The famous sentiment that ‘Anyone Can Be President of America! ‘ is often cited both as justification and positive evidence of the superiority of ‘The American Way’. It stands as a pillar supporting the arch that proclaims the openness of American society.
Of course, the assertion that anyone can be President is not universally accepted. Oppositional voices contend that anyone can’t be president-quite the reverse. To get anywhere in the world of American politics you need the right connections, political and financial. These voices argue that there is an establishment in America and the Bush and Clinton dynasties illustrate this point.
But although they dispute the actuality, most of the naysayers generally endorse the underlying principle; that it is a good thing that anyone can be President. Perhaps we should think about this a little more closely. If anyone potentially can be President of America, does it follow that anything potentially can be law in America?
You can immediately see that this is not quite so attractive a proposition. Complete freedom to make law as one sees fit is dangerous; not a power that you want to give away to any individual no matter who it is (or isn’t). And you don’t actually know what a President is going to do with power until they actually start doing it. And by then its too late to do anything about it….
Commitment to a moral or even practical set of principles is not required to become President. It is entirely possible that the man you elect might sell the farm out from under you and there is not a lot you can do about it once you have cast your ballot. In light of this it might start to seem that the claim that anyone can be president is more sinister threat than positive affirmation.
‘But’, I hear you say, ‘isn’t that where ‘democratic checks and balances’ come in?’ Except that they don’t really seem to, do they? Certainly not lately. Certainly not in respect of the Credit Crunch and its aftermath. The evidence suggests that ‘checks and balances’ such as they are can be got around if you know the system well enough.
Most of the financial regulations enacted in the aftermath of the Credit Crunch have been stalled or effectively abandoned. It is hard to avoid the conclusion that for the ‘financial community’ it is more or less business as usual. There is a parallel with the Iraq war and the resulting ongoing devastation and collapse. Nobody has been brought to book for an invasion presaged on weapons of mass destruction that were never there.
Because ultimately ‘checks and balances’ depend upon the people doing the checking and balancing. Which in America would be the two houses of the legislature. But if anyone can be President then anyone can be a Senator. A horrible structural weakness within the system is laid bare. You only need to find a couple of hundred arseholes in a population of over three hundred million and you have a problem….you actually only have to find a majority of a couple of hundred arseholes; after all it’s a democracy.
‘But bad legislation can be overturned’, you will counter. The people will elect an oppositional counter force and bring the system back to centre.
So how much of the bad stuff in the past three or four decades has actually been overturned? Glass Steagal financial regulation was repealed in favour of the rich and powerful but I’m not sure there has been a lot of movement the other way. How much anti trades union legislation has been overturned in Britain or America or anywhere in the Saxon Axis? To what extent have the basic rights of ordinary people been restored or improved over the past decades?
The legislated landscape is massively changed from only a couple of decades ago. If the system were really self correcting towards the centre, shouldn’t it tend to remain broadly the same over time?
OK you say, I concede these broad points but the final safeguard in America is The Constitution and the Bill Of Rights. Here at least we are on solid ground. These are fixed principle driven rules beyond which no elected official can go.
But any fixed set of rules will inevitably be challenged by circumstance. In the centuries since the Constitution was created the identities and values of the men who wrote it have become increasingly marginalised. This change is expressed positively in the many amendments to the constitution and negatively in the effective abandonment of the basic principles that guided the constitution. Contemporary America is not the country the Constitution was written for.
Truth to tell, all of the above is something of a misdirection a la ‘The Usual Suspects’. The details of any western system are irrelevant. The real point is: When it comes down to it, in a modern democracy there is no penalty for governing badly, and there cannot be, or else it is no longer democracy as we have understood the term.
We can call this the Democratic Lower Bound. It operates like the interest rate lower bound. It is the structural limit beyond which the system as it is presently constituted cannot go.
Individual politicians may be liable for ‘criminal’ activity but not for incompetent or even malevolent actions carried out in the process of governing. The penalty for incompetence malevolence is that you are voted out next time around, (maybe), with a nice pension of course. But you and the organisation you represent are free to carry on doing what you did. ‘Elector Beware’ is the principle behind modern market democracy as ‘Buyer Beware’ is the principle behind the marketplace.
From Vietnam through financialisation and on into Iraq, no elected official has ever got into any serious trouble no matter how terrible the crimes they committed at home or abroad. Nor will they ever. Nor can they be allowed to. Democracy offers the same protection to its politicians that the marketplace affords to investors in corporations – limited liability
Nevertheless even this unfortunate state of affairs is not necessarily fatal to the reasonable functioning of the system- if the political class exercises a certain amount of self control. If an elite has a sense of national self preservation the modern democratic system can still work reasonably well.
But in the light of international treaties such as TTP and the European trade agreement we can say that adding Globalisation to the democratic lower bound brings what is the fatal weakness in the system to the fore.
Legislatures across the developed world are entering into permanent agreements that are deliberately engineered to be beyond the scope of national parliaments. The effect is of smuggling the economic and political wealth of the nation state out one piece at a time. Transnational elites are clandestinely stripping the nation state bare. And there is no effective legal response built into the system for this. Once sovereign treaties are signed there is no legal way to unilaterally repudiate them. The Greek people are finding this out to their cost.
I have argued in previous pieces that Monetarism is the end of economics and the consequent emergence of cultural constituencies. This means one culturally self defined group ruling over another, or number of others.
It is becoming increasingly apparent that political elites across the developed world are themselves constituted as a separate cultural constituency. And since it is the entire political class we are talking about, you can’t ever hope to vote yourself out of this dead end, even without the system limitations I outline above. Whoever you vote for, Globalists get in.
Given the democracy limitations that I outlined above those who lose out on the new electoral deals can have no effective recourse other than separation, which is coming to mean the carve-up of national territories between the people and the politicians.
So the rise of Monetarism and cultural constituencies necessarily means every nation state will in the end become a failed state.
A capital city ruled by a Globalist cultural constituency surrounded by a hinterland one or more cultural constituencies of outsiders.
This is what PODEMOS in Spain and SYRIZA in Greece and even the SNP in Britain really mean. That the national states they are nominally part of are becoming failed states. And this eventuality has been foreseen and prepared for.
Aha! Now I can hear you say: ‘This last statement is surely over the top – You had me going for a minute there, but this is bordering on conspiracy theory; world government and so on ‘
But doesn’t this accurately describe what we can see happening and without relying on a worldwide conspiracy theory?
My argument is that when nation states become constrained by a critical number of international treaties, modern national democracy simply cannot be sustained. By their sheer number and scope these international agreements undermine the function of nation states and their national elites. The international ‘free market’ no longer has the room to operate once a critical number of international treaties have been entered into. Capitalist competition has no room to exist. What then, will take its place?
If there is no regulated economic competition between nation states, there will follow unregulated cultural competition within states. Greece is a perfect example of this.
Greece no longer has the means for regulated economic competition with other nation states. It no longer has its own sovereign economy; for example, it cannot devalue which is a ‘traditional’ means of regulating its own international trade competitiveness. As a consequence, Greece is now divided between Globalists and the cultural constituency of SYRIZA.
In Greece there will have to be another election in short order. And the EU political elite will actively try to influence the outcome of this election as a political player.
Ukraine is another more extreme case in point. It is precisely because Ukraine as a nation was so constrained by the competing demands of the European and Russian blocs, that it was unable to operate as a separate economic entity. It is not a co-incidence that the conflict in Ukraine was sparked by disagreement over which of two international treaties Ukraine should sign.