Privatize! Midasize! Hypnotize!

Miller, Arthur. "Let's Privatize Congress." New York Times, A19, January 10, 1995. Note on inset large font text: "The legal way to buy senators."

It is great news, this idea of selling a House office building now that the Republicans are dissolving so many committees and firing their staffs. But I wouldn't be surprised if this is only the opening wedge for a campaign to privatize Congress. Yes, let the free market openly raise its magnificent head in the most sacred precincts of the Welfare State. The compelling reasons for privatizing Congress are perfectly evident. Everybody hates it, only slightly less than they hate the President. Everybody, that is, who talks on the radio, plus millions of the silent who only listen and hate in private.

Congress has brought on this hatred, mainly by hypocrisy. For example, members are covered by complete Government-run health insurance - while the same kind of coverage for the voters was defeated, with the voters' consent and support, no less.

The voters, relieved that they are no longer manaced by inexpensive health insurance administered by the hated Government, must nevertheless be confused about not getting what polls show they wanted. The important point is that even though they are happy at being denied what they say they want, they also know that the campaign to defeat health insurance was financed by the big private health insurance companies to the tune of millions of dollars paid to Congressional campaigns. The net result is that with all their happiness, the voters are also aware of a lingering sense of Congressional hypocrisy.

Health care is only one of many similar issues - auto safety, the environment, education, the use of public lands, etc. The way each issue is decided affects the finances of one or another business, industry or profession, and these groups naturally tend to butter the bread of members of Congress. We can do away with this hypocrisy by making Congress a private enterprise. Let each representative and senator openly represent, and have his salary paid by, whatever business group wishes to buy his vote. Then, with no excuses, we will really have the best representative system money can buy. No longer will absurdly expensive election campaigns be necessary. Anyone wanting the job of Congressional representative of, say, the drug industry could make an appointment with the council of that industry and make his pitch.

The question arises whether we would need bother to go through the whole election procedure. But I think we must continue to ask the public to participate lest people become even more alientated than they are now, with only 39 percent of the eligible voters going to the polls in November. A prvatized Congress might well attract a much higher percentage of voters than the present outmoded one does because the pall of hypocrisy would have been stripped away and a novel bracing honesty would attract voters to choose whichever representative of the auto or real estate industries or the date growers they feel most sympathy for.

Once Congress is privatized, the time would have come to do the same to the Supreme Court and the Justice Department. If each Justice were openly hired by a sector of the economy to protect its interests, a simple bargaining process could settle everything. The Auto Industry Justice, wishing to throw out a suit against General Motors or Ford, could agree to vote his support for the Agribusiness Justice, who wanted to quash a suit by workers claiming to have been poisoned while picking cabbages.

Some will object that such a system of what might be called legalized corruption would leave out the public and its interests. But this is no longer a problem when you realize that there is no public and therefore no public interest in the old sense. As Margaret Thatcher once said, "There is no society," meaning that the public consists of individuals, all of whom have private interests that to some degree are hostile to the interests of other individuals.

Possible objections: the abstract idea of justice would disappear under a system that takes only private economic interests into account. Secondly, the corporate state, which this resembles, was Mussolini's concept and resulted in the looting of the public by private interests empowered by the state.

Objections to the objections: we already have a corporate state. All privatization would do would be to recognize it as a fact.

Conclusion: we are in bad trouble.