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Democracy—an American Delusion
an article by our site
Democracy is defined as "government by the people; especially: rule of the majority" or "a government in which the supreme power is vested in the people and exercised by them directly or indirectly . . . "
In 2015, 81% of Americans say they do NOT trust the government in Washington to do what is right, and three out of four say public officials put their own interests ahead of the nation's. (Source: Pew Research Center)
It's a fact: The American people do NOT trust their government is run either by or for the people, and certainly do NOT feel the "supreme power" is vested in the people and exercised by them directly or indirectly. But since these characteristics DEFINE a democracy, this means most of us realize we are not in a democracy anymore. (Which suggests the question—if we are not in a democracy, what ARE we in?!!!!)
Democracy has four key elements:
- A political system for choosing and replacing the government through free and fair elections
- The active participation of the people, as citizens, in politics and civic life
- Protection of the human rights of all citizens
- A rule of law, in which the laws and procedures apply equally to all citizens
The active participation of the people, as citizens, in politics and civic life: The citizens participate apathetically in politics because they know the game is rigged and their voting is useless and changes nothing. We voted for Gore but we got Dubya the warmonger, and then we voted for Hillary by over a 3,000,000 person majority but electoral college cowards handed the election to Trump, and it would be difficult not to detect the dirty hands of the neocon elites in the Dubya election since they were itching for a war. See Shadow Elite: How the World's New Power Brokers Undermine Democracy, Government, and the Free Market and Unaccountable: How Elite Power Brokers Corrupt our Finances, Freedom, and Security and The Neoconserative Threat to World Order: America's Perilous War for Hegemony.
(The New York Times tells us that "America invaded Iraq because the Bush administration wanted a war." [Source: Errors and Lies])
As for civic life, we learn in Bowling Alone: The Collapse and Revival of American Community by Robert D. Putnam, that community and civic life is collapsing and Americans need to reconnect with one another before civic life vanishes. The “American dream” is being destroyed, he says. So there is no "active participation of the people, as citizens in civic life," so we do not have requirement 2, above.
Neocon nutjobs tell us that dumping our Bill of Rights and our Constitution was a prerequisite for our safety, which no intelligent citizen could possibly buy
Protection of the human rights of all citizens: There is very little "protection of the human rights of all citizens." The NSA, the Patriot Act, the CIA, and the president have colluded to butcher our rights while using a preposterous excuse of trying to nail terrorists, as if dumping our Bill of Rights and our Constitution was a prerequisite for our safety, which no intelligent citizen could possibly buy. See Shadow Government: Surveillance, Secret Wars, and a Global Security State in a Single-Superpower World. Obama has oppressed and bullied every single whistleblower that told the truth to the citizens at the same time he continued to lie to us—The Obama White House has investigated more whistleblower cases than all previous administrations combined. (Source: Obama’s White House Continues to Abuse, Threaten And Bully the Press) So we don't have requirement 3, above.
NSA thug burning the Constitution
If elites break laws, it's okay, but if a poor person does the same, they get a 6 by 8 cell with bars in the front and an amorous 300-pound thug named Bubba for a roomie
A rule of law, in which the laws and procedures apply equally to all citizens: "A rule of law, in which the laws and procedures apply equally to all citizens" looks good and sounds good. But laws apply much less to rich people than poor people. Rich people get slaps on the wrist for the very same infractions that get poor people slapped into the clink. Tax evasion by the rich is their modus operandi, while we'd get clink time or big fines if we did it. So we can forget about requirement 4, above, as well.
Democracy has four key elements and yet the USA has none of these, and the USA doesn't fit the definition of a democracy either, as the majority of the people realize, according to national polls. So—it's official—the USA is NOT a democracy. OUR DEMOCRACY HAS BEEN USURPED BY OLIGARCHS WHO DICTATE USA POLICY—WE NO LONGER HAVE A FUNCTIONING DEMOCRACY—WE HAVE AN OLIGARCHY. (See The US is an oligarchy, study concludes.)
"Former President Jimmy Carter believes that the American democracy has been transformed to an oligarchy. He criticized the Supreme Court’s vote in favor of Citizens United that has allowed unlimited funds to be spent in elections." (Source: The Transformation of American Democracy to Oligarchy)
In Robert Reich: America Is Now a Full-Scale Oligarchy, Reich asks: "How long before we make it work for all of us instead of a handful at the top? . . . America is now a full-scale Oligarchy."
