Michael Parenti

Michael
Parenti
1933

American Political Scientist, Writer, Historian and Culture Critic

Author Quotes

U.S. commitments are not to the ordinary people of other lands, but to the privileged reactionary factions that are most accommodating to Western investors . . . right-wing government maintains the existing privileged order of the free market, keeping the world safe for the empowered hierarchies and wealthy classes of the world.

Profits are what you make when not working.

You don't know you're wearing a leash if you sit by the peg all day.

Russia became a juicy chunk of the Third World, with immense reserves of cheap labor, a vast treasure of natural resources, and industrial assets to be sold off at giveaway prices.

You will have no sensation of a leash around your neck if you sit by the peg. It is only when you stray that you feel the restraining tug.

The capitalist state has two roles long recognized by political thinkers. First, like any state it must provide services that cannot be reliably developed through private means, such as public safety and orderly traffic. Second, the capitalist state protects the haves from the have-nots, securing the process of capital accumulation to benefit the moneyed interests, while heavily circumscribing the demands of the working populace, as Debs observed from his jail cell. There is a third function of the capitalist state seldom mentioned. It consists of preventing the capitalist system from devouring itself. Consider the core contradiction Karl Marx pointed to: the tendency toward overproduction and market crisis. An economy dedicated to speedups and wage cuts, to making workers produce more and more for less and less, is always in danger of a crash. To maximize profits, wages must be kept down. But someone has to buy the goods and services being produced. For that, wages must be kept up. There is a chronic tendency?as we are seeing today?toward overproduction of private sector goods and services and under-consumption of necessities by the working populace.

The classic laissez-faire theory is even more preposterous than Greenspan made it. In fact, the theory claims that everyone should pursue their own selfish interests without restraint. This unbridled competition supposedly will produce maximum benefits for all because the free market is governed by a miraculously benign ?invisible hand? that optimizes collective outputs. (?Greed is good.?)

The close relationship between politics and economics is neither neutral nor coincidental. Large governments evolve through history in order to protect large accumulations of property and wealth.

The corporate capitalists no more encourage prosperity than do they propagate democracy. Most of the world is capitalist, and most of the world is neither prosperous nor particularly democratic. One need only think of capitalist Nigeria, capitalist Indonesia, capitalist Thailand, capitalist Haiti, capitalist Colombia, capitalist Pakistan, capitalist South Africa, capitalist Latvia, and various other members of the Free World?more accurately, the Free Market World. A prosperous, politically literate populace with high expectations about its standard of living and a keen sense of entitlement, pushing for continually better social conditions, is not the plutocracy?s notion of an ideal workforce and a properly pliant polity. Corporate investors prefer poor populations. The poorer you are, the harder you will work?for less. The poorer you are, the less equipped you are to defend yourself against the abuses of wealth. In the corporate world of ?free-trade,? the number of billionaires is increasing faster than ever while the number of people living in poverty is growing at a faster rate than the world?s population. Poverty spreads as wealth accumulates.

The crucial role communists played in organizing industrial unions in the 1930s and struggling for social reforms, peace, and civil rights strengthened rather than undermined democratic forces.

The dirty truth is that many people find fascism to be not particularly horrible.

The Federalists also used bribes, intimidation, and fraud against opponents of the Constitution.

The first atrocity, the first war crime committed in any war of aggression by the aggressors is against the truth.

There is the frequently overlooked self-destruction created by the moneyed players themselves. If left completely unsupervised, the more active command component of the financial system begins to devour less organized sources of wealth. Instead of trying to make money by the arduous task of producing and marketing goods and services, the marauders tap directly into the money streams of the economy itself. During the 1990s we witnessed the collapse of an entire economy in Argentina when unchecked free marketeers stripped enterprises, pocketed vast sums, and left the country?s productive capacity in shambles. The Argentine state, gorged on a heavy diet of free-market ideology, faltered in its function of saving capitalism from the capitalists.

