If we Don't Regulate Capitalism It Will Dismantle Democracy!
The New York Times has a piece by Max Fisher and Amanda Taub and it's a little video where they point out that over the last 200 years we've gone from basically no democracies in the world - or a couple, ours being one of the very first. At the time that the United States became a democracy in 1787, arguably, or even 1776, there were a few other countries that arguably were democratic, but not many.
And then we saw a steady rise up to the Civil War, and then during the Civil War it kind of dropped down, and then a steady rise up to World War Two, and then it kind of dropped down a little bit. And then after World War Two another steady rise to the point where about half of all the countries in the world are small d democratic - I'm not talking Democratic Republican kind of thing, I'm talking about democracy in a republic.
And now we're seeing so many of these democracies backslide into authoritarianism. We have seen it in the Philippines with Duterte, you see it in Russia with Putin, you see it in Turkey with Erdoğan, you see it in Hungary with Viktor Orbán. It is happening in country after country after country that were formerly highly democratic countries.
And we're seeing it in the United States, the rise of this populist authoritarianism. Donald Trump is basically using the same playbook as the people that I just mentioned who have taken countries that fundamentally at their core had strong democratic institutions.
Now, arguably Russia is the exception to that because there was just a very rapid transition period from the fall of the Soviet Union to modern-day Russia. During that time there was some considerable democracy for a while, and then the Chicago boys came in with Milton Friedman and and friends. Friedman was gone but his acolytes from the Chicago School of Economics who said, "oh no, Russia should become an example of a libertarian state, let the capitalists run everything." And it turned less than small d democratic. To some extent you also have leadership pushing that.
But I think that the clearer example of this is probably Hungary, Turkey and the Philippines, although there's a bunch of other countries too. And so they're asking the question over at the New York Times, what's the problem? Why is it that democracies are starting to fail, and could ours? Is there something fundamentally wrong with democracy?
And I would like to answer that question, and I think it's a really important question. And the problem is that the question doesn't include the problem. The problem is that the sales pitch we've been getting from the libertarians, the David Koch's of the world who ran for vice president in 1980 on the Libertarian ticket, from the right-wing billionaires, the so-called Objectivists, the acolytes of Ayn Rand, Reason magazine and The Reason Foundation, one of these Ayn Rand groups that somehow are always popping up on MSNBC.
These are hardcore right-wing cranks who are promoting the idea that capitalism is more important than democracy, that capitalism should drive democracy, that in a capitalist society, the fewer regulations and the fewer limits that you have on the ability of capitalists to influence politics the better.
This is their sales pitch and that is the rot at the core of these things in every country that I mentioned and in the many other countries that are losing democracy or are sliding away from democracy and toward authoritarianism, including the United States.
What we see is that the principle force pushing this kind of populism has been diluting the working class of the country, the working class responding to being looted by the capitalists with anger, and then you get people stepping into the void, these populist politicians, the Donald Trumps of the world.
You get the Erdoğans of the world. You get these populist politicians stepping into that void and saying, as Donald Trump literally said, "I alone can solve this problem, I alone can save you, I will be your defender, I will be the one who fights on behalf of you against those people who are screwing you."
When in fact these phony populists like Donald Trump are the people who are screwing us and they're doing it by elevating capitalism above democracy. Democracy is a form of governance. Capitalism is an economic system. They are completely different things. And capitalism, if it's not limited, if it's not regulated, it will corrode, erode and ultimately destroy democracy. And that's what we're seen in country after country.
Whereas democracy, if it is strong, can actually provide a safe space, a soil in which the roots of regulated capitalism, healthy capitalism, can actually grow.
Now, obviously I'd like to see a whole lot more than just capitalism. I'd like to see co-ops, there's a whole lot of other things that can be done. But in my opinion, the Times article is completely missing the boat, because they're unwilling to criticize capitalism.