What’s up with the USA?
7 de novembro de 2016 § 2 Comentários
Publicado em português no Vespeiro e no Estado de S. Paulo de 6/6/2016
The “Protestant ethic” usually takes the spotlight, but the most revolutionary “American exceptionalism” is that the country was born as the only nation of landowners there had ever been.
While Brazil, like the rest of the “New World”, had its vast territory divided up and distributed to 13 good friends of the king, the Virginia Company of London, along with other private companies to whom undercapitalized King James I, of England, handed the colonization of “his” America, offered, since 1618, a 50-acre property-title to anyone who was willing to make a living there.
The opening of a window like the “headright system” into Europe’s brutal medieval world where the only certainty was to die in the exact same social position you were born into (be it landowner or otherwise), was an unprecedented miracle in human History.
What made the construction of a political order based on free consent, property rights and equality under the law in the United States’ birth as a nation possible is that these were conditions that already existed in that part of the world at that time. The goal of the institutions built around this historical miracle by the Enlightenment’s elite was not to create it, but to “shield” it from returning to the former standards because of man’s natural impulse to “prevail” over their neighbor, and preserve the freedom that permitted them to undertake such challenge.
Their solution was to put effort and merit in the place once occupied by “divine right” as the only acceptable mean to legitimize the accumulation of power or wealth; that is, to legitimize social inequality. That was already a lot, but not enough. Even under the rule of merit, property, little by little, tended to concentrate again into fewer hands. Turning the 19th to the 20th century, with american democracy wraking in corruption, the “Progressive Era’s reforms” step in the political stage to condition the right to accumulate property, even if attained through merit, to the preservation of competition to the consumer’s benefit. Along with new instruments to enforce the power of the many over the few imported from Switzerland like the “recall election”, the right of legislative “initiative” and “referendum” for laws enacted by representatives, antitrust legislation, a genuine (an decisive) american inovation, attained to put political and economic power more clearly on opposite sides and thus to renew the miracle.
There is a fundamental difference between American democracy and the others that, throughout the world, eventually evolved into meritocratic systems. While for the latter it is a question of purging and overcoming their own historical experiences so that they may stop being what they culturally remain being, the problem for the former is preventing the transformation into what it never was and solemnly swore to never become from its founding day. The absence of the “original sin” on its starting point deprived the United States of the rest of the world’s hatred of property and prosperity, which it constantly associates to privilege and would translate into the communist revolutions that drenched the 20th century in blood.
The result was the most spectacular soar of freedom and prosperity combined ever to be seen by any human society, until the internet and its blurring of sovereign national boarders came to stop the ascent.
In the new reality of exportable markets of goods and labor and the absolute impossibility to enforce national legislations to control them in a globalized context, the American model of individual rights prevaling over State and corporate “reasons” have been implacably diluted in the confront with “State Capitalism”, the multitudes reduced to extreme poverty working for minuscule wages to monopolistic enterprises sustained by national treasuries sustaining dumping wars against its democratic competitors.
40 years of successive records of company merges and acquisitions followed, in a wacky race to obtain scale and “productivity gains” at the expense of salaries and work conditions along with the ever-growing interference of the State bailling out those who got “to big to fail” in the process, with fear of unemployment closing everyone’s eyes to the corresponding corruption. All of such badly compensated by a technological revolution anchored in a computer science where intellectual property rights are indefensible.
This shift has been pulling americans out off the model they had the privilege to choose for themselves and to definitly empower in the beginning of the 20th century which they had been abble to profit from for almost 80 years. The only beneficiary of the telluric economic shift that followed has beem the financial sector which profits obscenely from the recurrent “restructuring” of the wracks off production and labor. It grown up from 8% to 48% of the national economy during this period.
Donald Trump “bogie style” and Bernie Sanders “Santa Claus-style” populisms and Hillary Clinton’s dangerous liaisons with both the people who fear them and with Wall Street’s sharks, along with what sounds to us as kind of “vintage” ideological jargon assumed by the american press, are all portraits of the perplexity of a Nation that up to now has had the luxury of living in a true meritocracy, away from the hoplessness of winning by individual worth that ends up in bitterness and social warfare, and reflections of the opportunistic aproach of the Democratic and Republican establishments, allways trying to profit off the consequences of democratic capitalism’s structural shift instead of choosing to discuss the roots of the problem (one of no visible solution in a globalized context).
This election confirms the United States’ contamination by the ancestral sickness of the rest of the world. The “American model” of a generation ago rests itself firmly upon laws that are no longer enforceable in a world that is borderless and unjust. A world that, from now on, will level up by the average, which for America means settling for less. Only after that, and if the model doesn’t get lost in the way, will the world achieve, now as a whole, an institutional aparatus to defend men from men as efective as the one History turned americans able to develop and live under before everyone else on this planet.