Tuesday, October 15, 2013

American Democracy

The goal of most citizens living in the United States and of our government is to have our country considered a democratic country. Most U.S. citizens would like to see the world governed by democratically elected governments.

What is a democracy? A good definition is: "A system of government by the whole population or all the eligible members of a state, typically through elected representatives." There are a few caveats, if this definition is accepted by those living in the United States.

Does the United States have a true democracy if it accepts less than 100% of the eligible voters voting? In fact, the U.S. usually gets just over half of the eligible voters voting. If the U.S. is a democracy, then those not voting are actually voting negatively. Nonvoting citizens are openly stating that they don't like the choices. Therefore, if the U.S. is to be a true democracy, more choices and probably mandatory voting laws are necessary.

What if an elected person acts illegally or gives false information to the population? Is not that person violating the trust of the people who elected him/her to hold those democratic powers? Democracy has to work on trust, the trust of the people in their representatives. Representatives, who accept money because of their position to make laws, destroy the trust the people need to have for true representatives. Accepting bribes from lobbyists also impairs the work turned out; for the results will naturally be slanted towards the positions of those providing the money.

It must be accepted that, on each level of government, a representative represents a specific group of people. A true representative might also see issues on the basis of the whole democracy (country). Still, representatives are required to represent those who elected them. The United States has representatives, known as senators, who are elected by the whole state. Senators should represent the people of their entire state, but should see beyond the state level to the national level.

This has not been the case. Individuals, such as our president, are elected at large, and should act differently. The president must assume a unique office in relation to other countries of the world. Almost every other country has a sovereign head as well as an executive head. Canada has both a prime minister and a sovereign head appointed by the Queen of England. The president of the U.S. holds both offices. The president needs to be nonpolitical in order to truly be a democratic head of state. Unfortunately, the U.S. presidents have been very political.

In 1924, J. Edgar Hoover became head of the FBI. Under his leadership, which lasted until his death in 1972, the U.S. became sort of a police state. J. Edgar Hoover collected files on Americans from all levels of society. Members of the government were the most important for him. No politician would go against Hoover or the FBI, for he had the goods on most of them. That is why he died in office.

The United States is far from being a true democracy by allowing all these deviations and corruptions to continue. The U.S. has been able to get along over the course of its history. Those times of trouble have been when very political people try to advance their particular political principles upon the country. Usually these political positions have not been for the nations good or accepted by the general population. The United States has first need to champion democracy itself before it could successfully champion democracy to the world. We are currently in such times. "We the people" must work hard to obtain democratic principles if we want a true democracy. If we don't live with democratic principles, we will continue to have all the disgraceful actions of those in power and those who feel above the law. The United States will constantly experience swings in policies if the presidency continues to change parties and thus the policies. By Chester P. Soling

Monday, October 07, 2013

Central Bankers Perform Euthanasia - Capitalism and Democracy R.I.P.

The recent actions of the ECB and the Federal Reserve have driven the final nail in the coffin of Capitalism and Democracy. Both these cornerstones of our civilization have been on life support for years. Central bankers decided last week to 'pull the plug'. Capitalism and Democracy will be replaced with a hybrid economic system combining the attributes of the old Soviet Union's command economy, the Oligarchy's of South America and efficiency and integrity of today's of today's economic system [with a dose of fascism thrown in for good measure].

"Rubbish, you declare", "Poppycock", "More left wing ranting". Fair enough dear reader, at this point in history you are still allowed your own opinion, but before you click away you should consider the following realities.

Capitalism, as defined by Wikipedia is an economic system that is based on private ownership of the means of production and the creation of goods or services for profit. Let us consider the following realities. Only then can we understand how our central bankers performed the 'coup de grace'.

Global spending on Weapons was 1.74 trillion in 2012. For many countries particularly the United States the largest employer in the 'private' industry is the weapons industry. In the United States, if one includes the postal service and the military over 3 million people work for the Federal Government. [Imagine if we included state and local government employees in this number] In every developed country in the world the civil service is by, far the largest employer in the country. The second largest employers are those industries or sectors such as weapons, health care or education that receive their revenue from the government. The developed world is no longer served by government. The developed world is dependent on government spending to maintain, not improve, their current lifestyle. Private ownership of the means of production and the creation of goods or services for profit exists only as curious anachronism in small pockets around the world. One could not possibly argue that worldwide, the automobile, banking, weapons and health care industries exist only at the pleasure of government spending. The survival of these industries is reliant on favorable government support, spending and regulation.

