02 April 2014

Enthronement of corruption

… would be a really good thrash metal album title. If it hasn’t been done already.

But it’s essentially what the Supreme Court has just done now, in removing many of the limits to individual campaign contributions, allowing individuals to contribute up to $3.6 million to federal political campaigns each election cycle. This decision may have been, like most other legal precedents, a long time in the making, and it may be but one decision in a long list of decisions giving big money the Constitutional protections of free speech. But it will certainly further restrict whose voices get to be heard in our political system, who gets to have access and who gets to sway votes when each election comes around. The McCutcheon decision might not be anything new, but it is a perfect example of the direction the United States has been taking. The prohibitively narrow definition of corruption stipulated by this decision essentially makes corruption a de jure reality in the United States – even if the opinions of legislators and other holders of elected office cannot be purchased on a vote-by-vote, bill-by-bill basis, what this SCotUS decision means is essentially that legislators and other holders of elected office themselves may be bought by the highest bidder.

Chief Justice Roberts euphemistically calls the effects of such purpose ‘general gratitude’. Because gratitude is only owing, in the Republican juridicial view of the world, to the wealthy and to the powerful, and clearly in direct proportion to the size of their patronage.

Let me be clear: this is one of the reasons I am a monarchist. Why? In great part because you will never find today, nor will you very likely find in history, a monarchy which is so brazen about the ‘general gratitude’ the political process owes to its nobility. No: monarchies and other traditionalist societies at least have the decency to forego this Americanist fiction that wealth and power aren’t ever accidents of birth and circumstance, and they do (at least in the British case) often treat their nobilities with a noted lack of seriousness.

Ironically, it seems to be only in republican forms of government where the undisciplined, unlimited, unaccountable rule by the ultra-wealthy is made respectable under an ersatz gloss of meritocracy.

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