Saturday, 11 May 2013

"Democracy itself is at stake"

A while ago I wrote a post about the UK's sham democracy. My argument was that our democratic system is there to make us believe we can change our society but that we are only actually allowed to tinker at the margins. What this means is that we may be able to change social policy - like gay marriage - but the fundamentals cannot be altered. There are two main reasons for this. Firstly, our political parties, with the exception of the Green Party, are in thrall to a neoliberal consensus which revolves around austerity, deregulation, and privatisation and asset stripping of the public sector. Secondly, as a nation, we are locked into various international treaties including the WTO, and the Lisbon Treaty, which compel us to put commercial interests above our democratic sovereignty.

So I was interested to read an article by Ha-joon Chang in this weeks Guardian. Chang is always worth reading because he tells it how it really is. I have no idea what his politics are but, as far as I can see, he is a pragmatist who is interested in what makes economies work for people, and how that can be achieved. I recommend you read his post but Its worth quoting a key passage here:
"If even the IMF doesn't approve, why is the UK government persisting with a policy [austerity] that is clearly not working? Or, for that matter, why is the same policy pushed through across Europe? A certain dead economist would have said it is because the government is "in reality instituted for the defence of the rich against the poor". Dead right [my italics].

Current policies in the UK and other European countries are really about making poor people pay for the mistakes of the rich. Millions of poor people have lost their jobs and the support they received through welfare, but how many of those top bankers who caused the crisis have suffered – except for a cancelled knighthood here and a partially returned pension pot there? If anyone has suffered in the financial industry, it is its poorer members – junior analysts who lost their jobs and tellers who are working longer hours for shrinking real wages."
Adam Smith: well aware that government acts in the interests of the ruling class
The quote about 'instituted for the defence of the rich against the poor' is from Adam Smith. Smith never was the patron saint (Chang's words) of economics that the 'free' market fundamentalists have made him out to be. And, as Chang says, it is a very telling quote, one that makes clear that our government was just as biased towards the interests of the 1% in Smith's time as it is now. As Chang also says "democracy itself is at stake" when it becomes just an instrument for maintaining to power of the few - the ruling class and corporations. We have to understand that this is how our democracy works if we want to change it, and we have to re-make it for us, the 99%, rather than for them, the 1%. If we don't do this we will continue to be used for the benefit of a tiny elite, a global ruling class, which sits above the sham democratic process and is immune to it.

No comments: