We had a server outage, and we're rebuilding the site. Some of the site features won't work. Thank you for your patience.
imc indymedia

Los Angeles Indymedia : Activist News

white themeblack themered themetheme help
About Us Contact Us Calendar Publish RSS
Features
latest news
best of news
syndication
commentary


KILLRADIO

VozMob

ABCF LA

A-Infos Radio

Indymedia On Air

Dope-X-Resistance-LA List

LAAMN List




IMC Network:

Original Cities

www.indymedia.org africa: ambazonia canarias estrecho / madiaq kenya nigeria south africa canada: hamilton london, ontario maritimes montreal ontario ottawa quebec thunder bay vancouver victoria windsor winnipeg east asia: burma jakarta japan korea manila qc europe: abruzzo alacant andorra antwerpen armenia athens austria barcelona belarus belgium belgrade bristol brussels bulgaria calabria croatia cyprus emilia-romagna estrecho / madiaq euskal herria galiza germany grenoble hungary ireland istanbul italy la plana liege liguria lille linksunten lombardia london madrid malta marseille nantes napoli netherlands nice northern england norway oost-vlaanderen paris/Île-de-france patras piemonte poland portugal roma romania russia saint-petersburg scotland sverige switzerland thessaloniki torun toscana toulouse ukraine united kingdom valencia latin america: argentina bolivia chiapas chile chile sur cmi brasil colombia ecuador mexico peru puerto rico qollasuyu rosario santiago tijuana uruguay valparaiso venezuela venezuela oceania: adelaide aotearoa brisbane burma darwin jakarta manila melbourne perth qc sydney south asia: india mumbai united states: arizona arkansas asheville atlanta austin baltimore big muddy binghamton boston buffalo charlottesville chicago cleveland colorado columbus dc hawaii houston hudson mohawk kansas city la madison maine miami michigan milwaukee minneapolis/st. paul new hampshire new jersey new mexico new orleans north carolina north texas nyc oklahoma philadelphia pittsburgh portland richmond rochester rogue valley saint louis san diego san francisco san francisco bay area santa barbara santa cruz, ca sarasota seattle tampa bay tennessee urbana-champaign vermont western mass worcester west asia: armenia beirut israel palestine process: fbi/legal updates mailing lists process & imc docs tech volunteer projects: print radio satellite tv video regions: oceania united states topics: biotech

Surviving Cities

www.indymedia.org africa: canada: quebec east asia: japan europe: athens barcelona belgium bristol brussels cyprus germany grenoble ireland istanbul lille linksunten nantes netherlands norway portugal united kingdom latin america: argentina cmi brasil rosario oceania: aotearoa united states: austin big muddy binghamton boston chicago columbus la michigan nyc portland rochester saint louis san diego san francisco bay area santa cruz, ca tennessee urbana-champaign worcester west asia: palestine process: fbi/legal updates process & imc docs projects: radio satellite tv
printable version - js reader version - view hidden posts - tags and related articles

Market Economy: The Superrich Endanger Democracy

by Colin Crouch Wednesday, Jun. 12, 2019 at 1:45 PM
marc1seed@yahoo.com

It is easy to influence politics with a lot of money, and civil society is often just a nuisance. In the US, this problem is everywhere, but Europe is catching up.

https://www.zeit.de/wirtschaft/2019-05/kapitalismus-demokratie-ungleichheit-globalisierung-english/komplettansicht?fbclid=IwAR1MtlR0pquDW164QgYKR42KJ6pgmvFOYz01O9iTjVI6zq5XgHmxPb7mfjw

There are two main reasons why many observers are beginning to question the assumption — previously taken for granted — that capitalism and democracy are firm allies. First, modern capitalism is global, while democracy is mainly rooted at national and more local levels. Second, modern capitalism is driven by finance, which leads to increasing inequality. Yet, high levels of inequality threaten the operation of democracy.

That globalization presents a problem for democracy is clear. Much of the global economy is unregulated, and where it is regulated, it is done so by international organizations only very indirectly answerable to democratic bodies, or by informal and usually confidential arrangements among corporations themselves.

Furthermore, transnational firms can compromise the authority of national democracy by choosing to invest only in countries that pursue policies they like. The most visible manifestation of this is the decline in taxes on corporate earnings that has taken place across the world, as governments compete to offer the most generous fiscal regimes. The result has been a shift in the burden of taxation to individual citizens and a decline in the resources available to public services.

