Sunday, January 24, 2010

Today's Republic

      Republic: n. a state in which the supreme power rests in the body of citizens entitled to vote and is exercised by representatives chosen directly or indirectly by them. (Webster’s Encyclopedic Unabridged Dictionary.)
      That sounds very much like what we are supposed to have in the United States. It is also in keeping with the response of Benjamin Franklin to the question asked by a Mrs. Powell on the last day of the Constitutional Convention in 1787: "Well Doctor, what have we got, a republic or a monarchy?"
      “A republic if you can keep it," responded a prescient Franklin.
      In order to keep a republic, it is important to have a “body of citizens,” or electorate, that has access to all available information concerning any event to be decided by their representatives. The electorate need not be particularly sophisticated or super-intelligent – it just needs to be informed.
      Unfortunately, that “available information” has been subverted by another pillar of American strength: unbridled capitalism. Capitalism: n. an economic system in which investment in and ownership of the means of production, distribution, and exchange of wealth is made and maintained chiefly by private individuals or corporations, especially as contrasted to cooperatively or state-owned means of wealth.
      To the extent that capitalism has confined itself to wealth as created by the flow of material goods, there is no denying its value. It has created the greatest and most productive manufacturing system the world has ever known.
      But problems arose when it branched out into the production, distribution, and exchange of information. And the post-industrial information society has resulted in a quantum leap in capitalism’s ability to control and subvert our republic.
      For example, Fox News is believed to make more money than CNN, MSNBC and the evening newscasts of NBC, ABC and CBS combined. Headed by Roger Ailes, Fox uses its tremendous resources to disseminate Ailes’ conservative agenda through its anchors: Glenn Beck, Bill O’Reilly and Sean Hannity.
      Because of his tremendous resources, Ailes is able to maintain significant control over legislators by two methods: 1.) control of campaign funds, and 2.) control of the content and bias of information presented to the “body of citizens entitled to vote.” His agenda is not to do what is right for America, but to get the Democrats in general, and Barack Obama specifically, out of power. In order to achieve that goal, Ailes and his cohorts are willing to distort the facts and tell whatever lies are necessary to defeat any legislation which has a Democratic taint.
      But I don’t wish to give the impression that Ailes and Fox are the only bad guys around. Capitalism is concerned with the control of wealth. Capitalists are human, and greed is a human failing. I believe that almost anyone with the power to control his own wealth would do anything in his power to maintain that control. What Ailes and his ilk are doing is nurturing a human failing, greed, which they are able to do because of their ability to decide exactly what the body of citizens needs, or doesn’t need, to know.
      So much for an informed electorate.

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