This has been kicking around in my head for quite some time now. It was eating at me for roughly the first 8 months of last year and then I thought through it, and came to my own conclusions, and shelved these concepts, only to be brought out and dusted off during political rants and such.
Once upon a time I was in a discussion with a group of friends who were contending that 'the way things worked' had changed so much, particularly in the past 25-30 years such as to warrant a new set of progressive rules. Non-specific things like corporate power, exploitation of the 'little guy', and various other liberal soapboxes.
To which, I responded, "Tripe". Nothing much has changed in our economic, environmental, or political power structure in the past 200 some odd years. Given the proper technological prowess the Dutch East India Co. could, and would accomplish the same 'evils' be propagated by Wal-Mart. Could and did buy politicians (we call it lobbying now), and exploit indigenous peoples.
Something about that answer never sat right with me, even though I believed it. Here's the beginning of it. First, no nothing has changed much in the way economics works, or the way political power flows to or from a social class or party. But that doesn't mean it was ever right, and that certainly doesn't mean there aren't things that need a changing.
My response was a knee-jerk reaction to the idea that this is a 'new' problem. Its not. Its more that the way we think about our government, and our economic reality needs to change because we've hit a critical technological time when any minority can and will level the playing field.
It isn't that the big guys aren't playing by the same rule book. Its that the little guys now can do something about it. Two examples of this 'new playing field', although dozens exist: hedge funds and terrorism.
Perhaps these sound like disparate things, but stick with me here. Until very, very recently, terrorism was a relatively easy thing to control, and despite its inherent ugliness, the collateral damage was easily contained. Look at you major terrorists attacks up until the 1990's. The Boston Tea Party - seminal, but largely minor in its effect and only took off due to an already volatile political environment. The IRA has been fighting since long before they were known as the IRA, and while deadly, also wasn't world shaping. The una-bomber, again, didn't change much socially. One could argue that certain assassinations throughout history have been world changing, but in general, this is a new trend.
Largely enabled by easy access to WMD. And I have some bad news. You, me, and anyone who really felt like it has easy access to weapons of mass destruction. I can point you to half a dozen websites, a few books, and numerous people that can instruct you on how to build, grow, or steal something that can kill thousands upon thousands of people with comparatively little effort. All you need to do is want to bad enough.
The second area where the playing field is leveling is economically, even though it might not seem like it. And for the exact same reasons. At the same time when, in America, we are seeing a growing gap between our economic classes we are seeing a world wide trend small groups banding together to have clout against the big guy, individuals or individual groups having a new ability to get around monolithic corporations, and the ability for private funds to have worldwide consequences. Each of those in turn.
The rise of the co-op has been dramatic, amongst other industries, it has re-worked how the coffee industry has to operate. Previously, Starbucks would tell the farmers how much they would pay for beans, and the farmers had to take it. By organizing and the banding together of several small farms they changed that paradigm. Now they have the ability to stand up for themselves.
Online sales have drastically hit many markets all at once. I could give dozens of examples, but leave it at this: If you have online access and a drive to succeed, you can sell your product or service independently. Think about that for a second. That's a heck of a lot of power. In one fell swoop that takes the wind out of the sails of heavily weighted terms like "job security" and "unemployment". Those things are still heavy factors, but more and more people are finding ways to make their own money and not be beholden to anyone. That's huge.
And finally, hedge funds, a group of as little as fifty investors can now - through skill and savvy investing change how markets work. Not entirely sure how this one will play out, but it is a new way for a small number of people to affect the bigger picture without a lot of clout to begin with.
So, what am I driving at here? The point is longer than I have time or energy to get at right now. The short version is this: The big guy no longer has security against the little guy, just because he's big.
And for Big Guy it really doesn't matter if you substitute, Wal-Mart, The United States, Big Oil, The Republican Party, The Democratic Party... the little guy can and will take you out.
And that brings me back to an essay I wrote long long ago about how there is only one way to defuse a power struggle between equal parties. Just stop.
I said it was an essay 'stub' what did you want from me?