Thursday, October 15, 2009

Issue 2 Farms Out Democracy

Leave it to the experts.” “Let a few decide what’s best for everyone else.” “We know best.”

These are subliminal if not explicit messages pounded into our brains day after day by the dominant culture to increase and maintain economic wealth and political power.

This constant barrage has infected our democracy. We’ve given away too much of our authority to govern ourselves.

The results have been disastrous. Look at the state of our financial system and economy, health care, climate, energy usage, and modes of transportation.

In each and every case a small cabal of corporate interests along with sympathetic -- if not bought, rented, leased or retained -- elected officials determined rules, laws, regulations, policies and practices.

In each and every case, the root of the problem has not been too much democracy but too little. People have been largely shut out. Decisions have been made “on our behalf.”

Yes we live in a republic but no we shouldn’t give up our rights and responsibilities to hold elected officials accountable or when necessary to directly create or overturn laws through citizen initiatives and referendums.

We the People have for too long too often farmed out democracy – often willingly giving up our authority to govern.

We are being asked again.

This time it’s the Ohio Farm Bureau, Ohio Pork Producers Council and the corporate agricultural interests behind them who want Ohioans to pass Issue 2 this November.

Issue 2 would amend the Ohio constitution, establishing a “Livestock Care Standards Board” possessing incredible power to establish standards for livestock and poultry. The Board, composed of 13 members, most appointed by the Governor, would decide rules on how animals are raised, tracked and traced. Proposed as a constitutional amendment, decisions made by the Livestock Board would overrule any mere decree enacted by the Ohio Department of Agriculture, law passed by the Ohio Legislature, or ballot initiative brought by Ohio voters – unless it was another constitutional amendment.

The corporate strategy behind Issue 2 is nothing new. Business corporations have worked hard to escape public control and definition in Ohio for 150 years. Three of their tried and true techniques are at work here.

1. Shift oversight and control of corporations and their actions from entities composed of many members to those with fewer members. It’s simply more efficient…and cheaper…to lobby, legally bribe, or otherwise influence 13 members of a Livestock Board than 132 members of the Ohio General Assembly.

2. Shift oversight and control of corporations and their actions from elected entities to appointed ones. It’s much easier to influence a Governor on who gets appointed than voters on who gets elected. Elected representatives have a tendency if the public is paying attention and pressuring hard for actual accountability – which is not good news for corporate interests.

3. Shield corporations by constitutions rather that mere laws. Constitutional decisions or amendments are much harder to reverse than laws enacted by legislators (i.e. constitutionally protected corporate personhood). If a legislature collectively breaks free from corporate dominance, unjust laws can be changed in a matter of a few weeks.

While on one level, Issue 2 is about animal welfare, the environment and consumer choice, on a more profound level, it’s about democracy.

Passage of Issue 2 would cement power and welfare to an unelected Livestock Board beyond the direct reach of the public and elected representatives.

Animal agriculture is currently regulated by the Ohio Department of Agriculture, which includes public input in their rulemaking. Issue 2 would change that. The unelected Livestock Board would make decisions independent of public input. There would be no review or evaluation. There would be no process for public comment. There would be no possibility to appeal the decision. And, of course, the state legislature couldn’t overturn any decision.

Sounds a lot like the corporate controlled dispute resolution process proposed by the World Trade Organization, which led to the Battle in Seattle ten years ago next month.

Agribusiness corporations love all this, which may be why they’re bankrolling the pro Issue 2 campaign with millions of dollars – which has yielded slick and misleading ads.

We’ve farmed out already too much of our democracy.

Your help is needed in 3 ways.

1. Vote NO on Issue 2.

2. Let others know about Issue 2 by forwarding this link.

3. Canvass against Issue 2.

On Saturday, October 31, there will be door to door canvassing statewide. If you live in Akron or Cleveland and want to canvass for 2 hours, contact gcoleridge@afsc.org.

If you live anywhere else in the state, contact Ohio Against Constitutional Takeover (Ohio ACT -- www.ohioact.org) at info@ohioact.org.

1 comment:

  1. http://www.progressohio.org/page/community/post/nationofgandhis/CZBg reposted here

    Great article, thanks Greg!

    ReplyDelete