Democracy Being a Free Good Endangers its Existence

By Con George-Kotzabasis

Breathing democratic freedom is neither easy nor free; it entails both rights and obligations and most importantly knowledge of current fundamental issues. But in most democracies their constituents tend to uphold and demand more their rights than their obligations, and more deplorably, a sizable number of them exercise their rights in a state of ignorance. This imbalance, however, between rights and obligations, as well as lack of knowledge of the real issues, puts in jeopardy the functioning of a politically just and economically productive democracy, and indeed endangers its existence as a form of government.

Moreover, it makes its voters who are uninformed of the points at issue captive to populist slogans and to that everlasting traducer of democracy, identified by Aristotle, demagogy, that appeals to the hopes and fears of the electors and by propagandistic lies and false promises opens the doors of power to demagogues. This is exemplified by two recent political events in our times: Alexis Tsipras and his party of Syriza winning the elections in Greece on a wave of populism and unprecedented lies and false promises in the political history of the country, and of the plebiscite of the UK, whose two leaders of Brexit, Boris Johnson and Nigel Farage, with a farrago of lies and dire fictions were able to hoodwink a major part of the populace to vote for the exit of Britain from the European Union. On a smaller scale this also has happened in the Australian elections, when the Labor Party by its scare campaign that the Liberal Coalition would privatize Medicare, succeeded in convincing a large part of the electorate of this fictitious threat with the result of Liberals losing so many seats that brought the country on the edge of a hang parliament.

How can one remedy the weaknesses of democracy and protect its constituents from becoming victims to populism and to demagogy with catastrophic results to the well-being of society and to its continued economic prosperity? Some people believe that the answer lies in bringing cultural and ethical changes among the people that would make them immune to this toxic virus of populist-demagogy; and thus leading gradually to the cashiering and inexorable dismissal of all demagogic and populist leaders from the domain of politics. The difficulty and danger of such a solution however is that cultural change is a slow process and during its gestation and vicissitudes in a long run may in the meantime unhinge democracy from its door of freedom, by the actions of feckless, inept, and irresponsible politicians, and incarcerate it within the dungeon of dictatorship. A safer and faster solution would be to enact radical changes to the electoral voting system by suspending in certain circumstances temporarily parts of the electorate from voting.

On what principle could one suggest such an unequal voting system that would discriminate so deliberately between social groups in the ambience of democracy, and which group would be the unequal part in the democratic process? The guiding principle of the first part of the question must explicitly aim to the continued viability and stability of a democratic system, in the context of which, the economic well-being of society depends and guarantees the further expansion of wealth that renders to the people a wide choice where to employ their talents and skills that would push their living standard onto higher plateaus and make their lives congenial to their desires. The second part, i.e., the social group that would be unequally treated, would be identified as that part that depends on welfare for its living and as a ‘debtor’ client of the government easily succumbs to populist slogans and rabble rousing; also, due to its low educational level and lack of interest in important matters, it deprives it from having adequate knowledge of the issues involved and hence is completely unqualified to make a sober judgment on these issues. It is mainly this social group that brings to power demagogues and millenarian ideologues that imperil the stability of the polity and its economic system. And, indeed, ironically pits this same social group into absolute poverty, and in turn destabilizes democracy itself, as it has happened with the political rise of Hugo Chavez and Nicolas Maduro in Venezuela; where its people after a contrived false prosperity are presently hunting dogs and cats to feed themselves. The same has happened with the Marxist Alexis Tsipras in Greece, where the pauperization of many of its ordinary people is exacerbated every day and has reached unprecedented high levels under his totally inept, ideologically barren and irresponsible government.

The enactment of this radical legislation would specifically suspend from the right to vote any person who had been on social welfare or unemployed for more than a year, and only with his/her ceasing on being on welfare or unemployed his/her right to vote would be restored. Such legislation would not only strengthen and secure the viability of democracy and the prosperity of its economic system, but would also deprive populist demagogues and political parties of a constituency upon whose existence they depend. Moreover, it would substantially reduce the spending of the welfare state and make it less precarious to the fiscal policy of the state and hence to the well-being of the country. This radical enactment takes a leaf from the cradle of democracy in classical Greece, Athenian democracy. The latter disenfranchised and suspended from voting citizens who had failed to pay a debt to the polis. Likewise, in a modern democracy people who were in debt for their living to the government, that is on welfare, would be suspended from casting a vote.

