The Communism/Capitalism Convergence



            Contrary to the standard saga of mortal enmity between capitalists and proletarians, during their Bolshevik heyday communists didn’t all-that-conspicuously target factories or banks for destruction: rather did Leninists/Trotskyites much-more-commonly pinpoint churches and other ecclesiastical buildings and properties. While neither for that matter were wealthy factory-owners and bankers systematically “eliminated” by the same once ever-active revolutionaries: who instead dispatched tens of thousands of priests and religious and as many as 80 million mostly-ordinary people by the time of the collapse of communism in 1989. The basic thrust of Marxism—media-and-educator ignored withal—having been toward the furthest possible advancement of the capitalistic worldview, if evincing awhile a strong note of impatience with its various contemporary forms, a chaffing which indeed added new vigor to the Bolshevik bomb-thrower’s arm. Whose target was most-pointedly not the doughty capitalist stockbroker but rather that socially-cohesive way of life to which the capitalism of the late nineteenth and early-to-mid twentieth centuries—when Marxism was first “in flower”—continued indulgently to allow some degree of scope. The odd idealism/nihilism of the communist stamp having an uncanny methodological and scale-related kinship with the huge and impersonal economies of the steadily-encroaching, centrally-financed system, the very nemesis of earlier close-to-home forms: domesticated realities which such earlier versions of the same system were not yet so bleakly standardized and totalitarian as to have utterly uprooted.

Thus did the Bolsheviks play a central, ground-clearing role in the ushering-in of initiative-discouraging bureaucracies and gargantuan military-industrial complexes with which we are now so familiar, and which go indifferently with communism or advanced forms of capitalism like a hand in a glove. These impersonal, socially-alienating structures working to create today's celebrated "level playing field": one however increasingly restricted to "those who count": one suitable in many ways to ball-playing Chinese party chiefs and global corporate managers alike. 

            This original pre-capitalist grassroots interdependency—so foreign to the modern regimented technocracy—was very clearly and literally embodied in the principle—seldom heard today but nonetheless a fundamental, consistent part of genuine Western social belief—that the goods of the Earth are there for all of its inhabitants, and not just for some chosen few strong enough to commandeer them, whether with armies or debentures, and whether in the name of “the people” or of Wall Street elites. Formally annunciated by Pope St. Gregory the Great in the Sixth Century, it is this generous view, amply putting into effect the prodigious qualities of the economic multiplier, rather than capitalism, which laid the age-old and solid historical foundations for the tremendous productivity and material amplitude of Western life up to the present day. Stolid foundations laid before Greeks first coined the name European: or “those who wear good clothes”.

Of course, the same perennial Western thought has always insisted on the sacredness of private property: but according to a formula not at all absolute, rather being bounded with many attaching social obligations, these in real terms being highly-stimulating economically. Here being a scenario given proper scope only within the truly-rational, mild and intimate market institutions which are proper to human beings, and proportionally foreign to the massive, impersonal, multiplier-discouraging forces that are so defining of both capitalism and communism. This more truly rational and traditional sort of market and society being neither socialism nor laissez-faire but something fundamentally and irreconcilably apart from both. Such a truly-positive socioeconomic structure being rather closely related to the once almost universal organizational principle called distributism: that whereby for any given activity the smallest feasible entity—often the individual person—retains the greatest possible agency or authority over that which naturally comes under its purview. Hence where communism/capitalism give us a world of huge monoliths and social, economic and political gulags of various sorts, distributism provides us a veritable infinitude of original, fluid forms, with the human person a viable, creative actor at every level. Here is the real source, then, of the Western genius: contrasting sharply with the Wall-Street-brokered, hyper-controlled, communist/capitalist social, operational and resource-related wasteland: fatal flaws and increasingly-arid stretches of which we in the U.S. have for a decade now been growing increasingly familiar.

            Furthermore, distributism can also be shown, upon a modicum of reflection, to be at the very pith of true and practical democracy: whose most authentic ideal is to enhance the agency of the individual, enabling the human person in those venues dearest and most-critical to him, and not merely positing some perfectly-symbolic but-highly-illusory species of checks-and-balances, arbitrating much heat but little light, much noise but little if any reform. Genuine freedom being found in an inbuilt organic advocacy that starts at humblest levels but mounts to the very highest chambers of state, with self-rule and substantive equality being properly and naturally conceived and developed at the local, even neighborhood level, but zealously protected from above: top-level authority finds its own mandate most stoutly maintained in local and colloquial strength. This veritable neighborhood and village level semi-autonomy likewise relieving higher political reaches of those time-consuming, energy-enervating minutiae with which locals are intimately and easily acquainted, that are well beneath its proper and more-expansive ken. These indigenous political components being small enough to cherish the complex, subtle, unavoidably time-and-space-bound needs, and inalienable equality-of-dignity, of the human beings of which they are comprised, within an overarching positive body politic, rather than one grim, deadline-driven and de facto dictatorial: the genuine polity’s mobilizing counter-tensions fittingly resembling the human muscular envelope, every fiber of which works toward a common if widely-dispersed goal. Hence does pain or delight in its tiniest member find near-instant echoes throughout the sensitive, innately-tender-hearted sociopolitical colossus, its various fibers and ligaments encompassing both the family and those productive associations which fulfill the latter’s industrial, social, and other sustaining purposes, leaving few if any functional vacuums for the gangster, the crooked union steward, the self-serving at-large-elected politician. Distributism fostering an uninterrupted continuity of singularly-unique political organs up through the regional and national levels, the whole comprising a volitional union tending to be harmoniously and melodiously orchestrated for the ultimate, sustainable popular good, if within those human limitations and frailties common to mortal men. The immemorial agora of social, economic and political life scarcely attempting to bypass or improve-upon our humanity in some heroic way, rather taking human limitations sympathetically into account, making few further demands upon mortal humanity than it already bears. Responsibility for which tireless solicitude is likewise parceled out to identifiable human persons, rather than grandly "liberated" to the citizenry at large, allowing for a passing-of-the-buck of massive size, all the while unseen and unidentified forces enslave us and rob us blind. Our alternative system embodying a solidly-rooted freedom that is hardly containable in the terse, ringingly-egalitarian or unitary slogans that are so bravely noised-about today.

            During the rise of communism behind the “Iron Curtain,” then, the last remnants of this centuries-old organic and truly-free society were just as surely being dismantled in the West through a corporate/bureaucratic drive toward massive scale: essentially involving a rarification of wealth and power to higher places remarked upon and struggled against by many-an intellectual and “populist” leader in the early to mid twentieth century: not a few of whom, from Croatia to Spain to Latin America to the United States, died strange and violent deaths. Since in capitalism we are dealing with an organizational method which, most notably by its unaccountability of scale and method of organization, tends toward the ascendancy of the most ruthless and cynical, as by a sort of natural devolution. As in the relentless takeover of investment, the media and organized labor by men who in various ways and according to varying degrees adopt the bluff methods of a Jimmy Hoffa Sr. Thus scarcely dismissible as "conspiracy theory" is the recognition of a drive for control not only of industry and government but also of major vehicles of education and dissemination: since the debt-driven system has a dynamism all its own, which must sweep all before it as by an internal and defining law. A code whose fundamental propensities are most threatened by free thought and association, in a perversely-top-heavy pyramid even the economic efficiency of which has at intervals been convincingly challenged. This not only by brilliant economists from Joan Robinson to John Maynard Keynes but also by the phenomenal success-record of cutting-edge micro-corporations, high-yield-per-acre “organic food” family farms, and Swiss family-owned Euro-firms alike. These often additionally evincing potentially-near-non-existent environmental and other social costs.

            Such a counterproductive burgeoning of scale economies as basically defines capitalism was however also greatly facilitated by the Anglo-American legal system’s adoption of Blackstone’s definition of private property: this being construed as absolute, or “sole and despotic,” in nature, with precious few social obligations attached to it. Involving, really, only a shrugging-of-shoulders, if amply couched in legal terms, of the biblical "am I my brother's keeper?” variety, that forerunner of cynical communist slogans of all kinds. The sort of disclaimer that readily works treasons at home and impressive privatized dividends abroad, a "new approach" that is actually the ultimate fruit of the Reformer "faith without works" paradigm, while hearkening back further as well to the retrograde social gospel of first century Pharisees. By way of which brave shortcuts there is curtailed man's chief enabler of truly-abundant wealth, namely his neighbor, with property being conceived of as a desperately and stupidly sought-after prize, its potentially-prolific benefits hoarded and constricted over time. The same penurious philosophy tending toward a gross exaggeration of advantages and disadvantages of real-property ownership as opposed to use or tenancy, distinctions which were historically of much less consequence, these disparities ultimately taking on stark and deterministic dimensions, with many shut out from important things which deeds-of-property have come exclusively and with much vindictive justification to allow.

            In support of such an unnatural configuration, and to give it a kind of moral sanction, came the periodic invention of "resource scarcity" doctrines: these paving the way in turn for the population decrease gospels of Malthus, Bertrand Russell and Nelson Rockefeller, poorly-substantiated views now held by our ever-vocal kingpins of "gay"-marriages and other forms of anti-life. The sort of “romance” which finds an equally perverse parallel in today’s union of neo-cons with fringe-liberals: revealing in their near-identical platforms the very same Marxist/Capitalist convergence spoken of here: much-made-over but actually-rather-insignificant Republican concessions to pro-life and other Christian-conservative issues aside. This even as food surpluses gradually fill more and more gargantuan warehouses, actually only a rote repeat of the scenario of bumper crops seen during the 1840s Irish famine: with starving farm workers held off with whips and guns by landowners. While both these tragedies of different times find their root cause in a global retro-development which capitalism necessarily brings with it in cycles of decay, as helped along by the greed of financiers, hedge-fund-managers and geopolitical potentates alike. Since for one thing food in particular must be meticulously locally and with great and indeed tender solicitude, its critically-needed abundance being gravely discouraged amid the disconnects, misallocations and mis-accountabilities of pure detached cupidity and massive scale.

Blackstone’s property-law doctrine is much remarked for a crystalline rationality in many quarters, although it must first be disentangled from its anti-“papist” rhetoric—outdated even in it own time—before it can be rescued from near-incomprehensibility. While quite appropriately what has actually happened to private property here since the noted jurist’s pronouncements has about it an implacability and impersonality which even the crusty-but-much-celebrated 18th-Century figure would certainly disown. But as unfaithful and irrelevant as the grim end result might have been to its originator—and his rather simple Adam Smith or Horatio Alger corner-grocery store world—it is all starkly familiar to the armies of property-less proletarians and smaller and smaller numbers of shop-owners of the local-commercial ground-zero of the stock-market-driven economy of our day.

            Hence, understandably, the Communist/Capitalist removal of so many good, noble and intimate things connected with hearth, home, local community life and religion did not at all lead to the pristine world of personal achievement of early-twentieth-century novels: let alone to the promised workers’ paradise of Marx. Rather did it draw in its wake the progressive leveling and sterilization of the most enlightened and truly-progressive institutions of society, since economy and society, property law and moral advancement are marked by a certain fundamental interconnectedness, something which abstracts entirely from Adam Smith's economic “laws of nature”, working impersonally withal. The mindset of capitalism having indeed today devolved to stark dimensions of today’s neo-conservative theorists, somehow essentially picturing human life as a whole to be modeled after the predatory. Nature in its more dynamic and salient outlines being however and throughout far-more characterized by the mild and cooperative: this within an economy-of-energies and resources placed essentially at the service of man. Even as he himself remains deeply rooted in systems of reciprocal, garden-tending obligations, with the predatory aspects of nature’s “self-culling” animate relationships thus hardly being meant to provide a model for relations of men with one another.

The inherent if not always outwardly-apparent developmental diminutions of capitalism/collectivism have here traditionally been bred of merger and monopoly, elsewhere of state management and religious and ideological oppression: although even here of late there is a dramatic convergence, as represented by America's repressive “security”-oriented regime, increasingly correlating the media-unanimity, the scholastic indoctrination, the windowless, warehouse-like store and workplace of the USA of today with the mass-rallies of the China of yesterday. While yet another intra-systemic correlation is found in today’s low wages being joined to a growing job insecurity across the globe, an outcome which we are assured by a rigidly-controlled press is the “people’s market choice”, with Americans relentlessly being turned into the “telemarketers”, “customer service representatives”, hamburger-flippers and homeless people of a new and foreign age marked by poverty and barked commands. All this a universe apart from independent businessmen and their often in-real-terms well-compensated and respectfully-and-affectionately-regarded employees of which the better America of the mid-twentieth century was composed.






Reflections on Another Development-Related Law Review Article: D.J. Gerken, "Loopholes You Could Drive a Truck Through: Systematic Circumvention of Section 4(f) Protection of Parklands and Historic Resources". 32, no. 1, The Urban Lawyer (2000)


The author of this article investigates the extent to which efforts at historic preservation can be undermined by an increasingly-common contractor/highway-planner alliance, formed in order to manipulate a Federal regulatory loophole, being fruitful in many-a gentlemen’s agreement, necessarily maintained over a sometimes-considerable time-continuum, a conspiracy which opens a path through the thicket of local, state and federal preservation law that is fast becoming a super-highway all of its own kind. When successful, employing taxpayer highway-construction moneys to destroy previously-protected historic sites and landscape, 99% of the time for the “progress”-oriented purposes of especially-high-minded ready-mix contractors and urban developers. Easily bypassed in the process being prohibitive clauses in Section 4(f) of the Department of Transportation Act, 80 Stat 931-50 (1966): legislation which forbids Federal support for highway projects that would use up sizeable amounts of parklands or bring about the demolition of historic structures or other historic resources. For although the law can be quite effective when actually brought to bear, highway planners at local, state and federal levels of government have devised ways to deftly sidestep each of the regulatory trip-wires that cause a project to be subject to section 4(f) review.

This succession of stumbling-blocks placed in the path of preservation legislation might easily go as follows. First, highway planners deny that the project at question is in fact a Federal project. If that doesn't work they may then cast doubt on the notion that the lands the project intends to use are actually "protected" in character. Finally, if neither of these approaches is sufficient, several strategies are employed to call into question the whole idea that parklands and/or historic resources to be used by a proposed highway project fall within the descriptions of lands protected by section 4(f). While this whole encyclopedic semantic onslaught is commonly-enough punctuated, at critical legal/strategic junctures, by standard media-aired claims of a progress-oriented wounded righteousness of the Murdoch/Fox News type: forming a stout barricade-against-the-truth which can prove to be a near-insuperable mass-psychology component on a broader plane. Spurring a vague-but-formidable “will of the people”, one however grossly mal-informed, to get behind the destruction of their own historic resources.

This modern-day manipulation of the meanings of words, let alone of laws and court decisions, in order to get around their inner spirit: this is actually a disease which hides quite well amid the nerves and sinews of the American political/legal corpus. A systemic anemia or deficiency, ironically enough, that is immensely-aided by a Supreme Court absorption with the coining of precise judicial formulae, in an exercise which stretches back to the days of John Marshall. A bench methodology which can render fundamental things quite obscure: above and beyond those at times relatively-inconsequent, sometimes indeed almost irrelevant, ones which it so pedantically clarifies. It being in the courts that the academically-celebrated American "verbal culture" come into fullest flower: in exhaustive attempts to convey the very essence or spirit of law in mere words, often only losing the forest for the trees. An illusory process in which however the words themselves are often the first victims: being as it were, and by a kind of just vengeance, disemboweled of their meaning before the very bench’s eye. The celebrated American ultra-literalism finding perhaps its first beginnings in Winthrop's 1620s Plymouth, Massachusetts bound shipboard-speech to England-departing Puritans, people who tended to think of themselves as divinely commissioned to "start all over again" in more ways than one: most pointedly avoiding all the old pitfalls of European "Papism" in cultural landmark and legal institution alike. Silent processes of tradition in particular being somehow vaguely regarded as sinister evils to be rooted out, whether in law or religion, and being somehow seen as best cured by a voluble expository loquacity: whether among jurists, church-deacons or academics of every kind. So that as a consequence many American test-cases tend to resemble rambling manifestos of some sort, with truly-monumental verbal laboriousness aspiring to establish new principles and benchmarks: seeking, however shakily, to re-fix the foundations of universals once thought to have been laid ages ago. An enterprise which not surprisingly might take a great many high-spirited if not always lucid words. “Popish” notional trowel and mortar having reputedly done preternaturally-obscure work in early-to-late medieval centuries, deep in the silence of those frightful caverns-of-recollection once so-commonly found in Catholic souls, calling forth a different kind of court-contrived Prohibition, in combative verbal assaults upon the silent, uniquely-inebriating wine of the Catholic inner spirit. Once this wellspring of legal loquacity is opened, there is indeed no telling where it might lead, having already managed a once-unthinkable sodomy-matrimony, the organ-snatching redefinition of death, stern new Hitlerian military ideologies and abortion on demand.

But an incisive rapier for cutting through such a verbal Gordian knot is provided for us by Chateaubriand: he who in the early nineteenth century pointed out with respect to constitutional law something which applies equally-well to court opinions: namely that mere words are actually and after a point relatively sterile when it comes to the conveying of certain fundamentals, which being essentially moral and spiritual must be as it were almost savored or contemplated far more than analyzed. No matter how much this might provoke fresh, frightful visions of silent, incense-blanketed, rosary-telling monks and nuns. The understanding of law tending to loose much amid the relatively-mechanical permutations that can be involved in being committed to writing or speech; in the realm of constitutions—and indeed of most profound things—any protracted verbal formulation ironically brings into play disproportional rigidities of thought which a largely-unwritten tradition like that of England typically-enough need not even consider. A juridical touchstone such as indeed developed under the able tutelage of monks and other “clerks” (the Old English word for clerics). Then too the realities of each legal case commonly require a malleable micro-application of doctrines and principles to the here-and-now, even as they themselves necessarily and by definition remain rather broad and generic in character. The literalist approach thus easily making any law an easy target for sidestepping: as it were by many built-up layers of a kind of verbally-accreted and calcified stiffness or over-precision: much like the delinquent child whose literal-sense understanding of and “obedience” to a command can easily be a downright mockery of what was actually enjoined. A habit which, once become ingrained, can quickly amount to a childhood policy of a consummate “stonewalling”: as those indeed know who have dealt at all with any truly-“incorrigible” youth. Thus too do English “demonstrations”, or citizen petitions, take almost any form: while in the American context there would probably be a separate legal procedure for each: no doubt complete with a whole booklet of legal word-smithing in citation. Such densities of word and procedure obviously making the law appreciably less accessible, rather than more-so: or even resulting at times in a precedent-by-precedent word-manipulation into a complete frustration-of-intent, or at least a kind of legal or policy-determining oblivion. One that is however highly favorable to certain prominent but incurably-delinquent interests.

All this incomprehensible legalese, this sometimes-melodramatic verbal-maneuvering provides in its own turn highly-combustible underbrush for those relentless fires of litigation which have become a unique and dominant part of the American juridical landscape, but which now threaten to leap oceans and engulf other continents as well. A wildfire which has a method to it in that it can consume with an uncanny efficiency rights and protected interests previously regarded as sacred, and often-enough of a sort which were once conspicuously held by many generations of common citizens. This use of the courts to undermine the law itself having become so common as to perhaps be seldom consciously adverted-to by those involved. A maneuver for which "balance of powers" is inevitably called forth in justification, furthering the disappearance of official, political or bureaucratic life into a polity-threatening maze or ambuscade, from out of which only the most remorseless and cunning survive. Hardly a legitimate aim of a government which is defined by the pursuit of the common good, rather than by the exclusive advantage of scoundrels and thieves.

But in the case before us this voluble detour-from-justice is pursued by none other than the presumed regulatory upholders of the law of the land, for ends that are typically bare of any connection to larger issues of the public good: being rather impelled by rosy-glassed but myopic views of suburban expansion and development that likewise, and with rare neo-capitalist thrift, do much to expand these officials’ own power turfs, and on more than one occasion even their portfolios. The sort of scenario with which we have all indeed become perfectly familiar since the accession of the verbally-well-oiled Bush Machine. And because this rare combination of the subtle and the egregious naturally undermines the substantive prohibitions of the cited standard federal legislation, the author calls for supplemental authority to be enabled, this in order to safeguard the impacted resources from the fate suffered by so many of their like in recent years: swept away as they have been by a relentless, expensive deluge of carefully-crafted words.

But a yet-further burden of volubility-related densification—adding to that already placed on the backs of the law and its framers, executors and administrators—is the frequent court recourse to a maddeningly-indeterminate Holmsian "weighing of particulars" doctrine. This ultimate opener-of-verbal-floodgates—admirably-word-crafted qualities notwithstanding—this rare judicial tour de force is too often likewise fruitful in little besides the verbal wash-out of substance from long-standing, carefully-considered laws and legal doctrines, indeed with a litigation-rewarding “ripened” requirement by which, to paraphrase, “all legal avenues must first be exhaustively pursued”. Thus adding yet another note of the prohibitively-expensive and notionally-imponderable to any case to which the doctrine is applied. While conversely, although originating in connection with land-use law, such a weighing of potentially-unlimited particulars easily jumps such boundaries and legal-philosophically infects other areas of law as well: forcefully calling to mind a recent information-avalanche failure-to-indict by a Grand Jury in the Michael Brown killing. Thus is facilitated, and needed time procured, for a mega-bucks-funded, "legally-exhaustive" wearing down of the opposition, with the near-irreversible establishment of previously-unmentionable things like a routine gunning-down of unarmed Blacks, institutionally-endorsed sodomy and “privacy”-related abortion-on-demand. Legal doctrines which must cause presumably-immaculate-minded legal-philosophical Puritan forefathers to turn over in their graves. This bafflingly-nebulous “weighing standard” serving in the meantime to make it doubly unpredictable whether an action of a local resource-guarding official or staffer is likely to be construed as involving financial liability: this especially in view of the First Evangelical Lutheran land-use decision: putting the modest salary of some public functionary in the lists against a deep-pocketed corporate world. The two judicial doctrines together thus easily rendering administrative actions a kind of Russian roulette. So that the many and varied inscrutable factors noted here in this writing—and the incalculable motives and connections they bring into play—cumulatively produce a degree of unpredictability completely out of line with Hayek's universally-accepted standard, in an administrative veritable-paralysis often gravely obstructionary to critical governmental functions. A scenario presided over gravely by Justices who periodically justify all this and more with likewise-lengthy disquisitions about “the rule of law”. A bench climate whose only constant in recent decades seems to be that when the courts do come down from out of accustomed deliberative clouds they almost invariably land on the side of the powerful. While in the rare cases in which the opposite happens it is typically-enough the result of some esoteric "weighing standard" digression that is patently inapplicable as a dependable planner's or policy-maker's rule of thumb.

Most disturbingly of all, this case-documented tendency of the developer/highway-regulator alliance to sidestep legislative intent—and regulatory obstacle—easily-if-indirectly the most fundamentally-destructive economic-developmental phenomenon on these shores—is clearly doing its own big share in gradually undermining the whole Western concept of the public good in this country. That sublime, largely-spiritual reality which it is prohibitively difficult to fix in precise words. Such an erosion of basic things being in large measure the consequence of a verbally-enabled private-interest streamlining of public issues, into a vigorously-litigated, narrowly-class-interested perspective that bodes ill for the nation’s future as a whole.




