David Korten: Capitalism’s Threat to Democracy (video)

What if we had to make a choice between two quintessential American beliefs: Capitalism and Democracy?

As a society, we may well ask ourselves, what is the ultimate purpose of money, if it is not to satisfy human need, and reduce human suffering? Is it possible to make large amounts of money but not create real wealth? What is the difference between our present form of capitalism and a true, self-regulating market economy?

In this frank interview with noted author, and visionary David Korten, he minces no words about the dangers our current capitalist system poses to democracy, and how Wall Street undermines the well-being of society, and threatens civilization itself. The creation of real wealth, Korten argues, by satisfying true human needs, strengthens individuals, promotes the well-being of local communities, and protects the environment, the foundation of all living things.

Korten warns that we are living again in a Plutocracy, where the financial elites of society control the political, social, and economic levers that mainly serve their narrow interests, to the detriment of society.

Although this interview took place in October of 2010, nothing has changed since then (certainly not for the better), and political gridlock in Washington is stronger than ever. National unemployment remains disastrously high, and one in 4 homes (as of November, 2009) are underwater (where borrowers owe more to the banks than their houses are worth), where the rate of homeowners classified as being in serious distress (either in foreclosure, or 90 days past due on their mortgage payments) is hovering around 12% this year (2011).

In the meantime, Wall Street executives continue much as before, despite their 700 million in public bailout support, there is little concomitant political will to fund the creation of jobs for those newly unemployed; to provide real help to homeowners that are in foreclosure; or to seriously investigate those in financial power for possible criminal wrongdoing that resulted in the near collapse of the financial system, and subsequent fallout to mainstreet and the public that has ensued.

If ever there were a call for the winds of change, it’s howling now.


  1. Donata Compa says

    Well, I think you missed the whole point then. He is talking about changing how and what we think of money and the reasons for it-and the reasons for us. It certainly can’t go on in this predatory fashion before we have utter chaos in most places. This isn’t good for anyone.
    The greedy have to be brought to heel-we need a cap, at least, on capitalism! They must give back to the system in ways that benefit the many, because without the people they wouldn’t have what they have in the first place. They have to stop raping our mother-it is sick and it is counterproductive! We don’t need to be concerned that something from beyond will someday destroy us as a species-we are quite capable of doing it to ourselves! We must stop allowing this adoration of mammon. It is destructive-it is the very thing we worry about happening.
    And there ARE ‘concrete options’-just as concrete is made up of many aggregates held together by the compression action upon them of evaporating water-the options are many and need only be held together by our will and dedication to the idea that there is no ONE solution-we must begin the hard work of making all the ‘aggregates’ happen-the end goal being a happy, fed, clothed and comfortable society that takes care of all it’s members!
    Political will is the problem, that, and ignorance. They have everyone believing in scarcity when in fact the problem is lack of cooperation, corruption/speculation, and the lack of good distribution networks. Everyone could have a good and decent life if a few weren’t using their riches to produce nothing but more riches and war. They have everyone believing oil is the best thing to energize us-when in fact it is poison. The best thingS with which to power ourselves is our own sun, water, organic matter-and hemp is the fastest growing, and the wind. A combination of those things would put the many to work-compared to how many are employed by the oil/nuke industry.
    We need a system of sharing and caring-not loop-holes and other such tricks! We need to get the money out of politics-once the bank and corporations started being allowed to bribe our politicians and bend their ears towards their needs vs. the masses, we lost the idea of a free democracy. What we have is, rather, a form of fascism. The masses just don’t know it yet-they still allow this to go on because they think they too can get rich, or at least close, with the system we have. There’s the biggest loophole and only a tiny few slip thru to it and then they must do the dance of trying to keep it from the other wolves or lose it quick. Nasty game-capitalism is, especially with no regulation. Dog eat dog is all it becomes. Great-that’s just what we want in a civilization.

    • fred says

      Thanks for your remarks. I think David Korten raises valid and deeply troubling concerns about how extreme we have become as a nation in terms of the importance of money, and everything that money trumps including the well-being of families, of community, and of the environment.

      I also like the fact that while Korten considers himself to be a conservative, unlike for instance the Tea Party folks, he is concerned about the concentration of power both in government but also in the private sector. Reducing the power of government as some would like to accomplish, will only strengthen the power of corporations.


    • Collin says

      Because it’s the same old story: We’re doing something wrong so let’s overhaul everything. The only thing talk like that does is boost the ego of the author.

      One question the pessimists never answer is where do we go from here? We want to see logical, rational, realistic proposals. We’ll have discussions when there are concrete options to discuss.

    • says

      Hi Chuck:

      Thanks for your comment. I agree the ideas Korten expresses are important, and we would all benefit from more public discussions along these lines.


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