Monday, March 28, 2011

Fascism And The USA

Let's get a few things straight before we get going here. Firstly, fascism is on the right of the political spectrum. In fact, it's the furthest right position possible. It's left-wing analogue in Communism. In very simple terms, the difference is that in Communism, the state (in theory) serves the people while in Fascism, the people serve the state. Granted, the two look similar to the person suffering under them because both are authoritarian and authoritarian regimes always look somewhat similar but they have very different reasons for being authoritarian. Secondly, despise whatever lies you may have been told, fascism and socialism or communism have nothing to do with each other. While the mental picture of Fascism tends to bring to mind Hitler's Nazi party (it's not a Godwins if you're talking about legitimate history) which was called the "Socialist Worker's Party", the plain facts are that firstly, the "Socialist" appelation pre-dates Hitler's rise to leadership; secondly, the insertion of "Socialist" in the name and a couple of socialist points in the manifesto were a fairly cynical attempt to bring in extra members and thirdly, upon Hitler's assumption of power, all the Socialist aspects except the name were dropped under Hitler's instructions (the Nazi party being run under fuhrerprinzip or "what the boss says, goes").

Fascism as a political ideaology can be attributed to Mussolini, who invented (or possibly stole, it's unclear) the ideaology sometime between 1915 and 1920. Mussolini variously described the ideaology as being "the union of corporate and state power" or "corporate control of the state". It's clear that, while under Communism, the state would control business; under Fascism, business would control the state. Depending on which version of Fascism you're talking about (Mussolini's is Classical Fascism, Hitler's was Racial Fascism, there are many other variations), you can sometimes add that the state would curtail or encourage various business practices depending on what industries it considered valuable (this was far more prevelent in Hitler's version than Mussolini's). While Communism envisions the state gradually withering away entirely to leave a collectivist utopia, Fascism concentrates power into the state and the state prostrates itself to business.

Now, the topic of this essay is whether the USA can be considered a Fascist state. To that end, we shall start by looking at Dr Lawrence Britt's list of Fascism's fourteen defining features but before we start, a word of caution about Dr Britt's list: While I'm sure that Dr Britt does not intend to promote misinformation with his list, he has a tendancy to use "Fascism" as a generic term for authoritarianism and, in my opinion, misses a few pointers and gives too much weight to others. However, his list makes a good starting point so here we go.

1 - Powerful and Continuing Nationalism. This is one of the major features of Fascism and one where it can be easily distinguished from socialism or Communism. While Socialism and Communism are explicitly transnational (think of the Communist Internationale), Fascism is powerfully nationalist and, usually, nativist. The flag is seen everywhere and the nation is identified with the party. On this one, the USA is guilty as sin. The USA has always been more nationalistic than many nations. Think of popular slogans like "love it or leave it" or "my country, right or wrong". Think of how often any American criticising an American policy or historical act has to stress that they love their country. In other nations, that would just be assumed. Think of the doctrine of "American Exceptionalism" or the uproar when Michelle Obama said she was "really proud of her country" for the first time. In the USA, patriotism is not just expected but socially enforced by public approbation.

2 - Disdain for the Recognition of Human Rights. Because of Fascism's use of scapegoats and fearmongering and the glorification of the state, rights are seen not as due simply for being human or granted by the divine but granted by the state, which may withdraw them as it wishes. Frequently, rights are first withdrawn from official scapegoats with the rationale that "they're only terrorists/communists/Jews/Gypsies, they don't deserve rights". Here, the USA has a mixed record. The Bush administration's hatred of human rights is well known (and their escape from accountability will forever be a stain on Obama's record). The withdrawal of habeus corpus rights from anyone accused of terrorism (including at least two American citizens) is notorious. While it's unclear whether Bush's reputed description of the Bill of Rights as a "goddamn piece of paper" was actually true or not, it's clear that they acted as if it were. The Obama administration has not gone any further in destroying humans rights than the Bush administration did. However, they have also not reversed much of the damage. Most provisions of the Orwellian-named PATRIOT Act remain in force, Gitmo remains open. So a mixed result.

