Fear of Equality, Part 13. Money and the Death of Democracy

Margaret Thatcher: Denier of Society or denier of Democracy?
Margaret Thatcher: Denier of Society or denier of Democracy?

 

“Mankind is not an entity, an organism, or a coral bush. The entity involved in production and trade is man. It is with the study of man—not of the loose aggregate known as a “community”—that any science of the humanities has to begin.” 

Ayn Rand – “What is Capitalism”

 

“I think we’ve been through a period where too many people have been given to understand that if they have a problem, it’s the government’s job to cope with it: ‘I have a problem, I’ll get a grant.’ ‘I’m homeless, the government must house me.’ They’re casting their problem on society. And, you know, there is no such thing as society.

“There are individual men and women, and there are families. And no government can do anything except through people, and people must look to themselves first. It’s our duty to look after ourselves and then, also to look after our neighbour. People have got the entitlements too much in mind, without the obligations. There’s no such thing as entitlement, unless someone has first met an obligation.”

 Margaret Thatcher

 

To begin with, it is fair to say that Ayn Rand was one to never allow practical common sense or intellectual honesty to get in the way of her juicy, radical individualist claims. It must be remembered that Rand’s personal experience with group and community was largely a negative one, as she blamed the community’s participation within what she viewed as the destruction of her family’s wealth and social placement in the aftermath of the Russian Revolution, so such a denial of the community should be understood within that context when reading Rand’s writings or understanding her deep resentments and suspicions (and let’s be frank, hatred) towards the community and equality. She did, as we are all preprogrammed to do, live within a mental world where preciously defended ideas and mental constructs and equation carry far more weight and significance than anything in physical reality.

Obviously, any sensible definition of Mankind, or the Human Race can only refer to the collective class of human beings united by the shared quality of… well, this is going to sound a bit crazy, but, “being human.” Rand’s premise that science must forego any discussion of the community of humanity is totally connected to Rand’s overarching paranoia with the danger of collective action. Rand never received any scientific training and was largely a self – taught philosopher and writer. Her ability was in word – wrangling and constructing philosophical systems that supported her perspective. And so the key of understanding what she says and why must be in line with her negative evaluations and assertions of an inconsolable loss she felt she experienced at the hands of the community. Thus her views that equality and social responsibility cannot coexist within the confines of the freedom and liberty capitalism allegedly provides.

The similar statement by Margaret Thatcher also illustrates how master politicians are able to manipulate through words and symbols, the reality and perceptions of a nation. Thatcher was a whole-hearted supporter of the “free market” mythos and the so –called democratizing power of free market capitalism. It is a testament to her oratory skills as a politician that she was able to occlude, misapply and switch definitions of key words and have nobody call her on it.

On the face of it, the statement above from Thatcher seems to be unfocused and wobbly, and a surprisingly ironic position coming from such a hardline nationalist like Thatcher (see the Falkland Islands episode).[1]  Obviously Thatcher viewed nationalism and society in terms she could categorize and separate depending on the spin, context or the definition she wished to use to further her agenda. The problem is that the premise rests on a foundation of deceptive verbal incoherence meant to diffuse, dissemble and camouflage its subject.

Society and the Nation can be defined in various ways, and it is the politician’s job to couch these terms that will help them sell whatever ideological perspective that will keep them in power and further the agenda. The job of the politician is to present a version of reality to the voters that the voters already believe in and accepts as reality. The relentless bombardment by media has been so effective for so long in presenting a virtual reality that mirrors and reinforces the belief system of voters makes presenting social lies and sentimental narratives all the easier to shove it down the throats of the populace.

For example, one such sentimental narrative that is employed by the neoliberal and libertarian thought – machines is that decisions made by individuals are just as powerful or more powerful than decisions made by groups. This meme uncomfortably sits side by side this nagging, existential thought that the little guy, err…, I mean, the “individual” has zero influence on or access to those who sits in the seats of power. In fact, the individual doesn’t even know who sits in those chairs and how much control these mysterious Masters have over his life. All the individual knows is that if he or she can’t make it work in this life, that they will be left behind by all others, outside in the darkness, and nobody – neither society or any other individual – can be expected to be called on for help.

Another social narrative that has misled people is that somehow conservatism presents a front against “big government.” And yet, under conservative purview the federal government has increased on a titanic scale. The “government” now is completely under control of and operated as the legislative arm of stateless corporations – which gives itself many benefits, rights and privileges – and which such gifts and handouts are not made available to the people, let alone to the community and more important, no obligations are currently required for its “entitlements.” How great is that?

In reality conservatives and liberal alike are mainly interested in protecting the elite’s concentration of power. As economic power becomes more and more concentrated, the more real – world democracy evaporates under the invasion of neoliberal economic policies that has emerged as the controlling characteristic within capitalism’s feature of economic determinism where every life and every relationship in society is ultimately based on one’s connection and access to money.

