How Corporations Control Politics

by Corey Robin on June 7, 2015

In my Salon column today, I look at new research examining how corporations influence politics.

Money talks. But how?

From “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington” to Citizens United, the story goes like this: The wealthy corrupt and control democracy by purchasing politicians, scripting speech and writing laws. Corporations and rich people make donations to candidates, pay for campaign ads and create PACs. They, or their lobbyists, take members of Congress out to dinner, organize junkets for senators and tell the government what to do. They insinuate money where it doesn’t belong. They don’t build democracy; they buy it.

But that, says Alex Hertel-Fernandez, a PhD student in Harvard’s government department, may not be the only or even the best way to think about the power of money. That power extends far beyond the dollars deposited in a politician’s pocket. It reaches for the votes and voices of workers who the wealthy employ. Money talks loudest where money gets made: in the workplace.


Among Hertel-Fernandez’s findings:
1. Nearly 50% of the top executives and managers surveyed admit that they mobilize their workers politically.

2. Firms believe that mobilizing their workers is more effective than donating money to a candidate, buying campaign ads, or investing in large corporate lobbies like the Chamber of Commerce.

3. The most important factor in determining whether a firm engages in partisan mobilization of its workers—and thinks that that mobilization is effective—is the degree of control it has over its workers. Firms that always engage in surveillance of their employees’ online activities are 50 percent more likely to mobilize their workers than firms that never do.

4. Of the workers who say they have been mobilized by their employers, 20% say that they received threats if they didn’t.


My conclusion:
When we think of corruption, we think of something getting debased, becoming impure, by the introduction of a foreign material. Money worms its way into the body politic, which rots from within. The antidote to corruption, then, is to keep unlike things apart. Take the big money out of politics or limit its role. That’s what our campaign finance reformers tell us.

But the problem isn’t corruption. It’s…


Read more here.

{ 56 comments }

1

Phil 06.07.15 at 3:43 pm

That’s a disgusting state of affairs, and one which I hope is confined to the US. I’ve never seen anything remotely like that – never had a hint that my boss wanted to influence my vote – at any of the places I’ve worked, including the ones with no pension scheme and no union recognition.

2

Metatone 06.07.15 at 3:44 pm

I think in terms of campaigning (letter writing) etc. these abuses have clear effects.

I’d argue though that in terms of the overall discourse, “the bosses” have won without even resorting to anything so crude.

At least here in the UK it’s palpable that people soak up attitudes about economics and trade policy from work. And those policy preferences aren’t designed around their prosperity… They aren’t being threatened, it’s simply a matter of culture – of lionising the “private sector” and bashing the “public sector” and those out of work. The identity comes out of water cooler moments and the lunch break. It takes a strong outside-work identity not to want the halo of “private sector wealth creator” and thus disdain a union, or a strike or a dole recipient…

3

cassander 06.07.15 at 3:44 pm

I would hardly be called being forced to hold up a pro-romney sign when the guy comes to visit “political mobilization of workers.” Does Alex Hertel-Fernandez present any evidence at all that these mobilization efforts impact votes in any way? Or that such mobilization happens that is antithetical to employees’ interests? Seems to me that coal miners and coal mine owners have a lot of interests in common.

4

Phil 06.07.15 at 4:07 pm

I would hardly be called being forced to hold up a pro-romney sign when the guy comes to visit “political mobilization of workers.”

Suit yourself, but you may want to communicate with the rest of the world some day.

5

Josh Jasper 06.07.15 at 4:38 pm

cassander : Seems to me that coal miners and coal mine owners have a lot of interests in common.

You might want to mention that to someone who’s worked for Massey energy at the Upper Big Branch Mine. Suggest to him that he really ought to be giving his wages to the PACs if Massey tells them to.

I suggest having your dentist on speed dial.

For that matter, it’s evident that the lot of interests Murray and his labor force have in common exclude worker safety as well

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/elliott-negin/coal-baron-digs-a-deeper_b_4714139.html

But hey, it’s not him getting black lung or dying in a mine collapse. It’s his workers. The ones he’s been fined repeated times for ignoring safety regulations to save a buck here and there.

