The Invisible Hand of Democracy

Free marketeers want us to believe their rationale for halting assault rifle sales and divesting from fossil fuels. We don’t buy it.

Don’t be misled. We, the people, have won two small victories in the struggle for democracy: We forced Colt to stop selling assault rifles to the public. We forced the UC system to divest from fossil fuels. 

Reading statements from Colt and UC financial planners, however, you might think another hand was at play. For them, the invisible hand of the market dictated their decisions. The market compelled them from unprofitable sectors to more viable and equally profitable ones. For them, the choice to halt sales and divest just makes sense, economic sense.

But that’s all nonsense. 

The free marketeers at Colt and UC are misdirecting us from the hand that really compelled them to halt sales and divest: the hand of democracy. 

That hand is composed of real people, invisible to corporations and corporate media, but visible to those at the grassroots. It is made up of ordinary folk who refuse to numb themselves to mass shootings and the pillaging of the earth: Parkland students and parents; sustainability collectives within the UC system who protested or lobbied for fossil fuel divestment; students striking for climate justice; indigenous communities who continued a long tradition of stewardship and resistance by blocking pipelines and bulldozers; queer, feminist, Chicanx and BLM activists who refuse to have their people, communities, and ecosystems marked as disposable.

That hand is composed of real people, but it is propelled forward by the dead, by those who died prematurely from gun violence, environmental catastrophe, warfare, or because the market didn’t see value in giving them the medicine, food, or working conditions needed to live. 

That hand labors for the future, for those who will inherit our earth. It strives to hand them a democracy no longer hijacked by industries of death and destruction. It strives to hand them a living, egalitarian world. 

The free marketeers want us to forget all that. They want us to focus, instead, on the invisible hand of the market. 

Have faith in that hand, they tell us. It will guide us to a promised land where we can have our profits, second amendment rights, and planet too.

But we, at the grassroots, don’t buy it.

Like Dorothy in Oz, we see through the financial wizard’s smoke and mirrors. We see that their God is really a machine built and operated by an elite class of men who is willing to spill blood, drain oil, and burn forests so they can reap a profit. 

Their machine — capitalism — is broken. The physics that drives their machine — endless consumption and endless profitability — can no longer be sustained. 

This becomes more evident each day.

The last trick the neoliberal wizards have up their sleeve is to fool us into thinking that the broken machine is our only option. That we must bow down to it as if it were God. That we must keep faith in its laws. That we must continue to operate by its rules. 

This is precisely what the financial wizards of Colt and the UC are telling us to believe. That’s precisely what Trump and Bolsonaro are telling us to believe. 

But their God is dead.

Or rather, we at the grassroots of democracy, know that their God never existed. We’ve always seen the men behind the machine. We’ve always known it was our hands and labor that restrained their inhumane markets. We’ve always known it was our hands and labor that held back the fascism they turned to when their machine faltered. We’ve always known greater freedoms than the ones they sold us.

No. We won’t be fooled by the free marketeer’s rationale. Their hands were tied. 

The hand of democracy halted Colt’s public sales of assault rifles. The hand of democracy divested the UC from fossil fuels. That hand will continue to break free of obsolescent industries. It will do so, not to maintain profits, but to sustain this priceless and fragile spark of life endowed to each and every one of us.

Niall Twohig teaches systemic analysis at Warren College Writing.

A version of this piece was originally published in the OB Rag https://obrag.org/2019/09/the-invisible-hand-of-democracy-wins-two-small-victories-over-colt-and-the-university-of-california/.

Photo Courtesy of https://web.northeastern.edu/jfox/.

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