You compare those forces, and it looks like, How could this even be a struggle? But that’s the wrong measure. There are people, and they make a difference.
We can go back to my favorite philosopher, David Hume. His Of the First Principles of Government, a political tract in the late 18th century, starts off by saying that we should understand that power is in the hands of the governed. Those who are governed, they’re the ones who have the power. Whatever kind of state it is, militaristic or more democratic, as England was becoming. The masters rule only by consent. And if consent is withdrawn, they lose. Their rule is very fragile.
I should say that today’s masters of the universe, as they modestly call themselves, understand this very well. Every January in Davos, the Switzerland ski resort, the great and powerful gather to go skiing, enjoy themselves, and congratulate each other on how wonderful they are. Top CEOs and media figures and entertainment figures and so on.
But this year was different. The theme was different. The theme was: We’re in trouble. The peasants are coming with their pitchforks. As they would prefer to put it, we’re facing “reputational risks. They’re coming after us. Our control is fragile. We have to provide a different message. So the message at Davos was: Yes, we realize we’ve done wrong things during this whole neoliberal period. You, the general population, have suffered. We understand that. We’re overcoming our mistakes. We’re now going to be committed to you, the stakeholders and working-class communities, we’re really committed to your welfare. We’re becoming deeply humanitarian. We regret our mistakes. You can put your faith in us. We’ll take over and work for your benefit.