7 in 10 Catching On

An article by Rasmussen Reports gives polling results that can only hearten true free-market conservatives, and give pause to nacent socialists.

Briefly, the report states that- "...70% of U.S. voters believe that big business and big government generally work together against the interests of investors and consumers...". The statement continues to say that-"...(according to Rasmussen Reports surveying) Just 14% disagree with the assessment, and 17% are not sure."

I have said for a long time that large corporate entities like corporations, governments, and such non-profits as unions act principally in their own interest even in the face of the desires of their stakeholders. This simply states that the people are catching on to that fact. Most interesting in this report is the statistical unanymity of respondents of all political persuasions.

These attitudes, likely fueled by the revolving doors between corporate suites and political power, are found widely across demographic and partisan lines. Seventy-one percent (71%) of Democrats believe big government and big business are on the same team. So do 69% of Republicans and 69% of those not affiliated with either major party. There are no significant differences to be found by gender, age, race or ideology.

In a time when the government has manipulated events to set up yet another corporate ally, the U.A.W., as a majority owner of the Chrysler Corporation this dawning of the truth on the electorate could not be coming at a better time.

Posted by Lee Emmerich Jamison at April 30, 2009 1:14 PM
Comment #281162

Gee, Lee, rather ironic then that conservatives vote for the Republican Party whose policies promote the marriage of government and corporations. Must be why the GOP lost the last 2 elections. The people know that if they want politicians to take on the corporations they have to call on Democrats for that, not Republicans.

Of course there are anecdotal exceptions in both parties to their Party’s embrace of corporations. but, ideologically, Republican trickle down economics says be good to corporations and their wealth will fall between their fingers making those at the bottom a bit wealthier too. Democratic ideology says corporations and those enriched by them consume inordinate federal public resources and therefore owe an inordinate share of the cost of federal government.

You are right, the voters and consumers are catching on. 43% now say the country is moving in the right direction, equal to number saying we are moving in the wrong direction. For many years prior, that poll show a large majority believing we were heading in the wrong direction.

Posted by: David R. Remer at April 30, 2009 3:59 PM
Comment #281163

What I thought was remarkable in the article I noted was that the poll it was based on found that most people think government and big business work together in opposition to what the public wants. That, to me, is huge.

Large corporate entities have been playing Good Cop / Bad Cop with us, playing conservatives against liberals, but mainly serving their own interests.

Only time will tell if the people have the stomach to connect the logical dots on what they perceive to be true of Obama to the realities of what he wants in terms of policy. This fog of enfatuation will wear off some day.

We can only hope it’s not a day too late.

Posted by: Lee Jamison at April 30, 2009 4:10 PM
Comment #281165

The government set up another corporate ally! This is where the “true free market conservatives” as well as the untrue free market conservatives have it backward Lee It is the corporations that set up government. It is corporate money that buys our elected officials to do the bidding of CEO’s not government money buying CEO’s to do the bidding of government.
Because big business controls the political process and therefore the government decision making process I would agree big government does the dirty work for corporate America and thereby fooling many people into believing it is the bigger problem.

Posted by: j2t2 at April 30, 2009 4:26 PM
Comment #281177

Lee, I think you must be referring to that word you used a post or two ago….fascism. Yes, when a party becomes the party of corporatism, government becomes fascist, and does stupid things like torture because it’s for the good of the state/corporation.

Posted by: gergle at May 1, 2009 8:07 AM
Comment #281179

Gergle and j2t2,

Your comments scream of helplessness before the seemingly inevitable. Corporatism is a product of people believing they are powerless, so they need a bigger “bad dog” to strike terror into the hearts of their perceived enemies. Republican corporatists want to use massive for-profit corporations to be their bad dog and Democrats want to use the federal government as theirs.

These sides are unwittingly empowering the overall corporate beast together.

The point of my post, and the significance of the article, is that people are beginning to realize a manner in which these are just two faces of the same bad coin. We are experiencing problems that are quickly becoming worldwide problems, too large for any one government to deal with, that are the product of the pathological sociology of large organizations.

These problems arise from our cultural reflexes. Wherever we have a reflexive trust response to any organization, be it a government, corporation, church, or union, people in that organization gain license to use our trust to personal advantage. Those advantages may be almost imperceptible to the rest of us, a sense of self-worth gained from the use of public funds to benefit some group that seemed to need help, for example, but incrementally, through mutation and repetition in the vast corpus of an organization, accommodations and compromises can twist the personality of the whole organization into something that principally serves the organization.

People on the left look at this phenomenon and see it as a pathology founded in the quest for profit. People on the right look at it and see a pathology founded in the quest for power. Neither is completely wrong. Their failure to see the larger picture, though, plays into the hand of the underlying sociological truth.

