When in January 2010 the Supreme Court ruled that money is speech and corporations are citizens, our democracy (or, if you prefer, our representative republic) took a serious hit. Since then, we’ve witnessed America’s ongoing transition to an oligarchy, and an increasingly militarized and authoritarian one at that.
This was obvious even to me when the Supreme Court rendered its Citizens United decision in favor of corporations. Right after that decision, I wrote this article for Truthout, which I’m re-posting below. What do you think, readers?
Corporations Are Citizens – What Are We?
January 24, 2010
This week’s Supreme Court ruling that corporations are protected by “free speech” rights and can contribute enormous sums of money to influence elections is a de jure endorsement of the de facto dominance of corporations over our lives. Indeed, corporations are the new citizens of this country, and ordinary Americans, who used to be known as “citizens,” now fall into three categories: consumers, warriors and prisoners.
Think about it. Perhaps you’ve noticed, as a friend of mine has, that the term “citizen” has largely disappeared from our public and political discourse. And what term has taken its place? Consumer. That’s our new role: not to exercise our rights as citizens (perish the thought, that’s for corporations to do!), but to exercise our credit cards as consumers. Here one might recall President George W. Bush’s inspiring words to Americans after 9-11 to “go shopping” and to visit Disney.
Think again of our regulatory agencies like the FDA or SEC. They no longer take action to protect us as “citizens.” Rather, they act to safeguard the confidence of “consumers.” And apparently the only news that’s worthy of note is that which affects us as consumers.
As one-dimensional “consumers,” we’ve been reduced to obedient eunuchs in thrall to the economy. Our sole purpose is to keep buying and spending. Corporations, meanwhile, are the citizen-activists in our politics, with the voting and speech rights to match their status.
At the same time we’ve reduced citizens to consumers, we’ve reduced citizen-soldiers to “warriors” or “warfighters.” The citizen-soldier of World War II did his duty in the military, but his main goal was to come home, regain his civilian job, and enjoy the freedoms and rights of American citizenship. Today, our military encourages a “warrior” mentality: a narrow-minded professionalism that emphasizes warfighting skills over citizenship and civic duty.
And if that’s not disturbing enough, think of our military’s ever-increasing reliance on private military contractors or mercenaries.
The final category of American is all-too-obvious: prisoner. No country in the modern industrialized world incarcerates more of its citizens than the United States. More than 7.3 million Americans currently languish somewhere in our prison system. Our only hope, apparently, for a decline in prison population is the sheer expense to states of caring and feeding all these “offenders.”
There you have it. Corporations are our new citizens. And you? If you’re lucky, you get to make a choice: consumer, warrior or prisoner. Which will it be?
9 thoughts on “No Money, No Speech, No Say”
I don’t disagree, I would simply request/ suggest that journalists – when discussing Fascism – call it that, rather than resort to euphemisms, such as oligarchy, authoritarianism, corporatism, etc.
Yes, LC, and I’d also like to know how many other “democracies” in the world allow their corporations to have an unlimited financial “voice” in politics.
First, in reply to “BMCKS,” the answer must be “none”! Because we, you see, are The Exceptional Nation!!…It’s hard to escape our role as consumers, but certainly informed consumers are preferable. Public pressure could have forced the transition to greener corporate practices long ago. (I note in passing that “Dunkin'”–formerly Dunkin’ Donuts–a franchise I confess I’ve patronized far more often than I should have over the decades, is finally switching to paper-based hot beverage containers starting December 1.) As natural resources dwindle on the planet going forward, ever-increasing use of military force to secure them is inevitable. Our young people need to awaken and understand that they are being recruited as soldiers for empire and are NOT “defending the homeland.” The latter idea is about as enormous a LIE as I can conceive, and has been for a long time. [I address these issues in my memoir of my resistance to the American War in Vietnam, which I am currently “shopping” to literary agents.] I see that an organization called World Beyond War is renewing the call to retire Selective Service (“the draft”) permanently. If the US Military was really devoted to DEFENDING us, it could be vastly shrunk. As of now, it is literally bankrupting the nation. If we were actually attacked by another nation-state (as opposed to stateless, rogue terrorist cells), isn’t it reasonable to believe Americans would VOLUNTEER to serve in the armed forces? Ongoing use of military force abroad will only 1.) further damage the planet’s environment, shrinking the supply of recoverable resources; 2.) kill untold numbers of innocent civilians; and 3.) earn the USA new generations of enemies seeking revenge. “And so it goes…” as Kurt Vonnegut wrote. And so it goes…but it needs to stop!!
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I agree 100%. It’s just crazy! Along with what WJAstore writes about, Fed & Wall St. promote these wars: all unnnessary unless you want to steal their resources. Problem to me is after WW2, Britain was broke, shot, owed America a fortune! US stupidly decided to become the “New Empire”. Did it work? I’d guess 30 years after Victory, owed a fortune by “allies” – yes. But it’s over; costs more to militarily “protect” resources than they’re worth.
I’ll add with a bizarre note: Commie China has been relatively easy on Hong Kong . Wonder why? HK is a Western enclave. Shanghai is the Real head of Chinese finance! Who cares about these CIA thugs ruining the city? International insurance companies will have to pay or this damage! So goes Empires…
If we stop thinking of our system as protecting the individual (the idealist view) and start thinking of it as protecting profit (the realist view), then everything falls nicely into place and it can be said our system is a success at achieving what it is out to do. Hamilton won, Jefferson lost.
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No wonder why they made a musical out of Hamilton’s life. 🙂
Is that a misprint about the prison population at 7.3 million? I read it is about 2.3 million. Even with immigration detainees and pre-trial detention, I don’t think it is 7.3 million.
My favorite comment regarding the SCOTUS decision that money is speech was this; “if money is speech, why is bribery illegal.” Thanks for the continuing thoughtful articles.
It’s not a misprint but it’s unclear. About 2.3 million people are behind bars, but roughly 7.3 million are caught up in the penal system, i.e. in prison, on parole, awaiting trial, and so on. These are stats from 10 years ago, but I don’t think it’s changed much.
The factor that makes bribery a crime, the one the GOP is desperately trying to deny vis-a-vis Trump/Biden/Ukraine, of course is the good old quid-pro-quo. I prefer to call it plain old-fashioned attempted extortion. We should remember in all this circus that Trump went on record some time ago saying he sees nothing wrong about digging up dirt on a political opponent, regardless of the source or how the info is obtained! Today he’s pitching a desire to get the Senate impeachment trial underway. And that is sensible on his part, as there’s no way in hell the GOP members are going to betray him. Justice will NOT be done. And he’ll get to brag all the way to Election Day 2020 that he was “totally exonerated.” Ugh.
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