3 - Identification of Enemies/Scapegoats as a Unifying Cause. Fascist regimes always single out something to unite against. In this, Fascism understands human nature far better than many political ideaologies. It is vastly easier to get humans to unite and stop grumbling when you convince them that they're under attack. It's also the case that humans love to play the victim. You will rarely find any societal group, no matter how repugnant, that doesn't claim to be under attack. White supremacists claim to be under attack by race-mixing, Fred Phelps claims to be under attack from "sodomites", even Hitler claimed to be defending Germany against Polish forces (no, I'm not kidding). Here, again, the USA has a mixed record. Historically, one could mention the crazed panic of "Reds under the bed" and McCarthyism (as it turned out, while the USSR would doubtless have loved to undermine US society, they never came close to having the capacity to do so). In recent history, the Bush admin used terrorists as a unifying scapegoat (although, credit where it's due, they never equated terrorists with Muslims despite many fellow travellers doing so) while the Obama admin hasn't used it half as much. In fact, this is a far more pronounced tendancy on the American right than the left. While outright hatred of Obama in particular and liberals/progressives in general has become a cause celebre on the right and the Teabaggers sole defining characteristic, there is nothing similar on the left (no, Baggers, liberals were NOT this bad to Bush). So, mixed again.

4 - Supremacy of the Military. In Fascist regimes, the military is always given a disproportionate amount of funding, military service is glorified and glamorised. Now, is the USA guilty of this one? OH HELL, YES! The USA spends more on it's military than every other nation in the world combined. The yearly budget increase alone is more than the entire military budget of your nearest competitor. The USA has enough firepower to render the planet devoid of life several times over and that's without even using the nuclear arsenal. And military spending is sacrosanct. Even when the economy is supposedly in trouble, no-one is seriously talking about cuts in military spending. Likewise, joining the military is not just seen as performing a valuable and necessary service , as it is in other nations, but as an automatic act of heroism sufficient to give one additional gravitas even in unconnected areas. John McCain's entire campaign for president was contingent on his having spent five years as a PoW in Vietnam and, while I respect that service, one must ask how it gives him any additional insight on, say, economics or foreign relations?

5 - Rampant Sexism. In Fascist regimes, power tends to be controlled almost exclusively by males. Women are exhorted to breed, to be homemakers. Traditional gender roles are socially enforced. Divorce, abortion and homosexuality are surpressed. Here, again, the USA has a mixed record. While no-one would claim that the USA is free of sexism, it has become both less prevelent and less tolerated in recent years. Divorce is relatively easily available and while gay rights still has a long way to go, things are slowly moving in the right direction. The rampant sexism often claimed by supporters of Hillary Clinton's campaign for president turned out, on inspection, to be mostly untrue (mostly, there were some seriously sexist attacks on her though). The exception is abortion. Abortion rights in the USA have always been under attack. While the Supreme Court legalised abortion under most circumstances with Roe V. Wade, the American pro-life movement (which is concentrated on the right but not exclusively so) has never conceded their loss. Challenges to the law by both individuals and state legislatures are frequent and campaigns of threats, intimidation and sometimes outright terrorism have forced many abortion providers out of business.

6 - Controlled Mass Media. The USA is innocent of this one. Fascist regimes tend to have a controlled media, either through outright state control (interestingly, the BBC, which is state controlled, is considered the global standard of scrupulous impartiality) or through sympathetic media figures and censorship is common. Here, the USA can hold it's hands up and say "not us". While the media in the USA is controlled by it's corporate ownership and therefore, the USA has the most conservative media in the free world (anyone who genuinely thinks the US media is liberally biased should shoot themselves to remove their stupidity from the gene pool), the state exerts very little control over the media itself. Regulation consists mainly of dividing up the available TV and radio bandwidth and ensuring against monopoly (although even that is very often ignored). The FCC, an organ of state, attempts to control content to ensure appropriate broadcast times (and is sometimes absurdly restrictive on sexual grounds) but censorship on political grounds is entirely absent. One must mention Fox News here. Fox News is dedicated to attacking Democrats and liberals/progressives in general and President Obama in particular. As much as they may bleat about Obama's supposed "fascism", their continued operation proves otherwise because such a 24/7 attack/smear machine would never be allowed in a Fascist regime.

7 - Obsession with National Security. This one goes in cycles. In general, the sequence goes that there is a terrorist or international incident. Then the USA goes batshit crazy about national security for a few years, stripping back rights, inconvieniencing the average person and arresting anyone who looks sideways at a landmark. Then gradually, the panic wears off and things go back to more-or-less normal and the cycle repeats.

