If you must believe everything you read
Don’t just read what you already believe

Questioning Democracy
in the
Age of Globalization

Eternally vigilant
We question everything
But that which we do not recognize
Is fundamental


Mark Nairn Hume

Copyright © 1995, 1997 Mark Nairn Hume

All Rights Reserved

Permission is granted to copy this work for strictly non-commercial purposes. This work may not be sold in any manner.
Permission is also granted to quote passages of this work when they are embodied in a review.

Please mail me your comments at mark@hume.ca

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Contents i

Preface vii

I Represented Democracy
The Nature of Questioning

The Idea of Questioning 2
What’s to Question? 3
We Can’t Question 3
Questioning Questioners 4
Deterring Questions 6
Definitions Constrain Our Thoughts 7
False Dichotomy 9
The Burden of Proof 10
Specialization of Knowledge 11
Complexity 12
That Is The Question 14
Logic Defines Form 14
Political Points 15
Media Mangling 16
Traps When Questioning 18
Reducing People to Roles 18
Reducing Systems to Models 19
Rosy Assumptions 20
The Positive Imperative 21
Hypothetical Avoidance 22
The See All, Know All Attitude 23
Instant Authority and Never Change Your Mind 23
It Doesn’t Just Happen 24

II Whose Economy is This, Anyway?
Purpose and Structure of the Economy

Economic Bafflegab 28
Does the Economy Operate in a Vacuum? 29
Inflation 30
The Sin 30
Penance 32
Magic Prosperity 33
Abracadabra 33
The Western Advantage 34
Rigged Freedom 35
Efficiency of What? 36
Value is Money 36
Need is a Relative Term 37
Confidence Games 38
Foreign Exchanges 39
Debt Doubt 41
The Not So Invisible Hand 42
Whose Trade is Good Trade? 42
Trade for Our Sake 43
Their Industrial Policy 44
Whose Economy is This? 45
The Elephant and the Mouse 46
Whither the Nation State? 46
It Doesn’t Just Happen 48

III In Capitalist Paradise Everyone Would Starve
Corporate Goals, Restructuring and
The Jobless Recovery

Profit, Profit and Profit 52
Profit Predicts Action 52
Productivity in Practice 53
Restructuring 55
Why Restructure? 55
Restructuring 101 56
Problems Big and Small 58
Recovery of What? 59
The Jobless Recovery 59
Economic Reactivity 60
Social Restructuring 61
For the Sake Of? 62
Government Inc. 63
Education Versus Training 64
Unemployment Assurance 66
Healthy, Economically 66
Targeting Universality 67
It Doesn’t Just Happen 68

IV The Global Village Has Ghettos and Slums
Money Has No Morality in The Global Economy

The Façade of Money 72
A-morality Pay 73
Reconnecting Money to Society 74
The Money is the Message 75
Trading Our Morality 75
The Downward Spiral 77
Biggest is the Only Goal 78
Small Means Business 79
The Loss of Being Large 80
Commodification 81
They’re All The Same 82
People Are the Ultimate Commodity 82
It Doesn’t Just Happen 83

V You Can’t Stop Progress
Progress Begat Globalization

Progress and You 86
Progress as Comforter 87
Progress as a Beacon 88
Brought to You by Progress 89
The Torching of the Past – Progressive Side Effects 89
The Passing of the Torch 91
Globalization Q.E.D. 91
Go Forth and Multiply 92
Standards to Live By 93
Globalization is No Accident 94
The World is Their Oyster 95
Social Consequences 96
Change for Change Sake 97
The Children of Progress 98
Monkey See, Monkey Do 98
Like Parent, Like Child 100
It Doesn’t Just Happen 101

VI The Deification of Science
Science and Technology Aren’t Good

The Promethean Path of Progress 103
Scientific Subterfuge 105
Only Science Explains 105
Science Explains All 108
Medical Technology 109
Playing God 110
There Can Be Too Much Technology 111
Television Trauma 112
Computers Cultivate Complexity 114
Virtual Unreality 117
Genetic Gerrymandering 118
It Doesn’t Just Happen 119

VII Corporate Culture and Sanctioned Art 121

Culture’s Surrender to Commercialism 122
Popularized Culture 122
It’s Not Whether You Win or Loose. It’s How You Make Money 124
We’re All For Sale 125
The Descent of High Culture 126
This is the Public’s Art? 127
Communication Corruption 128
The Television Society 129
The Demise of Writing, The Dawn of Multimedia? 130
Internet To The Rescue? 132
Censorship and You 133
Traditional Censorship 133
The Real Censorship 134
The Cultural Chernobyl 135
That’s Entertainment 136
Culture Is More Than Economics 137
It Doesn’t Just Happen 139

