Thanks to Counterpunch for a reminder of how different the US system of legislation is from ours. The article was about the roll-out of 5G, the new wonder internet service which will enslave us all even further. I was expecting an article about theories relating to 5G’s alleged cancerous properties, or how 5G masts were the source of Covid. But it was more sober than that. It related the story of how the so-called ‘American Legislative Exchange Council’ (ALEC) was beavering away on behalf of its corporate sponsors (in this case to ensure local objections to 5G installations could be over-ruled):
ALEC is, formally, a non-profit group that drafts model legislation. It has an estimated membership exceeding 2,000 state legislators from both political parties, but most are conservative Republicans. It regularly invites members to all-expense paid private gatherings with corporate executives and lobbyists where they devise model legislation to fulfill their political agenda. These legislators, in turn, return to their home states and promote the legislation at state houses throughout the country. Many of their initiatives have been enacted.
I made several trips to state legislatures as an MP (promoting climate change initiatives) and discovered how state capitols were often run by part-time legislators who relied heavily on outside bodies to formulate legislation. Many of them didn’t have the capacity to do so themselves. Given the powers of states, this is an obvious way in for all sorts of bad law, designed to enhance richly endowed agendas (we’re seeing it now playing out with attempts to overrule Wade v. Roe on abortion rights). I have to say I thought that running a state was or should be a more serious business.
This is the big difference between us and our friends over the pond. There, legislation comes not from the government but from legislators. On the face of it that may seem entirely reasonable. But it means that proposed laws are more prey to the lobbying efforts of vested interests, who will fund particular legislators to do their will. The lobbying industry in the US surpasses anything we have here. This is not to deny that lobbying doesn’t take place here, of course it does, but dealing with the government (even our current corrupt regime) means passing through more hoops than simply approaching a couple of MPs with backhanders and saying ‘get this done.’ Generally (with the exception of private members bills which rarely succeed) our laws are drafted by supposedly impartial civil servants whose job security does not depend on which party is in office. Let’s keep an eye open on how the American-born Johnson seeks to yet again emulate the US way of democracy!