Monday, August 07, 2017

Handing Government to the Corporate Sector

A couple of timely posts today about Donald Trump and his fascist administration. (here, here and here)

This definition of latter-day fascism is built on Mussolini's description of fascism as the marriage of political and corporate power.

McClatchey Newspapers has a helpful backstop report, "Trump hands US policy writing to shady groups of business execs."

President Donald Trump, lacking trust in the speed, skill or loyalty of the government workers he inherited, is shifting the task of writing U.S. policy to a network of advisory groups stacked with business executives that operates outside of public view.

It’s a move that could be cheered by the voters who sent Trump to Washington to clean house. But it’s also one that might be breaking the law.

In a growing number of cases, the administration has been accused of violating a federal requirement that these advisory groups – working on everything from jobs training to environmental policy – open their meetings, release their documents and announce their members’ names. Three lawsuits have been filed in recent weeks accusing the administration of failing to disclose information about groups charged with investigating voter fraud and devising a plan to upgrade the nation’s crumbling roads and bridges.

The only thing surprising about this is that anybody should be surprised. This is merely the late stage metastases of the malignant virus embedded into the lymph glands of democracy with the advent of neoliberal, market fundamentalism under Reagan, Thatcher and Mulroney.

America stands today as the Petri dish of this scourge on democracy. It began with the gratuitous surrender of incidents of sovereign power to the corporate sector under the guise that the markets know best. It progressed from experiments in free trade into full bore globalism, free market fundamentalism as an ideological orthodoxy that still obtains even in Ottawa.

It began with the Gospels of Hayek and Friedman. Hayek launched the ideology with his 1944 book, "Der Weg zur Knechtshaft." Hayek warned of, " the danger of tyranny that inevitably results from government control of economic decision-making through central planning."[1] He further argues that the abandonment of individualism and classical liberalism inevitably leads to a loss of freedom, the creation of an oppressive society, the tyranny of a dictator, and the serfdom of the individual. Hayek challenged the general view among British academics that fascism (including National Socialism) was a capitalist reaction against socialism. He argued that fascism, National Socialism and socialism had common roots in central economic planning and empowering the state over the individual."

Hayek eventually migrated to the University of Chicago where his philosophy was taken up and championed by Milton Friedman. The Road to Serfdom is still being hawked by the University of Chicago Press where it is praised as "An unimpeachable classic work in political philosophy, intellectual and cultural history, and economics."

So smitten with Hayek were the Republicans/Tories that Thatcher saw him awarded The Order of the Companions of Honour while George H.W. Bush bestowed the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

Along with his collaborator, Milton Friedman, Hayek saw his political economic philosophy embraced and given life by the leaders of the U.K., the U.S. and Canada with other Western nations to ultimately fall into line. Of the two prophets only Friedman survived to see the great experiment fail, a fact he conceded before his own death.

We, you and I, also saw it fail. Remember how we were duped with promises of a "new economy" where there would be ever more and better, high-wage jobs with prosperity for all. Jobs in the "knowledge sector" that would make manufacturing jobs irrelevant. Old economy jobs would be offshored. Instead there followed wage stagnation, rising inequality, and brutal austerity - "a loss of freedom, the creation of a more oppressive society, the tyranny of a dictator (in the U.S. certainly), and the developing serfdom of the individual." Our governments followed their prophets' ideology and we got what they warned would happen if we didn't.

The Grand Political Betrayal is more obvious, glaringly obvious, in the United States than elsewhere. Having failed to deliver the milk and honey promised the plebs, the corporate sector struck deep into the heart of liberal democracy. It began with legislative capture manifested so powerfully in today's "bought and paid for" Congress that, as documented by Gilens and Page in their 2014 study out of Princeton, no longer serves the public interest but instead does the bidding of private interests. This was accompanied by the creation of a direct, corporate-legislative interface, the American Legislative Exchange Council, ALEC, where captured legislators go to receive their marching orders.

Under Bush/Cheney corporate control of government was powerfully expanded by "regulatory capture" neatly defined by Wiki as, " a form of government failure that occurs when a regulatory agency, created to act in the public interest, instead advances the commercial or political concerns of special interest groups that dominate the industry or sector it is charged with regulating.[1]When regulatory capture occurs, the interests of firms or political groups are prioritized over the interests of the public, leading to a net loss to society as a whole. Government agencies suffering regulatory capture are called "captured agencies".

This brings us, full circle, to the latest report from McClatchey Newspapers detailing how, under Trump, the corporate takeover of American democracy has reached further to achieve "executive capture." Now the corporate sector is writing policy for the White House and doing it behind closed doors.

Aided and abetted by a plainly corporatist Supreme Court, the corporate capture of the American government is virtually complete. And who dares to stand against it?


Anonymous said...

The Mound of Sound said...

An excellent documentary, Anon. Thanks for the link.

Anne Peterson said...

Isn't the same thing happening in Canada??

The Mound of Sound said...

Yes, Anne, somewhat but far less overtly. With some campaign finance controls in place we've not devolved into the transactional governance model we see in the U.S. Incidentally it was that "pay to play" variety of government that was especially prevalent in Rome in the years prior to its collapse.

In the Harper era, Jim Flaherty had a standard summer weekend with leading industry types specifically to receive their wish lists. I'm not sure whether something similar is carried on in the Liberal government but we are familiar with Justin's "cash for access" receptions.

As Theodore Roosevelt noted in his 1910 Square Deal speech, governance is supposed to be a relationship between the public and those elected to represent them. Corporations were to have no vote. That line began to fade long ago but it was openly erased in the free trade era when aspects of state sovereignty were yielded to corporate interests. Today the government has the audacity to refer to them as "stakeholders" entitled to special recognition and heed while pretending their preferred access does not come at the direct detriment of the public and the public interest. It's a little less flagrant than what goes on in the States but it's an affront to liberal democracy all the same.

Anne Peterson said...

What about the advisory gang that is pushing privatization of ports and airports and the infrastructure fund that is also pushing privatization?

The Mound of Sound said...

I understand your point, Anne. These PPP or public/private partnership deals are scams. They're another variety of that government favourite tactic of keeping costs off the books for a while. Every dollar the private sector puts in is one that government isn't obliged to raise through tax increases. It's also a deferred charge, complete with interest and profit margins, that is passed along to the next generation. It's utterly immoral but we've come, as a people, to accept it in this era of "everyday low taxes."

samvg said...

Ralph Klein's administration of AB began this corporatist partnership in making public policy in late 1993. It was done quite openly. Poli-sci and political columnists wrote about it. AB's pretty much run this way ever since. Regarding resource/public lands policies, we ENGOs got seats at the table but mostly for show... greenwashing. The big ticket policy components were agreed to in private.

The Mound of Sound said...

Yes, that seems an entirely accurate take on Klein's government and the Tory administrations that followed. My question is what has Rachel done to change that?