We are constantly barraged by the terms capitalism, communism, socialism, dictatorship, democracy, anarchy and the like, in the press, on TV, and in our every day conversation. I suspect that the vast majority of Americans don’t have a clue as to what these terms mean, but its damn important to all of us. Unless we pay more attention we may find ourselves in a concentration camp, or as the Vietnamese Communists coyly called it, a “reeducation camp”, after the overthrow of the corrupt Saigon leadership in 1975.
People who strongly support capitalism are referred to as right-wingers. Right-wingers support the free-enterprise marketplace and want minimal government interference in their daily lives and business dealings. People who support heavy taxation and extensive government controls are referred to as left-wingers (or liberals). These people seemingly want government involvement in every aspect of our lives.
The study of how people can be managed in a political environment is referred to as social engineering, which is defined as the management of human beings in accordance with their place and function in society.
It is essential that we all understand the various political/economic systems that are available in modern day social engineering, it will help you form opinions as to what direction you want to see America grow in the future. This explanation hopefully will clarify misunderstandings of these various systems that often drive people to make great errors in judgment. I conclude this chapter with an overview of the marvelous democracy that existed 2,500 years ago in Athens, Greece, that can provide the basis, in my opinion, of the direction that America must move to return power to the people.
To start this brief overview, I will define what many of those political/economic terms mean, so we can intelligently analyze the benefits or failings of each type of system.
Capitalism is an economic system in which the means of production and distribution are privately or corporately owned and development is proportionate to the accumulation and reinvestment of profits gained in a free market.
Communism is an economic system characterized by the collective ownership of property and by the organization of labor for the common advantage of all members. Under communism by its very nature, because of authoritarian government control, socialism automatically becomes a byproduct of this system.
Socialism is any of various theories or systems of social organization in which the means of producing and distributing goods can be privately or collectively owned or dictated by a centralized government that often plans and controls the economy. Although socialism does not always co-exist with only communist or fascist governments, the implementation of socialism in many countries requires that a strong central government generally impose this philosophy on the people.
Fascism differs from communism in that ownership of the means of production is left in the hands of private industry but all industry and business activity is heavily regulated by a strong national government. Therefore, socialistic objectives are achieved by the police power of the state. Fascist Germany and Italy both operated in this manner. Fascism can also be defined as a government marked by centralization of authority under a dictator, stringent socioeconomic controls, and suppression of any opposition through terror and censorship. Fascist governments are generally characterized by belligerent nationalism.
Dictatorship is a form of government in which the ruler is an absolute dictator (not restricted by a constitution or laws or opposition from the people). Saddam Hussein is a prime example of a dictatorship wherein he controlled every aspect of Iraqi life without the people having any say in the running of the country. Any criticism, no matter how insignificant, was dealt with by torture and/or death.
Democracy is the government by the people, exercised either directly or through elected representatives.
Republic is slightly different from a democracy and is a government in which supreme power resides in a body of citizens entitled to vote and is exercised by elected officers and representatives responsible to them and governed according to law.
Anarchy is the absence of government; the state of society where there is no law or supreme power; a state of lawlessness; political confusion.
Personally, I favor anarchy over all of the other forms of government, because it provides the greatest freedom to mankind. However, after over one-half century on this planet, I fully recognize that this philosophy will not work, as our civilization would be destroyed by chaos. My recognition of the failings of anarchy are unlike the people who create nonsensical theories like communism which sound great on the surface but completely unravel when practical considerations are introduced into the equation.
Let us not forget that the evolution of political systems likely started with Fred Unggh, Cro-Magnon man, who picked up a dinosaur bone to use as a club and decided he wanted to rule the tribe. He used the club to beat his nearest rival to death to win the hand of the fair maiden, Betty Naaaggh. Not much has changed in a million years, except today the egomaniacs who desire power around the world use the club to pilfer billions of dollars, while at home Democrats and Republicans threaten us with economic and political clout instead of with a dinosaur bone.
