The future of American politics rests not just in politics itself, but primarily within a society and the virtues that it chooses to exhibit. The polarization of congress reflects a growing trend toward the homogenization of neighborhoods and regions as Americans sort themselves out ideologically stated in part one. Many times, this is decided by where people choose to live and have their “being”. Geographies and neighborhoods greatly influence ideology rather than truth. The trend toward associating only with the like-minded is powerfully amplified by the media and the proliferation of communication channels ends up weakening the shared experiences of its citizens. The absence of shared experiences has been both naturally and spiritually destructive around the world.
The American political system’s ability to deal with its financial challenges is not only affected by the left – right polarization of congress, but also by the growth and power of entrenched interest groups such as trade unions, agri-business, big oil, energy, pharmaceutical companies, and especially, banks and financial institutions. These few examples do not even include the myriad of powerful lobbies which often promotes a veto on legislation that affects their wallets. All of these influential “voices” impact the landscape of our lives and greatly dilute the power of the vote.
It is perfectly legitimate and expected that citizens should defend their interests in a democracy. However, at a certain point, this defense crosses over into the claiming of political privileges. This dynamic creates a situation of gridlock where no one’s interest may be challenged. A political entity that gets nothing done is a clear sign of contentment for those who have a “special interest” in the current state of affairs! This is extremely dangerous and unless the culture and influence of interest groups is aggressively dismantled – our future will soon resemble the great Roman Empire which its citizens wrongly assumed was “eternal.” Reference the article “Back to Future” on my wordpress site for more information on the Roman parallel of American society.
These trends clearly show the growing populist (average citizen) anger on both the right and left that also reflects societal polarization which is at odds with the countries own legitimating principles. In other words, the American political polarization is a manifestation of societal polarization induced by methodical media conditioning which has removed the fabric of societal relationships and what is best for the nation as a whole. The complaints by Americans that the U.S. is dominated by Institutional Elites and powerful interest groups is true and reflects the reality of the increasing income and wealth inequality over a period from the 1970s to the early 2000’s. With said, “equality” in and of itself has not really been a problem in the U.S. political and societal culture which emphasizes the equality of opportunity rather than outcomes. But the democratic system only remains legitimate as long as people believe that by working hard and doing their best, they and their children have a fair shot at getting ahead and that the wealthy are prospering because they are playing by the rules. Not only by the rules, but by what is ethical and virtuous as being an American and a sense of its future that we will pass on to the next generation. We have retained these generational virtues at the family level, but somehow it has almost completely eroded at the state and national levels.
The truth is that rates of social mobility over the last 3 generations is far lower in the U.S. than many Americans believe them to be and lower than many countries that have traditionally been economically and politically rigid. It’s time for American citizens to wake up and the prophetic church to arise from it slumber and ignorance because it has failed to study and show itself approved in the affairs of mankind. Much of the prophetic church is of little to no earthly good and we wonder why the erosion of the cultural and political landscape has been so methodical. Far too many bury their heads in the sands of hyper-spiritual jargon or casually “prophesy” natural disasters upon the earth to mask our weakened state or lack of genuine understanding.
Over time, elites and interest groups are able to protect their positions of influence by gaming the current political system. They move their finances off shore to avoid taxation and thus transmit these advantages to their children through favorable access to multiple elite based institutions. Much of this became starkly visible during the financial crisis of 2008 – 2009 when it became painfully clear that there was little relationship between compensation in the financial business sector and real contributions to the economy. The goal of financial institutions and many other forms of corporate America is not contribution – it is compensating itself.
As I have stated in previous articles that “pure capitalism” without integrity, godliness, wise regulation and rule of law is essentially Darwinism reflecting survival of the fittest (the wealthy survive) and natural selection (the removal of neighborhood business for monopolized conglomerates). Today’s financial industry culture has used its considerable political muscle to dismantle healthy regulation that had been instituted in the previous decades. This is not a left – right or Christian – Non Christian statement. It’s common sense and godly wisdom, but the right-wing political and right-wing church body has rebuked wise regulation and much of what they have finger pointed as going wrong is a cause and effect of their anti-regulatory “doctrines.” The financial sector is still continuing to fend and fight off healthy oversight in the aftermath of the stated financial crisis with the blessing of a Laodicean church that would rather listen to the words of CNN or FOX to create their doctrine and platform rather than the Holy Spirit.
