Democracy’s Achilles’ Heel

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“Money is the root of all evil.” At least that’s the adage that we often fall for. But, the correct proverb is, “The love of money is the root of all evil.” Not the same thing at all, and, when you think about it, much more sense. After all, money is just a medium of exchange. It has no power of its own and, of itself, is neither good nor evil. Remember, the Romans used salt as a form of currency (hence the expression of “being worth one’s salt”) and you could hardly claim that “Salt is the root of all evil!”

Yet, even the statement that “Love of money is the root of all evil” isn’t totally true either. Oh, it is undoubtedly evil, especially when you recognize that love in this context actually means excessive longing or lust. The lust for money undoubtedly has motivated, and continues to motivate, much that is evil in the world. But is it really the root of all evil?

You would have a strong case for arguing that lust for power is just as strong and has done more harm than lust for wealth. Who knows how many people have died as a result of megalomania. History is full of the deeds of tyrants and the dangers they have posed, and even today you only have to look at the devastation in Syria to see the damage that hanging on grimly to power can wreak.  But it isn’t always so blatant. Or the consequences so obvious.    

The absolutely awful 2016 US presidential election is a good example. Here you have two widely despised people whose determination to win the post of “leader of the most powerful nation on earth” seems to have no limits and, in both cases, appears to be the culmination of many years of abuse of principle and ethics. Paradoxically, their histories mean neither can be a true leader, if you believe a leader is someone who inspires trust; or even if you accept the Webster dictionary definition of the verb “lead” as, “to guide or direct in action, thought or opinion; to draw or direct by influence.”  

The great irony, however, is that whoever wins will discover that they haven’t secured power. All they will have achieved is status, with the illusion of power. This is because the vast sums of money raised to secure election makes them obligated to their donors, and, as a result, bound to carry out their wishes. Thus they can only be executors, with their actions shaped by their donors. Even if Donald Trump’s claim that he is paying for his own campaign is true, he will still find himself in that position, because, ultimately, power resides with the system and the people who control the system.  

The argument about the financing of elections is not new. It has become an increasing concern over the years for all those who value and champion democracy. But the problem runs deeper than that. It is no coincidence that more and more wealth is residing in fewer and fewer hands. The system is designed to facilitate that and ultimately these people hold the real power. And, as long as they control the system, they will be able to ensure that things do not change and, thus, entrench their power even more.

This seems to suggest that love of power and love of money are inextricably linked. Maybe or maybe not. It doesn’t really matter. What matters is that economic wealth ultimately constitutes power, and democracy will always find itself susceptible to manipulation by the people who generate the wealth and control the monetary systems. This is natural, and perhaps even acceptable as long as those people’s actions promote the greater good. However, it remains democracy’s Achilles’ Heel and we have reached a stage where that assumption cannot be taken for granted. Our entire democratic system is in jeopardy. We need to wake up, recognize this and take steps to prevent the possibility of democracy’s total demise, before it is too late.   

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I urge you, please, to get hold of my book, The Democracy Delusion: How to Restore True Democracy and Stop Being Duped, and promote discussion and debate around the solutions it offers so that action is taken to restore democracy and safeguard a better environment for future generations.