Sunday, February 15, 2009

Late Feudalism

Science fiction author Kim Stanley Robinson likes to call capitalism "late feudalism" to remind us of its historical origins. And feudalism it remains, with a small group of economic lords doling out a comparative pittance to the rest of us. It is the ultimate confirmation of this comparison that those most responsible for generating the current economic crisis can have the privileged audacity to complain about hypothetical $500,000 a year salary caps when they ought to be fired. If there is any doubt that those with the money continue to rule, let it be dashed apart by the face that consultation continues with "leaders" in the financial sector to help resolve this crisis: the very leaders whose overwelcomed input into the arrangement and operation of our economy that led to the crisis to begin with.

We do not need the "wisdom" of these sorts of alleged leaders. We need to break the mold of late feudalism entirely, and even as we work with the skeleton of our economic system, we need to fill it with entirely new organs and cover it with new skin. There must be a fundamental change in the underlying assumptions behind how our economy is meant to function. It cannot be simply a tool for increasing profit. It must be engaged in serving the people that make it run. It has been centuries since we decided that people ought to have a say in the decisions that affect them, and now political democracy and political participation are the standard to which we continually strive. It is time we realized that the same arguments that were once leveled against kings ought to be turned on those that command our economy as well. The time has come for economic democracy.

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