Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Corporate vs Public Power -- What is Fair?

In my last post, I made a point about the quintessential American-ness of keeping the power in our society rooted in the Public, rather than Corporate hands and it seems appropriate to examine that idea further.

When we think of the American Businessman, the Entrepreneur or small business Owner, we invariably envision someone rugged, clever, driven and -- ultimately -- accessible to the customer.  We envision the guy who owns the diner down the block, or the woman who runs the clothing store across town.  We envision people like ourselves, who interact with their customers and employees face-to-face and are involved in the community.  It's people like that whom we most respect.  In the case of the small business, if the business goes down, so does the Owner.  If their efforts succeed and grow, we applaud them for their success because we feel that we, collectively, had a small part in it.  They're democratic, for their interests are closest to the People at large.

Then we look at Corporations.  At its heart, a Corporation is a legal way of shielding a business owner from the risk and liability of operating a business.  If the business goes under, the Owner gets to walk away without taking a hit.  These are large entities employing hundreds, often thousands of workers who rarely -- if ever -- meet the person who signs the checks.  They are strictly stratified and regimented, each with their own hurdles in place to keep the majority of employees from moving up the ladder and advancement is usually more easily accomplished through pre-existing personal relationships ("partner's son needs a position") than it is through how well one does one's job.  

And the bigger the Corporation, the more feudal its culture becomes.  Whereas in a small business the owner's best interests lie in keeping up a good long-term relationship with his or her employees -- in order to produce the most consistently-excellent product or service -- in a Corporation, employees become short-term cogs in a larger machine, easily, anonymously and cheaply replaced.  And in most cases, the Corporation's best interests lie in finding the shorter-term, cheapest and most anonymous employees, rather than in long-term good partnership.

In American culture today, there's a widely-held confusion between the two.  Corporate interests would have us believe that they're no different than the mom-and-pop stores that epitomize the American Dream ("Corporations are People"), when in fact, they're the exact opposite.  A single business or entrepreneur might eventually command large sums of money, but a large multi-national Corporation often controls as much -- if not more -- land, money and resources than most countries on the planet and can be checked only by the force of Law.  If any structure is inherently anti-democratic, it's the Corporate Pyramid.   

Now one of the big questions that our nation is dealing with is this:  In whose hands should the power in our society be placed?  Corporatists, Regressives and Libertarians would argue in the name of Individualism that it should be placed squarely in Corporate ("private") hands and condemn the very idea of Public participation in or benefit from the governance of this land as "Socialism".  These forces are working tirelessly to ensure that our governmental power stays in Corporate hands, and rulings such as Citizens United, which legitimized Corporate purchasing of our voting process and  the upcoming McCucheon Case will open the floodgates to legalized bribery even further.  

I would argue that the whole purpose of the Voting is to keep social power in the hands of the Public.  With each person casting a single vote, the will of Society at Large becomes evident and our system was set up to be accountable to that mechanism -- and thus, the will of the People.  It is the very definition of the American System.  Now, that all changes when money starts replacing votes as the means of election and the mantra of "Corporations are People" is very clearly trying to replace the social power of the Vote with the buying power of Money.

So what constitutes "fairness" in the situation?  One-person-one-vote, where each individual gets a say in what happens on the national and local level or a single entity, endowed with nigh-infinite resources dictating to the rest of us?  The choice to me is clear.