By Ira Seidman — part ten of twelve in the series decentralize
It’s no one’s job to save the world, the city, or any person for that matter. However, in an age where God complexes abound as frequently as existential issues, it’s time to get serious about individuals doing their part. I hear people argue that they don’t recycle because it pales next to corporate waste but corporations are made up of individuals, right? Governments too. The issue is not when humans are imperfect or when progress takes time but rather when individuals don’t speak out and progress completely stalls as a result. When they are complicit in illegal, corrupt, or fraudulent activity, these are the most spineless among us. These are the cowards that need to either speak out or get out of the way.
It’s sad to see how greed has been baked into the legal structure of business. CEOs can get run out of town on a rail if they try to make investments that are not in the best interest of their shareholders. For example, companies may not be allowed to promote sustainable business practices or hire the disabled because of effects on the bottom line. This is fiduciary corruption in the sense that businesses have to legally serve their shareholders before anyone else — employees, customers, communities, much less the planet. While it’s not corruption in the sense that corporations never claimed to take responsibility for anyone other than their shareholders (although many pretend to in ad campaigns), this is corrupt in the sense that our laws permit public neglect and the influence over these laws was often bought in the form of corporate campaign donations. What is the point of living in a society where everyone is so self-interested that we all have a legal responsibility to not consider the needs of our neighbors and community? Why not go back to nature at that point? If only there was an entity big enough and designed of, by, and for the people to counterbalance the greed and mitigate for the externalities of enterprise.
The government unfortunately, has equally problematic issues to industry as politicians often cower subserviently to special interests. If politicians want to avoid being tarred and feathered, they need to serve their donors. Not their staffers, constituents, districts, or the planet, their donors. A few politicians are funded so successfully through grassroots efforts that their donors actually look like their constituents (Senator Sanders for example), but this is rare. Unfortunately corporate greed in business is often a shadow if not a full blown reflection of political corruption. While grassroots political funding is great, it does not actually fix the issue of how corruptible government truly is, it merely helps realign incentives for individual elected officials on a case by case basis. I won’t sit around waiting for every political candidate to be funded from the grassroots, largely because I don’t know if we’ll ever have an economy with that much disposable income; certainly not before we have a form of government that is more systemically aligned with the interests of the public so as to actually be able to legislate for an equitable income distribution. Even if we did get close, you can bet your bottom dollar the special interests will invest in themselves, or their candidates rather, to stop this at all costs. The solution needs to be better than picking and choosing grassroots funded candidates, the solution needs to be the unconditional decentralization of political power to stop the buying of influence as best we can.
What’s most disappointing about so many politicians is not that they cannot deliver on their promises, the outright lies, or even the campaign promises that are themselves outright lies, but it’s how quiet they are when they know best of all how corrupt our government is. These are the spineless cowards and these are the worst of our leaders. It would be one thing if politicians genuinely did not realize what was going on — the interchange of money for political legitimacy; however, they know best of all and most sit by silently while democracy serves the special interests. This is why I am proposing online voting and more referenda to promote participation and decentralize political power. You may think direct democracy is not a part of the solution. You may even think more centralized power structures do not lend themselves to corruption. What’s not okay however, is to let government go on with politics as usual talking about healthcare and criminal justice reform pretending as if the current system will ever be able to accomplish anything even if the vast majority of us agreed (which we so often do not). The representatives who have stood back and stood by instead of standing up and speaking out should be ashamed. Though you’re my neighbors and I love you, you need some tough love right now.
The spineless cowards need to either become leaders, become followers, or get out of the way. There is no more time for legal corruption and there is no more room for a government that pretends to serve its people but really serves a different interest. Even in spite of the various challenges we can see coming with climate change, weaker unity as social media divides us on what we even consider fact, and an ever-worsening epidemic of wealth inequality, many leaders sit silently because of what they stand to lose personally if they spoke out. I think corruption is a guaranteed outcome from any centralized power structure, whether in government, business, school, or the military, maybe you disagree. All I ask is that you consider whether the government is truly serving the interests of the people anymore and if not, why? More important still is what are we going to do about it? These are questions that every leader not only must have a plan for, but needs to be actively speaking out about. For those who are not, this should be our number one litmus test for who is no longer fit to serve in government.