Another Review of an English Law-Review Article: Michael Ross, J.P.M.A., “Listed Historic Buildings”, Journal of Planning and Environmental Law, July, pt 2 1990 551



            A characteristic feature of the English system of historic preservation concerns the statutory duty of the Secretary of State—of whom “listing” (of historic sites) is the sole responsibility—to proceed with the protected classification of a building once he “is satisfied that (it) has special architectural or historic interest” (Section 54{1} of the 1971 Act). Enlarging further, it is stated that “in taking his decision he is (again statutorily) unable to make any allowance for other factors such as the merits of any redevelopment plan”. (558). So that this classical phraseology suggests clearly that any decision thus extraneously-motivated would be considered by English courts to be null and void, in a refreshing reintroduction of a cleanness-of-distinction that used to characterize government actions everywhere. This together too with a certain personalism by which an official is hardly a mere rubber stamp for some media-marketer’s version of majority rule, but rather duly exercises his own mind and will. That which is indeed the authentic mandate of those who elected him and took him into their trust. Yet this official/personal sanguinity—amply suggestive of the morally-vigorous atmosphere of Medieval times—doesn’t however at all prevent the Secretary of State from following the recommendations of his formidable staff of field workers, historians, artists and architectural specialists 99% of the time. And with no difficult-to-objectify “Holmsian weighing test” to hamper his judgment. 

            Just as revealing an illustration of the English sanguinity with respect to historic preservation is a statement made in the House of Lords in defense of the system which discloses that out of the 23,000 buildings listed in the previous year (the figure itself being an astonishing affirmation of English preservation achievements) only some three dozen had been objected to, indicating an almost complete lack of popular—or even native developer—motivation to oppose historic preservation. For although there is no statutory avenue of appeal such as flashily announces itself in American land use law, all objections are readily accommodated under the ancient common law implied right of any citizen to register his protest to anything he or she considers unreasonable. All this being language that goes back to Augustine, Gregory the Great, Grossteste and Aquinas, in the immemorial self-governing traditions of the Western Christian ages. This today-yawningly-inconsequential censure "unreasonable" having been universally held by our forefathers as invalidating any law, rendering its observance something to be dutifully avoided. In a doughty sense of liberty which modern “democracy” generally-speaking ill affords, one as well which historically served to frustrate beforehand more than one would-be Porfirio Dias or Napoleon. One of many reasons that Medieval history isn’t full of stories of the “toppling” of such rulers. Immediately sensible here too is a citizen confidence in the implicit fairness and “due process” of a system of positive law and public redress, in the same "scholastic" tradition: one which in this and other ways shows itself to have stood the test, in many essential respects, of the eight hundred years since Magna Charta.

            Thus does the author give a comprehensive, multifaceted view of listing—or what we in the United States would call designation—of buildings with historical significance in England, where the criteria employed are characterized as “national in scope (with local styles) judged for their special architectural or historic interest in the national context” (554). The loss, even in England, of many fine historical structures in the fifty years before the first and epic listing effort of 1971 is lamented by the author—a calamity which occurred during the final phase of the celebrated “Modern” movement of architectural progressivism: a real mania at length proven irresistible even in tradition-bounded England. A similarly Frank-Lloyd-Wright-reminiscent spaceship, warehouse or grain-elevator-like epidemic destined likewise to wrecking-ball-annihilate Catholic church-architecture in the USA and much of the world. But this unfortunate interlude is held by him as having been repented of and perhaps even to some degree compensated for, in his own well-educated estimation, by that nation’s rejuvenated record, in more recent decades, as by far the most conscientious preserver of historic structures in the civilized world.

            In the ten years after the first survey of historic buildings in England further study and changing perceptions brought to light many more structures deserving of listing, for which reason a re-survey was mandated by Parliament in 1980, but in addition to the systematic “visitations” that characterize the latter—in an English terminology which, not surprisingly, here and there retains a satisfying atmosphere of the solicitudes of abbots and friars of an earlier age—there was instituted at this time that spot listing which forms a large part of the subject-matter of the article. Often connected to a likely or pending development affecting a potential listed site, much of the purpose of a spot listing is to assure “that a developer does not find his plans stymied at the last moment”. In practice, a large proportion of spot listing requests come from local authorities themselves, and are made at an early stage so that if necessary any application for listed building consent can be considered in tandem with the planning application for the new development” (555). The idea of expediting things for all persons concerned and on all sides of any question—a central role of legitimate government—is evident throughout—in which connection the author goes on in a way that is well-worthy of quotation:

            “The surprising thing is that the system works very well. Few buildings are lost and in general developers cooperate to allow assessments to be made” (556). Local authorities "keep a weathered eye" for development threats to buildings on a preliminary "draft" list—ready to alert the department to the need for a spot listing. Which if need be can be accomplished “in a matter of hours” (same page). Spot listing is no doubt expensive—with unavoidable special trips, paid expenses, expedited measures, and so on—but it is well worth the effort and cost involved. A far cry all of this from a wrecking-ball-witted U.S. corporate/government/ready-mix establishment which has nearly every city-center here—and many-a suburb—looking like a bombed-out war zone, for being "developed" into oblivion.

            “Certificates of immunity” may be applied for by developers or by anyone, thus adding yet another element of certainty to what already seems a Hayek’s statutory paradise. However since they may draw down an un-contemplated inspection on the affected property—the building's presence on the draft list being left unpublished until just before site inspection—these certificates are a “double-edged sword” (559). But an added indication of the easy sense of trust that exists between public and private life in England is the fact that there is no application fee or battery-of-forms to fill out in requesting such a certificate: any sort of “representation” being in practice quite sufficient. So that here again indeed might be called to mind the village cottager or “holder of a hide of land”, who can easily be found among age-yellowed Medieval affidavits, conducting his business in his own familiar turns of phrase in the manorial court of his own lord. (Gies, Frances and Joseph, Life in a Medieval Village. New York, Harper and Row, 1990).

            Finally, in this description which departs so much from the form and spirit of our own regarding historic preservation: “ certificate does not grant immunity from the need to seek Conservation Area consent if demolition is involved; this is because factors to be taken into account in the latter case are slightly different: namely the contribution of the building to the character and appearance of the conservation area rather than its intrinsic special interest” (560). A duality of perspective which—if applied here—would probably see the entire procedure take twice as long, be twice as expensive, and result in half as many structures being saved from demolition or grave alteration.








The Historical Enigma of Spain

And Her Latin American Colonies



            Many conjectures have been made about the political/economic track-records of Spain and Latin America by historians and political scientists, with one most common assertion being that Spain entered the world arena of colonialism and trade in a position of unchallenged global dominance: an ascendancy which she is commonly said to have squandered thereafter in a quixotic disregard for all else but precious metals and glory. So that obviously important to the resolution of such an enigma is the question of whether Spain indeed held a unified sovereignty of her own when she came upon this world scene in the late fifteenth century: a mature statehood that would expose her to full blame for the waste and mismanagement—as well as any flights of greed or fantasy—that might have characterized the colonial administration during its long history. Thus as a natural outgrowth to this question does this paper investigate the counter-hypothesis that Spain and her former colonies have during a period of centuries—indeed to this very day—been kept in a state of semi-sovereignty and subservience to financial and political interests that are in fact the heirs of those that dominated her during these earlier seminal times. 

            This being a writing in major part concerned with the issue of economic development, we first examine Spain under that aspect up until the eve of colonial independence: while this is followed by a consideration of the foregoing trade of the Mother Country with her colonies. This perspective is then broadened to include the first appearance of inter-colonial commerce, that which was later to be followed historically by an imperial-monopoly-violating exchange of these future Latin American states with other nations: one which began as a trickle in the earliest years just after the discoveries, and ended in a torrent which at last completely dislodged Spain herself from any significant share in her own trans-Atlantic market. While last of all will come a condensed follow-up summary of the legacy of these historical precedents in modern Spain and her former colonies: in which we attempt to arrive at an understanding of the real reasons for the centuries-long Spanish/Latin-American economic—and always inseparable political—prostration. While the role played by certain individual rulers of this Iberian realm be will considered in close conjunction with ongoing historical events and developments.


            When on September 18, 1517 the Emperor of Germany Charles V came to Spain to claim a throne he had inherited through a string of dynastically-arranged marriages (John Lynch, Spain 1516-1598: From Nation State to World Empire. Oxford: Blackwell Publishers, 1991, p. 49)—and even-more-uncanny early and timely deaths (Coxe, William, History of the House of Austria, vol. I. New York: Arno Press and the New York Times, 1971)—it was to a political situation tailor made for exploitation. The twin kingdoms of Aragon and Castile had both gone through protracted civil wars from the early 1460’s: in the case of Castile continuing for another year after the two thrones were united under Los Reyes Catolicos, Ferdinand and Isabella, in 1479. While for that matter the century and a half or so prior had been little else for either kingdom but a tissue of such real or near anarchy as well (Ibid p. 2). Only recently completed had been the conquest of Granada in 1492: a tremendous expenditure of Castilian and Aragonese will and manpower which undoubtedly provided the chief inspiration for the yet to be realized concept of Spanish nationhood (Ibid, p. 4). Yet despite these and other heavy prices this was to be a national self-definition of the most fragile kind: as history indeed continues to bear witness. A tenuous unity to arise out of a patchwork of middling to minor kingdoms and principalities whose pattern had resulted from 800 years of gradual and piecemeal re-conquest from Moslem rule: feudalities moreover ruled by an aristocracy still uncannily vigorous in each separate duchy or province, forming a whole substantially characterized indeed by loose-knit legal and juridical institutions proper to the sort of proto-manorial society which had passed from the rest of Europe prior to the twelfth century (Ibid, p. 6). With the help of the pious and redoubtable Cardinal Ximenes the two monarchs were just barely able to hold this still-to-be-unified joint realm within the fold of their rather unsubstantial authority: but this only under the condition of not antagonizing the powerful nobility that did most of the actual ruling (Ibid, p. 2-9).

            Hence did the young Austrian Charles V inherit what was in many ways the ideal realm for the “divide and rule” policies for which the Habsburgs were already becoming notorious, being possessed of a financial and armed might capable of intimidating each and all of the elements of such a Spanish political quilt-work, in an experiment in aloof political dominion strangely akin to that Moorish hegemony which Spain had only recently expelled from its borders. In the form of a Northern-and-Central-European-oriented Iberian dynasty that was to last almost 200 years, part of an allegedly-separate Habsburg Imperial rule outside Spain, closer to its Central European home of homes, which was destined to span the centuries until World War I. Charles likewise possessing the political sophistication of a Renaissance prince fresh from a long tutelage amid the imposing figures of a contemporary Medici statecraft, then at its zenith: being in these respects centuries ahead of the typical Spanish grandee. Advantages coupled with a supporting might embodied in his incredible windfall of inherited kingdoms and principalities, because of which factors he showed himself able to pit the various parts of Spain against each other with ease.

            Among his holdings were the Low Countries, Franche-Comté, Sicily, Sardinia, Naples, the Habsburg estates of Austria, Tyrol, parts of southern Germany, areas on the coast of North Africa as well as his political overlordship of the Germany Empire itself. Not surprisingly, the common Spaniard could sense something ominous in the accession of such a foreigner to the throne in a land so frail and disunited, and just recently released from the last traces of the grip of Islam: and they reacted with the spontaneous, peninsula-wide popular rising that history knows as the Revolt of the Communeros. Charles was able after a couple of years to subdue this opposition by a judicious use of force as well as smooth words of diplomacy before the Cortez, while added to this were personal touches like a displays of horsemanship at a major tournament which greatly impressed an aristocracy still entirely at home in the saddle as nowhere else in Europe (Ibid, p. 51-66). But his oratory about Spanish destiny as the defender of the rights of Mother Church which so stirred the disingenuous Cortez did not prevent him from appointing a governmental staff almost exclusively composed of foreigners, especially from his own native Holland, only to be gradually replaced by pliable Spaniards in ensuing years (Ibid, p. 67). But most damaging of all to Spanish viability and sovereignty in this foreigner's reign would be the progressive strangulation of the Spanish economy under the combined-territorial Habsburg economic might, impacting the manufacturers and artisans of the interior in a special way: a deterioration finding déjà vu in the wholesale demise of family-owned businesses under a markedly-similar globalist economic paradigm introduced by Ronald Reagan in the 1980s. The Spanish wool trade in particular quickly becoming aware that Charles “had aligned (himself) unequivocally with a coalition of all those who profited from the export of raw wool (that which alone could fatally interrupt a host of complex multipliers that had hitherto attended its ‘finishing’)”: the sheep farmers, the noble owners of sheep land, the merchants of Burgos and foreign businessmen. Realizing as he did the important part of his revenue that the customs duties derived from these exports were to become, “as well as the desire of his co-native Flemish subjects for the fine Spanish wool and favorable access to Spanish markets”. Precocious North Atlantic international-trade-related elements which, thus artificially and peremptorily empowered on the Spanish peninsula, would quickly debilitate and impoverish native-regionally-rooted economic forms. The author being quoted goes on to relate significantly that “if, in crushing the Communeros, Charles V received the collaboration of the grandees and nobles, he did not subsequently satisfy their ambitions or give them the power they wanted. It was a victory of the aristocracy over the townsmen, but the prize was taken by the king” (Ibid, p. 59). Or rather, the Emperor. So that we see in Charles V a preemptive employment of higher-level power to overcome the force and integrity of lower organic entities, that namely which describes the centralizing strategy of the modern supra-national power-monolith: a major prototype of which, as I hold, was just then being born in his own person.

            The atrophy of hitherto-gradually-burgeoning Spanish industries proceeded as swiftly as the worst fears of the Communeros could have anticipated: not excluding textiles using diverse fabrics other than wool, like cotton in Catalonia. These and other incipient industrial activities having before the foreign takeover been every bit as advanced, if not more so, as their counterparts in the various also-embryonic European industrial economies of the times. So that from out of the noted commercial/industrial re-channeling there naturally resulted the near-exclusive sale at home of foreign cloth of all kinds, manufactured in Holland, England and elsewhere. This veritable removal from domestic benefit of the principle Spanish industry having an inevitable gravely-deleterious effect upon future Spanish investment and development of all kinds: notably with respect to the loss of cross-fertilizing learning-curve and other technical/instrumental advantages so at the heart of industrial progress in any age or setting. Assets to which initial sunk-costs are a drop in the bucket by comparison. Indirectly and by stages setting off a chain of events which would ultimately find even the uniquely-progressive iron and steel producing industries of the Basque country and Toledo decisively overcome by Northern-European competitors: auguring the emergence in the late-eighteenth century of Northern Europe and the USA as the "cradle" of an Industrial Revolution which was arguably stolen from the Spanish realm. So that what we see here is a devolution away from all the hallmarks of an incipient advanced economy under the Habsburg crown, this very much after the manner in which a nascent, complex Latin-American inter-colonial trade would centuries later deteriorate into the dual-partnered, commodities-export, “banana republic” style economies of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. The same process however taking place centuries earlier in the latters’ patriarchal home: and long before the coining of the term itself as commonly applied to this hemisphere.

            True, a somewhat analogous entanglement with international trading connections vis-à-vis the Mesta—a peninsula-wide native wool-growers association—had already been pursued under Los Reyes Catolicos, Ferdinand and Isabella. Customs duties for bulk raw wool having proven for them a simple and dependable source of revenue: that which could in turn be used to consolidate the shaky hold they had on their realms (Ibid, p. 22). Indeed these Spanish monarchs’ cultivation of such international trading alliances would lead more-or-less directly to the Habsburgs inheritance of the Spanish throne: this by way of a contemporary precocious globalism's arranged marriages, in many cases joined to unlikely deaths and other intrigues, insidious avenues by which so many other principalities had likewise fallen under the “Austrian” pale. But the official favoring of the Mesta with its ever-ready potential for consolidated scale was a long-running Castilian tradition, an institution originating in the 13th century but no doubt heir to smaller, humbler forms going back, as in other parts of Europe, for millennia. Its existence was founded on the practical fact that central Spain with its arid climate was more suited to grazing than it was to farming: so that as in the case of parallel North-South natural corridors in Italy and elsewhere around the globe the inevitable migratory nature of these pastoral activities was assured. With large scale being in a certain cumulative sense inherent to such an operation, warmer months being destined to be spent by myriad individual herds in the mountainous north, succeeded by winterings in Andalusia, Extremadura, and in the area of Murcia. Such an annual mass movement no doubt easily suggesting a pooling of energies, a coalescence of scale. A training of thought as well readily greased by the fact that under the Mesta the law of the land guaranteed the right of way of the traveling flocks along reserved corridors, called canadas. Together with immunity from damages to the crops of unlucky farmers along the way, as well as other extensive privileges (Ibid, p. 160-161).

            Yet there would be instituted a dramatic change under Charles, in that from 1525 onward demands for subsidies for Charles’ foreign wars would be placed directly upon the Mesta: and not simply garnered from the customs of which it had always been such an abundant source. Hence too dating from the concomitant confirmation of Mesta prerogatives was the initiating of an obligation on their part, in return for this act of reciprocal recognition, to provide him with an unprecedented “species of open and permanent credit” (Ibid, p. 161). In fact it would take the Habsburg sense of hegemony to complete the loop in scale-related potentialities: to such a degree indeed that in the Habsburg realms, peninsular and otherwise, we witness what seems convincingly like the first beginnings of the modern debt-capital-driven multinational military/industrial complex, and this centuries before celebrated references made to it by President Eisenhower in 1961. Discoverable indeed being uncanny similarities to the above-noted Reagan-to-Obama commercial/governmental consolidation, by which private interests are effectively made party to official privileges and prerogatives of every kind. In this and other ways over centuries individual nations being poured out as a sort of libation to the forces of finance, with the noted gradual dissolution of basically the whole Spanish economy marking that heroic land out as the first of many victims of an all-too-familiar sequence of modern nations under capitalism: be they first or third world. The less-fortunate victims of such a process inevitably being characterized as having previously been “primitive” with respect to industry and tools-of-trade: a slander-campaign against once-highly-productive economies destined to be repeated in every corner of the globe.

            Especially significant for any national economy is the deterioration of the textile industry: a tiringly-old story unfolding before us today as I write, whether in the United States, Japan or India: involving that building-block which is invariably a critical first avenue of industrialization for emerging nations, and a standby staple in times of downturn for other sectors as well. So that the loss of the cloth and clothing industries and their ancillaries isn't at all a sign of advancement, as is today so commonly claimed by so many economists, but the case of a national economy nipped-in-the-bud, or even a sort of national-commercial geriatric condition. While under the Habsburgs’ ongoing policy of neglect even sources of foreign cloth manufacture not directly profitable to them were allowed to step into the supply vacuum created in the domestic and colonial Spanish market, for during “the greater part of the early Tudor period the Spanish woolen cloth industry was not sufficient to meet either home needs or the increasing demands of the Indies”. English cloth (not really a part of the original Habsburg trade triangle) thereby found a ready market, both in Spain and the (colonies) during this period”, by Imperial agreement or decree. (Gordon Connell-Smith, Forerunners of Drake: A Study of English Trade with Spain in the Early Tudor Period. London: Longmans, Green and Company, 1954, p. 2-3). Eventually reducing Spain and her American colonies to a mere funnel for foreign commercial and industrial development and self-enrichment (John R. Fischer, The Economic Aspects of Spanish Imperialism in America, 1492-1810. Liverpool: Liverpool University Press, 1997, p. 2).

            Continuing with this survey of the policies of Charles V—which are being stressed heavily here because of their foundational implications for many-a subsequent Spanish economic and organizational vicissitude—we also do well to investigate other ways in which Castile—by far the more advanced, populous and rich in productive capacity of the two kingdoms—was bled irremediably dry during this period. This not only by being more-heavily taxed but also by way of the reorganization of Castilian finance, undertaken as soon as the comuneros had been subdued: with Charles using his newly created Council of Finance (1523) to negotiate huge loans and to finance new military campaigns without even informing its members. Thus not only throwing the critical planning function of this body into compete chaos: but what is far more significant setting a European precedent in callously discarding the very perennial consultative foundations of governmental legitimacy. A trend which would ultimately and in essence spread to all other nations: manifesting itself in intervening centuries in both open and subtle ways. A phenomenology which would culminate over centuries in the anomaly of our own time and place of the rule by virtual-decree of the Bush and Obama Administrations, in their dictatorial ouster of out-of-favor foreign leaders, in wars without Congressional approval, in the cunning engineering of electorate-motivating false-flag operations like 9/11 and a host of others over the very same kind. As more recently in Kiev with U.S.-favored revolutionary cadre gunmen firing on their own people for such very diabolical psychological-warfare cause. With hyper-tenuous rationalizations readily lost amid a tangle of “emergency” legislation: much made over democracy planting pretensions notwithstanding: resulting only in chaos and starvation for nations involved. This while back in the early-to-mid sixteenth century “an additional cause for the impoverishing of Castile was Charles’ personal extravagance in his royal household: that which took a full tenth of the national income; his ceaseless travels, and his reckless purchase of jewels and objects de art.” And whereas borrowing under previous monarchs had been a way of raising extraordinary revenue, in the form of bonds known as a juros, Charles “granted more and more assignations on ordinary revenue to repay the ever-increasing number of loans he raised from bankers. In this way, fewer and fewer direct revenues remained”. (John Lynch, Spain: 1516-1598, p. 78). Here, then, do we see the real, original grand-daddy of the notorious Caudillo extravagance: found to have been uncannily North-Central-European in both tongue and native accent.

            But the crowning catastrophic measure of Charles V—difficult though such laurels be to assign amid his many callous and precipitous deeds—was his confiscation of the whole of the Indies treasure shipment in 1550, of which four-fifths was privately owned, as well as the sequestering of all available specie in Spain (Ibid, p. 80-81): a move which in my opinion went a long way toward permanently misrepresenting the Spanish national character, a policy becoming institutionally entrenched during his long reign, to be repeated with equally disastrous consequences by his heirs, and the direct cause for the rampant fraud in the Spanish colonial trade. This kind of arbitrary seizure constituting the latter's most enduring legacy, being easily as well the ultimate cause of its final collapse. These extreme measures did indeed provide the funds needed for Charles' defeat of the Protestant forces at Muhlberg, but thereafter wary merchants and traders, with the collusion of port officials, became accustomed to not declaring, or falsely declaring, large proportions of their cargoes: a practice especially lucrative when expanded to permit the same kinds of forbidden privileges to grateful foreign contrabandists as well. While in light of the cumulative staggering cynicism of the two century long Spanish-Habsburg reign one wonders indeed if the original "heroic" institution of such a travesty had more to do with the enrichment—out of the Spanish life-blood—of foreign-national favorites than with the defense of a Catholicism which seems to have served more as a cloak-for-malice than a sincerely-held creed. So much did the magnitude of this practice increase over time that eventually the bulk of a cargo might easily be composed of such illegal shipments, and thus did the loss of Spanish trade with her own colonies—a phenomenon which in practical terms most spelled the eventual doom of the colonial empire—find its main source during the Habsburg era in the very customs houses of the Imperial monopoly ports of Seville and later Cadiz (John Lynch, The Hispanic World in Crisis and Change: 1598-1700. Oxford: Blackwell Publishers, 1992, p. 246-249). While finally such a maze of deceit and Imperial malfeasance I argue to be the first example of that modern-era ceaseless “business-as-usual” official misconduct and treachery: that which reveals itself today in uncannily-similar despotic, war-profiteering and sweetheart-contract-awarding terms, in particular in a Bush-family hegemony almost identically draped in heroic colors as was that of the Habsburgs. Each set of policy-offensives in its own era being no doubt equal compromised in terms of motive, method and effectiveness, and advanced identically as well at the point of a sword.