"The United States is an oligarchy, no democratic country, at all. American democracy is a pretense. because the US government does not represent the interests of the majority of the country's citizens, but is instead ruled by those of the rich and powerful. It violates the essence of what made America a great country in its political system." (Source: Paul Chehade - The United States is a democracy or an oligarchy)
"The bottom line: government by the rich often promotes government for the rich. . . . we have government for the privileged in the United States in part because we have government by the privileged. . . . for decades wealthy Americans and business interests have consistently gotten their way in public policy – even when their views conflict with what the vast majority of Americans want." (Source: Of Course The U.S. Is An ‘Oligarchy’ — We Keep Electing The Rich)
In An Oligarchy Has Broken Our Democracy. It Must Be Dislodged, Mike Lofgren says that "I define the American Deep State as a hybrid association of elements of government and top-level finance and industry that is able, through campaign financing of elected officials, influence networks and co-option via the promise of lucrative post-government careers, to govern the United States in spite of elections and without reference to the consent of the governed."
"This country is moving away from democracy to oligarchy . . . . billionaires are the people controlling our political life. That is not what American democracy is supposed to be about— a contest between billionaires," says Bernie Sanders.
We've been researching this issue. Folks, in the USA, the actual truth about power (as most citizens suspect) is that power is held by a small number of individuals, making our government an oligarchy, although—of course—this is not admitted by the oligarchs in power. Democracy is supposed to be the opposite of "rule of an elite," but, unless you've had your head in the sand, you know better. Rule of an elite is just what we have in the USA. Ask Jimmy Carter. As president of the United States, Jimmy Carter was deeply committed to social justice and basic human rights, and later he championed Habitat for Humanity. He now says that the USA is an oligarchy. We respect and trust Jimmy Carter and we advise you to do the same—he's earned it!
Rule by an elite is just what we have in the USA, as all of us who do NOT have our heads in the sand know all too well
Republicans went crazy, Democrats became useless, and the Middle Class got shafted (or is it Trumped?)—this drunken party of greed gone mad is NOT the plan our founders envisioned!
Roberto Savio, in The Sad Decline Of Democracy, said that "In the United States, the number of Americans who approve the idea of 'having the arm rule' [authoritarian rule], has gone from one in 15, in 1995, to one in six. And while, among those born before World War II, a strong 72% assigned living in a democracy the highest value on a scale of one to ten, for those born after 1980, less than 30% did. The proportion of Europeans was scarcely greater at 32%, among those also born after 1980. And it was even smaller in Eastern Europe (24%.). The main concerns were the level of income, a secure job, a possible pension, all of which rated as more important than the type of regime under which to live. To this, there is of course a generational explanation. Democracy was a victory, a treasure on which to build, for those who lived the horrors of the Second World War. Younger generations have only an intellectual idea of what it means to live under a dictatorship, not a living experience."
This means that if some authoritarian started ruling the USA but arranged it so we had an acceptable level of income, a secure job, and a possible pension, 50 million Americans would just look the other way about the type of regime under which to live, enjoying the fact that this leader was delivering the goods, while 250 million Americans would bellyache, bitch, and moan, but the authoritarian wouldn't heed their moans because he was delivering the goods better than the pseudo-democracy had, so he'd feel good about himself and his accomplishments. Eventually no one would care about the regime type since the leader had already demonstrated his benign intentions.
He was also manifesting his awareness that although democracy looks good on paper, in practice it seems to have some fatal flaws. It is too easy to subvert the system and install unelected de facto leaders that follow their own agendas (shadow government) and force elected officials to do the same, while also subverting the media. Unless someone invents a system of democracy where this can be prevented, it's a bad system, being too vulnerable. Which is why the USA is involved in endless wars and will be forever even though the people don't want them, and which is why there is an ISIS due to Obama's mideast bungling—which wouldn't have happened if he'd ended the war like he'd promised, and which is why the USA is 20 trillion dollars in debt even though the people didn't want to spend all that money on unneeded weapons systems and wars and an NSA to spy on Americans, and which is why our rights are vanishing at the same time our president controls a killer drone hit list that sometimes includes Americans who received no trials, and which is why the mainstream media no longer investigates but instead gives us propaganda some of which they admit was written by the CIA or the shadow government editors installed in all major media outlets in the country—since 1915! See Freedom of the Press—an American Delusion.
