Is democracy failing?

BY RICHARD SMITH

I have been reading a book recently called "Why Nations Fail."  It postulated that nations fell into two types, inclusive and extractive.  Inclusive nations shared power and wealth, whereas the rich and powerful of extractive nations kept as much of the power and wealth as they could.

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Examples of inclusive nations were countries like Great Britain, Canada, the U.S. and Australia. Extractive counties included most African nations, many from South America, and the Middle East and most dictatorships. Successful nations were open and innovative while failing nations repressed their populace.

The book suggested that relatively small changes in government policies could tip the balance drastically. North and South Korea have similar populations and resources, yet the South is an economic powerhouse while the population of the North is on the verge of starvation.

I haven't finished the book, but I have extrapolated to our present situation

At the end of World War II, the great democracies were as inclusive as they had ever been. The economy was going great and everyone was sharing in the money and power. Then about the ‘80s it all changed. The rich wanted their money and power back. They set about doing it in the US through the Republican Party.

They broke the power of the unions, which has always worked for the middle class.  They created "right to work" states where unions were almost outlawed. There would be no more sharing of money through good wages.

That money was put into politics to buy representatives and senators who passed laws reducing taxes on the rich. The wealthy became even richer while the poor and middle class languished.

At the same time they orchestrated an attack on the electoral system. The U.S. Supreme Court allowed the creation of Super PACs which could spend wads of money on elections and suspended election laws that prevented states from disenfranchising poor and black voters.  So now states can not only gerrymander electoral districts to favour their own party they could pass restrictive voting laws.

So life in the democracies has become less and less inclusive as the middle class is being shut out of the economy and government. The unrest this caused probably, in good measure, accounts for the election of Donald Trump, the anti-politician.

But, he is a member of the rich, powerful elite and under him things will only get worse.

What is needed is a government with the courage to pass laws that would empower unions, pass tax laws that redistribute wealth, and electoral reforms that will ensure voting rights and will keep money out of politics.

I am very pessimistic that any of this will happen. If nothing changes the U.S. will continue its downward spiral and its institutions will become less and less inclusive. If so, the Americans may require another revolution to get their democracy back on track.

I wish them the best, because ideas, both good and bad, born in the States tend to drift across the border.

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