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We have lost our way –

“corporate makeover of politics struggling to be democratic”

On this Memorial Day, as I sit on my porch, basking in gorgeous tree dappled sunlight, my tranquillity is upset by reading a powerful analysis that concludes that our vaunted Constitutional republic has been hijacked.
This reading forces me to reflect upon my own career – and recall the fact that some of my own most cherished values and aspirations have been relegated to the ash heap.
For those who still read and reflect, let me share an excerpt that captures the essence of sense of loss:
“[Corporate values are] [n]ot, one might think, the kinds of qualities desirable in those sworn to “protect and defend” a Constitution of limited powers and checks and balances. That familiar phrase from the oath of office points to the traditional understanding that served to distinguish public from private institutions. Its crucial supposition was the government consisted of nonprofit institutions whose basic responsibility was “to promote the general welfare.” The measure of performance was political, not economic; the common good, not the bottom line. That ideal was to be represented in its personnel; they were depicted in democratic terms, as “public servants” whose ranks were open to all who were qualified, and dedicated not to acquisitive pursuits but to defending and improving the lives of citizens. The ideal of public service was meant to embody a mode of conduct and a set of ideals emphasizing the responsibilities accompanying public power and the near absolute contrast between “government service” and business practices.
Public servants were supposedly the instruments by which a democracy could be realized. That same ideal of the public servant, chosen solely on the basis of merit, represented the point where the ideal of democracy and republican elitism converged in a kind of salutary tension; between the values of commonality and equality and the claims of excellence, not of superiority. The ideal of a merit system was an offshoot of the classical republican conceptions of elites. Classical republicanism had conceived elites in purely political terms: disinterested service on behalf of the public good, not the amassing of wealth. The corporate revolution has reshaped the republican ideal in the image of the corporate executive. In the process it has ruptured the alliance between the demos and the elite, between democracy and republicanism.
Instead of a convergence of commonality and excellence, the skills and ethos of aggressive management – its culture and beliefs and practicices, its forms of corruption – have been rationalized into a corporate makeover of politics struggling to be democratic. It signals the defeat and corruption of commonality. Accordingly, recent policies of the Bush administration have deliberately promoted inequalities of wealth, taxation policy, health care, educational opportunities and life prospects. In the process the egalitarian momentum generated during the thirties and revived during the sixties … has been reversed. As a result democracy has been reduced to a rearguard action, struggling not to advance and improve the lives of the Many but merely to defend the shredded remains of earlier achievements.
(emphases mine)
(“Democracy Incorporated” Sheldon Wolin. page 145-146)
[closing note: [if this post in any way implies that I support the technocratic elite model, be advised that I come down firmly on the side of Dewey – see Dewey Lippman debate: http://www.wier.ca/~daniel_schugurens/assignment1/1922lippdew.html

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