No 337 Posted by fw, November 13, 2011
“In general, you’ll get a block of issues that count to investors. That’s often overseas. I mean a lot of these folks care more about China policy — and possibly American and China policy – and in the last 15 years was surely driven mostly by the anxieties of American investors, especially the investment houses, to get in there and manage money in the Chinese market than any consideration abut American jobs. I mean that’s just all there is to it. Nobody is going to campaign on that. So in the public positions of the parties, you know – in fact each sort of carves out a kind of, quote, “base for itself” which they keep sort of repeating — a relatively simple formulaic set of things to appeal to that base.” —Tom Ferguson
Part 4 of this 11-part series went to the heart of Ferguson’s theory — the glaring gap between the reality of America’s money-driven political system, and the popular myth of American democracy — that the president and elected officials represent and are accountable to the people. This post, Part 5 examines historical evidence to show that America has, in fact, from its founding, been an “Investors’ Democracy”.
Continuing with the format for this series, a complete 77-minute video of Shockley’s documentary film is embedded below followed by my time-indexed transcript comprising Part 4, including subheadings, and any external links and text highlighting. The time indexing facilitates switching from the text to its related place in the video. Of course, readers have the option of watching the complete 77-minute video at one sitting.
18:23 <On screen text> Investors’ “Democracy”
18:27 Tom Ferguson – In general, you’ll get a block of issues that count to investors. That’s often overseas. I mean a lot of these folks care more about China policy — and possibly American and China policy – and in the last 15 years was surely driven mostly by the anxieties of American investors, especially the investment houses, to get in there and manage money in the Chinese market than any consideration abut American jobs. I mean that’s just all there is to it. Nobody is going to campaign on that. So in the public positions of the parties, you know – in fact each sort of carves out a kind of, quote, “base for itself” which they keep sort of repeating — a relatively simple formulaic set of things to appeal to that base. And you can see this in the voting data that Andrew Gelman gathered very clearly. After the late 80s the Republicans stopped the appeals to race, moved to religion much more. The way they did that was to sort of keep highlighting issues like abortion, Schiavo, and all the rest of that stuff, to keep sort of manically concentrating on that in public, sort of building your base type stuff. The Democrats officially sort of aimed at women, various minorities. That’s the sort of Tower of Babble you get in public. That’s your mass politics. That’s not the same thing as the stuff that makes investors contribute.
19:51 Noam Chomsky – The public relations industry makes sure to keep issues in the margins and focus on personalities, character and so on and so forth. They do that for good reasons. They look at public opinion studies and they know perfectly well that on a host of major issues both parties are well to the right of the population.
Note: The four seashore interviews — “Who-are-you-voting-for-and-why” — which appear at this point in the video, can be found in my Part 3 transcription.
22:38 <On screen text> — When More Cash Means More Votes
22:55 Tom Ferguson – It was Burnham who posed the question of what do the fluctuations in voter turnout over the course of American history mean? What you get is this stupendous rise in voter turnout from roughly 1824 to 1840. You go from 25% of the potential eligible electorate voting to like 90, and that at the end of the 19th century you get a stupendous decline. Now there’s not much doubt what happened to the South to do that – poll taxes, literacy tests, registration requirements and a huge amount of direct physical intimidation. If you’re black and you tried to vote you might just get killed – or Mexican American in Texas. The bigger puzzle was hey, what’s the rest of the United States doing with that stupendous decline after 1896?
23:45 Tom Ferguson – McGuire’s study of the Constitution appeared where he actually did do the study you want to do with computer – he actually put in the holdings of the founding fathers to see how they voted. And he shows you plain as day there are very direct alignments in the Constitution. It’s as obvious as can be –
- John Jay – “Those who own the country ought to govern it.”
- Alexander Hamilton – “The people are nothing but a great beast.”
- James Madison – “Government ought to be so constituted as to protect the minority of the opulent against the majority.”
24:20 – Tom Ferguson – The American colonies, during the revolution, rewrote their state constitutions generally to give pretty easy suffrage. After the Constitution is passed they take it back — they put the property suffrage requirements back on. Those come off in the Jacksonian revolution. And the Jacksonians are definitely pushing that. That’s ‘cause they think a deal like getting rid of the steamboat monopoly is something you can push. I actually plotted – it’s in my book – the concentration of wealth against the rise in voter turnout during the Jacksonian period. What the Jacksonian revolution was about were these people paying to mobilize the rest of the citizenry. As these guys got wealthier – got concentrated they could pay more and they did. Then the turnout decline is strongly associated with the spread of industrialization and that’s the end of the story.