Tag: Government

We Do Not Live in a Plutocracy

It irritates me when people say we (in the U.S.) live in a plutocracy, but only because it seems that more often than not that viewpoint is their excuse to give up and not even try to prevent that from becoming a reality.

There are plenty of checks on corporations that are not only essential to our quality of life, but that we also take for granted, and that would no longer exist if this were actually a plutocracy. Such checks and protections include the following facts:

  • False advertising is still illegal (and it’s enforced well enough that it’s not really a common thing)
  • We can still sue corporations (and sometimes win)
  • (For the most part, at least) you’re not forced / coerced / legally required to purchase things that you don’t want to
  • Products come with an implied warranty
  • Employees have rights, including the following:
    • Sick leave (unpaid)
    • Worker’s compensation (except in Texas)
    • Overtime pay (for certain categories of workers)
    • Minimum wage
    • Child labor laws (in the form of restrictions on age and work hours)
  • Food and drugs have to be determined safe for consumption by the FDA (with the notable exception of vaccines; and yes, the FDA is becoming increasingly corrupt)
  • Contracts between companies and consumers and between companies and employees are more-or-less reasonable and tend to be honored/enforced
  • There are environmental protections in place that of course run counter to the interests of corporations
  • There are laws against anti-competition and monopolies
  • Essential companies can be categorized and regulated as public service companies
  • Basic human rights still exist within the context of corporations—for example a company can’t issue corporal punishment against its employees, can’t threaten or kill people who go against them, etc.

If you think these rules still exist just because of the goodhearted nature of corporations, that’s very naive thinking. A corporation’s top priority is to make money in any way they possibly can, including exploiting or subverting people, communities, resources, the environment, and the government whenever they can. The only thing holding them back is the law, except in those cases where they think they can get away with breaking it. When a company does display goodhearted behavior, it’s generally in the interest of public relations. So the very existence of the checks and protections listed above is evidence that we do not (yet) live in a plutocracy or oligarchy.

Now I’m not trying to say that there isn’t a problem or that we’re not under threat of becoming a plutocracy eventually—the reason for my complaint is that when people assume we’re already a plutocracy, they give up and are disinclined to help prevent that from happening, which is badly needed. They also unthinkingly take for granted all the graces we actually still have..

Acting to help prevent the country from becoming a plutocracy is so badly needed because we’re on the road to becoming one quickly. Through campaign contributions, paid lobbying, media manipulation, political bribes, etc., corporations and other private interests are essentially buying legislation, and this will only spiral out of control because the more private interests affect the government toward their own ends, the more avenues they’ll create or unblock for further manipulation, which will enable them to create and unblock further avenues, and so on and so forth. We’ve already begun to see this process in action with the invention of super PACs. And the growing disparity between the classes will, of course, exacerbate the problem.

So please, don’t commit the sin of throwing your hands up and saying it’s hopeless because we’re already a plutocracy. Go out and vote. Write your congresspeople. Donate to political causes. Talk about what needs to be done with others. Because considering it a lost cause already is too easy.

Why Campaign Finance Reform Is the Most Important Thing We Can Currently Do as a Species

The most important issue facing humanity today is the environment. Sure, we have tons of problems large and small, but all of those other problems are things that we can eventually conquer if we survive long enough. They’re not things that are likely to get worse and worse until civilization collapses and billions of people die and humanity starts over again from the beginning (and to say nothing of the deaths and extinctions of myriad other plants and animals that share a planet with us). We’re living utterly unsustainably and it’s only getting worse, and that means we’re metaphorically driving with increasing speed directly toward a brick wall.

In just the last quarter century alone, humans have destroyed a tenth of the world’s wilderness, and that’s just land wilderness—almost nine-tenths of the oceans can no longer be classified as wilderness because of human influence. Somewhere between 200 and 2,000 species go extinct each year due to human activity, and this rate of extinction is greater than in any other mass-extinction event in Earth’s history. Sea life is dying with stomachs full of plastic, the entire ecology is being poisoned with PCBs, greenhouse gases are warming up the planet to a critical degree and disrupting everything and raising the sea level, bees that we require to pollinate our crops are dying off due to a number of human influences, over four-fifths of all wild mammals have been killed off as well as half of all plant life, and so on and so on.

