I have in the past, for several years now, used the terms “corporatocracy” and “oligarchy” in describing the form of government we have here in the United States of America. I’ve used these terms because ever since the Founding Fathers made it so that the New World aristocracy–the white, land owning men–controlled government, we’ve had an oligarchy in effect. And since robber barons in the late 19th, early 20th centuries bought legislation to favor their companies and limit competition, we’ve had a growing corporatocracy.
Well, sadly, I no longer have the joy of saying that with a hint of hyperbole. With the recent Supreme Court ruling in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, wherein the majority judges eliminated regulations that have been put in place preventing corporations (and unions, sure) from buying off elections, we now truly have a corporatocracy. From this moment on, multinational corporations which may have their money in the Camen Islands or Dubai, and major labor forces in China and Mexico, can spend as much money as they want to support the legislators they want and the laws they want.
Supporters of this move say it’s a free speech issue (which, after all, that’s how SCOTUS couched it). So, what this means then, is that money, wealth, now equals free speech. So, let me ask you now that wealth is the same as free speech: do you feel that your amount of speech (real or potential) is as free and equal as that of Haliburton’s? Or KBR’s? Or Phizer?
The best way to put the implications of all this is to let Keith Olbermann spell it out. And don’t worry, this isn’t just a bleeding-heart liberal warning, he points out exactly how this cuts the throats of conservatives and right-wingers alike:
(If you can’t see the embedded video, go here: http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/21134540/vp/34985508#34985508 )
“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.”
He saw even then that the interests of the nascent capitalist, for-profit corporation, lay not in democracy and liberty, but in market dominance and crushing the interests of free markets and free speech and individual choice. Corporations don’t want competition and free markets, they want the advantage against anyone and anything that will stop their drive for profit.
Sure, some corporations are non-profits, or little guys, or special interest groups. But let me ask you this as well: do you think any non-profit or special interest or local home-grown corp will have a sliver’s of a chance buying laws and legislators against multinational, billions of dollars a year in profit, mega corps? Our government in just a few election cycles, will effectively be run by the richest, dynastic multinational corporations which will seek to destroy anything resembling dissent.
After all, they’re already trying tooth and nail to control government in their favor–think now that they can bring the full power of capital gains to bear they’ll stop? Take for example AT&T’s democracy-riddled and free market tactics (sarcasm) of buying charities to support elimination of ‘net neutrality, and a glance at this list of legal cases the Electronic Frontier Foundation is involved in shows a long list of corporations fighting not for truth, justice, and the American way, but to crush competition, stifle free speech of we the people, and twist government regulations to serve their private interests.
This new development simply paves the way for them to just buy all the legislators they want.
Larry Lessig, a Harvard Law professor, has this brief message regarding the implications of this court decision and what can, maybe, be done to fight it:
Another site attempting to fix this very broken situation, is:
We think it can’t end, this great American experiment. I’m sure that’s what the citizens of all the great, fallen empires have thought. We, you and I, have grown up in this “land of the free and home of the brave,” and we can’t possibly imagine it coming to an end. But it can. One day, most certainly, it will. What we’re witnessing this last week is possibly the beginning of the end: the end of (pseudo) democracy and the rise of corporate ownership of life.
When you think about it, it’s been heading that way since J. P. Morgan first bought legislation to favor the United States Steel Corporation. Corporations have been controlling which presidents get to the primaries and the debates. They’ve been buying legislators with lobbying money (a fraction of the money they can now spend on campaigns). Really, when you get right to it, being a true corporatocracy overtly and in the open is really a more honest, forthright way of being what we already are at the very base. All we need now is a new branding to Corporate States of America and a new, fresh logo!
Addendum: A BoingBoing commenter has a great reply to people who still hold that this decision is somehow a win for free speech:
Shareholders are the owners of corporations, and shareholders each have a single vote as citizens (those that are citizens.)
The sum representation of a corporation in America is equal to the portion of its capital that is owned by americans. That is honestly a very fair system already.
What corporations wanted in this ruling is not fair representation, but rather an advantage, which is what businesses crave. Advantage over competition.
In this case, the competition is popular opinion. Corporations want to compete against governance in a 1-person, 1-vote system and are essentially attempting to make their shareholders have more clout than people who do not hold shares.
To not recognize that this philosophy is at odds with egalitarian democracy is a serious crime against your own best interests. You may attempt to see how you yourself could benefit from this if you are a businessperson, but remember that there will always be another, larger company who does not have your best interests in mind and who will gain even more from this than you do. They will not take mercy upon you the way a functional democratic government can be made to.