Monday, July 9, 2012

Is Allen West a neo-Marxist?

One index of how bad things are economically is apparently that more Americans went on Supplemental Security Income disability payments than got jobs last month. So Fox News asked Florida representative Allen West for a reaction to this factoid, and got:
That is an unfortunate consequence of failing economic policies coming from the president so that now when people are running out of the unemployment benefits, now they are looking toward going on Social Security disability… so once again we are creating the sense of economic dependence, which to me is a form of modern, 21st century slavery. (ThinkProgress, who are responsible for the bolding)
Let's just overlook the way the congressman suggests that being disabled is purely a matter of personal choice ("Tildy, looks like this is the last unemployment check—one of us is gonna have to chop off a couple of fingers and drive down to Social Security").
Bill "Bojangles" Robinson and Shirley Temple.
What's really intriguing is this concept of slavery as economic dependence rather than, say, being the property of another person, or being forced to work without being paid, under threat of violence. It's so—uh—different! Like what made them slaves in the old cotton economy was getting their food from the Big House; if they'd foraged it for themselves, they wouldn't have been slaves at all.

Here's another example (though it seems to have been edited by a Pajamas Media Gertrude Stein):
The congressman said that the regulatory environment is also “crushing” small-business growth in the country.
“So, I have to say it as it is. We do not want to see economic dependency or economic slavery become the mantra for the United States of America. It should be economic freedom,” West said. “But the policies of this and this administration doesn’t lend that so.” (my bolding)
Tooling around the Tubes trying to figure out what he's getting at, I don't believe it's a conservative commonplace; it looks like West owns it.  But there is something kind of interesting that I didn't know about, a whole social science paradigm going by the name of dependency theory or sometimes underdevelopment theory.

According to this perspective, the underdeveloped nations of the world are underdeveloped on purpose: you might say the developed nations actively underdeveloped them, to create a dependency of the poor states on the rich, which the rich could then exploit in the form of slaves (or at least cheap unskilled labor) and markets for surplus production; it was by this means in early imperialism that the Western countries accumulated the extra capital that funded the Industrial Revolution, and it continues today, presumably funding the Information Revolution, by massive offshoring of materially productive work to the Islands of the Underpaid.

Is the congressman saying that's what the S.S.I. is all about? Softening up the Lumpenproletarier so that they can more easily be enslaved? Is he suggesting they would be better off adopting the ideology of self-reliance, like the leadership of North Korea? Or throwing off their chains in worldwide revolution?

Tell us, Mr. West: What is your mantra?

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