Large organizations act like life forms. They modify their environments to favor their growth and security. They compete for resources. They eat.

We are the “environment”. To Exxon, General Motors, and the Federal government, we are food. The longer we let any of them grow unabated the less control we will have over how we will be modified to serve that purpose.

Posted by: Lee Jamison at May 1, 2009 9:29 AM
Comment #281180

I think it would be a good idea to consult more than one poll.

Here’s the problem: while people say they’re against big government, they’re quick, by a two-thirds margin to support Barack Obama’s policies!

I think what we have here is a very specific set of codewords that have been driven into people’s skulls for the last thirty years, and its spectacularly easy to provoke a negative reaction using those words.

However, the question is misleading if you wish to use it as a benchmark for folks’ other beliefs. They support, by and large, Obama’s policies, which, if you define them as Republicans do, are big government policies.

As for your theory of the inherent sympathy between big government and big business? Good heavens man, after eight years of Bush corporate apologetics, you’re trying to feed us that one?

This article is just so much spin, intended to project the sins of the Republican party onto the Democrats.

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at May 1, 2009 9:39 AM
Comment #281181


Gee, Lee, rather ironic then that conservatives vote for the Republican Party whose policies promote the marriage of government and corporations. Must be why the GOP lost the last 2 elections.
Is than any more ironic than liberals voting for a Democratic party that pretends not to marry government and big business, while likewise promoting policies that squeeze the life out of small companies?

What conservatives wanted from the Republican Party they did not get. The corporatist sociological pathology prevailed. THAT is why the party has had huge losses.

Democrats are happy, for now, not yet realizing they have thrown their lot in to participate in peristalsis.

Posted by: Lee Jamison at May 1, 2009 9:54 AM
Comment #281182


Here’s the problem: while people say they’re against big government, they’re quick, by a two-thirds margin to support Barack Obama’s policies!
National Socialists, to listen to what j2t2 had to say, have a doctrine of the “Great Man”. You are simply pointing out that, without using the Nazi term, that is what Obama has become.

These are nonsense polls. They ask nothing specific about policies or focused priorities. They are surveys of popularity and the state of our national prejudice and nothing more.

I havent seen a single poll that says people want bigger government, or more government control over their lives. In fact the way I found this poll was through another article stating the public’s support for a “free market” economy had grown seven percent since December. People are growing more and more wary of big controlling entities. That includes government.

They just like Obama personally.

That’s as much as you can say.

Posted by: Lee Jamison at May 1, 2009 10:11 AM
Comment #281183

“Your comments scream of helplessness before the seemingly inevitable. Corporatism is a product of people believing they are powerless, so they need a bigger “bad dog” to strike terror into the hearts of their perceived enemies.”

No screams of helplessness Lee just pointing out an error in conservative judgment as it pertains to corporatism. No bait and switch using corporations to replace big government as the villain. It is more a call for reason and sanity in a return to the capitalism as envisioned by the founding fathers. It is more a desire to see our elected representatives representing we the people not we the corporation. It is more a demand to get big business off the back of the government so government can really be the bad guy once again Lee.

Posted by: j2t2 at May 1, 2009 10:36 AM
Comment #281184


Bait and switch? Religious-like faith in large organizations is a mistake. It doesn’t matter whether they are government, for-profit, non-profit, or whatever.

I know there are people on these political sites who get all their thinking pre-digested, like chicks being fed by the mama bird. That is a symptom of the problem. I’m not one of those people. I’m not speaking for one set of corporatists in a contest with others. So, rather than reflexively taking sides it might be a good idea to think about the issue being raised here.

Posted by: Lee Jamison at May 1, 2009 10:52 AM
Comment #281185

What conservatives wanted from the Republican Party they did not get. The corporatist sociological pathology prevailed. THAT is why the party has had huge losses.

The resultant effect of these financial sociopaths are only a small portion of republican party problems. There are also moral issues and issues of distrust. Top that off with years of poor degenerative republican policy and you have the recipe for an incompetent lot of politicians. This is a perception that was created solely of their own volition.

The people really have been left with little choice but to rely on government to make corrections to the many years of wrongs put upon them by these sociopaths. Fact is the people know they can not rely on or expect republicans to provide solutions. That is because the republican party will not accept accountability for their mistakes and either see no need for, or have no solutions for repair. We look to Obama and dems because they seem to offer a degree of genuine concern, accountability, and transparency that did not exist under republican rule. We realize that there are no quick or cheap solutions to all those years of republican malfeasance. We hope to bring back into balance the gap betweem common people and those financial sociopaths. A large part of that solution revolves around bringing accountability to those at the top who would so readily take advantage of the rest. Fact is only government has the means to effect these corrections. In essence we are relying on the dems to clean up government and big business at the same time. People have no faith that republicans are able or willing to effect such change.

