Relevant and even prescient commentary on news, politics and the economy.

From Full Employment To “Inclusive Growth”

This is the third of three posts on full employment. The unifying thread is that “full employment” has always been a political and not an economic problem. The first two posts were The Electoral College, White Supremacy and Full Employment as “Reign of Terror” and Full Employment and the Myth of the General Strike.

Employing Sorel’s distinction between myth and utopia, full employment has always been a utopia. But it is a utopia long abandoned by economists, who have substituted the totem of economic growth for the utopia of full employment.

The term “full employment” did not appear in the speech given yesterday (December 5) by Mark Carney, Governor of the Bank of England. Instead, he mentioned the term “inclusive growth” six times.

“The cry for more inclusive growth starts with a crisis of growth itself.”

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Full Employment and the Myth of the General Strike

Georges Sorel thought he had made a ‘happy choice’ with his use of the term ‘myth.’ But he soon was disabused of that illusion by critics who dismissed the anachronism of myths and others who accused him of falsifying “the real opinions of revolutionaries.”

In his essay, “Myths of the Twentieth Century” published three decades after Sorel’s Réflexions sur la violence,,” Robert Binkley credited Sorel — along with Henri Bergson, William James, Vilfredo Pareto and Sir James Frazier — with having “prepared the way” for the 20th century’s metaphysical ‘Tower of Babel’ and, consequently, with having betrayed ‘truth’. “For truth became a variable, determined by a personal equation, a problem, or a culture. As the prestige of truth fell, the prestige of myth rose… Men began to talk of the myth of science, the Christian myth, the myth of the nation, the myth of socialism, the myth of the general strike.”

Binkley must have realized that he was blaming the messenger for the message. Whatever science and progress might have meant to its 19th century eulogists. their status as “truth” was contingent and ephemeral. Critics did not concoct out of nothing the defects they criticized.

Binkley summarized “four great myths in the contemporary western world” in the following passage:

These four are: the original Christian myth, from which the others are descended ; its secularized version of the world order or great society; the materialistic version with its eschatology of the proletarian paradise; and the antithetic or reactionary myth of the nation, with its mystery of blood and soil.

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The Electoral College, White Supremacy and Full Employment as “Reign of Terror”

Published in September 1947, Whither Solid South? A Study in Politics and Race Relations, by Charles Wallace Collins, “became both manifesto and blueprint” for the 1948 “Dixiecrat” campaign of Strom Thurmond and — over the longer term — the strategy whereby Southern white supremacists engineered a balance of power “lock” on the electoral college and thus on the Presidency. Matthew M. Hoffman examined the political consequences of that strategy in “The Illegitimate President: Minority Vote Dilution and the Electoral College,” published 20 years ago in the Yale Law Journal. Joseph Lowndes discussed the broader influence of Collins’s book on the emergence of a “New Right” in From the New Deal to the New Right: Race and the Southern Origins of Modern Conservatism. Collin’s strategy can be summed up in a few paragraphs from chapter 17 “The South Need Not Surrender”:

Neither the Negroes nor any of the groups which support them can alone, or in conjunction with each other, give assurance of control of a single vote in the Electoral College. … In comparison with them, the South is a political giant. … The South, being a geographical minority with a one-party system, would know at all times its minimum strength and from that work toward its maximum.

The eleven former seceding Southern States possess 127 votes in the Electoral College. These States hold 22 seats in the Senate and 105 in the House. Additional support on many southern questions may be expected from the four border States which have 43 votes in the Electoral College, 8 Senators and 35 Members of the House.

The aggregate of votes of the southern region is 170 in the Electoral College, 30 in the Senate and 140 in the House — nearly one-third in each. On questions which peculiarly affect the southern region, on the Negro equality question and on radical labor questions, these States may be expected to stand with the South in the Congress.

I have emphasized two phrases in the above excerpt. Collins candidly described the “Solid South” concept as a one-party system. A segregationist South was to dominate national politics by eschewing popular choice. “States rights” were to prevail over the rights of the citizens of those states. Collins’s notion of a white-supremacist lock on the electoral college did not rely on winner-take-all popular elections. In a 1944 pamphlet, he upheld the constitutional propriety of an elector deciding “to vote in the Electoral College for a person whom he thinks will protect the interests of his state rather than for a person nominated at a national party convention whom he thinks would be hostile to them.”

