Coinage for new political realities: Autocratopia and Emporiocracy

Giacomo is perhaps the quietest and most judicious member of our chat group. And, because he is a professor of Latin and Greek, we mock him occasionally, calling him “Linguamortini” (dead tongue) and claiming he is the spokesperson for Jerry Garcia’s “deadheads,” his favorite rock group.

About a year ago, as things were heating up in preparation for Iraq ’s invasion, our chat room topic stayed for several weeks short and simple: does a country have the right to impose its will without being judged a rogue nation? Such question brought our group two avenues of discussion, one dealing with the right of preemptive action (WMD-scare) and the other with the right of the US to bring democracy to the Middle East .

By the third session, after being practically silent on the subject, Giacomo finally burst and claimed his say. “You guys are engaged in sophistic mumbo jumbo and are poised to reach wrong conclusions,” he said. Then, he went on to explain that our arguments assumed two premises not likely true: one that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction at his fingertips, ready to go; and the other, that the US could ever export something which it might not possess, democracy.

It was Giacomo’s questioning of democracy’s existence in America that irked a few of us. But this wasn’t talk coming from a card-carrying member of the Communist Party, but from a centrist social democrat. An unasked “please explain” was quickly acknowledged by the dead languages professor who proceeded to give us a well thought out dissertation.

Democracy to Giacomo did exist in America a couple of centuries ago, even if not encompassing the entire population. But little by little, the democracy of the New England town hall meetings became more symbolic than indicative of the political reality that enveloped the country, particularly at major urban centers and the nation’s capital.

It all started, according to Giacomo, at the time of the industrial revolution… and how a sound free economic enterprise evolved little by little into a rapacious, highly corrupt capitalist system which has now reached its zenith.

Big business, as far as the professor is concerned, discriminately regulates the lives of Americans, determining who is to eat from the pie and the size of the rationed share. Although without a ballot, it casts its vote along the narrow American political spectrum. After all, politicians are prone to enact legislation that meets the interests of the lobbies that help elect them.

“As much as Americans claim to live under a democratic form of government, it’s only an illusion,” Giacomo claims. “You live with a high degree of second-tier freedoms (speech, press, religion, assembly…) but you lack the root freedom that nurtures and keeps all other freedom alive: the freedom to effect change in government.” And so do most other industrialized Western nations, he admits, although not as pronouncedly so.

“It is not democracy you live under, but ‘emporiocracy.’ You are indirectly governed by big business (emporium) and not the common people (demos). And your leaders are claiming a new manifest destiny by extending this ‘emporiocracy’ worldwide aided by your military might, creating not an empire but a new world order: ‘autocratopia,’ a government of a select, self-anointed ruling class.”

Giacomo did tell us that neither “emporiocracy” nor “autocratopia” were part of Ancient Greece’s lexicon, but he was quick to point out that neither was predatory capitalism, nor nuclear weapons, nor cruise missiles.

So why not coin the words? If “emporiocracy” is what we really practice, why stick with a make-believe term, such as democracy? And if our miss-elected leaders wish to establish “autocratopia” in the world, who are we to say no?

Americans revere their constitutionally-given, James Madison penned, five-freedoms. Yet, if Giacomo is right, we are possibly remiss in not claiming the mother of all freedoms: the freedom to effect change in government. After all, doesn’t the government belong to the people?