Another important dispatch from Eric Schechter, the LeftyMathProf.
By Eric Schechter, Senior Contributing Editor.
“We’re in danger of losing our democracy!” is a warning cry I hear often. A variant is that “we lost our democracy gradually over the last few decades.” They’re both wrong. The truth is that we never had a democracy; we’re in danger of losing our illusion of democracy.
All along, we’ve had a plutocracy (rule by the rich) and oligarchy (rule by the few) — those are the same, because money and political power are interchangeable. The 2014 research of Gillens and Page proved statistically what most of us saw: Regardless of elections, the rich get the public policies they want, and the rest of us don’t.
That’s inevitable in our economic system. Money is influence; it is the ability to get other people to give you what you want. Money will find a way around or through any legislators or legislation that attempts to keep money out of politics. The only way to end rule by the wealthy class is to not HAVE a wealthy class. But that would require an entirely different economic system, one based on sharing, for trade INCREASES inequality. And most people in our present culture can’t imagine a different one, so change seems unlikely in the near future.
The USA has had plutocracy thinly disguised as democracy ever since the country was “founded” on slavery and genocide. In fact, most of the world has been ruled by the rich for the last 10,000 years. (But for 200,000 years before that we shared as equals.)
The illusion of democracy has been perpetuated by propaganda. Recently the propaganda has worn thin, so things may soon get a lot worse or a lot better.
Worse would be an overt oligarchy, based on brute force and massive censorship instead of propaganda.
Better would be REAL democracy. But that’s still not ideal. The 51% would ride roughshod over the 49%, with both sides making poor choices because they don’t know and don’t care about each other. That’s a ceasefire, not an end, in the “war of all against all” that 17th century philosopher Thomas Hobbes described. He believed humans are basically greedy and selfish — as, indeed, they are, in our non-sharing culture. “Representative” democracy is even worse, as power corrupts and the “representatives” end up representing their own interests. A real democracy would be unstable: As I remarked earlier, plutocracy is an inevitable consequence of our economic system.
Better still would be a step beyond democracy. Change the economy to sharing. Change the culture to caring about others. Change the politics to consensus.
Our discussions now may help to choose among these futures.
2018 Oct 13, version 1.03.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Eric Schechter (born August 1, 1950), currently a senior contributing editor to TGP is an Americanmathematician, retired from Vanderbilt University with the title of professor emeritus. His interests started primarily in analysis but moved into mathematical logic. Schechter is best known for his 1996 book Handbook of Analysis and its Foundations, which provides a novel approach to mathematical analysis and related topics at the graduate level. Eric is a dedicated anti-capitalist activist.
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Things to ponder
While our media prostitutes, many Hollywood celebs, and politicians and opinion shapers make so much noise about the still to be demonstrated damage done by the Russkies to our nonexistent democracy, this is what the sanctimonious US government has done overseas just since the close of World War 2. And this is what we know about. Many other misdeeds are yet to be revealed or documented.
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