8 - Religion and Government are Intertwined. This is another one much more true of right-wing administrations than leftish ones. It's easily observable that the USA is one of the most religiously extreme natiuons in the western world, not as a matter of policy but as a matter of the public psyche. In right-wing administrations, the state tends to push religion as much into state power as it legally can (and, in some cases, further). Again, the Bush admin should be our guide. Bush instituted the Office of Faith-Based Initiatives (as one wag pointed out "9/11 was a faith-based initiative"), positions were commonly staffed by graduates of Pat Robertson's university. Monica Goodling, a Bush appointee who ended up smack in teh middle of the US Attorneys scandal, routinely made staff recomendations based on religious views and Whitehouse prayer meetings and Bible study were, while not enforced, an expected part of life. While Obama is a Christian (or claims to be anyway, it's not my job to play No True Scotsman) and has continued the Office of Faith-Based Initiatives, he has been noticeably more circumspect about bringing his faith into his public life. Partly, that can be attributed to the attention whoring of his former pastor, Rev Wright.

9 - Corporate Power is Protected. Another biggie. This, and the following entry, are two of the defining features of Fascism. The industrial and business leaders are both those who put politicians into power and those who benefit from their policies, creating a mutal cycle of corruption (in fact, if not in law). And on this one, the USA is guilty. The tremendous deference shown to wealth in the USA is easily observable, both by the almost deification of business leaders and by the public outrage shown when the Obama admin suggested raising the top rate of income tax by 3.5%. Suddenly, a wimpy moderate of a leader became "SOCIALIST, COMMUNIST!". While Obama has been less deferential to wealth than Bush, he has still been far more accomodating than most Western leaders.

10 - Labor Power is Suppressed. Because the organizing power of labor is the only real threat to a fascist government, labor unions are either eliminated entirely, or are severely suppressed. This is another one where there's a real left/right divide. The right, which has become simply the political arm of Big Business, is ruthlessly anti-labour and routinely presses for lower wages and benefits or, lately, the outright banning of the union's power of collective bargaining ("First, they came for the trade unionists"). The left tends to be more supportive of labour power and while teh cynical would say that's because trades unions donate mainly to Democrats (and there's an element of truth to that), they rarely ask why unions mainly donate to Democrats.

11 - Disdain for Intellectuals and the Arts. Another one where the divide is pronounced. The right in teh USA is fiercely opposed to both intellectuals and the arts and has been for many years. There is a very, very strong streak of anti-intellectualism to the right which is not only suspicious of intellectual achievment but outright hostile to being taught anything. If you took a shot every time Sarah Palin bashed intellectuals, you'd almost be as wasted as Sarah Palin. On the other side, the left has a tendancy to listen to intellectuals only selectively (see for example, the fact that scientists have been ringing giant alarm bells about global warming for years) and ignore the arts altogether.

12 - Obsession with Crime and Punishment . This is another one the USA is guilty of. Of the countries which release statistics, the USA has the highest population of prisoners in the world. Red China locks up less people than the USA does. The US has over seven million people either imprisoned or on parole, around 730 people per 100,000. The nearest comparison is Russia which has 584 per 100k. And there is a marked racial disparity. 70% of US prisoners are non-white. In fact, of the three major ethnic groups in prison, whites make up the least populous group and blacks the most (Hispanics are in the middle). The USA is also one of the very few western nations which retains the use of the death penalty and by far the western nation which uses it most. In 2009 (2010 records unavailable), the USA executed 52 people. Compared to China (which executed at least 1700), that's not too bad but it stands in marked contrast to the rest of the western world which executed none. I don't want to argue the merits of the death penalty here but there is often a disturbing level of glee seen in teh USA when someone is executed. The execution seen less as a terrible necessity than a cause for celebration.

13 - Rampant Cronyism and Corruption. We're using "corruption" here in it's non-legal sense. That is, the influence of personal advantage or nepotism in policy. And here is another where the USA is guilty as sin. The revolving door between politics, business and media doesn't need any further ranting from me, one needs only examine Dick Cheney's personal history. Fox currently has at least three possible Republican candidates for president in 2012 under contract. Bush was the son of a former president, Hillary the wife of another. In itself, it doesn't prove nepotism but it is an uncomfortable observation for a country which supposedly has no aristocracy.

