Is Our Democracy Failing Us?

Charles Hugh Smith at the Of Two Minds blog identifies some troubling trends among our elected representatives:

Representative democracy has an enduring fatal flaw: the small body of representatives can be "captured" by highly concentrated centers of wealth and power. Ironically, the rise of mass media has had a perverse effect on the process of getting elected to public office: in order to afford the "media buys" needed to reach a mostly disinterested citizenry (less than half bother to vote in the U.S.), the candidates must raise vast sums of money.

This gives the Power Elites the lever they need to effectively "buy" the candidates' attention and loyalties.

…extreme concentrations of power act as positive feedback loops: when their power reaches a certain threshold, they are able to cancel out any counteracting forces and thus add to their power. As a result, their wealth and influence becomes more concentrated and their control of the poltical agenda and process becomes stronger, which feeds and protects their perquisites, tax breaks, income streams and political power.

As they ceaslessly work to protect their fiefdoms, then adaptation, evolution and innovation are stymied, leading to economic and institutional stagnation. Phony "reforms" which leave their power intact are trumpeted in the corporate media while armies of lobbyists craft legislative bills which run to the thousands of arcane pages, as there are now many fiefdoms, Elites and power centers to feed and protect.

That this process has become dominant shows that the state government in California is so supremely, systemically dysfunctional that the representative democracy of the Legislature has been reduced to a body whose only task is dividing up the tax revenues amongst the various fiefdoms who own the legislators.

Defenders of representative democracy claim that the citizenry is not up to the task, and that "professional" staffers, lobbyists and legislators are uniquely competent to sort out the complexities.

I think California shatters this defense completely, and offers evidence that the opposite is true: that "professional" staffers, lobbyists and legislators are uniquely qualified to destroy the state. Quite honestly, the citizenry could not do worse even if they set out to do so.

The "insoluable problem" is the capture of representative democracy by extreme concentrations of power and wealth.

The entire point is to reduce the influence of concentrations of wealth and power. Right now, legislators are beholden to small constituencies who fund their campaigns, and who hold the threat of financing an opponent's campaign next election. This system has led to dysfunction without end and the corruption of democracy.