Reich - SUPERCAPITALISM The Transformation of Business,...

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Unformatted text preview: SUPERCAPITALISM The Transformation of Business, Democracy, and Everyday Life ROBERT B. REICH A LFR ED A . K N O PF " N EW Y O R K 2007 CHAPTER FOUR DEMOCRACY OVERWHELMED A MERICA~qS ARE losing confidence in democracy, as are many of the inhabitants of other democracies. As I observed at the outset of this book, thirty-five years ago the vast majority of Americans thought our democratic government was run for the benefit of all the people. But over the intervening decades, that confidence has steadily declined. Now the vast majority thinks it is run by a few big interests looking out for them- selves. Surveys done in other democracies show a similar pattern of declin- ing trust and confidence in government? What happened? None of the conventional explanations, as noted, is persuasive. A more likely cause, in America and to a lesser but increasing extent elsewhere, is the expanding role of money in politics--especially money coming from large corporations3 As I shall argue, that money is a by-product of the very feature of supercapitalism that has led to its economic triumph-- intensifi/ing competition among firms for consumers and investors. That competition has spilled over into politics, as corporations have sought to gain competitive advantage through public policy. The perverse result has been to reduce the capacity of democracy to respond to citizens concerns. THERE IS little debate over what has happened. The ever-rising flood of corporate money into Washington and other capitals is apparent. The confusion is over why it has happened. An important clue is found by looking at when the escalation began. 131 SUPERCAPITALISM Before the corporate money poured in, Washington svas a rather seedy place--"a city of Southern efficiency and Northern charm," as John E Kennedy put it. 3 Even by the mid-I97os, when I worked there as a politi- cal appointee at the Federal Trade Commission, much of the downtown was still run-down. Id take any lobbyist who insisted on lunch to a cockroach-infested sand~vich shop on the other side of Pennsylvania Avenue, after which I ~vould never see the lobbyist again. But when I returned to Washington in the t99os, the town had been transformed. The sandwich shop was long gone; the avenue now glittered with the pol- ished facades of refurbished hotels, fancy restaurants, and trendy bistros. The dazzle stretched from Georgetown to Capitol Hill--office complexes of glass, chrome, and polished wood; well-appointed condominiums with doormen who knew the names and needs of each inhabitant; hotels with marble-floored lobbies, thick rugs, soft music, and granite counters; restau- rants with linen napkins, leather-bound menus, and heavy silverware, which served $75 steaks and offered $4oo magnums of vintage French wine. Charlie Palmer Steak, at the base of Capitol Hill, featured a ten- thousand-botde ~vine cellar. The Bistro Bis, attached to the Hotel George, offered lightly breaded, crisply fried flogs legs and sweetbreads Zingara.offered lightly breaded, crisply fried flogs legs and sweetbreads Zingara....
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This note was uploaded on 02/22/2012 for the course SOC 1010 taught by Professor Angelikagulbis during the Spring '08 term at Toledo.

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Reich - SUPERCAPITALISM The Transformation of Business,...

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