Are You Afraid Enough Yet?

When Democracy Fails, What Comes Next?

Are you afraid enough yet?  I’ve heard several reports on TV, from people who were there when Treasury Secretary Paulson initially outlined the urgency of the situation:  “It was like all of the oxygen was sucked out of the room.  No one spoke for at least 20 seconds.”

You’ve got to wonder what it was Secretary Paulson said, exactly.   It was something like:  “We just got word that a world destroying meteor will strike in 5 days.  I have a daring and very expensive remedy. You must give me wide ranging dictatorial powers to implement this remedy and you must do so immediately.” Substitute the word “depression,” for the word, “meteor,” and this is close to his exact communication. Pretty terrifying. George Bush confirmed and reasserted this attack of terror when he was quoted yesterday as warning, “This sucker could go down.”

We believe scientists can accurately predict the impact of an meteor, but since when do we put unwavering trust in what a Secretary of the Treasury predicts?  Paulson, in this matter, is absolutely convincing and that is what is scary.  His evidence must be very compelling.

Everyone wants to know the cause of our troubles.  There is a lot about the nuts and bolts of our economy, and about the history of market regulations, that needs to be understood.  But, the root cause of our troubles is not found by trying to understand the failure of markets, it is found by trying to understand the failure of our democracy.  Put simply, if our democracy was working as it should, we would never have gotten into this mess.

What do you call a government in which 90% of the members of its House of Representatives are embedded in “safe” seats, who never are questioned by their constituency, who never are required to give an accounting of their activity?  I don’t think you call such a government a democracy, because it is not.

I wrote in, For Our Future’s Sake, We Must Transform Our System of Elitism To a System of Democracy, “If big money and big corporations thought that the vitalization of democracy was in their interest, we can be sure that our democracy would be transformed. Our system of public education advances our system of elitism. Gerrymandering and the influence of big money advance the power of a system of elitism”

I wrote in, As We Accelerate Towards the Cliff: Can’t Help Thinking We Should Be Frightened About Tomorrow, “As it stands now, our democracy is corrupt and weak. We do not have a government that is of the people and we certainly do not have a government that is for the people. Our democracy is not working as it should. Antidemocratic forces are running our government …. The election and administration of George W. Bush is a warning of the even more despicable leadership that will come unless we change the path we are on.”

Ron Paul the other day said that in his judgment, at best, only 15% of Americans really care about the Constitution, about conserving the Bill of Rights, about freedom.  Our democracy is already failing.  If our economy fails, and when we are afraid enough, what comes next?

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6 Responses to Are You Afraid Enough Yet?

  1. nightfly says:

    I’m not sure if it’s appropriate to compare our current economic situation to the rise of Nazism, but maybe it will take such shocking parallels to get people to wake up. Growing up in the late 70’s, a time that it was still fashionable to bash communism, I became acutely aware that our “democracy” and “freedom” were misnomers, more like oxymorons. Our foundations of freedom and a free-market society have been gradually changed into a perverse hybrid of capitalism and totalitarianism.

    And now we are struggling to shore up these weak, corrupted foundations, at any cost. No matter what the outcome of the economic bailout, or even the election, we’ll still be left with a bastardized form of democracy. We have helped many countries establish democracies, stabilize their economies and improve the health & well-being of their citizens. Why can’t we take our own advice? Why can’t we heal our own collective ‘body’?

    Maybe our bravado prevents us from soliciting help from others who have intelligently overcome their social & economic problems. When you claim to be the best in the world, the epitome of freedom, you can’t turn and show that your tail is really between your legs. And you can’t turn if your head is buried in the sand either.

    It’s time for drastic action. While we may not end up with Stalinism or some other form of dictatorship, unless things turn around soon, we are destined to leave a legacy like a present-day Atlantis. Encyclopedia entry from the year 2200: “USA: A mythological utopian democracy where truth, honesty and hard work created a dynamic, balanced society that was emulated throughout the world.”

