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Capitalism and Democracy - Part 2
Mark A. Goldman                                                                  Dated:  7/16/08

This Part 2 commentary is a follow up to something I wrote on 7/10/08 by the same name. I want to clarify a couple of points…

First of all Capitalism and Democracy need not be incompatible with one another; they just happen to be that way right now in the United States.

The point here is that in a democracy, (or to be more accurate, in a republic such as the one conceived by our Founders), We the People are supposed to be self-governing—the supreme creators, designers, managers, and deciders of how our society will work, including how we will distribute among ourselves, the benefits that accrue from the wisdom and hard work of our citizens.

But when you have a government that no longer respects the sovereignty of its People and an economic system that works for the benefit of the few rather than for the many, you are no longer living in the same republic that was conceived by the Founders. Today, this is where we find ourselves. For example, consider how our government is handling the much publicized mortgage debacle. To obtain a rational understanding of what the government is doing, compared to what they should be doing, click here.

Capitalism has been used strategically by the wealthiest among us, to transfer wealth from the middle class (and others who are vulnerable), to themselves—believing that they have the right to maximize their own wealth even at the expense of the public good just because they can. In fact, many believe that’s what capitalists are supposed to do.  They will even make a public relations effort to argue that their right to do that actually benefits everyone. The truth is…it really doesn’t.

Part of how they accomplish their goals is to corrupt the political process so that representatives are maneuvered (perhaps willingly) to give their allegiance to them rather than to us.

Capitalists with assistance from their controlled political and media pawns have used their power to disseminate lies using all sorts of disinformation strategies for their own purposes.  So much so, that We the People have lost touch with who we are, where we came from, what our responsibilities are, and where we should be going.

Government officials got the idea that they could get away with governing this way through experience. We inadvertently led them to the inescapable conclusion that we are too busy, too disorganized, too divided, too uninformed, and too complacent to understand or care about what they are up to. They learned that our attention could easily be misdirected with slick, slight of hand, public relations propaganda that obscures reality. They learned that the money to purchase that propaganda was more important to getting themselves reelected than simply working hard and doing a good job. 

So now they don’t bother to do an honest day's work, and we don't bother to keep track of what they actually do or don't do; they only have to make sure they can raise enough money to run sophisticated advertising campaigns at election time to keep themselves in office. That's their strategy for job security. It works.  I once read that there is less turnover in Congress than their used to be in the Soviet Politburo.  They don't accomplish that simply by doing a good job.  

All this didn’t happen at once. It evolved over time. We citizens learned to be complacent while capitalists and government officials learned that we could be easily manipulated into remaining that way.

Now this is not a secret. While we’ve been walking around uninformed and semi-conscious, the rest of the world has been passing us by. We’ve been busy listening to the voices chosen for us by our corporate owned media, whose job it is, is to keep telling us that we are the salt of the Earth, the best in the world at just about everything; that we have nothing to learn from other points of view or even from the successes already achieved by other societies. Consider….

  1. We are the wealthiest nation in the world and yet other countries are able to provide all of their citizens with free health care and manage to do it at less expense, while still achieving lower infant mortality rates and longer life expectancies than we have?
  2. How come other nations offer their people a shorter workweek, longer paid vacations, and, on average, a more secure economic safety net than our citizens have?
  3. How come the citizens of other democracies have much broader participation in their government, including political representation from many political parties representing a wider spectrum of ideas? … in other words, more democracy.
  4. How come other countries are able to offer a better education to all their children and in many cases, a free or near free college education to all who are qualified as well?
  5. How come other countries are able to offer their citizens greater consumer protection against unscrupulous and irresponsible corporations?
  6. How come we spend so much of our human and financial capital on building weapons and making war when it only wastes resources and transfers so much of our wealth to those who gain from other people's suffering?
  7. How come the citizens of other nations are informed about the crimes and injustices perpetrated by our government against other people in our name, while we, the stakeholders, remain largely oblivious?

Now I’m not suggesting that other countries do everything better than we do.  We do a lot of things better than anyone else.  But what harm would it be to learn from the success of others so we might enjoy the same benefits? Americans are internationally famous for being arrogant and uninformed. It’s very costly. We’ve lost perspective and insight into what is possible. 

There’s been a steady transfer of wealth in this country from the less well off to the very well off. The wealthiest among us like it that way. But it's corruption and a betrayal of our national purpose.

Here’s a quote from something I wrote on March 21, 2001 in response to Bush’s then new tax plan after hearing him describe it to us. You can read the rest of my comment in my book, The Answer:

“The Bush plan is the greatest rip off that has ever been postulated. It probably represents the largest single publicly sponsored transfer of wealth from the poor to the rich that was ever purposely devised. It does this in two ways, neither of which is intuitively obvious, and I'll explain that in a minute. But make no mistake about it. Every time a wealthy individual or corporation uses money or influence to buy special favors from government, it robs the public treasury, steals from the poor, and diminishes every American and every American dream. And that's what's happening here.”

I knew immediately that Bush’s plan was a deception as soon as he opened his mouth to talk about it. Of course, I had the advantage of having studied economics and finance in school. The only reason I decided to write about it was that I couldn’t find anyone else expressing my point of view in the mainstream media. It was a moment of personal disillusionment. I thought to myself, where are all the economists, economics professors, and political scientists who should be able to see that he is outright lying about what his plan is designed to accomplish.

And when Bush and his enablers decided that torture, invasions of privacy, illegal occupations of other countries, and even the discarding of Constitutional provisions that define our own national soul...was now going to be the accepted norm, where were all the lawyers in the country who took an oath to preserve and protect the Constitution? Where were all the members of Congress who took an oath of office to do the same? And didn't we all make that pledge too?  Where is everybody?  What has happened to our sense of decency and love of freedom?

We need to do better than this if we want to survive as a free country. We should give some thought to these things before we step up to the voting booth this next election.

“Liberty lies in the hearts and minds of men and women;
when it dies there, no constitution, no law, no court can save it;
 no constitution, no law, no court can even do much to help it…

                                                      —Judge Learned Hand

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