In simple terms most societies in their current form only because our governments borrow money from future generations to keep civil servants employed and captive industries on life support. Competition and survival of the fittest, truisms of capitalism do not exist anymore. The concepts of entrepreneur, merit, hard work, pride, sacrifice, choices, work ethic, patience, effort, pay as you go, integrity, truth, risk reward, moral hazard fairness and equality are, of course, now obsolete. To survive going forward the key will be one's ability to ''get me some of that newly printed money".

Now let us consider democracy. Once again let us use Wikipedia's definition that defines Democracy as 'a form of government in which all eligible citizens have an equal say in the decisions that affect their lives. Democracy allows people to participate equally -- either directly or through elected representative.' Dear reader, surely the death of democracy is not something we need to debate. It is self evident. No, "you still believe in democracy, you still believe that your vote counts". Please consider the following words and phrases carefully. Create an image your mind as to what each word or phrase means the system of government known as democracy: Gerrymandering, Hanging Chad's, QE 1, QE 2, unlimited campaign spending by individuals and corporations, "corporations are people too" Bailout conditions, Operation Twist, QE 3, technocrat government, TARP, Wall Street bailout, lobbying, Greece, Spain Italy, ECB terms and conditions for bond buying campaign. There are more words to help paint this picture but I do not want these disturbing images, that I imagine you created in your mind, to cause you Post Traumatic Stress. These are not words that were spawned in the evolution of democracy. These words evolved as democracy evolved into a more sinister system that left the world with the 'illusion of democracy'.

Let us now connect the dots that connect the death of capitalism and democracy to the recent actions of our central bankers. By announcing in tandem over the last couple of weeks that both federal reserve and the ECB, both led by unelected officials, that they would expand their asset purchasing [ Oh Please can we all just agree to call it money printing]. The central banks have irrevocably committed their respective governments to a course of action that is done without public consent, understanding or referendum. These have enacted fiscal policy disguised as monetary policy that will handcuff the "citizen taxpayer's" ability to manage government finances for, well, forever.

This course of action will cause a misallocation capital of historic proportions. On 'Main Street' the theft [via artificially low interest rates] of retirement income from retirees, who diligently accumulated retirement capital during their working years to provide interest income in their retirement will continue unabated. [In some ways, you have to admire baby boomers for their audacity and hubris to steal from their parents via artificially low rates as well as their children and grandchildren through absurd government borrowing. This is done to maintain the lifestyle boomers have become accustomed to. The boomers are like a Robin Hood from an alternate bizarre dimension. The boomer Robin Hood steals from old and young and keeps the money for himself] 'Moral Hazard' has been removed from decision making process. It has been replaced with a modern version of "I'm all right Jack."

Governments will be able to spend in an unlimited fashion, immorally with no fear of punishment by the bond market vigilantes. Dear reader, 'How could government spending be immoral?' you ask. When our governments spend money we don't have on goods and services we cannot afford or do not need, at prices that are not determined by a free market capitalist system only to leave the 'Butcher's Bill' to our children and grandchildren that is immoral, undemocratic and definitely not how capitalism works.

Wednesday, October 02, 2013

When Is a Democracy Less Than a Democracy?

"It has been said that democracy is the worst form of government except all the others that have been tried", or so said Winston Churchill. But democracy cannot be that bad, can it? To answer let's take a short walk through democracy in America.Who is eligible to vote?

In theory democracy is simple enough. One person, one vote and the majority wins. But politics make democracy hard in practice. Start with the fundamental question - who has the right to vote? Originally that was only adult white males (the Constitution didn't require property ownership). With time ex- slaves (15th amendment, 1870) and then women (19th, 1920) received the franchise. Our current voter profile was finally set when the residents of Washington DC gained Electoral College votes (23rd, 1961) and the franchise was guaranteed to 18 year-olds (26th, 1971).

Actually there is more. Ex-felons' right to vote depends on where they live. If you don't think that matters consider the 2000 Presidential election. It's possible that, if Florida had let ex-felons vote, Gore would have been the President.

If you have the right to vote, does that mean you will be able to?

A putative constitutional right to vote doesn't guarantee your ability to vote; states have and continue to put hurdles on the way to the ballot box. Before the Supreme Court struck them down, literacy tests and poll taxes disqualified the poor and uneducated. (In a cynical exercise, some states 'grandfathered' voters if they or an ancestor was eligible to vote in 1867 - before blacks got the franchise).

People in power will rarely cede any advantage. When one means of suppressing votes is barred another will spring up. In states dominated by one party, the primaries are the election. Some state political parties barred blacks from voting in these primaries arguing that as private entities their primaries weren't subject to federal election law. Today ID requirements and cumbersome registration practices serve to restrict the vote.
Physical impediments can lower turnout. Targeted precincts may have fewer voting machines or longer journeys to a voting site. Voting methods or the ballot itself can confuse the voter. (2000 introduced us to the now infamous 'butterfly ballot' and dangling, swinging and pregnant chads.)

