If you’ve ever watched science fiction either in movies or television, you’d be familiar with a reoccurring theme.  It’s the human pursuit of technology and science ultimately creating something beyond our control.  From Frankenstein to the Terminator, the narrative is a common one.  We conceive of supercomputers that eventually out think and turn on their designers.  We produce cures for diseases that give rise to inconceivable mutations turning us into zombies. Our own hubris painfully exposed when we start believing we are the masters of nature, and not a minor component of natures’ overall design.  Putting aside fiction, there is one reality based entity we’ve invented that might actually realize that theme: the corporation.  The corporation may just prove to be that thing that expands beyond the control of it’s’ creators.  

Last week the U.S. Supreme Court  (Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission) removed any existing restrictions on corporate involvement in campaign financing, allowing them limitless participation and funding for elections.  Corporations and other moneyed interests have hardly been wall flowers when it comes to campaign financing, but this decision allows unlimited involvement.  Ironically, the disputed case before the court came down to a matter of the First Amendment or free speech.  They argued since corporations are considered by the court to be individuals with full rights, to restrain their ability to infinitely finance elections would violate their First Amendment.  Alan Grayson, the democratic representative from Florida, made a clever but ominous observation about this ruling in that representatives will no longer be called ‘the congressman from such-in-such a place’, but rather the ‘congressman from Microsoft’, or ‘the representative from Citigroup’.  The Supreme Court has really let the genie out of the bottle this time and its ruling makes Grayson’s’ prediction a de facto possibility since corporations will only bank roll candidates who support their agenda, and in case you haven’t noticed, they tend not to side with the little guy.  If left unregulated, power and money tend to consolidate and those with both rarely relinquish their position.  It’s also worth noting that the court did not limit its decision to American businesses.  Indeed, multinationals worldwide can now join in the fire sale. 

Viewed in context, the damaging influence this ruling will have on resolving issues like global warming or escalating economic inequities seems obvious.  Progress usually requires rethinking and redefining the status quo.  But if the status quo ends its long term courtship and marries concentrated wealth, change and progress will not be in the prenup.  Question: Who’s interest does the Supreme Court represent and defend?

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