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Feb. 5 2010 - 2:10 pm | 63 views | 2 recommendations | 4 comments

Corporations shouldn’t monopolize discourse, the Party should

Julian Sanchez has the germ of a solid argument here. But only the germ. It is in fact true that the observed stupidity of the American people in, say, refusing to vote for cheaper and less discriminatory health insurance for themselves presents a problem for liberals. Basically, if people can’t engage in effective collective action to get themselves systems that benefit everyone, then why believe in collective action as a philosophy? If the American people really are too dumb to do anything for themselves, why try to do anything for them? Why not get a job on Wall Street, rob the taxpayer blind for a few years, and retire at 40 with a cool billion in a Cayman Islands account? Or whatever it is that Republicans do? Doesn’t the failure of collective action at the political level show that people, or Americans at least, are incapable of acting collectively and are best served by a system that ruthlessly screws over the less gifted and wealthy, while affording great opportunities for those of us who had the wisdom to be born into upper-middle-class families and attend Ivy League schools?

Sanchez thinks his own position is consistent because he’s “never been all that big on the intrinsic virtues of democracy” and thus thinks nobody is harmed when corporations get the ability to mislead us all with their expert demagoguery and obfuscation, at budgets of $100 million a buy. We’re so stupid we’d be getting conned by somebody regardless, so why not corporations? I’m with him on the skepticism about the intrinsic value of democracy. But the thing is that the type of regime I think might be better than democracy is a wise nationalist-fascist regime on the Chinese model, run by a political class interested in national greatness and not beholden to a particular class, sector or province. The corporatist model, on the other hand, is doomed to cronyism and collapse, because the bosses will sell out the nation for those Cayman Islands accounts every time. Because I don’t really care about the welfare of the individual and am only interested in national greatness, my position that corporations should be barred from political activity of any kind is more consistent than his.


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  1. collapse expand

    Matt, I’m having trouble with your argument around your use of corporatist to mean the opposite of collective. In my vocabulary they mean the same and whether we plan to or not, all communities feature overlapping bodies with various sizes, purposes and styles of thievery. The government is several of those, business entities are many more, organized labor comprises others and the universal neighbor is the largest, most intrusive and most objectionable of them all.

    I did not like the Citizens United decision, but I’d agree with Julian that there’s something touchy and vague about trying to restrict how the various voluntary and involuntary associations interact with one another.

    But I think you have the germ of a solid argument, pard.

    • collapse expand

      Yeah, no, in fact my response here is completely inconsistent and I shouldn’t even be mock-criticizing Sanchez for inconsistency; his post was more coherent than mine. My actual critique of what Sanchez wrote would be that I think he’s overly either-or; you can believe that people are, on a sliding scale, more or less likely to be taken in by corporate propaganda without concluding that they’re so stupid that it’s crazy to allow the governments they elect to regulate various aspects of economic and social life. And you can also believe that people are more or less capable of electing representatives who are smarter and cannier than the average citizen, and that with the right institutional structures, those representatives can then delegate professional civil servants with expertise in various areas who can actually do a pretty good job of regulating those areas. For example, federal judges are for the most part pretty good and honest lawyers even though they’re appointed by politicians who are elected by the voters, who mostly don’t know much about the law and aren’t very unbiased or scrupulous. If you take Sanchez’s position to its own logical conclusion you get a pretty atomized view of the world, a defense of libertarianism not because it promotes the best results but because it affords the best opportunities for people like who consider themselves smarter than most to wall themselves off from the stupidity of the rest.

      Such a political attitude may become adaptive in a country where different regions and cultural blocs have begun to actually hate and despise each other. But it’s not too happy a vision.

      In response to another comment. See in context »
  2. collapse expand

    RIght. That’s the solid argument you had the germ of. I have a lot of sympathy for (and have made myself) the opinion that to the degree people need to be governed, they are unqualified to govern themselves and to the degree they are competent, they can be left in peace. But I don’t consider that a libertarian position so much as an argument that wherever you wind up on the nanny state-post apocalyptic dystopia spectrum, you’re bound to have other problems to deal with as a person and as a people.

  3. collapse expand

    Matt, if you want an example of the kind of ’success’ which can be achieved by a partnership between government and the major corporations, you need look no further than where I am right now. Japan is a country in which the state has gone into incredible amount of debt trying to keep those same corporations afloat, and politicians seem powerless to change any of this.

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    I've reported from Vietnam since 2003. I'm now the Hanoi correspondent for the German-based, English-language wire service Deutsche Presse-Agentur, and was previously a Hanoi-based stringer for the Boston Globe and for Voice of America. Before that I reported from West Africa, and before that from the Netherlands; my articles have appeared in the Washington Post, the Nation, the New York Times Magazine and the New York Times. I've got a thing for languages, and have picked up Russian, French, Dutch and Vietnamese. I used to write scripts for the children's cartoon shows "Arthur", "Doug", and a few others. I got a degree in interactive telecommunications back when most people had never sent an email. In April 1991 I predicted the USSR would collapse into its constituent republics and that Boris Yeltsin would become president of Russia. Since then most of my predictions have been rather less accurate, so it was probably a fluke.

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