Since writing the first part of this series, I have received several comments and criticisms on another thread about these ideas. Here are some points raised below and my responses to them:
“I can’t believe that someone can say that governance does not require expertise. We don’t choose our surgeons randomly. We choose our surgeons intelligently. We want the best possible surgeon.”
Have you taken a look at the people in positions of leadership lately? Donald Trump is the leader of the free world. The Terminator was governor of California. Jerry Springer was the mayor of Cincinnati. And now, Kid Rock, The Rock, and Caitlyn Jenner are considering runs for office.
Have you taken a look at the economic state of affairs? Nowhere in the U.S. is the minimum wage sufficient to cover the costs of the average apartment. This is the handiwork of “experts”?! I am not impressed. As George Carlin said: “these are the types of results you would expect from an office temp with a bad attitude.” These so-called experts are deeply incompetent if this is the best they can produce. Consider the following facts: in the United States, there are 500,000 homeless people – and there are 3,000,000 empty homes. There are 6 empty homes for every homeless person. The solution to this problem is obvious and simple. But since there are so many “experts” in government, the problem persists. The average Joe could not screw things up any worse than Clinton, Obama, or Trump.
Additionally, the title of this post – like the C.L.R. James book – is “every cook can govern.” It is not “every cook can perform surgery.” We are making a differentiation between governance and ordinary positions of employment.
But we need to understand the relationship between the division of labor and how power is distributed within government. As I stated, politicians tend to be white males. When we look at the demographics of physicians in the United States over the past 30+ years, 75% of them are white males. Is this a coincidence? I think not! This is not because white males are born with the genetic aptitude to perform surgery. It is because white males are born with power and privilege – which makes it easier for them to end up in high level positions. Not to mention: surgery is expensive! Women and minorities earn significantly less than white men. So not only are white men the surgeons, but they are the ones most likely to afford the surgery, while everyone else simply goes without or is forced to file for bankruptcy.
The reasons that women and minorities are not surgeons is the same reason women and minorities are not in positions of governance. What we are calling “expertise” is the alibi of oppressors. It is easier for us to believe that white men are “experts” than women and minorities. So we need to completely detox our minds of this aristocratic/meritocratic/capitalistic way of thinking and organizing society.
“This type of inequality is certainly deleterious to democracy, but that by itself does not transform America into an oligarchic state.”
The point you are overlooking is this: democracy and capitalism are incompatible. Democracy is a system where the people are in power. Capitalism is a system where a few elites are in power. The terms are antonyms; but people insist on calling America a “democracy” because there is a “free market” – as if the two can co-exist. The existence of a market forecloses on the possibility of there being any democracy.
Where the people are in power politically, they must also be in power economically. The economic system where the people are in power is socialism/communism. Where a few elites are in power politically, they must also be in power economically. The economic system where a few elites are in power is slavery/feudalism/capitalism/fascism and other totalitarian regimes.
And I admit: Ancient Greece was not communist. Therefore, following my logic to its conclusion, even Ancient Greece was not democratic. But the point here is this: ancient Greece was democratic for having sortition, but not democratic for having a class-based society. That is one structural error. The United States is not democratic because it lacks sortition and it is a class-based society. That is two structural errors.
“So? Most of those [Kennedy, Bush, Clinton] individuals were qualified to run and hold elected positions, and to my point, some of them were elected, and some were not. How is that oligarchic?”
This line of reasoning takes for granted what it means to be “qualified.” In the current moment, being “qualified” means having attended a prestigious institution, having connections to Washington insiders, and having the blessings of the corporations which already wield power and control over the people. Before a politician is elected, they are selected by those who are already in power. Just look at the recent statements of Donna Brazille that the DNC was thoroughly rigged in favor of Hillary Clinton. The reason a lot of people said Hillary Clinton was “qualified” to be president was because she was already secretary of state. In other words, she had experience bombing black and brown nations – and that made her a “qualified expert”. Never do people stop to consider the option of simply not bombing anyone! Because “qualified” often means that one is already part of the military industrial complex, and has demonstrated a willingness to sacrifice large groups of people at any time.
“You must provide other examples of oligarchic countries with which we can compare the USA and see where, if any, parallels exist.”
This is not necessary at all. We need not discuss other countries to arrive at the conclusion that the U.S. is not a democracy. Just because the U.S. is more democratic than a lot of countries does not make it a democracy. It simply means that – on a rough scale of 1 to 10, where “1” is not a democracy at all, and “10” is an absolute democracy, the U.S. might score a “2” whereas the other countries might score a “1”. There is a difference between what the country claims to be and what they are. The U.S. claims to be a democracy, and feeds us all types of fancy propaganda for this fantasy, but it is totalitarian in action. Democracy is the dream of America, but totalitarianism is the nightmare of real life. We must judge a nation based on what it does, not what it has the potential to do, and not what it claims to be doing. We can judge a system based on its actions in isolation when measured against our standard for democracy (which, to me, means sortition + communist economy) – as opposed to whether it is ‘better’ than another nation.