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Why would anyone be morally bound or wish to be morally bound to a civil society that does not share the goal that it’s citizens deserve a fair distribution of wealth, income and power? If the civil society is not dedicated to that end what else could it possibly be dedicated to? What is freedom, to those without wealth, income or power?

Trenz Pruca.

I have written several Diaries here at Daily Kos and on my own blog discussing Economic Democracy. My interest and commitment to Economic Populism extends back to my involvement in the Fred Harris Campaign for President during the 1976 campaign. About a year ago I rediscovered a long lost copy of the Fred Harris' Campaign Handbook for California that I helped draft. Several of my Diaries here at Daily Kos and on my own blog are based, in  part, on some of what Fred espoused in that Handbook.

Recently some of my Diaries and Posts have focused on the impending economic and social impacts of the looming climate crisis. Although there may be a greater or lesser determinism in the impact of climate crisis and what can be done about it, I believe, that how we approach the crisis and the mechanisms we use to resolve it and the world we inherit should we be successful, very much will be affected by how we organize ourselves and what political, economic and social systems we ultimately acquire.

To me Economic Democracy and Economic Populism are more of less synonymous. True, any search of the internet can turn up examples of attempts to describe Economic Democracy in more or less technical terms. A similar search on Economic Populism will turn up a host of examples of movements that cover the political spectrum.

For my purposes here, lets just say, that Economic Populism is the political manifestation of Economic Democracy.

To me, Economic Democracy, is simply and essentially the reasonable implementation of the emotion expressed in the quote with which I began this diary and that I believe needs repeating here:

Why would anyone be morally bound or wish to be morally bound to a civil society that does not share the goal that it’s citizens deserve a fair distribution of wealth, income and power? If the civil society is not dedicated to that end what else could it possibly be dedicated to? What is freedom, to those without wealth, income or power?

As Fred Harris put it way back in 1976:

A fair distribution of wealth and income and power ought to be an explicit goal of government.

In a previous Diary and blog post, I listed some of the initiatives that could get us back on the road to Economic Democracy. I direct you to them and will not repeat them here.

I believe that Economic Democracy should be among the primary objectives of liberal and progressive politics, if not the primary objective. I believe that, certainly in this day and age, it is from an economically fair and just society that most other liberties flow.

The United Stated Constitution and the Bill of Rights created a Political Democracy (or more accurately Republic). it was focused on the organizational remedy to entrenched political power of a hereditary minority.

Because resources were plentiful even if the technology to exploit them was in its infancy, it was presumed a fair and just society would emerge if arbitrary hereditary power were controlled or eliminated. Both Tom Paine and Thomas Jefferson, however presciently  warned that without economic democracy there could be no political democracy.

Nevertheless it was assumed that the political mechanisms enshrined in the Constitution and political ethos of liberal democracies could and would be sufficient to insure some semblance of economic opportunity for many if not all.  As the world's resources were capitalized on, liberal democracies flourished in part because a rough expansion of economic success spread to greater portions of the population and not gobbled up in a political and economic system designed to benefit the few.

Today we see liberal democracy under assault from both within and without as the resources of the earth,whether through exhaustion or misuse, peak or diminish .  I think that most of us believe that we are at a crossroad like none other in human history. We are faced with the environmental-climate-population emergency threatening our very survival as a species.

After all what is the current so-called global finance debt crisis any more than the recognition that the 3% or so economic growth rate upon which international debt transactions were based upon is no longer sustainable in many countries and the lenders sooner or later will have to take a bath. But until then, in mass panic they, the lenders, will devour everyone else and ultimately each other in a mad scramble to preserve their expected gains.

These gains, by the way, were granted to them by government. At the urging of the large private financial institutions gullible governments were pursuaded that instead of dealing with long term debt by use of the monetary printing press and risk the economic panics that threatened the public order, they should instead borrow from private entrepreneurs to pay for needed governmental services or for follies like wars.  Public financial policy thereafter need only concern itself with arcane fiscal issues that could be hidden from public view such as how do we make sure the lenders get paid.

