Exploitation and Crime
Runaway slave Jim, who heard he was to be sold
for $800, says to Huck Finn:
"I'se rich now, come to look at it. I owns myself, en I's
worth eight hund'd dollars. I wisht I had de money..."
Most other Americans have known the experience.
Jim had only "paper profits."
The Roman elite is believed by some to have lost its vigor and sanity
by lead poisoning through its high-tech plumbing and its drinking cups.
In America, the age of lead pipes and alloys came and went, with what
general effect it is impossible to say.
Chemistry disclosed the danger and by the late 1900's current
victims of lead overload (10+ micrograms per deciliter of blood)
included still about three million children
- of the poor, of course - one-third of poor Black children,
17% of Hispanic, 6% of poor White,
the reason for these ethnic differences relating to old housing and
life around junk piles.
Since we are smarter than the Romans, lead-pipe poisoning can be
termed exploitation, but let us term it as a hundred-year old social
accident now happening, typical social negligence, falling upon the
poor. Why, one may ask, do not American government agencies
perform regular censuses of the environment and of social errors of the
past as they have accumulated and are to be paid off - or absorbed as
a misery-charge - against the future? Some Americans were incurring
fatal cancers from radiation, chemical, and mineral
exposures of fifty years ago.
A basic American demand of life has always been the freedom to
exploit other people for one's private ends. (Such was the conclusion
of James Cobb's book "The Most Southern Place on
Earth: the Mississippi Delta and the Roots of Regional Identity"
(1993). Exploitation - misuse of people, things, and nature - has
been endemic to America. Poor by rich, South by North, labor by
industrialists, immigrants by their own and many types of
exploiters, Blacks by Whites, children by adults, old by young and
vice versa, women by men, workers by bosses, people by police,
taxpayers by government, people's fears by CIA, military and
politicians, union members by labor unions as exploiters and
corrupters (as well as "good guys"), consumers by advertisers,
smokers and drinkers by sellers, the
environment by practically everybody.
The difference between "exploitation," as meant here, and crime is
largely legal. A legally forbidden form of exploitation whose
commission is likely to excite the police is a crime. A sample of the
forebears of all Americans would now, as always, inform us that for
every ancestor of distinction and high probity, there would be several
exploiters and criminals, few of whom
"paid for their crimes."
If you asked people, they would deny or would have forgotten or
would never have known of the shadowy side of their ancestry, or,
for that matter, of their ancestry at all. President Clinton could
barely recall that he had a half-brother.
Exploitation by Americans of other Americans has been for at least a
century much less common than exploitation of non-Americans. One
need remark upon the many millions of Hindus, Filipinos, Central
Americans, Chinese, Koreans, and Africans who have labored upon
rugs, shirts, tinned sardines, agricultural products, and many other
goods for American bosses and managers operating in world markets.
A great many of these workers were children below 12 years of age.
As soon as American children were forbidden as tools, businessmen
began to move abroad.
Whether the historically exploitative society is accountable is a grave
question, and I shall return to discuss it in the last section of this
Violence was/is part and parcel of American life - personal, group,
government, foreign. Not the monopoly of professional criminals or
racists or brutes, but a shared preoccupation of "upright" and
"respectable" groups of society. It is integrated into American character
as a proper or expected endeavor in many kinds of
situations. Rifle societies want law-abiding Americans to shoot others
in, hopefully, self-defense, or to prevent crimes, or to punish
instantly. In the five years 1987-92, with 200 million guns in
circulation, and 80% of the public wanting, but not getting,
increased gun control, more than 60,000 people were shot to death.
(That's more Americans than the Vietnam War
could kill in ten years.)
Figuring in the mid-nineties, a young American male was
26 times as likely to be killed as his French counterpart,
37 times as likely as young Britons, and
60 times as likely as young Japanese.
Gangs are a hoary tradition, both rural and urban. In the 1990's, there
were perhaps no more criminal gangs relative to the population than
there were in any decade going back to 1610, and back to 1400, if one
considered marauding Indian bands as criminal gangs - which they
were to the plundered Indian camps, and would be to
early European settlements.
Some 1,391 "guerrilla acts and sabotage and terrorism in the U.S."
were tallied between 1965-70, their perpetrators being left-wing,
right-wing, fundamentalist and Black extremist. The bombing of the
World Trade Center was exceptionally due to a foreign-bred
conspiracy. More typical, even of the worst of terrorist experiences
of this type, was the bombing of the federal office building in
Oklahoma City in 1995, in which nearly 200 people lost their lives,
and the terrorists, after the first panicky reaction against Muslim and
Arabs, were discovered to be characters looking like the "boy next
door," maniacs of the Ayn Rand school of "heroic
individuals against the crushing government."
Mad-dog killers were known to early times (Micajah and Wiley Harpe
of Kentucky murdered brutally up to 38 persons in 1798-9 before
being stopped and executed). More recently we have such cases as
Charles Whitman, of respected family (with venomous
internal relations), who killed his wife and mother, then ascended
the tower of the University of Texas library, wherefrom he shot
thirteen dead and wounded 31. Chicagoland had at least two
murderers of 20 or more in the past century;
the later was a homosexual pervert. One Southern racist went about
the country bombing and murdering Jews and also
blacks he found commingling with whites; typically he
repented while jailed, crediting his salvation to the Bible.
From the beginning, areas of Southern culture led in violence and still,
despite greatly modified demography and occupations, exhibit rates of
criminal violence three times those of New England and twice those of
the Middle West and West. Rates of the South remain high even when
Blacks and Whites are viewed separately.
Without counting the Southern influence, the USA is more prone to
crime than European countries (recent rates in disrupted Russia
excepted). When States were given a composite score on six factors
affecting their teenagers (births to singles, violent crime arrest, per
cent finishing high school, per cent neither at work nor at school,
violent-death rate for teenagers, and the percentage of children living
in poverty): the Southern States rank with the most "hurdles to
success," along with New York, the District of Columbia, and
Michigan (all supporting the effects of a heavy Southern immigration).
Ancient American criminal groups and practices and legislative
blunders such as the prohibition of alcoholic beverages nurtured, along
with the population density and variety and richness of the burgeoning
urban scene of the twentieth century, well-organized
politico-socio-economic criminal gangsters who also had
a hand in many so-called legitimate businesses.
