Some thoughts about politics – trying to keep it simple

[I decided to post this after reading The Secret Gardener’s recent post and associated comments re climate change – thanks 🙂 .]

The arguments we are presented with from the right laud the freedom of the individual against the tyranny of government, and see this freedom as best expressed in a capitalist system, seen as a kind of natural result of free choice. Small government is better, they say, because it lets us all get on with our lives without government interference.

(Paradoxically, one of the things that the right don’t like is a government which legislates for tolerance of things like gay marriage – so freedom of the individual has its limits, or rather individuals want to be free to impose their views on other individuals. Weirdly, ‘liberty’ is a positive buzzword, but ‘liberalism’ is the opposite (and then there’s ‘neo-liberal’ – keeping it simple is not easy). Another paradoxical aspect of the most extreme right-wingers, in the US at least, is that ‘survival of the fittest’ seems to be fine as a social/economic system, but not as an account of nature.)

But this position equates freedom of the individual with freedom of money, the engine of capitalism. Small government means big power for big money, individual or corporate. People without much money have little or no freedom to choose how to live their lives, which are hemmed in by the constraints of the ‘free’ market.

So the choice is not freedom or government interference. Rather it is a question of whether we want the power in our society to rest with the moneyed, who have no necessary incentive to respect the needs and wants of the citizenry, or with a body of people we have chosen to do that very thing. Fear of ‘big government’ is fear of democracy. And the people who have most to fear from democracy are those in the minority who are big winners in the ‘free’ market.

Of course, the real failure of democracy is not when it ‘forces’ (or rather enables) us all to be tolerant of each other’s differences or to protect the environment, or supports us when we need healthcare and cannot pay for it. It fails when it is taken over by the powers it should be balanced against – when government acts to support those who already have the power (money) to protect their own interests at the expense of the rest.


Copyright ©2014 F. Watts


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