Over 5,000 years ago, a few advanced civilizations existed in China, Egypt and the Middle East. An all-powerful emperor or pharaoh ruled in these societies. The people were used solely at the discretion of the state for whatever purposes suited the ruler. Demonstrating the complete disregard for the people, 50,000 to 100,000 Egyptians, both slaves and paid workers, built the pyramids for the Pharaoh’s grand entrance into the after life.
Around 2,500 years ago, the first inklings of democracy appeared on the horizon in ancient Greece and Rome, but generally barbaric kings and emperors governed the rest of the world.
The world eventually evolved into various classes: the peasants or serfs, the nobility, and the merchant class, wherein the merchant class controlled much money and power and began to flex their muscles as the first organized rebellion against the ruling class.
It all eventually evolved to the various forms of government that exist on the planet today.
I start my discussion on the merits and pitfalls of modern-day economic/political systems with socialism/communism as it represents the direction this country is headed unless we make some radical changes in our thought processes.
The two people who created the Communist Manifesto, the doctrine of communism, were two very bright philosophers in Germany during the mid to late 1800’s, Karl Marx and Freidrick Engels, who had no practical experience with economics or government. Ironically (or hypocritically), at one point, thanks to a substantial donation from a colleague, Marx dabbled with some success in the stock market.
Some of the more memorable quotes attributed to this political/economic system are as follow:
“The class struggle necessarily leads to the dictatorship of the proletariat.”
“Religion…is the opiate of the people.”
What the first statement means is that the proletariat (people) can’t be trusted to govern themselves. Therefore, we, the elite, will run the government and tell these people what to do. Now we have to remember that in those days, the majority of people fit into the category of peasants or serfs. They were truly ignorant people with no access to schooling and little contact outside of their village. There was a very wide disparity between the educated class and these people, which affirms why “dictatorship of the proletariat” seemed so reasonable to the elitists of the Communist Party. The second statement was the basis for the abolishment of religion within Russia.
It’s important to understand the central points of communism with a few of my own sarcastic tidbits in the right-hand column:
1. Abolition of property in land and application of all rents to public purposes.
I can just picture 10,000,000 housing projects!
2. A heavy progressive or graduated income tax.
And we thought we paid outlandish taxes now!
3. Abolition of all rights of inheritance.
Don’t bother working hard to get ahead – your children won’t see a dime of that money.
4. Confiscation of the property of all emigrants and rebels.
Immigrants won’t be able to own anything, either.
5. Centralization of credit in banks of the state, by means of a central bank with state capital and an exclusive monopoly.
Forget about the Bank of America.
6. Centralization of the means of communication and transport in the hands of the state.
No more Verizon, AT&T or Amtrak.
7. Extension of factories and instruments of production owned by the state: the bringing into cultivation of wasteland, and the improvement of the soil generally in accordance with a common plan.
All means of production from General Motors to the smallest computer home repair shop will be owned by the state.
8. Equal obligation of all to do work.
Does this mean no more welfare payments?
9. Combination of agriculture with manufacturing industries; gradual abolition of all the distinction of the populace over the country.
I can see how this means they will just up and move everyone to suit the will of the state. Siberia, here we come.
10. Free education for all children in public schools. Abolition of children’s factory labor in its present form.
Free education – absolutely capital idea – and abolishing children’s factories is good, too.
Now we must recognize the world as seen through the eyes of Marx and Engels in the1800’s before we can realistically examine the doctrine that they evolved. Civilization had evolved from royal families (kings, queens and czars) to feudalism (wherein a few family-related land barons owned large parcels of land) to the merchant class to capitalism. Concepts such as democracy or free-market economics did not exist in Europe or Russia in that era. Only Great Britain had a government that somewhat represented the people. The czars and czarinas of the Romanoff family had ruled Russia for hundreds of years, while the peasants existed in destitute conditions.
A High School teacher, Thomas J. Shelly, of upstate New York easily tore apart one of the memorable quotations from the Communist Manifesto,
“From each according to his abilities, and to each according to his needs.”
