Tuesday, September 30, 2008

The Cloward-Piven Candidate?

When the Russians invaded Georgia in August, Republicans must have smugly thought, "Good. When issues of national security dominate people's concerns, they vote Republican!" History had returned, the glib saying went, and that was good for McCain.

In this bizarre election year they should have known history had some more to say. What do we get in September? The greatest economic crisis since the Great Depression. For whatever reason, this seems to be helping the Democrat.

The graph in this post by Jay Cost shows McCain's poll numbers falling with each bit of financial news.

This election is beginning to look like an absurdist comedy to me, especially if Obama goes on to win. Obama is a comic character. What has he done in life but run for office? He voted present over 120 times as a State Senator. He's a guy who stays quiet and goes along with the machine.

During the negotiations for the bailout bill -- despite what you think of the bill, and I do not support it -- McCain went to Washington and was in the trenches doing whatever Senators do. Obama did nothing. The bill collapses and Obama's lead over McCain grows.

Jim Simpson thinks something more sinister is going on, something called the Cloward-Piven Strategy.

In an earlier post, I noted the liberal record of unmitigated legislative disasters, the latest of which is now being played out in the financial markets before our eyes. Before the 1994 Republican takeover, Democrats had sixty years of virtually unbroken power in Congress - with substantial majorities most of the time. Can a group of smart people, studying issue after issue for years on end, with virtually unlimited resources at their command, not come up with a single policy that works? Why are they chronically incapable?


One of two things must be true. Either the Democrats are unfathomable idiots, who ignorantly pursue ever more destructive policies despite decades of contrary evidence, or they understand the consequences of their actions and relentlessly carry on anyway because they somehow benefit.

I submit to you they understand the consequences. For many it is simply a practical matter of eliciting votes from a targeted constituency at taxpayer expense; we lose a little, they gain a lot, and the politician keeps his job. But for others, the goal is more malevolent - the failure is deliberate. Don't laugh. This method not only has its proponents, it has a name: the Cloward-Piven Strategy. It describes their agenda, tactics, and long-term strategy.

The Strategy was first elucidated in the May 2, 1966 issue of The Nation magazine by a pair of radical socialist Columbia University professors, Richard Andrew Cloward and Frances Fox Piven. David Horowitz summarizes it as:

"The strategy of forcing political change through orchestrated crisis. The "Cloward-Piven Strategy" seeks to hasten the fall of capitalism by overloading the government bureaucracy with a flood of impossible demands, thus pushing society into crisis and economic collapse."

In other words, Democrats don't care if their policies destroy the economy because that serves their ultimate end of socialism. Crises are good for the left. They blame capitalism and then move us closer to socialism. You'll note that the standard line on the left is that deregulation caused the current crisis and solution is more regulation. The cause of our problems is never government and the solution is never freedom.

Is Obama in on this nefarious goal of advancing socialism through crisis? Simpson thinks so:

I ask you, is it possible ACORN would train Obama to take leadership positions within ACORN without telling him what he was training for? Is it possible ACORN would put Obama in leadership positions without clueing him into what his purpose was?? Is it possible that this most radical of organizations would put someone in charge of training its trainers, without him knowing what it was he was training them for?

As a community activist for ACORN; as a leadership trainer for ACORN; as a lead organizer for ACORN's Project Vote; as an attorney representing ACORN's successful efforts to impose Motor Voter regulations in Illinois; as ACORN's representative in lobbying for the expansion of high risk housing loans through Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac that led to the current crisis; as a recipient of their assistance in his political campaigns -- both with money and campaign workers; it is doubtful that he was unaware of ACORN's true goals. It is doubtful he was unaware of the Cloward-Piven Strategy.

I'm suspicious of Simpson's explanation. If Obama believes in and fights for Cloward-Piven, then he will have a contradiction at the heart of his presidency, for presidents are admired for their accomplishments, not the crises they create by screwing up. Or does Obama plan to go past the crisis phase to the institution of socialism?

Another thing that makes me suspicious of Cloward-Piven is that, as Mises and the Austrian economists have demonstrated, government intervention creates crises regardless of the motivation of interventionists. Many politicians, both Democrats and Republicans, earnestly think they are making things better when they pass laws such as Sarbanes-Oxley or the Community Reinvestment Act. (Are the well meaning ones mere useful idiots of the radicals?)

