Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Democracy is the New Tyranny: The American Myth & Failure in Nepal

tyr·an·ny –noun: A government which practices arbitrary or unrestrained exercise of power; despotic abuse of authority.

I try to steer clear of my home countries politics most of the time, as this isn't a blog about America, and certainly not about its politics. There is also the fact that the partisan divide has become so great in our country that you stand to alienate half your audience by just taking a stand. Even someone as popular and likable as Oprah saw her television show take a popularity dive as soon as she took a political stand. We have becomes so divisive in America that people of opposing opinions can rarely talk to each other without degenerating to name calling, and most people start with fairly negative opinions of anyone that is on "the other team". All of this over usual complete lack of understanding of the philosophical positions of where the other person is coming from, and the belief that people on the other side are trying to "destroy America". 

For all of the bickering between the left and the right, and all of their insistence that their team is different I just don't see it. After all of the rhetoric of any election Washington keeps on at the same pace, doing the same old stuff. Republicans who apparently believe in cutting spending, fiscal responsibility, and smaller government saw some of the largest spending and government expansion projects under the reign of Regan and both Bush's. Democrats who are supposedly socially liberal and have often opposed foreign war were strangely silent during our involvement in Somalia, Kosovo, Indonesia, and the silence to the escalation in Afganistan and Pakistan is deafening. I won't even get into the fact hat Gitmo remains open, the worst parts of the patriot act were renewed under a democratic super majority or that the recent "health care reform" was basically a big gift to insurance providers and completely disregards the freedom of American citizens to choose products for themselves. After all is said and done, regardless of what our public officials say, the machine of the Federal government keeps right on going. 

There are a myriad of reasons for this and anyone who simplifies it and says it's this one thing or that one thing is missing the big picture. I could go on about how the number of representatives in the house was never intended to be capped and how we should have more representatives in that body, or how the states should appoint Senators and not have general elections as it was prior to 100 years ago, or even how the federal courts are not playing their role and how states are too easily bribed with promises of Federal funds. This is a blog post and not a book, so I'll skip to only what is relevant to this post, that a part of it is entrenched interests that never face election call many of the shots and hold plenty of power. This comes in the form of lobbyists from outside the government, industry that is far too cozy with DC and politically connected as well as the massive number of unelected federal employees that staff the alphabet soup of agencies that oversee everything from what food we can eat to regulating which salamanders need to be relocated if you build an energy corridor through a wetland. In the U.S. the banks and the Federal Reserve (a non-Federal entity) write the financial overhaul legislation, insurance companies write our health care reform, increasingly bureaucrats decide the most minute details of businesses, and red tape exists mostly to justify somebodies job while providing next to no benefits or results. Worst of all the American people allow ourselves to be bribed as well, voting for candidates that promise more to whatever group we happen to belong to. Identity politics in a liberal democratic republic is nothing short of repugnant.

That last part of what kind of entity we are is often lost on the American public; we are not a democracy, we are a republic and there is a big difference. Yet whenever we go around the world we always seem to extol how great Democracy is. The democratic process was just one part of the checks and balances that were provided to limit politicians power, but instead it has over time morphed into this absurd idea that because we vote, we are in fact accomplices to the government. The idea is that because you get to vote for a representative that you are a part of the process and whatever decisions government makes, you were a part of it. This delusional thinking is the means by which our government has allowed to pass on it's terrible record to us, its a consequence of shared guilt, shared failure, but also shared victory. It allows us to make the issues extra personnel, it allows us to attach to candidates, feel that we were a part of the process, and when they betray their promises we often cover for them, because we feel that connection, we empathize. We make rationalizations about their actions; it's why Republicans can defend Bush's spending and why Democrats defend Obama's wars. This is the danger of Democracy, it allows good people to justify horrible things. 

Nepal is now a democratic republic, but nothing changes. The ability to vote for Tweedle Dum or Tweedle Dee is not freedom, especially if power is arbitrary once the electorate has decided who gets it. The existence of political parties that are often more concerned with scratching each others backs is not something that serves the population of either country. In both countries I have the feeling that the electoral process mostly decides which people will be open to getting plenty of money for things unrelated to why they were elected. The ability to choose from such a limited pool of candidates that very well may not represent you is not freedom, and their decisions when contrary to the restraints that are supposed to protect citizens from them should not be accepted by the population as is commonly the case. 

Today in America, voters are poised to again toss out the governing party. This is not an endorsement of Republicans but a wish to "vote the bums out". The problem is that it will involve restocking the chambers with more bums. It's not that people want to be governed from the left or the right, they want to be left the hell alone. They want the government to stop picking winners in the economy, they want them to stop taking half their paychecks to fund wars and "services" that they don't believe in, they want to govern themselves. It's not just America either. Nepal wants the same thing too, to get bumbling bureaucrats out of their way so that they can earn a living. As Nepal fails to elect a Prime Minister for the 15th time one is reminded that the corrupt bureaucracy goes on unabated like a mafia that some how seems legitimate because people voted for them...well not them but at least the people that appointed them...maybe.

In both Nepal and America if there were an election tomorrow and one option were to kick out all the current politicians and bureaucrats, that option would win, but that isn't an option and those entrenched the longest and abusing the public the most are rarely ever affected by voting. A strong republic that protects individuals from the abuses of government and restricts its involvement in the affairs of the nation is what the founding fathers handed over to America. Nepal has the opportunity to craft something like that, but my guess is they'll get a tyranny that is "elected" via a democratic vote to legitimize its behavior, just like everyone else. Ben Franklin famously answered to a woman asking what kind of government they had created; "A republic, if you can keep it." Sorry Ben, apparently we're all about democracy these days. 

1 comment:

  1. You're sounding kinda passive there, Brian...


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