The Surfers vs. the Serfers

Richard Stanley

Well-Known Member
The following, out-of-order excerpts are from an article discussing Trump's upcoming challenges in stopping the USA's slide into corporate feudalism, that is, if he really cares. With my subject line I have taken the author's material and reframed the issue as the Coastal versus Interior culture dialectic.

The first paragraph is applicable and in contrast to Steve Bannon's vapid or cynical rhetoric about the claimed inherent relationship of Capitalism to Christianity. Capitalism happened in spite of Christianity, with Socialism attempting to mediate Capitalism's inevitable unrestrained excesses. This followed by the cynical elite co-optation of Socialism via Marx's Communism.

I'm going to take a pessimistic view, that Trump has no such concern for his serfer electorate, which he has mocked at every opportunity. Bannon, who has identically proven he has no qualms in making dupes of the electorate, might indeed think he is working for a greater good, a true believer, but does he really know what the greater good is?

The first feudal era was characterized by constrained class mobility, a decline of middle orders and a persistent concentration of power, first in feudal lords and later kings. But what held Medieval society together was an attachment to common articles of faith. Catholic dogma defined and justified the ascension of the aristocracy and royalty, and explained in theological terms both why the poor should accept their fate, and why middle-class aspirations were a threat to the moral order.

Today religion is in, pardon the pun, secular decline. Particularly in the bluest states, it has been replaced by two new faiths. One is the green religion, now focused on climate change. The other new faith is technological determinism, the idea that there is a magical, disruptive solution to any problem, including those relating to nature.

Nowhere are these two religions more commingled than in America’s Ecotopia, which extends from Northern California to the Pacific Northwest and is both the home to our leading tech companies and birthplace of modern environmentalism.

Structural changes help explain this melding. Today Silicon Valley profits have become more centered on software and media than hardware, so the constraints associated with environmental regulations, such as high energy and water costs, have become less important to oligarchs. At the same time many Silicon Valley companies — notably Tesla/Solar City — have sought to profit from the shift to “green” energy, feeding on the beneficent federal subsidies attached to it.

For these interests, the GOP’s great sweep represents a bit of an unexpected setback. The federal subsidies driving some of these industries are likely to be scaled back. Used to a cozy relationship with the White House, the tech elite, with the notable exception of Peter Thiel, finds itself on the outside looking in.

Acolytes of the technocratic green ideology, hostile to Trump, geographically and ideologically removed from the rest of the nation and already functioning as a kind of wealthy , cossetted alt-nation, are now talking vaguely about succession. That conversation is driven in part by apocalyptic predictions about climate change generally accepted without skepticism in media, academic and political circles.

Although couched in scientism, green politics should be seen as somewhat faith-based, a craving more about piety than practical reality. Both Bjorn Lomborg and NASA’s Richard Hansen, one of the earliest heralds of climate change, doubt that the measures embraced by the Paris accords will prove remotely effective in reducing temperature rise. California, a recent report demonstrates. could literally fall into the ocean with no appreciable impact on global temperature, particularly given that countries like China continue to boost their coal capacity.

Neo-feudalism and the fate of the middle class.

Most critically, the theology of green progressives will do as little good for today’s middle and working class people as extreme Catholic dogma did for the medieval peasantry. Overall, according to a recent Social Science Council report, California is now the most unequal state when it comes to “well being,” combining stupendous, mostly coastal wealth with the highest rate of poverty in the nation, concentrated inland.

From earlier in the article:

There are fundamentally three forces driving our post-modern feudalization, all of them related. One is globalization, highlighted throughout the campaign, and clearly responsible for considerable job losses for certain classes and certain regions. As countries such as China and India move up the value-added chain, even higher-paid workers will face mounting economic competition. San Jose and Raleigh soon could feel some of the pain that Youngstown and Flint have absorbed for decades.

The second is immigration which, for all its many blessings, tends to depress wages for lower and middle workers. Many native-born Americans who used to enjoy steady work have joined the rapidly expanding, and economically vulnerable, precariat made up of contingent, irregularly employed workers. Both Bernie Sanders and Trump identified the problems faced by such workers by unrestricted immigration.

Undereducated whites are not the only ones who are suffering from downward mobility. Trump trailed but still considerably outperformed previous GOP nominees among both Latinos and African Americans. Increasingly, educated workers are threatened by such things as -IB visas for skilled workers, which essentially replaces indigenous skilled workers with imported indentured servants. This has already resulted in job losses among IT workers at places like the Disney Company and Southern California Edison.

The third driver of feudalization lies in the concentration of business and property ownership. Lenin once identified “small scale production” as what “gives birth spontaneously to capitalism and the bourgeoisie.” America’s small firms are in retreat while large corporations increasingly dominate everything from food to technology. For the first time in our modern history, exits from business now exceed new incorporations. ...