Needless to say, such a radical proposal, to occur in the ambit of the ‘spoils’ of the welfare state that has spoiled at least two generations of people by our carefree and stand at ease democracy, will not be easy to implement as it will rouse all the wrath and opposition of the ‘progressive’ bien pensants and the ‘good fellows’ of the dole. It will require extraordinarily strong and sagacious political leadership that will unite parliamentary opposition parties into a gigantic wave that relentlessly will sweep away this ‘progressivist’ praetorian guard of the human rights, without responsibilities, of the dole takers, and throw this defiance of the sanctimonious goody-goodies into the dust bin of history.

I rest on my oars: Your turn now

 

 

Obama’s Angelic Doctrine Disarms Evil Enemies

I’m republishing the following piece for the readers of this new blog.

By Con George-Kotzabasis

Reply to: The Mellow Doctrine by Roger Cohen

global.nytimes.com May 03, 2009

 

Roger Cohen riding his high horse as a columnist of The New York Times trots a ‘neighing’ argument that throws the rider on the paddock. He claims and infers that the new policies of President Obama in foreign affairs, which he frames in his term of The Mellow Doctrine, are holistic remedies for the wanton malicious inflicted maladies that the Bush-Cheney administration had placed upon the body politic of America that had alienated it in the minds and hearts of so many people in the world.

These policies now are spreading and reverberating across Latin America, Europe, and Asia Minor and are creating an echoing melodious sound of Europeans, Turks and Latinos–with only a slight discordant hoarse bass note coming through the nostrils of an old dog, Fidel Castro, who can smell in Obama another imperialist rat. In Strasbourg the French and Germans loved to hear the President expostulating on the new fully cooperative conduct of the U.S. with its major allies, the French seeing him as an exemplar of their own past mission civilisatrice in the sphere of diplomacy, and the Germans as a second Ich bin ein Berliner, after John F. Kennedy. In Prague, the multi-cultured Czechs were delighted to hear him say that he was “committing the United States to a world without nuclear weapons,” and his outpouring of a profusion of mea culpa of America’s past misdeeds and the arrogance of imperial powers and its leaders, who like Roosevelt and Churchill would determine the fate of peoples “sitting in the room with a brandy.” In Turkey, the most modern of Muslim nations thanks to its insightful great Soldier-Statesman Kemal Ataturk, the Turks were regaled to see Obama parading before them his own partial Muslim origins and hear him say that Muslims had been treated with “insufficient respect” in the past. And in Trinidad and Tobago, where the Fifth Summit of the Americas was held, Obama enraptured the Latinos to such a degree that even the spirited anti-American warriors Raul Castro and Hugo Chavez were won over, the latter being moved so much so that he gave as a gift to Obama a book on American imperialism and the latter reciprocating to Hugo’s generous gesture by giving him a warm handshake and a friendly touch on the shoulder.

To Cohen, all the above related events are a clear sign that “Foes…have been disarmed by Barack Obama’s no-drama diplomacy.” Obama’s “mellow doctrine…finding strength through unconventional means: acknowledgement of the limits of American power; frankness about U.S. failings; careful listening; fear reduction; adroit deployment of the wide appeal of brand Barack Hussein Obama; and jujitsu engagement.” If the above quotes are not a perfect illustration that Obama made a confession of American weakness before the ‘priesthood’ of his ‘Catholic’ enemies, then one will ever search in vain for  a definition of weakness in any dictionary. And to bring jujitsu in this bout of weakness as a saving line is like offering someone who already lies unconscious on the floor from the blows of his opponent the Japanese art of training the mind and body in unarmed combat. In this context for Cohen to mock Dick Cheney for saying that America’s enemies perceive “a weak president,” is to brand himself with his own mockery.

This confession of weakness is the ‘Eighteenth of Brumaire of Barack Hussein Obama,’ to paraphrase Karl Marx on Louis Bonaparte, an intellectual coup d’état by   the constitutional lawyer against the constitution of the political wisdom of the ages in whose preamble imprescriptibly is written that to show and admit weakness before one’s enemies is the cardinal unforgiveable political sin. As in any human contest only when a party is weakened is prepared to make concessions whereas the strong seek and drive home their victory. This applies more so to fanatically religious enemies who have an ineradicable tendency to see, due to their irrational cogitations, any conciliatory initiative of their opponents as an admission of weakness.