However, as we all know, the historical record shows clearly that authoritarians do not get into power so they can act like Ghandi, Jesus, or even Fromm. So, good-bye benevolent dictator wet dream, and hello dictatorial oppression that is even worse than the nasty mess the USA is experiencing today in 2016. And since dictators never voluntarily relinquish power, nothing but a violent coup would dislodge this tyrant. Happily, we have no dictators at this time. However, the shadow government we do, in fact, have is certainly the next best thing, since all important policies, and all important propaganda in the mainstream media, are being dictated by them. If you doubt this, read all the reviews in the sections Other Democracy-Is-Dying Perspectives and especially Other Shadow Government Perspectives, below.
How do you take power from a rich, powerful dictator? The same way you take a banana from a 900-pound gorilla—very carefully! (No one gives up power voluntarily.)
World Values Survey about Democracy (so you can see why new democracies are sliding back towards autocracy)
"There is no shortcut for democratic processes. Too much emphasis has been placed on elections and too little on the other essential features of democracy (The Economist, 2014). Robust checks and balances are just as vital to the establishment of a healthy democracy as the right to vote. Indeed, being elected does not give government all the rights. They still have to operate within democratic principles that provide guarantees for individual rights. . . . Democracies usually require a long-term institutional building that does not always match high post-dictatorship expectations and aspirations. It requires constant checks and balances to ensure the protection of individual rights." (Source: The decline of democracy and the implications for development cooperation, on Linkedin and by Jean-Christophe Charlier.) See also The Rise of Global Civil Society: Building Communities and Nations from the Bottom Up, which highlights the case for arguing that "trying to shove democracy down Iraq's throat was naive, disingenuous, and foolish." That is simply not how democracy gets created, as anyone who has studied the matter knows. The horrid results speak (scream) for themselves.
Trying to shove democracy down Iraq's throat was naive, disingenuous, and foolish—the results speak for themselves
The USA used to have robust checks and balances, but these are rapidly deteriorating. The USA used to operate within democratic principles that provide guarantees for individual rights, but these are weakening daily, with an imperial president willing to assassinate US citizens with killer drones without trial, with the NSA spying on US citizens without a warrant and Obama lying about it, with our voting actions nullified by the Supreme Court's shockingly ugly decision in the Citizens United case which confirmed US status as a Corporatocracy, etc. And an obsession with the shams called elections has distracted us from careful monitoring of what the shadow government has been doing in our name around the world.
Bush and Obama love playing God, swatting to death anyone they don't like the looks of and making the U.S. look like the Great Satan the Islamics see us as
Democracy is degenerating because there are some greedy jerks who are exploiting it for their own nefarious reasons, and greedy corporatocracy oligarchs erode democracy whenever the opportunity presents itself, because the less democracy interferes, the more their exploiting is empowered. But there is another reason. People have let community deteriorate (unsuccessfully trying to use Facebook and Twitter as substitutes), and yet civic engagement is essential for democracy. See Why Do We Need Communities?. Here is another reason. The type of win-lose character people evolve in the USA is incompatible with both community and democracy. See The Responsive Communitarian Platform.
Corporatocracy prevails, therefore community and democracy take it on the chin
The USA—might makes right or might makes stupid?
Also, the USA has been illustrating that they're a nation dominated by the idea that "might makes right" since 2001. Video games are about killing and military bloodletting, as are an inordinate number of movies and TV shows. Parents groups are mostly complaining about sex or naughty words on TV and in movies, having given up on their campaigns to reduce violence. There's an ugly logic to this, seldom admitted. Since the young will not find jobs waiting for them once they begin their job searches—even with a college degree in hand—there is starting to be a realization among parents that their offspring will either be hanging around their house playing loud music and eating lots of expensive junk food they cannot pay for, or they'll be off to the military. Parents don't want their offspring in danger, but at least they'll learn a "trade" and get some money for college. Typically, service-members who have received an honorable discharge are eligible for up to 36 months of education benefits, or roughly $37,000, or $11,000 for reservists.
Offspring—even with degrees—will either be hanging around the parents' house playing loud music and eating lots of expensive junk food they cannot pay for, or they'll be off to the military
The 20th-century Italian thinkers Vilfredo Pareto and Gaetano Mosca (independently) argued that democracy was illusory, and served only to mask the reality of elite rule. Indeed, they argued that elite oligarchy is the unbendable law of human nature, due largely to the apathy and division of the masses (as opposed to the drive, initiative and unity of the elites), and that democratic institutions would do no more than shift the exercise of power from oppression to manipulation. As Louis Brandeis once professed, "We may have democracy, or we may have wealth concentrated in the hands of a few, but we can't have both." (Source: Democracy)
Machiavelli put forth a cyclical theory of government where monarchies always decay into aristocracies, which then decay into democracies, which subsequently decay into anarchy, then tyranny, then return to monarchy. In our opinion the USA is not in this cycle but instead is slowly heading toward Feudalism, since the shadow government oligarchs have demonstrated they're not shy about taking away our wealth and our rights.
