Is Politics Getting Worse, Or Are We Getting a Better Handle on How Bad It Has Always Been?

In assessing the present condition of things, the endemic corruption and open hostility on the part of our alleged representatives to the needs and concerns of the mass of the population, the question tends increasingly to revolve around whether politics is getting worse, or whether we are just getting a better handle on how bad it has always been. It does seem that western democracies, having failed to deliver on their promise of enabling the mass to take control over the conditions of our own lives, have delivered instead corrupt oligarchies serving vested corporate interests at the expense of everyone else. Less representatives of the popular will, our illustrious representatives better resemble wholly owned subsidiaries of financial institutions and transnational corporations whose idea of social responsibility is to instrumentalise global production for their own self-enrichment and reduce the global economy to a giant casino.

This also raises the issue as to whether or not the pervasive corruption and injustice of the present represent some great betrayal of an idyllic past—of some pre-existing golden age where the political system was baseline sane and just. This seems a convenient belief in particular for middle-class liberals (or liberals who are poor as the rest of us but aspire to be middle class) who want to reform the system so they can benefit from it, but what evidence is there? Maybe in trying to decide if things are getting worse, or we are just getting a better handle on how bad they have always been, both are true.

The bad old days

After all, representative democracy was founded on the alleged rule of law over the rule of men, but those who wrote the law were anything but disinterested players—a fact reflected in Anatole France’s jibe that ‘the majestic equality before the law forbids rich and poor alike from begging in the streets, stealing bread and sleeping under bridges.’ During the English Civil War, defense of Parliament and its majestic equality before the law from the autocratic power of Charles I and II was lead by Oliver Cromwell and other members of the landed gentry. In France, Robespierre, the Jacobin leader, came from a family of middle-class lawyers; he was perfectly happy to enlist the sans-colottes in overthrowing the feudal aristocracy, but also just as happy to shoot them like partridges once his own class was in power.

In the United States, the leaders of the rebellion against the British were settler colonists and slave-owners. While they might have refused to pay onerous British taxes and defied British colonial power, but at no point did they dream of relinquishing the fruits of bloody European conquest. Nor did they fail to finish the job of European colonization—not by any means did they fail. The American rebels remained very loyal opponents of their military enemies when it came to the racial supremacism informing European setter colonialism and the continental land grab it sought to rationalize, such that academic Gerald Horne has been compelled recently to describe the events of 1776 as a counter-revolution against the human rights of black, brown and indigenous peoples in North America and the Carribean, in service of the landed interests promoting the majestic equality before the law. The majestic equality before the law in settler colonial states like North America and Australia was not only constructed atop major crimes against humanity, but the history of the very violent and bloody process of colonisation was long suppressed in favour of national mythologies of benevolent paternalism. Such mythologies reframed unthinkably major crimes as the spread of enlightened values and sensibilities to backward, heathen savages—this even as the ‘savages’ were being educated in allegedly European superior virtues through the barrel of a gun.

The supremacist mentality visible as a facet of the rise of the majestic equality before the law was visible in the class and gender supremacy of the propertied white men of leisure who framed the political system; it was not the kidnapped slaves in the fields growing the cotton and sugar cane, the labourers in the workshop and mothers raising new generation of workers to replace them who were free to participate in loftier affairs, much less to say a visible concern to lawmakers. When the founders of the United States said ‘all men are created equal,’ they literally meant men. In considering the fact that it took the global beacon for democracy and the light on the hill the best part of 150 years to extend the franchise to women, let alone people of any gender from non-anglo backgrounds, the founders literally meant men like themselves, propertied and white. These old men of property were anxious to ensure that democracy worked well enough to free themselves from the shackles of the British crown, but not well enough that people might take freedom too seriously and use democratic processes to redistribute property.

