Looking at What’s Actually Happening Behind the Furor

Reviewing the state of play during the Trump Administration can be tricky.  Commentators on both sides of the ideological aisle have noted that one often has to make a distinction between the reality TV show that is now the presidency and the actions actually ongoing within government.  Conservatives have generally presented it as the silver lining, while progressives have generally offered the observation as a warning.

In that context, I’d count this, from the Wall Street Journal, as a positive development:

President Donald Trump’s response to the weekend violence in Charlottesville, Va., has sparked a new round of soul-searching in U.S. corporate boardrooms over whether they should keep working closely with the White House….

The fallout is testing already-tense relations between the White House and corporate executives, many of whom face new pressures from employees, consumers and activists to take stands on social and political issues. At times, those issues have put them in direct opposition with a president whose pro-business agenda they are also seeking to shape.

You mean corporate giants aren’t going to have a disproportionate hand shaping the policies of a pro-growth president?  Not sure I see the downside of that.  On the other hand, two other stories currently at the top of the WSJ’s home page raise reason for concern, both inside and outside of government.

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Outside of government, the trend of the major technology firms using their leverage to blacklist people or groups with whom they disagree is certainly worthy of concern.  With the Internet being almost an overlay of society, shutting people out of it would be exactly like shutting individuals out of business opportunities, as during the era of segregation.  The balance may be tighter enforcement of anti-trust laws, so that the giants can’t form cartels that make it impossible for competitors to make different decisions or for individuals to build their own channels.

Inside government, the decision of the City of Baltimore to remove Confederate statues in the dead of night with no public notice should be disconcerting no matter one’s view of the outcome.  Making people and groups disappear from the Internet and from the public square through secretive statue removal is a terrifying echo of the darkest days of Soviet Communism.  Government and major corporations working in concert toward that end raises the specter of the sort of corporatism more common among early National Socialists and Italian fascists.

Another lesson of history is the likelihood that those who desire power above all will use disliked minorities as an excuse to set precedents that can then be expanded.  We must resist these purging urges while they are still limited or they will gain momentum that cannot be stopped.  That doesn’t mean making Confederate statues sacrosanct or removing the right of companies to decide whom they’ll accept as clients.  It does, however, mean resisting the expedience of secretive government action and ensuring that common spaces like the Internet are available to all by some mechanism.

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