Commentary by F.M. Mellon, CPW News Service
On August 10th, I phoned in to the Laura Ingraham Show to ask to speak with Laura on the air. The screener asked what I wanted to talk about since she was talking about the Trump and Clinton economic plans and I said "I want to tell Laura that neither plan will work so long as Glass-Steagall is still absent from the equation. The screener said "What is Glass-Steagall?" I said "Laura will know". He said "hold on a minute" and I thought...."Why?"
After his extensive study on birth order, MIT sociologist Frank J. Sulloway's book, Born To Rebel, took hit after hit from those dis-creditors who said that his work was flawed, not submitted to peer review, and "unscientific". I defended the work and noted that good sociology threads a fine line between science and art, but then suggested that Sulloway do a study of the birth order of the first Plymouth and Massachusetts Bay Colonist gleaned from baptism records and other available material that would likely show that the U.S. was based on a birth order rebellion. The American Revolution was fought by the disenfranchised younger siblings of Europe's primogenitor-based economy that was only coming unraveled well into the Age of Enlightenment and Reformation that challenged top-down and pyramidal models of organization. Oliver Cromwell came close to achieving a vision of shared governance, but lacked the unique assembly of American minds that created a peacefully transferred leadership based on an anti-primogeniture constitution. Like Copernicus and Galileo looking above and beyond and discovering that the earth was not the center of the universe, neither was monarchial feudalism more than a fleck amid the infinite possibilities.
After writing Born To Rebel, Sulloway went to the Galapagos Islands to do original research. I thought, "great, he'll see Darwin's finch in action". In fact, he told me he was studying the giant cactus there and I knew that the finch could not be far from Sulloway's thought processes. The finch and the cactus were unusual allies in the process of evolution.
Sulloway took particular issue with the idea that his work had been discredited and stated as much: I am currently doing fieldwork in the Galapagos Islands, studying the giant Opuntia, and must be brief. I have suggested a number of changes to your text below, in red type. I hope these are helpful. The use of the word "discredited" is particularly inappropriate, as numerous publications since "Born to Rebel" have confirmed the main arguments of the book, namely, that firstborns are more conscientious than laterborns, and that laterborns are more agreeable, extraverted (in the sense of being funloving and sociable), and open to experience (including being risk oriented and the rebel of the family).
In Europe the later-borns' agreeability reached its limit and shifted in America toward risk and rebellion. Believing that Thomas Jefferson's contribution to U.S. law that included writing out of our laws the European first-born biases of primogeniture, Sulloway might see that in the U.S. we were replacing the age-old model of achievement by plunder and land grab with Capitalism's new model of shared governance and citizen "wealth-building"....moving toward what Ayn Rand called "achievement without plunder." That was the evolving model, anyway, but by 1929 we realized that the wealth was being siphoned off as it had been in Europe's monarchies and the early tools of muskets, lead and gunpowder would need some economic tools to counter-act what the Taft-Hartley Act had done to reinstate the old European model. Teddy Roosevelt had seen the danger and pushed the Sherman Anti-Trust law, but by 1929 it was apparent that if the tools of muskets, lead and gunpowder weren't to resurface in mass, people would need another tool. Enter Glass-Steagall that prevented the younger siblings of the New World's wealth-building program from being picked off like Henry VIII picking off the assets of the English empire and chopping off his wife's heads for not presenting him with a first-born male heir. Writers like Harper's Magazine's Lewis Lapham, author of The American Ruling Class, blamed the average citizen in his book The Wish For Kings: Democracy At Bay for the return to the dusty past.
In a similar way Wall Street blamed the Joe Six-Packs for failing to practice responsible household management by moving from homes to castles with funds from shaky mortgage agreements which led to the 2008 melt-down which had actually begun in Bill Clinton's last year in office just about the time he was thinking of giving a Presidential pardon to that supplier of the old order's "achievement by plunder", war profiteer, Marc Rich. The average American had not manipulated the credit-default swaps based on the complicated metrics of Black Scholes and other incomprehensible formulas designed to conceal the threats to Capitalism's wealth-building potential. They had not applied the mind-control techniques of Madison Avenue, the handmaiden of Wall Street, that branded the new appliances that went into the new homes that the sub-prime mortgages promised were within reach of the poor whose fleeing jobs were hidden beneath the smoke and flames of the raging housing market's bonfire of vanities.