Does mobilization to vote Republican affect coal workers? Yes. It makes it very likely that the industry will get away with ignoring safety regulations to save money, because destroying mining safety regulations for major donors is a Republican party practice.

6

Sasha Clarkson 06.07.15 at 6:45 pm

Much conservative rhetoric, especially in the US, is caught up in an anachronistic big-government/small-government debate. But real government is not where the nominal authority lies, but who has the real power!

Like it or not, conservatives are leading a revolution, in which national governments are being usurped by the big government of the international corporate oligopoly. This of course is barely accountable for its actions, nor subject to democratic oversight, and hence can ride roughshod over the broad mass of humanity. Of course, like the Star Wars Trade Federation, the oligopoly also subverts/coerces the loyalties of employees from the wider community to itself.

I suspect that the trend is that national governments will be important only in that they will provide the armies to enforce the will of the corporate elite. Eventually even this may become unimportant as other means are found to suppress us!

http://img4.wikia.nocookie.net/…/images/6/68/TF-DCS-ST.jpg

7

Sasha Clarkson 06.07.15 at 6:46 pm

8

Layman 06.07.15 at 7:07 pm

cassander @ 3: I would hardly be called being forced to hold up a pro-romney sign when the guy comes to visit “political mobilization of workers.” Does Alex Hertel-Fernandez present any evidence at all that these mobilization efforts impact votes in any way? Or that such mobilization happens that is antithetical to employees’ interests? Seems to me that coal miners and coal mine owners have a lot of interests in common.’

We can save time and effort if we can adopt some short codes for standard responses. This one is the standard ‘3-step’: First, deny that a thing is happening. Then admit that it could be but say that it’s harmless. Then assert that it’s actually beneficial.

The 3-step is most often deployed in discussions on climate change, but as we can see here, it is available as a more general-purpose response.

9

Bruce Wilder 06.07.15 at 7:08 pm

. . . the problem isn’t corruption. It’s capitalism.

So simple, then. So obvious.

More than a century of organizing work in hierarchy was all just a big mistake, but no worries, we’ll just exchange it for “economic democracy” at the service desk at Best Buy.

10

Barry Freed 06.07.15 at 7:28 pm

Call me naive but I’m astounded that half the tactics described aren’t outright illegal.

11

Rich Puchalsky 06.07.15 at 8:05 pm

I appreciate that when you’re going against an established story, you have to emphasize that what’s really going on is a whole different story. That’s what I’d take “the problem isn’t corruption. It’s capitalism.” to be. But really I’d assume that it’s both.

Also: shifting the Overton window by funding think-tanks, attempting to suppress speech they don’t like.

12

Ronan(rf) 06.07.15 at 8:11 pm

Not to display a put on world weary cynicism , but I’m surprised people are surprised by this. It isn’t “capitalism” , it’s politics. People have always been pressured into how they vote, whether by domineering individuals in their family, notable families in their community , factions in their village, political machines in their towns and cities , so on and so forth. In workplaces of all sizes, from small shops to local factories, individuals have been coerced, whether implicitly (through peer pressure) or explicitly (threats of dismissal) into supporting political positions a dominant faction wants them to. (Is this not part of what trade unions do, or have done?)
It is a fallacy of WEIRD thinking to imagine away such pressures historically. Obviously this situation in the OP isn’t ideal, but it is politics , as it has existed since time immemorial. (Or at least a date I can’t place)

13

Alex Hertel-Fernandez 06.07.15 at 8:24 pm

Cassander: I’ve looked at workers’ self-reports of whether employer messages changed their behaviors. About half of all workers who have been contacted by their bosses report a change in at least one of their political behaviors or attitudes, and 15% report that employer messages affected their vote choice. Is this a lot or a little? I think the answer depends on whether you think it is an appropriate role for managers to play in the political lives of their employees.

