When considering the end of anything it is helpful to revisit the beginning. The very beginning of this thing we call democracy can be traced back to ancient Greece.
Five hundred years before the time of Christ, an Athenian named Cleisthenes established a new form of government where authority over the state, and by extension the population that made up the state, was exercised in part by each citizen by way of their individual vote. Democracy meant that if ten of the richest or most powerful citizens of a state voted to stop being taxed or start a war, even if they owned almost all the land and held all the wealth, if eleven citizens voted to continue to tax or not start a war, then even though these eleven citizens were far less powerful, a hundred times less wealthy, then their will would be carried out and not the will of the rich and powerful. Democracy arose because in matters of property and warfare, it was inevitable that a small minority would amass all wealth and power and control all others with that wealth. This minority would inevitably seek more wealth by going to war, which would of course be fought by those they controlled. The ultra-violence of the Greek city-states showcases this cycle-of-greed mechanism. Democracy in Athens lasted less than a hundred years before it began to be corrupted by a resurgent aristocracy and oligarchy. This idea and example of Democracy was not lost to history though and eventually…. America became a nation.
Redistribution of wealth and restraining the corrupting effects of power caused by morbid wealth were the key ideas of Democracy. Truth and the rule of law were and are, 25 centuries later, the two prerequisites for a functioning Democracy. As populations increased by orders of magnitude and the complexities of technology created a very different world, the basic essentials of a modern “Representative Democracy” have become clear. Two of these essentials are a media (the fourth estate) trusted to tell the truth and a self-correcting process to maintain a rule of law providing the greatest good for the greatest number. Representative Democracy also requires an Academia that allows the most intelligent, ethical, and morally righteous individuals to be equipped to be elected and represent the citizenry.
It is obvious the greatest good for the greatest number is best expressed by universal healthcare and allowing the most righteous to be elected is best enabled with free public education (the Nordic Model). It should also be obvious why these elements of democracy- redistribution of wealth (progressive taxation), regulation (anti-trust, environmental, and labor laws), health care (universal), and education (free)- are all opposed by oligarchs. The response to the citizenry taking steps to limit the power of oligarchy was the Corporation. This entity, with its appointed board of directors and shareholders is a kind of faux-democratic zombie, that is, not a living being but affecting the world like one, that allows oligarchy to thrive despite any attempted democratic checks and balances on obscene wealth and power.
Oligarchs, to a large extent, now control the fourth estate, and the Truth, that first prerequisite, is now being corroded and warped to the point where trust is being lost. The second prerequisite, “A self-correcting process to maintain a rule of law providing the greatest good for the greatest number” is the second target when destroying a democracy. The rule of law being enforced, and effective laws, are what create all the other necessary elements listed: redistribution of wealth (progressive taxation), regulation (anti-trust, environmental, and labor laws), health care (universal), and education (free). In America we see the supreme court, the highest court, has been corrupted and is now in the process of serving an incipient Oligarchy. “Orwellian”, a term used to describe the warping of human society by requiring individuals to accept opposites of reality such as “hate is love” and “war is peace”, can now be accurately applied to much of the activities of vested interests manipulating the public. This profound algorithmic psychological manipulation in the service of greed is a threat not just to democracy. Billions of human lives are at risk from a climate catastrophe that goes largely unaddressed due to these cyber-agents of human greed.
If the cause is to be named, then Neoliberalism is the most accurate identifier. This ideology has made money the demon-god of Earth and is the common feature of civilization in this early 21st century of human history. It is the device by which almost all influence is wielded, and all evil manifests. By applying Darwinism to Economics, the unholy cancer of Neoliberalism is slowly killing any chance of a better world for our children and children’s children. When profit replaces human life, which it surely has, then we are an endangered species. By making the meanings of the words “Freedom” and “Greed” interchangeable, by making redistribution of wealth synonymous with theft, society is degrading and devolving, and we all can see it, though many refuse to understand what is happening and prefer an alternate reality. Democracy is being changed into the strong eating the weak and this is truly Orwellian in that this cannibalization by zombies is what it was created, long ago, to end.