Against Liberal (democratic) Capitalism: The Revolt of the Ignored

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Published on r/collapse on June 26, 2016

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Liberalism is the social system that makes Capitalism possible. Markets and private property have been intrinsic to nearly every form of Civilization (see the Incas as an outlier), but it was the creation of Liberal institutions that allowed full-blown Capitalism to proceed. Without guarantees of personal liberty, actual barons would have continued to rob the puny Capitalists, or some sovereign social consciousness might have prohibited their rapacious extractions altogether. The mark of true Liberal society is that no person of wealth need ever fear injustice.

Democracy was the final element of the complex and its addition came reluctantly. A simple mind, such as that of Ayn Rand, fails to understand the vital function of Democracy – that it diffuses away political power. Personal liberty is in jeopardy from any great concentration of power – political, religious or ironically, even economic, so Capitalism needs Democracy. But Democracy also holds that terrible potential – they call it ‘the tyranny of the majority’ – and so, Capitalists must diminish and constrain it as (democracy).

Reading this again, I do think it reflects the actual history of social development. For example, throughout East Asia and Latin America, authoritarian regimes were the vehicles for nascent Capitalist development. Liberal rights were slowly extended to an expanding Ownership while the masses were kept in brutal suppression. But while pacified workers are a necessity, a much higher value is found for them as a herd of avid consumers. That is the function of (democracy).

I am not anti-Capitalist for any ethical reason. It does offer greater freedom and a higher standard of living. But all of that will be irrelevant if Earth is returned to a condition that supports little else than microbial life.

Some theorists claim this system is an emergent property of human nature

In that regard, I think foremost of the neo-conservative Francis Fukuyama, who wrote a screed that was lengthened into a best-selling book. From Wiki:

…his book The End of History and the Last Man (1992), which argued that the worldwide spread of liberal democracies and free market capitalism of the West and its lifestyle may signal the end point of humanity's sociocultural evolution and become the final form of human government.

It was triumphant shout for the Fall of Communism. It was also a tedious read for its reliance of Hegelian philosophy, though it was interesting that at his conclusion, he feared Nietzsche might be right, and that liberal democracy (and Capitalism) might breed nihilism. It has, but more than that is its physical properties, as it can only accelerate the destruction of the Biosphere. I now see the bitter irony in his pompous title: This can be the end of history and the last of humanity.

I feel someone should do something to stop that.



A specter is haunting Europe – the specter of Nationalism.

Historians and pundits have touted the Fall of the Berlin Wall as the birth pang of a new Global Civilization, one organized as a supra-national system of Liberal (democratic) Capitalism. Some theorists claim this system is an emergent property of human nature and will be the inevitable culmination of history. This view ignores all of that aerial bombardment of great cities and Third World villages, and the threat of ever-greater bombs, that were the expedient means used to bring the opposition to Capitalism into submission. That aside, is it not wonderful that we all now enjoy the freedom to be Capitalists? Drive well for Uber and prosper.

However, there is a dilemma: This Global Civilization will quickly destroy Life on a Small Planet. A few entrepreneurs understand this and are planning a departure for Mars and the asteroid belt, but the rest of Our Ownership are in varying states of denial of this scientific certainty. Let us build summer camps for them atop the Arctic Sea Ice, where they might receive reeducation, with an emphasis on the laws of thermodynamics.

The only chance we have of slowing this ongoing Eco-Catastrophe is to disrupt this Global System, and while the farthest fringes of the Left understand this, the rest them have become worse than useless for that cause. As an example, Jill Stein, the current head of the Green Party of the USA, was a participant in a must-see documentary on the looming threat of human extinction, The Cross of the Moment. In the US elections of 2012, she and her Green Party received fewer than half a million votes, about a quarter of a percent of the electorate. I will be voting for her this November – nothing to gain, what else to lose.

If our democracies are useless, that is by design. To protect themselves against ‘the tyranny of the majority’, Our Ownership builds in safeguards against the popular will, an intricate complex of restraints and ruses. Sheldon Wolin has termed this as a ‘managed democracy’, even as ‘inverted totalitarianism’. This is a system to transform citizens with rights into consumers with needs.

In the Science of Civilizations, Brexit Is the European Union’s Reckoning

“One of the biggest problems is even though the EU seems democratic, the government is not democratically elected by the people of Europe, and therefore not directly responsive to the population,” says Turchin.

Recently, the Management of Democracy has suffered a series of notable failures, the latest coming when the (barely) United Kingdom voted in favor of leaving the European Union. The horror, the horror – live on television, as the vote totals mounted, most of the talking heads bore the expressions that they repress when reporting acts of mass terrorism. Was it a dread of financial turmoil? No, they must know that the Global Economy is already ‘struggling’, with investments so overvalued that most any shock could prompt a precipitous collapse, with derivatives tumbling like dominoes. No, what truly terrified them was the revolt of the English working class – those uneducated, xenophobic, economic losers that they have been able to manipulate or ignore for decades. Nationalism rears its head and Our Ownership screams.

Cue a notable Harvard and IMF economist:

Britain’s Democratic Failure

The idea that somehow any decision reached anytime by majority rule is necessarily “democratic” is a perversion of the term. Modern democracies have evolved systems of checks and balances to protect the interests of minorities and to avoid making uninformed decisions with catastrophic consequences. The greater and more lasting the decision, the higher the hurdles.