You’re definitely right that the economic interests of workers and managers are often aligned on things like trade and regulation. But many times they are not — as in the cases of working conditions (e.g. minimum wage) or redistributive policies. And independent of the content of employers’ political messages, we might be worried about the power that managers have over their workers. For instance, I find that about 28% of contacted workers reported that their employers’ messages either made them uncomfortable or included threats of economic retaliation. I think whether you are troubled by these statistics or not depends on whether you are concerned about power differentials between employers and their employees.

Barry Freed: Many of these employer tactics used to be illegal, for the most part, before Citizens United. And some states have taken action to curb the most coercive practices (NJ and OR). But most states haven’t.

14

hix 06.07.15 at 8:40 pm

Well, I associate such behaviour with defect democracy – which is how id think of most historical democracies. So for me it is shocking to see this kind of mechanism in a modern long established rich democracy (ok not that shocking, considering all the other fingerpointers towards that direction with regards to the US).

15

gianni 06.07.15 at 8:46 pm

Not to mention the ways in which American corporations especially have worked to diminish the employee’s time for political activity. Some workers are terribly underpaid, forcing them to work extra hours/job; some are subject to capricious scheduling, and irregular hours; others in prestige jobs intentionally overworked, makes for easier conditioning. All around the 40hr/week standard persists despite massive productivity gains. At least the French get August off to take a proper trip to the beach.

Added to this our antiquated infrastructure and sprawling residential geography make the simple fact of getting to work a huge time investment. While in your car you are more likely to be fed the political opinions of well-funded media figures than to those of your peers. Don’t forget that this is in the country that invented the internet – how many of those people could just be telecommuting anyway?

16

Ronan(rf) 06.07.15 at 8:55 pm

@13 – I don’t know if I’d see the US as an institutionally mature democracy akin to what exists in Northern Europe, more as a hybrid of areas that are economically and politically developed, and others that are more comparable to weak states or emerging democracies (at best the European ‘periphery’, Spain, Greece, Italy, Ireland- perhaps in the 80s more than now) You can see this in the weak state capacity, corrupt militia like police forces and late agrarian style of politics.
Also, perhaps I’m wrong.

17

Ronan(rf) 06.07.15 at 8:57 pm

that’s too hix now at 14 (a comment came out of moderation.)

18

Bruce Wilder 06.07.15 at 9:44 pm

Rich Puchalsky @ 11: I appreciate that when you’re going against an established story, you have to emphasize that what’s really going on is a whole different story. That’s what I’d take “the problem isn’t corruption. It’s capitalism.” to be. But really I’d assume that it’s both.

Yes, I recognize that that is the rhetorical problem. And, I’m not a fan of liberal “purity” as a practical model for remedies — the established story he’s turning away from. And, yes, I think there’s some deep structures driving developments.

19

john c. halasz 06.07.15 at 9:52 pm

Bruce, Peter Dorman is calling you.

20

someguy88 06.07.15 at 9:58 pm

I am sure he is an ass but Murray is more or less correct about coal mining jobs and elections. Obama wins = less US coal mining jobs. And on that issue I actually agree with Obama.

The real take away here is how pathetically lazy Capitalists are about politics. The median claimed estimate of the number of employees pressured would very roughly match total government workers, and government workers being forced to contribute to this, and that PAC in order to keep their job is the heroic norm, not the outrageous outlier.

Yawn.

21

Bruce Wilder 06.07.15 at 10:14 pm

john c. halasz @ 19: Bruce, Peter Dorman is calling you.

I saw the message on my answering machine and replied already. Appropriately, I’m sure you would agree.

22

john c. halasz 06.07.15 at 10:27 pm

16 tons. Not exactly news. It’s part of what “liberal democracy” has always been made of, together with a “free press”.

23

MPAVictoria 06.07.15 at 10:47 pm

And people in the comments here have asked me why I post anonymously….

This is why.

24

Val 06.07.15 at 11:07 pm

Don’t agree with the cynics above – ‘this is how it has always been’. This is outrageous and I agree with some commenters above that it may be, in this extreme form, a U.S. thing. However it is also part of a broader trend.

