creased centralization of power that had taken place during therncentury and a half between the settlement of Jamestown andrnthe systematic corruphon perfected by Robert Walpole andrnpassed on to the third German George. Hardly was the ink dryrnat Yorktown, however, than Anglophile schemers like AlexanderrnHamilton began plotting measures by which the infant republicsrncould be sold off, piecemeal, to the bankers, and fromrnHamilton to Clay to Lincoln, the national government madernsteady progress toward the English model of corruption.rnIt is often said that the first experiments in modern statebuildingrnwere made in Italy, during the Renaissance, and it isrncertainly true that Machiavelli is the first Western political theoristrnto work out a system based not on the principle of justicernbut on the nature of power. Machiavelli’s discovery has asrnmuch to do with the political revolution that had taken place asrnit does with his own brilliance. Like Aristotie, he was an observerrnfirst and a theorist only second.rnThe evolution of Italian city-states, even in Tuscany, is toorncomplex and varied to be reduced to a simple formula. Eachrncity had its peculiaritiesâ€”class conflicts in Elorence, the freedomrnat sea enjoyed by the maritime republics, the relativernstrength or weakness of the opposite poles of church and empire;rnhowever, a few common features can be traced, such asrnthe decline of the traditional authority of bishops and imperialrncounts, the cities’ gradual conquest of the countryside oncerndominated by feudal nobles, and the rising power of merchantrncorporations and craft guilds that created and used the communernnot so much as a government but as a super-corporationrnor holding-company to serve the interests of the commercialrnoligarchy.rnIn early days, says Villari in his history of Florence, “the ElorentinernCommune resembled a confederation of Trade Guildsrnand Societies of Towers,” that is, mutual protection societies establishedrnby prominent families. The nobility were put in theirrnplace by the 13th century, by which time a union of CEOs metrntwice a year to choose the electors who picked the magistrates.rnIn other words, the major guilds acted as a de facto parliament.rnFerdinand Schevill, in his history of Siena, contrasts the weaknessrnof Sienese craft guilds with the situation in Florence wherern”the arti simply and without ceremony took possession of therngovernment and admitted to citizenship only through the doorrnof their organizations.”rnIn Florence, the bitter conflict between the nobility and thernricher merchantsâ€”in part an ethnic conflict between Germanrnstock and the old Italianâ€”partly accounts for the stiengtheningrnof the central government, which becomes the pawn of commercialrninterests. The first “popular” government (that is, arngovernment that included the more middling sort of merchants)rnhas been criticized for the war it waged against the no-rnTHE POWER ELITErn”I sit by selectionrnupon the directionrnof several companies bubblernAs soon as they’re floatedrnI’m freely bank-notedrnI’m pretty well paid for my trouble.”rn- the Duke of Plaza Tomrnbility, but Machiavelli observed that it was “impossible to conceivernhow much authority and strength Florence acquired in arnbrief period. It became not only the chief city in all Tuscanyrnbut was even reckoned among the top Italian cities.” Unfortunately,rna system created by class conflict must feed on conflict,rnand Florence’s self-devouring stasis was only halted by the couprnd’etat staged by the Medici mob.rnThe super-corporation which morphs into the state was onlyrnan extension of other commercial and industrial corporationsrnwhose interest it served. Like a virus created in the laboratory,rnthe invention of the state becomes self-perpetuating (despiternchanges in regime) and spreads to other countries, some ofrnwhich were already evolving in a similar direction or where disorderedrnconditions provided the proper nutriment for growth,rnas in France where Catherine de Medici, daughter of the Dukernof Urbino, arrived in time to improve French cooking and tornhelp the house of Valois in their attempt to build up a centializedrnmonarchy. From the perspective of a Borgia or a Medici,rnthe massacre of the tioublesome Huguenots was a natural step.rnPower is a zero-sum game, and the state-virus can only feedrnand expand by absorbing or poisoning rival sources of authority,rnsuch as the church, a feudal aristocracy, or local jurisdictionsrnâ€”in America, the states. But if “follow the money” is goodrnadvice to a reporter researching a corruption scandal, it appliesrneven better to an investigation of the state. It was, after all. Renaissancernmerchants whose bills of exchange were the inspirationrnfor paper money, and the Bank of England, the FederalrnReserve System, and the World Bank were the vehicles for thernpowerful commercial interests who controlled, respectively,rnEngland, the old United States, and the new world-system thatrnis replacing and absorbing both.rnFrom this perspective, the dispute over trade policy might bernseen as a struggle between what is left of the old American oligarchyrnand an emerging (or rather, emerged) class of worldcontrollers.rnThere are, to be sure, patiiotic businessmen andrnpoliticians who are mainly concerned with the sovereignty andrnwell-being of the American people, and there are even a fewrnglobaloney idealists who dream of a world without frontiers andrnthe wars they cause. But the real action, we can assume, doesrnnot concern the likes of us old-fashioned Americans who havernbeen demonized like the Florentine nobility, stripped of ourrntraditions and rights, and reduced to the level of serfs on ourrnown property.rnThis is, as I threatened from the beginning, a one-eyed perspectivernon the crimes of government, but there is enough truthrnin it to justify a little skepticism, when this or that party or movementrnpromises reform. Exchanging Bugsy Siegel for MeyerrnLansky will not get the Mob out of town, any more than our degeneraternrepubhc will be reenergized by the importation ofrnnew “Mafias”â€”Asian, Dominican, Russian â€”which is thernmost profound effect of permissive immigration.rnIndividual resistance is a gesture even more futile than a newrnpledge of allegiance to a rival gang. Most mom-and-pop grocersrnknow what happens if they refuse to pay protection. Onlyrna commimity that is coherent and unified can oppose the Mob,rnwhether the capo is John Gotti or Bill Clinton, and we are arnlong way, in this country, from the time when such communitiesrnexisted. That is why the first task is not to get rid of Clinton,rndefeat Gore, or even lower taxes. Our first task is to begin buildingrnthe communities of resistance that will some day say “No”rnwhen the Mob comes into your neighborhood asking for thernvotes that keep them in power.
January 1975April 21, 2022By The Archive