Saturday, February 09, 2008

Big Government


By Richard E. Noble

"You obviously believe in big government and bureaucratic rule. That is what is wrong with you Democrats. Governments are corrupt, the more government you have the less freedom you have. We Republicans believe in free enterprise. The government must be reduced and businesses should be allowed to operate without government intervention. Government regulations should be removed or at least held to a minimum and business should be allowed to compete and prosper. That is what America is all about - as businesses prosper so do all the people of America, rich and poor alike."
This argument seems to be the bottom line in most of debates by "regular" folks. The Republicans usually close off with a statement similar to the above while the Democrats stand there stammering.
So it would seem that the Democrats are for big government and the Republicans are for big business.
When Americans are asked in surveys which group they would rather see prevail most folks vote for business over government.
I find this truly strange. Both categories, business and government, have a horrible historical record. But it is quite clear that people recognize the inadequacies of their government while the inadequacies of the business world seem to pass them by unnoticed.
When we say for example that our government and our politicians are corrupt what does that mean? It usually means that the institution of government and its representatives are disproportionately influenced by the prejudiced or corrupt advances coming from the moneyed interest within the nation or the community - for the most part, business and big business in particular. We hear talk and read in books and newspapers about "K" street and other corrupt influences primarily from the business world.
If we look back into our historical record we see over and over the negative, corrupt influences of successful businessmen on government - John Jacob Astor, John D. Rockafeller, Commodore Vanderbilt, Jay Gould, J. Pierpoint Morgan, Henry Frisk, the Railroad barons, the steel titans, the textile magnates, the mining monopolies, the patroon and land barons and exploiters of pre-colonial days. If we jump forward today, and look at the Anderson accounting scandal, the Savings and Loan fiasco, Enron, our present Military Supply profiteering outrages, our most recent real-estate and banking debauchery, the bottom line should be that we should all understand that business can not be trusted and that when our government has been corrupted it is most often corrupted by business finagling and misbehavior.
So when Republicans say that we should abandon government because it is corrupt and embrace business, the government corruptors, isn't this rather peculiar? It seems similar to me as saying that we should abandon law and order because it fails to do the job so often and let crime prevail. Or because the referees are so often wrong we should eliminate them from the game and let the players engage unrestricted. This is truly a strange an illogical point of view.
It was not big business or the business community in general that made the work place safe. It was not businessmen who thought up pension funds and retirement benefits. It was not the business community that developed paid vacations or Christmas bonuses. No businessman ever suggested that he should be paying for his employee’s health care or assisting an employee in periods of unemployment. In fact, businesses were very reluctant to pay for health damages that were caused directly and negligently by them. Contrary to popular belief businessmen have never been in favor of fair and equal competition. The only time business has ever supported fair competition is when a more powerful company has cornered the market via its stronger influence (read money and corruption). No businessman ever championed shorter hours and higher pays for its workers. It was not the business community that promoted public education. There is nothing fair, charitable, humanitarian, or equal in the businessman's handbook.
For decades, even centuries, businessmen have fought against the rights of their workers. They have been responsible for inadequate housing, an unhealthy food supply, poor sanitary practices, substandard education, unsafe medicines, and unfair opportunity. Today huge conglomerates and businesses promote pollution and poverty and social injustice all over the world - all in the name of profits.
Today in our present worker/business society the right of workers to bargain collectively is still being challenged by powerful business interests along with workers rights in general.
We all know today that large insurance companies are allowing people to die by automatically denying them legitimate claims in order to improve their bottom line. Dead people don't cash claim checks.
Corporations have a legal obligation to make a profit - not to promote the general welfare. Businessmen are involved in a game that teaches them to make decisions based on profits and not on morality, justice, fair play or even patriotism. Businessmen throughout history have constantly traded to the disadvantage of their country (even in times of war), the disadvantage of their employees, the disadvantages of the environment, the disadvantage of the poor, sick and downtrodden. Any successful businessman will tell you that his first obligation is to the bottom line - not to morality, decency, or even the health and general welfare of the community or the nation. Businesses are supposed to make a profit. Making a profit is not the sole purpose of government or the highest calling of a government representative in a democratic government.
Businessmen are expected to be concerned with profits first and foremost. Governments are supposed to be concerned with the welfare, health and prosperity of all of their citizens.
It is difficult to criticize a businessman for making profits, just as it is difficult to criticize a soldier for killing people in a time of war. There is often no good way to do it. But it is always easy to criticize a politician for making decisions that do not benefit everyone equally. It is easy to criticize politicians because subconsciously we all hold our politicians to higher standards than we do our businessmen. To make business the business of our government is a big step in the wrong direction. Business should be one of the concerns of our government but certainly not the entire concern. The concern of the government is the overall well-being, health and security of all of it citizens.