We are also confronted with the dilemma of whether the means to address the crisis and how we are to live should we survive are fair and just or Orwellian. My fear is that the nature of the danger is so dire that we will inevitably choose Orwell. The choice between centralized and decentralized responses to climate change will be dictated by the panic that will ensue when world wide awareness is coupled with impacts that leaves the individual bereft of choices to maintain his survival with dignity. Then we may very well grasp at pharonic solutions and social organizations and democracy as we know it will wither.

Unhappily, for over a year now, I (I am sure others) have become increasingly distressed to read in the Daily Kos and other progressive publications fierce disagreements and even despair among progressives that their particular issue of overwhelming personal importance is not getting the attention that they believe it deserves from Democratic and liberal elected officials. On that I have two comments. The first from my own experience.

Over 30 years ago, I actively was involved in the emerging environmental protection movement. Among my priorities at that time was the protection and salvage of coastal wetlands. I believed that their preservation and restoration was essential if we were to have a hope or stemming the relentless march of development that threatened to destroy our natural resources and heritage. I believed that with an almost religious fervor.

Nevertheless, as my participation in Fred Harris campaign demonstrates, to paraphrase Lincoln, if to secure true fairness and justice required the filling in of wetlands, then I would have filled in wetlands,  knowing that in a fair and just society the chances of securing the rebirth of the wetlands would be immeasurably improved than under a system of economic privilege.

My second comment is to recall the story that when Franklin Roosevelt was urged to aggressively support the establishment of the Social Security program he was famously reported to have said, "Make me."

It is time for us to realize it is not the job of elected officials to deliver on what they promise in their campaign, but our job to make them. All elected officials respond more or less to a diverse constituency. To a true believer that may make him or her appear wishy washy at best. But it is our job to give him backbone. If we cannot say to the politician, our support brings you the election, we rarely have much to say to him at all.

Now what about the politics of Economic Populism? A good politics sweeps along with it a number interests and ideologies. A poor politics leaves those interests exposed, subject to attack and misuse as wedge issues.

Good politics, even before one gets down to the technical specifics of voters, public opinions and election districts, begins with the strength of the message in its briefest and most concise form. Economic Democracy not only is the right thing, it is good politics.

A few days ago in a blog sponsored by Time, the writer penned the following:

Here’s what LBJ knew that ­McGovern didn’t: There are few or no historical instances in which saying clearly what you are for and what you are against makes Americans less divided. But there is plenty of evidence that attacking the wealthy has not made them more divided. After all, the man who said of his own day’s plutocrats, “I welcome their hatred,” also assembled the most enduring political coalition in U.S. history.

Progressive candidates and the liberals and progressives must focus on the fair and just society and not fear to call out who the culprits are that stand in the way.

To quote the entire comment of Franklin Roosevelt mentioned above as an example of a liberal politician that did not mince words:

    "Powerful influences strive today to restore that kind of government with its doctrine that that Government is best which is most indifferent.
    For nearly four years you have had an Administration which instead of twirling its thumbs has rolled up its sleeves. We will keep our sleeves rolled up.
We had to struggle with the old enemies of peace — business and financial monopoly, speculation, reckless banking, class antagonism, sectionalism, war profiteering.
    They had begun to consider the Government of the United States as a mere appendage to their own affairs. We know now that Government by organized money is just as dangerous as Government by organized mob.
    Never before in all our history have these forces been so united against one candidate as they stand today. They are unanimous in their hate for me — and I welcome their hatred.”

    President Franklin D. Roosevelt, 1936

Or, as someone recently wrote in speaking of the corporate and their economist ideologues, "They haven’t won a battle of ideas; they are simply the ones who have been handed the microphone."

It is time to take back the microphone.


Originally posted to Trenz Pruca on Sun Aug 21, 2011 at 02:03 AM PDT.

Also republished by Community Spotlight.

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Comment Preferences

    •  The Answer to the Question is Easy (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      The people who benefit from the unfair distribution of wealth. I really think the people who have created and enforced the rules that create gross inequity are driven by a pathological need to have power over their fellow human beings. Having more creature comforts is a lovely side-effect but their real goal is to feel vastly superior to the rest of humanity. In a perfect universe we would be seeking to expunge these vicious leeches from the gene-poll rather then allowing them to be our rulers.

