Sunday, February 27, 2011

A Complex to Guard Against

President Dwight Eisenhower surprised many Americans some 60 years ago when, in his final speech to the nation before he retired from the presidency, he warned his countrymen to “guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex.” Thus the term “military-industrial complex” was introduced into the American political lexicon.

Maybe Eisenhower saw even 60 years ago the pernicious influence that big business was having on government policy, not only in military matters but also in foreign affairs. Corporate power over the American political process generates a corrupting impact on the normal democratic functioning of our government. Decisions regarding what military equipment to purchase are based not on the needs of the military to keep our nation strong, but more on which corporation has bought the most influence in Congress. Thus, the decision on which jet engine to purchase or which company gets a contract to build flying tankers for the Air Force will certainly not be based on military need.

President Eisenhower did us a favor when he told us to guard against the growing influence of the military-industrial complex. It is unfortunate that for the past 60 years we have let our guard down. Our current government must address that serious issue as it faces the financial crisis that is soon to be upon us.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Mixed Emotions

It has been several days now since the peaceful protests by citizens of Egypt resulted in an overthrow of the government. It was good to see a dictator being forced out of office with a minimum of bloodshed. Much credit for this goes to the Egyptian military as well as the restraint of the protesters.

So, why am I not celebrating in jubilation? I have a strong belief in democracy as the foundation for good government. However, I also have a respect for the value of democratic processes. From my perspective, the force of mob action is in itself antithetical to democracy as it is usually defined. What starts out as a peaceful protest can quickly turn into gang violence. That is not the best foundation for good government.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Accountability In American Business

Recently, it was reported that the Wall Street investment bank, Goldman Sachs, had a 38% decline in profit over the previous year. Mr. Lloyd Blankfein, the CEO, was held accountable for this poor showing by getting his salary raised to three times what it had been. In addition, he was given a $12 million bonus. That is accountability in the business world in America! From my perspective, it is no wonder we had a near financial collapse just three years ago. If business leaders get rewarded for their ineptitude there is not much hope that they will have incentives to function effectively in the future.