George Monbiot is one of my favorite writers. He writes regularly for The Guardian a paper I subscribe to. I find his writing invariably thought-provoking. He often takes positions that are contrary to received opinion from left or right, though he has a serious left wing bent. His latest book is called How did we get into this Mess?
Like me, Monbiot is deeply opposed to plutocratic government. That is government for the rich, not government for the people. It is often nominally democratic. It appears democratic, but the institutions of democracy have been corrupted or usurped by rich people for their own advantage.
It is interesting how some rich and privileged get ordinary people to vote for politicians who so obviously serve their rich masters, rather than ordinary people. How do they do? That is part of what has got us into this mess that we are in?
Monbiot puts it this way,
There are two ways of cutting a deficit: raising taxes or reducing spending. Raising taxes means taking money from the rich. Cutting spending means taking money away from the poor.
Since there are vastly more poor people than rich people, one would think it would be very difficult for rich people to convince enough poor people to vote for politicians who support the interests of the rich over the interests of the poor, but that is exactly what has been happening in the west for at least the past 30 years. Ever since Saint Ronald Reagan came riding on his horse out of the west. In fact they have been remarkably successful. As Monbiot said,
So the rich, in a nominal democracy, have a struggle on their hands. Somehow they must persuade the other 99 per cent to vote against their own interests: to shrink the state, supporting spending cuts rather than tax rises. In the US they appear to be succeeding.
After Reagan these policies in the US were continued by all Presidents, even the Democrats. As a result taxation of wealthy people is at its lowest in 100 years. As a direct result inequality in the west in general and in the United States in particular has increased astoundingly. As former Republican senator Alan Simpson said, “The little guy is going to get cremated.”
A lot of the work in getting ordinary people to vote against what is good for them and for what is bad, was done by an organization called Americans for Prosperity (‘AFP’). This is one of those organizations supported by Charles and David Koch two of the richest men in America. They have spent hundreds of millions supporting lobby groups that urge politicians to lower taxes on the rich and remove government regulations that they see as interfering with their right to do business as they want, no matter who is harmed in the process. They have been big supporters of Donald Trump among many other right-wing politicians in the US.
Monbiot described their work this way, “AFP mobilised the anger of people who found their condition of life declining, and channelled it into a campaign to make them worse.”
The Founding Fathers of the American constitution were worried about mob rule. That’s why they built into the constitution an elaborate system of checks and balances. By and large that system has worked fairly well. But there are new challenges the framers of the constitution were never aware of. As Monbiot said, “The primary threat to the democratic state and its functions comes not from mob rule or leftwing insurrection, but from the very rich and the corporations they run.
The rich in America have created a plutocracy. That is a government designed to work for the benefit of the rich at the expense of everyone else. I am not saying that all rich people have done. Some rich people have done this. And they have been extremely effective at doing precisely that. As Monbiot said, they have done that by
promoting the same dreary agenda of less tax for the rich, less help for the poor and less regulation for business…I see these people as rightwing vanguardists, mobilising first to break and then to capture the political system that is meant to belong to all of us. Like Marxists insurrectionaries, they often talk about smashing things, about ‘creative destruction’, about the breaking of chains and slipping of leashes. But in this case they appear to be trying to free the rich from the constraints of democracy. And at the moment they are winning.
Their crowning achievement came after Monbiot’s book was published–the ascension of King Donald. Now look at what we have got!