This morning President Obama met with Democratic senators and representatives to discuss the challenges he and they face, after meeting with a similar group of Republicans a few days ago.
The atmosphere, of course was different. But one thing struck me that probably went unnoticed by most, even if it elicited audible recognition by the audience: President Obama pointed out that China is currently way ahead of the U.S. in the area of renewable energy. And he added: “But China is not a democracy.”
Together with the week-old Supreme Court decision that enhances the status of corporations as persons, leaving the door wide open for them to openly purchase elections, this is no small detail: The President failed to mention that China weathered the global economic crisis better than anyone. The reason: the Communist leadership – a handful of people – decided to create a stimulus package equal to the one Americans got after a lot of bickering and recrimination.
I’m not advocating for a totalitarian system, I’m simply pointing out that we have a sort of unofficial totali-tarian system run by big money, which makes is much more difficult for our elected representatives to behave as the founders intended them to. I’m pleased to not that calls for a constitutional convention are appearing here and there, and even if you are persuaded that principles enunciated two hundred years ago are still valid – as one comment to my latest blog Kos affirmed – the founders expressed many fears that their opus would be a Pandora’s Box, leading to situations they could not predict. So did Teddy Roosevelt. President Eisenhower, in his famous last address, was more specific and hardly a day goes by that someone doesn’t quote his warning about the military-industrial complex.
But – as the President would say – make no mistake: democracy demands a level of ethical development (see the work of Lawrence Kohlberg), that a system based on near-total individual freedom does not foster.
Martin Jacques much talked about book entitled When China Rules the World emphasizes the revived Confucian tradition of virtue as the principal guiding China’s totalitarian rulers. In Shock Doctrine, republished on its tenth anniversary, Naomi Klein reveals the little known history of (among others, Russia’s transition to capitalism under Yeltsin.
All this should alert even the most devoted democrat, that labels are not what matter most, but actions.