Sunday, September 4, 2011

Occupy Wall Street? For Democracy?

Ad Busters has called for 20,000 people to occupy lower Manhattan, with tents, kitchens and barricades, and to put their “asses on the line,” to convey their simple message “. . .that Barack Obama [must] ordain a Presidential Commission tasked with ending the influence money has over our representatives in Washington. It's time for DEMOCRACY NOT CORPORATOCRACY, we're doomed without it.”

The problem is that we do have a democracy and it is functioning exactly as it was designed to function: as a system to ensure that the ruling elite maintains its wealth and power. The wealthy have always controlled the political system. The politicians have overwhelmingly come from the ruling class itself. Our laws are designed primarily to protect private property. The courts were created to enforce these laws, to the advantage of the ruling class. And we have been given the right to vote for the people who will make and enforce the decisions that help the wealthy to further enrich themselves at our expense.

Even if Adbuster’s goal were simplified to the liberal desire to set limits on the influence capital has over the political system, a presidential commission would be useless. Such change comes through litigation or legislation. However, neither is likely to achieve the desired goal. The Supreme Court is currently overloaded with seething capitalists, hence the Citizen’s United ruling. And Congress is incapable of passing any legislation that is the slightest bit controversial. Besides, they would be voting against their own interests.

Adbuster’s target, Wall Street, is also interesting. Sure, people are pissed at Wall Street, but what exactly are they pissed about, Wall Street going unpunished for causing the current economic crisis? Or maybe they’re angry about the bailout they funded? Or perhaps it’s the growing wealth gap, continued low taxes for the rich and austerity on the rest of us?

Yet Wall Street was only doing what was expected under capitalism as it has done over and over again throughout history. Should people really go out and construct barricades, risk getting gassed, tasered, clubbed and arrested simply to get stricter regulations or limits to executive compensation? If that is the goal, then expect the continuation of poverty, homelessness, hunger, greed, global warming, workplace deaths and privatization of the public sector.

Perhaps Adbusters is perfectly okay with 1% of the population possessing the vast majority of the wealth. Perhaps they don’t mind that a tiny minority is able to enrich itself by paying starvation wages for goods and services that bring them billions of dollars of profits. Maybe they’re fine with a system in which only the wealthy and their gophers are allowed to become elected officials, so long as they are not overly compensated for their services. Maybe Adbusters believes Obama’s delusion that America is just one big not so happy middle class that just needs a little stimulus to become happy again.

In that case, go on and occupy Wall Street. Maybe you'll get your commission, along with some more political hand wringing. But those of us who work for wages will continue to see our standards of living and working conditions decline, while the bosses continue to grow wealthier.

1 comment:

  1. Sadly true. The general public needs to be educated on the inevitability of a capitalist system, "democratic" or not. I am surprised that more people are not speaking to this reality. Capitalism seems to be the only assumed alternative, as if we are incapable of anything else. You should post on the Occupy Wall Street web page or FB page. You seem to understand it well, and are able to articulate it. Use that to help enlighten! We need that more than anything else!