Journal of Aesthetics & protest

Conversations and Theory in
practice. go post-money!!!

issue 7

The Aaron Burr Society

by Jim Costanzo

Aaron Burr Society

   The 2008 international banking meltdown brought the free market economy to its knees. The American media often used the term “deregulation and greed” to describe the actions of Wall Street that caused the crash. However, deregulation and fraud actually caused the crisis that is the largest bank robbery in history (2).

Some predict the economic meltdown will be the beginning of the end of neoliberalism and free market ideology. But the reality is that there are fewer banks and they are bigger and more powerful than before the crash, a classic case of monopoly capitalism (3).

Led by Ayn Rand’s perverse ego-enshrining objectivism, neo-conservative economists such as Milton Freedman and Alan Greenspan laid down the groundwork for the heist. Conservative mythology falsely linked free markets to democracy while replacing the fable of rugged individualism with faux cowboys Ronald Reagan and Sarah Palin.

To end this ideological tyranny we must challenge dominant conservative myths with progressive, common sense (4)solutions.

In 1804 Vice President Aaron Burr shot and killed Alexander Hamilton in a duel. The Aaron Burr Society’s goal is to promote a progressive agenda that reflects a fact-based analysis of history. The Society is a non-violent group of radicals and free thinkers dedicated to refining and expanding the concepts of the enlightenment, the philosophy of our founding mothers and fathers. Within this context we are committed to taking back the Republic from the criminals on Wall Street, their corporate cronies and government facilitators.

Aaron Burr has been vilified and largely forgotten while his adversaries, Alexander Hamilton and Thomas Jefferson, are revered. But Jefferson and Hamilton’s actions were often diametrically opposed to the revolutionary principles of the Republic that declared that all people are created equal. Hamilton twice promoted George Washington as emperor for life and he believed in a permanent American aristocracy (5). Hamilton was the first Secretary of the Treasury and the creator of the first National Bank, known today as the Federal Reserve Bank. Jefferson vehemently opposed the National Bank. He believed that a national bank and the corporations that grow up around it would be the most dangerous threat to the Republic. But despite his beautiful prose and populist sentiments, Jefferson was a plantation owner who kept his own children as slaves. And though he wrote about the evils of slavery, Jefferson worked to expand the political power of slave owners.

Aaron Burr does have supporters; Gore Vidal’s historical novel Burr portrays the protagonist as a victim. There are others who believe that Burr’s political positions of progressive populism and anti-slavery were the cause of the conflicts with Hamilton and Jefferson (6).

Information about the roots of the Aaron Burr Society (ABS) can be found in the public artworks of the collective REPOhistory (7). In the 1992 Lower Manhattan Sign Project
thirty-six signs with alternative histories were hung in New York City. One was placed in front of the New York Stock Exchange (8). It stated that all stock market crashes, recessions and depressions since the 1890s were caused by government deregulation and Wall Street fraud.


Once again, ABS reaffirms its commitment to non-violence. However, the image of Burr shooting the first Secretary of the Treasury and the creator of the National Bank is a powerful symbol. One can only wish that patriots could have non-violently intervened to stop the coup d'état by former Federal Reserve Chairman Greenspan and Treasury Secretaries Paulson and Geithner (9).

Beginning in the spring of 2008, ABS began planning a multi-faceted assault on the integrity of Wall Street. While maintaining the irony and black humor of the 1992 project, our goal was to incite a populist uprising. We reject the populism of Williams Jennings Bryan with its nativist and racist undertones that are echoed by Lou Dobbs and Fox News. We reject the 1930s awe shucks naiveté of Will Rogers. No, we aspire to hardheaded progressive populism and Yankee ingenuity of Mark Twain and his literary double Samuel Langhorne Clemens, a southerner who rejected racism and imperialism.

ABA’s first action took place in front of the New York Stock Exchange in June of 2008. Our goal was to panhandle $100,000 in order to attend a political fundraiser so we could buy a politician to protect our rights. This performance was repeated throughout the fall with videos incorporated into the Wall Street Shuffle (10).

On April Fools Day of this year we launched the Free Money Movement. ABS gave away 100 actual one-dollar bills stamped on one side with FREE MONEY and SLAVE OF WALL STREET on the other. Free money is not only a reference to the bailouts but the entire Free Market system that depends on your tax dollars to make a profit. This is linked to the ever-increasing gap in income between the rich and the poor with the shrinking middle class falling on the loosing side of the economic divide.

Since April Fools day, all currency withdrawn from ATMs has been stamped and distributed in traditional financial exchanges, shopping. This obsession has resulted in a change of tactics that involves waiting on line for bank tellers in order to make withdrawals of $10s, $5s, and $1s. This strategy has increased the volume of ABS stamped Federal Reserve Notes currently in circulation. From our base in Brooklyn, NY to the sandy shores of North Carolina and up to the rocky coast of Maine, ABS stamped currency has primarily delighted, occasionally confounded but rarely annoyed the citizenry.

ABS videos use both documentary and narrative styles. Obama and American Socialism is a plea for Obama to live up to his campaign promises and a reminder of the historical importance of American social programs, i.e. American Socialism. ABS has also produced videos for ACORN, the first titled Home Defenders describes their efforts to stop foreclosures.

The Aaron Burr Society will continue to fight the tyranny of Wall Street both at home and aboard by arguing for progressive solutions to the antiquated and corrupt practice of Free Trade while at the same time advocating for the expansion of American Socialism and Fair Trade.

Now is the time to act, everyone knows we was robbed.

1.; youtube search: aaronburrsociety (back)

2. The Best Way To Rob A Bank Is To Own One: How Corporate Executives And Politicians Looted the S&L Industry, Univ. of Texas Press, William K. Black, 2005; and Bill Moyers Journal, Public Television, April 3, 2009 journal/04032009/profile.html

3. Sen. Dick Durban “Bankers own the US Congress” Solon. com, Glenn Greenwald, Thursday April 30, 2009 05:35 EDT. (back)

4. Common Sense, pamphlet, Thomas Paine, 1776. (back)

5. Billions of dollars in Wall Street bonuses is creating a new American aristocracy. (back)

6. Aaron Burr Association htm> not to be confused with Aaron Burr Society. (back)

7. (back)

8. At this time ABS is submitting proposals to have an updated sign permanently installed in front of the New York Stock Exchange and the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. (back)

9. The Big Takeover: The global economic crisis isn’t about money – it’s about power. How Wall Street insiders are using the bailout to stage a revolution, Matt Taibbi, Rolling Stone Magazine online, March 19, 2009. (back)

10. All ABS videos can be accessed through this URL. (back)