Capitalism, Democracy and Dichotomies.

The general rule of thumb in polite conversation (even in an election year?), is “never bring up race, politics, and religion”.  There is good reason for this since these issues hint at the utility of our past, present, and future circumstance, while apparently offering some measure of keen insight to our understanding of the same. It seems that the layman however remains in an abyss of bewilderment, while in the aggregate political scientists continue unabated to classify hegemonies and flavors of social governance.

In short Capitalism represents the interests of the market economy (think Wall Street, Goldman Sachs).  “There is general agreement that elements of capitalism include private ownership of the means of production, creation of goods or services for profit or income, the accumulation of capital, competitive markets, voluntary exchange and wage labor.”[1]

 Many people use the term “democracy” as shorthand for liberal democracy, which may include elements such as political pluralism; equality before the law; the right to petition elected officials for redress of grievances; due process; civil liberties; human rights; and elements of civil society outside the government.[2]

Several interesting dichotomies were outlined by Francis Fukuyama.[3]

“Middle class people do not necessarily support democracy in principle: like everyone else, they are self-interested actors who want to protect their property and position. In countries such as China and Thailand, many middle-class people feel threatened by the redistributive demands of the poor and lined up in support of authoritarian governments that protect their class interests”.

In the US although “the Tea Party is anti-elitist in its rhetoric, it’s members vote for conservative politicians who serve the interests of precisely those financiers and corporate elites they claim to despise… (reasons being) a deeply embedded belief in equality of opportunity rather than equality of outcome, and the fact that cultural issues, such as abortion and gun rights, crosscut economic ones.”

From a cautionary perspective, “over the last two generations, the mainstream left has followed a social democratic program that centers on the state provision of … pensions, health care, and education… welfare states have become big, bureaucratic, and inflexible… and most important, they are fiscally unsustainable given the aging of populations”.

The real issue lies in the inflexibility inherent in these systems of social governance. A simple example would be to consider the early development of an area rich in natural resources. A capitalist model may offer early gains all around, but with subsequent wealth distribution, and an increase in living standards/education the onus may shift towards increased regulatory control, class segmentation, external market and internal social protections (welfare, progressive tax system). While the ideal model is inflexible the external environment is not. Competition, dwindling resources, and substitutes will place a strain on profits as other areas play catch-up.

“Left to itself, capitalism produced long term aggregate benefits along with great volatility and inequality…”, but what exists today is a hybrid system of capitalism “tempered and limited by the power of the democratic state and often made subservient to the goals of social stability and solidarity, rather than the other way around”.[4]

Yet it is clear that the American system today is no social panacea, since with increased globalization and developments in China (state capitalism), India, and Brazil, the deficiencies of the system are becoming more apparent. These developing nations are reaping the benefits of a global market, being uniquely positioned to take advantage of the increased flow of natural resources, labor, technology, and capital. The American system of the 21st century  is characterized by the numbing balancing act of their leadership.

“Many people currently admire the Chinese system not just for its economic record but also because it can make large, complex decisions quickly, compared with the agonizing policy paralysis that has struck both the US and Europe…”[5]

While Democrats and Republicans fight (think stagnate), over who gets the bone the irony is that by the time the smoke clears the “bone” will be resting comfortably in an upscale Shenzhen suburb, or rocking in downtown Sao Paulo.

[3] The Future of History, Francis Fukuyama ; Foreign Affairs, Jan/Feb 2012, vol 91 #1 p.53

[4] Making Modernity Work: The reconciliation of Capitalism and Democracy, Gideon Rose ; Foreign Affairs, Jan/Feb 2012, vol 91 #1  p.3

[5] The Future of History, Francis Fukuyama ; Foreign Affairs, Jan/Feb 2012, vol 91 #1 p.57


Democracy, Negro Spirituals, & Roland Martin

Gay Tagging police and Roland Martin are going to develop a made for TV mutual admiration sideshow….. violence against gays (especially kids) is a serious issue, but there is a fuzzy area where overreach comes into question…. this may be close to one of them ….. or at the very least there should be a mulligan of sorts for a stupid play, but we are at the cusp of morphing into a zero tolerance society where any reference to violence ends in (u guessed it) punishment, with the attendant innocent victims, and missed opportunities for real dialog.

When Roland Martin tweeted  “If a dude at your Super Bowl party is hyped about David Beckham’s H&M underwear ad, smack the ish out of him.”[1] during SuperBowl XLVI, GLAAD – Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation said the remark advocated violence against gays. CNN subsequently placed him under suspension.

If Giselle Bundchen (wife of Tom Brady), made a Victoria Secrets ad sans wings, and the same comment was made with reference to married men, the tweet would not even have been a footnote ….. anywhere in cyberspace.

The question begs to be asked…. who exactly died and made GLAAD the new keepers of the Kark Rove playbook for connecting the gay dots. Even if one stretched the comment to include gays it seems that there is sufficient reasonable doubt that they were not the only possible target segment. David Beckham has enough of a rabid soccer following, and female audience (think jealous male), to warrant the remark, and if that were not enough it also brings to question whether or not another ‘straight’ guy can admire a male physique without being labeled “gay”…. which would put GLAAD in the unenviable spot of ‘gay tagging’ most guys who buy “Muscle and Fitness”, and “Men’s Health” magazines…. as Wendy Williams would say, “How U doing”.

That was actually the less SERIOUS part (did anyone catch that if I used “funny” instead of “less serious”, then GLAAD could come after me as well)…. It gets a lot tougher from here on in, but there are two decent points.

Martin Luther King Jr. (E1)

First, the Negro Spirituals were a fascinating part of the culture of passive resistance adopted during slavery. The admirable takeaway is that even under the worse of times the African American spirit has endured and found ways to thrive, prosper, and survive. This is no small feat, and though some point to the welfare system as being a bedrock for African American advancement, the fact is that the African American came out of slavery with nothing more positive than the scars on his/her back. Welfare, as much as a progressive tax system, acting at both ends of the economic continuum, stabilizes the economy through good and bad periods. (Society benefits, and of the 40 million Americans in poverty, approximately 10 million are African American and 20 million are White.)[2] These processes are crucial programs in linking, and tempering the needs of a capitalist system with a liberal democratic system. This is the umbrella under which American society provides recourse for the minorities, but a working democracy of this scale is as undefined, unmanaged, and untested as any other ideology in history. It is imperative that minorities continue to be unbiased supporters, and advocates for the clear, and unequivocal development of individual rights.

Through the (say) two hundred years of American slavery (1865), and the 100 more years to the civil rights movement of the 1960s it seems odd that any African American has not learned the lesson that he has not earned the right to offend ANYONE, (although some groups have earned the right to fire everyone, or be recognized as sovereign entities[3]). After arguably being subjected to the worst example of human degradation, evil, and humiliation, devised by a society of any life form known to man, the empathy for marginalized groups, and minorities should be embedded in the DNA of the black diaspora everywhere. If anything, in an ideal world we should all aspire to be drum majors “for justice, peace and righteousness,”.[4]

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