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White Supremacy as a Political Doctrine

Currently, Hillary Clinton leads POTUS-delictum Donald J. Trump by 1,677,000 votes. As we know, though, Trump has an overwhelming electoral college advantage. The original intent of the electoral college, according to Hamilton – the politician, not the Broadway musical – was to thwart the possibility of interference by a foreign power in choosing the chief executive.

Nothing was more to be desired than that every practicable obstacle should be opposed to cabal, intrigue, and corruption. These most deadly adversaries of republican government might naturally have been expected to make their approaches from more than one quarter, but chiefly from the desire in foreign powers to gain an improper ascendant in our councils. How could they better gratify this, than by raising a creature of their own to the chief magistracy of the Union? But the convention have guarded against all danger of this sort, with the most provident and judicious attention.

According to NSA Director, Admiral Michael Rogers, that is exactly what happened this time around,  “There shouldn’t be any doubt in anybody’s mind,” Rogers said. “This was not something that was done casually. This was not something that was done by chance. This was not a target that was selected purely arbitrarily. This was a conscious effort by a nation-state to attempt to achieve a specific effect.” Fortunately, the electoral college was there to spare us from the election of that foreign power’s creature (sarcasm).

Be that as it may, I would like to distinguish between the original design and intent of the electoral college and the strategic preservation and capture of that admittedly flawed institution by proponents of white supremacy. It was no accident that attempts to amend the constitution to abolish the electoral college system were abortive. An important part of the story behind the white supremacist abuse of the electoral college has been outlined in Joseph Lowndes’s From the New Deal to the New Right and the Southern Origins of Modern Conservatism and in a 1996 Yale Law Journal article by Matthew Hoffman, “The Illegitimate President: Minority Vote Dilution and the Electoral College.

As teasers, I am presenting, below, an excerpt from chapter two of Lowndes’s book –”‘White Supremacy is a Political Doctrine’: Charles Wallace Collins and the Dixiecrat revolt of 1948″ — and a section from Hoffman’s article — “Race, Presidential Politics and the Winner-Take-All Rule” — in a subsequent series of separate posts. White supremacist manipulation of the electoral college was intimately related to efforts to dismantle the collective bargaining framework established by the FDR New Deal. I hope to write on that issue later, after I have obtained more of the formative documents and analysis. But first, an excerpt from the chapter,”White Supremacy is a Political Doctrine”:

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Race, Presidential Politics, and the Winner-Take-All Rule (1 of 4)

The following excerpt from “The Illegitimate President: Minority Vote Dilution and the Electoral College,” by Matthew M. Hoffman is presented under the fair use Section 107 of the U.S. Copyright Act. The article was published in The Yale Law Journal, Vol. 105, No. 4 (Jan., 1996), pp. 935-1021. I have removed the extensive footnotes to facilitate presentation in the blog format. I will be posting one installment a day for the next three days followed by the fourth installment and table of contents on the fourth day.

Race, Presidential Politics, and the Winner-Take-All Rule

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Race, Presidential Politics, and the Winner-Take-All Rule (2 of 4)

The following excerpt from “The Illegitimate President: Minority Vote Dilution and the Electoral College,” by Matthew M. Hoffman is presented under the fair use Section 107 of the U.S. Copyright Act. The article was published in The Yale Law Journal, Vol. 105, No. 4 (Jan., 1996), pp. 935-1021. I have removed the extensive footnotes to facilitate presentation in the blog format.

The Free Elector Movement of 1960

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Race, Presidential Politics, and the Winner-Take-All Rule (3 of 4)

The following excerpt from “The Illegitimate President: Minority Vote Dilution and the Electoral College,” by Matthew M. Hoffman is presented under the fair use Section 107 of the U.S. Copyright Act. The article was published in The Yale Law Journal, Vol. 105, No. 4 (Jan., 1996), pp. 935-1021. I have removed the extensive footnotes to facilitate presentation in the blog format.

The Wallace Campaign of 1968 and the Rise of the Republican South

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Race, Presidential Politics, and the Winner-Take-All Rule (4 of 4)

The following excerpt from “The Illegitimate President: Minority Vote Dilution and the Electoral College,” by Matthew M. Hoffman is presented under the fair use Section 107 of the U.S. Copyright Act. The article was published in The Yale Law Journal, Vol. 105, No. 4 (Jan., 1996), pp. 935-1021. I have removed the extensive footnotes to facilitate presentation in the blog format.

