Illiteracy and Democracy

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James Curran
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Illiteracy and Democracy

Post by James Curran » Mon Oct 02, 2017 1:14 pm

Here's a piece from yesterdays Observer, it's part of a bigger article 'Is Capitalism at the crossroads?' The piece by Professor Ngaire Woods of the University of Oxford looks at the part that literacy plays in a democracy.

“In 2017, the fastest growing economies are for the most part not free-market democracies”
Globally it’s not looking good for free-market capitalism. The rise of China belies the view that a state-led strategy will always fail. The global financial crisis exposed the perils of inadequately regulated markets. In 2017, the fastest growing economies are for the most part not free-market democracies.

But May eloquently set out the case last week: under open free-market policies life expectancy increases, infant mortality falls, absolutely poverty shrinks and disposable income grows, access to education is widened, and rates of illiteracy plummet. Who would not vote for this?

But the facts tell a different story. In the US, the period 1999-2013 saw an unprecedented reversal in life expectancy for white middle-aged men and women. Equally devastating is the rise in maternal mortality: from eight women dying for every 100,000 live births in 1987, to 26.4 in 2015. America’s victory in the cold war is not paying off for everyone.

Literacy is rightly at the heart of May’s list. It is crucial for a society of equal opportunity and enterprise. But alas, in the UK there is little evidence of “plummeting illiteracy”. Some 15% (or 5.1 million adults) in England are said to be “functionally illiterate”. This means they would not pass an English GCSE and have literacy levels at or below those expected of an 11-year-old.

May concluded that a free-market economy, operating under the right rules and regulations, is the greatest agent of collective human progress ever created. Clearly the rules are either not right or not working.
Ngaire Woods
Global economic governance, University of Oxford

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Re: Illiteracy and Democracy

Post by Jimbo » Wed Oct 11, 2017 11:57 pm

“In 2017, the fastest growing economies are for the most part not free-market democracies”

This is true but 'free-market democracy' is a contradiction in terms. Because most people have capitulated to the notion that the pen(the sword/gun) is mightier than the feet.

Free Markets *are* democracies, but the crucial difference between modern Democracy and truly free markets, is the presence/absence of the initiation of force. That is to say free markets, per se, do not, by definition, include the utility of the sword/gun i.e. the use of the State, to enforce quality control.

Free markets, per se, require consumers to bear - and therefore have an incentive to mitigate - risk, by voting with their feet, as opposed to the pen (the sword/gun).

Modern democracy offers the consumer the use of the gun, via the ballot box, to allocate projects(meeting needs and wants) to the most capable in the available pool of workers. And the consumer has capitulated, for the most part. This is what has gotten us into trouble. We've been cajoled into accepting an immoral instrument i.e the State, which is prone to capture, for selecting and rewarding of winners.

So, saying the fastest-growing economies are not free-market is true. But no economies, today, are free-market economies. Free means the consumer is free to bear - and mitigate - risk. This is simply not the case in today's interventionist economies. Today's economies are at best mixed
economies, which are based on Keynesian principles. By his own confession John Maynard Keynes' methods are better suited to Totalitarian systems.

There is a simple test to establish whether a business operates in a free economy.... does it require a government licence to operate?

It is like saying the fastest runners in the 100m final are not leg-ironed runners.... where every runner is leg-ironed, just to differing degrees.

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