Vorocracy: Final: History's Most Lethal Parasites
To commemorate the new epoch that officially began October 3, 2008 with the 700 billion dollar (700 billion!)
|$1 = 1 meter||dollars||magnitude||distance|
|$1||1.0 * 100||height of 4 year old boy|
|$100||1.0 * 102||height of Statue of Liberty|
|$88,000||8.8 * 104||height of Mt. Everest|
|$12,000,000||1.2 * 107||diameter of the earth|
|$1,400,000,000||1.4 * 109||diameter of the sun|
|$10,000,000,000||1.0 * 1010||one light minute (distance light travels in one minute)|
|$700,000,000,000||7.0 * 1011||the diameter of the asteroid belt|
|$1,000,000,000,000||1.0 * 1012||one light hour (distance light travels in one hour)|
Definition of Vorocracy
The definition of vorocracy first introduced in chapter 3:
vorocracy [voro < devoro, latin: to devour < voro, latin: to eat greedily, swallow up, consume, gorge oneself; -cracy < suffix: type of government; rule by]A vorocracy exists for no reason other than for the ruling class to amass wealth by whatever means it can. A vorocracy develops belief systems to justify the means and ends of satisfying an insatiable greed. In a vorocracy, greed determines the ideology that justifies it's pathological goal of eternal and infinite acquisition. For a vorocrat there is no worldview other than "more".
- The political philosophy of insatiable appetite
- Society structured around the need to pathologically consume until it self-destructs
- A society at the service of those with such a drive
- Government of the greedy, by the greedy, and for the greedy
Vorocracy is the governance of an open mouth that intends to consume until it self-destructs. Vorocracy is the political pathology of insatiable appetite
How Vorocracy is Distinct from Plutocracy and Kleptocracy
A distinction must be drawn between plutocracy, kleptocracy and vorocracy.
Plutocracy is rule by the wealthy, and implies nothing more than that. It could be argued that most societies with any form of institutionalized government have a propensity towards plutocracy in addition to whatever other institutionalized structure it has, since power and wealth are generally coincident for obvious reasons (ie: wealth can purchase power; power can amass wealth: they tend to work hand in glove). But the connotation of plutocracy is neutral: it can be malign, or it can be benificent if the plutocrats use their wealth for the common good. A malign plutocracy is most likely a kleptocracy, or rule by a criminal class that seeks to increase their prestige and wealth at the expense of the governed.
A vorocracy, on the other hand, is not criminal in the sense of a kleptocracy, but is a political pathology. The distinction is homologously comparable to a murder committed by the sane versus the insane: a murder committed by the sane assumes that the criminal understands and shares the same moral universe of the society at large, and thus the criminal is cognizant that his act, when committed, goes against the accepted moral outlook of his society yet can be justified within his own code of ethics. A crime committed by the insane (however a society wishes to define the insane) assumes that the criminal was driven to the act by factors not in his control, regardless of his cognizance of any moral codes — there is no ethical justification for the act since such a consideration is irrelevant to its commission. Thus, for instance, a murder committed between rival gangmembers, or during the commission of a burglary, is qualitatively different from a murder committed by, say, a serial child killer: the former murder could have been prevented by an intercession of the actor's conscience; the latter murder is precluded from having any such intercession. The result, a murder, is the same, though for one it is a question of intent, for the other a question of pathology.
To apply this to the political theory under discussion, a kleptocrat is aware that his power is used for personal gain (Boss Tweed, or organized crime, comes readily to mind as examples) and operates within a society's moral universe by being aware where the conscious commission of his action might occur on the moral spectrum. A vorocrat is driven by a pathological need that cannot be controlled, nor is even necessarily understood for what it is: it is a drive that operates outside a society's moral universe. The contextual worldview in which each governance operates is different. The result may be the same — theft from the subjects and other victims into the coffers of the rulers — but the difference lies between the intent of the kleptocrat versus the pathology of the vorocrat. Kleptocrats may be greedy, but they still operate within the moral universe shared by society. Vorocrats do not. (Eg: rule by, say, a mafia don is a kleptocracy; rule by pathologically greedy CEOs and banksters is a vorocracy.) Thus all vorocracies function as kleptocracies, but kleptocracies are not necessarily vorocracies.
