inconvenienced m(b)illionaire, I’ve got a bridge to sell you.
It is very difficult these days to argue against the alleged merits of Capitalism. Even though “Capitalism” may be a very diffuse concept. You’ll find no coherent definition of “Capitalism”. The idea veers all the way from free markets (which we don’t have), to free trade (which never existed in human history, ever), to globalism (which is by any definition not fair trade), gets hopelessly confused with democracy (which is something else entirely) or “the rule of law”. Neoliberals and Libertarian advocates of latter-day Capitalism take offense to being slandered to be “Propertarians”, and the end result is that Capitalism has become an article of faith rather than objective science. To object against Capitalism now has severe connotations of sacrilege. To be a critic of Capitalism, implies for some arcane reason the critic is to be called a Communist, and much along the lines of a neo-Godwinism, the accusation of implied Communism (or socialism) is meant to terminate credibility. The moment that (for instance) I imply most of my life I actually voted Socialist the response (from primarily the US) is slack-jawed revulsion, with occasional inquiries “is that even legal in Europe”??
We live in a democratic society, for good or for bad. If a significant majority of the electorate votes for a topic, then that topic is, barring it conflicts with the constitution of the country (or it conflicts with various treaties to which the country is a signatory) then the people have spoken and legislation to reflect the people’s choice will have to be implemented. Quite often democratic choices produce flawed legislation and revolutionary change is exponentially more frustrating and destructive than all of democracies’flaws. And as soon as we are abandoning democracy for revolution, we in effect risk tyranny itself.
Nonetheless there are sinister voices in the world that argue for the abolition (or castration) of the core democratic principles, Democracy looks pretty much here to stay. Yes there is a war going on, waged by privilege, against democracy. Yes – in many cases privilege is gradually winning this war – especially in the United States. As the average age of society creeps up, more and more people come to loathe and fear those freedoms exercised in a way they find unacceptable. People in charge and inclined to defend the world as they created it in the last decades, and they are simply better at it than the young, who are to busy exercising their freedoms.
But for now – As long as we have democracy the core operating principles would remain to be the rule of law, some token respect for (lawful) minority interests, respect for plurality, respect for human rights and a desire to have a good society where all are free to pursue however their interests.
As a European I regard the guarantee that the state protects the weaker members of society as an inalienable aspect of democratic governance. For me, as western European, protection of the societally vulnerable, underprivileged, sick, aged, young (et.al.) is inescapable and essential. In Western Europe we know what happens when society starts purposefully you abandon minorities. I am frequently left quite puzzled why very idea this is not met in nations and regions around the world with anything less than unbridled enthusiasm.
In effect, Democracy is an insurance system. It may be an thoroughly unwieldy and clumsy insurance system. Nonetheless, democracy emerged as a counter-mechanism against tyranny. Grosso modo before democracy there were feudal authoritarian systems (or worse) where monarchs, elites, tyrants, dictators, theocrats or other assorted awful people reigned by arbitrary decree. There was nothing unreasonable or fair about governance by decree, it just is what it is – someone decides what is best for them, and what (..if at all..) might be best for society (in that order).
North Korea still pretty much the epithome like that – a medieval Monarch rules a shell-shocked peasantry, busy only with their respective self-interest and completely disinterested in even the existence the general North Korean populace.
At the end of the day most of the middle ages was quite similar to how North Koreans still live – deeply irrational, very afraid, very poor, very misinformed. With little hope for personal advancement and a decent expectation for misfortune.
Tyranny is by its very nature capricious, arbitrary and often horrible. The reasons why tyranny emerge are often quite self-evident to the tyrants. Kings of old claimed it was g-d himself who ordained it so, and publicly arguing the finer points of such rationales were consistently lethal. Just claiming a King was not a proper leader tended to be a deadly in most Tyrannic systems in history. Democracy is in essence a system of securities, where a precarious stand off of private interests, public desire and public needs generates a society of dependable constitution and law. This process of generating sound democracy is a exhausting and quiet often frustrating result, but I guarantee you it is a lot less irksome than the potential alternatives.
A group of people that gang up upon established privilege in society, that works within the confines of the law can be argued to be a union. If such an organ organization is not working within the confines of established law, then such a mob is generally regarded as a crimimal organization. Conversely, if a similar organization establishes a commercial collaboration, we can argue this to be a corporate entity. The country then uses the same arduous, frustrating, ponderously slow mechanism of democracy to tax, subject to regulations, arbiter or censor the activities of such organizations.