Glass-Steagall prevented wealth-protecting banks from acting like Wall Street speculators that in the early part of the Republic were hung for their bamboozles. Glass-Steagall was in place from 1933 until 1999 right across the most prosperous period of economic growth in world history. Then first-born President William Jefferson Clinton failed to veto the repeal of Glass-Steagall in 1999 thus opening the door to the wholesale return to the past and the 2000-2008 rape of the economy that resulted in the 2008 bailout followed by Clinton's adoption as a new Bush son alongside first-born GWB, as Hillary talked in December 2007 to Goldman Sachs and other Wall Street speculators to tell them to behave themselves. Why? They didn't have to anymore. There were no consequences in law, in tools with teeth and functioning grips.
I went to Wall Street in December 2007 before the big crash that we had and I basically said "cut it out". -Hillary Clinton
Copyrighted in 1996, three years before Texas Senator Phil Gramm led the assault on Glass-Steagall that cleared the way, with the assistance of Bill Clinton's 1999 failure to veto the repeal of Glass-Steagall, Sulloway's book would underscore the historic roots of America's birth order rebellion in the evolution of political and economic theory. This would not have served well the move toward massive deregulation upon which the Bush/Wall Street assault on the economy depended . Born to Rebel was as informative for sociology, psychology, political science and economics as was John Nash's "governing dynamics" which received the Nobel Prize.
Frank J. Sulloway would have noticed that on Galapagos the Darwin Finch had found its ecological niche by using a tool....a cactus thorn making it like a woodpecker and less like a finch. Glass-Steagall was just such a tool in the hands of the younger siblings of the new American realm. By removing this tool the Clinton-Bush bamboozling alliance of elder-brothers was turning back the clock on the era of the dinosaurs. Darwin's work, and Sulloway's by association, is still very relevant. It still shows us that it is not the strong that survive, but those that are able to change and adapt. Dinosaurs were strong, but they died out and scientists are telling us we will soon do likewise without radical transformation. The repeal of Glass-Steagall was an intervention in the evolutionary process of transformation.
Oddly, Sulloway's book was celebrated by names like Pulitizer Prize winning author of On Human Nature, Harvard University Professor, Edward O. Wilson who said of Sulloway's contribution..."Sulloway has delivered one of the most authoritative treatises in the history of social sciences." From the campus and city, Boston, that produced the Nobel Prize winning economist Robert Merton, George W. Bush and John Fitzgerald Kennedy, whose parents all followed birth-ordered succession the Hapsburgs, Stuarts, Tudors and Saxe-Gotha-Windsors, there came no direct implication of what the removal of Glass-Steagall's support of the uniquely American evolutionary development might mean to the future of the Republic.
Robert Merton had created Wall Street's justification for the credit default swaps and derivatives that tanked the economy, but his father, the "father of applied sociology" at Columbia University in New York City that had become the training ground for the Dumbledores of the "applied journalism" with the Henry Luce associated Columbia Journalism that informed everyone from William S. Paley to Fred Friendly, Walter Cronkite and Dan Rather and an astounding array of American public policy makers.
Merton's father, who had along with Paul Lazersfeld, recruited C. Wright Mills, the maverick sociologist who died young, but produced the landmark books The Sociological Imagination and The Power Elite, could not imagine the obvious connections between his son's work at Harvard and the implication coming to light in Sulloway's Born To Rebel.
Robert Merton, the Columbia sociologist wrote of Born to Rebel..."A quarter-century in the making, this brilliant, searching, provocative and readable treatise promises to remain definitive for at least as long. Whether firstborns or laterborns, all of us will learn fascinating and surprising details about ourselves."
Sulloway's book was being routed like Reinhold Niebuhr's "Serenity Prayer" that was picked off by the Oxford Group and used not to focus readers on the implications of not standing up to the devolution of Hiter's German Reich in the 1930's, but as a tool for understanding the quirks of our individual personalities. In Niebuhr's case his prayer became an assist to overcoming alcoholism instead of building the gumption needed to resist the tyranny of a military and economic model of domination familiar to all totalitarian and pyramidal systems.
