Beyond Democracy

Certainly democracy (rule by the people) is preferable to oligarchy (rule by a few). But

* Oligarchy and plutocracy are essentially the same thing, for those who have either money or political power generally use the one to also get the other.

  • many activists fear we recently lost or are about to lose our democracy. They’re wrong. The USA has never been a democracy. We’ve had a plutocracy (rule by the rich*) thinly disguised as a democracy ever since its “founding” in land theft, genocide, and slavery.
  • And many activists believe more democracy would solve all our problems. They’re wrong too. Democracy is no holy grail. It fails in an underinformed, misinformed, uncaring culture like ours. The 51% may abuse the 49%; even the 99% can make bad choices; and “representatives” end up representing their own interests.

So what we really need, more than “more democracy,” is a great awakening, a cultural change.

capitalism-as-fishWhat makes our society so uncaring? I’d point to capitalism (or more broadly, private property) as the root cause. Separate property creates separate lives, and competing for jobs kills empathy, leaving sexism, racism, austerity, imperialism, and other kinds of bullying, manifested in domestic violence, workplace harassment, police brutality, prison torture, army atrocities, and political corruption. In addition, if we don’t share, we must trade labor for money, and money for food, rent, etc. – causing further problems:

  • Trade favors the trader in the stronger bargaining position, making him stronger still, increasing inequality, creating poverty and plutocracy. Thus most of us face hard times despite increasing productivity, while power corrupts.
  • Trade has externalities, destructive unmeasured side effects – such as ecocide, which may soon kill us all. Thus the “efficiency of the market” is a lie.

What can we do about all of this? Well, the first step is to get more people talking about it. Join the conversation.


2019 April 15, version 4.01. (Original version 2018 Oct 12.) The leaflet fits on two sides of 1/3 page. I may revise this after a while — I’ve just run across, which I found every interesting.