Seven Ways to Limit the Misuse of Wealth

Some Common Sense about a Free Market

As you probably recall, this series began with the following observations and conclusions:

  1. The standard "free-market" doctrine being thrown around today ignores three very basic points:
    1. All modern markets are created and regulated by laws, and couldn't exist otherwise—so the idea of a “free market” without government intervention is nonsense.
    2. Insofar as a market can be left free of government intervention, it quickly becomes dominated by a small group of the wealthy and powerful—thus ceasing to be free.
    3. A truly free market, in the sense which makes market forces work the way they should, isn’t free of government intervention—it’s free of the control of the rich and powerful.
  2. So it’s essential, if we are to have a truly free market, for the 99% to use government to keep the 1% from running the show in three ways. We must:
    1. Limit the power of the 1% to control, evade, and undermine any attempts at regulation. This means
      1. taxing them heavily enough to decrease their power, while using the money to...
      2. Strengthen the power of the 99% to resist the 1%, and then
      3. Change the laws to inhibit the abuse of wealth and power.

(You can see some concrete suggestion about taxing the 1% and strengthening the 99% here and here.)

That last point—inhibiting the abuse of wealth and power—is the topic of todays post.

Here are a few suggestions:

  1. Eliminate the bizarre fiction that corporations are people.
  • Large corporations have enormous power at their disposal, and are not human beings.  They are extremely powerful “artificial people”, (for more on this, see “Asimov and Jefferson: Robots and Corporations”)something like a robot without a physical body, and we should no more grant them the full rights privileges of citizenship than we would to a mechanical robot.
  • The Supreme Court has recently used this legal fiction to give large corporations the right to spend unlimited sums, anonymously, to influence elections and the direction of our country. This should be stopped.
Pass national election laws, guaranteeing that states cannot massage their voting process to disenfranchise their voters.
  • Those corporate interests, through their control of the Republican party, have been systematically changing the voting laws in this country in order to disenfranchise those who are likely to vote for Democrats.
  • The idea that voting rights should be taken away from citizens for political purposes is outrageous.
Make large donations to any political activity completely transparent and public.
  • Any person or corporation that donates funds totaling more than $1000 to political causes should have to submit a full accounting of all those donations to the government, and that information should be made readily available to the public.
  • It makes sense for the small amount of money a low-level employee might contribute to a party his or her boss doesn’t like to be kept private—to protect the employee from repercussions. But it makes no sense for the wealthy and corporations to be able to secretly fund politicians and parties so that they can control the political process.
Make it illegal for any contract to eliminate a citizen’s right to sue anyone in a court of law.
  • Recently large corporations have been forcing consumers who deal with them to sign away their right to sue.
  • The contracts many of us sign with our phone companies, for example, say that we cannot sue the company even if it commits fraud. Instead, we must go to legally binding arbitration, where our case will be heard, not by a judge, but by a professional arbitrator—and the corporation has a veto power over which arbitrator we pick.
  • Guess whose side the arbitrator will come down on?
Bring back the full force of all the health and safety and environmental protections which make our country safe and beautiful.
  • Corporations have been systematically gutting our environmental laws and our environment. We need to return to safe and sane practices that stop pollution for the sake of profit.
Bring financial institutions back under reasonable regulation to protect us from another Wall Street attack on our prosperity.
  • The current economic crisis is a result of years of deterioration of the laws which gave us the prosperity of the fifties and sixties. We should put those laws back in place, and enforce them, as well as any new laws we need to keep the financial industry honest and reliable.
Reverse the process of privatization which has turned much of our infrastructure and national resources over to companies which have no use for them but to drain them of profit.

The list could go on, but you get the idea.

There are a great many things which we could do, if we first control the hidden power of the 1% in our political process.

All of the steps I’ve outlined in this series would move us toward a freer market, but they would also move us toward a freer country, as a side effect.

Because, in the end, the two are inseparable.

At least, that’s what I think today.