on the gifts of Globalization & bad actor Trump! Almost Marx comments

In answer to Mr. Sandbu’s fulsome praise for ‘Globalization’ framed in a kind of political moralizing, because that framing is all important to the production of usable propaganda:

Headline: An enfeebled America stands alone

Sub-headline: Economic change has affected other countries, but they have managed globalisation

Gerald Suttles, professor emeritus of sociology at the University of Chicago and adjunct professor of sociology at Indiana University, offers some valuable  insights on globalization, in an American context, and the Post War Welfare States of Europe with some adjustments to the particulars of each state. His book is titled Front Page Economics (From pages 6&7)

Globalization stands in direct conflict with the social contract and rhetoric worked out during Roosevelt ,Truman, and Eisenhower years. With globalization the industrial contract ( “workplace socialism” it was called at its best ) ends. Labor and capital have no fixed location and the nation becomes a legal rather than a moral community. Patriotism becomes empty rhetoric. That is quite a moral and conceptual leap  to be spliced onto  a rhetoric of understandings and reassurance in which the nation, community, and the community were almost coterminous. Yet, even the critics of the current globalization are in favor of it in principle if  not in practice (James 2001; Soros 1998; and Stiglitz 2002)

The reader just might offer this, that Globalization and an utterly failed Neo-Liberalism are the twin manifestations of the post war economic doldrums, exacerbated by American Imperial war making in Vietnam,  and the popularity of the Mont Pelerin Philosopher Kings, and their vulgar pamphleteer ally Ayn Rand.

Although Mr. Sandbu does off some insights on the economic condition of the age, following the 2008 Market Crash, that approximates or simply rehearses the complaints of the unconvinced: The Great Unwashed. But simply acts as historical backdrop to kowtowing to the ersatz Utopianism of Globalization/Neo-Liberalism.

Mr. Sandbu’s praise of the TPP,  as America’s missed opportunity is to put it mildly shallow, but self-serving as propaganda must be. Who wrote the TPP? Not American legislators who could read the document , yet could not take notes, and were barred from discussing its contents with their constituencies. Secret Laws? And what of the ‘Investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) or investment court system (ICS)’ that is an outright attack on not just Law, but on the very notion of State Sovereignty, not to speak of Democracy itself. The imperatives of Capital is a Law above all else! The practice of Arbitration, in the world remade by Neo-Liberalism, is to blunt and even usurp the force of Law not enhance its power. Globalization/Neo-Liberalism is, in sum, an attack on the Republican Tradition of the ‘West’ as told in J.G.A. Pocock’s The Machiavellian Moment. 

Investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) or investment court system (ICS) is a system through which individual companies can sue countries for alleged discriminatory practices. ISDS is an instrument of public international law and provisions are contained in a number of bilateral investment treaties, in certain international trade treaties, such as NAFTA (chapter 11), and the proposed TPP (chapters 9 and 28) and CETA (sections 3 and 4) agreements. ISDS is also found in international investment agreements, such as the Energy Charter Treaty. If an investor from one country (the “home state”) invests in another country (the “host state”), both of which have agreed to ISDS, and the host state violates the rights granted to the investor under public international law, then that investor may bring the matter before an arbitral tribunal.

ISDS is in the mutual interest of the host country and foreign investors, as it protects foreign investors and enforces their property rights, thus encouraging them to invest in the host country.[1] In the absence of ISDS, foreign investors would be less likely to invest in a given country, because of the uncertain status of their property rights and due to the tendency of countries to discriminate against foreign firms.[1][2]

While ISDS is often associated with international arbitration under the rules of ICSID (the International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes of the World Bank), it often takes place under the auspices of international arbitral tribunals governed by different rules or institutions, such as the London Court of International Arbitration, the International Chamber of Commerce, the Hong Kong International Arbitration Centre or the UNCITRAL Arbitration Rules.

This reader can only pronounce Mr. Sandbu’s political intervention as more of the same, from The Financial Times as defender of ‘Free Markets’ by any means necessary, with Trump as the featured villain in this episodic Populist Melodrama.

