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Thursday, February 4, 2016

When Democracy isn't

Rarely is it debated whether we live in the greatest country on the planet.  We Americans living in the United States arguably still enjoy the highest standard of living than most of the balance of the earth, yet our experiment with Democracy has snaked toward some very dangerous ground. The country was founded on the concepts "Of the people, For the People, By the People".  Yet, from time to time I wonder: which people?  Over the years, Democracy has morphed into various forms of Aristocracy and even Tyranny of the Majority.  It is the Tyranny of the Majority that I wish to discuss now.  Politicians are beholden to this Tyranny.  Should a politician favor a policy that does not suit the Majority and even fail to endorse or promote policies that are supported by the Majority, they will not have long careers in politics.  of greater concern is the fact that our state legislatures and State Courts are virtually uninterested in the opinion of the general public.  It appears that they have concluded that the majority of the people who take time out of their days to address policy issues in committee meetings are not among the mainstream.  Public input and open meeting laws are ignored even to the point of violating state law to move court rules and legislation through the political engines that have been built.  Certain legislation is voted into law with language that clearly intends to help people, but once the legislation is in place how does anyone learn that they have new rights or benefits that they may avail themselves of?  It appears that it's not the job of our branches of govenment to get the word out about legal rights, government benefits or services that may be beneficial to Jane Q Public.

I have recently studied a law that provided rights to a certain class of citizens in my home state of Arizona.  As I read further, I discovered that the right could  only be vested 30 days after some life event occurred, but that it was up to the individual to recognized the life event and to know that the 30-day limit applied to them.  Furthermore, there is no publicizing of the law and people who experienced the same life event prior to the enactment of the law do not qualify; thus, they are unable to enjoy the same protections under the law as someone who experienced the same life event just days after the law was enacted.

In my opinion this is all smoke and mirrors -- a mere pantomime of democracy.  The pretense of enacting such legislation is little more than a snub at the grand experiment in democracy that  so captivated Alexis De Toqueville.  In many respects, technology and especially the Internet has been the great equalizer, but in an era where the internet provides the means for any two people anywhere in the world to communicate at almost no expense whatsoever, It is enourmously disappointing that our government has done so very little to provide the public with access to the policy machinery that is in place.  It is ludicrous that an interested citizen must take off time from work and physically travel to their respective State Capitol to attend legislative or Judicial hearings  where policy decisions are made.  Why can't these hearing be streamed live over the internet and permit private citizens to comment in advance of committee votes on policy so that our legislative and court committees have public comment right at hand when they are voting on policy matters?  The only rational answer is:  because our government bureacracy has determined that this is not desirable.  In the end analysis, technology -- the greatest force in democacy is not wanted in government because of one unshakeable truth:  Democracy isn't.democracy anymore.

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