By Mike Newland.
Keen observers of politics have known for a very long time that the US is not in any meaningful sense a democracy.
This is so obvious that the big surprise is how so many people can have been hoodwinked for so long by the usual proclamations. Anyone can form a party and stand for election. There is freedom of speech and so on. All broadly true. Not mentioned is the billions of dollars now required to run for the presidency.
But the acid test for whether a country is in any meaningful sense a democracy must be whether the wishes of the people hold sway over policy. This has now been examined in a formal manner by Princeton and North Western Universities.
What they did was to look at the expressed preferences of voters concerning 1800 issues between 1981 and 2002 and whether policy actually reflected their wishes. The conclusions were damning. The report, entitled Testing Theories of American Politics: Elites, Interest Groups, and Average Citizens concluded that even substantial majorities of the population and its wishes were ignored. The country was, in fact, controlled by an oligarchy of the rich and powerful. When the people opposed these groups they lost. ‘Average citizens have little or no independent influence’ the authors damningly conclude.
It is easy to dismiss this research as academics making a living telling us what we already know but it would be wrong to do so. Most ideas that gain any prominence derive from academia. Rightly or wrongly it makes them more difficult to dismiss.
The fact that two universities have blurted out the realities about US political life is also important in that it indicates a real and growing disquiet even from inside the ruling system. Academics are not known for risking their careers. It’s no longer so dangerous to bite the feeding hand and challenge authority or this report would never have appeared.
We are, of course, in an identical position in Britain where the media and its ‘presstitutes’ collude systematically with the big parties in maintaining the fiction of democracy. An elaborate charade is played out in which the statements of different parties are presented as genuine choices for voters – choices which mysteriously don’t translate into what government actually does.
Sometimes one wonders why anyone would want to work in such a fraudulent industry as the mainstream media which Noam Chomsky described as working to ‘manufacture consent’. Morally the media is rather worse than the politicians since everyone knows they argue their own case while the media purports to be independent commentary. The combination of the two acting complicitly is lethal to any real democracy.
The issues of Europe and immigration are particularly clear examples of the democratic deficit in the United Kingdom and it’s unsurprising that they provide most of the traction which has propelled UKIP into the position it is now in. LBC recently referred to the ‘four parties’.
We don’t know the extent to which UKIP will emerge as yet another part of the sham. Its evasions and avoidance of detail are not encouraging. But what cannot be disputed is that its supporters are driven by an increasing realisation that Britain too is an oligarchy and that, as in the US, when the people object they lose.