Monday, December 5, 2011

The Separation of Corporation and State

I've been watching with admiration from afar the events as they unravel in the United States and around the world known collectively as "Occupy" or "Occupy Wall Street".  And as an American living abroad for the better part of a decade, I can't help but at least a slight bit of pride in my country similar to that brought by the landslide election of Barack Obama in 2008.  Being that, incorrectly so might I add, the common critique of the movement is that there is no solid demand from the group means very little.  This is a demonstration of the frustrations with a system which has seemingly moved from allowing pernicious manipulation of the systems by which our country runs for personal gain, to encouraging and enabling it, and in many cases rewarding it.  This demonstration of people's growing intolerance toward this lack of fairness doesn't need to do much more than that.  Demonstrate frustration.  It has gotten the attention of the people it was addressing its complaints to.  Demands shouldn't have to be made.  A reassessment of the system by expert economists should do the trick.
      But we all know the problem.  After wading through partisan hackery from pundits hell-bent on misleading people in order to prove their loyalty to their wing we find ourselves at the foot of a monolith established long ago, of, by, and for the "people".  But it is full of men and women loyal, not to the people, but to a certain, small percentage of people who have, masked behind the pundit swamp, tweaked the machine to benefit themselves, and themselves only, at the sacrifice of the protections to the people that were meant to stop this from happening.  And it was seen in the beginning.
      "The wall of separation of church and state", a clarification by Thomas Jefferson to the Danbury Babtist Association of the original text in the United States Constitution, was intended to not only give freedom to religious institutions but also to establish a "wall of separation of the church and state".  The Government is established to protect the people and their interests, not just those of the religious institutions, nor to give any priority thereof.  The Supreme Court in 1947 agreed with Jefferson about the "wall of separation".
      It must have been important to them then, and it should be important to us now.  The problem is, at the time, the rich and powerful institution of the world was the Church.  Period.  Large self-serving multinational corporations, and wall-street investment banks didn't exist at the time.  The government was, in the beginning, acknowledging religion and allowing it's place in society, but not in government, in order to protect the people from things that might serve the religion's interests, but not the peoples.  And indeed these arguments continue today, with religion masquerading as politics trying to get the bible involved in our sex lives, in our children's schools, among other things, and asking the government to help.  Mostly in laughable charades, and almost entirely unsuccessful, though they do and always will persist.
      So, whereas the Church has to stand outside our monolith, begging and pleading for control of society thanks to the first amendment, the bankers, lawyers, corporate executives, oil barons and their lobbyists are not constrained by the separation of Church and state.  They can walk past the gate, and give themselves access to whatever politicians can be convinced is for sale.
      The reason for the "wall of separation" is not a hatred or intolerance of religion.  Far from it.  It stands as an acknowledgement of the corrupting power strong institutions have on government, and how bad that is for society.  The problem is not that it's a Church, but that it has immense power.  Nothing but individuals and the society that they make up as a whole should have power over the government.  Government of, by and for the people.  Our founders, had they known there would be such grand and strong institutions know as corporations whose power and influence would rival and surpass that of the Church's, I imagine there is a chance they would have set a few more provisions into their "wall of separation" and for whom it was meant.
      My own speculation, of course, but more useful than speculating on what they would have done, we can ask, "what will we do with what we have at hand?"  I think that realizing that separation of powers was a priority in the foundation of this country can and should be applied to powers in the private sector is a good place to start.  Most people, I'm sure, agree that Politicians should not be for sale.  And most assuredly the offices and the structure they are meant to protect are not theirs to sell.  Getting the money out of Washington should be a priority.  We should call "lobbying" what it really is.  Bribery.  And people should be arrested for bribing and taking bribes, not rewarded.  Jack Abramoff, in his book Capital Punishment, reviles that almost every single elected official was in his, or another lobbyist's pocket, including every single Republican in Washington.  He was the fall guy.  But if what he did was illegal, and he was doing it with everyone, they all should be in prison.  I like the term "too big to jail," and it apply's here.  Abramoff got thrown under the bus, but didn't take anyone big down with him.  Richard Nixon got a pardon before he ever saw bars. Prison is not for the people at the top, apparently.  Just for the other 99%.

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