Those who scold us for ?running to the government for a handout? are themselves running to the government for a handout. Corporate America has always enjoyed grants-in-aid, loan guarantees, and other state and federal subventions. But the 2008-09 ?rescue operation? offered a record feed at the public trough. More than $350 billion was dished out by a right-wing lame-duck Secretary of the Treasury to the biggest banks and financial houses without oversight?not to mention the more than $4 trillion that has come from the Federal Reserve. Most of the banks, including JPMorgan Chase and Bank of New York Mellon, stated that they had no intention of letting anyone know where the money was going.

Those who suffer from conspiracy phobia are fond of saying: Do you actually think there?s a group of people sitting around in a room plotting things? For some reason that image is assumed to be so patently absurd as to invite only disclaimers. But where else would people of power get together ? on park benches or carousels? Indeed, they meet in rooms: corporate boardrooms, Pentagon command rooms, at the Bohemian Grove, in the choice dining rooms at the best restaurants, resorts, hotels, and estates, in the many conference rooms at the White House, the NSA, the CIA, or wherever. And, yes, they consciously plot ? though they call it planning and strategizing ? and they do so in great secrecy, often resisting all efforts at public disclosure. No one confabulates and plans more than political and corporate elites and their hired specialists. To make the world safe for those who own it, politically active elements of the owning class have created a national security state that expends billions of dollars and enlists the efforts of vast numbers of people.

To complain about how the media are dominated by liberals, Limbaugh has an hour a day on network television, an hour on cable, and a radio show syndicated by over 600 stations.

Today conservative forces continue to reject more equitable electoral features such as proportional representation, instant runoff, and publicly funded campaigns. They continue to create barriers to voting, be it through overly severe registration requirements, voter roll purges, inadequate polling accommodations, and electronic voting machines that consistently ?malfunction? to the benefit of the more conservative candidates.

Archbishop Romero of El Salvador was a member of the Salvadoran aristocracy. He could not have risen to the top of the church hierarchy otherwise. But after he began voicing critical remarks about the war and concerned comments about the poor, he was assassinated.

People may like what third-party candidates say, because often they are the only ones saying anything, but they usually won't vote for someone who doesn't have a chance. Since third-party candidates are not in the news, they are considered to be not really in the race; and since they are not in the race, this justifies treating them as if they are not news.

At a World Affairs Council meeting in San Francisco, I remarked to a participant that U.S. leaders were pushing hard for the reinstatement of capitalism in the former communist countries. He said, Do you really think they carry it to that level of conscious intent? I pointed out it was not a conjecture on my part. They have repeatedly announced their commitment to seeing that free-market reforms are introduced in Eastern Europe. Their economic aid is channeled almost exclusively into the private sector. The same policy holds for the monies intended for other countries. Thus, as of the end of 1995, more than $4.5 million U.S. aid to Haiti has been put on hold because the Aristide government has failed to make progress on a program to privatize state-owned companies (New York Times 11/25/95).

Conservative pundits have a remarkable amount of free speech.

Conservatives have nothing against incumbency when it is their people who are filling the slots.

Conspiracy is a legitimate concept in law: the collusion of two or more people pursuing illegal means to effect some illegal or immoral end. People go to jail for committing conspiratorial acts. Conspiracies are a matter of public record, and some are of real political significance. The Watergate break-in was a conspiracy, as was the Watergate cover-up, which led to Nixon?s downfall. Iran-contra was a conspiracy of immense scope, much of it still uncovered. The savings and loan scandal was described by the Justice Department as a thousand conspiracies of fraud, theft, and bribery, the greatest financial crime in history.

Democracy becomes a problem for corporate America not when it fails to work but when it works too well, helping the populace move toward a more equitable and livable social order, narrowing the gap, however modestly, between the superrich and the rest of us. So democracy must be diluted and subverted, smothered with disinformation, media puffery, and mountains of campaign costs; with rigged electoral contests and partially disfranchised publics, bringing faux victories to more or less politically safe major-party candidates.

Author Picture
First Name
Michael
Last Name
Parenti
Birth Date
1933
Bio

American Political Scientist, Writer, Historian and Culture Critic