Monday, October 17, 2005

Democracy and power

I recently reread 1984, and it prompted this post.

Democracy, it seems to me, is not just a balance of power, or checks on power by other power, but the actual, occasional ceding of power by individuals or groups. I think we tend to forget that many of the reforms that have made this country so great were accomplished not just by the actions listed above, or even by personal sacrifices, but by someone's permanently giving up of power, control, and influence and making it impossible for people in their positions to regain it.

That presidents can serve for just two terms is one example. The existing laws about lobbying and campaign donations are another. Read this:

"On July 14, 2005, Russ Feingold introduced a bill to the Senate that would ban lobbyists from giving gifts to senators and impose a $50,000 fine for violating the ban; force lawmakers to sign statements saying that lobbyists did not pay their travel expenses; bar congressmen, staffers, and executive branch officials from serving as lobbyists for two years after leaving office; and require that lobbying reports be disclosed on a quarterly, rather than semi-annual, basis. At the same time, Congressman Marty Meehan of Massachusetts, who co-wrote the House version of McCain-Feingold, and Congressman Rahm Emanuel of Illinois introduced a similar bill in the House. Neither bill has yet come to a vote."

I'm amazed that a senator would sponsor such a bill, and it serves as a perfect example of what I'm talking about: someone permanently making themselves and their successors less powerful in order to make life better for everyone. The transition from monarchy to our current democratic republic seems to be this principle in action.

Now, I'm not talking about our economic system, free exchange for mutual benefit; I'm talking solely about the political system. A transparent political system enables capitalism to succeed, and transparency is accomplished by those actions I wrote about above.


3 Comments:

At 11:04 AM, Blogger RedHurt said...

I agree, although I will not bear russ feingold's children.

 
At 2:51 PM, Blogger Jackscolon said...

I also agree, but I would assume that the motives generally for such a bill would be self-serving in the sense that whoever proposes the bill obtains some personal political benefit (reelection?) that outweighs the cost of lost power. However, since I've already stated my position that action is much more important than motive, I'm totally down with it. J. Morgan however, may not be.

 
At 5:04 PM, Anonymous dadman said...

Just dropping by to say that is a remarkably insightful post.

The country is well-served when we think of it as a commonwealth, something we are all in together, rather than an enormous group of individuals whose links with each other are essentially contractual, quid pro quo arrangements. Perhaps it's that sense of commonweal that lets people actually give up power sometimes.

 

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