Posted by: RickIL at May 1, 2009 10:59 AM
Comment #281186


I am glad, at least, that you recognize the Republican side of the problem.

As to big government, Republicans have largely brought us that as well in the last 8 years.

What is needed at this point is not smaller government, in general, but a lot of oversight and transparency, which has been sorely lacking. If it is prudent to reduce government at that time, then by all means let’s. It is the cry of small government by Republicans that has been the cover for greater and greater corporatism.

It is yet to be seen if the Democrats will actually take on corporatism. Clinton was also guilty of letting big money from corporations overly influence government. Newt Gingrich never met a corporation he didn’t like.

I have my doubts that you’ve seen the light. It is more likely you are simply attempting to twist the same rhetoric around a new angle. That is the inherit problem with many Republican advocates. They’ve decided there is really nothing wrong with the patient, it’s just a perception problem. It’s these folks killing the Republican party.

Posted by: gergle at May 1, 2009 11:06 AM
Comment #281187

Lee Jamison-
Don’t act like there aren’t polls out there showing support for the stimulus, support for the restraint of Wall Street, and support for a less business friendly approach to governance.

When people get specific about Obama’s agenda, the only place where there is weak support is for the bailouts. Even with that, though, support for and approval of Obama’s economic plans are high.

But never mind that, we’ll just rely on ONE poll question, phrased in terms almost guaranteed to push a button which has been well exercised in the thirty year dominance of Republicans on policy. We’ll just ignore all the evidence that says they want the exact same kind of policies that would be cover by “big government” anyways.

The poll question better answers the question: How do people react when you use this buzzword. It’s Luntzian spin to say that just because people don’t like Big Government, they don’t feel taxes are at the right level, don’t feel more regulation, not less is need, and that they don’t support a president whose policy is openly, unapologetically liberal.

The words “Big Government”, and “Big Business” and “Big Labor”, are all pretty loaded terms, as is the word “threat”. They provoke a negative reaction, especially among Republicans, by about 80%.

But people’s brains can work on different, even self-contradictory levels of logic at the same time. They can hate Big government when you use that word, but support policies that are more or less part of “Big Government’s” description.

After all, Republicans re-elected Bush!

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at May 1, 2009 12:10 PM
Comment #281189

IMHO conservatives in general have it backwards based upon old generalities from the ‘70’s. Those good old days when government was the bad guy. Since that time usurpation of our system of representative government by the corporatist, while not making government the good guy, has made corporations the badder guy,in my view, controlling the bad guy. Who is worse, Lee, the fool with the gun doing what he is told or the evil guy telling the fool what to do?

“Religious-like faith in large organizations is a mistake. It doesn’t matter whether they are government, for-profit, non-profit, or whatever.”

I agree with you Lee, certainly you are not implying I have a religious like faith in government are you? IMHO when you have corporations the size of countries you need a government sized to handle the job of government if you can’t have smaller corporations. The right tool for the job so to speak.

“So, rather than reflexively taking sides it might be a good idea to think about the issue being raised here.”

Lee I usually do it backwards by thinking first and digesting later. However I guess I don’t throw unions and government in the same bag with the corporations as they are a different group in my mind. That being said I understand your point that despite the turnover of power this past election we still suffer corporatist control of our government. Our elected officials are still bought by corporate money and do not serve the best interests of the American people. The real question is why do conservatives oppose public financing of elections and favor political bribery if they believe big business and government work together to exclude we the people?

Posted by: j2t2 at May 1, 2009 12:59 PM
Comment #281191

Lee, the Democratic Party has long historical ties to the corporate world, that is clear. But what distinguishes it from the GOP, is its pragmatic willingness to take on the corporate world’s excesses when they harm the general public and middle class, as is evidenced by environmental policies, consumer advocacy policies like taking on the credit card industry today, and pro-union positions.

The GOP on the other hand has this ideological marriage to corporations bonded by trickle down economic theory, and does not even permit conservatives elected from the GOP to entertain policies which would side with the public at large against corporations.

That is an enormous perceptual, political, and philosophical difference between the parties which favors Democrats in elections in the long run, and results in the GOP’s historical role as the minority party representing minority corporate interests from which an enormous amount of the GOP’s financial support has traditionally come from. The Democrats are willing to bite the corporate hand that feeds them, the elected Republicans are not on the whole.

I have a great affinity for fiscal conservativism, but, not with the GOP’s version of it.

