The Clash at the Heart of Democracy and Capitalism

The stated goal of both liberals and conservatives is the same: construct a politics that is most beneficial for the country and its citizens. The difference is that conservatives build their politics on items of faith, and persist with them in the face of endless evidence that they do not work. Liberals build on pragmatism, and commonly discard ideas that do not work.

The primary purpose of a democracy is to protect the interests of the people. If it were not so, it wouldn’t be called democracy (demos = people). When this devolves into protecting the interests of the rich, particularly at the expense of the people, democracy is lost. This is the direction the United States has been moving for some four decades under the benign guidance of rich conservatives.

The political goal of liberals
and conservatives is the same.

The reason for this misdirection is the conservative worship of capitalism, and the inherent clash between capitalism and democracy. The goal of democracy is to bring liberty and prosperity to everyone. The goal of capitalism is to bring all profit to business owners. Maximizing profit for owners means compromising the lives and wellbeing of workers and their families. Proof that this has happened lies in the decrease of wealth we see for practically everyone but the rich in recent decades.

The essential political clash is that conservatives believe a very rich upper class will create the greatest overall wealth by a spillover or “trickle down” effect, and cannot accept the abundant evidence that contradicts this faith. And it is faith, the same kind of faith that religions require, that is not amenable to logic and reason.

We have had four decades where
trickling failed to occur.

Republicans suppressed the Nov. 1 report of the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office because it showed once again that concentrated wealth does not translate to affluence for everyone, a violation of their faith. We have had endless reports over four decades where trickling failed to occur, in which the rich accumulated vast wealth, low income workers slipped deeper into poverty and distress, and the country registered record levels of inequality. A major IMF study found that in every case and every country, enriching the rich was followed by contraction of the national economy. Yet this zombie keeps staggering forward, refusing to die even after being killed dozens of times. An additional release by the Congressional Budget Office Dec. 13 stated yet again that giving money to the rich does not improve economic growth, nor would a tax increase for the rich hurt it. Republicans seem incapable of acknowledging any such finding, and can only respond by suppressing anything that disagrees with their magic fairy tale.

Capitalism is inherently greedy. Wealth accrues to the owners, and reaches others only to the degree that this causes the owners’ wealth to increase. When the owners feel they are no longer being sufficiently enriched, they turn to the workers as a source for their continued enrichment, by outlawing labor unions or other steps that harm workers. The general trend is that the many workers lose in some way so that the continuous enrichment of the few owners is uninterrupted.

Republicans suppressed the recent report
of the nonpartisan CBO
because it showed once again
that concentrated wealth
does not translate to affluence for everyone.

These negative characteristics of capitalism are an inherent part of capitalism itself. If you embrace capitalism, you embrace these capitalist imperatives. If not kept in balance, the natural tendencies of uncontrolled capitalism are virtually all negative: great inequality, exploitation of workers, destruction of the environment, and so on.

Not all companies behave badly, but significant numbers of them do. These are companies that care not about the fortunes of their workers. They are unconcerned that a significant illness would devastate all the members of a worker’s family. Take the Twinkies people, now bankrupt as a result of stagnant and stupid mismanagement. Even as the company was going under, it attacked their union contract promises and blamed the union for the company’s demise, while at the same time employee pensions were raided to bestow multi-million dollar bonuses upon incompetent upper management. This is what the writer Dan Essrow calls “CEO shakedown”, as workers are blamed and management steals millions.

But there are ways that the excesses of capitalism can be tamed, so that the overall effect is benign and beneficial to all. The three primary ways to control the excesses of capitalism are labor unions, worker-owned companies, and governmental laws and regulations. Republicans disapprove of all of these. They prefer magic fairy tales.

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