Where we lost America

From: Alex F. Bokov (alexboko@umich.edu)
Date: Sat Oct 27 2001 - 14:31:24 MDT


Where it comes to civil liberties, perhaps our Acchiles Heel is this:

The Constitution was written in a time that more closely approximated
bricks-n-mortar classical capitalism. There was no such thing as a
multinational corporation. The only rapacious supra-human entities
they had to worry about were religons and governments. And they came
up with some solid, elegant, well thought out ways to protect humans
from both.

When businesses started getting big, they managed to get themselves
treated as quasi-people rather than quasi-governments (the legal
precedent of corporate personhood). Oops. It wouldn't have been so bad
if the Constitution has prescribed guidelines on how individuals may
behave toward each other, which would therefore apply to these
corporation-people. But it doesn't-- the Constitution only applies to
what the Federal government can and can't do. Perhaps this was
deliberately to limit the power of the Constitution itself. Or
ironically, perhaps a subtle, lingering statist bias made the Framers
focus their attention on the government and completely ignore
individual conduct.

But for whatever reason, there is no actual Constitutional reason an
individual can't go out and enslave, rob, or maim another individual.
In a bricks-n-mortar world, this was less of a problem, because there
was a practical limit to the coercive force one individual could bring
to bear on another... and the 'home court advantage' that underlies
our sense of rights and property was usually enough to deter all but
the most determined assaults. The latter could be resolved by the
judicial and executive branches of government as they arose. The
system wasn't foolproof, as slavery and disenfranchisement of women
demonstrated-- if a type of aggression is sufficiently widespread and
entrenched, the defender's advantage against the aggressor evaporates.

Such cases have become the norm rather than the exception, perhaps
explaining the litigious turn our culture has taken. There are now
thousands of corporate pseudo-persons running loose that have SO much
more power than individuals that they can exercise de facto tyrannical
control over them through the mere threat of firing, lawsuit, and
outright coercion. Since the rules governing how they can treat you
are legislative rather than Constitutional, they are easier to
change. You have one vote. Time-Warner/AOL has many millions. Which
type of entity will most likely influence the legislation in its

Perhaps basement nanofactories will solve this. But only if a
collusion of government and oligopolists doesn't get to pre-emptively
dictate the terms under which they are manufactured and used.

- --
* I believe that the majority of the world's Muslims are good, *
* honorable people. If you are a Muslim and want to reassure me and *
* others that you are part of this good, honorable majority, all *
* you need to say are nine simple words: "I OPPOSE the Wahhabi cult *
* and its Jihad." *

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