Here in Australia, big unions sometimes make common cause with big business to attack Labor or the Greens when they propose to reduce forestry or mining. Generally the rhetoric of “jobs” is used to justify giving special consideration to corporations. The proposed TPP investor-state measures continue the trend give corporations more power to oppose workers’ rights, health or environmental provisions (there is a good discussion of this in Naomi Klein’s latest book). Inequality is getting worse again, and the trend for inequality to increase within organisations (lower pay at the bottom, more at the top) seems entrenched.

I would say it’s not just capitalism, it’s also patriarchy (in my definition, historical persistence, predating modern capitalism, of hierarchical male dominated systems of institutionalised inequality and exploitation of subordinate groups, ie corporations today, kingdoms in the past) though relatively few on this site seem to acknowledge that.

However there also seem to be countervailing trends against the influence of corporations/capitalism: the HDP in Turkey, SNP in Scotland, Polemos, Syriza – all have stated left/egalitarian and democratic aims, even though I know some here are cynical about real commitment eg by SNP.

25

Anarcissie 06.07.15 at 11:32 pm

Well, it is kind of old news. The question is what you’re going to do about it.

26

js. 06.07.15 at 11:51 pm

This is a good piece, thanks.

And frankly, all the been-there-done-that in the comments is a bit idiotic. Think about how much (virtual and real) ink is spilled in left/liberal media outlets and publications about the corrupting influence of Citizens United and related SC decisions, and how pretty much all of these pieces focus on the corrupting influence via the channels of donations, super PACs, etc. Now ask yourself whether the sort of thing that CR is talking about gets anywhere near the same amount of space and attention in those same outlets and publications; whether it’s even on the radar for a lot of the outlets decrying super PACs. Exactly.

27

john c. halasz 06.08.15 at 12:11 am

@24 % 26:

“All reification is forgetting”.

28

Val 06.08.15 at 12:16 am

A @ 25
Change the world with my PhD thesis. Whaddya think? Of course I can do that.

29

marcel proust 06.08.15 at 12:46 am

I recall reading that in the 19th C, between the disappearance of property qualifications for voting (early 19thC in most states) and the advent of secret ballots (late 19thC), it was unexceptional for farmers to bring their hired hands into town on election day where they would vote, publicly, as instructed. Urban machines did — are certainly suspected of having done — much the same with city employee throughout the late 19thC and first early 20thC, even following the advent of the secret ballot.

Fear of phenomena like this was a motivating factor for Jefferson’s desire for a polity of yeoman farmers, dependent on none.

So, back to the future or rather, onward to the past.

30

marcel proust 06.08.15 at 12:48 am

Someday I’ll learn to read my posts carefully before pressing “Submit” (but then, I’m not a boss, so not used to saying “Submit!”).

In mine of 29, “city employee” s/b “city employees”, and “first early 20thC” s/b “early 20thC”.

31

Omega Centauri 06.08.15 at 1:01 am

Oddly, from my career experience, which spanned from government research to public and private corps, political pressure of any sort has always been seen as hugely beyond the pale. Especially for government supported workplaces, its always been squeeky-clean -i.e. don’t even wear a political pin to work and so forth, don’t make political phonecalls etc.. I can understand that a boss might want to say “If X wins, he will make it tough on our industry”, but anything that can be interpreted as a threat of retaliation is so far over the line as to be almost inconceivable. Yet we have these cases….

Now, given that in the US a swing of a couple of percentage points can determine the outcome, this sort of pressure is not a small thing, but potentially a huge determinant of political outcomes.

32

Jim Harrison 06.08.15 at 1:09 am

What’s missing is a powerful norm that as Americans we should recognize and honor the autonomy of one another other. As an employer, it is simply none of my damned business how you vote; and it shouldn’t even occur to me to coerce you.