Expressing that anxiety, James Madison, fourth President of the United States and author of the Constitution, used the Constitutional debates in 1787 to argue for a second tier of the legislative branch . The value of a Senate, Madison felt, would be to slow down legislation emanating from the legislature, traditionally felt to be the arm of government closest to the people:

In England, at this day, if elections were open to all classes of people, the property of landed proprietors would be insecure. An agrarian law would soon take place. If these observations be just, our government ought to secure the permanent interests of the country against innovation. Landholders ought to have a share in the government, to support these invaluable interests, and to balance and check the other. They ought to be so constituted as to protect the minority of the opulent against the majority. The senate, therefore, ought to be this body; and to answer these purposes, they ought to have permanency and stability.

In their concern that democracy work well enough to give them freedom to exploit the land and labour of others, but not to give the mass of the population any ideas about improving their lot at their expense, the propertied interests who founded the United States took inspiration from Greek democracy and the Roman Republic. Both of these systems were established within slave societies divided by classes and castes, where, anticipating future developments, wealthy patriarchs were accorded sole voting rights.

Worse ancient days

In Roman democracy, the prevailing republican virtues sought to justify class dictatorship on the basis of the alleged inability of the masses for directly controlling our own lives—attitudes exemplified by Plato’s Allegory of the Cave. To Plato’s mind, the masses were too childish to be able to handle life outside the narrow confines of their everyday life; a republican elite who had left the cave and were capable of dealing with the realities of the world outside were needed to maintain ‘necessary illusions’ of the simpler life represented by images projected on a wall inside the cave walls. Such attitudes functioned to justify belief in the necessity and righteousness Noble Lie, and no less significantly justify the class rule of elite groups—an autocratic mentality that would become overt under the neoconservative administration of George W. Bush. It since appears to have become a permanent fixture of mainstream politics.

Reflecting the fundamentally elitist mentality of Plato’s Cave, the framers of democracy applied the Noble Lie in the form of a benevolent paternalism, combining flattery of the people via the mythology of popular sovereignty with the rule in practice of the propertied elite, self-appointed as guardians of the moral right which they defined in their own favour. This amounted to a classic bait-and-switch comparable to the practice amongst organized religions of catching the ear of the poor and downtrodden with ideas that would appeal to their sense of justice, and then claiming that realising these values in practice necessitated total obedience to the alleged representatives of God’s will on Earth.

Just as organized religion would secure allegiance and then obedience by telling the poor that ‘it is easier for a camel to walk through the eye of a needle than it is for a rich man to enter the gates of heaven,’ and ‘the last shall be first and the first last,’ so too did framers of democracy tell the people they were sovereign. To actually exercise that sovereignty, however, it was necessary for the mass to obey the alleged representatives of what Rousseau called the General Will. In practice, however, this was the will of the propertied few exercising a class tyranny while conflating their own interests with the common interest.

This helps to account for the fact that that, while the people were formally sovereign, at no point were they to be entrusted with collective autonomy. Direct democracy bypassing third parties and alleged representatives were unthinkable and would remain as unthinkable as abolishing class privilege—and for not indistinct reasons. As George Carlin once pointed out, we can choose from innumerable kinds of cola in the supermarket, but only Coke and Pepsi at the ballot box (these days maybe just L.A. Ice and the supermarket brand). This, as it turns out, was not so much an accident as it might have otherwise seemed.
Bourgeoisie vs. aristocracy, round ii

The failure of liberal democracy to renounce economic autocracy along with the political kind would prove a loophole for the resurgence of the latter; economic crisis has always been fertile soil for demagoguery and authoritarianism. In the 20th century it laid the basis for fascism—strongly suggesting that the most unproductive rentiers, defeated at the hands of the eighteenth and nineteenth-century democratic revolutions, did not take that defeat lying down.

