Home | History | Access to Higher Ed

Post-capitalist Free Market Economy How Can US Be Rescued (PartIV) - Democracy As a System

Democracy as a System

During the last two centuries, political democracy has been the center of attraction by its practitioners for the main purpose of establishing a legitimate system to maintain property rights and capitalism. The U.S. Constitution was framed with this main purpose in mind. Big government began with the " Founding Fathers, who deliberately set up a strong central government to protect the interests of the bondholders, the slave owners, the land speculators, the manufacturers. For the next two hundred years, the American government continued to serve the interests of the wealthy and powerful, offering millions of acres of free land to the railroads, setting high tariffs to protect manufacturers, giving tax breaks to oil corporations, and using its armed forces to suppress strikes and rebellions." [1]

It was not until after the Second World War that attention was given to the reality of the situation. Since then monopoly capitalism, having its roots in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, has established its firm grip on the American economy and through that, on the economy of many developing countries. Similar developments, though in a less dramatic manner, were followed by other industrialized countries of Western Europe and Japan.

The 1960s and early 1970s uprisings in the United States was the first organized reaction against the monopoly capitalist group and the government which protected its interests. The movement brought significant transformation in the operation of the system such as passage of four civil rights acts, education, anti-poverty, medicaid and medicare legislation, but failed in achieving its main purpose of changing the system for two reasons. First, since it took a violent form, it legitimized forceful and brutal state action to suppress it. Second, more importantly, while the primary aim was to undo the existing "establishment," there was no other suitable alternative envisioned to replace it. Some had suggested socialism as a substitute, but it received no support. First, for lack of social education, socialism was not properly understood and because of capitalist propaganda it was considered as another evil system. Second, socialism as practiced by some Western European countries was not what the theory intended to be. It was just another form of capitalism, maybe not as bad.

Consequently, the hold of monopoly capitalism on the economies of the United States and other industrialized countries continued to increase. However, the movement and this technological monopolistic capitalism have attracted the attention of different scientists and philosophers to the erosion of individual rights, liberties and widening class stratification. By 1968, Dr. Martin Luther King "had come to believe that our economic system was fundamentally unjust and needed radical transformation. He spoke of 'the evils of capitalism' and asked for 'a radical redistribution of economic and political power.'" [2] This illness comes from the fact that is nearly never talked about: that the United States is a class society, in which 1% of the population owns some 33% of the wealth, with an underclass of about 40 million people living in poverty. [3] Claim of the U.S. being a democratic society appears nonsense. The U.S. Constitution gives the citizens power to rule themselves, but the capitalist system does not offer opportunity for such power to be properly and effectively used.

This essay attempt to introduce in brief a philosophy of the future society in which all power to rule are returned to the people. As all trends indicate, all advanced societies are moving to reach such end and sooner or later will attain it. This is a description of a complete democratic system never presented before. It has been labeled "technological democracy," and is looked upon as a system by itself, embracing not only the political components of society but also its economic and social parts as well, all put together as a system. The important aspect of this theory is that all its components are interdependent; If any of them is missing, democracy is defective to that extent and a true democracy is not present.

In the United States, for example, as it has been presented in the previous essays, there is no economic democracy when it is controlled by a small economic elite, and social democracy is substantially missing when there is racism, sexism, lack of appropriate educational opportunities, lack of health care, housing, transportation, adequate old age benefits, etc. Thus, there is very little meaningful democracy in the United States, if any. The same applies maybe to a lesser degree to other industrialized nations which have a semi-socialist-capitalistic operation. The dominant fact is that no substantive or procedural democracy can materialize in any society without economic democracy.

Technological Democracy and its components

Technological society is distinguished from all previous societies by the very presence of high technology affecting every aspect of life from home, transportation, work, business, government to leisure and recreation. Technological democratic society is yet sharply distinguished from technological society by an essential and important component which is the principle of equality of opportunity. In simple description, there are three basic components forming the organic structure of technological democratic society: Individual, technology, and equality of opportunity. No one of these can provide for democracy without full employment of the other two. Definition of each component, for this purpose, is also different from the usual dictionary meaning of these terms.