The most enduring and widespread of the gangs were of Italian,
especially Sicilian, origin, called the mafia, a term now applied
generically to criminal conspiracies all over the world. The first
gangs of mafiosi in America operated in New Orleans during
"Reconstruction," introducing the sawed-off shotgun.
Such gangs had several advantages that might help to explain their
endurance and successes over a century of time.
They could intimidate as well as live among settlements of poor
new immigrants who lacked channels of communication with the
establishments of law and order.
They had a temperament, a tradition and expertise in lawlessness
and violence, like some early Scots-Irish and English borderlanders.
Too, just as in the mid-1800's when outlaw gangs preyed upon the
cowboys driving their herds along the cattle trails from Texas to
Sedelia, Missouri (as every movie fan knows), in the
middle years of the 1900's, the mafia and other gangs
preyed upon boats and trucks.
They were falsely romanticized by the media of the age, with films
such as "The Godfather" along with Far Midwest gangs like that of
Jesse James, and the Irish gangs of the coal mining areas of the
latter nineteenth century, the Molly McGuires, or, for that
matter, Robin Hood and his Band (or gang) of Merry Men.
The Old Country mafias, in Sicily and elsewhere in Southern Italy, and
in other special places of Europe, flourished where the central
government was weak, like Sherwood Forest out of which the real
Robin Hood and his Band of Merry Men operated, and
weakened it farther, with considerable popular support,
with pretenses of helping the weak against the strong,
enriching themselves, and committing crimes
against the government, other gangs, the well-to-do, while
bullying people generally.
They expected no mercy and were correspondingly ruthless; they
were ready, like the Nazis and Stalinists, to kill among their own as
well as among the outside population. Too, they had a constant flow
of recruits ready to risk their lives and freedom.
There was no single mafia organization; therefore there was to be no
"Smite the shepherd, and the sheep are scattered." Rather the gangs
led separate lives, but knew the "Who's Who" of their activities in
their own and other places in America, Italy, and around the world.
The modern city, like its forbears, nurtured hundreds of gangs, among
which there would always be a most prominent and less prominent and
successful ones. These exchanged favors, borrowed and lent money to
each other, lent killers out, assisted on an extra-large job,
recommended respectable helpers in banks, law offices, and
government, passed information along and tendered advice, and
honored the criminal ethic uniformly. They also fought each other:
most of their murders rid society of other mafiosi.
Costs of doing business were heavy; still, there were hundreds who
netted a million dollars or more annually in America.
The humbler echelons could do well enough to make a
mafioso career attractive. A lowly driver received an untaxed income
of around $50,000 (1995 dollars) annually
in the five to thirty years of service before his "retirement,"
some part of which time he would most likely spend in prison,
but with a chance of being killed or disabled less than that of a
rifleman enduring a week of battle on the Western Front in World War II
(where, incidentally, he might well have learned his trade).
Higher echelons could operate false fronts that helped evade taxes.
When an assembly of reputed mafiosi upper-management was arrested
en masse by police at a country resort in Apalachin, NY, in 1957, it
developed that they were all legitimate businessmen, at least
avocationally: 17 owned taverns, restaurants or hotels; a round dozen
were in the garment industry; 12 were in the real-estate business;
11 in import-export; 11 in olive or cheese wholesaling; 10 in groceries; 9 in
vending machines, and 9 in construction. Every crook liked to squire
one or more business enterprises, for the sake of appearances. Insofar as the
perfume of pizza parlors wafted from every neighborhood in America,
a handy communication network could be readily set up among
a few groups of them.
The absence of bankers, judges, prominent criminal attorneys,
accountants, police officials, and politicians at the Appalachia
gathering indicated that this was a gathering of workaday characters,
a networking group. Their security umbrella - the more respectable
elements, friendly police, and various top leaders -
were absent or excluded.
Their occupations were only modest fronts. The big money came from
dominating labor unions, control of public facilities such as wharves,
cutting in on gambling networks of all kinds - horse
racing, casinos, etc. - and extortion from intimidated operators in
various industries such as trucking, construction, refuse collection,
and warehousing. The biggest criminal profits of the 1955
generation upwards came from drugs.
In the later decades of the twentieth century, the Italic-dominated
gangsters, who had taken over from other ethnic circles at and after the
end of Prohibition, suffered attrition from newly arisen gang-challengers,
Columbians, Black, and Chinese particularly, several of
whose tongs were cracked open in a single raid in Atlanta in 1996.
Crushing blows were inflicted by Italian and American
prosecutors and police, operating in large units, equipped with hi-tech
surveillance instruments, assisted by legislation and court rulings that
permitted the confiscation of property of suspected and arrested
gangsters in the drug traffic. (Very often, of course, the
mafia had profited from connections with crooked police and
judges.) Gangsters lost something of the rights that the courts had
previously tied tightly to the Constitution, but few cared.
The so-called drug culture of the second half of the twentieth
century was "bigger and better" in America than anywhere else in
the world, which was to be expected. The mafias, with their protean
but effective gangs, were into it in all the drug centers of the world.
They knew how to wheel and deal, regardless of geography and
culture; they were trained judges of character and promises.
Why the demand for soft and hard drugs should have erupted at this
point in time had to do with many factors, among them a new
anthropological and cosmopolitan outlook, a search for new
experience of a shocking kind (to oneself and others), and lots of
cash in many pockets. It was a period of cultism and exploding general
culture. A dictionary of over 2000 special terms was
compiled in the early nineties, lingo of the drug culture - "bedbugs,"
main line," "bozo," etc.
The American lust for movement of any and all kinds
found that drugs could provide abundant internal
motion - to "take a trip" was the argot.
Most people took drugs to alter their state
or kind of consciousness, to treat pains and pleasures
without limit. Millions of the middle and upper elite
took Prozac against depression and anxiety.
Prozac was only one of many drugs to the same end.
Was the American, then, the person before or after
altering the self? Let this be said, at least:
averaging the daily dosages over the population,
American minds and behavior became
less of the same, not quite in immediate
need of tranquillization.
President Bush declared "war" on drugs, but that war, too, was lost.
The direct costs of the war was over $100 billions annually. Additional
were the costs of related crimes, urban blight, corruption,
ruined families, and contempt of government. About 20
million Americans were reckoned to use illegal drugs - marihuana,
cocaine, crack, heroin, and a pantry shelf of other concoctions.