When the fox guards the hen house

Independent management of voting would solve these problems, but voting conditions are controlled by politicians. It is hard to pretend that democracy is legitimate when the 'ins' have significant influence over the process that keeps them 'in'. Florida 2000 is once again an egregious example. Katherine Harris, who as Secretary of State was responsible for elections, called a halt to the recounts with George W. Bush 537 votes ahead. Fair enough. Except that in addition to her state position she was also co-chair of Bush's Florida campaign.

Populations increase and decrease, people move. Every ten years the census counts these changes and congressional seat allocation by state is adjusted. Congressional districts are redrawn to account for the adjustment and the movement of people within the state. Five states have independent or ad-hoc committees to redraw the boundaries; Florida (ironically) has some rules on redistricting. But, as long as the process doesn't impact minority rights, in 44 states the party in power has carte blanche to redraw the districts.

The election map is distorted to lump opposition voters together in a few districts while leaving allies a majority in the bulk of them. This political adventurism is as old as the Republic. Its name, gerrymandering, is a legacy of a Congressional district drawn by Elbridge Gerry's party in 1812 Massachusetts that reminded some of a salamander.

The process and how it renders many voters irrelevant

In the US representation is 'first past the post'. The make-up of Congress is based on a district by district result and not the overall vote. (In 'proportional representation' a party is awarded seats based on its percentage of the popular vote.) Voters who live in 'safe districts' are therefore irrelevant. It doesn't matter if their representative is elected with 62% or 92% of the vote, it still just one seat, with no additional national significance.

Our political system was created to balance the rights of small and large states which leaves voters from small states with a disproportionate amount of influence. 564,000 Wyomingites have the same clout in the Senate as 37 million Californians.

This disparity in influence is compounded in the general election. The President is elected, not directly, but by a vote of the Electoral College. And because each state's electoral votes is equal to its number of Representatives plus two Senators, voters in small states again profit. Each of Vermont's 3 Electoral College votes represents 208,000 Vermonters; each of Texas's 38 votes represents 661,000 Texans.

Adding to this disparity is the custom of giving all of a state's electoral votes to the winner. The citizens of states that consistently vote for the same party have no role in electing the President. Massachusetts last voted Republican in 1984. Kansas last voted Democrat in 1964.

Democracy in America

Democracy in America is compromised by disenfranchisement; it is compromised by political interference; it is compromised by the very design of our government. But the greatest damage to our democracy comes from a self-inflicted wound. Half of us don't vote. And of those that do, many don't pay much attention.
Winston Churchill was scathing: "The best argument against democracy is a five minute conversation with the average voter".

Jefferson however had a solution: "Educate and inform the whole mass of the people... They are the only sure reliance for the preservation of our liberty."Which might explain why many politicians are so strident in discrediting teachers and the media; if you cannot stop people voting then at least keep them uneducated and ill-informed. By Pitt Griffin

Monday, July 22, 2013

True Democracy

True democracy should be about unity at the core, and balance. Democracy is about the people determining what is best for their nation as a whole. The people have the power and they must insure the unity and balance is not taken from them... for this could happen unexpectedly.

Perhaps democracy is only a dream today, or more like an illusion; a ghost of what once was. We believe in democracy, in America, because we want to. In the same manner as a faithful person wants to believe in God. The idea of a loving creator is nice to imagine, just like the idea of a political system uniting humanity and bringing an end to tyranny may also be a pleasant thought. Seeking after philosophical ways of making logical sense in how a loving God governs a world like ours; people can debate for years on such an issue. Neither side can prove though, without a shadow of a doubt that there is, or is not, a loving God. How could people prove democracy is more than a dream today, more than an illusion?

Like America, Rome was a Republic with democratic values. The Roman model of governance inspired many political thinkers, and today's modern democracies imitate the Roman and Greek models. The major difference from the Roman Republic model, (and one of the primary reasons our modern day democracy may be so flawed), is the fact our present political leaders are paid millions of dollars for being in their positions. In ancient Rome the political leaders chose to serve their nation without payment. They earned their money by other means while viewing their job as senators to be an honor, since they were able to serve those less fortunate. In the days of the Republic, before Julius Caesar shook things up, the people knew the senators cared about helping to bring a balance to Rome.

