Our tools versus theirs

Published by marco on

We’re told that democracy is the mechanism whereby we can effect change in our society. While true, it is irrelevant in all but the most trivial of applications.

For example, legislators in the US are legally allowed to take money from lobbyists and corporations. There are some restrictions, but, for the most part, bribery is legal. And it seems to work quite well. How does democracy help us combat this? We can elect other people, people that don’t take bribes. What if none are running for office? We can run for office ourselves, I suppose. All of the democratic mechanisms we have to address the perceived ills of society effect change very slowly. This change is also quite fleeting, as the next election cycle could literally sweep away all progress and replace hard-won gains with a smooth-talking, well-funded, lobbyist-loving legislator.

The mechanisms by which the rich affect society, on the other hand, act quickly and have much more long-lasting effects. Injections of campaign cash and bribes for specific legislation have proven, time and time again, to have a very large ROI (return on investment). Legislation worth millions or billions can be had for a few paltry thousands or hundreds of thousands—at most—spent on a few key legislators. This type of relentless effort yields immediate and concrete gains, whether in new contracts or tax savings or reduced costs due to relaxed or retracted regulations.

Instead of being fleeting, the legislative changes and contracts last much longer than the term over which the people wield democratic power. Once a law has been bought and enacted, there is an inertia to it. While not set in stone, there is resistance to re-hashing a decision that was just made. Its very existence lends it a legitimacy independent of fact. People unfamiliar with the topic will simply assume that whoever made the decision to create the law must have known what they were doing. Even those who want to change it are forced to acknowledge that change is futile where political will is absent.

And so, we the people wield absolute power over an ineffective weapon incapable of permanent change while the elite make one quasi-permanent gain after another via capital—gains that yield them ever more capital and power.