by Philip Reiss
The phrase “in the national interest” is frequently parroted by media pundits and politicians alike. It has for decades given me pause to contemplate just what it means for the majority of Americans as opposed to the small minority of super rich Americans. What it means to the 1% of the population greatly invested in capitalistic money making activity as compared to the majority of Americans with no personal stock market investments is of interest to me.
Beyond the fact there’s likely a multitude of differing subjective interpretations of its meaning for establishing public policy, I believe there’s a specific meaning of the term which the ruling elites tacitly agree upon. As I see it the financial oligarchs understanding of the term in the national interest means that which serves their economic and political interests, not first and foremost the economic interests of 99% of Americans.
It appears the corporate sponsored media isn’t eager to explain to the public how the capitalist’s special interests understand what the term means to them. Certainly these special interests include those of the military/industrial complex. For corporate interests this term in the national interest is a buzz phrase having a specific meaning for them and not readily recognized by the public. Americans would most likely consider halting pollution and having clean water in the national interest, but that’s not what it means to the military/industrial complex.
This term, unfortunately, is not carefully scrutinized and meaningfully assessed by the media to educate the public as to what it actually means for corporate interests. Hence, its implied meaning for corporate interests is not recognized by the general public. For the most part Americans are oblivious to the self serving context in which the term in the national interest is understood by Wall Street’s special interests.
Political pundits know what the term implies for corporate lobbyists, etc., but aren’t inclined to educate the public about why and for what purpose corporations invoke the term in the national interest. However, one tactic frequently employed by the pundits is their endeavor to promote a belief only the government knows what’s in the national interest.
Generally, most Americans would believe GDP growth would be in the national interest. But, how many economics professors would ask who benefits most from GDP growth? Perhaps some might, but Marxist economist Richard D. Wolff would quickly ask that question. Wolff is always concerned with the question who gets what and why. Obviously that question isn’t a priority for those attributing to in the national interest a special interpretation which always serves the interests of the capitalist oligarchy.
“In the national interest” is a subjective notion and yet it has an implied (coded) meaning understood by American congressional representatives, lobbyists, and corporate business leaders. For the most part Americans don’t realize how politicians and big business interests choose to interpret its meaning. Ignorance is bliss when Americans respond to that term without contemplating it’s special meaning useful to the ruling class. Thus, without giving the term any serious consideration to understand its implied meaning for economic elites, too many Americans are quick to respond by saying, “It sounds OK to me.” And that response suits the special corporate interests setting the nation’s economic and political agenda just fine.
Philip Reiss is a retired S.U.N.Y. community college history professor now living in Bethlehem, PA. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
“The most important question we should all be asking, the issue that we have to keep front and center, the issue that I keep front and center, is, what is in the national security interest of the United States of America? As commander in chief, that’s what I stay focused on. As Americans, that’s what all of us should be focused on.”
–President Barack Obama