Can Occupy and the Tea Party Agree About Something?
Limits on Corporate Power
The corporation has other corporations, i.e. competition, to limit its power. This limiting force is undermined, however, because these corporations cooperate, and they integrate. That's it. You have no say in what they do or don't do.
For example, the company that makes the blockbuster films also makes the cameras, the lights, the sets, right up to the cinemas that play the movies, and the television shows and newspapers that review and promote the movie strategically.
This matters more when it is something that affects everyone, like the Asbestos industry in Canada: when large companies are doing construction they decide what products and tools the employees use. Hypothetically speaking, if the same companies also owned the asbestos companies, then they would make it the policy to install it. This industry also writes 'model legislation' and promote it so heavily to the Canadian Government that Canada is one of the only Western countries that actively promotes the use of asbestos, even while we remove it from the Parliament Buildings... selling it to other countries of course, because it is all but banned in Canada (See CUPE’s statement here).
Limits in and Control of Government Power
The system is designed to be inefficient, so that people can't go in and pass crazy legislation quickly and mess everything up. A divided Congress alone is the equivalent of having competition between the major auto companies. In addition to this, there is an elected official who can veto its bad decisions, and the courts to test their legality. The thing is, they also have to work together, or nothing happens at all. So government exercise of power is extremely limited.
Then there's the fact that you get to petition the government: they are supposed to listen to you because they represent you. Finally, and perhaps most relevantly, you vote on who you think should be in office. That means that if politicians do things you don't like, then you can fire them. This is completely impossible when it comes to corporations. Voting for your officials means that you have power over their agenda: they are there to serve you, and if they don't you fire them.
Back to the contrast: a corporation is not there to serve you, it's there to make money for its shareholders, and only in a derivative way will it be there for you. You can't determine their policies, AND you can't fire its leaders if they are going in the wrong direction.
In a word, corporate power is not limited on its own. Government power is internally limited. It is also designed to serve you, that is, being a representative democracy means that your government is an extension of your power as a citizen, and it is accountable to you, the voter.
Finally, a friend of mine tried to say that limits on the size of corporations are good, but that they are actually a matter of the Rule of Law (which Tea Partiers and OWS both champion), but not a matter of regulation. The problem is, this is a false distinction: a law that limits the size of corporations and corporate power just is regulation. This means that if you think that the amount of power that people (including corporate people) are allowed to have over you should be limited, then you need government to limit it.
There’s another part of the comparison I left out, and which a friend helpfully supplied, namely that we vote with our wallets. It isn’t Wal-Mart that puts local stores out of business, it’s the fact that we choose to buy things at Wal-Mart.
It is certainly true that we vote with our dollar.
To say that it is us, and not Wal-mart that puts local people out of business is like saying that it wasn't the gun that blew open his skull, it was that I chose to move my finger. Put otherwise: of course it's you who chose to pull the trigger, i.e. shop at Wal-Mart, and because of that, it's Wal-Mart; Wal-Mart just is the pattern of a lot of people spending their money outside of their own community for short-term savings.
It sucks that people freely choose to buy things at Wal-Mart and put their own town out of business, and line the pockets of someone living beyond the tax law of any country (GE for example paid $0 in US taxes last year, and received $3,200,000,000 in tax credits)
Why would people do that, when it hurts them and communities? Because we don't know what we are doing. One reason we don’t is that Wal-Mart spends a lot of advertising money to make us think that they are investing in our community.
Here’s an argument that Wal-Mart is good for communities. I think it is dubious where it deduces its results from made-up axioms of economic theory, assumes that because a person chooses something that she does so freely, and seems to think that having purchasing power and supporting your own community are mutually exclusive.
Here’s a discussion of how Wal-Mart has created astro-turf groups of “citizens” who are passionate about the benefits of the company to Chicago communities.
It's 12pm. Do you know what your money is doing?
But our current problem is that we never know what our money is doing. Did you know, for example, that there’s a good chance that you got some key minerals in your cell-phone, computer, or tv remote from an armed group that gains access to and secures these minerals through murder and systematically raping women to destabilize communities?
Did you know that by using plastic bags and buying bottled water (plastic everything) you are contributing to infertility and to enormous soups of plastic garbage that are collecting in the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans?
In politics we say one person one vote. When dollars are votes, however, it matters that 400 people in the US own more than the poorest 150,000,000 people—the bottom 50%--combined. Here is a visual representation, not of wealth, but of income:
Because we vote with our dollars, the Citizen’s United decision to allow corporations to freely spend to influence election results means that our votes will be utterly eclipsed.
This is exactly what OWS has a problem with: people with vastly more dollars have more votes. In addition, we are not in control of our money; we do not know, and cannot decide enough about what it is doing.
Tea Partiers, who like OWS support the free, robust individual, also support his ability to choose what happens with his money, and seek to protect him from the effects of other people's decisions. No matter whether that's really possible, it's clear that this person's vote and his freedom are both undermined by the power of money in the hands of the wealthy to shape our world.