PEOPLE THINK—BUT DO WHOLE POPULATIONS?
DO SOME POPULATIONS THINK MORE RATIONALLY THAN OTHERS? ARE AMERICANS REMOTELY RATIONAL ABOUT THE U.S. GOVERNMENT?
I have my doubts!
There was a time post WW II when Americans thought rather highly of their government. That opinion took something of a hit during the Vietnam War.
Subsequently, in the early 1970s, business interests—the ultra-rich and the corporations they control—decided that labor and the Left Wing generally had gained too much ground, and mounted a concerted campaign to assert their traditional dominance.
This was a major effort involving vast resources (which is exactly what the ultra-rich have) and every tool of influence they could muster—from the media they owned, to the politicians they financed, from the lawyers they could use to manipulate the law, to an unceasing barrage of propaganda which masked their real agenda—and it continues to this day.
It helps to explain why the typical American employee has vastly fewer rights than his counterparts in the rest of the developed world—and why earnings for most have scarcely increased in 40 years—and are now in decline (a situation unmatched in the rest of the developed world).
Simply put, the ultra-rich seized the levers of power and rigged the system in their favor.
Part of their strategy involved demonizing the U.S. government on the grounds that if government was neutralized—assuming that trade unions were crushed (which was part of the plan) then power would inevitably gravitate towards private enterprise. After all, where else could one turn?
The trade unions were, indeed, crushed—almost completely in the private sector (and bloodied in the public). Corporate power, as predicted, became dominant. It is today.
Actions almost always have unintended consequences. In this case, the campaign to destroy trust in government—while almost completely successful (with President Reagan setting the tone) has had the devastating side effect of destroying the typical citizen’s trust in just about all institutions—and, demonstrably, corporations have not been able to fill the gap, excerpt in certain areas.
This should scarcely be a surprise. Corporations have a completely different mission in life, lack the necessary expertise, and have mainly used the public purse as a feeding-trough when given the slightest opportunity. Examples are rife. Look no further than healthcare, the Military Industrial Congressional Complex, or the financial sector driving the entire economy into the Great Recession (and the rest of the world with it).
Corruption has been rife. The public good has been almost entirely neglected. The entirely appropriate term of ‘crony capitalism’ has entered the language (and it woefully understates the case). This is predatory capitalism run wild. In a disturbing number of cases, particularly in the financial sector—but certainly not confined to it—explicitly criminal behavior has been involved.
Some of the guilty have been forced to pay massive fines—frequently offset against taxes—but virtually no criminal prosecutions have taken place.
Some degree of trust is essential if people are to get anything done. It has been so destroyed in the U.S.—knowingly and deliberately—that virtually the entire country is so divided and suspicious that it seems virtually incapable of resolving any of the long list of issues that threaten the wellbeing of most Americans.
It is a much more serious problem than political gridlock inside Washington’s beltway. Americans are angry, resentful, suspicious, surly, confused, conflicted—and just don’t know what to do—or where to turn. They are also, by and large, frighteningly uninformed. The mass media—owned by the ultra-rich—serve primarily as instruments of distraction and propaganda.
The graphic below illustrates this mindset all too well. On the one hand, the majority profess not to trust the government. On the other hand, most see a significant role for it in most areas. This is not rational thinking.
It seems to occur to remarkably few that the correct approach would be to make government work. Like it or not, we have to have it—and it works most effectively in many other countries.
On top of that, their citizens, by and large, enjoy a higher standard of living.
Government should be watched like a hawk—as should corporations—but it can be made to be a significant force for good.
It clearly isn’t right now—primarily because it is in thrall to the ultra-rich.
The Constitution is no longer working. It needs to be updated.
Meanwhile, the American Tragedy continues.