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Our Citizens, Governments, and Corporations

05 Oct

Link.

“Governments only ever do the right thing to the extent that they are browbeaten and shamed into it by their citizens. If citizens sit back and accept that governments can’t or won’t behave responsibly and ethically, then governments can pursue money and power shamelessly.

If, however, citizens refuse to be ignored and marginalized, then governments sometimes respond decently. This has happened from time to time, for example in 1970, when the overwhelming support of the public prodded the federal government into introducing public health care over the hysterical opposition of doctors’ associations and insurance companies.

It also happened in the 1840s when a bunch of poor farmers forced the Crown to make public education a core principle of the British North America act, against the will of the aristocrats who believed that educating farmers was a waste of money.

These events and others stand out against the grain, but they help define what is good about our society, what works about our governments.

It is because of good public education, a vigorous health care system, regulated utilities, food and water inspection, and so on that we have as comfortable a society as we do. Those services exist because citizens demanded them, not because the ‘free market’ provided them.

In fact, they generally exist in spite of the market, and in all cases market forces are trying to undermine and scale back these services.

Ironically, the market benefits markedly from a healthy, well educated public, so current efforts to privatize and deregulate public services will only weaken the foundation of the market down the road. However, the logic of markets does not extend to long term planning, only to the short-term interest of individual players.”

Some wisdom from Canada, which I found while googling Joel Bakan’s book The Corporation, on which the film The Corporation was based. “Joel Bakan is professor of law at the University of British Columbia, and an internationally recognized legal scholar. A former Rhodes Scholar and law clerk to Chief Justice Brian Dickson of the Supreme Court of Canada, he has law degrees from Oxford, Dalhousie, and Harvard.” Anyone thinking it is a good idea to privatise schooling should read Chapter Five of the book which deals especially with the Edison experience in the USA, the subject of this PBS documentary.

See also this from the NEA site in the US.

…sadly, some proportion of the drive toward privatization, and toward its related trends — home schooling, charter schools, etc. — is “correctly” motivated by some degree of failure on the part of the public schools, wherever that failure is rooted. In other words, to some extent, people are asking the right question, but privatization is, emphatically, and dangerously, the wrong answer.

It’s easy enough to point to the main reason why privatization is the wrong answer, which is that it is essentially anti-democratic. The American ideal, beleaguered as it is, still rests dead-center on the concept of democracy, and democracy requires the independent mind of the publicly educated individual. You can’t have a democracy when your mind is branded “Coke” or “Pepsi.”

Indeed, that’s the problem with American politics more generally at this point in history. People have a hard time even conceiving of an issue, much less taking a position on one, that isn’t predicated on whether they’re on the “Democratic” or “Republican” side of that issue. The media handily reduces issues to black-and-white oppositions (or, to use the color scheme the television networks seem universally to have adopted to cover presidential elections, red-and-blue oppositions), devoid of nuance, complexity, and ambiguity.

To develop a capacity to deal with nuance, complexity, and ambiguity is one of the chief goals of getting an education, but it’s important to recognize that it’s also a huge threat to monopolies, oligarchies, plutocracies, and their ilk. When you are not the kind of person who buys any party line hook, line, and sinker, you’re hard to control. Which — not surprisingly at all — is the even deeper reason why the powerful are pushing to wreck public education …

They want us dumb, folks: fat, mesmerized, and dumb.

Rehearse these arguments, as Dr Thing’s Brain Kevin (and therefore Dr Thing) have this American aberration, this surrender of core government responsibility, in mind for your kid’s future.

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Posted by on October 5, 2005 in America, Australia and Australian, Canada, culture wars, current affairs, education, globalisation/corporations, human rights, industrial relations, Political, right wing politics

 

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