Thursday, February 23, 2012

The US Congress is an Embarrassment to Democracy

In his introduction to the Federal Papers Alex Hamilton made the following statement.

“It has been frequently remarked that it seems to have been reserved to thepeople of this country, by their conduct and example, to decide the importantquestion whether societies of men are really capable or not of establishing good government from reflection and choice, or rather are they forever destined todepend for their political constitutions on accident and force.”
At the time of his statement the success of a democratic government was widely felt to be impractical. There were no democracies. Outside force was required to maintain existing governments. American had a hugh responsibility to prove that people could govern themselves without a king or dictator.

Through the 20th century Americans could proudly proclaim that they were proving their point. Although there were problems their democratic system was effectively governing itself. As we began to absorb the 21st century however the failure of our legislative branch became obvious. It is beholden to moneyed special interests and completely remote from the responsibility of guardian of the public good envisioned by the founders.

Sadly, our system is also is locked into a two party system that greatly restricts the citizens’ ability to replace the offenders. Congress currently has an approval rating of only 9% and is generally felt to be the most inefficiently managed in US history. To reach this sorry state we have ignored the basic advice first given to a Chinese city government over 2600 years ago by a student of Confucius .

“The greatest fortune of a people would be to keep ignorant persons from public
office, and secure their wisest men to rule them.”
Because wisdom brings truth and honor while ignorance brings lack of understanding and disaster this is a must for a long term government. It is difficult to maintain if the voting population accepts ignorance. If you follow current Congressional hearings you will be shocked by the level of ignorance that is displayed. This is reflected directly into performance. It must be corrected if we are to reach the long term success that Hamilton was seeking. Although some obviously ignorant candidates were defeated in 2010 elections there also were many elected.

Voters must now face the aggression of the superpacs. They thrive on voter ignorance and our inability to identify half truths. They are only available to moneyed candidates and are generally pushed by narrow minded ideologues. They are a great source of revenue to the media.

We are indeed facing a challenge to the question of can democracy survive or is it being replaced by a pseudo democracy that cannot govern itself. We must all pull hard to keep the 2012 election worthy of our obligations for the future. This requires a special attention to truth, a rejection of ignorance, and detailed attention to the general good of the citizens. Above all, investigate the voting record before you vote for an incumbent.

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