Sunday , 11 December 2016


Thom Speidel’s “Catastrophe or Democracy: Who Decides”‏ – A Reaction

Democracy is under siege. Regular citizens and voters, and those 40+%US-Flag who don’t vote, have been relegated to the political margin.  There is no democracy worthy of its name, with few exceptions. Our governmental institutions, political processes, and participants, are severely compromised. One might even say they are corrupt and sorely in need or reform.

Like me, Thom Speidel is totally put off by the US governing, electoral and partisan political system. I might add that I characterize the Canadian reality somewhat similarly.  Speidel calls it a deficiency in democracy because of the dominance of societal elites.  His research is thorough and he makes his case well with what he has assembled.

It is clear that Mr. Speidel subscribes to a political philosophy and ideology which I would generally characterize as liberal or progressive.  If he was a European I would probably call his political persuasion ‘social democrat’ or ‘democratic socialist’ or even ‘soft socialist’.  He would easily fit into ‘Green’ political parties in large part because of the importance he attaches to environmental degradation for which he attributes blame to excessive and irresponsible  human activity.

Political Parties:

Because he is American he wrestles with the legitimacy of the Democrat Party, since it  doesn’t adequately reflect his ideology and policy preferences.  He finds himself castigating the Republican Party with considerable ease. He also knows that successive Democrat Presidents and the Democrat party are fundamentally similar to the Republicans, but it presents itself as being substantially different, better and more aligned to the average citizen’s preferences.

It is a given that Republicans don’t represent Speidel’s political values. Their policy positions and actions when in power demonstrate how different they are from what he values. Stripped of the verbiage, Democrats in power also come up short, according to him. Actions, not words, make it clear how similar both parties are.  On economic and financial matters, the two parties in practice are virtually identical. After all, both have been captured by Wall Street and corporate America. Only on social issues, are there discrete differences

Speidel does not fall victim, as so many Americans do when they get themselves totally lathered and abusive toward the other party. Democrats rant with relish against the Republican Party, its leadership, policy and adherents. Republicans do much the same against Democrat governments, party members and voters. Often the worst offenders in these battles are persons with considerable years of schooling and who possess more than a modicum of debating skills.  All, it seems, are skilled in the art of ‘the rant’ villainizing the other side with great enthusiasm and vitriol.

Speidel does not fall into this trap. However, it is very clear that he finds it easier to slam Republican partisans, policies, actions and governments than the individuals and practitioners associated with the Democrat label.

For context, this critic comes from the perspective that castigates both parties.  I do this because the US electoral system doesn’t adequately allow for more than two parties or policy positions. One party is in while the other is out. Alternating power masquerades as voter ‘choice’.  Thus the process is called democratic and the process and institution becomes a ‘democracy’.

Like athletic events, two teams/parties compete to win. The US system is clearly and deliberately not a multiparty democracy.  The US system seems to need discrete winners and losers because the US has win-lose and right-wrong values. The ‘winner’ is entitled to the spoils of electoral victory.  The loser then prepares for the next game/election, where he/it hopes to obtain the benefits and opportunities of electoral success. Multi party jurisdictions and systems, which end up in coalitions with vague and compromised positions, just don’t lend themselves to the American mindset, even though they tend to be much more representative of the range of voter preferences.

All the while most participants, including the voters, the mainstream media and special interest groups, constantly remind themselves that the electoral and governing process is a marketplace for competing values and policies.  Yet they treat the electoral process as if it was an athletic event between two competing teams where baskets, goals or touchdowns are counted and traded. The process is clearly not a forum for debating alternative policy proposals. Current party primaries are more about winning and losing debating points than about offering, examining and critiquing alternate policy proposals.

Sadly, it more frequently and most commonly is an attempt by the politicians to obtain or keep their catbird positions to reap status and financial rewards and to advance their personal and party objectives.