            But while Charles was preoccupied with fighting Protestants who believed ironically-enough in an economic morality identical to his own—in contests in the vicinity of his ancestral homeland, where his preponderant loyalties obviously lay—his Spanish and Croatian subjects were much more concerned about the inroads of a rampaging Islam much closer to Spain, in the Mediterranean and on the northern shores of Africa. Croatia in particular being fated to put up an incredible, heroic and sustained battle of attrition which would in fact be the chief long-standing instrument of the salvation of Western Europe from a threatening Islamic overlordship, a struggle which would literally use up the heroically-Catholic Croatian population in apocalyptic numbers: something for which credit is rather generously and for-the-most-part falsely given to the occasional Pole, Hungarian or Austrian, at the head of an army or armada however disproportionately composed of the same Croatians. An assumption of a task much too large for such shoulders, undertaken out of an undying fidelity to Catholic Faith and Western Civilization alike. While during the Sixteenth Century papal and popular pleading were equally unable—except for one or two occasions—to move this so “Catholic King” to significantly capitalize upon such courageous exertions—to take steps to decisively defeat the Muslim foe. This all the while Charles continued the ceaseless Habsburg policy of the encirclement of France—the latter being made-much-show-of as being the aggressor—as notably pleaded in an earlier Maximilian’s inimitable histrionics before the German Diet—dramatics likewise supporting the likelihood of other origins for the celebrated Latin/Caudillo oratorical élan than are usually ascribed. That is until the disastrous Italian adventurism of Maximilian and his more-famous grandson proved a profound embarrassment for both, and almost the latter’s undoing, in pursuit of a policy taken up again by a later successor, precipitating those ultimate disasters of the mid-Seventeenth Century, considered below. While it would seem in hindsight that Charles could have done far better—both for himself and for Spain—had he made less of Mantua and other points of contention and rather allied himself with France, Venice, Genoa and the Papacy, in a favorably-weighted assault that could have permanently removed the Moslem threat before it became firmly entrenched, with its own peculiar and notorious sort of permanency. While also opening up the vast agricultural and commercial riches of the whole Mediterranean to the often hungry and penurious lower classes of Europe (John Lynch, Spain: 1516-1598, From Nation State to World Empire, p. 121-3). An area which still to this day, in certain places and in many ways, remains underdeveloped.

            Thus at the expense of Spain were the English and Dutch among those who particularly profited from a policy directly-supportive of an industrialization just then making major appearances in Northern Europe, its first faint beginnings being found even earlier in Bruges, Charles' native Amsterdam and other Dutch towns (Girouard, Mark, Cities and People. New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 1985), while the time for critical up-to-date market-development, in sharp and tragic contrast, quickly ran out on the Peninsula. As early as 1536, “it appeared that Harvey (an English textile factor residing in Madrid) was able to take his gold out of the Spanish port quite easily, although the export of bullion was forbidden:” here being the rich source of critical Northern European investment capital (Gordon Connell-Smith, Forerunners of Drake, p. 13). While analogously, documents in the Archivos de Protocolos de Sevilla y Cadiz show that “Thorne and Thomas Malliard (English merchants) were partners of a Seville banker and an Italian in a soap factory doing business in Seville, Cadiz, and Ayamonte” (Ibid, p. 19), with Malliard took technically-illicit part in the Spanish colonial trade as early as 1519, and we even see English merchants commissioning Spanish businessmen and ship captains alike to act as agents for them in the same trade, all with the encouragement of Charles V (Ibid, p. 59, 73, 75). Chapuys, the Spanish ambassador to England, reminds the same Charles during a sensitive period in Anglo-Spanish relations how much pressure he could bring to bear on that country by the threat of exactions on the numerous English merchants then residing in Spain, a far greater number than that of Spanish merchants residing in England (Ibid, p. 130, quoted from Spanish Calendar, 1542-43, no. 106, p. 254). Again, an example of the disproportionate amount and nature of concessions of this supposedly so-Catholic Emperor to what would so soon become one of the most-formidable of the Protestant nations.

            To close this treatment of the era of Charles V, I quote at length: “Theoretically, manufactures might have been supplied from other parts of the peninsula, and, indeed, some were, but increasingly the merchants of Seville (which was the original monopoly port for colonial trade with both America and the Far East) turned to foreign suppliers, whose capacity to increase production to supply (indirectly) the American market with high quality products at acceptable prices exceeded that of domestic producers, hampered by technological stagnation, poor terrestrial communication within Spain, and rampant inflation. The façade of the mercantilist monopoly survived in all its splendor, but its structure was weakened, even in (the) period of commercial expansion (the 50 years before 1610), by the need of many of the members of the Seville Consulado (in charge of Colonial trade) to become testaferros, men-of-straw, who sacrificed their notional, financial independence to Genoese or Dutch bankers, and looked increasingly to foreign suppliers for the manufactured goods which they required for shipment to America”  (John R. Fischer, The Economic Aspects of Spanish Imperialism in America, 1492-1810 (Liverpool: Liverpool University Press, 1997), p. 58, quoted from MacLeod, ‘Spain and America: the Atlantic Trade, 1492-1720’, CHLA, Vol. I: Colonial Latin America). This while Spain itself was typically the beneficiary of as little as 1/14 of the revenues that had been collected from it: the rest, including the bulk of the prodigious transatlantic gold shipments, going for Habsburg wars, luxuries and political intrigues (John Lynch, The Hispanic World in Crisis and Change: 1598-1700, p. 120). All alike being phenomena which provide a clear explanation for the failure of Spain’s industries and commerce to meet the critical challenges of the first 50 years of colonization in America, with the prodigious opportunities for the expansion of trade and industrialization which it represented. Rather than the cause being a lazy-minded, energy-vitiating “lust for gold”.

            One might at this point hope to hear of a respite in the Habsburg folly, but the reign of Phillip II (1556-98) ultimately saw no such relief for sorely-pressed sixteenth-century Spaniards. Rather would another major decision provide a sort of fatally-flawed policy-center-piece—a departure inaugurated in the favored impulsive family style. Phillip inaugurating a logistical and economic nightmare which one author sees as having been proportionally as disastrous as the failed colonial trade and domestic industrial-development anti-policies just cited. Namely the perfectly-gratuitous removal of the capitol from Toledo to Madrid by a Phillip aesthetically-enthralled by Madrid, at that time a mere village, because of its natural setting among the Guadarrama mountains. Near it Phillip built his elaborate retreat, the Escorial: this being the chosen place where he indulged his deeply religious nature, often spending long stretches there with the Hieronymite monks to whose Order it was given (John Lynch, Spain 1516-1598, p. 258-9). But even in this gesture of piety could be seen a conception of imperial power which was more for the benefit of the monarch than for that of his subjects: being likewise quite the opposite of the injunctions the same God he so assiduously worshipped, in outlining, in several places, the duties of a good and just ruler. The Escorial took twenty years to build, and that at great expense, drawn from the sweat and sacrifices of his loyal Castilian peasants, while from them was likewise extracted a disproportionate share of the tax revenue in a system which made evasion easy for the powerful (Ibid, p.164).

            In all of this Phillip was but another representative of a rising new sort of Catholicism—one which would become increasingly pronounced until it threatens in our own day—but for those guarantees given us by the Son of God—to shut out every other more-genuine kind—a quasi-Catholicism closely associated with an already evident economic ethos of capitalism. One containing an essential spiritual affinity with the very Protestantism with which it was then locked in mortal combat in Europe, in the expanding colonial world, and on the seven seas. In military confrontations that already in the sixteenth century provided an uncanny anticipation of Twentieth Century Global warfare. For this was a “Catholicism”—its first beginnings found in the early fourteenth century—which had embarked upon a long historical convergence toward a view of religious life more or less exclusively in terms of "a personal relationship with God". Preparing the day—already in the heyday of the Medici—for a Post-Vatican II Church which would spend much of its time formally or informally apologizing for 20 centuries of doctrinal and all-important practical integrity. The Bride of Christ herself seeming to turn resolutely, or with high-humor, as the case might be, from the rigorous practice of the Faith: from the doctrinally, liturgically, and esthetically sound, generally-speaking neighbor-oriented theological inclusiveness of the Medieval Church. Such “faith without works” piety—as it became known among those who in the sixteenth century would formally part with Rome—having only culminated in the Protestant Revolt that began about the same time that Charles V acceded to the throne, rather than that conflict being its point of origin. Indeed this progressive abandonment of good works, especially as touching upon economic or political realms, being a form of piety which had been in ferment in Europe since the various Illuminist heresies of the 12th through the 14th centuries, all alike containing the notion that inner spiritual experiences could take the place of the entire moral law, and in particular the Gospel Law of socially-manifested Love. Perhaps especially as this latter is seen in well-articulated institutions, both private and public. Such a religious anomaly both originating in and giving birth to—since public life and confessional creed are necessarily and in many ways mutually reciprocal—in the new practical cynicism of absolutism and trade-driven war that would increasingly predominate during the Late Medieval era. Trends which thus made themselves strongly felt in the West within less than a century of the last major Crusade: with these latter idealistic ventures having, ironically-enough, easily provided the origins of such a moral poisoning, as drunk deeply from the skeptical, utilitarian, morally-pessimistic waters of the Orthodox Bosporus. In an overriding trend which would be redoubled in a synagogue-brokered cultural-and-economic occupation of Rome by westward-fleeing Byzantines after the fall of Constantinople in 1453, providing the rich source of political and artistic cynicisms of the Renaissance and much, much more. 

            History’s infallible reality check would prove Phillip's moving of the Imperial residence one of the worst mistakes of the whole train of misguided, self-interested policies of a string of Habsburg Monarchs, necessarily involving as it did the uprooting of the machinery of Government and the commercial entrepot that went with it, this into a region of Spain far removed from the arteries of commerce, largely for a highly-personal devotional motive. This species of a kind of Imperial Illuminism all-its-own may indeed and as suggested have had as decisive an effect on the future of the Spanish economy and empire as did the repeated confiscations of privately-owned treasure and money: a likelihood which is brought to light in a thought-provoking journal article that deserves extensive quotation:


            “By 1600 both Madrid and Toledo had populations exceeding 60,000 inhabitants, but had very different economic structures. Toledo, through a highly developed guild system, produced quality steel, linens, silks, and, above all, woolens. The city exported quantities of these items out of the regional economy and was a focal point for redistribution of imports into the region. It thus functioned as a nexus of processing and distribution which organized exchanges of physical goods between the international and regional economic systems.

            “The immense Habsburg political system demanded an appropriately grand setting for the elite at its center. In the process of providing such a setting, Madrid introduced important distortions into the relatively isolated economy of the Spanish interior. From 1590 to about 1630, Madrid experienced an urban development which, as a response to the development of empire, bore little relationship to the region in which the city was located. Subsequently, the disintegration of the Spanish Empire brought with it a significant contraction of the size and requirements of the Capital. These successive developments, reflecting the political fortunes of the Habsburg system, aggravated the difficulties of cities such as Toledo, exaggerated the impact of a succession of subsistence crises, and undermined rural society. As a result, the stagnation and decline of the Spanish interior in the seventeenth century was made far more severe than might otherwise have been the case.

            “The progressive orientation of rural society towards the urban market during the sixteenth century undoubtedly represents a degree of genuine economic growth in the interior. But it also posed a serious threat to the countryside should the market structure be disrupted. The more intensive and specialized agriculture becomes, the more the population depends upon exchange mechanisms for vital supplies. In an economic region such as Castile, afflicted by high transaction costs, the expense of bringing supplies from long distances encouraged the Crown to incur the costs of applying various types of coercion in the areas closer to the rapidly growing capitol city. As a result, the specialized producer found himself confronted by high retail prices for his necessities, while the crown sought to depress the prices paid for farm products and to channel those products toward Madrid. Moreover, this was not felt as a steady, predictable trend, but as a sporadic phenomenon accompanying subsistence crises in which the competition of the cities for the limited stocks available after a poor harvest could create rural starvation and reduce the population of a village by twenty percent in the course of two years.

            “In gaining an organizational center for its empire, Spain speeded and aggravated the disintegration of the city (Toledo) and region which had served as the center for a degree of commercial and industrial activity in the Spanish interior and had linked that economic life with the markets of Europe and America. The reduction in Madrid’s demand for supplies (resulting from the decline of the Empire) came too late to aid Toledo or to prevent a demographical calamity in Castile far worse than the stagnation experienced in most of the rest of Western Europe in the seventeenth century” (David Ringrose, “The Impact of a New Capitol City: Madrid, Toledo and New Castile, 1560-1606” in vol.33, no. 4 of The Journal of Economic History (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press), p. 761).


            Alas, such a catastrophic devolution represents a "pretty" sort of religious sanctimony indeed.

            The reign of Phillip III, from 1598, represented a marked degree of moderation in warfare and other policies: although corruption among officials and the rewarding of favorites under the authority of this rather naïve king were in their own way a heavy drain on finances already tremendously overburdened. Especially given the fraud in the Indies trade—growing incursions into it by the Dutch and English, soon to be joined by the French (John Lynch, The Hispanic World in Crisis and Change, p. 78-82)—and the overburdened, shrinking tax base in Castile, suggested strongly by the above. All these matters got immeasurably worse as the century wore on, while from the early 1620’s Spain was burdened with the most irresponsible Habsburg of all, Phillip IV.

            The wonton pursuit of warfare, this particular Phillip’s policy-resort-of-choice, reduced the country to bankruptcy several times, while the extravagance of his court was the worst on record (Ibid, p. 85-228). His royal counselor the Count Duke Gaspar de Olivares gets much blame for the disastrous decisions and turns of fate that plagued Spain from the accession of Phillip until his own fall from power in 1543, while he suffered the further historical stigma of being considered the “consolidator of absolutism” in Spain. But it seems more fair and accurate to consider Olivares a prime example of the not-inconsiderable number of native Spanish officials of the Habsburg era who did their best to lend Imperial policies some semblance of operational integrity. It is a tribute to his indispensability that it took four to fill his place after his departure and that the policies of the Empire, far from changing, eventually began to reflect some of the ideas for reform that he had been urging throughout his own career as chief minister (Ibid, p. 157-64). But unfortunately they were too late to affect any significant improvement.


            While all these calamities held sway on the Peninsula, the economic life of the Colonies of Spanish America during this first 150 years of Habsburg rule showed much potential for a magnificent future, notably in a significant growth of agricultural output just after the end of the period of the Conquests, stimulating in turn the development of support industries for pioneers, artisans and entrepreneurs of all kinds. Hence “the production of jugs, sacking, tools, harnesses and other leather goods, packing cases, floor coverings, and the many other items required for the production, processing and distribution of farm produce” (John R. Fischer, The Economic Aspects of Spanish Imperialism in America, p. 105). Trade with foreigners, as stated above, was also carried on for those finished goods, especially of manufacture, that could not be obtained either locally or from the Peninsula, this through a formidable re-export business, its source of articles mostly in Northern European industrial centers; a trade carried on both legally and illegally: first through the port of Seville and later in the 17th century through nearby Cadiz, at the mouth of the Guadalquivir. This latter being destined to take the place of the former as the monopoly’s peninsular port-of-destiny. All this even as some semblance of an attempt to regulate this trade and subject it to duties was indeed made, coming on the heels of the founding laxity of Charles V. This attempt at market-capture however was basic futile, with the noted parallel contraband trade having sunk such deep roots by then as to prove ineradicable: especially in the face of feeble Habsburg powers of resolution toward the good of Spain. So that this illegal commerce indeed continued to increase in volume (Ibid, p. 75).

            Yet all the while furtive trade spirited away much of the bullion that was meant to grease the Spanish balance of payments, the chief diversion away from the trans-Atlantic monopoly was actually a highly-positive one: namely that local and inter-colonial trade and manufacture which had actually started to come into being already during the reign of the first Habsburg (Ibid, p. 105). A steady, little-recorded development this hemispheric activity which if properly fostered might have had profound implications for both Spain and Latin America, along the lines of a commercial philosophy entirely different from the above-noted "men of straw" of the Consulados. An initiative that could easily have lain the groundwork for a transoceanic economic colossus into our own times, a commercial strategy in this general direction being indeed finally put into effect, but only during the twilight years of Spanish-American Colonialism. Such a vigorous new across-the-board venture not to be undertaken by the Habsburgs at all, but rather by their French Bourbon successors, and as suggested unfortunately too late to save the whole centuries-long sea-going commercial empire from a final catastrophic demise.

            Somewhat more happily for the region, of little avail to a desired thwarting of this internal colonial trade, by a self-enriching bureaucratic monopoly bent on a funneling-off of extractive profits, was the ongoing Habsburg policy of limiting all licensed trade activities to one port in Spain and two in America, with each of the dual termini being administered by their separate Consulados: rough contemporary equivalents of a modern customs authority. Since for one thing this very concentration of peninsular influence to two places in the Western Hemisphere—with few dependable routes of communication thither—naturally encouraged the independent development of a whole plethora of discursive local and regional, often inter-colonial, trade ventures. Here the noted spirit of self-enrichment among officials played a major if indirect role as well, as it were by unintended consequence, in the unstoppable hemorrhage from monopoly trade: the Mexican and Peruvian operatives in the ocean-going commerce enjoying “extremely close ties of business, friendship, and also family” with the officials in Seville, they who in turn and as suggested above tended to be Imperial creatures. So that it follows that “for these powerful, privileged merchant houses, whose capital and influence controlled the dispatch of fleets from Seville, the conduct of the trade fairs of Vera Cruz and Portobelo (the only legal ones in the colonies), and the subsequent transfer of merchandise to the warehouses of Mexico and Callao for distribution throughout New Spain and Peru, shortages of goods did not necessarily constitute a problem. On the contrary, scarcity could almost be construed as an advantage when viewed from their narrow perspective, for, as early Bourbon critics such as Jose del Campillo were to point out, unsatisfied demand guaranteed high prices and easy profits” (Ibid, p. 41). Thus were the quality textiles needed for the urban populations of Lima and other cities in Peru not supplied in sufficient amounts by the monopoly, nor even by parallel feverish levels of contraband oceangoing trade, so that such a void was thus naturally filled by such developments as a major domestic wool textile industry in Quito in the 17th century. While Mexican agricultural production showed like signs of self-sufficiency during the same period and partially for the same reason (Ibid, p. 67). Even as these indigenous cultivars would remain largely insulated from a privileged but thus-fatally-self-isolating monopoly trade: that which would have as an interesting corollary-consequence to Latin America a self-perpetuating Northern-European-nationality ascendancy-of-influence, becoming enduring alien islands-of-elitism all their own. This for one thing through the noted familial ties in the Consulados, with Habsburg panderings remaining aloof, unassailable, exclusionary to the economic life of the people themselves, and their like continuing forward into our own day. Destined finally to thwart these prodigal regional beginnings, this closed-club international set finding today a vigorous neo-classical revival in economic doctrine and policy alike: that which ever looks northward for its inspiration. Even if leaders of Latin America today, of Bolivia, Venezuela and Brazil in particular, take new and desperate measures in recent years until the present 2014, to turn this disastrous trade-paradigm around into healthy waters for the popular good.

            Colonial industry, labor and agriculture also provided ship refitting and victualing in the ports of Vera Cruz and Havana, while by the middle of the 16th century the prows were being laid in the Spanish New World of better ships than those obtainable in the shipyards of Northern Spain, and just as large. Havana being the first of these dry-docks to go into production, and this as early as 1560, while these ships of various designs, including the huge-for-the-times 1000 ton galleones, were soon in use on coastal defenses, and finally too in the treasure fleets that sailed across the Atlantic. Even as the vast supplies of timber in the new world would prove to be especially advantageous to such a comprehensive commercial enterprise: a commodity which the Basque shipyards were finding in short supply in their mountainous hinterland: these peninsular forests being destined to be replanted several-times-over during the modern era. And likewise not to be forgotten were limitless Southern-Hemispheric supplies of tar, pitch and various fibers usable as cordage and cables, with these and other critical items being thus readily available to shipyards such as Guayaquil on the Pacific coast, which eventually rivaled the output of Havana. Producing fleets for the growing Pacific Asian trade, the Pacific coastal defenses, and eventually for the trans-Atlantic fleets as well. And there were other, smaller shipyards too. Cannon and other weapons were manufactured using the rapidly-exploited copper and tin deposits of Chili, while at the inland port of Chimbo was produced that sail cloth so definitive to the age(Ibid, p. 294-6).

            Hence do we see in all this the development of a nascent-but-formidable inter-colonial system for the times and by anyone's standards: one that could readily have provided the groundwork—again if properly shepherded rather than discouraged and even outlawed by Imperial overseers—for an incalculable, loosely-unified industrial giant. Its first inchoate beginnings appearing within a couple of decades of Columbus. While we can even catch a fascinating glimpse already, if we try—in this image of bustling major and minor dry docks and myriad other nascent industries—of the undaunted modern-day Latin American, with his irrepressible entrepreneurial spirit and inventiveness: that which has been witnessed now for many decades across the length of two continents. Whether among entrepreneurs who count impressive numbers of original patented products and processes, even if revenues for them tend to be spirited away, disappearing into some global CEO’s salary, or within the ranging geo-corporate investment structure. A Latin motivational milieu seen even among impoverished barrio-dwellers, ever “using what comes to hand” in impromptu improvisations of all kinds. A near-indefinable ingredient, highly-congenial to a rapid-fire Latino communication which deftly drops consonants for added conversational rpms. That energetic quality that always to varying degrees sets these people off in relief against their surroundings, and that contains the earnest of reservoirs largely untapped for centuries.

