Tonight, David Cobb, the 2004 Presidential Candidate for the Green Party, presented a lecture about corporate personhood at Ohio University. His views on corporate personhood, however, weren’t terribly interesting. The valuable portion of his lecture centered around the practical structure of the American political system as opposed to the idealistic version endlessly recited and the implications on political activism.
I’ll link a recording (.mp3, 1:43:00) of Cobb’s lecture (and his Q&A, which includes a few questions from libertarians), but I’d rather address a few issues he raises, rather than a summary and analysis. Three reasons:
1) It’s better to listen to the lecture than read a summary
2) I disagree with many of his assertions and implied policy solutions.*
3) His overall theme appeared more important than specific theses
Throughout Cobb’s lecture, one theme presented itself: De-centralization and localization of power hold paramount importance for the progression of society. No matter the perspective on corporations, American history and an ideal society, Greens/progressives/socialists (hereafter referred to as progressives for simplicity) and libertarians have stronger connections than libertarians and conservatives or libertarians and liberals. The connection isn’t universal, as many progressives will gladly advocate harnessing the political system to centrally dictate policies to achieve their goals. However, where such a connection (alliance?) exists, libertarians and progressives may mutually benefit.
What unites libertarians and progressives is a realization that the largest political divide is not the Left vs. the Right; applying a distinction from the French Revolution lacks utility. The largest political divide is along centralization and de-centralization. Arguments over what kind of society is the Good at which individuals should aim perpetuate; modifications occur of the arguments, but it is doubtful as to whether any resolution will be reached. However, with localized and dispersed power and action, individuals exert greater freedom to pursue their desired society. Any principled individual (be they progressive or libertarian) should reject any action that centralizes and expands power, whether or not the end-goal of such action attempts to foster a more progressive or libertarian society.
However, I do not wish to limit such a de-centralized connection to the political realm. Localized action emerges locally. More than anything, non-political activism involving progressives and libertarians may produce more beneficial results than any protest or ballot initiative. If it is as miniscule as monthly forums to comprehend a different perspective and engage in what the definition of the Good IS, or as considerable as a community charity or improvement project, so be it.
Living liberty may make interesting combinations. However, rejecting an occasionally awkward alignment because “their” ideal society deviates from “ours” lacks acumen when “their” desire is a different prediction from “ours.” Obviously, substantial disagreements exist and must be confronted, but I interpret centralizing conservatives and liberals as a greater threat to liberty and a free, just society than de-centralizing progressives.
*As Cobb didn’t explicitly provide policy solutions, I’d rather not presume his favored policy solutions.