Friday, August 17, 2007

a clarification (from Togus/Tocus?) 

I suspect there may be some lack of clarity concerning what was meant by the phrase "withdrawal of consent" in the post and comments below. Obviously the concept stems from the Declaration of Independence, but might need some qualifications in light of the current arrangement which is in certain respects very distant from the experience of the signers of that document. Generally I agree with the meaning most clearly stated by Chomsky (cue eye-rolling) in this excerpt from a 1970 talk:

Roughly speaking, I think it’s accurate to say that a corporate elite of managers and owners governs the economy and the political system as well, at least in very large measure. The people so-called do exercise an occasional choice among those who Marx once called “the rival factions and adventurers of the ruling class”. Those who find this characterization too harsh may prefer the formulations of modern democratic theorists like Joseph Schumpeter who describes modern political democracy, favorably, as:

A system in which the deciding of issues by the electorate is secondary to the election of the men who are to do the deciding. A party is not, as classical doctrine (or Edmund Burke) would have us believe, a group of men who intend to promote public welfare. A party is a group whose members propose to act in concert in the competitive struggle for political power. If that were not so it would be impossible for different parties to adopt exactly or almost exactly the same program.

That’s all the advantages of political democracy as he sees it. This program, that both parties adopt more or less exactly, and the individuals who compete for power, they express a narrow conservative ideology, basically the interests of one or another element in the corporate elite, with some modifications.

Now this is obviously no conspiracy. I think it’s simply implicit in the system of corporate capitalism. These people and the institutions they represent are, in effect, in power, and their interests are the national interest. It’s this interest that is served primarily and overwhelmingly by the overseas Empire and the growing system of military state-capitalism at home. If we were to withdraw the consent of the governed, as I think we should, we’re withdrawing our consent to have these men and the interests they represent govern and manage American society and impose their concept of world order and their criteria for legitimate political and economic development on much of the world.

How this works out in practical terms varies considerably even among those who are in agreement about the desirability of withdrawing consent.


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