9 votes

'Democracy for sale': Analysis ties corporate consolidation to increased lobbying

11 comments

  1. [3]
    post_below
    Link
    If only this reality captured the public imagination more readily. I think most people know this stuff, either overtly or intuitively, but somehow it never manages to hold a top spot in the larger...

    If only this reality captured the public imagination more readily.

    I think most people know this stuff, either overtly or intuitively, but somehow it never manages to hold a top spot in the larger cultural, and political, conversations the way it seems like it should.

    Pick any problem in society, from equity to environment, and you can trace it back to the ever increasing influence of financial power in the democratic process. If it doesn't directly cause the problem, then it makes it dramatically harder to solve.

    That consolidation seems to be so directly tied to lobbying is compelling. It implies a straightforward solution to at least part of the problem.

    11 votes
    1. [2]
      cmccabe
      Link Parent
      My thesis is that a large portion of the voting public engages only in the conversations that are shaped by the corporate mainstream media. Because of this, the topics that are inconvenient to...

      somehow it never manages to hold a top spot in the larger cultural, and political, conversations the way it seems like it should.

      My thesis is that a large portion of the voting public engages only in the conversations that are shaped by the corporate mainstream media. Because of this, the topics that are inconvenient to corporate profits are either fed to them in a form that is garbled with calculated misinformation or simply ignored.

      I don’t have ideas about how to solve this problem, other than supporting sources of non-profit journalism and forums for activist discussion.

      9 votes
      1. post_below
        Link Parent
        Good point, I think that's a big part of it. Corporate media has proven over and over that they can be influenced by the corporations which own them, and the stakeholders of those corporations. I...

        Good point, I think that's a big part of it. Corporate media has proven over and over that they can be influenced by the corporations which own them, and the stakeholders of those corporations.

        I think conversation is undervalued as a partial solution to the problem. Just as an example... What if it was common knowledge that The Washington Post (bastion of progressive thought, one time upholder of journalistic principles) is not only owned by Jeff Bezos, but has aligned with his political aims in shameless ways over and over. Ways that contrast starkly with the ideals they once represented.

        Not that lots of people don't know this, but you can get through a lot of conversations about their reporting without it coming up, when it's perhaps the most important piece of information about their credibility.

        I think as a society we need to wean ourselves of the unspoken but pervasive sense that journalism is a fundamentally ethical profession. I think it once was, and there are plenty of journalists who still have an idealistic perspective about the calling, but they aren't the ones calling the shots anymore.

        To put it another way, our parents and even moreso their parents, grew up in a time when there was this almost universal feeling that you could generally trust the reputable press, in print and on TV. That perception still has a lot of momentum.

        4 votes
  2. cmccabe
    Link

    "The antitrust laws were a response to rising economic concentration, and the laws' framers recognized that concentrated economic power can poison our democracy," he writes. "This article is a starting point but hopefully also a reminder that antitrust is equipped and designed to grapple with the political ramifications of economic concentration. Those crafting and enforcing the doctrine should feel empowered to step into the shoes they were meant to fill."

    3 votes
  3. [7]
    arp242
    Link
    Everyone has the right to raise any concerns they have to the elected representatives; I see no reason why businesses shouldn't be allowed to represent their interests. The problem isn't that...

    Everyone has the right to raise any concerns they have to the elected representatives; I see no reason why businesses shouldn't be allowed to represent their interests. The problem isn't that these businesses are using their democratic rights, the problem is that we ("the public") are exceedingly bad at organising our own lobby. It's the representatives job to consider all the different perspectives and make a judgement, but if they overwhelmingly only hear one or two perspectives then don't be surprised if their decisions are skewed toward those viewpoints.

    Lobbying is not "democracy for sale"; it's "democracy working as intended". You can't just call this "antidemocratic political influence" because you don't like the results and suck at engaging in the political process yourself.

    2 votes
    1. [3]
      post_below
      (edited )
      Link Parent
      You're leaving a lot out of the picture. The public at large sucks at lobbying because they lack time and resources. Anyone can write their representatives, sure, and if they're lucky they'll get...

      You're leaving a lot out of the picture. The public at large sucks at lobbying because they lack time and resources.

      Anyone can write their representatives, sure, and if they're lucky they'll get a form reply. To have their concerns really heard they need either money or influence, preferrably both. I think we can forgive them for taking care of themselves and their people instead.

