Contemporary Politics is “Post-democratic” 11
HOW PERSUASIVE IS THE CONTENTIONTHAT CONTEMPORARY POLITICS IS “POSTDEMOCRATIC”?
HOW PERSUASIVE IS THE CONTENTIONTHAT CONTEMPORARY POLITICS IS “POSTDEMOCRATIC”?
Democracy is defined as a form ofgovernment where power is vested in the people and exercised by themthrough directly elected leaders. Governance of this kind has comeunder threat from the abuse of digital technologies and vastcorporate wealth subverting the rule of the law. According toAmerican Supreme Court, judge Louis Brandeis (1928) "Decency,security, and liberty alike demand that government officials shall besubjected to the same rules of conduct that are commands to thecitizen” (Ducat, 2009, 716).
Today, the United States hasbecome a two-tier system of justice, where the existence of thegovernment failed to see the law scrupulously.Post-democracies have certain characteristics that include steepdeclines in active voter participation in political party membershipand national elections. Inthe United States and the United Kingdom, it is becoming evident that“private wealth has become one of the most potent factors ininfluencing the application of the rule of law amongst individualsand global corporations”(Johnston, 2005, 56).
This paper will discuss howwealth and power has corrupted the application of the rule of law inmature Western democracies, which effectively transform them intopost-democratic societies. Additionally, the paper expounds on howthe role of technology is transforming the United States into apost-democratic country.
Rule of Law
The rule of law is often definedas the “imposing meaningful law on restraining the state andindividual members of the ruling elite” (Peerenboom,2002, p3). It encapsulates capturing the relevance of the supremacylaw and equality of law, above all. However, the selectiveness in theapplication of principles of democracy like the rule of law,equality, fairness, accountability and transparency has compromiseddemocracy. The rules of law are synonymous to the rule by men insteadof rule of law. The U.S is an established democracy, created on thefundamental principles of democracy. Rule of law acts as one of themain principles in U.S democracy. Nonetheless, it has been evidentthat some American agencies like the CIA, have been consistentlyviolating the law, yet no legal action has been taking against theagencies. Since the September 2011 terrorist acts, national securityorgans have subverted international laws in extracting informationthrough torture (Allan & Hansen, 2009, p47). Actions includingthe use of drone attacks, torture of Guantanamo detainees and theSyria and Iraq bombing have violated international laws on war crimesand basic human rights.
While large organizations havegone unpunished, it has not been the case for Americans who commitcrimes (Hager, 2014, p1). ProPublica, an independent magazinepublication, revealed that high government officials and rich peopleare exempt from lawful justice. Additionally, wealthy whites accusedof wrongdoing, but having powerful political connections are possibleto get a presidential pardon. Regrettably, it is not the same casefor the black community that faces the full wrath of the law. Whilelarge bodies such as CIA, “too big to fail” gets away withactions calling for criminal prosecution under the rule of law,Americans that are not powerful are subjected to one of the world’smost merciless penal codes (He & Cheng, 34). America imprisonsmore individuals than any other state internationally, and minoroffenses result in long sentences, in addition to having a lessclemency than other nations. It is clear that oppressive penalpolicies are more lethal to ordinary Americans, as well as racist.For instance, the war on drugs has led to disproportionateimprisonment of Latinos and the black society (Horton, 2011, p1).
China is another illustration ofhow wealth and power has corrupted the use of the rule of law,transforming the nation into a post-democratic society. In thecountry, the rule by law refers to political leadership andgovernment actions. This deviates from the rule of law common inother nations. The two terms have different meaning. The rule of law,an essential democratic principle, aims at constraining the authorityand power of the political elite to regulations and legislation. Ruleby law results in the rule of law, and refers to the use of laws asis fit for political leaders (Chin, 2014, p1). Thus, the rule of lawmeans using the law in a predictable and fair manner. China onlyobserves the rule of law when it fails to conflict with the interestof those in authority. The ruling party controls the police, courtsand prosecutors. The constitution, which provides and guaranteesrights and freedom of the Chinese people, is pushed aside if itconflict with party politics (Chin, 2014, p1).
Wealth and Democracy in theU.S
In the U.S, wealthy Americans usetheir money to serve their personal interests, often infringing onother people’s rights, threatening democracy. The rich useregulatory capture, a form of political corruption, where they usetheir wealth to compromise regulatory agencies (Phillips 2003 p18).Additionally, they influence the media and compromise objectivity inits role of checking government performance. As a result, thepolitical view is disillusioned, the media are powerless hence therich can have their way, even if it is against democracy (Usborne2014 p1). Since 1980s, Murdoch formed close alliance with PrimeMinister Thatcher in 1980s, Supported Labour Party under Tony Blairand played an imperative role in the ascendancy of David Cameron topower. Murdoch has gone largely unblemished from the phone hackingscandal that has bedeviled News Corporation (He& Cheng 2012,p56).
