Saturday, January 1, 2011

Happy New Year

I'm spending New Years overseas for the first time in my life. It's given me time and perspective to reflect. 

That perspective comes from celebrating in a country that was celebrating its 100th year of democracy. I've had interesting discussions with locals about how they perceive the U.S. as having reached a tipping point - that our democracy has been corrupted from the original intent. I think this is the local's own version of lamenting the corporatization of America - the dominance of the plutocracy. 

The big question I was asked, rhetorically I think, was whether democracy is truly the ideal or if some hybrid will eventually take its place. This is an interesting thought. 

China (not the country I'm visiting) has been experimenting with a combination of central planning from "professional" legislators and an elected body, which recommends laws to the professionals. This is likely the direction Chinese democracy will develop since it doesn't seem that there's much truck in revolution in that country. They're too wealthy at this point to drive toward unrest. A slow evolution toward more citizen involvement in decision-making is likely to take the form of some sort of hybrid. 

I can't help but wonder if a similar system would work better than our current system in the U.S. We saw how much work was accomplished during the recent lame duck sessions - when the politicians legislating were actually legislating rather than making calculated political decisions. If well trained legislators were immune to corporate or political influence they may make better decisions for the people. The trouble, of course, is that it would be difficult to hold them accountable for poor decisions. 

I know it could be seen as heretical to suggest our system is not the best it could be, but let's face it. It's not. Remember, democracy is the worst form of government, except for all the others that have been tried. 

Thomas Jefferson wrote:
I am not an advocate for frequent changes in laws and constitutions. But laws and institutions must go hand in hand with the progress of the human mind. As that becomes more developed, more enlightened, as new discoveries are made, new truths discovered and manners and opinions change, with the change of circumstances, institutions must advance also to keep pace with the times. We might as well require a man to wear still the coat which fitted him when a boy as civilized society to remain ever under the regimen of their barbarous ancestors.
I think this holds as true today as it did when he said it. Our system of government should evolve as society evolves. To think the U.S. Constitution is inviolable is short-sighted at best. What worked in 1787 does not necessarily work today. That's why we have had periodic amendments to our constitution. Unfortunately, we've only had one new amendment since 1971 (40 years ago) and that was to limit Congressional pay raises, which in the grand scheme of thing is pretty trivial. 

The most pressing amendment we should be thinking about is the removal or limitation of corporate personhood. More on that in another post.

In the meantime, please enjoy your New Year's Day. 


1 comment:

  1. Great quote.

    I know you know this, but we're not a pure democracy. We're a representative democracy or a democratic republic. I wonder whether the internet could allow for a direct democracy again. I doubt it, as we're too busy working to make other people money to be concerned with issues of the state.

    I completely agree with your limits on corporate personhood amendment. Here’s a few other amendments I’d like to see:

    1. Campaign Finance Reform. Get the politicians OUT of the deep pockets of self-interested corporations.

    2. Sustainability amendment. There are two types of resources, limited and unlimited resources. This amendment would require all unlimited resources be developed by sustainable practices along every part of the production line. E.g.) cut a tree plant a tree, pump a certain tonnage of CO2 into the atmosphere contribute to ways to remove the equal amount of CO2 from the atmosphere. This act would require producers of limited resources to contribute to R&D into both recycling technologies and replacement resource technologies.

    3. Forced Democracy. Everyone must vote at the threat of paying a fine like a parking ticket. With one amendment would could set record voter turnouts and cut into the national deficit.