Politics Opinion

Capitalism a death knell for democracy

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(Cartoon by Paul Dorin / @DorinToons)

Neoliberalism and corporate greed are destroying the idea of a fair and equal society, dividing classes into 'us versus them', writes Dermot Daley.

*Also listen to the audio version of this article on Spotify HERE.

ECONOMISTS SUCH AS Reserve Bank (RBA) governor Philip Lowe think that economics is almost a science, but in effect, there is no more correlation between economics and science than there is between astrology and astronomy.

The following is an opinion and as such, it carries no more weight than any other opinion. Although it probably has greater validity than when Lowe opined that interest rates would not change for several years and then progressively increased the rate to address inflation without evidence that his actions were having the desired effect.

Mr Lowe has since moved on. One might hope that the new governor of the RBA will more closely examine the inflationary effects of unearned benefits, such as executive salaries and middle-class welfare, on the market’s compulsion to gouge the cost of household goods and services.

Modern economists believe that their career path was founded by Adam Smith in his seminal work, The Wealth of Nations; however, Smith was a sociologist before the word “economist” was coined and his thinking referred to the need for sound fiscal management to nurture the whole of society. He was, after all, living in the “Age of Reason”.

By the third quarter of the 20th Century, socialism and democracy, the two prevailing ideologies, had lost their way. Socialism linked itself to communism (whereby some are more equal than others, which proved dysfunctional except where practised in arcane religious orders). Simultaneously, democracy, with its sibling free enterprise, had been hijacked by capitalism.

The death of democracy was sealed when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that a corporation is an individual.

Capitalism is divisive and celebrates “us and them”; it undermines democracy by promoting undue influence by lobbyists on elected officials; it privatises profits and socialises losses; and at its core, it legitimises piracy — the preying upon the weak and defenceless in well-planned and well-equipped, fast-moving strikes. Concerns over property ownership once raised against communism are now made manifest by the new masters of the capitalist universe.

Global corporations do not recognise territories. They demand land, discounted services and quasi-diplomatic privileges from financially dependent nations, claiming that they are creating employment while exploiting a captive labour pool. They then shift massive profits through a maze of creative accounting to minimise tax obligations. Corporations sabotage free enterprise by disabling or swallowing competition.

Economic rationalism ravaged Australia into the 1990s, with many publically owned services and utilities being privatised. Soon, the new multi-national “owners” of Australia’s commonwealth gas reserves were lobbying successive governments to permit fracking to maximise profit by selling more gas to offshore markets while jeopardising our fragile artesian ecology.

At the same time, domestic customers are being told to mothball their gas appliances as natural gas has been identified as a greenhouse gas. While the cessation of burning fossil fuels is an admirable objective, is there any environmental logic in jettisoning functional hardware and then having other countries burn that same fossil gas for the disproportionate benefit of a few global corporations?

Contemporary economic theory has become an enabler, a tool of capitalism and has nothing in common with Adam Smith’s principles.

On the tail of illegal practices exposed in the banking industry Inquiry, we have become aware of recent corrupt activities of financial giant Pricewaterhouse Cooper while contracted by the Australian Federal Government to provide confidential advice to the Treasury Department to review and update taxation regulations. PwC obliged, but then allegedly sold its acquired knowledge to willing buyers.

Given the apparent licence to operate freely through lax and breezy collaboration with government departments, the magnitude of this crime cannot be underestimated. Undoubtedly paper shredders have been running hot and people diving for cover, suggesting that perhaps the full extent of the corruption may never be known.

The corporate world is dominated by the mindset to extract the maximum return for as long as possible before being held to account. Mesmerised minions are rewarded with bonuses, elite glamour and fast cars for delivering ever-greater profits to the board. Morals and ethics are spurned. The brazenness and the scope of the deceit revealed in PwC is a wake-up call to us all.

When the Greeks conceived of democracy those thousands of years ago, they envisaged an enlightened society that would include equal participation by all. Ever since, schemers and crooks have devised ways to gain at the expense of the majority. Class, race and religion have each been used as cruel levers to wedge profits. Brute force was imposed to control peasants in the feudal era, the presumption of superiority underpinned slavery and from the dawn of time, religion has been used to suppress women. Corruption has been present whenever the opportunity to profit arose.

Here and now, we are choosing to turn a blind eye to the existential crisis of the climate emergency, which has been accelerating since capitalism subverted democracy, to satisfy the monumental greed of the one or two per cent of the world population who lack a heart and an understanding of physics and poetry and other measures of fruitful human existence.

Enough is enough. More than enough is the politics of the kindergarten sandpit.

With smart communications infrastructure, we have unparalleled access to information. We have the capability and the logistics to cooperate and provide food, shelter, education and leisure to all humanity. But we need to abandon our distracting obsessions with sport, religion and gambling and work together to regulate the corporate pirates who are competing to waste energy and resources, thereby condemning our fragile Spaceship Earth on a one-way course to oblivion.

On our current projection, the Earth will rapidly change as it has changed in cycles over past millennia, with the inevitable scenario that we will all too soon have engineered an atmosphere and climate that will no longer support human life.

Is this what we want?

*This article is also available on audio here:

Dermot Daley is a fourth-generation Australian living in Victoria, who is now retired from construction project management​​​​.

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