The political, cultural, and economic forces which held the Roman Empire together were removed because of Economic fragmentation, eventually leading to the Dark Ages. Following the economical mistakes made in Rome the empire continued to digress because of the crumbling of political, military, and other social institutions, along with invasions from outside peoples, and usurpers from within the empire. The Roman Empire held onto their particular values in politics for a time, but eventually they allowed outside influences to change these values, and wash away the foundations of the Republic. Rome started to lose their identity as others came in from foreign lands and started to change the Roman individuality. In summary, the economy collapsed, outside influences started to change Rome, and eventually too many wars, attacks, and dependence on the crumbling government brought about the ultimate fall of Rome... The loss of democratic values was subtle at first, and then by the time the people depended unequivocally upon the power of their leader, or government, their leaders had little to offer. The damage from all the mistakes made in Rome drained the economy, and helped make the populace an ignorant people who depended too much on the "elite" for help. Soon the Dark Ages followed after what was left of the empire crumbled...

Today America is the great empire, or as the world believes, the great democratic nation. the march on Wall Street, the fact that more than six in ten Americans oppose the U.S. war in Afghanistan, (according to a new national poll), the protests against government spending, and our government officials being unable to unite so as to solve our present economical woes; these problems should not face a properly ran democracy. If the people want the issue resolved in a Democratic Nation, then the issue should be resolved, or else this is not a system of government based on the principle of majority decision making.

Instead of tyranny and a dictatorship, democracy provides opportunities for the people to control how their nation is ran. The political "leaders" should work for the people, and the people can oust them without need for violence, or any sort of revolution. Why are the people ignored today by their political leaders' in America? If the people declare, "we want to stop fighting. We want the war to end", then the soldiers' should be brought home. Despite the argument on whether something may be a good idea or a bad idea; the people determine what will be done. For better or worse, they should receive what they demand, or else face the truth that they no longer live in a truly democratic nation. If the leaders ignore what the majority want and they decide to do what they feel is best, (despite what the citizens want), then how can such a nation still be defined as democratic?

The idea of democracy and the importance of this political ideal can be summarized in the word "unity". Democracy is supposed to be about something bigger than one's self. Democracy is bigger than ones culture, ones past, one's personal desires. Democracy is supposed to be a balanced system where what is best for humanity as a whole is focused on instead what may be best for an individual or a group of a select privileged few. If our motive is love for something greater than ourselves, no ingratitude will hinder us from serving our fellow man. Democracy should be about love for humanity and equality. There is an idea that one's love for self is most important. Conclusively an individual will end up hurting themselves and those they love if they only depend on their selves. Every individual is flawed and their emotions lead to more trouble. Democracy was meant to unite a nation and preserve freedom and justice for all. It's quite clear in our nation's history that the founding fathers' wanted those in our democracy to believe in something greater than self. Sadly most live for themselves first in our nation today, and unity doesn't last... A house divided will fall.

The people believe in democracy in America, because we want to... Is this a democratic nation or a crumbling empire where the people place their allegiance in the leaders more than in the values their nation was founded upon? We are surely not united and balanced today. The political leaders cannot even unite to fix our economic crises. The people can't seem to unite and succeed in receiving what they ask for. Is democracy an illusion, a ghost of what once was? Ultimately if democracy has failed in our nation, this is because we, the people, have failed our nation.
By L. L Brunk

Thursday, July 04, 2013

Liberal Democracy

Democracy is not just a form of government but also a way of life for a very large section of the world's population. Democracy was developed as a form of government in ancient Greece and was based on a set of values, principles and ideals. Democracy was meant to be an institution for the people's welfare and not for the welfare of the state or those who run the state. These values and ideas have changed over the centuries and what we have today is democracy in its multifaceted forms. Today we have Liberal Democracy, People's Democracy, Basic Democracy, Guided Democracy and also Christian or Islamic Democracy. The term democracy has been changed and perverted beyond recognition. Democracy was meant to be an ideal form of government in which citizens were considered equal and opportunities for growth were not limited for just a chosen few. Democracy functions as a result of public opinion and it is this aspect of public opinion that makes democracy truly liberal.

In a liberal democracy public opinion forms the centre piece for all functions of the federal and state government. The people in a liberal democracy are the true sovereigns. It is the people who determine who forms the government or who becomes the chief executive of a nation state. But in a large population all cannot form the executive and make decisions and hence this responsibility is delegated to elected representatives. In a liberal democracy these elected representatives are truly answerable to the people. It is this sovereignty of the people that makes a liberal democracy unique. When elected representatives begin to misuse the sovereignty of the people for their personal gain then that is no longer a liberal democracy. In a liberal democracy it is the will of the people that determines policy and the legislature legislates according to this will of the populace. If this were not the case then even dictators could cry out loudly that their dictatorship is a legitimate democracy.

