Against the Corporate State
By Richard Girard
"Predatory capitalism created a complex industrial system and an advanced technology; it permitted a considerable extension of democratic practice and fostered certain liberal values, but within limits that are now being pressed and must be overcome. It is not a fit system for the mid-twentieth century."
Noam Chomsky (b. 1928), U.S. linguist, political analyst. "Language and Freedom," lecture, delivered Jan. 1970, at Loyola University, Chicago (published in For Reasons of State, 1973).
"The decadent international but individualistic capitalism in the hands of which we found ourselves after the war is not a success. It is not intelligent. It is not beautiful. It is not just. It is not virtuous. And it doesn't deliver the goods."
John Maynard Keynes (18831946), British economist. National Self-Sufficiency, section 3 (1933; reproduced in Collected Works, volume 9, 1982).
"Capitalists are no more capable of self-sacrifice than a man is capable of lifting himself up by his own bootstraps."
Vladimir Ilyich Lenin (18701924), Russian revolutionary leader. Letters from Afar, chapter 4 (1917).
In the last ten years we have seen many of the worst practices inherent in capitalism come to pass. The total lack of consideration for the human element in economic decisions; the precedence of the short term bottom line over the long term survival and well-being of the economic system; the corruption of our political and social systems by the economic.
I have had conservatives argue with me that these faults are solely the responsibility of the individuals involved, and not the system itself. But I must disagree with them: It is the nature of the system, which places things ahead of people, and places a premium upon those who can exploit their fellow humans and their suffering without qualm, that has made the worst depredations possible.
The corporate state has nearly become an open fact of life, rather than the secret nightmare that has haunted this nation back to the time of Jefferson and Madison. The Founders and Framers knew full well the dangers of corporate dominance of government policy: it was the underlying cause of the American Revolution, in particular the monopolies for commodities granted the British East Indies Company by the British Crown. Madison (with Jefferson's support) proposed an Eleventh Amendment to our Bill of Rights which:
""would have prohibited 'monopolies in commerce.' The amendment would have made it illegal for corporations to own other corporations, or to give money to politicians, or to otherwise try to influence elections. Corporations would be chartered by the states for the primary purpose of 'serving the public good.' Corporations would possess the legal status not of natural persons but rather of 'artificial persons.' This means that they would have only those legal attributes which the state saw fit to grant to them. They would NOT; and indeed could NOT possess the same bundle of rights which actual flesh and blood persons enjoy. Under this proposed amendment neither the 14th Amendment of the US Constitution, nor any provision of that document would protect the artificial entities known of as corporations."
(The above is from Dr. Mike Byron's article "Jefferson Was Right." Dr. Byron teaches political science at California State University, San Marcos, and this article was published in 2003 at www.liberalslant.com. Professor Byron ran as the Democratic Party's write-in candidate for California's 49th Congressional District in 2002 and 2004. Dr. Byron's article, "Jefferson Was Right" can be found at: http://soundingcircle.com/newslog2.php/_show_article/_a000195-000205.htm; It is worth your time.)
What Thomas Jefferson and James Madison knew is that it is impossible for an individual to act in a positive moral fashion in a system whose highest moral imperative is the bottom line at the end of the next fiscal quarter. To quote Jefferson (from his 1826 Thoughts on Lotteries), "The equality among our citizens [is] essential to the maintenance of republican government." (The Complete Writings of Thomas Jefferson, Memorial Edition; volume 17: page 461; 1904).
As I have stated elsewhere, evil exists where dead things take precedence over living human beings. And there is nothing that is as dead as capital. As Karl Marx observed in Das Kapital (volume 1, chapter 10; 1867), "Capital is dead labor, which, vampire-like, lives only by sucking living labor, and lives the more, the more labor it sucks." Like coal or oil, capital's sole legitimate purpose is as fuel for facility improvements or labor.
But since the passing of Jefferson and Madison, the holders of excess capital have, like Dr. Frankenstein, been working diligently to bring their dead holdings to some semblance of a life of its own, in the form of the monstrous entity known as the modern corporation. Fifty years after Madison's death, and sixty after Jefferson's, our two former Presidents' worst fears were realized in the Supreme Court's decision, Santa Clara County v. Southern Pacific Railroad (1886). An unauthorized addendum to the case's preface (written by the Clerk of the Court, a former railroad executive, and not any of the Justices) stated that the case recognized corporations as a "person" under the Fourteenth Amendment.