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Big Data and Big Money Have Subverted Our Democracy

Big Data and Big Money Have Subverted Our Democracy

Jeffrey D. Sachs

Why does Congress refuse to act on climate change despite the strong majority of Americans who favor increased investments in renewable energy and cutbacks in fossil fuels? The oil lobby.

The most powerful people in the United States are the billionaire corporate owners of these companies, who finance political campaigns, deploy lobbyists, and threaten members of Congress who fall out of line.

Here we are, just as messed up as the Ottoman Empire, Russian Empire, or the Austrian Empire 100 years ago. Only this time the Old Men win and the peasants stay quiet… Big data, low wages and sickness are much more effective than any whipping post.

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These are good ideas. I am afraid that not enough people will start to follow this advice in time. The window of opportunity is closing a little more every day.


For democracy to flourish, ban lobbying, cap political contributions, end revolving doors, end gerrymandering, junk voting machines and use secure, encrypted online voting, voting by credit card and snail mail voting.

Who is afraid of online voting? Oligarchs, Dictators, political establishments, their flunkies, paid “experts” and the misled.


A democracy is only as good as its citizens. Adult American citizens decided to vote for Trump and Republicans in most states. Unless and until Americans discover that the Republican party is the great enabler of everything Dr. Sachs points out, there will be no change.

So, the fix is quite simple: vote for liberal Democrats.

If America is lucky, it will learn from electing Trump that very wealthy people do not believe in helping others or constructing a society where everyone can succeed.

Republicans, and libertarians in particular, believe in winner take all lotteries, like reality tv, where one person wins and everyone else loses, in a world without second place prizes, of masters and servants, kings and serfs.

As someone very sharp once said, history may not repeat itself but it sure does rhyme.


To accomplish those worthy goals, we would need to have a flourishing democracy already in place, rather than the current one dollar/one vote simulacrum we’re struggling under. Neither of the two most popular political brands are going to get us there.


You have to ask why people so willingly give up their private data to these companies. Why do so many people have a Facebook page? Why do so many people search the internet using Google rather than DuckDuckGo which doesn’t collect search data? Why do people post some many photos on Instagram and other sites? Why tweet? Why use a supermarket card when shopping, information which Facebook and others buy (okay, it hard to pass up the sales). Why use a credit card for even minor transactions? Why use a cell phone at the cash register? Why not simply pay in cash? Why not optimize privacy settings on a browser or operating system? Why not think of oneself as a product on social media sites when one is producing all the content. Okay here are some answers. The social media sites are all carefully constructed to addict people. It is easy to get hooked and once hooked it is hard to give it up. A lot of research goes in to understanding how to addict users. You could say we have become a country of social media addicts. Maybe we need legislation. Democracy is being subverted and I think we need to act by passing laws.

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Nature boy, I am afraid of voting online !!! Are we so advanced a civilization that we cannot simply count paper ballots (which provide a record) using security plus surveillance cameras for transparency??? It would be so fucking easy to count ballots the old fashioned way in each precinct. And the paper ballots are a secure record.


We TRIED voting for liberal and progressive Democrats last time, but Krooked Hilliary and her Establishment DNC rigged the primary.  That’s why Tweetle-Dumb won – a great many people are sick & tired of the Two-Party Swamp in D.C., and believed his lie that he would drain it.  Unfortunately, even those of us who didn’t believe the lie still have to suffer the consequences of the DamnocRatic Party’s arrogance and sell-out to the Pollutocrats.

AMEN!!   Voting machines and on-line voting are WAY too easy to hack or rig.  Bush won Ohio in 2004 'cause too many districts were using machines supplied by Diebold, whose CEO was a f***ing money-bundling Bush RANGER for Gawd’s sake!!   Imagine a world in which the Lying Son-of-a-Bush – like his father – had served only one term . . .



Eliminatethe access of Sierra Club, Nature Consrrvancy, Planned Parenthood ,; all those groups within the Green party; Or do we just make a list of our lobby groups.
There are far far more Liberal/progressive lobbyist than those of fat cat Republicans.
There are constantly new lobby groups forming and disbanding and every one seems to be non profit tax status.
The greater difference between sic. Liberal progressive and conservative groups is that the conservatives invest own money towards their AGENDAS while lib/progs want gov to pay.
An organization representing an inteest group needs the means available to bring forth a redress of government,a lobby, and to say that group cannot but this group can???
You would not have a Dem or Repub party without Lobbyist groups.
There are so many causes and all are salary dependent for the leadership, oh yes there are unpaid volunteers, but once the leadership catches eye of power group they soon wine and dine far above those volunteers economic strata.
Democracy is and always been no more than a reactionary political movement.
There cannot be just in time because the process is always F’n late.
Let’s have a vote, what you mean the barbarians are already in the seats of power?

Good Thinking!   Don’t ban Lobbying, but DO ban Lobbyists from serving in the government for five years after they quit lobbying, and ban all ex-employees of companies affected by regulations from serving in branches of government which oversee said regulations. In other words, do everything possible to prevent conflicts of inter­est from influencing legislation and the implementation of regulations, but don’t stifle honest debate about the laws themselves.