Thatcher, like most master politicians, regularly employed the word game of Deception by Substitution. Here’s how it’s played. Substitute the word “society” with “democracy” and you get what Thatcher really meant:

 “They’re casting their problem on democracy. And, you know, there is no such thing as democracy.

Obviously, Thatcher could never get away with such a remark said so nakedly, thus the reason for speaking in political code. That is, by denying the power and reality of the community – there’s a denial of the power and reality that people form within relationships, thus placing the onus on the individual person, and so there’s no reasonable opposition to the view of corporatizing and privatizing the public space that was once under the auspices of the community is what is best for the individuals that make up society. Which means that the individual should lower its expectations severely: that no real power can be trusted within their hands and no real intervention can be counted on in the improvement of people’s lives because the democratic process – which works through the people just as Thatcher admitted – no longer applies. Democracy has disappeared into the black hole which now exists as the Neoliberal State. [2]

The fact is that this Neoliberal state is currently passing away, slowly yet surely. Its death is as certain as that fate that awaits all of us when we come to the end of our own lives. What Thatcher, Reagan, Bush, Obama, et al, none of them, or to be more frank, none of us seem to realize is the bigger view that needs to be considered: this sinking ship of economic determinism cannot be rescued, improved, salvaged or maintained. It is falling as surely as there’s a moon in the sky.. The only discussion that matters is the one we should be having now from the standpoint of economic equality and true democracy:  what will we choose as a collective Human Race to replace this current political – economic system?

Perhaps the most sensible way forward can be considered within this keen observation by Bernard Poolman:

“… instead of looking for political heroes who will solve problems for us on a national or global level, we focus on our community and work with trusted others to address issues in our place. As the crumbling of governments, financial systems, and other institutions exacerbates, collapse itself will compel us to implement local solutions. Thus, even in the face of such a painful demise as the collapse of civilization, we may be able to surrender to and celebrate the opportunity for rediscovering our own humanity and that of the other individuals who inhabit our community. Perhaps what we most need to discover and experience is not heroics but transformative defeat – the defeat of the paradigm of civilization.”

 

NOTES

[1] The Falklands Island War was commenced by the UK after Argentina claimed the islands for itself after invading the islands in 1982. Thatcher sent in the British Navy and battled Argentina for ten weeks until Argentina surrendered. In the conflict, World War II-vintage Argentine light cruiser ARA General Belgrano was sunk, killing its Argentinean crew of 323 men. The British Navy lost the HMS Sheffield which sank after being struck by an Exocet missile, killing 23 naval men. The aftermath of the war saw the UK maintain their hold on the disputed areas and Thatcher’s popularity swell and on that strength the conservative government won in a landslide in the next election, while in Argentina the military’s prestige was damaged beyond repair, enabling a return to free elections and democratic governance.

[2] “The new study, with the jaw-clenching title of “Testing Theories of American Politics: Elites, Interest Groups, and Average Citizens,” is forthcoming in the fall 2014 edition of Perspectives on Politics. Its authors, Martin Gilens of Princeton University and Benjamin Page of Northwestern University, examined survey data on 1,779 national policy issues for which they could gauge the preferences of average citizens, economic elites, mass-based interest groups and business-dominated interest groups. They used statistical methods to determine the influence of each of these four groups on policy outcomes, including both policies that are adopted and rejected.

The analysts found that when controlling for the power of economic elites and organized interest groups, the influence of ordinary Americans registers at a “non-significant, near-zero level.” The analysts further discovered that rich individuals and business-dominated interest groups dominate the policymaking process. The mass-based interest groups had minimal influence compared to the business-based interest groups.

The study also debunks the notion that the policy preferences of business and the rich reflect the views of common citizens. They found to the contrary that such preferences often sharply diverge and when they do, the economic elites and business interests almost always win and the ordinary Americans lose.

The authors also say that given limitations to tapping into the full power elite in America and their policy preferences, “the real world impact of elites upon public policy may be still greater” than their findings indicate. Who Rules America?  By Allan J. Lichtman,  August 12, 2014

 

 

 

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One thought on “Fear of Equality, Part 13. Money and the Death of Democracy

  1. Nationalism as a substitute for community is a clever way to bind millions of people to an imperialist project that benefits corporate plutocrats that at the same time dissolves organic community ties. The fostering of consumerism is another aspect of this process, whereby “democracy” is reduced to having the widest choice of corporate products to buy, and if you don’t have the money to buy it’s your fault.

    Thatcher, Reagan and their successors have succeeded, for now, in getting large numbers of people to believe that having more varieties of cola to choose from is democracy — what more could you possibly ask for? — but as economic conditions stagnate or deteriorate, eventually no amount of propaganda will suffice. Nothing of human creation lasts forever.

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