Sunday, January 21, 2007

Leland Stanford, and American History and Politics Rewritten

"Labor can and will become its own employerthrough co-operative association."— Leland Stanford

In my last post, I asked the question of how it is possible that the reality of the events of the nineteenth century that have come to define much of the nature of our present day political economy and corporate economic structure have become so wholly misrepresented, along with the issues themselves, that the real heart of the matter--which is workers’ controlling their own means of production and receiving their rightful benefits for it, not “central planning and control vs. free enterprise”--is kept from the debate in an almost Orwellian sense.
(“The war is between central planning and free enterprise. It has always been between central planning and free enterprise”).
In "Beyond Capitalism: Leland Stanford's Forgotten Vision," Lee Altenberg (a computational systems biologist, incidentally) asks the same question as he brings back into view the forgotten--but profoundly relevant--vision that Leland Stanford (one of the original “great capitalists”) had for a future of a just and prosperous society based on the principles of cooperative enterprise and democratic activity, a vision in which there is no conflict between capital and labor because they are one in the same. Altenberg puts forth in detailed exposition how Stanford strenuously fought for those principles in the Senate (as an important leader of the Populist movement) and in the establishment of Stanford University, and contemplates how they have been so thoroughly wiped from public and Stanford institutional memory (only to survive in the “fringes” of academic thought, like a species in refuge waiting to return again to its place in the biosphere).

If you want to understand more about how the debates of the past inform the political situation of the present, and how those debates have been obscured and rewritten by interests of power then and now, Altenberg’s essay is a resounding eye-opener. The great quotes from Leland Stanford will make you wonder how this long-departed railroad baron could have had such basic and profound insights that few of even the most prominent among contemporary political and economic commentators seem to be able or willing to address.

On a completely unrelated note:
:( RIP Saints postseason run--we came so close!


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