United States: Vision vs. Reality

20 June 2007

I finally finished reading Chalmers Johnson's book Nemesis: The Last Days of the American Republic, which prompted me to think about the differences between the United States that our founding fathers envisioned, and wrote into the Constitution, and the United States we are living in today. Here are some thoughts.

  • The Constitution set up a system of government with a separation of powers into three branches (legislative, executive, and judicial), specifying a system of checks (each branch has the ability to hold the other two branches accountable and reign in their power) and balances (each branch holds some of the power). However, today's executive branch has upset the balance of power, and the legislative and judicial branches are not exercising their checks on its power. For instance, the Constitution gives the legislative branch the power to declare war, but instead the President declared war and gave Congress misleading "intelligence" so they would approve his declaration. Also the President is currently asserting that he is above the law, and can detain people without charges and use domestic electronic surveillance without a warrant; although the Constitution requires the President to uphold all the laws of the land, Congress and the judicial system have allowed these actions to continue. Finally, as I discussed in an earlier article, several presidents' use of the CIA has also gone well beyond the bounds of the Constitution.
  • The Constitution also specified that the US was supposed to be a democracy. However, there is no true democracy without an informed citizenry, and (as I wrote about briefly in a previous article), we have a situation today where the executive branch regularly feeds misinformation to the media, and the media reports it as fact instead of investigating. So, the public has no basis for understanding what its elected officials are really doing, and what is really going on in our government, and we don't really have the ability to make informed decisions on whether to retain or get rid of our elected officials.
  • The Constitution also specified that the US was supposed to have a representative government, where the elected officials would represent the public interest. However, with all the money it takes to get elected and then stay in office, our "representatives" are currently representing the interests mainly of their large donors and lobbyists, not the public. I believe that if the public was really informed about the effects of our policies, they would demand better representation, but since the news media are mostly owned by large corporations, the same ones who can afford to buy representation, they don't have much incentive to provide us with this type of information.
  • Finally, in direct conflict with the principles outlined in the Declaration of Independence, stating that all people in the world have a fundamental right to self-government, the United States has become an empire whose aim is the domination of the entire planet through both economic and military means. I've written about these ideas in several previous articles and I believe that the evidence is clear; if you are unconvinced, read Chalmers Johnson's book Nemesis: The Last Days of the American Republic, which documents the world-domination strategy of the military-industrial complex and the CIA, and John Perkins' Confessions of an Economic Hit Man, which documents the methods of economic domination.

I am not certain what can be done about these issues... I think the first step would be to make sure the public is aware of what is really happening in the world, but I don't think this will happen any time soon. For instance, the public is increasingly aware of what is going on in Iraq, but that doesn't seem to translate into skepticism about other actions of our government. I think this is in part because the news media (as discussed above) is controlled by corporate interests that do not want the present situation to change. Also, the people in the United States who would have the means (time and ability) to seek out good information, if they wanted to, are living pretty comfortably and probably don't have much incentive to make changes.

Probably it will take a major crisis to bring the situation to the attention of the public. Chalmers Johnson thinks that this crisis will come soon, and he may be right: the current level of military spending is not sustainable, the overseas military presence we have now is not sustainable, and clearly some people in the world are rebelling against our domination strategies. Eventually we'll also have an acute energy crisis to deal with. The question is whether either crisis will lead to further erosion of the Constitution, or whether the public will insist that those responsible be held accountable, and demand restoration of the system of government our founding fathers envisioned. We'll see.