I turned to the Democratic Party when I reached voting age because of my natural distrust of authority. I still have a problem with authority, and I’m proud of it. This may surprise libertarians and tea partiers, who’ve been misled to think that Republicans are the champions of individual liberty.
The U.S. Supreme Court’s decision yesterday should make it clear to the most myopic conservative that individual liberty has never been what the corporatist right is about. Historically, progressives share the blame for being, well, bossy. Dating back to the 19th Century progressives, smitten with emerging social sciences and the potential of business management techniques in the public sphere, were authoritarian. Prohibition ring a bell?
Still, I believed progressives (and the political party they belonged too) represented the little people against the powerful. I grew up in the Civil Rights era. Of course, many Southerners think civil rights was the ultimate assault on individual liberty, their liberty to discriminate against others. This isn’t logical of course. Civil rights was all about individual liberty.
Anyway, today it is more obvious than ever that the real danger to freedom in America comes from the unaccountable, irresponsible and infinitely powerful authority that is the big, global corporation. Empowered now by a Supreme Court that’s handed them super-human rights and privileges, corporations can now trample individual initiative, take what they want from entrepreneurs, eliminate competition, and erase the adjective “popular” from in front of democracy — forever.
If you had any doubt about the corruption that has infected the very bloodstream of American politics, look at today’s ruling from the U.S. Supreme Court. The Court said corporations can spend unlimited amounts to influence the outcome of elections.
I’m gonna repeat my sad joke: we are approaching the time when there will be “corporate creationists” so convinced of the divine status of the corporate life-form that they will deny vehemently that corporations evolved from human beings. Americans, we are the new monkeys.
At the root of the Court’s attack on popular democracy — and it is an attack, and it will promote if not guarantee rule by unaccountable corporate oligarchy — is the Court’s infamous 1976 Buckley v. Valeo decision that said money equals speech. Left unaddressed in today’s decision — and others — is the absurdity of this formula. When money equals speech, outfits with more money have more speech. And that destroys the very principle of free speech.
Ask yourself this question. If you had to persuade your community about political opinion X, but corporations opposed your view, would you stand a chance knowing that their “political speech” was worth much more than your political speech? The answer is obvious. Mere people have been thrown on the scrap heap. The U.S. Supreme Court is lifting corporations to the top of the evolutionary ladder.
Teabaggers, do you get it now? You are outraged by your powerlessness. Can you now see the real source of that powerlessness? It is not government. Government has been turned into the handmaiden of the corporate oligarchs.
Corporatism can be defined as the belief that corporate entities transcend ordinary humanity and must, therefore, be granted transcendent legal rights. In other words, we have created monsters with power over our lives that we cannot hold accountable through regulatory, legislative or judicial action. The usual justification goes something like: “The divine free market produced these corporate entities, as the fittest survived and flourished.” That’s an ideological fantasy, and a destructive one at that.
The “too big to fail” phenom America witnessed as the economic crisis deepened puts the lie to that claim, of course. It made it clear that the greatest threat to the free market is not government, it’s predatory, corporatist sharks who feed on the honest businessperson, the small mom-and-pop store, and, ultimately, the taxpayers.
Implicit in the contemporary American health care system is a threat: Conform and spend your life behaving yourself in limited jobs or we will deny you insurance and put your health and your family’s future at risk.
Restrictions on health care availability are an effective form of social control. We often talk about this in terms of women’s health care. But too often lost in the health care debate is the broader truth: health care is used as a weapon of control. In a certain sense, we can be healthy or we can be truly free. So much for Patrick Henry.
Just one of the bizarre ironies of the current debate is the libertarian view that universal health care threatens our freedom. If libertarian-minded Americans would open their eyes, they’d see that just the opposite is true. How many Americans remain in dead-end jobs for the health benefits, however meager they might be? How many entrepreneurs never launch their independent initiatives because they can’t risk the loss of health care?
As the curtain finally goes up on the election season one full decade into the 21st Century, our politic conversation remains hopelessly mired in the previous century. The complex problems of the contemporary world are ignored as conservatives sneer about states rights, of all things. The Karl Rove generation of the Right hates the sixties, and in their obsession they never left the decade that ended forty years ago.
Even progressives who want to move on are stuck in old habits. Defending against anachronistic right wing attacks, they too are acting in a costume drama or period piece. The message legacy of the 20th Century is dangerously out of date. The Right blames big government for everything. The Left, always on the defensive, fights off accusations of socialism and communism — failed 19th Century models about as relevant as the telegraph. I’ve never met a serious socialist or communist. Any still around are made of straw.
While we’re stuck in the old politics, the corporatists have consolidated real power. A corporatist believes that corporations transcend democratic institutions, safeguards, the public will, checks and balances. He aims for rule by corporation, unfettered by any regulations, voter reprisals or legal accountability. So-called tort reform was about ending public accountability for corporate wrongdoing.
It’s the corporatist who is the real enemy of a free, transparent and open market. I’m a fan of the profit motive, I’m aware of the efficiencies big companies can maintain, efficiencies that improve our quality of life. I am opposed to their absolute political power. People deserve financial reward for risk and accomplishment. Corporatism eliminates its risk, however. Banks’ unregulated and dangerous lending practices caused the Great Recession. Taxpayers were then made to cover their losses. That’s corporatism.