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Democracy and Free-Market Capitalism? Probably Not Eternal

We can change the systems, or let them change for us.

By Taru Anniina LiikanenPublished 2 years ago 5 min read
Democracy and Free-Market Capitalism? Probably Not Eternal
Photo by Tim Mossholder on Unsplash

Rules are important. When you follow a common set of rules, you ensure a certain level of fairness to all those involved.

This is why institutions are important in a democracy. We vote, and we expect the people we believe in the most to win the vote and bring us necessary changes. But when the other side wins, we expect them to follow the rules, and not change too many things.

The problem, as history shows, is that nothing is really eternal. Structures, rules and systems change, whether we want them to or not. And if the good guys follow rules, it doesn’t mean the bad guys will, too.

A Necessary Reality Check

The Democratic Party in the US is currently in a tough spot. It’s a party that wants to follow rules to a T, basically just to not piss off Republicans so that they don’t break the rules in the future.

Democrats are still not on board with changing the filibuster rule in the Senate, or changing the composition of the Supreme Court.

They want to follow the rules, believing the Republicans will do the same. This, unfortunately, is exasperatingly naive, because the party faces an opposition that’s not interested in playing the same game.

If the January 6th insurrection and Donald Trump’s several attempts to overthrow elections in key states weren’t enough, the GOP has for the past year been firmly on the path of making it harder and harder for people to vote. Roe vs. Wade is being overturned in the Supreme Court thanks to two hard-line conservative judges who shouldn’t have a seat there in the first place. And Mitch McConnell and his lackeys have no intention of voting for any Democratic bill, whether it would help his constituents or not.

But the filibuster still stands, because many establishment Democrats are too tied to memories of how things were done in the good old days. They, starting with President Biden himself, believe it’s still possible to return to the good old days of civility.

There’s no way this game is going to end well, if one of the players isn’t interested in playing by the rules. The rules of the game will change, so it’s better to be the one changing them.

Why Democracy Might Not Last

First things first: I’m not an anarchist, far from it. I’m also not against democracy, or capitalism. Okay?

I just want you to think about the idea of the things around us not being eternal. Not even the big ones.

In Europe, whenever new EU regulations are discussed, the euro-skeptic right wing brings out the threat of an imaginary European federation, which would undermine state sovereignty. The pro-EU parties defend themselves, denying these accusations and speaking about independence.

But nobody talks about the fact that, for a bigger part of our history, European nations were part of empires. The fragmentation of (nearly) every nation in Europe having its own state only began some 400 years ago, and has reached its peak in the last 30 years after Cold War ended. Nationalism as a dominant ideology is only a couple of hundred years old. And as an ideology, it places too much importance on an ephemeral structure, instead of the real-world challenges we’re facing.

The free flow of money, goods and services across borders is also new. Feudalism only ended a couple hundred years ago, its vestiges still visible in France until the Revolution in 1789. And whenever there’s a crisis, the powerful nations turn to protectionism. Capitalism is never 100% free and uncontrolled, so we shouldn’t pretend it can’t be touched.

Human societies fluctuate, and the only constant is change. The truth is, we’re heading toward an age of existential crises, with climate change, pandemics, mass immigration, lack of natural resources to feed people, and plenty of resulting territorial disputes. All of this will make living conditions intolerable in large parts of the world, and as a result, we’ll likely see a rise in authoritarianism and a decline in free markets.

States will need to control their resources, and they’ll have to meddle more with trade and production. Yes, even the capitalist ones. When people in rich countries see rising immigration, conflict will arise. Our information systems, including social media, will make it look like the world is in chaos. And when people see chaos, they’ll demand order. They will make a deal with an authoritarian leader to protect themselves.

The only way to even try to avoid this is by ensuring a fair fight. It’s exactly what the GOP is set on preventing.

Following the Rules Is Not an Option

Human memory is short. We’re tied to notions of how we’ve always known things to be, and we don’t consider how very new some of them really are.

Far-right movements find supporters because of perceived crises to these structures, but the left doesn’t dispute these notions, either. And that’s a real problem for the future.

Right now, Dems struggle to make their case, because bringing real change will require them to alter some of the rules. They’ll need to end the filibuster, and possibly pack SCOTUS with some new justices. And hey, lose the Senate parliamentarian while you’re at it. They’re not an elected official, and they’re not screwed to their seat.

Only when you’ve ensured the majority can effectively rule, you can focus on legislating to make people’s lives better.

I think it’s a natural thing for us humans to cling to what we know in times of crisis. But pretending that those structures are necessary for life to go on like it always has on this planet is not productive.

Following the rules is not an option when you’ll risk losing to an opposition that isn’t following them, and doesn’t intend to.

In my opinion, you can either change the system, or let it change around you, for you. And possibly against you.


This story was originally published by me, on Medium.


About the Creator

Taru Anniina Liikanen

Finnish by birth, porteña at heart. Recovering political ghostwriter. Fiction, relationships, politics, bad puns, popular and unpopular opinions. Occasional dinosaurs, because dinosaurs are the best.

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