I believe in and advocate for:

1) Living within one’s means
2) governing in a manner which conserves environmental resources and protects a healthy environment by forcing consumers of environmental resources to incur the costs for maintaining a healthy environment as a true and real cost of doing business
3) insuring anti-trust, anti-oligopolic policies and enforcement protecting the free market place of fair competition (including in the military indsutrial complex)
4) and staying out of the private life decisions of individuals where such decisions do not negatively impact, without consent, the lives of other citizens born in the U.S.

These are my conservative principles. If the GOP elected officials would govern from these principles, I would vote for them again. But, I have not seen the elected officials from the GOP govern from these principles since the Clinton years, and then only partially.

I think this is the crux of the dilemma that the GOP must resolve in order to become a viable competitive majority party again. And they can’t do that until they jettison trickle down economic theory, in my opinion, which must protect unbridled freedom by corporations to amass wealth in obscene amounts for a very small minority of individuals, even to the point of that wealth accrual threatening the very foundations of the entire nation’s economic well being as it has in the last 2 years by the Financial Industry.

Posted by: David R. Remer at May 1, 2009 1:14 PM
Comment #281193

Y’know, it is more than a little difficult to civilly explain the frustration of trying to introduce a bunch of jaded politcal commentators to a new, and possibly revelatory concept.

WHY, one may ask, do Democrats NOT GET WHAT THEY WANT from their elected officials?

WHY, the same one might ask, do Republicans ALSO NOT GET WHAT THEY WANT from their elected officials?

Is it because we are all so cynical we really get what we want while saying we want something else? It would be foolish to believe we could all be, at the same time, so sophisticatedly and so self-destructively, cooperative.

No, in fact we REALLY don’t get what we want! (unless, that is, you are stupid enough just to want your team to win, no matter what it then does to you…)

It’s time to start laying some alternatives to the cultural rails that presently are directing both parties and their hangers-on where they would rather not go.

Wake up! This is not a drill!

Posted by: Lee Jamison at May 1, 2009 2:00 PM
Comment #281194

Lee, our system does not afford such easy questions or answers as your previous comment suggests should be forthcoming.

All Democrats get some of what they want from their leaders. All Republicans get some of what they want from their Republican leaders. Otherwise, they wouldn’t be Democrats or Republicans (and many aren’t, they are Independents).

But, ours is a system of factions and indidviduals all vying for their view of how things should be done and how the nation’s affairs should be run. Which makes our system one of compromise and consensus, in order to govern. Even in a one party government, Obama could and Democrats could not get their bill through regarding mortgage reduction authority by bankruptcy judges. Even within the Democratic Party, there are factions and compromises to be struck to achieve consensus.

No Democrat or Republican is going to get most of what they want from government regardless of which party controls that government. And Independent voters are likely to get even less. But, the system does work, inefficiently and without radical change, as Constitutionally designed, to avert revolution and civil war (one exception noted).

This is why, as an Independent voter, I believe Democrats and Republicans place too much stock and faith in their respective Parties to accomplish more than is even in their power to. Nothing in our Constitution guarantees voters will get what they want. It only guarantees them representation in government, which is free to govern according to, against or somewhere in between, the consensus of their constituency.

Add in lobbyists and money as speech access to government, and the whole representation thing gets a whole lot more complicated and diluted for voting constituents. It is a very complicated and inefficient and often disorganized process of governing. To the extent that these inefficiencies and disorganization in effecting long term policy, threaten the viability of nation and government going forward, reforms will be more welcomed and embraced, and likely.

I think that is a bit of what we are witnessing today, for better or worse time will tell.

Posted by: David R. Remer at May 1, 2009 2:32 PM
Comment #281196

I think the biggest problem is simply that human nature favors the accumulation of power and the use of that power for selfish ends. Thus the accumulation of any sort of power in a small number of hands is inherently dangerous. Who the people are is largely irrelevant, as is their occupation, whether in government or business or a political party/ideological group. Whenever too much power gets concentrated in too few hands, bad stuff happens. Hence the need, as Stephen Daugherty says, for massive oversight and transparency. I would say I have a great deal less faith in government and Obama specifically than he does. Even Barack Obama is not immune to the temptations of power. (some might remember that the first temptation was to do whatever one wanted without any consequences.)

Posted by: Calvin at May 1, 2009 3:58 PM
Comment #281197

Calvin, the rather large group drafting, debating, and signing the U.S. Constitution stands as refutation of your comment’s premise that human groups are selfish and will bend power to selfish ends.

Whether a group of people are selfish or nor with power depends on how they were brought up, what values the group holds, and how well the leaders of the group hold the group to their values.

