- Capitalism and Alternatives -

There's nothing arbitrary about democracy

Posted by: Samuel Day Fassbinder ( Citizens for Mustard Greens, USA ) on October 17, 1999 at 17:50:13:

In Reply to: This is more like it SDF, debating democracy. posted by Gee on October 14, 1999 at 17:33:58:

: : SDF: The reason we democrats accept the will of majorities as regards important decisions about the survival of all is the idea,

: There are few situations where human survival are threatened by minority dissent.

SDF: If the minority is the owning classes, the survival of the working classes is threatened, because the relationship of the working classes to the owning classes is one of absolute financial dependency. See below.

There have been plenty of real-life situations where large populations have been threatened by a natural or economic disaster, and powerful minorities used their financial clout to thwart attempts at preparations or relief, from behind the well-guarded mansions of their members.

: Lets say environmental damage was one, putting the actual debate to one side and assuming, then I could see that a dissenting minority wishing to continue with a CFC, lead and mercury fest would be a danger.

SDF: Precisely.

: Turn it around and imagine the majority were *for* a CFC, lead and mercury fest - then the minority wuld be correct in their beliefs.

SDF: So? Elite rule is no protection from majoritarianism, because the elites must gain the assent of the masses anyway, as you yourself have pointed out.

: Numbers have little to do with such issues - the objective truth does.

SDF: Opinions are arbitrary only to those who believe in an ideology, whose minds are so shut that they can no longer be persuaded of anything true and so they imagine the rest of the human race to be in their condition. Human opinion is in fact formed through enculturation, a process that is social through and through.

: can you agree on this point, and put our tendency to back-bite on hold for now?

: Therefoew to apply the 'majority rule' to any field of endeavour is to open up a world where popular opinion, however *wrong* in any objectove sense becomes a virtual law due to its populism.

SDF: And you are powerless to affect the opinions of others?

: Can you appreciate the great danger inherant in that system?

SDF: I can also appreciate the great danger inherent in the financial rule of the owning classes, a danger even greater than that faced from within the strength of democratic and consensus processes. 'Tis better that necessary group decisions be made through a process that attempts to reconcile all interests rather than that decision-making power be awarded to the cash payment of the highest bidder.

: And the very advantage you gave; speed, is also its gravest threat for the above reasons.

SDF: Some decisions require a short meeting because they're about urgent matters, shall we move now to avoid the path of a hurricane, shall we vaccinate everyone against the plague, what to do about crop failure, etc. Other decisions, regarding the rotation of cooking duties for instance, can be negotiated over a longer period of time. It's a practical matter, not one of competition for personal power. Imposing the social relations of the capitalist world upon a communal society is the easiest way to misunderstand communal life.

: : Such people are not part of my society and can go off and live on Easter Island for all I care.

: This is interesting, because in enagiging in democracy you are saying that you then gain pre-eminence or title over others who live in the same proximity. Lets say that of a hundred folk in a given village you and 89 others engage in democracy and abide decisions regardless of whether you personally agree or not. The other 10 decide not to go along with it so the 90 say "you are not apart of our society, you can go" - well in what way do the 90 own the homes of the 10? From where do they gain the right to dismiss them? these are questions to be asked of democracy.

SDF: The issue of fair-weather friends of democracy doesn't arise in some arbitrary context where some majority arbitrarily supports democracy against some minority which arbitrarily doesn't support it. It's when people pretend to support democracy and then are caught acting in bad faith about matters of community importance. It's especially important to understand bad faith when the anti-democrats try to get the democrats to be their unpaid servants. Please see the discussion of this issue in the context of the early years of the Twin Oaks commune in Virginia in Kat Kinkade's A WALDEN TWO COMMUNE.

: : It can also be a double standard: democracy is a "contract between sovereign individuals" if one likes the votes it produces; democracy is that evil "state" if one doesn't like the way any particular vote went.

: I absolutely agree with the above.

SDF: Maybe it's YOUR double standard.

: : SDF: It isn't the "preferences of the able" but the privileges of the owning classes that are over-ruled by the requirement for work.

: We were talking about the above within the context of a socialist community. Now I do realize that you refute that large differences in ability would accur in such a community

SDF: Everyone gains from a world where nobody is required to hoard for the sake of "capitalist competition". The "preferences of the able" will not be much of a distraction from a world where individuals are dependent upon community strength instead of everyone being dependent upon the noblesse oblige of rich and powerful owning classes, as they are today.

: - but you will accept that it most certainly would be true of the first 2 or 3 generations - what of their preferences?

: : SDF: Go ahead and forget the definition of class. Class is not determined by some external agent "bunching diverse people together," but rather by something the members of each class themselves do for a living. The working class determines itself by working, the owning class determines itself through ownership.

: It is a dubious practice to derive from this any more than what you have stated though - the more we assume each 'class' has as its characterisitics the more we stray from a fact based assessment (owns, works which neednt be a dichotomy) to a subjective extrapolation of inter relations between people.

SDF: This is a dubious line of reasoning, gainsaying my fact-based assessment just because you don't understand it. Go back and look at the basis for determining class, it's FACT. Employment is not "subjective," it's a REAL relationship between people, it's the relationship between the working class and the owning class. Dependency is a real relationship, and the members of the working class, each and every one of 'em, are all dependent upon the wages of a paying employer. There's nothing arbitrary about this at all, and there's nothing arbitrary about creating democratic working-class unions of people (preferably communes; I value relative group autonomy) so that we don't live in a society where pieces of money have more power than votes, either.

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