Thursday, October 26, 2017

Chamber Of Commerce Democrats? Shunned Or Embraced?

I reached blog #100 on this site recently and was sort of coasting, basking in the achievement of this silly goal.  But I read a blog on a very much appreciated progressive web site trashing a Democratic State Representative I know because he's a sort of Chamber of Commerce Democrat.  It moved me to ponder a conundrum for many Democrats.

I know this guy.  He's reasonable, very liberal on most stuff and makes his living as a businessman.  His spouse is also a small business owner, also a liberal, very influential feminist and opinion leader.
I myself made my living before retirement as a young corporate employee, learning my field of endeavor from the big guys before transitioning to mostly self employment/entrepreneurship for the remainder of my career.  So I admittedly kind of identify with this very accomplished guy.  But some fellow progressives challenge his commitment to our values.  I wonder if they are being myopic?

Many, but not all of my fellow Democrats and activists came from academia, labor organizing, non-profit organization management as well as legal and medical professions.  But a large share of my political colleagues were local small business owners; consultants, retailers from all kinds of industries as well as large corporation mid-level and a few top executives.  They were Democrats because of their values of humanism, tolerance, compassion and appreciation for collective action to better lives of fellow Americans.  They did not sacrifice their individuality is engaging in collective action in the commons. But they were capitalists like me.

The blog I read chastised this State Representative for, in their view, putting the interests of the  Chamber of Commerce ahead of individual voters and citizens.  But is it not in the interest of individual voters  to provide a healthy economy, employment opportunities and some level of financial security as a result?   Does this not sometimes require such a local officeholder to weigh and balance the value or damage of legislative policy to  each sector.....the individual citizens vis a vis the commercial enterprise around them?  There are few organized societies today in the world that don't have the challenge of balancing these priorities....the needs of individuals vs. the needs of commercial organizations, even with authoritarian collectivist economies.

America is facing a  huge long term challenge.  The globalization of commerce and the transformation of industry from primarily utilizing human labor to the primary use of mechanized tools and artificial intelligence in place of most human and animal labor.   This world changing, this likely unstoppable trend has got to be put front and center on the American agenda right up there with climate change.  In fact, solutions to climate change might be found in the major transformation from human and animal labor to mechanized labor and artificial intelligence.

But the short term issues of government serving the interests of individual citizens vs. the interests of the commercial sector is a really important precursor step towards addressing the longer term potential American and global economic crisis.  Some Democrats frame this problem in search of a solution as a conflict that must favor the individual citizen.  But does it?  Are we not facing a codependency issue here?  Don't individuals in even a quasi-capitalistic economy need commerce to provide them income to take care of their basic needs for housing, nutrition, socialization, mobility and the like?  And doesn't the commercial sector need some of these individuals for labor as well as all of them equipped with the ability to purchase their goods and services?  Marketers call this the exchange process.  It is the very heart of economics. 

And governments, in order to provide services to satisfy at least the basic needs of individuals and commercial entities, need to generate some revenue from this exchange process.  Things like roads and transportation services, fire, policing and judicial services, water, in some cases electricity and power generation, education, health services at the very minimum.

Unless we make the unlikely decision as a society to nationalize all commercial services, we are going to have to figure out how to address the short term dependency needs of both our individual citizens and the commercial sector both serving their needs and depending on their affluence to sustain their commerce.  This obviously requires a balance of priorities.  Sometimes the citizen's priorities must prevail  and sometimes the commercial sector's priorities prevail.  This is a balance that is continuously in flux. 

At least right now, government bodies are the most reasonable arbitrators of that balance; municipalities and states, with those elected to serve the common interest are the front lines engaged in the skirmishes to resolve the conflicts of priorities.  How well the economic interests of all involved are served starts here, on main street.  This is the laboratory where successful solutions are discovered and transitioned upward to our very dysfunctional national government, who must very soon engage in the work of solving the problems created by our commercial sector.  Again, major economic disruption due to changing technology but also, life threatening climate disruption potentially mitigated through changing technology.

So, Democrats, we must embrace the commercial sector to ensure we are allies in problem solving.  This starts with appreciating the balance required by good local politicians in serving both the interests of individual citizens and the Chambers of Commerce on Main Street.  The Chamber of Commerce cannot be the enemy unless our society is about self-destruction.  This is an ally Democrats absolutely need to solve the economic and environmental problems threatening our very national and  material existence.  That doesn't mean we shouldn't regulate them, fairly tax them protect workers and their rights and bust up their massive monopolies.  This is part of the solution to our massive economic challenges.