14 - Fraudulent Elections. Now, this one is complicated. I will go to my grave knowing that the general election of 2000 was stolen. That is known, it is proven (by the Florida Ballots Project) and it is not up for dispute. The 2004 election, I don't know. The 2006 and 2008 elections clearly weren't stolen but they may have been tampered with. What's more concerning is that the US's use of unaccountable "black box" voting machines makes it impossible to be sure of election results. That such machines are absurdly easy to corrupt is well known and has been demonstrated numerous times but what is less well known is that the state is not even allowed to examine or certify the software they use. It's proprietery software, considered "trade secrets" so the companies that manufacture the machines have to simply say "Trust us".

That's Dr Britt's list. I consider it incomplete. I would add:
- Rural populations are exhorted. Within all Fascist regimes, the simplicity of the common volk is glorified. Granted, this is also a feature of Soviet Communism (to the extent that Soviet artwork has been described as "girl meets tractor"). On this, the American right is clearly guilty. Witness Bachmann's paens to small-town America, "real America, if you will"; Palin's pride at coming from a state with the population of San Bernadino. Fascism always comes from such rural populations or, at least, seeks to identify itself with them.

- Obsession with productivity. In the words of the Nazis "Work will make you free". Work is held to be the reason for living and those unable to contribute are derided as "freeloaders" or "scroungers". The USA is guilty on this one but so is much of the rest of the world. The British ConDem government (evil, evil bastards) have made it the cornerstone of their entire economic policy.

- Looks back to a "glorious" past. "I want my country back!". How often have you heard that in recent months? This is another feature where Fascism and Communism are directly opposed. While Communism always looks forward to a glorious future, Fascism always looks back to a glorious part, a (usually imagined) Golden Age. For Mussolini, it was the Roman Empire. For Hitler, it was the Holy Roman Empire (which was neither holy, Roman nor an empire). For the American right, it's the 1950s. An era where minorities, women and children knew their place, everyone had a job that paid decent wages and the USA bestrode the world like a collossus. The irony, of course, is that much of their perception of that period is based more on Happy Days than actual history and the Democratic policies they so bitterly oppose are the ones more likely to help get back to that employment level.

So, those are my additions and we're up to 17 points. Taking those into consideration, I would say that the USA is NOT a Fascist nation (yet) but that the country is in danger of becoming so and teh American right, the Teabaggers in particular, very much are Fascists. What I hope I've demonstrated through this essay is that "Fascism" isn't just a nasty name to call someone or a synonym for all authoritarian regimes. It is a specific set of reasons and principles, a defined and identifiable ideaology.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Things We Should Have Learned By Now

Earlier this evening, I was having a conversation on one of Scott's posts with a nice chap called Lars who I don't think I've met before. And we ended up talking about the need to put some decent funding into space research so we can get off this damn rock. Not everyone, just the vaguely sane people (I realise that a mentally ill guy calling himself part of the "sane people" is just dripping with irony). And the new society we'll set up. Our new society will have it's problems, as any society does but in contrast to what we have right now, we'll have learned from our mistakes. The mistakes we've made in this society, mistakes that are now so embedded as to be near-impossible to correct, we'll already know to avoid them. Oh, for sure we'll find all new mistakes to make but we'll know to...

Keep carbon emissions below 350 ppm.

Three hundred and fifty parts per million is the scientifically established safe level of carbon emissions. Above that level, the earth gets warmer and we're all in trouble. Below that, the temprature stays the same or, just possibly, even drops. Granted, the new planet we set up house on will have a slightly different safe level but we don't know what that will be yet so I've just used the earth's limit. We'll have to do this on our new planet because this one is already fucked. The very concept of climate change is now so politicised that it's impossible to do anything about it. In the halls of power, they're not talking about how to deal with this problem, they're talking about whether the problem even exists. The cap-and-trade program that Obama's endorsed won't help the problem and might even make it worse and even THAT is too much for too many. And that's something else we'll have learned:

Don't let politicians decide science by vote.

