Beyond Democracy

Democracy — majority rule by the people — is the holy grail to most political activists. It is the best of all possible worlds, and the only one acceptable. The activists give highest priority to our regaining or retaining democracy, if they think we’ve lost or we’re losing it.

But they’re wrong about all that. Our “democracy” has always been a sham, and the better world envisioned by most activists is self-contradictory. Real democracy would require cultural changes far beyond anything those activists have imagined. Those same changes would also make possible a consensus system, which is much better than adversarial democracy anyway.

Statistics of Gilens and Page (2014) proved what most of us already knew: Regardless of elections, the rich get the public policies they want, and the rest of us don’t. That’s plutocracy. Data for those statistics only go back a few decades, but the USA has been a plutocracy thinly disguised as democracy ever since its founding on slavery and genocide. And what were the ancient kings and pharaohs but plutocrats?

For 200,000 years we lived as equals and shared everything. One could only “get ahead” by advancing the whole community. Genetically we haven’t changed since then; that’s still our nature. But 10,000 years ago we took a cultural wrong turn with the introduction of hierarchy and property, making greed possible.

Hierarchy concentrates power, and that corrupts. We can see it all around us: Authoritarians beat their families, bosses bully workers, guards torture prisoners, police shoot the poor, and politicians lie to start wars to profit from weapons sales. We should replace hierarchy with horizontal networking.

Instead of sharing, we trade. Voluntary trade profits both traders, but more the trader in the stronger bargaining position, thus making him stronger still, increasing inequality. Over time, that concentrates wealth. Money buys influence, and vice versa, regardless of what the Supreme Court does or doesn’t say. Thus we are ruled by the wealthy class, and the only way to end that is to not have a wealthy class — but that requires sharing.

We’re all corrupted by this system. Competition kills empathy, creating racism, sexism, war, austerity, and other kinds of bullying. Homeless beggars on street corners are a constant visible reminder of our society’s callousness. Every few days some loner shoots up a school or church. But we don’t shoot our friends. Why can’t we all be friends? Because property separates us. And our pursuit of separate interests and disregard for the commons is destroying the ecosystem, and will kill us all if continued a bit longer. We urgently need a consensus culture.

Even after cultural change, at times we’ll still fail to reach consensus, and we may fall back on majority rule. But those times will be fewer as we get to know each other better — not because of some change in rules, but because instead of asking “what’s best for me,” we’ll be asking “what’s best for us all?” If we work at it, we can learn to share as equals and leave no one behind. The first step is to get more people talking about it.


2018 Nov 17, version 2.11. The leaflet version fits on two sides of 1/2 page.