In a liberal democracy like the United States, the representatives are responsible for fulfilling the aspirations of the people. It is through periodic elections that they can be held accountable to the electorate. There are checks and balances in a liberal democracy. Through periodic elections, the right to recall a representative and tabling of a no confidence vote, an elected representative is held to account.

Sadly, however these traits are now missing in the modern-day democracy. This is observed even in the United States. This country was founded on the principles of individual liberty and freedom. The founding fathers of America such as Thomas Jefferson and George Washington desired that the federal government should play as small a role as possible and that individual freedom was above and beyond government control. The government was supposed to be small while individual enterprise was allowed to grow and prosper. This was the message that the framers of the constitution gave to the people of America and all those who were to form the government in times to follow. This is liberal democracy as it was meant to be and desired by the founding fathers. The federal government was not to intervene in all social and economic issues.

Today, in the United States, the concepts epitomized by the founding fathers are taking a back seat. The federal government is no longer a passive player in socio-economic affairs of various states and individuals but is beginning to play a greater role in the everyday lives of Americans. Democrats and Republicans are at logger heads over the role the federal government should play in the spheres of banking and finance. The Obama administration wants to play an ever-increasing role in health care and medi-care. Social security and pension funds are beginning to come under government control and the government net is widening every day. This is against the tenets of a liberal democracy.

Republicans are conservatives but they seem to simply oppose the Barack Obama administration for the sake of opposition. They do not seem to have an agenda that would really make the roots of liberal democracy stronger. The idea of the aspiring Republican presidential candidate, Herman Cain, to introduce the new taxation code 9-9-9 is a joke. It is anti liberal and not in keeping with the principles of a liberal democracy. Under this new taxation code many poor and middle class Americans will end up paying more tax than they are doing so now! Is that how a liberal democracy works?

All over America there are signs that this great nation is no longer a fully functioning liberal democracy. Wall Street is far more important to the present set of politicians than "Main Street". Such non-liberal politicians exist on both sides of the aisle. The concepts of liberal democracy are being trampled on everyday and Americans feel helpless. The recent "Occupy Wall Street" demonstrations are a sign that finally Americans are waking up to this bitter fact.

In a liberal democracy private enterprise is given a free hand but not at the cost of a vast majority of citizens. Private enterprise cannot be given a free reign by imposing stricter government regulations. All over the United States there are signs that small private businesses are on the decline. Why is this happening? This is because the government is beginning to control private enterprise by imposing more taxes, penalties and regulations that simply cannot be met. This should not be happening in a liberal democracy. The government must not exercise so much control in a liberal democracy.

On the other hand take a close hard look at how the American Government handles Wall Street and the "Big Banks". Sometimes one wonders whether the American Government is really in control of America's finances. Or is it the Federal Reserve? The government actually allows the Federal Reserve to behave as a completely independent institution without any government oversight. Has there ever been a complete audit of the Federal Reserve? The fact is that no one really knows who controls the Federal Reserve! The chairman of the Federal Reserve, Ben Bernanke, appears to do everything to please the big banks and the fat financiers on Wall Street. He talks of "quantitative easing" and doles out millions of dollars to big banks as bailouts but what about bailing out the common man on the streets of America.

Yes, once in a while he does report to the banking and finance oversight committee but it is merely a sham. It appears as if it is just a put up job! Most Americans do not even know that the Federal Reserve is a private bank and is not the official bank of the American Government. This is incredible! The biggest and most influential bank which carries the name "Federal Reserve" is a private bank! It is merely a tool for some big rich families with hereditary titles to become richer at the cost of the American middle class. This is absurd! Is this the idea of a "Liberal Democracy"? Did the founding fathers have this in mind and was this their idea of a liberal democracy?

For America to become a true liberal democracy, it must go back to the tenets laid down in the "Declaration of Independence". Therein Americans will find how far wrong they have gone. It clearly states that governments are instituted to uphold the inalienable rights of its citizens and that all men are created equal. Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness for all should be the aim of every liberal democracy but the present situation in America is far from this desired goal. For a long while it has appeared that the government has always catered to the needs of the 1% rich Americans while the remaining 99% Americans are left to the mercy of fate. It is time for these remaining 99% to call for change and make sure that a true liberal democracy is established on Capitol Hill.

In about a year, fresh elections will take place and Americans should put aside their differences and ensure that a liberal democracy is put into the white house to ensure the prosperity of all Americans. Irrespective of whether you are a Republican or a Democrat, it is essential that the "Greed of Wall Street" be replaced by the "Need of Main Street". This would be truly representative of a liberal democracy and a new and debt free America. And may God bless America.

By Abhinav GL

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