Nearly 100 years ago, John Dewey indentified “the serious and fundamental defect of our civilization” as “materialism, our devotion to money making.” Along with the corollary of “having a good time,” these conditions are “controlled by interest in private profit.”
At that time, he observed: “a new phenomenon in human culture – the business mind, having its own conversation and language, its own interests, its own intimate groupings in which men of this mind, in their collective capacity, determine the tone of society at large as well as the government of industrial society, and have more political influence than government itself.”
Money is all that matters. Thus, those who make the most money (or, in some cases, project that illusion) are afforded status that does not always translate to ability in other fields, say government where the purpose is to serve its constituents, not to make money.
Aside from his 30 percent racist base – whom Donald Trump encouraged out from under their rocks – the ex-president’s other appeal was that he was a successful businessman – despite multiple bankruptcies, his business model of stiffing contractors and associates, his phony university that was forced to settle up with bilked students, etc. The point was that illusion of success, augmented by a totally fake “reality” TV show,
Schooled by Republicans to distrust competent public officials, many voters swallowed the mantra of “run government like a business.” Oklahoma voters swallowed the poison twice, also electing a governor whose business model has been fined and banned in some states.
As with Trump, Gov. Kevin Stitt’s focus on making money included gaming the system.
Money. Money. Money. A “pecuniary” society – Dewey again.
Putting such people in charge of the system is like putting the fox in charge of the hen house. Trump’s abuses are legendary: Repeatedly taking his entourage to his own properties at taxpayer expense, negotiating with China for trademarks for the daughter he’d like to date, side trips for himself and the vice president to his properties in Scotland and Ireland.
Gov. Stitt has not been cited along those lines, but he did spend $2 million in state funds to buy malaria medication to demonstrate loyalty to Trump – so incompetent business-wise that he couldn’t keep a casino open. (Stitt also displays his fealty to his idol by his failed and deadly “leadership” during the ongoing pandemic.)
Stitt’s main pecuniary focus has been to divert state funds to private companies, including the unconstitutional attempt at privatizing Medicaid expansion and the siphoning of public education funding to privateers.
He seems most concerned with helping others game the system. That’s what he knows. That’s his skill set.
And, coming from business, where his word was unchallenged, the governor who skied while Oklahoma froze, does not like regular folks to know what he’s doing. He is fighting open record requests to find out monetary details of his ballyhooed announcement of a bringing a start-up electric car company to the state.
The Oklahoma Project (which claims to be inspired by The Lincoln Project of Republican origins), has highlighted a very unballyhooed effort to build a new governor’s mansion which includes Stitt “making the people involved sign confidentiality agreements” as if this governor’s mansion did not belong to the people of the state.
Then, too, unchallenged “boss” as he prefers to be, he worked to make state departments more beholden to him than to often-elected officials.
To expedite matters, the small-government Republican created a new position – chief operating officer. Yep, the guy we’re paying to run the executive branch pays somebody else (with our money) to do the job for him. Boondoggle waste or an admission of incompetence? Take your pick – or choose both.
Back when the richest people created things, not money, they were referred to a princes of industry. It remains an apt description of the princes of capital, especially considering the description of actual, all-ruling princes as described by Baldesar Castiglione in his Book of the Courtier, a guide for competent governance that dominated 16th century European thinking.
As translated by Sir Thomas Hoby (with the language modernized by me), Castiglione advised the would-be advisors about princely attitudes, “among many vices that we see nowadays in many of our princes, the greatest are ignorance and self-liking (egotism).”
Surrounded by “flatterers” (today’s yes-men and yes-women) today’s “princes,” too, “never understand the truth of anything,…(and) their mind is so corrupted in seeing themselves always obeyed and (at it were) worshiped with so much reverence, and praise, without not only reproof at all, but also gainsaying, that through this ignorance they wade to an extreme of self-liking, so that afterward they admit no counsel nor advise of others.”
Unqualified for the job (Stitt seldom cared enough to vote), ignorant but too egotistical to learn and bullies to boot. That’s what we get when princes of bidness take the reins of government.
(Gary Edmondson is chair of the Stephens County Democratic Party. Longer versions of his columns can be found at scdpok.us or facebook.com/SCDPOK/.)