The USA is slowly heading toward Feudalism, since the shadow government oligarchs have demonstrated they're not shy about taking away our wealth and our rights
Walter Lippmann believed that the public is not smart enough to understand complicated political issues. Furthermore, the public was too consumed with their daily lives to care about complex public policy. Therefore, the public needed someone to interpret the decisions or concerns of the elite to make the information plain and simple. John Dewey, on the other hand, believed not only that the public was capable of understanding the issues created or responded to by the elite, but also that it was in the public forum that decisions should be made after discussion and debate. Lippmann's elitism had consequences that he came to deplore.
Americans expect journalists to serve as watchdogs on government and businesses, enabling people to make informed decisions on the issues of the time (and yet mainstream journalists have been bought and paid for by the shadow government so they are NOT watchdogs). (Source: Journalism) See Freedom of the Press—an American Delusion.
Americans expect journalists to serve as watchdogs on government and businesses, enabling people to make informed decisions on the issues of the time (and yet mainstream journalists have been bought and paid for by the shadow government so they are NOT watchdogs)
Mainstream journalists have been bought and paid for by the shadow government so they are NOT watchdogs—they are lapdogs
The implications here are fairly simple: the basic elements of democracy are government by and for and of the people (which has never been true in the USA, although it was a lot truer earlier in our history than it is now), elections and representational government. However an informed public of thinking citizens is not an accurate portrayal of the polity of the USA.
- For one thing, some of the most critical issues involve empire building activities of the shadow government that they keep secret from the public—so the citizens never ever get a chance to hear about said issues, much less weigh in on them.
- For another thing, the mainstream media has been controlled by the shadow government for the last century (since 1915).
- Furthermore, the mainstream media has been highly influenced by propaganda for the past century that originated in the shadow government and was passed on to the media via two main avenues: The entire corporate media is now openly admitting that what they present to us as objective independent news reports are often nothing more than parroting of a list of CIA talking points, some of which are lies and propaganda that add up to fake news. (We can bitch about Russian interference of our elections using fake news, but our CIA has been planting fake news around the world for many decades—Russia is merely following our example.) And the mainstream media has shadow-government-approved editors that act as filters, censors, and rejecters for articles these media propose to publish.
The entire corporate media is now openly admitting that what they present to us as objective independent news reports are often nothing more than parroting of a list of CIA talking points
Given all these facts (see Freedom of the Press—an American Delusion to confirm them), there is zero chance of an informed citizenship making intelligent decisions of important national policy via representational government. And yet this is supposed to be what happens in a democracy. It turns out that what really happens, instead, is that shadow government propaganda pushed into the mainstream media tells people what to think, and why they had better support elite agendas. The people would never have supported said agendas had they known the whole story and had they known the way elite misinformation was brainwashing them to act and think against their own interests. (Example: Iraq invasion "to find WMDs" which was a dirty lie from the first—Bush just wanted a war to make Cheney rich via Halliburton and to control oil, all of which the rest of the world understood, but the U.S. press made sure we did not understand it.)
The people remain ignorant, manipulated, and gullible, never knowing they're constantly drinking the Kool-Aid and being brainwashed into following elite agendas that often go against their own interests
People are treated like dumb sheep and told what to think. The Council on Foreign Relations and the Trilateral Commision as well as the Corporatocracy and the CIA have a collective influence on mainstream media reporting—all overseen by the shadow government. The people "believe" the media (even though—paradoxically—few citizens trust them) and look no further to get news reports (even when the mainstream media news reaches people via Facebook), so the people remain ignorant, manipulated, and gullible, never knowing they're constantly drinking the Kool-Aid and being brainwashed into following elite agendas that often go against their own interests. ("Just 6 percent of people say they have a lot of confidence in the media [i.e., 94% do NOT], putting the news industry about equal to Congress and well below the public's view of other institutions." Readers are looking for balance and transparency but do not trust that that is what they are getting.) (Source: Poll: Getting facts right key to Americans' trust in media)
The Council on Foreign Relations and the Trilateral Commision as well as the Corporatocracy and the CIA have a collective influence on mainstream media reporting—all overseen by the shadow government
This is not the "democracy" the Founders had in mind when they created the USA's government, laws, and Constitution. Of course the Founders would have no way of knowing the future would evolve into a complex world full of instant news, the internet, weapons of mass destruction, computers and high technology, so they created ideas that were perfect for their time, not necessarily for our time (but then that's why the Constitution has a provision for amendments so we can keep it modernized as needed). But the civil ethics and values of our well-thought-out democratic republic of the USA, and the Constitution that undergirds it, have stood the test of time. The basics of this form of political and governmental organization contain eternal truths about human organization and civic responsibility that are not to be distorted, diluted, or deleted by thoughtless modern needs for convenience and efficiency. What has happened to our Freedom of the Press, and our avoidance of unnecessary wars (see below), for instance?
