Previous posts in this discussion:
PostDoes Dissent Foster Innovation? (Tor Guimaraes, USA, 06/17/21 4:16 pm)
When commenting on my most recent WAIS post, John Eipper had some interesting comments about the "paramount importance of freedom of expression (and especially, of dissent)." John argued that this is the best way to counter the corruption that inevitably results from absolute power.
Theoretically that makes a lot of sense, superficially speaking. If it is true, then why are so many nations, the US included, with a de facto Plutocracy calling the shots, despite all the echo chambers repeating the words freedom and democracy? Why has our middle class increasingly shrunk over the years? Why do we continue to go to endless wars when the people say no? Why the people are not respected by proper representation? Our freedom of expression and dissent has done us no good. In practice it seems to be a fool's errand.
John also stated, "Another benefit of dissent is economic: it fosters innovation." That is totally wrong. Innovation does not come from dissent. It comes from the ability to look at the situation, at a problem or opportunity, a product and/or a process, and see the possibility of some potential solution or improvement. Unless properly harnessed, thought through from many perspectives, dissent is likely to become a negative factor. That is the problem with freedom that we all love so much; it must always be qualified: Freedom to do what? To say what?
Biden behaved inappropriately as a person and as our President by calling the head of a major nation which we must cooperate with, a killer. Is Putin is a killer? I am sure he is, but Biden was VP under Obama and Hillary Clinton who ended up killing many more people all over the world. Also I never heard Biden call any of our Presidents a killer even though they are ultimately responsible for doing that all over the world also. We have to be fair to not lose our credibility calling people names for no good purpose.
JE comments: I was thinking of dissent not in strict political terms, but in the wider concept of "out-of-the-boxism." Who is brave enough in a authoritarian state to question the way things are always done? It's difficult enough when you work for an authoritarian company.
Has the US Become a Plutocracy?
(Tor Guimaraes, USA
06/22/21 3:26 AM)
I agree with John Eipper's comment (June 17th) that "few are brave enough in an authoritarian state to question the way things are always done." However, John is wrong when dismissing my point that despite our freedom of speech and civil rights, long enshrined in law and partially enforced in practice, our democracy is not working, to the point where half of the voters are following a would-be dictator.
The evidence indicates that for several decades what we actually have had is a plutocracy, regardless of which major party is in power, and other parties have no chance to participate in government. Correspondingly, the mainstream media is totally owned by the plutocrats to produce a steady stream of bromides, misinformation or selected information designed to manipulate the people. This has lasted for several decades, so reality is beginning to more clearly show and one must explain some important questions: Why has our middle class increasingly shrunk over the years, reducing US standard of living, continuing racism, increasing violence, lack of health care, poverty, etc? Why do we continue to go to endless wars when the people say no? If free speech is so beneficial in our free society, why are people's wishes not respected by proper representation?
In summary, our freedom of expression and dissent has done us no good. It seems to be a useless exercise. No wonder so many people are angry and frustrated, allowing dangerous unqualified demagogues to gain power. Thus, John is only partially right when stating the "paramount importance of freedom of expression (and especially, of dissent) ... is the best way to counter the corruption that inevitably results from absolute power." This is true only when the political system cares enough to listen to people's opinions, enables a lively constructive debate, clearly understands the consequences of implementing apparently beneficial ideas. We don't seem to have that in America today. We have great freedom of expression but it seems useless.
JE wrote that he was thinking of "dissent not in strict political terms, but in the wider concept of 'out-of-the-boxism'" when he stated that dissent fosters innovation. John ignored that "innovation does not come from dissent. It comes from the ability to look at the situation, at a problem or opportunity, a product and/or a process, and see the possibility of some potential solution or improvement." He also did not parse my statement that "the problem with freedom is that it must always be qualified: Freedom to do what? To say what?"
The bottom line then is that under dictatorship assumed freedom of expression is useless and might quickly cost your life. Under our plutocracy, people can harmlessly talk and march to their heart's content but no one in power seems to care because they can provide an alternative reality through the media until things blow up, just like under a dictatorship. Thus we all need a form of government where the ones in power must respect the people's needs and wants, eliminate poverty, provide a decent standard of living, good education, jobs, health care, etc. That should be the primary objective, not freedom of expression and dissent, but freedom from a low standard of living first.
JE comments: Some would say that our democracy is working, as proven last November. But let's focus on a point Tor Guimaraes has raised many times over the years: that the US middle class is shrinking. We can unearth data to support a variety of views. One source shows a decline in the percentage of Americans in middle-income households from 61% in 1971 to 51% in 2019. At the same time, the upper classes in the US are growing, suggesting that much of the erstwhile middle class is actually improving in status. The larger problem is of income inequality, which by any measure is increasing.
So what does it mean to be "middle class"? Is it an income level, or a mindset? Pew defines the MC as $40,100 to $120,400 per household per year. That's a threefold spread from highest to lowest. I would venture that most folks at $40K feel poor, while very few at $130K consider themselves rich.