As economic historian Michael Hudson shows in Killing the Host, the forces of unproductive parasitism were represented, prior to the democratic revolutions of the propertied middle classes, by the feudal aristocracy. In feudal England, the manorial lords who swore fealty to the king were rewarded for their loyalty with dominion over sections of the land parceled up into counties, from which they drew wealth as an unproductive rentier aristocracy—consuming the wealth of the nation but not producing anything of value themselves. In more modern times, and despite the best efforts of the middle-class liberal revolutionaries to temper the autocratic power of this rentier aristocracy, the unproductive parasitical classes recomposed themselves in the form of merchant bankers and financiers—a tendency noted by Jefferson as early as 1825 as:

. . . a single and splendid government of an Aristocracy, founded on banking institutions and monied incorporations . . . riding and ruling over the plundered ploughman and beggared yeomanry.

The last President to openly oppose this splendid aristocracy, Andrew Jackson, fought them tooth and nail throughout the 1830s and 1840s (his defeat is symbolized in his representation on the US $20 fiat bill, in much the same way as the U.S. Air Force names its attack helicopters after defeated First Nations tribes). It is testament to the completeness of the victory of the splendid aristocracy that such sentiments are these days on voiced on the far-left.

Suffice it to say then that this splendid new rentier aristocracy of bankers and financiers was in a position by virtue of its growing economic power to recontest the incursions into aristocratic privilege made by the liberal capitalist class through democratic revolutions. The French Revolutionaries in particular had been anxious to maintain economic equality as a facet of political equality, understanding that if wealth inequality was to grow, that could threaten the republic as economic inequality gave rise to power imbalances between haves and have-nots. In the event that this was permitted to happen, as it has done, the haves would use their unequal power—as they have done—to colonise the political system though campaign contributions and lobbyists, and to turn the system to their own advantage. That they have since done so is reflected in the reflexive habit of mainstream ideologues in conflating individual freedom and class privilege, in identifying the class privilege of elites with the common interest of all, and finally in conflating being criticized and being attacked whenever call to account for their lack of concern or respect for the rights of others in the name of playing the victim and projecting their inadmissible shame back onto their critics.

Their fears would become realized with a particular finality after the 1880s, when the resurgent splendid aristocracy of rentier bankers and financiers succeeded in having the principle of corporate personhood enshrined in law, though no legal decision exists that establishes corporations as legal persons. The struggle over the restoration of the aristocratic principle of the right of unproductive exploitation would come to constitute the sum total of electoral politics, particularly once electoral politics coalesced into a two-party binary as it has largely done in many parts of the world with liberal democratic forms of government (or the circus that passes for them these days).

Crossing the Rubicon into corporate oligarchy

The substance of Santa Clara County vs. Southern Pacific Railroad (1886) was a dispute over payment of land tax on public land used by railway companies; legal notes attached to the trial by a reporter, but not part of the trial itself, record the presiding judge as saying that the outcome of the trial was in no way a finding on whether corporations could be considered persons for legal purposes, but that they were of the opinion that they could. Despite having no basis in legal process whatsoever, these comments became the basis for corporate personhood, and so for what amounted arguably to a coup d’etat of the splendid aristocracy against their historic enemies amongst middle class liberal capitalists—represented in the U.S. by the Democratic Party, and in the UK and Australia by their respective Labor Parties.

This corporatist tendency coalesced politically through the nineteenth and twentieth centuries into the reactionary wing of electoral politics. This self-styled ‘conservative’ tendency sought to dignify itself initially as a movement better adept at understanding core republican principles and enduring traditions than wooly-headed liberals wont to chasing every political fad that came along, from extending the franchise to women to recognizing the human and civil rights of black people. As liberal Keynesian economist John Kenneth Galbraith argued rightly enough, however, ‘The modern conservative is engaged in one of man’s oldest exercises in moral philosophy; that is, the search for a superior moral justification for selfishness.”