Governments could, of course, counter these developments by joining forces to confront the corporate challenge and protect space for autonomous political decision-making, but the temptation of trying to become the country that offers corporations the most generous terms usually prevents them from doing this. The European Union is a partial exception, and its parliament is the world’s only example of transnational democracy. Its impact, however, is weak, with European democracy facing two hostile forces: corporations lobbying the European Commission and individual governments at levels European Parliament cannot reach; and xenophobic populists trying to pull power away from the EU and back to the nation states. And because most populists are from the political right, they are not bothered by nations losing out to corporate power.

Corporate lobbying is so powerful at both the European and national levels because growing inequality has generally strengthened the political might of the wealthy. This is the second threat posed by contemporary capitalism to democracy.

Democracy operates in two different theatres: the formal roles played by elections and parliaments; and the informal actions of lobbying and other forms of political pressure that take place across civil society. For the former, we are careful to ensure considerable equality: one person-one vote, irrespective of wealth. Informal politics, by contrast, does not have many rules, and that is basic to its vitality and to our freedom. We can at any time use many different kinds of pressure to try to persuade governments to pursue various policies, provided we do not resort to corruption or violence. But our ability to exercise pressure depends on the resources we can command, so informal politics favors the rich, even though we all benefit from it. The equality rule that is fundamental to democracy is breached. This does not matter too much if inequality is limited, or if power exercised in one policy area cannot easily be transferred to another. This was broadly the case for the first three decades after World War II. Since then, however, inequality has been growing — not so much in the form of inequality within the broader population, but inequality between tiny groups of the super-rich and everyone else. One needs a lot of wealth to able to wield political power, and this small group, perhaps 0.1 percent of the population, is in such a position. This degree of inequality is most prominent in the U.S., but it is spreading to Europe.

Capitalism is creating problems for the effectiveness of democracy

The main motor of this inequality is the financialization of the global economy. The ownership and manipulation of financial resources produce earnings like no other form of human activity. Having acquired vast wealth, an individual or corporation can use some of it for political lobbying purposes, and this can mean securing government actions – tax policies, regulatory changes, government contracts – that enable the wealth holder to secure even more income in the future. There is a vicious spiral linking increasing inequality to the weakening of democracy.

There is however another spiral that works in the opposite direction. Modern capitalism depends on mass consumption for its profits, and mass consumption depends on the masses having growing income. In 2014, an OECD Social, Employment and Migration Working Paper (no. 159) indicated that in the U.S., the top 1 percent of earners had captured nearly 50 percent of national income growth between 1975 and 2007 (the year before the financial crash). The great majority of wage earners had experienced static or declining incomes, and yet they continued to consume. This was possible because they took on heavy debt loads, risky behavior accepted by a financial system that had been deregulated thanks to heavy lobbying by the banks. Eventually, the burden of high-risk debt became too much for the financial markets to bear, and the crash, from which we have not yet fully recovered, took place.

Does a form of capitalism that generates increasing inequality but depends on mass consumption have any other way out of its dilemma than to encourage households to take on unsustainable levels of debt? At present, democracy seems unable to find an answer to that question. Global capitalism can only be reined in at a transnational level, while our political parties seem divided between those that have succumbed to corporate lobbying and do not believe in regulation, and those that want to retreat back to the limited reach of nationalism.

Capitalism is creating problems for the effectiveness of democracy, but capitalists have no reason to be dissatisfied with that form of government. Democracy guarantees the rule of law and clear procedures for changing the law, including lobbying for or against those proposed changes. These features are attractive to capitalists. On the other hand, though, democracy can produce a mass of regulations to protect non-market, non-corporate interests. Capitalists’ preferred regime is really post-democracy, in which crucial features of democracy continue operating, including, importantly, the rule of law, but where the electorate has become passive, responding to parties’ carefully managed election campaigns, but not engaging in disturbing activism, and not generating a civil society vibrant enough to produce awkward counter-lobbies that try to rival the quiet work of business interests in the corridors of government. The resurgence of nationalism creates some problems for this placid scene, but by concentrating on the nation-state, these movements do not disrupt the global level, which remains beyond their reach.

We have not yet arrived at a situation where the corporate dominance of our politics is complete; otherwise, all consumer protection and labor laws would already have been abolished. But that is where we are headed, boosted by continuing growth in inequality and the mutual reinforcement of political and economic power. Democracy in some form probably continues to be the best available shell for capitalism; but the reverse may no longer be true.
Report this post as:

© 2000-2018 Los Angeles Independent Media Center. Unless otherwise stated by the author, all content is free for non-commercial reuse, reprint, and rebroadcast, on the net and elsewhere. Opinions are those of the contributors and are not necessarily endorsed by the Los Angeles Independent Media Center. Running sf-active v0.9.4 Disclaimer | Privacy