            Modern economists would no doubt regard as a fatal weakness of Spanish colonial industry and commerce its guild-like qualities, rife with forms sheltered from the unmitigated rigors of the incipient capitalism of Europe: insult as-it-were being added to the efficiency-retarding injury of the Imperial monopoly. Spain thus held to have missed out on capitalism’s multifaceted formatives, regarded by laissez faire theorists as critical to the natural or “rational” development of markets. Yet I contend that had Imperial-monopoly policies been intelligent, and true to their just and authentic purpose, these indigenous structures would have given birth to many stable, unique and marvelous new industries, products and processes, in a Medieval-flavored commerce which would have lent an opposite logic to that of capitalism’s path dependency. The older and better system so much maligned having been based entirely upon conservation rather than voracious exploitation/consumption, let alone the using-up of resources and human toil for the speculative profits of a tiny few. This bitter zeal having little place among boringly-productive men, rather brokering implacability than wealth, in contrast to a singularly-un-prepossessed precursor which gave scope to many-a sustainable burst of creativity, and spontaneity of mode, avoiding the newer system’s lumbering scale and methodology, chiseled in stone. The true advances of traditional artisans and entrepreneurs however getting little fanfare in a recently-irrupted advertising world, a stage-set which rather glorifies a densening monolith of accreted notional and material infrastructure of every kind, finally shutting out even the brightest creative southern sun. That stultification which today and in so many ways is the lot of Latin America, and trebly so of ourselves as well. The seemingly-older distributism actually being infinitely-younger in spirit than the “newer” capitalistic form: “promising the Moon” at first, only later to disappoint in an even more orbital way, in place of the older system's biblical sustainable hundredfold. Capitalism being seen upon close inspection to be in fact as old as sin: there being for one thing nothing really new about open or disguised usury or exploitation of the weak and underdeveloped by the strong and sophisticated. Even as there remains something eternal in that defining distributive justice of a Catholic veritable earthly paradise lost, of a potentially-brilliant sea-going passage whose port call was so tragically foregone.

            An ethic easily distilled from Christ’s own words throughout the Holy Gospels, such a justice is man’s native, rational form of a social solidarity natural to any race, be it of bird, beast or angelic choir: even if modern Evolution-obsessed biologists stoutly deny this universally-evident species-related unity hands down. That concord among men given a further eternal impetus by a Divine Love which is ever-ready to pour itself into the frail human vessel. So that had this all-penetrating Good Spirit been consulted in the case at hand, had the colonial trade subsumed to itself protectively this indigenous trade milieu, where necessary and appropriate making occasional adaptations to modern requirements, it could thereby readily have kept the best of both worlds: the distributive system being a supremely free, unassuming and adaptable one. But as it turned out these embryonic enterprises of the Southern Hemisphere were to prove ripe for quick extinction, wilting almost instantly before the first hot blasts of draconian laissez-faire “free trade”, having naturally had no preparation for such an encounter. The one type of commerce and organization, in pure form, being the very nemesis of the other. The final upshot of which fatal collision would not however be plainly apparent until the dawning of the Era of Independence (Ibid, p. 108), that which signaled the onset of a 19th and 20th century Spanish and Latin American economic nightmare all its own: one which was only darkening and deepening in the opening years of the 21st, with newer more-positive departures of recent years yet to come clean in sustainable terms.

            It was under Charles II (1665-1700) that the many systemic weaknesses inherited from previous reigns began to pay dividends in plunging revenues, a recurring bankruptcy, and the minting of vellon currencies made entirely of copper. The creation of such specie had in fact been a long-standing practice—one first indulged under Phillip III and resorted to with increasing frequency thereafter—but with valuations close to three-quarters that of pure silver in the first mintings of a relatively richly-alloyed currency. But even this modest differential of course caused gold and silver to be driven out of circulation, raising the premium on silver—which gauged public confidence in the vellon currency—to 275% as early as 1580 (Ibid, p. 396). Gresham’s Law being endemic however not really to currency itself but rather to the whole monetary aspect of the rising new capitalism: earlier instances of specie alloy-debasement since Ancient times having had few such catastrophic consequences. And adding insult to financial injury, under the extreme Spanish naval and military weakness—that which resulted from her disastrous defeats at the hands of all her enemies during the wars of Phillip IV—hostile foreign navies and free-booters became openly dominant in colonial waters. While in response Spanish vessels protecting treasure fleets and trade routes cowered in the harbors at the approach of the enemy.

            This last of the Spanish Habsburgs was said to have been mentally incompetent but under his reign some of the most constructive initiatives were undertaken by ministers in whose choice he had shown extreme judicious abilities: two of whom in particular were unusually able and farsighted men (John Lynch, The Hispanic World in Crisis and Change, p. 375-9). All of Europe knew that the fate of Spain must very soon take some drastic turn, and on his deathbed in 1700 the Emperor Charles II—to everyone’s astonishment—named Phillip, the Duke of Anjou, grandson of the French king Louis XIV, as his heir, he himself being without male issue (Ibid, p. 381). Here again in the main he showed forth perspicacious qualities in a major policy decision: having chosen in Phillip and his successors a far-more-vigorous line than that of ancestral Habsburg despots, squanderers and wastrels. And although the War of the Spanish Succession had yet to be fought—in which the so-Catholic Habsburgs teamed with England, Holland and other old enemies of the victor of Muhlberg—yet the House of Bourbon was indeed destined to inherit the far-flung Spanish Empire.


            The new Angevin occupant of the throne, as well as his immediate successor, were during the first forty years of the new century fully occupied with staving off the projections of the major trading nations of Europe: who ever attempted to gain or retain preemptive advantages over the incalculable, still-virtually-untapped commercial and industrial potential of the Spanish colonies. Or even to carry away from such a contest the victory-laurels of a sort of virtual sovereignty that would have effectually pushed the Bourbons entirely from the picture. And thus it was not until mid-century—and a marginal Bourbon setting-in-order of a vast transoceanic household—that there was any opportunity for a creative change in the regulation and facilitation of trade. Which however even then continued to be raided with relative impunity by foreign commerce (John R. Fischer, The Economic Aspects of Spanish Imperialism in America, 1492-1810, p. 2).

            All along, as one might gather, the main enemy to such critical, long-awaited initiatives remained a vested interest in the status quo: that which had become a source of lucrative rewards to parties both foreign and domestic, whose aims continued to be entrenched at the port of Cadiz and those two Latin American ports that were licensed to conduct trade with the Mother Country and to a limited degree with one another. Finally, however, in the last decades of the eighteenth century, Charles III Bourbon and His successor Charles IV took this beast “by the horns", cast doubt and trepidation aside, and established a system of multiple new ports, licensed for the totality of colonial trade, amounting to a sort of limited “free trade” within monopoly confines.

            That this trade was not free in the modern sense of the word is obvious when the terms and conditions of the new arrangement are examined: indeed, had any attempt toward laissez faire been made it would have meant for Spain the rapid loss of all her colonial markets, being as she was still weak in her hold over them. But within its limited and fragile mercantile parameters the results of this experiment in a broader and fuller participation of each part of the Spanish Empire in the aggregate trade of the whole was a spectacular success, as during this era from 1778 to 1796, “the overall expansion of imports from America was in excess of a tenfold increase over the 1778 value, whereas exports (of the Peninsula) to the Empire increased fourfold” (John Fisher, Commercial Relations Between Spain and Spanish America in the Era of Free Trade, 1778-1796. Liverpool: Center for Latin American Studies, University of Liverpool, 1985, p. 61). And all of this without a drastic diminution in foreign contraband trade. It all gives one pause to speculate what would have been the result had this arrangement continued past the mere 18 years during which it operated: being destined to be brought to a abrupt end by an unbreakable British Blockade, this provoked by Spain’s fateful alliance with revolutionary France (Skidmore, Thomas E. and Peter H. Smith, Modern Latin America. New York, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1997, p. 28): as brokered largely through the subterfuges of the Freemasonic Spanish foreign minister Godoy. While this sort of “bringing up short” by a supra-national secret-society influence is in its own way an uncanny throw-back to the sudden atrophy of a pristine Spanish economy under the hot blasts of the first of the supra-national Habsburgs.

            It seems obvious from the foregoing that trade is a very special part of human and national life: a lifeline which must be careful enabled and channeled else it become a fountainhead of destruction which it is impossible to contain. A boon which is kept at the service of man and mother-country alike not so much by typically-corruption-ridden preemptive measures, nor yet by a careless throwing-open of markets and resources to foreign factors, but initially rather by a sedulous planting and tending of cultivars each of which is a self-subsisting if perhaps initially-tiny whole. That sort of immemorial enterprise which develops an inbuilt social-justice component that is locally-specific in space and time, with its own creative product-culture, one little concerned about go-getter fanfare, and less-still with modern obsessions over behavioral control, let alone today’s occult managerial ponderings of the mutations of organizational-linguistical style. A far-more-substantial something—a stranger to anything like consciously "being dynamic"—an arbor which spreads its unselfconscious vigorous influence from kitchen garden-door to product-design shop to the chambers of state in an uninterrupted, interconnected plethora of second-nature concerns. So that had Spain not been cursed with the Habsburgs—and their inseparable cynical treacheries and razor-sharp rigidities of a precocious capitalism—and had rather been able to develop according to her own industrial/commercial genius—to which the Moors and the Arabs of centuries had contributed a great deal—then for every bit of wealth spirited away by Englishmen or Hollanders there would likely have sprung forth inseparable reciprocal compensations at home. In a near-indestructible international multiplier all of its own incalculable kind.

            But rather were the innately-morbid processes of capitalism already well-under-way, with Criollo elites—White natives of Latin America—very pleased to see an end to the newly-conceived Bourbon involvement in their trade. A Mother-Country solicitude which in view of subsequent history and facts surveyed thus far would beyond question have served extremely-well the vast majority of the colonies' citizens aims and ideals. But as suggested the short-lived, intelligent imperial involvement of the late eighteenth century was contrary to the very limited interests of stubbornly-entrenched, self-interested bureaucrats and major holders of land and capital, the historical vanguard of that breed whose ranks would swell to the legions of our own time. Consequently, these same Criollos were quite ready to do a turn-about from previous hyper-protectionist policies and to greet with eagerness the open invasion by foreigners of the Spanish markets, an onslaught which Spain was scarcely able to prevent even before the extended English blockade that lasted much of the duration of the Napoleonic Wars. A time of division between colony and Mother Country during which seeds of revolution were likewise sown, by the same cryptic enemies which undermined the empire at every turn. A revolt toward which leading citizens were urged most notably by the United States and England, with these former partners in contraband trade with the Latin Colonies being as well and not-surprisingly sources of finance and arms-production for same. This while romance-laden leaders of the uprising would almost without exception be drawn from the same privileged Criollo ranks.

            Ironically, however—but at a deeper level consonant with all these conflicting realities—the first of these internecine struggles, in the last decade of the 18th century, was distinctly-Indian in origin: being mostly provoked not by any native dissatisfaction with Spain but by the harsh exactions of the very same soon-to-be-covered-in-glory Criollos. Indians who would indeed in the main side with Spain in the protracted struggle that was about to come, at least when not succumbing, as they would on occasion, to the voluminous, self-serving propaganda of revolutionary Caucasian firebrands. Since for one thing it had invariably been by royal insistence that Indian rights and properties had been preserved and guaranteed to the extent that they were, so that actually at their core, when all is said and done, the Latin American Revolutions were only first releases among the many familiar, bloody or unbloody, modern revolts of the well-to-do that would become standard dramatic fare during the 19th and 20th centuries. As for instance in the ongoing Anglo/American intervention in Iraq, for which the largely-fictitious agonies of the oil barons of Kuwait would provide a ready excuse. Struggles which—after the gun-smoke and verbal-vituperation have cleared and the dead or ruined are removed from the scene—and whether they be over independence, taxing policy, land use or the violation of national sovereignties—invariably find already-wealthy warring interests far-better-off than they were before. So that as a matter of course in the case before us there was destined to proceeded a ceding of Indian lands to revolutionary cronies and favorites: a process consummated within a few years of the last revolutionary battle of around 1824; property by various clever and arbitrary means being removed from its protected corporative/tribal status in a self-enriching Criollo bonanza, brokered in decades of war. But although the protracted military occupation and developing civil war in Spain during this period of her history led to the final victory of the colonies in the early 1820s, any independence celebrations must have been counted in weeks rather than years.

            For the new nations of Latin America, run by "upwardly mobile" native-Caucasian Criollos, found themselves with a host of urgent and bewilderingly-difficult material, political and trade-related problems on their hands, their internal and inter-regional communications for one thing in complete disarray after twenty-some years of intermittent hostilities and semi-anarchy. While mines were typically flooded and rendered unusable because of inevitable neglect-related decayed timbers and caved-in drifts. Similarly, at the same time that manufacturing machinery was rusting and in disrepair fields were also poorly cultivated, and once-familiar forms of economic organization had more or less unraveled (Ibid, p. 36-7). While most significantly of all—as would be driven home so soon and with so little mercy—these new Criollo enterprises in statecraft—tables having been turned—would find themselves forthwith and ironically in an analogous position of economic and military defenselessness to that formerly experienced by a so-readily-abandoned Mother Country. At the hands namely of the very same powers of the North Atlantic who had largely led them into rebellion against same. Becoming limp and helpless increasingly—and by the end of the 19th century more or less exclusively—before the United States (Chasteen, John Charles and Joseph S. Tulchin, Editors, Problems in Modern Latin American History: a Reader. Wilmington, DE: Scholarly Resources, Inc., 1994), p. 289-294). For despite the efforts of Simon Bolivar and a few other far-sighted men, toward the forming of one unified sovereignty of the former colonies, men who could see from the beginning what disunity would mean, the newly created nations of Latin America, lacking the powerful cohesive presence of Spain, fell piecemeal, as had been feared, under the dominance of culturally-unsympathetic economic and military giants. They who were hand-in-glove with an incalculably-powerful and well-financed anti-Catholic world Freemasonic movement, these however only acting as a geo-introduction to an alliance yet more cryptic and formidable: one which would ride herd on the aspirations of whole continents from the late-nineteenth century to the present twenty-first. An inscrutable global partnership—whose first beginnings were indeed to be found during the reign of Napoleon and his friend Godoy—namely a globally-financed, world-conquering Judaism, just then coming to pervade every major organization or national administration, a force against which Spain had provided at least an inefficient, haphazard sort of foil. Manifest today in the pretensions of an Israeli/Anglo-American military/corporate/financial cartel, this Judeo/Masonry, or more precisely Judeo/secret-society, partnership having goals that go well beyond Israeli-sought-after lands between the Nile and the Euphrates. A conspiracy whose secretive moles and agents provocateurs would gradually make their influence felt throughout the coming two centuries of Latin American political and economic life. The former colonies being as yet too weak and distrustful of one another to forge a sustainable unity or even a viable alliance against common foes or economic predators of any formidable kind. And as suggested, woefully—and as it transpired in a sense irreparably—lacking even the interior communications necessary to such critical defensive tasks.

            There have been occasional times of prosperity for most of the former colonies since those opening years of independence, periods sometimes lasting for decades, but it remains nonetheless true that the promise of a wealthy, cohesive, globally-independent, internally-interdependent community of Spanish speaking nations was never to be realized. A system which, even before the Bourbon "free trade" hiatus, had allowed, if by default of unavoidable circumstances, the more-or-less free development of distributive indigenous economies. Cultivars which in turn might have been formed a stout bulwark against the artificially-unified, nation-dissolving invasiveness of the modern system; an alternate turn of events which, had it been allowed to continue in its contrary healthy vigor, would undoubtedly and as noted have produced many stable and enduring economic forms. Geographically, climactically and culturally distinct colonies, to be productive, needing only the dependable cohesive of vigorous mutual cross-Atlantic market exchange mechanisms and stable enabling infrastructure: already possessing as they did the lively and unifying cultural adhesives and institutions of the Latin Catholic way of life. Within which holism there would nonetheless be favored the localized forms toward which both Spain and Latin America must ever geographically and instinctively tend, considering for one thing the often-impassible terrain of both.

            Nothing like prosperity was to find permanence in more than one or two of Spanish America's latter-day fragments. And even here—for instance in Venezuela—only in a way that has finally proven, like all the others, to be fragile and tenuous. For the opportunity to realize that "sustained economic and industrial growth" (Charles W. Anderson, The Political Economy of Modern Spain. Madison, Milwaukee, and London: the University of Wisconsin Press, 1970, p 5) which is the dividing line between prosperity and poverty in the world of modern nations had been fatally neglected by a long history of Habsburg mismanagement, exploitation and criminal indifference. Furthermore this phenomenon was destined to be perpetuated after their departure by a class of privileged native-Caucasian elites whose commercial and official forerunners these same Emperors and Monarchs had put in place. A fact which, again, must go a long way toward accounting for the many Northern-European surnames found among Latin-American power-brokers to this day.


            How would one capsulate or distill the long term effect of these economic and organizational disadvantages experienced both by Spain and her former American colonies during their entire existence as a political unity? Can it be that the major outline of the mutual disaster of each and all points to a more or less continuous policy—and this from the very beginning—on the part of a dominant sector of world finance and investment toward the control and exploitation of their historical immerging economies? Certainly, in all such assessments, we must give due weight to the celebrated claim of free trade ideologues that there is no such thing as national sovereignty when it comes to international economics. That arena wherein however is decided in the most practical of terms the fates of nations, their external identities, their ability to express themselves in properly dignified and becoming ways. One need only add to this near-universally-accepted trade-axiom the equally-celebrated laissez faire ethic of unbounded self-interest—today pursued most effectively in multi-national corporate embodiments, yesterday in mercantile trading cartels—to complete the loop of a convincing picture. One cannot help but sense that this hypothetical economic colonialism, essentially supra-national in character, is indeed what has taken place: this especially after having seen in previous pages, if briefly and sketchily, in the history of Spanish-American trade, the aspirations of vigorous and productive peoples brought progressively under the tutelage of foreigners with completely different values and beliefs. In the Latin American colonies being seen indeed the fate of other continents and regions of later times, shackled to the same piratical ocean-going oars, giving their precious lifeblood into alien and unsympathetic hands, evaluated as "not measuring up" to cynical benchmarks and timetables of glibly-touted liberal-economic lore. In all cases with the Synagogue using a politically-and-economically captive Christianity as its ignominious surrogate, in an all-points practical repudiation of the love-based Gospel "Way".

            Even Spain’s own attempts at a united sovereignty—in these two centuries since the opening years of the Nineteenth Century—have reaped principally upheaval and foreign economic over-lordship, culminating in a now more-or-less candid internal political disunion (Keith G. Salmon, The Modern Spanish Economy: Transformation and Integration into Europe. London and New York: Pinter Publishers, 1991. See also Descola, Jean, Historia De Espana. Trad. Consuelo Birges. Barcelona: Editorial Juventud, 1963). While old fables still abound—as about lazy Latin Catholics that love the good life—assessments which, in view of the foregoing, must raise an eyebrow on any truly-intelligent forehead. Having their counterparts in other legends about German, Croatian or Japanese character—stereotypes sometimes unworthily enlisted even by academics, if in less-than-candid ways—as explanations for tragic national fates. Whether of economic underdevelopment, political oppression, or repeated defeats in war, alike among peoples whose histories are ancient, noble and civilized.

            Thus in a typical study do we read of backward attitudes and political institutions as being the cause of the lesser progress of Brazil and Argentina as compared against Australia and New Zealand during the 19th and early 20th centuries: this in a paper which is a patchwork of economic non-sequiturs held together by ideological rhetoric and transparently-veiled prejudice. That which has too commonly come to comprise the contributions of economist and other social scientists of the English-speaking world vis-à-vis the economic histories of Latin nations. Even the fact that the economic growth rates of these countries were actually a percentage point or two higher than their supposed superiors in the early twentieth century is held out against them as being the result of an influx of undesirable immigrants(!). People who reputedly compared poorly with boasted-of stolid Anglo citizens in other Southern-Hemispheric realms. Australian and New Zealand indeed later being destined to experience a much more impressive growth (Adelman, Irma and Cynthia Taft Morris. "Patterns of Industrialization in the 19th and Early 20th Centuries: A Cross-sectional Quantitative Study", in vol. 5, 1980, Research in Economic History. Greenwich, CT. and London: JAI Press, 1997, p. 17). Such an interpretation however amounts to a laboriously-sustained fiction: much like that perpetuated on our own shores regarding the supposedly-progressive land-development virtues of two centuries of mostly-East-coast-hugging Calvinist New Englanders: these being favorably compared, predictably enough, against reputedly gold-hungry Catholic Spaniards, the four-century-long tireless developers of two continents. These low-brow assays of a century and more ago revealing a fatally-fanciful academia still alive and well today.

            Isn't it possible that the vulnerability of the Latin American nations to unfavorable investment strategies of foreign factors, cited by the above author—as well as ironically even their very much larger populations—would make liberal immigration policies not only just and compassionate but also necessary? Being perceived as critical to a “produce or perish” determinism such as largely defines modern international economics (James Simpson, "Economic Development in Spain, 1850-1936". Vol. 50, no. 2 of Economic History Review. London: Economic History Society, 1997, p. 356 quoted from Martin-Acena, "Development", p. 121). That unnatural constraint namely imposed by way of a “first with the most” logic of the industrial-innovative learning-curve and sunk-cost capital investment alike: foundational elements that under capitalism quickly become barricades against a rival’s progress—rather than stout bridges of mutual economic enrichment. The new turn-of-the-century demographic influxes in places like Argentina having in fact largely been of a highly-skilled Central European stock which proved itself well-gifted in crucially-necessary industrial and entrepreneurial skills: assets which however even so still failed to meet prejudicially-weighted tests of ascendancy in a capitalist world which was and remains a closed club at its highest militarily-maintained reaches. A globalist dynamo fraught with treacherous false flag operations, with an infernal "end justifies the means" engine as its pragmatic soul. Scarcely, then, can the entire global venture be said to be constructive or "progressive" in any worthy or civilized sense. While in Spain itself the truly national, distributive inspirations of the Nineteenth Century Carlists of the Catholic North, they who would indeed have established for the first time an economically-viable, necessarily-loose-knit understanding of Spanish nationhood, if not repeatedly crushed by tyrants and Masonic revolutionaries, was destined to be given a seemingly-final blow in the oppressive rule of a Franco who was plainly-enough a globalist insider from the world go. A doubtful “savior”, only a flipside to the bomb-throwing communists he supplanted, one who sprang from the same plutocratic stock that had arbitrated the Spanish disunity already for centuries, and that were for that matter the financiers of the same communism as well. (Thus do we read in Simpson's study about the lack in 19th century Spain of investment in research and development, the foreign mining concerns brought in by the government that were exploitive and tax-evasive, the weak backward linkage of industries with other sectors of the economy which is typical of export economies, the low levels of domestic capital formation, and the concentration of banking in the hands of German "universal banks" which according to Gerschenkron played a sinister role in the backwardness of some countries in the first half of the 20th century).