That quote sounds great, does it not? Mr. Shelly stated: “As a teacher, I found that the socialist-communist idea of taking ‘from each according to his abilities,’ and giving ‘to each according to his needs’ was generally accepted without question by most students. In an effort to explain the fallacy in this theory, I sometimes tried this approach:
When one of the brighter or harder-working students made a grade of 95 on a test, I suggested that I take away 20 points and give them to a student who had made only 55 points on his test. Thus each would contribute according to his abilities and - since both would have a passing mark - each would receive according to his needs. After I juggled the grades of all the other students in this fashion, the result was usually a “common ownership” grade of between 75 and 80-the minimum needed for passing, or for survival. Then I speculated with the students as to the probable results if I actually used the socialistic theory for grading papers.
First, the highly productive students and they are always a minority in school as well as in life - would soon lose all incentive for producing. Why strive to make a high grade if part of it is taken from you by ‘authority’ and given to someone else?
Secondly, the less productive students-a majority in school as elsewhere-would, for a time, be relieved of the necessity to study or to produce. This socialist-communist system would continue until the high producers had sunk - or had been driven down - to the level of the low producers. At that point, in order for anyone to survive, the ‘authority’ would have no alternative but to begin a system of compulsory labor and punishments against even the low producers. They, of course, would then complain bitterly, but without understanding.
Finally I returned the discussion to the ideas of freedom and enterprise - the market economy - where each person has freedom of choice and is responsible for his or her own decisions and welfare.
Gratifyingly enough, most of my students then understood what I meant when I explained that socialism - even in a democracy - would eventually result in a living death for all except the ‘authorities’ and a few of their favorite lackeys.”
During the Cold War (1945-1991) with the western nations, Russia built up a tremendous military, consisting of state-of-the-art aircraft, missiles and ships. This was no longer the backwater that the communists had seized from the interim quasi-democratic government that had replaced the czar in 1917. But there was a price to pay. Consumer goods, which had been so plentiful in the west during this same period, were almost non-existent in the Soviet Union. The consumer goods that were available were shoddy at best as they were manufactured in state-owned factories with little incentive to produce quality goods.
Advocates of communism claim that capitalist systems exploit the working class by the people that own the means of production. Although there is much truth in that statement, citizens of a communist country are nothing more than slaves of the state.
The communist government owns all means of production, transportation, banks and even the worker’s living quarters. Workers paid $4 per month for their housing; races and sexes were theoretically equal; there was guaranteed employment, free healthcare and education; and they received a reasonable pension (about $20) when they retired.
Salaries were fixed, too. Often cab drivers made more than doctors. The obvious question then is, “Where was the incentive for a citizen to become a doctor?” Well, for one, doctors were honored with great prestige, plus in order to get anything done in the system those peasants that could afford it could slip the good doctor a few rubles instead of waiting hours, days or months for a medical procedure. Because of the guarantee of employment, millions of citizens were literally dumped on state-owned industries to put them to work, although there was often no work at those facilities. And you could not quit your job, either. You were stuck there for life unless the state elected to move you to another hellhole.
All state planning started with the Central Committee in Moscow and trickled down through the 5,000,000+ employees in the bureaucracy. The government dictated everything about life under a 5-year plan, that determined what and where new industries would be located, how many tractors would be built, and what you paid for the few consumer goods and food that was available. The law of “supply and demand” which is the backbone of a free economy was never a consideration. The state-owned industries were totally dependent on other state-owned industries to provide the raw materials necessary for their own manufacturing processes. If they didn’t deliver, there was little the plant manager could do to hasten those deliveries, as opposed to under a capitalist system we could simply find a new supplier.
The People’s Republic of China, The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, the Democratic Republic of Vietnam, the Lao Democratic People’s Republic and the Republic of Cuba are the sole surviving communist governments in existence today. At one time, the Soviet Union, all of Eastern Europe, Yugoslavia, Albania, Kampuchea (Cambodia), Mongolia, Yemen, Mozambique, Angola, and for a brief period Afghanistan were communist states that ruled one-third of the people on the planet.
