In an excellent piece in the New York Times, Bob Herbert uses the revolution in Egypt to consider democracy in the United States [ht:cr].
His position is that “we’re in serious danger of becoming a democracy in name only” because power has become so concentrated in the top levels of financial and corporate America. Politicians no longer need to listen to anyone else. It is not a new argument, but it is hard to argue with:
The poor, who are suffering from an all-out depression, are never heard from. In terms of their clout, they might as well not exist. The Obama forces reportedly want to raise a billion dollars or more for the president’s re-election bid. Politicians in search of that kind of cash won’t be talking much about the wants and needs of the poor. They’ll be genuflecting before the very rich.
A politics oriented towards the poor would undoubtedly look very different from the public discourse of either the Republican or Democratic parties. It is important that people like Bob Herbert call attention to this issue in politics. However, the uncomfortable reality that Herbert touches on is that the political system will never achieve our democratic ideal while the economic system underpinning it is not democratic.
Mainstream economic theory advocates an undemocratic economy that condones the status quo. Only once mainstream economic theory is supplanted by a democratic economic theory will we be able to create a more democratic political discourse. A discourse that does indeed listen to the silent uproar of the poor over the wallets of the financial and corporate elites. This would be a society that is more than democracy in name only.