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Capitalism and the Democratic State

March 12, 2017

I have been familiarising myself again with some of the concepts surrounding capitalism. Given it has been the western attachment to various forms of capitalism that has defined much of modern western culture and life. The success of the western world has been driven by capitalism and its relation to a form of democracy that was largely accepted by the populace as legitimate. Some holes have been appearing in this settled political and economic consensus in the past 10-20 years. On the left there has been an increasing focus on state interference for welfare beyond usual capitalist boundaries, that has undermined the status of much of the middle class as financially independent. On the right there has been a nationalist/populist uprising that now rejects certain principles of global free trade and mass movement of people, as detrimental to national values and culture and civil society.

The problem as I see it is that Capitalism has come to be allied with a view of the democratic state as a neutral arbiter only. But the problem with such a view of the state is that it does not represent the people who vote for it here and now. It does not prioritise the current people living in that democracy, and so in a sense is not really a democracy at all in the traditional sense. It is as much concerned about future cheap workers and where they will come from as it is with current citizens. In fact, it even seems more concerned to acquire labour that way rather than by promoting a sustainable home grown work force. I guess the idea is that new immigrants are more easily manipulated to act how they are told. So we see growing political apathy of voters who realise they are not represented by the current system, looking for alternative outlets for opportunities to express their moral, social and political views on things.

What we also see is a growing trend of people rejecting this basic notion that the state should be only a neutral arbiter. People on more and more policies and grounds are chopping away at the rationale at its basis. So, for instance, some reject the idea that the state should be neutral between all cultures and religions, as not all cultures are equal and peaceful. Some reject the idea that the state should be neutral between its current citizens and immigrants/potential citizens, on the grounds that if you have no favouritism at all here, you don’t really have a country, culture and values at all. If there is no current representatives of the culture of a country who are the standard bearers, that others coming in are expected to aspire to these standards, then you have no social order, no communal spirit and values, you just have isolated people only motivated by wanting to get ahead of others. The only motive is money in such a society, so you end up over run with mercenaries, not citizens.

My concern is that in a country with no values and a purely neutral state, there is no interests to be represented at all by the voting procedure. So there is no basis for a democracy. There is just a disintegration into identity politics that slowly tears apart civil society and the nation. If we carry on on this course, democracy will completely lose its legitimate authority, and if it loses peaceful and rational legitimacy, the states most powerful people will resort to violence to enforce legitimacy through fear. I am not sure what the solution to the problem may be, but I am sure that going further down this road of taking a fake neutral stance to try and appease all and everyone, is not the answer, but is instead crippling our sense of purpose and values. We all have a perspective and we should embrace it for what it is, not hide behind a false facade of neutrality, but instead proudly affirm the values that we take as most fundamental to life and human society. Provided we are willing to engage in reasonable discourse about these values then we can have tolerance. Those who will not engage reasonably are the first to be ejected from the discussion. No neutrality and no tolerance should be shown to such behaviour.

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