Editorial Note: Hunter Wallace’s counter-charge to my previous piece is out. It is chock full of good material, and thankfully he has stopped simply memeing and made an actual argument. This is the Occidental Dissent we need. I will return to Southern history presently, but need to clear some basics up first.
Some people seem genuinely confused by our characterization of Presidential backburner Andrew Yang as a “libertarian.” Well, this is as good a time as any to familiarize our readers with “political economy,” distinguished from its more popular cousin “economics” by relative lack of bow-ties and graphs. Political economy is concerned with the political ramifications of an economic system, this is where Yang lines up with both the libertarians and Trotskyites that have been in charge of America at least since the 1970’s. But first, let’s throw a thumbs up to Anatoly Karlin over at Unz Review for writing the best pro-Yang content so far, in which he takes a shot that hits so close to home we got paranoid about our neighbors:
Yes, some besuited beigeocrats from the Economics Department of Podunk University will come on and argue that it’s unsustainable and will bankrupt the country. But they can’t prove any of that.
Well shot, but some of us prefer grey flannel and are coming up for tenure at Backwater State, so we cannot simply pontificate from stale theory. He is right, there is no empirical reason to believe the Chinaman’s voodoo will not work, from a strict economic perspective. In fact, moving out of the nuts-and-bolts economics quickly, it is Austrian Economics (libertarians) that gives the most convincing case for Universal Basic Income.
Joseph Schumpeter was an Austrian economist and generally colorful fellow. He claimed that he wanted to be the best economist in the world, the greatest lover in all of Vienna, and the best horseman in Austria. Late in life he claimed to have completed two of these goals, but hinted the equestrian competition was too steep. He was right about being the greatest economist in the world– despite widespread contemporary disdain for the “Austrian School,” Schumpeter is the exception. Tweedocrats at Urbanite Academy love him, as do Marxists, Progressives, and that brand of libertarian Americans call “left-libertarianism,” but is actually just the real thing. He is most famous for a concept he called the “gale of creative destruction.” If you like German it’s called schöpferische Zerstörung, and it is worth parsing a little bit.
Schumpeter theorized that Marx was mostly right about the nature of capitalism and the bourgeoisie, particularly this very famous passage from the Manifesto:
The bourgeoisie cannot exist without constantly revolutionising the instruments of production, and thereby the relations of production, and with them the whole relations of society. Conservation of the old modes of production in unaltered form, was, on the contrary, the first condition of existence for all earlier industrial classes. Constant revolutionising of production, uninterrupted disturbance of all social conditions, everlasting uncertainty and agitation distinguish the bourgeois epoch from all earlier ones. All fixed, fast-frozen relations, with their train of ancient and venerable prejudices and opinions, are swept away, all new-formed ones become antiquated before they can ossify. All that is solid melts into air, all that is holy is profaned, and man is at last compelled to face with sober senses his real conditions of life, and his relations with his kind.
The need of a constantly expanding market for its products chases the bourgeoisie over the entire surface of the globe. It must nestle everywhere, settle everywhere, establish connexions everywhere.
Where Schumpeter disagreed, was with Marx’s eventual conclusion that a worldwide uprising of the proleteriat; casting off their chains would create the classless utopia he held in common with other 1848 revolutionaries– namely proto-libertarians Joseph Déjacque and Mikhail Bakunin. Absent their contemporary name, Marx refers to them as “Critical-Utopian Socialists,” and they were his opponents at the time, but the chief difference is methodology rather than telos. Everyone wanted the classless, borderless, lawless, propertyless society to happen.
Schumpeter’s gale predicts endless market innovation will get the job done, and with each revolution, bits of the bourgeoisie will be cast down into the proleteriat via obsoletion of the services they provide, and accordingly, the proleteriat they employ will be cast down into the “submerged classes” (Stirner used lumpenproletariat to describe this class long before editions of the Manifesto began printing the term in the late 19th century). If readers have heard us talking about the fundamental similarity of late-Marxism and late-capitalism on Rebel Yell, this is what we mean.
It is easy to see how this played out right in front of us during the 20th Century, especially in America. The “Merger Movement” of the nascent industrialists, fresh off a frenzied victory over their despised planter opposition in the Revolution of 1860 combined resources into impossibly large money syndicates, gutted local political structures, and began the slow drain of economic and social power into the locations they reside today. In the Midwest and the South, this was done primarily through synchronicity between railroad barons and Northeastern manufacturing.
As railroads came to Western towns in the late 19th century, they brought mass manufactured goods from Chicago and the warehouse slums of Eastern cities. Everywhere they arrived, local store owners, grain merchants, and cattle barons, which had formed the local elite, were dethroned. Economies of scale brought to bear by these mass manufacturers forced them down the social ladder, where they used their remaining capital to buy out poorer farmers, who were forced to migrate to the big cities and join the burgeoning industrial proletariat. Competition between these proletariat forced many down into the ranks of under-employed, submerged poor that Jack London wrote about in his essay “How I Became A Socialist,” (a great read).
