What Sort of “Democracy” Do We Have If Everyone’s Goal Is Maximizing Their Government Swag?
What Sort of “Democracy” Do We Have If Everyone’s Goal Is Maximizing Their Government Swag? by Charles Hugh Smith for Of Two Minds
The “marketplace” of individuals and entities all seeking to maximize their share of the central-state swag doesn’t make a democracy.
A democratic republic is a government in which power flows from citizens to their elected representatives. The American revolutionaries did not make a big distinction between republic and democracy, for in the context of the late 1700s, the dominant political structure was monarchy, and democracy meant the people have the final say via elections.
As Gordon Wood explains in his seminal book The Radicalism of the American Revolution, the upper-class revolutionaries had their doubts about the rabble’s ability to pursue the common good above their own narrow self interests. This ability to focus on the public good rather than on one’s own financial interests was widely understood to be the make-or-break dynamic of a durable democracy: without a class of citizens who could set the public good above their own interests, democracy would fail and be replaced by a neofeudal system of patronage in which loyalties followed a hierarchy of self-serving privilege.
In other words, precisely what we have today in the USA.
The revolutionary founders understood that only financially independent citizens had the wherewithal to put the public good above their own private interests. Those who were dependent on a powerful individual or organization would have no incentive to put the common good above their own share of the swag, and every incentive to support their patron (individual, corporation or government program) at the expense of the common good.
How many citizens are truly financial independent in America today? How many don’t depend on a wealthy individual, corporation or government program for their livelihood and financial well-being?
What incentives are present that would cause a dependent to vote against the narrow interests of their patronage? Very few if any.
The number of financially independent citizens is very low in a neofeudal economy dominated by centralized government, cartels, corporations and a super-wealthy financial nobility— the latter three (cartels, corporations and financial elites) being just as obsessed with maximizing their share of government swag (tax breaks, subsidies, sweetheart contracts, etc.) as any welfare dependent.