Sunday, January 5, 2014

Anti-corporatism as common ground for liberals, conservatives, and libertarians?

You probably do not know who Professor G. Tyler Miller is--a chemist and an environmental scientist--but I remember him well from Freshman Science at (then) St. Andrews Presbyterian College.  (Confession:  I didn't do a lot of my homework that year, and skimmed through some pretty interesting lectures and experiments with a low B, just barely keeping my scholarship.)

What I most remember is his four-part paradigm of change (he was talking about environmental change, but the paradigm works, I think, for almost anything).  It was really simple, and went like this:

1.  No talk, no do.

2.  Talk, no do.

3.  Talk, do.

4.  No talk, do.

In other, less elegant words, you move from not acknowledging the existence of a problem (no talk, no do), to discussing it without any concrete action (talk, no do), to working on it while you continue to discuss it (talk, do), to having reached a consensus so that you stop arguing about it and get on with solving it (no talk, do).

For Libertarians and the issue of corporatism, we are barely moving from Step 1 to Step 2, but then neither liberals nor conservatives have done much better.

Libertarians often confuse their belief in free markets with a protection of corporate capitalism, and--de facto--end up arguing in favor of exactly what they decry:  government power used to distort markets in favor of certain "winners" and against other "losers."

The health-care system before the passage of Obamacare was not a free-market system; it was every bit the same production of government distorting the marketplace in favor of health insurance companies, hospital chains, and big pharmaceutical companies that the Affordable Care Act is today.

The difference between the Democrats who brought us Obamacare and the Republicans who resisted it is not one of principle, but one of corporate influence and the monetized self-interest of career politicians.  The true liberals and progressives were rolled under the bus as thoroughly and completely as real conservatives or real libertarians.

Today our liberal and progressive friends have, like the modern pseudo-conservatives, been tricked into seeing Obamacare as a step in the direction of their perceived Mecca:  single-payer health insurance.  It isn't.  Nobody in charge in the Obama administration sat down to craft a plan "so bad" that it would make people clamor for single-payer.  They sat down to craft a plan that included just enough goodies like "pre-existing conditions" and "no life-time maximums" to make single-payer advocates believe they were moving in that direction.

Likewise, our conservative friends who see in President Obama a "Kenyan socialist" have been severely misled by their own billionaire-funded think tanks into missing the obvious point:  Barack Obama IS a socialist--but his socialism is for corporations only, not people.  He has, like Dubya before him, continued to socialize risk for big corporations while allowing them to privatize their gain.  He has continued the ongoing process of erecting barriers to prevent real competition from ever injuring GE, or Wal-Mart, or Goldman Sachs.

In the meantime, both sets of traditional political factions--the liberals and the conservatives--continue to believe the ridiculous myth that government power can somehow be separated from corporate power.

Libertarians unfortunately fall prey to the same myths.  When we agree with conservatives that governmental functions to should be privatized, we too often fail to realize that this "privatization" is not turning over the production of a good or service to a free market, but is in reality simply "contracting out" that service to a favored corporate partner who is structurally insulated from any competition at all (hello Booz Allen, hello Halliburton).

Here is the problem, on which real liberals, real conservatives, and real libertarians need to find some common ground:  the State, which has, for better or worse, been given tremendous power for good or evil, has been almost completely co-opted by the plutocrats of corporate capitalism who are (a) anti-market; (b) anti-competition; (c) anti-free speech; and (d) willing to use all powers of the government--both civil and brutally violent--to maintain the hold on wealth and power that they achieved via both force and fraud.

The only good news is that many people are starting to glimpse pieces of the elephant, but they don't realize they are seeing the same thing, and they have too long been convinced that they are natural enemies and shouldn't compare notes.

In Delaware this is beginning to play out because people are actually starting to face the inherent contradictions of living in a supposed "Red State" with a permanent Democratic majority that continues to send a Congressional delegation to Washington to vote against everything that liberals and progressives hold dear, while at home the Democrats in the Executive and Legislative branches have made gigantic strides in "privatizing" public education by "contracting it out" to corporate interests.

Consider last year's session of the General Assembly in which liberals, progressives, and even many libertarians cheered for the passage of bills in favor of marriage and trans-gender equality, and then fought divisive battles (liberals and progressives vs conservatives and libertarians) over gun control measures.

Lost in the shuffle was the realization that no matter how much I personally admire Sarah McBridge or Senator Karen Petersen, the grim reality is that the Governor used an illegal task force to advance the cause of corporatized public education and secret Attorney General's opinions to promote further corporate welfare and exemptions from environmental regulation.

Meanwhile, DE Republicans continued to bite on the same hook--accepting red-meat challenges over social issues as if they were not the window dressing of an anti-free market, anti-conservative agenda held even by some of their own Representatives and Senators.

There is only one road back to the past that never was and forward to the future we'd like to see.

We have to begin the difficult process of bringing liberal, conservative, and libertarians back to the table as Americans, as Delawareans, and we have to begin the arduous process of re-creating the separation of corporation and state.

This is tough, tougher than probably anybody believes.  Corporations control our government:  no matter which party is in power the same corporate revolving doors swing widely around.  Corporations control most (but thankfully not quite all) our media.  Only the leveling hierarchy of the internet and rapidly evolving social media elude their control, but they're working on it.  Who do you think effectively gives the NSA its marching orders in the first place?

Booker T. Washington made famous the phrase, "Put down your bucket where you are."  Start where we live.  Start with our neighbors.  Start with our local public schools.  Start with our state and local elections.

There is already a start happening in Delaware, and its beginnings can be found in a series of unlikely events.

Greens and progressives in the Newark area have succeeded in changing the narrative of the proposed Data Center to such an extent that it took significant corporate monetary intervention to tilt the recent mayoral race in the "correct" direction.  But this time the organizers haven't shut up.

Libertarians and progressives have united to challenge the corporate health-care and insurance worlds to retake some ground for the cause of midwives and home birth in Delaware.

Conservatives and liberals are together beginning to question the drive towards completely corporatized public education.

There is an old truism in politics that you build coalitions by looking for that which unites you, not that which divides you.

The complete takeover of American institutions by an increasingly dictatorial corporate oligarchy that consciously intends to eliminate both the free market and the last vestiges of meaningful democracy from our nation is an issue that--if properly stated--can unite a large number of us.

While there is still time.