Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Failure of democracy or evidence of its success?

For those of you following the current US economy, no doubt you are enthralled by the failure of the US$700 Billion bailout of their economy. The proposed emergency legislation was canned last night, in a decision of 205 for and 228 against. ( Interestingly, the party split was 33% Republicans in favour and 60% Democrats in favour. Despite this, however, some lay the failure of the rescue plan at the feet of the speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, who is a Democrat.)

Bipartisanship aside, it seems that one of the decisive factors was the looming election, and politician's fears of supporting an unpopular policy. “People’s re-elections played into this to a much greater degree than I would have imagined”

So this raises the question, is this evidence of a mortal failure of the model of representative democracy or a rallying cry, screaming that it is very much alive and kicking? On one hand, this may show that a politician's chief concern is re-election: Blind to all other considerations until this condition has been met, politicians are willing to sacrifice anything to maintain personal power. On the other hand, however, this may show that politicians are deeply receptive to the fears and wishes of their constituents, and won't be bullied into supporting something that they don't believe, simply because their party leaders command them.

So what does it all mean? Are we watching the collapse of representative democracy as we know it, or witness to its phoenix-like rise from the ashes?


Adam said...

In little bit more on the previous stammerings:

Paul Ryan, a Republican member of the House, came closest to expressing the dilemmas of the average Congressman. “We’re all worried about losing our jobs,” he said in an impassioned speech in support of the Bill before the vote. “Most of us say, ‘I want this thing to pass, but I want you to vote for it – not me’.”

Taken from Tim Reid's Times article: Banking Crisis: The $700 Bn Bet That Failed.

Catherine said...

There's part of me that wanted this thing to fail to show the big banks etc. that they can't get away with poor decisions, and part of me that wanted it to succeed to show the free market conservatives that socialising things isn't such a bad idea. I was hoping the bill would adequately encompass the first part and still show the second, but then, yeah, it did more of the first and will probably still show the second, but with the extra bonus additional effect that it takes everyone else down with them.

Ultimately, to answer your question... I'm not sure. On the one hand it is a success: it was a wildly unpopular move (costing $2k per American definitely hit home to the average American taxpayer) so pollies were right to be worried about their jobs if they supported it, and on the other hand it isn't: perhaps the public should have been better educated about the ramifications; perhaps the politicians should have come up with a better bill to protect the constituents, etc. etc.

One thing is clear to me, and that is that the initial call for a blank cheque probably spoiled everything for this bill. It plainly needed checks and balances, and with the bad initial fearmongering press, despite regulation etc. being added, it just couldn't shake that bad feeling before the vote.

Adam said...

In other moronic news, Russell Crowe has repeatedly embarrassed himself on the Jay Leno Show by saying that the solution to the problem is to give every current american 1 Million Dollars, as this would be 300 Million dollars: Considerably less than the 700 Billion bail out. Now, with 300 Million US citizens, this would amount to.....300 Trillion Dollars. I think this is more than 700 Billion. Aside from inflation and other related problems, 'our Rusty' is clearly no maths whiz.

What is utterly numbing in its mental-emptiness, however, is that his stupidity is supposedly much worse, because he played an mathematician in a movie. This from the Age today: "Russell Crowe was lauded for playing a maths genius in A Beautiful Mind but he may have to go back to primary school after a $US300 trillion miscalculation."

Now, for those of you with a mental age below 3, let me point something out. He is an ACTOR. The people with his face in the magic talk box are not him. Simply because he acts does not mean that he can actually do what the characters do. Yes, he is a moron. But so are these papers. (And so am I for blabbering about such things.)