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lost cause

May 26, 2011

Today, someone posted this popular quote from Thomas Jefferson as their Facebook status: “I hope we shall crush in its birth the aristocracy of the moneyed corporations, which dare already challenge our government to a trial of strength and bid defiance to the laws of our country.”

I can’t say I disagree with the sentiment. Unfortunately, any attempt to do so within the context of the capitalist system itself is almost assuredly doomed to failure, as history has shown. Even the likes of Thomas Jefferson couldn’t stop the ascendancy of the ‘aristocracy of the moneyed corporations’ and their takeover of the American political system, especially those of private financial institutions.

As for the ‘laws of our country,’ the legal superstructure is built decidedly in their favour—always has been considering that the Founding Fathers themselves were mainly wealthy, ruling class elites, and the ‘aristocracy of the moneyed corporations’ was simply the next evolutionary step in a long line of wealthy, ruling class elites.

Like most forms of government centred around private property rights, the basic principle behind the establishment of our form of representative democracy had more to do with the ruling elites wanting to protect the small minority of property owners (including themselves) from the majority of the propertyless than anything else. As James Madison put it in Federalist No. 10, “… the most common and durable source of factions has been the various and unequal distribution of property. Those who hold and those who are without property have ever formed distinct interests in society.”

The only real distinction is that the Founders were holders of landed property while corporations are holders of capital, which for all intents and purposes are the same thing (i.e., both are property). What people like Jefferson seem to fail to realize is that having a political-economic system centred on private property rights, which are considered sacrosanct, actually protects and even promotes the rise of this new kind of aristocracy.

links private property to liberty, and through private property rights, secures the liberty of the propertied. Consequently, the greater one’s property, the greater one’s means of self-determination. We can do our best to enact reforms and try to limit their power and the damage done by their ‘enlightened self-interest,’ but it’s essentially a lost cause seeing as how corporations themselves are now considered ‘natural persons‘ and have managed to acquire certain constitutionally protected rights.

Basically, all this is really saying is that the game is rigged. To fix these problems, we need to change the rules; and to change the rules, we need to change the system.


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