Saturday, June 22, 2013

Updating Common Sense

By Gary Berg-Cross

Thomas Paine, author of COMMON SENSE, is perhaps the most controversial of America’s founding fathers. He certainly captured the democratic, revolutionary spirit and provided cogent arguments about the nature of society  While unjust government was the focus of that time, I wonder how he might adapt some of his arguments in Common Sense for our times.  Below is my reworking of the first few paragraphs of his Intro to Government to Common Sense. It is perhaps a bit of what Tom Paine might consider now.

SOME writers have so confounded corporations with society or government, as to leave little or no distinction between them; whereas they are not only different and have different interests, but have different origins. Society is produced by our wants, which government should help ensure and has licensed corporations to help in that task. Civil society promotes our happiness positively  by uniting our affections, and is balanced by governance that can restrain human vice and should likewise restrain corporate vice and encourage productive intercourse.  
  Society in every state is a blessing, but corporations like government even in their best state are but a necessary evil. In their worst state untied as crony capitalism or fascism an intolerable one. Crony capitalism seeks a largely society indifferent cooperation between the governing class, government representatives and business.

And in this crony capitalism cooperation many sly mechanisms are employed:

While this cooperation benefits invested business and political interests, its sly mechanisms generally hurts the politically and corporately unconnected and through them society as a whole. Over time the power and narrow benefits of crony capitalism lead to political and social corruption, a fact which my friend James Madison recognized when he noted, in a letter to mutual friend Tom Jefferson in 1788:

"Wherever there is an interest and power to do wrong, wrong will generally be done, and not less readily by a powerful & interested party than by a powerful and interested prince."

 For were the impulses of need to be satisfied by corporations be clear, uniform, and irresistibly obeyed, consuming people would need not sign the fine print of arrangements and need a lawyer at every turn. But this not being the case in our daily life, we find it necessary to surrender up a part of our property and property to satisfy daily needs. ; Wherefore, the pursuit of happiness being the true design and end of society and its tools of corporation and government, it unanswerably follows that whatever form thereof appears most likely to ensure it to us, with the least expense and greatest benefit, is preferable to all others.


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