There is nothing inherently selfish nor magnanimous in human beings at birth that predestines their behavior, values, and motives. They learn from their parents, family, community, and culture where to draw lines between magnanimity and selfish ends where power is concerned.

Adam Smith posited that with appropriate rational education, most people will act in their own long term best interests which they will recognize means acting in the interests of the others who will be affected by their behavior, as well. Smith called this enlightened self-interest and predicated his economics on the majority of a society having been educated to develop enlightened self-interest in their decision making.

Just because Americans today do not follow the prescriptions and analysis that Adam Smith outlined, doesn’t mean can’t going forward. Standardizing rational education in our nation’s schools, private and public, is the way forward to an enlightened self-interest governing and protecting the future of this nation.

Rational education means literally teaching ratios, and how to evaluate them, but, also how to apply rational evaluation all the spheres of our secular lives, government, politics, entertainment, community, family relations, economics, financial management, and more. Weighing future benefit against immediate for the greatest gain overall for oneself, one’s family, one’s community, nation, and humanity at large is the discipline our founding fathers were educated in, and they turned out a pretty damn fine structure for government that could protect itself from excesses and extremes while allowing for change and adaptability over the centuries. Enlightened self-interest served them very well in their assigned task, and their personal lives given the culture norms and values of their day.

Posted by: David R. Remer at May 1, 2009 4:30 PM
Comment #281198
Y’know, it is more than a little difficult to civilly explain the frustration of trying to introduce a bunch of jaded politcal commentators to a new, and possibly revelatory concept.

Which idea is that? The one that conflates monopoly business with Liberals, despite a lengthy history of liberals busting and preventing such conglomeration?

No, the real story there is the Reagan revolution simply letting consolidation go out of control. who was it who knocked down all those media ownerhship limits? The Republican Congress and the Triangulating Democrat. Same thing regarding the financial industry. Who was it who let all the oil companies consolidate? Bush and the Republican Congress.

This is what you folks wanted. You’re just trying to invent a new reason to hate liberalism, even it doesn’t have much historical or logical grounding.

If you really want to convince people you have new ideas, you’ve got to do better than that.

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at May 1, 2009 5:33 PM
Comment #281199

A bunch of white males writing a document enshrining the power of white males demonstrates being unselfish? You’re right, it did turn out a damn fine system of government…as long as you were a white male Protestant. (a system still enduring somewhat today. Just ask Obama the black (supposedly) Muslim or Mit Romney the Mormon or Hillary Clinton the “b**ch”.) Also, you may recall that the Virginia Plan for the legislative branch openly favored large states (Virginia) over small ones, and was only moderated as part of a compromise.

I said human nature favors selfish action. I did not say human nature cannot be overcome with training/teaching. Nor did I say all humans are selfish to the same degree. I know people who can be quite generous…just in general, people aren’t. Stalin and Hitler were very self-oriented. Martin Luther King not so much. That, of course, had a lot to do with upbringing. People may act in a long-term best interest that benefits others…until they think they can go it alone. And no one, NO ONE, always knows certainly their best interest, as their are far too many factors involved. (others actions, weather) People can and will sometimes guess wrong.

As for standardizing education, that depends a lot on the standards you’re using. First, nationally standardizing anything strikes me as ignoring very significant regional differences in economy, geography, culture, etc. Very likely you would end up favoring one set of beliefs or values over another. You could try teaching everyone that homosexuality is ok, but I suspect a large portion of the country would be…upset. That may not be “rational” but I suspect those same people wouldn’t care much. I also suspect they would be rather upset with anyone shoving their standards down their throats. While I disagree with their beliefs, I cannot bring myself to simply dismiss them, and I do not want an education system that does either.

Posted by: Calvin at May 1, 2009 6:38 PM
Comment #281202

Calvin, you can no more ask the founders to think and live outside their own educational, cultural, and life experience than you can ask the Roman Empire to have lived up to our democratic standards today.

Your comment demonstrates an inordinate incapacity to understand history and historical events within their own context. For their day, that was a Constitution unprecedented in granting individual rights from government tyranny. No other government in the history of civilization ever granted or devised as much for a major civilization.

You said: “I said human nature favors selfish action. “

You must be speaking for yourself and your nature. There is no concrete evidence whatsoever to establish the nature of the human being as selfish. In fact, all of human history offers enormous evidence of societies of people contributing to the security of the tribe, society, nation. The fact that some civilizations forced contributions does not human nature make. Just as many achieved mutual contribution through education and rational indoctrination of their young into the available and needed roles of their society, without force of anykind.

