Saturday, May 26, 2007

Who's Afraid of Democracy?

From In These Times:
Behavioral economists at UC San Diego recently conducted a study in which tokens were distributed among experimental subjects, with a few getting a concentrated chunk of the wealth and a majority getting little. They offered the “poor” subjects the opportunity to pay a price to take money away from the rich. The catch was that rather than being redistributed, the money would simply disappear. Economic orthodoxy predicts that few would snap at the chance, since they’d be paying for something that would confer no direct benefit. But they did. In spades.

Though only one data point, it suggests that people have a profound sense of economic fairness, that we are all, more or less, intuitive socialists. As far back as Edmund Burke, conservatives have suspected as much and feared democracy for that very reason. Read James Madison in the Federalist Papers and it’s clear that many of the Constitution’s undemocratic elements were designed to prevent the expropriation of wealth from an outnumbered elite.

Full article

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Happy May Day 2007!

Happy May Day 2007 from New York City!

Union Square was the center of a May Day rally in support of immigration rights. The square was packed and filled with workers and activists of all types. A clutch of socialist and anarchist student groups brought up the rear of the over 20,000 marchers. I don't have my transfer cable for my camera but promise to upload pictures later in the week.

In Chicago, 150,000 to 1 million protesters filled the city streets. Mayor Richard Daley gave an address to a section of the protesters in Grant Park.

In Los Angeles, over 500,000 protesters filled the downtown halting traffic for over 16 blocks.

Peaceful rallies and marches were held all over the nation and in all the major cities, primarily by immigration rights groups, institutionalizing the May Day holiday in the United States.

Meanwhile, in Istanbul Turkey, police violently cracked down on leftist activists and militant union members who flooded Taksim Square. Speaking to the press at his union’s headquarters in the afternoon, Confederation of Revolutionary Workers’ Unions (DİSK) President Süleyman Çelebi said his union had realized its purpose in Taksim, asserting his belief that Taksim had now become a “May Day area.” He said DİSK’s primary aim was to commemorate the 36 deaths of the bloody May Day in 1977 in a peaceful demonstration but that the police had prevented it.1

Workers and pro-democracy activists were also roughly handled by the state security services in Nigeria. Dozens of workers, activists and pro-democracy political figures were beaten and arrested. Security forces swarmed public venues across the country to suppress the possibility for rallies.2

In Korea, workers from North and South Korea held the first joint May Day celebration between those two countries since 1950.

Across Europe over one thousand rallies were held, with hundreds of thousands attending in the major cities including London, Paris, Vienna and Berlin. Hundreds of thousands protested across Russia including union workers, activists and Communist Party members. Demonstrators demanded more economic security including better pensions.3

Indian May Day traditions are particularly inspiring. Across the nation, the students of India express gratitude to the community of workers behind the scenes with day long programs involving speeches and gifts to show appreciation for the hard work of those who keep the schools running. Union workers across India held rallies with thousands attending in the major cities.4

China has had a week long May Day celebration since 1999. Millions of workers take the week off going on holiday or attending rallies and celebrations.

Meanwhile, in sunny Cuba, millions celebrated while Fidel Castro enjoyed May Day from home due to health concerns. Thousands of foreign guests joined millions of Cuban workers, students and children at the emblematic Revolution Square, where the main parade took place.5

And in Venezuela, May Day celebrations were punctuated by a 20% rise of the minimum wage and the announcement by Hugo Chavez of deals with major oil companies to nationalize control of the remaining major Venezuelan oil fields.6