2022-05-28 Jason Hickel capitalism and democracy

Jason Hickel (@jasonhickel): People often assume there is a natural connection between capitalism and democracy. Sometimes the two concepts are virtually fused together.

I always find this odd, because I value democracy. But there is nothing democratic about capitalism. šŸ§µ

Under capitalism, decisions about what to produce, how to utilize the labour and resources of the nation, and what to do with the surplus that we generateā€”all of this is controlled overwhelmingly by the 1% who own the majority of corporate shares and pick the directors of firms.

This is pretty wild, when you think about it. Yes, we have national elections. But when it comes to the economic system, which affects all of our lives and determines our common destiny, it is totally undemocratic. In fact it is literally a plutocracy.

When you govern a system like this, it means that production is likely to be organized not around meeting human needs, or ecological regeneration, but around maximizing the profits and power of the 1%.

Not surprisingly, this leads to perverse results. We have an economy with extraordinary productive capacity, that massively overuses resources, but still fails to ensure that everyone has access to basic goods and services like healthcare, housing, transit and so on.

What is more, those who control this system then leverage their profits to manipulate national elections, through campaign finance and advertising, or through outright control over media outlets. Democracy cannot function under these conditions.

It doesn't have to be this way. We know, empirically, that when people have democratic control over production, they manage resources more sustainably, meet human needs more efficiently, and distribute surplus more fairly.

Decisions about what to produce and how to use our collective surplus should be democratically determined, rather than controlled by and for the interests of capitalists. The path out of capitalism is economic democracy.

Dr. Genevieve Guenther (@DoctorVive): @jasonhickel I think there was, once, something intensely Democratic about capitalism, relative to feudal agrarianism and the monarchy, but whatever expansion of freedom & power to the bourgeoise it enabled has long since been superseded by its production & entrenchment of oligarchy. As a historical formation, "capitalism" is not only one thing, right?

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