Saturday, March 18, 2017

Trump May Be the Final Step in the Evolution of the Predator State

Something twigged when I heard Trump budget spokesman, Mick Mulvaney, announce that this supposed president wouldn't be wasting a dime funding climate change research.

I quickly went to Trump's decision to take American car giants off the hook for fuel economy requirements introduced by Obama.

Then there was the proposal to gut the Affordable Care Act and reformulate it as a giant tax cut for America's richest of the rich while stripping 24-million Americans from healthcare coverage.

This morning there are reports that Trump plans to rescind Obama's embargo on "conflict resources," gold, tin and rare earth minerals used by Third World warlords to fund their wars.

Eventually it dawned on me. I was thinking of a passage from James Galbraith's, "The Predator State" and the transition that began to sweep America from the early 80s.

" power ebbed from the corporation in the late 1970s an d 1980s and became vested, once again, in free-acting individuals, the basis for collaboration between comparitively progressive elements within business and a broadly progressive state tended to disappear. Instead business leadership saw the possibility of something far more satisfactory from their point of view; complete control of the apparatus of the state. In particular, reactionary business leadership, in those sectors most affected by public regulation, saw this possibility and directed their lobbies ...toward this goal. The Republican Party, notably in the House of Representatives under Newt Gingrich and later Tom DeLay, became the instrument of this form of corporate control. The administration, following the installation of George W. Bush, became little more than an alliance of representatives from the regulated sectors - mining, oil, media, pharmaceuticals, corporate agriculture - seeking to bring the regulatory system entirely to heel...

This is the Predator State. It is a coalition of relentless opponents of the regulatory framework on which public purpose depends, with enterprises whose major lines of business compete with or encroach on the principal public functions of the enduring New Deal. It is a coalition, in other words, that seeks to control the state partly in order to prevent the assertion of public purpose and partly to poach on the lines of activity that past public purpose has established. They are firms that have no intrinsic loyalty to any country. They operate as a rule on a transnational basis, and naturally come to view the goals and objectives of each society in which they work as just another set of business conditions, more or less inimical to the free pursuit of profit. the Predator State the organization exists principally to master the state structure itself.

None of these enterprises has an interest in diminishing the size of the state, and this is what separates them from the principled conservatives. For without the state and its economic interventions, they would not themselves exist and could not enjoy the market power that they have come to wield. Their reason for being, rather, is to make money off the state - so long as they control it. And this requires the marriage of an economic and a political organization, which is what, in every single case, we actually observe.

Galbraith, son of Canadian-born John Kenneth Galbraith, is an economist who holds the chair in government/business relations at the Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs, University of Texas, Austin. Predator State was published in 2008 and a decade later as the world is roiled by the Trump regime and public purpose relentlessly subordinated to powerful corporate forces it seems more relevant than ever. It's a good read.

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