And, just as serial killers are a more serious threat to a society than other killers, so a vorocracy will be that much more dangerous and severe to a society than a kleptocracy: one cannot reason with a pathology, one cannot make appeals to a pathology's conscience. A pathology is an illness, not a stance, not an ideology. Vorocracy is a pathological illness of governance.
Capitalism's Prime Mover Unfurls a Big Red Flag and Hoists it Aloft
Adam Smith, that Prime Mover of Capitalism, knew what he was talking about. After all, if you're going to create a religion based on greed (for, ultimately, economics is nothing more than a religion), you probably have a keen and subtle awareness of the psychology of greed. Here, in the conclusion of Book One Chapter 11 of Adam Smith's sacred text The Wealth of Nations he reveals the extent to which he understood that an economic system based upon greed must seek ways to prevent the greedy (ie: business) from assuming the reins of political power [em. mine]:
The plans and projects of the employers of stock regulate and direct all the most important operations of labour, and profit is the end proposed by all those plans and projects. But the rate of profit does not, like rent and wages, rise with the prosperity and fall with the declension of the society. On the contrary, it is naturally low in rich and high in poor countries, and it is always highest in the countries which are going fastest to ruin. The interest of this third order [ie, "those who live by profit"], therefore, has not the same connection with the general interest of the society as that of the other two [ie, landowners, and "those who live by wages"]. Merchants and master manufacturers are, in this order, the two classes of people who commonly employ the largest capitals, and who by their wealth draw to themselves the greatest share of the public consideration. As during their whole lives they are engaged in plans and projects, they have frequently more acuteness of understanding than the greater part of country gentlemen. As their thoughts, however, are commonly exercised rather about the interest of their own particular branch of business, than about that of the society, their judgment, even when given with the greatest candour (which it has not been upon every occasion) is much more to be depended upon with regard to the former of those two objects than with regard to the latter. Their superiority over the country gentleman is not so much in their knowledge of the public interest, as in their having a better knowledge of their own interest than he has of his. It is by this superior knowledge of their own interest that they have frequently imposed upon his generosity, and persuaded him to give up both his own interest and that of the public, from a very simple but honest conviction that their interest, and not his, was the interest of the public. The interest of the dealers, however, in any particular branch of trade or manufactures, is always in some respects different from, and even opposite to, that of the public. To widen the market and to narrow the competition, is always the interest of the dealers. To widen the market may frequently be agreeable enough to the interest of the public; but to narrow the competition must always be against it, and can serve only to enable the dealers, by raising their profits above what they naturally would be, to levy, for their own benefit, an absurd tax upon the rest of their fellow-citizens. The proposal of any new law or regulation of commerce which comes from this order ought always to be listened to with great precaution, and ought never to be adopted till after having been long and carefully examined, not only with the most scrupulous, but with the most suspicious attention. It comes from an order of men whose interest is never exactly the same with that of the public, who have generally an interest to deceive and even to oppress the public, and who accordingly have, upon many occasions, both deceived and oppressed it.
Thus the Prime Mover of Capitalism Himself said in his Bible that political power should never be exercised by businessmen because all they care about is their own gain, and will gladly "deceive" and "oppress" the public for it. Since he had such profound insight into the nature of such men, even to the point of understanding that the greatest profits are reaped when a country is going to ruin!, did he have a strategy to prevent such men from assuming the organs of government? No, none that I've found. Because there aren't any. Such men would inevitably find ways to assume the reins of political power. Adam Smith's economic religious theories basically gave such men the keys to Pandora's Box without providing any way to close it again. That's because greed is an unstoppable force, and there is nothing to stop an unstoppable force from eventually assuming the absolute power they need to "deceive" and "oppress" to further their gain.
Obviously Smith clearly understood what those devoted to wealth would do with political power. That's why he so clearly and strongly cautioned against putting "those who live by profit" — ie, modern-day neoliberal corporatists (aka businessmen) — in such positions. That's because Smith, like Ralph Nader, like Paul Hawkens with his philosophy of Natural Capitalism, all understand that the motor behind capitalism is the drive for profit, and they all understand that for capitalism to work for society rather than against it it must remain small (capitalism with a "c") and be held in check.
