"Beneath the financial crisis waits a nastier beast"

Farscry wrote:

The serious point I'm making isn't that we're about to have the Apocalypse(tm), Funken.

Wutchoo say 'bout Apocalypse?

IMAGE(http://i147.photobucket.com/albums/r298/DCyfer4628/Apocalypse_comics.png)

Oso wrote:
Pulling the lens back to the big picture, I think there are solid arguments to be made for the "American Character" that will eventually counter-act nationalist or proto-fascist tendencies.

Remember, while there were many social problems in the depression, it did give us the new deal. Among the key cultural icons of the period were folks like Woodie Guthrie and John Steinbeck. The Grapes of Wrath is one of the great American novels that describes a reaction to economic despair and a changing way of life that offers hope rather than fear.

Of course, I'm sure that when the local Safeway stops getting deliveries there will be rioting and violence and many will turn to nationalist or authoritarian answers. However, I don't think we need to give into that fear and we can look to the past to see that hard times bring out the best as well as the worst in all people, including Americans.

An issue with this is that the America of the Great Depression is different than the America of today. In the 30s, about a quarter to a third of the population were farmers...an occupation that promoted rugged individualism (and allowed people to eat when the had no money). Today, farmers are only 1% of the population. The majority of us live in cities and suburbs and have relatively cushy services or desk jobs.

We also have new social issues that no one had to face during the Depression. Blacks were voiceless and contained mostly in the South under the thumb of Jim Crow. Hispanics were seen only in the West and border towns. It's quite different today. If you layer on latent racism and hostility with economic hardship, you have a recipe for nastiness.

Remember, back during the Depression towns would pull together "welcome committees" to make sure that no one who was migrating looking for work would stay in town past nightfall. You were sent to a camp outside of the city limits and encouraged to leave as soon as the sun came up. That was the nice treatment for good Christian white folk...you don't want to know what happened to traveling blacks who were found in town after nightfall.

I wish I could say I have faith in my fellow Americans, but I really don't. Add to that decades of a political climate that has promoted differences and wedge issues and I fear that we'll more easily break down into competing groups than pull together as citizens of the same nation.

I was using the term "liberal" in its wider sense, but the leap from a few guys shouting "terrorist" to totalitarianism isn't justified by history. As I keep repeating, it's been far worse and far more heated in past decades, and there was no coup. I don't know what to say beyond that. The businessman's plot of the 1930s was an amatuerish joke. If you want to think somehow the current period is somehow different from earlier periods, okay. I think that requires a misreading of history, but I'm not going to convince you otherwise. We'll just have to wait it out and see who turns out to have been correct.
Okay, point taken on the usage of the word liberal.

My point wasn't that these people who shout "terrorist" are going to leap to totalitarianism, simply that the types of emotions (i.e. mob rule) that lead to fascism have been exploited, in a much more subdued manner, by the McCain campaign this week. That does not imply that they're trying to institute a fascist government, or that it's even a possibility. I was simply stating that's why we're even talking about it at all.

And the point of my post was that the current period isn't somehow different from earlier periods. We're exactly the same, and people always try to overthrow the US government. Some get more successful than others, but they all can be stopped fairly easily but an individual who is paying attention and is willing to put themselves on the line for the good of the country. I think I am agreeing with you more than you're giving me credit for here.

The only things we have going differently for us this time around are
1) Less self sustainable lifestyles. Nobody grows enough of their own food to feed their families anymore, so it's harder to fall back on that
2) Mass media, information spreads much faster now than before.
3) A bitterly divided citizenry, we were simply not this partisan 80 years ago.
4) We're all much, much wealthier than we were in the 1930's

Does that mean we're going to fail? Hell no. I'm just trying to discuss the differences between then and now.

I agree that we are wealthier than we were 80 years ago, but the political divisions in the 1930s were vast. You're talking about a time then when doctrines that are at most on the widest possible fringes of today's society- fascism and communism- were openly discussed as viable alternatives to the American system of government.

You simply don't have that now. Today we argue about whether the tax rate should be 25% or 35%, or whether gay people should get married. We've even got third party supporters suggesting that there isn't much difference between republicans and democrats on most issues. Arguably we're too politically unified today, odd as that seems.

I have to agree with Funkenpants. In fact, I would say people were far more divided politically in the 30s than they are now. I mean, you are talking about a period in which there was widespread support for entities like the Progressive Party, Socialist Party, Communism, etc. You don't have that these days. And what you have are two parties whose dividing line isn't that large. If you asked someone in Europe if the Democrats and Republicans were different, they would ask, "Aren't they both two branches of the same Conservative tree?"

One of the reasons the 30's was so wild was that times were hard. Wait a few years. I'm fairly certain that the first group of people to bear the brunt will be Latino immigrants - watch for the sentiment that they are stealing jobs to build into the mainstream very, very quickly.

Aye, that is definitely a concern, Aetius. My mother, for instance, has been indoctrinated by Lou Dobbs (what a c*nt) into thinking immigrants, specifically Latino immigrants, are the source of America's plight.

Here's an interesting thought. In the past, the American people have typically scapegoated a group of people with little organization, poor logistics, little will to fight, and/or limited access to the means of fighting. The Native Americans, while fierce and good fighters, had trouble getting and maintaining modern weapons, fought amongst themselves, and were decimated by disease. Blacks, of course, started as slaves, and didn't get organization until the mid-20th century, let alone the logistical ability to fight. Japanese Americans, for the most part, had no organization, and no will to resist the government, as well as no logistical base.

this time, however, there is a sub-group of the target population that is well organized, well armed, has an excellent logistic structure, and (I think) plenty of will to fight. They are devoted to their community and families, and recently have been extremely aggressive in defending themselves and their infrastructure, especially in Mexico. They have the ability to smuggle people and weapons across our border at will. Of course, the group I'm talking about is Latino gangs, and the drug-running/people-smuggling infrastructure behind them. It's possible that there might be a seriously violent, sustained reaction to any large-scale attempt to expel them from the U.S..

