Thursday, September 5, 2013

America's One-Party System

A Facebook post I put up August 31 along with the comment thread:

Many complain about America's two-party system, the limited choice it offers. I think they're getting it wrong. Our politics makes more sense when one recognizes it as a one-party system. Where some see a Democratic Party and a Republican Party, I just see two versions of the Republican Party. One the one hand there's the Republican Party that wants to outlaw abortion, on the other the Republican Party that wants to legalize gay marriage. This is what Americans get to choose from.

CJL: So what would you choose? I'd choose gay marriage if I were an American citizen.

DA: So, oligarchy or plutocracy.

Eric: Exactly, DA.

PR: Better dead than red, Eric Mader.

Eric: As I've said before, PR: They will pry my Che Guevara action figure from my dead frozen fingers.

K: Eric, I think your assessment is accurate, but overly granular. I think there is more value in moving up the so-called zeitgeist totem pole. Even the choices in terms of plutocracy versus oligarchy are actually archaic notions if you ask me. I do understand that my preferred word is not even a word, and is probably already overused too. It is corporatocracy. Spell check never finds this word, so that's how I guess it isn't a word. But, if you look closely at what is wrong with all things "structural" in our times, there is no "one" to blame. Everything is run either by a corporation or other grouped-together, 3rd-party-controlled mechanism (a corporation is run by shareholders) wherein no individual is actually responsible for the corporation's actions. If a corporation knowingly sells a deadly object/chemical/device and it actually kills dozens, or hundreds, or let's just say, millions... there is no one who is actually responsible. No one hangs. Sure you can sue, and force corporations to pay up, but there is no moral responsibility that is imbued into the corporate soul. If a human being were to commit the many sorts of acts that corporations do, they would suffer other than in the wallet. The human version of "personhood" has enormous cultural, and individual, and real expectations. To the contrary, corporations are only legally bound, with the threat of job loss or jail to the CEO, of return on capital to the shareholders. If a company attempts to do long-term thinking, or even provide notional constructions that one might call "moral fortitude" to any decision, the CEO can be fired or jailed. What complicates matters is that our culture is so deeply specialized and individuated that the experts in any given field are the only ones who are qualified to work in government as a watchdog. But if you live long enough in our system, you find out that the price to pay for being a watchdog in your career/profession is much higher to you as an individual. However, the rewards are vast if you are not a watchdog but instead support your professional colleagues' endeavors. In this context, any "political" party is nothing but a bobber on the corporate current. It has no real power, except around the edges. So, I do agree that the USA has a single party, one that provides choices around certain issues, that generates pretend differences, which are, however, of little impact on the actual direction of the consumption and distribution of resources. Gay marriage and abortion are merely issues that generate lots of emotive energy, but change nothing in terms of: Is there too much radiation in the Pacific Ocean? Should we burn all the coal on Earth if we finish burning all the oil? How much insecticide should a corn plant actually ooze from its pores before it is not safe to eat? At what point is the price of war too high when it comes to human deaths? Since these sorts of questions require rethinks on the direction our humanity goes, it's better to argue about unborn humans, and what genitals are suitable for legal contracts to be state recognized. Why are those more suitable issues? Because it is always better to inject the question of what the Invisible Man in the sky, who sees all, knows all, and loves all (except for the millions of specific little situations where he hates and needs to destroy you for all eternity), thinks about these matters. And as we know, only the ballot box can discern the almighty's actual feelings on such matters.

Eric: K: Yes, I agree with some of your points. In fact I would argue that THE main problem the world now faces is the centrality of the profit motive as combined with the nearly total irresponsibility that corporate structure allows for. Corporations privatize profits and (given their almost hand-in-glove collaboration with states) both socialize losses and leave all environmental fallout to the future to swallow as it will. To the degree the corporate model continues to dominate, to the degree our governments continue to dance as its paid puppets, it seems obvious to me that we are headed for extinction or something similar. Our own government has been more or less overthrown by a corporate coup, democracy for us is increasingly window dressing, and there is little chance, given the technologies of control now employed, that our population will be able to right this situation. Yes, I think America is VERY different from what it was through most of the post-war period. Ten more years of drift in the current direction and we will be justified in talking of "soft totalitarianism" Or perhaps not so soft. / I understand why you insist terms like oligarchy aren't really applicable here, but I still think the term has its use. After all, those who benefit from the central place of corporate structure in our society are largely that top 5 percent. And it is largely the needs of corporations that our government is responsive to: again ensuring that top 5 percent always ends up at the top, no matter how their card houses may topple. / The question of the day of course is how the left might begin the work of transforming this Doomsday machine we're riding. I say the left because I think it's only from the left that solutions are going to come--the right is still too busy applauding itself for the fall of the Soviet Union. / In terms of this discussion, the following deserves a careful read. In any case, Ackerman's article addresses the issues that need be addressed if there's any hope capitalism can be transformed before it takes us over the cliff it's heading to. But what kind of social upheaval would be necessary to enforce the kind of reforms he suggests? Is such a coordinated political platform even possible beyond its presence here in article form?

The article is largely on economics. Ackerman argues that the triumphalism of mainstream economics is unjustified given the evidence. For one, the maintenance of a laissez-faire environment is not as relevant to an economy's performance as is often assumed.

And here the discussion ended.

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