Throughout his work Karl Marx expresses the shortcomings of the capitalist system. He contends that capitalism creates no more than a two class system – composed of bourgeois (capitalists) and proletariats (labourers) – in which the former exploits the latter. Therefore, all social institutions, such as media, politics, and law, are used by capitalists to manipulate the proletariat class into supporting their ideals. Law is especially duplicitous, because in a democratic society it is universally held that everyone is equal under the law. Yet, according to Marx, this law is practiced through a “fundamentally unequal social context.” (Pavlich, 97) Nowhere is this more apparent than the home of capitalism and democracy: The United States of America.
In the capitalist democracy that is American society, the capitalist class has perverted the democratic system with their vast resources. Seemingly, everything in America is for sale, including its political system. In the case of Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission (2010), the United States Supreme Court decided that under the First Amendment corporations and unions do not have to limit their political donations. This decision has allowed for the creation of super PACs, political action committees that can accept an unlimited amount of money from individual donors, corporations, and unions for a political cause. Increasingly, politicians in America and money are synonymous. So one might wonder, to whom are these politicians accountable once they are elected to public office? To their constituents or to the wealthy donors that paid for their campaigns. If we assume that these politicians will act in the interests of wealth private donors, corporations, and unions – which in most cases they do – then we must also assume that they will seek to enact laws that benefit this ruling class. Examples of such laws are taxation laws and financial regulation laws.
Taxation laws in America reflect its trickle-down economy. Wealthy individuals and corporations are seen as investors and job creators, so they are given tax breaks while the middle class struggles. Thus, on average, multimillionaires and corporations pay a lower income tax rate than the average middle class worker. Another financial inequality became apparent during the 2008 financial crisis. If a private individual or small business is on the brink of bankruptcy, they are forced to go under, yet large banks and corporations are considered “too big to fail.” Because of a lack of federal financial regulation, large financial firms such as Lehman Brothers were allowed to use creative accounting, which helped lead to the financial crisis when it was discovered. Ultimately, several large banks and corporations shared a $700 billion bailout because they were “too big to fail.”
As inequalities become more apparent in capitalist democratic societies, we have seen a banding together of people who oppose these inequalities. The Occupy movement is an example of this. It is composed of people from all different socioeconomic and political backgrounds who are united in their opposition to the current status quo. United, they strive to bring about change to current economic and political system.
More on the Citizens United decision and super PACs:
– CBS News: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wm-6Y8JGeOM
More on the Occupy Movement:
– The Julian Assange Show: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h8JJo1RrgVc
Pavlich, G. (2011). Law & Society Redefined. Don Mills, Ontario: Oxford University Press.