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Thursday, March 06, 2008

Brer Rabbit and Lycurgus

"'I come atter you, Brer Rabbit,' sez Brer Fox, sezee. 'Dar's gwineter be a party up at Miss Meadows's,' sezee. 'All de gals 'llbe dere, en I promus' dat I'd fetch you. De gals, dey 'lowed dat hit wouldn't be no party 'ceppin' I fotch you,' sez Brer Fox, sezee.

"Den Brer Rabbit say he wuz too sick, en Brer Fox say he wuzzent, en dar dey had it up and down, 'sputin' en contendin'. Brer Rabbit say he can't walk. Brer Fox say he tote 'im. Brer Rabbit say how? Brer Fox say in his arms. Brer Rabbit say he drap 'im. Brer Fox low he won't. Bimeby Brer Rabbit say he go ef Brer Fox tote 'im on his back. Brer Fox say he would. Brer Rabbit say he can't ride widout a saddle. Brer Fox say he git de saddle. Brer Rabbit say he can't set in saddle less he have bridle fer ter hol' by. Brer Fox say he git de bridle. Brer Rabbit say he can't ride widout bline bridle, kaze Brer Fox be shyin' at stumps long de road, en fling 'im off. Brer Fox say he git bline bridle. Den Brer Rabbit say he go. Den Brer Fox say he ride Brer Rabbit mos' up ter Miss Meadows's, en den he could git down en walk de balance er de way. Brer Rabbit 'greed, en den Brer Fox lipt out atter de saddle en de bridle.”

Many a reader of Plutarch’s Lycurgus must have been struck by the resemblance between Sparta’s lawgiver and Br’er Rabbit. At least I was, last night.

In Kautsky’s book on Thomas More’s Utopia, he listed Lycurgus as a fore-runner of socialism. Kautsky said nothing about Brer Rabbit, however. Lycurgus got on the short list because, as Plutarch’s life shows, he imposed an apparently radically egalitarian ideal on the Spartans. Save, of course, for the helots. Myself, I think it is important to see this ideal for what it is: it is animated less by egalitarianism than for a hatred of the effects of wealth.

However, to continue along the traditional lines of telling the story: Lycurgus did create an egalitarian state. The way he did it was Brer Rabbit like. For instance, here is Lycurgus, solving the perennial problem of wealth inequality. First, he solved it for immovables (Henry Maine claims that the primal category of property is into immovables and moveables) by creating a new, equal division of land between all Spartans and all Laconians.

Then he moved onto moveables.

“Not contented with this, he resolved to make a division of their movables too, that there might be no odious distinction or inequality left amongst them; but finding that it would be very dangerous to go about it openly, he took another course…”

"Co'se Brer Rabbit know de game dat Brer Fox wuz fixin' fer ter play, en he 'termin' fer ter outdo 'im, en by de time he koam his ha'r en twis' his mustarsh, en sorter rig up, yer come Brer Fox, saddle en bridle on, en lookin' ez peart ez a circus pony. He trot up ter de do' en stan' dar pawin' de ground en chompin' de bit same like sho 'nuff hoss, en Brer Rabbit he mount, he did, en dey amble off. Brer Fox can't see behime wid de bline bridle on, but bimeby he feel Brer Rabbit raise one er his foots.
"'W'at you doin' now, Brer Rabbit?' sezee.
"Short'nin' de lef stir'p, Brer Fox,' sezee.
"Bimeby Brer Rabbit raise up de udder foot.
"'W'at you doin' now, Brer Rabbit?' sezee. Pullin' down my pants, Brer Fox,' sezee.
"All de time, bless grashus, honey, Brer Rabbit wer puttin' on his spurrers, en w'en dey got close to Miss Meadows's, whar Brer Rabbit wuz to git off, en Brer Fox made a motion fer ter stan' still, Brer Rabbit slap de spurrers into Brer Fox flanks, en you better b'leeve he got over groun'.

