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29 October 2012

Broad and Narrow Conceptions of Democracy and Democratic Value

Just a quick, disjointed thought. We learn in our high school American Government classes that the American Revolution was about fighting for democratic representation. The British Parliament was making decisions that affected the Colonists , but the Colonists had no voting representatives in Parliament. The core value is that people should have a voice in the decisions that are made by institutions that can affect them. It occurs to me, however, that we're very limited in how we apply this value. Public corporations are narrow democracies in which shareholders get to vote for board members and certain policies. Sounds democratic enough. Socialism, though, is about extending that democracy to those who are affected by the decisions of the cadre of corporate shareholders. For example, most of us would have been adversely affected had AIG been allowed to fail because of the decisions made by a tiny minority of us. This is, in part, what the "too big to fail" argument has been about. It seems that neo-liberal governmental regulation has been relatively limited in terms of how it defines social impact. We have (or at least most of us have had) little problem with the idea that the government (i.e. broad democracy) should regulate corporations' (i.e. narrow democracy) environmental impact via the Environmental Protection Agency. Imagine if we had a kind of Socioeconomic Protection Agency charged with regulating corporations harmful impact on us in social and economic matters. My guess is that there would be less public support for this than for the EPA--but why?

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