GREED AND THE CONSTITUTION
A Novel Pair
By Larry Kahaner
I enjoy writing about greed.
It’s an emotion that intrigues me because I’m not a greedy person, so I’m fascinated by those who are. I want to understand it, and, for me, this means writing about it. In the course of writing I see all sides, and most, if not all of the ramifications.
I’m in a perfect position to do this because I’ve been a business journalist and reporter for about 30 years. I’ve written about 20 books, some under my own name, and others were ghostwritten. I’ve worked in newspapers, magazines, newsletters, the web… you name it. I’m also a licensed private investigator and one of my niches was cult investigations. These groups are almost always headed by a greedy son-of-a-bitch.
First, let’s define greed. It’s when you have more than enough money, power, whatever gets you excited, but you want more. It’s more than you could ever use, enjoy or hope to maintain by yourself. Does greed lead to immoral behavior? Well, you could argue that greed itself is immoral, to which I agree, but more often than not, greed often becomes an obsession that can no longer be quenched through legal or moral activity.
Because the obsession becomes so great, the prizes so compelling, that people cannot achieve it by going the legal and moral route anymore. It’s either too slow and cumbersome or it may top out. How many Renoir’s can you legally buy on the open market? How many options can you buy and sell each day before you’re overloading the market? Ask Bernie Madoff.
I’ve written about greed in several of my non-fiction books, most notably “Values, Prosperity, and the Talmud: Business Lessons from the Ancient Rabbis,” which is a look at how the ancient Jewish text looks at business, money, work, employment, the environment, and greed. One of the things that captivated me was how the ancient rabbis viewed people who lied and defrauded in business. They suggested that people cheated in business dealings because they lacked faith that tomorrow would be a better day, that their businesses would grow and prosper. Because they didn’t have the spiritual and religious conviction that they would be successful operating in moral and legal ways they felt that they had to cheat. They didn’t believe in themselves, their abilities and their courage.
It’s a way of looking at the issue that before had never occurred to me.
In my current novel “USA, Inc.” I explore greed through my antagonist Richard Kane who has made a fortune by supplying concrete and building services to less developed countries and cell phone service to burgeoning cities in Africa. He is a savvy negotiator and somewhat of a humanitarian in that he operated in countries that other Westerners shunned because of dangerous conditions, unsettled governments and ruthless warlords. He made a fortune by doing good in harsh environments. Make no mistake; he wasn’t altruistic, and he always stayed a hair inside the law.
Billions were not enough for Kane. He had to make an even bigger score by playing on the greediness of several state governors in the United States and a loophole (really) in the Constitution. Suffice it to say that his plan for making more money than he could ever need or use would put the U.S. in jeopardy as states were to be run like companies that he controlled.
Which brings us to our current president.
Although several reviewers have likened Kane to Trump, (The cutline helps: “What if the US were run like a company and a madman was in charge?”) but I can’t take full credit for my prescience. This duo does have similarities but Kane was actually very successful in all his business enterprises. Trump, well, we’re not sure. Kane also helped to give people affordable housing and inexpensive mobile phone service (which in many countries is the only phone service). Trump… nope. For him, it was all about money, flair and opulence.
Also, I started writing the book before Trump was a blip on the POTUS radar.
But here’s where they’re the same. They both want to run government like a business. I won’t tell you what happened to Kane and his idea for states. As for Trump, the federal government can’t be run like a businesses, either legally or practically, and here’s why:
The Constitution requires three branches of federal government executive (president), legislative (congress) and judicial (courts). Each is described in detail and fitting it into a corporate structure would be impossible.
Not so for the states which was a surprise to me.
All states copy the federal three-branch system but they’re not required to do so. The only requirement for state government structures is detailed in Section IV of the Constitution: “The United States shall guarantee to every State in this Union a Republican Form of Government …”
Interpretations by Constitutional scholars say that a republican form of government means a representative form of government – basically anything but a monarchy.
This leaves states to structure their own governments in any way they want as long as they adhere to this principle. For example, it is constitutionally legal for a state to mimic a corporation with a CEO, officers and board of directors. Citizens could be shareholders, vote on the board members and make their wishes known through annual meetings and referenda. To be fair, all shareholders would have one vote instead of multiple votes based on how many shares they hold. I’d want that that provision in the charter. This system would be a pure democracy where gerrymandering wouldn’t work and lobbyists would have no sway because citizens could vote out bad board members at the annual meetings.
There is a sticking point, however. This form of democracy would require an informed and engaged electorate. With less than 58 percent of eligible voters casting ballots in the 2016 election, we have a ways to go, but what if voters believed their voted counted and their elected officials were beholden only to the majority?
We’ve already seen the power of populist action, not just in the U.S. but around the world. What if populism could install this kind of state government? These days, it seems, almost anything can happen.
What if the US were run like a corporation and a madman was in charge? Check out Larry’s latest thriller USA, Inc. now available in eBook and paperback. All Larry’s books have a money back guarantee.