Saturday, February 2, 2013

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: Choosing

The nature of the modern democratic capitalist state is
that its citizens are constantly required to make choices,
choices that are political, and economic. These choices
are made within reasonable constraints of law, ethics and
custom. Religious and social choices are also made, but
ideally they are outside the purview of the law and the state.
Democracy is not a word, it is a way of a society’s and a
nation’s life. Some in the world today consider democracy
a slogan, and others do not want to admit that democracy
cannot exist without capitalism. Still others, those who
recognize capitalism, do not want to recognize the right
of human freedom with its constraints of law, ethics and
custom. Choices cannot be made without freedom. On the
other hand, freedom is not merely license. Democratic
capitalism is a living organism of the balance between
choices and limits.

It has become clear over time (the past 250 years) that
democratic capitalism, freedom, the rule of law and the
ethics and compassion of society within the  confines of a
nation state have a vital relationship to each other, and that
the successful modern state with democracy and capitalism at
its base is an evolving balance of the these forces within it.

There is an impulse which has recently emerged in some
western democracies, including the United States, which is
an expression of impatience with the mechanisms of the
democratic state. This impulse claims as its motivation a
primary concern for an abstract equality within a population,
and a process of an arbitrary redistribution of wealth to achieve
it. Initially, this had taken earlier forms of socialism, fascism
and communism in Europe, and made its way to other parts of
the globe. However, wherever this radical form took over a
nation state, there was both a loss of freedom and an eventual
economic failure. This impulse can come from the so-called
left or right. It is always disguised with the clothing of ideology,
but at its naked base, it is antithetical to human freedom.

Wherever a population loses its rights to make political and
economic choices, that society eventually becomes totalitarian
and economically untenable. There are no truly successful
socialist/communist/fascist states in the world today, nor have
there ever been any. Even the modified versions of social welfare
states, most notably in Europe, have turned out to be unstable
over the long term, especially as they have attempted to abolish
national borders, encourage large-scale open movements of
populations, allow bureaucratic elites to make and decide final
public policies, and to establish abstract principles of equality
within societies.

That does not mean that democratic capitalist states do not
or should not change, nor that principles of fairness and
compassion should not be behind that change. Universal
suffrage, human rights and the conduct of capitalism under legal
and ethical rules, should always be observed.

Populist appeals are usually smokescreens for totalitarian forces
and figures. The impulse to abandon democratic capitalism,
albeit an imperfect form of government and society, is just such
a smokescreen. It should be named for what it is, and resisted
by any free people.

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Copyright (c) 2013 by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved.

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