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Hullabaloo


Sunday, February 11, 2018

 

One nation, under Inc.

by Tom Sullivan


Monticello. Photo by Matt Kozlowski (October 2015) via Creative Commons.

Frank Bruni's New York Times headline writer wonders whether corporations are poised to inherit the earth.

Corporate visionaries seem to be taking up where dysfunctional government now falters. Elon Musk boldly goes where only governments have gone before, turning space into a junkyard for billionaires. The U.S. government having tied itself in knots in the process of mucking it up, Amazon, Berkshire Hathaway, and JPMorgan Chase have set themselves to solving the problem of delivering decent health care at an affordable price. Employees first.

Amazon and Google are considering creating universities to turn out future employees with the skills the companies need. They are filling a vacuum, says Chris Lehane, head of global policy for Airbnb, whose company capitalized on President Trump's “shithole countries” remark to promote travel to places he smeared.

"Nambia" did the same, advertising itself as “one of the best shithole countries out there."



Color Bruni skeptical of we the people conceding too much authority shareholders:

But companies’ primary concern isn’t public welfare. It’s the bottom line. I say that not to besmirch them but to state the obvious. Their actions will never deviate too far from their proprietary interests, and while tapping their genius and money is essential, outsourcing too much to them is an abdication of government’s singular role. What’s best for Amazon and what’s best for humanity aren’t one and the same.

Lawrence Summers, the economist and former Treasury secretary, says that corporations might see no point in teaching Shakespeare. But shouldn’t Shakespeare be taught? Corporations might find cunning answers to the transportation woes of their own employees. But would that necessarily improve the lot of people working and living elsewhere?

“Whether they do it in the collective interest or in their own is very much in question,” Summers told me. “I use as a parable for a lot of things what happens in developing countries, where the urban electric system doesn’t work well, and therefore the businesses start building their own generators to take care of themselves, and therefore there’s no longer a constituency or pressure to fix the existing electricity system, and meanwhile the society is falling apart.”
It only takes a slight shift in perspective to see that happening here.

America is an idea as much as a place and a people. That idea is under attack. The idea of public education for the enlightenment of its citizens, not just to make them fit technicians for profit-generating enterprises, has been abandoned by leaders more committed to profit and power than to the notion of e pluribus unum. What's good for General Motors or Elon Musk is not what's good for America except by accident. Let us hope there is enough of Jefferson left in this country to prevent a catastrophic one.

"If a nation expects to be ignorant and free in a state of civilization, it expects what never was and never will be." --Thomas Jefferson to Charles Yancey, 1816. ME 14:384

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