Two views on the nature of America’s political problems. Only one leads us to reform.
Summary: What’s wrong with America’s politics? Here we look at two perspectives. First, the consensus view — it explains the facts AND is emotionally satisfying. Second, a view far outside the consensus, disturbing instead of satisfying, but more operationally useful. Which view we adopt might determine our fate.
- What’s wrong with American politics?
- How do the 1% see us?
- Leave a comment!
- For More Information About America’s Citizens
- The Republic lives so long as a fragment survives
(1) What’s wrong with American politics?
This is well-worth reading in full: “Political failure modes and the beige dictatorship“, Charlie Stross (bio here), 8 February 2013. It’s brilliant. I agree fully, but IMO it is wrong with respect to the primary issue. Here’s an excerpt that provides a summary:
For a while I’ve had the unwelcome feeling that we’re living under occupation by Martian invaders. … Something has gone wrong with our political processes, on a global scale. But what?
It’s obviously subtle — we haven’t been on the receiving end of a bunch of jack-booted fascists or their communist equivalents organizing putsches. But we’ve somehow slid into a developed-world global-scale quasi-police state, with drone strikes and extraordinary rendition and unquestioned but insane austerity policies being rammed down our throats, government services being outsourced, peaceful protesters being pepper-sprayed, tased, or even killed, police spying on political dissidents becoming normal, and so on. What’s happening?
Here’s a hypothesis: Representative democracy is what’s happening. Unfortunately, democracy is broken. There’s a hidden failure mode, we’ve landed in it, and we probably won’t be able to vote ourselves out of it.
… What if the channels through which concerned people of goodwill who want to make things better enter the political process and run for election are fundamentally flawed?
… Per Michels, political parties have an unspoken survival drive. And they act as filters on the pool of available candidates. You can’t easily run for election — especially at national level — unless you get a party’s support, with the activists and election agents and assistance and funding that goes with it. (Or you can, but you then have to build your own machinery.) Existing incumbent representatives have an incentive to weed out potential candidates who are loose cannons and might jeopardize their ability to win re-election and maintain a career. Parties therefore tend to be self-stabilizing.
A secondary issue is that professionals will cream amateurs in any competition held on a level playing field. And this is true of politics as much as any other field of human competition.
I fully agree with Stross’ analysis. He shares the mainstream view of our political problems, belief that they result from external causes. Stross sees structural factors. Others point to bad guys, such as the 1% or evil ideologues. Both lead us to a dead end, because both omit the most important factor: us. Both assume that citizens have no agency (the ability to make and execute independent decisions). Assuming we are pawns, with passive assent to our rulers (since we’ve not resisted).
Consider a different perspective, one radically non-consensus — too disturbing for most people even to consider: the system has not changed. We have changed. We are the broken link, the failed component.
Instead how much more comforting to think of our selves as victims, holding the moral high ground (in own mind, at least). This has the wonderful benefit of allowing us to see ourselves as responsible for the Republic. We are consumers, not citizens. We need not take on burdensome, potentially dangerous, tasks — like changing the system through reform. Or revolution, if necessary. Pledging to each other our Lives, our Fortunes, and our sacred Honor.
I’ve written about this quite a bit. It’s not a popular message. When we accept it — and the responsibility for America — then reform might become possible.
(2) How do the 1% see us?
The 1% probably see our situation more clearly than we do, as described in this excerpt from How do our leaders see us? Don the shoes of the 1%. Look down on the 99%. Describe the view. —
Ayn Rand — our contra-Jesus — describes one element driving the 1%. They see themselves as the prime movers of America, and hence the most fit to rule. They are the creators, the makers, the visionaries, the entrepreneurs. They earned their wealth (or inherited from those that did, which is just as good). That’s what Romney told his fellow plutocrats. During the past few years many of his bolder peers have explained these facts to us.
But perhaps there is a second element to the 1%’s actions. Do they believe us able to govern ourselves? Do they rule by fear because they’ve given up on appeals to any higher form of reasoning? After all, we respond so well to fear. Warming will burn the planet, if the jihadists in every town don’t do so first in their quest to install Sharia as the rule of law. But before that hyperinflation or even bankruptcy will destroy America. Of course, diseases might claim millions while we wait for these dooms to arrive (eg, AIDS, cancer).
A people so eager to believe what they’re told — so easily led — are a gift to their leaders. America is well-governed, but not governed in our interest.
(3) Leave a comment
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(4) For More Information about America’s citizens
- A great artist died today. We can gain inspiration from his words., 26 June 2009 — About the Man in the Mirror
- The weak link in America’s political regime, 16 September 2009
- Attention fellow sheep: let’s open our eyes and see the walls of our pen, 16 October 2009
- Is the American Republic dying, as in the last days of the Roman Republic?, 20 July 2010
- Our fears are unwarranted. America is in fact well-governed., 18 August 2011
- Listen to hear the state of America (and its cure) explained in song, 8 February 2013
(5) The Republic lives so long as even a fragment survives
Torn US flag (2010) – From mfk/juxtaposition via Süddeutsche Zeitung: