Saturday, February 05, 2005

Plutocracy

There is this smart guy who used to be on the City Council of this top 20 city.

He cornered me one day and did his best to show me that, in fact, there is a small group of powerful people who actually run everything. I don't remember, maybe it was the illuminati, or maybe it was some lizard brains from down under, but it wasn't pretty.

The response that came from me was fairly to the point.

So you're telling me that we really don't have a democracy, but in fact, we are ruled by something or someone else.

That something else is money.

And money is power.

So, you can call this system what ever you want, but the truth is, it is very difficult to keep the powerful from being, well, powerful.

Yes, the richest democrat is John Kerry and his wife.

And he is the richest of the 50 millionaires in the Senate.

And the richest democrat in the House is California Democrat Jane Harman, who reported assets worth more than 160 million dollars. Next in line is Amo Houghton, a New York Republican who reported 150 million dollars. Nancy Pelosi is just behind them.

There are a few more Republican millionaires than Democrats, but Kerry, Kohl, Corzine, and Rockefeller are in a league of their own. Frist is in the top 10 as is Diane Feinstein who has a wealthy financier husband. Edwards was number nine.

But this misses the point.

Paul Kurtz tries to get at it:

Ancient Greek democracy lasted only a century; the Roman republic survived for four, though it was increasingly weakened as time went on. As America enters its third century we may well ask whether our democratic institutions will survive and if so in what form.

As readers of these pages know, I have been concerned by the virtually unchallenged growth of corporate power. Mergers and acquisitions continue at a dizzying pace, as small and mid-sized businesses and farms disappear; independent doctors, lawyers, and accountants are gobbled up by larger firms; and working men and women are at the mercy of huge global conglomerates, which downsize as they export jobs overseas.

I have also deplored the emergence of the global media-ocracy, whereby a handful of powerful media conglomerates virtually dominate the means of communication. A functioning democratic society depends upon a free exchange of ideas; today fewer dissenting views are heard in the public square, as diversity is narrowed or muffled.

This trend toward the concentration of ownership should be of special concern to secular humanists and rationalists. The regnant corporate outlook increasingly espouses a spiritual/religious/supernatural mystique, and it seeks to marginalize iconoclastic viewpoints. Unfortunately for secular humanists, pro ecclesia et commercia (for church and commerce) has become the ideology not only of the Religious Right, but is being marketed daily to consumers in the mainstream.

Corporate hegemony, when married to our political leaders, is a sure recipe for government of the powerful, for the powerful, and by the powerful.

This should not be a surprise nor should it make us angry.

If the people want the power,

they must create it.

Just like we did over 222 years ago.

I watched Network the other night.

And Howard Beale had it right:

This tube is the most awesome, god-damned force in the whole godless world. And woe is us if it ever falls into the hands of the wrong people and that's why woe is us that Edward George Ruddy died.

Because this company is now in the hands of CCA, the Communication Corporation of America. There's a new chairman of the board, a man called Frank Hackett sitting in Mr. Ruddy's office on the 20th floor.

And when the twelfth largest company in the world controls the most awesome, god-damned propaganda force in the whole godless world, who knows what s--t will be peddled for truth on this network.

So, you listen to me! Listen to me! Television is not the truth. Television is a god-damned amusement park. Television is a circus, a carnival, a traveling troupe of acrobats, story tellers, dancers, singers, jugglers, sideshow freaks, lion tamers and football players.

We're in the boredom-killing business.

So if you want the truth, go to your God, go to your gurus, go to yourselves because that's the only place you're ever gonna find any real truth. But man, you're never gonna get any truth from us.

If you remember, Arthur Jenson explains it pretty well to Howard.

The World is Unified.

And Howard, you are messing with it.

You have meddled with the primal forces of nature, Mr. Beale, and I won't have it, is that clear?! You think you have merely stopped a business deal - that is not the case! The Arabs have taken billions of dollars out of this country, and now they must put it back. It is ebb and flow, tidal gravity, it is ecological balance. You are an old man who thinks in terms of nations and peoples.

There are no nations! There are no peoples! There are no Russians! There are no Arabs! There are no Third Worlds! There is no West! There is only one holistic system of systems, one vast and immane, interwoven, interacting, multi-variate, multi-national dominion of dollars! Petro-dollars, electro-dollars, multi-dollars, reichmarks, rins, rubles, pounds and shekels! It is the international system of currency which determines the totality of life on this planet.