Knowing that the basic precept of “dictatorship of the proletariat” is a principle of their theology, it is ironic that “people’s” and “democratic” appear in the countries’ names, wherein the people have no voice. There are tacit elections of officials who are nominated by the party. There never has been a leader of a communist government who has used communism or socialism in the title of the state. A bit of political humor, no doubt.
In 1991, The Soviet Union imploded and was replaced by the Russian Federation, a more or less democratic form of government with free elections. In the last 10 years, both China and Vietnam have moved to a free market system to replace their hopelessly inadequate state-owned industries. China has moved away from a fundamental communist government to a fascist government during this time. China actually has more capitalist options than America, in that they lack the regulations on industry that prevent pollution and corruption. This is one of the reasons for the rapid expansion of the Chinese economy. Private industrialists need not be concerned about lethargic government bureaucrats when it comes to building the country.
Unfortunately, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, which is a model of “Stalinist” communism, continues to suffer severe food shortages and miserable living conditions for its 20 million plus citizens. The majority of their Gross Domestic Product (GDP) is spent on weapons systems and their one million-man army to fight imagined enemies.
Here’s the really important part of this chapter. What brought communism to its knees? There is a very important lesson to be learned about communism that should not be missed by advocates of more intense government control.
In most communist states, there are no restrictions in theory or practice to limit the power of the state, resulting in ruling bodies that are either totalitarian or authoritarian. Horrible abuses are prevalent throughout the society. Scholars will argue that in practice there is little difference between communist and fascist states. In almost all of these states, a large secret police apparatus was always present to squash dissent. Under communism, the Communist Party was the only party permitted to exist.
The main point where communism falls on its face is lack of incentive. Why would any peasant want to work harder than the next guy when the government sets the salaries? I will likely have the entire membership of the AFL-CIO banging down my front door, but unfortunately there is some similarity in this situation today wherein members of many unions are paid not by their expertise or contribution on the job but strictly based on their years on the job. Where’s the incentive to go the extra mile? It doesn’t exist!
The tyrannical dictator Joseph Stalin used his secret police to forcibly remove all farmland from the peasant’s hands and place these people into farm cooperatives for the good of the state. There were huge rebellions in which millions of peasants were slaughtered or starved to death during this reorganization period. Once they were organized, often the peasants would rise in the morning, extol the virtues of the revolution, and then spend the day drinking vodka because they didn’t have any tractors to harvest crops.
When students graduated from high school, the state determined whether that person would receive a higher education. After graduation, these individuals would be forced to move to wherever the government felt he or she was needed without regard for personal sentiments.
In the Soviet Union, the leaders tried to keep up with the west in the arms race – an impossible task – by spending more and more money and resources - combined with the extremely lax work habits and an indifferent attitude of the workers. Finally, the state could no longer support the people and it crashed and burned.
One of the best examples where choice is offered between a communist and free society occurred after the demise of Germany in World War II. This was the perfect test tube experiment. The country was split into separate zones of occupation in 1945 between the Russians, Americans, French and British. Berlin, the capital, was also divided into four zones with the Russians occupying East Berlin. The communist East Germans had so many problems trying to keep their citizens from escaping their worker’s paradise to the west that they eventually built a wall in 1961 separating East and West Berlin. The Berlin Wall came crashing down in 1989 along with the East German regime.
I think we can safely say that communism is not the wave of the future.
The parliamentary system of Great Britain is used as the forerunner of many governmental structures in innumerable countries today. This system had great influence on the thinking of the Founding Fathers during formulation of the Constitution of the United States. The parliamentary system was the first attempt at gaining some degree of power for the people in the western world.
Until the 13th century, traditional kings and queens ruled England with an iron hand. The Magna Carta (Latin for the ‘Great Charter’), the first nationwide emancipation document, is often thought of as the cornerstone of liberty and the chief defence against arbitrary and unjust rule in England. In fact it contains few sweeping statements of principle, but is more of a series of concessions wrung from the unwilling King John by his rebellious barons in 1215. However, Magna Carta established for the first time a very significant constitutional principle, namely that the power of the king could be limited by a written document.
During the reign of King Henry III, he spent vast sums of money rebuilding Westminster Abbey and trumpeted a campaign to make his younger brother the King of Sicily. He didn’t run into trouble with the people, the serfs. He ran into problems with his own nobility forcing him to create a council of barons to oversee key appointments and reform common law. The king eventually took issue with their power and a civil war ensued. During the conflict, both knights and commoners were summoned to attend the new parliament by the barons laying the groundwork for future governments.
In the 14th century, under King Edward III, a ruling was made that there should be no taxation without parliamentary consent, a practice in widespread use today. Two distinct Houses of Parliament emerged, the forerunners of the House of Commons and the House of Lords, which are still the prevalent institutions governing Britain today.
In the 15th century, the House of Commons gained equal law-making powers with the House of Lords.
In the 17th century, the king and parliament could not agree on the control of troops to repress the Irish Rebellion, resulting in another civil war, handily won by the parliamentarians. As an offshoot of this war, a Bill of Rights was passed, which established the authority of Parliament over the sovereign, significantly reducing the king’s power.
In the 18thy century, a union of England, Wales, Ireland and Scotland was achieved, until the country of Ireland (minus Northern Ireland) eventually won its independence.
The major functions of the United Kingdom Parliament are to:
· Make all United Kingdom law
· Provide for voting for taxation the means of carrying on the business of government
· Protect the public and safeguard the rights of individuals
· Scrutinize government policy and administration, including expenditures
· Hear appeals in the House of Lords, the highest Court of Appeal
· Debate the major issues of the day.
In many ways the British system of government is quite similar to the U.S. form, except if you have never had the opportunity to watch a session of the House of Commons, it is a rare, earthy treat. Members don’t pull any punches, with brawls and fist fights erupting on the floor. It’s quite different from the pomp and polish of the U.S. Senate or House of Representatives, where everyone is a perfect gentleman or gentlewoman while stabbing each other in the back off-camera.
Socialism is practiced in many European countries without the heavy-handed dictatorship of the proletariat; therefore socialism can be an instrument of state policy without communism. Sweden, a country of between 8 and 9 million people, with a high standard of living, is the most socialized member of the European Union (Common Market). Sweden is a constitutional monarchy with representative democracy based on a parliamentary system. It still retains a king whose authority is for the most part symbolic. Sweden does not own the means of production but the government has great power in planning major elements of the economy.
The Parliament of Sweden, the Riksdag, consists of 349 members. It may alter the constitution and its acts are NOT subject to judicial review. This is quite different from the United States. Sweden enforces mandatory voting (which is the rule in many countries) and penalties for not voting are severe. Perhaps we could learn a great deal from the Swedes.
Swedes pay up to 60% of their income in taxes to support benefits such as a national health plan, although recently Sweden has been reverting back to the free-market to provide services that were poorly provided under government control.
Dictators who have ruled in modern-day society included Adolph Hitler in Germany, Francisco Franco in Spain, Benito Mussolini in Italy, Joseph Stalin in Russia, Saddam Hussein in Iraq, plus scores of dictators in Africa. A characteristic of modern-day dictatorships was their pretense of an official ideology and political party such as the Baath Party in Iraq, The Fascist Regime in Italy or National Socialism in Germany. All of these countries were ruled by a one-party state, wherein the people had absolutely no voice in running the government.
Hitler, in cahoots with Mussolini, was responsible for over 50 million deaths, Stalin murdered over 20 million of his own countrymen, and it is estimated that Saddam Hussein murdered at least 500,000 Iraqis in his infamous prisons and by gas attacks on the Kurds. Hussein was in power for over 20 years, which means he butchered an average of 25,000 per year (or let’s say 2,000 per month). During the liberation of Iraq (operation Iraqi Freedom) in 2003, well-meaning people were crying about the deaths of innocent Iraqis through errant bombs and firefights. However, statistics will show that fewer civilians have died since the invasion than Hussein was slaughtering daily in his own prisons. The loss, however, of over 1,000 American soldiers and maiming of over 10,000 is another matter entirely.
