Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Whom Does Government Serve?

Written by, Ian, an Aussie of considerable acumen.

In the Arthurian cycle, there is the myth of the Fisher King who lies in bed, maimed by a wound that cannot be healed.

The land outside is blasted, the archetypal Waste Land.

The King will only be healed, and the Waste Land regenerated, by a knight who shall ask the question "whom does the Grail serve?"

In our context, the question needs to be "whom does the government serve?"

We know the answer that Lincoln gave - I've quoted it previously.

'If government is to serve any purpose it is to do for others what they are unable to do for themselves.'

Let's try "there shall be no exercise of government without the consent of the governed " - it's a paraphrase of thoughts going back to John Locke, to the rebellion that saw King John forced to sign the Magna Carta, and - noting that women were not allowed a voice - to the democratic nature of Athens.

Does the government act for the people?

To the extent that government allies itself with powerful sectional interests, no, it does not.

As Dwight Eisenhower pointed out in his famous speech, we see a shadowy alliance between the military and industry - his "Military-Industrial Complex". Eisenhower was speaking of America, but the Japanese Zaibatsu (including Mitsubishi) were instrumental in the 1920~30 industrial colonisation of Korea/China, and were very ready to demand that the Japanese Imperial Forces invade to protect Zaibatsu assets.

Even before that, Cecil Rhodes had manufactured a conflict with the Boer government in South Africa, and was able to call on the British Army to support him, leading to the Boer War.

C. Wright Mills, in his seminal "The Power Elite" describes how easy it is for powerful figures to journey between government, the military and industry. Mills spoke of America, but we see the same phenomenon in Australia.

To Mills' observations, we can add the Fourth Estate, giving us a cosy, shadowy society of military, industry, government and media. Australia has a former Labor power broker, Graham Richardson, occupying media as a political commentator, and with his own radio show.

Mining companies and timber companies here in Australia have done - and are continuing to do - great and long-lasting damage to farmlands and to ancient native forests. When they are shown to be clearly in breach of our weak laws, they are either exonerated, or slapped on the wrist with minor penalties.

At the local level, we hear stories of political parties "stacking" branches with their favoured type of member. Meanwhile, the politics of negative campaigning cause us to become more and more cynical about politics, and more and more unashamed about our voting for the least bad of a pack of bastards.

Idealism and vision are absent from Australian politics, and the notion of government acting for the people has been transformed into doing what is possible.

One of our large hospitals has an emergency department running at about 180% of capacity, treating people sitting in chairs due to lack of beds.

The hospital needs only about 30 million dollars to extent facilities. This money cannot be found, but we will blow some 50 million (the figure is never disclosed!) on a car race - the Australian Grand Prix.

I think the Occupy Wall Street movement is one part of that grand question, also being asked by Arab Spring protesters" "Whom does the government serve?"