Environmental Ethics
and Public Policy
Ernest Partridge, Ph.D

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The Gadfly Bytes -- February 2, 2010

America, Inc. Is Here.  Get With The Program!

Ernest Partridge

With the Supreme Court Ruling, Citizens United v. FEC, the government of the United States has, in effect, become a subsidiary of Corporate America.

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 with auctions.

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

Dr. Ernest Partridge is a consultant, writer and lecturer in the field of Environmental Ethics and Public Policy. He has taught Philosophy at the University of California, and in Utah, Colorado and Wisconsin. He publishes the website, "The Online Gadfly" (www.igc.org/gadfly) and co-edits the progressive website, "The Crisis Papers" (www.crisispapers.org).  Dr. Partridge can be contacted at: gadfly@igc.org .