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)”
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.
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.
The immigration debate has watered down the public’s perception of what it means to be a citizen by framing it as a state brought on by birth or certification by the government. The gravity of the term is lost amongst the endless rhetoric. To put it simply, a citizen is a member of a nation that shares in certain rights, privileges and duties. ‘Duties’ seems to be the word lost on modern citizens.
Civic duties are necessary to the health of the nation. Every American male at the age of 18 is required to register for the draft. If the United States were to find itself in a circumstance where the common welfare requires the mobilization of our entire military might, then it is the duty of everyone registered to serve. I can’t say that the prospect of killing or being killed is particularly thrilling, but it is my duty to do so if necessary.
Another form of duty and one we are oftentimes told to hate by neoliberals is taxation. Taxes provide the lifeblood of the state and are used to support services like Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, infrastructure, public education, libraries, post offices etc. Every material benefit we enjoy as Americans is paid for by tax dollars. This is why I’ve always thought it was strange that my peers treat tax day as a day of mourning. Why wouldn’t someone want to help the poorest and neediest of their nation?
A final civic duty to consider is the one most often forgotten about largely because it requires the individual to become active and that is voting. Political participation is vital to a properly functioning democracy. That feeling that the government is some kind of foreign entity is the result of decades of political apathy. The government in liberal democracies is a reflection of the most politically active interests in a nation.
Our feeling that the government is disinterested and doesn’t listen to the people should not result in more apathy. Withholding your vote is voting for more of the same.