10 May 2015

Do conservatives believe in democracy?

Watching the Alberta election results on TV, the comments of a pundit representing the Conservative view caught my attention. The lady insisted that if the NDP won, oil companies would be closing their offices in Calgary, investment would move out of province, etc.—Armageddon waiting in the wings. Well, the NDP won, and this doesn't seem to be happening, but in any case it wasn't the prediction that concerned me. If some investors don't appreciate Canadians' election choices they can find many places to put their money where democracy won't be a distraction, and good luck with that.

What did bother me was that the lady didn't seem to see anything wrong with this sort of blackmail. Indeed she appeared to approve. She didn't seem concerned to ask what kind of democracy we have if corporations can punish us for electing a government they don't approve of. It is not, of course, any kind of democracy. It is plutocracy, or if you like, oligarchy.

Given that the encroaching of corporate power into the halls of government, and other institutions, is the major, indeed the only serious, threat to democracy in the twenty-first century, it is not encouraging that a large slice of the philosophical spectrum finds it acceptable. But perhaps this isn't so surprising. Conservatives, after all, are big on privilege and hierarchy. So an elite body—a house of lords, so to speak—guiding the benighted masses may be quite appropriate to the conservative world view. Elections yes, democracy not so much.

If this is so, maintaining democracy in the face of creeping corporate clout is a bigger challenge than we may think. Like General Mola in the Spanish Civil War, the corporate sector may have a fifth column inside the walls.

1 comment:

  1. Was it really necessary to ask?

    What does democracy mean in this age of pan-neoliberalism? There is little need for leaders of democratic vision any more. Autocrats suffice nicely in administering market fundamentalist government.

    There has been a significant decline in liberal democracy and a rise in illiberal democracy over the past three decades. The United States is a clear example. Influence peddling (Sheldon Adelson et al), voter manipulation, the rise of corporatism - all of these things degrade liberal democracy and hardly anyone protests.

    Canada is trending in the same direction. Harper's imperious ways, his contempt for laws such as the Charter that restrain his excesses and the courts that uphold these laws, is proof has an expansive appetite for raw power. Harper doesn't serve the Canadian people. He manages them. He lies to them. He manipulates them with fear. He appeals to their basest instincts.

    The triumph of illiberal democracy is when people can be led to vote against their own and their nation's interests. Welcome to today's Canada, Bill.