Financial FAQs

“Florida’s now-infamous Stand Your Ground law, which lets you shoot someone you consider threatening without facing arrest, let alone prosecution, sounds crazy — and it is,” said New York Times columnist Paul Krugman recently. “And it’s tempting to dismiss this law as the work of ignorant yahoos. But similar laws have been pushed across the nation, not by ignorant yahoos but by big corporations.”

“Specifically, language virtually identical to Florida’s law is featured in a template supplied to legislators in other states by the American Legislative Exchange Council, a corporate-backed organization that has managed to keep a low profile even as it exerts vast influence (only recently, thanks to yeoman work by the Center for Media and Democracy, has a clear picture of ALEC’s activities emerged). And if there is any silver lining to Trayvon Martin’s killing, it is that it might finally place a spotlight on what ALEC is doing to our society — and our democracy.”

And thereby we are beginning to see where the National Rifle Association, backed by some elements of Big Business, is leading this country—into a greater lawlessness, at the very least. For the Stand Your Ground Law enshrines the gangster code—shoot first and ask questions later. Krugman was exposing the links between corporations and the NRA that continues to push for guns to be worn by everyone everywhere, with or without background checks or even licenses.

And this is when the U.S. has the highest rates of gun violence of anywhere in the world. The last time such violence was this high was during the Great Depression, when we had the likes of gangsters like Al Capone, John Dillinger, and Bonnie and Clyde.

“Specifically, language virtually identical to Florida’s law is featured in a template supplied to legislators in other states by the American Legislative Exchange Council,” said Krugman, “a corporate-backed organization that has managed to keep a low profile even as it exerts vast influence (only recently, thanks to yeoman work by the Center for Media and Democracy, has a clear picture of ALEC’s activities emerged). And if there is any silver lining to Trayvon Martin’s killing, it is that it might finally place a spotlight on what ALEC is doing to our society — and our democracy.”

Why the push by the NRA, and Big Business for more guns? The reason most gun advocates and the NRA give, is that it is for the purpose of self-defense in an increasingly violent world. In fact, the NRA asserts it decreases violence. But studies cited in an excellent book, Gun Violence: The Real Costs by Philip J. Cook and Jens Ludwig show that in fact gun use tends to increase gun violence—i.e., there are almost 4 times more fatalities in gun-related robberies than other robberies with knives, clubs, etc.

And another study cited in the Justice Department’s National Crime Victimization Survey (NCVS) on home invasions found that just 3 percent were able to use guns against someone who broke in (or attempted to do so) while they were at home, when 40 percent of households have guns.

So it turns out guns are not very helpful in self-defense. Also overlooked is the fact that criminals are predators, and predators prey on the weakest and most vulnerable, not someone who looks like they can defend themselves. So really, does the agenda of the NRA to abolish all gun controls do more than reinforce the fear factor, the fear that your neighbor may be your assailant?

“But where does the encouragement of vigilante (in)justice fit into this picture?” asks Krugman. “In part it’s the same old story — the long-standing exploitation of public fears, especially those associated with racial tension, to promote a pro-corporate, pro-wealthy agenda. It’s neither an accident nor a surprise that the National Rifle Association and ALEC have been close allies all along.”

Or, has it become a symbol of opposition to government, as an argument for fewer laws, in fact? The real argument isn’t about whether the availability of guns makes us safer, but advocating fewer gun controls is a way of opposing all forms of regulation, which leads us to their real agenda.

What is ALEC? “Despite claims that it’s nonpartisan, it’s very much a movement-conservative organization, funded by the usual suspects: the Kochs, Exxon Mobil, and so on. Unlike other such groups, however, it doesn’t just influence laws, it literally writes them, supplying fully drafted bills to state legislators. In Virginia, for example, more than 50 ALEC-written bills have been introduced, many almost word for word. And these bills often become law.

“What this tells us, in turn, is that ALEC’s claim to stand for limited government and free markets is deeply misleading. To a large extent the organization seeks not limited government but privatized government, in which corporations get their profits from taxpayer dollars, dollars steered their way by friendly politicians. In short, ALEC isn’t so much about promoting free markets as it is about expanding crony capitalism.”

And that is what we had in the Great Depression as well, a greater lawlessness that is part vigilantism, but this time robbing from the public coffers to fill private pockets. President GW Bush called it the ownership society, but it’s really the reverse Robin Hood effect. The drive to privatize government services — such as social security, Medicare, the military, schools, prisons — is the drive to eliminate public services that serve all, to benefit the few. This is when corporations already make record profits as a share of total income, while the share of household incomes continues to decline. The wealthiest will continue to prey on the poorest, in other words, if their methods are not exposed.

Harlan Green © 2012