Monday, September 6, 2010

Democracy part 3: Are We Living in a Plutocracy?

Plutocracy: (n.) Government by the wealthy. <usage> a country or society governed in this way; an elite or ruling class of people whose power derives from their wealth.

In this post, I'm thinking about whether leaders really make public policy based on what's best for the people.
So what happens once politicians get elected? They go to Washington to swim in an ocean of special interest lobbyists (about 20,000 of them). Lobbyist specialize in selling legislation to politicians. Sometimes they've come to weigh-in on a hot button political issue, but usually they're corporate henchmen. Every year corporations collectively spend billions (yes, with a b) on lobbying. So, for example, if there is legislation trying to set a limit on the amount of trans-fat a restaurant can put in a children's meal, you can bet there will be a swat team from McDonalds swinging in to make sure it doesn't happen (sorry kids).

And here's an interesting fact - about half of congressmen today become lobbyist after they leave office. It's the plutocratic circle of life: business to politics and politics to business. I apologize if this sounds overly pessimistic, but here's what it boils down to for me - why would corporations, whose sole goal is to increase their profit margin, spend millions and millions of dollars on lobbyist unless it increased their profit margin? They wouldn't. They absolutely wouldn't. The only logical conclusion is that these corporations have tremendous sway over public policy (if I'm missing something, somebody please tell me). How is that not plutocracy?...

Here's another question (this one might cook your brain) - What if the illusion of choice in the political realm is just the tip of the iceberg? What if most of the choices in our great Western democracies, the choices we make in our every day lives, aren't choices at all, but rather the illusion of choice? Am I starting to sound like some kind of crazy conspiracy theorist? Maybe you're thinking I've read 1984 one too many times. I'll admit this sounds like the stuff of an Orwell novel, but I assure you it's real. If you want to see how deep the rabbit hole really goes (to quote Morpheus) then check out this excellent article over at Front Porch Republic:

Neo-feudalism and the Invisible Fist

No comments:

Post a Comment