"The Iraq war wasn’t an innocent mistake, a venture undertaken on the basis of intelligence that turned out to be wrong. America invaded Iraq because the Bush administration wanted a war. The public justifications for the invasion were nothing but pretexts, and falsified pretexts at that. We were, in a fundamental sense, lied into war. . . . In fact, the bigger the lie, the clearer it is that major political figures are engaged in outright fraud, the more hesitant the reporting. And it doesn’t get much bigger — indeed, more or less criminal — than lying America into war." (Source: Errors and Lies)
America invaded Iraq because the Bush administration wanted a war because the shadow government thugs get very wealthy in wartime
Medea Benjamin, in a 2015 truth-out.org op-ed, grasped the level of citizen cynicism about our democracy when she observed that "When it comes to war and peace, it might not matter too much if a Republican or Hillary Clinton wins the White House. In either case, the winner will be the military-industrial complex President Dwight D. Eisenhower warned us about." The screaming subtext here is that our country's empire building misadventures are a huge mistake, with both parties admitting the 2003 Iraq invasion was a terrible and costly mistake.
Our country's empire building misadventures are a huge mistake, with both parties admitting the 2003 Iraq invasion was a terrible and costly mistake
Benjamin's article implies several things:
- First, that those who will not learn from the mistakes of the past are doomed to repeat them.
- Second, it is the shadow government behind the scenes that call the shots and when leaders try to countermand their decisions (e.g., JFK and Vietnam) they are fated to pay the price, after which less brave souls (LBJ) carry out the military-industrial complex's orders with a snappy salute.
- Third, our citizens are merely cash cows to finance the murderous wet dreams of a runaway empire building fiasco.
Our citizens are merely cash cows to finance the murderous wet dreams of a runaway empire building fiasco
- Fourth, the situation is hopelessly and deterministically preordained and there is nothing that citizens or even elected leaders can do about it since they're not calling the shots.
- And finally, if neither citizens nor leaders can influence our fate, it means that wealthy, corrupt, greedy shadow government oligarchs determine policy and OUR DEMOCRACY HAS BEEN USURPED BY OLIGARCHS WHO DICTATE USA POLICY—WE NO LONGER HAVE A FUNCTIONING DEMOCRACY—WE HAVE AN OLIGARCHY. (See The US is an oligarchy, study concludes.)
U.S. neocons' imperialism and warmongering is out of control yet the Congress tasked with stopping such abuses is mute—something smells rotten in Washington! The game is rigged. Bailouts? The biggest companies got help while the little guy got the finger. And Congress was supposed to prevent our slide into oligarchy, but it did the opposite, and that stinks!
Letting neocons run the decisions in Washington is like letting a fox guard a henhouse
Various authors see the shadow government from various perspectives—like the blind men and the elephant, but the overall gist is creepily similar
We cannot idly stand by while greedy oligarchs trample aspects of American democracy they find inconvenient. It is up to citizens to be vigilant and let their voices be heard when they detect destructive influences on our democracy. In spite of the "reasons" for why us 21st century citizens have let our precious democracy degenerate into a hollow pretense, they'd be seen as mere excuses by the Founders if they could see us now. Our nation's actions are making the Founders turn over in their graves.
Our nation's actions are making the Founders turn over in their graves
The Revolution Of Hope, by Erich Fromm, advocates social planning at any level to be based on the true knowledge of man, his nature, and the real possibilities of its manifestations. We don’t need Freudian or Marxist theories; we need scientific facts. We need—and the Tofflers would certainly concur—the power of knowledge to be exercised more and the power of wealth and force to be exercised less. He says (it was 1968) that we need less bureaucracy and more humanism, but, more importantly, we need to rely less on government programs and social engineering and political leaders, and rely instead on the power of movements (e.g., MCs) if we are going to have a real democracy.
We need to rely less on government programs and social engineering superheroes and political leaders, and rely instead on the power of grassroots movements
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