Factionalism and Common Cause

Fantasy of the Commons

We are confused about how certain protections in the form of regulations may be considered good for one case but bad for another.  We are further confused by an impulse that makes some of us feel that regulations can enhance freedom and others feel that regulations are de facto anathema  to freedom.  The first believes that a benevolent regulation will create a less conflicted and contentious space where the motivation to do good does not have to “compete” with other venal motivations such as profit.  The second believes that regulations restrict “self-will” and then extends this to possession–possession being an extension of self to them.  These operate out of self-interest and constitute, if united, a faction.


We are poor and so often make choices favoring a cheap product, like a foodstuff, based on money economy and not a health economy. We are told more regulations equal more cost. But we do not, cannot, seem to understand that making choices forced upon us by a money economy will yield a more costly health economy that we will also have to pay. A delayed cost is “unseen” or unthought in our focus on the gratifications of the moment. In this way we are logically for “safety” but illogically against “regulation” or even “protection.”

Cargill, Monsanto, ADM, Tyson, WalMart–these are factions; factions stand against regulations.  Safety is an unnecessary cost or rather it is a predictable line item cost with health industry insurance collusion.


A short-mindedness decides the cost of a mortgage is worth often triple or quadruple the “list” price of the home one buys.  Or rather, seems unaware that the 150k house will cost 500k over the life (for it has a life) of the loan if one operates according to the note’s stipulations

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. It is further confusing because a decision in the moment that is attached to futurity freezes all of your actions in that moment. The state of the economy will not change your terms. Any inflation will not change your terms. In many ways a mortgage is just a large “time/money” anchor that creates a kind of chain or shackle or cage for most humans. It is amusing that even the terminologies expose this as we are encouraged to “lock in” an interest rate because who knows what the rates will be tomorrow? (They do.)

As we have two options, buy or rent, the latter at least keeps you “free” of that cage. That particular freedom can bring other uncertainties, of course, and that is often enough to scare some into “lock down.”

Bank of America, Goldman Sachs, the National Association of Mortgage Brokers are factions.  Factions manage interest rates and loan contracts and manipulate real estate markets.


Interests are factional. In The Federalist #10 James Madison warns of factionalism while wanting one particular faction (white men of wealth, property, education) to stand in as a “noble faction” against the factionalism of the “masses.” While we can argue with Madison in that we have come to discover the error in promoting one faction over another as an arbiter of the good life for all of us, we can take his point as regards our current (though historically rooted in our founding) corporatist factionalism.

By a faction, I understand a number of citizens, whether amounting to a majority or a minority of the whole, who are united and actuated by some common impulse of passion, or of interest, adversed to the rights of other citizens, or to the permanent and aggregate interests of the community.

There are two methods of curing the mischiefs of faction: the one, by removing its causes; the other, by controlling its effects.

There are again two methods of removing the causes of faction: the one, by destroying the liberty which is essential to its existence; the other, by giving to every citizen the same opinions, the same passions, and the same interests.

It could never be more truly said than of the first remedy, that it was worse than the disease. Liberty is to faction what air is to fire, an aliment without which it instantly expires. But it could not be less folly to abolish liberty, which is essential to political life, because it nourishes faction, than it would be to wish the annihilation of air, which is essential to animal life, because it imparts to fire its destructive agency.

I am always amazed at this little bit from Madison.  He goes on the piece offer further flesh, but we have the wh0le that we need right here.  First, we have to think Madison represented a faction himself and it seems either his true belief, or his delusion, or a lie, that his was a kind of neutral beneficence in the creation of the ultimate governing faction (Executive and Senate backed up by a Judiciary trained as a support) that was better than a parliamentary monarchy.

But note that, though he warns against it as a smothering of liberty, he offers the two methods of removing the causes of faction that our governing body and our corporate chiefs have been and are employing through economic mechanisms and extra-legal mechanisms (made legal by obfuscating the letter).  We are now a full-on surveillance-prison state that has no qualms against preventative detention unlimited in duration as well as murder and aggressive invasion by executive fiat.  We have always behaved this way as foreign policy, but we are now operating under the same aegis domestically.  The skies will soon see routine drone presence.  Beyond that, the court has recently further narrowed a primary protection against state brutality and connivance–Miranda.

For years our propaganda industry has created a kind of One Mind America–we call this advertising to instill consumer desire.


Chicago Trib columnist Eric Zorn believes that protesters gathering outside Rahm Emanuel’s house trying to make their disagreement clear about the Chicago Mayor’s closing schools and overhauling several others against the will of their communities is wrong (“Picketing Emanuel’s home crosses the line“).

My view was and is that public officials and those whose work excites public controversy are entitled to maintain a reasonable separation between their public and private lives. It dangerously crosses an important boundary when we attack — no matter how peacefully and prayerfully — where our foes live rather than where they work.

Though Emanuel seemed to shrug off the protest, residential picketing is inherently intimidating if not threatening — which is why it’s long been a favorite tactic of anti-abortion activists….

Monday’s protesters were certainly targeting Emanuel’s house — their choice to march down his street in the Ravenswood neighborhood was not a coincidence.  And though the mayor wasn’t even home at the time and, as Mary noted, the demonstrators were well behaved, didn’t linger and may well have been legally “within bounds”  I maintain they were crossing a important line that preserves civility and that they did violate the “privacy boundary.”

Never mind whether or not you agree with the particular cause advanced Monday — like Mary, I think the protesters have a point that the mayor is using a meat axe on certain school problems when a scalpel might do the trick and his team ought to get more input from parents.  Do you really want protesters marching up and down on your street in front of your home disrupting your peace and freedom of movement simply so they can send a message to a public official, political activist, business leader or, hey, media figure who happens to live on your block?

Several things are wrong with this most obviously the rather egregious comparison with anti-abortion group tactics.  Emanuel is beholden to an entire population and when he deems it unnecessary to listen then he is failing in his role as a servant.  He is operating by fiat.  Terrorists who threaten clinics and doctors do not just threaten violence, they employ it.  Also, a doctor and a clinic are operating in a one-to-one (and legal) relationship that is protected.  In many respects it is easier to apply the terror tactics to Emanuel and his cronies and Zorn fails miserably here in his courtier attitude towards the king.

And we know that Emanuel is not a public servant but a man who has been bought and sold many times over by corporate interests.  When common people have no recourse to affect the way power is wielded against them what should they do otherwise.  I’d say Public Corporatists like Emanuel and Private Corporatists like Jamie Dimon are getting off pretty easily when folks peacefully protest outside their homes.  They have only one other option and it is possible that the actions of these self-aggrandizing narcissists call the reactions down upon them.

It would be easy to avoid public protests if Public servants truly served the public in a disinterested fashion rather than serving interests that instead view the public as a resource for their agenda and accumulation of wealth and power.

It is Emanuel and his ilk who represent Madison’s definition of a faction; a group “adversed to the rights of other citizens, or to the permanent and aggregate interests of the community.”

We must protect ourselves when our systems have been corrupted and overtaken by such powerful factions.

True community outrage gathered into a physical presence against powerful, controlling factions is not a mob.  It is disinterested common cause; it is truly public-minded


Photo Credit: Left Handed Wave

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