Capitalism is an economic system in which investment in and ownership of the means of production, distribution, and exchange of wealth is made and maintained chiefly by private individuals or corporations.
Democracy is government by the people; a form of government in which the supreme power is vested in the people and exercised directly by them or by their elected agents under a free electoral system.
In our current political climate, these systems have become incompatible. When governments put the interest of private corporations first they can no longer adequately protect the rights of ordinary citizens or the interests of future generations and the environment.
Political institutions function in a world in which power is linked to property. Economic power can affect democracy, but the masses cannot infiltrate the bastions of capitalism. The wealthy have been able to buy power and distort democracy to suit their agenda where the interests of the few have overwhelmed the interests of the many.
The Right would have us believe that “small” government is best and that only privatization, deregulation, and tax cuts can save us. In a capitalist democracy, the state is a dispenser of many valuable prizes. Whoever amasses the most political power wins the most valuable prizes. The rewards include property rights, friendly regulators, subsidies, tax breaks, and free or cheap use of the commons. The notion that the state promotes “the common good” is sadly naive.
Profit-maximizing corporations dominate our economy. The only obvious counterweight is government, yet government is dominated by these same corporations. Corporations are decimating their old adversary, unions, and have turned the media into their mouthpiece.
Unlike many other countries, we have very few restrictions on paid political advertising and donations to political parties and lobby groups. As politicians have increasingly turned to advertising, image consultants, and spin doctors (like the odious Mark Textor), and begun forming policy on the basis of polls, the influence of donors and message control has grown.
Where are the politicians who have the courage to stand up to these corporations and the obscenely rich individuals whose wealth has been growing at an exponential rate while so much of humanity languishes in poverty? Where are the elected representatives who will make decisions for the common good and the future?
Unless corporations can be convinced to be driven by something other than profit, which is highly unlikely, we must have government regulation to protect us and to provide the services and safety net that will lift the well-being of all Australians. And we must have someone who has the chutzpah to demand a fair go.
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