  2. Stan Hirtle says:

    Democracy is certainly in trouble. Maybe it is a part of bring a debtor nation. The bailout is for the Chinese whose willingness to buy our debt keeps the economy going. What Americans think may not matter although there is quite a bit of anger out there. Democracy is just a word with positive associations unless there is social and personal infrastructure to make it real. With privately financed campaigns we have more money democracy than people democracy, and that has contributed enough to the deregulation that has allowed the smartest guys in the room to reenact the crash of 1929. But part of it is that people lack processing and context. For instance, who can process the meaning of $700 billion dollars, and what taking it out of the economy, or maybe printing it and deflating the currency will mean. In tonights debate McCain put a lot of time, energy and dissapproval into Obama’s $900 million in earmarks, but who can tell the difference between that and the $700 billion for the bailout. If you can see a lot of zeroes you may get a sense, but words don’t relate. The mortgage mess got that way because mortgages were sold with terms people couldn’t process. If your mortgage is going to adjust to be 6% plus the London Interbank Offering Rate, what does that mean to you? People can’t process this stuff. When they can’t then it becomes a question of cues you get from the candidates personality. This was one of Bush’s great strengths, although he couldn’t live up to them. Much of the attraction of Sarah Palin is the family soap opera. No matter how socially or religiously conservative you are, your daughter could fall for an attractive “dude” and make a baby with him, and then what do you do? Everyone can identify with this. No one can identify with how to fix this mortgage crisis. Trusting the experts, which got us into the mess, doesn’t help if the experts disagree. So perhaps you go on ideology, or faith which is similar. Americans do not function at a level that makes democracy work more than as either a check on the worst excesses of criminality or incompetence (how the Republican Congress narrowly lost tis majority in 2006) or as breaking a tie when the people with real power are divided on a course of action (as when Clinton’s tech and world trade emphasis beat out Bush I’s stodgier old economy people). However a full range of options are not on the table. We could not be asked to give $700 billion to everyone and pay off all these bad mortgages, so Wall Street only gets the money indirectly. We have never had a full range of options on health care reform. (We are really not that different than Iran in that regard. There the mullahs not the president is in charge and only certain options can be presented to the voters). Did democracy work in the days of Jeffersonian town meetings? Hard to tell, but those were obsolete by the time the Constitution was adopted. If we wanted to have real democracy it would take an electorate that is educated and encouraged, processes that are deliberate, respectful and unmanipulative and encourage all types of people to participate. You certainly wouldn’t have people tell you that in a weekend you need to vote $700 billion and give a government official unlimited discretion over how to spend it. As with the decision to go to war in Iraq, which few seemed to allude to, we were told it was such an emergency that required an extreme leap of faith. How are people to process such things? What can we relate to other than popular entertainments, where problems that threaten our existence (meteors, mad villains with super weapons) are always resolved by heroic individuals rather than democratic processes?

  3. Brian says:

    Not electing Ron Paul was this country’s biggest mistake.

    More than likely Paulson, the former CEO of Goldman Sachs, is trying to save his (and his buddied’) beloved financial institutions’ asses. Unfortunately, many of us have retirement accounts that will go down the shitter with them. Otherwise, I’d say let them rot.

  4. Rick says:

    Mike, I agree with some of the stuff you say. But the Democrats are deep in this as well. We could argue who is more to blame, but I find that pointless. You talk about our weak democracy. Are you at all worried that the Obama campaign has unleashed Democrat prosecutors and sheriffs in Missouri to try to silence those who put out campaign ads that these Democrats to believe to be untrue?

    But I digress. I am coming to the position that we should do nothing right now. I think they are trying to scare us into acting hastily. Let’s see a few of these investment banks fall. If credits slows down, in the long run that would be a good thing.

  5. Stan Hirtle says:

    The Missouri alleged threats to silence, censor or prosecute opponents of Obama for lies in ads or blogs seem to be another Swift Boat type campaign. While a couple of public officials seem to be prepared to publicly respond to ads, they did not, in evidence provided by the accusing blogs, threaten to prosecute anyone. If they did, they would not succeed as that would clearly be protected speech under the Constitution, where things like criminal libel of public figures face extremely high standards. And of course the Supreme Court where such a case would end up are the ones who broke the tie in the Bush-Gore election, plus two additional Bush appointees, and the federal appellate courts have been filled with conservatives. Missouri’s governor is a conservative as well, and it is doubtful that the public would stand for such an effort. Certinly the ACLU types that conservatives abuse for their tolerance of all kinds of speech will not, and neither will conservatives, or probably anyone else. So prosecutions of Obama bashers are not going to happen. The criminal justice system, for good or ill (I think good), is not going to be the place where the whispering campaigns that the internet encourages will be stopped. It would be nice if people who hope to motivate their side by turning the Obama campaign into the second coming of the Third Reich, would restrain themselves (personal responsibility and all that) just because the “we are good and they are evil” mentality has lead to the ugly broken politics that both candidates say they are going to fix. However elections are about generating mistrust of the opponents and as long as voters respond, this will probably continue.

  6. Rick says:

    Stan, first you call the threats “alleged” when, in fact, they were not only reported on, but a couple of Democrat prosecutors were interviewed and were not hiding their intentions. You are right that such prosecutions are not likely to succeed, but that does not mean they will not occur. Be honest, Stan, this attempt to stifle criticism was reprehensible. Republicans and Democrats both do reprehensible things. But you seem to have difficulty admitting that this blatant attempt at intimidation was bad.

    You state: “It would be nice if people who hope to motivate their side by turning the Obama campaign into the second coming of the Third Reich, would restrain themselves (personal responsibility and all that) just because the “we are good and they are evil” mentality has lead to the ugly broken politics that both candidates say they are going to fix.” Stan, please look to the upper right of this website. Who do you see? Why its Adolph Hitler! Is the article worried about Senator Obama? No! Gosh, I wonder who the author of the article is worried about. It’s not Democrats.

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