The great nullity at the center of American politics, disallowing all constructive dialog, is actually quite simple. It is the inability of the right, conservatives, libertarians, Republicans, whatever they wish to call themselves to acknowledge the growth of big government was necessary for the growth of big corporations. While the left, liberals, progressive, Democrats, whatever they wish to call themselves today, cannot accept that the growth of big corporations was necessary for the growth of big government.
Maybe it is a simple fault of history. The modern corporation was birthed at the same time as our modern republic, but left out of the great debates about power which forged the republic. What was debated were questions about centralizing government power. Those who had learned from history, such as Jefferson, and simply the experiences of the disparate legions of anti-federalists, saw the creation of DC as inevitably, over time, stripping away their own power. Yet, they did not see clearly the role the modern industrial corporation would play in this stripping process over the next two centuries.
Of course as the corporations grew, many came to understand, from the Populists to the Progressives to Labor, and there was a reaction to the growing unholy, or more accurately, the growing anti-democratic alliance between government and corporation. This new centralized system would become codified and institutionalized with the New Deal, in response to the great national economic meltdown of the 1930s, fostered by the now dominant centralized national economy. Slowly, over the next half-century, it would become clear to all who cared looking, the mega-corporations were running the show. Now, this new crisis we face is one created by the global corporation, which, problematically, has no global government counterpart, that is if you rightly discount the faltering and insufficient Pax Americana.
So, we are told the solution to the problems of centralization is more centralization. Europe should have one bank — one bank to rule them all and in the darkness bind them. While China’s much ballyhooed neo-mandarins should continue packing their warehouses with unsold goods and build ever more empty apartment blocks. And here in America, municipalities should be starved, insuring all funds are directed by DC or the one bank. And of course, all we really need to succeed are better CEOs.
What we are witnessing is the breakdown of industrial centralization, whose faults over the past two centuries have been covered by the abundance of a seemingly infinite planet, which could with a little technological manipulation provided by the great Newtonian revolution, and a lot of exploitation, provide a consumer cornucopia for 10% of a global population of 6 billion.
However, last century, brought with it a new scientific revolution, the world of biology and quantum physics. And with it the knowledge that there is no central control room for the planet’s environment, power is not of large objects, but combinations of trillions and trillions of small objects. Centralized systems become increasingly incapable of dealing with complexity, thus democracy becomes not simply a right, but a necessity.
Thus the great nut of present American politics, explain to the single mother with a couple kids buying milk and school clothes at Walmart she’s being ripped-off, though I believe she does understand, just not quite how, and from there can be launched a politics of the 21st century.
Joe Costello is the author of Of, By, For: The New Politics of Money, Debt & Democracy
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