RAD Analysis: Reduce Democracy (2 of 11)

Chomsky lays out the reduction of democracy as an ongoing battle between the elite and the populace over property rights. This age old conflict seems to have two obvious solutions, create institutions that reduce democracy or create institutions that promote equality.

Founding Father and Classical Liberal, James Madison, argued that protecting an individual’s right to private property was critical to American democracy. This is why the original draft of the Constitution did not provide for the direct election of senators; this change would not come until 1913 with the passing of the 17th Amendment. Instead, the ranks of the Senate were filled by elections from within state legislatures. This was an attempt to strike a balance between the interests of the elite and the populace.

On the other end of the spectrum is Aristotle. Like the Classical Liberals of the 17th and 18th centuries, he believed that inequality could create a crisis for democracy in which the populace would seek to take and redistribute property held by the elites. However, Aristotle’s solution was to reduce inequality through market regulations. In order to accomplish Aristotle’s aim, states would have to some extent fix prices and wages thus creating a more equal distribution.  Continue reading “RAD Analysis: Reduce Democracy (2 of 11)”

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An Analysis of ‘Requiem for the American Dream’ (1 of 11)

Like many other people my age, I have joined the ranks of Netflix and Hulu users forsaking traditional cable. I can honestly say I don’t particularly miss it. Netflix has plenty enough series and documentaries to keep me entertained. One documentary I come back to on a semi-regular basis is Requiem for the American Dream. This is an hour long interview with the renowned economist Noam Chomsky about the current economic system and its relationship to inequality and its effect on democracy.

RAD is organized around ten points that Chomsky calls ‘Ten Principles of the Concentration of Wealth and Power.’ In the following posts I will analyze each point outlined in RAD. I highly suggest that anyone interested in sociology, economics or politics gives this documentary a watch. It’s well worth the time.  rad

Running the Government Like a Business

The main premise of this neoliberal argument is that businesses are somehow more efficient than the government. However, efficiency in the private sector is not the same as efficiency in the public sector.

In the private sector efficiency can be measured in terms of profit. A good business is one that finds ways to maximize profit and minimize expenditures. This involves strategies like cutting corners, pursuing new markets, ceasing costly ventures, etc.

On the other hand, a government’s efficiency cannot be measured in terms of profit. Attempting to do this would force politicians to cut programs that generate no direct revenue like libraries, museums, highways, public schools and various other services we currently enjoy. Yes, these things have social value, but the bottom line is they do not contribute monetarily to the state and are therefore a burden. So what can be used as a standard of government efficiency?

The obvious answer here is how equally disbursed and well maintained public institutions and programs are. Let’s say SNAP, another program that generates no direct revenue, only manages to cover a third of citizens experiencing food insecurity. We would  consider SNAP inefficient and demand reform to fix it. This reform would not center around finding a way to cut expenditures to the program; the conversation would be about appropriating sufficient funds or creating a process that would accurately target the other two-thirds of starving citizens.