Probably some five millions were addicted more or less firmly.
Annually some 40,000 died from directly or indirectly related
causes, exceeding automobile fatalities and disabilities, but not as
many as from tobacco and alcohol. Jails overflowed with
convicts of the drug business. Courts and protective services
were swamped and corrupted.
The US had anti-drug units urging on and giving funds to
foreign governments on every continent. Aid-funds
badly needed for helping the poor and sick everywhere
were diverted to drug-busting. Every conventional tactic and
therapy was used against racketeers and drug users, to no avail.
The one strategy that might well work was legalization, under
controls, of the use of drugs. As with cigarettes, we can measure fairly
well the price that a person would pay for the regulated drugs and the
minimal quantity that he or she would be able to get by on while
undergoing treatment for an addiction, rather than going to a dealer in
the smuggled and uncertain product.
The enemies of this kind of public policy have been the endemic
panic and paranoia of so many Americans; they conjured a
surrealistic scenario of violent devils of drugs unleashed and
charging down upon them as they lay asleep. Admittedly,
Americans would be too unstable psychically to reduce their drug
problems to the averages of other nations; full success would not be
the goal, but, say, reducing the problem to
20% of its full gravity, with a savings of
90% of the costs, within five years.
White collar crime was much more extensive and more lucrative than
even the drug trade. Again here was a traditional American criminality;
James Ritty, a saloon-owner, patented in 1879 the first cash register
machine, called "Ritty's Incorruptible Cashier," a machine
more honest than the typical employee taking in cash.
A famous General Motors car dealer of Long Island,
John M. McNamara, tricked GM into giving him $6.2 billions in loans
over a decade until 1991 on cars that never existed, some of which
money he used for real estate developments, including paying bribes
to public officials. Cash registers were long gone, yet superior
computers served for naught.
A survey of workers of 1996 produced half
admitting unethical or illegal actions on the job.
Over half complained of pressures encouraging misconduct.
Most common of offenses were skimming quality, covering up
damaging incidents, falsely taking sick leave, and deceiving customers.
In the 1990's the Internal Revenue Service estimated tax-cheating
- on income taxes, payroll levies, of excise taxes, etc - at $150
billions annually. Real estate speculators, mortgage companies, and
property owners misused or stole over $200 millions from the Housing
and Urban Development Department in 1993 alone, the agency's
inspector general declared. Losses from savings and loan bank
speculations and scandals were kicked around in a $300 billion
ball-park, watched by the paying public and the
wounded U.S. Treasury.
Private enterprise conducted within the framework of a large
bureaucratic system was as common in America as in Russia (a New
York City Supervisor of Highways dealt privately in public cement
and earth-moving machinery). Reminiscent of the attempt of Gould
and Morgan to corner the gold market during President Grant's term
of office was an attempt by the Bass family to corner the market in
silver a century later. This would not have been criminal so much as
destructive of the legitimate functions of a market in
facilitating useful deals.
Thus it would be unfair and misleading to point only to political
corruption and street crime. The greatest crimes were committed by
governments, true, but large corporations were grave offenders also,
though rarely now engaged in violence, except in making arms and
matériel of war, and in exciting the paranoia of
ruling groups everywhere.
City dwellers have been endlessly fearful of muggers and
burglars. And rural dwellers of outlaws and tramps.
Going to and fro the Convention of 1787 in
Philadelphia, George Read "the Signer"
wrote his wife in Delaware, we have to carry stout knobbed
canes to defend ourselves against the street ruffians.
No matter their demography, no matter their government,
rarely has the situation improved - certainly not in the last decades of the
twentieth century. Between 1965 and 1994, between 30% and 45%
of Americans answered "yes" to the question: "Is there any area
right around your home - that is, within a mile - where you would
be afraid to walk alone at night?"
As American cities deteriorated, especially at their centers, they have
had to suffer, too, from the placement in their midst of
troubling social services - treatment centers for diseases, housing
for the mentally disturbed, shelters for the homeless, soup kitchens
for the needy, methadone drug clinics, battered women shelters,
check-in offices for released convicts, training schools for the
handicapped, charity offices, etc.
Hartford, Connecticut's capital and headquarters for important
insurance companies, afforded convenient access to people with
problems from all the region around. Scores of welfare offices
moved in over time. Expectedly, people who could afford to do so,
moved away. The City teetered on the
edge of bankruptcy.
The legal generality is that American cities are creatures of the States.
They were abused children in most instances.
Too,"Like father, like son."
In practically every urban jurisdiction, corruption was congenital.
Not only in the City Council Chamber and Mayor's
office, but within most of the administrative departments, some of
which had for a long time independently elected heads (and still do)
such as boards of education, sanitary board commissioners, and, one
may never forget, the police.
To this day and from their very beginnings, public school textbooks
have been a source of graft for school boards, of bribed favoritism
for bad books of many publishers. Seemingly more innocent, but
more insidiously evil, every expensive technical innovation that
could be imagined was foisted upon the school community by
corrupt boards and manufacturers.
As for the police, Chicago was not uniquely scandalous, when, as
late as the 1950's, all police district captains, except one, 49 out
of 50, were crooks. At the same time in New York City and
Chicago, buildings and bridges, whether new or remodeled,
each and every one was built or fixed to the
rustling of exchanged cash bribes.
What unsung politician first discovered the short-pencil trick, re-voting
while processing ballots? Inventiveness flows freely in
criminal and ethical corruption. What legislator created the Illinois
legislature's "gravy pot," early in the twentieth century, that let a
representative of the corrupt interests - railroad, gas company,
construction conspiracy, inter alia - put a sum in the "kitty" prior to a
vote on a bill, then let Representative Abrams, first to vote, vote the
"right" way, with the awareness on the part of subsequent
legislators that their vote, if with Abrams, would bring them their
per capita share of whatever bribe had been provided.
As the youthful century turned seer, in 1992, a plurality of the South
Carolina House of representatives dutifully showed up to
collect their bribes on a bill just passed, and could be watched on
television. It reminded viewers of a well-televised sting of several
years before, conducted by FBI agents, using a pseudo-sheikh, and
handing over bribes to five U.S. Congressmen, of
good reputation theretofore.
