Shuck and Jive

Saturday, January 23, 2010

The United States is Officially a Plutocracy

In honor of the Supreme Court's recent decision I thought it might be a good time to promote the film, The Corporation.

Provoking, witty, stylish and sweepingly informative, THE CORPORATION explores the nature and spectacular rise of the dominant institution of our time. Part film and part movement, The Corporation is transforming audiences and dazzling critics with its insightful and compelling analysis. Taking its status as a legal "person" to the logical conclusion, the film puts the corporation on the psychiatrist's couch to ask "What kind of person is it?"
Answer: A sociopath.

Gene TeSelle at Witherspoon comments on the decision:

We had suspected it for a long time, but now, thanks to a swing vote by Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy, the United States is officially a plutocracy. On the dubious and probably perverse principles that corporations are legal persons and that political contributions are "speech" protected by the First Amendment, restrictions on corporate contributions to issue organizations (though not to specific political campaigns) have basically been thrown out.
Gene compares our turn to that of the Roman Empire:
The Republic came to be ruled by a triumvirate of wealthy men, then by Caesar Augustus as emperor (which simply meant commander-in-chief). The Republic and the Senate technically continued to exist (the emperor was simply "princeps," "first citizen"). But the power relationships were drastically changed. And the rich got richer, holding vast estates in multiple regions and expecting to receive official positions in the provinces or at the imperial court.
I don't know if we are going to be able to change the direction our nation is taking or if our future is going to look like a Margaret Atwood dystopia, but at the very least we should name it when we can.

Might be a good time to re-read Naomi Klein's Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism. If you have six and half minutes watch this short film on the Shock Doctrine:

As Naomi Kline says in the above film:
The best way to stay oriented, to resist shock, is to know what is happening to you...and why.


  1. John

    I sent an email to Doug King on this. I don't think this is new, just an extension of the past.

    Here's what I said:

    While reading your article “Big Money Talks” I had a vague memory that this was not exactly new. So I looked it up. Beginning in the 1870’s the 14th Amendment was used by the Supreme Court to say that corporations had the same rights as people (well at least white people) because corporations were in effect, persons. Ironically at the same time the court held that the 14th Amendment, originally written to declare that African Americans had all the rights of citizenship, did not apply to segregation laws.


    for a more complete study.

  2. Beginning in the 1870s...

    Which is what led directly to the rise, out of necessity, of Socialism and the Labor movements. And, possibly, the Great Depression and two great world wars.


    This thing the Supreme Court did is, in the long term, the most destabilizing decision they have made at least in my half century lifetime. I can't imagine what they were thinking.

    One can only hope then that they also declare unconstitutional all the restrictions the Federal Government has placed on Labor Unions. Large corporations without checks and balances and unlimited propaganda budgets? OMG!

  3. Jodie

    On top of that it looks to me like monopoly laws are simply being ignored.

  4. Couldn't agree more. The Corporation and Pastor Bob nail it right on the head- the decision to rule that corporations are, in fact, people and have the same rights was one of the most disastrous decisions ever made, and this one piggy backed right on it. Michael Moore's latest, "Capitalism: A Love Story" has some very cogent thoughts in light of this decision as well.

  5. The more I think about it, the more I think it is a re-branding of something we have seen before. Social Darwinism and the marriage of business with government.

    Big business enterprises are run by small groups of autocratic authoritarian people with lots of muscle, and sometimes with tele-evangelist charisma.

    We have seen what happens when people like that are 'free' to run nations as they please.

    The big oil guys will outspend the Californian environmentalists by large orders of magnitudes and pass propositions and sell government candidates that will allow them to destroy the coast in pursuit of oil. The did it once before, they will do it again. They will deny global warming and drill the thawed out North Pole at the same time.

    The military industrial complex will outspend by orders of magnitude anybody else opposing defense spending and sell candidates who will give out ginormous defense contracts.

    All of them will oppose employee benefits, retirement programs, and holidays.

    The accumulation of capital will continue to concentrate more and more in the hands of the decreasing few. It's not just a Plutocracy, its social Darwinism unleashed.

    Those are the values that led to 30 of the most catastrophic years in human history starting in about 1915. Those were the years that led to all the legal restrictions and welfare systems the conservatives are dismantling.

    Can you imagine what the highways would look like if it was survival of the fittest? Restricting the freedom of some actually improves the freedom of all.

    That is the principle the conservative supreme court is now walking away from.

  6. Where I'm at today is..well..that we're not just a plutocracy. We've been there before, back in the era of the robber barons.

    The effect of this ruling in a globalized marketplace means that Lukoil money can help further candidates who are friendly to Putin. Or that Citgo money can run attack ads against a Representative who spoke ill of Hugo Chavez.

    We're now no longer even America.