My daughter has emulated her mom and myself without force of any kind, and being generous role models, our daughter is none the less so. And now as a young adult, she understands the rational benefits of being a generous person, an honest tax payer, and volunteer in the aid of others. No force, required.

Check out Maslow’s hierarchy of needs for an understanding of what is possible AFTER one’s basic life supporting needs are met. As Maslow points out, self-realization is not a selfish affair at all, because self-realization cannot be achieved without becoming unselfish in objective and accomplishment. He is mostly right on that account, IMO.

Posted by: David R. Remer at May 1, 2009 8:37 PM
Comment #281204


Wow, Maslow and Adam Smith in one thread. We’re getting deep in.

I like what you said about representative government and the associate complexities, I have in the past advocated something truly new, a more literal democracy, meaning a chance for the electorate to have more input, via the internet.

As to how that would exactly work, I’m not sure. I’m well aware of the issues of mob rule, but I somehow believe for people to be motivated enough to educate themselves on issues of governance, they must become more directly involved, and that this may begin to counter the money as free speech conundrum.

Michael Kinsley made an interesting comment in today’s Post that I linked in Stephen’s latest torture post. He made the point that it wasn’t just the leaders to blame for veering off into the fascism of state torture, but the electorate who voted for Bush with knowledge of those acts.

The responsibility ultimately lies with the electorate. Lee does make the point, as you did, that both parties are subject to monied influences, we got to find a way to get people more involved.

Posted by: gergle at May 2, 2009 12:35 AM
Comment #281206

Of course and as has been pointed out by SD and others, it is the Rep Party,especially the last 8 years that has been mostly resposible, Nothing new to report.
I was a bit surprised of your inclusion of Unions in the mix. Unions are by law and tradition democratically run and therefore are concerned mostly with benefitting their memberships. Thats is if the leaders want to keep their jobs.

Posted by: bills at May 2, 2009 3:03 AM
Comment #281212

I have known many people who were required by the laws of their states, thank God not Texas, to be union members to have the priviledge of a particular job. Many, many of these people did NOT think the unions acted in their interests. Of the people who are not union members today Rasmussen reposts that only NINE PERCENT desire to become members, yet the president and the majority of the Democrats in congress want to create a system that would disallow those people a fair, private, vote on whether they would be forced into such membership.

Oldguy, who unfortunately is personna non grata around here now, had a great deal to say on this subject, as a former railroad union member.

Unions are corporations too. They get a personality of their own. Just ask people who were troubled by Jimmy Hoffa.

Posted by: Lee Jamison at May 2, 2009 9:25 AM
Comment #281215

So because the founders were brought up in a system that taught white men were superior, it was ok for them to think that and perpetuate a system that enshrined it? Granted, it may have been the best system at the time, and I think the fathers were mostly good guys. That doesn’t mean the system they created didn’t have gaping holes in it, or that I buy into the American deification of them.

As for historical evidence regarding human nature, I would point to the triumph of capitalism over communism. A system that overtly tells people to do what is in their own best interests beat a system that tried to communalize everything, do what was best for the society as a whole. It didn’t work because Marx failed to understand corruptible (to varying degrees) human nature-the people with power used it to perpetuate that power. Russia, China, Cuba, North Korea, it never worked. Marx thought everyone could work together to build a perfect world order…and it turned out to be the worst, most oppressive order ever.

You might recall my original post pointed strongly to the danger that great power poses. I’m sure your daughter is a wonderful person. I doubt she is a senator, CEO, etc. I think people are by nature selfish. I think society does a very good job of teaching people to treat each other well-because if they establish norms, it may restrict their power to hurt others, but it also reduces others’ ability to hurt them. When power is concentrated in a few hands, those people become powerful enough to ignore social norms and get away with it.

Posted by: Calvin at May 2, 2009 10:59 AM
Comment #281216

gergle, I think the rational education need come first, then greater participation in national referendums or increased direct democracy. Though total direct democracy is a design without checks and balances proscribed by our original Constitution, and which I would oppose for that reason. That is not to say, there could not be net benefit in national referendums on broad policy direction, with the 3 branches of government acting as check and balance via the proffering of the referendums.

The voters can hold politicians to account on putting forth referendums, and the politicians could hold the public at large to account via the veto or implementation of the referendum’s directive.

Posted by: David R. Remer at May 2, 2009 11:09 AM
Comment #281217


I like the quality of what you have to say even when I disagree with you. The “influence of moneyed interests” is, however, too shallow a motivation to understand what I am getting at. That concept explains how politicians can be two-faced with their constituents when faced with the countervailing tugs of duty and maintenance of place and prestige, but it fails to comprehend the manner in which simple bureaucrats also become part of the pathology of large organizations.

