Does democracy still exist?

Does democracy still exist in western civilization any more? I would argue that in the United States and Canada at least, we no longer have a democracy. Rather, we have a technocratic rule where the main source of power is diffused over corporations and technology companies. The encyclopedia Britannica defines democracy as

Democracy is a system of government in which laws, policies, leadership, and major undertakings of a state or other polity are directly or indirectly decided by the “people,” a group historically constituted by only a minority of the population (e.g., all free adult males in ancient Athens or all sufficiently propertied adult males in 19th-century Britain) but generally understood since the mid-20th century to include all (or nearly all) adult citizens.

But can we really decide, either directly or indirectly, the laws of our country any more or what goes on in it? For example, if 80% of the population wanted to take down a corporation like Goldman Sachs or Meta, would that be possible?

In a hunter-gatherer society, if something were causing harm to the entire population, they could collectively decide to take that thing down. For example, imagine if a tribe of hunter-gatherers built a primitive dam. Later, they discover than the dam is actually causing fish to die before spawning, thereby lessening the number of fish. If everyone voted there to remove the dam, then certainly it would happen. Or, if democracy were indirect by election, then at least one person would stand up to be elected and promise to remove the dam.

Nowadays, we have plenty of problems like the dam. Well, we actually still have destructive dams, but we also have climate change and destructive corporations. But we can’t do anything about them, because the power is no longer in the hands of the people, and instead in the hands of corporations. All politicians these days only pay lip service to important causes, and only work within the corporate system.

Yes, we still have freedom of speech, but that is not because freedom of speech is a fundamental right. We have it because over time, free speech has become essentially equivalent to a mechanism to make people think they are doing something (which ironically might include this blog post).

But we have lost all the fundamental freedoms that we really need: the freedom to live off the land, to thrive in local communities, and to make our own destiny by deciding how life should be lived. Can you decide how to live your life? Or are you basically forced to work a corporate job or do other relatively meaningless tasks in order to afford stratospherically-priced housing, which itself has been transformed from a way of shelter to an investment for the rich.

Don’t think for one second that because you can vote, that you live in a democracy. Here in Canada and the United States and most other developed countries, the development of society is controlled by the autonomous forces of technology and capitalism and by big tech companies. The only role of politicians and lawmakers is to make that system of technological growth more efficient, and we play the game thinking that we are doing something else.

This is yet another reason why we need to do something outside of the system in order to have true reform. Any changes now that we can make within the system are locked within the realm of changes which are inherently compatible with the growth of technology and with environmental destruction.


All my posts are written without AI. Feel free to download and copy this image to support the fight against AI!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *