PLUTOCRACY, AUTOCRACY OR DEMOCRACY?
What do we want? Plutocracy? Autocracy? Democracy? In America today we have a plutocracy, a government run by wealthy people and corporations. We had a taste of autocracy from 2016 - 2020, the rule of government by one person. And we have something of a democracy at work because we saw how voters determined the legitimate outcome of an election in 2020 despite claims of fraud. (How many court cases and election officials certifying there was no fraud does it take to convince people of that?) And the House of Representatives did their Constitutional job to confirm the electoral college votes, in spite of a violent attempt to stop them.
I think President Biden is correct when he says, “We are in the midst of a fundamental debate about the future and direction of our world. We’re at an inflection point between those who argue that, given all the challenges we face that autocracy is the best way forward, they argue, and those who understand that democracy is essential — essential to meeting those challenges.”
Personally I agree that democracy is the best means for effectively addressing the environmental crises, wealth inequity, racial injustices, and health crises. It also addresses essential human needs, which Frances Moore Lappe´ advocates in this article “Democracy As Dignity. She speaks of the need for agency (power to make change in one’s life), meaning / purpose, and connection. If a government adheres to the fundamentals of a democracy—inclusive and dispersed power, transparency, and mutual accountability—fulfilling those needs is likely.
Many of us have asked the question why people voted for an authoritarian person in the 2016 and 2020 election. It’s answered very well in this article “From Anxiety to Authoritarianism.” The essence of the response is that when things fall apart, like the loss of security of jobs, health care, housing, food—the American Dream—people are likely to look for an authoritarian strongman who promises to bring everything back under control. He promises to protect our jobs, our wealth, and our way of life. He promises to keep our homes and families safe and to make America great again, to bring back the Dream. But did that “strongman” deliver?
In his speech, Biden emphasized not just the importance of democracy, but also how much work it is to keep it. “Democracy doesn’t happen by accident,” he said. “We have to defend it, fight for it, strengthen it, renew it. We have to prove that our model isn’t a relic of our history; it’s the single best way to revitalize the promise of our future.”
If we want a “culture of caring,” a society of equity, security, peace, good health for people and the planet, and dignity for all, we will have to fight for it. As someone said, “Democracy is not a spectator sport.”
For a good explanation of plutocracy in America watch this interview with David Korten "From Plutocracy to Democracy." “We can’t create real democracy until we recognize we don’t have it. . . . Real democracy is about one person-one vote, not one dollar-one vote.”
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