      The problem is that most of humanity is passive. They want to just get along and are willing to put up with almost anything rather then have to fight for their fare share. They willingly accept whatever the rules of the society they live in are as de facto laws of nature and will tirelessly slave within those boundaries. However they are virtually incapable of stepping outside that set of rules and demanding a new rule book. The handful of highly ambitious individuals understand the average persons willingness to accept the framework as a given and exploit that knowledge mercilessness by adding more and more rules that are favorable to those in control at the expense of everyone else.

      It takes very dire circumstances and a mover and shaker to motivate the masses to rise up and demand a new set of rules. Most of the time though, the person or group of people who eggs the masses on only do so because they themselves are making a play to replace the current set of people in power with themselves.  Even if the original set of motivators for change are themselves well-intentioned the movement is inevitable infiltrated by a new set of power hungry individuals who will repeat the cycle.

      Now this doesn't mean that we should stop desiring or working towards a more just society. It just means that it is incredible challenging and even when it seems you are winning you have to constantly guard against a new set of power hungry individuals eager to co-opt the new system and make it over to their own benefit. The reality is that there are very few people who are willing to take on the mantle of leadership who are themselves not driven by a thirst for power.

  •  Well, the economy is the system of (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Tanya, dfe

    trade and exchange of goods and services by which humans are mutually sustained.  Democracy, on the other hand, addresses how the ability to control other people (exercise power) is to be allocated in a particular population and over time.
    When the exercise of power is linked with how the necessities of life are acquired, the result is likely to be a deprivation of human rights because power, to be felt, has to hurt.
    When one starts from the premise that people "deserve" some condition, situation, benefit or affliction, then the concept of human rights and entitlement has already been dismissed.  To deserve is to earn, not to have to begin with. In other words, the individual is presumed to have to engage in some socially approved behavior to live -- i.e. "no free lunch."  Sustenance depends on obedience. That is the perspective of conservatives who are committed to a social hierarchy in which some individuals have authority over others and enforce that authority by deciding who gets to eat and who doesn't.

    Of course, the prerequisite to this arrangement is the societal agreement that some people (few or many) are to be granted exclusive ownership of the earth's land masses and oceans, wherever organic life thrives, so that those who don't comply with social strictures can be effectively deprived.  It's not possible to take away lunch from people who survive in the forest on fungi and grubs. Private property rights are the predicate for what some theorists call "political economy"--i.e. the use of the system by which humans are sustained to keep them under control.

    The Constitution assigns power to the people as a whole and quite meticulously lays out which powers and for how long the agents of government are to employ.  However, perhaps because the ownership of some people by others had to be accommodated, the right to own private property trumped human rights from the start.  And it still hasn't stopped, in part because, it has turned out, owning property can be used as a chain.  If a person has to own something to be somebody, then whoever's in charge of making ownership possible (by giving away chunks of the earth that were previously arbitrarily claimed, or by sale), has the power to decide who's somebody and who's not. Indeed, if all ownership has to be mediated by currency, then whoever has control of the currency effectively decides who's in and who's out.  Indeed, that is the controversy of the hour, although not widely spoken about.  Under the Constitution, control of the currency is assigned to the (frequently) elected representatives of the people.  However, some time ago our representatives decided they did not want to be tasked with this onerous responsibility and passed it off to the private banks, which, time and time again, have made a mess of managing the money.  So, the issue of the hour is how the federal government can retrieve what the banksters refer to as "the allocation of credit" -- who decides how much and when other people get to use our currency.
    In point of fact, currency ought to be, like the alphabet, available to anyone who needs/wants to use it.  It should have no intrinsic value, but some people can't get used to that.  They want money to be worth something, even when they don't use it and so they hoard it.  The Treasury keeps making more and the gnomes on Wall Street keep sequestering it or batting it back and forth like a balloon.  They're making it artificially scares in hopes of making it more valuable.  But, what it really does is similar to what happens when there's a leak in the oil pan.  The oil gets drained out and, eventually, the engine gears grind to a halt.  At the moment we're at the stage of topping up the oil every day, instead of fixing the leak.  Of course, the gnomes on Wall Street are harder to deal with than a hole in the oil pan.  And these gnomes have been at it a long time -- at least since Richard Nixon made money grow on trees.