33

Omega Centauri 06.08.15 at 1:15 am

Jim @32. If only that norm were more widespread and also applied to religious institutions.
Obviously we will have to go well beyond social norms in order to reign in this sort of behavior. Aside from
legal remedies, I hear that shaming is pretty effective.

As Ronan says, this sort of thing is nothing new. That doesn’t mean it isn’t highly corrosive. It simply underscores the fact that only eternal vigilance is likely to keep to a tolerable level.

34

SamChevre 06.08.15 at 1:25 am

I’d like a slightly clearer account of what is being described as “coercion.”

Is “if the Democrats win, there will be fewer coal mining jobs and this mine will probably close” coercion (assuming it’s true)?

And it’s critical to note that anyone in the financial industry is required to monitor employee’s online activity, and finance is a field where there are real threats from new regulation.

35

Matt 06.08.15 at 1:56 am

I’d like a slightly clearer account of what is being described as “coercion.”

If only someone had written down the specifics, hyperlinked in the original article.

http://www.newrepublic.com/article/politics/108140/coal-miners-donor-mitt-romney-benefactor

The accounts of two sources who have worked in managerial positions at the firm, and a review of letters and memos to Murray employees, suggest that coercion may also explain Murray staffers’ financial support for Romney. Murray, it turns out, has for years pressured salaried employees to give to the Murray Energy political action committee (PAC) and to Republican candidates chosen by the company. Internal documents show that company officials track who is and is not giving. The sources say that those who do not give are at risk of being demoted or missing out on bonuses, claims Murray denies.

Lots of other horrible-if-true stuff in the article. It goes way beyond telling employees that a Romney presidency would be better for the coal industry.

36

Sancho 06.08.15 at 2:08 am

Is it glib to say that America never really let go of slavery? There seems to be an underlying belief there that employers have a right to dictate the beliefs and preferences of their staff.

I’m reminded of an interview with Douglas Adams where an American interviewer asks how he deals with being punished in his professional life for being atheist, but Adams finds the very idea preposterous. The US seems to accept that sort of interference as normal, if not reasonable. C.f. workplace drug testing.

37

cassander 06.08.15 at 3:04 am

@Alex Hertel-Fernandez

Unless you think workers are so foolish that they are being convinced into voting against their interests, simply measuring changing people’s opinions is meaningless. If I came into work and my boss says “don’t vote for so and so, he supports a bill that will destroy this company” I might very well be convinced, and be better off for it.

The other alternative, of course, but your numbers their are a bit slippery. you say “28% were made to feel uncomfortable or were threatened.” First off, those two things should not be in one category. someone making me uncomfortable is not a threat. My co-worker, or even boss, rambling on about preserving our precious bodily fluids might very well be uncomfortable, but that is entirely different from him threatening me. And even if you have threat numbers, I’d want to know how many people actually saw said threats carried out. I imagine the number is tiny.

38

cassander 06.08.15 at 3:06 am

god dammit, that should read “The other alternative, of course, is employers threatening employees”

39

stubydoo 06.08.15 at 3:27 am

The megacorporation that employs me presumably counts a one of the 50% that “mobilizes” employees.

It has its own PAC, and every few months they send everyone an email suggesting making a contribution and maybe once a year they hold an event where some guy talks political horse-race stuff, and a couple other things they do to try to make it seem like a fun idea to be involved in the PAC. Presumably, as in the quote above at 35, someone at the company is maintaining a list of contributors – wouldn’t that be required by election law?

They’re actually gloriously quiet about what policies they’re trying to pull for – though it’s easy to imagine a whole slew of boring nitty-gritty measures under lawmaker consideration benefiting or harming our industry. They don’t give us any “we have to fight for/against Candidate X to help/prevent Candidate X enact measure Y which will have effect Z on the industry/company/workers, so you should donate to the PAC” type stuff.

I think my colleagues would treat as a joke the idea that participating would affect your career. The ones who are not very political probably forget that the PAC even exists in between one of their emails and the next one.

40

Harold 06.08.15 at 4:33 am

But people have always eaten people, what else is there to eat?

