Sunday, August 26, 2007

Organic Unity

Leaders love to have people following them in unison. It is the nature of politics for politicians to garner support, then to leverage that support for power.

The result of this is that there is a great deal of rhetoric about unity.

I think it is common for people to catch onto this rhetoric and to start thinking that unity itself is a primary goal.

Some people might even start fearing disunity. I know both progressives and conservatives who are driven to distraction at the mere thought that someone might disagree with their beliefs.

The reason I wanted to bring up the issue is to emphasize that unity itself is not foundational. Unity and disunity are complementary. In most cases, political groups unite against a named enemy. The local unity is part of a greater disunity.

When a threat that unified a group disappears, the unified group is likely to break up. So, imagine that there is a major issue dividing the nation. We might achieve a compromise on the issue and the nation reunifies. The next political season finds new lines of division.

In a really healthy system, I think you would see groups getting together an dissolving on a regular basis.

It is in the free market that you see the most organic form of this creative destruction. It is not uncommon to find a companies working together on a project one year, and find them competing on a project the next year. Sometimes you will find companies cooperating in one market and bitterly competing in another.

This shifting about of markets is fun, exciting and dymanic. I a really healthy market, there is ample room for people to participate at different levels in the market.

It is in partisan and international politics that one finds the most brittle and dangerous forms of this natural process of forming and breaking unions. To extend their grasp, politicians work on unifying people over minor issues until they have a major rift. We often find politicians sincerely working to unify people on an issue that will progress society. When all is said and done, we find the leader marching at the head of a destructive creation.

Hmm, that would be a good one liner: In the sense that economics is the act of creative destruction, politics is the manufacture of destructive creations.

As the market is more dynamic and has more openings for participation, I prefer it to politics.

The one problem I see, though, is that we really don't have a free market anymore.

We have a highly politicized and regulated economy. The regulations seem to have the affect of raising the bar of entry for new partnerships, while subsidizing and stiltifying existing businesses. The result of an excessively regulated economy is that the big companies keep getting bigger and the gaps between the haves and have-nots grows.

This is where I think we are at the moment. Our regulated, litigous economy has created artificially large corporations. These large corporations create division in our society. The body politics uses this division to continue and even tighten the processes that created the division in the first place.

Since the division is being driven by fear of large corporations, I figure that the best antedote is to support small local firms whenever possible.


Charles D said...

A lot of very good ideas here. You diagnose the problem well, but you find a curious origin for the disease.

A heavily regulated economy, such as the US had from the early 1930's to the late 1970's, allows corporate expansion but kept it within bounds. The overly large, overly powerful corporate entities that actually suppress the operation of the free market are creations of the deregulation largely begun under the Reagan administration.

In an environment where corporations have so much political power, the court system is often the only way ordinary citizens can attempt to check corporate excesses such as pollution, dangerous products, or outright fraud. Litigation is a curb on corporate power, not an ally of it.

Now that the government has abdicated its regulatory role and the conservative judiciary stifles litigation, the only recourse we have is simply to avoid big corporations and buy from small local operations whenever possible. That is, unless we actually try to restore democracy and re-impose the regulatory environment that made America the world's strongest manufacturing power.

y-intercept said...

I agree that something should be done about the massive international corporation.

I think if you ever looked at business, you would find that most of the progressive mechanisms for addressing corporate abuse end up having the affect of forcing industry to consolidate. Unions, regulations and excessive litigation all have the affect of culling the herd and leaving only massive companies.

I've personally seen a large number of small (relatively healthy firms) wiped out by union actions, class actions or regulatory actions. The large firms are sometimes dented by such actions. The worst case scenario is that actions cause them to merge into even larger corporations. Most progressive actions have the effect of making an environment that is hostile to small companies.

I am not the only one who notices this. A large number of progressives realize this and try to find ways to counter the effects of big government. Some of these people call themselves neocons. (A different type of neocon than the bush hawkish military neocons. Some call themselves neo liberals.)

BTW, I would be supporting small companies even if the mega corps weren't as huge as they are simply because the people in smaller firms are generally more empowered than those in the corporation.

Charles D said...

Au contraire, mon ami. When you relieve corporations of the burdens of regulation, the added expense of union labor, and the economic threat of litigation you release an enormous amount of capital that is virtually always use to buy other corporations, undersell the competition, and consolidate. In fact, regulation was once designed (and enforced) to prevent consolidation and prevent corporations from externalizing costs (i.e., pushing them onto the society at large).

I would submit that while certainly midsize firms often find themselves with union organizing actions or litigation, the reason they are wiped out is that those actions prevent them from "competing in the global marketplace" - in other words, the big corporations will take advantage of these situations to bury them. I would prefer we intervene to prevent large corporations from exercising their power in ways that reduce competition in the marketplace and hurt workers and communities rather than make workers and communities the casualties in a race to increase corporate profits.

As for your neocon history lesson, while some of the so-called liberal hawks that transmogrified into neocons were never all that progressive in the first place. Certainly they were Democrats, but it is difficult for me to view any "leading" Democrat as progressive after the Truman Administration.