"Do you want to live in a democratic society or do you want to live in the society we have? Which, remember, is not a democratic society and is not intended to be. ... The United States is not a democracy. It is what's called on the technical literature a polyarchy. A polyarchy is a system in which power resides in the hands of those who James Madison Called the wealthy of the nation, the responsible class of men, and the rest of the population is fragmented, distracted, allowed to participate ... but have little choice among the responsible men, the wealthy of the nation. ... The primary goal of the government is to protect the minority of the opulent against the majority. So the constitution was designed to sort of ensure that..."see here(youtube)
Carlin basically thinks like Chomsky. In his view the country is controlled by a few big capitalists (the “owners of the country”). Citizens are allowed to participate in the choice of politicians, but the bulk of the ‘democratic’ process is essentially rigged in favor of the rich.
Both Carlin and Chomsky almost in one voice state that America is not a democracy.
But what they say about America might be applied on large-scale, I believe. In Brazil, where I currently live, we have a very similar situation if not identical.
So it is really about an existing political system imposed, sneaked or tolerated maybe in many more countries throughout the world.
Analyzing the concept of democracy in the context
I don't think that the meaning of the word democracy used by Carlin and Chomsky is the same that their general audience has as default in its mind.
The average man is content in using the word "democracy" just to differentiate the regime from conspicuous dictatorships and also from formal theocracies, besides, of course, to indicate the existence of the right to vote.
If so both Carlin and Chomsky are wrong. America in this sense is a true democracy (and so is Brazil).
Carlin and Chomsky seem not interested in that superficial definition of democracy. They seem to sincerely aspire a true democracy indeed.
Let’s ponder, however, if Brazilians and maybe Americans care much about being a true democracy
So Carlin and Chomsky seem to idealize a kind of democracy that truly represents the will and meets the needs of the majority of people and that prevents an opportunistic minority to unfairly over-profit over the (deliberate) leaks of the system.
But does the majority agree with them?
In Brazil the feeling I personally observe among most people (I am not based on any trustful research, though) is that they do not care much about being democratic in Carlin’s sense as long as they have a chance to become part of the 1% or maybe of the 20% richest.
So truly defending real democratic ideals may mean less than we think it does when a conspicuous dictatorship or a formal theocracy is not an imminent threat. We may not be pleasing the majority when we advocate their rights. Chances are that most individuals among the majority of the population would rather have a small chance to surpass all the others than to really work to build a true nation. I can’t help but to related that behavior to a reminiscence of the Darwinian evolution’s mechanism of natural selection called “the Survival of the fittest". I wonder, however, if this behavior is socially appropriate now that we have a brain. Why cultivate this pointless strive when we could think of better options?
Finally I wonder if democracy in its primary sense is really a good thing
George Carlin himself made clear what he thought about the average man. I in many ways agree with him and I believe there is a great overlap among the democratic ideals, the majority of the population and the average men’s potentials and inclinations.
On the other hand the idea Chomsky presents, polyarchy, is not a seductive one for those who aspire to build a truly fair community because it often surrenders the government to that very group of individuals who made their way - euphemized as meritocracy - through the several and deliberate leaks of the economic and political system..
All these facts and thoughts make me remember the first time I read about Plato’s idea that only philosophers should be permitted to rule. I admit that I felt like laughing at this idea of his. But, after some readings and experiences I had since then, now I think it’s not really that funny. Instead, what exactly Plato means by ‘philosopher’ in that phrase?
And how can the benevolent people prevent that ‘philosopher’ from being a selfish, conspicuous dictator or the one that merely sanctions the will of the polyarchy members and supporters or, not less frightening, the one that thoughtlessly implements the will of the current average men?