The Coastal Post - May, 1998

Market Force: Democratic Farce

By Frank Scott

Following the rules of capital accumulation, our system is producing massive mergers of multi-billion dollar corporations. These new monopolies exist to end competition and drive out obstacles to unbridled profit-taking. This contradicts mythology about competition being the strength of capitalism, but the cover story is that people will be better served by one-stop shopping for everything from clothing, cars, and cosmetics to artificial forms of reality like stocks, bonds and other paper representations.

As business approaches becoming one gigantic, global entity, government is being downsized into a local mom-and-pop enterprise, with people driven into smaller and smaller groups. Whether they are called interest, ethnic or professional, these groups strengthen corporate monopoly, as fractured public groups are reduced to relative helplessness, unable to come together with political solutions for common problems.

Capital's interests lie in greater profit accumulation through total market domination. This is achieved, in part, by corporate power using its political and media influence to persuade populations to vote against their commonality. Citizens are convinced that their interests are distinct, diverse and unique, thus insuring that they remain powerless individuals when confronting monopoly.

Many find themselves driven to anti-government conservatism, or pro-government liberalism. Both these variations on a unified theme guarantee the power of corporate capital, the first by romanticizing an often bigoted idea of individualism, the second by making a fetish of an often equally bigoted idea of groupies.

As business gets bigger and government gets smaller, the dictatorship of capital becomes gargantuan, while democracy shrinks. The political process becomes the domain of millionaires, with parties run by professionals and media manipulators. Lower voter turnouts result, as citizens lose any faith they may have left.

Meanwhile, the globalization process of capital engulfs and devours all in its mercantile path, eating up the natural, social and even spiritual environments in mindless pursuit of the greatest gain for the fewest investors. And all of this, according to mythology, is supposed to strengthen individuals, getting government off their backs and enabling them to become totally responsible for themselves.

As never before, we have the freedom to shop for everything, whether we can afford it or not. From food, clothing and shelter, to diet, fashion and health care, everything is for sale, if you can afford to pay-or more likely, charge-the price. If you can't, too bad. Join the overwhelming majority of humans who are deemed failures by this anti-social economic arrangement.

This process helps create an enormous multi-trillion-dollar credit bubble which continues its dangerous growth, as citizens must charge more and more payments in the material world, while being reduced to less and less in their spiritual and psychological lives. Hysterical materialism brings about a glut of consumer goods that waste, pollute and endanger, not only in their consumption and the financial burdens created in their purchase, but in the emptiness they produce at the core of human values.

TV ads urge borrowing up to 125% of the value of homes, so that it might be invested in private schemes, to create the security denied through public programs. Ordinary folks consider themselves participants in the stock market boom, but they are usually only members of pension plans and mutual funds. They have no control over what is done with the investment pool that they create, and even less with what is done with the profits, if any. Their debt plays a role in the economy, but from the standpoint of capital, they are non-beings, only existing as market units of consumption and financial obligation.

The desire to end bloated bureaucracy in institutional life is a healthy one, but it has been perverted by economic forces promoting individual excess at public expense. Smaller government makes good sense, if it can more quickly react to public need. But scaling back government while allowing corporate capital to expand so that it is approaching a form beyond any democratic control is a prescription for disaster. We are being driven toward such disaster, but there are signs that we may have reached a turning point in public consciousness.

The word "class" has worked its way back into common usage, even if returned by some who would deny the ravages of race. Still, awareness grows that the larger the group making claims for justice, the greater the chance for success; there is no larger group than the multi-cultural, multi-racial and socially-diverse working class.

Up to 80% of the population has not truly shared in what is called a booming economy, and that group is composed of many different minorities. They can become a majority only when they identify themselves and begin taking action as such. Moves in the direction of cross-cultural solidarities are taking place, as citizens begin to recognize their strength in communities that extend further than ethnicity, race, sex or interest, and encompass economic common ground.

Some academics and politicians have begun to call for greater public spending for social action, in opposition to the present anti-socialism, which ensures that capital maintains profits and workers sustain loss. The current phase of obscene merger frenzy may well bring the urgency of the situation to even greater public awareness. Total reliance on market forces to solve all human problems is making a farce of democracy, as it enriches hypocrisy. The unconscious process of capital accumulation and individual greed may help lead to a conscious process of democratic opposition that brings about social generosity.

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