And you’re right about organizations — the bigger they are, the more corrupt they are.  Clubs, Churches, Corp­orations, Governments, Nations, Parties, States, Unions, etc., etc. etc.   The bigger the group, the bigger and smellier the turds that rise to the top of the cesspool.  For examples, just look at all the major religions, Brazil, Russia, and the U.S.A.


To those who say a cure can be found by increasing the nu.bers of educated; I say hmmmmm.
As high a levels as our University Professors, who survive on grants for big Pharma and military research?
As high a level as those who work in defence industry?
As high as those who work within our governmental bureaucracies?
As high as those who work within Wall Street, banking and Financials?
As high as our elected non-representative office holders and their staff of political party hacks?
As high as those of ranking military?
As high as the large Data Collectors and Big money managers?
Wall street Occupiers, at what level of education were they who protested lack of job opportunities, and just what level of pay and who/where were they looking for EMPLOY at?
Sadly it is “training” for employ they attend Universities, a degree, while attaining aneducation is not on their agendas.


Good points - all !

In his Friday blog James H. Kunstler said he was sick of both parties, and outlined a list of ills from both parties which needed to be dispensed with.

But replaced with what - the million dollar question?

I’ve been an environmental blogger now for over ten years.

I think we need to regain a sense of the sacred landscape, and all that lives on and in it.

An indigenous view - perhaps a small tribe indigenous view, as the Aztecs and Incas were just civilizations like ours.

If a place is sacred, it is ‘inviolate’. Money has no value.

Rights for the environment, with guardians, is a modern approach - but I imagine susceptible to moneyed interests.

How to reclaim something lost - the sense of the sacred - of the inviolate?

Seven years climbing helped for me - but that is not the whole answer.

Necessity has to come into play.

When it is in our interests to ‘sanctify’ the Earth System’, perhaps we will ??

“Did it benefit from hackers? Did it use the data to help Vladimir Putin’s agents [or, teenagers looking to make a profit] to target their fake news via Facebook, Google, and Twitter? Will we ever know?”

Did Big Data “benefit from hack[ing]” into Jill Stein’s “private data” so that she could be stopped (at any cost) from achieving her undeniably inevitable victory as President? "Did it use the data to help [Kim Jong-un’s] agents [or, teenagers looking to make a profit] to target their fake news via Facebook, Google, and Twitter [to thwart her, again, at any cost]? Since there is no proof, or ongoing propaganda campaigns to bolster those two fantastic (!) questions, “Will we ever know?”

"Did it use the data to help Vladimir Putin’s agents . . .?"

Right here, on Common Dreams. And, it is within just one of hundreds of similar articles over the years.
What does that say about Common Dreams?

When will these particular propaganda (insertion) techniques end?
"Will we [live long enough to] ever know?

Addendum to previous reply to you:

Here is that quote from J. Kunstler:

Are there any like me out there who would like to see both parties tossed onto the garbage barge of history? Of course, to say that also means throwing out a cargo of terrible ideas and beliefs, not just two clown cars of personalities. Identity politics, zero interest rate policy, American Exceptionalism, endless debt, nation-building in foreign lands, FASB-157, sanctuary cities, Title IX coercion, racketeering in health care and higher ed, market interventions, ambiguous borders… is just some of the cargo that needs to be dumped overboard with both parties.


And here an indigenous view - a replacement ?

In Paris, the indigenous leaders met the French ecology minister Nicolas Hulot – who moved from journalism to activism to politics and played a key role in the Paris Accord of 2015. He said the role of indigenous leaders was important, and not just at the Bonn talks. “They are perhaps the only people who can remind us how man has alienated himself from nature. They can bring a conscience and soul that modern society can aspire to,” he said.

Rivas – the quiet young man from Nicaragua – is underwhelmed. “All the death and destruction that came to our country came from Europe,” he said. “I sense people still have a superficial understanding of our message. What we want is to be able to continue our spiritual connection with the forest.”


I don’t think it is a coincidence that Jeffrey Sachs works closely with the United Nations.

One of the problems as I see it is this - if such luminaries as Jeff Sachs cannot stop what is destroying our life support systems and what is left of our democracies, where do we turn ?

Since any one person or small group can be eliminated or outflanked by the unlimited resources of power and privilege, and even large NGO’s are subject to ‘capture’ - that kind of leaves us - you and me - acting individually - in our own and everyone else’s interests.

I sympathize with you and your point but the relevant fact is a simple one: the right holds power today at the national and state level because not enough people have voted left since 2008.

The problem is two-fold. First, too many voters are too easily influenced by money and ads. Second, too many left-wing voters let the perfect be the enemy of the good. Hillary over Trump should not have been a close call for liberals and progressives.

So you may have tried. But when Bernie didn’t get the nomination, you quit, or perhaps in your case, cried uncle. And your prize for quitting is Trump and a Republican senate. I won’t say congratulations. I’ll just offer my condolences.

I live in California, so my protest vote for Bernie & 'Beth made no difference whatsoever in the final outcome of the general election.  If I had lived in a swing state where my vote mattered I would have held my nose very tightly last November and voted for (Very) Crooked Hilliary.

Understood. The situation is very grim and frustrating. I hope the US turns in a better direction.

I fear Virginia is about to vote right despite the madness of the current POTUS and federal republican party.