Direct proof of an offer and acceptance of a bribe for a specific vote
could be rarely obtained. Five State legislators in California were
trapped, bribed, prosecuted and convicted. Others asked for
campaign contributions for their vote, but too indirectly to be
indicted. In Chicago in the course of the past two decades two dozen
aldermen were jailed for accepting bribes. Many more would
actually have committed such crimes and worse - accepting bribes
as a matter of course, even on a kind of fee schedule:
$600 for a zoning exception, etc. .
The history of corruption is endless, in the Executive, as well as the
Legislative branch. Prolonged and well-publicized allegations, though
in a number of cases not succeeded by indictment, trial, and
conviction, were lodged against many of President Reagan's
appointees, a significant percentage of the whole number,
225 by one nosy nose count.
Congress at the same time was voting to increase its pay by
generous amounts; many of its members were kiting checks on the
private bank that they had set up for their convenience; a number of
them had large and long-delinquent bills at the
The petty nature of so much of public (and business) graft -
the small illegal gift, the improper banquet, the discounted house and car -
observable throughout American history (double the number for those
not caught), raises the question of basic motive and the character of
democracy. Is it true, that a small-timer can never think in the right
frame about big problems? Are such men - but there are so many of
them - simply tools, psychotic, or whatever? Certainly they are not
men in dire straits.
Let us venture some heuristic statistics, of which I am overly fond:
* One out of three of all local state and federal legislators, governors
other elected officials and their patronage appointees have been
crooked during the years 1500 to 2000.
* Nineteen out of twenty have had a number of attitudes on social
issues, economics, and politics that enlightened men and women of
today would reject.
*Query: what has been the rate of criminality from the beginning to the
present? Why have meliorist tactics done nothing to change this more
or less regular rate in time? About 99% of the population have
committed a crime once or more, 90% several times, 60% often, 30%
regularly, 5% as a way of life, living off crime deliberately).
For a long time, until the victory of humane reformers in re crimes
committed by the young ( In Re Gault, 1967), a due process of law in
criminal cases had been denied the accused young offender (under 18
usually), the idea being to give him the status of a "delinquent" rather
than "criminal" and to provide a flexible way of handling him/her in
institutions away from "hardened criminals." The effect was to let
sloppy procedures and whimsy envelop a great many proceedings
against the young. In 1995 a judge sentenced a delinquent girl to be
tethered to her mother at all times when outside the home.
Even the provision for private hearings to protect the
child was often abused.
In the Gerald Gault case, concerning lewd calls and a previous record
of childish theft, instead of a maximum punishment of $5 to $50 or 2
months in jail, the youth was committed to institutions for up to 5
years. If he had been three years older, he would have been guaranteed
rights under the U.S. Constitution, which were growing broader
and stronger in this century of reform: of proper arrest,
correct search and seizure, non-intimidating
pretrial interrogation, formal notice of charges, and
provision of an attorney, while at the trial itself,
he would have been guaranteed fair procedures. He
would not have been forced to testify against himself.
On the other hand, as any reader of Huckleberry Finn knows,
youngsters can commit many types of crimes, and with the easy
availability of guns (there are 250,000 licensed dealers in the U.S.)
the urban child of the late twentieth century could apply the
motto of the Colt six-shooter in the Wild West,
"What makes a little guy equal to a big guy?"
A movement arose to elevate his status to adult in charges of felony.
Arrests of youths aged 10 to 17 for
murder doubled between 1970 and 1990.
Child abuse, ranging from a harsh or degenerate upbringing to
disgusting work and subjection to sexual perversions, has been so
much a part of America behind-the-scenes, that a few
late statistics collected in this enlightened age should suffice.
Nearly all parents shout, yell or scream at their children,
a little or a lot, often calling them names.
Half spank them on their bottoms, a quarter using a hard object.
Slaps and blows are ordinarily dealt out by under 10 %.
But this would come to 20% with two parents
- and older siblings, et al?
An estimated 1.3 million children were sexually abused in the
course of a year, meaning by this that they were forcibly touched or
engaged in sex with an older person. A quarter of the boys in one
national study said that some friend of theirs had been beaten up by
a gang. About half had been threatened with a weapon. Unhappily,
children more in need of help in regard to all kinds of child abuse
were less likely to ask help from adults. Parents were
confided in less than peers.
There was always, at country crossways and in a town of a thousand
or more, but growing recognizably large in a city,
the underworld, the demi-mondaine, a representation of prostitutes,
dealers in illegal substances, professional criminals, and
men about to slip their trolleys and commit various crimes.
Almost none of the money - lately in thebillions of
dollars per year - entered the system of national accounts.
Hence perhaps 10% should be added to the total of the
Gross Domestic Product, going back in time, to reflect
payments for goods and services on this order.
Every single occupation has its own kind of crimes, misdemeanors,
and unethical practices. One survey, in 1993, showed half a sample of
employees from many types of offices showing up late occasionally,
using office equipment and supplies for personal use, bending rules and
truth, covering up for others, letting criminal or unmoral activities
go without questioning, and so on.
The padded expense account was common.
Probably the greatest single financial scandal of the late century
occurred in the collapse of the Bank of Credit and Commerce
International (BCCI), an Arab enterprise, in the 1990's.
Billions of dollars went flying in all directions, at the
expense of depositors and investors in several countries.
Only the dragon's tail struck the USA.
In the demolition of its American subsidiaries, a famed advisor to
Democratic Presidents beginning with Truman,
Clark Clifford, was also disgraced.
In the 1980's, of the 500 largest corporations,
over one in ten incurred heavy deficits of social responsibility
(for example, wanton environmental destruction) or were
prosecuted for civil or criminal offenses.
Another tenth were in other tough legal troubles.
Undiscovered offenses would double the rates. Twenty-five of them
were sold into non-American control. Pay of their chief executives
averaged over a million dollars per year.
Whereas in 1980 U.S. corporate heads
earned 40 times the average worker's pay,
in 1990 they got 90 times as much.
