Thursday, September 18, 2008

A note on American corporatism

If there is any broad lesson to be drawn from the current spate of federal-corporate bail-out betrothals, it would do well to include an acknowledgment about the kind of economic system we really have: when push comes to shove, it is government that comprises the economic foundation of modern society, not private enterprise. Without some kind of government framework, private enterprise inevitably self-destructs; in the present case, this has transpired because rules established after the Great Depression were set aside in a "financial modernization" act in the late 1990's which effectively deregulated the industry beyond what it could sustain. Now disaster has struck, it is the government, not markets, which is sifting the fallout.

The centrality of government as the facilitator of material goods -- being the insurer, the lender, the provider of last resort -- is never lost on the classes which benefit most from the relationship, which is why so much is expended on their part in lobbying the government hourly while simultaneously declaring to everyone else that it is "the problem" which we all need "out of our lives." After all, if the average American came to view the government as the only game in town when it comes to re-establishing an eight hour day, five-day week; or securing affordable health care and a guaranteed retirement income, our system of "socialism for the rich" might instead become socialism for the average Joe -- and, unfortunately for the rich, Joe outguns them numerically by a considerable margin, especially when the system is marginally democratic.

This goes a long way towards explaining the (largely successful) undertaking on the part of American business and even government to promote "anti-politics" -- or, the widespread revulsion for and abstention from politics -- among Americans generally, who are groomed to admire corporate conglomerates as some bizarre example of "individual liberty," while forfeiting a real individual prerogative to participate in the governance of their own affairs.

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