HOW IT GOT THERE
Here’s an interesting column on the recent potentially-socially-disasterous decision of the U. S. Supreme Court that had the effect of allowing corporations to give an unlimited amount of money to their favorite candidates*:
April 6th, 2010
Looking forward to next time, Mr. Fish, when you explain why you’re nervous.
In an often fascinating but vanishingly specialized book called “Money and the Early Greek Mind,” Richard Seaford looked at the monetization of archaic Greece as a factor in, or at least a concomitant of, Greek metaphysical speculation. Money has no nature of its own but can be exchanged for anything; how does this relate to philosophical questions such as the One and the Many, or the search for the primal element from which all else is made?
In order to try to understand the conceptual impact of monetization, I had to imagine a world without the abstraction of “money” in its usual sense, as a symbol of value rather than a thing having use or value itself. This was a radical way to think (though Gene Roddenberry managed it very well in “Star Trek”). It seems that in the half-century of my lifetime, money, which of course had ‘always’ been a necessity, has increasingly become the only and the ultimate measure of value. When I was young, I thought there were times when we as a society had agreed that a moral value had to take precedence over any monetary question. Now I’m not sure there’s any moral imperative that money can’t trump.
But money isn’t real. It’s a system of value to which we consent as a collective. When people object to taxation because “it’s MY money,” they are fundamentally mistaken. Try making your ‘own’ money and see whether they accept it as payment at the grocery store. ‘Your’ money is only a symbol of our trust in each other as a political community. ‘Your’ money represents the value society places on your contribution as an individual; if you feel you are justly compensated in proportion to what others contribute, then you feel you live in a just society. Money has a value only because we all agree that it does.
At one time, God was thought to be as real as money. The cathedrals of Europe were not built because they were cost-effective ways to house worship services. Their communities couldn’t “afford” them. (We think we can’t “afford” standard health care for all, because we think money is real and the health of the citizenry is not.) At one time, honor and love were thought to be as real as money, because they are — if we decide collectively they are. An individual who makes this decision in isolation becomes a kind of martyr.
The point in relation to speech (as distinguished from mere mouthing off) is that we can in fact choose within systems of value. We don’t have to treat money as an implacable reality. Money responds favorably to other abstract forces such as greed and power; it can also respond to justice, if the same collective political will that causes money to have value also tends toward justice. Unfortunately, we see that most Americans (the articulate commenters here aside) have learned that it’s addictively simpler to treat money as if it were a physical law, like gravity.”
I was brought up on television, which normally programs to the persons at the lower end of the bell curve of intelligence. Today, listen to talk radio for a while and you’ll hear “ideas” crafted to be sold to that same group.
Never until the Internet arrived did I understand how many brilliant and articulate Americans there nevertheless are. The above is another bit of evidence of that.
Big deal! Today, especially under this Supreme Court, the dollar is mightier than the pen.
*Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission.
The Supreme Court’s “Reactionary Four”, Chief Justice Roberts and Justices Alito, Scalia, and Thomas, never met a powerful or wealthy person or corporation they didn’t like. They consistently vote on the side if such people. It is amusing to hear them pretend to have principled reasons for their decisions. They are simply remaking the world to be as they’ve always seen it.
Most lawyers serve the rich and powerful all their lives. That’s where the money and status are. How long has it been since you heard about anything done by lawyers on behalf on poor folks?
Once you get comfortable serving the Nobles, it’s hard not to kowtow to them when by accident you end up having power over them and their interests.