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Bashing government won’t help, either

Letter from Art Goodtimes

Government & Corporations – January 2001 – Colorado Central Magazine

Dear Ed & Martha:

I can sure understand Lindell Cline’s frustration with government, particularly at the national level [Cline’s letter in the December, 2000, edition]. But who in his right mind would advocate bashing government instead of corporations?

Sure, total government control, as exists in some countries, is bad news. But it’s setting up a false dichotomy to compare the American political system of checks and balances with the increasingly centralized power of multi-nationals and their international supra-government institutions like the World Bank and the World Trade Organization.

What “sufficient competition” exists if Qwest is your only phone service and provides your only Internet access? Without some government you can bet your New West cappuccino that corporations will rip you off. It’s the nature of the beast.

If they open a Wal-Mart superstore in your town, what other choices do you have for many products other than buying into out-of-community corporate bottom lines?

And yes, the WTO and World Bank do indeed pass hundreds of pages of regulations, and what’s more they pre-empt national, state and local laws — taking away local control and putting decisions into the hands of corporate power brokers.

Virtually all safety advances have definitely not been initiated by manufacturers, as Lindell suggests. He cites no sources, and with good reason, because it’s simply not true. If it wasn’t for Ralph Nader, whom Lindell bashes, our cars wouldn’t have lots of common safety features, to mention just one example.

As for pollution, look at Summitville — one of the worst environmental disasters ever in Colorado. That was the handiwork of a corporation that conveniently went bankrupt when it came time to do their mine cleanup. In that case we needed more government intervention and a bigger cleanup bond, not less government.

Hell, let’s not forget that in this country the government isn’t some monolithic distant entity. It’s us, dimpled chads and all. We the people decide what kind of government we get. And if we keep electing corporate mouthpieces, as offered up by the two major parties, we’re all in trouble.

No, I don’t believe more government is the answer to every problem.

In my county I championed getting rid of building codes entirely in a section of the county where people didn’t want them. But in another section of the same county I worked with the EPA to help craft new high alpine regulations to protect water quality in the headwaters of the Colorado River system.

Don’t pit government against business, Lindell. That’s pitting people against themselves. Let’s support our small farmers and ranchers and small-business people and be active in politics to keep government small and efficient and reasonable on the local, state and national levels. But let’s also keep a close eye on corporations headquartered far away from our local communities, often in foreign countries.

Bash government, and you’re bashing the only mechanism we have in a representative democracy to prevent the worst excesses of foreign capital run amuck.

Art Goodtimes