And so it remains, though in hindsight selfishness seems an understatement; in the final analysis, murderous, sociopathic greed comes closer to the mark. This allegedly moderate conservative tendency became ever more extreme and reactionary throughout the nineteenth century, as a diabolical cascade of political fads further to the left created crises for the racial, gender and class supremacisms they so jealously guarded. Such had enabled bloody and genocidal conquest of settler colonial states in North America and Oceania, the kidnapping and forced transportation of Africans to serve as slave labour in the construction of liberal capitalist states devoted to the principle of free trade, the establishment of colonies for the extraction of natural resources and raw materials, and other such crimes against humanity perpetrated in the name of what Marx eventually described as primitive accumulation—the ‘savage’ capitalism necessary to construct the more ‘civilised’ complex accumulation typically associated today with the modern business cycle (Ghassan Hage).

As Marx had pointed out, however, liberal capitalism was subject to recurring accumulation crises deriving in the main from the tendency of the rate of profit to fall. The racial, gender and class supremacisms upon which liberal democracy was constructed might have legitimized the rule of the propertied white men who had constructed democratic political systems based on equality before laws favour of their own class privilege. Nevertheless, the tendency of the rate of profit to fall, as Hage argues in Is Racism an Environmental Threat? (Polity 2017), created a unique problem for these self-serving and ultimately sociopathic belief systems insofar as it represented the disastrous intervention of reality into the great free-for-all that had been colonialism and slavery, and continued to be as the class-based system that was built matured into industrial capitalism.

(As something of a side note, it might be argued at this point that the actual outcome of the American Civil War, allegedly waged to abolish slavery and secure the rights of black people in the U.S., was to replace owned slaves with rented ones. If chattel slavery represented the loss of control over 100% of the product of one’s own labour, it was difficult to tell at what percentage slavery stopped being slavery. Trading owned slaves for rented ones in practice was a great innovation from the standpoint of rationalization of capitalist production under conditions of liberal democracy insofar as it freed exploiters of slave labour from an antiquated, capital-intensive practice of slave ownership. Under the post-civil war wage system, the job of maintaining the slave population and reproducing their labour to the slaves themselves—even the white ones.

Further benefits were to be had from this new system. Stealing the entire product of the slave population’s labour and paying them back a proportion of it as a wage even freed them of the onerous task of having to provide them with adequate food, clothing and shelter; if they could generate competition amongst the slaves as to who could do the best job of feeding, housing and clothing themselves, they could guarantee their willingness to rent themselves out to hirers of slave labour to pay for it all—all the more so again if they were willing to go to the lengths of signing mortgages in the midst of great housing bubbles such as that previling at the present time in Australia. It is not for nothing apparently that a 1994 survey by the Australian Bureau of Statistics found the largest national industry as a percentage of GDP to be unpaid labour in the home raising successive generations of fodder for the wage mill. As George Carlin once pointed out, there’s a reason why they call it the American Dream, and that’s because you have to be asleep to believe it).

The splendid aristocratic reaction

Recurring crises of accumulation were successfully managed for much of the twentieth century through massive state intervention. Time and again, liberal capitalist governments, much hated by the splendid aristocracy on the far-right as the cause of their historic defeat, rescued the market economy through massive state intervention—not that this ever stopped them from carrying on about cultures of dependency when it came to using the state to help the masses (Sheldon Wolin refers to this phenomenon as ‘The Constitution of Increase”—i.e. reforms are more typically than not only enacted to increase the class power and privileges of elites, not to protect the poor and underprivileged from the consequences of class rule). This massive state intervention took the form of interest rate manipulation to offset the characteristic tendency of the capitalist economy to overheat (‘boom and bust’), petrodollar recycling in arrangement with OPEC nations (principally Saudi Arabia, which perhaps helps to explain why they weren’t invaded post 9/11) and large-scale Keynesian pump priming through military spending. This latter phenomenon, which became entrenched as everyone took note of the salutary economic effects of WWII in the aftermath of the Great Depression, Melman calls Pentagon Capitalism; Chomsky refers to it as Military Keynesianism.