Almost Marx




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On the failure of the McConnell & Ryan congressional leadership. Political Observer comments

Where have McConnell and Ryan been? They have had ample time to come up with an alternative to the Heritage Foundation Health Care! Where was a Working Group on Health Care ‘Reform’ , made up of Senate and House Republicans, and their Think Tank allies, that could have produced a Free Market alternative, to the present Free Market version of ‘Obama Care’? The answer to that question is obvious, if viewed historically, The Tea Party mentality that governs the current Republican Party is nihilist in outlook and practice: Sen. Richard Lugar was one of the  last Conservative Republicans who believed in governance as the ‘art of the possible’ was defeated by a Tea Party candidate in 2012.

Could it be this give away to the Insurance Companies, Obama Care, has only one viable political alternative, Single Payer? Was the politically addled Mr. George F. Will prescient? 2018 is just around the political corner. Will the Clinton Wing of the Party miss this opportunity at self-reform, or cling to Hillary-as-Victim narrative?: Hillary as victim of the Comey/Putin/Assange Cabal? Or make way for the New Dealers Warren and Sanders? Or will it take a loss in 2020 to see a tear stained end to Clintonism? Another pressing question, when will Trump utter his infamous tag line ‘Your Fired’ to both McConnell and Ryan? Stay tuned!

Political Observer


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At The Financial Times: Theresa May in trouble? A story in Headlines & Sub-headlines, as told by Would-be Journalist

Its Monday July 17, 2017 at before 7 AM  PDT, here is a screen capture of an e-mail I received from The Financial Times:


All of these ‘News Stories’ published on July 16, 2017, in order of appearance:

Headline: Theresa May gains Conservative support to sack ministers

Sub-headline: Backbenchers urge prime minister to bring discipline to feuding cabinet


Headline: Philip Hammond accuses cabinet Brexiters of leaking against him

Sub-headline: Hardliners working to obstruct business-friendly Brexit strategy, says chancellor

Headline: Theresa May’s new Downing Street team emerges

Sub-headline: In the prime minister’s office, officials are clawing their way to the summer break

The Tory penchant for ‘Referendums’ has been catastrophic to the political careers of both Cameron and May, to state the obvious. The fate of Britain’s membership in the E.U. left in the hands of The Great Unwashed! Where was ‘Political Fixer’ Lynton Crosby?  May now faces a rebellion within her Cabinet as reported in The Financial Times: with each of these ‘Referendums’ the position and power of Corbyn grew exponentially. This newspaper has been active in promoting the Neo-Liberal Agendas of both Tory and New Labour, but with the rise of Corbyn, within Labour, May is the only hope for the survival of that Neo-Liberalism. Yet Gideon Rachman offers more of the same, posed as a question worthy of consideration, as antidote to the Brexit, this of July 17, 2017.

Headline: The democratic case for stopping Brexit

Sub-headline: The question is whether the British public would support a second referendum


Would-be Journalist



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David Brooks employs ‘History’ as an act of political opportunism. Political Observer comments

Can there be any doubt that Mr. Trump is a megalomaniac? Mr. Brooks’ attempts a psychological/moral diagnosis of Trump, the man and his politics, is presented in this paragraph:

I repeat this history because I don’t think moral obliviousness is built in a day. It takes generations to hammer ethical considerations out of a person’s mind and to replace them entirely with the ruthless logic of winning and losing; to take the normal human yearning to be good and replace it with a single-minded desire for material conquest; to take the normal human instinct for kindness and replace it with a law-of-the-jungle mentality.

It takes generations to hammer ethical considerations out of a person’s mind and to replace them entirely with the ruthless logic of winning and losing;…

What can this mean? Generations and a person’s moral evolution or de-evolution are about influence, there is no straight line between ‘generations’ and ‘persons‘: as sentient beings are defined by both influence and personal volition, not to speak of the growth and development of conscious. Mr. Trump is not just the product of a tyrannizing father and forefathers.  Mr. Brooks is a propagandist who attempts to dress his intervention in moralizing garb. This isn’t just argumentatively and logically weak, as propaganda plays upon emotional registers, not on sound argument.

All of this is simply introductory material for a comment on Donald Trump Jr. :

It took a few generations of the House of Trump, in other words, to produce Donald Jr.  

There is something of the musty presence of Freud in all this moralizing psychological shorthand. Yet Mr. Brooks demonstrates that he is, as always, a political/moral conformist,  behind the pose of the arbiter civic probity.

