Thank you Dr. Zernik.
Jamie Dimon – Caricature
(image by DonkeyHotey)
Andrew Ross Sorkin (and his “Deal Book” team at the New York Times) seemed to have built an insurmountable lead in the race to be declared the most unctuous panderer to the financial plutocrats who grew wealthy by leading the frauds that blew up our economy. As I wrote recently, Politico became my instant dark horse candidate for the Street’s sycophant-in-chief with Ben White’s fantasy that “In 2009, Washington went to war against big Wall Street banks.” I noted that the “war” consisted of the Treasury and the Fed dumping trillions of dollars on the biggest Wall Street banks and evoked Tevye in Fiddler on the Roof: “May the Lord smite me with [such a “war”]. And may I never recover!”
Stewart has Fallen to the Bob Woodward Stage of His Career: Praising Faux Maestros
Sorkin has kicked off a race to the bottom at the NYT and James Stewart has just penned the most obsequious ode to Dimon yet recorded. In a further proof of our family rule that it is impossible to compete with unintentional self-parody, Stewart’s brand for his column is “Common Sense.” Stewart’s version of “Common Sense” when it comes to Dimon reads exactly like Thomas Paine’s famous “Common Sense” would have read had it been written by a City of London banker in 1776. If we had listened to people like Stewart defending privilege rather than Paine’s annihilation of the pretenses of the British plutocrats we would not have become an independent Nation for another century.
The Real “Common Sense” as Penned by Thomas Paine
In his introduction to his third edition, Paine warned about the Deal Bookers of his day who accepted the legitimacy of the powerful dominating and plundering the people because it had always been that way. Paine decried the fact that this lazy failure to question the domination of the powerful led inexorably to a defense of their exploitation in the form of an unthinking reflex in favor of “custom.”
“[A] long habit of not thinking a thing WRONG, gives it a superficial appearance of being RIGHT, and raises at first a formidable outcry in defense of custom.”
Paine championed the need for the American people to pierce through the “pretensions” of the elites and exercise the peoples’ right to “reject” the usurpations of power by the King and the English parliament.
“[T]he good people of this country are grievously oppressed by the combination, they have an undoubted privilege to inquire into the pretensions of both, and equally to reject the usurpation of either.”
Lord Acton made famous the phrase: power corrupts; and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Paine’s pamphlet, long before Acton’s birth, shared the same key understanding.
“First. — That the King it not to be trusted without being looked after; or in other words, that a thirst for absolute power is the natural disease of monarchy.”
In our day, we see that “thirst” in what scholars have dubbed our “Imperial CEOs.” In Paine’s era, the King was the most powerful, but Paine refused to fawn over the powerful. He advised that if we had the sense to strip away the pomp and the myths spread by sycophants we would find a “plunderer.”
“[C]ould we take off the dark covering of antiquity and trace them to their first rise, we should find the first of them nothing better than the principal ruffian of some restless gang, whose savage manners of pre-eminence in subtilty obtained him the title of chief among plunderers; and who by increasing in power and extending his depredations, overawed the quiet and defenseless to purchase their safety by frequent contributions.”
Paine predated more conservative writers who would later echo his warnings, though often in the service of financial elites. Frédéric Bastiat understood the role that the James Stewarts of the world play in “glorify[ing]” those who use their great power to plunder.
“When plunder becomes a way of life for a group of men living together in society, they create for themselves in the course of time a legal system that authorizes it and a moral code that glorifies it.”