Tuesday, 15 November 2011

Democracy and Marketocracy

When we see two western democracies like Greece and Italy forced to appoint unelected national leaders because the international trading markets have demanded it we may begin to be anxious for democracy. When we see our elected leaders running up and down ever faster while shouting ever louder at financial problems they are powerless to influence, our fears for democracy are further confirmed. Yet the kind of democracy which we have seen develop in Europe and North America over the few centuries when capitalism has grown to predominance has never been an idealistic journey towards the freedom and enfranchisement of humankind. The wealthy and powerful have tried to persuade us that it has, and, by manipulating the media, they have largely succeeded. No, the democracy we have now is a servant of capitalism. This democracy, we are persuaded, is underscored by the 'principle',  "that whatever befalls, it is the market that rules." Democracy of this kind, that is, marketocracy, is intended to achieve the acquiescence of the poor and not quite so poor by keeping them in the thrall of an illusion, or more accurately a delusion, that the vote and its concomitant  'freedom of speech'  has somehow empowered them.  What this does is leave a space for those with power and wealth to continue to become more powerful and more wealthy. 

Received wisdom advises that though there is indeed an unfair distribution of the earth's gifts, we just have to accept it. This argument goes on to say that we are too enmeshed in capitalism to unravel it.  At the same time it is noted that socialism was tried and it failed. It is puzzling for those who have the temerity to suggest that capitalism  has also failed the vast majority of people on our planet to find that their view is considered naive. 

Finding other fairer ways for humankind to live will not be easy but it is not naive to suggest there may be an alternative and surely the gap in the life experiences between rich and poor has become too much for any pure democrat to bear. There is a need to return to purchasing only those things which our labour has earned for us.

So three cheers for those Greek protesters who continue to eschew marketocracy and who would wish to unpick the damage that it has done. These Greeks are bearing gifts which we should on this occasion trust and accept.

© 2011 Charles Sharpe
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