Divide and Conquer

Reading Jane Mayer’s “Dark Money.” Some thoughts are congealing, only to “jello” thus far. Capitalism requires competition. Competition means division to “sides.” That’s good for markets, but not for countries. We, as a nation, can only stay strong if we stay united. Those who tout capitalism as antithetical to government, are persuading us to compete with each other, at every level in the public square. Such divisions will only weaken us (“divide and conquer”) and make us easy prey for vulturous nations and extremists.

So, I ask, why do we have markets or governments? Ultimately, it is to make life better for people, through jobs, products, services, and safety?

Our governments, “of the people, by the people” must be strengthened “for the people.” That is NOT anti-capitalism. It IS democracy.

We need both. Capitalism, held to its purest possible form by an effective  people, i.e., government, will keep us strong and agile.  Government, challenged by capitalists who demand efficiency and deplore waste, builds the infrastructure and support that keep our people and our country united and safe.

What’s my point? Competition is good in the market place, but cooperation is better between local, county, state, and Federal governments. Governments are duty bound to ensure free markets stay free and competitive. Bloated corporations are just as harmful and wasteful as bloated governments, and no less efficient. Democratic republics must be effective, for the people and the markets, which demand maximum efficiency.

In this age of technology and connectedness, market competition is not as “pure” as true capitalism requires, especially among corporations that trade employees and buy ex-government officials with high-level contacts and influence. Companies, entreprenuers, and would-be entreprenuers who can’t afford to buy such influence are subverted by court rulings, budgets, and K Street firms that purchase laws favoring the large and influential. Therefore, it is encumbent upon governments, at all levels, to constrain those naturally recurring enemies of pure capitalism and purely competitive markets.

It is up to those markets, and the public who constitue governments and shop in the markets, to restrain the natural tendency for governments to bloat. The people must stay vigilant, with one eye on each at all times.

Our culture has placed too much value on competition between public services and governments, and not enough on market competition. States compete to host large, influence-purchasing corporations by reducing their taxes and offering them incentives. Then, they pass that public infrastructure and support price tag to small businesses, upstarts, and families that can’t thrive under the growing burden. Here’s a thought, why don’t the states all get together and figure out which are best places for what, in national interests? Because, keeping our public services/governments divided in competition is in the best interests of those corporations.

One of our few, truly shared values in America is still education. Yet, another example of public competition gone awry.   Do we, or do we not, share a belief that every child’s capabilities should be maximized, to the betterment of us all? Any child could be the one to cure cancer or lead us to colonize Mars. Ethnicity and socio-economic status don’t determine natural capability, only cultural boundaries and access to opportunities. Competition in education is fine, when it serves to keep schools lean and focussed. When it causes public schools to have advertising budgets instead of putting every penny into classroom instruction, it’s gone too far! When it reduces teacher compensation to levels so low that the profession (Yes! It is a profession.) is unsustainable, we damage future opportunities for our country, our communities, and our markets.

Ultimately, competition among public servants and services reduces access and opportunity for the same citizens who are paying for them. What’s next, DMV offices competing for customers and self-eliminating? Jane Mayer (I have never met the author, so I’m attributing very freely) might well lament that the Koch brothers don’t care how long you have to wait in line at the DMV.  They certainly don’t worry about getting drivers licenses.




3 thoughts on “Divide and Conquer

  1. Linda,

    Another thoughtful piece! My only disagreement is pretty minor. I don’t think there is a “… natural tendency for governments to bloat.” There may be some tendency for large organizations to bloat but I don’t think it’s unique to government and it’s usually self-correcting.

  2. Maybe you’re right Bill, but I’ve watched a lot of government offices try to expand. Sometimes for really good reasons. Sometimes not so much. Perhaps it’s just because they were/are large organizations, which kind of becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.

    BTW, I wrote it. Hard to tell, and it’s only the second I’ve posted here in four years. Holly

  3. BILL will you tell HOLLY that we desperately need another candidate for LD 11 House. You of all people know we can’t win with only one candidate. We have been there done that! It is a tough battle but the three in LD 11 right now are so far out it is time we really put an all out effort to replace them.

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