An “an”cap once suggested to me that capitalism is a form of democracy. I don’t recall which “an”cap it was, as right-wing assholes are largely indistinguishable, but I very much doubt the idea would find favour among his fellow “an”caps, who have a very low opinion of democracy, assuming, as they do, that representative “democracy” is the only form democracy can take. Regardless of that, the “an”cap in question is ever-so-slightly correct (and that’s considerably more correct than is normal for “an”caps).
When you purchase a product or service you are, in effect, “voting” for it. If enough people “vote for” (buy) a product or service then it is likely to continue being provided. But this is as far as the parallels between capitalism and genuine democracy go.

One of the main problems with capitalism as a form of democracy is that it lacks a “no” vote. You can either vote “for” (by purchasing the product or service), or you can abstain (by not doing so).
Child pornography is one of the many areas where the lack of a “no” vote is significant. So long as there are enough people “voting yes” to cover the production and distribution costs, as well as create a worthwhile profit for someone, then it will continue to be produced unless external factors (“interference in the market”) come into play.
We only need look at the world around us to see that child pornography is profitable, and is likely to continue to be so until the factors that cause it have been addressed (“an”caps refuse to believe that social problems have causes, and so they have no strategy for dealing with them). The lack of external influences in markets is the central tenet of “anarcho”-capitalism, and so child pornography would surely exist inn “An”capland, and to a greater extent than currently.

Another example worth considering is the racist lies and hate-speech spread by Rupert Murdoch’s propaganda machine. A while ago we posted a front page of the Sun (a race-hate paper owned and controlled by Murdoch) on SLANCAP, in which they deliberately misrepresented the result of a poll with the aim of increasing racial tensions, provoking more racist violence against “Muslims”, and pushing the country into a racist war.
One “an”cap commenter went so far as to agree that it was a “violation of the NAP” but, unlike “violations” by the working classes, this violation should absolutely not be met with violence. Rupert Murdoch is a member of the ruling class, and is therefore allowed to violate “NAPs” as he pleases. The solution, apparently, is for us not to buy the Sun (which has been a policy of mine for as long as I can recall). He didn’t explain how “abstaining from the vote” will prevent Murdoch from spreading his racist lies.

There are numerous other situations in which allowing only the buyer and the seller a say will harm third parties; environmental destruction, resource depletion, hunting (especially endangered species), gentrification, and so on.

Another important issue to consider is information. In a true democracy people should have access to all the relevant information. This is not te case in representative “democracies”, where politicians lie to voters about their intentions (electoral promises are less binding than pinky swears), and where most of what politicians do while in office is either shrouded in secrecy, or “spun” by the media.
Voters cannot be expected to make rational decisions because they have little idea of what politicians are actually doing.

This situation is mirrored in capitalism. Businesses, like politicians, keep as much information secret as they possibly can, and most of what does get out into the public domain is either “spin” or outright lies.

Customers rarely know much about the businesses they patronize; they don’t know how much they pay their workers, how much they pollute the environment, where they get their raw materials (and under what circumstances), and so on.
The “rational consumer” is supposed to make “rational” decisions even though nearly all the relevant information is withheld from them.

Yet another parallel between representative “democracy” and capitalism is that the options available for us to choose between are determined by those at the top. There are a limited number of options that we can choose between and they all have one thing in common: they are acceptable to the ruling class. They need not, however, be acceptable to us. If none of the options are satisfactory then you have the option of either voting for/buying whatever you feel is closest, or abstaining from the vote.

An area in which capitalism fails to be democratic, and even more so than representative “democracy”, is in the distribution of “votes”. Whereas representative “democracy” is one person-one vote (at least in theory, if not in practice), capitalism has a massively unequal distribution of “votes”, allowing some privileged individuals to out-”vote” thousands, or even millions, of other people.

In conclusion, while there is the hint of democracy to capitalism, it is only a hint. “An”caps like to portray democracy (even direct, consensus democracy) as a “tyranny of the majority”. Capitalism is a tyranny of the privileged minority.

[Tom Joad]


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