Daily Archives: February 14, 2011

“We worry less”

Yes, that’s “top 1%” and “bottom 80%

Frye in The Modern Century:

In political thought there is a useful fiction known as the social contract, the sense that man enters into a certain social context by the act of getting born.  In earlier contract theories, like that of Hobbes, the contract was thought of as universal, binding everyone without exception.  From Rousseau on there is more of a tendency to divide people into those accept and defend the existing social contract because they benefit from it, and the people who are excluded from most of the benefits, and so feel no obligation, or much less, of it.  (CW 11, 41)

From the notorious 2005 Citigroup Plutonomy memo:

➤ The World is dividing into two blocs – the Plutonomy and the rest. The U.S., UK, and Canada are the key Plutonomies – economies powered by the wealthy. Continental Europe (ex-Italy) and Japan are in the egalitarian bloc.
➤ Equity risk premium embedded in “global imbalances” are unwarranted. In plutonomies the rich absorb a disproportionate chunk of the economy and have a massive impact on reported aggregate numbers like savings rates, current account deficits, consumption levels, etc. This imbalance in inequality expresses itself in the standard scary “ global imbalances”. We worry less.

From yesterday’s Toronto Star:

In keeping with the government’s vision of making Canada a low-tax jurisdiction, the Conservatives have been gradually cutting taxes on corporate profits since 2007.

By 2015 under this plan, the share of federal government programs paid for by corporate income taxes will have shrunk to 12.3 per cent from 20.8 per cent in 2000.

Andrew Sullivan in today’s Daily Dish:

The logic behind president Obama’s budget has one extremely sensible feature: it distinguishes between spending that simply adds to consumption, and spending that really does mean investment. His analogy over the weekend – that a family cutting a budget would rather not cut money for the kids’ education – is a sound one. We do need more infrastructure, roads and broadband, non-carbon energy and basic science research, and some of that is something only government can do. In that sense, discretionary spending could be among the most important things government could do to help Americans create wealth themselves. And yet this is the only spending Obama wants to cut.

But the core challenge of this time is not the cost of discretionary spending. Obama knows this; everyone knows this. The crisis is the cost of future entitlements and defense, about which Obama proposes nothing.

When it comes to the fraud perpetrated by our society’s most advantaged (the 1% who currently own approximately 38% of national wealth), there is no social contract in any meaningful sense.  There is only licenced theft rationalized by the lie that economic success is ultimately a moral issue: if you play well, you win big.  After the collapse of the financial markets two years ago and the trillions of dollars of bailouts for those “too big to fail,” we are under no illusions, we know that simply isn’t true.  It’s a hoax.  It’s a fix.  Everything about our “social contract” has been rigged for the past thirty years to transfer wealth upward at an accelerating rate, whatever economic and social vandalism is committed along the way.  Our political class now has little to do with average voters — except insofar that votes against their own economic interests be must tricked out of them with promises that are never kept.  Our politicians have gone from being public servants to dead eyed enablers of the rapacious corporate class who are now their only real constituency.  It is a shame, and it has happened in plain view of everyone.  And that makes it a big reason to worry more than we do.

Now Iran?


Some powerful raw footage of a protest getting under way at Sharif University, Tehran, just a few hours ago.

There are reports from the BBC of demonstrations all over Tehran, including Tehran University, Imam Hossein Square and Azadi Square.  Chant heard: “Death to the dictator, death to Khamenei.”

Thomas Cranmer


The prosecution and martyrdom of Thomas Cranmer from David Starkey’s documentary series, Monarchy. (Video not embedded: click on the image above and hit the YouTube link.)

On the heels of yesterday’s post regarding the execution of Henry VIII’s fifth wife Catherine Howard, her accuser, Thomas Cranmer, Archbishop of Canterbury, was declared a heretic by Queen Mary on this date in 1556.  Catherine Howard’s lady-in-waiting, Jane Boleyn — Anne Boleyn’s sister-in-law who was executed as Catherine’s accomplice in treason — had previously been instrumental in bringing down Queen Anne by affirming her supposed incest with her brother (and Jane’s husband) George.  With the execution of Cranmer under Queen Mary, this particular nemesis cycle draws to a bloody close.  The person who rides the new cycle upwards is, of course, Anne Boleyn’s daughter, who ascends the throne as Elizabeth I after the premature death of her half-sister Mary.  Elizabeth as queen undoes all of Mary’s effort to make England Catholic again — and that effort was the reason for Cranmer’s arrest, conviction and execution as a Protestant heretic in the first place.  So yet another mortal cycle spins round.

Here, appropriately enough, is an excerpt from “Romance as Masque,” in which Frye once again addresses the tragic perspective provided by the wheel of fortune in Shakespeare’s Henry VIII:

The hero of Henry VIII is not so much the king as the wheel of fortune.  The first turn of the wheel brings down Buckingham, the second turn Wolsey, the third Queen Katherine and others.  If we like, we can see a rough justice or even a providence operating: Wolsey’s fall is the nemesis for his treatment of Buckingham, and Queen Katherine, though innocent, has to go in order to get Elizabeth born.  For this reason it is unnecessary to apply moral standards to King Henry: whether we think of him resolute or merely ferocious, we cannot be sure if he turns the wheel of fortune or has simply become part of its machinery.  Certainly the crucial event of the final scene, the birth of Elizabeth, there is a factor independent of his will, even though he takes credit for it, as befits a king.  In this final scene there is a “prophecy” by Cranmer about the future greatness of England under Elizabeth and her successors, which generically is a very masque-like scene, a panegyric of the sort that would have normally accompanied the presence of a reigning monarch in the audience.

The only difficulty is that the scene shows the final triumph of Cranmer and of Anne Boleyn, and the audience knows what soon happened to Anne, as well as to three of her successors, and eventually to Cranmer.  It also knows the reign of Elizabeth was preceded by that of Queen Katherine’s daughter, whose existence Henry appears to have forgotten: “Never before / This happy child, did I get any thing,” he says. (CW 18, 144-5)