41

another Jim 06.08.15 at 4:48 am

Just out of curiosity, the people who think this stuff is bad, were you one of the ones who were so excited to see Brendan Eich lose his job because of a 4-year-old campaign contribution?

42

Sancho 06.08.15 at 5:39 am

Perfect comparison. A CEO pressured by consumers to resign for a donation he made to an organisation he supports is the same as a line worker threatened with the sack for not donating to an organisation he doesn’t support.

43

John Quiggin 06.08.15 at 7:10 am

I don’t think it’s been pointed out, but this kind of pressure would be illegal in most countries. The real problem here is “employment at will”.

44

Harold 06.08.15 at 7:34 am

@43. Indeed.

45

SamChevre 06.08.15 at 10:50 am

Matt @ 35

What you give is one (disputed) incident (and yes, as stubydoo @ 39 notes, if you have a company PAC which most large companies do, you’re required to keep track of donors); my question is, is that a typical incident? Or are the others like what stubydoo and I have experienced, which are pretty similar. (Although I’ve gotten”specific policy proposal X would be disastrous for us” as well as what stubydoo describes.)

46

Stephen 06.08.15 at 2:14 pm

Out of curiosity: if, as some argue, this sort of political influence is all due to capitalism and/or patriarchy, what kinds of political influence can we expect to see applied, or misapplied, in a post-capitalist, post-patriarchal society?

I suspect somebody, possibly Plume, might argue that in an ideal p-c p-c society all would be well, and the policies followed would be so self-evidently correct that there would be no need for anyone to argue about them.

47

Patrick S. O'Donnell 06.08.15 at 2:29 pm

On a personal note, I recall my father’s transformation from a liberal Democrat (both sides of my family were liberal Democrats, my grandmother, his mother, campaigned for Adlai E. Stevenson II) to a Nixonian Republican during his long employment at IBM, a transformation that horrified my mother (she loathed Nixon). I doubt he was coerced, but there was certainly a conservative corporate cultural environment that worked its insidious magic (‘soft’ coercion?) during his tenure there. He would later vote for Reagan. My mother never forgave him for that.

48

Paul 06.08.15 at 2:30 pm

I’m concerned that this column is based on research that isn’t actually published yet. I don’t really doubt any of the conclusions that you’re arguing for here, but I feel like I can’t say whether the effect is larger or smaller than I would have expected without any of the details about Hertel-Fernandez’s actual study. I would imagine the actual paper has some methodological details that would make the claims easier to evaluate. But it seems to me that if you’re going to base your argument on empirical research, we have to have access to a complete picture of the research to know if the argument is any good or not. I’m not concerned about peer review, really; it would be fine if it was just posted on a personal website or something. But referring to research that doesn’t publicly exist seems fishy to me. Could this column really not wait until the paper comes out?

49

Corey Robin 06.08.15 at 2:44 pm

Paul at 48: Actually some of the research on which the column is based is already publicly available, on both Fertel-Hernandez’s website and SSN, as you will see if you clink on the links provided in the article.

50

someguy88 06.08.15 at 3:15 pm

Some of the reasearch is available much in the same way that some workers are being coerced as in not really.

51

Paul 06.08.15 at 6:28 pm

Corey Robin @49 My apologies. I missed those links when I read through the article and I was distracted by the reference to an as-yet-unpublished paper.

52

Bruce Wilder 06.08.15 at 7:42 pm

Feeling that I should try to make up for my comment @ 9 about reifying “capitalism” as a rhetorical move.

I am reading Clay Shirky’s post and its comment thread and I am thinking, “this is the same damn thing Corey Robin was writing about, but no one is acknowledging the commonality”.

And, maybe that was the point of the, “capitalism is the problem” peroration, though of course I did not react to it that way, and I would hold to my complaint that few would.

