Disaster Capitalism

Posted: March 15, 2011 in Class Warfare, Culture War, Fearful in AZ, MSM, Non-AZ

Danger, Will Robinson! Danger! It’s taken us 30 years to recognize that the GOP has been using crises to consolidate power and dismantle the state. Only Rachel Maddow seems to be addressing this ugly truth on the national level.

Ironically, humans have been using this type of management since we started forming into hunting and gathering groups. The first notable historical example that comes to my mind was when Julius Caesar became “dictator for life”. Originally a “dictator” was a temporary position that lasted no more than 6 months and was created to serve a particular purpose. In those days, the title was appointed to a general to wage war. Caesar was first given the title temporarily when he entered Rome with his legions in order to restore order to the capital city and ensure continuity of the government. Caesar had to do this because his enemies (Pompey, his supporters and his troops) who had previously been in charge fled upon hearing of his approach. Once Caesar had finally defeated Pompey and his supporters in battles outside of Italy, he was appointed dictator for life.

Ultimately, Caesar was allowed to “govern during the crises” for three reasons. First, Romans were very used to having a functioning government and services unparalleled in western world at the time due to the long and succesful stability resulting from their “Republic”. Essentially, any disruption in the government created enormous anxiety in the populace. Leadership was needed, or at a bare minimum the appearance of leadership, in order to appease the people’s psychological need for it. Beyond the citizenry though, the ruling class of the Roman Republic was also to blame. The Republic was led by a very powerful Senate filled with the oldest and noblest Roman families. Once those Senators had either sided with Caesar or fled him, there was a vacuum. There was little to no middle ground to be had.1

Second, Roman territory had been expanded into Gaul (now France) and that necessitated extending the long hand of Roman governance into the new territories to not only gather needed revenues and resources but also to hold that territory in future. Some of Caesar’s legions were left behind to maintain their control. However, no army can hold territory through an exclusively martial presence indefinitely.2 Some kind of structure would have to be put in place and the Roman tradition was to overlay any existing culture with their own governing mechanisms. The people were left alone so long as they paid their taxes and gave up a certain number of young men for conscription in the Roman army.3 And the conquered people eventually became citizens and became used to Roman rule.4

The third reason was and continues to be ironic on many levels. The crisis existed because Caesar forced the situation. His stubborn pride, his narcissistic egomania, would not let him return to Rome without a “triumph”.   See, Caesar had conquered all of Gaul (no mean feat, actually) and like every other returning General he wanted a celebratory parade into Rome. The Senate in Rome said no, because they were afraid that he would come with his troops and declare himself king. Caesar responded with something like, “I had rather be first in a village than second at Rome.” So the standoff began and eventually it ended with Caesar calling the Senate’s bluff. He marched into Rome and Pompey fled. Once Caesar arrived in Rome, he promptly had the remaining Senators (who were all beholden to him or scared out of their minds) declare him dictator for life, i.e., king. It isn’t clear to scholars whether Caesar actually wanted to be king or not. Intentions may not have mattered because the end result was the same.

The lesson from this is to beware of those who use crisis as a form of management, be they in business or government. Ultimately it is dishonest because they will tell you they are only trying to do their duty or to do what is right in a time of crisis. When the truth is, they are either taking advantage of a crisis of their own making or a crisis created by others. It is about their egos and their desire to control you to make you do what they want. Don’t mistake the GOP’s tactics for anything less than Disaster Capitalism at its ugliest.%

1  Sound familiar America? No middle ground…you’re either with the GOP or “yur agin em!”
2  Why does this warning make me think of Afghanistan? Hmmmm, why?
3  Anyone who didn’t follow this system were killed and/or raped and/or sold into slavery.
4 If people stayed out-of-the-way of the Romans, they would be given paved roads, aqueducts full of fresh water, defense against marauding tribes from the east out of Germany, etc.
5 If you haven’t read it or seen it, you should. “The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism” is a 2007 book by Naomi Klein, and is the basis of a 2009 documentary by the same name.


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