"Are We There Yet?"
A Journey towards Economic Democracy
By Charles Pinwill*
Is it We The People who are behind the steering wheel of modern democracy? Many of us have the feeling that we’re still pretty much in the back seat asking “How long now?”
A survey of 1780 revealed that only 3% of the population of England voted, and in 1831 in Scotland only 0.17% voted (4,500 in 2.6 million). Now of course everybody votes, but who is at the steering wheel?
What explains this remarkable rise in the percentage of people with votes in the last 200 years? Care is needed here. The case for “the people demanded it” is not an open and shut one.
Except in a few countries where voting is compulsory, in most countries and in most elections the majority still doesn’t vote. Did a lack of enthusiasm triumph?
Prior to two centuries ago, the aristocracy allied to other propertied classes ruled. Though they thought of themselves as the defenders of all society, this was not an unqualified success, to put it mildly, and was of course always done on terms of their own advantage. Nevertheless - as the defenders of folk traditions and religion, ethical norms and customs, and sometimes of prejudice best neglected - they had measured success. And then an elephant walked into the room.
The aristocracy’s power was a vestige of the feudal age. When production was not mobile on roads and waterways, the local landholder owned the decisive sanction over the livelihoods of all; the goods which sustained us. With the rise of the mercantile system and the predominance of exchange, money ascended into the Kingdom of the Castle. The time for the Aristocracy to play the role of the “dirty rascal” had arrived.