Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Democratic Capitalism an Oxymoron?

In this somewhat provocative editorial, Thomas Freedman summaries the main thoughts of David Rothkopf on the grand state of America. Rothkopf argues that American political discourse should focus on what type of capitalism should be implemented, rather than focus on ideological differences and surface issues. He characterizes America as "democratic capitalism". Democratic capitalism? Democracy has to do with the people and their interests, and capitalism is about the individual and his/her interests. So how can democracy and capitalism be united without significant compromises on either side? Or as Orlando Hawkins writes:
"If democracy is about the people, in which everyone is deemed to be equals, and capitalism is about the individual, then it would be pretty tough to have a system that will fulfill both needs......"

It seems Rothkopf and Freedman ignore or overlook this fundamental philosophical dilemma.

Since capitalism and democracy are not compatible, should capitalism trump democracy or should democracy trump capitalism? This is the real issue that needs to be determined. Currently, in North American society for example, democracy is a mere shell around capitalism. The American and Canadian electoral systems favor large, established parties and significant money interests over the collective interests of the people. Freedom is enshrined because of its compatibility with both democracy and capitalism, while fairness and equality are sidelined. Excessive freedom likely leads to plutocracy or the rule of the rich. A purely capitalist society would be a pure plutocracy.

Democracy must be united with an economic system that is compatible with the collective interests of the people. Socialism is premised on the economic and social interests of the collective.

Democratic socialism appears to be a logical way forward if there is serious interest in democracy. Another way would be capitalist democracy, with emphasis on democracy or rule of the people. Capitalism and individual freedoms would be reasonably compromised in the interests of upholding democracy. There would be no compromise of fundamental democratic principles.

Thoughts on the compatibility of capitalism and democracy

Capitalism 2012


  1. Pure Capitalism = Pure Plutocracy = Pure Socialism (for the rich)

  2. You appear confused.

    Pure Capitalism = Pure Plutocracy = Pure Communism

    Socialism is balance of capitalism and communism.

  3. Another way forward would be capitalist democracy, with the emphasis on democracy. Capitalism within the constraints of democracy or rule of the people.

  4. At anonymous @ 11:51am

    Oh, semantics, semantics, semantics!

    Ultimately, this is the concept I was referring to:

  5. Interesting. Socialism for the rich and free enterprise (or capitalism) for the poor.


Thank you for sharing your perspective.