Neoliberalism vs. Democracy (was Re: Hi, Im back)
- You really should have a look at Eric Britton's World Carfree
Day website, www.carfreeday.com. I think it helps unravel the
mystery of how societies might go about changing such phenomena
as excessive auto dependency, bad urban planning, and the rest.
The worst abuse of the prevailing neoliberal ideology that social
elites in so many places have attempted to propagate universally is a
certain ahistoricity and social idiocy. Margaret Thatcher encapsulated
all of this in one famous phrase, TINA--There Is No Alternative. "Society,"
Lady Thatcher said, "does not exist." There are, she explained, only
isolated, atomized individuals and their families, each seeking their
individual bliss in the great marketplace of reality. But in truth, she
lied. Society is more than a random collection of isolated individuals,
and there are many alternatives. Indeed, such a society as she promoted
is by nature idiotic -- how can you have a society of unrelated
individuals, when that confounds the whole meaning of the term?
To attempt to break down all the rich and multifaceted interactions of
human beings in real societies to one-dimensional "market" relations
leads to all the pathologies we are witnessing today under "advanced"
capitalism. And it is, of course, profoundly antidemocratic, as one
cannot, by definition, have a democracy without an engaged citizenry
that actually rises to the challenge of taking charge of its own
destiny. When one acts as a citizen in a democracy, one is engaged in
shaping the future of society as a whole, and not just one's private
bliss as in "the market." Thus, one must be mindful of the good of
one's fellow citizens, and not just one's own. How can such a thing
come to pass? Naturally, through democratic deliberations, which
obviously must involve the whole community together. There can be
no question of imposing decisions from on high.
Today, under the tyranny of "the marketplace," our democracy in my
country has reached its lowest ebb yet. Rarely more than half of
my fellow citizens even bother to vote. And almost nowhere is there
the sort of direct citizens' deliberative process that characterizes
real democracy. Our "democracy" today is structured more like a
multinational corporation -- with an occasionally elected board of
directors, and shareholders, who mainly concern themselves with no
details of the "company" (country) save the value of their stock.
Let's consider briefly how all this applies to the "car problem."
In truth, motorism is a classic case of the "prisoner's dilemma"
discussed in games theory. The prototypical "prisoner's dilemma"
is: there are two prisoners, isolated from each other. They are
faced with the following options by their jailers: Let one inform
against the other during interrogation, and the other stay silent.
Then the informer will go free, and the silent one will receive
20 years. Let both inform on each other, and both will receive 10
years. But if both stay silent, both go free in only six months.
It's clear what the prisoners should do if they could communicate
with each other. But if, isolated from each other, each merely follows
the laws of the "market," acting as the rational capitalist
"homo economicus" of economic theory and attempting to maximize his
own self-interest, both will receive long sentences.
In a democracy, the "prisoner's dilemma" is avoided altogether
through democratic deliberations in which the participants have a
dialogue with each other, with a view towards serving the benefit
of the group as a whole, and not just the personal aggrandizement
of individuals within it. This cannot happen in a society that is
guided by a monomaniacal obsession with "market" decision making.
In such a real citizen's deliberative decisionmaking process,
the same previously isolated individuals will assuredly make much
different decisions than they made isolated unto themselves in
"the market," having now to take into account the wellbeing,
hopes, and aspirations of others than just themselves. In such a
real democracy, we would surely choose modes of transportation that
did not impose such a high cost on the non-motorized, on the natural
world, and on our own human environment. We would surely attempt to
construct transportation systems that were inclusionary and not
exclusionary, affordable and not just for the rich, etc.
Consider, for example: I know Sierra Club activists here in San
Diego who say, "I sure would like to ride a bike instead of driving,
but, with all that pollution, I'm afraid it would hurt my lungs."
So they contribute to the problem by driving some more themselves.
Wouldn't it be much better if they could get with their fellow
citizens to reduce the problem for everyone? Another word for this
situation is "the tragedy of the commons." Everyone is disserved
by this state of affairs, but the marginal cost of just one individual,
isolated from his fellows, attempting to do something about it, is
perceived as higher by that individual than the share of the burden
he suffers by contributing to the problem himself. The solution
should be clear by now. But it is nowhere to be found in Margaret
Mateus de Oliveira Fechino wrote:
>Should we make it a law that no car is no longer allowed in this
>world of ours ( which I think is not Joel's idea at all ) ? Well, if
>we could do that...anyone has got an idea of how ?
>Look Guy, in a society I believe we all struggle to live together in
>harmony , right? Think about car drivers: wouldnt it be better if
>they could wipe out all pedestrians and all other car traffic from
>the streets , the same way pedestrians want to get rid of all cars ?
>Thats social life, right ? You really cant get all you want.Thats my