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Getting a Grip on Democracy

BURLINGTON Frances Moore Lapp_author of the famed book Diet for a Small Planet, warned of encroaching fascism in the United States, while encouraging the proliferation of living democracy, at the Peace and Justice Centers annual meeting on Friday, Nov. 2, at the Unitarian Universalist Church in Burlington. The liberty of a democracy is not safe if the people tolerate the growth of private power to a point where it becomes stronger than their democratic state itself, she said, quoting President Franklin D. Roosevelt. That, in its essence, is fascismownership of government by an individual, by a group. The oligarchic control of the United States economy, by families such as the Waltons of Wal-Mart who own more wealth than the poorest 40% of Americans put together, combined with a thin democracy in which corporate lobbyists hold far more sway over Congress than the collective American citizenry, produces, in Ms. Lapp_ opinion, a society which fits perfectly into FDRs prophetic definition of fascism. She noted that Lizzie Maggie, a Quaker woman in the early 20th Century, created a board game involving two dice thrown to move pieces around a pretend real estate market to illustrate that an unprotected market economy would seamlessly and inevitably devolve into monopoly control; this game, of course, was picked up by Parker Brothers and made into an international smash hit known as Monopoly, championing the very forces which Ms. Maggie had initially attempted to protest. However, Ms. Lapp_bserves that pro-democracy Liberal ideology is not incompatible with a market-based understanding of human interaction. In fact, she heavily emphasized that a truly free market requires the existence of a vibrant and powerful democratic citizenry to ensure that the economy does not follow Ms. Maggies course toward the concentration of wealth in unregulated corporate monopolies. Government regulation is the best buddy of a free, fair and open market, she stressed. To overcome the feelings of helplessness and powerlessness that corporate control of the government and the economy undeniably leaves people with, Ms. Lapp_nsisted that we must simply restructure the mental map that forces us to believe that a one-rule market economy is the end result of human evolution and understand that the world possesses abundant resources for everyone. We know what it takes to end poverty, she exclaimed. Ending poverty is not costly; maintaining poverty is what is costly. A living democracy in which the individual is empowered through relations in ones community, rather than through the purchase of more things, counters this trend of corporate economic and political domination in the analysis of Ms. Lapp_She noted that 85% of new jobs created in the global south came about within local economies, rather than through the arrival of Nike or other global corporations. She also highlighted the claim that the number of people who lifted themselves out of poverty in Bangladesh through micro-credit and other village-based initiatives outnumbered by three times the number of people who did so through manufacturing jobs. This emphasis on a local and cooperative-based economy will help build democracy, in Ms. Lapp_ opinion, by redistributing economic wealth and giving people the capability and confidence to demand decentralized political power. Democracy is not a process of being, but of becoming, she concluded. Its essence is eternal struggle. Ms. Lapp_ latest book is entitled, Getting a Grip: Clarity, Creativity, and Courage in a World Gone Mad.

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