News and Tribune


April 21, 2014

CUMMINS: You can’t freely speak without money

— Do you think people are smarter than they used to be? Disregard the intelligence required to develop heart transplants, smartphones or fast foods. (My heart is beating so fast, I’ll quick dial the hospital while he’s asking, “You want fries with that?”). I’m referring to the good sense most people had prior to transferring their lives to the Internet. The eternal question remains: how does one live a good life?  

 Plato wasn’t bothered with widgets and gadgets, only the intellect. He said, “A good decision is based on knowledge and not numbers.” He enjoyed philosophizing and had insight into the knowledge and wisdom necessary to make man happy, as evidenced by his statement, “He was a wise man who invented beer.” And he had sense enough to realize politics was here to stay. Twenty-four hundred years ago, he said, “One of the penalties for refusing to participate in politics is that you end up being governed by your inferiors.” But the problem is that speaking politically now costs a lot of money, starting with up to a million. If you don’t have any stand on a street corner and shout to the four winds.

In all of its wisdom, the Supreme Court recently ruled that the limit on donations to federal candidates has been removed. So, money is free speech determined by the number of dollars you have. The Supremes had previously ruled that a corporation is somewhat like a person and has the “personal” right to speak out using big money as a substitute for lies and hateful words. A corporation also has a right to carry a gun to protect its “personal” self from the crazed masses. Did Jefferson and his fellow founders intend the constitution — they weren’t even paid minimum wage to write it — be interpreted that free speech be based on the amount of money you have? Did they intend the right to bear arms means you can pack your gun to school as Indiana and some other states have ruled? My first-grade teacher, Miss Fanny, kept her loaded 38 concealed near her fanny, and if it went off accidentally, a mere flesh wound.

Perhaps you’ve heard of the Koch brothers. They are estimated to be worth $100 billion. They sell things and buy lawmakers to the tune of $400 million in “dark money” in 2012. Here’s a campaign bundle and now you owe me something such as legislation to insure I can do what I want to do to remain filthy rich? Is there a danger money corrupts the political process? Yes, but there’s also the danger Miss Fanny will shoot you if you disrupt her classroom where she’s testing your child every day. It’s a money-crazed and violent world out there. Don’t go to bed, school or your off-shore bank without a hefty portfolio and a holster designed to quick draw.

In a recent article in the Wall Street Journal, Charles G. Koch argued he was, “fighting to restore a free society.” A free society is one that allows an individual to do what he wants to do without government interference. If a person chooses to give millions to political candidates, he should be free to do so, just as a person choosing to live in poverty if he wants to. Koch says, “instead of fostering a system that enables people to help themselves, America is now saddled with a system that destroys value, raises costs, hinders innovation and relegates millions of citizens to a life of poverty, dependency and hopelessness.” He’s right; people should be free to be rich or poor.

Let’s go from reality back to philosophy. Plutarch, another Greek philosopher  without a real job, said, “An imbalance between rich and poor is the oldest and most fatal ailment of all republics.” That’s why republics don’t last, and one reason our democracy might decline and fall if we continue to be governed by inferiors who pass ridiculous you-name-it laws. They’re passing health care laws we cannot afford, removing restrictions on pot and gays and haven’t yet determined if women are equal. Then the Supreme Court, like God who has the power to open or close the flood gates, interprets these laws according to how they feel on a particular day. Will America survive? Yes, but according to which way the money flows, and if everyone packs heat. Seriously, will America survive? Only, if we regain our senses and adopt a Greek or American philosophy that originally gave everyone a fair chance.

— Contact Terry Cummins at


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