討論逐字稿: How Neoliberalism Threatens Democracy

FYI: This transcript has been reconstructed from notes on paper, so it’s more ‘interpretive’ of what was discussed than a direct record. It's from the discussion about How Neoliberalism Threatens Democracy.

Notes on the video:
Should experts run things?
Is democracy how we should run things?
What are we as a people?
How do we govern properly?
Reason and democratic organization?
Invisible hand of the market?
Can markets determine our future well?
Can markets govern us?
—Markets need/create inequality
Markets generate capital accumulation NOT growth
Markets generate stagnant economy/oligarchic class/renters
Law gets organized around oligarchy
—no equality of opportunity
—no social mobility
—can’t develop ourselves to become what we want

Opening statements:
—the world is complicated
—we’re often manipulated into picking a certain leader
—politics have become a marketplace, the money is all spent on marketing the candidates
—I was surprised by that the video said neoliberalism started in the 40s, I thought it started in the 80s
—economic theory that we learned in school: less government control equals more wealth and freedom
—the global crisis of 2008 is the result of neoliberal deregulation, and look where that got us
—the US started to try to control the banks after that, but failed

—Neoliberals think markets/money can control everything
—whose best interests?
—who governs them?
—educated people are in control, the elites are the new aristocracy
—now people don’t believe in the government, because capitalism controls society
—but maybe another group controls society
—capitalism doesn’t work, so neoliberalism is maybe the answer. Democracy is too idealistic. Communism is bad, we’re taught in school, but in democracy candidates are always saying they’ll work hard for everybody, but it’s not real, so I don’t like it.

*quick break for pronunciation and definitions
COM mu ni sm
ne o LIB er al i sm
SO cial i sm
au thor a TAR i an i sm

Communism as practiced in the real world has never been communism, it’s more like State Capitalism. Every citizen of china is part of CHINA CORP., all their industries are just subsidiaries.

The US is actually just as socialist as any European country. What is socialism? It’s welfare for people out of work, it’s national health care, it’s laobao, it’s anything where the government spends money to care for people.

You know what, let’s try to make a list, what is government for?
—national security
—baseline welfare for people
—maintain and enforce the law
—maintain infrastructure, including roads, utilities, communications
—foreign affairs
—taxes, a.k.a. redistributing resources
—creates policy
—what’s ‘policy’, say more
—the direction of how we live
—determining the best way to run things
—policies are like hiring more foreign nurses because Taiwanese people are not willing to do this job. Or deciding what to do about the ‘greying society’
—policies are about how to address crises: environment, population
—we have limited information and resources as individuals
—yeah, we pay the government to take care of that
—pay them! they take the money from us!
—yes, but in effect we’re putting out the money for this stuff to happen

You know, since we’re the ones paying for it, shouldn’t we have control over it?
Yes, let’s talk about that. How much control over the government should an individual have?

0%_____25%_______40%__________________________100%

—on a country level, there’s the legal system, the enforcement system.
—yes, but we’re talking about how much power we as individuals should have over what the government does.
—we should at least be able to propose ideas
—okay, let’s call that a 25% level of control
—we choose the president, we should have veto power over laws
—right! then we don’t have to like get 250,000 people together to stand in the street, if there were some kind of veto system
—so, choose president, veto power, call that 40%?

As far as I know there are three kinds of democracy, Direct Democracy, Representative Democracy, and Social Democracy. But having said that, I don’t really know how to define Social Democracy. i think that Taiwan is more of a direct democracy than the US, because the US has the electoral college.
—A representative democracy, is that the same as a republic?
—a representative democracy means that people don’t have to do all the government themselves, they pick sb to do it for them.

What are the selection mechanisms we have available to us?
—Voting
—Discernment
—what’s discernment?
—it’s more for in a smaller group of people, instead of the candidates putting themselves forward, the group of people decides who among them would be good for the job. So the process is, there’s a discussion of the needs of the group, and then what qualities of person would fulfill their needs. Then everyone submits the name of who they think should do the job, then everyone chooses from among those candidates, and then the person accepts the job or not.

—The problem with democracy is that it changes too easily.
—yeah, like it transforms into neoliberalism
—or dictatorship
—authoritarianism
—yeah, like that happened in Greece all the time, and the thinkers of the time wrote about it. and the ‘founding fathers’ of the US read that stuff and tried to make a better model. But 200 years later, things have changed enough that it may not be working anymore

—if the US isn’t working, what chance does Taiwan have?
—I think it’s a better chance. Look, we all look up to the US, but their mistakes are not our mistakes.

