From top: 1 Taoiseach Leo Varadkar at a final press conference on Day 2 of the Fine Gael Autumn Think-In in Clonmel in County Tipperary.; Tony Groves
Democracy; a small Greek start up, weaponised by the Romans, Exported by Britain, Commodified in the United States of America, Mis-sold in the Middle East and downgraded to a Global Corporatocracy via an iOS update.
So this is where we are.
In the early part of the 20th Century the West sent out armies and proxy armies to stop the spread of democracy in countries whose natural resources they were hollowing out.
Nowadays, the West is promoting democracy into these places. Not because the West has changed, but rather that democracy itself has.
For months a quote, attributed to Wolfgang Schäuble, has been pissing me off. It goes “Democracy is fine, as long as it doesn’t change anything”.
You see, it is this single line that succinctly sums up the health of what once meant People (Demos) Power (Kratos). Democracy is now the term for the unaccountable and the unaccounted.
In the West it disempowers national governments; forcing murderous austerity on people in order to protect markets.
Whereas in the developing world (a horrible term) it is used to tap into cheap labour forces and devour what natural resources are left.
Rent-Seeking is the economic process of increasing your wealth without creating new wealth. This is done via corporate and national hegemony. Wars are fought to “install democracies”. Just reading that sentence should stress how far removed from the democratic origins we have moved.
Leo Varadkar has had, as ever, an interesting few days. He told the Fine Gael think-in that “Fine Gael will never talk down to people”.
Less than 24 hours later he condescendingly told the Irish people that they weren’t ready to vote based on the recommendations around the 8th Amendment, of the Citizen’s Assembly.
Not finished with his myopic proclamations, he then warned public service chiefs to perform or to step down.
This from a man who failed in portfolio after portfolio.
When Churchill famously described success as “going from failure to failure, with no discernible loss of enthusiasm”, he couldn’t have known Leo Varadkar would ride that mantra to the top office in Irish Politics.
Leo, like our political representatives, has some accountability. They must go in front of the people every five years and seek their vote. But this isn’t real accountability; democratically or professionally.
Roman Consuls had one year terms. In many industries annual Fitness and Probity assessments are required along with Continuous Professional Development learning. Performance Reviews are monthly, quarterly and annual in thousands of workplaces.
Politicians, chosen to represent our democratic voices, tell us that “the practicalities of doing the job” got in the way of holding them to pre election promises.
In no other workplace is the excuse “Isn’t that what you tend to do in elections?” acceptable. But in politics, it is a quip.
The brilliant Arundhati Roy calls modern democracy a Lifestyle War.
“A war whose whole purpose is to expand the War, increase the Terror and obfuscate the fact that the wars of today are not aberrations but systemic, logical exercises to preserve a way of life whose delicate pleasures and exquisite comforts can only be delivered to the chosen few by a continuous, protracted war for hegemony.”
The anything Schauble was referring to was the uninhibited ability of hegemonic countries and companies to move around the globe freely, while restricting the freedom of the people they are ‘democratising’.
The anything Schäuble was referring to is the Rent-Seeking methodology of using wealth and power to expand wealth and power, in the name of thee ‘free market’ hegemony. Wolfgang Schäuble knows democracy, beyond parish pump politics, is, if not dead, on life support.
But there is hope. When car insurance premiums fell recently it was on the back of officers of the EU raiding Dublin based insurance companies and discovering oligopoly price fixing practices.
Interestingly, not once did the current Housing Minister, Eoghan Murphy, tackle (or mention) this behaviour when he conducted his 2016 investigation into rising premiums.
The EU Commissioner for Competition, Margrethe Vestager, not content with telling Apple to pay Ireland €13bn in back taxes has thrown down the gauntlet to the hegemony of the biggest multi-national corporations.
She also took a swipe at the politicians who allow such Rent-Seeking free market practises to pass.
When she recently said that “the market is not the society. For a long time we have been told that is all it is”, she was aiming a not so subtle kick at the Schaubles, the Varadkars and the Tim Cooks.
Arundhati Roy (whose brilliance I can’t stress enough) thinks democracy isn’t beyond saving.
She, like Vestager, knows toppling the corporate hegemony will require corporate revolution.
But as she says herself;
“Another world is not only possible, she is on her way. On a quiet day I can hear her breathing”.
Are you listening?
Tony Groves is a full-time financial consultant and part-time commentator. With over 18 years experience in the financial industry and a keen interest in politics, history and “being ornery”, he has published one book and writes regularly at Trickstersworld