Racial Politics and Present-Day [1996] Campaigns

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Scab Labour: Where do we go from here?

Bridget Phillipson is the U.K. Labour MP for Houghton and Sunderland South. “You’re not fit to be prime minister and you’ve got to resign,” she told Jeremy Corbyn at an extraordinary meeting of the Parliamentary Labour Party after the Brexit vote last June. Today, “The Staggers, The New Statesman’s rolling politics blog” published an essay by Phillipson titled, Where do we go from here?
It is a very long read but eventually comes to the Lakoff-inspired conclusion that the Labour Party needs “to frame the debate again as one between collective action and its absence.”

And having formulated that clear sense of how the Britain of 2020 would be run differently between 2020 and 2025 by Labour, we need to work out how to persuade the electorate of that – to work out exactly how we should communicate our promises.

Before arriving at that stirring platitude, however, Phillipson let these dubious cats out of the bag:

I take the view that the right decisions for Britain’s future are not invariably the ones that are immediately and universally popular. If they were, all politicians would be redundant. Sometimes things that are true are deeply unpopular, and sometimes things that are popular would be catastrophic as policy choices. That to me is why we are a representative democracy rather than one governed by referendum after referendum. I also believe that as politicians we have a moral responsibility to tell the truth. …

If we pretend things that are true aren’t so, and pretend that seductively popular options which would actually damage us are without downsides, we deserve to get in trouble. The fastest way to lose trust is to be found out in deceit, and once we lose that trust, we will then find it very hard to gain the support we need to change what can and should be changed. It’s easy for those who don’t believe in government: they have nothing to lose from a diminution of faith in politics and politicians. As Labour politicians we have everything to lose: we have a double responsibility.

So to the point: the ‘lump of labour,’ the notion that there are a finite number of jobs to go round, is a long-known fallacy. Those who pretend otherwise or deny that finding should be treated with the same bemused contempt as Douglas Carswell when he claimed the tides were driven mainly by the sun. … There is something horribly un-socialist about blaming people for the consequences of political decisions of a right wing government. That is the politics of populism not socialism, the politics of easy answers rather than right answers.

If it is the “double responsibility” of Labour politicians to “tell the the truth,” it is a prerequisite responsibility for them to know what “the truth” is and not simply parrot something they happen to have heard from Jonathan Portes or Nigel Stanley. The claim about a lump-of-labour fallacy was conceived and propagated as the core reactionary “frame” for refuting the legitimacy of collective action by workers.

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Down the Rabbit Hole with Trump FBI Fanboy, Jimmy Kallstrom

Who is James K. Kallstrom? Kallstrom is the retired FBI assistant director and frequent Fox News guest who has been orchestrating the “revolt” of FBI agents from the New York field office that led to FBI director Comey’s questionable letter to Congress about emails found on Anthony Weiner’s laptop. He is an enthusiastic supporter of Donald Trump and bitter foe of the Clintons, referring to them as a “crime family.”

Kallstrom was a top electronic surveillance expert for the FBI. Here is what the New York Times wrote about him in February 1995, when he was appointed to head the FBI’s New York City office:

A former Marine captain and a Vietnam veteran, Mr. Kallstrom joined the F.B.I. in 1970 and spent most of his career in New York City, heading the unit responsible for electronic monitoring of criminals.

As the head of the Special Operations Division in New York from 1976 to 1990, Mr. Kallstrom oversaw a band of surveillance experts that grew from 15 to more than 300.”

A little less than three years later, Kallstrom retired from the FBI to take a job with MBNA Bank. During his tenure as director of the New York City office, Kallstrom presided over the controversial criminal investigation into the 1996 crash of TWA flight 800.

In a presumably unrelated incident, Kallstrom was a strong advocate of the innocence of FBI agent, Lin DeVecchio, who was indicted in 2007 on charges of helping Mafia informant, Gregory Scarpa, commit four murders in the 1980s and 1990s. Charges were dropped when it was revealed that the government’s key witness, Scarpa’s mistress, had given conflicting accounts of DeVecchio’s involvement. Information Scarpa supplied to DeVecchio played a major role in the “Mafia Commission Case” that established the reputation of young prosecutor Rudy Giuliani in 1985.

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