When we need to make political decisions, as when voting or what we choose to read, we are making our choice around some idea of what the balance point is, but is it really balanced?
The political spectrum can be mapped to a pair of axes where the vertical represents the increasing amount of control a government has about its citizens the higher up it is, and the horizontal is favouring money the further right it is. Unfortunately, there has been a tendency to conflate the two axes into a single horizontal spectrum where the right represents more money/freedom while the left is more people/authoritarian, typically understood to be communism at the extreme.
This seems at odds with political and social reality, as most of the institutions making money are reliant upon autocratic management systems and work in practical terms to deprive people of social and economic freedom, while people-centred enterprises and policies tend to give people more opportunities for economic and personal freedom. These would suggest that the axes conflation would be more accurate with a money/authoritarian and people/freedom polarisation.
A true people-centred left does mean that some amount of freedom will be curtailed, but principally for the powerful and wealthy, but only because the vast wealth inequality prevents the great majority from having enough money and societal resources to have enough freedom that they can exercise. The money-freedom conflation is then an attempt to mask this reality. It is only working because too many have been caught up in the false narrative that selfishness is good for freedom.
This conflation has severely biased all subsequent discussions so that money and freedom are perceived as good for society and any effort to look after people as bad and damaging to society.
This is the positioning that neoliberalism relies upon to justify its focus upon giving the wealthy control over societies, feigning egalitarianism while actually exerting increased control over money policies to favour themselves, and preventing favouring the rights of people, citing that it will lead to the strawmen of socialism and communism. The latter is based upon nations that long ago gave up any of the ideals of those doctrines to become autocratic oligarchies, like mega-corporations, centralising all power and wealth within the hands of a few, and controlling everybody else.
What the conflation has enabled is a reduction of freedom to the many, especially those minorities who have been subject to long-term economic discrimination. This betrays the ideal of freedom that money is supposed to bring to the table.
In pre-democratic systems, the political balance point was definitely well into the money/power-is-more-important-than-lives domain. However, even early democratic systems only applied to privileged classes of the population, with indentured servants having no say in their governments. Revolutions have promised more equality, but the process of revolution – being military – is rather autocratic, so the outcomes merely resulted in a change of rulers, rather than any sort of emancipation.
Typically, those in the ruling classes, whether they got there by force or economic manipulation, have shown great difficulty allowing consideration of people before money/power to be the dominant philosophy. Well, it has been, but just for those relatively few. For the most part, people have been collateral damage in their greedy quests.
Libertarianism is the odd one here, because while its logical extension is towards anarchy, particularly for the rich, but instead many of its proponents tend to support those who seek to destroy democracy and supplant it with authoritarianism, rationalising it as a means of controlling those who would seek to limit the freedom – read selfishness – of the wealthy. Libertarianism is just another propaganda ruse to shift peoples' thinking towards acceptance of wealth inequality and the rulership of societies by the privileged and wealthy. Not really about freedom anymore.
This then brings us to the question of whether money or power should be the basis of organising society at all.
Money can enable social mobility but that only works if people have enough freedom to make one of the expanding range of choices that money is supposed to allow. If those with lots of money are manipulating the structures of society and how they are framed in discussions by using the simplified bias map to reduce the ability of people to choose, then money is not serving the needs of people, other than to keep them trapped.
Instead of freedom, money is being used to make people subservient, except for those with so much that they can manipulate society to keep themselves privileged. But is this what people are for? Merely to be used in the grand money-making schemes of the rich? Is that all we have come to after the last few thousands of years of societal evolution?
No! Through the ideal of democracy we have come to see that we can have other choices than what the few decide for us, but we must first free ourselves of the shackles of thought that those few are trying to shepherd us into. Why do we supposedly need to aspire to be rich when the cards are so obviously stacked against us?
Why can't we just choose that we don't need to be furiously busy making enough money to be rampant consumers to keep the economies flourishing for the few? It so obviously does not scale enough for all of us to be so rich, and it is destroying the earth at an ever-faster pace. The mere fact that we have a large part of the political spectrum devoted to placing money – and the rich – above the masses of people indicates that we have a society that is hostile to helping people. This is not a sane way to build a society that is supposedly supporting people to be the best that they can be.
Don't trust anyone who values money more than your life!
Why is there even a discussion over whether society should favour people?
Well, society has always favoured people, but not all. Only those who have managed to gather enough wealth and power around themselves wanted to be favoured, and everybody else was either their supporters, or their enemies. The history of democracy is the process of progressive widening of privilege, where each group that realised that it did have the collective power to change their circumstances demanded some say in the running of their societies, and so gained some of spoils, but usually not on behalf of those they considered beneath them or unworthy.
However, those at the top never really bought into the idea of any sort of equality being desirable, as it directly conflicted with their self-perceived status as the rightful rulers of their societies. They have always tried to undermine any collective attempt at usurping their exclusive power, though they have had to tone down the rhetoric while the idea of democracy was taking hold of their societies.
Recent years have shown how their privilege and wealth has damaged democracies, but they have used their resources to deflect any criticism about them towards those that are fighting for equality, hence the use of the conflation of people-focus with restrictions on freedom to try to obscure their nefarious agenda. People-focus doesn't mean reductions in freedom, but focus on money has always done because it relies on selfishness which favours those already with power and weakens those without. Collective action does not mean conformity and suppression, but it does challenge those with power.
If we are to achieve any sort of fairness, equality of opportunity has to be its language. How that actually plays out has been the subject of much political discussion, but those favouring their money as the basis of organising societies have no wish for rational discussion as they know what sort of societies they want, and now they are blatant about democracy not being it, so they are trying to undermine or destroy every democratic institution by weakening them though corruption or breaking peoples' trust in them.
For sensible discussions around which socio-politico-economic system will work best for us as people, we need to recognise the deliberate distortions built into our current political discourse. We have to be clear that non-people-focused policies and thinking are a deliberate ploy to draw focus away from fairness and our wellbeing. We just have to look at how institutions like corporations are inherently not examples of fairness, but autocratic, arbitrary and destructive as they have no obligation to be otherwise.
It is only strong democratic governments that have in any way tamed them to be useful to our societies. Recently, we have seen how any institution can be subverted by those committed to hijacking them for their own purposes. That means we have to be equality committed to an alternative, even if we don't really know what that will be. Here we rely on principles to guide us. We have seen that democratic principles, even though initially favouring the few, have been used by an ever-widening number of groups to enable them to become franchised. Such is the power of focusing upon principles.
Time to call a time-out on buying into the self-destructive selfishness thought pattern and really decide what is best for our well-being.
If enough of us do that, then societal systems will have to bend to support us more. We can then have more sensible discussions about how societies can run that are better for all those living in them, without fights over deliberately constrained money and resources defining the agendas.
Humanity has the ability to perceive a different world for itself, and the capability to create it, but we must resist those who seek to relegate us to acting as if we must be selfish to have a better life. We can have interesting and productive lives for ourselves without severe conflicts, but not if we allow a few to dominate over us.
Today's societies are large, and full of many cultural differences and ways of thinking. We have generally understood that we can have better outcomes if we allow all to have a say in what our governments do and the extent of control they have over us, putting democracy as an important part of facilitating that. However, we must rigorously prevent hijacking of government through corruption or excessive influence of special interest groups with large financial backing by a few.
If we phrase all our conversations in terms of how to help us as people, rather than allowing ourselves to be tokenised by how much we supposedly are of value to a society that is geared to supporting those who want to control us, we will firmly put our humanity as the reference point. We are human beings, and living as such is enough justification for our value. Anything else is devaluing ourselves and allowing others to dominate us.