I have read which I tend to agree: “The power of the financial oligarchy in the U.S. is not too different from what exists in emerging market countries like Russia and Indonesia.” There is no automatic mechanism by which political systems adjust themselves to changing societal and business circumstances and technology. The story of the failure to adjust and the end result of political decay will be a certainty if not prayerfully considered and the spiritual healing for our nation(s) accepted as a priority by its citizenry…Especially the church.
There was no reason why the Sultan of Egypt in their season of testing couldn’t have adopted firearms earlier to address rising external threats of the Ottomans who ultimately conquered them. In other words, the knowledge of a potential downfall as well as the means to defeat it were clearly known. Nor was it apparent to the emperors in the Late Ming Dynasty that not taxing their citizens adequately to arm and defend the country from the Manchurians would lead to their eventual defeat. This was not naturally known but was prophetically known via ancient writings but not communicated to the political body in authority. These are just a couple examples of implementing wise political and prophetic mechanisms as the days unfold and how it will affect the U.S.
We must posses wise regulation that ensures that all people have an opportunity to be productive and successful because all are playing the same rules of law. We must politically adapt to a changing world to address external threats and correctly tax the citizenry to meet the basic expectations of social life and to properly defend from outside threats via a strong and equipped military as defined in part one. We all want a utopian world of peace. However, history does not side well with man’s conduct although he has come a long way toward becoming more civilized. Sadly, the influx of Islamic Fundamentalism is catching up within the growth of civilization to mimic the atrocities of Dark Age Catholicism. This has turned the clock back in regard to the leaps that mankind has taken toward just civilization since the Enlightenment.
The core problem in both examples was the enormous institutional inertia (immobility) existing behind the status-quot or what the common people understood. Once a society fails to confront a major crisis (such as the American financial crisis) through serious institutional reform, it is tempted to resort to hosts of short term fixes or solutions that erode and eventually corrupt its own core institutions…And even Constitution! These short term fixes involve giving in to various involved stakeholders and interest groups who represent people with wealth and power. The failure to balance the U.S. budget will lead to various and continual societal bankruptcies and further reflect the illegitimacy of the state itself. (These bankruptcies are both economic and moral based). You only need go as far as the causal effects of the French Revolution to see how our remarkably similar France’s fiscal situation turned out.
I will state that the U.S. may not be in as critical dilemma in this hour as the days were that led up to the French Revolution in France. But on the same hand, the real danger is that the U.S. situation will continue to worsen over time in the absence of some powerful force that will knock the current system off its dysfunctional and institutional equilibrium or swing. I am convinced that it must be a conscious effort from the U.S. citizenry to address elitist based political special interest and elitist based educational systems. More importantly, the U.S. must embrace the importance of God and an overarching rule or moral authority which was presented in the life and words of Christ.
A common thread links many of society’s anxiety in regard to the future from authoritarian backsliding in Russia, corruption in India, to failed states in the developing world, to entrenched interest groups in modern American politics. It reflects the difficulties in creating and maintaining affective political institutions and government that is rule bound and accountable. I am sure that this seems somewhat generic and what any middle school kid would understand but yet when considered deeply – these are truths that many intelligent people fail to understand. Why? The reason is twofold. The first is a lack of vision toward the future due to selfish tendencies at the expense of the next generation (our current and extreme debt to non-democratic countries). The second is a lack of historical and prophetic understanding which greatly affects the degree of selfishness in the later.
We need to prophetically understand why there is currently a “recession” of democracy in the world today, it’s forces, and its outcomes. The reasons for our disappointments and the failure of democracy to spread do not lie. Maybe, just maybe, the core issue is the effect of “ideas” within the current generation which is critical for political order. In other words, “ideas” either sustain, maintain, manipulate, or put to death.
It is the perceived legitimacy of the government by a populace that binds populations together and makes it willing to accept its authority. The fall of the Berlin Wall marked the collapse of one of democracy’s great competitors – Communism, which led to the rapid spread of democracy as the most accepted form of government. Note that this is true up till the present time of this message. However, we must also note that democracy is the “default” political condition to countries in political transition in the world today.
While democracy is not yet universally practiced nor accepted, in the general world opinion, democratic government has achieved the status as being taken to be generally right for mankind. Very few people around the world would openly profess to admire Vladimir Putin’s petro-hybrid nationalism in Russia, Latin American 21st century socialism, or, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s Islamic republic ideology. No important international institution endorses anything but democracy as the basis for just and fair governance for the betterment of its citizens. China’s rapid growth is interesting but its exact model of authoritarian capitalism is not one that is easily described much less emulated by other developing countries. The prestige of modern liberal democracy is to the extent that today’s would be authoritarians are required to stage elections and manipulate the media from behind the scenes. These political manipulations will continue grow exponentially in the Middle East and Russia to legitimate themselves to a naïve and godless media and easily influenced world body.