In “The Selfish Gene” Richard Dawkins explains how the mutation of a simple, mindless gene can behave as though the gene had a personality by altering the chances of survival within the context of a given environment. Corporations provide environments that favor certain, somtimes paradoxical seeming behaviors as well.

We hear mention of the “Peter Principle” in these pages quite a bit. Everyone knows that is a reward for behaviors contrary to the best interests of the organization. None the less, ALL of us who have worked for even modest sized organizations have seen this principle played out in our midst.


There is a dynamic within bureacracies, or rather within the environments fostered by bureaucracies, that makes this compromise of corporate goals seem imperitive. This dynamic of social principles competing with corporate principles pervades large organizations more thoroughly because the environments within them seem more secure against the threats of the real world.

This is the place where being large is key. The sense that it is not important to place corporate goals (efficiency, delivery of service, effectiveness, attention to the needs of stakeholders, etc.) above social imperitives (loyalty to buddies, personal security, not making painful social choices, not seeming judgemental, etc.) is easier to maintain when the survival of the organization seems secure. General Motors could over-bureaucratize its structure in the fifties, sixties, and seventies because there were no serious threats to its existence. All that insulation of extra corporate fat gave individual people a sense of security.

In government that sense of the survivability of the organization is even stronger. Government does not depend on effectiveness or efficiency for its revenues. (Neither, bills, do unions.)

As in discussing Global Warming the proofs center around one or more mechanisms the denial of which would be intellectually silly.

I am not, as Remer suggests, arguing that Republicans are better suited to the solution of this problem. I am dealing with the obvious fact that, in spite of the fact that their general philosophy SHOULD make them better stewards of public resources, they have recently proven not to be so.

Both parties are in the grips of a monster over which they have little or no control. If we, Republican, Democrats, or None of The Above, fail to recognize that pathology its internal imperitives will consume us.

Posted by: Lee Jamison at May 2, 2009 11:11 AM
Comment #281218

Calvin said: “I think society does a very good job of teaching people to treat each other well-because if they establish norms, it may restrict their power to hurt others, but it also reduces others’ ability to hurt them.”

Bingo. Enlightened self-interest. Glad we agree. So, lets standardize the teaching of this kind of rational thinking in our schools. It would threaten the hell out of many politicians, but, that’s the point of democracy isn’t it: to permit the people to threaten the politicians at election time, when the politician’s fail to represent the best interests of the people?

Which is something else that Americans have done very poorly; but, they are improving as evidenced by the dramatic rise in registered independent voters now outnumbering either registered Democratic or Republican voters. For all the gerrymandering by Republicans, they still got removed from power by the Independent voters crossing over to the Democrats for the last 2 elections. That is an outstanding and shining example of the power of democracy, even against a rigged political system.

Posted by: David R. Remer at May 2, 2009 11:24 AM
Comment #281219


So because the founders were brought up in a system that taught white men were superior, it was ok for them to think that and perpetuate a system that enshrined it?
In fact, Calvin, the system our founders put in place steadily eroded the very value system you describe. It did so to the point it was no longer tenable less than a century after the Constitution was put in place.

The Constitution was founded in a political PHILOSOPHY that believes a system that distributted political power among competing interests would ultimately allow change to happen as needed in a government that was less likely to ossify around specific interests. That meant, they hoped, that the government would be less brittle than European monarchies had proven to be, less prone to revolution, less prone to war.

Every other government that existed on the face of the Earth before the institution of this radical idea has fallen obsolete and Europe has been pacified for longer now than at any time in recorded history. Representative democracy combined with the individual freedom of free market systems is not perfect, but it’s clearly less imperfect than any system that preceded it.

The problems I deal with in this article are internal systemic threats to that success.

Posted by: Lee Jamison at May 2, 2009 11:25 AM
Comment #281220

David,-“For all the gerrymandering by Republicans,…”
Elbridge Gerry was, of course, not a Republican. He was a cynic. We have those in great abundance in both parties. Democrats have long been masters of the art themselves and it would be desperately dishonest of you or them to deny it.

Posted by: Lee Jamison at May 2, 2009 11:32 AM
Comment #281221

Lee, your reference to gergle regarding bureaucratic monsters implies power force overwhelming our own. There is an oft repeated saying in military history referencing armies, cut off the head, and the body will scatter and dissemble.

These bureaucracies have leaders that chart direction and course. Change leaders, and you change direction and course. When you say, both parties are in the grips of a monster over which they have little or no control, I think your comment participates in a partisan blindness. What you say is currently true of the GOP. All evidence indicates this is not true of the Democratic Party at this point, because of Obama having taken the leadership role of the Party.