Sulloway's book was also celebrated by Sarah Blaffer Hrdy, a graduate of St. Johns High School in Houston, Texas home of William Stamps Farrish who had been head of the Bush family blind trust when GHWB was President. Hrdy said of Sulloway's Born To Rebel..."Sulloway's book will change the way that we think about the past, present and future. I believe this book will have the same kind of impact as Freud's and Darwin's." Not if the blinding parallels to the evolution of political and economic theory that led the early Americans to repeal the primogenitor-favoritism of the past were not seen to be the core-contribution of Sulloway's research.
Perhaps the best and most accurate assessment of Born To Rebel came from Stephen Jay Gould who actually makes the connection between birth order and "niches" which Carter Glass, the fifth of twelve and Henry B. Steagall, the fourth of four, who fashioned the Glass-Steagall Act sought to protect. Gould didn't actually mention the 1933 Banking Act of which Glass-Steagall was a part nor its comparison to the pointed tool of the Galapagos finches, but he didn't need to. He said..."Fascinating and persuasive....Birth order places children in different 'niches' requiring disparate modes of competition for maximal success. Sulloway's substantial birth-order effects therefore provide our best and ultimate documentation of nurture's power."
At his death in 2002 a New York Times editorial said of Stephen Jay Gould... He was never a scientific bomb-thrower; he worked, after all, in the heart of the scientific establishment. But he delighted in small explosions, and he never hesitated to set them off when he thought it would do a discipline good. His belief that evolution moved in leaps—in punctuated equilibrium, to use his phrase—rather than slowly and continuously struck off far more heat than it might have if Mr. Gould had not reveled in the role of controversialist. That was his evolutionary niche.
It was also the niche of the early American settlers and their finest minds who saw a break with the passively accepted birth-ordered past of Europe as a way to insure a leaping era and punctuated equilibrium that had slipped from the grasp of revolutionaries in ancient Greece or Rome or even the Parliamentarian government of British revolutionary, Oliver Cromwell, who unaccompanied by the fine minds of Franklin, Jefferson, Hamilton, Madison, Adams and the rest reverted to appointing his elder son, Richard, to succeed him before the full reinstatement of first-born domination.
The U.S.A. has long nurtured this powerful new "punctuated equilibrium". It is the hallmark of enlightened living which is the genius of its unique contribution of the evolution and transformation of the human family.
Whether Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump become the next U.S. President, without this tool reinstated, the continuing Wall Street bamboozle which hides the old primogeniture model in the corporate interlocking directorates of resurrected nepotism. The U.S. economy, meanwhile, is now based on a rising DOW and a nearly $20 trillion national debt that will likely lead to the resurrection of muskets, lead and gunpowder and the dream of Capitalism as a creative way to bring about a world with liberty and justice for all will slip away...hidden behind the bubbles we are still blowing, but which could have been easily popped by a simple little thorn.
About the author: Frederick M. Mellon's Echo-Eco-Micro-Macro Theory of Economics has been, not unlike Frank Sulloway's work on birth order's psychological and sociological effects on humanity, a target of substantial controversy and mis-reporting. Forwarded to Frank Sulloway at the University of California, Berkeley where Sulloway is an adjunct professor of psychology he stated of the above essay: Thanks for sending me the essay--very lively and interesting reading. I have, in fact, recently gotten pretty involved in research on the famous Galapagos finches (an old interest of mine), having published several articles on the subject in the last few years ( http://www.sulloway.org/Darwinpubs.html ). As you note, Darwin never gets old. With best wishes, Frank.
Sulloway said that to his knowledge neither Robert Merton, the economist, nor his mentor at MIT, Paul Samuelson, nor Noam Chomsky, also at MIT, commented on the relationship of Born To Rebel on economic theory, though Sulloway did say.... "Robert Merton (the eminent sociologist of science and something of an icon in my field) did write a very flattering blurb for the dust jacket of the book."