Prologue: Fall and Winter, 2009 to 2010, beginning exactly 1 month after Barack Obama’s Nobel Peace Prize announcement
“Main Street”, Washington, D.C, United States of America
Knock, knock: There was a middle-aged man working in one room in a marble building, doing his salaried government job as did nearly all of his colleagues, on Constitution Avenue, a couple of falls and winters ago, almost always behind his closed door, unintrusive, yet supportive. He commuted every day to work for more than a decade, like any other American, with a salaried wife and two young children, from a suburban home. One day, his supervisor came by and asked him to acknowledge that he was not doing his job. He refused politely and did not acknowledge in writing because did not know why. Nor did the supervisor care to explain. He was escorted out of the building cordially by government security, his badge confiscated. On his way home he called higher-ups asking for a meeting to understand what had happened to him. The secretary did not give him a meeting. The doctors certified that he is perfect physical and mental health.
Knock, knock: He went to his home, which he owned with his wife, and to his family. His salaried wife of nearly 2 decades, at another Washington agency, decided to leave him. She went to court. The judge sent the man to a mental health institution for not leaving the home even as he was looking to move out with full knowledge of the wife. His wife returned all government equipment to her husband’s government agency at his request. He lost his children and his home. His personal belongings were mailed to him from his office in boxes to a friend’s house where he was staying temporarily.
Knock, knock: The man found work elsewhere. Because he did not know why what happened to him did, he had asked the government agency to give him a reference. He worked there for 10 months on government contracting. One day, unannounced, he was laid off.
John Pierpont Morgan, in a storied tale which is now a fable told by those trading still in the shade of the Buttonwood tree where it all began in the 18th century, had saved his fellow businessmen and the American economy by gathering them to save themselves using their commonsense and sense of responsibility for the system of which they were a part. The economy and the country had recovered. Then Woodrow Wilson, 6 years later, in 1913 had instituted the Federal Reserve System to do the work of J.P. Morgan during banking and financial crises.
John Davison Rockefeller of New York had scrounged funds in Cleveland, Ohio to buy up refineries to build the world’s largest oil company, Standard Oil, on the heels of the Pennsylvania oil rush in the late 19th century, working together with Cornelius Van der Bilt’s railroads to transport oil from the Pennsylvania oil fields and refined oil products around the country from his refineries, displacing coal. A Ohio Republican Congressman named John Sherman decided to break up Rockefeller’s empire because Winston Churchill had global oil ambitions by 1911 for the mighty British naval fleet. Today’s global oil industry exists because of Rockefeller, the oil being sold at the same price around the world, no matter where oil is extracted and refined, but for differences in transportation costs, government taxes and subsidies. The Sherman Antitrust Act has still not served its purpose because there are no alternatives to oil in the energy markets and the economy big enough and cheap enough to compete with the black gold.
American Telephone and Telegraph Company (AT&T) founded by Alexander Graham Bell and his business associates in 1885 which gave birth to the global telecommunications industry for its work with Lord Kelvin in laying the transatlantic cable to the United Kingdom was broken up by the Sherman Antitrust Act about a century later, in 1982. The break up is only now beginning to serve its purpose. There are more ways than one to communicate because of the internet, invented by academia and the Department of Defense and, hence, better value for the consumers, worldwide.
The invention of the internet in the history of American politics, however, has a long and directed antecedent dating back to 1917, the year of the Bolshevik October Revolution in Russia, when Woodrow Wilson, a professor and president of Princeton University before he became president, who had founded the Federal Reserve, entered America into World War I, a year before it ended in the Treaty of Versailles, outside Paris. Wilson had given a giant boost to the American transportation industry by ordering vehicles for World War I. The shabby roads, resembling those in many developing countries today, were modernized across the country and by 1953, after World War II, that work had become the interstate highway system. Invented in his garage in 1908 where he tinkered as an auto mechanic, Henry Ford’s Model T, after he wrangled money from Wall Street, was driven before there was a good road in America to speak of.
The non-profit American education industry and the country’s government, beginning with Amendment 16 in 1913 to permanently institute the income tax, entered the business of taking private invention public, for its good, culminating in the invention of the internet at the behest of the Defense Advanced Research (Projects) Agency or DAR(P)A by the private Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and a consortium of other universities.
The wars of the 20th century, in response to Japan, Germany and the former Soviet Union during World War II, had spawned America’s industrial policy, beginning with World War I trucks, guns and airplanes to the Cold War’s weapons of flight and mass destruction whose proliferation by the United States has the world on the edge today. America has steadily been changing, veering away from its principles, because of wars of choice, from 1917 to the (un)expected 80 year aftermath of the opening of China by Nixon and Kissinger in 1972.
(in response to Helga Smolders on Linkedin Economist Newspaper Readers Group) Socrates’ posthumous contribution to society is freedom of thought of all the pre-Socratic vagabonds culminating in his death at the apex of Athens’ power/loss of power to the aristocratic Plato and his disciple Aristotle. That said, hemlock in this day and age has been replaced by MK Ultra. Liberty is no longer a birthright in the country of the Adjustment Bureau. It must be earned by the masses. Death, as are taxes, is a certainty. Liberty not so.
United States of America has become an authoritarian state whose authority is facilitated by the watchful eye of the Big Brother since the Russian Sputnik in 1957 and the commercialization of the American microprocessor and personal computer beginning in the early 1980s. George Orwell had written 1984 as a history, not as a sight of the future.
The principal difference between pre-1917 America and post-1917 America is the regulation of business through the capital markets by the Federal Reserve and the intelligence establishment, in particular since Franklin Delano Roosevelt (FDR) in 1933, in addition to regulation by the Congress through legislation, and through litigation in the courts which existed since the country was founded but had become salient during the industrial revolution and the lifetimes of the tycoons from Cornelius Van der Bilt to the steel industry of Andrew Carnegie during the presidency of Harry Truman.
The Roosevelt cousins, Teddy the Bull Moose Progressive and the first American Nobel Peace Laureate and Franklin the Democrat and longest serving president, as unintended consequences go, put America on a path which has forever changed its political partisanship: from Alexander Hamilton’s Federalism and Jefferson’s agrarian State’s Rights to government and individual liberty, the government firmly in charge in 2012 at the expense of the non-partisan commitment to individual liberty of the country’s first president, George Washington.
The industrial interests during Lincoln had taken the country to Civil War gratuitously in 1861 because slavery, as a matter of course of American history, would have ended by the civil rights and voting rights acts of Lyndon Baines Johnson (LBJ) 1964-1965 anyway. In 1917, the nexus of government and industrial interests had joined America in a world war which has not yet ended.
Now, the Obama-favored Facebook’s initial public offering (IPO) is a classic example of the government (intelligence)-corporate nexus, just as Google was, diverting Federal Reserve financing to pick winners and losers early on in the marketplace across industries, from finance to all else. The garage tinkering days of Henry Ford’s industrial revolution had ended with Bill Gates and Steve Jobs, a century later. The history of the now pervasive Central Intelligence Agency’s Non-Offical Cover (NOCs) agents, of Valerie Plame Wilson’s controversial fame, in global corporations has its roots in International Business Machines (IBM) sales to Hitler’s regime before the United States had joined World War II to today.
There is a better way to regulate than playing in the shadows of the Kafkaesque and pre-fabricated state-corporatism: the United States Congress, not the nation’s bureaucracies, doing its job to enable a limited but strong government, no matter the wealth of the tax base.