Finally, Simpson's theory reminds me of the John Birch Society's old ways of finding a communist conspiracy behind, well, everything. As Ayn Rand wrote, the Birchers don't understand the role of philosophy. Those who hold the same philosophic premises will tend to want the same political policies. Those who do not understand the role of philosophy in man's life think conspiracy theories are at work.

None of my reservations refute the idea that there are radical groups out there that want to replace capitalism with socialism. No question, these leftist radicals exist, they have infiltrated to the heart of the Democrat Party, and Obama has had connections with these groups all his life, starting with his hard-line communist father. But the goals and machinations of the radical left are not the fundamental explanation of America's stumbling from crisis to crisis toward socialism. No, at the root of the problem is the philosophy of altruism, which leads to government intervention in the economy to help the "little guy," and which -- rather conveniently for the acolytes of Cloward-Piven -- does not care if its programs make the world actually better. With altruism, intentions are always more important than results. In the end, altruists are more interested in putting chains on the rich rather than raising the standard of living of the poor. As Ayn Rand showed, their goal is to attack the good for being the good. This destructive, nihilist philosophy led to Cloward-Piven, not the other way around.


Mark said...

Enjoyed your take on "Cloward-Piven Candidate" having read they story last night yet I'd like to comment on the following:

"I'm suspicious of Simpson's explanation. If Obama believes in and fights for Cloward-Piven, then he will have a contradiction at the heart of his presidency, for presidents are admired for their accomplishments, not the crises they create by screwing up."

I don't really think it's necessary for Obama to "believe" in the strategy itself to be follo wing it's precepts. I believe Cloward and Piven both were thinking (or not thinking) when they published the article "The Weight of the Poor: A Strategy to End Poverty".

This is as you stated "altruistic" in nature and Obama can run on such a position without being necessarily cognitive of the strategy. His very coming up was heavily influenced by a veritable smorgasbord of the extreme left radicals and he would not be able to see outside of the single-mindedness of these views into the views of most "normal" working class folks.

So, in one sense, there is a demon afoot in the very cumulative effect of these types of political "fixes" to "helping" the downtrodden but in fact are creating a true oppressed society.

Best Regards,

mtnrunner2 said...

Simpson's theory is similar to Naomi Klein's accusations concerning conservatives, as outlined in The Shock Doctrine.

I don't believe either one.

As you say, conspiracy theories are the last resort of those who don't use philosophy. They give the conspirators way too much credit and grant them superhuman powers of organization and evil.

There is a conspiracy, but it's a conspiracy of ideas.

madmax said...

Cloward-Piven may or not apply but its not needed as an explanation. Democrats have been acting on their ethical premises for over 120 years since the Progressive Era (with the Republicans being complicit). The morality of altruism combined with the politics of egalitarianism have lead to the disasters we have seen for over a century. This will continue until altruism is repudiated. And when will altruism be repudiated? On what historical time scale? My fear is that something so ingrained will take centuries and much bloodshed (possibly the blood of Objectivists) to defeat.

It is possible that altruism will finally conquer America and bring it to full tyranny sometime soon. Its something we all need to be prepared for. The more I see, the idea of Ayn Rand's gradual penetration into the culture and incremental change towards freedom appears more and more impossible. I don't think history will be that kind.

Jim May said...

I am reminded of the infamous "Protocols of the Wise Men of Zion".

Grant said...

I share your suspicions of the explanation of Obama's strategy. Obama is too much a product of contemporary culture to be a utilizer of Cloward-Piven.

John Galt, on the other hand...

Myrhaf said...

Jim, the Protocols of the Elders of Zion is a total lie, whereas there actually were socialist professors named Cloward and Piven who came up with the idea of advancing socialism by creating crisis. So I think your comparison is unfair.

Madmax, you are too pessimistic.

Mike said...

I have long held that many on the left are the useful idiots for the few who know precisely what they are doing (though mainly when speaking of the latter, I meant Hillary at the time). Obama? Who knows. He might even mean it.

Know what I heard the other day? Obama is all about CHANGE, which stands for Come Help A (Nubian) Get Elected. As tribalism is the antithesis of individualism, I can't approve of the racist undertone of the quip, but setting that aside, is the Obama campaign really about anything else but a naked attempt to attain power?

Chuck said...

"One of two things must be true. Either the Democrats are unfathomable idiots, who ignorantly pursue ever more destructive policies despite decades of contrary evidence . . . "


Myrhaf said...

