Democracy's Death Spiral is a positive feedback loop between ever-greater
concentrations of wealth and the ever-higher costs of retaining political power.
Positive feedback loops lead to "death spirals" in which destructive forces
reinforce each other until the dynamic implodes. One example is an "arms race"
in which ever more costly and complex weapons systems must be matched lest one
nation in the race fall behind.
Since the number of weapons and their cost are essentially unlimited, then the race
continues until one contestant is bankrupted.
Though many would claim it is a simplification, this dynamic was at the root of
the Soviet Union's collapse: as the U.S. embarked on a massive expansion of its
military and technological power, the Soviet Union exhausted its much smaller resources
attempting to keep up.
Though statistics from the Soviet era are not entirely reliable, various scholars
have estimated that fully 40% of the Soviet GDP was being expended on its military
and military-industrial complex.
The U.S. was spending between 4% and 6% of its GDP on direct military expenditures,
even during the height of the Reagan buildup. If you include the Security State
(CIA, NSA, et al.), the Veterans Administration and other military-related programs
(DARPA, etc.) then the cost was still far less than 10% of GDP.
The greater freedom to exchange information between government-funded research labs,
private firms and government-funded universities enabled the U.S. to outdistance
the Soviets technologically. Once again a positive feedback loop can be discerned
in the way that increased spending on military-related R&D in the U.S.
led to increasingly networked nodes of technological advancement which led to greater
advances and more spending to develop those technologies.
The U.S. emerged victorious as the sole superpower, but a more closely matched
rivalry might have ended with the collapse of both competitors: a Death Spiral of
the sort Jared Diamond describes on Easter Island in his book
Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed.
In the U.S., the ever-greater concentrations of wealth gathered by an ascendant
Financial Power Elite has entered a positive feedback loop with the costs of
gaining or retaining political power. The costs of winning an election have
skyrocketed to the point that fundraising is the key function of any politico
who is not independently extremely wealthy.
This quantum leap up in the costs of gaining or retaining power has forced politicos
to curry the favors of those few Elite groups which can give them millions
Just as in an arms race, the amounts of money which can be spent on campaigns is
essentially unlimited. The explosion of media now requires multi-million dollar
campaigns on multiple fronts: broadcast TV, cable TV, mailed flyers, radio spots,
promotion campaigns to influence the mainstream media coverage, adverts on
the Web and social media campaigns--the list grows longer every year.
Here is the positive feedback loop. Candidate A gains the backing of a
Power Elite group (a political action committee or other front) and collects
$5 million. As a result of a media blitz, he/she wins.
Between elections, he/she amasses a "war chest" of $5 million from the same donors,
guaranteeing that the final cost of the next election will be $10 million.
Potential rivals understand that victory against this well-funded incumbent, no matter
how incompetent, will require $15 million. The only sources of that amount of cash
are other Financial Power Elites and State-funded fiefdoms like teachers unions,
and so each candidate sells their soul to the few "special interests" with deep
enough pockets to harvest and contribute millions of dollars.
Now repeat that election cycle a few times and see how quickly the cost
rises. The truly pernicious aspect of this positive feedback is this:
if wealth wasn't becoming ever more concentrated in the razor-thin slice
at the top of the U.S. economy, then politicos couldn't gather huge sums of money
from such small groups. They would have to seek a broader base to raise
money, and that would dampen the influence of the top donors.
Instead, the cycle grows stronger with each election cycle: to raise the gargantuan sums
needed to keep political power, politicos become ever more reliant on a tiny
pool of super-wealthy Elites and State-funded fiefdoms.
(In Survival+, I describe the desperate plowing of millions of
dollars by public unions and other State-dependent fiefdoms into election campaigns
as full spectrum defense of the status quo. When two such fiefdoms are
competing for dwindling State resources, I term that Internecine Conflict
Between Protected Fiefdoms.)
In other words, the more elections cost, the greater the dependence of politicos
on a wealthy Elite. And thus the influence of those Elites over the politicos
grows as well. This is how the political machinery of deomocracy gets "captured"
by a tiny Financial Power Elite.
But there is another aspect to this feedback loop: the key way to gather more
of the national income and restrict competitors is to get the Central State
(Federal government) to lower your taxes, raise barriers to competition, award you
sweetheart State contracts, and so on: in other words, partner with the politicos
who now depend on you for their power to expand your cartel's reach, revenues
This is the Death Spiral of Democracy. The way to increase the concentration
of wealth is to partner with the State so the Central State functionaries and
agencies funnel ever-larger shares of the national income to your cartel or
quasi-monopoly while the State suppresses or marginalizes potential competitors.
The more wealth you concentrate, then the more political power
you can purchase. Indeed, the involvement of the super-wealthy causes the costs
of campaigns to rise to levels where politicos have no choice but to become
dependent on Power Elites to fund their campaigns.
You see how the feedback works: greater concentratiions of wealth creates greater
concentrations of political power, and just as importantly, increases the
dependence of the political class on the Financial Power Elites and fiefdoms
for their very survival.
Alienating a Power Elite or State-funded fiefdom/monopoly is a death sentence,
for all those millions will quickly flow to a political rival.
Now that the Supreme Court has ruled that corporations have the same rights as
individual citizens and giving unlimited sums of money to politicos is protected
as "free speech," then the Death Spiral of Democracy has no negative feedbacks
to restrain its dynamic.
This is how a handful of banks and Wall Street firms over-rode the will of
the citizens who expressed their desire to let the banks go bankrupt 600-to-1.
The winner and loser of this Death Spiral are clearly visible: democracy has
imploded and concentrated wealth has won.
Lest you consider the bank bailout a now-stale example, consider these recent headlines:
A Paralyzed Fed Defers Decision On Monetary Policy To Primary
Dealers In An Act That Can Only Be Classified As Treason
Apologists who claim democracy is basically unchanged abound. The entire
goal of a corporate media and State propaganda machine is to obfuscate what is
really going on. Apologists ignore $500 million elections, an army of 40,000 lobbyists,
and all the other evidence that concentrations of wealth are concentrating
political power which they then use to further concentrate and protect their
growing share of the national income.
Triple Down: Fannie, Freddie, and the Triumph of the Corporate State
Want to get away with murder? Become a bank.
SIGTARP Report: Treasury Hid AIG Losses
Treasury Shields Citigroup as Deletions Undercut Disclosure
Top U.S. Incomes Grew Five-Fold in 2009, to a $519 Million Average
A guest on a recent "Charlie Rose" show (I believe it was the October 25th show)
summed up the reality of our "democracy" with an anecdote about President Obama's
visit to Wall Street while the bogus "financial reform" bill was in play.
The President essentially pleaded with the Wall Street Elite to "please stop lobbying us"
about the (already gutted) "reform" bill.
There you have the end-state of Democracy's Death Spiral: "the most powerful
elected official in the world" begging Wall Street to stop lobbying its
Central State lackeys so visibly, lest the public catch on.
Democracy is already dead in America, but the wizened death-mask offers a useful facade for
propaganda purposes. As I noted in
The Stealth Coup D'Etat: U.S.A. 2008-2010 , The Power Elites
are apolitical. They don't care about the color of your uniform; whether
you wear a blue shirt or a red shirt is inconsequential.
So please enjoy the bread and circuses of the election which the Central State
is holding for your entertainment in the Coliseum. No expense has been spared.