The common good is becoming less common

Prolific author Robert Reich is Professor of Public Policy at the University of California, Berkeley, and a senior fellow at the Blum Center for Developing Economies.

Reviewing Reich’s 2018 The Common Good in the New York Times, Harvard scholar Michael J. Sandel called the author one of the most prominent voices among progressives. The professor’s book examines an ongoing decline of the common good, which Reich defines as being about “what we owe one another as citizens who are bound together in the same society.”

Reich believes those values include respect for the rule of law and democratic institutions, toleration of our differences and belief in equal political rights and equal opportunity. These have been undermined by unrestrained pursuit of money, power, and hyperpartisanship.

Rech says large corporations have ceased to worry about well-being of workers, customers and the communities served.

The unbridled pursuit of power and profit has brought an enormous flow of corporate money into politics. The result is a rigged system that perpetuates inequality, enables economic elites to manipulate the rules of the game to their own advantage, undermines trust in institutions and promotes attitudes of unrestrained self-seeking in social life generally.

Robert B. Reich’s Recipe for a Just Society

A recent newsletter article by Professor Reich is titled How to end corporate welfare:

Congress has so far failed to provide most Americans with what they need to weather the storm — subsidies for childcare and eldercare, paid sick leave, an increase in the federal minimum wage, lower pharmaceutical costs, additional help with the next strain of COVID, and so on.

At the very same time, American corporations are lining up with their hands outstretched, seeking all sorts of special benefits. And there’s bipartisan support for giving them what they want.

Reich examines the crippling microchip shortage currently threatening the economy. He says the U.S. Congress is about to approve a $52 billion subsidy demanded by the biggest chip makers as a condition for making more chips in America. Intel, the world’s largest seller of chips is led by CEO Pat Gelsinger who got a total compensation package of $179 million in 2021. As of March of this year, Intel was sitting on cash and short-term investments of almost $40 billion USD.

Reich says the chip makers are engaged in pure extortion.

Every industry that can possibly be considered “critical” is now lobbying the U.S. government for subsidies, tax cuts, and regulatory exemptions, in return for designing and making stuff in America. But they’re lobbying in other nations, too.

It’s a giant global shakedown...

The reality is that global corporations have no loyalty to any nation. As the then-CEO of U.S.-based ExxonMobil unabashedly stated, “I’m not a U.S. company and I don’t make decisions based on what’s good for the U.S.”

While Robert Reich writes about American politics and economics, Canada is not much different. This country’s main political parties are tightly embraced by the business world, and large corporations are given broad influence. They exercise it regularly.

This week, Scotiabank complained that high levels of federal spending are hurting the fight against inflation. The corporation was less concerned about the issue when Scotiabank took tens of billions of dollars in government supports in recent years. That helped them finance fossil fuel businesses with C$148 billion and provide monetary support to the industry’s climate change denial lobby.

Categories: Economics

2 replies »

  1. Would also suggest John Restakis’ Civilizing The State, New Society Publishers. It’s a concise and incisive overview of the need to refresh democracy and the commons with some interesting case histories. Available as a .pdf, I’ve also circulated my physical copy to a few people who might constitute fertile ground for some discussion.


    • A video of five minutes with John Restakis has been added to the article. He talks about social justice and how the state could relate to common people, not just elite interests.


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