             Little wonder is it that today Latin America is characterized by a rapid social and economic disintegration, the story of whose sometimes-incredibly-corrupt, transparently-Washington-dominated governments and economies is vividly told by the Journalist Alma Guillermoprieto (The Heart That Bleeds: Latin America Now. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, Inc., 1994). In too many of these countries the rule of the drug lord is the only political and commercial constant: although Venezuela, Brazil and Bolivia do now indeed struggle to work themselves free. Yet the source for these social maladies is not essentially moral, contrary to all-too-typical vaguely-condemnatory academic and journalistic analysis, but rather springs from a hopelessly-compromised economic and political inheritance, in nations effectively rendered incapable of operating within their natural productive parameters, as it were while they were still in their political and economic infancy, scarcely being in any sense culpable for that. Economic viability being determined by a coherent, substantially-self-defined market participation (ibid, p.71, 130, 210, 224). And the idea that by virtue of a strange species of "free trade" these economies should for all practical purposes exist for the sole sake of the USA is entirely analogous to the case of the "Spanish" Habsburgs: the scalpel of whose fundamentally-external economic extractions, and the frustration of whose inescapable political manipulations, steadily and rapidly destroyed the naturally-vibrant dynamisms of a complex Spanish regional and national plethora, both colonial and peninsular. Spain itself, as noted above, having possessed long-time, well-established international trading connections, and nascent modern industries, arguably at an earlier time than anywhere else in Europe. Latin systems on both sides of the Atlantic, however and to judge by events, continuing to our own day to be dominated by moral heirs, and at least in Latin America perhaps even genetic ones, to the favorites of Habsburg times. Forming in fact and as suggested above part of a vast amorphous upper and upper middle class of self-interested proprietors in an otherwise more and more property-less region, these being of an almost identical moral and even cultural formation as their counterparts in the rest of the world. As I myself learned only too well in attending University recently with the sons and daughters of these modern-day Criollos, as well as in less frequent previous associations. Indeed, we may term such simple reflections on obvious historical facts "dependency theory" if we wish, but we thereby also reduce evident certainties to a hypothetical status, and in the process do much the same with regard to our own intellectual respectability as well.

            A study of the Kemmerer Missions of the first half of the 20th century—quasi-official delegations which our government employed to advise their Latin American counterparts—may help to color in some of the no-doubt too-vast picture I am attempting to render distinguishable. These missions were positively bursting with sentiments of a sanguine economic and political interventionism from Washington, believing, as the author notes, that their valid purpose was the "international extension of North American institutions, trade, and finance" (Seidel, "American Reformers Abroad: the Kemmerer Missions in South America, 1923-31". Journal of Economic History, vol. 32, no.2, 1972, p. 521). In line with the same philosophy, one of Kemmerer's assistants left behind in Colombia—while helping to revamp its economic system—complains caustically and continuously of "interference with their work from Bogota—as if the sovereignty involved were American rather than Colombian" (Ibid, p. 529). But the author of the study wraps it up with a thought-provoking statement: "The most serious question is whether the attempts by experts (in the Kemmerer Missions) to aid in institutional economic reform (actually made) more difficult the integration and development of national economies. This question is based on the assumption that national development, whatever its characteristics and values, must be founded finally upon the real human, material, and intellectual conditions of the environment" (Ibid, p. 544). This being an assessment decades later to be endorsed by several leading developmental economists, one of whom, cited on another page, calls national and other economic development "the science of the particular" (DeGregori, Thomas R., editor, Development Economics: Theory, Practice, and Prospects. Boston, Dordecht, London: Kluwer Academic Publishers, 1989).

            Thus within all the complexities investigated here—an interwoven fabric of discovery, evangelization, trade-war, dynastic and personal greed, secret-society subterfuge and much more—values are at the heart of any penetrating, accurate and comprehensive evaluation of the Spanish-Latin legacy. Especially with respect to the validity of a forcing-upon-others of an alien economic and moral culture, this in the name of a one-sided market system that has become an end in itself. So that such an anomaly can only be considered worthy by people self-consciously engaged in a self-assumed crusade of sorts: for the spreading of a set of socioeconomic imperatives which have come to be associated with the dominant Judeo-Protestantism of the Unites States. Some in the field of economics have even suggested that the unvarnished capitalist ethic is simply Protestantism in its most palpable, integral form (Fanfani, Catholicism, Protestantism and Capitalism. London: Sheed and Ward, 1935, reprint edition 1972 by Arno Press, Inc.). While the same author also hastens to add that whole Catholic populations in Europe had largely become imbued with the same self-interested approach to life by the dawn of the 16th century: as for instance in the gradual reintroduction of chattel slavery. An approach that as noted can come to the point, among Catholics, of the practical rather than formal adoption of the Protestant "faith without works" doctrinal paradigm: lending new meaning as well to the constantly reiterated claim that capitalism is “non-normative”: a putative neutrality which wears well with correctly-blank-faced forms of monumental exploitation.

            This explanation—both simple and complex at one and the same time—provides in the last analysis a sole intellectually satisfying explanation for the relentless, centuries-long deterioration of the Spanish and Latin American political and economic systems: that which was brought about through the morally-caustic effect of an invasive capitalism upon naturally-organic, socially focused systems of production and capital formation. Those sort namely which have tended (Anderson, The Political Economy of Modern Spain, p. 61-2) to characterize vigorously-Catholic Latin nations from the very beginning: heirs of a morally-purifying earlier Peninsular struggle against Islam of eight centuries. Suggesting that the two—capitalism and Catholic distributism—are structures by nature diametrically opposed to and mutually exclusive and destructive of one another. So that one can plainly see the tragic effects of people "not wise in the things of this world" having—as for instance in the case of Southern Hemispheric Criollo leaders—voluntarily left the fishing boat of an age-old practical justice and ethical simplicity. This to try walking upon the tossing waves of the modern “non-normative” pragmatism. That they must sink in their dependence on these uncharacteristic devices is only to be expected.

            Hence the initial but deciding practical disadvantage of Catholic Spain and her colonies—for a time considered by her contemporaries to hold the promise of the future for Western Civilization—this at the hands of an Austrian dynasty that was in many ways Catholic in name only—and allied to insuperable Catholicism-alien commercial and organizational forces of the times. As for instance to a global banking elite which, long before the Spanish Habsburg rule, as in the case of the Fuggers and the Medicis to name only two, had already been playing European kingmaker. While a thorough search into the obscurity of Habsburg earlier history seems likewise to confirm their assumption of a major role in the whole practical, pre-Lutheran faith-without-works moral disaffection against truly-Christian practical-morality, in a dynasty which saw its first beginnings at the dawn of the fourteenth century, a time when the inexplicably-rising house was already neck-deep in precociously-cynical Swiss and Central European intrigues (Coxe, William, History of the House of Austria, vol. I. New York: Arno Press and the New York Times, 1971). A conclusion likewise not at all discouraged by the final appearance of both Luther and Calvin in close proximity to Austria at the dawn of modern times.









A Typical City Council Meeting

Somewhere in the Valley



            As I took a seat toward the rear—being unavoidably late by ten minutes—my ears caught the measured accents of an elderly man pleading for consideration about noise in his neighborhood during the night: an appeal which gathered eloquent from the fact that his wife had a serious heart condition that urgently required sufficient sleep. Having lived in the same community only recently I myself knew all about the nightly disturbances being complained of. But his touching, manly pathos was met by silence, except for a terse "thank you", punctuated by a few barely-perceptible nods: reactions oddly similar to those which had greeted my own midnight phoned-in complaint to the police of the same borough a couple of years earlier.

            We all know these noisemakers only too well: the local rowdies, the night-time bane of village and suburb, performing their male rites-of-passage: for the tribesmen a deeply personal matter, for the modern-day youthful macho mainly for others to see, hear and be-impressed-by. A ceremony that in the American context may stretch out over fifteen or twenty years, after multiple “wild oats” have been sown, before it finally passes from such a masculine life, a paragon of white-bread machismo uncannily-often related to those on raised dais’ of local government across the land. Leaders who—from sea to sea—evince much the same tired, irritated unresponsiveness to myriad mature citizens’ perfectly-reasonable pleas, as for relief from wheel-squealing antics—interspersed with earnest stop-watch accelerations—punctuating the night air from around 10:00 til 1:00 at night. Then, too, in most communities there are the inevitable classical-bandana’d, Willy-Nelson-look-alike, salt-and-pepper-bearded bikers-all: flesh-and-blood phantoms from out of the 70s. Other-machos who of a Saturday or Sunday morning wake you up, in solo or in twos or threes, promptly at 5:00—the morning after their nightly predecessors—turning their own sorts of blank-faced capers with slightly-different but equally-loud auricular antics. In another species of puberty-rite which will however likely-enough continue until the end of often-otherwise sadly-uneventful lives.

            Next item was a much more smiling affair from the raised platform: the much-anticipated ground-breaking for a new-car dealership. A representative from the local parent franchise was there to give the usual vaguely-comedy-oriented promotion, greeted with a responsiveness in kind that was in startling contrast to sullen reception given to the man's plea for nighttime silence for his ailing wife. Following which comic-relief the full-time grant writer became the focus of much of the rest of the meeting, of course amid varied amounts of the same sort of slap-stick, a vaudeville of local officialdom performing with twin partners of hometown elitism and corporate commerce. Among this ad-libbing were interspersed some applications for liquor licenses and license extensions, all of which were approved.

            The noted official was lobbying at the state capitol for various things, while being likewise in written correspondence with the Federal Aviation Administration in regard to flight patterns to and from Sky Harbor Airport. This in some regulatory or property-value-related connection of which I have unfortunately lost track among my notes: having become momentarily absorbed in open-mouthed ponderings over the crisply-official attitude shown to a singularly-harmless man and his sick wife. That which is the near-uniform lot of such “characters” who naively show up at city council meetings, people who are ill-adept at learning the glib body-language tricks and verbal-skullduggery of thick-skinned politicos and veteran attenders-of-meetings, "a whole nother breed" indeed in this American cornucopia of popular government. The grant-writer gives an outline of an application for a housing development grant to be used for senior citizens, while having previously submitted a statement demonstrating that the project will meet program requirements. Ongoing approval was reaffirmed in a unanimous vote.

            However destined to prove by far the biggest item on the council agenda was the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG), a disbursal of funds for which a regional planning body and the State Department of Commerce had been petitioned. Contemplated projects to come  out of the gratuity included streets, food bank, rehabs of various kinds and "habitats” (“Habitats for Humanity"?). However in the previous year's budget the whole grant of about the same amount had been used-up for street project: this in an old but attractive, gradually-gentrifying part of town. The city manager and grant writer ask for some direction from the council on how to allocate the funds among these alternatives.

            The suggestion is tentatively aired that only part of the funds should be used for streets this time around: an idea with which part of the council is inclined to go along, since for one such a dispersed allocative pattern would give several of these new projects "a chance to get their feet wet". Council members then vied with one another on behalf of one or another of these “hopefuls”, indicating that such dispersals would act as "seed money": providing a kind of multiplier effect and enabling these enterprises to get in gear and raise other monies. The whole vaguely suggesting the pleasant hum of prosperity. However one lone councilman raises a weary and somewhat outraged voice in favor of the use of the grant for its real legislatively-designed purpose: namely the sole benefit of the underprivileged. Pointing out corresponding federal guidelines, even if these have been vitiated during the past decade by now-standard court reinterpretations of lawmaker intent. Provisions too having had neo-conservative “riders” tacked on—no doubt at the gun-point of some legislative eleventh hour—to allow for a hometown-elite-friendly “local discretion”. Earlier directives, like so much else today, having been emasculated, in this case by a disposal of the old mechanism of matching funds: that namely which was designed during the 60s by its drafters to encourage more benevolent purposes, yet would be portrayed nonetheless, to New-Righters from the Potomac to the Rio Grande, as somehow harboring a dreaded socialism among its provisos. This whole new “take” on State and Federal assistance programs having of course been meticulously draped in the Stars and Stripes by a supportive media since the accession of the Bush Administration, although in this and many-another context amounting to a patent giveaway to the already well-to-do. Thus at the meeting was the proposal reluctantly made—and only because other “civic minded” initiatives had been embarrassingly exposed for what they truly were—to use only 50% of the grant on the same sort of street improvements. For after all there are unknown quantities present (including myself, as raised eyebrows had duly apprised), as well as of course the press box, if an oddly compliant-looking one. Being chummily encompassed within the final curl—like yet-another raised official eyebrow—of the artfully-molded council dais. The whole seeming to present an admirably-correct and patriotic, multi-institutional “united we stand” motif.

            A councilwoman takes heart from the lone vanguard voice and objects, pointing out that home accessibility monies depend entirely on this grant, as well as emergency repairs, emergency relocation. Then too there is the need for the expansion of the Food Bank, since it already has insufficient room and needs to be able to serve more people. She notes that capital projects can easily be funded from other sources than the CDBG.

            Opposing proponents counter that neighborhood renovation projects like curbing and flood run-off are centrally-important to the local prosperity, so much so indeed as to be justly regarded as essential: thus neatly and tacitly being reiterated the New Right view of government as being solely concerned with things like physical infrastructure and law-and-order, or when all else fails a newly-deified security. These well-heeled paragons somehow managing, incredibly, amid such assertions, to put forth convincing poses of injured “free enterprise” or even an endangered "life in the gated community". Posturings so pathetic they would probably extort some figment of an unwilling sympathy from even the most inveterate liberal, in that flare for drama that has become the whole definition of modern, intrinsically-radical political life. Of course, no one had so much as suggested that street issues weren’t of significance, although I for one am not so inclined to shed commiserating tears over the plight of the stolid middle-class neighborhood-gentrifying burgers whose streets haven't yet been renovated with monies meant for the marginally or desperately poor.

            At this point, understandably enough, the meeting becomes appreciably less coherent, as several members vie with each other to lend tones of civic-mindedness to the inappropriate, exclusionary disposal of the public trust. Again the voice of the same courageous councilman rises above the waves of privilege as he reiterates that the Food Bank needs as much money as possible, that the scant amount allocated is not enough even for its food needs. That critical local institution which is housed in a kind of oversized shed, with a staff entirely made up of volunteers. A projected expansion, too, requires substantial amounts of funding in order for it to become a reality. He offers that, this time around, slightly less than 1/3 of the money should be used for the street project.

            Predictably-enough another councilperson, patent-leather features creased with an especially-convincing imitation of reason and goodwill, counsels that there should be appointed a “health and human services board” to make recommendations on the matter: thus introducing the sacred cow of expertise into an already overloaded civic pantheon. This naming-of-boards being a classic, time-consuming local-government evasive-strategy, one often reserved for just such especially-delicate cases. Spelling as it so often does the slow death-by-delay of any truly good idea, which must get moving while motivations are active, and people aren’t detoured by the very nature of things into pursuing other waiting priorities. To which cue was added that these kinds of boards are manned by those with much more information, that other golden calf of our times, at their disposal. An acknowledgment that is greeted by more of the same familiar nods of wide-eyed-innocent approval. But the grant writer is forced to bring to the little gathering an unwelcome note of the realistic, reminding everyone that the request for funds for the block grant has to be submitted in less than two months, and that time must be allowed for "public review" in the interim. Thus there is no time to establish said advisory board. When the vote is finally taken there is only one actual nay for an allocative schedule which is generous towards middle-class neighborhoods, although thanks to him and the other councilmember at least not exclusively so.

            Other business: city manager says new "backflow assemblies" are needed. If a new ordinance is necessary, he'll pull one together and present it for advisement. Passed. A new wireless communication tower is likewise called for and after the consideration of several sites, neighborhood esthetics being a prime consideration, one is chosen. Certification of a massage therapist requires inquiry about minimum state requirements: this is agreed upon, to be accomplished in conjunction with a look at two neighboring communities in regard to the matter. A request by one council member is made for the employment of energy-saving devices in municipal capital structures, solar and otherwise. This is approved by unanimous vote.

            Finally, in preparation for the next council meeting an "executive work session" is scheduled, as usual for the night before and no-doubt perfectly illegal according to state law. Almost invariably, by way of a near-inviolate custom, taking a private-citizen-impervious form, no doubt down at the local Country Kitchen or Denny’s, and even there in the more-or-less exclusive corner to which local big-shots are accorded a preemptive right. Hence allowing for the majestically-undisturbed cranking-out of the indispensable ironclad agenda: which might by some stretch make some sense in a community of several million but which hardly seems necessary for this little suburban-village assembly. One however quite up to the task of minimizing any disruptions in the orderly workings of the machinery of representative government.

            Meeting adjourned.









 The New Father Confessor



Reformer fears of the friar seated in the dark solitude of the confessional box have given way of late to an abiding confidence in a new official searcher of souls: this within a new state religion which of course has its own sorts of dispensations—earthly though they be—complete with jingles about ringing coins in coffers with which Tetzel himself could only have struggled to compete. For one thing allowing the devotee to blank-facedly ignore the good of his neighbor, in indulgences toward self-gratification to be found artfully juxta-positioned amid patriotic news-commentaries and talk-show-host exhortations alike. While twisted fragments of personalities and once-promising IQs that litter the trail to such a confessional seem but so many mute or giddy testimonies of self-abnegations of the most heroic kind.

Not to worry that there is denied here a rational instinct of good will which is indelibly stamped upon each of our souls and minds, in an inner legislation contained in what is termed the natural law, one whose depth and authenticity vary in degree along boundaries of creed, culture, place and personal formation. For the new spiritual director has seen to everything, giving us all for one thing a blanket general absolution from the chaffing confines of divine laws both natural and positive, mostly notably so that men, freed at last and at one secular-episcopal stroke from anything like troublesome scruples, now look for mates everywhere else but among those so designated in the Garden. But here’s the rub, in that one who has thus "seen the light" forthwith and ironically finds him/her self in the dark and narrow vestibule of a yet-more-searching inquisitor than was ever found in the Catholic fold, as a Patriot Act America is too late finding out. A corporate/official, highly-privatized deacon, with many-a dutiful digital assistant, who fervently aspires to ferret out, if possible, our every thought, word and deed. His own equivalent, and not just fictional/legendary, thumb-screw in hand, naturally-enough producing an intensive behavior modification which is the real aim of this new man-of-the-cloth, even as intimations of grim “further measures”, as hinted at in photographed “interrogations” in Iraq, suggest as well ever deeper, darker and more bizarre possibilities here at home. A scenario which promises to produce a docile fold indeed, with myriads breast-beating-penitential over any disloyal sins, themselves forgoing any real impact on the formation of their own young. That youth-formation which has long been the sole province of a media/educational establishment which has zealously produced, among other things, the very sorts of grinning interrogators-of-Iraqis noted of late on many-a TV screen. While the penances that this cloaked clerical figure prescribes for the wayward-but-penitent—after avowals of wrongdoing perhaps following close on the heels of just such "well deserved" interrogations—are no doubt far more sternly-severe than anything conceived in the minds of actually mild and relenting Spanish Inquisitors like Torquemada. Out-metings to those who have strayed from an ever-narrower and more-torturous "correct" path being as well so clever and unpredictable as to elude Hayek's standard by a mile.

Amid the tremendous latitude that is readily available to such a high-priestly scrutiny even the holiest in today’s hyper-loyal terms are forced to walk a tormented path indeed, a failing job-market for one thing finding these unstinting go-getters more stingily rewarded with each passing day, all the while this new Grand Inquisitor generously sprinkles the guilty prison-guard, domestic security agent or Haliburton-style global contractor with “just don't get caught" ablutions of which each and all are especially fond. Nonetheless holding in ready a traditional morality in its fullest rigors for application to the occasional old-fashioned-acting but reputedly-beaten-path-straying Martha Stewart: the just or middling being thereby apprised to tread softly in the most pedestrian of affairs. Let alone to raise their voices in opposition to policies—media, political or academic—self-contradictory and constantly-changing though they may be—initiated by this new and inscrutable Church-to-end-all-Churches. The human person under much-maligned immemorial Catholic teaching and practice, by contrast, having always been recognized as having an essentially-inviolable right to his good name, political personality and standing in his community. While, finally, this New World Order vigilance against new sorts of heretics is as yet nowhere near full throttle, the final scope of which only a certain unknowable, mystery-shrouded group of initiates has any knowledge at all.









Sustainable Croatian Development



Few know that Croatia was once the champion of a united Central Europe: an idea resurgent again today, if in the wider setting of the EU. That nineteenth-century Euro-unity initially conceived, in characteristically-Croatian sanguine, practical terms, by Josip Jelacic, his title of Ban marking him out as bearer of the age-old Croat royal sovereignty, if one reconceived in constituent terms under the Austrian Empire. While his regional concept was singular in its notion of an empire responsive, federated and in many respects self-governing in nature (; he a Croatian general having been however a lone voice in a political desert of polar extremes of the mid-19th century, except for an occasional, equally isolated and ignored advocate-of-unity among statesmen or intellectuals of Czech or other imperial domains. Being himself a stubborn holdout against forces that would ultimately partition the empire into the collection of mostly impoverished and unstable nation-states that came out of Versailles, in a Central and Southeastern Europe destined after the breakup of communism to become variously a playing-field for military aggressions of Serbs, a venue for grinding poverty, a route for European traffickers, or a patchwork of commercial fiefdoms of geo-corporate concerns. But the Croatia of the time of Jelacic would bear the onus of the Austro-Hungarian domestic-imperial breach, after heroic and successful unity-preserving efforts on the battlefield being placed even more directly under a militarily-vanquished Hungary's overlordship than before, as a sort of fatted calf to assuage bruised Hungarian political sensibilities. While finally Croatia would somehow be fixed in this same position historically, in the world-community imagination, as the token tyrant wherever an enemy of freedom was politically or polemically required, being repeatedly a chief ("serves her right") sacrificial offering as well on the world's political altars to the violent drive of Serbia toward her own enigmatic day in the sun. Croatia perennial accused of harboring reactionary illusions into our own day and time, while in the 1800s ruled by a Habsburg family notorious for its granite-like ingratitude toward its most loyal subjects, in Croatia or earlier in Castile. An attitude inherent to its equally-immemorial "divide and rule" mentality.

With cruel irony, then, this heroic little nation, one not yet over the social and economic scars of a 1990s genocidal war, still lives on under the dark shadow of condemnation placed upon it so unjustly in the nineteenth century, and later in a Nazified Europe. A nation whose only real fault is that it fulfills the world-pecking-order-enthusiast's dream, being for one thing easily invaded economically and geographically, and having little if any media propaganda machinery. While having likewise for several centuries been mostly under the Moslem yoke, in a see-saw occupation/reclamation which, much as in the case of Spain, was to prove the defining crucible of the national soul. A past condition which has however rendered her at times a sort of social and diplomatic untouchable to fastidious neighbors like Slovenia: whose occasional self-rewarding arrogance however selectively forgets those battle-toughened Croatian armies of Medieval centuries who rescued tens of thousands of Slovenian citizens from abduction and slavery under the Sons of the Prophet, who conducting frequent lightning-like raids deep into more-northerly realms, penetrating as far as Carinthia in Austria, but having to cross Croatian territory in order to do so. Croatia’s guerrilla tactics having ultimately brought about her own near-liquidation: this while Vienna, Paris and Budapest, contrary to lyrical history books, for the most part stood impassively by, letting Croatia use herself up in the defense of Faith and fellow man. While other equally-stubborn, reactionary facts about this little Land—points of data which somehow manage to bravely raise their rebellious heads against the prevalent group-think—must ever rub such critics raw. As for instance her heroic harboring of Jews during the same Second World War, an effort both open and clandestine which was in some ways unique in terms of scope and degree of organization, this all the while a neighboring Belgrade in an ever-media-whitewashed Serbia was ironically the first city in "Fortress Europe", outside of Germany itself, to become officially "Judenfrei,", or ethnically-cleansed of all Jews. While the most staggering irony of all is that it was the United States that was the original universal breeding-ground for racist and even proto-Nazi beliefs and sentiments, with the radical Spencerian, “survival of the fittest” racism which lay at the origins of Nazism—much more fundamentally so than any hatred of the Jews—having first inspired Hitler by way of the activities and publications of Henry Ford and others here who touted a white supremacy creed. Even as the diminutive corporal learned much from eugenic experimentations upon Black prisoners in Southern jails. A Nazi connection of which Ford himself was immensely proud, at least until the designs of the infamous Austrian became better known (Pool, James E., Who Financed Hitler: the Secret Funding of Hitler’s Rise to Power, 1919-1932. New York: Pocket Books, 1997).

Thus it comes as no surprise that Croatia is today generally left out of the albeit-fewer-and-fewer glowing tributes to the present Central European transformation: the world stage of political debutants having however a doubtfully-impressive marquee at best—considering the sorts of actors that so commonly receive first credits there. The Hrvatski Domovino typically rather being dismissed as a "haven of demagoguery" by such star players: Croats indeed being an eloquent people, in a classical tradition which is only a part of a dawning national historical memory that goes back to the age of the Roman Caesars. But a native oratory couched in terms of the love of hearth and home and native soil, not the taking of someone else's.

Yet despite all the slander Croatia's practical achievements since it won its independence have in many ways been truly prodigious: especially considering the peculiar disadvantages under which she has labored. Such advances being particularly impressive under the initial administration of that Franjo Tudjman who was most responsible for throwing off the Yugoslav communist yoke, the tiny nation during the triumphs of the War of Independence having simultaneously suffered a bitter punitive arms/materiel embargo, even as her women were in many cases being systematically raped, typically-enough for Nazi-like "Greater Serbia" genetic motives that are consistently downplayed or ignored by otherwise righteously-eloquent "world community" leaders, in atrocities for which ever-impenitent Serb aggressors were rewarded with a Hague-legalized confiscation of half of Bosnia/Herzegovina. While afterward and to this day Croatia’s greatest national heroes are being hunted down like criminals by the forces of the same Tribunal, for trial and imprisonment in punishment of purely-defensive operations, under that bench’s primitive and fanciful juridical principle that for every guilty Serb there must always be found a guilty Croatian. A uniquely-simple-minded rationale for such a legal enormity having recently been obliquely advanced too by a one-time SFOR Supreme Commander, who noted that the warring parties of a then-embattled Bosnia-Herzegovina, whether Croats, Serbs or native Muslims, "all looked alike". Thus no doubt by implication amply justifying, in his own uncritical judgment, such a leveling-game, one equally applied to Croatia and B-H. A blunt judicial weapon-of-choice imposed upon Croats who despite most-recent groundless accusations have never yet prosecuted an offensive war beyond their borders: a distinction which few if any of the nations most prominent at the Hague can even remotely claim.

But there might still be unique advantages for Croatia, even in the midst of such dark circumstances, and even as she once again, after Tujman's death, struggles to free herself from the now-more-subtle control of enemies both foreign and domestic: the “underdog” needing ever to await his day in the sun. While had Croatia maintained a substantial grasp on her own options—steadfastly ignoring for a time the usual reproaches of "backwardness"—she could have duplicated in many ways the economically-fertile tabula rasa conditions of post-World War II Western Europe. Being thus able to rebuild largely from scratch: if undoubtedly without the advantage of anything even remotely-similar to that era’s hyper-generous Marshall Plan infusions from across the Atlantic. Croatia having long ago learned to survive and even prosper in the most meager of circumstances, as well as finding therein a school for her many marvelous native virtues, while in the process thriftily avoiding a host of obsolescence-prone infrastructural forms that are now more or less cast in concrete among today's developed lands. A course of action the door to which might indeed still be ajar, even after the breathless national-debt-ballooning activities of the recently-retired hyper-correct, superpower-fawning, but for all that amply-despised administration of Racan. Hence for instance are many of Croatia's natural resources still in near-pristine condition: for one thing not having been subject to the kinds of mismanagement that have made American forests into regional tinderboxes all of their own kind. Thus might she do well to implement relatively-low-key, conservation-oriented policies, largely based on the prudent use of abundant resources and existing-if-duly-modified plant, equipment and skills, leaving many options open for dealing with a feverishly-advocated, radically-globalized world economy. One that for all the modernization hoopla has yet to show its most fundamental long-term implications in no uncertain terms. For it seems likely that an uncontrolled proliferation of run-of-the-mill high-tech industries, for all their much-vaunted advantages, can only produce a limited number of jobs, to be followed sooner or later by obsolescence-related layoffs of countervailing proportions, after precious resources have been prodigally drained away, mostly for benefit of utterly-detached stockholders, or find themselves "bundled" into dead investment "packages" doomed to never see the light of day. Since standard computer-driven methodologies and market-maneuvers can often represent the very epitome of disastrous and even gratuitous manpower reduction, and a journey backward in economic time.

Yet far from suggesting that Croatia should pursue policies that are "luddite" in character, rather do I counsel that the long-standing desire for inclusion into the EU—and from thence into full participation in a sometimes-hyperventilating global market—be tempered by a deep and careful fostering of real and reasonable Croatian interests and ambitions. All along considering that the mere fact of being able to digitally duplicate the most ordinary processes of life and production—this at the expense of an onerous investment-colonialism for a decade or so eagerly welcomed in neighboring quarters—may not after all be the genuine progress that it is cracked up to be. As notably in the case of erstwhile-overweight, suddenly-muscle-flexing Slovenes—and even recently-much-praised Poles and Czechs—whose GDPs and rates of capitalization having proven disappointing in the extreme. The new progress involving as it does an irretrievable dismantling of sometimes highly intuitive and sustainable, rationally-modifiable, pre-existing modes, forms and attitudes alike. The whole of Eastern Europe finding itself today at the end of 2014 to be one vast khanate for a Yankee-patented "the American Dream".

Various ideas toward an uncommonly-well-reasoned rationality might easily suggest themselves—especially to anyone who has specific knowledge of Croatian material needs and potentialities—of which mine—emigrated second-generation son though I am—is admittedly limited. One thing that is required for commercial prosperity and a reasonable share in international markets is the continued restoration and upgrading of transport infrastructure such as bridges: much of it still no doubt obsolete if not war-damaged. The burden of funding these kinds of projects is assumed to be enormous, but there may be no need to continue to undertake conventional, prohibitively-expensive versions of same, with a tentative idea not too long ago contemplated in the United States seeing as potentially-promising the use of wood timbers—with steel here and there as reinforcement—in bridge construction. This method, if found to be feasible, would not only be much cheaper, quicker and less labor-intensive over time than concrete construction but also far less vulnerable to earthquakes, as well as much less costly in terms of scheduled maintenance or flood-related collapse and repair: the latter being a special point of vulnerability of concrete bridges. Granted, this idea has to my knowledge not yet been attempted on any scale for modern use, even though the technical challenges would hardly seem to be forbidding. Perhaps because it would upset tidy "sweetheart" deals between government and corporate development interests, suggesting at higher levels the sky-darkening specter of enterprises like Haliburton and associates, invariably producing dependably-huge amounts of profits and debt income for motivationally-foreign parties near and far. The avoidance of which, by such modest and carefully-considered means, might realistically circumvent as well much of the onerous burden of further World Bank infrastructure loan agreements. While in this way too would be utilized abundantly-available resources, such as Croatia's unique reserves in hardwoods, and a continued capacity for the production of steel: this being a highly-useable legacy of the old communist regimes, with their invariable emphasis on heavy industry. (Note of December 2014: some of these particulars may no longer be so prominently extant as they were a decade ago when this was written, but if such potentials do exist in any degree they should be shepherded prudently rather than simply abandoned, demolished or sold for scrap: as for one thing one can never tell where markets in commodities might be headed, and even with higher producer prices there is no replacing a domestic industrial infrastructure when it comes to always-desirable semi-independent viability.

Another sustainable innovation that would hardly be expensive or radical would be to partially agrarianize urban neighborhoods: an idea presented here more than anything as food for thought, one first suggested to me by an albeit-thinly-spread but stubbornly-pursued change-in-life-style among some people on both coasts here: an initiative which I have expanded upon to a degree. My suggestion being that gardens and fruit trees, and perhaps even moderate numbers of chickens and milk cows, could be incorporated into city neighborhoods, of course with any necessary changes in zoning—which in the U.S. is a social-fabric battle-zone all its own—that all this might entail. But the concept advocated here is more comprehensive than just the reintroduction of domestic gardening and might even branch out into self-help endeavors like cooperatives for the wholesale purchase of related and ancillary supplies: joint neighborhood ventures—given time and the monumental Croatian energy and patience—a congenital mixture rarely to be found in such potent amounts even in a singularly-energetic Central Europe—that could eventually include in their ambit such divergent endeavors as home-schooling, neighborhood credit unions and various other smaller-scale, perhaps informal varieties of infrastructure, saving and capitalization (cf. Catherine Mansell Carstens, Las Finanzas Populares en Mexico. S.A. de C.V.: CEMLA, 1995). All of which measures could be materially contributory to the realization of an enduring socioeconomic stability.

The produce from such gardens could be used by those who actually live there and for sales, as could the egg-laying, meat-providing chickens and milk-producing cows. After all, do we really need endless seas of grass between buildings, in the dreary, century-old tradition of LeCorbusier, Suggesting nothings so much as the maddening alienation of a modern era which has little place for the human person and his/her wants and needs? Or for those animal and vegetable creatures with which we blend so well and of which we tend to be so fond. While what grass remained in such a scenario could be short-cropped by small herds of idyllically grazing sheep and goats, later to provide the national delicacy for the family table; rather than by noise-and-micro-particulate polluting mowers and blowers, with their incalculable consequences for human health. Too, is it really necessary—except for some nameless investor's portfolio—to resign ourselves to the predominance of the 1000-plus-cow milk factories that so materially contribute to massive agrarian dislocations and trade wars, the undertaking of alternative, relatively-simple, close-to-home measures immeasurably reducing the fear and instability now associated with agriculture, unemployment and economic downturns alike. Since even amid such negative circumstances there would at least be a sizeable amount of food, and a degree of related income-earning potential, available close at hand. For charity, barter or other measures or trade-mechanisms which the immediacies of poverty and hunger ever amply suggest, in humble scenarios that easily lead to far greater things. Necessity indeed—its innately-localized motivating power unleashed and un-frustrated—being the uniquely-fertile mother of invention.

Here and there in California and New Jersey local restaurants are already bidding for the superior-quality organic produce grown in such little garden plots, raised on soil returned to a rich virgin state after a century or more of lying fallow under lawns or concrete. While along the same inner-city lines the Mesa, Arizona area, not too far from where this is being written, has shown itself especially adept at employing such a sustainable developmental philosophy, having for a century had a rich agricultural economy thriving a mile or so north and south of the main east-west traffic thoroughfare. Horses and cattle, citrus and sweet corn, cotton and garden vegetables growing cheek-to-jowl with urban amenities. (Note of December 2014: alas, much of this cornucopia has been moved to the Yuma area, or even more likely to Chili, being bulldozed and paved-over for glitzy neighborhoods of the custom-changing, immigrating high-tech crowd.) So that by the retention and augmentation of such an urban agriculture as is briefly capsulated here could be halted the horrors of scorched-earth, desert-destroying developments that will soon make us look like a mere dusty, second-rate version of L.A. While the vigorous Mesa spatial schematic actually has an age-old pre-existing parallel in those extended Croatian villages that run for miles alongside highway and railroad lines, with fields or vineyards ranging apace.

Dwelling a moment longer on Arizona—with parallel applications however no doubt to be found as well in Croatia—in addition to the promise afforded by such cultivated foods, this inveterate "desert rat" himself knows first hand of a wealth of wild produce going to waste out there: reputed by some to be forbidden as pickings for the occasional natural-food-lover. Yet paradoxically destined to be quite-legally lost forever, and this in ten-thousand-acre hunks, once the scrapers and bulldozers of eager developers uproot all the chollas, prickly pears and other edible-bearing plants. Something they are presently doing at a feverish pace. (Note of 2014: Here again an update: the 70,000 single-family units built out there at such ecological costs, last I heard a year and more ago, went under almost entirely with the sub-prime-mortgage debacle, and are now the refuge of drug-gangs and homeless people, as well as the inevitable ferril dogs, which in Arizona can run in human-flesh-consuming packs of 20 or more. One cholla-cactus by itself, with no cultivation at all, is capable of yielding at least a hundred pounds of consistently-worm-free, delicious exotic fruit per season: the kind of thing that easily sells for four or five dollars a pound, and with the Phoenix-valley desert having at least two such seasons per year. While the finished products of these various cacti, whether as a preserve or a juice, easily command a much higher price. Being as well especially effective in combating the region's every-present potential killer: dehydration. With the taste of the local varieties ranging from tart lemon to black- or blueberry, far different from the larger but rather bland alternative from Mexico. These culinary products for the initiated only needing the simplest sort of home-processing to remove the hazards of spines and prickles, from produce native to a habitat often-enough sacrificed for developments where a certain species of crusading environmentalist commonly-enough lives. Not to mention prodigious nut-bearing trees like the Mesquite, Palo Verde and several others: also full of rich nutrients of many sorts. Even if such fruits and seeds might initially be hard for many-a modern person's system to accommodate, with the very richness of such organic food working a kind of temporary havoc on organs long exposed to the health-ravages of limp, worked-over processed foods. The ghost of the assassinated Phoenix-area investigative reporter Bowles—an unbearable thorn in the side of certain local developers of recent times—might easily join with worthy companions like Jelacic and Tujman in smiling upon such sustainable endeavors.

Analogous agricultural arrangements to those suggested here could even bring some relief to the present unemployment problem in Croatia: at time of writing (in 2004) no doubt still chronically fluctuating at somewhere around or over 20%: this for one thing by creating natural vacancies in the service-oriented economy that that nation has largely become. And once having become so locally-well-rooted, there is no telling what advances might not be made toward a solid, vigorously-sustainable, truly-rational commerce and industry, with the innate logic of the proposed approach, for instance, eventually making many employments a walkable distance from home, thus gradually retreating from the developed world's viciously-circular dependency on the automobile, with its environment-destroying, neighborhood-dividing freeways. A historic, gargantuan mistake—seemingly doomed as it stands to be rotely repeated practically everywhere—favored not really by a much-touted "consumers’ choice" but far-more convincingly by above-noted highway-tsar/road-contractor alliances. With an added persuasive touch no doubt having been added here and there—at especially critical pressure-points—by many decades of Teamster-related goon-squad activities. Not to even mention the petroleum Geo-firms whose imperatives determine everything from soup to nuts, and which now bring us wars in weeks rather than the usual years. While there are also the auto's many ancillary, often semi-parasitical support industries, things the sum total of which are in many ways an onerous burden to modern life and the modern psyche, thus continuing that progress which is conceived in terms of more autos and airplanes, and related devices and infrastructure. And bigger and more deadly armies and air forces with which to defend such treasures. A totality far different from those limitless numbers of far worthier things that could be made available much more easily through the truly-positive-and-creative application of technology, and the return of traditional non-monetized, resource-conservative, multiplier-prolific manual toil.

Family-run businesses of all kinds would undoubtedly do very well within the advocated scenario, often as vertical or horizontal spin-offs of small-to-medium sized sustainable, to-varying-degrees cooperative, industries. Whether high, medium or low tech, or any unique combination thereof, thriving in a social, economic and infrastructural soil rich in digestible nutrients for all concerned. All of the above concepts taken together suggesting as well a popular national life full of potential for the organic flourishing of truly-free political forms, which require as their most natural foundation a richly-elaborated local popular economic life.

These are only some very limited and tentative suggestions for the betterment of the Croatian economy, meant as indicated and more than anything as food for thought. One can of course already foresee cries of "foul play" being raised against such ideas by transnational investment institutions and their many self-interested supporters, people and entities which typically see crime, corruption and demagoguery under every bush, or tomato plant. Especially if it doesn't produce the sort of selective, inscrutable return on investment unique to today's often weird and apocalyptic forms of "high-tech" growth and development. With an ultimately-predominating outflow of capital from such already-credit-starved nations as Croatia. This in a progression amply and disturbingly illustrated by the fate of more than one recently noised-over neighboring economy.









A Book Review: The Heart That Bleeds: 

Latin America Now, by Alma Guillermoprieto

New York:  Vintage Books, 1994


            Note of December 2014: Things have changed in Latin America since this piece was web-published ten years ago, in some places getting much worse, as in Mexico or Honduras, in some places much better, as in Brazil. Then too there's the "model republic" of Chili which last I checked was the perfectly docile protégé and value-relate near-look-alike of Uncle Sam. 


            The order of causality in this book is unique and relentless: revealing the all-determining reality in Latin America as being the overriding presence of  the United States, whether ominously in the background or very brassily to the fore. A “big brother” who meets countries like Colombia as it were “coming and going”: both providing a voracious market for the illegal drugs and indignantly insisting that that nation interdict same (p 10), while likewise taking extraordinary measures to prop up that country's tattered judicial system, one which lost thirty-five judges and close to a hundred other employees to drug-trade gunmen in a period of a few years in its attempt to comply (p 14, 338). Even as Uncle Sam also stages invasions of recalcitrant republics that do not do its bidding, as in the case of Panama (p 209), by educated estimation with forty-some Latin-American overthrows having been sponsored or conducted by Uncle Sam since Halcyon days of "Remember the Maine!". He who either supports or conducts coups—attempted or successful—in more recent days in places like Haiti and Venezuela. In all this resembling a mid-twentieth-century Tito “the blacksmith’s son”, his much-touted-if-fictional humble origins matching America's loud advocacy of democracy remarkably well. While the second point of this causal paradigm is the Drug Trade itself and all that it means to the region socially, politically, morally, and economically: indeed more pages of The Heart That Bleeds are devoted to it than to any other single subject. Even as the third major point of the book is the tremendous spirit and tenacity with which countries of the region pursue a seemingly hopeless effort to be sovereign (p 45), solvent (p 69, 251, 265), and in the meantime retain a sense of national identity (p 248) amid such circumstances. If often amid the pathos—ever-endemic to same—of desperate flights of fancy (p 288, 316).

            To give us a very rich and vivid picture of that same irrepressible Latin American spirit and tenacity, Alma Guillermoprieto describes nine urban centers “south of the border”. Again the dominating influence is in every sense the ever-looming United States—perhaps most notably because of its habit of systematically—and with every conceivable tool at its disposal—nurturing an elite that is favorable to its point of view and its economic and political interests in each country in the region. Thus essentially duplicating, and in fact exceeding by far, a likewise remote-control Spanish Habsburg rule. And perpetuating thereby the rotten-ripe archaic corruption of a centuries-long legacy, in an ongoing havoc which such foreign intrusions are bound to wreak upon fragile “emerging nation” means, enablers and inseparable motivations. And which elite is of course concentrated in the major cities (p 25, 212, 213, 252). Yet as suggested the author brings forward strikingly and articulately the buoyancy with which life is lived—and a contrary culture maintained—in such daunting circumstances as these. This whether as displayed in the ranchera musical culture of Mexico City (p 239, 258), the Europeanismo of Buenos Aires (p 121) or even the telenovelas of Rio (290-291). While in cities where misery reaches the depths experienced by whole families of pepenadores (47), or garbage pickers, in Mexico City, there is yet to be found much evidence of a stolid optimism among these poorest of the poor (52-55). In these and other cities the influence of U.S. institutions and the leadership which panders to them is doggedly fought against on a mainly cultural and intellectual battleground, the issue of which struggle most Latin Americans perceive as definitive to their very souls. And this sense of alarm is hardly without cause, since the "whiz kid" economists and other theoreticians from places like the University of Chicago consider things like indigenous nationalism and tradition to be "retardants", while stridently and imperatively announce the cultural imperialism of the Yankee to be the wave of the future (244).  

            Economic conditions have actually become much worse now than they were ten years ago—the already-abysmal time when the book was written: Latin America having slipped since then in every respect, monetarily as well as in terms of trade balance and socioeconomic infrastructure. Much of this slippage being related in turn to NAFTA or the North American Free Trade Agreement: that namely which was supposed to bring such great boons to the region, but which is rather relentlessly bringing about the collapse of once-dynamic native industries: as in several staple agricultural subsistence and export commodities. Further deepening in turn, and in the most permanent possible of ways, the region’s status as a “trade colony” for U.S.-based corporations. (Note of December 2014: The recent emergence of the BRICS trade and political alliance has yet to prove itself in terms of permanent viability, garnering only 20% of global GDP, although it shows some promise toward breaking the seemingly-perpetual Yankee death-grip.) The cure of which condition allegedly motivated NAFTA in the first place, although the treaty has actually worsened prejudicial terms-of-trade endemic to such a fiefdom, things having come to the point that it is prohibitively expensive for these Latinos to consume even their own agricultural yields. Such primary-level spending rather going to fill the coffers of multinational finance, with its endless debt-servicing add-ons ridding piggy-back on every paso or real, consuming capital like a vacuum-cleaner with which these southern nations can ill afford to part. While the yet-deeper fear that attends such tragedies—namely that the present closely-associated drive toward modernization will have the net result of making them into mere half-baked replicas of their neighbors to the north—this is the motive force behind much that happens in music, literature and other creative media.

             Of course as ever happens amid the turbulent atmosphere of capitalism there is a constant collision of counter-cultures: so that for every mariachi who asks "how Mexican is it to be like the United States?" (p. 244) there is someone else, like the magazine editor Aguilar Camin, who positively welcomes the Americanization. Calling "idiotic" the “face-saving” formula that has so often been repeated south of the border, namely the standby axiom "they have the know-how, but we have the civilization" (p. 252). Plainly, anyone with any depth of cultivation realizes that this latter sarcastic disclaimer—standard Yankee style—would put moral and material things on the same plane—the definitive glib standard of moral compromise. While accordingly the degree of courtesy and refinement which one discovers increasingly as one goes deeper into Mexico, and which one hears on occasion in Latino music even here, can indeed find no more fitting title than that of civilization. Revealing in Camin's words a trace of the much-abhorred cultural surrender so decried by other Latin Americans: a surrender for which there are many such no-doubt well-rewarded proponents (p. xi). The whole notion of things like citizenship being bound up in Mexico, as surely as in the rest of Latin America, in national musical forms and patriotic celebrations (240, 255) far more than in the dry formulas and declarations: let alone those fiery, sanguinary invasions of other sovereign nations that have come to substantially embody the national élan for the neighbors to the north.

