Saturday, June 4, 2022

"Consent of the Governed"

"Consent of the Governed"
by Charles Hugh Smith

"The more I see of the monied classes,
the better I understand the guillotine."
- George Bernard Shaw

"Imagine a town of 1,000 adults and their dependents in which one person holds the vast majority of wealth and political influence. Would that qualify as a democracy? Now imagine that 100 of the 1,000 adults own 90% of all the wealth, collect 97% of all the income from capital and have virtually all the political power. How can a society in which 90% of the populace is decapitalized, disenfranchised and demoralized by political powerlessness be a democracy?

This is America: a kleptocratic autocracy that serves the few at the expense of the many, stripmining the bottom 90% under the guise of a fraudulent "democracy" in which only the few wield real power.

Here’s my Neofeudalism Principle No. 1: If the citizenry cannot replace a kleptocratic government and/or limit the power of the financial aristocracy at the ballot box, the nation is a democracy in name only. That our elected government responds only to the super-wealthy and corporations has been well-established. It's also a fact that the top 10% get virtually all the gains from the nation's capital, and this wealth is concentrated in the top 0.1%.

Exactly how can a system of governance that is nothing but an invitation-only auction of political favors in which the top 0.1% own more than the bottom 80% be a functional democracy? The answer is it cannot. Politics and government have been reduced to protecting and enriching a neofeudal autocracy while claiming to serve the stripmined public.

Not Just Bad Luck: It wasn't just bad luck that financialization and globalization hollowed out America's economy and democracy and turned the bottom 90% into debt serfs and tax donkeys; it was government policies implemented by elected officials and the appointed handmaidens of the super-wealthy. Virtually every major policy implemented by either party served the interests of the super-wealthy and corporations: Tax cuts had trivial impacts on the bottom 90% while vastly increasing the wealth of the super-wealthy.

The Federal Reserve's free money for financiers distributes gains on the order of 20-to-1 in favor of the super-wealthy: $2 trillion in gains for the bottom 90%, $40 trillion for the top tier. The list is long and painful proof that the elected government of the United States serves the interests of the top few - a reality masked by expert PR and partisanship. It’s not an exaggeration to say that the touchstone of our democracy, the consent of the governed, is slipping away.

The Glue Holding the Nation Together: The foundation of any government is the consent of the governed. Democracies and republics are founded on the consent of the governed earned via representational or direct democracy: Those who have a say and a stake in the system will give their consent to the government, even if an opposing view is in the majority because their opinion is part of the governance structure.

Even totalitarian states ultimately depend on the consent of the governed, as repressive states that lose legitimacy cannot imprison or kill a majority of their populaces, or restore legitimacy via coercion once the populace has nothing left to lose and the organs of state oppression realize the regime is doomed.

It feels like the consent of the governed is slipping away in the U.S. The reason is so obvious we dare not acknowledge it or discuss it: Those in power - elected and unelected - only give lip-service to "serving the public interest and common good." Beneath this flimsy facade of PR, every action serves the interests of a wealthy, politically potent elite or the self-interests of those in power. Commoners have no real say in governance. We are consenting to rule by self-interested elites under the guise of being represented by an elite who governs at the behest and expense of hyper-wealthy individuals, families, corporations, cartels and monopolies.

Ignoring the Public Will: Consider the issue of legalizing cannabis. Poll after poll shows the majority of the American citizenry favor legalizing cannabis, yet our federal representatives and regulators insist on ignoring the public will, public interest and the common good by continuing to classify cannabis as a Schedule I drug, as addictive and dangerous as heroin. This is patently false and absurd. Hundreds of thousands of Americans die from alcohol and opioids every year, while deaths attributed solely to cannabis use are likely zero. Yet the federal government and our elected representatives refuse to accept the reality that cannabis isn't equivalent to heroin and other synthetic opioids that continue to kill thousands every year.

Why? It's the money, honey, greasing their palms and paychecks. Big Pharma views cannabis as a competitor so it lavishes billions of dollars on campaigns, lobbying and shaping the media narrative to serve their agenda of maximizing profits by any means available. The War on Drugs Gulag of private prisons, law enforcement and the judiciary also skim billions of dollars as a result of cannabis being Schedule I (i.e., just as deadly as heroin). These powerful elites would lose billions in funding if the will of the people actually counted for something.

The realization that we're not actually being represented at the federal level has eroded the consent of the governed for the national government, and pushed the electorate to seek legitimate representation at the state and local level. In response, states are openly flouting federal statutes (for example, the Schedule I absurdity of federal cannabis regulations) and claiming sovereign rights on issues such as currency (declaring gold coins as legal tender in the state, etc.) and cryptocurrency.

Choose Your Community Wisely: We can anticipate a cross-migration as residents who disagree with the majority views in their states move to states where the majority-approved policies align with their own preferences. This cross-migration will strengthen existing majorities into super-majorities, further accelerating cross-migration as policies that were considered extreme are normalized within states. Within states, this relocalization of the consent of the governed is trickling down to counties, which are increasingly under pressure from the citizenry to ignore (or leave unenforced) state mandates that the residents disagree with.

Capital also manifests the consent of the governed. Capital will migrate away from states where it's treated poorly; science-based enterprises will migrate away from states that restrict or starve research and development; and manufacturing will migrate to states with willing, educated workforces and attractive infrastructure and tax structures. States and counties whose policies are detrimental to capital will become poorer as capital chooses to locate to places where it has a say in governance, just as individuals want to live in a place where they have a say.

As the consent of the governed unravels, citizens may increasingly decide which statutes they're going to obey and which ones they'll ignore. Locales with strong community values will rely less on statutes and enforcement and more on social norms and community standards to maintain social order, while locales without any coherent community standards and shared values will have to rely on enforcement to avoid social disorder or meltdown. Choose your community wisely. Thousands of pages of regulations won't preserve the social order if the consent of the governed and the social contract both unravel."

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