The Dangers of Equating Capitalism and Democracy

by Ken Dammand

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It may sound like heresy but I’m going to say it anyway.  Capitalism and democracy are a dangerous combination. The movie “Pay to Play” uses the well-known board game Monopoly as a metaphor for capitalism and reveals the consequences for democracy when wealth and political power become one and the same.

That is not to say that it is unworkable, or even unadvisable.  I mean only to point out that the combination of a capitalist economic system and a democratic political system is inherently unstable. This is because inequality in the distribution of wealth is the engine that drives capitalism while equality in the distribution of political power is the defining feature of democracy. Creating a system in which political power is independent of wealth is an as yet unrealized goal.  And the result of failure is dangerous indeed.

“Pay 2 Play” uses the well-known board game Monopoly as a metaphor for capitalism and reveals the consequences for democracy when wealth and political power become one and the same. The board game consists of all of the main features of capitalism:  money, property ownership, rents, taxes, income, strategy and luck.  And Parker Brothers named the game after the single most reliable outcome of unregulated capitalism:  monopoly.  However, in the board game the rules are fixed at the outset.  Imagine if you will, how inevitable monopoly would be if the wealthy players could purchase self-favoring changes in the rules.  “Pay 2 Play” reveals that this is the case in the American political/economic system.

While the monopoly game is cute and entertaining, it is at the end of the game that the analogy with real life breaks down.  When the board game ends the pieces and play money are gathered and boxed and life goes merrily on.  But in the real life economy, when all of the money and property are owned by an economic elite the result is the breakdown of both the economy and democracy.  Oligarchy, chaos and/or tyranny are likely outcomes. Lives and dreams are destroyed.  It is democracy’s job to keep this from happening.  It is our job to make democracy work. “Pay 2 Play” includes some specific suggestions for us and Democracy Spring and Democracy Awakening takes the suggestions further. More information at http://www.pay2play.tv/.