Thursday, January 28, 2010

When Self-Defense is Wrong

Chronicle columnist Rick Casey has joined the chorus in decrying the influence of money in politics:
Imagine how many congressmen Goldman Sachs could make quake if it quietly let it be known it had decided to divert just 10 percent of the $16.2 billion in employee bonuses it has budgeted this year to retaliate against any of them who supported Obama's proposed reforms.
Casey believes that it is fine if the government issues more edicts to control banks and other financial institutions, but if those same businesses wish to defend themselves it is wrong. He would prefer that they meekly accept whatever mandates Washington hands down. He would prefer that they just shut up and take it.

Casey--like others who issue such claims--implies that politicians are more interested in getting elected than doing what is right. And I would agree with him on that point. However, I disagree with Casey on the meaning of "doing what is right".

For Casey this means enacting the "will of the people" or some similar nonsense. For Casey anything that involves more controls, regulations, edicts, or mandates are "right", and more individual freedom is wrong. Indeed, the Supreme Court ruling that he finds so distasteful actually extended some measure of freedom to the individuals who own businesses.

Speaking of Texas' limitations on corporate political donations, Casey writes:
Even without those First Amendment rights, insurance companies and other corporations in Texas have been able to buy a state Supreme Court and Legislature once wholly owned by plaintiffs' attorneys.
If this is true, why isn't Casey attacking corrupt jurists and legislators? If it is true that the Supreme Court and Legislature have been bribed by corporations, why is Casey only concerned about the corporations? The fact is, Casey accepts the politics of pull that are inevitable in a mixed economy. He just doesn't want businesses involved in the struggle for political power.

Casey concludes his article:
The power struggle won't be between the states and the federal government. It will be between the citizens and the corporations.
To Casey politics, and life, is a power struggle. The only issue is who will be the combatants. He refuses to identify the nature of the power that awaits those who win--the power to dictate, regulate, and control the lives of the citizenry. He refuses to consider the possibility that individuals can live together peacefully.

A government limited to its proper function--the protection of individual rights--is prohibited from initiating force against its citizens (as are all individuals). Such a limitation removes the power struggle that Casey regards as a metaphysical given.

But Casey is not concerned about individual rights. He has no problem with the First Amendment rights of business owners being trampled. I wonder if he would be so giddy if it were his First Amendment rights, or those of his corporate employer, that were violated. If he isn't careful, we might find out. If he isn't willing to defend the rights of other individuals, his rights may be next on the chopping block.


Anonymous said...

I disagree with several things you say here, but I will only take specific exception to one of them: "Indeed, the Supreme Court ruling that he finds so distasteful actually extended some measure of freedom to the individuals who own businesses."

What nonsense. The "individuals" who own businesses were not deprived of their rights. It was corporations (which, in some LIMITED ways, are allowed to act as individuals) that were restricted. And I would like to point out that despite the recent disastrous SCOTUS decision, corporations are NOT citizens, do NOT have a right to vote, and do NOT possess inalienable rights, such as those guaranteed by the First Amendment.

Given those facts, they should also NOT be allowed to influence government.

The INDIVIDUALS who work for or in those corporations have rights... but the corporations themselves do not. The individuals are and have been free to make whatever political contributions of their own that they want. It was corporate contributions that were formerly restricted, and that is a different matter entirely, both in fact and in principle.

If you think corporations do and should have the same rights as citizens, then you need to go back to school and study your history and Constitution again. From the beginning.

Brian Phillips said...

According to your argument, any group of individuals--including unions and PACs--should be prohibited from contributing to political campaigns. Like corporations, these are organizations comprised of individuals. These groups don't have a right to vote, they are not citizens.

The First Amendment does not state that Congress shall make no laws that abridge free speech, except when individuals act in unison. It states that Congress shall make no such laws under any condition.

An exception to a principle negates the principle. Either individual rights are inviolate or they are not. If they are--and they are--then they may not be violated, whether the individual is acting alone or with others.