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November 29, 2002

Corporatacracy Despite the now-increased threat


Despite the now-increased threat of bankruptcy that has dogged the company all year long, United Airlines managed to find $192,275 to give the Democratic and Republicans parties in 2002.

So, from a shareholder's point of view, is that money well-spent if it buys enough influence to keep the company from going under? If it's not, how much money should United have spent? Would five hundred thousand dollars have been enough? As big as amount as that is, it's a drop in the bucket for a company with a billion in cash reserves. If you're an an American citizen as well a shareholder in United, do you celebrate the rise in value of your stock given the parlous economic times, or do you decry the influence of big money on the government, even though that influence has benefited you personally?

I suspect that most citizens would do both, either because they haven't made the connection that how government treats a particular company directly affects its business performance, or because they are like me, a realist, or embittered cynic, if you prefer that term. The correct thing to do, if you decried big money's influence on your government, would be to donate the difference, I suppose. I wouldn't do it.

And since I wouldn't, since I would not follow through with the logical actions dictated by my belief that the influence of corporate big money on the government is a bad thing, that belief must in some way be flawed. What am I to do?

Hmmmmm. Okay, legally a corporation is considered a person, right? If I was United Airlines, and I had a choice between ruining my credit, ceasing to exist, or paying the Mob protection money that also brought me influence within the Mob, how much money is too much? Faced with an imminent, perhaps a permanent reduction in my circumstances, whether or not to give the Mob more money is not the question. I've already decided to give more. A billion would buy me a crapload of influence, but I wouldn't have anything left to live on. $194K seems like too little, so I must be retarded, perhaps idealistic in my way the world works, or I may have just been testing the waters, seeing what the exchange rate is while I pursue my other, now dwindling, options.

I may not like doing this, but that's the world I live in. Who are you to condemn me, especially if you're the couple hundred guys who pay the Mob to come round twice a year and make sure my sewer system hasn't got any leaks that might end up contaminating the groundwater?

I'll end that metaphor, before it gets increasingly detailed and lengthy, but I trust you see my point. Corporations will always attempt to buy influence, because influence protects them. Legislation restricting the flow of money will not stop the flow of money, it will just redirect it.The problem with big corporate money in the government lies not in the corporations, but in the voters. Corporate and special interest money buys influence because there aren't enough voters to set up a countervailing influence. Politicians are beholden to money because money buys them elections. If enough voters bother not only to vote, but to educate themselves on the issues, then corporate and special interest won't be nearly as important, because that money is spent on television commercials, and commercials only sway ignorant voters. I'm not so partisan as to think that an "educated" voter will vote the same way I do an an issue, which is what that term so often means when it is used, but an educated voter, regardless of his or her personal politics, is less apt to be influenced by things politicians spend money on in order to be re-elected.

The conventional fix for the lazy voter is not to insist that they straighten up, but to remove money's role from an election, which is akin to deciding the best thing for your lazy fat self is not exercise, but a stomach staple. Federal financing is guaranteed to have unfortunate side effects, it's a feature inherent in the system.

My personal preference for dealing with the lazy voter is for poll tests, a notion that is neither legal nor likely to happen any time soon, but unless something is done to force the average American out of their state of apathetic torpor, the system will keep on just as it is.

Which is, after all, what we will deserve.

Posted by Bigwig at November 29, 2002 02:26 PM | TrackBack
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