Noam Chomsky in In These Times:
Ridiculing Tea Party shenanigans is a serious error, however. It is far more appropriate to understand what lies behind the movement’s popular appeal, and to ask ourselves why justly angry people are being mobilized by the extreme right and not by the kind of constructive activism that rose during the Depression, like the CIO (Congress of Industrial Organizations).
Now Tea Party sympathizers are hearing that every institution—government, corporations and the professions—is rotten, and that nothing works.
Amid the joblessness and foreclosures, the Democrats can’t complain about the policies that led to the disaster. President Ronald Reagan and his Republican successors may have been the worst culprits, but the policies began with President Jimmy Carter and accelerated under President Bill Clinton. During the presidential election, Barack Obama’s primary constituency was financial institutions, which have gained remarkable dominance over the economy in the past generation.
That incorrigible 18th-century radical Adam Smith, speaking of England, observed that the principal architects of power were the owners of the society—in his day the merchants and manufacturers—and they made sure that government policy would attend scrupulously to their interests, however “grievous” the impact on the people of England; and worse, on the victims of “the savage injustice of the Europeans” abroad.
A modern and more sophisticated version of Smith’s maxim is political economist Thomas Ferguson’s “investment theory of politics,” which sees elections as occasions when groups of investors coalesce in order to control the state by selecting the architects of policies who will serve their interests.
Ferguson’s theory turns out to be a very good predictor of policy over long periods. That should hardly be surprising. Concentrations of economic power will naturally seek to extend their sway over any political process. The dynamic happens to be extreme in the U.S.
Yet it can be said that the corporate high rollers have a valid defense against charges of “greed” and disregard for the health of the society.