Either way, permanent war was understood to create a permanent economic stimulus, and so those who benefitted from such arrangements continued to require existential threats necessitating the useful economic stimulus. It was not hard for them to find convenient targets as imperial vassals both conquered and coveted from Guatemala and Iran to Korea and Vietnam refused to accept their place in an imperialist world order. Proving similarly troublesome at home were various subject classes and groups—unionized workers, women, nonwhites, LGBTIs and others—who took democratic rhetoric too seriously and sought to extend the freedom to control the conditions of their own life to all, regardless of their class status or social background. Even more scandalously again, some sought to use democratic ideas to critique the autocratic social relations still prevailing in the economic sphere —challenges to the autocratic core of the wage relation a particular bone of contention for those whose political power had already been smashed by middle class revolutions centuries prior.

It transpired then that the splendid aristocracy of rentier corporatists, bankers and financiers innovated on the ancient art of scapegoating, the proverbial oldest trick in the book. As noted, this they did by conflating their own class privileges and vested interests as members of the splendid aristocracy with the interests of the nation as a whole, cynically adopting the language and forms of their liberal democratic foes. It came to pass then—and with the aid of several decades of concerted anticommunist scare-mongering and moral panicking—that questioning the conflation by the splendid aristocracy of class privilege and freedom was identified with giving aid to the communists; thus did the resurgent corporate inheritors of the spirit and mentality of the feudal aristocracy combine victim playing, victim blaming and refusing to distinguish between being criticized and being attacked to paint challenges to their contempt for the freedom and rights of others with attacks on their own.

A notable example of this approach can be found in the commentary of U.S. diplomat and containment theorist George Kennan, who in 1947 argued of the Soviets that ‘their particular brand of fanaticism, unmodified by any of the Anglo-Saxon traditions of compromise, was too fierce and too jealous to envisage any permanent sharing of power.’ For anyone, particularly of a red, brown or black complexion, who was curious to know more about Anglo-Saxon traditions of compromise, Kennan obliged by elaborating privately—and much more honestly—only a year later:

We have about 50% of the world’s wealth, but only 6.3% of its population. This disparity is particularly great as between ourselves and the peoples of Asia. In this situation, we cannot fail to be the object of envy and resentment. Our real task in the coming period is to devise a pattern of relationships that will permit us to maintain this position of disparity without positive detriment to our national security. To do so, we will have to dispense with all sentimentality and daydreaming; and our attention will have to be concentrated everywhere on our immediate national objectives. We should cease to talk about vague and unreal objectives such as human rights, the raising of living standards, and democratization. The day is not far off when we are going to have to deal in straight power concepts. The less we are then hampered by idealistic slogans, the better.

Such was apparently the nature of the actually existing external menace to democratic liberties. We find then that, as noted by H.L. Mencken and Richard Hofstader in his essay, ‘The Paranoid Style in American Politics,’ that the reaction of the splendid aristocracy accompanied crises of accumulation and real or perceived threats to accumulation and profits—if not also to the ideological supremacisms that had long buttressed class power and privilege. In the 19th century, the nativist paranoia and moral panic born of nativism became a precedent for anticommunist paranoia and moral panic in the 20th, which became a precedent in turn for counterterrorist paranoia and moral panic in the second year of the third millennium (which is one way to start one).

In each instance, thinking for oneself gave aid to the evildoers, be they immigrants, communists or terrorists. The scare over the alleged threat provided the splendid aristocracy with political cover for effecting fixes for accumulation crises requiring antidemocratic methods, and smashing challenges from liberal capitalists and unions to their growing power—in every instance perpetrated in the name of defending the freedoms they were destroying.

The insurgent splendid aristocracy is restored

The splendid aristocracy found an opportunity for restoration in the aftermath of 9/11. Having long since embraced radically reactionary extremism and the group pathology of far-right supremacism, it basked in the opportunity to exact revenge on its liberal democratic foes in reversing the democratic revolutions of previous centuries. Restoring a rentier class of neo-feudal corporate aristocrats to political dominance atop a newly out-and-proud empire on the warpath, the splendid aristocracy, represented by a cabal of neoconservatives, completed the work of capturing and colonizing liberal democracy—appropriating its forms in much the same way as Edgar the Bug steals the skin of a farmer in the original Men in Black and uses it (not very convincingly) to disguise himself (cf. Steve Buscemi’s ‘how do you do, fellow kids’).

