Why reform won’t work

People call for “reform” when they believe that our society is based on sound principles such as “freedom” and “democracy.” They believe that our society has merely strayed superficially from those principles into corruption, that we have good institutions being run badly. All we need to do is clean things up, and get things back to normal, back to the “good old days.”

But none of that is right. We have bad institutions based on bad principles.

There never were any “good old days.” The USA has been a plutocracy thinly disguised as a democracy ever since it was “founded” on genocide and slavery. Indeed, our culture has been based on plutocracy and hierarchy for 10,000 years. That’s so long that it’s hard for us to see anything wrong with it, and hard for us to imagine any alternative being possible.

Politicians go through the motions, paying lip service to freedom and democracy, but those are illusions, myths, impossibilities. Our society currently is actually based on not sharing with each other and not caring about each other, and those are principles from which we haven’t strayed enough. Private property implies trade, which increases inequality, creating poverty and plutocracy, making freedom and democracy impossible. The concentration of power corrupts. The economy and ecosystem are falling apart, there’s a homeless beggar on every street corner, and some loner shoots up a school every few days; those are all inevitable consequences of not sharing or caring.

Good intentions are not enough. Capitalism cannot be reformed to make it kinder and gentler, because it is unkind in its fundamental principles. We need to change both institutions and principles.

But hardly anyone sees that or talks about that, because that’s outside the box. Chomsky said “The smart way to keep people passive and obedient is to strictly limit the spectrum of acceptable opinion, but allow very lively debate within that spectrum.” A perfect archetype of that was the 2012 presidential race, Obamacare versus Romneycare, differing in little more than name, most people seeing only a tiny little box rather than the bigger picture. To get the change we really need, the first step is to get more people talking about the bigger picture.


2018 Sept 18, version 3.01.