There is no rule of law in America, but rather the tyranny of the Courts. The courts have increasingly eroded American freedoms and people are frustrated.
Due to equal opportunity laws, environmental laws, social laws many people find they cannot build homes the want, set up businesses they want, or even use land that has been in their family since before American Revolution.
America is becoming a rule of needs laws that restrain not protect freedom.
” the millennial generation (those born since 1980) “has grown much more indifferent.” Less than 1 in 3 hold a similar belief about the importance of democracy.”
Maybe because 1 in 3 haven’t experienced living in a democracy.
They voted for Obama who promised hope and change but after 8 years saw no change and no hope.
The world over – if it is a choice between democracy v security and bread on the table, they will choose the latter.
I would have never thought democracy could ever get truly threatened.
But it seems like we have entered into a “more than a blip” moment.
Why do I say that?
Two recent studies.
First is from the Economist Intelligence Group where the United States has, for the first time, been rated as a “flawed” rather than “full” democracy:
For the first time ever, the U.S. has fallen below a major threshold ranking nations by democracy, according to the U.K.-based Economist Intelligence Group.
The group, which began rating countries in 2006, determines how democratic a country is based on 60 factors within five broad categories – electoral process and pluralism, the functioning of government, political participation, democratic political culture and civil liberties. The group’s most recent report revealed that the U.S. continued a decade-long decline in democratic values, officially falling below the 8 point level necessary to be considered a “full democracy” and downgrading it to a “flawed democracy.”
The country’s 7.98 rating ties it with Italy, putting it just below countries such as Mauritius, Uruguay and Japan. The report noted that last year’s election of President Donald Trump was not a compelling factor in the U.S.’ most recent downfall, but rather a symptom of a larger mistrust in government.
The second is from the Journal of Democracy:
An article by Yascha Mounk and Roberto Stefan Foa in the Journal of Democracy basically points out that younger people are less strongly tied to democracy.
The data for the graph are from the fifth wave of the World Values Survey (WVS), which asked people to place themselves on a 10-point scale where 1 meant that living in a democracy is “not at all important” and 10 “absolutely important.”
Younger people answer this question differently than older people and it’s clear that younger people do, on average, assign slightly lower values to democracy on the 10-point scale.
It doesn’t mean that young people are done with democracy just that there is a disturbing trends that they assign less importance to living in a democracy than they did in the past.
As the 2 studies suggest as well as the graph I just used showed … we are in a time when the growth of democracies in the world has stalled and the American democracy, in particular, is plagued by low confidence in government and high levels of political polarization <on a side note: this encourages populism as a potential means to overcome gridlock>.
I wrote about Democracy and its challenges back in September 2015 in a piece called Schumpeter and Democratic Theory.
In it I conceptually outlined the challenges of democracy … but didn’t really believe we would hit a crisis situation in which people would actually question democracy.
As I said … American “democracy” is less an idea but rather in our more materialistic way … viewed as a product which we own. This American product is crammed with a crazy number of gears & widgets of liberties, entitlements, freedoms, individual empowerment, societal commitments and ‘what is fair.’
It is an unwieldy cumbersome product which in our minds we treat as light as a feather and yet its weight remains a burden not only upon ourselves … but wherever we try and place it or insert it within another ideological construct.
Basically, we treat democracy like a product we can export anywhere … and it will fly off the shelves people will want it so badly wherever it goes.
We treat democracy like a domestic product our forefathers bought & paid for … and every following generation places the slightly worn and nicked package they have been endowed with, from their parents, on the shelf to be displayed as something entitled … not earned.
As we sit in our living rooms with our 40” tvs and smartphones watching a larger world, global & domestic, we are increasingly frustrated by … we glance at the dusty box of democracy on our shelf, the one we display proudly, and wonder why, as we notice areas of weakness in the structure of ideas, rules, and incentives, no one finds a way to change the rules of the game in those areas to make the product better, shinier or more attractive <most typically defined by the visual trappings of what it appeared to look like in the past>.
That is where democracy runs into trouble.
Sitting on the shelf we look fondly at it … as we would a relic or trinket we bought in the past … and less of something that would be relevant today and of value today.
This all gets blurred by in-depth discussions of past imperfections and shouting matches between supposed leaders in the existing imperfections.
