How Governance became Unethical

Today I received a talk on “How Governance Became Unethical” (the link will download the slides for you) by my friend Prabhu Guptara. This is excepted from my email conversation with him.

I read the slides and I have to admit that I have lots of problems with them. He seems to posit the problem as a generalized, cultural-moral evolution without a driving force. Perhaps the exception to this is the reference to Global Elites and Class war on the slide of Jeff Faux (wonderfully ironic last name!) When we float in the ideal sphere of cultural memes we fail to see that there is a driving force in culture and the whole relational network that shown on slides 20 and 21. Speaking in terms of cultural memes (rather than the ‘real world’ of economic elites) the driving ideals of the current US relational system is the Laws of Mammon: 1) Acquire/Accumulate Mammon 2) Protect Mammon 3) Enjoy the benefits and graces of Mammon. Since the levers of culture, government, law, justice, finance/economy are in the hands of the elite servants of these laws of Mammon, merely positing that there is another better way to organize society is doomed to be mere tilting at windmills.

I think we need to see what changes we can make in law and justice as a small practical beginning, for instance, prosecuting elites who are responsible for frauds as a lever to bring about a system of justice and rule of law rather than justice for the poor but forgiveness for the elites. I am not hopeful at wholesale change without a collapse scenario, for instance environmental or economic.

My friend wrote: Actually, the situation is that, as the performance criteria for the “elite servants” are defined in “Mammonic” terms, if any of the “elite servants” refuses to perform to these criteria, or is unable to do so, s/he is replaced by another “elite servant” ready to tackle the task with renewed energy.

I couldn’t agree more. During the 70’s I read a lot of Peter Drucker. He was a proponent of “shareholder value” and later “stakeholder value” as he went into talking about non-profits. Though he has been out of favor in b-school curricula for the last 30 years his ideas were precursors to the enshrining of profit and shareholder value into the thinking, and even governance statements of all of our corporations here and in Europe and now world-wide. CEOs who do not perform, or even pursue non profit oriented subsidiary goals are excoriated by ‘activist investors.’ Every move is calculated to extract the most amount of money out of the system. This is aided and abetted by academic economists and finance and b-school professors. In the finance world the skewing of the metrics toward Mammon’s laws undercuts any notion of even service to the clients: they are termed “chumps” and “muppets” by the investment bankers and hedge fund partners. CEOs can extract handsome packages while consciously bankrupting their companies and face no loss of their wealth (e.g. Lehman and WaMu) The market discipline works only against the small fry not against the elites. This is not justice anymore, not legal justice, not economic justice not social justice.

My Friend said: “in any democratic system there is always hope of change “from below”; in totalitarian societies there is usually only hope of change “from above” (unless there is a revolution, of course)”

Some grassroots movements have been hopeful. Grassroots democratic change, to become successful, must become organized into a platform which is electable. But the elite will react to forestall that. We must realize that the “Occupy” movement in the US was consciously crushed by a federally coordinated police attack on all of the cities where it was active at the same time. That type of police tactic has been used in the past by the powerful to try to stifle dissent, it has been successful as well in the past, at least for a while. If citizens activism gets to a level where elites are discomfited then we should expect them to enlist police tactics against the citizens. Jay Gould is reported as saying a long time ago: “I can hire half the working class to kill the other half of the working class.” Nothing new in power politics.

It is for this reason that I see little hope as well in looking to the Fed/Yellen or Central bankers or Economics departments. If by some miracle one of them should sprout a conscience then they would be swiftly isolated and removed – given some sinecure at some think tank or university… Even the progressive hope the Obama v.2008 seemed to hold out – a hope that was responded to by millenials world wide and even had cynical old me voting for him – became the horror of continued Guantanamo, wars, drones, attacks on whistleblowers, growth in the security state to Orwellian totalitarian scope, reduced constitutional rights, coddling of banksters. What hope can we really have in a democratic society which is perverted by a plutocratic elite in service to Mammon?

Prabhu responded: However, even in tyrannies, followers of Jesus the Lord are called to struggle for truth, righteousness, justice and mercy, whatever the personal cost of doing so

If anything Jesus cried out in the Temple “marketplace” for justice. We as his followers should at least live up to that legacy of speaking truth and naming injustice to the powerful.

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