In 1980 a profile of 317 giant corporations was drawn; a 1990 revisit
revealed that one-half of them had been so substantially
reorganized that they were no longer recognizable as earlier
described. Probably one out of twenty of the "Fortune 500" great
companies were getting into scandals or criminal difficulties
annually, another one of twenty should have been in the same
trouble, and ten of twenty, or half, were giving kickbacks,
engaging in shady conspiracies, making questionable gifts to politicians,
keeping two sets of books on some operations, engaging in racial or
religious discrimination, anti-union activities, observation of special
favors to family, friends, and supporting extensive lobbies to
gain favorable legislation.
The top 10 corporate contributors to the major parties,
in 1993-4 and 1995,
generally favored the Republican Party, but saw fit to take
care of Democrat friends as well. And as fortunes wagged from
Democratic to Republican, the contributions did as well.
United Parcel Service, whether for favors hopefully to be received or
out of idealistic principles, led the list
with $1.4 million for Democrats and $1.3 millions for Republicans
in the earlier year, then $0.15 and $0.35 the following year
(which was not an election year).
You cannot make much sense out of the large figures, however,
beyond what I have said. Each company and businessman will
have his own reference group of politicians who are or might be
particularly helpful because of their positioning in the
network of power and decisions.
All of this should not obscure substantial beneficial activity of
many companies in their surroundings and to philanthropies.
However, the ten most charitable of the 500 gave in the
year 1989-90 only from $135 million down to $31 million,
a minute fraction of earnings, almost incomprehensible
when one considered how much "public relations value"
was to be derived from philanthropic activities.
Well over a million Americans went to jail in time for the annual
counts of the last decade of the 1990's. This is the highest rate in the
world, one of 160 men, women, children.
The rate was pushed up even higher by strict enforcement
of drug-consuming and drug-dealing laws.
Another 1.5 million were on parole following criminal conviction.
There were probably 15 million delinquents walking about
without restraint, over 10% of the adult population.
In 1947-8 some 823 federal employees netted
$10 million to $20 million from speculations on commodity prices
using inside information gleaned from the
Department of Agriculture.
Like Joseph Stalin, J. Edgar Hoover
(FBI chief, 1924 to 1972) was
buried with state honors, the first such ceremony for a civil servant,
covered with compliments resounding throughout the great Rotunda
of the Capitol. Then came the Stalin-like revelations:
direct violations of the Constitutional Rights of thousands,
frightening millions of enjoying their civil rights,
misuse of government facilities,
homosexuality disguised in rabid homophobia,
blackmail of Presidents and Congressmen, etc.
The public loved J. Edgar Hoover.
Also in 1972, Richard Nixon was re-elected President
with 60.7% of the vote cast, an historic approval,
despite the fact that the Watergate break-in scandal
had appeared in the news. He resigned, and, as I explained
earlier, escaped criminal prosecution through a
probably unconstitutional pardon from
his successor, Gerald Ford,
America grew famous for its rights.
France adopted a Declaration of the Rights of Man
in its Revolution afterwards. What did the rights of
Americans come to be, in detail? And what did they become in fact?
The rights, following growth and perambulations of Constitutional
law, came to be, as the 200th birthday of the Republic ended, these:
Procedural rights became, with a rush after 1950,
protection against all American governments and in some cases
private parties, respecting:
Persecution and harassment;
Illegal detention (a writ of error or a writ of habeas corpus
is court-issued to a State, Local, or Federal authority);
Unreasonable search and seizure;
Sheer confiscation of property;
Inadequate notice of trial;
Inadequate judicial hearing;
Denial of counsel (beginning with arrest -Miranda v Arizona, 1966)
Denial of speedy trial;
Double jeopardy (trial twice for the same offense);
Cruel and unusual punishment;
Trial for a criminal act that was not a crime when the act was
committed (i.e. an ex post facto law);
and Laws so vague that a reasonable person might well not
Besides all of these rights, Americans are supposed to have earned a
variety of substantive rights and civil liberties, as follows:
I. Restraints against interference in one's rights by private
companies, groups, and persons:
Bodily harm or restraint (like assault and battery,
sexual harassment, holding a person against her will, etc.)
Economic coercion (holding a person's money or property, forcing
him to sell out, etc.)
Libel and defamation(hurting a person's reputation by untrue
accusations and name-calling)
Involuntary servitude (forcing a person to work against his will)
Discrimination (against a person because of his race, nationality,
religion, sex, etc.) in providing employment and services.
II. Restraints against government interference with one's rights:
1. Political rights
To vote and to be a political candidate
To engage in free political discussion
To assemble freely
To organize groups freely
To petition public officials freely
2. Economic rights
To own and use property
To pursue an occupation
To buy and sell in commerce
To make a contract
3. Private rights
To life itself
To physical liberty and movement
To practice religion
To practice an art
To pursue science (right of inquiry)
To privacy of person and home
III. Provision of positive rights:
To a minimum or basic income
To an education
To health services
To decent housing
By the eighth decade of the twentieth century,
two hundred years from the founding of the Republic,
and before a Supreme Court now converted in its slants
by the appointments of President Reagan, the
American could count only on a 20% chance
- no more, probably less- of obtaining due process of law.
Not a single right became fully
available, for at least four reasons, these having little to do
with the changed composition of the Supreme Court:
a) One right conflicted with another. (You can't practice
painting by splashing people with gorgeous colors against their will.)
b) Politics and prejudice simply worked to deny many rights. (For
instance, a laborer had practically no chance to run for office.)
c) The system of enforcement works at about the 10 percent level of
efficiency. (Thus, it is impossible to block or prosecute a racist's
every racist action)
d) There was little agreement on the provision of positive rights.
(What is "an education"?)
Half a million lawyers and as many law students and twice as
many political science professors and students came to regard these
matters as their bread-and-butter credo. Actually, no right and liberty,
procedure or substance, has ever been fully achieved.
One contradiction of American behavior, noted from the beginning,
was a penchant for enacting laws of all kinds and then for rule-making
in profusion, while at the same time nursing a freedom to evade and
break laws and rules. (Mark Twain's Huckleberry Finn, with Tom
Sawyer advising him, provides a spoof of these qualities as he goes
about trying to liberate the slave Jim, strictly according to the rules of
medieval chivalry which Tom had read about.)