In order, Plutarch claims, to complete his radical egalitarian program, Lycurgus had to attack both the possessions and the private life of the Spartans. The first he did in the following way:

“… he commanded that all gold and silver coin should be called in, and that only a sort of money made of iron should be current, a great weight and quantity of which was but very little worth; so that to lay up twenty or thirty pounds there was required a pretty large closet, and, to remove it, nothing less than a yoke of oxen. With the diffusion of this money, at once a number of vices were banished from Lacedæmon; for who would rob another of such a coin? Who would unjustly detain or take by force, or accept as a bribe, a thing which it was not easy to hide, nor a credit to have, nor indeed of any use to cut in pieces? For when it was just red hot, they quenched it in vinegar, and by that means spoilt it, and made it almost incapable of being worked.
In the next place, he declared an outlawry of all needless and superfluous arts; but here he might almost have spared his proclamation; for they of themselves would have gone after the gold and silver, the money which remained being not so proper payment for curious work; for, being of iron, it was scarcely portable, neither, if they should take the pains to export it, would it pass amongst the other Greeks, who ridiculed it. So there was now no more means of purchasing foreign goods and small wares; merchants sent no shiploads into Laconian ports; no rhetoric-master, no itinerant fortune-teller, no harlot-monger or gold or silversmith, engraver, or jeweler, set foot in a country which had no money; so that luxury, deprived little by little of that which fed and fomented it, wasted to nothing, and died away of itself.”

What Lycurgus is aiming at is luxury –luxury is the vice of inequality, the effect of wealth, the thing that brings in itinerant fortune-tellers, harlot mongers and gold and silver smiths. The attack on wealth is an attack on the effect of wealth. And though it seems to be an attack levied for the sake of equality itself, it turns out that it is a way of clearing out unnatural hierarchies so that natural ones can flourish. The natural ones will be of the healthy and the strong over the weak – the good fuckers and good bearers of children over the degenerates – the silent, or plain speakers over the garrulous – the spending of words being parallel to the spending of money – etc.

