The Gadfly Bytes --
February 2, 2010
America, Inc. Is Here. Get With The Program!
With the Supreme Court Ruling, Citizens United v. FEC,
the government of the United States has, in effect, become a subsidiary of
So isn't it time to rethink a few of our government institutions?
After all, the American public has a well-deserved reputation for discarding
shopworn institutions that have ceased to serve any useful purpose, and to
replace them with imaginative and appropriate innovations Thus passenger
railroads were replaced by the airlines and private automobiles, and daily
newspapers by television, which is likely in turn to be supplanted by
computers and the Internet.
In the same spirit, I propose that we abolish elections and replace them
Clearly, the polling statistics show us that the public has lost interest in
elections. Furthermore, the Congress has little inclination to reform
campaign finance rules. Why should they bother, when last month SCOTUS, in
one fell-swoop, scuttled a century of such reforms by the the Congress and
previous Supreme Courts (stare decisis be damned!). The decisive push
down the slippery slope leading to Citizens United was the Buckley
v. Valeo decision (1976) which ruled that "cash is speech." Because
numerous studies have disclosed a high correlation between campaign spending
and electoral success, Buckley effectively nullified citizen equality at the
ballot box in favor of the "free market" principle that the political
influence of an individual or a corporation is properly proportional to
one's wealth. (See "A
Bribe by Any Other Name").
"Citizens United" has pounded the final nail in the coffin of Abraham
Lincoln's naive notion of "government of, by, and for the people."
So let's get real! Let's simply acknowledge the obvious facts: that
public offices serve private corporate interests, and that legislators'
votes are bought and sold by bidders, politely referred to as
"contributors." If this is the way things are let's bring the practice out
into the open. If elections are irrelevant relics of simpler and more naive
times and public offices have become commodities, let's treat them as such,
honestly and openly.
Let's abolish elections and instead, select our politicians by auction.
Consider the Advantages:
The auctions could become a public celebration of "the free market," just as
elections were at one time celebrations of the archaic notions of "citizen
democracy" and "the public interest." The biennial national "auctions" would
be televised, with the TV network anchors as auctioneers. Throughout the
realm, wealthy stockholders in their mansions would sit spellbound by their
TV sets, cheering on the CEOs as they bid for preferred Congressional
treatment of the viewer's investments.
"Conservatives" constantly complain about "tax and spend" government
programs. If our proposal is adopted, proceeds from the auction might
replace taxes. Furthermore, corporate complaints about spending might
subside as the government, now a wholly-owned subsidiary of the corporate
bidders, spends at the behest of those who "bought" it.
Nor is this the end of opportunities for "revenue enhancement." Just think
of the advertising space available on our currency, as portraits of Wall
Street CEOs, and such notables as Timothy Geithner, Alan Greenspan, Donald
Trump and Bill Gates, replace those of the dead presidents.
Still more opportunities: Recently, corporations have taken to purchasing
the privilege of having their names placed on major-league stadia. So why
not adopt the same practice for government buildings and agencies: "The
Archer-Daniels-Midland Department of Agriculture," "The Smithsonian/Boeing
Space Museum," "The Goldman-Sachs Treasury Building," "The Dow Chemical
Environmental Protection Agency," "The Eli Lilly Center for Disease
Control," "The Halliburton Pentagon Building," and "The Exxon/Mobil
Department of Energy."
It is well-known that since the Reagan administration, Congressional
legislation has largely been written by corporate lobbyists, even though
bills have routinely borne the names of legislators. With the privatization
of the government we may now, at last, see an end to such political
hypocrisy and the resulting public cynicism about government. With no
further pretense of representing "the people," politicians may now be openly
identified by their correct designations: e.g., "Senator Libermann from Met
Life," "Senator Chamblis from Diebold," "Senator Baucus from United Health,"
"Senator Gillibrand from Philip Morris," "Senator McCain from the National
Rifle Association," and so on.
For purposes of identification, the logos of the corporate sponsors might
now appear on the jackets of all members of Congress, and on the front of
the podia during their public appearances. On the nightly newscasts, the
anchors might announce, "this congressional bill brought to you by the good
folks at the Chamber of Commerce." And the tobacco companies, relieved of
the embarrassment of the health warnings on the cigarette packs, can replace
them with the label "proud co-owners of the United States Government."
Finally, the efficiency managers of USA Inc. can go to work and "downsize"
the government, most notably by eliminating redundancies. It has long been
observed that federal regulatory agencies are eventually "captured" by the
private interests that they are supposed to regulate. Now this "capture" can
be openly acknowledged, as the Securities and Exchange Commission merges
with the New York Stock Exchange, and the Federal Communications Commission,
the Federal Aviation Agency, etc., become trade associations of their
respective industries. And of course, with the privatization of government,
the distinction between corporate lobbyists and members of Congress will
disappear entirely, as lobbyists officially and openly become legislators
and vice versa.
Radical? Not at all! This proposal and all its nuances make complete sense
in light of the pending total corporate takeover of the U.S. government that
will surely follow Citizens United v. FEC. We will soon see the full
realization of the "conservative" doctrine that "society" is nothing more
than a market place, and thus that all social problems can best be solved
through privatization and the free market. (See
"Beautiful Theory vs. Baffling Reality" and
"The State Religion").
We have privatized the Postal Service and much of the military, and soon the
schools will follow. Now, thanks to the SCOTUS "gang of five," the total
privatization of the government of the United States is soon to follow.
So quit complaining and get used to it.
After all, you can't stop progress!
Note: An earlier version of this
essay, titled "A Modest Proposal," was published at The Crisis Papers in
February, 2003. I can claim some originality with the idea, now much
talked about, of the NASCAR-style logo patches, although no doubt others
had thought of it beforehand. I was just not aware of these other
inventions. The idea of "The Senator from ..." is, of course, an old one
with which I was very familiar.
Copyright 2003, 2010, by Ernest Partridge