But capitalism cannot remain small. It must always expand. That's the inherent contradiction that must inevitably explode in greed's favor. You cannot foment an addiction and expect that it will never develop into a pathology. And we are seeing the result of that right now. Capitalism without any regulatory oversight — the neoliberal vision that has been American policy since Reagan — is a catastrophe waiting to happen: it is letting drug addicts into the pharmacy while the druggist goes out for lunch, expecting that the addicts won't help themselves to all those Category I & II drugs. And now the catastrophe is happening, but it's only just the beginning, a mere trickle before the tsunami that is quickly coming.
Vorocracy as the Transhistorical Engine of Deteriorating Rule
Friedrich Engels, co-author with Marx of The Communist Manifesto, in his anthropological study of the origins of the family, private property, and the state, discusses the ways in which greed ultimately leads to vorocratic dynasties.
Their neighbors' wealth excites the greed of peoples who already see in the acquisition of wealth one of the main aims of life. They are barbarians: they think it more easy and in fact more honorable to get riches by pillage than by work. War, formerly waged only in revenge for injuries or to extend territory that had grown too small, is now waged simply for plunder and becomes a regular industry... The wars of plunder increase the power of the supreme military leader and the subordinate commanders; the customary election of their successors from the same families is gradually transformed, especially after the introduction of father-right, into a right of hereditary succession, first tolerated, then claimed, finally usurped; the foundation of the hereditary monarchy and the hereditary nobility is laid. Thus the organs of the gentile constitution gradually tear themselves loose from their roots in the people, in gens, phratry, tribe, and the whole gentile constitution changes into its opposite: from an organization of tribes for the free ordering of their own affairs it becomes an organization for the plundering and oppression of their neighbors; and correspondingly its organs change from instruments of the will of the people into independent organs for the domination and oppression of the people. That, however, would never have been possible if the greed for riches had not split the members of the gens into rich and poor, if "the property differences within one and the same gens had not transformed its unity of interest into antagonism between its members" (Marx)...
The details of time, culture and political system of a given period may differ, but structurally this is a very sound analysis. Reading this, while keeping in mind the ascension of a few American "dynastic" families (Bush, Kennedy, Roosevelt,...), puts things in a structural perspective. (Note: rather than a supreme military leader, since we live in a putative democracy, we have an executive branch entrusted with the function of supreme military leader; rather than a hereditary passing of the executive office we have the charade of a democratic election to provide cover for the chosen ones. But should something go wrong with the script the Supreme Court will gladly intercede on behalf of the chosen successor.)
Engels asserts greed was the driving force of civilization, splitting society between an oppressor and an oppressed as the former gains wealth at the expense of the latter. It doesn't matter, then, what political incarnation is assumed — monarchism, feudalism, fascism, democracy — they can all serve as the ideological and political carrier waves for vorocrats who ultimately assume political power.
The Benighted States of Mammon
Democracy, combined with the theology of Capitalism, are the modern-day carrier waves of vorocracy. In earlier times emperors and potentates enjoined their henchmen to simply extort and steal from their subjects. Now, however, given that people actually take their rights of democracy seriously, the people must be hoodwinked with ever more transparent lies — ..., "Remember the Maine!"; the Gulf of Tonkin; the Military Humanism of Kosovo; Saddam's WMDs; the War on Terror.. — to guarantee the public's support in military efforts to amass wealth.
In fact now, with the advent of neoliberal globalization, vorocrats don't need to piggy-back on the politically powerful to amass their shekels, they don't need to be the stagehands working behind the scenes. It can be argued that there is no state now; that the state is run as a corporation, the executive branch now a boardroom executive fulfilling his role for his Board of Directors. They have come front and center onto the stage and assumed their place in the spotlight to reveal America as the Mammon-state it is, run as a multi-national corporation by a cabal of conflict-of-interest, insider-trading boardroom executives who openly embezzle from the public with complete impunity. It is the Benighted States of Mammon, history's first true out-of-the-closet vorocracy.
Once the Power Elite and their servants in political office are seen as vorocrats then things that seem ludicrous or insane to us in the "reality based community" start to make sense.
