Dec 3, 2010

On Corporations

December 2, 2010 Rota, Spain

I have been ranting of late about the degree to which our government is now totally controlled by corporations and the mega-wealthy. But my ideas are not all that original. Here are some warnings about corporations from political leaders and thinkers dating back to the beginning of our republic:

Thomas Jefferson—“I hope that we shall crush in its birth the aristocracy of our monied corporations, which dare already to challenge our government to a trial of strength, and bid defiance to the laws of our country.”

Abraham Lincoln in 1864—“I see in the near future a crisis approaching that unnerves me and causes me to tremble for the safety of my country. …corporations have been enthroned and an era of corruption in high places will follow, and the money power of the country will endeavor to prolong its reign by working upon the prejudices of the people until all wealth is aggregated in a few hands and the Republic is destroyed.” (1864)

Theodore Roosevelt—“The citizens of the United States must control the mighty commercial forces which they themselves call into being.”

Woodrow Wilson—“Big business is not dangerous because it is big, but because its bigness is an unwholesome inflation created by privileges and exemptions which it ought not to enjoy.”

Franklin D. Roosevelt—“The first truth is that the liberty of a democracy is not safe if the people tolerate the growth of private power to a point where it becomes stronger than their democratic state itself. That, in its essence, is Fascism—ownership of Government by an individual, by a group, or by any other controlling private power.”

Dwight Eisenhower, farewell address—“In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex.”

And after that much wisdom, what more can I say?

Jan 22, 2010

Burning Questions of our Time

January 22, 2010 Rota, Spain
In the previous article, I suggested that the mark of true intellect may not be the quality of ones assertions, but rather the quality of the questions that one raises. Now I'm not claiming the title of "True Intellect" and so I am hoping that you will help out here by contributing to this list. I'll put up a few starter questions:

1) How should our republic handle Corporations? There were none at our founding and our constitution makes no provision for them. They have managed to assume ever increasing control over the machinery of government and the mass media for their own benefit. I can't see where they have any particular responsibility for the well-being of the citizenry.

2) If a democracy depends upon an informed citizenry, then how can we ensure that our citizens receive accurate, unbiased information upon which to base their votes? Public relations - the manipulation of public thought for a purpose has become a science where money applied to professional opinion shaping can produce a desired result for some client. But if votes can be influenced by the application of money - is that democracy?

3) Our federal government seems to be characterized by gridlock - not only partisan wrangling, but the inability to even understand the issues that need resolution. Reform of the financial system; what to do with Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac; how to salvage Social Security; how to reduce spiraling health care costs? These are not only political questions - they are also complx technical questions - beyond the scope of the average citizen and generally beyond the abilities of elected officials as well. In a perfect world, where government acts in the best interests of the citizens, not just satisfying the interests of those who throw money at the political machine, in that perfect world how can the best solutions be identified? Is there some way we can assemble a brain trust to apply the best thinking available to our challenging problems? Is there some way politically that those solutions could actually be put into practice - even though some special interests might object?
In a complex and rapidly changing world, it appears that China might have an advantage in identifying solutions and putting them into practice quickly. Since accurate and rapid decisions leading to action give a strong competitive advantage, how can a democratic society compete with a technocracy???