Governments and Citizens – Who Maintains the Norms?

Maybe too often mariner addresses circumstances about the future of mankind. Typically, the circumstances are beyond the focus of contemporary politics and culture. Nevertheless, the future presents dilemmas about which we are unaccustomed and we fail to recognize their importance in a timely manner – let alone prepare to deal with them as current political situations.

Even at this moment, the United States is struggling. It is struggling because we are not prepared to deal with global issues that did not exist when our Constitution was created. Suddenly, our leadership among world nations seems inadequate. Why?

In just a few years the attitude of the American Citizen has changed from tolerance to intolerance. Congress suddenly is drawing attention from its constituents. The Presidency has been struck a fateful blow by a wary and vulnerable electorate. Populism has emerged. The American Citizen senses a change in the wind.

Speaking in broad terms, eighteenth century capitalism is insufficient to support the moral obligations of global society. As corporatists and oligarchs leverage international markets which did not exist before the Internet and as data storage capacity expands to unimaginable size, common citizens are left behind in shrinking, community-based markets and economies whose norms, ethics and responsibilities are irrelevant to global economics.

When mariner was a much younger man, he lived near a small town in rural Pennsylvania. A town business, not very large as businesses go but the largest employer in the area, closed. Mariner stood looking at the empty buildings one day wondering why the business owners didn’t sustain their community responsibilities – they owed the town. If the business failed, go into another business; if it was a single-owner business, why not sell it to the community? The point was that the business owed the community something. Certainly the community gave to the business through its workers. The region’s economy failed. The personal obligations of commerce were ignored. The town be damned. Tough luck, folks.

Today, it isn’t a small business in a small town. It is Ford, Aetna, A.G. Edwards, 3Com, Amazon.com, Bank of America, Black and Decker, Cooper Tire… thousands of businesses. Leveraging modern technology, even if the business does not relocate to another country, it outsources jobs overseas or operates out of tax haven countries. These options are new because of computerization. These options have no ties to small towns or big cities or a community’s expected norms. And, to their benefit, corporations and oligarchs are no longer constrained by one nation’s regulations or one nation’s economy or one culture’s expectations; that means they are beyond the imposition of unions, worker benefit regulations, labor regulations in general and especially even paying taxes to support any national activity that may be of benefit to the nation or its people.

The governments of the United States, Federal, State and local, identify themselves in turn as keepers of the economy, of state-centric solutions to economy, and of infrastructure. None feel obligated to be champions for people – just economies and infrastructure. The citizenry senses a change in the wind but the governments are not addressing human exposure to international and global changes already occurring.

The changing wind is the source of the great schism between conservatives and liberals that exists today. Conservatives want to reduce the role of government, even take it back to the role of government in the middle of the last century. Liberals want to regulate corporations and wealth in behalf of the common man, even to the extent of using the economy as a tool to protect citizenry from new abuses occurring in the global economy. Speaking broadly, it is a conflict between capitalism and socialism. Speaking to readers, neither word is bad but they are different. It’s a question of functionality. Which is needed most to provide shelter for community norms, mores, and sustenance?

Ancient Mariner

 

Leave a Reply