Science is done by scientists. The second politicians start discussing science,. it becomes politicised and that inevitibly means it becomes a matter of party affiliation. The politicians we have now refuse to do a damn thing about the fact that our planet is melting. Abstinence-only sex-ed clearly and provably doesn't work but politicians keep funding it because they think it should work. Stem-cell research, which could save or improve countless lives, doesn't get funded because politicians know shit about the science involved. A basic rule of humanity is that humans are, by and large, fucking dense. We have this really cute idea that one side makes their decisions by emotion and the other side makes theirs by cold, hard reason. It's a cute theory and, like most cute theories, it's bollocks. Research done with people who actually can't feel any emotion (mainly due to brain damage) shows them to be utterly indecisive and that's because humans rarely make decisions by reason. We use reason to rationalise decisions we make by emotion. And one of these days, I'll write one of these essays about how terrifyingly easy it is to manipulate the human mind. Point I'm making is that most people make their decisions by emotion and politicians, who have very well-paid staff who know that, know how to manipulate those emotions. And nowhere is that more apparent than with science. Because most people don't understand science and don't really want to.

Don't let everyone think they're an expert on everything.

I might catch some flack for this one but I studied law and I'm currently studying criminology with psychology. Law is a subject where everyone instantly considers themselves expert. Some case comes before the SCOTUS and everyone thinks they understand the issues at stake. Plain truth is, law uses specialist language and principles and most people don't have the experiance or training to understand them (or why "activist judge" is a nonsense phrase). Medicine is the same way. I'm mentally ill, I have been for some time. As soon as you admit that, especially on the internet, you get a bazillion orders from everyone and their dog that you should take vitamins, take excercise, stop taking your meds. Advice like this gets people killed. Among my many other problems, I have Major Depressive Disorder. Telling someone with MDD to stop taking their meds drops their life expectancy to a matter of weeks. The climate change "debate" is the same way; people without a day's training or experiance in climate science who instantly think they know better than trained professionals who have devoted their lives to studying the subject. Biblical literalists (they like to call themseloves "Bible-believing" like literalism is the only form of belief) who think they know better than paleontologists who've spent their whole lives immersed in study and will still tell you that they don't know everything about the subject. And it's because we've eliminated the concept of expertise. We've gone from "your opinion is valuable" (which it is) to "your opinion counts as much as anyone else's" (which it doesn't). Yes, the experts in a subject can occasionally be flat wrong, no arguments there, but they are a damn sight more likely to be right than muggins off the street who thinks Glenn Beck is a prophet and The Sun is a newspaper. When people who have studied the subject are talking, either ask some sensible questions or shut the fuck up. If Gordon Ramsay is trying to teach you how to cook, shut the fuck up and listen. If John Dicey is trying to teach you law, shut the fuck up and listen. If Kurt Angle is trying to teach you how to wrestle, shut the fuck up and listen. Asking intelligent questions and taking notes is also encouraged. Our society has become terrified of telling people that they don't know what they're fucking talking about. It's said that the more you know about a subject, the more you become aware of how little you know. I'm sure that's true but I think someone needs to add the caveat: The less you know about a subject, the more likely you are to think yourself an expert in it.

People are people are people.

This one really should be a no-brainer but our society still has problems with it: Treating everyone the same, giving everyone the same rights. And yes, I'm talking partly about letting gay people get hitched. Now personally, I don't see why anyone would want to marry but that's besides the point. Usually, at this point, some dickhead starts saying that gay people have the same right to marry someone of the opposite sex as everyone else but that's bullshit, that's playing fucking word games. If that worked, we could shut down every church except mine. You still have the freedom to be a Satanist like any rational person after all. There is a reason the phrase "one size fits all" appears in no known Constitution or Bill of Rights anywhere and that's because you don't have freedom if the state bans everything else. Loving V. Virginia defined marriage as a "fundemental human right" and sorry, wingers, there is nothing so extraordinary about same-sex marriage that the ruling has to add "this includes the queers too" (yes, I believe in reclaiming unpleasent words. I also believe in hitting people who use them unironically). Likewise, I can't see why any gay person would want to join the military especially right now but if straight people have the option of getting their nuts shot off, gay people should have that option too. Gay people are exactly the same as straight people in almost every regard; same plumbing, different wiring. That's the only difference. Some guys want to shag Johnny Depp, some girls want to shag Angelina Jolie. I'm bi so I'll take both (because I'M HARDCORE! and only fans of old-school ECW will get that joke). Look, humans are pretty simple and we're mostly much the same. We almost all want the same things. We want shelter, food and drink and we want someone to share our lives with. Yeah, I'm talking about love. Love is what redeems us, it's what makes us something more than just a super-evolved ape and love, real love, is so rare in this world. Every seer and visionary down through the ages has told us the same thing. Buddha, Mahatma Gandhi, Jesus; all of them said the same thing, the same thing John Lennon said: Love is the answer and you know that for sure. Are we really stupid enough, petty enough and spiteful enough that we would shut off someone's chance at happiness (or permanency, depending on your experiance of marriage) just because a guy likes cock or a girl likes pussy? A lot of us are that petty and that spiteful and that baffles me. I'm not a very nice guy (despite this rep I've bafflingly acquired) but even I'm not that much of a bastard.