In this, Brer Rabbit is different than Lycurgus. Lycurgus is the great deceitful lawmaker, and Brer Rabbit is the great deceitful lawbreaker. Since I’ve been considering the nineteenth century stories concerning the origin of property, I thought I’d put this note aside for later.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Don’t believe one optimistic word from any public figure about the economy or humanity in general. They are all part of the problem. Its like a game of Monopoly. In America, the richest 1% now hold 1/2 OF ALL UNITED STATES WEALTH. Unlike ‘lesser’ estimates, this includes all stocks, bonds, cash, and material assets held by America’s richest 1%. Even that filthy pig Oprah acknowledged that it was at about 50% in 2006. Naturally, she put her own ‘humanitarian’ spin on it. Calling attention to her own ‘good will’. WHAT A DISGUSTING HYPOCRITE SLOB. THE RICHEST 1% HAVE LITERALLY MADE WORLD PROSPERITY ABSOLUTELY IMPOSSIBLE. Don’t fall for any of their ‘humanitarian’ CRAP. ITS A SHAM. THESE PEOPLE ARE CAUSING THE SAME PROBLEMS THEY PRETEND TO CARE ABOUT. Ask any professor of economics. Money does not grow on trees. The government can’t just print up more on a whim. At any given time, there is a relative limit to the wealth within ANY economy of ANY size. So when too much wealth accumulates at the top, the middle class slip further into debt and the lower class further into poverty. A similar rule applies worldwide. The world’s richest 1% now own over 40% of ALL WORLD WEALTH. This is EVEN AFTER you account for all of this ‘good will’ ‘humanitarian’ BS from celebrities and executives. ITS A SHAM. As they get richer and richer, less wealth is left circulating beneath them. This is the single greatest underlying cause for the current US recession. The middle class can no longer afford to sustain their share of the economy. Their wealth has been gradually transfered to the richest 1%. One way or another, we suffer because of their incredible greed. We are talking about TRILLIONS of dollars which have been transfered FROM US TO THEM. All over a period of about 27 years. Thats Reaganomics for you. The wealth does not ‘trickle down’ as we were told it would. It just accumulates at the top. Shrinking the middle class and expanding the lower class. Causing a domino effect of socio-economic problems. But the rich will never stop. They just keep getting richer. Leaving even less of the pie for the other 99% of us to share. At the same time, they throw back a few tax deductible crumbs and call themselves ‘humanitarians’. Cashing in on the PR and getting even richer the following year. IT CAN’T WORK THIS WAY. Their bogus efforts to make the world a better place can not possibly succeed. Any 'humanitarian' progress made in one area will be lost in another. EVERY SINGLE TIME. IT ABSOLUTELY CAN NOT WORK THIS WAY. This is going to end just like a game of Monopoly. The current US recession will drag on for years and lead into the worst US depression of all time. The richest 1% will live like royalty while the rest of us fight over jobs, food, and gasoline. So don’t fall for any of this PR CRAP from Hollywood, Pro Sports, and Wall Street PIGS. ITS A SHAM. Remember: They are filthy rich EVEN AFTER their tax deductible contributions. Greedy pigs. Now, we are headed for the worst economic and cultural crisis of all time. Crime, poverty, and suicide will skyrocket. SEND A “THANK YOU” NOTE TO YOUR FAVORITE MILLIONAIRE. ITS THEIR FAULT. I’m not discounting other factors like China, sub-prime, or gas prices. But all of those factors combined still pale in comparison to that HUGE transfer of wealth to the rich. Anyway, those other factors are all related and further aggrivated because of GREED. If it weren’t for the OBSCENE distribution of wealth within our country, there never would have been such a market for sub-prime to begin with. Which by the way, was another trick whipped up by greedy bankers and executives. IT MAKES THEM RICHER. The credit industry has been ENDORSED by people like Oprah Winfrey, Ellen DeGenerous, Dr Phil, and many other celebrities. IT MAKES THEM RICHER. Now, there are commercial ties between nearly every industry and every public figure. IT MAKES THEM RICHER. So don’t fall for their ‘good will’ BS. ITS A LIE. If you fall for it, then you’re a fool. If you see any real difference between the moral character of a celebrity, politician, attorney, or executive, then you’re a fool. No offense fellow citizens. But we have been mislead by nearly every public figure. WAKE UP PEOPLE. THEIR GOAL IS TO WIN THE GAME. The 1% club will always say or do whatever it takes to get as rich as possible. Without the slightest regard for anything or anyone but themselves. Reaganomics. Their idea. Loans from China. Their idea. NAFTA. Their idea. Outsourcing. Their idea. Sub-prime. Their idea. High energy prices. Their idea. Obscene health care charges. Their idea. The commercial lobbyist. Their idea. The multi-million dollar lawsuit. Their idea. The multi-million dollar endorsement deal. Their idea. $200 cell phone bills. Their idea. $200 basketball shoes. Their idea. $30 late fees. Their idea. $30 NSF fees. Their idea. $20 DVDs. Their idea. Subliminal advertising. Their idea. Brainwash plots on TV. Their idea. Vioxx, and Celebrex. Their idea. The MASSIVE campaign to turn every American into a brainwashed, credit card, pharmaceutical, love-sick, celebrity junkie. Their idea. All of the above shrink the middle class, concentrate