VIII Political Correctness
Questions We Won’t Ask

Political Correctness 142
Correctness is a Moving Target 143
Shades of Right 145
Euphemism Overload 146
Loss of Meaning 146
Language is Not a Substitute for Attitude 147
Questions We Should Ask 148
Silent Partners 149
Why Do We Just Accept Things? 150
Everyday Orthodoxies 151
The System Is For People, Right? 152

Notes 155


What I attempt to do in this commentary is to point out a number of everyday assumptions that have worked their way into contemporary Canadian and other Western societies. These assumptions concern the organization and structure of society, the nature of governing ourselves, and the responsibility of economic and social well-being. These fundamental assumptions are typically not even recognized as such, and these are the ones that have taken on the force of an orthodoxy. Some, like questioning the nature of capitalism in our society, are further relegated to the margins as taboo subjects.

I have concentrated on the organization of society, business, and politics, for these are the topics I have spent the most time observing and thinking about. Much of what I comment on, I used to consider to be either obvious or logically derived from good common sense. Unfortunately, as I have continued my studies of these questions, I have come to conclude that much of what I have to say is not normally considered in policy or political discussions. These questions are either deliberately or unconsciously ignored, mainly I feel, because they tend to undermine an everyday orthodoxy.

I first attempt to understand the nature of questioning important topics regarding societal organization. I focus on why we don’t question as much as we should children should be seen and not heard, including the methods, barriers, forums, and pitfalls when questioning.

I then examine a series of issues starting with a discussion of the economy, which is the basic framework of much of our societal interaction, and thus a leading candidate for questioning. Next I focus on corporate goals and the efforts to restructure corporations which have produced a Jobless Recovery. I explore further the global economy and its relationship to the idea that money has no morality, that human standards have not been built into our economic system.

This leads me to challenge the notion of Progress, a tired and distorted concept which has been used, at least temporarily, to cover up many real problems. I then propose that Progress has been the main tool to justify the implementation of the Global Economy.

Progress is closely allied with our notion that science and technology are inherently good, my next topic. This includes our reluctance to question, which has let science and business have a free hand in defining our society. I then look at the takeover of our societal culture by the goals of corporate organizations, and the ways this ties into our notions of art. Lastly, I examine the latest assault on our ability to question, Political Correctness and its result – questions we just won’t ask.

These topics are, I believe, all tied together by our tendency to examine issues on the surface, ignoring interrelatedness, especially when it crosses traditional knowledge or professional boundaries. Our segregation of issues leads us to unhelpful levels of respect for the specialized authorities. We rarely get at the root of problems because we are so constrained within the boundaries of our compartmentalized complexities.

This book is not primarily about how well or badly our politicians, our economy or our society are doing. It is about the ways we go about judging these things (or rather, not judging them). I have tried to show how deeply ingrained ways of judging the world around us have lead us to accept the status quo, without really understanding what or why that is. It is the fundamental structures of economics, culture, and society that govern the way we do things, and these are the focus of my attention. Throughout I try to give examples that illustrate my points, to show how these fundamental structures govern everyday life.

This is not an academic treatise. As I don’t aim to prove anything here, I have avoided the usual apparatus of scholarly work. If you are hostile to my observations and arguments, an extensive list of references and supporting material is not going to convince you anyway. I have also avoided using statisticslies,
damn lies,
and statistics
, which are often used to cloud debate and more disturbingly to mislead. This leaves me open to the challenge that I’m not an expert, naïve, or worse a crackpot who doesn’t know what he’s talking about. Well, you can be the judge of that. Since my premise is the belief that there are many more people capable of engaging in meaningful exploration of important public issues, I must also believe that these people are able to determine for themselves the merits of my arguments.

I don’t claim to be exhaustive or even thorough. My goal is to prod people into thinking in new perspectives and to consider questioning their basic assumptions.

I can put it no better than Václav Havel:

So anyone who claims that I am a dreamer who expects to transform hell into heaven is wrong. I have few illusions. But I feel a responsibility to work towards the things I consider good and right. 1

1 Václav Havel, Summer Meditations, pg. 17

>> I Represented Democracy
The Nature of Questioning

© 1995, 1997 Mark Nairn Hume