FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

The Government is Us?

by KEVIN CARSON

In a speech last month about proposed gun control legislation, President Obama decried opponents’ attempts to encourage “suspicion about government.” “The government’s us,” he responded. “These officials are elected by you. They are constrained as I am constrained, by a system that our founders put in place.”

But if government were “us,” why would we have ever needed a Bill of Rights or defense attorneys?

In order for the government to be “us,” and for its elected officials to be our “representatives” in any meaningful sense, a number of prerequisites would have to be met.

For government to be us, the policies candidates campaigned on would have to be reliable indicators of the policies they would pursue once elected. Remember Obama the peace candidate in 2008, who ran against warrantless wiretapping and torture? Remember his promises of common sense reform of the worst excesses of marijuana laws and copyright law? The changeling who replaced Obama in early 2009 has gone full speed ahead on illegal wiretaps, refused to end extraordinary rendition, quietly turned Baghram AFB into a new Gitmo with even less oversight, pursued an ultra-hawkish line on “intellectual property” law, and actively pursues every means at his disposal to shut down medical marijuana dispensaries.

If government were us, the public positions taken by elected officials during major policy debates would bear at least some vague resemblance to the policies they were actually making behind the scenes. Remember Summer 2009, when Obama was publicly demanding healthcare reform legislation that included a public option, while quietly assuring the insurance industry that the public option was off the table? Remember when the Obama administration quietly capped the amount drug companies would be asked to reduce their enormous patent-bloated monopoly prices, and promised not to use the purchasing power of Medicare to negotiate lower prices?

If government were us, it wouldn’t treat us as an enemy to be propagandized and manipulated into voting the way the government wants us to. The Obama administration’s record of prosecuting and harassing whistle-blowers is even worse than the Bush administration’s abysmal record. Bradley Manning has been tortured in solitary confinement for almost three years for allegedly leaking documents that revealed actions of the U.S. national security establishment 180 degree opposite what government officials have told the American public. Manning is accused of “giving aid and comfort to the enemy” — which makes a lot more sense if you remember that the “enemy” is us. Lest you dismiss that as hyperbole, recall former Clinton National Security Adviser Sandy Berger’s statement in 2004: “We have too much at stake in Iraq to lose the American people.” The American people clearly are not “us” from the standpoint of the corporate state and its policy establishment.

If the government were us, the policy alternatives presented to the public for consideration and debate would represent the range of actual possibilities, rather than the options acceptable to the right and left wings of the corporate-state ruling class. The only policy alternatives presented to the American people are those consistent with the continued dominance of the existing political and economic political framework.  Anything outside this permissible range is dismissed as “radical,”  ”extremist,” and utterly naive and unrealistic. Even when the American people take a wide range of positions, the policies considered by the ruling elite itself generally range from about L to O. Probably 80% of issues never even appear as such because the two parties are in total agreement on them. The only stuff presented to the American people for debate are second-order issues that don’t concern the fundamental system of power.

For government to be us, elected representatives and their publicly stated policy preferences — not an unelected “permanent government” of civil servants and corporate lobbyists that start coopting those elected officials the same day they enter office – would have to be the primary influence on what government does. How’s that workin’ out for ya?

For government to be us, it would have to actually matter what the law said — all those “constraints” Obama says he and other elected officials operate under.  But if constitutional protections like the Fourth Amendment meant a damned thing, warrantless wiretapping would never have been an issue in the first place. And by his very threat to veto the proposed CISPA cyber-security bill, Obama made it clear it doesn’t really matter what the law is. The FBI has long privately assured Internet Service Providers that they’re protected from prosecution if they cooperate with “the authorities” in providing confidential customer information.

Next time Obama or anyone else of his ilk says “government is us,” give them a one-fingered salute.

Kevin Carson is a senior fellow of the Center for a Stateless Society (c4ss.org) and holds the Center’s Karl Hess Chair in Social Theory.

Kevin Carson is a senior fellow of the Center for a Stateless Society (c4ss.org) and holds the Center’s Karl Hess Chair in Social Theory. He is a mutualist and individualist anarchist whose written work includes Studies in Mutualist Political Economy, Organization Theory: A Libertarian Perspective, and The Homebrew Industrial Revolution: A Low-Overhead Manifesto, all of which are freely available online. 

More articles by:

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

zen economics

Weekend Edition
February 17, 2017
Friday - Sunday
David Price
Rogue Elephant Rising: The CIA as Kingslayer
Matthew Stevenson
Is Trump the Worst President Ever?
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Flynn?
John Wight
Brexit and Trump: Why Right is Not the New Left
Diana Johnstone
France: Another Ghastly Presidential Election Campaign; the Deep State Rises to the Surface
Neve Gordon
Trump’s One-State Option
Roger Harris
Emperor Trump Has No Clothes: Time to Organize!
Joan Roelofs
What Else is Wrong with Globalization
Andrew Levine
Why Trump’s Muslim Travel Ban?
Mike Whitney
Blood in the Water: the Trump Revolution Ends in a Whimper
Vijay Prashad
Trump, Turmoil and Resistance
Ron Jacobs
U.S. Imperial War Personified
David Swanson
Can the Climate Survive Adherence to War and Partisanship?
Andre Vltchek
Governor of Jakarta: Get Re-elected or Die!
Patrick Cockburn
The Coming Destruction of Mosul
Norman Pollack
Self-Devouring Reaction: Governmental Impasse
Steve Horn
What Do a Louisiana Pipeline Explosion and Dakota Access Pipeline Have in Common? Phillips 66
Brian Saady
Why Corporations are Too Big to Jail in the Drug War
Graham Peebles
Ethiopia: Peaceful Protest to Armed Uprising
Luke Meyer
The Case of Tony: Inside a Lifer Hearing
Binoy Kampmark
Adolf, The Donald and History
Robert Koehler
The Great American Awakening
Murray Dobbin
Canadians at Odds With Their Government on Israel
Fariborz Saremi
A Whole New World?
Joyce Nelson
Japan’s Abe, Trump & Illegal Leaks
Christopher Brauchli
Trump 1, Tillerson 0
Yves Engler
Is This Hate Speech?
Dan Bacher
Trump Administration Exempts Three CA Oil Fields From Water Protection Rule at Jerry Brown’s Request
Richard Klin
Solid Gold
Melissa Garriga
Anti-Abortion and Anti-Fascist Movements: More in Common Than Meets the Eye
Thomas Knapp
The Absurd Consequences of a “Right to Privacy”
W. T. Whitney
The Fate of Prisoner Simón Trinidad, as Seen by His U. S. Lawyer
Brian Platt
Don’t Just Oppose ICE Raids, Tear Down the Whole Racist Immigration Enforcement Regime
Paul Cantor
Refugee: the Compassionate Mind of Egon Schwartz
Norman Richmond
The Black Radical Tradition in Canada
Barton Kunstler
Rallying Against the Totalitarian Specter
Judith Deutsch
Militarism:  Revolutionary Mothering and Rosie the Riveter
Nyla Ali Khan
Kashmir Evoked a Lot More International Attention in the 1950s Than It Does Now
Adam Phillips
There Isn’t Any There There
Louis Proyect
Steinbeck’s Red Devils
Randy Shields
Left Coast Date: the Dating Site for the ORWACA Tribe
Charles R. Larson
Review: Bill Hayes’ “Insomniac City”
David Yearsley
White Supremacy and Music Theory
February 16, 2017
Peter Gaffney
The Rage of Caliban: Identity Politics, the Travel Ban, and the Shifting Ideological Framework of the Resistance
Ramzy Baroud
Farewell to Doublespeak: Israel’s Terrifying Vision for the Future
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail