When asking random people on the street what they believe America is, it is a pretty safe bet that the words “capitalism” and democracy” would be thrown around quite a bit, along with people simply shouting “’Merica!” And while I appreciate obnoxious patriotism as much as the next person, I want to focus on if America is really a capitalistic based economy and if it really is a democracy.
I can probably assert, with fair assumptions, that my audience and peers will agree that America is most certainly not a democracy, at least in the purest sense. In fact, basic government classes will tell you that the United States is more of a republic. Although we have the choice to vote people in and out of office, there are not a ton of options with only two real parties to choose from, and when one gets elected, the opposite party fights hand and fist to ensure the other can do nothing of value to society.
Now, take our representative democratic system and couple it with our capitalistic economy, and we have a very problematic combination. Capitalism in its purest form may actually work out quite well for the common man, but in our nation this economic system is fused so tightly with the government that the result is a watered down economic and governmental system.
Think of it this way, the top 1 percent of Americans control 40 percent percent of the wealth, usually owing their wealth to the success of their parents or grandparents or to millions of people that work for them, rather than their own success. Economic inequality is deplorable, but it also destroys the fairness of our political process.
The top 1 percent are going to fight like mad to stay in control, which is easily done via politics. When is the last time you saw the biography of a president or senator that said “born on the streets, but elected because of his ability, not because of corporations buying him off”?
The answer to that question is probably never. We have a few rules about how much money corporations can give to politician’s campaigns, but who cares? The only people running for the important offices are the people that are so loaded they wouldn’t know what it felt like to choose between food and rent. And this is true for both parties.
This may seem like really heavy rambling, but the following sentence should make this argument perfectly clear. By allowing only the rich to actively run for office, we embolden and encourage these same people to make laws that benefit only themselves economically. They are using the system of “democracy” in our nation to further their own capitalistic intentions, at the expense of everyone else, creating the dilution of both systems
The semi-free market in this country undeniably favors the already well off. That’s just how it is; how America is. But this system allows the same people to promote their interests into the political scene over and over again. Think of the Bush family and how mediocre they were. And its effect balloons out at the expense of the other 99 percent of Americans, through blood or sweat.
There is no way to separate the economy from the government. Anyone who says otherwise is a liar, as laissez-faire is far too impractical in the modern day and has been since at least 1930s. Our government is the economy and vice-versa. There is really no alternative would make more sense for America than our current system. As Winston Churchill said, “Democracy is the worst form of government, except all the others that have been tried.”
The purpose of this article is to draw attention to the fact that massive wealth inequality is too often enforced and encouraged by Americans electing politicians who only want to maximize corporate profits, with the lie that it will somehow help the average person.
This isn’t an attack on the rich, simply the rich using politics to get richer. Ideally, only the 99 percent would be elected to office.
To believe that we truly have a democracy is to ignore the truth, and it is a false hope that continuously electing people made rich by their success in a capitalistic system will do anything but continue the governmental policies on the economy that made them so fortunate to begin with.
Richard Stecker is a senior international studies and history double major, and is happy to write witty whimsical words of wisdom for all. Questions and comments can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org