Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Will Gen Y Separate Business From State?

This is a bit of a philosophical piece, considerably speculative in nature.

It has occurred to me in the last few weeks that we have a problem in the Western world that needs to be addressed - the notion of separating Business from the State.  

While history seldom repeats itself explicitly, it does repeat in varying degrees.  The process of separating church from state began with the Magna Carta's signing.  While the Magna Carta was about limiting the powers of the English monarchy, it inherently started the process of limiting the ability of the power structure in the ecclesiastic world from driving state policy.  At that point in time, senior clergy had very direct access to the monarch, and therefore, very direct influence on the direction of state.  It is, in fact, that reality which gave the Church such wonderful advantages as being property rich and tax exempt.  

Today, it seems to me that big business has achieved a place in the power structure of our governments that is similarly privileged to the Medieval Church.  As a case in point, we have the gutting of Canada's environmental laws and agencies, done by the Harper Government largely at the request of oil industry in a recent omnibus budget bill.  Further, the costs of government have been steadily downloaded from the largest income groups - the wealthy, large corporations, etc. - to the middle class.  

What has happened here is that over the course of the last half of the 20th Century, business has moved into very much the same place that used to be occupied by the clerics in the Middle Ages.  Instead of Bishops and the like sitting at the monarch's side, we have lobbyists paid by mega corporations to forward their legislative agendas; big money like the Koch brothers are well known to purchase influence through Political Action Committees (PACs), astroturfing organizations and other vehicles.  The net effect is that politicians no longer worry about whether they can gain the support of voters, but rather spend their time courting the support of the big money types that can afford to spend huge dollars buying votes with enormous advertising campaigns.   

The upshot?  Politicians no longer feel beholden to the voters, but rather spend the bulk of their attentions on the interests of the corporate big money interests that have their direct attention.

This is not necessarily new - the wealthy and powerful have always sought a place of privilege at the table of power.  In the past, this included the Christian Church.  Eventually, as the notion of secularism grew and the concept of religion as an individual freedom took hold, society moved collectively to separate government from the influence of specific religious movements.  (I will, for the moment, maintain the fiction that this is true in the US and Canada, although I do personally recognize the growing influence of religious extremism in the US on government)

What has changed is the alignment of interests.  As North America came out of the Great Depression, there was an alignment of objectives between the wealthy and the middle classes, reflected in FDR's "New Deal" economic program, and other parallel endeavours in other parts of the world.  Over the last thirty years or so, that alignment of interests and objectives has diverged significantly.  To the extent that government that is supposed to represent the interests of the people has ceased to do so on multiple levels.

In part, this is the consequence of the Baby Boom generation having gained power and lost sight of what power means; in part it is a reflection of the ever increasing concentration of wealth and power in the hands of a relatively small number of people who are becoming more and more wealthy, and have gained control over the levers of power with their wealth.  The political disengagement of the Gen X, Gen Y and Millenial generations comes as no big surprise - they are individually much smaller than the Boomers, and have been unable to influence the juggernaut that started with the rise of the neoCons in the early 1980s.

However, the combined size of these three generations, combined with the Baby Boom generation starting to retire (and ride off into the sunset) does change the available dynamics.  As these three generations become allies, it is my hope that collectively they will start the process of disconnecting the big money power brokers from the government, returning it to the people and their collective interests.

1 comment:

Kate said...

I think the factor that will bring Gen X, Y and the millennials together is their capacity to endure change. The world has speed up enormously and I am quite inclined to believe most boomer are suffering from a sever case of 'future shock.'

This is akin to a trauma at suddenly finding themselves 'outside' a society which is screaming to race past them. Of course instead of taking part which they find difficult because of the speed of it they choose to try and control it. Using all manner of corporate and religious tools they currently posses to manhandle things 'back to the good old days.' I am reminded of a US senator who gave a speech about the floundering US postal service in the face of modernity. He argued for a campaign to teach young people the greater importance of letter writing, rather then trying to adapt to the changing time.

Another is an ever increasing nuanced morality which has been growing ever since gen X and is seemingly reaching a peek with 'sick lit' books; these books are directed to 11 and 16 year olds usually written by gen x,y for millennials. These books Deal with death and complex moral topics which would be unthinking to present to children before the 1970's.

Interesting stuff though, I wouldn't be surprised if in the next 20 or 30 years we will suddenly take off.