Capitalism and the Chance for Real Democracy

Grant PetersonStarred Page By Grant Peterson, 17th Feb 2014 | Follow this author | RSS Feed | Short URL
Posted in Wikinut>Writing>Society & Issues

How democratic do you think our system of government is? How can it possibly be democratic when it serves the interests of the capitalist system. Can we ever achieve true democracy? These are all important questions that need to be addressed in the modern era.

Facade of Democracy

The last article " Global Capitalism, Imperialism and the Power of the Corporation" hinted at the fact that whilst we live under the influence of global corporations we cannot build a true democracy because the interests of democracy are always subverted to the interests of capitalism. Yet many capitalist countries maintain democratic regimes as an expedient facade yet capitalism is inconsistent about its democracy, here are some facts:

  • It is cheaper to run a democratic state than a dictatorship.
  • Most people are satisfied with the facade of democracy and the facade of personal freedoms or rights.
  • Rights can be taken away in the name of national security at any time.

In western, developed, countries government bodies do not need to be bribed to act in defense of the capitalist system, it is imbued within the electoral and legal systems. The democratic system we have today is far from a real democracy with full involvement by the people for the betterment of humanity, truth is we have an opportunity once every four years to vote for a representative and for the majority of people the way they vote is to select the candidate that least misrepresents their viewpoint, and more often than not their elected representative will ignore the program on which they were elected and bow the predominant commercial interests.

Of course for much of the developing world there are often no democratic regimes and this allows the development of a very raw type of capitalism that functions without considering the rights of the people unless they are guaranteed by charter or international treaty. In addition to this we must also add China which is NOT a communist country, despite having a Communist Party at the helm is nothing but a state capitalist regime that puts power in the hands of corrupted party officials, that also has scant regard for human rights and there is nothing that can be characterized as democratic about this regime or other ones from the former Soviet block. In these states we hear frequent stories of breaches of human rights for those that dare to oppose the regime of the day and even when change happens, the new President or Prime Minister will act exactly the same way in a couple of years, it is also true that most of these states have never had the fortune to be a part of any democratic process. These questions will each become a discussion of their own to be addressed separately.

Needs of Financial Capital

Any democratic authority will face the problem that it has to bow to the demands of financial capital and its requirement that all spending is kept in check and the need for everything to be profit center related through the sale of any government body that can be profitable. Ultimately it will be finance capital that will profit from the current world debt crisis even though it was a central part of the system that caused the collapse that initiated the 2008 recession in the first place. Financial capitalism has an uncanny ability to survive and profit from its own mismanagement in the longer term, because while there were many other signs of a serious downturn in the economy, there were few showing a full blown recession was on its way. The bailout in the west, while necessary for the defense of the capitalist system, will ultimately be paid for by ordinary people, starting with those who have lost their homes through repossession during the course of this economy.

Banks have a long history of risking other people's money, yet in the past that risk had always been managed, this time the banking sector felt itself above the law and ignored new international risk protocols Basel II) which combined with the collapse of the sub-prime mortgage market brought the banking system to the edge of collapse turning a slump into a full blown recession that could last as long as another quarter century.

Yet financial capital subverts the democratic process because every change legislators desire must be fiscally responsible, government spending is always indebted to the financial sector which will always act to limit the scope of radical change. In reality our democracies bow to an economic dictatorship of capitalism and not the will of the people and any funds used to develop things like roads, hospitals and schools will be funded through the very banking system that ruined the world economy not so long ago.

"Impossible to Achieve"

When you hear someone state that there is an "impossibility of achieving" economically one or more of the changes that are required then it is clear that the demands of democracy are at odds with that of capitalism and the limits of our democracy have been reached at this specific time, yet of course these limits do change over time. When Karl Marx discussed the demands for free education for all children in the 1848 "Communist Manefesto" that was an impossible demand yet today we have such rights in western democratic states, yet as Malala Yousafzai pointed out in 2013 a free education is not available to all children in all nations and that is governed by the needs of capitalism in each national state, while western countries demand an educated workforce this is seen as extravagant in other states that limit education in many ways, yet it would not be wrong to demand such a right as a part of our basic human rights.

What "impossible to achieve" means is that someone has not yet found a way to exploit the system and make money from that idea yet, it is only after money is generated from an idea does it become possible and achievable, it is only then that it will be considered as valuable and made generally available. So by suggesting the impossible you create a money making opportunity for a future entrepreneur and only after they have tested the validity of the idea and created a value proposition (e.g. A profit center for a small segment of the community) can it be considered a viable proposition (the beauty of this is that when an idea fails it is the entrepreneur's money that is lost, not public funds), should it succeed of course by this time the original idea has become subverted to other interests and is for some a center of profit.

Building a True Democracy

Ultimately global imperialistic capitalism operates a form of oppression against the interests of the nation state particularly in the case of impoverished nations and this is a part of its downfall, yet it is also necessary to understand that capitalism will not simply collapse as a system it has to be replaced and that is one of the major challenges of the current day and it is only by the system's replacement that humanity can achieve true democracy.

It may be said that 200 years ago the people were less prepared for participation in decision making, today we have an educated populace, who need more than to be involved in a Twitter or Facebook commentary on their democratic process they need to feel that their voice counts, they are willing and able to be involved, but operating a true democracy is more than involving the people on social media it is also more than mob rule where 51% take away the rights of the other 49% - one person has a right to do something differently and be recognized for having done so.

A true democracy is one that places the will of the people above that of the interests of any specific group in society, it listens to all of the needs and is not molded around the aims of one specific group, e.g. big business owners, it will enable towns and cities to plan their own needs based upon the skills local residents possess and build futures for local people. It is about making the impossible possible but doing it in such a way that benefits every person in the community. We may not all agree on what should be done but through a true democratic process we can create a plan for real change.

The next article looks at the power that global capitalism and the growth of imperialism worldwide and asks the question whether capitalism has gone one step too far.

GP Toronto 2014.

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author avatar Jerry Walch
18th Feb 2014 (#)

A very thought provoking article, Grant.

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author avatar Phyl Campbell
18th Feb 2014 (#)

Economically, I think you are right. The majority, or the 98%, would remove the ruling class from power and redistribute wealth. However, I don't dare support this in practice, because a majority rule society would also be, considering both present and history, anti-gay, anti-empowered woman, anti-minority rights. It seems no matter how one stacks the deck or changes the rules, there is still an elite that defies the odds and comes out smiling -- take the auto industry and the banks too big to fail versus Martha Stewart's conviction and imprisonment for insider trading. I'm not saying MS was right or innocent, but there is no way her punishment fit the crime without turning Wall Street into a cell block.

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author avatar Grant Peterson
19th Feb 2014 (#)

Phyl, it is true that Wall Street is as guilty as she is.

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author avatar Fern Mc Costigan
19th Feb 2014 (#)

Nice post and informative as well!

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author avatar MarilynDavisatTIERS
2nd Mar 2014 (#)

Good afternoon, Grant, catching up on reading and your article(s) captured my interest. Thank you for presenting a concise, informative read. I appreciate your historical references as well. My father, a history major graduate of Wabash College, in 1939, thought that the fledgling auto industry, while mobilizing us as a nation, would in fact one day contribute to our down fall. He did not live to see the bail out, nor the unnecessary dependence on oil, however, his forward thinking is reflected as part of the larger problems we face today. Growing up however, his views were considered by some as anti-American. There was nothing further from the truth. He gave up a professional baseball career with the Indianapolis Indians to join the Navy and honorably served for 7 years - specifically for the love of his county. Thanks for tackling this subject. ~Marilyn

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