But the intellectual fragility of Cohen’s argument is exposed by his use of the weakest enemies of America, that is, the Castro brothers and Hugo Chavez, and surprisingly Turkey, which has not been an enemy of the U.S., to drive home the success of the conciliatory attitude of President Obama. In the case of Turkey, he claims that at the NATO meeting the Turks dropped their opposition to the nomination of Denmark’s Anders Rasmussen as the alliance’s secretary general because of “Obama’s conciliatory message to Muslims.” In contrast, the previous administration by “humiliating Muslims” filled the schools of Waziristan and Ramadi with recruits for future terror. When one asks whence this humiliation of Muslims started the unutterable answer of Cohen must be since 9/11. The undeniably harsh but necessary measures that the Bush administration took against Muslim terrorists to protect its citizens from, at the time, imponderable future attacks, were in the eyes of Cohen measures that “humiliated Muslims.” Just as well columnists of this sort are ‘unsheathing’ their pens to write their columns instead of unsheathing their paper swords to protect Americans.  

Most of all Cohen is apparently very fond of the following by President Obama. “Resistance” to set of U.S. policies “may turn out to be based on old preconceptions or ideological dogmas” of the previous administration, and “when they are cleared away …we can actually solve a problem.” So President Obama with a broom in his hand once he sweeps this ideological debris of the Bush administration he will be able to start solving the innumerable problems that America is facing. But the fact is that the United States is not countenancing these problems because of “old preconceptions or ideological dogmas,” but because of its status as the sole superpower is inevitably burdened to carry like Atlas all the world’s crises and hot spots on its back and to set up actions that are not always agreeable by the rest of the world that would have a chance to resolve these crises. And inevitably because of the multiple actions it has to take in so many complex parts of the world it cannot jump over the shadow of fallibility. The alternative, to restrict its engagement with the rest of the world because of its immense risks and possible errors of judgment, is not the raison d’être of great power. Moreover, a disengagement from the hot spots of the world would allow sinister and brutal fanatical leaders to take over countries and oppress their peoples as well as endanger the stability of the world.

The political naivety and immaturity of President Obama is encapsulated in his own terms in regard to Iran: Normal relations can be restored on the “mutual respect” of opponents. This would be forsooth the reality if your opponent considered you to be negotiating from a strong position. It would not be true if his estimate was that his opponent was negotiating from a weak position contra his own strong position. The strong can be at times kind, gracious, and helpful toward the weak but never have any respect for the weak. This is more so in the hard realm of geopolitics. The Iranian theocracy will see any diplomatic initiatives by the United States as an admittance of political feebleness by the latter and will exploit this to their advantage. And by the time when President Obama will become aware of this the Iranians will be already close to the entrance of the nuclear club. No angelic or mellow doctrine of Obama will disarm America’s implacable irreconcilable foes. Only the thunder, and as last resort the bolt of Jupiter, can defeat these deadly enemies.  

Hic Rhodus hic Salta

      

Mount Globalization or Be its Prey

The following paper was written and published on September 2001. It’s republished here for the readers of this new blog.

By Con George-Kotzabasis

A tiger is stalking the world the tiger of globalization. Nations and peoples who, gazelle-like, are frightened and take flight before the huge ferocious “life-threatening” leaps and bounds of this tiger, are to be mauled and be eaten, as no swift flight can make them escape from the lightning speed with which globalization pursues its quarry.

For this will be the fate of nations and peoples who chose to be the prey instead of being the “hunter” of globalization. To be the hunter however, does not imply that one has to slay the “beast” of globalization. Instead, it implies that like a consummate broncobuster, one has to mount the tiger and adapt to its fast and sinewy movements while at the same time “taming” it.