Totalitarianism somewhat disappeared from the world and authoritarians pay homage to democracy by pretending to be democratic. Therefore, democracy’s failure lies less in concept than in execution. Again, democratic systems and their failures reside less in a conceptual breakdown than in the execution of the intangibles which strengthen a democracy. These intangibles point to governing bodies legislating what is godly and in the best interest of its populace as a whole. It also requires a people who are patriotic and willing to be productive, hard working citizens. Most people from around the world would strongly prefer to live in a society where their governments are accountable and effective and to deliver expectations in a timely and cost effective way. But this works both ways as a citizenry must be willing to provide a reasonable tax base and this comes through being productive rather than a continual drain on resources. Strangely, very few countries are able to produce both because institutions are weak, corrupt, purchased by special interest, or in many cases, absent altogether. Likewise, and as growing in Europe and the U.S., the citizenry is becoming more reliant upon state than being productive.
The passion of media, protestors, and democracy advocates around the world might be sufficient to bring about regime change from authoritarian or despotic based institutions to democratic government but it will not succeed without a long, costly, and difficult process of institution building rather than nation building which has been the case throughout history and which has ultimately failed. The truth is there are a great many cultures in the world who simply cannot understand the stewardship and principles of democracy due their engrained social and religious ideologies. With this said, there is a curious blindness to political institutions that has affected many people over the years. People who dream that we will somehow transcend institutional politics are either anarchists or highly visible fundamental religious entities including Christianity. This particular fantasy does not preface just the political left and right. These doctrines hinge on utopian mindsets that are not practical to everyday life nor God’s plan for humanity and the church.
Karl Marx (the father of communism) predicted: “The withering away of the state is once the proletarian had achieved power and abolished private property.” Liberal elites and media driven revolutionaries talk a good game but fail to offer the outcome of what will fill the vacuum of power once the current regime is removed (Example: Iran under the Shaw, Afghanistan, Iraq, Egypt, and now Syria). This is where contemporary prophecy has failed. The prophets of old were consulted as a pattern and wise political and governmental directional was provided. The rejection or should I say, the lack of a genuine prophetic voice and the embracing of nation building by elites has increased over the last 40 years up to the present time.
Anti-globalization groups state that economic injustice could be abolished by undermining the sovereignty of states and replacing it with a “network multitude”. Real world communism and communist regimes manifested just the opposite of what Marx predicted and envisioned. The building of massive and tyrannical state structures were required to force people to act collectively as it went against human or should I say, our created nature as the people failed to do so spontaneously. This in turn led to a generation of democracy activists in Eastern Europe to envision their version of statelessness where a mobilized civil society would take the place of traditional political parties and centralized governments. These activist were subsequently disillusioned by the realization that their societies could not be governed without political institutions. And when they experienced the nasty compromises required to build them…Much opportunity for true prosperity and social freedom had been squandered.
In the decade since the fall of communism, Eastern Europe is democratic. But is not necessarily happy with its politics or politicians. Western Europe sits on the other side of the spectrum entrenched in state or social dependency and increasing declines in productivity. This in turn has led to a godless society which places the state as their provider, beacon of hope, and definer of morality rather than God. The fantasy of statelessness and the church’s non-participation most prevalent on the right wing fringe in that the market economy will somehow make government unnecessary and irrelevant. Libertarians of various stripes have suggested not just rolling back an overgrown welfare state, but also abolishing more basic institutions like the Federal Reserve Board and the Food and Drug Administration. Look, it’s quite legitimate to argue that modern governments have grown excessively large and that they thereby limit economic growth and individual freedom. People are correct to complain about unresponsive bureaucracies, corrupt politicians, and the unprincipled nature of politics. But in the developed world, we take the existence of government so much for granted that sometimes we forget how important it is and how difficult it was to create. We must ask ourselves, what would the world look like without political institutions?
It is not only that we take democracy for granted, we also take for granted that we have state based government at all that can carry out certain daily and basic functions. As stated in part one – just try filling in a 10 mile highway stretch of pot-holes without political institutions. Just imagine all aspects of life without the value of political institutions. The goal of this second part is to paint a picture of the value and understanding that the U.S. political system was designed by Christians to be stewarded or sustained by Christian virtues. Should we continue to wonder why things are the way they are?