That is the natural order of things today. That is the atomic, and subatomic and galactic structure of things today. And you have meddled with the primal forces of nature, and you will atone!

Am I getting through to you, Mr. Beale?

You get up on your little twenty-one inch screen and howl about America and democracy. There is no America. There is no democracy. There is only IBM, and ITT, and AT and T, and DuPont, Dow, Union Carbide, and Exxon - those are the nations of the world today.

We no longer live in a world of nations and ideologies, Mr. Beale. The world is a college of corporations, inexorably determined by the immutable by-laws of business.

The world is a business, Mr. Beale. It has been since man crawled out of the slime, and our children will live, Mr. Beale, to see that perfect world in which there's no war or famine, oppression or brutality. One vast and ecumenical holding company, for whom all men will work to serve a common profit, in which all men will hold a share of stock, all necessities provided, all anxieties tranquilized, all boredom amused.

And I have chosen you to preach this evangel, Mr. Beale.

And Howard was not mad as hell anymore.










5 Comments:

Blogger OZ said...

I made some revisions to the earlier posting this morning.

12:15 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

So, the democrats have 8 out of the top 10 positions in the Senate? Amazing? or maybe not.

1:14 PM  
Blogger OZ said...

Like I said, this misses the point. Wealthy people making decisions can be a very good thing, if they represent the best interests of us all. Arguably, an enlightened wealthy individual is exactly who we do want in the senate or house. They would be above the economic fray, so to speak.

2:42 PM  
Blogger StagirasGhost said...

The funny thing is, to bring everything full circle, I think Oz's response misses the point. Both posts seem to insinuate that wealthy and powerful people make for better rulers because they are beyond being bought and sold.

More precisely, PEOPLE making decisions can be a very good thing, if they decide and legislate primarily in accordance with the precepts of their respective systems of governance (in the case of a Republic)and represent the best interests of us all (in the case of a Democracy,) and both (in the case of a democratic-republic,) regardless of wealth.

Ask your friends if they would be willing and could actually evaluate a soceo-economic system only to decide the best policy FOR EVERYONE, in accordance with the Constitution. Chances are you'll find many takers, especially in Travis County, but of those takers very few have the breadth and depth of knowledge of the system they live in and even fewer can afford the critical thinking skills necessary to lead--to make decisions for the best interest of all.

People will maintain integrity for a variety of reasons, beyond being bought and sold. Contrawise, wealthy people are often subject to extortion and compelled to protect what wealth they have, subsequently forcing decisions they would not ordinarily make.

So the distinction is four-fold.

There is a big difference between managing a self/business/household and holding public office. This difference is assumed. For example, when asked if she would ever run for public office, Oprah Winfrey responded, "I can do more for people with my celebrity through business." On the flip side, most if not all of the more visible public "leaders" are/were failures in the private sector; those more advanced in the public sector are often failures in the private sector.
In one case, some people are incredibly adept at managing an entity, be it a business or their person. ON the other, some are more adept at managing, at large. Neither are usually practiced in the rules.


The difference is deeper than a zero sum game. Government, in the context of the American Tradition, is a do-nothing proposition--this is the nature of a Republic. If and only if the tenets of said republic are broken should government execute its authority, otherwise the Republic rests upon a slippery slope of arbitrary rule. Government is a defensive proposition, reactionary if and only if there is a breach of liberty, and consequently inequality.

Business is proactive by its very nature. Oz would not put a shingle out "selling ideas," if He did not believe he could survive and thrive on his ideas and labor alone. As a futurist, one would hope Oz is less reactionary and more visionsary. So if Oz ran for office, I would not (no offense, pun intended) vote for him.

Government should not be "in the business" of financing proactive endeavors, because it is not in the nature of [OUR] government, and herein lies the fork in the road between me and my Democratic friends and colleagues... we argue about the naute of [OUR] government. But as this response (not very satisfacorily) illustrates, only until the nature, ie Constitution, is dissolved can one successfully argue against the reactionary nature of [OUR] government.

10:14 AM  
Blogger OZ said...

I meant to say that wealthy people "could" make good decisions, not that they would. Our founding fathers comes to mind. good post though.

Remind me to not ask you join my campaign steering committee.

2:27 PM  

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