Friday, March 25, 2011

America's flawed democracy

I no longer spend any length of time attempting to analyse US policy. Not that there are no knotty issues: there are plenty from the high cost of healthcare, to gun control to Israel.

The issue is that it is impossible to hope for any kind of sensible action, the politicians being held hostage to various special interest groups. It is impossible to hope for proper reform of healthcare without reforming the tort laws, under which ridiculous levels of punitive damages are awarded. Medical malpractice is a favourite area, giving rise to the spectacle of ambulance chasers, lawyers who follow victims and persuade them to sue heavily in return for a share of the spoils.

My cousin is a doctor who practises in California. She pays a third of her salary as medical malpractice insurance, to ensure she is not driven bankrupt by an ambulance chaser. All doctors do this and the cost of the insurance eventually finds its way into the medical bills of patients by way of higher doctors fees.

This is just one aspect, there is a lot more but serves to illustrate the nature of the problem.

America's problems of terrorism and its alienation from the Muslim world are at least partly due to its support of Israel. Solving the problems in Palestine will go a long way easing the visceral dislike that the US tends to invoke amongst ordinary Muslims, which serves as a lightning rod for extremists. Can this ever be solved? No, as long as a minority, the Jewish lobby, controls the discussion, via influence wielded over the politicians.

The same sorry story is repeated ion the area of gun laws. The majority will support a tightening of laws but this is stymied by the power of the NRA, which is a minority.

Thus democracy in the US is not so much about the will of the people as the will of the lobby group, which often represent minority interests. The root of the rot is actually in money, the time honoured root of all evil. Special interest groups literally buy influence, by funding the election campaigns of politicians.

Therefore unless campaign funding is reformed we cannot hope for any sensible discussion. The type of reform needed is not transparency alone, what is needed to clean this Augean Stable is nothing less than a total ban on private campaign funding. Instead the State needs to allocate a fixed amount of funding to each candidate. Any overspending or raising private funding will be an automatic disqualification.

The taxpayers will need to pay for the campaign funding for each qualified candidate, but this will work out far cheaper in the long run than allowing the country to be held hostage to special interest groups.

If this ever happens the rest of the world will only applaud.

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