Tuesday, February 6, 2018

The Honor Of Thieves

- Spain is out to show Catalonia who's boss.* I don't know if this is a stupid question, but why would the leaders of a democracy want to oppress a nationality, a state, an ethnicity? Democracies at least in theory are about equality. Or not?
- Democracies are about equality, but equality always within a limited class.** Democracy is about sharing of power, and political equality is only between those who have power. Democracy has always existed together with unequal, oppressive power relations between classes: rich/poor; men/women; old/young; white/black.
- But democracy, even if it is only equality within a class, in our times at least isn't it progressively making inroads on those class oppressions?
- Until the mid-seventies maybe. From then on free-market neoliberalism began to be imposed. Presented as an increase in democracy, it is in fact the reverse.
- How so?
- Protection from regulation of marketplace collusion and monopolization is provided to those who can influence the government in their favor, that is, the very rich and large corporations. For the rest, equal freedom to trade with anyone means in practice being subject to the unrestricted manipulations of the market on the part of the rich and large corporations. For most, free trade results in being less able to sell what they make, and more likelihood they will have to sell themselves by the hour to one of the very companies manipulating the market with the assistance of the government. Political freedom is bought by the rich and the corporations, their money granting them a kind of democratic equal access, while the people are left unprotected, left with a useless freedom to buy and sell subject to gangs of economic predators.
- In our democracies, all sorts of class oppressions are in operation, and if you are right, to participate in a free market means to belong to an a class oppressed by another class, the rich and corporations monopolizing markets with the protection of the government. Free market 'capitalism' instead of promoting democracy, actively works in the opposite direction.
- A sort of paradox. Freedom leads to inequality.
- The second paragraph of the U.S. Declaration Of Independence reads, 'We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness'. In Common Sense, published the same year as the Declaration, Thomas Paine wrote that government is to protect from human misdeeds, society is to further human good nature. Here are Paine's words:
SOME writers have so confounded society with government, as to leave little or no distinction between them; whereas they are not only different, but have different origins. Society is produced by our wants, and government by our wickedness; the former promotes our happiness positively by uniting our affections, the latter negatively by restraining our vices. The one encourages intercourse, the other creates distinctions. The first is a patron, the last a punisher.
The equality we look for is a product of society, not government, where it is no more moral than the honor of thieves.
- Put that way, obviously to be equally free of necessary protection of the government is not desirable.
- The confusion about equality arises from a reversal of expectations - the fact that the class receiving equality is the lower class - and from the overlap in classifications. A property owning adult white male may be said to have political equality with other property owning adult white males, and have economic equality as members of the free market, but in one case they are members of a class of superior power, and in the other case they are members of a class power is imposed upon. Political equality within their class and superiority to other classes doesn't protect them from economic oppression in the free market by the more powerful class supervising it.

Further Reading:
Real Democracy
The Situation In Catalonia
** Samuel Johnson, on American demands for independence: "How is it that we hear the loudest yelps for liberty among the drivers of negroes?" Slaves made up 20% of the population of early 18th century New York City.