Exploiting the logic of, ‘if you think for yourself, the terrorists win,’ the splendid aristocracy found a new Military Keynesian gravy train in the form of the Terror Industrial Complex. A mutation of the Military Industrial Complex that had Eisenhower turning in his grave, industrial counterterrorism gave the splendid aristocracy (especially those associated with the armaments industry) every reason to hype the terrorist threat for as long as popular gullibility, groupthink and cowardice would allow. In the face of this insurgency, the liberal Democrats allegedly representing whatever remained of the tendencies that fought the American Revolution weed themselves in shock and terror inside their expensive wool blend suits. As judged by its outcomes rather than its rhetoric, this was the actual goal of the Terror Scare (the so-called ‘War on Terror’), a war of the splendid aristocracy on the whole world, waged in a similar vein and tenor to the Drug War—also a war on the wider hemisphere, and much of the rest of the world to boot.

A brief liberal interlude followed as American society reeled from the excesses of the Terror Scare, as much of the rest of the world had been doing all along. It was to be brief, however. Bubbling underneath the surface was a new crisis born of a burgeoning Iraq Syndrome, the continuing economic decline of the United States caused by the harmful effects of the parasitical rentier demands the splendid aristocracy made on the productive economy, and the crisis of racial supremacism caused by having a darkie in the White House. As with every crisis comes opportunity, and the new crisis was seized upon by what would prove to be the mother of all opportunists. Of this phenomenon, sociologist Paul Joosse has observed in studying what he calls ‘charismatic moral entrepreneurship’ (or demagoguery) that the Trump candidature was remarkable in breaking with the class solidarity of elites. Ever the opportunist, Trump adopted far-left rhetoric in attacking the Democratic candidate as a sock puppet of Wall Street—as indeed she was and remain. That Trump himself was himself a member of the splendid aristocracy seemed to escape his supporters, or was explained away as .

As Joosse explained, what was most significant about this strategy—and of the mentality of the campaign and candidate behind it—was its open rejection of liberal capitalist values. The Trump campaign proudly and vocally rejected the mores of liberal democracy in the name of defying the tyranny of ‘political correctness,’ partisans of the new set of values Trump embraced emboldened to reassert social and economic supremacisms, denouncing defenders of liberal capitalism as ‘cucks’ and ‘snowflakes.’ In so doing, Jossee argues, the Trump campaign launched an open insurgency of, by and in the service of the splendid aristocracy—the successful candidate stacking his administration with Goldman Sachs employees and corporate lobbyists upon ascending to the throne, while carrying on to his base about ‘draining the swamp’ as long as it was halfway feasible to do so (he has not used the phrase for some time now of course; having achieved power he has no need).

It was an insurgency that took sadistic delight in the betrayal of its elite brethren to the neo-feudal pack wolf mentality it was provoking through its attacks on Mexican rapists and the like. While the snooty, out-of-touch liberal elites pandered to Wall Street while denouncing the ‘deplorables’ (those labeled as the latter inevitably adopting the label as a badge of honour), the insurgent Trump addressed the decline of American manufacturing, shedding crocodile tears for the harm done to the American working class by neoliberal globalization. While wedging the American working class against the out-of-touch Democrats wedded (just like the GOP) to Wall Street, the Trump insurgency also divided the American working class against itself, asserting unapologetic misogyny (‘grab ‘em by the pussy’), and playing the race card. It denounced the criminals to the south while promising a monument to white supremacy along the border and making ever more grandiose claims regarding its method of financing—the crucial importance of this monument to its insurgent strategy reflected in the extreme lengths to which Trump has been willing to go in trying to get it built.