“Can you smell money?!?!?!?!” Jack Abramoff emailed a co-conspirator during his lobbying and casino fraud shenanigans. That’s the same tone as Don Jr.’s “I love it” when offered a chance to conspire with a hostile power. A person capable of this instant joy and enthusiasm isn’t overcoming any internal ethical hurdles. It’s just a greedy boy grabbing sweets.

Note that Donald Jr. is first convicted of ‘…a chance to conspire with a hostile power.’ and then is infantilized: ‘It’s just a greedy boy grabbing sweets.’ Is Donald Jr. a product of ‘Generations’ or a ‘greedy boy grabbing sweets’? He could be both as Brooks describes him, yet the reader is left with the fact that Brooks presents a series of conjectures strung together as representative of rational argument. Again, I would say that the raison d’etre of Propaganda is to strike the notes along an emotional register, not to present coherent arguments.

Political Observer


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Edward Luce’s near paranoid ramble on Trump and ‘The rot inside America’s first family’, a comment by Political Observer

Mr. Luce’s latest essay reads as it were authored by the Clinton Wing of the New Democrats, so awash in paranoid speculation on the Evil Trump. Mr. Luce simply embroiders on the themes first enunciated by Mrs. Clinton and her coterie of political hacks. In sum, the myth of Hillary as Victim of Conspirators: Putin, Comey and Assange.   Is it a surprise that ‘The Donald’ is crook of the first order? And who better to rely on than the members of your immediate and extended family?  Isn’t that one of lynch pins of Mario Puzo’s and Francis Ford Coppola’s The Godfather. Trump is in large part a pop culture phenomenon, that morphed into a political one. Trump is like the Vulture Capitalists Paul Singer and Mitt Romney, without the bourgeois political respectability: Trump is the P.T. Barnum of the political present.

Special Prosecutor Robert Mueller was head of the FBI from September 4, 2001 – September 4, 2013, and his inexcusable incompetence in the matter of Anthrax Attack of 2001 brings into sharp focus Mr. Mueller’s lack of investigative competence, in this portion of the Wikipedia entry, that highlights the National Academy of Sciences’ dissent on the FBI findings in the case.

In 2008, the FBI requested a review of the scientific methods used in their investigation from the National Academy of Sciences, which released their findings in the 2011 report Review of the Scientific Approaches Used During the FBI’s Investigation of the 2001 Anthrax Letters.[8] The report cast doubt on the U.S. government’s conclusion that Ivins was the perpetrator, finding that although the type of anthrax used in the letters was correctly identified as the Ames strain of the bacterium, there was insufficient scientific evidence for the FBI’s assertion that it originated from Ivins’s laboratory. The FBI responded by pointing out that the review panel asserted that it would not be possible to reach a definite conclusion based on science alone, and said that a combination of factors led the FBI to conclude that Ivins had been the perpetrator.[9] Some information about the case related to Ivins’s mental problems is still under seal.[10][11] Lawsuits filed by the widow of the first anthrax victim Bob Stevens were settled by the government for $2.5 million with no admission of liability. According to a statement in the settlement agreement, the settlement was reached solely for the purpose of “avoiding the expenses and risks of further litigations”.[12]

To rely on Mueller as Special Prosecutor is the most questionable of wagers. Mr. Luce’s essay is, at best, highly garnished speculative chatter awash in the current political hysteria.

Political Observer

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At The Financial Times: Macron as ‘The Sun King’, Almost Marx comments

Headline: The Sun King: Macron burnishes his presidential image

Sub-headline: French lap up ostentatious display of grandeur from youthful head of state

From the utterly shameless, what to call it, kowtowing,worshipful, obsequious stance of The Financial Times towards Macron, the reader just might think that they are reading an excerpt of Saint-Simon’s Memoirs. Or is that just hyperbole to match the bowing and scraping that has become the stance of this ‘newspaper’, and one of its ‘reporters’ in this instance Michael Stothard? He, at one point, offer a telling insight: ‘is so contrived as to invite mockery.’ but only for a moment.

