Corporate oligarchy is a form of power, governmental or operational, where such power effectively rests with a small, elite group of inside individuals, sometimes from a small group of educational institutions, or influential economic entities or devices, such as banks, commercial entities that act in complicity with, or at the whim of the oligarchy, often with little or no regard for constitutionally protected prerogative
Recent articles from NPR and from the American Association of Justice about the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) got me thinking about Corporatocracies. I started making a simple Facebook post, just as a “hey look at this” kind of thing. But, then it started turning into more than just a rant against corporatocracies. I have a lot to say about this and it needed more space.
My understanding of what ALEC does (granted it is not based on any indepth research and, instead, purely on potentially biased news articles, plus their own website), really brings up a deep concern for the future of the US. Giving any group, this much power and influence over government, is dangerous. Over the last few years, some ideas about what the purpose of government is, has started to coalesce, and this group represent what I believe is the exact opposite of what government should be.
The purpose of a government is to protect the people. At least that is how I see it, and what I understand the purpose of the US government to be, as outlined in the Declaration of Independence and Constitution. The government is formed by the collective body of the people in order to protect themselves as a whole. It is a fundamental structure of a free society. The free part is important but we’ll come back to that.
In an ideal world, the government would have no function. People would not take advantage, harm or negatively interfere with each other and there would be no outside threats. But that exists only in fantasy worlds (not even the utopia of Star Trek is that perfect).
In a less idealized world, the government has only need to protect the people from outside ‘threats’. I use threats loosely here, because I can not come up with a better word. I don’t mean just military threats, but any kind of outside body that can negatively harm the people of a society (a virus or plague would be an example of a non-military outside threat). This would be the idealized version of society in things like Star Trek. The Federation protects people from outside things like the Borg, but internally, everyone gets along peacefully.
In a bit more realistic world, the government must protect the people from internal ‘threats’ as well. Unlike a foreign threat, an internal threat usually is not a threat to all of the people equally. Discrimination of people by race or religion is an example of this kind of threat. The KKK is an internal threat in the US, targeting for harm a sub-set of the overall population.
The Nazi were a threat to German society. They were a clear example of a threat the government failed to protect the people from, as power was yielded to the Nazi. That’s not to say the Weimar Republic specifically failed, but the free society of Germans who gave their power to the Weimar Republic failed.
Internal threats are much harder to identify because of their nature. KKK members and Nazi clearly do not see themselves as a threat to their societies. They see the groups they target as the threat. This is where the paradox of government comes in. Protecting the people, from internal threats, means causing some harm and some curtailing of freedom, for some members of society.
A government that throws people in jail, without cause, is a government that has failed to function as the protector of a free society. Likewise, a government that fails to prevent the massacre of a group of people, because it did not wish to infinge on the rights of the group doing the massacring, is also a failed government. That wouldn’t be a government, that would be anarchy. Again, extreme examples but hopefully you see the basic point. There must be a balance between freedom and essential protection. Other wise you have no government or society.
The hardest threat for a government/society, to protect against, is the internal special interest. By definition, a special interest group represents a segment of the people that make up a government/society. Therefore, in order for this to be a free society/government, those people’s rights and needs must be considered. However, once those people transfer their power to a special interest group, problems start.
In it’s simplest form, a government/society is made up of all of the people within it. Each has an equal voice within that government. Each has an incentive to consider the needs of everyone else, so that equal consideration will be give to them. The musketers sum it up best “One for all and all for one.” They are all in it together.
But when a subgroup is formed, that subgroup has only the interests of its members to consider. The needs of the other members of society become secondary. In a sense, that special interest group has become a new society/government, and all of the others, who were once part of the same society, are now foreign threats.
When enough people within a society cede their power of government to a special interest (there are a number of ways this happens which we won’t go into), the government ends up listening to the special interests, thinking it is listening to the people. But it really isn’t. It has failed to protect all of it’s people, by only listening to some.
But what does all of this have to do with ALEC? ALEC is a special interest that is essentially turning America into a Corporatocracy. The people have ceded much of their power to corporate special interests. And corporations, like any other special interest, look out for themselves first, society as a whole second. This is where government/society has failed, because it has been allowed to happen.
The natural tendency to combat this is to form special interest to oppose the other special interests. An Anti-Corporatocracy group so to speak. But that would actually be the absolute worst solution. That’s why we are in the situation we are in now, to many special interest groups competing for the people’s power, that the true needs of the people are never identified and addressed.
Any time special interests gain precedence in a free society, the government has failed. The US has a principle of “separation of church and state”. This was instilled because of the tremendous power the church, an old form of special interest, once had over societies. People came to America to practice religious freedom. There are elements of society today that want to get rid of this principle. In some cases, they are succeeding, because of the alliances of special interests. One group wants to make their religion dominate, one wants to make their corporation more profitable. Their goals are not mutually exclusive, so they work together. When the government listens to these groups, or any number of others, it has failed.
The solution, is as simple as it is complex.
In order for the government to protect all of the people against threats foreign and domestic, it can’t listen to any special interests. Unfortunately, everything is a special interest. Political parties are the most basic form. Churchs, businesses, etc. All of these groups are concerned with their needs first, society as a whole second.
The only way to combat this, is for government to not listen to any of them. How do you do that in a population of 300million with issues that are confusing and complicated? In a complex society, sub groups are necessary. A city council and state government are both forms of a special interest at the most basic level. Necessary bodies but still special interests
So how do you stop special interests from causing a free society to fail? You convince the people, not to cede their power to these special interests. Being a member of a group isn’t the problem, it’s when people allow the group to make their decisions for them that the trouble starts. People must be American’s first, everything else second. Texan, Republican, Liberal, businessman, Christian are all secondary to that (Ideally I would like people to be Human first, America, German, Chinese, etc second, but one step at a time).
That’s where government comes in. The people in government, from the president to the supreme court, to congress to a postal worker, must recognize that their authority stems from the people and that their responsibility is to all of the people. A person may be a senator from Maine, but they are still a representative of all Americans. They may be a democrat or a republican, but that is just a group that helps people understand their beliefs. It is not what should make decisions for them. A corporation may have run favorable ads and helped them get elected, but that does not mean they are beholden to that corporation.
The people at large need to learn to think, and elect people that represent society and not special interests. It’s not an easy task. Information is so easy to distort and issues are often very complex. But, in away, it’s the simplest of tasks. Individuals can be slick and charming, but most people can pick out a sleaze ball. Don’t listen to pundits, listen to the words and mannerisms of candidates themselves. Think about them as a person, not as a member of <insert special interest here>. If you don’t like the person, don’t vote for them. Even if it means voting for another party or an independent or a write in candidate. When Mickey Mouse wins a majority vote, it will become clear the people are not satisfied with the available candidates.
It will take time, and it will take people who aren’t beholden to special interests, stepping up and running for office. They will likely lose most of the time. But eventually, things can get better.