Democratic Socialism and Political Power

Photo Source davitydave | CC BY 2.0

Occasionally a phrase supports a wide range of political posturing while bearing little determinable relationship to actionable politics. ‘Income inequality’ is one of these phrases. Few using it are communists, a politics that recognizes concentrated economic power as both cause and effect in the skewed distribution of income and wealth. And the entire point of capitalism is the concentration of these that functions as (circular) proof of the social utility created by capitalists. As corollary to American democracy, the phrase ignores centuries of evidence that political power is determined by economic power.

Of current relevance is its place in the programs of Democratic Socialism, a rebranding of New Deal type social welfare programs that proponents (I am one) apparently intend to fit into existing American political economy. As one of ‘a multiplicity of tactics,’ the lives of the poorer 90% of the country could be vastly improved by Medicare for all, Federal government funded college educations and a job guarantee that pays a living wage and benefits. However, the improbability that Western capitalists, particularly American capitalists, will loosen their grip to facilitate functional versions of these programs was better understood in the late nineteenth century than it is today.

Missing from the inequality meme is any plausible explanation of the social mechanisms that have placed most wealth in a remarkably small number…

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