01 September 2009

Good morning America: your enemy today (and every day) is corporate power

Great, great post by Paul Krugman in yesterday's New York Times: "I find myself missing Richard Nixon".

Paul's main point - and Hunter S Thompson said it first, back in about 2002 - is that compared with the current bunch of Republican nutters, Nixon was a left-wing radical. Nixon's plan for compulsory employer-funded health insurance - rejected by the Democrat-controlled senate at the time - was to the left of anything Obama is planning.

hat doesn't mean it's time to hoist the rose-coloured specs of course. Nixon was a deeply unpleasant guy and a crook - although strictly minor league compared with the professional war criminal and election thief George W Bush.

But as Krugman points out, it does show the extent to which the American political system has deteriorated under the influence of corporate power. This quote from his article sums it up:

"We tend to think of the way things are now, with a huge army of lobbyists permanently camped in the corridors of power, with corporations prepared to unleash misleading ads and organize fake grass-roots protests against any legislation that threatens their bottom line, as the way it always was. But our corporate-cash-dominated system is a relatively recent creation, dating mainly from the late 1970s."

There's a very interesting research programme to undertake here. What caused the massive expansion of corporate lobbying from the late 1970s onwards? And how can it be reversed? Joel Bakan's The Corporation covers some of this ground but it would be great to see it done in a more systematic way. Really you would need a collaboration between radical economists and political scientists to make headway on this. We need an institute or research centre for the study of corporate power in both the US and the UK.

In Britain the corporate sector is somewhat weaker than in the US but they are growing in strength, particularly in broadcasting: witness, for instance, News Corporation chairman James Murdoch (Rupert's son - I love the smell of nepotism in the morning) calling for the break-up of the BBC, so we can all be left at the mercy of Sky. It's this kind of thing that reminds us every day that the #1 enemy is not government (crap though it may often be), but is in fact corporate power. When are we going to do something about it?

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