—one strain of thinking is that if too many people have the vote, everything goes downhill. the US founders only let property owners vote, that was like less than ⅓ of the population. Now we have women voting, former slaves voting, everyone votes. And I saw an article arguing recently that that’s the problem, too many ‘unquality’ people allowed to vote
—that’s ridiculous tho, you can’t say some people are not allowed to vote, how else is it an equal society?
—yeah, some cultures just don’t translate to democracy, like tribal cultures in Africa
—or Chinese culture
—so you’re saying that Taiwanese democracy isn’t real? Because Chinese culture doesn’t produce a democracy?
— …

—Well, what kind of conditions do you need to get or maintain a democracy?
—education
—power sharing
—economic success, enough money to take care of people
—freedom from fear

—let’s change tacks just for a second. I don’t know if this is a problem in Taiwan, but in the US people don’t know the difference between democracy and capitalism, can we define that?
CAPITALISM
—market is all
—anything can be valued through competition
—no social responsibility
—(government should let) people should take advantage of resources
—invisible hand of the market
—haha, you know that Adam Smith meant that as a joke, right? Because it’s impossible to describe how markets balance themselves, that’s an incredibly complex transaction, so he was just like, “yeah, it happens, god’s hand just comes down and makes it work”. It was a joke about we don’t know how it works. and people now don’t get the joke and they think that markets have some kind of rational internal mechanism represented by The Hand. When it’s really like saying, yep, ‘god puts a hand in, and that’s how it works’.

DEMOCRACY
—social mobility
—equality of political status, we’re all equal before government and the law, 1 person, 1 vote
—freedom of association
—free circulation of information, transparency
—freedom to live
—freedom to work
—the freedom of opinion
—freedom to participate in government

Okay, we’ve 10 minutes before final statements, let’s fit one more question in: Are experts the best people to run things?
No:
—narrow expertise
—only know own ideas
—maybe don’t care about other people
—need to be able to communicate, probably can’t

Yes:
—average person doesn’t have the knowledge to take something seriously

Leaders should consult experts:
—experts should have the right to propose opinions
—leaders should know how to use experts
—Obama had little experience before he was president, only 1 year as a senator. he learned on the job, knew how to use experts

What makes a good president?
—their intention, really.
—are they invested in power, or making things better?
—they need a vision for where to go

Final Statements:
—So basically, government is the administration of us as a group of people. It’s not about ruling, it’s about making things run well for everybody. Government is service
Someone has to make decisions.
Power has to be shared, because how else are we going to do it? Power has to be shared, or it’s not fair, and then people get angry.
Power has to be balanced among the groups that live together. I’m thinking, maybe democracy has to be updated? Like, when we were talking about the function of democracy, there were some new ideas in there, like, free circulation of information, that’s not in the US constitution as far as I know, or maybe not like that. I’m thinking we need to update how democracy works, to work for modern people. how do we distribute power, how decisions are taken. i like that someone said ‘veto power’. I think citizens need more than power to ask sb to be our representative. I think we need veto power that’s stronger than just, ok your job goes away in 4 years.
But the main thing i learned tonight, is that government is how we guarantee human rights. Because who else is going to do that, multinational corporations? Ha, right? We need government to protect each individual so they can live their best lives. it’s the most important function of government. If human rights are guaranteed, then everything else falls into place, really.

—This is a democratic discussion, actually. We can exchange ideas, and this strengthens democracy, people can grow in it. Democracy isn’t the best government, but of all the other -isms, it’s still the only choice. Don’t want to live in the other ways, communism for example. I agree that government’s biggest function is human rights. At the same time, thoughts about this change as people develop, so the government takes on more responsibilities.

—I used to believe capitalism is everything and so is power. To change the world, you need power. So you need experts. But after this discussion I realise that power sharing is how you get fairness. Education gives us power. So why do people abuse education? Society gives you power, so you have to take care of things, not just reap benefits. You can’t just blame. After this discussion I feel more control over the world.

I’m confused about what system is best for society. Democracy is good because freedom. But in my honest opinion, in 1940 Philippines was a good country, and then they got ruined by the US. 30 years ago Taiwan was doing much better than Korea. In 1999 they had a financial crisis, and we were richer.
We’re both democratic societies, but now they’re doing better. Democracy is a tool, but China’s doing better. What are they doing better? That’s for business
For society, what’s good? Important to name good leaders, that’s the best way.