STAFF NEWS & ANALYSIS
Human Action: The Answer to a Larger Loss of Control
By Staff News & Analysis - August 15, 2014

Study: You have 'near zero' impact on U.S. Policy … A startling new political science study concludes that corporate interests and mega wealthy individuals control U.S. policy to such a degree that "the preferences of the average American appear to have only a minuscule, near-zero, statistically non-significant impact." – Breitbart

Dominant Social Theme: If people were more politically aware, the US and the West would be in better shape.

Free-Market Analysis: This is a startling study that seems to tell the truth about regulatory democracy: Voting is merely a ritual; power is concentrated in the hands of a few.

We knew this already, and have written about it regularly. Still … it's startling to see these sentiments expressed so bluntly in the mainstream media. And being fairly cynical observers of the modern scene, we wonder if there is not something more behind it.

Here, from the article:

The startling study, titled "Testing Theories of American Politics: Elites, Interest Groups, and Average Citizens," is slated to appear in an upcoming issue of Perspectives on Politics and was authored by Princeton University Professor Martin Gilens and Northwestern University Professor Benjamin Page.

Noted American University Historian Allan J. Lichtman, who highlighted the piece in a Tuesday article published in The Hill, calls Gilens and Page's research "shattering" and says their scholarship "should be a loud wake-up call to the vast majority of Americans who are bypassed by their government."

The statistical research looked at public attitudes on nearly 1,800 policy issues and determined that government almost always ignores the opinions of average citizens and adopts the policy preferences of monied business interests when shaping the contours of U.S. laws.

The study's findings align with recent trends, where corporate elites have aggressively pursued pro-amnesty policies despite the fact that, according to the most recent Reuters poll, 70% of Americans believe illegal immigrants "threaten traditional U.S. beliefs and customs," and 63% believe "immigrants place a burden on the economy."

The solution, say the scholars, is a reinvigorated and engaged electorate.

While we are in agreement regarding the problem, we would tend to disagree with the conclusion. There are two problems with modern Western democracy that we can see: Corporate personhood and monopoly central banking. Get rid of legislative and judiciary support of these two concepts and you would have a much different US power structure.

What the US – and the West – needs is a fundamental discussion about how modern democracies have evolved. Unfortunately, in investigating this article, we found the solutions were a good deal less substantive and sophisticated than the analysis of the problem

The Hill article referred to above, authored by history professor Allan Lichtman, concludes as follows:

Ordinary citizens in recent decades have largely abandoned their participation in grassroots movements. Politicians respond to the mass mobilization of everyday Americans as proven by the civil rights and women's movements of the 1960s and 1970s. But no comparable movements exist today. Without a substantial presence on the ground, people-oriented interest groups cannot compete against their wealthy adversaries.

Average Americans also have failed to deploy the political techniques used by elites. Political Action Committees (PACs) and super-PACs, for example, raise large sums of money to sway the outcome of any election in the United States. Although average Americans cannot match the economic power of the rich, large numbers of modest contributions can still finance PACs and super-PACs that advance our common interests.

If only they vote and organize, ordinary Americans can reclaim American democracy and challenge the politicians who still echo the view of old Vanderbilt that the public should be damned.

Lichtman and presumably the authors of the study are likely moving in the wrong direction. The prosperity of the US in particular was not built on grassroots participation in politics but on the ABSENCE of politics.

One could certainly argue that this is yet another populist meme joining others we've covered of late: the "income inequality" meme and, of course, the "one percent" meme. The latter argues that mere millionaires are influential in the current disastrous course of Western societies when in fact it is evidently and obviously a very small circle of men who control the enormous power of monopoly central banking.

Put these developing memes together and you end up with a proscription for a certain kind of "solution." It is one that features grassroots activism, populism and the threat of violence aimed at the "wealthy."

This has always been the noxious brew of populism, the idea that the dysfunction of the political system can be remedied if only "the people" take back ownership of the socio-political and economic structure that is rightfully theirs.

It is, in our view, a misguided philosophy and one eloquently expressed in two "Claudius" books we've referred to in the past: I, Claudius and Claudius the God. Historian-author Robert Graves composed these books in the 20th century to explore issues related to ancient Rome that are, as well, compelling today.

The books are written from the point of view of crippled Claudius, emperor of Rome, who spent most of his life writing about the return of Republicanism to ancient Rome. Only after he becomes emperor does he more fully understand the difficulty of "going back."

Graves surely wrote these books in part as a warning to a modern-day readership about the inexorable trends of post-war Western societies. The West in modern times – especially the US – resembles nothing so much as ancient Rome. Its emphasis on military force, regulatory control of domestic populations and creeping – or galloping – authoritarianism mimics to a considerable degree what went on in ancient Italy.

Graves's conclusion is either pessimistic or optimistic, depending on how you look at it. While Claudius seems to realize finally that the Roman republic is never returning, there is also within the context of the books – an allowance for the readers' knowledge of modern history. Rome did fall, but then there were the rise of the Dark Ages (that weren't so dark) and a decentralization of power that culminated in the Renaissance and the reclamation of the science and the scientific method.

Societies seem to have a certain inevitable ebb and flow. Elites, ever more focused on centralization that enhances their power and control, drive their societies toward increased concentrations of power. The middle-classes go along with social restructuring because they have to, not because they want to.

It is certainly disheartening to contemplate a future in which the social infrastructure is continually degrading, but history seems to inform us that, for the most part, when negative trends are set in motion, they tend to continue and expand. This is why we try to emphasize human action, and to suggest to people that they tend assiduously to their own garden, as Voltaire suggested in Candide.

Whether it is attempting to prudently leverage wealth from the current Wall Street Party or to disperse and allocate assets via money metals and real estate, people need to concentrate on their own situations as best they can to benefit their families, friends and local communities.

It is saddening to think that American exceptionalism is ending and that nothing can bring it back. But one can turn instead toward human action and individual and local community fulfillment. Freedom starts, after all, with the individual and the determination, as Harry Browne put it, to "live free in an unfree world."

After Thoughts

If one wants to be involved in the great issues of the day, they are certainly there for the seizing, regardless, but tending to one's own garden is increasingly important in unquiet times.

Posted in STAFF NEWS & ANALYSIS
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