Wednesday, July 18, 2012

The Secret King -- from beloved Gravely -- (Scribner's 1984)

            Spook’s book The Secret King demolished modern economic theory by demonstrating the utter unreliability of conclusions based on such highly unstable data as government statistics, corporate reports, and the fluctuating value of modern currencies; Spook said the Never-Never Land approach just ignored the fact that any overall treatment of “the economy” always reflected the author’s innate political bias, and usually little else.
            He then went on to point out some of the similarities between modern times and the last stages of dynastic monarchism.  In both cases, according to Spook, the principal sources of wealth were controlled and/or owned by what he called “immortal agencies.”  The principal source of wealth in modern times, of course, is industrial production.  Under the last stages of dynastic monarchism, it was agricultural production.
            In modern times, the immortality of industrial corporations, subject only to the very realvicissitudes of mismanagement and cut-throat competition, is not a matter for dispute because it is one of the attributes of the “legal fiction” which created corporations in the first place.  Pretty much the same thing was true under the dynastic monarchies; even though individual members of the ruling class might die, the titled offices or patents of nobility from which their privileges derived did not die.  In both cases the “immortal agencies” – corporations or princes – were granted an immunity from prosecution on capital charges for all but the most atrocious crimes, and even in the event of those crimes it was only the individual who was prosecuted, not the “immortal agency.”  Modern corporations, said Spook, have been created by the state in much the same way and for many of the same reasons that dynastic monarchies created patents of nobility: to enforce the laws, to regulate production, and to collect the taxes.  A reciprocal relationship exists in both cases, and both systems are characterized by heavy taxes laid on the less wealthy citizens, and also by vast differences in wealth between the rich and the poor.
            There was a real revolution in America, but unfortunately it occurred just as the source of wealth was changing from agricultural to industrial production.
            Spook said that anti-monarchist sentiment in America and in most of the rest of the world was so strong that those people who were naturally a part of the monarchist party had been forced to call themselves by a different name.  But, he went on, the history of the “secret monarchy” that they controlled could easily be traced.  The monarchists, before the Revolutionary War, were by far the stronger party.  Fully a third of the population were avowed Royalists.  Geographical factors, along with their reliance on the English armies – mostly hired mercenaries – coupled with some French intriguing, were responsible for the defeat of the Royalist party.  But the Royalists themselves went right on prospering even after losing the war – whereas the starry-eyed idealists who had signed the Declaration of Independence, for the most part, suffered a decline in wealth and died poorer than they had ever been under the Old Regime.
            For several years, however, the apparently inexhaustible reserves of new land in the West retarded the reconsolidation of power in Royalist hands; before too long, however, even Jackson had to fight the bank, and after the rise of finance capital and the immortal agencies that controlled it, the die was cast; the agrarian democrats were no longer fighting agrarian monarchists, but the far stronger forces of the capitalist plutocracy.  Then as the source of wealth shifted more and more from land to capital, so did the government shift back to “secret” monarchy from what had been American democracy.
            This conflict ended with the War Between the States.
            The Secret King, triumphant in the war, proceeded to consolidate his power; and his vassals, the new corporations, soon were abusing their privileges to such an extent that the central government itself was forced to make efforts to curb the power of capital, but now lacked the necessary philosophical justification for doing so.
            According to Spook, the problem was precisely that the government had – either intentionally (at the behest of the Secret King) or inadvertently (through clumsiness and inattention) – allowed the re-creation of a monarchical system of government controlled by immortal agencies: much the same as things had been before.
            The results of this state of affairs – the creation of a permanent underclass, the establishment of a society based on differing degrees of privilege and entitlement in which the poor pay taxes and the very rich do not – could not be ameliorated, except temporarily, Spook concluded, without attacking the problem at its root – e.g., by breaking the power of the federal government and the corporations in the same way that the power of the English kings and their vassals had once been broken.

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