I don’t know anything about Rushkoff, but I certainly agree that there is a long history of big government and big business helping each other at our expense.
In fact, there is an absolutely off-the-wall kook radio guy, Thom Hartmann, who is constantly railing against corporatism and big corporations. I find myself agreeing with him on the malevolence of big corporations. Unfortunately, his solution is more government—as is the case with all liberals.
The irony here is that historically it’s been liberals, progressives, and Democrats that have encouraged the growth of huge corporations in the very way that Rushkoff speaks about—i.e. making it too expensive for anyone but the biggest to compete with the feds. Rushkoff sounds like a Hartmann kind of guy, in that big business is the evil and more and bigger government is the solution. Am I wrong?
“The two – government and big business – will always grow together. The trick is getting them to shrink together.”
That’s a way of putting it that I hadn’t heard before and I like it!
I loathe the knee-jerk anti-corporatism and general suspicion of the the profit motive so entrenched in The Left. But 50 years later Eisenhower’s warning about the military industrial complex seems insufficiently broad. My thought had been that government is the Incorporation of the People and serves as a balance to corporate interests, but I feel less confident about that now.
Innovation would seem to induce at least a little churn in the private sector. Maybe I have the wrong expectations of government.
Anyway, Mr. Kain, thanks for the new thought. When the weather breaks I’m going to push my mowers around the lawn and mediate on it!
Rushkoff’s thesis is actually that big intrusive government and corporate power are essentially inseparable and mutually reinforcing; the entire corporate structure was designed specifically to centralize wealth and power, as a means of preventing trade from undermining state authority. Corporations, in his view, are a racket, a state-imposed barrier against free commerce, instituted in the Renaissance era to keep people dependent on centralized finance and in debt-peonage to the crown.
So no, he does not believe more and bigger government is the solution. Quite the contrary, he believes the solution is bottom-up community involvement.
Most of the book is about how the corporate system became entrenched and remade society in its image. He doesn’t actually do much prescribing, actually – the only real policy proposals (from the last chapter and some of the accompanying videos) are for:
1.) issuing your own local currencies, exchangeable for goods and services you and your neighbors provide, rather than taking loans from a bank than was in turn loaned money by the state-controlled central bank
2.) making or doing things for yourself and your community through voluntary labor, rather than trading your labor to corporations for wages in government-issued debt (dollars), then trading those dollars to other corporations for stuff made or done by people you don’t know or care about, leaving the state to, at best, use some of the wealth extracted via this process to ameliorate the damage that the whole process inflicts on our interactions with each other.
All of which is to say that, yes, he’s a leftist, but he’s more of a communitarian than a conventional liberal of either the modern or classical variants.
Also, Consumatopia’s critique is I think the most trenchant one – that something resembling corporatism would have come into being anyway as a result of improved human mobility, and Rushkoff asserts more intention to its emergence and development than is warranted.