Freeing captured democracies

Democracies are captured by the prevailing economic power with the complicity of some sectors of politics, the media, and the judiciary. They use diverse mechanisms to seize or condition the State, imposing a course and way of functioning that favors their privileges and promotes a huge concentration of wealth at the expense of the rest of society. Freeing captured democracies demands developing a social and political organization as a counter-power able to dismantling those mechanisms.

In a previous text, we have analyzed how powerful groups distort democratic principles by capturing contemporary democracies for their own benefit. With that, they dissociate people from a representative system of government that has emerged from longstanding struggles.

Captured democracies are those in which large majorities of people have electoral rights but not an economic and cultural parity with concentrated economic groups that take over the strategic driving springs of the State and the manipulation of public opinion. As they know they can win or lose elections, concentrated groups establish judicial and media trenches to impede transformations that might threaten their privileges in case of adverse electoral results. They impose their perspectives and decisions by co-opting or buying complicities within hegemonic media and sectors of politics and the judiciary.

Freeing captured democracies requires developing a social and political organization shaped as a counter-power able to dismantle the mechanisms that ensure the reproduction of wealth concentration. These are many and diverse mechanisms as they impact on every functioning dimension of our societies. In these lines, we will only address some of the most important ones; in other texts we have made references to the challenges and options we need to tackle with the same determination regarding environmental care, cultural and educational democratization, ways of relating with globalizing tendencies, regional alliances, science and technology at the service of the majorities.

  • Dismantling mechanisms of economic power accumulation

This critical area of intervention focuses on pulling the rug out of large concentrated groups. It includes actions in various fronts, such as: (i) Abating activities of financial speculation by firmly taxing financial income and controlling destabilizing movements of swallow capitals. (ii) Cutting out the tremendous tax evasion and capital flight that under finance the State’s action and harm those that abide by the law; for that, there should be a reinforcement of the tax collectors’ actions and enforcement of an effective criminal tax legislation focused on large evaders. (iii) Transforming the national productive matrix to enable the organic and inclusive growth of the economic system; that is, to impede recurrent bottlenecks, as with the foreign sector, while promoting the full mobilization of the national productive capability, by eliminating oligopolistic structures that suck out value from other actors and affect their capital formation. (iv) Establishing instances for interests agreements within value chains so that their leaders are not the only ones being favored in detriment of small and medium productive ventures, critical component of the internal market. (v) Preventing the sovereign over-indebtedness, by limiting the external indebtedness to finance inputs and capital goods that are not domestically produced and are deem necessary for expanding the social and productive infrastructure of each country. Opinion Sur has devoted numerous articles and books to explaining each one of these intervention fronts.

  • Dismantling media and judiciary trenches established to resist transformations

Economic power imposes institutions that last in time and serve to preserve the economic, media, and judicial dynamic that protects and sustains their privileges. Legal framework presents loopholes that sectors of the judiciary interpret with bias to favor concentrated groups that are their accomplices. The Judiciary tends to be the least democratic of State’s powers with judges and prosecutors elected by peers many of them attuned with the economic power. They form a system that neither renews nor adapts itself to the transformations that take place in every society. Likewise, the control that economic power exerts over the media enables them to manipulate public opinion by imposing their agendas and perspectives; they frequently subdue popular will by colonizing minds and demonizing opponents. This decisional control is completed by the influence concentrated groups exert over certain predictors and risk rating agencies.

Thus, freeing captured democracies from the institutional trenches of submission requires: (i) establishing procedures for giving transparency to the composition and functioning of the Judiciary; (ii) adopting legislation that impedes media concentration enabling that a diversity of voices, interests, and perspectives can express and keep themselves sustainable; (ii) adopting other type of risk rating agencies that are not subdued to the  interest of those who hire them but rather to the societies where investments and projects operate; (iv) promoting a diversity of think-tanks so the different perspectives and projections can be contrasted.

  • Electoral mechanisms that allow for manipulating popular will

In electoral processes, the political debate is a critical instance to know the positions, proposals, personalities and trajectories of candidates. However, the debate that is imposed on us turns the electoral process in a marketing operation. Instead of contrasting visions, programs, and projects, the electoral preference is based on impost empathies, theatricalities, slogans, and fantasy scenarios where prefabricated musical screens, gestures, and sentiments mimic situations of happiness and joy that are presented as informal and spontaneous. A team of image and illusion sellers empties politics of meaning and replaces it with advertising spots that conceal indefensible interests. Only political parties attuned with economic power are privileged by the media and are financed by concentrated groups.

Freeing democracies that are electorally captured through manipulating public opinion and colonizing minds, requires unveiling the main mechanisms of popular submission. This cultural and political challenge makes for a permanent, thus not occasional, effort to (i) understand what is happening facilitating the equal access of social organizations, university centers, and general population to relevant information and different perspectives; (ii) prevent that elections be decided by the large amount of resources controlled by the economic power; it is inadmissible that concentrated groups select those who lead public affairs and it is clear that norms once established to regulate financing of politics almost always end up been undermined; (iii) thus, we should increase control over the financial contributions to political parties beyond what is apparent and formal, as with the extended custom of crossed favors (for example, public works allocated to enterprises that then finance political campaigns of those who favored them); (iv) each communication media can have its own editorial line but given the tremendous media concentration prevailing in the world today, it is not fair to allocate larger spaces to their favorite politicians within frameworks of pretended equal coverage; this has to be regulated and firmly supervised; (v) given the asymmetry of resources that exists between those who fund political sectors attuned with the prevailing concentrating order and those who endorse transformation projects, it is indispensable to establish rules that level out with public resources such uneven funding sources.

  • Post electoral mechanisms of submission

Once established, elected governments are subjected to powerful pressure groups permanently lobbying for obtaining public policies and contracts that benefit them. These pressures open up huge and covert spaces that infringe upon the interests of the whole society and environment protection. This includes different types of corruption such as illegal payments to win allegedly free and fair bids, cronyism or nepotism in the supervision of environmental regulations and in the designation of public officials, as well as, something much more serious, the imposition of public policies that impinge on a fair and sustainable development by transferring resources to concentrated groups.

Neither exist monitoring systems regarding promises, lies, or tricks that usually swarm about during electoral campaigns. The impunity to deceive voters is almost absolute up to the point in which some politicians that had won elections based on lies admitted afterwards that if they would have been honest about the policies and measures they were planning to apply, they would not have won. Usually, lies and unfulfilled promises remain unpunished.

To eliminate these post electoral submission mechanisms it will be necessary to expose the influences and eventual bribes-gifts received by legislators, public officials, members of the judiciary or the media. This is the primary responsibility of entities auditing public activities and of those pursuing every form of corruption, assisted by the larger possible diversity of independent social organizations.

Likewise, social organizations, university centers, and rights-defender organizations can coordinate among them to reinforce the monitoring they already do to confront the actions of government and opposition leaders with their electoral promises and commitments. This information will enrich the political debate and feed the permanent process of clarification of the entire society.

In summary, freeing captured democracies from the economic power, or any other type of power not emanated from popular will, requires the formation of a citizen counter- power able to lead these new contemporary processes of liberation, something we mentioned but did not develop in previous lines. An indispensable complement refers to societies with an increasing level of understanding and organization that become the main basis for truly full democracies, different from the rigged democracies that prevail in the world today. Finally, freeing captured democracies in a context of growing understanding of what is really going on is not an occasional or sporadic effort but rather a permanent one. The functioning of societies that care for Mother Earth and all of its inhabitants without exclusions or inequalities need to be constantly supported, renovated, and strengthened.

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