In the South, this gale of creative destruction took a similar course, but was accomplished with less end-value to the consumers. After all, Midwestern farmers at least got their goods cheaper. In the South, the devastation of the War crippled land value. While some landholders held out, the British opening of the Egyptian cotton market (refer back to Marx) plunged them back into debt, where they made easy targets for “carpetbaggers.” Local banks, cotton factors, and extant manufacturing interests became increasingly reliant on credit extended from (yes, gentle reader, you guessed it!) Northeastern industrialists and their (sigh) (((counterparts))) in banking.
The land holding elite of the South were thus caught between their own debts and the global market induced poverty of the cotton market and their own debts to the nascent Progressives. Unlike the Western magnates, they had a cultural weapon at hand to fight back, and so they passed down costs to their tenant farmers where they could, and doubled down on a programmé of cultural mass resistance we now call “The Lost Cause.”
We will come back and cover this period in another article because it is convoluted, sad, and resolves into two competing schools of early 20th century Southern politics– both of which were directly opposed to “Progressivism.” The important thing to know, for the moment, is that cycles of creative destruction in the Postbellum American (and global) economy are proof-positive that Schumpeter’s political economy holds water. Virtually everyone agrees. The power elite gave him a Nobel Prize.
If we quickly hop forward into the 21st Century, it is easy to see this process at work yet again, supplanting the designed physical retail mega-centers of the post-WW2 world order. First booksellers fell under the sway of online outlets like Amazon, then the national newspaper syndicates (of the Progressive era no less!) fell to social media giants. At the same time, massive “free trade” agreements between (formerly) sovereign nations like NAFTA enabled the corporate giants, thinly restrained by Progressive era legislation (again, we will get there), to gleefully pack up and move to Mexico, where labor was cheap and unions a fantasy. If this seems like a libertarian paradise, you are right! But the libertarians, like Schumpeter, and like the Progressives also recognized this was a problem. There were a lot of suddenly very poor, very angry (usually very white) people floating around. And the Universal Basic Income is a most libertarian solution.
Unlike the left-authoritarian nationalists of Soviet Russia, who abolished domestic markets to the greatest extent they possibly could, or the right-authoritarians like Salazar and Fitzhugh, who believed empowered individuals were a danger to their collective peoples, both libertarians and the Trotskyite socialists decided UBI and rule by corporate terms-of-service was the way forward. As Matthew Zwolinski argued over at Cato Unbound a few years ago, the UBI is the most “liberty friendly” response to Schumpeter’s gale:
First, they [UBI payments] involve a cash grant with no strings attached. Unlike other welfare programs which encourage or require recipients to consume certain specific kinds of good – such as medical care, housing, or food – a BIG simply gives people cash, and leaves them free to spend it, or save it, in whatever way they choose
Second, a BIG [Basic Income Guarantee] is an unconditional grant for which every citizen (or at least every adult citizen) is eligible. It is not means-tested; checks are issued to poor and rich alike (though on some proposals payments to the rich will be partially or fully recaptured through the tax system). Beneficiaries do not have to pass a drug test or demonstrate that they are willing to work. If you’re alive, and a citizen, you get a check. Period. [Thousand dollars a month, bro]
Now candidate Yang has set up a few bumper rails. For instance, he prohibits using UBI payments to speculate on the value of future UBI payments and the whole host of similar financial instruments the real elite use to compound their wealth. But the payments appear to be largely strings-free. He is even down with the idea of legalizing opiates!
Lest we get called “normie conservatives” or worse, again, it is absolutely necessary to point out that automation and inequality are very real threats to white folks’ future. This article, which also trots out Schumpeter, indicates about 47% of jobs currently in the Imperial workforce are on the chopping block for various reasons. It is true that right wing thought, myopically (but not uselessly) concerned about demographic issues, has largely abandoned economics to the libertarians and the Trotskyites– but the same accusation can be hurled at the left, whose own outlets freely admit they abandoned the populism that made them a bulwark against private corporate power in the 1970’s.
It just makes little sense, in our opinion, to endorse a man who wants to satisfy the Trotskyites on one hand, by using an already culturally repressive state as a carrot and stick dispenser (a reminder that candidate Yang also wants to punish anti-LGBTQ behavior with jail time, further enshrine abortion rights, and “sensibly” control guns), and the homo economicus cultural libertarians on the other hand by allowing post-literate “citizens” to trade their monthly subsidies directly to the Sackler family with no consequences. We think it also bears a striking similarity to the Bismarck reforms, which consolidated Imperial German power against a coteries of economic and ethnic uprisings in the late 19th century.
Yang’s world is one in which the most relevant question seems to be “did the white junkie consent though?”
Fulwar is a historian of the New South and the transatlantic Enlightenment. He is also co-host of Rebel Yell, and frequent contributor to Good Morning Weimerica!