The Case for Economic Democracy: Chapter 5.2
Putting the argument for economic democracy in historical perspective.
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A Historical Perspective
While many find the argument for economic democracy convincing, as it draws on preexisting, widely held democratic values, it is normal to feel overwhelmed by the project. After all, to democratize the American economy would be a massive, multi-generational campaign that would take on the most powerful force in human history — international capital. We should not shy away from the challenge, nor should we minimize the effort it will take. But what we can do is put this campaign into historical perspective to see how greater barriers have already been overcome.
Imagine yourself a peasant in 13th-century England. Your life is nothing but misery and hardship. If you don’t enlist in the King’s army for a twenty-year service, you’ll spend your days on a feudal farm, laboring in the fields. The majority of what you reap will be given to your landlord as payment for the privilege of working “his” land. What little is leftover goes to feed your family. It’s barely enough. The rumble of your children’s bellies keeps you up at night, shivering as the winter wind cuts through your poorly constructed hovel. You know the next year your lord will take more, meaning you might as well enjoy these good times while they last.
In this scenario, the concept of political democracy is as foreign to your peasant self as is the airplane. Were someone to knock on your door and begin to preach about how you should be voting to choose both the landlord and the King, what little you understood would be quite humorous. After all, you’re just a peasant! You have no titles, you can’t read, and hold little coin. Besides, this is the landlord’s land! It is his property, given to him by the King, who was chosen to rule by God. As the democrat saunters away, you thank him for the little bit of laughter he has brought into your dreary existence.
Today, we find ourselves in the very same relationship to economic democracy as the medieval peasant finds themself in political democracy. As it is incompatible with our society’s notion of property rights and social hierarchy, we must convince ourselves of its truth before we can convince our rulers.
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