Sunday, December 07, 2014

Sunday Afternoon Links

Assorted content for your Sunday reading.

- Walden Bello discusses the need for our political system to include constant citizen engagement, not merely periodic elections to determine who will be responsible to implement the wishes of the elite:
Even more than dictatorships, Western-style democracies are, we are forced to conclude, the natural system of governance of neoliberal capitalism, for they promote rather than restrain the savage forces of capital accumulation that lead to ever greater levels of inequality and poverty. In fact, liberal democratic systems are ideal for the economic elites, for they are programmed with periodic electoral exercises that promote the illusion of equality, thus granting the system an aura of legitimacy.
To reverse the process requires not just an alternative economic program based on justice, equity, and ecological stability, but a new democratic system to replace the liberal democratic regime that has become so vulnerable to elite and foreign capture.

First of all, representative institutions must be balanced by the formation of institutions of direct democracy.

Second, civil society must organize itself politically to act as a counterpoint and check to the dominant state institutions.

Third, citizens must keep in readiness a parliament of the streets, or “people power,” that can be brought at critical points to bear on the decision-making process: a system, if you will, of parallel power. People power must be institutionalized for periodic intervention, not abandoned once the insurrection has banished the old regime.
- As a prime example of the problems with the status quo, Eric Lipton exposes how U.S. Republican elected officials see their main job as repeating and amplifying the message of their oil-sector backers. Bronwen Tucker points out that the Harper Cons are likewise taking the side of the tar sands over people and the planet. And Dean Baker notes that the most recent set of international trade agreements goes far beyond even earlier versions in limiting health and environmental regulations.

- Meanwhile, Tyler Cowen offers some suggestions as to how technology could blunt the impacts of income inequality. But it's hard to see how those theoretical possibilities would accomplish much if not accompanied by a concerted effort to spread the benefit around - rather than merely being allowed to evolve in ways that favour the people in control of current capital and technology.

- Indeed, David Kynaston observes that a shift toward private education has only exacerbated inequality in the UK. And every bit of attention and funding directed toward corporatized education represents resources not put toward something more important - such as food for hungry children.

- And finally, the ILO reminds us that it's corporate decision-making rather than anything beyond employers' control that's led to the growing gap between the executive and shareholder classes and people working for a living.

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