Posts Tagged political dysfunction

Are we at the beginning of a period of political instability and violence?

Peter Turchin seems to believe so – although he also says that it’s not pre-ordained.  I don’t have time for a deeper examination right now, but it’s worth delving these two articles.

A couple key passages:

The US elites, similarly, took the smooth functioning of the political-economic system for granted. The only problem, as they saw it, was that they weren’t being adequately compensated for their efforts. Feelings of dissatisfaction ran high during the Bear Market of 1973—82, when capital returns took a particular beating. The high inflation of that decade ate into inherited wealth. A fortune of $2 billion in 1982 was a third smaller, when expressed in inflation-adjusted dollars, than $1 billion in 1962, and only a sixth of $1 billion in 1912. All these factors contributed to the reversal of the late 1970s.

And this:

Three years ago I published a short article in the science journal Nature. I pointed out that several leading indicators of political instability look set to peak around 2020. In other words, we are rapidly approaching a historical cusp, at which the US will be particularly vulnerable to violent upheaval. This prediction is not a ‘prophecy’. I don’t believe that disaster is pre-ordained, no matter what we do. On the contrary, if we understand the causes, we have a chance to prevent it from happening. But the first thing we will have to do is reverse the trend of ever-growing inequality.

And finally this one:

How does growing economic inequality lead to political instability? Partly this correlation reflects a direct, causal connection. High inequality is corrosive of social cooperation and willingness to compromise, and waning cooperation means more discord and political infighting. Perhaps more important, economic inequality is also a symptom of deeper social changes, which have gone largely unnoticed.



The Collapse of Congress (part two)

In part one, I argued that Congress has become a deeply dysfunctional institution and that dysfunction threatens the fabric of American democracy. Spend an afternoon watching C-Span and what you see is not meaningful, deliberative debate on the part of our elected representatives, what you see is a series of endlessly obscure hearings, questions, continual dodging and weaving, posturing and speechifying. One sees little actual debate.

Congress’ dysfunction is in part rooted in the rise of the Imperial Presidency. The Cold War served to increase the President’s stature and authority and sustained that change for decades. The threat of danger from overseas – foreign affairs, within the executive’s realm of authority – allowed presidents to claim greater authority within the government (what Andrew Bacevich called the National Security State.

As the imperial presidency has accrued power, surrounding the imperial presidency has come to be this group of institutions called the National Security State. The CIA, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the Office of the Secretary of Defense, the other intelligence agencies. Now, these have grown since the end of World War Two into this mammoth enterprise.
But the National Security State doesn’t work. The National Security State was not able to identify the 9/11 conspiracy. Was not able to deflect the attackers on 9/11. The National Security State was not able to plan intelligently for the Iraq War. Even if you think that the Iraq War was necessary. They were not able to put together an intelligent workable plan for that war.

The second paragraph points us to the real problem – the National Security State doesn’t work and Congress has failed to rein it in.

The Bush administration has aggressively used its PR construct – the War On Terror – to further expand Presidential power – with the full and willing collaboration of many members of Congress. Read the rest of this entry »



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