Greed and privilege fuel anti-democracy trend

PHOTO: Dirk Hoffman, Flickr CC-BY-NC

My latest piece for the Minnesota Reformer is out today, “Democracy checks power; that’s why it’s in danger.”

I realize it’s fashionable to comment on declining democratic norms in modern American politics, but I’m not sure everyone realizes how widespread this phenomenon actually is. Every large democracy in the world now wrestles with a proxy fight between populist cultural movements backed by big business and technocratic elites awkwardly defending the rule of law and the rights of minority groups.

Here’s an excerpt from the essay, which was inspired by another late-night find in my historical research:

Let’s look to the early 20th Century when global democracy was expanding. Across the world, people voted in their own leaders for the first time.

“And, in all the countries of the world, one impulse is driving the people on from victory to victory,” stated a Nov. 10, 1911 Duluth Herald editorial entitled “Democracy, the World Conqueror.”

“That impulse is economic need. It is no mere sentimental desire to control government that is making history in these days, but the grim necessity that there shall be an end to conditions under which Special Privilege, in one form or another, reaps the richest fruits of humble toil. The day in which a few reap what the many sow, and in which the many toil that a few may riot in corrupting luxuries, is nearing its sunset.”

If worrying about American democracy seems too academic, consider the pocketbook implications of that democracy.

Autocracies, be they left- or right-winged, are built to direct limited resources to the wealthy and powerful. Systems with democratic traditions determine fairer means of dividing the labor and spoils of society. Local culture and political tradition may vary, but the idea that prosperity should touch the many instead of the few is a bedrock principle. 

Culture wars drive people to the ballot box, but money and power are paying for the propaganda that stirs the pot.

Read the whole thing at the Minnesota Reformer.


  1. joe musich says

    Serfdom …yep. It is still a wonder to me that many of the actual 3rd generation serf progeny are sticking those ugly inflammatory signs in their yards up there supporting the return to vassel hood by the orange one for themselves and their children. I must take issue with this statemnt however…”Autocracies, be they left- or right-winged, are built to direct limited resources to the wealthy and powerful.” A left wing autocracy is entirely not possible by defintion. If a left wing govenment moves away from ithe principles and practices which lead to it’s existences it ceases to be both liberal and left wing. The democracy you call for by it’s nature is left wing. The efforts in many places in this country to limit voting is not democarcy and the vote is a charade. I refer to Tennesse as the latest example. The people voting on the three were elected to be sure, But were those elections full and free ? I would suggest not. Therefore they were not democractic. Thre call for election reform msut continue. As was alsp reported in ther Reformer the heath of the people as well as the manner of government will suffer ….The average American lives as long as the poorest Briton. I copy an paste below from Cooligan. It likly can be said with great certainity that numbers reported in the below link parallel NE Mn.

    “You should register with Financial Times to get access to this important column by John Burn-Murdoch about America’s shocking decline in life expectancy, especially compared to other rich nations like the UK.

    The English seaside town of Blackpool has been synonymous with deep-rooted social decline for much of the past decade. It has England’s lowest life expectancy, highest rates of relationship breakdown and some of the highest rates of antidepressant prescribing. But as of 2019, that health-adjusted life expectancy of 65 (the number of years someone can be expected to live without a disability) was the same as the average for the entire US.”

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