Friday, July 19, 2013

Summarizing Declining Participation in Democracy

Owen at Northern Reflections beat me to it. Yesterday I read this excellent summary by Alex Himmelfarb of a Samara study on declining political participation in Canada and thought I'd blog about today.

Himmelfarb mentions "social trust" the "degrees of inequality in society, and public policy as being vital to increased participation in, and trust in democracy.

I'll spin it my way: Seems to me that in the 1940s and 1950s, an expanding economy and a shared culture made white people less angry at each other. (In the 1920s and 1930s, lots of people voted because mass democracy was still relatively new and the political choices were vast. The capitalists would do anything to ensure that communists didn't come to power and communist supporters would do what they could to try to get their party in power.)

In the 1945-73 "golden age, capitalists weren't crazy about social democracy, but they tolerated it. Everyone was winning. Then, when the welfare state and anti-colonialism were well established and starting to make a big impact, ... well, it was game over wasn't it.

Also, by the end of the 1960s, too many radical feminists and uppity coloured people starting demanding things. Now, with the 1980s, even the faggots started getting a hearing.

Canada is a much more polite (thought not friendly and definitely hypocritical) country than is the USA. There, as you can easily see, people really hate each other. Progressives belief that Regressives are regressive. That they're bigoted, war-mongering, religious nutbars who will destroy everything they touch.

That's cause it's fucking true. If you're a right-winger and you want to mewl and whine about how unfair and/or hypocritical I am, show me the left-wing Ted Nugent.

And, of course, regressives believe the same thing about progressives because, well, what are you going to do?

But how did this polarization develop? Well, the cultural wars of the 1960s to the present split apart the monolithic mass culture. And, the economy has been stagnating and corporate capitalism has everyone on the ropes. And, corporate capitalism deliberately funds the propagation of idiotic conspiracy theories (see FOX News and Rush Limbaugh).

Inequality is also a factor. If you're poor, you don't matter. If you're rich, you're most likely an entitled prick who doesn't give a shit about anyone else. Politicians serve the wealthy, not the poor, so the poor don't vote. The middle-class doesn't get anything for their tax dollars that they're aware of, and so they resign into cynical apathy.

In this climate, the worst sorts of people go into politics and are further corrupted by their wealthy, greedy paymasters.

This leads into public policy. Public policy in the golden age was about delivering services to help people in their everyday lives. Now, thanks mainly to dishonest propaganda and neo-liberal hackery, people believe that public programs can't do anything to help ordinary people (the reality of 30-40 years ago notwithstanding). So, what's the point of voting. There's no reason to vote for politicians who can't promise anything more than "this tax-cut will bring prosperity. Plus free-trade!" or some other sort of empty nonsense.

Finally, as our political culture declines, it farts out people like Thomas Friedman at the NYT or Margaret Wente at the Glib n' Stale or Ezra Levant licking the scum from behind the toilet bowl, in a self-perpetuating cycle of insanity and decline.

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