In the midst of what was perhaps Donald Trump’s worst week of his presidency emerged a Gallup poll whose findings got lost in all the political intrigue.  To quote the poll directly:

“The major change among Democrats has been a less upbeat attitude toward capitalism, dropping to 47 percent positive this year — lower than in any of the three previous measures.  In contrast, 57 percent of Democrats have a positive view of socialism.”

This is significant when you think about it.  It’s the first time in over a decade that the favourable view of Democrats concerning capitalism has dipped below 50 percent – lower even than the pessimism that followed the aftermath of the 2008 financial crisis and Wall Street bailouts.

To emphasize the point, the trend has prompted the capturing of Democratic nominations in state legislatures and congressional seats across the country this year.  In what has been a development going on around the world, the increasing popularity of more right-wing conservative candidates matches the radical left-wing components of centrist liberal parties.  It doesn’t take much expertise to realize that democracy is growing more polarized than at any other time in recent memory.  The more extreme elements of both persuasions are enjoying their own moment in the sun and no one knows quite how it will all end up.

But the real loser in all this has been capitalism itself.  Western economies have more often than not historically believed that socialism, for all its inclusiveness and benefits, will cost too much.  Growing disenchantment in recent years might now be telling us that it might be capitalism itself than can’t be afforded.  This is heresy, I know, but it goes some way to explaining the collective disruption and growing anger of citizens across the Western world.

While financial leaders are fond of highlighting the economic risks of a socialist swing in politics, millions, especially in the United States, aren’t so sure of that claim anymore.  As author Umair Haque noted this month, American healthcare has risen in cost by 2000 percent in recent decades.  The cost of education has risen slightly over 1000 percent.  Food has climbed 300 percent, rent and house prices 400 percent and childcare 500 percent.

These are staggering numbers, especially when considering that wages have remained stagnant, jobs are disappearing, work benefits are vanishing and pensions are rarely in play when it comes to worker contracts.

We’re not talking about consumer goods here, but the basics of life that average people require to live decent and healthy lives.  All these have skyrocketed over the past few decades and have collectively jarred the nerves of average voters and eroded their trust in economic and political institutions.  And they are growing weary of waiting for governmental intervention to reverse the process.  All this is transpiring while the far-right insurgency within conservative persuasions is calling for increased cutting of governments, social services, public institutions and the lowering to regulations and standards for corporations.  If this continues to play out, economic and class war will result.

It’s right to recognize that America is at the epi-centre of this growing friction, given that the U.S. economy is made of 70 percent consumption – far higher than any other nation.  Yet none of us requires reminding that this scenario is playing out throughout the West.

Including Canada.  Maxime Bernier’s break from the federal Conservative Party to explore options farther to the Right is only one dynamic within the party seeking to cut services for the public and regulations for the corporate class.  In Ontario, the election of Doug Ford is resulting in a war with progressives, the outcome of which no one can predict.

Nevertheless, it all leads to a fundamental question that must be asked: can this variety of capitalism be afforded anymore?  It’s expensive – not only in social costs, but for small and medium-sized businesses, who lack the government incentives and tax loopholes offered to the mega-corporations.  Ultimately, we might discover that Canadians, too, are growing impatient for the fair and just society that were once important parts of our collective DNA.  Regardless of whether citizens vote for governments from either side of the political spectrum, if the results are less work, greater expenses, loss of hope and opportunity, no amount of cheap products will keep citizens around the world from eventually turning on the economic system itself.  Just as politics must become more transparent and accountable, capitalism has to develop better outcomes than is has in recent years before patience with democracy and the benefits it offers capitalism run out altogether.

 

This is from my post is from a National Newswatch column, found here.