The conservative response in the present thread is denial de minutiae. There is no effect, and if there were an effect, it’s not corrupting, because there’s a coincidence of interests between corporations and their numerous lowly dependents. The lords of the manor represent the agrarian interest; of course, the conservative peasants follow — only transliterated to neo feudalism. Despite the swipe taken at the ineffectual purity principles of rote reform, some of the leftish comments reassert purity — people should vote their consciences in the privacy of the voting booth; it’s a sacred kind-of-thing.

Clay Shirky’s excellent post is an extended illustration of the Big Picture, I think. You could label it, “late capitalism” and be technically right (and also stop all thought with a label) I suppose, but its the details that interest me, the cyclic entropy. The example he gives is North Carolina, which is a state where the legislature and state politics isn’t just corrupt in the desultory way of most States, it is a wholly owned creature of business corporations, thanks to the highly effective political organizing of a very small and determined (and well-funded) group.

One other connection to how Corporations Control Politics thread, and it falls into the category of the dog that didn’t bark. That business corporations organize political support, as several world-weary commenters have pointed out is not particularly new news. Being a squishy liberal myself, in less benighted circumstances, I would probably argue that business has legitimate interests that should enter politics, and narrow concrete money-grubbing arguments are just as legitimate as airy, fairy idealisms. What’s new is that they are not opposed. That what they are doing is pushing the envelope on what should be considered legitimate in a democracy, and there’s very little vital push-back. The laws are being changed to give them more freedom to pursue their interests, etc.

And, here’s the silence of the dogs: fewer and fewer resources are available to fund the political organizing and thinking that might represent a general interest.

The ideas that business corporations unopposed push are myopic and selfish and cruel. If they were effectively opposed, what they would argue for would be far more mild. This is the significance of, “Nixon was a liberal”.

It’s a truism that the conservative party tends to be the stupid party. The left has a harder task. It takes more thought, more sophisticated thought to successfully fashion a more far-sighted, better-balanced sense of policy and consequences. Myopic, reactionary selfishness, unopposed, is easy. Stupid, but easy.

A critical part of the Clay Shirky narrative was the Clark Kerr is dead and first tier academia has been on auto-pilot for a long time part. The apologia of those defending are disconnected from the reality of how the system works, and no one has felt responsible for how the system works in a long, long time.

The liberals, so to speak, are more reactionary in the sense of purely reactive than the reforming conservatives they face.

The part of the dsquared thesis, that several commenters pointed out, is that the financial scandals that formed his template, did not prompt much in the way of structural reform, if by structural reform one means restructuring in the public interest predicated on deposing corrupt elites. We’re getting a lot de-legitimating from these scandals, but not much thought about how to make politics work effectively as a means of solving problems and adapting intelligently.

We get just enough squeaks from the leftish, for example, to know that austerity “does not work” in some sense featuring the general public interest, but not enough to make an effective political case, identify policy levers and get on with an agenda of restructuring reform, that pushes corrupt elites aside. No ideas, no revolution I’m thinking. At least, no good revolution.

53

Jerry Vinokurov 06.08.15 at 10:27 pm

It’s not enough to merely obey Big Brother: you must love him, too.

54

cassander 06.10.15 at 4:55 am

@Bruce Wilder

>The ideas that business corporations unopposed push are myopic and selfish and cruel.

Selfish, perhaps, but myopic and cruel? Is there some massive pro-puppy drowning lobby that has escaped my notice?

>It takes more thought, more sophisticated thought to successfully fashion a more far-sighted, better-balanced sense of policy and consequences.

Coming from the guys who sold the country on eugenics, prohibition, and public housing, this is almost laughable.

> Myopic, reactionary selfishness, unopposed, is easy.

Not half as easy as ineffectual, feel good “generosity” with other people’s money

55

Collin Street 06.10.15 at 6:26 am

> It’s not enough to merely obey Big Brother: you must love him, too.

“This, and this only; cease to call slavery wrong, and join them in calling it right.”

56

Bruce Wilder 06.10.15 at 7:00 am

cassander @ 54:

I am sure you can keep up your brand of tendentious nonsense all day and all night. I am not interested in playing your stupid game. Bug off.

Comments on this entry are closed.