The Great Experiment in Governmental Vacuum

By

Richard W. Crockett

 

If it is not a law of fluid mechanics it is of politics.  “Nature abhors a vacuum,” and it may be and often has been restated, “political power abhors a vacuum.”  Having created a political vacuum by reducing the clout and public spiritedness of government in Washington, D. C. through deregulation, we have also gotten vacuous government.   Based upon the belief that government was part of the problem and not part of the solution, we have now arrived at a circumstance where private centers of power-- corporations and other special interests-- have rushed in to fill the space vacated by the American people on the advice of the party which likes government least, the Republicans. Emptied of its democratic substance, the shell of government has been turned over to the corporate elites.  Believe me, the consequences are far worse than the overflowing cuspidors and footprints on the furniture, which celebrated Andrew Jackson’s ascendancy to the Presidency in the nineteenth century and the arrival of the beginnings of democracy.

 

People can be patriotic.  Corporations cannot. They cannot because they worship the “bottom line.”  By chasing cheap, cheap labor overseas, they think they are merely being profitable, not disloyal to their country.  Oh, they will tell you that they have loyalty to their stockholders. But apparently this is only loyalty to them as stockholders, not loyalty to them as citizens.  Ultimately, the corporations are disloyal because they don’t have a country: they are stateless. You see, the problem is this.  The numbers that are employed to measure profits (and that serve as the grist of the bottom line) do not have ethical properties. They provide no ethical, moral or patriotic guidance.  If the profit is large enough, it is understood to be a “good” number as opposed to a bad number—and that is as close as numbers get to possessing ethical properties.  So when plants are closed in Galesburg, or any other place, in behalf of a better bottom line and sent to China, it is done to produce “good” numbers.  It becomes a “good thing” that you have lost your job and can’t pay your rent, or mortgage, or buy your groceries, or afford your gasoline, according to this perspective. It is further “good” that our capacity for manufacture has been dismantled in favor of the growth of the capacity of the Chinese to do it for us. Is your mind spinning yet?  Are you furious yet? Lord, help us if we ever face a crisis with the Chinese.  Can’t you hear us now? “Would you mind sending some of the weapons you manufacture so that we may fire them at you?  We will be happy to pay you cost plus twenty percent.”  Lots of luck!

 

We got ourselves into this fix by subscribing to a myth.  The myth is that weak government is a good thing.  It comes from that famous Jeffersonian remark, “that government is best which governs least.”  So we have a FEMA which does not work (it used to), and we have an under staffed and under provisioned military (even as good as they are), and a fix for this problem which we refuse to put in place. The fix or solution is committed, accountable, responsible, unapologetic government, but we refuse to put it in place because it flies in the face of one of our favorite myths.   We got here by equating safe government with weak government, and we usually did this by confusing both with “small” government, perhaps elusive in our time.    But instead of giving us that elusive good thing we were searching for, it brought us colossal un-accountability, because it abandoned the democratic institutions of government to private centers of economic power—we placed government exclusively in the service of corporate America and by doing so, we denied its protections and benefits to the American people.  Truth and error grappled, and error won.

 

3/17/08