The Real Front In Our Battle For Democracy
Have you ever questioned how your modern role as employee actually conflicts with your status as a free citizen?
Never has it been more important for people to see beyond the massive power employers have over our life and planet and examine how this unique relationship shapes our higher status as a free person living in a democracy.
To make any sense out of this situation we must go back to 1776 and add some context around this issue. For the first hundred years of our nation’s history, roughly 75% of its citizens were farmers. The means in which people created their economic sovereignty flowed from their natural ability to work hard and the unlimited supply of available land. We were a country of agrarian entrepreneurs and agrarian start-ups.
The massive bounty of available land provided the underpinning of a system where economic sovereignty was within the reach of anyone who was born able bodied. The main question faced by these early colonists was should this wealth be owned and controlled by them or should it be controlled for the benefit of a concentrated few. At that time, the concentrated few came in the form of a king and his aristocracy.
Once people have economic sovereignty then the issue becomes maintaining it from the intrusion of others so they can live free. The historical risk to an individual’s economic sovereignty has always come in the form of some type of organized government or regime that seeks to consolidate the nation’s wealth into the hands of those in power and their supporters.
In 1776, our founding fathers envisioned a more vibrant and enduring society if the power of government was vested in the hands of its citizens so they could shape a system that protected both their civil liberties and economic sovereignty.
This single act of believing in the competency of the public has been validated over the last two hundred and forty years. It has also proven capable of spreading this trust more broadly in spite of the prejudices that pertained at the time.
But, there is a mindset about power that refuses to accept the notion that all people can ever be entrusted with freedom or that power should ever be shared equally. Their view is that power is always best when exclusively owned. This perspective did not end in 1776. Instead, it has worked even harder to modernize its approach so citizens of a democratic society would choose to “freely” hand over their sovereignty to an elite that portrays itself as the more suitable steward of their freedom.
Today 85% of us rely on someone else to pay our salary. We are a nation of citizen employees where all of our basic necessities are completely dependent upon a relatively small group of employers who we hope will give us access to a living wage.
In the U.S. today, approximately 18,000 companies are now responsible for employing 50% of the population. These employers compete amongst each other within the legal framework of maximizing shareholder value, which typically requires them to find ways to cut labor costs anyway they can and construct barriers to entry so new businesses cannot easily compete. As this death match progresses their wealth concentrates giving the businesses and their small group of owners greater leverage over workers, our government and smaller competitors.
More importantly, we now live within a country and economic system where those that control our access to income are unaccountable to the public for creating a business environment whose priority must be to maintain or broaden the wealth of its citizens.
Today, twenty of our richest citizens now control more wealth than the bottom fifty-percent of our population (153 million citizens).
Imagine if in 1776 instead of 75% of the population being farmers they were employees in such an economic system. How compelling would it have been to fight for a system of government that gave its people supreme power over it but left them with little power over those who controled their economic sovereignty? What good would that government be at securing for its citizens a nation of truly free people?
What good are civil liberties alone when someone else controls your economic sovereignty? What good is having power over something that ultimately has little impact on whether you can feed, clothe, shelter and take care of your family? How can you be free without having the economic legs to stand upon? Yet, this is exactly where we find ourselves today and the situation grows darker each day.
The question is not whether we should make our government the de facto employer of our citizens or instill in our government greater powers over business. This would just be another way of transferring power away from the public and into the hands of a select group of bureaucrats.
Today all Americans must ask themselves whether they believe we can preserve our freedom and the freedom of future generations while continuing to relinquish our economic sovereignty. Can we maintain our freedom within an economic system that funnels our nation’s wealth into the hands of the few and leaves us with no power to shape this system or prevent it from bankrupting our government?
Today as in 1776, we are faced with the choice of whether we believe in the strength and wisdom of our entire community for the security of our individual autonomy or are we best served handing over our liberty and the fate of our government and planet to the better judgment of a few businesses and their owners.
Once again life provides us with the opportunity to choose and then the massive responsibility to act.