Asset No. 9, assigned to patrol the Hamptons, reports that King Kullen, an all-and-sundries market of some size and note in Bridgehampton, is decorated with “help wanted” signs. When the woman behind the counter was asked if the labor situation was as tight as the recruitment posters suggested, she said no, it really wasn’t. She told No. 9 that the store had no trouble hiring help, but that they had a lot of trouble keeping the help once hired because the customers were so rude.
Asset No. 9, who considers herself something of a social critic, observed that the store in Southampton, a gilded community still dominated by the trust-funded Wasp-ocrats, doesn’t have trouble keeping its clerks. This, she opined, is because the Wasp-ocrats, whose proclivities for strong drink are too well known to need dilating on, send their cooks and housemen to do the shopping. This, No. 9 asserts, stands in sharp contrast to the braying misbehavior of the dot-com millionaires in some of the other towns who are, seemingly, so corrosively impolite that they have no cooks and housemen to go shopping for them.
The same Asset also sends intelligence of the conversion of a nearby cornfield, zoned agricultural, into a polo pitch. Polo, it appears, has been defined as a form of farming and therefore a conforming use. This, our operative says, was accomplished by one legal stratagem or another, but perhaps the definitions of the zoning laws were not too distorted by the lawyers, since, our Asset further reports, that most characteristic agricultural byproduct, horseshit, litters the field, to the distress of nearby residential noses.
So there in a small incident we see what is also happening all around us, namely the demolition of law as a useful tool of governance by lawyers acting on behalf of the hungry, money-starved rich. (Among the rich, of course, are the lawyers themselves, who have used the class-action suit as their ticket into the plutocracy.) We have reached the point where there is no law that stands if one or more rich persons want to hire lawyers to peck away at it until it is a worthless, tumbledown shambles. A new law may be like a set of perfect teeth: white, even, sharp, hard. Then come the lawyers, pitting them, rotting them, breaking down the once-hard enamel, turning the strength of teeth to disintegrating mush. After the lawyers have had their way with them, they wiggle to the touch, smell foul to the nose and are repulsive to the eye.
A good example of a set of pearly whites that the lawyers have turned into impacted, putrefying snaggles are the inheritance laws. The “death tax,” the Republicans call it- but for the truly rich, there are no inheritance taxes, no death tax. They bequeath their money with the same unrestricted freedom enjoyed by Commodore Vanderbilt 150 years ago.
The rich are destroying the inheritance laws in much the same way that they destroyed the banking laws. You violate some part of the law, then send in the lawyers to get the part of the law you’ve violated invalidated because some heretofore unknown and undiscovered constitutional right, reserved for the very rich, has been trampled upon in this section of the tax code. After the first breach or violation, other rich people do the same until that part of the law has been nullified. Next comes a great hue and cry set off by various foundations and think tanks and other propaganda channels, financed thanks to other loopholes in the tax laws, all to the effect that the law is just a patchwork of nonsense and contradiction and ought, in the name of reason and sound government, to be abolished. That is more or less what happened to the banking laws and will happen to any part of the U.S. Code or the state code or the municipal code which the golden grandees take exception to, either for business reasons or simple personal indulgence.
The mass-media ownership laws are currently being turned into hash. The assaults on them have been going on for many years, but they may be said to have begun with Rupert Murdoch’s transparently business-motivated naturalization as an American citizen in order to comply with the legal technicalities in the broadcast-ownership laws. That, needless to say, was but the first cavity in that set of teeth.
To become a citizen, Mr. Murdoch had to swear allegiance to the United States. Here is the man, born to wealth in Australia, who moves his base of operation to the United Kingdom and then, when his ceaselessly expanding appetite for riches makes it convenient, switches over to the United States. At the least, this is a bindlestiff who doesn’t qualify as a member of the huddled masses.
He might better be categorized as a member of what the old-time Commies used to call a “cosmopolite,” which in their dictionary meant an international operator, without loyalty or ties of patriotism to any nation or ideal, who coursed the world looking for the main chance. Given Mr. Murdoch’s track record, if things got tough here in the U.S. of A., how long would it be before Old Rupert was sneaking for the exit, whispering to himself, “I’m outta here.” This guy’s going to fight for his country? Hell, he’s had so many countries, he wouldn’t know which one was his.
I suppose that, having so few attachments to any people or community, a man like Mr. Murdoch makes for a very good globalist. A globalist is a person who will go anywhere, do anything any way it can be done, regardless of consequences here, there or everywhere, for a dollar, yen or euro. As long as it’s convertible currency, a Murdochian type will reach out his or her mitts to grab it.
Cosmopolites are ideally suited to coming in and tearing down a society’s laws, be they zoning ordinances interfering with their polo matches or antitrust statutes designed to stop the development of competition-free playing fields, as exemplified by the airline industry. (Do, please, keep in mind that the levelest of playing fields is the space on which only one team plays.) The cosmopolite or vagabond global-business practitioner, having no ties of affection or anything else to a community or a nation, only has a pretend interest in any place’s long-term well-being. When things go bad there, the cosmopolite goes elsewhere.
Mr. Murdoch is a foreigner born 10,000 miles away, but we have raised a full crop of American-born cosmopolites who’re on the television every night expounding globalism, making their demands that we change our laws for their supranational needs. They tell us how good it’s going to be for us, but have you noticed that their demands on us to change this law or that regulation-or to tolerate such-and-such pain-are always specific, while their promises to us are always vague?
No evidence presents itself to show that the American-born cosmopolite has one crumb more affection for his or her native land than a conniving self-insinuator like Mr. Murdoch. They are both committed to a vision of a lawless world made fair for them and impossible for the rest of us. The ties of place, of memory, of shared history, of community do live in the cosmopolite breast. A token of this is cosmopolite philanthropy-or its widely noticed absence. Charity in America is dependent upon small givers because, I am beginning to suspect, the pluto-cosmopolites have so little interest or affection for a community or a place, they have little reason to donate time or money or energy or anything else to it. Cosmopolite doctrine holds that whenever they make money, they create wealth and jobs for everybody else-and if that’s not enough for you, go fuck yourselves, you non-entrepreneurial proles.
This is not the first time the question of divided loyalty has arisen in the United States. It did during the Revolutionary War, when the pro-British Americans were sent packing, and it has popped up again and again ever since. At various times the Irish, the Japanese, the Jews, the Germans, the Communists, the Italians, the Copperheads, the Catholics have been suspected and publicly pilloried for divided loyalties, for having a higher allegiance to another power or interest. With Revolutionary War loyalists, the Communists and the Copperheads, the accusations were true, so it is a mistake to presume betrayal won’t happen again.
The political and social situation of the global, corporate, cosmopolite businessperson is entirely new and different. These people publicly boast of their loyalty to a supranational world network which dwarfs every nation. They advertise that they intend to knock all national boundaries flat. They proclaim revolution all the time, literally using the word in their advertising. They tell us repeatedly that they are citizens of a new world, and those of us who won’t release our grasp on older ideals will be crushed by the history that the cosmopolites are making. They have, they repeat and repeat, forged our future for us.
Think of the last century, and of the men who stood on the balconies of the past. History teaches us to listen to men and women who glory in the power lust and brutal promises of near-future change.