Then there is this from Mr. Stothard: ‘But, it seems, the French public is lapping up the ostentatious display of grandeur from their 39-year-old head of state.’ The reader sees not the admiring throngs of worshipful voters, but tight close-up  photos of Macron riding in a military jeep, with world leaders, and in a nuclear submarine, reeking normalien confident leadership. Mr. Stothard lapses into what can only be called parody with this: He gave Donald Trump a bone-crushing handshake in their first meeting, saying France was not there to make “small concessions”. We are not ushered, but strong armed, into the territory of the Prime Time Soap Opera featuring on-the-skids Hollywood Stars! Mr. Stothard himself enters into the dread territory of  ‘is so contrived as to invite mockery.’ !

One really important fact is left out, is in fact erased from this hagiography, that vexing and potentially lethal but very inconvenient fact of that 57% Abstention rate that ‘swept’ Macron into office.

Macron takes as his model of leadership Charles de Gaulle:

Mr Macron’s official portrait, which is heavy in symbolism, contains an open copy of de Gaulle’s wartime memoirs. “Like de Gaulle, I am choosing the best of the [political] right, the best of the left and even the best of the centre,” Mr Macron said at a political rally in Paris in April.

The political parallels with Leftist turned Neo-Liberal Mitterrand as ‘titan of late-20th century France’ and Neo-Liberal Obama and Trudeau make for a more easily acceptable  political symmetry, as answer of the Populists of both ‘Left’ and ‘Right’ who threaten the construct of the Post-War Liberal Order.

Even  Le Monde has some harsh words for Macron as reported by Mr.Stothard :

Le Monde, the powerful French daily, last month complained that while “not a day goes by” without images of Mr Macron all over social media or on the news, they were not designed to “explain his policy” to the French people but to “sculpt his own image”.

For some enlightening  background on Le Monde and its reputation as a newspaper see this essay by Perry Anderson at The London Review of Books of September 2, 2004:

Some informative excerpts:

The vitality of France’s culture under De Gaulle was not merely a matter of these eminences. Another sign of it was possession of what was then the world’s finest newspaper, Le Monde. Under the austere regime of Hubert Beuve-Méry, Paris enjoyed a daily whose international coverage, political independence and intellectual standards put it in a class by itself in the Western press of the period. The New York Times, the Times or Frankfurter Allgemeine were provincial rags by comparison.

More generally, a sense of cheapening and dumbing down, the intertwining of intellectual with financial or political corruption, has become pervasive. Press and television, long given to the incestuous practices of le renvoi d’ascenseur – is there an equivalent so expressive in any other language? – have lost earlier restraints, not only in their dealing with ideas, but with business and power. The decline of Le Monde is emblematic. Today, the paper is a travesty of the daily created by Beuve-Méry: shrill, conformist and parochial, increasingly made in the image of its website, which assails the viewer with more fatuous pop-ups and inane advertisements than an American tabloid. The disgust that many of its own readers, trapped by the absence of an alternative, feel for what it has become was revealed when a highly uneven polemic against the trio of managers who have debauched it – Alain Minc, Edwy Plenel and Jean-Marie Colombani – sold 200,000 copies, in the face of legal threats against the authors, later withdrawn to avoid further discomfiture of them in court.

La Face cachée du ‘Monde’, a doorstop of 600 pages mixing much damaging documentation with not a few inconsistencies and irrelevancies, unfolds a tale of predatory economic manoeuvres, political sycophancies and vendettas, egregious cultural back-scratching, and – last but not least – avid self-enrichment, unappetising by any standards. ‘Since Le Monde was founded,’ Beuve-Méry remarked after he retired, ‘money has been waiting below, at the foot of the stairs, to gain entry to the office of the editor. It is there, patient as always, persuaded that in the end it will have the final word.’ The media conglomerate erected by Colombani and his associates gives notice that it has taken up occupation. But, powerful a motive though greed at the top may be, the journalism they represent is too pervasive to be explained simply by this. A deeper focus can be found in Serge Halimi’s exposure of the interlocking complicities – across the spectrum – of establishment commentary on public affairs, in Les Nouveaux Chiens de garde (1997). What this sardonic study of mutual fawning and posturing among the talking heads and editorial sages of Parisian society shows is a system of connivance based at least as much on ideological as material investment in the market.

Mr. Mr.Stothard ends his essay with this :

Laurent Bouvet, a political science professor at Versailles University, says that building up the office of the presidency might not help Mr Macron push though his reformist agenda this year — but was proving popular for now.