People is a collection of individuals. An individual is necessary to operate the system. But he is a special kind of individual. He is well aware of the other two components. He knows all about the essence of technology and its proper role in democratic society. He is also deeply committed to the principle of equality of opportunity and its application. This required span of knowledge makes him a high quality human being that the world has never before encountered in masses. He is self-conscious, eager to learn, well informed of social and technological norms and democratic principles. His knowledge is not limited to the normative aspects of life but he knows how to employ, apply, and operate all these norms in practical aspects of life. Without these qualifications, no person can fully and meaningfully participate in materializing technological democracy and fully, or at least substantially, enjoy its fruits. It is obvious that to achieve this goal the society needs a special and appropriate kind of educational system.

Technology, as a second component of technological democracy, is mostly a self-operating system which facilitates and substantially helps in materializing the contribution of the other two components. One of the essential requirements for a democratic process is freedom of information. This can be only possible to a full extent through high-technology information-communication system, labeled here as the "Technodem" standing for "technological democracy." There is no need to mention the overwhelming importance and influence of electronic technology at the present time on the political electoral process and in operation of economy.

The Technodem is a centralized yet highly dispersed self-operating information-communication system free of abuse or manipulation. Among its many functions to help people in their daily life, is the supervision of all business and governmental functions, particularly checking the employee wage system and competence, holding elections and helping communities in many ways in carrying out their daily functions. Compared to this system and its role in materializing democracy, the present electronic technology, despite its phenomenal advancements, appears primitive. There is no need for additional advancement in electronic technology to form the Technodem, it is a matter of putting proper pieces of the existing technology together and expand them. It is more a managerial and administrative matter. The system is totally neutral and impartial in rendering its services since no human hand is involved in its operation. Thus, in a technological democracy a true democracy without high-technology is unthinkable even impossible. It is for this reason that technology constitutes an indispensable component of technological democratic system.

The third and the most important component of technological democratic society is the principle of equality of opportunity under which the society operates. The simple meaning of the term is that every individual must have equal opportunity of access to social, economic, and political means in society. But its application is not as simple as its definition. In fact, it is quite complex and requires particular attention to the meaning of the term in each occasion. In the following essays, as we try to illustrate its application in certain major areas of function, we will gain increasing knowledge of its nature, its meaning and a better understanding of it.

The principle does not intend to provide for a society of equals in its absolute sense. It leads toward an equitable society where each person is equal to another with the same level of knowledge, capability, and experience. Its proper application eliminates social stratification and moves the society toward an equitable class structure. Equality of opportunity, as the highest and essential principle of technological democracy, is permanent and universally controls any human authority whatever. All other principles of societal life concerned with freedom, liberty, pursuit of happiness and other human rights are derived from and the consequence of this principle's proper application. These ideas are to be obeyed only when they are consistent with principle of equality of opportunity to which they are always subordinate. Under its protection, each individual has a right to preserve his life, liberty and property during the full span of his life. It is not only the source of a broad spectrum of liberties for the individual, but a liberator of operation of communities and the society as a whole. It is the source of happiness for all. Its utility, in every direction of application, is always supportive of what is just, moral and good. Equality of opportunity is per se neither equality nor freedom but it provides grounds for both, equality based on knowledge and experience, freedom so broad that it cannot be fully expressed, but possible to enjoy.

In a technological democratic society, the public functions are brought to their minimum. The structure and functions of the government are substantially reduced particularly at the national and state levels. A mass of these functions are discarded and a substantial amount of the rest is performed by the Technodem in a democratic, reliable, and unabused manner; a good part is transferred to local, state and national social organizations, and to the production institutions where individuals are employed. The old concept of "the best government is the least," takes place. For the first time also the government by the people, for the people and of the people is materialized.

In the following essays, for the lack of space, we will illustrate only three important aspects of application of the principle of equality of opportunity in the areas of education, employment, ownership of property and the Technodem. This is a quite complex, but highly pragmatic, theory of democracy and cannot be easily understood. Its full understanding is necessary for proper evaluation and justification. Full description and explanation of the theory are found in the materials referred to below. [4]