As with all fascisms (seemingly), the insurgency of the splendid aristocracy in the person of Trump was met by the liberal capitalists it routed as an idea to be debated—as opposed to the statement of intent it was in fact. In an essay entitled When Insurrections Die, the autonomist Gilles Dauvé points out that liberal capitalism creates the breeding ground for fascism by trying to maximise individual potential within social conditions based on unjust and exploitative social relations, while attempting to frustrate and suppress autonomous working-class action in defense of its rights and in advance of class interests in opposition to its self-appointed masters amongst the liberal capitalist elite. The latter, Davué argues, resist worker attempts to collectively self-manage their own lives in the name of defending the majestic equality before the law that has been the source of elite power and privileges from the earliest beginnings of liberal capitalist democracy. The problem in trying to have their cake and eat it too, he adds, is that in being routed by the insurgent splendid aristocracy, the liberal capitalist class have undermined their own traditional source of support against them; as the graffiti during May ’68 in France noted, ‘those who make only half a revolution dig their own graves.’ This might well be regarded as the epitaph of liberal capitalist democracy.

Always bad, and getting worse

This essay started by asking whether politics was getting worse, or in looking at the state of things whether we were just getting a better handle on how bad they had always been. Examining the history of liberal democracies reveals that they have never lived up to their promise of providing a way for society as whole to individual or collectively exercise control over its own fate. Rather, they appear on the whole to have facilitated new ways for now-‘neoliberal’ elites to exercise class control in the name of the freedom denied in fact to the mass, by means of a bait and switch. Liberal capitalist elites act in the name of society as a while, identify their own vested interests as a class with the interests of society, and accuse those who call them to account for the consequences of protecting their vested interests of wanting to destroy society. They freely conflate freedom and privilege and accuse those who criticize them for denying rights to others in the process of coveting their economic and social privilege of being tyrants with no respect or consideration for anyone else. The hypocrisy and double standards of neoliberalism in this sense is palpable. It has always been bad.

At the same time, the historical development of corporate power in particular and the resurgence of a neo-feudal rentier aristocracy of unproductive and idle wealth that collects while it sleeps reflects worsening tendencies within a system already characterized by insanity and injustice—allowing, to take just one example, a full third of all food produced globally each year to spoil while allowing 25,000 people a day to die from hunger-related causes because they lack the money to buy it (Oxfam).

The supremacist and totalitarian tendencies of the resurgent splendid aristocracy of transnational corporate power is reflected more generally in the predatory mentality that sees and treats workers, women, the peoples of the global South, the flora and fauna and ultimately the planet herself as here objects whose sole value ultimate resides in their exploitability for profit. Climate change is attributable to the application of this predatory gaze to the mentality that the Earth is an infinite resource and infinite garbage dump, its insanity and injustice palpable in the attitude that class privilege can be reconciled with ecocide and mass extinction.

In this way above all else, the cognitive dissonance and conformation biases born of the liberal capitalist bait-and-switch and the resurgent supremacism of the splendid aristocracy stand out amongst what remains of democratic forms under late capitalism like the proverbial dog’s balls. The incapacity of the masses for direct self-government or self-management minus the intervention of third parties is said to justify political representation, but the same time the people are considered capable when it comes to being called for jury duty or to choose our rulers from amongst the propertied classes.

For this contradiction, those who defend electoral politics have no answer. They are unable to explain how it came to pass that, while rejecting the inherited power of monarchies, the res publica did not reject the inherited power of money and the unproductive rentier aristocracy of wealth who collected unearned income as a result of prior possession and conquest. They are unable to explain why they failed to reject the paternalism and born-to-rule mentality of the Elect prone to confusing economic privilege with ability and their own vested interests with the common interests of all. In this sense, politics has always been bad, but it was still possible for it to get worse, as the underlying contradictions within liberal capitalist democracy would ensure its undoing—a process unfolding through its final stages as we speak.

Ben Debney is the author of The Oldest Trick in the Book: Panic-Driven Scapegoating in History and Recurring Patterns of Persecution (Palgrave Macmillan, 2020).