“Macron has allowed French people to respect the presidency again,” Mr Bouvet adds.

Mr. Macron’s ‘reformist agenda’ is a euphemism for Neo-Liberalization of the whole of French political/civic life, nothing less : The Catastrophe awaits!

Almost Marx

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The ex cathedra pronouncements of Andrew Sullivan as Andy Divine, Episode MMMI: the July 7, 2017 Encyclical. Political Observer comments

As a regular reader of Andrew Sullivan I find his reputation as an American Pundit a function of his self-advertisement, wedded to his abysmal ignorance of American political, social history.  Some examples from Mr. Sullivan’s July 7, 2017 essay:

But the loyalty endures — even deepens. “For now, there’s no way out, only through, and through it together,” writes Rich Lowry, explaining why he, and his magazine, National Review, are now in favor of party over country. Lowry was, you may recall, a prominent Never Trumper, throwing the entire Buckley legacy against the parvenu narcissist during the Republican primaries.

‘…throwing the entire Buckley legacy against the parvenu narcissist during the Republican primaries.’ If anyone qualifies for the status of ‘ parvenu narcissist’ it is Wm. F. Buckley Jr.! Son of a Texas lawyer and very successful oil speculator, who moved his family east to Sharon Connecticut. ‘God and Man at Yale’ and ‘McCarthy and His Enemies: The Record and Its Meaning’ prefigured?

For the particulars on the peripatetic Buckley Family and Buckley fils :

And the notion of that ‘Buckley legacy’  is that Mr. Buckley somehow represented ‘Conservatism’s Virtue’ when his notorious 1955 essay on ‘Civil Rights’ which was once available for the internet reader, has been subject to political erasure, an old Stalinist strategy!  That essay rehearsed the the rationalizations of  Apartheid South Africa!

Mr. Sullivan then shifts his focus just enough to attack the ‘…conventional wisdom on the left.’ which, in sum, means an attack on the brilliant American scholar Michelle Alexander’s and her The New Jim Crow:

Here’s a book review I just came across that seems to me an intellectual shift. It’s a review of a new book by Fordham law professor John Pfaff, Locked In, about mass incarceration in America, and it upends a plank of conventional wisdom on the left. The book argues strongly against the notion that our vast and indefensible prison-industrial complex was deliberately created by an explicitly racist war on drugs that swept up nonviolent drug offenders, primarily black, from the 1980s on. The data don’t back it up:

Mr Sullivan presents the the fact that The New York Review of Books published  this essay by David Cole as a demonstration that that Review still has ‘Left Credentials’ :

In case you think I’m just rehashing a conservative critique of the excesses of today’s racial left, I should let you know that this review was written by David Cole, the national legal director of the ACLU. It’s published by The New York Review of Books. And its aim is toward prosecutorial reform, rather than racial grandstanding. It seems to me we need more of the former, and a good deal less of the latter.

As a reader of The New York Review of Books for over forty years, I have observed a Rightward political shift, starkly demonstrated by this essay by Lincoln Caplan of December 5, 2013. A long quotation from this review is revelatory of the shift to the Right of The New York Review of Books:

For some very informative background on the notion/practice of ‘Judicial Restraint’ and the part this idea played in the career of Learned Hand. And his ‘evolution’ on the question of Brown v. Board, from support to opposition, see this New York Review of Books essay by Lincoln Caplan. He reviews Reason and Imagination: The Selected Correspondence of Learned Hand: 1897–1961 edited by Constance Jordan, with a preface by Ronald Dworkin.(Behind a pay wall)

Hand was a career-long champion of strict judicial restraint. His fundamental belief was that, in our American democracy, judges and especially justices of the Supreme Court should defer to Congress and uphold statutes unless they served no practical purpose, because he doubted “the wisdom of setting up courts as the final arbiters of social conflicts.” James Bradley Thayer, a Harvard Law School professor and favorite teacher of Hand’s,3 articulated this guiding stricture. The standard-setting liberal Justices Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr. (Hand’s hero) and Louis Brandeis relied on this view in the first decades of the twentieth century when they dissented from Supreme Court rulings that struck down social legislation because, the Court’s conservative majority thought, the statutes were anti-business.