Since the death of his father, Kim Il Sung, Kim Jong Il has continued to rule the country with an iron fist. North Korea possesses nuclear capabilities and rockets that can reach the coast of California. Then why did we attack Iraq instead? Oil my friends, simply oil. It had very little to do with ridding the world of a despotic regime.
However, as we focus on the Asian continent we do nothing about many of the totalitarian regimes that exist in Africa. Many countries are still ruled by dictatorships dressed up to look like democracies. It should become obvious that dictatorships are not good for the world. So I hope we can rule out that possibility for the future of America.
The United States of America is a republic. A republic can also be defined as a political order in which the supreme power lies in a body of citizens who are entitled to vote for officers and representatives responsible to them. Democracy is a government by the people, exercised either directly or through elected representatives. In many places in the world, the government may pretend to be democratic but iron handed despots rule many countries. The United States and most of the world operate under a system of capitalism wherein the means of production are privately owned by corporations and individuals.
Under democracy, the people vote on defense, social and tax issues directly or through elected representatives, as opposed to other totalitarian systems wherein the people have little voice.
During the late 1800s and early 1900s, many powerful industrial barons gained great wealth by exploiting the workers and dominating American commerce, with both positive and negatives aspects of that period. These same corporations made America the economic power in the world it is today. However, in order to increase the bottom line, not only were workers forced to work in miserable conditions for pennies a day, the corporations were indifferent to the health needs of these workers and the populace in general, by poisoning the atmosphere, water and land during their manufacturing operations. It was only through the efforts of the American people that may of these tyrants were legally mandated to change their policies. Labor unions, through great struggle, became powerful to provide checks and balances on corporate America. Without labor unions, and vigorous prosecution of industrial criminals, American workers would still be living as tools of corporate America.
The downside of the free market economy is that scandals continue to abound today regarding executives who rob pension funds and large “golden parachute” payments to executives prior to declaring bankruptcy. There’s probably not much that can be done to stop the “golden parachute” highway robbery, but at least mandatory and lengthy jail time can be prescribed for those crooks who rob pension funds.
We must remember, however, that small business is the backbone of the economy. More people are employed in small business than in large corporations. In New Jersey, 275,000 small businesses constituting 98.4% of the businesses in the state employ more than 50% of the employees. The employee base consists of over 200,000 self-employed individuals, with women owning 23.7% of the states’ firms while 15.6% of the businesses are minority owned. So much for the image of the large corporation controlling all of America. Comparable figures will be found for other states as well.
In many countries, excessive regulations have literally doomed the small businessperson. As an example, in many parts of India and Pakistan, you must apply to the government to obtain electricity for your business. If the bureaucrat is busy that day, indifferent to your plight, or has a grudge against your family, your business can easily go bankrupt in short order. These countries have recently made great inroads into the world’s economy by loosening the noose around their people by eliminating many regulations.
A Small Business Administration (SBA) study estimates that the cost of the regulation bureaucracy costs the American people $800 billion per year or 8% of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of the United States.
According to Tom Delay, the House Majority Leader, in the year 2001 alone, the beauracrats wrote a total of 64,431 pages of regulations governing not only the government’s actions but also the actions of the American people. Very scary stuff.
Let’s remember that these regulations cover everything from the color of a banana to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) tax laws. Many of us have noticed with alarming frequency that every time some control nut gets a bug up their nose, they want a new law passed that supports their point of view. Government keeps forcing companies to add more and more clerks to process paper to comply with regulations that safeguard the environment and safety placing a great burden on business. Time after time, one study after another have concluded that the less control you place on the American people to engage in their own pursuits of happiness and free enterprise, the better off and richer the country will become. While the American economy, which is becoming hamstrung with excessive regulations, is creeping along, other countries, notably China and other Asian countries, which have removed many of these obstacles, are moving forward at tremendous growth rates. However, they are also experiencing many environmental problems as America did in earlier times.
These regulations and higher taxes place a great burden on the small businessperson, and if we are not careful we will destroy the incentive-laden small business environment driving the economy to its knees.
