Enemies of Democracy: Neoliberalism and Authoritarian Finance

Democracy is supposed to mean rule by people. In the West, it means rule by upper classes via periodic representational charades in which candidates represent corporate interests and occasionally throw crumbs to the public to pre-empt full-scale revolution. But now even establishment institutions are worried about the implications of the lack of genuine democracy in so-called capitalist societies.


Cambridge University’s Centre for the Future of Democracy expresses “deep concern” in its longitudinal study of global attitudes toward democracy, which are at a 25-year low. The US continues its “crisis of trust” as Europe endures a “chronic … democratic deficit.” So-called centrist parties, which are usually right of the public on economic issues, fail to maintain their positions. The public opt for either authoritarian parties who make life uncomfortable for liberal elites because their behavior is hard to spin, or so-called far-left parties (actual moderates) who pose a greater danger to liberal elites because they threaten a tiny fraction of their wealth and power.

The report notes that “[t]he deterioration has been especially deep in high-income, ‘consolidated’ democracies, where the proportion” of the disaffected “has risen from a third to half of all citizens.” It also says that “democratic governments simply have not been seen to provide effective policy solutions to pressing societal problems,” though it fails to add that doing so would contradict the demands of party investors, namely financial institutions and mega-wealthy donors. “[I]f satisfaction with democracy is now falling across many of the world’s largest mature and emerging democracies … it is not because citizens’ expectations are excessive or unrealistic.”

This is a break from media propaganda, which seeks to paint moderates like Jeremy Corbyn in the UK and Bernie Sanders in the US as communist extremists who espouse radical and utopian policies.

Commenting on the study, the BBC notes that “[t]he UK and the United States had particularly high levels of discontent.” If we believe the cultural propaganda, the BBC is an institution buttressing democracy by giving enough information to allow the public to make informed choices. In the real world, the BBC is the propaganda outlet of the British ruling class. The article on the Cambridge study downplays the economic factors behind democratic dissatisfaction and instead emphasizes attitudes toward immigration and other issues.

Last year, the Hansard Society reported that in the UK, “Opinions of the system of governing are at their lowest point in the 15-year Audit series.” Just 34 percent of respondents support a particular party. Half of respondents agree that politicians don’t care about them and 75 percent agree that both main parties (Labour and Tories) are equally self-interested. More than half think that a rule-breaking leader is needed.


In authoritarian Russia, where Vladimir Putin has been in power for twenty years, dissatisfaction with democracy declined over time, rising slightly in recent years. What could explain this apparent discrepancy, where elected governments are considered undemocratic and dictators less so? Authoritarian regimes offer some sense of order, which is no justification for their existence, whereas “capitalist” “democracies” throw the poor and middle classes to the brutality of the market while insulating the wealthy.

Though the Cambridge study briefly discusses economic factors and the BBC minimizes them, it is worth noting the correlation between the specific forms of “capitalism” in the US and Britain, as compared to state controls used by more authoritarian regimes. Just a few months prior to the Cambridge study, the BBC quoted Professor Colin Mayer of the British Academy: “The UK has a particularly extreme form of capitalism and ownership … Most ownership in the UK is in the hands of a large number of institutional investors, none of which have a significant controlling shareholding in our largest companies. That is quite unlike virtually any other country in the world, including the United States.”

Workers have less and less control over their conditions and where people are self-employed, no control over market conditions.

In the US, President Trump likes to boast about employment being at record levels, but the Private Sector Job Quality Index reports a decline in standards since 2016 amid an overall 30 year reduction. Commenting on the situation, Forbes asks: “why is participation in the workforce so low?” The article makes no attempt to address the apparent contradiction that employment is at a 50-year high while millions of Americans have dropped out of the job market. The logical conclusion is that employment is artificially high because fewer Americans bother to look for work, i.e., they are not registered, and the ones that do often work poor quality jobs.

This is against a backdrop of continued wage stagnation and growing inequality. The Russell Sage Foundation notes that since the 1980s, the incomes of the “bottom-50th and middle-40th percentile adults increased by just 1 percent and 42 percent, whereas top-1 incomes rose by 205 percent.” Even corporate media report that more than half of Americans are just $1,000 shy of being in debt.

As corporate media focus on Trump’s personality, vulgarity, and Twitter activities, the Brookings Institute gets on with the real task of “Tracking deregulation” in the Trump era, which it favors: Allowing home loan banks to regulate themselves and lend to affordable projects at their own discretion; weakening health and safety regulations for miners; deregulating dental coverage options for federal employees; encouraging employers to opt for non-Affordable Care Act (ACA) insurance by allowing them to buy individual premiums; lengthening “short-term” insurance under the ACA; reducing training requirements for vehicle operators; removing driver resting periods on long-haul journeys; and on and on.

These policies will further widen the democratic deficit. Meanwhile, pro-business managers in the opposition Democratic Party work to undermine the most progressive candidate who has a realistic chance of getting the nomination.


In 2016, most Americans rejected an authoritarian buffoon when Trump lost the popular vote by more than a million.He ended up in the White House anyway due to the historically racist Electoral College system. In the UK, just 13.9 million out of a potential voting population of 47 million put an authoritarian buffoon, Boris Johnson, into power due to the UK’s charade of a voting system.

Spooked by the prospect of a Bernie Sanders nomination—and, worse, potential Presidency—the failed Presidential candidate, former Secretary of State, Yale Skull and Bonesman, and current high-level Bank of America advisor, John Kerry, was reportedly overheard conceding that Sanders is likely to beat the current crop of Democratic candidates and that Kerry hoped to be able to raise cash from investors to beat him. Former New York Major, the multibillionaire Michael Bloomberg, is running on the Democratic ticket, despite being a slum landlord and using prison labor. At the Iowa Caucuses, a returning app produced by a company linked to the DNC and Hillary Clinton conveniently failed, as did officers’ efforts to call into Democratic Party HQ with the results. Confusion bought time for the likely loser, Creepy Joe Biden, the establishment’s most viable Sanders opponent.

The above actions reflect the desperation of the investment class who would rather stand characters like Creey Joe, Slumlord Bloomberg, and Skull and Bones Kerry than risk a mildly socialistic candidate coming to power and slightly raising taxes to provide free healthcare. But it also portends a fightback. When the Democratic Majority for Israel group released a video of alleged Democrat voters attacking Sanders as unelectable, Sanders raised an additional $1.3m in a day to maintain grassroots momentum. Despite a Bernie Blackout, with corporate media literally omitting the popular Sanders from their approval rating graphs, supporters on the ground continue the struggle.

T. J. Coles is director of the Plymouth Institute for Peace Research and the author of several books, including Voices for Peace (with Noam Chomsky and others) and  Fire and Fury: How the US Isolates North Korea, Encircles China and Risks Nuclear War in Asia (both Clairview Books).