N e o – E l i t i s m

Deconstructing the Ruling Class for the Masses

To Regulate or Not to Regulate: That is the Question

I have been thinking a lot about the ineffectiveness of regulatory systems, and the relationship to Ecologist Garrett Hardin’s Tragedy of the Commons concept for understanding how we come to be at the brink of numerous environmental [and economic] catastrophes. In 2011 the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service declared the Eastern Mountain Lion extinct, exemplifying a precarious system at best, and showing that impotent laws cannot prevent total destruction. Some small scale regulatory models are effective, such as issuing fishing licenses to ensure a recreational lake remains fully stocked, for example –where anyone can get a fishing license, and catch a limit of fish during a certain time period. Regulating works at the smaller municipal level because the economic laws of substitution and demand have limited externalities. We can effectively regulate, and self-manage commonly-held resources without the interference of powerful monied interests, only if there is minimal commerce to gain from its exploitation. Most people in the fishing community example may not even want to fish, but the people that do might be forced to fish elsewhere if an increase in demand makes it difficult to get a license -even if the fees remain unchanged. Greater demand, or an increase in fees, can force people to substitute the activity altogether, but through effective regulatory management the ecosystem of the lake remains intact for future citizens along with its related economy.

On a larger scale, since our government does not ‘physically’ catch or redistribute fish that others have caught, it tries to regulate the supply to protect a sustainable industry and dependent economies. It is not a good thing for anyone –especially for people with modest means– if ineffective regulating causes a downward spiral in supply and consequent increases in price, but it is much worse if the Tragedy of the Commons becomes reality, and we are left without a species or related industries altogether.

Problems like corruption and global consensus complicate matters when we turn regulatory models to economies of scale. Large companies swell with ranks of employees that help to aggregate great sums of corporate wealth and power. Becoming too big to fail through a codependent rapacious relationship is almost guaranteed by design, thus the reliant parties are held hostage; threatened with the prospect of widespread unemployment, economic loss and suffering. Government becomes a revolving door for these large companies to place people in positions of power, corrupting our highest officials with large reciprocal donations, and lobbying our lawmakers to rewrite legislation favoring the interests of the few. Powerful companies and business alliances inevitably end up in control of regulatory bodies, thus perpetuating the Tragedy of Commons by one company or shadow cartel, and ironically in the name of free-market supply and prosperity for all. Globally we are all in the same lake, so to speak, and supply-side nations with weak or nonexistent enforcement (prearranged by neoliberal policies of globalization) add to a global Tragedy of the Commons, as do consuming first-world nations that drive the excessive worldwide demand.

Even more challenges arise when we change the regulatory focus from conservation of natural resources, like fish, forests, water and oil, to prevention of environmental damage, like smog, or carcinogenic contamination. Regulation confers a legal right to exist, making it legal to pollute a certain amount, or a specific area. Regulating does not prevent places like cancer alley, or the ubiquity of Persistant Organic Pollutants, nor does it avert needless nuclear fall-out from the tragic disaster at Fukushima, which may be a harbinger to even worse U.S. catastrophes.

To enforce regulations, the courts issue ineffective fines, and handout deferred prosecution to big businesses, but the laws are influenced and crafted by these same big businesses and their groups, through PR firms, think tanks, lobbyists, and highly paid corporate attorneys. These battles can only be fought at the Federal or State level since local governments lack the resources to stand up to big business bullying, as seen recently with hydraulic fracturing across the nation, or the Koch brothers monied interests. Unfortunately municipalities do not have the capacity to defy the State and Federal government’s over-ruling commerce laws, which allow and legitimize the bullying. Regulating may work in simplistic economic models without competing externalities, but the answers in the real world need to be debated transparently in government, and in universities, if they are to get resolved.

What are some alternative ideas to regulating? Can nature itself be given constitutional rights? Dean Baker of the Center for Economic and Policy Research writes about taxes and subsidies and the inefficiencies of cap and trade, vs. war. Is Cap and Dividend any better, or is it just another elitist neo-liberal ruse? Even success requires vigilance against the dismantling corruption of revolving door politics and the self-interests of greed. Self-interest lives in the short run, and as Keynes put it, “In the long-run we’re all dead.” Is it human nature to wish for the long term, but live in the short term? Jared Diamond speaks at a Ted conference about why societies collapse, outlining a conflict of interest between competing elites and the rest of society. Nobel Prize-winning economist Elinor Ostrom proved that people can—and do—work together to manage commonly-held resources without degrading them. These (CPR) Common Pool Resources of self management are sustainable without the interference of big business. Governments create vast national parks that currently fight to protect our natural resources, but can they also just outlaw smog, or toxins, or Fracking? It’s not the same as outlawing marijuana or cocaine, is it?

-Ice Goldberg

Here are a few choice Podcasts for your commute with Thomas Linzey Esq. and Mari Margil on Democracy Matters

  1. Regulatory Vs. Rights Based Law
  2. The New Civil Rights Movement is Growing
  3. Citizens United Discussion
  4. Democracy Matters Podcast page

Blogs and Videos

  1. Rights Fight: Local Democracy vs. Factory Farms The Entrenched Powerful Interests
  2. Linzey is creating an environmental movement Rights of Nature (VIDEO) The Pachamama and Global Alliances
  3. De Young, R. (1999) Tragedy of the Commons
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March 12, 2011 Posted by | Corruption, Elitism, Globalization, Green | , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment