By RA Monaco
Frequently we hear politicians, political pundits and all knowing online bloviators attempting to shore up the credibility of their point with the third party credibility of those who drafted our Constitution—the Founding Fathers. Hardly a night goes by when Bill O’Reilly misses the opportunity.
In fact, in his recent State of the Union speech, President Obama did exactly that when he said, “…for more than 200 years, we have put those things aside and placed our collective shoulder to the wheel of progress -– to create and build and expand the possibilities of individual achievement; to free other nations from tyranny and fear; to promote justice, and fairness, and equality under the law so that the words set to paper by our founders are made real for every citizen.”
Drafted in 1787, the Constitution for many Americans remains a work of genius, put together by wise, humane men who created a legal framework for democracy and equality. In the early nineteenth century historian George Bancroft wrote, “The Constitution establishes nothing that interferes with equality and individuality. It knows nothing of differences by decent, or opinions, of favored classes, or legalized religion, or the political power of property.”
More realistically, the fifty-five men who gathered in Philadelphia to draw up the Constitution had some direct financial interest in the composition of that document and in establishing a strong central government. They feared an immediate threat of rebellion from angry farmers in Massachusetts—Shay’s Rebellion in the summer of 1787 being the chief event fueling their concerns.
The majority of them were men of wealth, in land, slaves, manufacturing, or shipping. Half of them had money loaned out at interest and according to Treasury Department records, forty of the fifty-five held government bonds.
Importantly, no new social class came through the door of the Constitutional Convention and it’s worth noting that those outside the arc of human rights in that moment—women, black slaves, Indians, indentured servants and men without property—had no seat at the table.
So, it’s not centuries late and hardly pointless, to question the elite class that designed our system of self governance around a capitalist system that today dominates society unconnected to any metric for human progress or social responsibility.
Historian Charles Beard raised the ire of the New York Times and others in his book—An Economic Interpretation of the Constitution—noting that, “…the primary objective of government, beyond mere repression of physical violence, is making the rules which determine the property relations of members of society…”
In short, Beard is spot on about this reality which remains that “the rich must, in their own interest, either control the government directly or control the laws by which government operates.”
Recently, my ears have been ringing with the words of David Simon—author of The Wire— who told Bill Moyer that “The ultimate tragedy of capitalism in our time is that it has achieved its dominance in society without regard to a social compact.”
Properly, Simon asks, “if profit is your only metric then what are you building? Where does the environment fit into that? Where do people stand when they have health needs? Or, when you make a mistake in life?”
I join David Simon’s concern that “Libertarianism is being taken as a serious mode of political thought.” Moreover, that these people think they don’t need anything but their own ability to earn a profit. That they’re not connected to society, don’t care how the roads get built or where the firefighter comes from or who educates the kids other than their own. It’s the selfish delusion—the triumph of the self—that’s frightening.
Isn’t it the Libertarian ideal – that markets will solve everything? “How juvenile is the thought that if we just let the markets be the markets everything will be solved”, Simon asks?
The trickledown theory that government policies favoring giving money to the rich while they make sure we’re not poor—supply-side economics—to a certainty has proven to have failed society. Now, does it take another 30 years to recognize that which we have already experienced and know?
In my view, this isn’t just the ideology of greed. It’s selfishness shamelessly accepted by people who are willing to ignore an economic reality that has yet to descend upon their life.
It’s the same selfishness that allows society to marginalize irrelevant people, abuse them and worse, monetize the largest prison population in the world to make a profit. Wasn’t the “war on drugs” really a war on irrelevant people?
Where is your shame Americans? What about the next segment of society quickly becoming irrelevant, marginalized and increasingly monetized—the elderly—baby-boomers?
Has anyone looked around the boardrooms and ranks of management to take note of the increasing absence of people over fifty? Who’s calling the shots—is experience and time on the planet no longer important?
Should we conclude that 78 million Americans no longer have the need to validate themselves or contribute to society? Or, is the more profitable capitalist option to marginalize and monetize this soon to be irrelevant group—baby-boomers?
If the amount of money we have is the defining characteristic of citizenship or social relevance, then we’ll soon have a society that is structured on that metric alone.
The fact is that capitalism is not delivered on a promise to be measured by anything other than money or profit. Social responsibility and human progress are not part of that calculus and if profit is our only metric for progress then what, as a nation, are we building? Where does the environment fit into that? Where do people stand when they have health needs? Or, when they make a mistake in life?
Mr. Simon and I agree that the game is rigged. We no longer have faith in the government to reflect the popular will of the people. In his words, “these guys can be bought on the cheap.” Yes, gerrymandering has made the representative aspect of our legislative branch an absurdity. The idea of self governance and a representative government has become a laughable perversion since Citizens United and labor has lost the battle against the capitalists.
So when you hear a politician, pundit or online bloviator cite the founding fathers to make their point, ask yourself whether they’re just another pawn contributing to the ultimate tragedy of our time or genuinely seeking to further a new metric for self governance, social responsibility, inclusiveness and human progress—the popular will of the people now unrepresented.