Obviously, all of life on Earth composes one large ecosystem, and we’re not separate from it. We require it to be extant and functional in order to thrive as a species. But I’m just appealing to the fears that most people relate to now; to tell the truth, it’s not like the fate of humanity overshadows the fate of all other life on Earth in terms of importance. Either way, a group of 15,000 scientists from around the world has just recently published a “dire warning” giving us only about a decade to totally change our course before there is both catastrophic biodiversity loss and untold amounts of human misery.

So, how do we change our course?

The only feasible answer is to place severe restrictions/regulations on the companies that directly and indirectly produce all of this waste, poison and greenhouse gases. This will, of course, be a great inconvenience not only to these companies’ profiteers but also to consumers at large, but it is a necessary inconvenience. If we are to avert total disaster we cannot continue on with the lifestyle we have currently set up.

So, how do we place severe regulations on companies that are at the fulcrum of all of this?

The problem here is that private interests are in bed with the government. As long as this is the case, it will be impossible to enact laws that are against the interests of the private interests. We (the US) come nearer and nearer to being a plutocracy as time goes on. Basically, the more avenues private interests create to controlling legislation, the more power they have to create further avenues by which to control legislation. It’s an out-of-control spiral that won’t end well.

But as long as the faculties of democracy are still mostly in place, perhaps there is hope. We, the people, need to use what remaining power we have to get private interests out of bed with the government.

So, how do we get private interests out of bed with the government?

I propose a 3-part solution..

1) Effect major campaign reform. Make it illegal for any private funds to be spend on the campaign for a candidate for any public office, including the money owned by the candidate himself. Money put into a campaign obviously affects numbers of votes, and political campaigns shouldn’t be a contest of who has the most money or who’s backed by the people or organizations who have the most money.

The government should supply each candidate with a set amount of funds for doing all the things they need to do to get their voice heard across the nation; or perhaps not even that, but rather pay for the services they need to use directly, such as, for example, plane flights, air time for conveying their views to the public, etc.—and that’s it, that’s all the funds they should be allowed to use.

Even if we don’t go that far, the very least we could do is revert the legislation that enabled super PACs.

2) Make paid lobbying illegal. The only point of lobbying should be as an avenue by which The People make their wishes known to the legislators. Paying people to influence legislators by voicing opinions that they don’t even necessarily hold themselves is a form of subterfuge and undermines the whole process of democracy. Even if the paid lobbyists do hold the views they proffer, it gives private interests undue power because of all the opinions out there, the ones for which there is money being offered for people to go out of their way to be heard will get disproportionate representation.

Even if we don’t make paid lobbying illegal, we should at least eliminate the revolving door that allows former members of congress to become paid lobbyists themselves.

3) Prevent members of congress (and other government agencies, such as the FDA) from being bribed by companies with better-paying jobs. The idea is that a company secretly offers a legislature a position with them that pays significantly more than what they’re currently making as long as they vote X on Proposition Y.. this is clear bribery and should be considered a form of conflict of interest, despite the fact that the guilty person isn’t holding both positions at the same time.

So, once we have all that out of the way, maybe we can actually elect people with the integrity to do what needs to be done.

There is one problem with this I haven’t touched on, and that’s that even if we effect all of these measures within the US, there are still other countries generating waste, poison and pollution, and how are we going to convince all of them to effect such strict regulations on their industries, lifestyles and economies?

My answer is that we should do what we can, and that will be a lot since the US is the second-highest polluter behind China, and if somehow just the US and China could change their ways, that would make a huge difference as the US and China together produce almost half of all the pollution in the world..

So, the only question now is, in a country mostly controlled by the right, how do we even get bills on the floor to effect these changes, and let alone have them get enough votes to pass?

My hope is that, as a reaction to Trump’s disastrous presidency, many people will switch to the democrats’ side and tip the balance in the house and senate. Hopefully this will even happen in the upcoming midterm elections! Though there would have to be enough people switching sides to counter all of the wicked tactics and other, more incidental advantages that the republicans have that undermine the will of the people, such as the Electoral College, senate malapportionment, house gerrymandering, felony disenfranchisement laws, the Supreme Court enabling voter suppression, and plutocratic campaign financing.

Supposing we can get that far, the next step would be to contact our representatives and tell them what extreme steps we want them to take to completely divorce government from private interests, or at least to divorce them as much as possible.. so spread the word! We want to make paid lobbying illegal, allow no private funds in political campaigns, and make bribery of government agents through better-paying positions a form of conflict of interest and illegal.

Not that I necessarily know what I’m talking about. I don’t really know much about government. Well, I think my ideas for campaign finance reform and making paid lobbying illegal are good, I’m just not sure if the form of bribery I describe happens in congress, or if other forms are more prevalent. I just know I heard of it happening in the FDA.

That reminds me, we should also make all of the finances of any public official completely transparent to the public. It’s unacceptable to have people in government who care more about their own finances than the public good; that’s just bad governance. At least if we know where their money is coming from and what they’re invested in we can better identify potential conflicts of interest. Having no financial privacy may seem harsh, but it should just be considered a sacrifice one must make for the privilege of holding public office.

We also need to crack down more on known and obvious conflicts of interest. For example, how could Donald Trump be allowed to appoint someone as head of the EPA who previously worked for a coal magnate and was a lobbyist against environmental regulations? This is absurd!

Also, it’s a known fact that some bills written for and passed by congress are actually written by corporations (http://www.cpr.org/news/story/its-common-lobbyists-write-bills-congress-heres-why)It’s bad enough that paid lobbyists get their way. It’s absurd that the bills themselves are written by corporations. This has to be made illegal!

Ok, I’m done now.

A One World Government..

Many people are afraid of the idea of a One World Government, and I know why. We’ve seen, whether directly or unconsciously, the damage that too much power in too few hands tends to cause. For these people, the idea of a One World Government is something like rolling the die and hoping you get a benevolent dictator, every time, or something like that.

The way I see it, having a One World Government isn’t much worse than what we have now, in that respect. There would be more riding on a single regimen with a One World Government, but the risk is at best overall the same: just instead of 25% of countries being, for example, dictatorships, there’d be (to make a very simplistic calculation) a 25% chance of the One World Government being dictatorship.  

If you can gamble with authority within an individual nation, why not gamble with authority for the whole world? It’s not that different really: for entire groups of millions of people it’s already either a fascist, communist, poor, or whatever country or a free, rich or whatever country by chance, and it makes little difference to the person caught in one of those groups whether we gambled on the level of their own state or on the level of the whole world.

A One World Government would likely turn out like the majority of those countries, in whatever respect we’re measuring. For example, the new One World Government could have governmental checks and balances, civil rights, freedom of speech, socialized health care, and so on.

So, that was why a One World Government wouldn’t necessarily be worse, now let’s talk about why it would be better.

Would you ever expect there to be a war between, for example, Nebraska and Kentucky? I mean, the closest thing we have to war there is football. Basically, the states of the US pretty much coexist in harmony. Similarly with a One World Government the whole world could finally cohabitate in peace. 

Why? Because they’re all under the rule of the same government. There’s simply no context for war. And if they need financial help, resources, disaster relief, or whatever, they probably get it, and unlike how it’s often done between countries, it’s not even a lend. With a One World Government, this state of national harmony would exist across all the districts of the world.

Wealth imbalances may still exist, but it wouldn’t be nearly on the scale of what we have now. You wouldn’t have the citizens of some district starving to death while the citizens of others are dying of obesity, for example, and you wouldn’t have one district consuming 80% of the world’s resources, like the USA currently does. (This could imply a much more meager lifestyle for Americans, but we’ve had that a long time coming. It’s not healthy for us to be raping the biosphere like this anyway.)

In the most ideal case, we could learn from the state and histories of 195 different countries and take the best characteristics of each of them to form our new government. But of course, all countries are already free to do that and look how far the possibility of doing that has gotten them. It all depends, though, on the mechanisms by which the One World Government arises. Better to help ensure that it arises on positive grounds by being proactive about it than to just hope that, when it happens, it’s not a plutocracy or something, which is probably where we’re headed otherwise.

