Capitalism & Democracy

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Final Exam Essay Question:

“Our country was founded under, and has operated in accord with the basic principles of democracy and capitalism. However, the basic governing tenets of majority rule and the free market are not absolute. In fact in many instances, both historic and contemporary, we are able to recognize policies that run contrary to the ideals of "one person, one vote" and the "laissez faire" economy. Please describe how one or both of these principles is only partially adhered to in our country, and why?”

Retort-

Capitalism and Democracy, It was supposed to be a match made in heaven, we have always been taught, that they are the perfect Yin & Yang to each other being the twin ideological pillars capable of bringing unprecedented prosperity, freedom, and harmony to the world. In recent decades, the duo has shared a common ascent. By any measure, global capitalism is triumphant. Most nations around the world are today part of a single, integrated, and turbocharged global market. Because of capitalism, China has developed from a hard right communist state into a moderate socialist nation. Democracy has enjoyed a similar renaissance. Three decades ago, a third of the world's nations held free elections; today, nearly two thirds do. However, this fact is not a failing of capitalism but a suppression of democracy. As these two ideas have spread around the world, we have blurred their meaning, to the detriment of our democratic ideals. Capitalism's role is to increase the size of the economic pie, nothing more. And while capitalism has become remarkably responsive to what people want as individual consumers, democracies have struggled to uphold their own basic tenets; i.e. to articulate and act upon the common good, and to help society achieve both economic growth and equity. Democracy, at its best, enables citizens to debate collectively how the slices of the pie should be divided and to determine what rules apply to private goods and which to public goods. Today, these tasks are increasingly being left to the free market. What is desperately needed is a clear delineation of the boundary between global capitalism and democracy between the economic game, on the one hand, and how its rules are set, on the other. If the purpose of capitalism is to allow corporations to play the market as aggressively as possible, the challenge for citizens is to stop these economic entities from being the authors of the rules by which we the people must live and to stop business moguls from dismantling the safeguards inherent in our democratic principles. It is axiomatic that those who live in America enjoy freedom because our fore fathers founded this nation with the backbone of democratic principles in mind, ensuring that the people will hold the power. Is this statement still a reality? One must take into consideration that the United States is also a capitalist society, which has affected the face of democracy in America. Can we honestly say that the citizens of the United States hold the power when we consider the actual state of the political system now? Upon closer examination, it appears that the majority of decisions made in this country are made in the interest of capitalism. From corporate funding for political candidates to the monopoly of our information systems, the current political system in America is deeply rooted in capitalism. This has consequently taken power away from the fundamental actors in our great democratic nation—the people. Private ownership is the core of capitalism. That tends to lead to an individualistic, polarized, and profit driven society. However, although this not always inevitable it tends to be unavoidable. The capitalist system in the United States has always been one of corporate ownership rather than one of individual ownership. Those in control of our major institutions exercise great power when it comes to decisions that impact our nation. A centralized system of power is in...
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