Some forty million felonies were committed annually, as the
twentieth century closed, perhaps a hundred million and more
misdemeanors. Ten million were violent crimes but of these only a
third were reported to the police and only 640,000 led to arrest. Out
of the ten million a precious 100,000 convicts ended in prison.
one true offense in "five"
against persons and groups was named as a crime,
despite the prolix abundance of demands for stiff laws against
criminal activities. A person could abandon friends, betray associates,
play destructive human and property games, and
otherwise be a disgusting scoundrel without breaking the law. This
may be true of most societies where anything not prohibited
formally may be done.
as stated, still "five" times more actions were labeled criminal than
should be, as laws against drinking alcohol of all types in any amount,
or against keeping an unmowed lawn. F.D.R. once jested that in
directing the Presidency, he had to break 299 laws a day.
Then, once committed, a defined crime was unlikely to enter the judicial
systems. For every 100 reported crimes an average of 18
persons were charged, about one in "five." But far more crimes went
unreported than reported. Householders supposed to pay a social
security tax on behalf of their domestic servants often ignored
the law, and escaped prosecution. Of some 75,000 live-in nannies, only
20% were reported, and millions of daytime
servants worked au noir. When President Clinton
sought a woman to nominate for the post of Attorney General, and
his opponents in the Senate would not confirm a person
who had not paid taxes for her domestic, it became suddenly
difficult to find a tax-paying qualified candidate.
Not one arrest in "five" ended in an indictment appropriate to the
crime. This occurred for many reasons, not the least of which was court
docket congestion and lack of sufficient proof. A person committing
manslaughter of an unpopular character might be
accused of "reckless discharge of a dangerous weapon."
The grand jury, which once was considered the means by which a
person could escape persecutorial prosecution,
by requiring that he be not only tried before a jury of his peers,
but be indicted for trial by a jury of his peers
(but without the presence of a judge). This
grand jury showed itself in the twentieth century to be neither
grand nor really a jury; it was used as an instrument of
prosecutors to manipulate juries and make a person look guilty
before he was tried (because the trial jury and judge would be inclined
to believe that he has been judged probably guilty by his co-citizens).
The process was costly, boring beyond sufferance, and often
insisted upon by the defense attorney until given a
proper plea bargain from the prosecution.
Most states abandoned the grand jury.
As with all aspects of judicial procedure, there was a
woeful lack of uniformity among the states.
And then we could say confidently that the chance of obtaining
due process of law is no more than one in "five"
in criminal and civil cases of all kinds.
A speedy trial, for example, is a rarity.
(Though delay is often welcome to private parties, the public suffers.)
Also, for instance, political, administrative, and police
harassment are commonly encountered.
Nor was punishment suited to the crime - not that we have ever
known precisely the proper punishment - but there is some
relationship that does not insult the intelligence.
This appropriate penalty, I would surmise,
may be present in one of five judgements.
The principle of "one-fifth" justice is not negligible by any means.
Yet one-tenth might be a more realistic figure.
Worse, in adding these fractions, we discover that
an average case has less than 1/30th a chance for
"full justice." Most times and places may have provided less.
Still, with 25 times as many practicing lawyers as the
Japanese employ, and many more relative to other
large nations, it would appear strange (or expected?)
that American justice always has been limping and erratic.
Having a great many lawyers as politicians has not helped.
In the last third of the Twentieth Century the proportion of
lawyers in Congress dropped significantly,
from 58% to 43%; it also declined in the
New York and California legislatures,
where the percentages were less than in Congress, and was
declining, too, in the state legislatures generally,
where about 20% were lawyers.
The idea of compensating for deficiencies stemming from invidious
discrimination, past and present, grew into a volatile issue in the
1960's. In some sense every person has amounted to less than she or
he might have become, had one not suffered some useless or malicious
intervention and conditions of life.
Affirmative action would hope to compensate, by extra goods or
opportunities, for the loss suffered. I have taken pains, throughout
this history, to show how the overwhelming majority of Americans
have been both themselves exploiters and exploited. As exploiters of
our fellows, we have all become accountable to our society for the
harm that we have done, and to our fellow Americans as
victims of our exploitation.
However, some few people are rich, famous, educated, healthy, or
powerful by reason of the "affirmative action" that others, usually their
families, but often, too, the authorities and the law, took on their
behalf. The guardianship of the extraordinary privileges and
inheritances of these few, no more than five per cent of the population,
constitutes an enormous system of affirmative action,
enforced by the laws.
Another part of society, unfortunately much larger, numbering about
75% of the people, has endured and still endures the effects of
invidious discrimination, as surely inherited as if it were money in the
bank, or has been struck by misfortune and disabled.
Americans came to accept affirmative action on behalf of
the elderly, the disabled, and the gravely ill.
Americans perceived the extreme improbability of these
persons restoring by themselves their personal situations.
Americans did not, and perhaps even less in the latter than in the
earlier twentieth century, see the justice of accelerating as a social cost
the fortunes of the first kind of person, whose problem of
inadequacy arises as a high probability (meaning that a number of
individuals will somehow escape the fate statistically guaranteed for
the great majority of his or her group), and where the affirmative
action taken, to raise the low probability to a reasonable possibility
of "normal" standing, often fails to do so. The "failure" who has
absorbed "failure" from his or her intimates fails to respond with
success to affirmative action.
Not all elements that suffered historically from invidious
discrimination have come down to the present time as continuous
victims. Else the whole population would be involved in the special
solutions of affirmative action. The Puritans, inflictors of invidious
discrimination themselves, escaped just that in the Old Country, and
were by no means unburdened with arrogant royal governors,
contemptuous officials and Redcoats.
More severely treated, by these same Puritans and their irreligious
offshoots, were the non-English elements who came to New England.
The Irish Catholics and the whole constellation of later Catholic
immigrants have been mentioned several times, the
difficulties of Jews and Asians as well. But these Americans were
able to escape by various means the high probability of lifetime
failure that comes from prolonged general repression.
Hispanic-Americans were not so fortunate and able, and
suffered a systematic downgrading along the
full spectrum of values.
Now that the Indian tribes and race were reviving, there was no single
group in America that lacked initiative, and a sense of being able to do
fantastic things if they got down to it. The conversation of a Black
street-corner gang was likely to divide rather evenly between
expressions of hatred and agony at the blocked paths of their lives and
a litany of what they wanted to do and might do nevertheless if they
had the chance and the means. But what they wanted to do simply did
not follow the career patterns sold to and accepted by the vast
majority of young Americans.
