If we are to use Abraham Lincoln’s famous definition of democracy from the Gettysburg address as the collective understanding of what democracy is meant to be; does anyone really believe that is what we have today?
Government of the people, by the people, for the people
As Chomsky argues, what we in the developed world have today is a plutocracy masquerading as democracy. A system that ruthlessly serves the very richest in society typically neglecting what’s best for the people and our planet. Creating what is in effect a capitalism system for the people often left without adequate protection from the state; whilst the corporations get to enjoy a form of socialism, protected from the harsh realities of market based capitalism thanks to the nation state’s willingness to bail them out with taxpayers revenue whilst also being complicit in enabling their tax avoidance.
I very much doubt the irony of this clip from Sacha Baron Cohen comedy ‘The Dictator’ will be lost on anyone
Democracy has been corrupted by this crony capitalism. It’s undeniable that big business holds massive sway as they fund the campaigns of politicians and through lobbying can create or kill political campaigns. How times have we seen this power abused to obtain bailouts, legal permits, government grants, special tax breaks, and other state intervention that benefits private business; all paid for by taxpayer revenue.
The people are however relatively powerless, armed only with a vote every few years for candidates we typically don’t believe represent our views and interests. This is backed up with evidence in the form of opinion polls and how they differ from government policy. In US the poorest 70% have an almost total disconnect whilst the richest 0.1% virtually set policy to further their own needs as explained by Chomsky
The current form of capitalism we have today and it’s destructive impact on society and democracy were warned against by the person often regarded as the chief architect of capitalism, Adam Smith. At the very start of Wealth of Nations, the only part which is typically read. Smith talks about how wonderful division of labour is because of the productivity and efficiency benefits all of which is beyond any refute.
But what is universally overlooked by neoclassical economists is that a few hundred pages in he also talks about how division of labour can be monstrous. At the time of writing, this was indeed the case with Mill and Factory owners treating workers as slaves. That, if left unchecked, it will result in people being treated like machines not humans. That governments of civilised societies will need to intervene to prevent the exploitation of people.
He also said that “the ‘principal architects of government policy’ are the ‘merchants and manufacturers’ who design policy so that their own interests are most peculiarly attended to, however grievous the impact on others”.
Smith’s, warning have come to fruition, the current cancerous form of representative democracy ensures the real power remains in the hands of the corporations and the richest 0.1% that control those corporations and that people and the planet are secondary to the pursuit of profit for the few.
As pointed out in this short clip from the Zeitgeist Movie series, you don’t need to look for conspiracy theories, the plutocracy that currently controls society is hiding in plain sight and its existence is infratutable.
People are starting to wake up to this. Politicians like Bernie Sanders & Ron Paul in the US and Jeremy Corbyn in the UK are gaining in popularity despite the corrupt system’s best efforts to suppress them. At an Oxford Union debate, Corbyn the leader of the Labour party and quite possibly the next Prime Minster of the Britain said “Is it right that the world’s economy is dominated by a group of unelected multinational corporations, they are the real power in the world today, not the nation states.”
This oppressive system is however not our own choice. If we all act to demand major political reform it will give us the platform needed to start addressing all the major issues facing the world today.