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
January 20, 2017
Friday - Sunday
Paul Street
Divide and Rule: Class, Hate, and the 2016 Election
Andrew Levine
When Was America Great?
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: This Ain’t a Dream No More, It’s the Real Thing
Yoav Litvin
Making Israel Greater Again: Justice for Palestinians in the Age of Trump
Linda Pentz Gunter
Nuclear Fiddling While the Planet Burns
Ruth Fowler
Standing With Standing Rock: Of Pipelines and Protests
David Green
Why Trump Won: the 50 Percenters Have Spoken
Dave Lindorff
Imagining a Sanders Presidency Beginning on Jan. 20
Pete Dolack
Eight People Own as Much as Half the World
Roger Harris
Too Many People in the World: Names Named
Steve Horn
Under Tillerson, Exxon Maintained Ties with Saudi Arabia, Despite Dismal Human Rights Record
John Berger
The Nature of Mass Demonstrations
Stephen Zielinski
It’s the End of the World as We Know It
David Swanson
Six Things We Should Do Better As Everything Gets Worse
Alci Rengifo
Trump Rex: Ancient Rome’s Shadow Over the Oval Office
Brian Cloughley
What Money Can Buy: the Quiet British-Israeli Scandal
Mel Gurtov
Donald Trump’s Lies And Team Trump’s Headaches
Kent Paterson
Mexico’s Great Winter of Discontent
Norman Solomon
Trump, the Democrats and the Logan Act
David Macaray
Attention, Feminists
Yves Engler
Demanding More From Our Media
James A Haught
Religious Madness in Ulster
Dean Baker
The Economics of the Affordable Care Act
Patrick Bond
Tripping Up Trumpism Through Global Boycott Divestment Sanctions
Robert Fisk
How a Trump Presidency Could Have Been Avoided
Robert Fantina
Trump: What Changes and What Remains the Same
David Rosen
Globalization vs. Empire: Can Trump Contain the Growing Split?
Elliot Sperber
Dystopia
Dan Bacher
New CA Carbon Trading Legislation Answers Big Oil’s Call to Continue Business As Usual
Wayne Clark
A Reset Button for Political America
Chris Welzenbach
“The Death Ship:” An Allegory for Today’s World
Uri Avnery
Being There
Peter Lee
The Deep State and the Sex Tape: Martin Luther King, J. Edgar Hoover, and Thurgood Marshall
Patrick Hiller
Guns Against Grizzlies at Schools or Peace Education as Resistance?
Randy Shields
The Devil’s Real Estate Dictionary
Ron Jacobs
Singing the Body Electric Across Time
Ann Garrison
Fifty-five Years After Lumumba’s Assassination, Congolese See No Relief
Christopher Brauchli
Swing Low Alabama
Dr. Juan Gómez-Quiñones
La Realidad: the Realities of Anti-Mexicanism
Jon Hochschartner
The Five Least Animal-Friendly Senate Democrats
Pauline Murphy
Fighting Fascism: the Irish at the Battle of Cordoba
Susan Block
#GoBonobos in 2017: Happy Year of the Cock!
Louis Proyect
Is Our Future That of “Sense8” or “Mr. Robot”?
Charles R. Larson
Review: Robert Coover’s “Huck out West”
David Yearsley
Manchester-by-the-Sea and the Present Catastrophe
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail