The form of government that runs the state and country where I live is nominally a “Republic,” which is a representative democracy. That means that We the People “democratically” elect individuals who then represent our interests while performing the duties of office. This is considered preferable to a pure democracy, which is a kind of free-for-all where We the People gather together and vote on every collective action (obviously an untenable option in a society like ours).
Republics have a precedent for “working” successfully in aggressive, militaristic, imperialistic nation states. Rome was a republic (until it became an Imperial autocracy under the Caesars), albeit a Plutocratic one. (A plutocracy is rule by the wealthy).
My opinion is that is where we find ourselves today – a plutocratic republic. Sure, we elect representatives. But it is wealth that gets them on the ballot to begin with. And I guess that “works” for a while, until it doesn’t. Then what? If we look at Rome, then we have autocracy to look forward to. And there’s no reason not to look to Rome – there’s no precedent civilization that is more similar to the United States of America than Rome.
It is worth pointing out that while a plutocratic republic “works” until it doesn’t, during the phase leading up to the breakdown a smaller and smaller portion of the population would suggest that the system is “working” for them.
The problem I think lies in the distortion and misrepresentation. The American idea is that wealth and status are within the reach of everyone who works hard enough and wants it badly enough. Somehow there are still people who believe that.
I think we are also a nation of gamblers. We would rather live in a society where a few people strike extraordinary riches but most watch their standard of living dwindle by the day than to live in a more compressed society where the average standard of living is higher and the lofty heights of the elite really aren’t that much higher than what is available to the average citizen.
I guess my point here is that we have “the best republic that money can buy!” That seems to be a theme in the US today. We have the best of everything that “can be bought” (assuming of course that you can afford to buy it). We have the best healthcare that money can buy, the best housing that money can buy, the best technology and cars and luxury goods and plastic surgery and everything else a 21st century human can imagine. If you have the money to buy it.
I read an essay by someone otherwise smart and thoughtful who stated that during his young adulthood in the 1980’s society was MORE materialistic than it is today. I also grew up in the ’80s and I almost laughed out loud when I read that assertion. The author supported his statement with observations about how Madonna sang “Material Girl” and there were bumper stickers everywhere with materialist slogans like “he who dies with the most toys wins,” and some such. So what? All that shows is that people in the ’80’s were conscious of the prevalent materialism in society because they could compare it to a time before when materialism was NOT taken for granted as a valid life expression. The only difference today is that now material consumption is ASSUMED to be the default life philosophy. There is no time in our short memory when materialism was aggressively repudiated as the least admirable of several lifeways. Now it’s the very water in which we swim; like fish, we don’t give it the faintest contemplation.
So, this is what we get. Those with the money to buy the best get the best that money can buy. And those of us who are stuck with the rest do the best that we can to get by.
The Daily Stone