In a recent post well-worth reading, The Mound reflected on the decline of support for liberal democracy. Today, Star readers respond to an article carried by the paper entitled, How Stable Are Democracies? ‘Warning Signs Are Flashing Red’. Their message is clear: inequality is at the root of the problem, fostered and promoted by the neoliberal agenda:
Re: For democracy, ‘warning signs flashing red', Dec. 11
The graphs for the seven countries in this article show the first real dip in democratic trust by people born in the 1960s and with each generation '70s and '80s trust declines. The pattern of distrust is universal across the democracies; therefore it seems logical that the cause is universal and progressive.
The universal event during the survey's time period of 2005-14 was the Great Recession of 2008 and with the slow recovery it is a progressive event affecting all people, but especially the millennial generation. They and their parents feel cheated; they did what was expected but now face unemployment.
However, is feeling cheated by society the total reason for the decline in democratic trust? I say something else going on: First, the three countries with the largest decline in trust — U.S., U.K. and Australia — consistently show the highest rate of inequality. Second, the country with the lowest decline in trust, Sweden, consistently has the lowest rate of inequality. The remaining three countries — Canada, Germany and the Netherlands — are all middle of the road for decline in trust and for inequality. There seems to be a link between decline in democratic trust and inequality, but the work of Mounk and Foa did not link democratic decline to inequality, as Mounk says more research is required.
Whilst waiting for the research we should consider the work of Wilkinson and Pickett who covered 10 components that make up the social fabric of 23 countries and clearly showed how inequality was bad for everyone, from the wealthy to the pauper.
In the U.K. and U.S. since 1980s, when Thatcher and Reagan condoned Greedism as an economic model, inequality has grown to the point where these two countries are near the top on the list. Both recently experienced quasi-social revolutions that shocked the world: Brexit in the U.K. and the Trump election in the U.S. Both events were rightly tied to trade deals and globalization because both exacerbate Greedism and inequality.
Inequality has been insidiously creeping up on us for the last three decades. In the U.S., the poster child for inequality, it gets little attention; in Canada we do not understand the damage it is doing to our democracy.
Democracy is best explained by five words: “The will of the people.” Looking at Canada I do not believe this is the will of the people. No good jobs, precarious work rising, children living in poverty, loss of self respect and dignity, half a billion dollars in tax forgiveness for 70 CEOs, 80 per cent of the economy fruits goes to one per cent, foodbanks grow.
The cancer of inequality is destroying the fabric of our society and governments must act before rips apart.
Keith Parkinson, Cambridge
This article was important yet frustrating. It missed the obvious connection between economic inequality and dwindling support for democracy. The people of Venezuela, Cuba and other nations give up on democracy when they are economically marginalized. The freedom of the few to accumulate disproportionate wealth and power makes democracy seem useless to many.
Laws that increasingly favour the wealthy at the expense of the poor and middle class deprive most citizens of genuine political power. The citizens become irrelevant, so democracy becomes irrelevant to them.
The histories of Athens, Rome and countless other political systems show that democracy dies this way. It has been written about many times, yet we appear incapable of learning how to stop it.
Paul Bigioni, Pickering