Friday, May 15, 2009


Let the sins of the system be blamed on the administrators, not the owners -- this should be the motto of government by and for the rich.

The government, as a rule-writing, baton-wielding presence, obviously has its shortcomings. Among these, the biggest may be that government acts on behalf of the most influential groups in society. In a highly unequal society, the "most influential" may not even include the majority. In other cases, minorities that lack influence aren't granted rights at all.

Most of what is wrong with government, in this respect, is that it too often defends minority interests in cases where the majority should rule (e.g., public policy); just as it abandons minority or non-citizen concerns in cases where the majority has no claim (e.g., civil rights; foreign policy). Of course, it is the violent character of government which ensures such "errors" will be pursued to their most tragic conclusions.

In short, government is most often a tool of the wealthy and the powerful, which effectively grants them a resource base and coercive powers they would otherwise lack. This happens under the rubric of "the nation" or "the national interest," which broadens the scope of possibility far more than the call to lay down one's life or livelihood on behalf of the rich: the Iraq war would never happen for Halliburton alone.

It is also no secret that the government gives the wealthy a fall guy when their policy preferences blow up in their face. The private sector, which is always driving deregulation in areas where it smells profit, has done a respectable job assigning blame for the financial crisis on government agencies that had not served the banks poorly, but too well. Only last night did I discover the expression which best accounts for the ensuing mess, and the role government played in achieving it.

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