Funkenpants wrote:
I agree that we are wealthier than we were 80 years ago, but the political divisions in the 1930s were vast. You're talking about a time then when doctrines that are at most on the widest possible fringes of today's society- fascism and communism- were openly discussed as viable alternatives to the American system of government.

You simply don't have that now. Today we argue about whether the tax rate should be 25% or 35%, or whether gay people should get married. We've even got third party supporters suggesting that there isn't much difference between republicans and democrats on most issues. Arguably we're too politically unified today, odd as that seems.

I don't mean that we actually disagree on issues, that's actually my point. In the 30s, people talked about ideas and had varying opinions. Now we're pretty much at the point where the only thing we disagree on is where to point fingers at. We had scapegoats in the 30s, but now we're so bitterly partisan that we have nothing but scapegoats. There are very few ideas floating around in the system and being proposed as any kind of solution. Though I'll freely admit that hard times will prove fruitful for new ideas about how to solve it.

It's not that we're bereft of differing opinions, it's just that nobody cares anymore as long as the other guy doesn't win. It's no longer become a contest of ideas but a contest of people, which is indeed a major component of totalitarianism of some kind.

Again not that I think this is likely, but it is a new risk we didn't have last time.

Aetius wrote:
Here's an interesting thought. In the past, the American people have typically scapegoated a group of people with little organization, poor logistics, little will to fight, and/or limited access to the means of fighting. The Native Americans, while fierce and good fighters, had trouble getting and maintaining modern weapons, fought amongst themselves, and were decimated by disease. Blacks, of course, started as slaves, and didn't get organization until the mid-20th century, let alone the logistical ability to fight. Japanese Americans, for the most part, had no organization, and no will to resist the government, as well as no logistical base.

this time, however, there is a sub-group of the target population that is well organized, well armed, has an excellent logistic structure, and (I think) plenty of will to fight. They are devoted to their community and families, and recently have been extremely aggressive in defending themselves and their infrastructure, especially in Mexico. They have the ability to smuggle people and weapons across our border at will. Of course, the group I'm talking about is Latino gangs, and the drug-running/people-smuggling infrastructure behind them. It's possible that there might be a seriously violent, sustained reaction to any large-scale attempt to expel them from the U.S..

I'd be a bit shocked if things got to the level of and organised large-scale expulsion, but I can certainly see things getting ugly (uglier?) at the US/Mexico border. Then again, I'm sure you know the American political system and mindset better than I do.

The place I'm most worried about is Europe. There's already a lot of tension between ethnic groups (particularly natives vs immigrants from Albania etc.) in some places, and the financial crisis might just make things worse.

I find the facism/totalitarianism angle interesting, since I didn't give it much though when I read the article. Of course, I'm used to the political system in Australia and New Zealand, so where America is at already seems mindblowing to me. The Patriot Act? Can't even get my head around it.

It's perhaps worth pointing out that NZ's main 'right wing' party is still probably left of the Democrats. Yes, we're dirty commies.

The massive intervention from the Fed may mean that we'll avert the true crisis for a few years more; they pulled out every stop they have on Monday. It's adrenaline straight into the heart with shock paddles; if the economic horse has any life left in it, it should stagger on awhile yet. Hell, that's such strong intervention that it may more closely resemble necromancy. The horse may be an animated corpse, but I suspect it'll start walking again, at least for awhile. So this tension may recede for a few years, but it'll be back.

The Native Americans, while fierce and good fighters, had trouble getting and maintaining modern weapons, fought amongst themselves, and were decimated by disease.

This is something of an aside, but Louis L'Amour, the novelist who wrote so very many Old West books, used to say that the minute the natives picked up weapons they couldn't make themselves, they were doomed. They had to have Europeans to fight the Europeans, so they could never win their war. They couldn't chase them off the continent anymore, or even set up a hard border, because they were dependent on their enemies to arm themselves.

Your other thought, that Hispanic gangsters could, in essence, turn into terrorists if their people are unfairly targeted, strikes me as entirely possible. Yet more blowback from the War on Drugs.

The gangs might react that way if they were ideological, but they aren't. They won't step up for anyone else, they'll fight only for their own interests.

Robear wrote:
The gangs might react that way if they were ideological, but they aren't. They won't step up for anyone else, they'll fight only for their own interests.

True, but their interests would coincide with defending themselves from mobs bent on destroying their property and killing them.

Yes, but that's not organized resistance on a national scale. It would be ugly, but I don't think it would represent an actual uprising, just isolated events on the scale of neighborhoods.

Robear wrote:
Yes, but that's not organized resistance on a national scale. It would be ugly, but I don't think it would represent an actual uprising, just isolated events on the scale of neighborhoods.

True. The organization is there, but the leadership is not. It would require a significant leader to make more out of the whole than the pieces.

With the laws the way they are, any such leader would be disappeared in short order.

The main element the US is missing to make the move to a more overt fascism is not a charasmatic leader but rather generalised military populism.

It may soon be the case that all faith in any institution barring the military is lost. As the real economy is fed into the speculative debt bubble via the mechanism of inflation and the working person finds their wages are further stretched there will be many who become desperate for answers. For example, I understand that Patriot talk radio has seen a huge increase in listenership over the past month.

However, I see the outcome to be a return to the classic US stance of isolationism rather than expansionist fascism. I think you will see increasing hatred of immigrants and globalisation. What you see at McCain rallies I think is a symptom of this.

Regardless, Obama or McCain will be one term presidents. What comes after them will be very interesting to see...