Who Will Tell The People?: The Betrayal Of American Democracy
a book by William Greider
(our site's book review)
Greider is the swinging banjo in the movie Deliverance, forewarning us of grave repercussions should we continue to betray democracy and its principles
In this brilliant, thoughtful challenge to American democracy, Greider says: “The most troubling proposition in this book is that the self-correcting mechanisms of politics are no longer working. Most of them are still in place and functioning but, for the most part, do not produced the expected [desired] results. Some of the mechanisms have disappeared entirely. Some are atrophied or blocked by new circumstances. Some have become so warped and disfigured that they now concretely aggravate the imbalance of power between the many and the few. . . . Instead of a politics that leads the society sooner or later to confront its problems, American politics has developed new ways to hide from them. . . . If these connections between the governed and the government are destroyed, if citizens can no longer believe in the mutuality of the American experience, the country may descend into a new kind of social chaos and political unraveling, unlike anything we have experienced before. The early symptoms of such unraveling may already be visible.” (About time SOMEBODY said this!)
The desires of the constituents that politicians represent are often irrelevant and usually secondary to special interests
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.
Greider cites the S & L crisis and the way the think tanks are for sale and use pseudoscience that can “prove” anything, and the loss of meaningful connection between politicians and their constituencies, and how money runs the game; and desires of the constituents that politicians represent are often irrelevant and usually secondary to special interests that contribute heavily, which common citizens cannot and do not do. He points out that the citizenry no longer believe in science—they’ve “come to distrust scientists almost as much as they distrust lawyers,” because the scientists have proven that in think tank opinions and court cases, they support the opinions of those people who are paying the bill. In other words, Washington and the scientific community have both become—to put it bluntly—whorehouses.
Washington and the scientific community have both become whorehouses
Encouragingly, exceptions exist. When the politicians could see the S & L crisis looming on the horizon, no one had the guts to warn the public except Henry Gonzalez and Jim Leach—people who do their own thinking and don’t let their party or think tanks do it for them.
Unfortunately, the author’s liberal biases come out as he supports lots of regulation, big government, the welfare state mentality, overly progressive tax tables and high taxes. He also says that he doesn’t believe industry’s claim that there is a shortage of skilled workers, which anyone who’s ever interviewed applicants for skilled labor will laugh at—the claim is most definitely true. See Bold New World: The Essential Road Map to the 21st Century. Greider is making the mistake of thinking that if jobs attract plenty of applicants wanting them—even college graduates—that that somehow means that they will be acceptable candidates for the job. In truth, millions of “educated” applicants cannot think or do math, have serious responsibility and motivation problems, and manifest serious character disorders either in interviews or on resumes (and most of all, as workers). Personnel managers are often hard pressed to find a single acceptable candidate in the thousands of applicants that they encounter.
Personnel managers are hard pressed to find a single acceptable candidate in the thousands of applicants that they encounter
Let's examine this inability to find good help due to applicants who cannot think or do math, and who have serious responsibility and motivation problems, and who manifest serious character disorders. This personnel difficulty reflects Second Wave schools that run like—and think like—factory assembly lines, and it also reflects the authoritarian and permissive (rather than the only scientifically validated method: authoritative) child-raising methods that impair work ethics and character rather than empowering and encouraging them. (You can see why America hires so many foreign workers!)
Greider exposes his Second Wave thinking and biases in these areas when disbelieving the personnel difficulties, but he also doesn’t realize that small businesses are creating most jobs, not big business. And he questions the multi-career concept coming from Toffler and others in which people will, now and into the future, need to continue to upgrade skills and switch jobs as they pursue several careers in a lifetime. Incredibly, as central as Tofflerian concepts are to many of the issues he tackles, this author never even mentions him. He seems to be a nationalist and a protectionist, taking conservatives to task for their acceptance of global economy realities. He wants progressive income redistribution and social engineering, but he never addresses the fact that this has been proven to backfire.
Citizens letting their representatives know what they want is mostly ineffective—money talks and B.S. walks, as they say, and politicians LOVE money
But, in spite of these shortcomings, he does a good job of taking the system to task for its bureaucratic abuses, corruption, greed and irresponsibility. Voter initiatives have to be used in order to give the people any say in the government since representation is mostly non-operational, and citizens letting their representatives know what they want is mostly ineffective—money talks and B.S. walks, as they say.
The degeneration from citizens participating in their democracy through the political process to media-centered politics with citizens as spectators is another area dissected by Greider. Media “destroy the old social connections that once held people together in a community . . . [they] foster a benumbed passivity in the general audience.”
Citizens ought to be participating in their democracy but are mere spectators of media-centered politics
The author relates the Alar story, in which Meryl Streep held a press conference in Washington on the dangers of pesticides, and Alar lost because of how well the P.R. was done. “The media techniques employed by the environmentalists were actually identical to those that major corporations and political parties use to influence public opinion—the calculated repetition of an emotionally powerful message and the use of a trusted celebrity to deliver it.”
(It’s important to see that this tool of movement support is an important aspect of social marketing and will be used along with other effective tools to help make the MC movement a reality. The Alar case shows how well it can work if done right. It also points out that if it gets down to a choice between trusted spokespeople on the one hand and government bureaucracies [the EPA] and industry scientists on the other, the spokeperson will win because s/he will be trusted more and therefore believed more. See Why Register for an MC?.)
