Could the Economy Be Next in the Development of the Democratic Ideal?

These days, in ‘the West,’ we don’t give the existence of political democracy a second thought. It seems perfectly natural. When the modern idea of democracy was being debated and formulated, however, it was a different story. Back then, the idea of ‘the people’ governing themselves was downright revolutionary.

The task of prior generations, stretching back a long ways, has been to establish and to grow democracy in the political process, both quantitatively and qualitatively. Could it be that the task for now and the future is to apply that principle to the economy? It can be done.

Think of it this way: money is to the economic system as political rights are to the political system. Rights are necessary to participate in the political system. (Without those rights, a person can still act politically, but there are usually consequences to suffer as a result—like being put in prison and even being tortured.) In the same way, money is necessary to participate in the economy. Just as political rights can be democratically distributed, so money can be as well.

What is a “democratic” distribution? The answer to that question can get pretty technical and involved (not to mention lengthy). For introductory purposes, let’s say that in a democratic distribution there has to be an objective reason for denying anyone whatever is being distributed. Other ways of saying “denying anyone whatever is being distributed” are to say ‘restricting its distribution’ or ‘putting restrictions on its distribution.’ There are three things that have to be said about “objective.”

The first thing that has to be said about “objective” is that it has become a very controversial word. Establishing the impossibility of objectivity is one of the most important objects of postmodernism. As it happens, I agree — in the sense of objectivity as a state of mind that can be attained in order to evaluate, much less judge, beliefs.

Beyond that, we do have to be very, very careful in asserting objectivity. One thing we can be sure of, however, is that no belief can be ‘objective.’ All beliefs are as subjective as anything can be.

An objective reason for any restriction on what is being distributed has to have something to do with maintaining the integrity of the process. For instance, in the U.S. we deny the right to vote to people under 18 years of age (which in my lifetime used to be 21). Age is a proxy for emotional and intellectual maturity. It isn’t perfect, but it’s the best we can do for that. For the same reason, age is a restriction on being elected to political offices.

Most of all, an objective restriction has to be universally applicable and universally applied. In the U.S., we do not allow political rights to be restricted on the basis of gender, race, color, or creed. It is easy to see that the first three of those could not possibly be universal. Any creed, any system of beliefs, could possibly be universal, but, again, no system of beliefs can possibly be in any sense “objective.”

There is one last, little thing to say about the idea of a democratic distribution before we apply it to money. Democratically distributed political rights are available, but they do not have to be utilized. In the old Soviet Union, people were required to vote, even though there was only one person’s name on the ballot. (Not voting for that man—they were all men—could be interpreted as a sign of disapproval.) In democracies, people are free to utilize their political rights or not.

An objective reason for any restriction on what is being distributed has to have something to do with maintaining the integrity of the process.
Stephen Yearwood, IVN contributor
We could have a democratically distributed income if we had an income that was available to every person who was at least old enough to have a job (18? 16? 12?). It could be more or less extensive, but it would have to be available to everyone who was at least that old. Anyone could opt out of being paid the democratically distributed income.

Economically, the key is that the total of that income would become the supply of money for the economy. The ‘basic’ democratized monetary system is available in some detail on IVN in “A New and Different Monetary System for a Better Economy,” and in more detail in “THE MARKET-BASED ECONOMY for the 21st CENTURY—and Beyond,” on the Home Page of www.ajustsolution.com. An economic system with a more extensively distributed income is detailed in my book, A Just Solution.

Having a democratically distributed income would transform the functioning of the market-based economy, not replace it with another type of economy, like socialism or communism would do. There would be no (involuntary) unemployment or poverty (without redistributing anything) and government would not be funded by taxes. (It would be funded at its current level as part of the revolutionary monetary system.)

Having a recession would be an absolute impossibility, and our chances for environmental sustainability would be improved (could be greatly improved, with a more extensive distribution).

One lesson of history, both more distant and more recent, is that when enough people want something to happen, it will happen, whether the existing political process would facilitate it or not. In that sense, since literacy become generally available anyway, humanity has been living in a direct democracy without fully realizing it. The photons that illumine the digital age are bringing that realization to light.

Photo Credit: Adrian Niederhaeuser / shutterstock.com