This is the only way that countries can save themselves from the threatening onslaught of globalization. More importantly still, to be among its winners. But it’s fundamentally important to be prudent winners, that is, the winner does not take all. No clever country or wise person would desire to be an absolute winner. Only gamblers would crave to be so. But the wins of a casino are ephemeral wins, and soon and inevitably are followed by loses. Hence, if the winners of globalization wish and aspire to keep and to augment their gains, it’s necessary that they look after and take care of the losers of globalization. As the latter can only be politically sustained and continue to succeed and be beneficial to mankind if it’s a “caring globalization”, if its heart is the “make –up” of its robust mien. If not, it will face the freezing winds of a backlash of a ‘winter of discontent’, of all the countries and peoples who are fearful of its storming of the globe. Its losers therefore will be diffident and distrustful of the touted benefits that could accrue to them, and hence reluctant to admit the Lexus into the groves of their olive trees, to paraphrase Thomas Friedman, of the New York Times.

The currently unstoppable revolution in technology, finance, and information, has made all nations vulnerable to the waves of global competition. Only those nations that swim on the crests of these waves will survive and be the winners in this relentless struggle. This implies moreover, that no nation can economically survive in isolation even if it possesses unique and an abundance of natural resources. Nor can it appeal to the bungled remedies of the past, such as the provision of subsidies to defunct industries. Nor can it depend on the invention of new populist nostrums, such as “fair trade” proposed by the dinosaur delegates in a Labor Party Conference in Hobart. On the contrary, only through the process of creative reconstruction in the economic, industrial, commercial, and social structures of a country, is the “waydrome” to success. In this context, to talk about fair trade is to live in dodo fairyland. Indeed, it’s like asking Olympian super athletes, like Cathy Freeman, to be fair to their lesser competitors.

 

How to Deal with the Challenge of Globalzation

Thomas Friedman in his book, The Lexus and the Olive Tree, argues, that ‘the revolution in technology, finance, and information did three things. It lowered the barriers of entry into almost any business, and it rapidly increased competition and the speed by which a product moves from being an innovation to being a commodity.’ Technology expands production to global dimensions, ‘knitting the world together.’ Finance with the collapse of regulated exchange rates, penetrates all the profitable niches of the world in its avaricious dynamic drive for profit. No raising of granite protective walls or the setting up of any barriers can prevent the ‘ “Electronic Herd’s” ‘ power to move its capital on world markets. Furthermore, information technology ‘brings home to everyone how ahead or behind they are in contrast to other countries.’ This provides a cue and spurs people to invest in countries where lucrative profits can be made by ‘investing through the internet on a global scale.’ Hence, the world is no longer carried on the back of the slow moving Atlas, but on the back of the swift electron-moving Microchip. In such a world all kind of barriers have the strength of a plastic balloon. But even if it were possible to erect impenetrable barriers, the countries that did so would bring upon themselves “the day after”, the consequences of “nuclear” economic and social devastation. That is, the result for these countries would be to throw themselves into the abyss of poverty and squalor, and hence unwittingly deprive their people the opportunity to become wealthier by being on the trajectory of globalization.

It’s by accepting the challenges of globalization with imagination and boldness that countries and their peoples will not only be strengthening their intellectual and moral fiber that will position them on the launching pad of globalization, but will also be transporting them to the land of cornucopia, to material and spiritual abundance. It’s imperative therefore, that political leaders deliberately and consciously decide to prepare their people to enter into this benign circle of feedback. That is, the intellectual and moral strength and knowledge of their people will maximize the benefits accruing from globalization and minimize its disadvantages. And the successes of actively being engaged with the cutting-edge of the globe will in turn further enhance this intellectual and moral vigor and knowledge of their people. In such a brave new world, one has to tell people to ‘remove their belongings’, to use a phrase of Vladimir Nabokov, of moaning. There is no room for resentment and gripe against countries and peoples who succeed. Success itself will be redistributed and will not remain in the same hands. Everyone will have the opportunity, endowed with grit, chutzpah, and entrepreneurial flair, to succeed.

For the first time in human history, globalization has the potential to bring in its wake the “democratization of success”. No scion of elites will be able to capture its benefits and lock them up ever safely and ever after in their vaults. The microchip is sovereign. Hence the corridors of wealth will be accessible to all who have the knowledge and ambition to use it. And if Shakespearian sovereigns could trade their kingdoms for a horse, business scions, like James Packer, will have to trade their wealth and power for a microchip.

Globalization also has the potential to usher in the empowerment of all classes and creeds. Ironically, capitalist globalization might realize Marx’s dream- the fulfillment of the individual who performs his practical affairs during the day, fishes in the evening, and writes and “practices” poetry during the night. And to cap it all, the Communist Manifesto’s slogan, “workers of the world unite”, could be accomplished by globalization. The only difference being that the unity of workers will not arise out of enmity against capitalist entrepreneurs, but out of the benign desire to emulate the achievements of the latter, as every worker with the required training and knowledge will have the ability of doing so.

