Tuesday, December 15, 2015

In Defense of Strong Leaders

Obama’s shockingly dismissive statement about ISIS today, combined with Turkey’s on-going antics vis a vis Russia illustrate the limits of democracy in the 21st century.

Not only the men and women in the street, but also our movers and shakers, still believe Churchill’s clever phrase that democracy is the worst system of government with the exception of all others. We all know that change is threatening, painful even, but I’m not seeing the slightest hint that intelligent, sophisticated, educated twenty-first century men and women are aware that democracy’s merits have been largely negated by the nature of modern life.

Not only is one man one vote a sham in the presence of big money. Government’s ability to ensure a measure of equity among competing claims is nullified by the claims of its most powerful backers; and what makes the democratic process totally ineffective is the ability of these backers’ hand-picked representatives to thwart any rare good decision taken by the commander-in-chief.

The President might just as well spend all his time on the golf course instead of pretending that the Oval Office is where the fate of the world is decided. Though well-wined and dined at the Paris Climate Talks, Obama cannot commit the Congress appointed by his oligarchs to accept the final agreement as binding. If that tragic failure doesn’t persuade skeptics of the superiority, in today’s world, of leaders who can call the shots over those who must be thankful for a few crumbs from the high table, the proof will be provided by World War III or an irreversible climate crisis.

Putting aside the fact that all the countries whose dictators we have toppled are much worse off than before, the evidence is increasingly difficult to ignore that Vladimir Putin and Xi Jin Ping are able to get a lot more done for the good of their people than any ten leaders of parliamentary democracies. 

This doesn’t mean that all authoritarian leaders are good, but it does imply that a leader who is informed, intelligent and caring of others and can issue orders that will be executed is more effective than one who must constantly play a power game with hundreds of opponents - or worse, who tacitly agrees to do the bidding of the 1%. Putin is excoriated in the West for having told the Russian oligarchs that they could make all the money they want as long as they stay out of politics. We are told he is depriving the average citizen of a voice, when in reality, he is making sure the oligarchs needs don’t win out over the 99%.

The world created by technology and money has become so complex that leaders almost have to be polymaths  to get a handle on the problems they’re elected to solve.  But they must also have good judgement and prioritize the needs of the many. The American press routinely mocked Fidel Castro for his five-hour speeches, when in fact these speeches educated the Cuban people to a level of political awareness Americans can only dream of. With their dismissive attitude the US press avoided drawing attention to the detailed knowledge Castro had of every area he discussed. American leaders, in contrast, rely on ‘advisors’, which is why they can only speak in general terms, and have little chance of being able to get their legislators, aided by their own advisors, to follow them.

A great way to verify the extent to which an ‘authoritarian’ ruler like Vladimir Putin is more effective than President Obama could ever hope to be, is to compare their State of the Union addresses. The US media scarcely mentions Putin’s, while passing over Obama’s lightly, since any comparison would disadvantage the US. Putin’s shows himself to be in full command of a broad range of issues while Obama can only refer to his, as he did in today’s short, monotone report on the US campaign against ISIS, that won’t reassure anyone planning to travel for the holidays. 

Here’s a link to Putin’s December 3, State of the Union http://en.kremlin.ru/events/president/news/47173. The examples I’ve chosen testify to the democratic socialist nature of the Russian ‘regime’, which incidentally explains why the US is determined to bring it down.

Putin sets the stage by saying:  “Of course, life is ever changing, and given current complications, our responsibility for people’s welfare only increases.”  (When was the last time you heard an American President take responsibility for the average American’s well-being?)

Putin spells out his concerns with respect to education and health care, areas that US congresspeople tell us we cannot afford to fund:

“Russian schools, higher and professional education, and support for children’s creativity should be aligned with the country’s future, the requirements of young people (and) of the economy in the context of its prospects. These guys will have to resolve ever more complicated tasks and should be prepared to be the best. They should become not only successful in their careers but also simply decent people with a firm moral and ethical background.”

Announcing that in 2016 Russian healthcare will complete its transition to an insurance-based system, Putin warned:

“ It’s the responsibility of insurance companies to uphold patients’ rights, including in situations where they are refused free medical care without a reason. If an insurance company does not do this, it should be held accountable, including being banned from working in the compulsory medical insurance system. I ask the  Government to ensure stringent oversight in this regard.”

He then noted:

“For the first time in Russia’s history, many high tech operations are carried out without a waiting list. The mandatory medical insurance mainly supports healthcare institutions around the country, where financing is a matter of concern …I propose a special federal contribution to enable high-tech operations to be carried out, with necessary legislation to be adopted during the spring session.”

The Russian president added:  “But people must not suffer while we make these decisions. We must ensure continuous financing of high-tech medical care, including with direct support from the federal budget until this decision is made.”

Imagine how different life would be in the US, if our President could utter such words and be heard!

All well and good, the reader will say, but what about democracy?  In today’s world, where decisions have repercussions far and wide, only local government is small enough to be responsive to citizen input.  And there is where each individual can make a difference. When it comes to saving the planet from a climate meltdown, or from World War III decisions must be hammered out at the highest level between national leaders who are able to knock the heads of big energy and big weapons together when they get home.

No comments:

Post a Comment