One of the best examples of capitalism in its finest form is the Grameen Bank of Bangladesh.
In lieu of the gigantic government handouts of money to the poor, which has been the policy of the U. S. government for many years, the Grammen Bank has uncovered a marvelous mechanism to free people from poverty at a very small price, which should be examined by our society as a much cheaper way to lift people out of their dire economic situation.
The Grameen Bank offers micro loans to Bangladeshi citizens without collateral based on mutual trust, accountability, participation and creativity. In essence, they have placed faith in the people instead of just mailing the monthly welfare check from Big Brother.
Grameen offers credit as a cost effective weapon to fight poverty in the overall development of the poor who are ignored by conventional banking outlets on the grounds that they are poor and hence not bankable. Professor Muhammed Yunus, its Managing Director, reasoned that if financial resources could be made available to the poor people on terms and conditions that are appropriate and fair, millions of small people could realize their dreams and create a development wonder. Now isn’t that a better way to lift the poor?
The banks’ methodology is in direct conflict with traditional banking practices. Conventional banking works along the lines that the more you have the more you can get. In other words, it takes money to make money. Conventional banking is based on collateral. Grammen is collateral-free. Note that the bank is owned by all borrowers. Grameen loans are normally quite small and they have been chastised for their high interest rates. To-date they have disbursed over $4 billion with better than 98.89 % of the loans being paid back in full. As of July 2004, the bank has 3.7 million borrowers, 96 percent of whom are women, in 46,000 villages throughout Bangladesh.
Perhaps the American government should closely examine this simple concept in an attempt to free many of our people from the chains of poverty.
For more information on this earth-shaking concept, consult: www.grameen-info.org
The Athenians in ancient Greece attempted one of the first successful experiments in democracy over 2,000 years ago. That civilization brought us some brilliant people including Plato, Aristotle, Socrates and even Hippocrates, the father of modern medicine. The Greek civilization was light years ahead of the other relatively barbaric societies of that era.
The city of Athens, Greece, lived under a innovative democratic government from 508 until 322 BC (Before Christ). Prior to that date democracy was found in bits and pieces, and democratic institutions survived long after the fall of Athens, but for those 180+ years the city of Athens was the perfect model of a prosperous democracy. The basis for the term democracy stems from the Greek word “demos” or “deme” meaning village or people.
But what happened to that democracy? Perhaps we can learn much from both their progress and their failures, so we don’t repeat the same mistakes in our democracy. Democracy in Athens was not limited to giving citizens the right to vote. The remarkable thing about Athens was that it was not a republic, nor were the People governed by a representative body of legislators. What - no inept or crooked politicians? The People governed themselves, holding debates and voting on issues no matter how trivial, from matters of war and peace to defining the proper qualifications for ferry-boat captains. But don’t misunderstand – although you might suspect that it was chaotic, it was well organized and not a mob scene. There were low points, too, nonetheless it functioned as a true people’s government.
The end of Athenian democracy was not accomplished by corruption within the system or by the people changing the rules by which they governed. The end came at the hands of the Macedonians who exercised significant influence over the Athenians by maintaining a massive army in the northern part of Greece that intimidated the actions of the Athens democracy. When Alexander died, the Athenians assembled an army and attacked the Macedonians but eventually lost the battle, and the Macedonian leader Antipater imposed a settlement on Athens that brought an end to their autonomy.
The moral of the story is, regardless of your feelings about the military, that to guarantee the freedom of any democracy a large standing army is a necessary evil to guard against usurpers.
Obviously, a democratic or republican form of government with direct voting, is the best method social engineers have devised to-date to give the people a voice in their own well being and future.
Although the United States is a republican form of government, the idea of electing representatives to Congress has mutated into a corrupt scenario of either ignoring or controlling the people. Therefore, the people need to take charge of their government by throwing out or minimizing the impact these representatives have on our dollars and civil liberties. If nothing else, we can retain the congressional representatives as clerks (at a much lower salary) to prepare the paperwork necessary so we can vote directly on the issues.