the world’s wealth and resources, create a dominoe effect of socio-economic problems, and wreak havok on society. All of which have been CREATED AND ENDORSED by celebrities, athletes, executives, entrepreneurs, attorneys, and politicians. IT MAKES THEM RICHER. So don’t fall for any of their ‘good will’ ‘humanitarian’ BS. ITS A SHAM. NOTHING BUT TAX DEDUCTIBLE PR CRAP. In many cases, the 'charitable' contribution is almost entirely offset. Not to mention the opportunity to plug their name, image, product, and 'good will' all at once. IT MAKES THEM RICHER. These filthy pigs even have the nerve to throw a fit and spin up a misleading defense with regard to 'federal tax revenue'. ITS A SHAM. THEY SCREWED UP THE EQUATION TO BEGIN WITH. If the middle and lower classes had a greater share of the pie, they could easily cover a greater share of the federal tax revenue. They are held down in many ways because of greed. Wages remain stagnant for millions because the executives, celebrities, athletes, attorneys, and entrepreneurs, are paid millions. They over-sell, over-charge, under-pay, outsource, cut jobs, and benefits to increase their bottom line. As their profits rise, so do the stock values. Which are owned primarily by the richest 5%. As more United States wealth rises to the top, the middle and lower classes inevitably suffer. This reduces the potential tax reveue drawn from those brackets. At the same time, it wreaks havok on middle and lower class communities and increases the need for financial aid. Not to mention the spike in crime because of it. There is a dominoe effect to consider. IT CAN'T WORK THIS WAY. But our leaders refuse to acknowledge this. Instead they come up with one trick after another to milk the system and screw the majority. These decisions are heavily influensed by the 1% club. Every year, billions of federal tax dollars are diverted behind the scenes back to the rich and their respective industries. Loans from China have been necessary to compensate in part, for the red ink and multi-trillion dollar transfer of wealth to the rich. At the same time, the feds have been pushing more financial burden onto the states who push them lower onto the cities. Again, the hardship is felt more by the majority and less by the 1% club. The rich prefer to live in exclusive areas or upper class communities. They get the best of everything. Reliable city services, new schools, freshly paved roads, upscale parks, ect. The middle and lower class communities get little or nothing without a local tax increase. Which, they usually can't afford. So the red ink flows followed by service cuts and lay-offs. All because of the OBSCENE distribution of bottom line wealth in this country. So when people forgive the rich for their incredible greed and then praise them for paying a greater share of the FEDERAL income taxes, its like nails on a chalk board. I can not accept any theory that our economy would suffer in any way with a more reasonable distribution of wealth. Afterall, it was more reasonable 30 years ago. Before Reaganomics came along. Before GREED became such an epidemic. Before we had an army of over-paid executives, bankers, celebrities, athletes, attorneys, doctors, investors, entrepreneurs, developers, and sold-out politicians to kiss their asses. As a nation, we were in much better shape. Strong middle class, free and clear assets, lower crime rate, more widespread prosperity, stable job market, lower deficit, ect. Our economy as a whole was much more stable and prosperous for the majority. WITHOUT LOANS FROM CHINA. Now, we have a more obscene distribution of bottom line wealth than ever before. We have a sold-out government, crumbling infrastructure, energy crisis, home forclosure epidemic, 13 figure national deficit, and 12 figure annual shortfall. The cost of living is higher than ever before. Most people can't even afford basic health care. ALL BECAUSE OF GREED. I really don't blame the 2nd -5th percentiles in general. No economy could ever function without some reasonable scale of personal wealth and income. But it can't be allowed to run wild like a mad dog. ALBERT EINSTEIN TRIED TO MAKE PEOPLE UNDERSTAND. UNBRIDLED CAPITALISM ABSOLUTELY CAN NOT WORK. TOP HEAVY ECONOMIES ALWAYS COLLAPSE. Bottom line: The richest 1% will soon tank the largest economy in the world. It will be like nothing we’ve ever seen before. The American dream will be shattered. and thats just the beginning. Greed will eventually tank every major economy in the world. Causing millions to suffer and die. Oprah, Angelina, Brad, Bono, and Bill are not part of the solution. They are part of the problem. THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS A MULTI-MILLIONAIRE HUMANITARIAN. EXTREME WEALTH MAKES WORLD PROSPERITY ABSOLUTELY IMPOSSIBLE. WITHOUT WORLD PROSPERITY, THERE WILL NEVER BE WORLD PEACE OR ANYTHING EVEN CLOSE. GREED KILLS. IT WILL BE OUR DOWNFALL. Of course, the rich will throw a fit and call me a madman.. Of course, they will jump to small minded conclusions about 'jealousy', 'envy', or 'socialism'. Of course, their ignorant fans will do the same. You have to expect that. But I speak the truth. If you don’t believe me, then copy this entry and run it by any professor of economics or socio-economics. Then tell a friend. Call the local radio station. Re-post this entry or put it in your own words. Be one of the first to predict the worst economic and cultural crisis of all time and explain its cause. WE ARE IN BIG TROUBLE.