Speidel blames Wall Street and large monied corporate America, who are most frequently seen to be in the Republican camp, for the shortcomings of American government. I blame both parties for advancing the interests of the power elites including the crony capitalist corporate sector.

Power Elites:

It seems that Speidel considers the entire range of global multinational corporations, large domestic private corporations, Wall Street financial institutions and the capitalistic system generally as the root cause of the problems he associates with democracy. Why?  Because these corporate elites and their interests, almost by definition, run counter to the interests of individual citizens as he defines those interests.

I, on the other hand, value the capitalistic system and consider it to be the optimal economic system to create and produce the best for the greatest number of people. Unfortunately, Speidel and others castigate capitalism, rather than the kind of capitalism with which we are most familiar which I call ‘crony capitalism’.

There isn’t a level playing field. Insiders and those institutional and private corporate entities with greater power and influence with government decision makers in legislatures, government bureaucracies, regulatory agencies and courts frequently get to call the tunes in public policy. Not only is this not democracy in the text book sense, it is clearly a corrupt process and system.

We have devolved into a system where favored members of the large private corporate world, coupled with select large unions, work closely with arbitrary populist governments to cultivate the malleable segments of the voting public to obtain and maintain their power. Speidel is correct in saying this isn’t democracy for the people.  Rather, it is a form of statism, even fascism.

Incidentally the most powerful and dangerous of the corporate power elites is what President Eisenhower famously characterized in his parting state of the union message in 1961 as the ‘military industrial complex’.

[Read: Insights Into the American War Machine

The American War Machine has been meticulous over the years in deliberately obfuscating and confusing any discussion by wrapping all things military in the flag, patriotism, protecting and advancing the ideals of American democracy as it is articulated, not practiced.]

The Environment:

Underlying the theme of Mr. Speidel’s book is his total attachment to the belief in man made global environmental degradation. Like most environmental true believers and activists, he attributes global climate warming and change to human activity. In other words, there are too many people conducting themselves in rapacious activities which consume too much of the earth’s limited abundance, consuming vast quantities of fossil fuels, all of which contribute to CO2.

The villains of this exercise are valueless profit mongering multinational corporations who control political decision makers and the decision making process.

True believers like Mr. Speidel believe that scientific investigations of the past quarter century prove conclusively that man is behind global climate change.  People like me believe that climate change is absolutely undeniable. However, what isn’t at all clear is the role of humans and the consumption of fossil fuels.

Climate change has been constant since the beginning of time.  How else does one explain ice ages and petroleum in the earth under the Arctic?  Vehicles of climate change surround us daily from cycles in the ocean currents and changes in surface water temperatures, shifts in the magnetic field of the earth’s poles to gases emitted from volcanoes, expulsion of digestive gases of animals to rotting vegetation. Human activities are merely a modest component of this massive process.

The point here is that the earth is in constant change of which cycles are an element of that change. We humans are merely minor participants.  Moreover, Speidel’s villains in the corporate world are simply bit players.

These multinational crony capitalists and Wall Street financial behemoths are undeniably rapacious, selfish and have undue influence in the political process, thereby rendering it considerably less than democratic and fair.  We the people can all agreed with this.  But it is more or less irrelevant in terms of the environment, simply because humankind, all of us, are bit players in the total scheme of events.

Conclusion:

A good read, very interesting research, well written and edited.  Better yet was Speidel’s calling out of crony capitalist elites who have undue influence over the political process, regardless of party label.

As the author says, democracy is under siege. Regular citizens and voters, and those forty some percent who don’t vote, have been relegated to the political margin.  There is no democracy worthy of its name, with few exceptions.

Our governmental institutions, political processes and participants are severely compromised. One might even say they are corrupt and sorely in need or reform.  Speidel would no doubt agree.

[The above anonymous article is presented by the editorial team of munKNEE.com (Your Key to Making Money!) and the FREE Market Intelligence Report newsletter (see sample hereregister here) in a slightly edited ([ ]) and abridged (…) format to provide a fast and easy read.]