Power. It exists. The key is who controls it. Should it be the federal government? How about states rights and the power associated with it? Power to the people? The plan envisioned by all Republicans running for President will unwittingly harm the United States as a functioning democratic republic because it doesn’t consider how the power is apportioned.
Governor Scott Walker (R-Wisconsin) was cited in the New York Times that his priorities were reducing the size of the federal government, transferring some of the power to the states, and restoring “a sense of safety for Americans and free-loving [sic!] people around the world”.
Senator Rand Paul (R-Kentucky) and Senator Ted Cruz (R-Texas) are also Presidential candidates who stand for small federal government, privatization, right to work laws to weaken labor unions, and cuts to many federal programs such as tax collection, environmental protections, public health, and poverty programs.
In fact, that is pretty much the sound-bite laden platform of every Republican candidate if he hopes to survive the ultra-conservative primaries to earn the rght to run for President. All the candidates earn a guffaw when they quote Grover Norquist and say, “Our goal is to shrink the government to the size where we can drown it in a bathtub.”
So what is the fatal error for American democracy in the Republican plan? How does ‘power’ fit into this discussion in very real terms?
The answer is corporate power. While the many Republican candidates trip over themselves to directly strip the federal government and unions of power and indirectly strip the citizens of power through voter and court reforms, they have managed to overlook the future of corporate power in the void created by diminished federal power and citizen engagement.
Milton Friedman, who was a leader for conservative economics, wrote in 1962, “The kind of economic organization that provides economic freedom directly, namely, competitive capitalism, also promotes political freedom because it separates economic power from political power and in this way enables one to offset the other.” In other words, he’s saying there must be a wall between corporate and political power to serve as a check and balance for each other. In that one statement, he also used the term “competitive capitalism” which is distinctly different from crony capitalism.
If the Republican Presidential candidates leave corporate power unrestrained and allow it to expand into government functions and privatization, they will have fulfilled Mussolini’s famous definition of fascism, “Fascism should more appropriately be called Corporatism because it is a merger of state and corporate power.”
It is possible to shrink the size of government but there must be a commensurate reduction in corporate size in order to fulfill the requirements of checks and balances of power. An individual state is not an effective check on a multi-national corporation. Unfortunately, no Republican is beating the drum for strict antitrust enforcement, the end to interstate banking, breaking up media empires, and limits on corporate influence in elections.
Unless Republicans are ready to step forward to create a balanced distribution of powers – checks and balances – between the people, our government, and corporations, their plan is incomplete and will harm America.