Saturday, August 15, 2020
Tyranny, Piracy, Opportunity
Tyranny reigns when governments assume excessive power.
Consider these recent examples:
China’s president-for-life, Xi Jinping, became an autocrat when he accepted his ascendance to lifetime presidency.
That’s example enough.
But, also, Hong Kong, once considered a semi-autonomous region of mainland China, has been recently constricted by the newly enshrined national security law. It was voted into law by the Beijing government without its language even being finalized. It eliminated free speech, allows arrests for protest or assembly, and extradites “rebellious” Hong Kong citizens to the the mainland. The resultant suppression of basic human rights to speech, protest, even local imprisonment, railroaded by Xi, brightly illuminates the idea of government-gone-too-far.
Or, consider what’s just happened right here in the USA. Donald Trump, the reality television star turned faux president, actually said, out loud, that he will limit funding of the US Postal Service to prevent people from mailing in their ballots.
The wannabe tyrant proclaimed:
They want three and a half billion dollars for something that’ll turn out to be fraudulent, that’s election money basically. They want three and a half billion dollars for the mail-in votes. Universal mail-in ballots. They want $25 billion, billion, for the Post Office. Now they need that money in order to make the Post Office work so it can take all of these millions and millions of ballots.
(Better-educated autocrats would be more subtle, but Trump lacks self-awareness and is blind to the foolishness of his own statements).
Because without the authorization of the normal checks and balances of a well-functioning government, Trump, who appointed an inexperienced mega-donor as Postmaster General last May, overtly and unashamedly plans to disrupt US elections.
In China, then, we have government suppression of freedoms;
Right here in the US, we have an overt effort to suppress the vote.
These few examples of tyranny likely rendering readers nauseous, I turn to piracy.
Piracy occurs whenever capitalism runs rampant.
Adam Smith’s invisible hand was pure fantasy.
If government doesn’t control markets, capitalist companies become pirates.
Recent events, again, offer a plethora of examples.
Facebook, Google, Apple and Amazon have a combined market capitalization of $5 trillion.
The gross domestic product (GDP) of the United States is just over $20 trillion.
These four mega-companies, then, each one a monopoly, control 25 percent of our country’s business interests.
Or, consider how the American healthcare system represents piracy in pure form.
We are the only industrialized country in the entire world to lack some form of universal health care or health insurance.
To this very day, you cannot price-shop a chest x-ray, a doctor’s visit, a lab test, or an appendectomy.
It is easier to comparison shop for a mobile phone than for a health care.
You have to request price breakdowns after a hospital stay.
Would any mobile phone company dare to operate in such an opaque, labyrinthine fashion?
Fearing readers have now progressed from nausea to vomiting, I turn finally to the possibility of opportunity.
Where does it lie?
In the ideas inherent in Fichte’s phrase thesis, antithesis, and synthesis (which he morphed from Hegel’s philosophy).
We seem to be riding the most recent wave of this tripartite theory-of-history starting with the thesis of the Obama era. The Affordable Healthcare Act, the enhancement of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and greater consumer protections demonstrated the utility of government control over wanton market forces. These were the hallmarks of the Obama administration, not to mention entering the Paris Climate Accord and making a nuclear deal with Iran.
Then came the antithesis:
Trump, repeatedly attempting to kill the ACA, inviting insurance companies to block coverage for those with pre-existing conditions, exiting the Paris Climate Accord, the WHO, and tearing up the nuclear deal, encourages a return to the primacy of piracy.
He’s slashed the EPA, including allowing the Pebble Mine in Alaska to move forward despite well-documented threats to the watershed, salmon fisheries, and other environmental hazards.
Last year, Trump’s administration moved to eliminate the political independence of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) established by Obama in 2008. The CFPB was vested with authority to enforce laws to protect consumers from bad actors in the credit-reporting, debt-collection, mortgage and student-loan industries.
Any helpful synthesis will almost certainly require Trump to lose the election.
As long as he remains in power, Trump will continue to wield every tool in the autocrats tool box.
Imagine the positive possibilities for a more equitable balance, a dialectic, a workable tension between market forces and government control.
Furthering the goals of the ACA, strengthening agencies like the EPA and the CFPB, breaking up mega-monopolies, rejoining the WHO and the Paris Climate Accord, reworking the Iran Nuclear Deal and similarly forward, international and balanced movement offer possibilities for renewed humanism, for reducing destructive dissociative forces.
Let us hope and pray.
The ever-worsening Covid crisis, the catastrophic effects of climate change, the continued threat of nuclear annihilation, and similarly dissociative trends result directly from the recent antithesis emphasizing nationalism, isolationism, racism.
Without a progression into a new, more balanced, and integrated synthesis, humanity will inevitably slide towards extinction.
If illness, environmental poisoning, economic inequality, insufficient healthcare, or war doesn’t kill us, then a likely error in the sensitive systems governing the tens of thousands of nuclear warheads pointed at major cities throughout the world certainly will.
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