Thursday, November 1, 2012

Who Should Serve Democracy?

Occupy Wall Street Protesters
It is common knowledge that democracy emerged in Hellenistic territories in the 5th century BC under the rule of Pericles. Democracy is an instrument as a mechanism of interaction between the state and citizenship through the participation of those who were considered citizens. As we all know, in ancient Greece, not everyone enjoyed the status of citizens and only those who had property could participant in the deliberation. Similarly, it is well known that democracy coexisted with slavery and that the system of government was possible largely due to the existence of slaves, as citizens had the time for deliberation and contemplation. The tandem democracy and slavery seems to have been eradicated from the world political spectrum, resulting in serious problems of legitimacy and identification.

By definition, the root meaning of democracy requires that people equals demos and kratos, meaning people power. In a more elaborate meaning, modern political democracy denotes a form of governance in which rulers are held accountable for their actions in the public sphere. So, anyone fairly rational and mentally capable may infer that democracy is a government of the people, for the people and by the people, in which the majority must favor respecting the rights of minorities. Does this really happens? Here is a clear example and leave it to the reader's judgment. In the last three decades of world history, international finance capital has served the democratic scaffolding in various latitudes to prioritize their interests in economic policy. This means that legislation has sought and achieved to loosen up your traffic, to eliminate barriers and most importantly, to secure their transactions are exempt from taxation. Besides all these prerogatives, financial capital has an unwritten rule, which stipulates that succumbing before their own interests, faults or errors, the state will act as salvage for the system to ensure it does not collapse.

Thus, we have seen FOBAPROAS (the Banking Fund for the Protection of Savings), as the U.S. bailout of 700 billion dollars, the Franco-Belgian bank Dexia, Greek and soon the countless more. It is noteworthy that these bailouts oblige governments to take austerity measures that emphasize budget cuts, reduced social programs and rising interest rates, assuming health of macroeconomic variables. All these actions are detrimental inherently to the majority. That is, we choose our representatives who make resolutions designed to save capital at the expense of our societies, in other words "socialize the losses and privatize the profits". In this situation, democracy has become a means to establish a global capitalist market which serves transnational capital.  Our leaders have become slaves to the markets, the international ratings and much worse, of macroeconomic variables, which do not reflect the real situation of citizens.

At this juncture, the Wall Street protesters propose a 1% tax on all financial transactions as a way to constrain speculation and to hold accountable financial markets. It is important to note that, according to the Bank for International Settlements in Basel the total amount of currency that is exchanged daily is more than 4 billion dollars a day. The tax proposed by the occupiers of Wall Street has been signed by the leaders of France and Germany, however, U.S. and Britain strongly oppose such measures, fearing that the measures will "scare away investors" with which the economy could collapse in a domino effect. If this tax is applicable, the money could be obtained for counter-cyclical measures, economic recovery, development of infrastructure, strengthening of social policy, monetary transfers, creation of jobs etc. However, given that 51% of the world economy is covered by transnational corporations, which are publicly traded and which depends on the international financial system, governments are hesitant to lash their privileges. Politics and politicians have become serfs or slaves of the global capitalist elite, which given its resources, subject to the world's political classes and deliberates ad hoc needs.

In Mexico, for example, this situation is clearly observable in the special tax regimes that exist with large corporations. Non-payment of taxes by billions of these firms, affects the ability and the tools that the state has to counter problems such as inequality, poverty, unemployment etc. In the next G-20 summit in France, was deliberate about this tax.

However, the predictions are bleak and the value of our leaders against global economic power is far below what is required. It remains to be seen whether the world's politicians adhere to the mandate given to them in law in which should ensure the majority or simply de facto continue to violate the obligations, propping interests. It seems that transnational finance capital and its representatives are citizens of ancient Greece.  The rest of society, including politicians, have become slaves. The only exception is that politicians also enrich the people, and roughly the people are impoverished. The underlying question is who truly serves democracy?  

By Roberto Mendoza González
Master in Public Policy and Governance (University of Sheffield) and Foundation for Democratic Advancement Research Associate.

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