Edit: Here’s a conversation on the topic I had with someone on Facebook, which might clarify some details:

Nas Cisse asked a question .
Can you make “War” impossible?
If you think so, how?
Please explain in detail.

Me: By instating a One World Government.
Nas Cisse: So the New World Order is a good thing?
Me: Not positive, but I think it is. I’m not conspiracy-minded so I don’t believe all sorts of terrible things about the “New World Order.” I wrote an essay about the benefits of a One World Government here: https://philosophy.inhahe.com/2018/04/10/a-one-world-government/
Nas Cisse: So you don’t believe in the saying “power corrupts, absolute power corrupts absolutely”. You would say absolute power has a 25% chance of corrupting, and it’s worth taking the 75% chance that it doesn’t corrupt?
Me: I think the overall chances of corruption by one government aren’t any worse than the chances of corruption of any of the ~200 governments we already have. It’s just that in the case of many governments, the chances average out, while in the case of one, it’s all or nothing. I guess I believe in taking that chance. Even if it’s corrupt sometimes, it can change, so it still averages out in a way. And you can mitigate the chances of corruption by having checks and balances, a democratic republic, etc.
Nas Cisse: So a benevolent Federal World Government would turn every country into one of its states, and each state would vote for the democratic leaders of this Federal World Government.
Taking the concept of America, and overlaying it on Earth instead of on the 50 states, and allowing each state (formerly country) to vote.
Theoretically this would just make everything operate as America, which wouldn’t be half bad, if America is the place that everyone is running to, by definition that means it’s superior than where the people are running from, and also means that the model under which it runs is superior to the models that the people are running from are under.
Do you think America can be practically superimposed onto China though, or is there something about China’s benefits from its one world governance that works for that many people?
Me: Can you rephrase your last question? I didn’t understand it very well. But I probably won’t have an an answer for you anyway. To be honest my knowledge of politics is rudimentary, and I know even less about international politics
Nas Cisse: If we make everyone on Earth American, and make every country one of the States of America, and keep all of America’s laws as is, would that be similar to what you’re imagining?
Me: It’s open-ended, but I think America’s system is relatively good, and I tentatively agree with your reasoning of why it must be the best. But if we just keep the basics of America’s systems and change a lot of the details that would be okay. Or even if we invent a totally new system loosely based on American principles but learning from our own history..
Me: I don’t know if it should be called America or not. That might make many nations view it in a negative light and make integration harder.
Me: (Of course, more than what it’s called, it matters from what direction this motion toward integration happens)
Nas Cisse: Right, it would be just like America, but under a different name, and the size of Earth. Do you think that could work?
Me: I hope it can work. It’s possible that there may be culture clashes, where some cultures want different kind of governments or economies, like dictatorships or communism. It’s also possible that there’s no way to get all the countries to agree to become parts of America without a world war, and in the event of a world war it seems that everybody would be nuked so it would defeat the purpose.
Me: Other problems would be differences in ideas about freedom of speech, freedom of religion, civil rights, etc. But perhaps those decisions could be delegated to the individual states.
Me: ..in which case we’d have to compromise on our ideology a little
Me: it may seem to raise the question, if differences as fundamental as those are delegated to individual states, then what’s left to be universal? and i think the answer is that the important thing is a better balance of wealth, resource use, a total lack of wars, etc.
Nas Cisse: So war is when 2 opposing ideologies both seek to occupy the same time and space. And 2 incompatible entities cannot occupy the same time and space anywhere in nature. In order for one to win, the other one has to lose. In order to determine a winner, there has to be war. So there can be no progress without war.
Would you agree?
Me: I don’t know, maybe I’m overly optimistic, but I’m hoping there are paths toward integration that don’t involve war. For example, we can give people the freedom to live by their own ideologies as I mentioned above, by delegating those differences to the individual states. And you could entice everyone to join the integration to balance out the wealth and eliminate war.
Me: and also to facilitate trade and travel
Nas Cisse: I like that idea.
All of you who agree with this ideology, this is your land to freely express yourselves amongst your peers, nobody will interfere.
If your ideology involves you hurting someone else though, you will have to be on a land where you will be with others whose ideologies include hurting other people.