Tuesday, December 20, 2016

"The Cancer Of Inequality"

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


  1. Mr. Parkinson is on the money. Those wishing to plumb the depths of inequality should begin with Wilkinson and Pickett's "The Spirit Level." The authors, both epidemiologists, used their skills to research the impacts of inequality on a host of social ills. They compared nations of the OECD on a scale of their inequality and ran a similar study of the American States, again according to their relative inequality. In both studies they found that, across the gamut of social maladies from poverty, imprisonment rates, health outcomes, teenage pregnancy, the lot, inequality played a major role. Those nations and those States with the lowest inequality consistently came out on top.Then again, Dickens could have told them as much.

    The distrust of government that Parkinson references is as real as it is understandable. Neoliberal government seems to always break faith with the populace. Look at Morneau's dismissive warning that young people just have to get used to "job churn" which is a craven manner of saying they're consigned to the dust bin of the precariat. If you were a young person facing a difficult future and some rich bastard told you that, would you trust that government? I sure wouldn't.

    I hope that the Liberal rank and file come to realize how little actual liberalism remains in their party and how it has been expunged by the likes of Ignatieff and Trudeau. It will take a leader much better than those two to restore any meaningful progressivism to the Liberal Party of Canada.

    1. I appreciate your analysis, Mound. I think any prospect of change/renewal within the party will come only when they find that their current configuration is no longer paying the electoral yields they deem adequate. The disconnect will continue until then.

  2. Governments who value Democracy Lorne will govern in the interests of people according to democratic principles. They will also add legally or otherwise to their countries democracy. They will do this to make their democracy stronger and more accessible to its citizens. This is what Nation Building is all about. Creating The Charter of Rights and Freedoms is a good example of strengthening democracy while further entrenching Nation building.

    The stronger the legislative roots of which Democracy rests on the freer the country.

    The more a government seeks to create policy without a democratic process, the greater the chance of that government becoming authoritarian.

    Our present government and our previous governments have embraced neoliberal policy domestically and globally".Neoliberals require a strong state that uses its power to create and enforce markets and prop them up when they fail." Their vision is a state governed by market transactions and not democractic practices. This is what Canadians are now witnessing.

    Neoliberalism came later to Canada than to the US and Britain, because of the re-election of Pierre Trudeau in 1980. How ironic it should be his son who is continually promoting neoliberalism and has made it the fundamental driver of his domestic and global policies.

    Neoliberalism breeds inequality.Most progressives would defend democracy as a basic right. In neoliberalism "financial markets survive existenial crises only through state bailouts."

    The economic inequality can best be seen in the decline of union memberships, the decline in the share of middle class income and the rise in the share of income taken by the top 10%. The goal of neoliberalism is to chip away at union power until it no longer threatens, the realization of the market state.

    How unequal and insignificant does your government consider you to be, when they, without public consultation, take billions of your dollars to bail out the corporate and financial elite who were the cause of one of the most major financial crisis in history.

    There is nothing more important then freedom, freedom ingrained in law. Without democracy there is no freedom. Our government who has already severed ties with Canadians is busy trying to find ways to circumvent our constitution or dismantle our democracy in order to implement their neoliberal policies.

    Neoliberalism and Democracy cannot survive together. It will be one or the other and right now neoliberalism, at least in Canada appears to be winning.

    How relevant is our democracy to Canadians. The battle ahead is a battle of ideas. Freedom and democracy or Neoliberalism and Tyranny. Will Canadians fight to take their country back or will they do nothing. The choice is ours and our time is running out.

    1. An excellent analysis, Pamela. As I have done before, I am taking the liberty of highlighting your comments via a guest post.

    2. My pleasure, and thank you, Pamela. I will be putting it up in the morning.