In America, regulatory capture bythe rich is evidenced by the case of the Koch brothers. Thesebillionaire brothers wanted to use their wealth to acquire theChicago Tribune and the Los Angeles Times, to control politics of theregion, bending the political landscape in their favor (Usborne,2014, p1). Using personal wealth to influence politics dates back toWilliam Randolph Hearst, who owned and gagged the media to controlthe political landscape (Rowbottom, 2010, p139). Additionally, therich channel many private cash into political parties, which provessuccessful in controlling the political landscape (He& Cheng2012, p 56). This was especially so after 2010, when the SupremeCourt erased caps on the amounts of cash individuals and corporatecould channel into campaigns (Usborne, 2014, p1). This landmarkruling makes the U.S a post-democratic country, where wealth willsignificantly influence the leadership of the country (Rowbottom 2010p 159).
Impacts of Ultra powerfulglobal corporations on democracy
The rise of ultra-wealthy,unaccountable and unelected global corporations subverts liberaldemocracies. For example, TheTrans-Atlantic Trade Agreement and Investment Partnership, whichaimed to remove regulatory encumbrance between the European Union andU.S, will be an atrocious mugging on democracy (Robin 2002 p 58).This treaty aims to accord large corporations and business entitiesoperating within the previously mentioned jurisdiction remarkableability to wage a fight through legal action against electedgovernments that shall try to safeguard the rights of its citizens(Boesak& Hansen 2009 p 87). The agreement shall allow a secretivejury of lawyers to overturn decisions by law making bodies anddestroy legal protections (Monbiot 2013 p 1).
As can be observed from otherparts of the world where such treaties are in operation, thecontroversial investor-state dispute arbitration clause has thepotential of killing regulations that safeguard citizens in thesenations (Steve &Gerstle 2005 p 66). For example, the AustralianGovernment, with the support of the Supreme Court decided that allcigarettes in that country must be sold in plain packets, but thisdecision has not augured well with large cigarette manufacturers suchas Philip Morris from Hong Kong (Fraser, Steve &Gerstle 2005p34). The company has used the trade agreement between Hong Kong andAustralia to sue the government for an intellectual property loss inregards to the requirement for plain packaging of their cigarettes.Eli Lilly, a large American drug firm is suing the Canadiangovernment for revoking two of its patents because the firm has notoffered adequate evidence that they have a beneficial effect. Thefirm is also calling for massive changes in the country’s patentslaws (Monbiot, 2013, p1).
Role of technology in creatingpost-democracies
Development in technology is akey component for promoting democracy and proper governanceworldwide. However, when used wrongly, technology results in apost-democracy within democratic nations. This is specifically thecase when privacy and different liberties are not certain. Technologyhas resulted in information revolution, giving individuals therequisite power of fighting against all oppressive acts (Mazrui,2010, p23). Egypt and different Arab nations are among currentillustrations where technology such as Facebook, Twitter and smartphones, played a role in overturning repressive dictatorships. Theinternet is effective in promoting citizens advocacy, increasegovernment transparency and accountability and strengthen democraticprocesses. Citizens, non-governmental institutions, civil servantsand politicians need to use technology to enhance communication andimprove their access to important information (Morozov, 2013, p1).
However, technology has thecapability of undermining democracy and civil liberties, like theright to privacy, enshrined in the United Nations as a fundamentalhuman right. The revelations by Edward Snowden, an Americanwhistleblower have been important in enlightening the world on howthe U.S, under the guise of fighting terror, has subverted thedemocratic rights of its citizens and non-Americans that use theinternet or smart phone worldwide. Complex computer algorithms haveenabled America to become a digital police state. This is apparentthrough their National Security Agency (NSA), which has put the wholeworld under its all-seeing surveillance leaving little scope forpersons to retain their digital privacy. The country has even buggedthe mobile phones of their closest European allies. An illustrationis the bugging of Germany’s Chancellor, Angela Merkel, mobilephone, yet she is not a terrorist. The emergence of the internationalU.S surveillance state acts as a peril to the civil liberties ofpersons all over, foreshadowing a possible Orwellian state whereindividual privacy fails to exist. It is a distressing certainty thatcitizens living in the post-democratic world have already lost theirfreedom, since anyone using a smart phone or laptop today, no longerexpects digital privacy.
