Our biggest problem has been bigness

Far too much of America’s energy is being drained today in frenzied attempts to prop up bigness. The housing crisis, the financial meltdown, the teetering of the Big Three automakers. The unifying theme is turn-of-the-last century, laissez-faire, supra-governmental corporate bigness.

Too many decisions affecting us all are made by too few people. The centralized banking and financial behemoth has remained untethered and unresponsive. They’ve made easily avoidable, dumb decisions and they want us, we the people, to bail them out. Anyone surprised there is massive, bipartisan angry resistance?

Why are the 50 states so controlled by the very few immensely wealthy and powerful who live by the slogan, ask not what you can do for your country, ask what your country can do for you?

We must face the fact that these concentrated, centralized corporate institutions have been granted too much power over us. The new administration has a responsibility to do far more than just tweak.

The visionary Leopold Kohr (in “The Breakdown of Nations”) got it right over 50 years ago: the problem is bigness – concentrated, centralized power, answerable to no one. Today we see a federal government that has far too often willingly, happily in fact, yielded to the power of bigness, at the expense of the legitimate rights and powers of individuals, families, regions, our liberties and our communities.

Consider the thermodynamic law of entropy, which recognizes that an entity can only grow so big. When it does get too big, the amount of thermal energy not available to do work increases. As units expand and expand, there is a tendency for all matter and energy to run out of steam, to inevitably evolve toward a state of inertia. To explode or implode. It is simply a law of physics.

Think about the dear price our planet has paid for the unbridled bigness of oil. The oil companies stand firmly in the way of the tremendous new opportunities for new energy solutions. Successfully addressing global warming, creating perhaps millions of new jobs, restructuring and reinventing a new, far stronger, truly sustainable American economy. This is the will of the people. It, not that of the bumbling plutocrats, must now reign.

How many times must we learn that decisions made by a few wealthy interests do not necessarily serve the common good? The missed opportunities for America becoming a world leader in new energy are legion. No question, with prudent government investments in research and development, decentralized, region-appropriate solutions will certainly create a brighter tomorrow. Obstacles must be dismantled.

The Obama tsunami was an historically loud, deep and wide insistence on real change, not just a tweaking. Americans demand what our founders intended: self-government, a republic in which we participate and shape our own destiny, not an empire in which we are mere subjects or consumers. We’ve tried a corporate state. It caused great, avoidable harm. I was taught in elementary school that what was great about America is our government of, by and for the people. We once again feel that hope.

By their massive crimes against our Constitution and our basic American values and traditions, the Bush and Cheney mob were unwittingly fabulous organizers of this rising. The deeply painful crumbling we see around us all today is an opportunity for real change. This is the task before President-elect Obama and all Americans. With courage, vision, commitment and backbone, it is possible that hope can transform into reality.

State senator from 1990 to 2004, Burt Cohen now hosts a radio talk show. His Web site is www.burtcohen.com.

Categories: Opinion