Yet we know that American Blacks (including the
culturally distinct Caribbean blacks) were producing
world-class dance, music, excellent unconventional
poetry, and were overpowering in athletics,
while being responsible for almost a third of the
advanced modern arts culture that America has given
the world recently. That is a huge proportion, given that Blacks
constitute perhaps 13% of the people. It has long been accepted by
psychologists, although it is not admitted to the sanctity of
scientific law, that genius is akin to madness. Higher delinquency --
in conventional terms, trouble-making -- was akin to the
creative genius of African-Americans.
They had a smaller upper class of persons who were quite capable of
competing for the roles of politician, professor, journalist, lawyer,
doctor, and so forth. It seemed reasonable to expect that Blacks would
not fill properly the quotas of 13% of these niches in society, but, if
provided with the special avenues of access to the equally if not more
valuable roles in society that they have shone in, then the whole issue
of affirmative action would begin to lose its meaning.
Meanwhile, as the Second Civil War drew to a close,
the proportion of blacks moving into the clerical classes from
the ranks of manual labor rose. Black men in
white-collar jobs increased from 5.2% in 1940
to 32% in 1990 and continued to increase thereafter.
Black women increased even more rapidly in white-collar
work, from 6.4% to 58.9%. Two-parent
black families had a median household income of
~$41,000 as compared with ~$48,000 for
whites, in 1995.
The sole aggregate who managed to reach the top at
least proportionally in practically every endeavor was the Jews.
No other ethnic group has managed to achieve this record,
not even groups whose run for the leap extended back for
centuries of wealth, distinction, and power.
I shall add detail to this trend later.
Therefore, I conclude that the full range of opportunities in areas for
which Blacks have practically inherited talent should be afforded and
developed - the arts, music, dance, poetry, athletics, photography,
film, all the media and supervisory positions of these professions - in
specialized schools and colleges where Blacks would enjoy privilege of
access but only thanks to admission tests which would naturally
facilitate their success, just as Blacks and poor Whites have been kept
out of higher education very often by the tests and backgrounds and
preparatory coursework demanded of candidates.
If this were done, there would be no need for affirmative action other
than the catch-up subsidies and grants of scholarships that are made
available to all who apply and qualify, sometimes restrictive of
competition if such are the ground rules for
obtaining the benefit.
To generalize, educational systems should be based upon the several
thrusts and capacities of the groups composing the society, rather
than upon the parroted wisdom handed down via a narrow group
that claims to be democratic by letting everybody
qualify under its terms.
All along, American society as a whole received gigantic
subsidies. Unless one considers these, any harping upon the pioneer
spirit, the great old days, American know-how, American initiative,
creativity, competitiveness, high standard of living, etc., is a song
of self-delusion. For these subsidies came at the expense of
large sections of the population. In the last chapter, we alluded to
debts that will probably not be paid off. Going far beyond them,
American history has incurred other huge obligations that
can never be paid off.
In all, five great streams of debt can be viewed. The first is to the
Indian, the second to the African, the third to the immigrant, the
fourth, to women, and the fifth, incurred in this last memorial
generation of the twentieth century, is to the Future. As they have
been hardly conceived to be obligations as such, I shall have to refer
to their description and calculation as heuristic statistics, to wit:
Euro-Americans practically confiscated from the preceding
residents America's total Continental, Puerto Rican, Alaskan,
Hawaiian, Panamanian, Samoan, and Virgin Islands territory,
amounting to millions of square miles.
In cases where prices were paid, these were set artificially low or
under duress, or sold by powers (Napoleon, the Czar, et al.) whose
titles to the property were grossly unclear. Conquistadors, courtiers,
corporations, were granted much of the property in turn; kings gave
out titles to lands whose boundaries were unknown. France was
pledged by treaty to give the Louisiana Territory back to Spain; in a
real court of international law, Spain could have sued for its return.
Each transfer or sale thereafter involved new pricing policies, usually
higher. Finally, today, the value of all real estate of the United States
amounts to some $20,000,000,000,000. Or $2 x 1013. That is $20
trillions, based on the original theft.
If a calculation were to be made of its equivalent in undeveloped
European land of the same type at, say, half-time, or 1800, when
legal titles were to be here and now cleared in America, and
included the value of all metals and minerals, we should arrive at a
figure perhaps one-fourth of this amount. This figure of $5 trillions
might therefore be considered the land subsidy or
capital grant for the nation.
The equivalent would be the cost of junking every piece of capital
machinery in the world and replacing it by the latest and best
Euro-Americans subjected African-Americans to slavery
and then to a condition of repression akin to slavery for
a total of 350 years.
This was primarily a subsidy of the South, but
since the North benefitted from the mass crime,
trading with the South and in the infamous Triangle Trade and
otherwise, for which the victims were never compensated,
the whole of American society would be implicated.
I mentioned this crime which was also a subsidy, earlier,
and found it to amount to some $5 trillions or
$5,000,000,000,000 or $5 x 1012.
The calculation is based on the value of slaves, the
wages paid free men, the time period in question, and
beyond the slavery period an allowance must be made
for the semi-slave condition and abuses suffered by
Blacks in the South, and then, as they migrated, in the North.
A separate accounting can be made of criminal costs and
discrimination costs of Blacks today.
In the year 2000 the chance of a baby born black
being imprisoned in life were one in four
(the figure for whites being also a scandalous
1 in 20, highest in the world).
In 1995 half of all prison inmates
were Black, nearly 20% of all Black young men.
The costs were high, averaging $25,000 per year per inmate.
Delinquent behavior on the streets added social costs.
Welfare costs were large.
Still, the sum of all anti-social costs
could not possibly equal the current tribute
paid by Blacks for their race:
the least desired kinds of work,
countless instances of abuse both verbal and physical,
continuous mental anguish,
low rates of pay and high unemployment,
poor living conditions and poor health.
Perhaps there was some unperceived social principle operating,
whereby society was forced to pay equally and oppositely
for its own delinquency and exploitation.
In the course of 400 years, an estimated
25 million immigrants settled in the United States.
At least 90% of these were ready to go to work.
Their communities of origin paid for their upbringing.
They worked here and hard, under contract for the
first five years on the average or under duress, or
at sub-standard wages amounting to at least $5000.00
per year in current dollars, or $25,000.00 in all.
