I’ve written fairly extensively about the parasitic relation of global capital to the modern nation-state. (Check here for more.) Essentially I’ve maintained that the primary political-economic form of the globalized world is the multinational corporation and not the nation-state. But this does not signal the death of the nation-state, just a reorganization of its functionalities. Corporations only require “so much” of sovereignty (in order to guarantee money supply, contracts, infrastructure), but tend to flee from assuming sovereignty as much as possible. Instead, global actors have effectively outsourced sovereignty to the nation-state, feeding on the nation’s sovereignty like a parasite to a host.
Lawrence Lessig offers proof of how this parasitism occurs as a matter of everyday practice, in his recent post at The Atlantic:
A tiny number of Americans — .26 percent — give more than $200 to a congressional campaign. .05 percent give the maximum amount to any congressional candidate. .01 percent give more than $10,000 in any election cycle. And .000063 percent — 196 Americans — have given more than 80 percent of the super-PAC money spent in the presidential elections so far.
The result of this system of campaign finance, Lessig goes on to argue, are quite a bit worse than mere bribery:
These few don’t exercise their power directly. None can simply buy a congressman, or dictate the results they want. But because they are the source of the funds that fuel elections, their influence operates as a filter on which policies are likely to survive. It is as if America ran two elections every cycle, one a money election and one a voting election. To get to the second, you need to win the first. But to win the first, you must keep that tiniest fraction of the one percent happy. Just a couple thousand of them banding together is enough to assure that any reform gets stopped.
So here we have it, the creation of a double (and duplicitous) sovereign order, a layering of political economic forms as if they were strata of sedimentary rock. From below, the sovereign right of a people in a democratic republic to elect their own representatives. And pressing from above, with several billion tons of pressure, 163 global oligarchs who get to decide not only which policy gets made, but more importantly, decide which policies can never be made. This is the “sovereign decision” thrown backwards: The global sovereign is he who decides on exceptions of action on the part of the state.
Even more outstanding is how such non-decision is communicated. The rights of the national citizen are based in “natural” language: the ability to express public opinion and public will. The non-rights of the corporation are expressed, not in language, but through EFT: Electronic Fund Transfer, transferred over global informational networks from one back account to another.
To a certain extent, the Citizens United decision has granted the campaign-finance EFT a quasi-linguistic status of “free speech.” Corporations are now given the unfettered capacity to express (by which I mean, purchase) their political will… just as long as their expressions (by which I mean, paid television advertisements) do not enter directly into the campaigns of candidates. Citizens United permits unlimited campaign contributions, which allows campaign donors to select for all intents and purposes which candidates can run and which policies candidates promise to enact, but only as long as unlimited campaign contributions are not directly affiliated with an actual campaign. Accordingly, the global elite does not make any decisions in Congress, nor does it truly bribe any elected official or judge, but rather “filters” the set of decisions to be made by the government so as to mitigate any real regulation of global economic actors by the state. Indirection yes! and direction no!
Rights and non-rights in the United States are therefore afforded separate and unequal space in the political-economic arena. On one hand, the legitimate law of the land provides citizens the sovereign right to vote. On the other, the oligarchy/plutocracy, which has no “legitimate” or sovereign constitution, ensures that policies and actions cannot be taken by the legitimately sovereign state. And this expression of the oligarchy is curiously aphasic, no words or utterance, just EFT. “Expressive aphasia,” poetic and paradoxical. Consonant aphasia: The People speak, but the Corporations break. Anagrammatical aphasia: The People vote, while the Corporations veto.
Such is the parastical politics or political parasitism – or even better, the paralitics – of global non-right. Yo soy el 99.000037!