The other great failure in democratic management has been Donald Trump’s attainment of the Republican nomination for Presidency of the USA. As in the UK, the centrist conservative establishment greatly misjudged their ability to manage Democracy. The twin political pillar of American Capitalism, the Democratic Party, has better appraised the threat of revolt from the masses, and constructed a bulwark of unelected ‘super-delegates’ to block the nomination of any populist insurgent. Elsewhere in Europe, strange political collaborations in elections (the French Conservatives and Socialists against the National Front) or in parliamentary rule (the German Christian Democrats plus Social Democrats) are to allow no path for right-wing populists. Such movements have electoral success only in former Soviet Bloc nations where Liberal (democratic) Capitalism still has shallow roots.

All of this begs the question: Whatever happened to the former champions of the working class, the traditional Left?

In the USA, the Democratic Party made it a policy to ignore its largely white working class and created a new coalition of ‘enlightened professionals’ and assorted minorities. This chimera has enabled Clinton to prevail over Sanders and his following of ‘people-without-color’. How this coalition was built is recounted in Listen Liberal: Or, Whatever Happened to the Party of the People, the latest book by the bona fide progressive author Thomas Frank. Do listen to his CSPAN Book Television presentation and discussion of the book. This bit of transcription comes from his conclusion, starting around minute 37.

…by abandoning them [the white working class] the Democrats made inevitable the economic desolation we now see out in the countryside of this nation…

…that leaves us with a choice this November… intolerance [Trump] versus inequality forever [Clinton]. Look folks, there has got to be a different way.

This book caps Frank’s lengthy attempt to understand why his white working class has consistently voted against its own economic interests. He now understands they do so because their concerns are irrelevant to the American political center, where neoconservative Tweedledum and neoliberal Tweedledee link arms to defend the Global Empire of Liberal (and democratic) Capitalism.

The opposition to Brexit was a very similar coalition: educated professionals, Scotland and Ulster, and the descendants of Imperial immigrants. Versus them were English traditionalists and a nativist working class. It was the forces of Globalization against English Nationalism. In the absence of ‘high hurdles’, English Nationalism won the vote. The British bookmakers had offered eighty to one odds against them.

Meanwhile, back in the USA, the Truly Privileged and the Minorities are closing ranks to guarantee the election of the neoconservative, neoliberal Madame Secretary Clinton. Be then prepared for new military adventures and increasing inequality, if not forever, then for four to eight more years.

The American white working class now has a declining life expectancy, a historical privilege once suffered by the true Native Americans. Instead of sympathy, the pundits write sarcasm:

The incredible crushing despair of the white working class [OP user/triggerexpert]

If you're a working-class white American, in other words, it may seem as though you are stuck with a losing hand in a bleak zero-sum game: Minorities are getting richer. The rich are getting richer. They're all doing so at your expense, and it's difficult to imagine things being any different in the future.

That writer might have given some attribution to Mitt Romney, who said it first and better in this recent speech:

Demagogues on the right and the left draw upon our darker angels,” he said, “scapegoating immigrants and Muslims or bankers and business people.”

Yes, pity and protect the poor bankers. Finally, there comes this opinion piece, which was the provocation for me to write this essay. This crap comes from a ‘resident philosopher’ at the Brookings Institute, a Democratic ‘think tank’, who bravely sallies forth against the white working class and in favor of a more manageable democracy.

How voters’ personal suffering overtook reason — and brought us Donald Trump

The economic foundations of their way of life were destroyed by the unforgiving logic of globalization, and then by the recession and its scandalously uneven recovery. The blandishments of the digital economy passed them by. Their current rates of alcoholism, life expectancy and suicide are now notorious.

[Pause your reading while he snuffles back his crocodile tears.]

Republicans have been indifferent to them because Republicans revere winners and they are losers. Democrats have been indifferent to them because they are culturally embarrassing (and because many Democrats, too, have had little time for losers). Now they finally command the attention of the country — they have been discovered — which is itself a victory for fairness in America; but a large portion of them have gained this recognition by debasing American politics with a desperate preference for a strongman. It is one of the lowest ironies of this low time.

[But you are not ignoring them now, are you?]

All the way at the other end of the political spectrum from the black aggrieved are the white aggrieved, and they are the ones playing with a terrifying fire. The people who support the white working class have been voting for Bernie Sanders, but the white working class has been voting for Donald Trump. He would be nowhere, and we would not be facing a grave historical crisis, without the enthusiasm of these despairing and deluded millions. It was inevitable that we would not escape the political consequences of our economic dislocations, but those consequences now include the darkest forces of reaction. These downtrodden demand sympathy, and they deserve sympathy, but they do not give sympathy. They kindle, in the myopia of their pain, to racism and nativism and xenophobia and misogyny and homophobia and anti-Semitism.

The accidental candidacy of the clownish Donald Trump ranks as a grave historical crisis? Screw you Leon Wieseltier, you have seen nothing yet. Three cheers for Brexit! Hip-hip-hurrah! On with the Collapse of this cynical and corrupt system! Or as Peter Turchin noted in the lead article:

“All large scale societies go through complex cycles,” says Turchin. “These usually end up in civil war or outside conquest, but sometimes the ruling class can manage to get their act together using the reform route.”

Our Ownership is incapable of reform. The cupboard is fiscally bankrupt and depleted of resources, so there are no bones to toss to the snarling dogs. Listen Leftists! If you lament this outcome, then you must do as Thomas Frank suggests and find another way. Seek some means of reconciliation with that once dear proletariat. Human survival depends on that.




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