The main function of government is to protect the commons—those things that maintain and benefit society as a whole. That’s law and order.
The population is uneasy and fearful because government has not been doing its job. The misdirection of government from maintenance of the commons to promotion of special interests has led to the many symptoms underlying the American angst.
In taxation and subsidies, the federal government has favored large corporate interests and the super-rich at the expense of the lower classes. This is especially true in monetary policies that promote inflation, which provides advantage to speculative investments and disadvantage to wage earners whose income matches only their daily needs. In addition to income tax, their entire income is affected by the combination of sales tax and the property tax included in the rent.
Development of mass communications, the internet, and smart phones have increased the complexity of modern life over that of previous generations. This has enhanced tribalism, polarization, and the fears that lead to a growing fascism.
The surge of money in politics, in which elections and ballot issues depend on donor support, have created a dangerous feedback cycle in which money begets governmental favors that in turn enable corporations and those with money to capture still more money.
The reduction of regulation of banking initiated the depression of the 1930’s and the worldwide “great recession” that continues since 2008. Engaged in a distorted sense of “freedom,” we fail to recognize that a certain amount of policing is good for the market as well as the street. Market decisions are private, but survival in a shared society requires some rules of the competitive game.
Reduced regulation of the environment endangers the air, water, open space and dwelling areas of the nation—and the health of the planet. Those things are common, but we treat them as private.
American politics has not openly discussed which elements are held in common, meriting protection. Instead, we are locked in a polarizing argument of an idealized freedom based on an unquestioned assumption that competitive winning should apply in all aspects of life.
The distressing tendencies can be reversed by people talking to each other with respect, rather than prevalent retreat into the self-righteous “echo chambers” of the mass communications. It is necessary to revise the rules of interaction in this complex society—from education to taxation to regulation to gerrymandering. Citizens must require that politicians address those issues. Attempts to fix the symptoms directly, such as welfare for the poor or hundred-million-dollar subsidies for banks, will not alter the progressing movement toward government by a few, lack of opportunity for many, and a disastrous climate for all.
we must alter the assumption that money in politics is “freedom,” along with the rules that enable money to control political and social choices.