 

How to Raise all Boats and Canoes in this inundation of globalization

We need however to be critically aware of the downside of globalization and treat its blemishes effectively. It’s a truism that not all people will benefit from globalization. There will be losers! In all civilizations there have been winners and losers. The human race cannot jump over the shadow of this accursed fact. Either as a result of individual propensities or lack of resilience and ability to adapt to the new, and strenuous circumstances of globalization, many people will fall behind and will be disadvantaged. But because of globalization’s vast production of wealth, it has the capacity to compensate the losers, and indeed, to pull them out of their disadvantaged position. In this task governments will play a decisive role.

First, they will have to deal with the backlash that arises from people who are struck with the dire effects of globalization. While globalization shortens the distances of the world and makes it accessible to many people and improves economically their well-being, at the same time it lengthens the rusty chain of un-economic and defunct industries in many developed and developing countries. Many workers, therefore, who for years worked in these industries, are thrown out of them and find themselves unemployed and unemployable. The direct beneficiaries of globalization therefore, not only have a moral responsibility, but also a vested interest, to take care of the disenfranchised from the advantages of globalization, if the latter are to be prevented from being converted into modern Luddites, and start smashing the machine of globalization, by means of war, terrorism, and computer hacking.

Secondly, to head off and pacify this backlash, governments will have to prise open new thinking horizons, and to transform this resentment into support for globalization. Since inequality among human beings, as well as of other primates, is nature’s regime, governments must contrive clever policies to redress and reverse this order of inequality and bring some sort of balance in this inequity of nature. In the “clever” country, prosperity does not have to be equated with “equality”. People do not have to be equal in certain natural endowments with those who generate wealth and prosperity, to share the fruits of this prosperity. The process of globalization begets such huge wealth that it would not be difficult for governments to impose the burden upon, and indeed persuade, its producers, that it’s to their own interest to share part of this wealth with the disadvantaged of globalization. Especially, when this divestment of wealth will not diminish the capital investment funds of the former, as we will show below.

Thirdly, governments will redistribute this part of wealth by the following international multilateral policy mechanism, by imposing a levy or surtax on the profits of all “globetrotting” corporations, financial institutions, and foreign currency speculators. Once, these funds of the levy are collected by governments, they will be transmitted to an international body set up by these governments. Let us name this body the International Globalization Fund (IGF). The central task of this entity will be (a) to identify those nations and peoples whose livelihood has been affected negatively by globalization, and (b) to subsidize the buying of shares in multinational corporations and world financial institutions, by these nations and peoples. In the case of some people who might not have any financial savings of their own, the IGF will provide them with special securities or bonds, thus enabling them, despite their lack of savings, to be shareholders in this international economy. Moreover, such a policy will not engender any disincentives to private enterprise. As the funds accruing from the levy will not be spend by governments in fuzzy, boondoggle industrial plans or in subsidizing defunct industries, at the expense of the private sector. The build up of a “hydraulic pipe” between the international economy and the disadvantaged of this economy, will allow the funds that are transmitted to the latter in the form of subsidies and securities by the IGF, to be sluiced back through this pipe to the multinational corporations in the form of equity capital. Hence, the investment funds of these entrepreneurial entities will not be diminished.

Thus, the eyes of all, not only of those who gain directly from their engagement with globalization, will be focused on the screens of the computers. Even people who lack knowledge and adeptness to use the modern technology will enter and be denizens of this brave new world of the internet, as equity holders. Sharing the wealth that is spawned by the Midas microchip touch of globalization. The magic flying carpet of globalization will have everyone aboard.

It depends on the creative thinking, imagination and Thatcherite will and determination of governments whether globalization will be politically and economically sustainable. And whether by riding it, the fruits of its wealth will also be distributed to all those nations and peoples whose livelihoods are going to be lost in this process of ‘creative destruction’. Whether the opening of the floodgates of globalization will raise all boats and canoes in this global inundation of its waters.

 HIC RHODUS HIC SALTA

The article was written on September 17, 2001, and was first published in the English supplement of Neos Kosmos in Melbourne on the same date