Don't let megacorporations buy news providers

Another one that should be a no-brainer but has become so deeply embedded that we'll never get it out. Wingers love to trot out that survey where most reporters admit to having liberal social views (although they always ignore the part of that same survey that shows reporters generally have conservative economic views). Thing is, reporters don't decide what goes into news media, editors do and editors tend to be conservative and part of the reason editors tend to be conservative is because they're the ones accountable to media owners and the corporations that generally own the media tend to be conservative. In fact, corporations generally tend to be conservative and that's entirely logical. To be conservative means to be opposed to, or at least wary of, change and corporations that are successful enough to own media outlets don't want change, they've already got the world arranged just the way they like it. In fact, corporations generally want change rolled back, preferably to the Gilded Age when workers were desperate and had zero protections (see, Scott Walker). That anyone could actually believe that the US media is predominantly liberal simply proves what I was saying earlier about how easy it is to manipulate humans because the US has the most conservative media in the free world. Even the channel considered most liberal, MSNBC, has a Republican former elected official for three honkin' hours every morning.

Don't let them buy politicians either

Oh boy, the Citizen's United decision was a fucking catastrophe. The US system of funding political campigns is perilously close to outright bribery. The politicians would have us believe that the millions fuinnelled to them by corporate donors doesn't affect their votes. You have got to be kidding. Look, basic human nature dictates that if someone plays a big part in placing you in a position of power and priviledge, a position that if you're careful, you can extend into a lifelong gravy train (see Gingrich, Newt; see also "crook"), you are at least going to feel warmly about that person. And politicians are no different. If Exxon helps get a pol elected, he is, at very least, going to give Exxon more of a hearing than he would of a company that hadn't given him millions of dollars. Now, Republicans have given up any pretence of being anything other than the political arm of Big Business but the Democrats aren't a great deal better (although there are a few notable exceptions, take a bow Dennis Kucinich). We are asked to believe that politicians are both "just like you" and also such a rarified breed that basic human emotional drives don't apply to them. Of course, if they didn't apply, they would be psychopaths which is scarcely more reassuring. And speaking of psychopaths...

No Ayn Rand.

Do I even need to justify this one?

Corporations are not people.

First off, a corportion is not a person. The basic definition of a human being can be found in any encyclopaedia, while a corporation is a piece of shorthand we use purely for legal convienience. Now, "personhood" is, to some extent, also a legal construct but from it's very beginnings, it has had a specific meaning: A (born, although that came later) human being. Not an automaton, not an animal and not a legal construct. A corporation has all the advantages of being human but none of the drawbacks. A corporation cannot starve, feel cold or wet or have it's heart broken. A corporation doesn't have to worry about paying the rent or keeping the electricity turned on. In a lot of ways, a corporation is closer to a vampire (the traditional folk tale version) than a human; it's sole reason for existing is to generate profit which it then uses to generate even more profit. Indeed, legally, that is the only duty of the corporation and it's directors. Humans are not so simple. Humans have numerous competing needs and desires. If you could look inside the head of even a mentally healthy person, you would see a constant struggle between desires for basic survival needs, for status, for companionship, for a hundred things. Not the corporation. It has only one desire.

Secondly and politically, an individual is limited to a campaign contribution of (I believe) $2,400 per cycle. A corporation may, however, make limitless donations in kind (another legal construct, in kind means that the receiver enjoys the benefit even though no cash changes hands) by buying tv time. Since tv time is likely to be a, if not the, major outlay for campaigning politicians, that amounts, in effect, to unlimited campaign contributions. And because a corporation is an automaton (lacking self-direction), those contributions will be made at the behest of the board of directors. By filtering the contribution through the corporation, the limit on contributions has effectively been abolished for directors. The US system of campaign financing is already perilously close to outright bribery. Whether we wish to alleviate that complaint rather depends on whether you plan your future to include elections or auctions.

