Thursday, March 22, 2012

Customers or Citizens?

From CounterPunch:

At the root of the long-standing distinction between businesses and customers on one hand, and governments and citizens on the other, is that the experience of being a customer and being a citizen are (or at least traditionally have been) framed by fundamentally different imperatives.

When I go into a store to buy something, my actions are generally guided by a concern to which all other considerations are decidedly subsidiary: getting the “most” –be it measured in quantity or quality–product for my money.

Though I may also go to a government agency to “get” something, that effort to obtain a good or service is necessarily mediated by concerns for the commonwealth. Indeed, that is one of the prime purposes of government: to establish mechanisms that that give voice to collective goals of one type or another, transcendant aims that necessarily ask us curb or tame all that we might desire in the privacy of our customarily covetous hearts.

Hence, when we allow the language of consumerism to be injected into the realm of the commons, we are effectively permitting the miseducation of the populace in regard to the relationship they can and should expect to have with the government.

More here.

Right. And this miseducation simply plays into the hands of psychotic right-wing forces that want to destroy the government, or at least, as anti-tax crusader Grover Norquist once put it, "shrink it down to the size where we can drown it in the bathtub." Same difference. The point here, however, is the longstanding conservative meme that government ought to not only favor business by never touching it at all, but that it should also be run like a business. Of course, I'm not really sure what that means exactly because government and commerce are two separate and distinct concepts, very often with conflicting or mutually exclusive motivations and goals. But here we have Romney and others once again pushing that now tired concept that what the US really needs is a businessman to get all our affairs in order.

And that's a really bad idea.

Business' sole purpose is to create profit; government, however, and by that I mean our government, exists's always worth it to revisit our foundational documents:

We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.
The preamble to the Constitution tells us why we have government, and none of it says a damned thing about making a profit. Further, business is autocratic; government is democratic. Businessmen are woefully unprepared for the coalition forging, deal brokering, and hard nosed politicking needed in order to effectively run our democracy. I really have no idea why any American at all thinks we need a businessman in the Oval Office. It really is apples and oranges. Nonetheless, the notion persists, I assume, because of decades of American commerce worship. That is, our nation has to a great extent fetishized the businessman as the greatest possible position to hold in our culture, while making commerce our sole concern. In short, people believe this bullshit because of mythology.

Yeah, creationism isn't the only thing we have to fear.