Wednesday, September 09, 2009

The Golden Rule

The political version: The one with the gold is the one who rules.

That's why I'm not very happy to hear that the Supreme Court is considering letting corporations and unions spend freely on election campaigns. Yes, I know that corporations are sorta like persons in the United States. Or at least like zombies, because they cannot be killed and they don't bleed. But they are zombies with rights! Including possibly the right to free speech, which somehow turns out to mean the right to spend money to get the corporate viewpoint through.

Here's the thing: The democratic ideal is "one person, one vote." But how that person votes depends on what she or he knows, and that, in turn, can be influenced by campaign advertising. Money is not spread evenly over everyone in this society. Indeed, corporations have lots of it, and that allows them to spend more on "corporate-friendly" messaging. It's hard to counter that if you don't have the same resources.

I'm pragmatic enough to know that money matters a lot in politics, and that those in power usually had money to get there. But the more openly we accept the power of commercialism in democracy, the further away we drift from its basic ideals.

Incidentally, is Justice Kennedy really this naive?

Justice Anthony Kennedy, often the high court's swing vote, but a firm opponent of many campaign restrictions, at one point told the government's lawyer, "Corporations have lots of knowledge about environment, transportation issues, and you are silencing them during the election."

Probably not. He's just paving the way for the New Era where the IBM, General Electric and Monsanto fill your television with pre-election campaign messages. He's also for the zombie free speech rights.
Picture source.