Answer me this, Chuck. Barney Frank said, "The private sector got us into this mess. The government has to get us out of it." Is he speaking from ignorance or dishonesty?

mike18xx said...

Myrhaf, Obama weaned himself under William Ayers....so why is this difficult to accept?

(What's amazing is how he may win by default as McCain's instantly-alienated supporters stay home in droves as he promotes the bailout bill.)

theirritablearchitect said...

"Is Obama in on this nefarious goal of advancing socialism through crisis?"

I don't think Obama is intelligent enough to follow anything along those lines. That strategy is more along the lines of Clinton.

mike18xx said...

Speaking of the bail-out bill, turns out it's all about paying extortion to China and Saudi Arabia.

Pangloss said...

There is no need for the crises that prompt government growth to be so massive that they destroy everything. All they need to do is be a little scary, enough to open up the floodgates and allow some monstrosity like Sarbanes-Oxley to be passed. Product is less freedom. The idea is to make everything illegal, but only prosecuted on the whim of the judiciary. Bingo, instant totalitarianism!

Chuck said...

"Barney Frank said, "The private sector got us into this mess. The government has to get us out of it." Is he speaking from ignorance or dishonesty?"

I think it is stupidity. In all honesty, I do. There certainly some, like Cloward-Piven, who would do these things from dishonesty. But the career politicians who actually get elected - are just talentless morons.

Jim May said...

Unfair to whom? I know what the Protocols are; they are an anti-Jewish libel, adapted by the Russian secret police to stir up sentiment against Jews in Czarist Russia. It was based on a satire written about Napoleon by a French author, Maurice Joly. A copy of the Protocols eventually made its way into the hands of Alfred Rosenberg, a founding member of the National Socialists in Germany.

So yes, of course, the "Protocols" are a lie insofar as their claimed Jewish authorship. That is all there in the chapter of "Der Fuehrer" by Konrad Heiden which is posted at the link I provided, on the Nizkor Project website.

The point that Heiden makes is that notwithstanding its origins, the Protocols accurately foretells the nature and tactics of 20th century totalitarian movements -- including the idea of using engineered crises to bring down the existing "bourgeois" order (read: the liberal-capitalist form of government). Cloward and Piven brought nothing new to the table here.

That being said, in case I did not make myself clear, I agree with you that that this our current crisis is not being "engineered" by some evil mastermind following C&P's ideas, but is simply the logical end result of altruistic ideas. It has never made any sense to explain by active, competent conspiracy what can be adequately explained by the lemming phenomenon.

IIRC, at some point Ayn Rand said that the one problem with Ellsworth Toohey was that he was a masterful conspirator and manipulator and a *competent* villain, a notion that she later rejected on the grounds that evil is fundamentally impotent.

That is why there is no one like him in "Atlas Shrugged"; instead of a criminal mastermind orchestrating the collapse, the villains therein are simply carrying their ideas to their logical conclusions. The pure power lusters like Cuffy Meigs only make their move at the very end, like vultures, when everything is already falling apart.

Myrhaf said...

I misunderstood your comment to mean that people like Simpson and Horowitz are conspiracy theorists like the people who push the Protocols.

Jackie said...

Look, you can not put Democrats all into one category that what complete socialism. You are bunching up a group of diverse individuals.

I am a Democrat, and I certainly do not want socialism.

You're premises are false, so you're conclusions must be false. Simple logic.

And you frequently like using ad hominem fallacy in your arguments.

If you want to convince someone who is reading your article of believing in what you believe to be true, you'd be better off sticking to facts and lay off the personal attacks and invalid arguments.


Jim May said...


Nice try, but your intentions are irrelevant. The fact that you may in all sincerity not want socialism, does not alter the fact that socialism is what lies at the end of the road you are travelling. When examined by this end-of-road metric, the Democrats are now highly monolithic and dissent-free.

So I reject this pre-emptive attempt at excusing yourself from responsibility for the consequences of your ideas. If we arrive at the end of your road, likely a kind of mongrel socio-fascism, screaming "but I didn't mean THIS!" will not absolve you.

Anonymous said...

Everyone, flood emails, blogs, and forums with "Cloward-Piven Strategy."

Get it to top-level politicians.

Get it to the McCain campaign.

Get the word out to friends and family.

Get it to talk radio hosts.

Put it in the faces of the media.

truefinancenow said...

Some interesting issues:


especially check out: May 17, 2008 11:18 AM Anonymous said...

Is it possible to really get all the facts and make a truly informed opinion?