The existence of democracy itself is an improbable phenomenon in a heavily populated global civilization. Today a multitude of factions vie for recognition and participation in the global forum. Even the inventors of democracy, the Greeks and later the Romans, did not allow just anyone to cast his vote for or against a law or action of the state. Athens was full of Athenians who voted and a slave class of people who did not. One did not merely move to Athens or any of the other city-states and sign up as a voting citizen.
Then, there was a ruling class of learned and/or powerful people who constituted the intelligentsia who could plan and implement the business of the state. The blacksmith, the stone masons and the shepherds first had no interests of state nor and say in the matters of state. Slaves certainly were not valued as contributors to the running of the state. Today, we hold as self-evident that everyone should have a say in the matters of selecting representatives who will ultimately conduct the state’s business.
The plebiscite is only for the lesser offices not the decision making process that determines when and with whom we go to war, who we obliterate in bombing raids, how we reduce the enemy to a quivering mass of humble flesh. Our learned and powerful representatives meet to make a show of supporting or condemning each and every law, penalty, budget item and regulation.
Men and women stand for election and re-election to be the ones who cast their votes for and against the things that are to be for the good of the people. It is difficult however to determine what is truly good and not good for the people. A tax might allow the community to have a safe bridge to cross into the next county or state, but the very same tax might send marginal family incomes into a fatal downward spiral to insolvency. Reducing tax burdens may allow taxpayers to buy essential goods and services, but the lack of funding of healthcare leads to poorer aggregate health and higher costs later. This fiscal relationship may impact the same individual directly. Lack of spending for public transportation services for people who do not drive causes their friends and families to have to bear the cost of the transportation themselves.
In the 4th to 3rd century BC, there were no multi-national corporations that earned multi-billion dollar profits while neglecting human needs and exploiting cheap labor and the masses’ need for some commodity. Well there was salt; and salt mines; and people who were sent to the salt mines. People needed salt; wanted salt; were sometimes paid in salt. And if there were wildly profitable corporations in ancient Greece, they certainly would have felt justified in paying the campaign expenses of a Senator or Caesar or two.
Democracy has become synonymous with Capitalism in the American sense. Ironically, it has become synonymous with Communism and Marxism in South America. In the USA sense, bringing democracy to the people of a country means deposing a dictator and opening their markets to American investors.
But all of that aside, democracy must spring forth on its own from its intrinsic nature, from the unified will of those people who are the “demo’ of the “cracy”. One cannot force a people to become democratic. When a people finally do decide that a voting system for representatives is what they want, it is a fragile thing indeed. Young democracies typically see a dozen or more parties and affiliations emerge to promote a candidate to tilt at the windmill of the incumbent who probably seized power in a coup and held that power for many years before being pressured to step down or is deposed by CIA backed insurgents.
A few assassinations of prominent candidates or a couple of improvised explosive devices tossed into the polling places can unset any gains toward stabilization of a new government. Everyone has his particular agenda to promote in these latter days of democracy. Just imagine even the 13 states which were the original 13 revolutionary colonies of England trying today to agree on the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, and the whole three branches of checks and balances of the Federal government along with its expanded powers and authorities as acquired since the first continental congress. Britain would have had ample opportunity to sneak back in and re-establish colonial rule while we were bickering over who had the prettiest powdered wig and curls or the flashiest shoe buckles.
We name-call and degrade the personal attributes of they who would otherwise be wise statesmen and women. We mash together a bit of truth with a dash of lie, then fold in a whole lot of opinion then blend it all with innuendo and revisionist history, and half bake it. For all that effort we get a democracy soufflé that is fluffy, puffy and light. If we are not careful a single nudge will make it fall in on itself. We have all been busy erecting the thin scaffold of party politics in a race to get one over on the competition all the while neglecting its long term stability. No body sneeze just now.
The acid rhetoric between candidates of even the same party let alone candidates of opposing parties has eroded the stone foundations of our nation. Senators and Congress-persons cannot debate the merits of any proposed legislation without smearing the reputations of every legislator in opposition. Where is the end of this contention? Will we reach Extinction or a New Equilibrium? While legislators and their backers spit vitriol at each other, the interest on the national debt grows over $39 million.1 And that doesn’t even include the increased spending and the increases of obligation for budget items for which we have a long standing commitment.2
The American Presidents of recent administrations, along with all of their advisers, financial backers and mouthpieces have lead the nation to the precipice and will be only a nudge to send us tumbling into the morass. The Principle of Imminent Collapse postulates that it takes only The Nudge to manifests the imminent collapse. The Soviets discovered the Principle of Imminent Collapse as they kept trying to compete in the Cold War against the much larger and more sophisticated economic machine of the West. They were drawn into intractable military conflict in Afghanistan and bankrupted themselves. The Soviets put themselves in the position of immanency and the West provided the Nudge.
Today the financial sector of Western Capitalism has put itself in that very same position and little groups of dissenters plot as how to create that Nudge. There are so many possible Nudges to use. One or more in combination are so easy to employ when the tower is so flimsy and lousy with rot.
Democracy and the Western financial system are extensively intertwined. The true electorate is the businesses which buy and sell influence to create and maintain a climate which is conducive to the long term survival of enterprise life even as the atmospheric climate becomes hostile to biological life. In the Terminator movie franchise, it is the rise of sentient machines that takes over the world. Orwell wrote of Big Brother who rules the future (now the Past) of 1984. In both worlds we the people failed to heed the prime warning: Make a system as powerful and extensive as you want, but do not let it have control of its own on/off switch.
Switching off the machines and enterprises upon which we have come to depend may be painful but when they run amuck it sometimes becomes necessary. Either way we have to live with the consequences even when the clock of progress is set back too.
One significant flaw inherent in democracy is that the people can vote to do something that is totally wrong and destructive. The people can vote to stop being their “brother’s keeper” and let the less fortunate among us sink. When we allow that to happen, we have already set in motion our own decline.
1 10 mos. Fiscal 2004 Interest / Hour was $39,494,260.00 ($Mil) from http://www.geocities.com/cmcofer/interest.html
2 Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, Military.