Majoritarian speech values suggest that we shouldn’t allow corporations to lobby, let alone electioneer. The point of a mixed democratic-market system is that markets are highly powerful tools that can be used for good or ill. Deciding how to use them, how to guide them, and when to reject their results is the heart of democratic politics. The same characteristics that make our business corporations highly effective in their intended tasks of creating jobs and supplying useful products and services—centralized managers answerable only to dispersed financial markets intent on enforcing a single minded focus on economic profit—make them highly suspect participants in the debates and political campaigns that help shape our laws.
If we allow markets to control the political process, we lose democracy. Moreover, we will lose our markets—since successful corporations will simply use money from their past success to buy legislation to guarantee them still more market power. —“Money Is Speech: Why the Citizens United v. FEC Ruling Is Bad for Politics and the Market,” Daniel J.H. Greenwood, Dissent
Finland is smarter than America and likely always will be;
the best of the dead is still better than the rest of the dead;
it’s a circus out there: now we must turn our backs on the Greatest Show on Earth
Attention is “the taking possession by the mind, in clear and vivid form, of one out of what seem several simultaneously possible objects or trains of thought,” wrote psychologist and philosopher William James in 1890. “It implies withdrawal from some things in order to deal effectively with others, and is a condition which has a real opposite in the confused, dazed, scatterbrained state which in French is called distraction.” James came tantalizingly close to understanding at least one aspect of this mysterious phenomenon whose inner workings eluded philosophers, artists, historians, and scientists for centuries. But today, we know much more about attention, and all that we are learning underscores its irrefutable importance in life. Attention is an organ system, akin to our respiratory or circulatory systems, according to cognitive neuroscientist Michael Posner. It is the brain’s conductor, leading the orchestration of our minds. Its various networks—orienting, alerting, and the executive—are key not only to higher thinking but also to morality and even happiness. Yet increasingly, we are shaped by distraction. James described a vivid possessing of the mind, an ordering, and a withdrawal. We easily recognize that these states of mind are becoming less and less a given in our lives. The seduction of virtual universes, the allure of multitasking, our allegiance to a constant state of motion: These are markers of a land of distraction. —“A Nation Distracted,” Maggie Jackson, Utne Reader
For Seneca, the stereotypical Google user would be remarkably similar to Calvisius Sabinus, a rich Roman who Seneca explains mastered a unique type of ignorance and stupidity. Sabinus was a foolish man, unable to remember the facts and literary allusions that comprised the educated culture of that time. But he was also a vain man who wanted to be intelligent. With his great wealth he devised a plan. Calvisius Sabinus purchased educated slaves, each of whom was tasked with knowing a specific bit of culture. One slave knew Homer, another Hesiod and there were others that were expert in each of the nine lyric poets. It cost him a tremendous amount of money to educate these slaves, but once they were ready he put them to use. If, in the midst of a feast, he wished to recite the Greek poet Pindar then he would simply speak while his slave whispered into his ear. In this way, Sabinus believed he had attained wisdom. —“Calvisius Sabinus,” Micah White, Adbusters