    P.S. I, too, supported Fred Harris.  But, back then Democrats wanted to rule for the people, while Republicans wanted to rule the people and the people ruling themselves was not prominent on the political radar. Public Service was an electric company in NH and community service was/is considered punishment.  That public officials should be public servants was/is not what most politicians aspire to.

    by hannah on Sun Aug 21, 2011 at 03:25:35 AM PDT

  •  I believe in democracy. (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Sunspots, aufklaerer, MsGrin, YucatanMan

    Economic as well as political.

    "What is essential is invisible to the eye."

    by greywolfe359 on Sun Aug 21, 2011 at 08:08:13 AM PDT

  •  Very interesting. (5+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    bnasley, aufklaerer, Tanya, MsGrin, YucatanMan

    Thanks for the diary. The Progressive Democrats of America (PDA) and would benefit from your involvement in the organization.

    The spirit of liberty is the spirit which is not too sure that it is right. -- Judge Learned Hand, May 21, 1944

    by ybruti on Sun Aug 21, 2011 at 09:10:14 AM PDT

    •  Interesting (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      I will look into PDA. Thanks for commenting.

      •  My original comment needed some proofreading, (0+ / 0-)

        as I meant to say PDA would probably welcome your views and would benefit from your involvement.  Some members of the Progressive Caucus are on the national board, as well as populists like Jim Hightower, and there are chapters throughout the country.

        The spirit of liberty is the spirit which is not too sure that it is right. -- Judge Learned Hand, May 21, 1944

        by ybruti on Mon Aug 22, 2011 at 12:39:55 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  Our democracy has been subsumed... (6+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    ybruti, Tanya, MsGrin, YucatanMan, lcrp, rsie

    or consumed.... by Big Money/Special Interests/Transnational corporations whatever you want to call it.    They are doing the same around the world and know no allegiance to nation people or eath.   Profit today at the expense of our future is driving them.

    There has been a steady progression of take over moves to get to this point...which is the tipping point.   In the USA they now own: elections, at least half of the legislators, DC hallways... and the corporate media...which no longer cares about news...but is now the fountain of misinformation and entertainment to dull our dulling minds even more.

    Support public campaign finance laws
    Support a constitutional amendment to strip corporations of any claims to personhood.
    Overturn Citizens United
    Make laws to stop the revolving door of elected officials to lobbyists.
    Get that Big Money out of our elections, our government, our legislators and our news.   Stop the Corporate coup d'etat.

    "I think it is much more interesting to live not knowing than to have answers that might be wrong." Richard Feynman

    by leema on Sun Aug 21, 2011 at 10:46:32 AM PDT

  •  'Common sense' diary - thank you n/t (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    YucatanMan, lcrp, ybruti

    'Give away to the rich and punish the poor for the extravagance.....crazy' --LaFeminista

    by MsGrin on Sun Aug 21, 2011 at 02:51:50 PM PDT

  •  Super Diary! Thank you for this great (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    lcrp, ybruti

    argument and compilation of quotes and facts.  Just a great diary all round.

    Progress occurs when courageous, skillful leaders seize the opportunity to change things for the better. -- Harry S Truman

    by YucatanMan on Sun Aug 21, 2011 at 03:16:11 PM PDT

  •  Ciudad del Este, Paraguay (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    Even during the bad old days of the dictators, Brazil and Argentina tried to institute Economic Populism

    They restricted imports, restricted currency transfers overseas and tried to promote local industry.

    Brazilian and Argentinean consumers reacted by buying imported products in Paraguay and then bringing them back home.  Ciudad del Este is now one of Paraguay's biggest cities because of all the businesses there that sell to Brazilians and Argentineans trying to dodge import restrictions.

    I'm not saying we don't need to make changes in the US.  But we should find a way to do it that doesn't make Windsor and Nogales into Canada's and Mexico's largest cities.

    •  Ciudad del Este. (0+ / 0-)

      I could not agree with you more. If was unfortunate that Brazil and Argentina converted Economic Populism to Economic Chauvinism. On the other hand you may want to look into my diary in which I review the work of two eminent Brazillian thinkers is describing what Economic Democracy could mean in South America.

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