Is what we do more important than how we do it?
I was just listening to a program on NPR this morning that talked about a retired hedge fund manager who is making contributions to candidates for office, and his agenda in making those contributions is to reduce carbon emissions and so (hopefully) reduce the rate of climate change.
The interviewer raised a perceptive question–what, he asked, makes you different from the Koch brothers?
The former manager replied that the goals of his organization, the ideas that he wanted to get across, were fundamentally different from those of the Kochs. And that’s certainly true. But is difference as to content enough?
Enough for what, you ask? Good question. Hopefully that will become clear in a moment.
It’s certainly (from my perspective) a Good Thing to stand against climate change, as the manager is doing. It’s certainly (from my perspective) a Bad Thing to stand against legislation that reduces the regulation of climate change (as the Koch brothers are doing).
But that’s all strictly from the perspective of content (aka “what”). What about the perspective of form (aka “how”).
I have concerns with people like the Koch brothers on content–I think they’re wrong. But I have a greater objection to their use of enormous economic leverage even than I do to their ideas. I’m currently reading an academic paper on coercion, and perhaps this has focused my concern, but it seems to me that regardless of the goals in the interest of which economic power is deployed, that economic power has, in itself, a deleterious impact on the polity.
Remember the old saw, “you can’t fight city hall”? Well, replace that with “you can’t fight George Soros” or “you can’t fight the Koch brothers” and is the result any different? I think it is. City hall is a venue, and one subject to turnover through political means. If you don’t like the current administration, you can, in theory, “trow de bums out.” But if you feel like your voice is suppressed, or rather, simply cannot rise above the noise of billions of dollars talking (Dylan had it right –“money doesn’t talk, it swears”) what do you do? I suspect you withdraw. Because there is no political solution (at least at the moment, at least in light of Citizens United) to the problem of people with vast amounts of money influencing candidates.
But perhaps the how is unimportant; perhaps procedure doesn’t really matter as long as we reach the right outcome.
What do you think?