General Question

atlantis's avatar

What does the future augur for Western democracy and capitalism?

Asked by atlantis (1851 points ) August 18th, 2011

Are you satisfied with governance (or the lack thereof) in western democracy today. What factors are imperative for a healthy socio-economic structure and what lessons can we learn from our mistakes?
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20 Answers

woodcutter's avatar

I think it will eventually implode. How can it not?

josie's avatar

In a democracy, the future is only as bright as the voters.Given the sorry state of the public education system in the US and some of Western Europe, the future may not be all that bright.
One thing is true, however. many of our current socio-economic “problems” are caused by government, and it is unlikely, based on history, that government will fix them.

The voters will decide if they want to keep hanging their hopes on a government greedy for power and priviledge and indifferent to them, or not.

ml3269's avatar

I hope the future will see a worldwide democracy or movement in that direction… our western democracys have to join and grow together… the era of small and lonely countrys or “nations” is over… I think.

CWOTUS's avatar

What @josie said.

The thing that actually gives me hope these days is the number of people who have adopted home schooling for their children, at least to the extent that these are legitimate educations and not a form of Christian madrassas, meant only to indoctrinate children in theology at the expense of real book learning. Fortunately, among the home schoolers I’ve met, theology is a tiny (or non-existent) part of the curriculum, and the small number of children that I’ve met who are home schooled are very intelligent and well educated. Much better educated and often more motivated and anxious to move on (to more and more education) than their public-school contemporaries.

I don’t see a lot of hope for “government” schools, managed by bureaucrats beholden to local school boards, and Washington DC, and taught by unionized (and often militantly organized) teachers who overwhelmingly support the “statist quo”, to educate children to resolve the obvious and growing problems caused by statism and metastasizing growth in government. How could it possibly?

On the other hand, despite my current gloom on this topic, I am generally optimistic. I recognize the arc of human history toward generally more freedom; I take heart in Churchill’s observation about the United States that we “generally make the right decision – after we have exhausted all of the alternatives”, and I have a certain hope that the Chinese, at least, will get it right – after we have fallen on our faces. I’m also confident that we’ll pick ourselves off the mat again when we have made that fall, but it will be a sorry day when the only leadership the United States can provide is “military power”, because that won’t last long if we’re not an “economic superpower”.

flutherother's avatar

Sir Winson Churchill put it well…“Democracy is the worst form of government except all the others that have been tried.”

ETpro's avatar

@atlantis, Great question.

@flutherother GA. Churchill was quite right. The clear trend around the world is away from authoritarian government and toward democracy. If we in the US chose to get so stuck in political squabbling and self gratification watching the hotties on Jersey Shores act almost as badly as us, then that doesn’t spell the end of civilization. Somebody else will just rise to take our place.

Capitalism of the laissez-faire type self demolishes on the same spirit of greed that @josie and @CWOTUS see so perfectly in government but somehow miss in the hearts of corporate jet setters. We’ve seen the rise of the trusts and robber barons, the Wall Street high-rolling gamblers using other people’s money that brought on the Great Depression, rivers on fire and acid rain killing all plants in the 1960s, the two Savings and Loan bailouts of the 1980s, the Junk Bond era of Michael Milken, off-shoring, destructive corporate takeovers, the string of corporate malfeasance beginning with Enron and Countrywide and leading up to the leveraged derivatives collapse of 2007, Bernie Madhoff, the failure of Lehman Brothers and the Great Recession.

Seems to me the social democracies like Germany and the Scandinavian companies have gotten things working pretty well for all. That’s probably where the future lies, with what actually works instead of what fits someone’s ideology, whether that ideology be from Marx or Ayn Rand.

Bagardbilla's avatar

Marx wrote on the topic of capitalism and predicted that it would eventually devolve into corpotocrasy, (if I recall correctly, he used a different term). He predicted that corporations would eventually rule over/influence governments to a point where the masses will eventually revolt and install a form of socialism/communism. Lenin and Trotsky bevieved that one could bypass the capitalist phase and move directly into that phase… hence the revolution in Soviet Union.
Marx always believed that it had to be a natural progression, and until the masses were truly disgrunteled under natural conditions that true socialism/communism couldn’t/wouldn’t come about.
After every major crash in capitalist economies, there have been movements towards social reforms, regulations, laws to constrict unbridled greed of corporations. I guess the ‘big one’ just hasn’t hit yet.
He also believed that if the masses could be educated enough they could restrict the powers of the corporations enough to reach an equilibrium, where the educated masses can limit their greed. However, with the educational system as it exists in these United States… that day may be pipe dream.

ETpro's avatar

@Bagardbilla He was certainly right about the growth of corporatism/fascism. The experience of the German and Northern European people with the horrors fascist corporatism and militarism brought to them may be whay they have so asiduously avoided that trap since 1945.

Bagardbilla's avatar

@ETpro yes!
look at their education system! ;)
Of course Aristotle said the same thing about democracy… That it can only function with an educated populace!

LostInParadise's avatar

I am optimistic about democracy. Worldwide there seems to be growing momentum toward democratic government. In the U.S. my feeling is that the right wing corporate allies are having their last hurrah. You do not need a college degree to see that the middle and lower classes are being taken advantage of. At some point things will have to start changing.

CWOTUS's avatar

@ETpro never gets my point.

The huge difference between “capitalist pigs” (of course they exist; I’m neither blind nor stupid nor so in love with a philosophy that I can’t see any problems with it) and “government pigs” is that you don’t have to patronize or support the capitalists. You can choose to not do business with them, or you can set up in direct competition with them. Not so with government pigs.

