Posted 3 months ago on Feb. 13, 2013, 10:54 p.m. EST by LeoYo
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Lifting the Veil of Mirage Democracy in the United States
Wednesday, 13 February 2013 00:00 By Kevin Zeese and Margaret Flowers , Truthout | News Analysis
We live in a mirage democracy," Zeese and Flowers assert, as they trace the history and describe the institutions of a not-so-robust US democracy.
"Democracy" demokratia = demos+kratia; or democracy = people+power.
The "greatest democracy on Earth" is how the United States is portrayed to its people and the world. The hallowed words "We the people" and "Of, by and for the people" echo in the minds of Americans to characterize the United States. But do they accurately describe the "democracy" we have?
In reality, a constant conflict that has existed throughout US history, indeed throughout the history of democratic states, is present between the elites and the people. Justice Louis Brandeis said it well when he stated, "We may have democracy, or we may have wealth concentrated in the hands of a few, but we can't have both."
Over the past 40 years, income inequality in the United States has exploded from its lowest level in 1978 . What kind of democracy exists under these circumstances? And is real democracy possible for a global empire? How does nation-state democracy exist within the new globalized economy that serves transnational corporations?
A New Vocabulary for "Democracy"
A new vocabulary is developing to describe the current state of democracy in the United States. We begin with some key words and phrases.
Managed Democracy: A governmental system that includes widespread voter franchise and competitive elections, but the elections are managed so that no matter what candidate(s) are elected, the elites win. The role of citizens in government is to choose between two pre-selected candidates, neither of whom will represent the people's interests and both of whom will represent the elites' interests. Chris Hedges refers to this as "political theater."
Polyarchy: A term highlighted by Cliff DuRand, author of "Recreating Democracy in a Globalized State," that is very similar to managed democracy. He calls it a low-intensity democracy that veils the rule of elites and allows citizens to think they are participating in power through contested elections that do not change the elite power structure.
Inverted Totalitarianism: Classical totalitarianism is the model of Hitler or Mussolini, an all-powerful government led by a charismatic leader that partners with business interests in a security state. Inverted totalitarianism is a similar marriage of government and business, but the measures employed to maintain this relationship are more subtle. It is the coming of age of corporate power, maintained through a security state working in tandem with corporate propaganda that permeates influential institutions such as the media, education, popular culture and evangelical religion.
Globalized State: This is a government that serves the interests of transnational capital devoid of any real connection to the people of the nation. The globalized state rules through economic structures such as trade agreements, the International Monetary Fund, World Bank, World Trade Organization and through international military actions.
Capitalism: An economic system based on private ownership of capital, goods and the means of production. Goods and services are produced for profit. It is an inherently unequal system. In feudalism, political power and the economy were united in the noble class. Under capitalism, there is a separation of political and economic power, which gives people the impression of participation.
Neoliberalism: The dominant economic ideology of the last three decades which insists upon an extreme separation of government and capital so that the market can operate "freely." The market operates only in the interests of individuals without allegiance to the collective society. Government exists solely to provide basics such as standards for weights and measures, laws and courts to protect property and infrastructure for the market. Neoliberalism welcomes state intervention only when that intervention is to corporate advantage as in trade agreements, bailouts or corporate welfare. Under neoliberalism, state resources and public programs are decreasingly funded and increasingly privatized. DuRand states that neoliberalism is the "default position of capitalism to which it reverts unless restrained by popular struggles."
Neofeudalism: This is the reconfiguration of political and economic systems to create an empowered tiny oligarchic elite class. Chris Hedges points to the structure described by George Orwell in "1984" in which there is an inner party (2 to 4 percent) of corporate and political managers, an outer party (12 to 14 percent) that consists of managers, the security state and the propaganda arm, and the rest of the population exists as "proles."