Thirdly, this creates an unholy mess of legal principles. A human may commit crimes and, if caught, may be fined. Fair enough, a corporation may be fined as well (although they rarely are and never enough to make a difference). However, a human may also be imprisoned or, if the crimes are severe enough, executed. A corporation cannot be imprisoned and while it can be executed after a fashion by being wound up, those responsible for the crimes of the corporation walk away, free and clear and quite possibly to commit the same crimes at another corporation. Further, the law depends on a balance of rights and responsibilities. The responsibilities are usually implicit but they are there nonetheless. For example, your right to keep and bear arms carries the responsibly to do so responsibly. We might quibble over precisely what "responsibly" means but we do not deny that we have that obligation. Your right to free speech carries the rsponsibility to excercise that right with some care (the "yelling FIRE! in a crowded theatre example) and so on. Well, if a corporation is a legal person and has rights, what are it's responsibilities? It has only one responsibility: To gorge itself, to profit just as much as it can. That is it's only consideration. Legally, that can be it's only consideration. This is roughly equivelent to raising a child to believe that his only responsibility is to satisfy himself, come what may. We call people like that psycho or sociopaths. Ambrose Bierce once remarked that a corporation was "an ingenious device for obtaining individual profit without individual responsibility".

Fourth, a corporation is a psychopath. I touched on this above but it needs spelling out. Some humans have, for reasons we do not yet fully understand, a conscience and sense of empathy which is either extremely minimised or absent entirely. These people are called psychopaths ("sociopath" means the same thing, both are covered by Antisocial Personality Disorder). Contrary to popular belief, they are not automatically violent but because they lack conscience, because they feel no empathy or remorse, if one decides that his personal desires will be best satisfied through violence, he will act to satiate those desires as soon as is practical. A corporation also has no conscience, no sense of empathy or remorse. The people in charge of that corporation may do (or may not, a surprising amount of business leaders test out as psychopaths) but because decisions are made at a distance from the subject, that conscience may well not be sufficient to prevent a decision from causing damage. When you see your customers every day, when it's actual people coming into your store (for example), your subconscious marks them down as human, like you, and therefore beings you can feel empathy toward. However, if your only contact with your customers is as numbers in a book, account names on a profit and loss record, you don't think of them as entirely "real". That's not a unique thing, it's a perfectly normal human trait. It's the same reason why Americans were more emotionally affected by 9/11 than the London Tube bombings, it's the same reason I was more emotionally affected by the Tube bombings than by 9/11. Because I've visited London many times and used the Tube frequently, it was more emotionally real to me than the destruction of a landmark on another continent that I'd never visited or seen or known anyone who was there. That reduction of emotional impact for things with which you are not personally familiar is entirely normal. It is also entirely normal for humans to feel less concerned about the plight of someone distant from them (among others, it was observed by Milgram in his famous experiment). That's absolutely textbook human normal (note: "normal" does not mean "nice". Humans are a lot less psychologically pleasant than we like to believe) but when you combine those two perfectly normal psychological mechanisms, you end up with teh simple fact that, for the CEO atop his ivory tower, most of his employees and customers barely emotionally exist for him. It doesn't take a psychopath to poison the Gulf or dump hexavalient chromium into the water supply, all it takes is those two psychological mechanisms and the constant pressure to profit. If you are only barely emotionally aware of your employees and customers, why not drive them harder, why not slash their benefits and wages (real wages have been mostly stagnant for years), why not skip the safety testing?

I haven't brought you on this little journey to rant about the evils of corporations (although I could do that too). Rather, I am making the point that the corporation insulates it's controllers from the consquences of their actions to a great extent and thus, the corporation is able to take tremendously harmful actions without the soul-searching which a (mentally normal) human would be subject to. And thus, it can buy politicians to enable it without any second thoughts. And that's when politicians (especially Republicans) are not already doing it's bidding under the common misaprehension that being pro-capitalist necessarily means being pro-corporatist.

Fifth, and finally: If corporations are persons, why can't they vote? No, I'm serious. If corporations are legal persons, then they are covered by the protections of the Fourteenth Amendment. That makes them citizens and that entitles them to vote.

And I haven't even gotten into the politicisation of the courts yet...