While it’s tempting to lapse into big-picture despair and assert, as one commenter does here, that “democracy has been a fleeting derivative of fossil fuel inputs,” it’s also noteworthy that outbreaks of democracy have been documented in pre-fossil-industrialism societies. There were egalitarian/democratic processes in place in some N American First Nations, for example, and among various dissenting religious sects rebelling against the Catholic/feudal order from (scratches head, tries to remember) about 1200 forward, I think. Some very low-tech people are startlingly egalitarian (startling, that is, if you have been raised with the Hobbesian dogma that “uncivilised” life is necessarily nasty, brutish and short).
So I can’t quite dismiss the idea of democracy as merely a byproduct of the oil refinery system, like av gas or propane. I can, however, believe that it is easier to get the wealthy to share when the pie seems to be growing, and harder when the pie is obviously shrinking.
To those who make the claim that “socialism” has destroyed millions around the world: if you glibly equate Bolshevik Communism with socialism, then you can make that case. But then you may also have to equate the Quaker meeting house with the Spanish Inquisition, since both are “Christian institutions.” Failure to make distinctions of this kind is either intellectual laziness, or attempted rhetorical trickery. A very strong case can be made that capitalism has destroyed the lives of millions around the world… once we accept that ends justify means, any ideology become toxic; the means are the ends. It is how we treat each other here and now, in the moment, that the struggle is all about. Pies in skies are useful only to justify bad behaviour in the here and the now.
The challenge for the defender of capitalism today, I should think, is to explain how capitalism will avoid turning into a new feudalism as wealth concentration continues.