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My recent comment on the problem of the "tyranny of the majority" in a democracy with regard to conservation led to a request that I expand this into a separate diary.
Not quite, my request was that you repost the comment as a diary. "Expanding" it might have been good, too. Instead you reposted an essay you have already posted as an ET diary before: Measuring Democracy
by rdf on March 26th, 2008.

So, let me repost your comment here:

Democracy is at fault

I'm afraid the populace takes the blame for the current mess. One of the flaws of democratic societies is that elected officials have to respond to the will of the majority.

If the majority votes to walk off a cliff, then over the nation goes. The west depends upon a capitalist/consumerist economic system and all efforts are aimed at fostering this. This ranges from education (where we teach students how to be good consumers) to advertising and mass media, subsidies for oligopolies (to make them more "efficient") and even colonial and neo-colonial foreign policies.

This has been going on ever since it was discovered early in the industrial revolution that textile factories could quickly produce more goods than actually needed. Thus was born all the psychological tricks to create demand - fashion, status, obsolescence, etc.

The kind of person that goes into government or business, and succeeds, is the kind who best understands this social system and can operate the levers of power to advantage.

Notice that autocracies never have achieved the standard of living of the democracies. With no public to answer to the leaders enrich themselves and let the rest of society languish.

In this latest second Gilded Age, any socialist or environmentalist concerns have been swept aside. The power of money has seeped into every corner of society, so that it is rare to find an academic or even clergyman of any note who questions the basic premises of capitalism.

I can't recall a single instance where a society sacrificed in anticipation of a disaster and used the saved resources to make the future better. Societies are reactive, not proactive. Could a better leader bring people forward and make them change their framework of belief? Perhaps.

You could claim that Gandhi managed to reform the Indian political regime with a minimum of violence (at least compared to other revolutions), but he didn't manage to reform the economic system - a much more difficult task.

Obviously people are hungry for an inspiring leader, hence the appeal of Obama, but I claim that the web of control which permeates modern society means that an individual can do little on his own. People want change, but they don't know of what sort and are unwilling to make any sacrifices of their own.

It is now the 50th anniversary of Pogo's saying:
"We have met the enemy and he is us."

He was talking about pollution, and even that hasn't gotten better. I see no peaceful nor painless paths.

I still like your comment better than your essay, if I may say so. Now,  when you say the kind of person that goes into government or business, and succeeds, is the kind who best understands this social system and can operate the levers of power to advantage it resonates with this other comment from yesterday's diary, by Francois in Paris:
I'm afraid you [starvid] grossly misunderestimate the phenomenal blockheadness of many politicians, all the more as you go towards to the top.

Not to say they are all idiots. You actually find a lot of smart and dedicated in the lower rungs. But the political rat race rewards the apparatchiks who have no other venue for social promotion and the smart and dedicated set just bug off to better careers outside of politics where they can have a life without having to deal with the blockheads.

and also Jerome's conclusion at the end of his diary:
Our governments are totally clueless - or in denial, or wilfully incompetent, your pick - about the most fundamental threat to our (non-negotiable) way of life.

When the capital development of a country becomes a by-product of the activities of a casino, the job is likely to be ill-done. — John M. Keynes
by Carrie (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Sat May 31st, 2008 at 10:32:03 AM EST

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