Change the leader, and you change the direction and course. Obama is preparing to wage war with Congress over spending which fails to address current and future national necessities. And Obama has the Congressional Democrats by the Cajones. Should they battle Obama on fiscal discipline, and Obama lose in 2012, the Democratic Party will have committed political suicide much as the GOP did on deficits and debt. And they are acutely aware of that potential.

Bureaucracies are not to be feared as monsters. They are organizations whose leadership is to be held accountable. The greater the oversight, and holding to account of those leaders to the law, their chartered objectives, and their net positive contribution to nation’s future, the better for all concerned, save those who seek power for its own sake.

The rise of the Independent voters as the game changer vote, is altering American politics and the direction of the country, toward greater transparency, accountability, and justification of any leader of any bureaucracy. Such change does not occur overnight, but, the independent voters and the emergencies America is facing in numbers and potential severity, are forcing a complete change in how people view leadership and organizations, as well as moving inexorably toward holding leadership accountable for the actions of their organizations.

Bureaucrats are good at doing the same things over and over again. Leaders must be the opposite. Leaders must anticipate changing contexts that could negatively impact the efficiency, accountability, and net social benefit of their organization to their community, state, or nation, and alter the direction and course of their organization to maintain or even increase their efficiency, accountability, and net social benefit, of which profitability is but part of the total social benefit to be weighed and assessed as justification for the organization’s actions.

America just got an incredible lesson in profits. The financial sectors saw record breaking profitability for decades, and it damn near destroyed the nation’s economy and ability to carry forward our way and quality of life. Social benefit can no longer be assessed by an organization’s profitability. Exxon/Mobil continues to rack up enormous profitability, but, its leadership also recognizes it is being measured by a different yard stick today as to whether or not Exxon/Mobil is a national asset or a national liability in terms of threat to pristine natural habitat, clean air and water, and global climate change.

Exxon Mobil would do well to either change its leadership or insure that its current leadership is capable of modifying its bureaucratic and organizational objectives, methodologies, and social contributions to meet the changing context of how such corporations shall be justified and assessed going forward.

They may decide to adapt in order to become a net beneficial American corporation, or, they may decide to discontinue being an American corporation at all. That is for their shareholders and Board of Directors to determine. But, Exxon/Mobil will not find America a hospitable environment for their corporate culture, objectives, and methodologies practiced heretofore.

If they think spending a quarter billion to add the word “Green” to their marketing and advertising is all that is required, then Exxon/Mobil most definitely has the wrong leadership to guide the corporation forward.

Bureaucracies and organizations are not monsters to be feared. They are resources to be managed and held accountable for producing net positive gains for society that could not otherwise be achieved. And when they fail to produce such net positive gains, there should be a social rebuke and revolt against their power and influence in society. In the age of information, that is now possible and growingly more potential, as government, led by Obama, assumes a far greater role as overseer and accountant for assessing corporation’s net cost or benefit to our nation and society.

For all the hullabaloo over the government’s Stress Tests of the financial sector’s largest organizations, it is the new role of government and it is an absolutely essential role, and if the Obama administration handles this role well, the American public will embrace this updated role of government as a welcome and permanent function of federal government. And none to soon, I might add.

Posted by: David R. Remer at May 2, 2009 12:07 PM
Comment #281223

Lee said: “Democrats have long been masters of the art themselves and it would be desperately dishonest of you or them to deny it.”

True enough. And the Independent voters will overcome their gerrymandering as well if their performance disappoints as much. That is the great strength of democratic elections, if voters will only exercise it: the power to UNSEAT incumbents for lack of performance. The Independent voters get it. They are the new power brokers. American politics are changing as a result of this new dominant class of voters.

Posted by: David R. Remer at May 2, 2009 1:59 PM
Comment #281225

Lee, I have to agree with David, that bureaucracies are unavoidable in a large country like ours.

If you are advocating for a weaker federation rather than this union, I think you are about 200 years late for that argument.

To compete in a world of nations and of large corporations, there needs to be large corporations and large bureaucratic governments. I don’t see anyway around that. Rule of Law, and elections, which David, elsewhere advocates, helps to work at corruption. Nothing will ever be perfect, and the reason I suggest referendums via the internet, is to make the line to the population more direct. I believe this will fine tune, and accelerate corrections within the checks and balances we have now.

While bureaucratic stasis IS a problem, even when elected officials are changed, effect management is what turns a bureaucracy around. Enlightened self interest, and a more efficient way to disseminate information to allow public transparency, are effective tools at correcting problems.

Posted by: gergle at May 2, 2009 6:07 PM
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