Thursday, November 20, 2008

Bolidigal Basshuntz III

The present crisis means the end of liberal capitalism, the economic system which emphasized the individual profit motive, and marks the beginning of a new economy which stresses collective interests.

Benito Mussolini
October 4, 1934

Good government is the proper administration of the nation's energies. This includes both a stewardship of natural resources and the organization of the labour force. But it must also include the administration of the nation's intelligence. A national leader can have an important effect on the quality of thought in his realm.

Pound admired Mussolini, in part because he was "the first head of a state in our time to perceive and to proclaim quality as a dimension in national production" (SP, p. 200). What is interesting, at least to me, is Pound's focus on work. (Emery quotes Lincoln Steffens: "And the [Italian] people did go back to work, and they worked as they had not worked before.") In Detroit at the moment the problem is not a lack of demand for cars, nor a scarcity of labour, nor a scarcity of resources. What is missing is simply money (in the unfortunately usurious form of credit). What is missing the means of bringing the available energies together in production.

"Liberal capitalism" prevents the coordination of available means of production in a quality product. At one extreme, it makes it unfeasible (because "unprofitable") to provide a sculptor with a sizable chunk of granite, a space in which to work, a time freed from worry about what to eat and where to sleep. At another, it supports "the production of pointless artifacts [like plastic back scratchers] that seem justified because people can be gotten to buy them" (Hugh Kenner, The Pound Era, p. 303-4).

It is the "quality of the affection" that counts (Canto LXVII/480). The nation's energies must be coordinated to this end. The leader presides over an affection.

Good art does not result directly from sound fiscal policy. But "the arts" depend on good government. Under the contemporary "liberal capitalist" order there is an "unemployment problem". You can of course still write a good poem. But it is unlikely to enter cultural life and contribute to "the arts".

In 1937, Hemingway believed that fascism was the only system of government under which a writer could NOT work. In 1933, Pound almost believed that ONLY fascism could provide the appropriate fiscal and monetary framework to support the arts. Somewhere between granting every aspiring writer a lifetime stipend and shooting anyone who would put pen to paper we find Pound's "decent fiscal system", which would ensure that "the few hundred people who want work of first intensity could at any rate have it" (SP, p. 199). That same system would ensure that there was money to pay people for really productive labour.

"WOT IZZA COMIN'? // I'll tell you wot izza comin'/ Sochy-lism izza comin'" (Canto LXXVII/ 478). Or some other vortex of political passions.

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