Thursday, November 3, 2011

New Realities Demand New Politics

As the planet hits the 7 billion mark and we, at least in the declining west, try to dig ourselves out of the worst economic crisis since the 1930s  it is time to map a different view of the 21st century. We know that the economic shocks we have just experienced are just a foretaste of more rough weather to come. You don’t have to be a dyed in the wool pessimist to recognize that one more shift in the interest rates which are already at historic lows will mean ballooning deficits and years more of austerity.  

There are no panglossian scenarios out there that serious economists believe will help dig us out of the hole we have created. As we look for great political leaders to inspire the national will to help lead us out of the morass it seems that not even the rhetorical skills of President Obama are equal to the job in a nation that seems more profoundly divided than ever before in its history.

What is the answer? We need a new politics--one that can rise to the challenge of the times. The good news is that this new politics is slowly emerging through the Occupy Movement. It has begun well--as a non violent protest about the unfairness of 1% of the population grabbing all the spoils at the expense of the 99% but where does it go is the question? We all have a duty to help figure this out and begin a national dialogue. They have started to suggest we need new ideas--there is now an open invitation to help develop the new ideas we need. We should be encouraged that ideas can come from anywhere and they can go viral in a matter of minutes. Oxfam for example, is leading a "massive movement of
of nonprofit organizations, green groups, trade unions, celebrities, religious leaders and politicians, all campaigning to push the financial sector to pay up and generate much-needed public funds. In Europe, this movement has gained political momentum, with French President Nicolas Sarkozy and German Chancellor Angela Merkel both calling for this tax. But thus far, the Obama administration has blocked any progress. President Obama’s administration says it’s not ready to support a financial transaction tax in the US. But that doesn’t mean that it has to stand in the way of progress across Europe."
Robin Hood Tax will come up for discussion next week in Cannes, France when leaders of the world’s 20 largest economies gather at the G20 Summit.
These are the kinds of activities that are now shaping the new politics. Our current system is
designed for short term compromise (national elections every two and four years) we are going to be floundering for a good deal longer, but it is time to ask ourselves whether the issues we face are more due to institutional failure than the usual culprit the media, money or hyperpartisanship, or a combination of all three. The simple matter is that institutions that served a purpose in the 20th century have to be rethought and in many cases redesigned for a new era. We are making some painful progress on some--the media most notably but not on others--most obviously our 19th century  educational system and not very functional participatory democracy.