Protect us, government

Some lovely words to reflect on today: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. That, to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among men …”

Have you thought lately about the nature of government?

According to our Declaration of Independence, government is useful to secure rights of individuals.

Perhaps you believe, as I do, that big government equals big trouble, that “the government is best that governs least,” as Thomas Paine wrote.

That’s why I’m not a Democrat. Democrats are often seen as champions of big government. And that’s why I’m not a Republican, as those in power seem excessively interested in monitoring my personal life. (And spending our taxes on illegal wars, imprisoning human beings without trials. I could go on.)

Who we marry—that’s not the government’s business. Our reproductive choices? Ditto. What we eat, drink and smoke? Unless we’re endangering others, there’s no need for government involvement.

I recently needed an allergy-related drug available only with a prescription. That’s for my own good. If I didn’t have to visit a doctor for a prescription, I’d take all kinds of pills I don’t need. I might grow spots or a third eye.

The government protects me from myself.

By spying on citizens, the government protects us from evildoers.

The government protects us from Janet Jackson wardrobe malfunctions and the naughty words on the radio.

If I sound frustrated over this, it’s because I have Libertarian leanings. And I would be a Libertarian—except I believe the government can (and should) offer needed protection for individuals from the corporate tyranny that values profits over our rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of mere survival, to say nothing of happiness.

The messages we receive from media—what we eat, how we smell, how we educate our children, how often we go to war and why—all are influenced by a relatively small number of large companies that control much of the media, the food and fossil fuel industries and weapons manufacturing, among other things.

Have you seen the 2003 documentary The Corporation? Though slightly outdated, it offers insight into the rights our society has given to these legal constructions—"corporations"—that are accountable only to stockholders.

Why do we grant ‘unalienable rights’ to corporations?

“A corporation,” writes Kalle Lasn in Culture Jam, “has no heart, no soul, no morals. It cannot feel pain. You cannot argue with it. That’s because a corporation is not a living thing, but a process—an efficient way of generating revenue.”

It’s not bad to make money. As a freelance writer, I enjoy getting paid.

Corporate profits are trickier. Consider oil companies reaping huge rewards while the rest of us suffer from high gas prices. Consider the sky-rocketing salaries of corporate execs in the wake of defunct company pension plans. Wealth does not “trickle down” and make life better for all. While lakeside mansions proliferate, our poor are barely getting by, working multiple jobs to pay rent, going without health care and raising children to repeat the cycle.

The rights of the individual have been subsumed. We are distracted by the wrong debates.

Absolute power corrupts absolutely, and that’s what our three branches of government enjoy. This benefits those entities that, through campaign contributions, gifts and lobbying, keep our elected officials doing what’s best for the global corporate economy.

We’re the subjects of a new tyranny.

Thomas Paine also said: “When dictatorship is a fact, revolution is a right.”