Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Capitalism Is Not Democratic

About the time I saw a rebroadcast of "Surviving the Bottom Line," Hedrick Smith's (1998 PBS series) account of the forces, institutions and values driving the new American economy, this off-topic post appeared in a broadcasting related Internet newsgroup on 1/24/2000.

It's an interesting read following the financial meltdown of 2008.
We live in a world being pillaged by the institutions of global capitalism to enrich the few at the expense of the many.

It has become more than just a political issue. We have reached the point in human history at which the very survival of civilization and perhaps our species depends on replacing these rogue institutions with institutions supportive of democracy, market economies, and ethical cultures that function in service to life and community.

For those of us who grew up believing that capitalism is the foundation of democracy, market freedom, and the good life it has been a rude awakening to realize that under capitalism, democracy is for sale to the highest bidder, the market is centrally planned by global mega-corporations larger than most countries, the elimination of jobs and livelihoods is rewarded as an economic virtue, and the destruction of nature and life to make money for the already rich is viewed as progress.

Let us speak truth... Global capitalism is not democratic and it systematically violates every principle of a market economy.

Under global capitalism the world is ruled by a global financial casino staffed by faceless bankers, money managers, and hedge fund speculators who operate with a herd mentality that sends exchange rates and stock prices into wild gyrations unrelated to any underlying economic reality. With reckless abandon they make and break national economies, buy and sell corporations, hire and fire corporate CEOs --(while) holding the most powerful politicians and corporate managers hostage to their interests.

When their bets pay off they claim the winnings as their own. When they lose, they run to governments and public institutions to make up their losses with cries that the financial skies will fall if they are forced to suffer the market's discipline.

Contrary to its claims, capitalism's relationship to democracy and the market economy is much the same as the relationship of a cancer to the body whose life energies it expropriates. Cancer is a pathology that occurs when an otherwise healthy cell forgets that it is a part of the body and begins to pursue its own unlimited growth without regard to the consequences for the whole. The growth of the cancerous cells deprives the healthy cells of nourishment and ultimately kills both the body and itself.

Capitalism does much the same to the societies it infests.

Another way of characterizing our situation is that we find ourselves unwitting participants in an epic contest between money and life for the soul of humanity.

And it comes down to a fairly literal choice as to which we value more -- our money or our lives.
The text may not be a direct lift from David Korten, but it's in the same vein as "When Corporations Rule the World," his anti-globalization book from 1995... Which argues that a new breed of corporate libertarians have 'twisted' the ideas of free market economics away from Adam Smith's original view of the role of private companies.

Hedrick Smith's "Surviving the Bottom Line" is no longer available online... But his bottom line: Businesses must acknowledge their responsibility to stakeholders, not just stockholders, for democracy to thrive, too.


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