Registering for MC search and match
Paradoxically, even though he admits that the most far-reaching and important progress in our country has come from movements and not politics, he’s still looking for political solutions in areas where politics has shown itself to be incompetent at best and harmful at worst. On the bright side, he advocates that people take personal responsibility for self-government, but on the dark side, he assumes that it’s their political actions that will count most in solving social problems, never really looking at the fact that when social problems are successfully addressed by movement-inspired social solutions, citizens are not forced to look dependently to politicians for political solutions because there’s no problem left to deal with—the citizens themselves have dealt with the issues.
In other words, he doesn’t advocate prevention enough. He rightly calls for social invention to reverse the country’s decline, but then somehow concludes that this must be politically based, in spite of historical evidence that such progress will evolve in spite of the political environment rather than because of it. However, he rightly calls for people to develop a higher sense of responsibility for the world and for a new parable to evolve that will epitomize national purpose. (But while all of mankind’s knowledge and wisdom point towards the MC movement to empower and encourage such purpose and responsibility and to supply such a parable, there are those who will never lose hope that somehow politicians and governments will step in and save us from ourselves.)
We need to quit looking to social engineering superheroes and rely on local community efforts
Our government will not step in and save us from ourselves—WE must do this
William Greider takes the American government to task for its phoniness and corruption. It’s government by the few—for the few. The election process is pretense since the special interests decide things, not the people. Laws are intentionally created pre-fitted with loopholes for the corporations’ policies to slip through. This disingenuous process is an insult to the great democratic ideals our Founders used in nation building.
As long as corporations are the main deciding force in elections rather than the citizens, democracy will be impossible
America is not even close to being a democracy. Oligarchy is more accurate. This means “a small group of people who together govern a nation or control an organization, often for their own purposes.” (See The US is an oligarchy, study concludes.) The book’s goal is to uncover the power realities underlying American government—to find the truth behind the posturing and the culprits behind the masks. The two political parties always blame one another for the inequities, pretentiousness, and outright scam that politics has become. But of course this blame game is actually just sleight-of-hand—a convenient distraction that keeps the people’s eyes off the Corporatocracy's pickpockets cynically emptying our wallets and purses.
Politicians simply scream at each other and pull in opposite directions to distract us from the fact that they accomplish nothing, which is what the Corporatocracy dictates: change is bad for companies but good for us—and WE LOSE EVERY TIME
The politicians see the sick joke being perpetrated as the parties keep up the transparent and cacaphonous front—the pretense that if we only vote for their party, all will be well. The people know better and so do the politicians, lobbyists, lawyers, and staffs. Who exactly do they think they're fooling? The sad truth is that they know that few are deceived, but the people simply don’t have any recourse, so the high-paying jobs of the politicians, lobbyists, and lawyers are secure. All the people can do is wring their hands and vote. They can join protest marches and sign petitions and send negative letters to their so-called “representatives.” All to no avail. The system is truly broken. The people have begun believing that elections are a waste of time—elections decide nothing that is “real.”
Lawyers hired by the Corporatocracy make sure nothing good can happen and nothing can change
The book seeks to resolve the issue of why some special interests are allowed to run the show while other special interests are ignored. The capacity for our government to be self-correcting is in jeopardy. Politicians spend more time trying to devise ways to hide our problems than they spend trying to solve them. A democracy is supposed to have two-way channels of communication between the governed and those in power so that the people will feel responsible for self-government.
Campaign slogans and the platforms candidates run on are idle wish lists that have little relationship to the actual Corporatocracy-dictated agenda or priorities of the candidates, and very little relationship to the actual actions taken by the victorious candidate. Obama swears not to support tax breaks for the rich, but the minute the issue comes up, he's right in there supporting them just like—in our heart of hearts—we knew he would. So what's the point of platforms, promises, vows, and all the flapdoodle that goes with it? The public now sees it for what it is: hot air. Lies to further the causes of special interests. Obama also lied about Obamacare (oxymoron!), spying on Americans, how many attacks the spying on Americans prevented—obviously, these are just the lies we caught him at, just the tip of the iceberg.
Obama the prevaricator—are we surprised?
Government regulatory agencies have been “captured” by the industries they're supposed to be regulating, so that things always mysteriously seem to go the way the industries want.
The few congressmen and congresswomen who try to champion the true causes that are in the public interest get sidelined when they even get elected at all, and they soon learn the futility of provoking democratic dialogues on these causes, because the game is thoroughly rigged.
The situation is so sewn up by special interests and so difficult to confront or change that public interest citizen politics of various kinds, including the daunting task of community organizing, is usually a David and Goliath scenario, with Goliath using usually effective means to subvert David and color David as misguided, radical, un-American, or just wrong. Greider proposes that a citizenry committed to challenging the status quo could make multinational enterprises more accountable to society at large, if need be by denying them access to the vast domestic marketplace until they measure up to populist standards of responsibility. Also, more press coverage of how government actually works, campaign finance reform, and elections on the weekends.