Wednesday, August 2, 2017

The Democracy That is (Still) Possible

Might democracy as a concept, ultimately fail us? Only remember how the more recent historical version of democracy began, when citizens largely held the means of personal production potential. Scarce attention has been paid to the slow but steady loss of this capacity. Nevertheless, it's a loss which could still be reversed, so that democracy might once again be associated with means, instead of outcomes. After all: As outcomes are increasingly called into question, so too, the fiercely contested revenue of identity politics.

Readers are familiar with my arguments that where real democracy is possible, it includes our direct participation, alongside new wealth creation via time as measure. Hence I was dismayed with "The Sovereign Myth", where Jacob Levy argues that we never had democratic control of our lives, to begin with. He concludes:
Those of us, hoping to see decent liberal democratic constitutionalism in the future have to proceed differently. Yes, there has to be hope for a better future, but hope is not the same as autartik, nationalist or democratic sovereign control. There are hard questions about how we psychologically coexist with large-scale, impersonal social, cultural, and economic forces that are genuinely outside of anyone's ability to just decide. Indeed, I've recently argued elsewhere that we need to think of politics itself as a result of human action but not human design and decision, which even those who understand spontaneous and emergent orders in economics and society have been reluctant to do. It's difficult to come to terms with. But however we are to manage the difficult psychological task of navigating currents that we didn't decide into being, the first step will be understanding and admitting we didn't decide them.
What concerns me most about his assessment, is it seems to suggest all would be well, without a proactive response from the public, regarding economic circumstance. This is particularly misguided, in a time when people need to be part of the decision making processes that arise as automation becomes a more substantial part of the workplace. While he is right (if inelegantly stated) about the impersonal effects of tradable sector activity on economic outcomes, this does not change the fact that non tradable sector activity - if it is ever to gain the fortuitous status of a free marketplace - needs the direct democracy of our own participation and decision making processes.

The ultimate mistake is an assumption that all individuals need not carry through meaningful economic roles at the daily level of their lives, because this is the core of civility and a strong civilization. Even though tradable sector roles lie beyond the control of individuals and governments alike, it is our non tradable sectors that could provide the real hope for the future, especially as decades of wage stagnation point to the need to design an equilibrium template which can lead to substantial gains in real wage potential. This is a level of planning and design that lies within the grasp of the individual, where decision making processes for asset formation and time based knowledge use, need closer alignment with the self interest of each individual involved.

Without meaningful means of mutual cooperation in the functions that correspond to time and place, citizens will only become more disinclined to support the institutional roles of the present which are necessarily impersonal. The freedom of our tradable sectors, and the dynamism they have made possible, have yet to be reflected in non tradable sectors which have not only turned the citizens of nations into hostages, but have left them with too few means to tend to their own ability to thrive.

Democracy is still possible, but its possibility is nothing less than the potential for free markets in the use and aspirations of our own time. These are the platforms for freedom which have yet to be designed, and the spontaneity which has yet to be discovered. Each of us has the ability to become an entrepreneur of our own human capital and time management potential, if our governments can only trust us to successfully make the transition.

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