Occupy Everywhere

The basic problem facing the Occupy movement is that representative democracy barely works. It can resolve a single litmus test issue. If a congressman cannot get elected while holding an unpopular opinion on a litmus test issue, the people can force that issue. Alas, the more issues being contested at a given time, the more a representative can run on personality, abstract theory, vague values and generalities. While in the early days of the United States there were often issues like slavery that rose to such a level of importance, today's culture is much more complex. Money has become more important than issues in deciding elections.

Thus, the key litmus test idea ought to be to equate campaign finance as currently practiced with bribery. The US Supreme Court has ruled otherwise. They have associated bribery with free speech. Changing this under law would require a constitutional amendment.

Still, there is much that can be done before the constitutional amendment. Indeed, there is much that will have to be done before such an amendment might be passed.

I would propose a list.

  1. Vote out elected officials that accept corporate money. Make dirty money a liability in campaigns rather than an asset. As a rule of thumb, if a candidate has lots of TV adds slickly produced, you vote for the other guy.
  2. Boycott corporations that bribe. The Occupy movement ought to develop information resources that specify how much each corporation spends on bribery, on what issues, and to what degree such spending is directed on profit rather than something that might plausibly be in the public interest.
  3. Force policy through stockholder votes. A lot of stock is owned by the Ninety Nine Percent as part of investment and retirement plans. Propose votes which limit or ban bribery.
  4. Maintain the protests. The issue must be kept in the public eye.
  5. Resist letting the Occupy movement becoming too tied in with other issues. The movement will attract progressives. There will be a temptation to endorse this position or that, do develop a comprehensive platform. The more controversies one embraces, the harder it will be to develop a clear majority interested in functional government.

If the objective is to end bribery, a clear line ought to be drawn between bribery and free speech. There should be no attempt to limit or punish corporate propaganda. The corporation should be understood as having an absolute right to hire public relations companies and buy media access. There is a need, however, to reject with prejudice anything that appears to influence government representatives. Donating to campaign funds, think tanks, political action committees and similar organizations that promote the welfare of politicians should result in loss of business to the corporation. Accepting such bribes should result in loss of votes to the politician.