Ph.D. Octopus

Politics, media, music, capitalism, scholarship, and ephemera since 2010

Tea Partiers sure love their Freedom

with 7 comments


I’m sure you’ve all seen the video of Joe Miller– Alaskan senate candidate/post-apocoplytic survivalist– and his private guards detaining a journalist at a public event. Glenn Greenwald points out that these guards were active duty military, which certainly adds a extra dash of creepy authoritarianism to the whole thing.

A couple of days ago I caught a bit of the California governors debate, and Meg Whitman was saying something about how terrible and greedy the public employees unions were, and how she was going to slash their pay. Except– she made a point of saying– not for uniformed employees who care a gun. Which I assume would be cops and prison guards. Slash away at the nurses or teachers who, you know, make peoples’ lives better. But never say a bad word about someone with a gun.

The connecting link, of course, is the strange definition of freedom our friends on the right have adopted. Who knew that our shining city of the hill of freedom and individual liberty included so many cops and soldiers telling you what to do?

But then, is this not a defining feature of neoliberalism? The move to slash public investment in social goods necessarily goes hand in hand with the increased investment in the security and military apparatus of the government.

This probably deserves more thought, but it brings to mind one of my favorite quotes from David Montgomery’s Citizen Worker. In the nineteenth century, even as social darwinist ideology proclaimed that government could not care for the sick or poor, “the coercive capacity of the government grew steadily throughout the century.” Meanwhile, “the authority it exercised was narrowed in scope.” (Montgomery 117).


Written by Peter Wirzbicki

October 19, 2010 at 16:03

7 Responses

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  1. Good point, though I think your language gets a bit carried away. I’m sure you didn’t mean for it to come out this way, but it comes across like you are implying that cops and prison guards, as a rule, do not “make peoples’ lives better.” Clearly many cops and prison guards (though by no means all) do in fact make our lives better. My point is that cops and prisoner guards should be given the same respect teachers and nurses do, no more and no less.


    October 19, 2010 at 16:16

  2. George Washington called it immoral to not pay down debts from wars. Puritans consider fiscal independence a large part of the definition of liberty.

    Your definition of freedom may be focused on going past 14 trillion dollars in debt to keep a huge state apparatus going. But living via excessive borrowing can only lead to a rendezvous with reality. Going on a binger with your credit card is not freedom.

    By the way, you may notice that all of the services you laud are fast becoming unaffordable due to reckless spending. “Rights” cost money. And, money does not come from Federal bonds.

    To do this we need to drop the neo-liberal perspective and replace it with the neo-mercantillism of culturist thought. That is our trade policies and border policies must serve to benefit us. The liberal “human rights” “global citizen” paradigms, coupled with an insistence that we go broke buying everyone their their “entitlements” leads to more, unsustainable dependence on the government. Is that freedom?

    John Press, Ph.D.

    October 19, 2010 at 22:18

    • Your notion of debt is ahistorical and attenuated, sir, but let’s leave that aside for the moment and deal with your nationalist mercantilist framework, which you put forth by claiming that the alternative is a sort of moral welfare state of rights in which “we” (We who? What we do you presume “us” to constitute?) go broke paying for other people not to starve. You of course offer no proof of “our” alleged privation, nor, again, any notion of the we other than what’s presumably a smooth and undifferentiated abstract national subject, and hey, it’s not like a little nationalism ever hurt anyone. Oh, wait.

      But what really gets me is the larger argument you’re trying to make, that somehow some kind of reactionary paleocapitalism is going to save “us” from the neoliberal collapse by returning us to the good old days of what? Racialized exclusion? Maybe you’d like to throw some chattel slavery back in there? Some good old fashioned colonialism? I guess we already have that in Iraq and Haiti. That’s what mercantilism produces, while the bounded nation state led to, uh, well, this, for one example:

      As for culturism, sounds like the old new right reinscription of biologically-justified racism discursively rearticulated back into discourses of cultural difference to me – see for instance Vijay Prashad’s piece in this volume:

      You are right that money doesn’t come from federal bonds. It comes from surplus value, the sort that Meg Whitman extracts from her employees, whether or not they meet the requirements for membership in your “we,” it comes from superexploitation, speedups, intimidation, something people during the golden age of mercantilism knew quite well, if I recall.


      October 20, 2010 at 23:38

  3. Yeah yeah. The perils of writing while hungover are many, but lack of precision is one.
    Obviously cops are necessary and make our society nicer in a thousand ways. And probably should be paid better too!
    I just think the (sometimes) excessive praise thrown at them, while simultaneously defunding and denigrating people like nurses and teachers is worrisome.


    October 19, 2010 at 23:14

  4. fuck cops. and fuckyeah, david montgomery!


    October 20, 2010 at 06:50

  5. So you think that all profit comes from exploitation. You’d rather have use value than exchange value. Hmmn. Where have I heard that before?

    Speaking of which. Yes, anyone who dares question a liberal gets accused of wanting slavery. It is sooooooo very tired. You must admit that that is a very weak and irrational attack.

    You wanted to discuss definitions of freedom. Mine is the traditional American one based on economic soundness. Equating morality and sustainability and freedom with of ever increasing debt seems perverse to me. The Puritans would call such indebtedness slavery.

    Thanks for the link to Prashad.

    John Press

    October 21, 2010 at 23:24

  6. John Press- to be picky, all profit (based on employment of another person, a master-servant relationship. I bring in X revenue, I get paid X-1 salary) does come from exploitation. It’s a trade-off our society has decided is worth it. But any non-Stalinist liberal is going to be ok with some amount of exploitation because of rising tides and all that jive. It’s a question of degree.


    October 22, 2010 at 16:35

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