Thursday, February 15, 2007

Recent New: The 'Value' of Nation Elections

(The 'value' is about $100 million per campaign...but that's getting ahead of myself)

Here are some recent news stories that relate to my recent questioning of elections.

The first two relate to the funding of the candidates (While we may vote for the presented candidates, who decides which candidates are presented? Those with Money of course!)

Death Knell May Be Near for Public Election Funds (01-23-07)
The public financing system has failed to keep pace with the torrents of money flowing toward the presidential elections.

Democrats Chasing Big Money (02-15-07)
by Chris Cillizza
Every serious candidate is spending hours each day courting the whales who can write big check.

This next piece explores the possibility of region politics superseding national politics (as in secession from), with my home state of California at the center.

California Split (02-10-07)
"Somthing interesting is happening in California. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger seems to have grasped the essential truth that no nation — not even the United States — can be managed successfully from the center once it reaches a certain scale..."

And lastly, what are the prospects of a participatory politics (enabled by blogging)? It is hard
to tell, but Edwards is paving the way.

Edwards Learns Campaign Blogs Can Cut 2 Ways (02-08-07)
tag line: Candidates could face problems as they try to integrate online political discourse into traditional campaigning.

A Blogger for Edwards Resigns After Complaints (02-13-07)

So while the price tag of running a successful campaign is very steep ($100 mil.),
is it really worth it?

Friday, February 09, 2007

Dictatorship of the Bourgeois: Universal Sufferage and Secret Balloting

(WARNING: while seeming to be a theoretical post, this is important, ending with an earnest question.)

If not through a violent coup de taut, how do dictators come to power?
Voting. Hitler!

How do seemingly mediocre or blatantly partisan politicians come to power?
Voting. Louis Bonaparte! (Although he probably didn’t come to mind).

While initially seen as the surest means of a fair and equal democracy, has voting turned against (or been turned against) the masses? Has the process of voting becomes a veil of something more sinister (or perhaps a mere banality)?

Japanese philosopher Kojin Karatani, agreeing with Marx, says Yes.

Universal suffrage is, of course, the “system wherein people of all classes participate in the elections” (Transcritique, 151). Now certainly this seems like a great idea because universal suffrage opens the door for every single person to have a stake in her/his future through participation in national politics (i.e. through choosing a representative to hold forth their views). Along with this, the mechanism of secret ballots secures the voter from intimidation and retribution allowing the voter to voter her mind without fearing the consequence. In fact, it is universal suffrage and the secret ballot that distinguished what Marx calls ‘bourgeois parliament’ from the previous representative systems in feudal and monarchist governments.

But as Karatani says, “But this is not all—at the same time, and inversely, in this system, all individuals are, for the first time, separated in principle from all class relations and relations of production…Hiding who votes who for from, secret voting liberates people from their relations; at the same time, however, it erases the traces of their relations” (151, italics added for emphasis). The secret ballot also short circuits responsibility of the elected (representatives) from the electors (represented) such that the elected can think and behave as if everyone (i.e. no one) elected them (and is this not true of Bush recently).

Also this mechanism (voting in general) effectively erases class relations and relations of domination by “temporarily ‘reducing’ people into ‘free and equal individuals’…In elections, the freedom of individuals is guaranteed, but this exists only at the moment that the hierarchical relations in the real relations of production are suspended” (152). So in a sense, the freedom and equality promised by democracy is only actualized when the hierarchy and inequality of their daily relationships are suspended/bracketed. In other words democracy only comes into existence during elections and ends after elections (again b/c the representatives are severed from the electors and keep company with the bureaucrats). We are free and equal only one day a year, the day we pretend that there are no other relationships of importance! Oh, the wonderful fiction!

Karatani's conclusion is that universal suffrage and elections are “an elaborate ritual to give a public consensus to what has already been determined by the state apparati (military and bureaucracy)” (152).

…On the State
Now I don’t bring this all up to merely say that voting is irrelevant and unnecessary (although at times I think that), but to point out that elections are oriented toward the State, i.e. State-Power. But this is not the only arena of power.

Civil Society is an equal site of power and resistance. A possible objection to Karatani is that people all over the world have been denied the right to vote and have fought in order to vote (especially African Americans during the Civil Rights Movement). But I would point out that radical movements precisely began in the civil arena, hence the name “Civil Rights”, and typically end with reception of the vote. But this is generally more an uneasy truce than a true victory. The Civil Rights Movement never did effectively take over the Democratic Party, and African Americans have yet to by represented in relations to their population. Being given the ‘right to vote’ in many cases is the right to be distracted from doing what you were doing (changing concrete, civil society) and offered the chance to begin something else (the improbable task of changing State politics).

So, in short, might not the Church be wiser abstaining from the mechanism (voting) by which the “dictatorship of the bourgeois” functions (a mechanism to which both the religious right and left cling), and instead creatively partner with the “dictatorship of the proletariat” (i.e. the exploited/resisting side of globalization) via means of civil actions and innovative protests, through on the ground associations?

Monday, February 05, 2007

lindbeck after wittgenstein?

eric lee has posted a very thoughtful engagement around george lindbeck's use of wittgenstein. Hopefully we will be able to discuss the political repercussions.

Health is not Profitable.

While being a very sad indicator of the current state of our health system, the below article by the NY Times reveals the symptom (the hidden truth) of our economy. What is best for the individual, environmental, social, and political health of our community is not what is best for the economy. The common good, which requires forethought and planning, is not nearly as profitable as crisis and carelessness.

What’s a Pound of Prevention Really Worth?
Preventive medicine just doesn’t pay in the current American medical system.