If capitalists attempt to externalize too many costs they can be – and generally have been – restrained. (In addition, “negative externalities” tend to be “waste”, which has to be reduced in order to maximize profit.) When government does it, then “we just have to accept it”. (How many Superfund sites are directly or indirectly a product of government operations or fiat?)

ETpro's avatar

@CWOTUS How about telling that to the people on the street in Guatemala or Honduras, or any other Banana Republic run by and for an elite group of families who have grabbed all the wealth for themselves. Or transport yourself back to when the robber barons were setting up trusts and fixing prices on basic necessities. How does the little guy vote with his wallet if we deregulate to the point where, for practical purposes, all food comes from one trust and all electrical power from another, and so forth?

I am most certainly not anti capitalism. I own a business. Nor do I hate the rich. I want to get rich. I am doing my level best to achieve that.

I just see the 30 year growth in income and wealth disparity in America, and the Republican/Tea Party drive to cut taxes even further for the rich and pay for it by taking away from the middle class and the poor. I see the elimination of estate taxes. I see that the richest 400 Americans now own more financial wealth than the poorest 50%. That’s 400 families holding more for themselves than 160,000,000 of their countrymen. And I see the Republicans determined to push policies that will make that 400 much richer much faster, while taking away from nearly everyone else to do it. If we follow that path long enough, it leads to an America that looks like Hatti.

CWOTUS's avatar

The monopolies you suggest only come about with laws and anti-competitive requirements… established by governments. Really, “all food from one trust”? As if the most fundamental industry that mankind has ever developed is now the sole province of some evil monopolist, and no one else has a clue about how to farm? I’m surprised your straw men don’t burn down before you can even construct them.

ETpro's avatar

@CWOTUS “The monopolies you suggest only come about with laws and anti-competitive requirements… established by governments.” That’s simply not true. The monopolies of the 1800s came about because no regulation of monopoly prevented them, not because Congress approved them.

Granted government established monopolies are the worst sotr. As the British East India Company’s history shows, they can use the power of government to tax in order to destroy competition. Most Tea Party sorts have the causes of the Boston Tea Party upside down. In fact, the British Parliament’s 1773 Tea Act was objected to by Colonists both because it as a tax without representation, and because it sought to create a government enforced monopoly.. Competing shipping companies in the US or elsewhere were prohibited from even entering the Tea Trade. That’s what the BEIC got in exchange for the added tax, which cut into sales.

For goodness sakes, Enron tried to manipulate electricity prices in California by manipulating the energy market to add to the rolling blackouts. You don’t need to look back into ancient history to figure out what can happen under laissez-faire capitalism.

But while some in the right want laissez-faire capitalism, I fear they are being used as pawns in a game to move the US ever closer to corporatism, and therein lies the real threat. There is no government regulation of corporations that own the government. There is no competition. None is allowed. And the US has been steadily marching toward corporatism now since the end of WWII. A famous Republican sounded an early warning word about it way back in 1961.

CWOTUS's avatar

Granted, some monopolies are able to form, temporarily, from “ruthless competitors” who undercut all who attempt to enter the market, such as Standard Oil and US Steel. But if you think that those monopolies were damaging to the US economy, then you don’t know as much about monopolies as you think. Railroad monopolies, on the other hand, came about because government granted specific rights of way to specific companies, and they often did abuse their customers, who were captive. Ditto most public utilities, in fact, until quite recently.

And if you think that the electricity market in California ten to twelve years ago was “deregulated” (simply because the term was used in all the media ‘so it must be true’), then you know nothing at all about “deregulation”. I was in California at the time and I know a little bit about this industry. California’s attempt at “deregulation” was simply “regulating with different rules and making new entities to regulate”. It was a joke, which was why it was soon abolished. Unfortunately, since it had been touted as “deregulation” for so long, people actually believed that a “deregulated” electric power generation, transmission and distribution system was a bad idea. They could not be more wrong.

If the government didn’t have so much power over our lives, then “who owns it” would be of diminishing interest. What Ike should have warned us about was the “military-industrial-POLITICAL complex.”

ETpro's avatar

OK, we are at an impasse. You actually embrace corporatocracy, I hate it. I don’t think we will find any common ground on this. All I will say inparting is that the aristocracies and crony capitalist states that have arrisen around the world have wrecked their economies, not built them to greatness.

Garebo's avatar

Know we are going into what some describe as a corporate fascist state which I completely see around me every day. No question in my mind, there is someone behind the curtain, but is it the great and wonderful OZ;. no, just a legacy of aristocratic egos running the show.

CWOTUS's avatar

Are you insane, @ETpro? Or do you simply not know what the word you throw out even means? “Corporatocracy?” Really? Whatever in any of my writing – or your delusions of my writing – has given you that idea? What we have is a form of corporatocracy and I loathe it. You’re the one who seems to be in love with the idea of promoting and expanding government to do “more of the same”.

The final paragraph that I wrote above your post gives a direct counter to your imagination of what I “embrace”. Maybe you just didn’t get that far, or the words I used were too big. After all this time you still can’t get that what I embrace is “limited, constitutional government”. Period.

ETpro's avatar

@CWOTUS Getting government out of the way of business (deregulation) is the wish of the corporatists, not the liberals.It’s a right-wing agenda. I am far from insane. I am glad you loathe corporatocracy, but many of the agendas you push are designed to further our drift into it. That is why folks like the Kock Brothers and the Walton family; and the corporate jet set pour so much money into a 50 state network of think tanks staffed by expensive PhDs. Their job is to convince agerage Americans to lean ever further toward right-wing politics and corporatism. And they have been succeeding for some 30 years now.

mattbrowne's avatar

Democracy is alive and kicking. More and more people are fed up with dictators.

Predatory capitalism and shareholder value is more dead than ever.

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