This would amount to $625 billions.
If their average age upon arrival was twenty and their
cost of upbringing in the Old Country averaged
$1000 per year in current dollars,
we have an additional subsidy of $500,000,000,000 or
$5 x1011., or $0.5 trillions.
Exploitation of immigrants thus provided at least
$1.125 trillions. Let it be
an even one trillion dollars by subtracting immigrant remittances
to their families back in the Old Country.
Hispanics, if Indian, or Black, could be included under the
one or the other severely deprived group, and,
if White, among the other immigrants.
The exploitation of women is a fourth region of enormous
Women were in a state of serfdom until the twentieth century, and still
incur disabilities that should be piling up obligations of the
society, debts for which logically bonds should be issued to
females. They were cheated out of property rights for centuries,
deprived of the vote, jury duty, the right to witness, and other civil
liberties, excluded from various public places, most higher schools and
the professions such as law and medicine. They were paid at
half or less the rate of men, as unconscionably poorly paid teachers
throughout the land for example, and generally
in the factories and offices.
Very large damages are here included, and if a young
whippersnapper can inherit a hundred million dollars from his
parents' parents' parents' estate, why
cannot the past miseries of women - as with the others here -
be regarded as an investment or damages
payable by someone or some agency, perhaps the young
Women may have lesser claims than Blacks
because they were better treated on the whole and
lived in the style of their masters usually,
and their children received education, property, and her free status,
none of which and more could be received by the slave.
Under these circumstances, a subsidy of
$5 trillions has been derived from the oppression of women,
Black and White, who were five times as
numerous as the African-American men.
These vast subsidies came thus to America and its residents. But,
not content with them, Americans found that the
monetary techniques of the present world system
allowed them to aggregate another subsidy of
no mean proportion, through credit, thus:
When a person or company obtains a loan or credit, this permits
purchases otherwise not possible. Until such credits and loans are
repaid, the debtor is enjoying a subsidy, and, of course, if the debt
is never repaid or is extended indefinitely, it becomes effectively
and correctly a grant or subsidy.
In accord with this logic, the total of the outstanding debt of the
country and its inhabitants (less the money it has lent to other
nations or individual foreigners) constitutes a temporary subsidy.
Hope of paying it back rests on a large increase in productivity, a
diminution of consumption, subsidies from the outside (as by
seizures in a war or reparations following a victory), negotiated
reduction, gross inflation, heavier taxation, and/or a change of
property law redefining debt.
Prosecution of delinquents came in waves; over 75
government agencies made loans whose current total
due and payable was over $100 billions but whose six-months or
more delinquency total was $47 billions. Naturally, the larger the
debt the more these engines of default management
have to be powered up.
So far the American people and their governments have not
defaulted or denounced their debts on a grand scale.
Most delinquencies have been handled on an individual basis.
In every U.S. panic and depression, of course,
foreign investors have lost some of their loans to Americans.
Too, after the Civil War, the Union forbade
the seceded States to repay any obligations to
foreign nations or creditors.
Externally, Americans and their governments owe many billions of
dollars to foreign individuals, institutions and governments.
So long as these debts are not paid, they act as a subsidy.
Insofar as they represent current consumption expenditures,
they amount to a subsidy of the present and a "tax" on the future.
The Savings and Loan Bank defaults climaxing in the
1980's resulted in threatened and actual defaults
so grave that the national government assumed the onus of
honoring their obligations and disposing of their assets;
as much as $350,000,000,000.00,
$3.5 x 1011, or $350 billions
may be drawn on the U.S. Treasury.
Much more formidable as surrogate subsidies are the internal debts of
the national, state and local governments of all types.
By the elegant fictions of accounting, they are considered burdens
on the present; more realistically, they are
confiscations of the property and income of future Americans.
To these, considered in similar light, may be added
the debts of business concerns, plus the debts of
individuals in the form of mortgages, credit cards, automobile loans,
etc., as follows, in trillions of dollars:
National debt .................................. 6.5
State and local government debt ..... 1.0
Business loans ................................. 3.0
Individual mortgages ....................... 0.5
Individual credit cards ..................... 0.5
All other individual debt .................. 0.5
Total .......... $12 trillions
Justifiably this fifth sum can be set alongside the four other older forms
of subsidy that the American society of today stands upon.
The grand total of subsidies that have been estimated here
amounts to $28.125 trillions
($2.8125 x 1013,
I shall not pause to amuse the reader with how the
dollar bills represented by these figures could
festoon fat Mother Earth many times around.
Some immigrants exploited others, some women
preyed upon others and slaves and immigrants,
some slaves other slaves, some Indians other Indians, and so on.
There would be needed, to establish and distribute obligations,
something like the clearing houses that exist
to balance out every day currency payments and debits
in the trillions of dollars, deutschmarks, francs, pounds,
liras, yens,guilders, kroners, etc.,
crediting with the proper amounts those dealers everywhere in the
world who are members of the clearing houses.
The final results would be immensely meaningful but
completely impractical of realization.
Considering the state of the nation, to which we must
ultimately address ourselves, and these five grand subsidies,
Americans have little reason to over-value
their achievements - or those of their predecessors of
500 years. Per capita and on average, an
American is supported by historical and future subsidies
of about $1,800,000,
against which "debts" he can pitch his puny average
net worth of a few thousand dollars.
Were Americans grateful for these subsidies?
It was customary to thank God for their blessings,
but only rarely did a prayer designate these subsidies as
being their true blessings. And the thanks to God
were more truly praise of themselves for having done
all the damage without outside help.
They got rid of the Indians, kept the African man
and woman in their place, surviving on slavery and welfare, and
let in all those foreigners (including but
forgetting themselves); then they figured how
to exploit the generations yet unborn.
A lack of self-awareness, of the shaky grounds
on which their society rests,
characterized the people and their politicians.
Full in the face of these most lucrative
imperialistic adventures of history, they enthusiastically
charged out at the end of the nineteenth century upon
the decadent and compliant Spanish Empire, upon
unsuspecting Polynesians, upon the Caribbeans, and
finally upon the whole world, convinced in themselves, and
thereby convincing a stupefied world, that they were the
epitome of democracy, hard work,
financial prudence, efficient organization,
productivity, equality, and benevolence.