Business muncie oligarchy

Published on January 18th, 2019 | by Todd Smekens

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Muncie’s Oligarchy

The power structure in Muncie is a perfect example of an Oligarchy. In my last article, I concluded with the following question for which I’ll attempt to answer today: “If the government isn’t holding the private sector accountable and our free press/media has become more like state-sponsored public relations firms, what kind of political-economic society do we live in today?”

In order to answer this question, I’ll use Muncie, Indiana as an example to explain the community power structure and why our community is so undemocratic.

Albert Einstein in his famous 1950s dictum, “Why Socialism”, concluded that we live in an Oligarchy where those with extreme wealth use their money to influence society and will further enrich themselves. Over time, the Oligarchs will own all the major institutions thus ensuring their ideas and beliefs become cultural norms. Einstein spelled out the problem with this very succinctly:

The result of these developments is an oligarchy of private capital the enormous power of which cannot be effectively checked even by a democratically organized political society. This is true since the members of legislative bodies are selected by political parties, largely financed or otherwise influenced by private capitalists who, for all practical purposes, separate the electorate from the legislature. The consequence is that the representatives of the people do not in fact sufficiently protect the interests of the underprivileged sections of the population. Moreover, under existing conditions, private capitalists inevitably control, directly or indirectly, the main sources of information (press, radio, education). It is thus extremely difficult, and indeed in most cases quite impossible, for the individual citizen to come to objective conclusions and to make intelligent use of his political rights.

Why Socialism, Albert Einstein, Monthly Review, 1949

I would strongly encourage readers to reread the above quote from Einstein as many times as possible to absorb every last word, especially the last sentence. The people vote against their own self interests.

Now, let’s look at Muncie as an example. There is no doubt that the Ball family put Muncie on the map. The ample supplies of natural gas drew the original Ball brothers from the East to our community. Over time, they owned the hospital and teachers college which are now our two anchor institutions.

I would say the Ball family fits the definition of Oligarchs even if the profits of the company have been passed down via trusts to the current benefactors.

Because of their trust funds, the Ball family, headed by Jud Fisher, is like the Wall Street of the non-profit world in East Central Indiana. Nonprofits complete grant forms seeking dollars and the Ball family approves/denies requests. Do you think this kind of monetary power allows Jud Fisher to exert significant influence over the direction of the community?

To see a list of recipients in 2018 and prior, you can visit a list of their awards here: https://www.ballfdn.org/grant-info/grant-award-announcements/

Let me list a few 2018 grantee names:

  • Ball State University
  • Cornerstone Center for the Arts
  • Minnetrista Cultural Center
  • Muncie Downtown Development Partnership
  • Delaware Advancement Corp (Chamber of Commerce)
  • Delaware Community Schools
  • Muncie Community Schools (after the BSU takeover)
  • Ivy Tech Community College
  • IU Health/Ball Memorial
  • Shafer Leadership Academy
  • Habitat for Humanity
  • YMCA/YWCA
  • Muncie Sportsplex

Well, this is an abbreviated version but you get the idea. There is very little taking place in Delaware County which is not influenced by their wealth. While the auto industry and accompanying unions may have been a powerful influence in Muncie’s history, our community is a pure Oligarchy.

Do you think our local Gannett owned media outlet serves the people by holding the Oligarchs and their influence accountable?

No chance. Many of the above-listed organizations buy ads in the newspaper with the monies received by the philanthropists. If they printed anything remotely negative, there would be an immediate backlash.

For instance, when the Ball backed Chamber of Commerce wasn’t getting enough good press from The StarPress, they formed a partnership with WLBC to develop the Muncie Journal so they can publish their self-congratulatory puff pieces. It’s nothing more than a public relations/marketing entity. We need promotional pieces but we also need a legitimate free press to serve the people.

Another great example of this is Next Muncie. Geoffrey Mearns (BSU), Jeff Bird (IU Health/Ball), and Jud Fisher have basically appointed themselves emergency managers for Muncie and the surrounding area. The government didn’t appoint them…there was no election. They just declared themselves emergency managers of our community.

Read this sentence off their website: “With values rooted in collaboration, the leadership team has taken on the role of implementation and will be selecting champions to move specific projects forward.”

So, this self-appointed leadership team now runs Muncie? How exactly does that jive with our votes last November? Did anybody notice a referendum I missed?

As for “selecting champions,” what they mean is those beholden to the Ball family will be chosen for these roles. If they’re providing the funding for Next Muncie, they’ll also be selecting the same friendly faces. We’ve witnessed this time and time again in Muncie.

The Ball family and many others talk about the lack of leadership in our community but they don’t really want leaders…they want obedient followers.

The white nationalist, Kevin Strom, made this statement which was falsely attributed to Voltaire:

“To determine the true rulers of any society, all you must do is ask yourself this question: Who is it that I am not permitted to criticize?”

Kevin Alfred Strom, 1993

Oh, the stories I can tell about being banned from facilities in Muncie and employment opportunities. It would appear that Alfred and/or Voltaire was correct. It’s probably why people keep their mouths shut in Muncie and no leaders arise. You’re only allowed to lead if you’re assigned that role or it’s approved by Jud Fisher.

With all this power and influence concentrated in the hands of a few, it should make you wonder why we bother having elections in our community?

Do the Ball Family trusts serve the community and our government or do their money and influence give them ruling authority over the government and community?

This is a very important question Munsonians need to ask themselves, especially our younger folk who may want to take on leadership roles which challenge the status quo.

I’ll explore these issues in more detail with my next article…

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About the Author

Journalist, entrepreneur, publisher and ethical leader with a passion for truth seeking. Enjoy cycling, yoga, meditation, and spending quality time with my daughter. Wellness advocate who practices servant style leadership. Google


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