Back when I was growing up, there was a comforting notion that was sometimes expressed like this: “Capitalism inevitably leads to democracy.” Near as I can remember now, the notion was grounded in at least some history, although I no longer recall precisely how.
At any rate, it was comforting to hear. The world back then seemed locked in a struggle between democracy on the one hand and dictatorship on the other. The notion capitalism was another force for democracy was reassuring.
Then along came some of the East Asian economies — powerhouses of capitalism but with politically repressive governments — and the notion capitalism inevitably leads to democracy wasn’t so reassuring anymore.
Today, the world still in many ways seems to struggle between democracy and dictatorship, although the importance of some of the players and forces have changed. Most notably, capitalism is no longer the white knight of democracy, if it ever was. Instead, it is a mercenary loyal only to its paymasters.
The other day, I read how US corporations were selling surveillance technology to China — perhaps even in violation of American law. It seems the Chinese have got the notion — and they seem on the verge of proving themselves right — that a capitalist economy mixes quite well with a political dictatorship. Especially if you throw in a bit of technology to ensure you nip any dissent in the bud.