Wednesday, August 06, 2014

Wednesday Morning Links

Miscellaneous material for your mid-week reading.

- Robert Reich muses about how our economy would look if we actually paid people based on their contribution to society rather than their ability to exploit others. In related news, the Broadbent Institute's next Progress Gala is looking all the more fascinating with the announcement that Reich will be the keynote speaker.

- David MacDonald studies the distribution of income from the tar sands, and predictably finds that the 1% has managed to suck up obscene amounts of income while leaving crumbs for everybody else. But let's also note that the smallish gains for Calgary's bottom 90% over the last three decades don't represent an indication of a sound development strategy: workers across the country (PDF) regularly achieved in a decade what Calgary's bottom 90% added to their income in 30 years until wage suppression became a core element of economic policy.

- And Michael Rozworski points out how the erosion of bargaining power in recent decades caused even worker-friendly pension regulations to backfire.

- Carol Goar looks at the policies we should expect in a slow growth recovery - in contrast to the Con's insistence on austerity at all times. And Kevin Drum reminds us that gratuitous austerity has thoroughly undermined the U.S.' recovery as well.

- Finally, Matteo Mameli and Lorenzo del Savio discuss two competing challenges to a system of strict representative democracy - and the inevitable need to choose one side or the other:
The representative structures of contemporary democracies are under attack on two opposite fronts. One front finds its motivation in a desire to resist the effects that increasing economic inequalities are having on the distribution of political power, effects that are taking contemporary societies further and further away from the ideal of political equality. This is a proposal to cure the diseased state of democracy by making contemporary democracies more genuinely democratic. The other front proposes to cure democracy by making contemporary democracies less democratic. The proposal is to replace elected bodies with an efficient technocracy. Because of the distribution of real power in contemporary societies, this technocracy cannot be anything but an oligarchy-controlled technocracy, which would inevitably exacerbate the concentration of political power that the anti-oligarchic attacks on electoral-representative structures are trying to oppose.

Some might take this diagnosis as indicating that the critiques of electoral-representative structures coming from these two different perspectives counterbalance each other, and that it is thereby important to hold the centre by defending and protecting electoral-representative structures. We disagree. We think that the existence and strength of the two kinds of attacks show that the electoral-representative structures have become irremediably obsolete. Even if they played a positive role in the past history of democracy, they are now chronically malfunctioning and are destined to disappear as a result of technological change and globalization. The fight between the two opposite proposals will be crucial for determining the future of democracy and ultimately the future of humanity.

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