            The Drug Trade—initially arising from the United States but now from world-wide demand—has brought about a subculture in the communas of Medellin where it was born that is a self-perpetuating thing in and of itself (94, 95, 104, 105)—this trade which in the most blunt, cynical of ways serves to guarantee an endemic, ever-deepening global indebtedness. Much like that forced upon China in the 19th century by way of Opium: an earlier trade in which the United States likewise had a disproportionate share—in a staggeringly-significant if deafeningly-unremarked déjà vu in which families like the Bushes, the Delanos and the Roosevelts, to name only a few familiarly-prominent clans, played dominant roles—all this contrary to the once-standard allegations of British sole agency. All such rude expedients tending to perpetuate an “advanced” global economy with a weird unity all its own: a global capitalism which in the absence of the gangster's firebomb, Glock or Uzzi, not to mention an incessant and ever-"heroic" American resort-to-arms—because of its inherent waste, pollution, inefficiency, unaccountability and alienating size—might not indeed be tolerated at all. Needing perhaps above anything else a “culture of fear” to keep it intact. To this end variously employing hair-trigger military invasions, accusations of “disloyalty” to be followed by onerous sanctions, and underworld activities. A global dues-ex-machina which more recently even uses Evangelical tent-revivalism to enforce its will on the rest of the world, Muslim, Christian or Animist, in trenchant battle with last major holdouts against capitalism’s peculiar totalitarian vision. So desperate is the need of this geo-monster for money, for extractive, interest-driven cash. The illegal drug trade having been given its first major spur during the economic downturn of the mid-seventies when the local textile industry collapsed (97), thus provides a closed environment for a morbidity which incubates rapidly among youths who see no future for themselves. As the feature film Rodrigo D: No Futuro redundantly indicates by its very title, and all but one of whose pistoloco cast has in real life succumbed to shootings since its release (102).  Some of these youngsters even have parents with regular jobs and paychecks, yet have no respect for anyone who leads such a to-them event-less existence (104): since the drug-culture has for them become the universal weighing-standard of life.

            Of course the threadbare global buzzword modernization has tremendous significance across all these countries, with protagonists and antagonists of all shades and degrees. Hence the indispensable television viewing of Brazilians, in a highly-manipulable dramatic world that positively thrives on the suspense generated by passionately-advocated “wave-of-the-future” movements, and reactive, sometimes-horrified counter-movements. This sedentary pastime representing in the author’s estimation the very sine qua non of their existence (290, 291). Quoting Guillermoprieto: "The prevalence of poverty, the national genius for fantasy, and the genius of the creator of the huge telenovela industry have combined to make the hours between six and nine-thirty in the evening the most meaningful in Brazilian national life (290). This while in Mexico modernization goes the length of producing textbooks that glorify perhaps the chief villain in Mexican history in an apparent drive for politically correct, change-oriented, pro-modernization interpretations: 'Porfirio Diaz's long rule created a climate of peace and encouraged the country's economic development'" (254). The reality is that too little of the fruits of a romanticized modernization have ever been available to the typical Latin American, who continues like the Bolivian to live on an income similar to that of the Haitian. While he/she will probably never see a streamlined subway, and watches his country slowly being destroyed by the drug trade (187).

            The Heart that Bleeds makes contemporary history come alive like nothing else could, providing a graphic look at what is still essentially Latin America today. It gives concrete proof of the sordid relations that have existed to this day between the United States and its southern neighbors: as much as these realities will be laughingly or yawningly called into question by those who benefit the most from them. It being, finally and quite typically, “the injuring party that is least able to forgive", according to an old but seldom-heard expression, and nowhere does such an oddly-vindictive axiom apply better than in the unyielding attitude of much of the American public, as well as of course its policy makers, toward Latin-American peoples. This same limitless sanctimony being seen as much in two centuries of dealings with indigenous Indians as in police shootings of unarmed Blacks, with the same phrases-of-self-justification being heard again and again. The USA having come directly out of sixteenth-century anti-Catholic Reformer zeal as had no other land, casting-in-concrete, personifying, institutionalizing all the heady illusions of heresy, which always gives humanity brutal short-shrift in some way. A mostly-Catholic Latin America, true to such a form, having been continually exploited since buckle-hatted zealots first began their southward militant forays in 1743, as any unprejudiced reading of real history demonstrates, in sickening thuds of a moral-bottom-scraping redundancy. While U.S. Catholics have typically shown themselves every bit as doughty in carrying on these glorious exploitations, the American church paving the way, as a kind of proving-ground, for a morally ultra-liberal but politically/economically Yankee-flavored Catholicism of Vatican II. 

            The question of whether or not the Latin American nonetheless, and by a strange reflexivity, actually admires the U.S.: this does indeed involve a very complex perception. Insult of course being added to injury here by a certain undying species of northerly critics: those who smugly hold that such a sentiment is proof-positive of an endemic character weakness. A criminalizing of one’s victims seen since Cain slew Abel: a similar despicability, or deservedness, having for that matter been held out against the meekness of early Christians: these latter being so trenchantly scorned by contemporary Jews, for whom the Cross was such a “stumblingblock”. But rather do we see, upon some slight reflection, that this sort of fascination-with-the-gringo is but one of a host of ironic but very natural reactions to entirely-unnatural circumstances. In fact the Latin’s marveling reaction is evidence not only of a fragile human condition, but in one sense yet-more of that element in all of us which ever aspires to see something positive in every event or person. Even in those especially inimical, galling or tormenting. The same kind of positivity—rather than passivity—which for instance makes the same Latin American an inventive genius in every unlikely circumstance, within the albeit narrow ambit of his resources. A mindset full of pathos—yet one of incalculable potential and kinetic energy—in a singular kind of élan/ambivalence which plays out as well in an analogous relationship vis-à-vis Europeans. In an especially profound way in this latest downturn since the World Wars, and the subsequent re-appearance of the American "savior" of military and economic interventionism.

            Hence do ironies incubate wildly: as in the many Mexicans who—if they can afford it—would much rather eat Mexican food at Taco Bell or Kentucky Fried Chicken—even though there is much less variety and the quality is much poorer—simply because it is one of today’s many ritually-sanctified mass-produced imitations (p. 247-8). Signaling the absolute triumph of subliminal and illusionary capitalist marketing strategies: whose power is of course also attested by those to the North in their eager, near-instant readiness to go to war under the same sorts of psycho-subliminal media-related trigger-inducements. A pagan-high-priestly rubric increasingly repeated the world over: one by which one plunges a sacrificial knife into all that one holds most dear, in return for what is at length recognizable as the biblical "mess of pottage". Producing capitalism's deliriously-deified quick results in terms of a however often-enough short-lived prosperity or prestige: after which the indigenous robber of the national, the international and his own deeper good is left with the merest balloons and streamers of his former celebration, with even these likely to be suddenly and rudely pricked and exploded in a host of ways. In Latin America for one thing by way of a swift flight of sorely-needed capital to the supremely-detached investors and far-away home offices of global-corporate service industries, or here in odd proportion in the many syndromes and sicknesses of returning war veterans, thereafter providing lucrative sources of experimentation for medical science and pharmacology.

            Of course it goes without saying that the perception is universal in the region that the U.S. is indulging in hypocrisy in its prosecution of the Drug War: since there would be little opportunity for such a menace were it not for the founding and unquenchable American appetite for things like cocaine. Another of those voracious appetites first brought into being by the same American media/education establishment from which came abortion, institutionalized homosexuality, NAFTA and much more. While the cultivation of the coca leaf since the early 1900's has been in some percentage in direct response to the demand of the Coca Cola Company (p. 188) which uses it to make the famous beverage, apparently in such small amounts as to duplicate to a degree a centuries-old harmless Peruvian cure for severities of upset stomach: this in the simple chewing of the coca-leaf itself. Thus do native farmers wonder at the burning of coca fields in American-sponsored actions which have the effect of reducing still further their livelihood (p. 190), and paradoxically but probably not-at-all-by-accident plunging them yet more deeply into the Drug Trade cycle of despair.

            All this going on in Latin America is however only a part of a bigger picture, of a growing lack of any true wealth in a shrinking global capitalistic cornucopia, yet a progression that is pursued with an abandon that is very much like the despair predicted and ghoulishly-celebrated by Karl Marx in his mostly-unread but perfectly-self-defining poetry. Pathological verses in which he sees himself as bringing on the whole earth a total annihilation, both moral and material. With the brutal methods of the communists only having paved the way for—and (but for the help of God) barred all exits from—the grim and ultimately-suicidal practical consequences of unbridled 21st century neo-capitalistic greed. All this a fitting sequel to the grim and culturally-nihilistic Reformer zeal. The whole interconnected historical phenomenon destroying its beneficiaries as much as its first and most-defenseless victims: if at different stages and typically in divergent ways.








The Takings Issue: Opposing Positions


Based on testimony before the House Subcommittee on

The Judiciary by Roger Pilon of the Cato Institute (


            A deeper constitutionality requires law to develop in a close identification with the spirit, the native genius of the people themselves, as well as to accommodate in generous terms—and be a dependable touchstone for—their routine daily activities, and not primarily and conversely to determine these matters. While neither will the same sort of legitimacy allow laws to be determined by some novel, hypothetical and supremely-changeable legal-academic paradigm: one that is however readily mandated in the most rigid of terms, this in preparation for other legal-developments yet-more-radical in departure and scope. Laws being properly like the God from Whose Mind they sprang, like saplings from an oak tree, in myriad localized forms: at the same time both living and creative and yet palpably partaking of the eternal. So that to be legitimate at all their development needs to take place within this profound and living paradox: in practical terms each law gaining valid, citizen-sheltering stature within a popular consensus of many generations. Mediated amid judgments of peers, and of the whole community as it were in assembly, taking us back ultimately to the Western-barbarian tribal moot (Reynolds, Susan, Kingdoms and Communities in Western Europe, 900-1300. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1997), or to the Sioux, Kansa or Apache tribal councils of the nineteenth century and earlier. None of which bodies of men were either rigidly ossified in traditions nor given to paroxysms of deep-rooted institutional change. Apart from some semblance to which singular legitimacy of spirit and mode there can ultimately be no law, let alone a “rule of law”. This fundamental imperative coming home with special practical force in particular in the “takings” issue in property law: that sort of governmental action for which compensation-for-losses of owners is supposedly guaranteed by right of the same inviolable legal tradition.

            For the lack of such a sustainable tradition an individual owner/operator of a quarry or brick factory named Hadachek, in a landmark case in the early 20th century, lost a 50-year-old right to use his property industrially, just because housing had gradually built up around him, with suit having thereupon been brought against him as being a neighborhood nuisance: in what was never a neighborhood before he developed his plant. So that he was required to shut down his business without compensation for losses, among people who in eager earlier years had beyond-a-doubt amply cashed in on inexpensive land at time of purchase, an advantage namely brought to them by this very same no-doubt noisy and perhaps even dangerous-to-children "nuisance". Why did they move their children their in the first place? No doubt in order to gain employment either at the plant or at some parallel or up-or-down-stream industry close thereby. This being unfortunately the kind of class action suit that Federal Court Judges support almost every time, in a kind of gradualistic guerrilla warfare against the property rights of individual owners: a radical-interventionist approach to land use which carries with it like some creeping virus a noxious kind of neighborhood collectivism, as well as a premature, ossified, corporation-friendly specialization of urban areas. Things both artificial and fundamentally-unsound legally and economically. Nipping in the bud painstakingly and intelligently developed industries and attendant locational economies and related multipliers of all kinds. Fast upon the heels of which follows the mushrooming of mega-developer “ticky-tacky” housing and the undisputed dominion of the landscape-, culture- and economy-homogenizing multinational corporation.

            Meanwhile adding insult to injury is the fact that the burden of proof—as well as much of the tax-burden for the success of his economic enemies—is generally placed upon the same sort of feckless independent businessman as was Hadachek. He whose fate matches, in one way or another, that of truly-independent American businessmen today across the land. Who as a reflexive consequence tends to be timid in the disposition of their wealth: being in many ways unsure of their legal position. All this tending to favor an economic morbidity growing daily in depth and scope, favoring the kind of economy that precipitates "sad but necessary" wars "to keep the wheels of industry turning". There being involved here little of any legitimate evolution of a court doctrine, but rather an odd combination of fine words and economic barbarity: this to the lasting injury of an obscure factory owner who had a Slavic last name. And almost-predictably in favor of ever-relentless suburban middle and upper classes that in those days were invariably a blend of Anglo, Scotch, Irish and occasional German nationalities. That combo namely that was likely to define contemporary Supreme Court panels as well. Really just a juxta-positioning of scarcely-profound elements which lay at the roots of many-a decision or doctrine since the days of John Marshall, wherever the rights of the less-advantaged were at stake. As for instance notably in the case of the Indians, and their right vis-à-vis their tribal lands (Lai, Richard Tseng-yu, Law in Urban Design and Planning: the Invisible Web. New York: Van Nostrand Reinhold Co., 1988).

            In fact the bias in favor of sandy-headed frontiersmen or suburbanites—near or remote harbingers that they have been of the triumph of the mega-firm—has been incredibly consistent: notably during the 70-some-odd year period since the first landmark zoning cases. Even as the same favored constituency—with similarly-greased court skids—has now gone on to preemptively “gentrify” urban housing with like voracity, in an exclusionary judicial framework which continues indeed to expand irrationally with time, having in a way become an ill-acknowledged and illegitimate “legal doctrine” all of its own. Providing the perfect bench-promotional counterpart to the voluble commercialized pseudo-morality of urban sprawl. Glitzy new things—not only in property law but in custom, morality and other areas as well—suddenly being lent all the ponderous gavels and gowns, sanctions and sanctimonies of the hoary ages. Starry-eyed but patently-false, promiscuous or materialistic “American dream” ideals—of-late mass-manufactured by the media for the advantage of powerful fringe-interests—at rapid pace taking the place of all things legally-eternal, while fast becoming the main product we export overseas as well. Yet with the retention, indeed in trebled terms, of the language, the as-it-were legitimizing formulas, of old: as for instance in the invariable favoring of the privacy-obsessed unhappily-pregnant-mother who is so-standard a fixture in well-named Peyton Place “bedroom-communities” of middle class suburb and gentrified enclave alike, these with their trial marriages and typically-burgeoning divorce rates. Or more lately in the veritable bench-promotion of those sodomite “gay” households, so amenable to a gender-emasculating corporate culture which is a deadly predatory to anything authentically male, which promise to burgeon like a sea of foul mushrooms out of a polluted judicial morning dew. A bias which is covered-over with all the right legal sanctimonies: particularly in those passages where the writer of the majority opinion states their tryingly-tenuous justifications.

            Takings of every sort, and as Pilon insists, should be justly compensated for—except for certain cases of genuine nuisance—but we have a legal tradition which is almost invariably either too much or not enough, depending on who you are, your political correctness, your degree of clout, and so on. Running the gamut from a disregard of Hadachek's property rights, to the ponderous sanctioning of “gay” experts to give homosexual-advocacy talks in K through 12 schools, to a disproportionate choice of poor communities and Indian Reservations as venues for nearby landfills (Been, Vicki, "Unpopular Neighborhoods: Are Dumps and Landfills Sited Equitably?". In Oates, Wallace E., editor, The RFF Reader in Environmental and Resource management. Washington, D.C.: Resources for the Future, 1999). In a judicial scenario which seems to have less and less regard for the right of the defenseless—juvenile or otherwise—of any condition. Amounting to an across-the-board disregard for that which is the most forceful historical inspiration of authentically-construed law of any kind: or law by a popularly despised elite. Recalling nothing-so-much as the bizarre and chaotic rule-of-the-pederasts of the reign of Stephen in twelfth century England, or at lesser levels of infamy the wife-commandeering of John of Robin Hood fame. In most settings the well-to-do and well-favored are able to fend for themselves quite well—almost by definition having proportionally-less need for the intervention of law on their behalf—so that conversely the favoring of the already-favored, let alone the positive legal-enforcement of their quirky or confiscatory ideas, has about it an unmistakable element of the most profound sort of anarchy. Or that sort of tyranny which is sometimes its closest cousin.

            Such a land-use-law perversity is also matched fantastically and from another direction in a newly-conceived approach that penalizes with felony trespass any person who so much as steps off the sidewalk in certain neighborhoods, in a military drill-instructor discipline by which even a temporary loss-of-balance, which can often happen in moments of thoughtful abstraction, can find you headed off for prison as a potential drug-dealer violating the sacred confines of some public housing project. Thus serving to create more in-take for a voracious corrections institution with disturbing connections of its own to this whole incalculably-developing aspect of law. Suggesting for one thing, to the especially-perceptive, in a gradually-homogenizing world of detention-related moral-corruption and gangland ties—a legal system of the drug-dealer, by the drug-dealer and for the drug-dealer—voluble bench sanctimonies notwithstanding. Such gangland elements, for one, being the prime beneficiaries of huge prison populations. While here too and of course is stricken-at the whole social-nature of property referred-to so often in these pages, with the mutual-enablement of material things like real-property being naturally undermined when property law, and the sanction-laden powers of the state, are so inimical to the common citizen’s simple peace-of-mind, let alone his most-pedestrian sorts of habeas corpus liberties. Here indeed do we see connections forward as well to the hair-trigger security-universe of the end of 2014, and another irrefutable bit of circumstantial evidence—no one fragment of it conclusive, but all of it together fitting together like a perfectly-detailed portrait of a genocidal crime, in a graphic puzzle of a thousand pieces—of the false-flag nature of 9/11 and other terrible apocalyptic atrocities. As we plainly and on every level have before us a criminally-infiltrated, brutally-self-protective "legal" system which will have what it wants come what may, no matter what the cost, all allegedly to "preserve our liberties" from Russians, Southeast-Asians and other "enemies around the globe".

            As noted above, Pope Sixtus V in the 16th century promptly and precisely repaid owners for losses in property value resulting from the major redesign of Rome of the period. But in a stroke of administrative genius he also assessed them for some of the readily-quantifiable positive externalities that accrued to each by means of the ranging and aesthetically-magnificent development, so that the project ended up paying for itself, this over an extended schedule of small, easily-borne levies. These perhaps keeping pace with associated increases in income of those impacted. While of course there always remains the universal principle that the very “taking” of real property in the first place should only be undertaken when strictly required by authentic imperatives of the public good, else the whole idea of private property be fatally and irretrievably vitiated. Something that—with crowning irony—constantly happens in a United States alleged to be singularly dedicated to Blackstone’s absolute notions of ownership.

            It is customary among neo-laissez-faire conservatives to think of government in general and the Constitution in particular as laying down razor-sharp principles that are to be construed, if possible, even more narrowly. The insistence in the testimony by Roger Pilon about the precise nature of the Enumerated Powers—those given expressly to the Federal Government—as opposed to "all the rest"—which the Constitution leaves to the states—is one example. Such restrictions supposedly serving to keep the beast of big government at bay. Granted, there are indeed inviolable rights that we possess under natural law, which forbids their encroachment by states or individuals: like the right of private property. But the essential function of government is not merely to preemptively defend this and the handful of other abstract social principles inherent in man's nature, while doing little or nothing to realistically enable their positive realization in concrete, well-elaborated ways. Or even conversely to use tenuously-associated sanctions to rob the passer-by of the Writ of Habeas Corpus. Such Platonic approaches, such an ideological “high road”, having seen its first modern beginnings in writers like Blackstone, Locke and Rousseau: whose ideas are however in our own day given radical applications which their originators wouldn't have contemplated.

            Rather is true government a complex practical cipher of spiritually-inspired freedoms, organizational principles and other human realities, not a mere eloquent literalistic executor of abstract or mercilessly-"libertarian" decrees. Any more than a good parent is someone who hands their child a nice, appetizingly-bread-like but sadly-intractable “stone instead of a loaf”. So that private property by nature requires sensitive and exhaustive application according to the various typically-accommodating customs of peoples (Publication of National Catholic Welfare Conference, "Symposium on Economic Justice", Washington, D.C., 1939), this within the ordinary, innocent rights and activities of the individual man, woman and child. While it is in fact when we come to conceive of government in the modern Neo-Conservative's bare-bones fashion that rights of democracy most-readily evaporate and privileged—or even corrupt—elements prevail—with "law" in this way being able to cut through otherwise impenetrable forests of human rights, genuine liberties and general welfare like a tornado or a brigade of bench-loggers wielding power-saws. An anomaly we see before us growing daily as I write. Abstract, generic rights, ideal subjects for eloquent allocutions though they might be, needing above-board, substantive arrangements to condense them into an applicable popularly-beneficial realism and practical solidity, else they become mere tools of tyranny of a hither-to unheard-of type or degree.

            Thus can the very Rousseauean "giving over" of a natural-law-oriented sort of sovereign authority to the state—especially in the narrow and at-the-same-time maddeningly-abstract way of the American Supreme Court of two centuries—render the whole vulnerable to interests who work behind the scenes, and who use fine judicial formulas as their most fatal ambuscade. In a legal-paradigmatic thicket whereby massive and incalculable daily realities—because of the very all--purpose indeterminacy of the celebrated "social contract"—are given over to a fittingly-impersonal government—and galactically-alien multinational firm. Or ultimately even to some suitably-anonymous gang-of-thugs. A grand scenario in which a gargantuan scale of activity wears well with sweeping applications of this same "natural law" contract, with the whole indeterminate body of judicial doctrines and principles being necessarily held together by a legalese glue incomprehensible to the citizen whose rights are said to be guarded in such a singular way. There being a striking analogue as well to all of this in the unprecedented procedures of the Hague War Crimes Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia, with its above-noted applications of surreal new forms of judicial absolute principle against Croatian military leaders. In the spreading world of judicial-tyranny—like some sort of catastrophic oil-spill—which is rapidly gaining global dimensions. Finding therein much elbow-room for escapes from the need for rules of evidence and procedure. Things that may not be stirring, sweeping or paradigmatic: rather being more-typically painstaking and time-consuming in their achievement. But that together define so fundamental a "natural right" as that of judicial due process.

            I find it difficult to advocate both sides of a hotly-disputed issue—because for one thing I have very strong convictions about things like property—but I will try to fulfill the requirements of this paper (originally written as a Planning and Zoning Law class paper) by pointing out what I consider the major good aspects of both points of view on the “takings” issue. Thus with respect to a strict property rights stand do I believe as suggested that first of all it is obviously fundamental to all justice that the same solicitude be shown to the individual factory owner's property rights as to the well-orchestrated band of well-thought-of suburbanites. All the while avoiding the worst implications of the radical property-owner-favoring Pennsylvania Coal decision: one which upheld a contract which because of its central human-welfare-disregarding provisions should rather obviously have been regarded as null and void in the first place. (For otherwise we might just as easily find the courts enforcing Polonius’s “pound of flesh”: whether in one large hunk or in monthly installments.)

            Second, that compensation, as Pilon insists, should always be forthcoming in the precise amount as the loss of property value, calling for the widest possible application of the doctrine of Eminent Domain. Although “takings” by government must not be construed so broadly as to require compensation for remotely-related consequences of government acts or policies: a disturbing new trend found in fact in more-recent high-court decisions which motivationally cripple such authorities as an active force.

            Third, I would go beyond what Pilon says and insist that your view of the skyline—whatever might be your class or nationality—is indeed one of your property rights, as long as you aren’t fatally nullifying some neighbor’s equally-important, perhaps pre-existing rights in the process. This visual element being one of the sticks in the real-ownership bundle that corporations—over whose rights so many well-remunerated people worry so long and hard—are especially good at taking away from low-income residents. For the latter of whose defense however law as noted above is with special propriety and force designed. So that, again, a dullness of application that most often reveals itself in decisions that involve the rights and welfare of the poor is a legal non-legitimacy of the first order: with law, again, needing elaboration precisely and pointedly as it impacts the less-advantaged, this according to common values and diverse customs of peoples. Hardly being validly confined to that privileged-asset-guarding “law and order” to which the corporate world would basically restrict it, nor being turned with special ferocity upon the distracted and disoriented unemployed person meandering unintentionally off the sidewalk thoroughfare. The sort of person indeed that is most-commonly found a-foot around public housing units. Of course with little or no advertence being made to the fact that few of the law’s higher operatives will even have to contemplate living in the light-and-breeze inhibiting shadow of some corporate behemoth, nor pounding-the-sidewalk for hours in search of some humiliating, low-paying job.

