Evolution or revolution? Is the US ready?
As societies change globally, there is much to be learned from history. Over time, social evolution modifies and adjusts the “rules” of communities to meet changing conditions and demands. When evolution falls behind, or when majority of a society is ruled by a minority, changes tend to take a more abrupt course, taking the society into entirely new directions. Such significant changes were in the past often revolutionary rather than evolutionary – French Revolution, American Revolutionary War, Russian Revolution, Velvet Revolution to name just a few. Revolutions destroy the old before building, at least sometime, a better new.
Let us take French Revolution as an example of causes that typically feed revolt. There were economic factors – rising food prices. Francewas near bankruptcy as a result of the many wars fought by its successive rulers. This was also made worse by France’s participation in the American Revolutionary War, with the national debt amounting to some 2 billion livres.France’s inefficient and antiquated financial system was unable to manage the national debt, not helped by the burden of an inadequate system of taxation. The royal court was seen as being isolated from, and indifferent to the hardships of the lower classes. The demise of regimes such as inFrance or later of theBritish Empire is clearly linked to their own rigidity. Does it sound familiar?
Revolutions have one thing in common – the masses no longer want to be governed by those in power at the time. We have the latest example inEgypt, where changes are in progress for exactly this reason. I wonder whether you see a similarity between the situations that led to the fall of governments in the past, and the situation theUSAfinds itself in 2011. And I wonder whether you have asked yourself a question: “Have citizens of theUSAbeen satisfied with the way the country has been governed by a succession of governments over the last 50 years or so?” And if you have, I suspect that your answer is most likely to be a definite “NO”.
TheU.S.“leadership” claim to theUSbeing the “world’s oldest democracy” is not exactly accurate. The United States is not a democracy; it is a republic, with the claim of democracy being based on a very narrow, and not a fully-clear definition. Let us not forget that theUSAwas born as a result of a revolutionary act. Although traditionally theUSis to be administered by the “… government of the people, by the people, for the people…”, this ideal concept has long turned into a representative form of democracy that has become far too removed from the “people” to be both effective and just.
So what has caused in the years that followed such a wide gap between the intended ideal and the current reality? How is the will of the people determined and implemented? This is done through relatively few individuals that represent ideologies of main political parties. How do we select our representation and hence the Government? The choice is typically made on what prospective candidates say and promise and not on the basis of a well-founded and thought-through ideas and plans. In most cases, the success of “selling” a candidate is directly proportional to the amount of money available for the campaign, and hence can be strongly influenced by wealthy individuals. organizations and interest groups. The current campaign-finance laws allow organizations to spend millions of dollars influencing politicians and theUSpolitics, without having to disclose such donations to the voters. Further, the message is biased towards the policies of the party with which the candidate is associated. This is motivated by the desire of the party to gain or remain in the position of power and hardly at all by what might be the best for the country and its population.
Despite the claims by the representatives of both the major parties – Democratic and Republican – that they want to serve the country, there is a number of major problems with this.
- Each party proclaims ideologies that may or may not be compatible with what the country and its citizens want and need;
- The parties often reverse decisions made by the party previously in power in line with their ideology and not according to what the majority of citizens would want;
- As a result, government manages largely on a short-term basis rather than creating a long-term vision and leadership;
- The primary goal of each party is to defeat the other party; the need to be in the position of power overrides any other considerations. Naturally, failures present and past, are blamed on the opposition;
- Importantly, governments tend to overspend to meet their short-term objections, without having a long-term responsibility for the outcome and its consequences.
It is no surprise then that pre-election promises are hardly ever delivered. Taking as an example the current administration, here are few examples:
- Create 5 million jobs
- Impose windfall profit tax on oil companies
- Cut taxes for 95% of workers and families and (quote:) “no family making less than $250,000 will see their taxes increase.”
- Cut pork-barrel spending
- Make government spending more accountable and efficient
- Health care: Lower health care costs by $2,500 for a typical family
- Make the R&D tax credit permanent
There is no need for me to tell you how these promises have come to pass – you know that already. Similar lists could be generated for other administrations of recent years.
Taking spending as a very important example, regardless of what has been promised by recent governments, the national debt continues to increase at a rate of over a trillion dollars a year. Against the background of this spending-rate increase, claims of spending cuts being made seems to be largely an “optical illusion”. For example, “Republicans lambasted a White House plan to make an extra $6.5 billion in spending cuts to the budget for the fiscal year ending Sept. 30. Democrats in turn slammed the House Republican proposal, which would cut $61 billion from the fiscal 2011 budget.” Billions are only “few drops in the ocean” of trillions that are still being overspent…
As a popular opinion suggests, it is madness to keep repeating doing the same things and expecting a different outcome. It is not a matter of what individuals should be selected as representatives. Instead, the whole way of how theUSgovernment operates, the whole system of government needs fundamentally to change for the power to rest truly with the citizens of this country. Direct democracy is how the USA should and needs to be governed, starting at the local and state levels, and extending it to the federal government! A prevailing argument against such notion made by politicians is that this cannot be done, that this would not work, that the people do not have the time, wisdom or level-headedness to make complex decisions, such as those that are often presented on ballots on election days. Politicians’ contempt for the voters is obvious.
TheUShas enjoyed a period of relative social stability. This has been largely due to the economic prosperity of the country, with generations after generations expecting a steadily improving standard of living. If one can go by the present global development, this “easy-comes” prosperity may not continue much longer for a vast majority of theUScitizens. The US Government should remember that “history repeats itself” and that a combination of underestimated and ignored electorate combined with economic hardship was in the past found to be an explosive combination…
The US Governments have become accustomed to the hard-working masses and business financing their bad decisions and inefficient management. This will not go for ever. Is the society ready to accept steadily but not so slowly rising prices and a gradually declining standard of living? If I were a politician, I would not be too complacent about this. The future is still in the hands of elected governments – will they be able to evolve for the better, or will a revolution be needed again?