If you have read any of my stuff you may be convinced that I am a Communist or a Socialist because I always seem to be “bad mouthing” Capitalism. But I actually have nothing against any of these business models. I do have a problem, however, when a way to conduct economic activity gets mixed up with a way to govern.
If a nation’s government is not the same as a nation’s economy then Communism and Socialism seem to be in trouble because both combine the two spheres. Capitalism also becomes problematic in this regard as we have seen, because it allows individuals to amass wealth which in turn seems to confer power on them which they can then abuse to interfere in government.
There is nothing inherently wrong in any of these economic models of course. The flaws, as usual, are in us. We are basically animals, competitive and “red in tooth and claw”. We are still wired to be hunters and gatherers and perhaps that conquer-all nature is the only way we survive.
But we are also no longer primitives. We are civilized (although sometimes it doesn’t seem so). We live in societies which originally were formed also for survival and still function that way. We have learned, but don’t all admit, that societies call for some communism, some socialism, and some free enterprise or capitalism. Societies function best when all members are educated, all share certain basic amenities, and when they incorporate some tolerance for individual differences. We also see societies that have survived for centuries that do not require that all individuals are educated and share the basic amenities. These societies often do not tolerate much or any deviant behavior. But if I had to choose between the two I know which one I would choose.
It is impossible, I think we must all agree, to have a perfect government, a perfect economy, a perfect society because these are all human innovations, human constructs run by humans who we all seem to understand are imperfect. Every religion or culture I know of encompasses an acknowledgement of our flawed nature. The seven deadly sins as currently enumerated are: pride, greed, envy, gluttony, wrath, and sloth and are alive and well the world over.
Our intimate familiarity with our failings is perhaps one reason humans have come to realize that totalitarian governments are problematic for everyone but the leader. There is no way to place any check on whatever flaws the leader may possess. We know that no matter how infallible the head of state claims to be infallibility is not a trait humans possess.
Communism, rule by the people, arrived at in bottom-up fashion, was not structured to succeed, and perhaps never could be. Leadership is spread among too many without sufficient scaffolding to keep people from constant power struggles and, in addition, offers no useful structures to untangle those struggles fairly. The Communist governments we have seen seemed to produce a suppression of rights for most members of the society that turned life into a gray, grim existence without producing the promised worker’s paradise of equality for all.
Capitalism (not a system of government contrary to the current popular beliefs of some) is not able to produce a perfect society where all prosper either. Capitalism depends on the business relationships of us – people – imperfect people. America has almost slipped over the edge into total Oligarchy and therefore can teach us (before it is too late) what Capitalism in the hands of humans can do to a society when it becomes too entwined with government.
Our wealthy citizens are destroying our Democracy, bending it to their will. What they don’t seem to see is that they are just headed in a direction that will take us back to somewhere human societies have already been, the old aristocracy and serf model, with perhaps a small merchant class able to survive. And while the wealthy may want to go there – after all things seemed pretty hunky dory for those at the top (although they had to pay for all the wars), things in this antique model should not look too appealing to the rest of us. These Capitalists have brought the American people low by showing us that their patronage is portable. They can simply remove their largesse and apply it elsewhere.
Now we have to prove that we are not mere factory fodder. We must not let wealthy people take away our rights and our privileges and our civil progress. Living materialistically simpler lives would help the planet but how we do this should be a choice Americans make together, not a series of decisions of a wealthy few at the top who would amend our government so that it maintains their economic advantage even if it must be at the expense of the rest of us.
The Americans who want to keep the economic scales tipped their way, who are turning our Democracy into a Corporatocracy (owned by corporations we no longer work for) are not the only citizens trying to adjust the design of our government. We also have the Evangelicals who are trying to convince us that America is immoral and that only a Theocracy that keeps our laws acceptable to their God can keep America from the fate of Greece and Rome – “decline and fall”.
All governments are flawed because they are made by flawed beings. All economies are equally prone to excess for the same reason. Our government was created with built-in checks and balances to overcome these excesses our natures are prone to. What we are experiencing right now is that familiarity with how government actually works has allowed these checks and balances to be short-circuited or muffled. This is what Republicans have been doing. They have been playing with fine-tuning aspects of governance, doing things like drawing skewed voting districts, suppressing non-Republican votes, buying state governments, using the Hastert rule and the filibuster to block legislation, stuffing the courts with Conservatives and then not allowing new positions to be filled with Liberals, and holding the Presidency hostage until they gain control of the entire system of checks and balances, which finally will happen if they are able to get us to elect a Republican President.
It makes me very unhappy to see these folks disrespect our Democracy like this and it does great harm. It teaches the rest of the world that Democracy can be vulnerable to the same human flaws as any other form of government. That does not just affect my mood and make me blue, it scares me, because if Democracy cannot help us hold a middle line, cannot help us guarantee rights and benefits to all, cannot enforce a degree of tolerance for a range of “normal” behavior, then no government can. I had hoped that Democracy would serve as a model for governance on our entire planet, but if bad human behavior is allowed to twist Democracy away from its ideals then we are left with no governmental model with which to face the future.
I ask the Republicans, the capitalists, the wealthy, and the religious to stop messing with our Democracy. You have made your point. You can possible take over the whole nation and have your way but only if you change our government so much that it is no longer a Democracy at all. You get your way in the now, but you turn the future into chaos. Please take the long view and stop all your machinations.
By Nancy Brisson