In such a system state taxation is an eyesore for the privileged. Off late this is becoming a problem, as the privileged have never been in a better position to barter for a better deal. Since a century it has never been easier for a privileged entrepreneur to migrate to a different country and get a better tax deal – much to the chagrin of US President Obama, who regards my country as sinister tax haven. Likewise corporations never had is as good – since they are deconstructing whatever rights workers used to have. These days, with all the technological unemployment, and the outsourcing slavery going on, workers of formerly prosperous “developed” societies are to be mercifully grateful that they have a job. Unemployment has attained epidemic proportions everywhere.
In effect technological unemployment is like sand in the twin engines of capitalism and democracy. We are starting to see the system fail, and nobody has the nerve to acknowledge the problem. As soon as capitalists, statists, the general populace, the rich get close to acknowledging this problem, cognitive dissonance is likely to kick in, as the specters of higher taxes, more redistribution, frightening new modes of welfare, more government loom. The implication of technological income is either (*) tyranny, oligarchy, plutocracy, fascism, or (*) something that smells to some as socialism. In other words, pick you poison.
The problem is, as soon as you’ll have technological unemployment you are only likely to have more it it. There is no other outcome to technological unemploymemt than more disparity, more societal instability, more austerity, more crime, my political corruption. This is a one way street. The more society automates, the richer the privileged seem to become – and the more these privileged 1%ers are able to exert their collective power generally by sponsoring the political process) the less democratic society risks becoming, and the more automation and disequilibrium you’ll get.
In a one way street things escalate. My estimate is we are only a few decades removed from a state of disequilibrium so severe that pretty much ever population resorts to revolution. The problem however is that as technological unemployment escalates the opportunity for armed revolt by non-violent means is closing fast. With sufficient drones, surveillance, nonlethal weapons, prisons revolution become more impossible. The question remains – will societal squallor accelerate faster than the capability of the elites to make revolt comparably undesirable?
Tyranny is pretty awful most of the time and while I am not enthusiastic about the death penalty, the downtrodden must have hope for improvement. Sadly I can not expect the poor people of North Korea to escape decades of brutal oppression, but I can have hope. If it can happen in North Korea, it can happen everywhere – but at what cost?
I regard the result -societal disequilibrium, as deeply troubling. Someone who is above average privileged will not agree with my assessment. In fact in most of the developed world everyone seems to be under some strange spell and believe they are to be the equivalent of millionaires pretty soon. This belief is nothing else than a new religion. As we can clearly see the current capitalist system is unravelling, the arguments to NOT abandon the pyramid scheme become ever more duplicitous and insistent.
All this is understandable – the privileged act according to blind self-interest, as do most people one way or another. If a human is not frequnetly (or occasionally) contrained in any meaningful manner by the need to compromise, then the end result is likely to be something very much akin to Hubris. And the elites can not allow the population to wander of the plantation, let alone to start protesting.
We are seeing that, arguably, in much of the western world. Most Western governments have become willing accomplices to privilege, and that the current trend towards state espionage is by and large a vessel for states enabling privilege, much as the Vichy government in occupied France collaborated with the German occupier. It is silly to conclude this is still about “terrorism”. It is now widely accepted fact that the confluence of technologicaly unemployment, climate change, sagging demographics (aging), oil depletion and economic overpopulation are in fact causing massive unrest. The first domino’s have already fallen during the Arab Spring revolutions.
Systemic collapse is expensive. A change of the entire system is very expensive. All societies world wide are in for change, and in particular systemic change that will cost a lot of effort and resources. We still measure effort and resources in money. As we can see, this money is increasingly in the hands of an ever smaller percentage of society, and this ever smaller percemntage of society is gearing up to make sure society at large does not go after them to foot the bill for all this change.
Think about it – a bunch of rich people hold a party and invite everyone (Capitalism). More and more people flock to the party. By the time the party starts to wind down (the dot com crisis if you will?) the rich conclude the bill for having the party is unaffordable. They see who of them is willing to pay and they conclude none of them wants to pay. So what do they do? They want to quietly sneak out the back and leave the bill of the party for those who weren’t paying any attention.
The problem is – we are a global world now. Once this party starts visibly ending there will be nowhere to run for the elites of the developed world. And there is reason to conclude they know that.