Monopoly Capitalism’s Threat to Democracy

Yes! Magazine
Cooking Up A Story

What if we had to make a choice between two quintessential American beliefs: Capitalism and Democracy?

As a society, we may well ask ourselves, what is the ultimate purpose of money, if it is not to satisfy human need, and reduce human suffering? Is it possible to make large amounts of money but not create real wealth? What is the difference between our present form of capitalism and a true, self-regulating market economy?

In this frank interview with noted author, and visionary David Korten, he minces no words about the dangers our current capitalist system poses to democracy, and how Wall Street undermines the well-being of society, and threatens civilization itself. The creation of real wealth, Korten argues, by satisfying true human needs, strengthens individuals, promotes the well-being of local communities, and protects the environment, the foundation of all living things.

Korten warns that we are living again in a Plutocracy, where the financial elites of society control the political, social, and economic levers that mainly serve their narrow interests, to the detriment of society.

Although this interview took place in October of 2010, nothing has changed since then (certainly not for the better), and political gridlock in Washington is stronger than ever. National unemployment remains disastrously high, and half our homes are underwater  (where borrowers owe more to the banks than their houses are worth), where the rate of homeowners classified as being in serious distress (either in foreclosure, or 90 days past due on their mortgage payments) is hovering around 12% this year (2011).

In the meantime, Wall Street executives continue much as before, despite their 700 million in public bailout support, there is little concomitant political will to fund the creation of jobs for those newly unemployed; to provide real help to homeowners that are in foreclosure; or to seriously investigate those in financial power for possible criminal wrongdoing that resulted in the near collapse of the financial system, and subsequent fallout to mainstreet and the public that has ensued.

If ever there were a call for the winds of change, it’s howling now.

In part 2, David Korten shares his views on the importance of building local, community-based economies, in which sustainable agriculture has a key role to play.

Korten explains that our existing industrial agriculture system receives essential public subsidies (and tax supports) that offset the real costs of energy, and food production. Without these supports, the global food system would no longer be economically viable. Who are the true beneficiaries of a food system that separates the eater from the source of their food? The large agribusiness corporations. Korten argues that both “peak oil” and climate change makes it imperative that we transition to a more localized food economy to insure continued access to adequate food supplies.

One of Korten’s central arguments is a simple notion on the surface, but more difficult to fully grasp: money does not equal true wealth; money holds no intrinsic value of its own.

What is the primary purpose of society? Is it to adequately address human need into the indefinite future, as a sacred obligation to both present and future generations? Will we be proud of our achievements, and the world that we leave to our children?

Perhaps, these are the kinds of questions to be asking ourselves. For it is our values as a nation that will largely determine our fate…