            These writers who love to dream of man in his Rousseauean primitive state as the pristine exemplar of law and liberty—on occasion thereby excusing primate-like legal assaults on property rights of poor urban citizens and solitary factory-owners alike—should go and visit such a primitive before they write their books or scholarly papers about him. As it is now, both sides tend to claim him as their own: the environmentalists because he is so close to nature and the property-rights people because they picture him as being a rugged economic individualist of the first water, one who would defend his cave or other private property of any “encroachment” with his club or crude stone dagger, this whether or not he has progressed to the point of appreciating a spectacular sunset.

            Fourthly and as noted above, a new Supreme Court emphasis on certain kinds of property rights can sometimes go light-years beyond same, essentially paralyzing ordinary functions of government that are almost entirely unrelated. A major case in point being the First English Evangelical decision of the late 1980s, where some lives had actually been lost due to flooding. And it was, reasonably enough, deemed essential by government to in effect "condemn" the shores of the offending river from further use for a period of several years, no doubt while soil containment and other necessary measures could be taken. That the Supreme Court should demand restitution in such a case—unless there were some sort of gross negligence or “foot-dragging” involved—is to make state or local authorities financially liable for acts of God, as the defendant indeed stated. Requiring compensation to a supposedly non-profit organization like a church, of all things. This not even for economic damage as such, but rather for the prevention of the realization of economic advantage or profits (it ran a camp on the river) from accruing to it during the time of prohibition of use. What's the justification, then? Here under all the layers of legalese can no doubt be distinguished a showing-of-preference to a hyper-correct, neo-con-favored privileged set that typically run such camps.

            As noted and rather obviously, if this principle is extend to other readily-analogous government actions the whole state could conceivably grind to a halt: a debilitation that has in fact and in many ways already taken place since the noted decision of some fifteen years ago, of course with the notable exception of such corporate/official-ramroded pet projects as the Iraq War. For which all liability of any sort, personal or corporate—except for a few obscure, scapegoated officers and enlisted men—is indulgently foregone. Accounting as well, to an incalculable degree, for the immense, across-the-board progress of privatization since the noted decision, favoring the takeover of the public realm by corporations whose main forte, unlike the typical planner or zoning commission, is litigation. Thus too explaining the hesitance of governments across the Country to take positive and decisive actions of all sorts. All of which, as it is redundant to point out, must by nature typically effect many people, quite often, at least in some sense, with respect to the value of their property. Such court positions thus raising the specter that anything at all might be construed as a taking, requiring at the very least the wringing of expensive compensations from all-too-typically-revenue-starved jurisdictions. Hence do we see land use law in particular instantly being motivated by the “safer” route of the latest radical de-regulation philosophy, in a disturbing phenomenon in a judicial system which is supposed to be the very symbol of popularly-based constitutional legitimacy and national-institutional stability alike.








  Some Notional Sketches on Urban Design



            Often using visual and tectonic motifs so subtle as to suggest themselves rather than to command notice, good urban design identifies what each of us holds most dear and defining about our city: this in the language of brick, glass, steel and vegetation. In a common material dialect whereby wood is said to “pass words with stone or marble” (From a lecture of the Spanish architect/urban designer Ignacio San Martin, ASU, Spring, 2001). Elements thus concerted readily harmonizing with one another while serving their own peculiar ends: in such processes similarly unlocking to us much about ourselves as well.

            Where suitably conceived and developed "public space" naturally blends—at inner and outer city boundary lines—with areas more personal—here again and at another level mirroring the intra-communicational motif. So that for instance in the traditional neighborhood of India I am told that there are actually several succeeding levels of privacy, as contained in areas distinct from one another in terms of their intimacy of character: these ranging from the retreat of the house itself, through a kind of outdoor inner-sanctum, reserved for family and close friends, decorated no doubt with artifacts of the family character, issuing outward from there by way of at least one less-private level into an oval or polygonal meeting ground shared with for close-by neighbors, a real commons often separated from more private areas by a perimeter of hedges. This spatial convergence, if in miniature, being reminiscent of the Medieval hamlet’s interlock of crofts, with a commons likewise at their center, the whole once in turn having formed a complex venue for the Medieval frankpledge bond. That turf-rooted, socio-constitutional building-block of Western political civilization for whose popular associations we supposedly no longer “have any time” or available costly land. Even as such duty-driven constraints pay us double dividends in world-leader crime and incarceration rates, so that by such an ironically-self-defeating utilitarianism the modern ready-mix, poured-concrete city—on a host of scores—tends to represent a permanent, monumental alienation from the social and political needs and identities of its human inhabitants. Indeed, today in 2014, with the coming rigged election of another Bush-family member, the very electoral process itself having been divorced from the common good, morality or firmly-held opinion of any sort.

            English empirical architecture—singularly contemplative, far less morbid or doctrinaire than many others—is uniquely faithful to a much-to-be-desired familiar communication of human and material realms: having already in the seventeenth century, while some Frenchmen were dreaming up vast, intimidating places like Versailles, concentrated on the intimate circle of the home and neighborhood, while at the same time, if in the characteristic English domestic way, partaking of the defining human priesthood in the honoring of something higher than oneself. That sine qua non without which the physical world can never become properly or genuinely organized, with all creatures in fact being defined by way of such a descending law. As for instance a stone, one of St. Thomas's Aquinas's almost-affectionately-regarded models, most evocatively by the law of gravity, with this most primal matter in another sense and in its own unique way serving a finding of one’s place of rest, or the Thomistic definition of happiness. As in the English love of stone houses, surmounted by the characteristic ground-scraping roof, suggesting the stolid center-of-gravity of the earthly home, or resting-place.

            James Corner writes of the modern divorce between theory and practice—between man and his material environment—that which good urban design most attempts to heal—as having much deeper roots in an earlier Rationalist and Enlightenment dichotomy of techne and poiesis, which we might very roughly translate as practice and inspiration. Their melding together being said by him to bespeak a human life which was at one time in profound unity, co-identifying within itself the earth with a spiritual world. Whether in classical Greece, or in the German lebenswelt, or "world as lived" of early tribal existence, or in Medieval sculpture or architecture, it was a world which, for the most part unconsciously, embroidered this unity into its public and private space (Corner, James, "A Discourse on Theory I: 'Sounding the Depths': Origins, Theory, and Representation". Landscape Journal, vol. 9, number 2). But I do believe myself that care has to be taken not to identify too closely the naturalism of many earlier forms—let alone of Ziggurats, Stonehenge, or Aztec pyramids—with that of the Catholic Medieval world: even if there is indeed much here on a certain plane that is held in common. For while Corner rightly laments the Platonic dualistic dichotomy between matter and spirit at the very heart of Cartesian and later Enlightenment rebellions, yet it is a divide that in some fundamental ways actually goes back much further in time, and embraces many more things. A bifurcation that, if in ways not always instantly apparent, is to be found within some of the otherwise-unitary societies with which he and others are quite taken: even once-common and much-celebrated Moslem Pleasure Gardens having had some elements of division, disconnect, alienation, when compared against Catholic socially-unitary life.

            For in taking to Himself our humanity Christ bound together the physical and spiritual, techne and poeisis, in His own very divine Person, sanctifying this union forever, this according to His own self-defining human/divine bond which theologians term Hypostatic. Directly from out of which—by means sacramental, institutional and cultural—there gradually coalesces a Civilization—the only one that may justly be spelled with the coveted “capital C”—one marvelously mild, unitary, humane. Leaving behind it the blood-axe urge for retribution which seems to be the defining element of non-Christian life, the Catholic unity and universality—which reached a kind of apogee during the Middle Ages—being thus most aptly and exclusively described as incarnational, in a wedding rather than a mere combination of the spiritual and material. At the highest of levels between Christ and His Mystical Bride, the Church. This matrimony, with a sedulous honoring of mutual demands, this delicate-yet-intimate balance being an especially fertile cultivar of all forms of true human progress: one of which we Westerners all tend to be unworthy, squandering, richly-indulged heirs. One diametrically opposed to forbidding Greek mystery cults, Zionist claims to “the wealth of nations”, the Jihad, or the flash of the Aztec executioner's polished-stone blade. The humane/spiritual faces of saints or guild-member artisans on Cathedral entryways standing out in especially deep carved-relief when compared against the unrestrained gratification that shows on many-a Greek god or gymnast sculpture alike: these latter in a self-indulgence uncannily reproduced today on the coarse countenance of many-a loitering or skateboard-riding, sodomy-oriented college-educated new-hire or undergrad.

            The mild and relenting, truly-civilized spirit is undoubtedly best symbolized artistically in the Sacred Heart of Jesus—sometimes shown as held out to us in His own hand—this as earnest of His tender, self-giving Love. A human heart which many-an otherwise-admirably-unitary primitive would have seen only as a still-palpitating oblation to some grim or glowering, bloodstained god. Likewise are Dualism’s merciless, unsparing dichotomies and excisions perceptible, if less obviously, in Gnosticism, Manicheanism, Late Medieval Illuminism, Byzantine/Ghibbelline ruler worship and the Reformer creeds. Each in its own way separating the spiritual from the physical, the divine from the human, mercy and justice alike from law, faith from good works. Inevitably culminating as well in the division of government from the people: if typically-enough amid many-a lofty libertarian claim. While even artistically the same Islam which Corner celebrates for its poiesis-oriented, nature-imbedded approach yet so despises the human form as to prohibit its use in religious art. This all the while it manages, like all purist systems—if perhaps today almost exclusively among wealthy harem-sires and in the past during more-broadly-indulged historical instances—to find a place for vast levels of hedonistic gratification. As by a sort of thriftily-pleasurable contempt: an ironic element as well in Calvinist/Puritan capitalism, one which finds gross or subtle occasions for satisfaction in pitiless exploitations of the finest examples of a supposedly-despised physical and material existence.

            Many theorists of development do indeed evince an attachment to Corner's poiesis/techne unity, as in a typical outrage at today’s de-contextualizing, geo-marketing-driven pace of change. Yet I believe that it is impossible, under present conditions and accepted concepts, to be truly successful in urban design, to accomplish the opposite re-contextualizing to any degree of depth. The result, even if in a sense successful, will never achieve the pathos of, say, an old city in Germany, France, Croatia or Spain, in a wealth of aged, familiar, visual, textural, tactile imagery which can develop only over time. Furthermore, in America the unavoidable glossy anonymity which comes of constantly remaking cities joins forces with the inherited Puritan suspicion of any profound, long-standing attachment to people or things: always beckoning us to some heroic new Glen-Beck-style stock-market-friendly, annihilation-tending dream. A self-identification by contrast which most characterizes the Catholic—and the truly-human—milieu. The best we achieve in such undertakings is a venue for the milling or gazing crowds that here typically fill city plazas and parks, in an oddly jaded and even dismal sort of way still needing to be convinced of the very value of things material or human: that which is the ever-fundamental American uncertainty, despite all the "exceptionalist" glitz and glow. The supremely-Catholic Incarnation having “touched down” here—among the sons and daughters of the Pilgrims—only in the faintest and ghostliest of ways, in a doubtful acceptance of the social and material which even after all the ongoing, often-enough bizarre bouts of partying leaves a Yank “hungry still”. An emptiness fittingly personified in the inevitable blank-faced bike-rider(s) or skate-boarders no doubt even now doing wheelie exhibitions on plaza center stage, radically imposing on everyone’s consciousness around them, yet acting as if we weren’t even there. Within a basically-alienated public space such as hyper-expensively surrounds one in one’s lunch-time, after-work or week-end reveries. And indeed as is represented in the cold concrete bench on which one invariably sits, perhaps contemplating an equally-cold plate-glass display or an abstract bronze, in an uniquely-“American” world in which self-indulgence or its inescapable residue ever threatens to devolve into some ultimate act of contempt or despair. So that even if this open-space-impersonalism may contain some positive elements it can never take the place of the city as the living, familiar, uninterrupted creation of many generations of living persons: a vital biological and spiritual reality, not just a set of structures, however artfully arranged, manipulated or statistically and graphically modeled. Rather being composed of human persons passionately attached to their city, and active or tacitly and at all levels involved in its cultural and physical creation and development as well. And generally speaking and to varying spontaneous degrees deeply affectionate toward one another as well. Constituting a reality far greater than any park district, planning commission or mega-bucks civic center, something far beyond the scope of creation of bright young men with briefcases: reluctant heirs though they might be to an incurably-cosmetic, outsourced urban design. While advocated here is a species of perennial, sleeves-rolled-up patriotism which would rather leave loud praises for later, if in the meantime mother-country might be rigorously, even unsparingly enriched or redeemed.

            In good urban design policy, the designer and planner—to the extent he is needed at all—would serve and enable a city full of distinct districts, of spontaneous, sometimes unavoidably new and original, blends of neighborhood nationality and other cultural elements: rather than aspiring to be a power player among others of his league and kind. While actually his place might better be taken by a loose-knit collaboration between city fathers and masons, carpenters, painters and other local independent builder and decorators: thus helping reproduce the discursive, sometimes incredibly-subtle, motif of so many eras of the past. Leaving more technical, uninspiring design/planning functions to architects and engineers: a major part of whose training would be toward unobtrusively blending and incorporating channels of infrastructure into this homely, neighborhood-oriented motif. Which in the past commonly possessed unselfconscious elements in extreme measures, and upon whose foundations succeeding forms had tended to naturally, stably and subtly accrete. That entirely-positive process namely whose myriad manifestations nonetheless stood condemned among the pseudo-intellectuals of the 60s and 70s, whether in the ethos that dominated the deliberations of a past-repudiating Second Vatican Council, around a once-culturally-intimate family table, or down at the local city hall or planning or variance board. While finally in all this latter tiringly-familiar revolution, fruitful in little else besides budding homosexuals, there is sacrificed that certain something about one's city or district that is like one's family: since in certain respects you want others to appreciate both the one and the other only to a certain point, from a certain less-intimate, if at the same time hospitable and inviting, perspective.

            But of course all of this is entirely foreign to the milieu of capitalism, it's perverse, precipitant, massive, boundary-defiling financial, physical and policy-oriented approach having no time or place for such intimately, subtly coordinated considerations. Seeing urban design as amounting to hastily thrown-together, purely artificial embellishments—"the quicker the better" as the bottom line—with some few much-made-over pocket-parks, bike-trails or other mostly-cosmetic, often-largely-class-catering features—which it can remove later without much adieu or difficulty, when the inevitable time comes for lucrative demolition and remake. But most fundamentally and as intimated above before people can together form anything meaningful or enduring together they must each have a definition of his own. We by way of our very individual identity fitting conterminously with one another, like pieces of a puzzle, which must each be uniquely defined else there is no basic for a “secure” interlock. Something which modern techno-modeled collectivist-rather-than-humane systems above all will not allow, attempting rather to smooth all of our individual edges into perfect, nameless, easily-but-precariously-fitting squares. Among which anonymous terrorists, drug-pushers and miscreants of all kinds fit so uncommonly well. A system which prefers even more for the whole to be "melded" into the favored fused-plastic mass: providing the ultimate herd-marketer’s paradise. This maddening, wasteful, environmentally-disastrous fluidity and impermanency of the present spatial, economic and political order being indeed mostly taken as a “given” by the majority of planners and city hall officials: a by-product of cowardice and despair, part and parcel of a collapsible or "modular" approach which is so amenable to an official/contractor-dominated tinker-toy world (See the already-examined "Loopholes You Could Drive a Truck Through: Systematic Circumvention of Section 4(f) Protection of Parklands and Historic Resources". 32, no. 1 The Urban Lawyer, 2000), a state-of-flux presently regarded as being useless to even contemplate trying to solidify once again. Much like—and indeed no doubt related to—the long-standing impotency of truckers before a largely-government-endorsed hegemony of the Teamsters Union (Moldea, Dan E., The Hoffa Wars: Teamsters, Rebels, Politicians and the Mob. New York and London: Paddington Press, Ltd, 1978), or various mobster/manager-partnered surrogates of same. That which together with the oil industry unquestionably helped bring about the pre-dominance of the auto—and the tractor-trailer—as a determinant in the formation of a near-intolerable built environment, and into which irrational formula or grid is plugged the design variable, whatever might be the consequences. While those many writers on development subjects who differ with such a "correct" approach tend to put forth few concrete suggestions for a different one: rather dissolving into the abstruse "dialogue", or garrulous preaching, cynical “regime theory” or even minute and maddeningly-irrelevant behavioral analysis: voluble distractions so typical of the post-modern academic scene.

            Immensely helpful to a public-space restoration would be certain critical realizations, as for instance a candid owning-up to the Puritan-American techne/poiesis dichotomy in all its worst moral/philosophical, historical consequences: that founding institution which was quick to find its free-market sea-legs in the many land-grabs and related Indian massacres that were conducted so soon and so lustily (Read the many accounts in Hughes, Rev. Thomas, S.J., The History of the Society of Jesus in North America, Volume II. London: Longmans, Green and Company, 1907), and for which their Reformer creed had with singular irony ideologically outfitted the Colonists, typical descendants of Cromwell's Catholic-decimating-pogrom veterans in Ireland. and their eager descendants. When one fully understands this radical rupture with humanity one understands much of the nature of the modern American urban developmental and design malaise. Could it even be that people after all find little earnest morale or enthusiasm to organize a spatial scene which still somehow, after the passage of well-over a century, morally, stubbornly-if-subliminally reeks of blood and gore? In a perennial American frontier-morality which may indeed have forgotten the Sunday sit-me-down for Scripture-reading which lasted all day, but which has stayed only-too-faithful to the economic and military barbarities that went with it.

            Entirely unknown, yet quite discoverable in any unbiased study of early documents, is that fact that several of the Colonial legislatures were the original purveyors of human—namely Indian—scalps—complete with a descending bounty-price-scale for those of men, women and children, rather than that distinction belonging to much-harassed Indians on the North American plain. The very menacing interiority of such a subliminal historical-memory being what is most incalculably disturbing, providing unstable foundations for a myth-building that has preceded apace with the multiplication of gated communities. With ever-newer levels of alienation and exclusion gradually but inevitably becoming bar-coded into everything here, retaining indispensable notes of the heroic in hatchet-jobs new and old, on Main Street or in Pakistan/Afghanistan. This being the real difference between Americans and European, when all the externals are removed. (Note of December 2014: but our European cousins are catching up fast, as in the case of French partners in the military radicalization of Africa, and NATO allies in the cultivation of "heroes" like Shakashvilli, and a related comprehensive, unprovoked encirclement of Russia.) We among whom fitting dramatic climaxes are sedulously prepared-for over whole lifetimes, even a sort of commiserating pathos being found generously among the props, indispensable aids in photogenically bending over starved or broken hearts, bodies or minds, in live dramas of our own making. Here being the real inspiration for the campy script of American exclusion and homelessness, a screen play whose viewing is vitally-necessary to the filling in of handily-missing blanks in the world of urban and regional development. So that for one thing in the society with no valid concept of commonweal we end up with the ultimate anomaly that the truly candid, ingenuous, constructive person, a model citizen anywhere else, and the basic unit of the old organic techne/peoesis societies so loved by Corner, tends by near-unanimous frowning verdict of such a perennial Salem to be considered a "social misfit". Or some other especially-ugly moral or psychoanalytic nomination.

            It was just such a depressive national destiny that was arbitrated by near-effortless inheritors of early-modern French and Spanish developmental labors of a whole continent, toilers for most of three centuries and remarkably-often in harmony with native nations, many of them already richly-advanced in culture and character. Uncle Sam involving an egregious reversal which is reflected in everything we do as a nation, whether in realms foreign or domestic, in illusions of superiority or "exceptionalism" that operated upon the Puritans especially tellingly in the obscure shadows of the New York and Massachusetts woods. Such considerations serving to illustrate that development and design, whether good or bad, is not at all the simple manipulation of public space, but most fundamentally the reflection of the values and way-of-life of a whole people. Where truly positive, being a reflection of the sharing of an oceanic common good, whose warm and towering waves over time naturally both carve public and semi-public space and foster in the resulting sheltered harbors and coves the individual human citizen, and those things which he holds most dear.

            Perhaps it will be in feeling his back against the paranoiac, claustrophobic inner walls of his own invention, aptly symbolized by those which enclose the mad gated community wherein he increasingly-often lives, that the American will be brought to his senses, to his salvation, and find once again a Catholic Faith lost for most four or five centuries ago. Perhaps even forming a new sort of “underground” to notionally and spiritually burrow his way from behind forbidding cinder-block rows. And having suffered so much in making this “great escape”, perhaps even re-inspire Europe—which always manages to garner object-lessons from the ongoing American screen play—in such a direction as well. So that if I must witness to any truths, or hopeful possibilities that affect the public space, it is to this first and foremost that I must witness.

            Of course we are told by the urban design theorists that everyone must be a part of some newly-articulated sense of community, of a kind of communal happiness: but does this include the aborted, the homeless, the grossly-and-institutionally-abused developmentally-disabled, or others similarly treated in nursing homes? Where for instance those nurses-aide trainees commonly receive highest grades who show the least amount of respectful care for their charges, being found to by far the most “efficient”, "destined for higher" (and perhaps even meaner) things? Can we just turn our backs on such wrongs and still feel this new, innocent and freeing sense of community? Such wrongs and accompanying illusions being part and parcel of an inherited radical-Reformer culture, since Bishop John Carroll finding resounding echo in American Catholic throngs, which has basically no place for a defining human frailty, that which by contrast is sensitively blended into the very warp and woof of other more positive societies. Americans still for one—even after a fundamental loss of faith among most of her intelligencia—being ever engrossed in divine-robe-borrowing efforts to distinguish between the elect and the foreknown. Quite incredible, then, is the degree to which the modern urban development theorist expect miracles out of the planner or urban designer, being called upon to accomplish things that belong rather in the bailiwick of a Moses parting the Red Sea, and leaving Pharaoh beneath its crashing waves, or opening up the earth itself to swallow the crass followers of similarly-utilitarian Dathan. Certainly, this kind of Rome wasn’t built in an urban designer's eight-hour day. While to suggest to the whole ranging, agnostic planning establishment—which in some ways has so readily taken the place of Puritan theocratic ruling bodies—that there was ever a revelation from God Himself to man, modeled upon the primordial Utterance of the Divine Word and thus reuniting poiesis and techne at the highest level and in the fullest possible way, one which over time produced architectures and institutions that reflected eminently genuine realities both human and divine, this would no doubt be counted an unforgivable blasphemy all of its own kind. Against towering elites and coarse-faced bisexual gods worshipped amid the syncretistic temples of today's urban design colleges and city planning departments alike.