Sunday, November 03, 2013

This government?

An economic professor asked me, "But do you want this government having anything to do with the allocation of capital?"

Well, no. I don't want this government doing anything at all. This government exists as an organ of the capitalist ruling class, and the representatives and bureaucrats live in the context of a capitalist society: they, like everyone else, are competing in a life and death struggle for money and power. There are so many incentives for "corruption" (using official power for personal gain) that it seems a miracle that so many civil servants avoid corruption.

Instead, I want a democratic government in a communist context making decisions about the allocation of capital. A democratic government, as opposed to our present republican government, really is run by the people themselves, directly as far as direct democracy is practical, and otherwise by delegated, as opposed to trustee, representation. In a communist context, people are not locked into a life and death struggle for money, and economic power is not the essence of political power.

People like power, and I have no illusions that there will be struggles for power under democratic communism. I believe, however, that we can move the field of struggle for power away from economic power to something else, probably popularity. A person will become politically powerful to the extent that she gains the admiration, trust, and respect of the people. There will be demagogues, certainly, and the majority of people can, like any other group, make serious mistakes. But the power of a demagogue is much more transient and evanescent than the power of a capitalist, and the fundamental principle of democracy is not that the people are less prone to error than an elite, but rather that the mistakes of the people are preferable to the self-interest of an elite.


  1. "A person will become politically powerful to the extent that she gains the admiration, trust, and respect of the people."

    I had a terrible vision of high public office being held by the likes of Justin Beiber and Kim Kardashian. *Shiver*

    Whoever is willing to tell the majority what they want to hear will be granted political power. Sounds a lot like the current system. Probably unaviodable but, as ever, one of the problems with democrasy is that it tends towards pleasing the majority. The majority are not known for their economic knowledge and expertise, for their great intellect, or for their willingness to consider longterm objectives.

  2. Wob:

    As I have noted often (but not here), I do not address the fundamental conflict between democracy and elitism. It should be noted, however, that your points are not empirically demonstrated facts in evidence, but "theoretical," perhaps even theological, arguments against democracy made by elites to justify their rule. It is worth noting that even the founders of the American republic used these arguments. The only actual experiments in direct democracy since ancient Greece are few and far between, and very small scale.

    I believe that Justin Beiber and Kim Kardashian have neither the admiration, trust, nor the respect of the (American) people. There is a big difference between these qualities and mere popularity.

    One problem with your critique is that they apply equally (perhaps even more forcefully) to a republic as to a true democracy. If the people really are completely incompetent, then why give them any power at all?

    Another problem is that elites themeselves, for all their "great intellect," rarely demonstrate "economic knowledge and expertise" or "willingness to consider longterm objectives." And even if they did, why would we expect them to exercise these qualities for the public good, instead of their own private good?

    If the people can at least discern economic expertise and long-term objectives, then they can rule themselves as well as any elite by consulting experts, just as people routinely consult physicians and mechanics; if they cannot discern these qualities, then the republic is at best a fiction and at worst a catastrophe in the making


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