atmospheric transmission 2/24/10
on KTEC * 89.5 FM
oit's freeform station for the klamath basin
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Conservatives today purport to base their political principles on the Constitution, which they say supports their demand for "limited government" and "freedom." Of course, as the George Bush years of unconstitutional rule showed, conservatives' fealty to the Constitution wanes when they actually have power to do what ever they want. But we will put that aside and take their assertions at face value. Doing so not only shows the lack of thought and morality at the core of the asserted beliefs of contemporary conservatives, it may also be the opening to the radical rethinking of our government that people who believe in true democracy have been hoping for.
Conservatives like to attack "big government." But no one who thinks about it is likely to defend "big government" as some abstract principle of political science. In fact, "big government" was developed by establishment elites like Theodore Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson as a solution to the overweening power of big business, specifically the increasingly-powerful, industrialization-based robber barons and the corporations and banks that masked and extended their interests. (These are the direct cultural ancestors of our contemporary plutocratic ruling class.) Notably, the role of bigger government was never intended to dismantle the power the capitalists wielded, but was actually implemented to preserve the power of big business by mediating and facilitating its integration with society as a whole. In this way, big government saved American-style big business capitalism – that is why "big government" came into existence.
A lot of Americans would probably agree that ideally we would get rid of both big government and big business, agreeing, at least after thinking about it a bit, that a society without significant concentrations of power will generally be better for the supermajority of people, and will produce a government more accurately reflecting "the consent of the governed." But, notably, the elimination of both forms of concentrated power – big government and big business – is NOT what the Republican and Tea Party conservatives want, at least the ones we hear from and about. No, they want to get rid of big government, but leave big business in place. In other words, they want to return America to where it was in the 1890s, which in economic terms was one of the worst times to be an average American.
According to these conservative "Constitutionalists", the United States Constitution allows big business to concentrate power without limit (that's "freedom"), but does not allow a democratic majority to use its democratic power of government to control the concentrated power of big business. In other words, according to the conservatives, we are at the mercy of concentrated capitalist power and there is nothing we can do about it – they say that is written into the Constitution. Of course, there are not actual words in the Constitution that say that, but that is their interpretation and they insist their interpretation (and derivatively their interpretation of what the writers of the Constitution 'meant' and the fact that we are somehow stuck with whatever the writers 'meant') is the proper interpretation that the rest of us must bow down to. It would be easy to engage the argument in a liberal/conservative way and defend 'our' interpretation of the Constitution. But better yet, why not take the radical approach and say, if the Constitution says and requires what the Conservatives say it says and requires, then it is not serving the interests of the democratic majority (and indeed CANNOT serve the interest of the democratic majority unless the majority decides that its interest is to be at the mercy of concentrated capitalist power), and therefore, under the more fundamental authority of the Declaration of Independence, We the People can choose to reassert that "it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness."