Conservatives are famous for saying they want “to starve the beast,” by which they mean the federal government (and more recently, state governments).

Let’s stick with the beast metaphor, but try this on for size: The beast is actually a guard dog, protecting us from rampant capitalism — the real beast we need to worry about.

Our government may be a beast, but we hold the leash, which is our vote. Not so the corporate beast, which is a ravenous predator whose only limit is the occasional collapse of the ecosystem it exploits to extremes, if left unchecked.

Of course, a guard dog can get fat and lazy. It can be tamed by treats, offered by people seeking to gain its trust — or at least acquiescence. But that can be avoided by the vigilance of those holding the leash.

In our metaphor, of course, we see our elected officials — collectively, our guard dog — being tamed by corporate money, which they begin to seek immediately after election.

We need our guard dog, but it must be brought to heel, not by corporate millions, but by millions of our votes.