I am currently reading John Ralston Saul’s “The Unconscious Civilisation”, and a dominant theme is his examination of the decline of the power of the citizen, and its transition to the corporatised interest groups and managerial elites. On face value, a seriously left-wing proposition.
However, he make the case well (to a sympathetic reader).
Summarising, for the future clarity of my own thought(!), he argues that the move towards interest groups erodes the democratic power of the individual, and any concept of the public good. This is enmeshed in the assumption of self interest underpinning classical economics:
“[The] inability to see the human as anything more than interest driven [makes] it impossible … to imagine an organised pool of disinterest called the public good.”
This makes sense. If some is defined as being entirely self interested, which the rational individual is, then they are to have no interest in the welfare of society at all, insofar as it dosen’t affect them. (This does therefore allow for some public interest, but only where it coincides with that of the rationalising individual).
The movement towards this self-interested person (not citizen), removes both the public good and the means by which it was to be provided. The rational agent sees no need for the provision of public goods, indeed seeing it as a waste of resources. JRS points out that this is actually disempowering — the power of the citizen has been appropriated by corporatised interest groups, further restricting his ability to act for the public good. The decisions are now made by lobbyists, corporations and interest groups who blindly put state their positions according to their private financial interests. He asks:
“How are real decisions made today? Through negotiations between the specialised and interest groups. These are the fundamental political units”.
There was another point he makes about the ludricous nature of those arguing against the role government, and how this is simply self disempowering… but I can’t remember that at the moment and I am going to bed.