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John Dewey Was Right: American Politics Is Merely the Shadow Cast by Big Business


John Dewey Was Right: American Politics Is Merely the Shadow Cast by Big Business

Jake Johnson

Writing in the midst of the Great Depression, the American philosopher John Dewey understood deeply the need for a new political order.

The destitution brought about by the crash of 1929 and the subsequent economic meltdown were, Dewey thought, the predictable consequences of an economy — and a political system — controlled by, and dedicated to the needs of, large corporations.


To conclude Jake Johnson's piece for him:

The road to a genuinely democratic political system - a system that fairly distributes the benefits of economic development to every sector of society - requires us to dis-empower capital as a political force, and re-structure "ownership" of the economy so no narrow capitalist class exists to distort politics in its own interest.


A People doesn't wake up one morning AS a Third World Nation. These inversions happen through gradual accommodation:

"Amid a widening gap between rich and poor," writes Sheryl Gay Stolberg, "nothing screams income inequality louder than cities, including Cleveland and Philadelphia, case studies in renewal and gentrification, but also in crushing decline."

The above paragraph exposes a parallel between Cancun (and its shantytowns just outside for workers), and the favillos just outside of Rio also there to house the tourist industry's low level worker bees.

My one objection to Mr. Johnson's essay is his reinforcing the illusion that a RECOVERY took place. And while he has certainly mentioned America's version of "The Hunger Games" and the disproportionate nature of said recovery; what's really happened is that money--like air--has been artificially pumped (right off the printing presses) in to hold up the huge tent inflated by Wall Street & the Big Banks' money changers. It's a game that has the public paying for all the Free Money which the rich gamble with and invest. And if they win, they double their numbers, and if they lose, the public forfeits key infrastructure.

If that is a recovery, then the Pope is Jewish.


Great line that bears repeating:

"In perhaps his most famous observation, Dewey wrote, "As long as politics is the shadow cast on society by big business, the attenuation of the shadow will not change the substance."

Shades of Plato's cave dwellers.

And Einstein's adage: "No problem can be solved from the level of thinking that created it."

Besides, what card-carrying Shock Doctrine devotee really gives a flying phuck about making life better for anyone other than himself?

Solution: Hire think tanks with lots of smart people who know how to use psychological buzzwords, deft ideological sleight of hand, and lies told often to jazz up necessary counter-narratives: Ones that would have low income people rooting for the very rich! And angry souls taught that freedom really means THEY get to tell OTHERS how to live. And that building up an endless arsenal of weapons makes the world peaceful.

This runs parallel with the wisdom of Chief Justice William Brandeis in that society can EITHER have extreme concentrations of wealth OR Democracy; but not both:

"Dewey noted that as long as the political and economic "machinery" of the United States consists of "business for private profit through private control of banking, land, industry, reinforced by commend of the press, press agents, and other means of publicity and propaganda," democracy cannot possibly be restored."


Why blame big business for doing what it is designed to do, make as much money as it can?

Is the problem big business, or the grossly unequal distribution of the money it generates?

If the oligarchy disappeared and corporate generated wealth was evenly distributed among all citizens, what would all the people do with all their newfound wealth? Would they choose to pollute their planet, bribe politicians to kill democracy and feed a war machine that costs them half their government's income?


If a tree falls in the woods and there's no one there to witness it, it doesn't mean the tree didn't fall.

Don't be so sure there's a dearth of Left-leaning intellectuals.

It's more that today's publishing houses are controlled by the same major corporations that own the media. Even Academic publishing houses are terrified of upsetting their biggest donors.

Many years ago Gloria Steinem (no matter that some have made a case that she worked for the CIA briefly) penned a significant essay that explained just how influential advertisers were to magazine copy--that is, the subjects (not to mention editorial slants given to them) put into print.

People like Hedges and Chomsky have long-established track records in journalism and academia.

But new people with that species of outlook and vision? VERY hard to get a foothold, be heard, seen, or published.

In this way, no one "hears" the tree that falls in the forest.


"They know Hillary," Republican lobbyist Ed Rogers said of business executives. "And they know that she is not antibusiness."

The implication is that Bernie is antibusiness, of course, which is so far from true that it has to be ridiculed. Bernie is pro-business, pro-worker. He knows what goes on in union-free working environments, especially in so-called "right-to-work" states, where workers can be "laid off" aka, fired at will, with no explanation required, and with minimal to no severance pay. He knows that productivity is now the measure of a worker's worth, and that its limits are constantly being pushed to extremes, with no commensurate increase in pay. Workers today in the USA are terribly treated and cheated, while executives and stockholders reap the gains of their sweat equity.

For the past 30 years, Hillary Clinton has led a luxurious life completely sheltered from the concerns of everyday Americans, and has only thickened her wall of impermeability with titanic speaking fees to multinational corporations, and lavish campaign contributions from Wall Street CEO's and Hollywood luminaries. She may be liberal on social issues as a token gesture, but the rich will only get richer and the poor poorer under a Clinton administration. No wonder so many Republicans support her.


I was assigned The Gospel of Wealth in a course on American Political Thought. My copy was the size of a middle length paperback. It has been many years since I read it, but it is an eyeopener of sorts. Andrew did not believe in inherited wealth, I believe he left his wife and children a rather paltry sum, as I recall, even taking into account inflation. He proceeded to build public libraries all over this nation. Sadly, it seems he never thought about raising the wages of those who worked in his steel mills. Nice catch.


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Thanks again to Jake Johnson, who is becoming for me a go to source. This time he finds one of my progressive heroes, John Dewey to support his argument. Brilliant. I would encourage everyone to follow Jake Johnson's link back to John Dewey's essay in the "New Republic" written in 1931. I think you'll be surprised by how totally contemporary Mr. Dewey sounds as he beautify describes trickle down economics, fifty years before Reaganomics. It's always refreshing to realize that nothing is new, and hope that something like "The New Deal" can follow our time as it did in Dewey's time... Again thanks to Jake Johnson


Harold Meyerson debunked that myth recently (and WaPo fired him shortly after).

Harold Meyerson: The myth of maximizing shareholder value

I love it. The myth is sooooo ingrained. Kinda of like that voting machines are never hacked.


For all of the bluster, delusion, and reactionaryism of the Trump/Republican convention, we will witness the smug, conceited conservatism of the Clinton/Democrats next week. One can't believe Trump because he obviously doesn't know what he is talking about, and one cannot believe Clinton because she is a liar.

Franklin Roosevelt did not announce for the presidency until January 1932, nine months after Dewey (an inveterate anti-elitist) wrote his article. The nation was fortunate the FDR, the Senator Sanders of his time, reinvigorate the republic and his party. Sadly, it is clear that the two party system is broken in 2016 -- there isn't an FDR, the major parties are offering us only Hoover (Clinton) or ... Francisco Franco (Trump).

John Dewey's article is indeed more fitting for 2016 than it was for 1931; he would have had no truck with Trump, and his criticisms of the Democrats are descriptive of the ultra-privileged, pro-corporate Hillary Clinton.


I don't know. Not that great at remembering.

If it was on Common Dreams, probably.



Aren't there sites that contain "snapshots" of what the whole Internet was at points in time? Not sure, but i've heard of such things.

And i'd love to find all my comments from each of the three commenting systems that CD has used!