23 Aug
2011

Corporate money, the deformation of politics, and a values alternative.

There is a deep need for a deep reframing of politics. Politics needs to be understood as about making the world a better place, about saving our common future.

But there is in fact widespread cynicism about politics at present. Why is this?
Because: such cynicism is largely justified…

          In other words: the bind that we are in as a culture is that, because of the state of our politics, which frequently and in many respects justifies cynicism, there is insufficient drive towards creating a non-cynical alternative politics that would work. Moreover, in order to succeed in creating that politics, we have first to understand properly just how bad the current situation is: that is, how deep are the forces that create our more or less corrupt current politics.
That is the background to and the task of this article.
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In the wake of the ongoing climate crisis, the terrifying financial crisis, the ongoing bankers bonus scandal and banking tax evasion, the MPs expenses scandal, Fukuskima, Murdochgate, and S/hell’s latest spill, it is high time to investigate and explain just why the cynicism about British politics (and the situation is similarly across the Western world) is justified, and the scale of the change that is needed to our political culture if we are to have a chance of reframing politics into something positive. It is time, crucially, to expose the 3 main political parties in Britain as fronts for corporate money.
For in the wake of these scandals that I’ve just listed, the public are I believe now ready to understand just how profoundly the system is being run in the interests of the rich and powerful only, and that this really does need to be changed, and the system cleaned out. (As is happening in parts of the Arab world, in public view.)  Nothing will really change unless this cleaning out is done thoroughly, and new non-corrupt non-corporate politicians are given real power.

We need to expose the corrupt way in which politics buys money in this country.

Let’s start by thinking about Shell, who recently admitted liability for the environmental hell they created in Ogoniland — and who have now proven incompetent at preventing oil spills even in the relatively easy waters of the North Sea – and who now want to be allowed to drill for oil in the pristine ice and waters of the Arctic…?! Shurely shome mishtake… And yet it looks as though British (and American, etc.) politicians are still going to allow Shell to do just that…
It is worth thinking in this connection of Thomas Ferguson’s Investment Theory of Politics (
books.google.com/books/about/Golden_rule.html).

If true (and it does seem to chime worryingly well with the way politics-as-usual appears to work…), then it suggests that only with a comprehensive exposure (and understanding) of how policy is made, is the necessary swing toward support for more enlightened politicians likely to take place.

As I say, I think that Ferguson’s ideas are very roughly right, in terms of how countries like Britain and America mostly are, right now. The implications of them in value/action terms are however harder to figure out. Ferguson imposes a kind of constraint in terms of ‘realism’ as to what one can _expect_ from politics in a capitalist society. And makes it clear that raising money is going to be a crucial part of what one does, in politics. (Not all g/Greens are very good at appreciating this point…). But, just because others often invest to further their OWN interests does not of course imply that one should, oneself. In fact, to the extent that Ferguson is right, it arguably makes it all the more important to organise to do the right thing. It makes it all the more important for people (e.g.) to back the Greens, against the businesses that are trying to make Britain a ‘captive state’. So the question then is: how can the argument effectively be made for people to do this, en masse? That is one key part of what this website is for – and what this post in particular is addressing.

The reason I raised the question of Shell etc. above is that obviously these crimes will continue while they and other powerful corporate entities have a strong grip on the political process. The only way out – short of voting in en masse politicians with integrity (which is not likely to happen while the electoral process is dominated by funds from big business and the while the media too is corporate-run, etc.) – is probably to expose the system so that people are more conscious of the way in which big business controls the political agenda. How to do that is the next obvious question.

I think that ‘In The Public Interest’ [the new Compass campaign: action.compassonline.org.uk/page/s/public-interest] have roughly the right approach (I am especially keen on their emphasis on ‘a citizen’s jury’) and there are a number of converging forces – partly as a result of economic pain, but also, as I made clear above, due to the sequence of various recent exposures and the big bail-outs – that have increased the public appetite for a better analysis of the system. In short, Greens have an opportunity based on people realising that the values that govern the system are the values of profit, not the values of people. Social media are helping to undermine corporate media and an increasingly dysfunctional political system is making people question the process of power. My bottom line is that purveying a succinct and compelling analysis of why ‘democracy’ at present works in the interests of big business might play a key role in  encouraging people to shift support to human political entities like the Greens, rather than parties of big business. As Joseph Stiglitz put it recently, in Vanity Fair it’s not ‘of the people, by the people, for …’ it’s ‘of the 1%, by the 1%, for the 1%’… More shockingly still, consider these facts and figures from the Guardian:
www.guardian.co.uk/business/2011/jun/22/worlds-wealthiest-people-now-richer-than-before-the-credit-crunch
. The very rich have got even richer since the financial crisis began. Even though it was their fault!
It may well be now or never.  We (all) need to act. And we should follow through (and incorporate into) such action with wide values-based appeals, a la in the approach of Tom Crompton et al, in Common Cause, and here on GWW. The time is ripe for people to understand and act on the corrupt and failed nature of our system, thinking and talking about these things in terms of words that actually mean what they say, and based in values that will lead to our common flourishing, not to yet more disaster and disgrace.
Exciting times…

[Deep thanks to Liam Carroll for inspiring this piece and for many of the turns of phrase and factoids in it.]