April 28, 2003
Haves and Have-nots:
A great crime against humanity is in process.
Much, if not most, differences in current and past disputations can be reduced to a rather simple construct well-articulated by Mortimer J. Adler in his Haves Without Have-Nots published in 1991. (1)
". . . political haves who are not also economic haves cannot discharge their duties as citizens."
In the United States of America, we come close to enfranchising nearly all citizens; that is, by law, all of a certain age and with verifiable residence within politically defined jurisdictions who present themselves to registrars are qualified to vote, are assumed to enjoy political liberty and are endowed thereby with privileges accorded citizens.
Theoretically, only those designated mentally incompetent or incarcerated now or in their pasts for felonies are alleged to be disqualified. Therefore, in Adler's terms, ". . . a politically democratic society is a society of haves without have-nots."
While history records many instances of disenfranchisement due to race, religion, national origin, sex, etc., the general principles are valid in a political democracy as defined.
Add in an economic element and a similar conclusion escapes. Have-nots, in Adler's construct, are those ". . . persons grossly deprived of what any human being needs to lead a decent human life."
Those throughout history who have worked to deprive other humans of what may be necessary to lead a decent human life tend also to want to exclude politically certain classes of people or to restrict or to limit the political franchise available. To the extent that these people succeed, political democracy is compromised. To the extent that they are unsuccessful, political democracy is enhanced.
Those in the United States of America who strive relentlessly and with great determination to restrict political democracy and grossly to deprive other humans of what may be necessary to lead a decent human life are presently in power. The present office takers, called The Bush Administration, and those from whom they have emerged dominant have been very successful in creating monsters in the minds of many people. A predominant example is denigration and destruction of the word Socialism.
Adler notes that the ending years of the 19th century and early years of the 20th century saw many battles in which ". . . the democratic societies whose economic arrangements were those of private-property capitalism, corrected the errors of bourgeois capitalism by socializing their economies through a variety of welfare measures."
The resulting socialization of private-property capitalism produced what has been denigrated as the "Welfare State." A state-designed "safety net" assures those for any reason deprived of basic needs access to a minimum. There is present evidence that anchors of the safety net have been and are being undermined. Clearly, those now in power intend to loosen them further.
As technologies have advanced and capacities to produce products expanded, a parallel process has resulted in several notable impacts on people. One: even with voracious efforts to create desires for consumption, capacities for production now exceed capacities to consume. Two: each year, fewer and fewer people are needed to produce more and more goods. Three: each year, given that production is moved to lowest cost areas both in terms of commodities and labor, more and more people in once more affluent areas are no longer needed or useful in any economic sense. Four: with overall increases in populations and parallel changes in demographics tending to expand both ends of population curves, as societies find more younger and more older people, leaving fewer middle people, demands on economic systems to supply basic needs are less and less well-met by employment for wages or salaries.
Therefore, in a nominally political democracy, demographic and economic curves leave fewer qualified and able to vote, fewer who do vote and more who have less in terms of basic needs. With more younger people unlikely ever to find what was once called "meaningful employment" coupled with more older people no longer available or equipped to be in a work force, however defined, the quantum of economic haves is reduced. Add in other demographic factors such as race, education and socio-economic variables emergent therefrom and, overall, fewer qualify as both political and economic haves. More become technically political haves existing as economic have-nots.
In parallel, once relatively "secure" factors which established the parameters of middle class are shattering. Longer term employment is simply no longer common. Benefits associated with longer-term employment have also disappeared. With health care costs gone exponential, life without some form of assisted capacity such as insurance and/or government programs such as Medicare and Medicaid, is tenuous in very vital senses. Security anchors for the middle classes such as pension plans and other assistance to save for later years, 401K and other plans to defer taxation, etc. are also among the disappeared.
Alternatives to longer-term employment such as entrepreneurial processes are a function of general economic health. As more demographic sectors are affected by economic conundrums, customer bases are also affected. Hard to do a small business without customers.
Earlier economic and employment dislocations since WW II were, in large part, for middle class folks, offset by entrepreneurial actions, primarily the now slackened franchise booms. With nearly every community now at or beyond saturation with franchises, entrepreneurial opportunities require ever more skills and capital. Both factors are limited in the general population, even more limited within the emergent demographic patterns -- more younger, more older, less educated, less access to capital.
Logically, given the world's premier economic engines, multi-trillion dollar domestic economies, one might assume that there is great capacity to exercise both compassion and wisdom in helping those deprived to meet minimum needs.
Those now in power fail to see or to understand such logics.
The United States of America, under present leadership, is failing the basic test of a political democracy in creating more have-nots less and less capable of exercising their duties as citizens.
That this result is by design rather than accident is a great crime against humanity.
1. Adler, Mortimer J.; Haves Without Have-Nots, Macmillan, New York, 1991, ISBN 0-02-500561-8. (back)
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