      Whereas large financial interests have not only the resources to lobby, bribe, threaten and cajole, they have the resources to pay for as much time as they want.

      In addition to that, at this point they have decades of relationship building, revolving doors into politics, all the legislation they've already passed to favor themselves and a huge amount of general inertia.

      The general public has none of those things. It's two completely different playing fields with different sets of rules and limitations.

      In principle, and on a smaller scale, I agree with you. Businesses should represent their interests in the political process. That system used to work well. That was before 'businesses' meant conglomerates and industry groups that weild more power than many nation states.

      As time passes that kind of power can use the political system to acquire even more resources, at the expense of the public at large, making it even harder for average people to have an impact. We've witnessed this. The wealth gap isn't based on made up numbers, in many ways it fails to effectively capture the full extent of the problem.

      11 votes
      1. [2]
        arp242
        Link Parent
        There are organisations that do this such as the ACLU, EFF, ADL, and undoubtedly many more I never heard of. But it's very little and unfocused in comparison. What's needed is real professional...

        There are organisations that do this such as the ACLU, EFF, ADL, and undoubtedly many more I never heard of. But it's very little and unfocused in comparison. What's needed is real professional organisations with Very Serious People wearing a suit and tie and all of that with extremely pragmatic attitude trying to get specific bills enacted or amended. That's what the Facebooks and Wallmarts do, and some vague activism isn't going to cut it. If you can spare the time to protest on the street or write 30 tweets a day then you can also spare a few bucks/month to fund such an organisation. BLM actually formed a PAC to do exactly this (whether they're also good at it is a different matter, but I certainly think it's much more useful than most other things coming out of BLM).

        And what would any other solution look like? Forbid certain organisations from talking to democratically elected representatives? Not only is that not feasible, it's also undesirable. This is essentially the only path we have short of a radical reorganisation of western-style democracy – which I do think would be a good idea, but it's also very unlikely to happen any time soon. Anything else is bringing a knife to a gunfight.

        4 votes
        1. post_below
          Link Parent
          I don't know how radical I'd call what various other countries have already done: strong social programs, safety nets, free education, free healthcare. All of these things redirect some of that...

          I don't know how radical I'd call what various other countries have already done: strong social programs, safety nets, free education, free healthcare. All of these things redirect some of that excess wealth created by ever increasing automation and other technological advances to the population at large before the natural processes of capitalism suck it all to the top.

          A healthy, well educated electorate that can afford to pursue dreams and take chances is one that is much better at engaging in the political process.

          And what would any other solution look like?

          The OP report from this thread for a start. It implies that enforcing anti-trust in the way it was intended (and occasionally has been) would reduce lobbying by corporations.

          Reversing Citizens United (through legislation or an amendment) would have a big impact.

          Any of various proposals floating around for getting big money out of politics have merit.

          And finally, as I mentioned elsewhere in the thread: the larger social conversation. In some of the west, any suggestion that any aspect of capitalism is a problem draws loud and vehement resistance. But it doesn't have to be that way, many countries have already made huge steps towards addressing the problems, without ditching capitalism, and it's been working.

          The more people add their voices to the mix, the closer we get to a change in tone in the cultural conversation, which will make things easier for politicans who campaign on things like getting money out of politics. We are, of course, up against talented and well connected PR firms in the battle for public mindspace, but that hasn't stopped a lot of recent social movements from being successful.

          3 votes
    2. [3]
      wycy
      Link Parent
      This seems like a really convenient way to pass off the blame for society's biggest ill back onto the victims.

      The problem isn't that these businesses are using their democratic rights, the problem is that we ("the public") are exceedingly bad at organising our own lobby.

      This seems like a really convenient way to pass off the blame for society's biggest ill back onto the victims.

      10 votes
      1. [2]
        arp242
        Link Parent
        This is not advancing the discussion.

        This is not advancing the discussion.

        2 votes
        1. wycy
          Link Parent
          I disagree. I think it's important to identify the root cause of the problem, and I think blaming the problem on everyone else deflects from the real root cause. Even if the ACLU had all of the...

          I disagree. I think it's important to identify the root cause of the problem, and I think blaming the problem on everyone else deflects from the real root cause. Even if the ACLU had all of the Very Serious People, the ACLU can't pump $10M into lobbying and get a 10x return on the investment. Nor can they even get a 1x return, since their point isn't to turn a profit. These types of lobbying are fundamentally different from each other.

          9 votes