Tikkun Magazine

Trickle-Up Democracy

In an age of bank bailouts and corporate-sponsored candidacies, community farming and local politics can offer a reprieve from disillusionment. “I want a state legislator who will help my Community Supported Agriculture group get its land approved for something other than corn,” the author writes. Credit: Creative Commons/F Delventhal.

I know we’re not supposed to say such things, but I have lost faith in national politics. Yes, I’ll vote in the coming elections and do my part to get the less sold-out, less anti-communitarian candidate in office. But I no longer look to the top tier of centralized government to solve our problems or help us grope toward conclusions together.

For me, big government has become as abstract as the corporations that made it possible. The more I study the emergence of corporate capitalism, the more I see central government as the other side of the same coin: a booming peer-to-peer society was intentionally dismantled during the Renaissance in order to reassert the authority of the aristocracy. This was achieved by giving “chartered monopolies” the exclusive authority to do business in their industries (cronyism) and by giving central banks the exclusive authority to issue currency. All work, trade, lending, and borrowing now had to go through the central authorities. This abstracted what we think of as commerce.

We don’t buy from our neighbors anymore. We buy from the firms our neighbors may work for. We don’t create value; we serve as employees. We have no relationships with our producers. We engage instead with the brands concocted to shield us from the labor embedded in what we buy. We live in a society where laborers are disconnected from their competencies; consumers are disconnected from producers; and consumers are alienated from one another.

We are taught to look up, rather than toward one another, for solutions. Our best presidents, true believers in the corporate-government partnership, try to kick-start our economy by giving banks money in the hope that they will lend money to corporations, which will in turn open factories in depressed regions so that people can get jobs. This only creates more dependence on institutions whose true purpose is to extract value.


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Douglas Rushkoff is the author of a dozen books on media and society, including Life Inc., Program or Be Programmed, Nothing Sacred, and Media Virus. He makes documentaries for PBS Frontline, and teaches and lectures around the world.

Source Citation

Rushkoff, Douglas. 2012. Trickle-Up Democracy. Tikkun 27(4): 45.

tags: Economy/Poverty/Wealth, Spirituality, US Politics