They are monomaniacally motivated by an insatiable greed for wealth and power, using tools of social control like stern and greedy employers to keep the workers cowed and obedient. They incite enmity and cause destruction as ways to create wealth for themselves.
They are proof that conflicts of interest can be cosmically profitable: for instance, in waging a war, they own the companies that serve as the means of both destruction and construction; they own the companies that provide security services; they own the companies that perform resource extraction; they own the investment firms that invest in all these various companies. What does it matter if they run the army into the ground? So what if they are caught in scandal after scandal, lie after lie? So what if they squander the reputation of their country? Their coffers get fatter, that's all that matters.
They commit insider trading on levels difficult to comprehend because the crime is so brazenly criminal. They use the cover of "national security" to preclude investigation. Currently they are rewarding their cronies responsible for the coming economic apocalypse with unimaginable sums of public monies, knowing that nothing will happen to them. They commit their monumental crimes right out in the open because no one dare believe the evidence before their own eyes. Thus their absolute contempt for the public is appropriate, since they know the public will idly watch without any hint of either comprehension or intercession.
A vorocratic government is nothing more than a funnel to transfer wealth from any source — their constituents, other countries, nature itself — to themselves. They command its intelligence agencies, security forces and military services to do their bidding. This is what they mean when they say they create their own reality, for indeed they are modern-day alchemists who have mastered the dark arts of politics to turn misery and despoiliation into money. War, genocide and natural catastrophes are enormously profitable.
BushCo has deliberately squandered America's military might; destroyed what little good reputation America had outside its own borders; made the world a far more dangerous place; killed countless tens and hundreds of thousands of people; ravaged natural and pristine lands; ransacked the economy; strengthened the police-state at home... All because doing so is cosmically profitable. Period.
But this is more than outright class warfare. These are the activities of people without conscience or humanity, driven by a pathological hunger for more and ever more, people for whom too much is never enough.
Conclusion: Humanity's Most Lethal Parasites
A vorocrat's entire worldview is dedicated to acquisition. Their entire perception channels everything through filters that interpret, evaluate, and analyze all it considers as means toward the end of acquiring ever more riches, ever more power. All of life, all of reality is like a grand boardgame to them, reducible to strategizing the moves of chits, the manipulation of numbers, determining lines-of-sight and watching dice rolls. They are playing Monopoly for real, pushing people out of the game when they can no longer pay, and stealing from the bank when no one's looking. Their minds are consumed with strategizing ways to win the bounty at all costs. And winning means getting more, and more, and more — sacrificing more blood, more tissue to amass more money and power.
A vorocrat's vision of a better world is nothing grander than watching their portfolios grow fatter, their wrist watches get thinner, and their homes grow more ostentatious. Vorocrats are only too happy to use True Believers and Useful Idiots to serve their own ends. They are history's ultimate parasites, attaching themselves to any host that can help them extract the symbolic lifeforce they hunger for. They are also history's most lethal parasites, since they have found the alchemical formula that converts flesh and blood into gold and lucre. Their drive is monomaniacal: they do not even care if they die with their host, so long as their funnel-like sucking mouth continues to extract the wealth they crave from the blood and tissue they'll consume to their dying breath. (This, ultimately, is what Virilio means when he discusses fascism as a suicidal State, because such a hunger can only end in great death and destruction.) They are pathologically insatiable: even were they able to obtain everything, as some aver is their aim (Michael Parenti: "There's only one thing this class has ever wanted in the whole of history and that's everything"), their thirst would still not be slaked. Greed knows no end. Greed can never be satisfied. Greed only gets hungrier the more it consumes.
Ultimately the vorocrats are playing an existential game wherein they think they can cheat death, their winnings attaining a kind of immortal transcendence because they are somehow infused with the numinous essence of their largesse. And when they die they will die with limpid consciences, incapable of reflecting with their "beautiful minds" on all the immeasurable misery their existence has brought to the world. And why should they? What matter that history will condemn them? They will die as winners, estimating the area on the gameboard they've conquered, and rounding the magical numbers of their monopoly money to the nearest power of ten to assess the value of their life on earth.
Does the enormous cost to humanity resulting from their miserable existence matter one fart to them?