This all gets blurred by the American warped desire for as close to perfection a possible.
America is currently engaged in an epic war of ideas in which the country’s very way of life is at stake. The struggle is reminiscent of earlier clashes against ideologies such as communism or fascism. The ideological adversary of the United States is powerful. It is … well … ignorance. And it really seems to be spreading.
And our leaders aren’t helping us at all.
In the past American leaders largely agreed about what ideological battle they were waging, even as they disagreed about how to fight it.
It seems like we cannot even agree on our own ideology let alone other countries.
I have met the enemy and it is I. And this enemy is costing us a belief in democracy.
We’re in a competition with ideas right now. It is not communism versus capitalism anymore or democracy versus authoritarianism … it is a competition for understanding.
About the only thing I am unequivocally clear on is that in this “new war of ideas” democracy is losing.
At the core of this losing scenario is a receding of trust in anything & everything. As overall trust in one another recedes trust in institutions which hold it all together, and us together even in our skepticism of each other, simply implodes. And if you trust nobody how does democracy hold its center?
Americans don’t trust each other anymore. We’re not talking about the loss of faith in big institutions such as the government, the church or Wall Street, which fluctuates with events. For four decades, a gut-level ingredient of democracy—trust in the other fellow—has been quietly draining away. These days, only one-third of Americans say most people can be trusted. Half felt that way in 1972, when the General Social Survey first asked the question.
Forty years later, a record high of nearly two-thirds say “you can’t be too careful” in dealing with people.
Does it matter that Americans <or any group of citizens> are suspicious of one another?
Behavioral research tells us why it matters:
“The more trust people have, the more willing they are to make sacrifices to hold up their end to solve problems.”
This is called ‘social trust.’
And social trust produces good things … the best thing is a healthy democracy.
It produces a society where it’s easier to compromise or make a deal.
It produces a society where people are willing to work with those who are different from them for the common good.
It actually produces <or promotes> economic growth.
Distrust, on the other hand, seems to encourage corruption.
Or maybe it encourages an absurd amount of energy trying to protect against corruption <or those who we decide we will not trust>.
At its lowest most banal level it diverts energy to counting change every time it is given to us and at the highest level it leads to the drawing up 100+ page legal contracts and building gated communities.
And, most of all, the distrust does nothing to battle ignorance. If you do not trust anyone and their ideas then your own ideas are never truly threatened.
In isolation, because not believing in democracy encourages more isolation, people are then picking “their news to validate what they believe” which makes them increasingly less tolerant of other people’s views that rely on another set of facts.”
Needless to say … that is not only dangerous for democracy but destructive to democracy.
Democracy is tricky and hard. It demands institutions as well as individual belief.
This leads me to James Madison’s Federalist Paper #51 or the famous “if men were angels” argument from 1788:
If men were angels, no government would be necessary. If angels were to govern men, neither external nor internal controls on government would be necessary. In framing a government which is to be administered by men over men, the great difficulty lies in this: you must first enable the government to control the governed; and in the next place oblige it to control itself. A dependence on the people is, no doubt, the primary control on the government; but experience has taught mankind the necessity of auxiliary precautions.
Think about that a little.
Maybe have it help reset your attitude with regard to government and governing and democracy.
In fact … this may be the only time I will agree with psychiatrist Karl Menninger words: “attitudes are more important than facts.”
I tend to believe this is an uncomfortable and uncharted territory for American democracy. Not only are we in the midst of massive confusion in the deep fog of objectivity and competing false narratives in which we debate even believing that that are knowable, objective facts … but we also have a leader who believes rules do not apply, facts do not matter and how you play the game is irrelevant … as long as we win.
The masses are doubting democracy while at the top our leader most likely has a dusty box of democracy, he bought second hand, sitting on some shelf in the closet.
Democracy does come with some responsibility. We, who believe in democracy, have some responsibility in managing the overall ignorance and decline of trust
In fact … I could suggest that if you are faced with a skeptical audience you have more of a responsibility to “bring them toward” truth.
That is the burden of those who believe in democracy.
That is what democracy demands … if it is to survive.
Oh. And we better get our shit together because … well … sometimes you do not realize what you have until it is gone.
That is the plight of fools and cowards. You will slowly suffocate with every breath you take.
To trust is to live.”