The dysfunctional Americaninstitution acts as a solid depiction of the post-democratic U.Scontemporary politics. Francis Fukuyama, a political scientist,argues that American democracy has declined into a vetocracy. Thisimplies that all the country’s institutions, which are theexecutive organ, judiciary and legislative bodies, are incapable ofwielding enough power to make decisions and take effective charge.Fukuyama argues, “making collective decision-making based onelectoral majorities is extremely difficult” (2013, p1). TheAmerican system when compared to different mature democracies in theEuropean Union such a Britain, seems too rigid to work effectively.In Britain, any introduced public policy or regulation promulgated bythe incumbent government is subject to intense democratic debate andscrutiny by the elected parliament. Contrary, the gridlocked Americanvetocracy has increasingly resulted in the making of such regulationsthrough a non-transparent process by unelected judges who enjoytenure of office (Fukuyama, 2013, p3). An illustration is thepreponderance of unelected U.S courts in the enactment of nationalpublic policies. Laws are passed in a non-transparent, as well ascustomary procedure through the dysfunctional elected Congress,Senate and executive branch. The vetocracy America is facing may besolved via delegating more power to the local governments. This willensure they are able to execute more responsibilities like offeringhealth care and taxation. In addition, it is paramount to reorientthe debate on important policies around concrete and lucid outcomesthat will involve the public.
In conclusion, the U.S and EUillustrate the apparent dysfunctional institutions among the fullymatured democracies of the world. Ultra powerful global corporationsmanipulate national legislation. This is possible through allowingsecretive jury of lawyers that destroy civil liberties among maturedemocracies. In addition, is the fact that the progressivesurveillance on digital infrastructures, infringes on citizens rightsto privacy. Infringing the right to privacy makes evident thepresence of contemporary post-democracy in America and differentmature democracies. Wealthy persons progress to influence theleadership of fully mature democracies through funding politicalparties and movements. The American Supreme Court made a landmarkruling allowing unions and enterprises to fund campaigns, whichoppose or support different politicians, hence influencing thepolitical process. The dysfunctional institutions in democraticnations act as proof of the movement towards post-democracy, whichsubverts democracy.
Boesakand Hansen, A. D 2009, Globalisation:The Politics of Empire, Justice and the Life of Faith.1sted. South Africa. SUN Press: Stellenbosch,
Broad,R. 2002.Global Backlash:Citizen Initiatives for a Just World Economy.Lanham, Md: Rowman& Littlefield Publishers
Ducat, C.2009. Constitutional Interpretation. 1st ed. Boston, United States:Suzanne Jeans
Fraser, S, and Gary G 2005.Ruling America: A Historyof Wealth and Power in a Democracy.1sted. United States. Harvard University Press
Fukuyama,F, 2013. The Decay of American Political Institutions. The AmericanInterest, 9:3, 1-24.
Guy, R. K.,& Feinerman, J. V. (Eds.). (2000). Thelimits of the rule of law in China.University of Washington Press.
Hager, L.M., 2014. Torture Report: What Next?. Truthout, [Online]. 1, 1.Available at:http://www.truth-out.org/opinion/item/28017-torture-report-what-next[Accessed 30 December 2014].
He,and Cheng Li. 2012 .In theName of Justice: Striving for the Rule of Law in China.1sted Brookings Institution Press: Washington, DC
Horton,S, 2011. With Liberty and Justice for Some: Six Questions for GlennGreenwald. Harpers Magazine, [Online]. 1, 1. Available at:http://harpers.org/blog/2011/12/_with-liberty-and-justice-for-some_-six-questions-for-glenn-greenwald/[Accessed 02 January 2015].
Jacob R, 2010,Democracy Distorted:Wealth, Influence and Democratic Politics. 1sted. NewYork. Cambridge UniversityPress
Johnston, M.2005. Syndromes of Corruption: Wealth, Power, and Democracy. 1sted. New York : Cambridge University Press.
Mazrui, A,2010. “Between the pre-democratic Ummah and the Post-DemocraticUnited States of America”. Institute of Global Cultural Studies, 2,2-27.
Moglen, E,2014. Privacy under attack: the NSA files revealed new threats todemocracy. The Guardian, 1:2, 4-15.
Monbiot, G,2013. This transatlantic trade deal is a full- frontal assault ondemocracy. The Guardian, 1:2, 2-5.
Morozov, E, 2013. The Real Privacy Problem. MIT Tech. Review, 1:2, 1-16.
Peerenboom,Robert W, 2002. China`s Long March Toward Rule of Law. 1st ed. UnitedKingdom : Cambridge University Press.
Phillips, K. 2003. Wealthand Democracy: A Political History of the American Rich.1sted. Broadway Books: New York
Usborne, D 2014. “How the Kochbrothers, backed by the Supreme Court, threaten democracy” Theimpendent News 2 April 2014: athttp://www.independent.co.uk/voices/comment/usborne-in-the-usa-how-the-koch-brothers-backed-by-the-supreme-court-threaten-democracy-9233751.htm
Zhao,S. 2006, DebatingPolitical Reform in China: Rule of Law Vs. Democratization.1sted Armonk, N.Y. M.E. Sharpe.