of a large number of our fellow citizens to accept these lies?…a long string of Republican lies thrown at the public by right-wing politicians and pundits and largely unchallenged by a compliant corporate media. Among them:…John Kerry’s allegedly heroic war record was fraudulent. Barack Obama was born in Kenya and is a secret Muslim. Saddam Hussein possessed weapons of mass destruction and was involved in the attacks of September 11, 2001…Global warming is a gigantic hoax, perpetrated by thousands of deceitful scientists. Obama has raised taxes…These are not “matters of opinion,” they are flatly and demonstrably false. Clear and decisive refutation of all these claims are available to anyone who cares to examine the evidence. As Daniel Patrick Moynihan famously remarked, while we are entitled to our own opinions, we are not entitled to our own facts…finally, there is the “dogma” — a priori “first principles” too sacred to be doubted or subjected to rational analysis and confirmation: “Government is not the solution to our problem, government is the problem.” (Ronald Reagan). Market fundamentalism: “A free market [co-ordinates] the activity of millions of people, each seeking his own interest, in such a way as to make everyone better off.” (Milton Friedman) Privatization: “Whenever we find an approach to the extension of private property rights [in the natural environment,] we find superior results.” (Robert J. Smith). “There is no such thing as society.” (Margaret Thatcher) “There is no such entity as ‘the public.’” (Ayn Rand) These last two dogmas bear significant implications. For if there is no such thing as “society,” it follows that there are no social problems or “social injustice. Poverty is the fault of individuals who are sinful and lazy. And if there is no “public,” then there is no “public interest,” and thus no need for government to promote same. A large portion of the American public believes these lies, accepts these contradictions, and embraces these dogmas, not because of supporting evidence (there is none) or cogent arguments (there are none), but out of sheer unquestioned repetition in the corporate media. …as long as …millions accept uncritically the lies, myths and dogmas fed to them by the mega-corporations that own our government, there appears to be little hope of a return to economic justice and democratic government that we once enjoyed in the United States of America. But all is not lost. As the folk tale of the boy who cried “Wolf!” reminds us, liars tend through time to lose their credibility. We should strive to accelerate this process as it applies to the corporate media by exposing the lies and boycotting the sponsors of those who tell the lies…The restoration of sanity in our public discourse is essential to the restoration of our democracy.

Truth is a moral value – ProgressiveValues e-letter, October 10, 2011

Truth – editorial by Phyllis Stenerson, Uptown Neighborhood News, Minneapolis, August 2012/