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Are We Dependent on Government and Thus Unfree?

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Just compare public radio and television with the commercial stations! There is more individual freedom, human meaning, and creativity in the public air waves than the commercially supported ones. The real alternative in public life is between the space the government provides for human freedom and creativity as opposed to the way all human life, especially art and what provides us with meaning and purpose is used for commercial purposes. The climax of a movie, for example, is used to imprint the commercial on viewers and the volume of the TV suddenly even gets louder. The point of the commercial station was not the human meaning and purpose, but the sale of products. Baseball announcers cannot talk about a pitcher change without pitching for an oil change for your car. But of course, baseball is almost commercialized to the Nth degree already.

It is a false alternative when the individual is played off against the government as if the big corporations were not waiting in the wings to sew up more of our individual freedom in our public lives. Privatization is not individual empowerment but further surrender to corporations and they are not persons and the money they wield is not individual free speech. They are the giants that walk the earth and they are not democratic. Individuals get caught in the economic and social forces that they unleash and it is the responsibility of the government throw the switches so that the train remains on the right track. Individuals there play a crucial role. But if an individual stands on the track, the train will run right over him or her, like Rachel Corrie by that military bulldozer in Israel, despite the courageous fellow, who stood in front of those tanks in Tienanmen Square.

A corporation is run by an executive who does not allow its workers to vote on anything, thank you. The CEO can lay off thousands of workers and they have absolutely no say-so in the decision. The free market is a continuation of evolution which features the struggle for survival and the survival of the fittest, which, just like in nature, is red and bloody in tooth and claw.

Suddenly I realize that I am thinking about the colonizing of the life world by the economic system. (See Habermas, The Life-World and the Two Systems!) Big government was FDR’s way of protecting individuals from the reversal involved in individuals becoming sacrificed for the economy and money rather than the economy existing for the sake of individuals, their families, and meaningful personal life in a free society.

The other part of the theory of the life-world and the two systems is of course the government, the political system that can also colonize the life-world with its power. Republicans have a point there. But the fact that the government mandates health coverage for all individuals does not seem to me to be a case of the political system colonizing the life-world of individuals and families. The individual is up against the health industry. Then consider the fact that a private health insurance corporation, in one  case, struck five million persons from its rolls, who thereby lost their health coverage, to make the corporation more profitable. If medicine and dental care is colonized by the “free market” then some will be healthy with bright smiles and others will be sick with rotten teeth in their mouths.

If those who championed the awakening of the individual recognized the danger of our lives becoming completely colonized by the big corporations and if they did not only speak about big government, then I could believe them and they would have some credibility. Should the BP oil spill have not been countered by our big government, do you think they would have cleaned up the gulf? The answer is no. Look what they did in the Amazon rain forest when no one was looking. Money is the bottom line and not the quality of human life nor a wholesome environment.

It seems to me that now money is also trying to colonize our election. We do need an individual awakening, a renewal of families, all kinds of families, that is; and more meaningful, and human social life, especially in our African American cities where the economy has deserted human life and our Native American reservations, where it has done the same.

Nicholas D. Kristof made these points yesterday in the New York Times OP-ED page: that in the Republican convention a poster small business that is supposed to be self-made received two million in loans from the Small Business Administration and 15 million in mostly non-competitive government contracts. That in a historical survey accounting for 64 years, that is, beginning with Harry Truman and ending with George W. Bush democratic administrations created two million jobs per year while the republican ones created only one million. And finally that CEO’s have not been very effective in government. He gave Herbert Hoover as an example and noted that George W. Bush staffed his cabinet with CEO’s who had been stellar in the private sector – “and that did not turn out so well either.” (NYT 8/29/12, OP-ED page A23) No as a matter of fact, we are still dealing with the Great Recession which they left us.


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