In 1958, when Hand was eighty-six and called by The New York Times “the most revered of living American judges,” he summed up his case for strict restraint in The Bill of Rights, the prestigious Holmes Lectures at Harvard Law School, delivered over three nights. By then, Earl Warren had been chief justice of the Supreme Court for five years. As Gerald Gunther explained, “The achievement of social justice through invocation of the Bill of Rights and the Fourteenth Amendment was well on its way to becoming the justices’ central preoccupation.”

Hand’s lectures made the case for judicial enforcement of them only “on extreme occasions.” He contended that there was no basis in the text of the Constitution or in its history for the Supreme Court to hold acts of government unconstitutional, especially statutes passed by Congress and state legislatures.

It was not, he wrote, “a lawless act to import into the Constitution such a grant of power,” for “without some arbiter whose decision should be final the whole system would have collapsed.” But justices and other judges, he advised, should use this power only when that was essential—when a governmental act violated the clear “historical meaning” of the amendments in the Bill of Rights—or they would function as a super-legislature. “For myself it would be most irksome to be ruled by a bevy of Platonic Guardians,” he said famously, “even if I knew how to choose them, which I assuredly do not.”

The lectures were an attack on judicial activism but also the Warren Court. In 1954, Warren had led the Court to the unanimous Brown v. Board of Education ruling. Every justice then on the Court, as the legal historian Michael Klarman noted, “had criticized untethered judicial activism as undemocratic.”4 But the justices recognized that America was a transformed nation in its views about race and that history compelled the Court to find segregation of public schools unconstitutional.5 In a short opinion, Warren stated that principle.

Among liberal and centrist legal thinkers, the question was how broad a principle of equality the Court had actually stated. In his lectures, however, Hand staked out a very conservative position. The Brown ruling was unacceptable because it was second-guessing of legislative choices by the states, even though that put Hand on the wrong side of history.

Brown is considered to be simultaneously, ‘sociology’ and a betrayal of the hallowed ‘judicial restraint’: this set of claims became the central founding myths of The Federalist Society.

From his fervent advocacy for ‘The Bell Curve’ , to the present attack that is conducted by his political surrogate Mr. Cole, Mr. Sullivan’s racial animus is on full display. For a Review of the Bell Curve from an earlier iteration of the ‘Liberalism’ of The New York Review of Books, see Charles Lane’s review of the Bell Curve in the December 1, 1994 issue of that review, titled The Tainted Sources of ‘The Bell Curve’ :

The final section of Mr. Sullivan’s is devoted to the pressing issue of creating a new bumper sticker for the Democrats in 2018 :

But even I could not have come up with their attempts this week to create a new 2018 bumper sticker.

Mr. Sullivan with each essay proves beyond a doubt that he is willfully ignorant of American political and social history, wedded to an unslakable, not to speak of self-serving, ideological myopia. Rich Lowry, Michelle Alexander, and her political corollary Black Lives Matter, and The New Democrats need to pay heed to the political wisdom of our Discount Store Tiresias. What reader can forget this exercise of that wisdom via paraphrase and snippets from that staunch defender of Democracy Plato? Who might those Guardians be?

 This rainbow-flag polity, Plato argues, is, for many people, the fairest of regimes. The freedom in that democracy has to be experienced to be believed — with shame and privilege in particular emerging over time as anathema. But it is inherently unstable. As the authority of elites fades, as Establishment values cede to popular ones, views and identities can become so magnificently diverse as to be mutually uncomprehending. And when all the barriers to equality, formal and informal, have been removed; when everyone is equal; when elites are despised and full license is established to do “whatever one wants,” you arrive at what might be called late-stage democracy. There is no kowtowing to authority here, let alone to political experience or expertise.

The very rich come under attack, as inequality becomes increasingly intolerable. Patriarchy is also dismantled: “We almost forgot to mention the extent of the law of equality and of freedom in the relations of women with men and men with women.” Family hierarchies are inverted: “A father habituates himself to be like his child and fear his sons, and a son habituates himself to be like his father and to have no shame before or fear of his parents.” In classrooms, “as the teacher … is frightened of the pupils and fawns on them, so the students make light of their teachers.” Animals are regarded as equal to humans; the rich mingle freely with the poor in the streets and try to blend in. The foreigner is equal to the citizen.

And it is when a democracy has ripened as fully as this, Plato argues, that a would-be tyrant will often seize his moment.

Political Observer



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