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Article by 龙信明
The Myth of Democratic Accountability

Or, The Power of Propaganda

  • The Fairy-Tale

  • One of the most widespread and pervasive fairy-tales told about Western multi-party democracy is that the elected officials are accountable to the people.

    It is truly a tribute to the power of propaganda that most Westerners appear to mindlessly accept what is one of the greatest - and most obvious - lies in history - that elected officials in any way report to the people.

  • And the Jingoism

  • "The public will pass judgment on each of them. The people who started the Iraq war have paid and will pay a political price."

    This is incredible, from the mind of an American adult. The public will pass judgment. And how will that happen? Well, some politicians will pay "a political price".

    The US White House and Congress concocted and promulgated enormous lies to justify the invasion and destruction of an innocent country, killing perhaps a million civilians - most of whom were women and children - formally establishing the most evil torture regime in history, and a few of the people who did this might not be re-elected. And that's "accountability".

  • The Master Does Not Answer to the Servant

  • The concept of political accountability is the same myth that tells us the police in Western countries are really "civil servants" under our control and in some way "report to us". Perhaps you might care to raise this issue with the next policeman you meet in New York City, and see if his interpretation of authority and of "who is in charge" agrees with yours.

  • You Cannot Elect an Accountable King

  • Democratic theory tells us that "we, the people" choose someone to represent us, but still retain full control over those we select and over their actions. We are filled with the knowledge that these elected representatives are accountable to us and that we can replace them at any time. WE are in charge.

    Nothing could be further from the truth. We are electing not a representative, but a master, and any control we may have had was dissipated with the casting of our vote.

    People who want peace can vote for a candidate who claims the same desire, but if that candidate, once in office, decides to start more wars, there is nothing anyone can do about it.

    How many times has a politician been elected on a promise to not raise taxes, then upon being elected immediately raised the taxes? And what can the people do? Absolutely nothing whatever; there is no recourse, in any democracy.

    Can the people get these unwanted tax laws repealed? Perhaps in theory, but that can be accomplished only through the same elected representatives. "The People" cannot repeal or pass laws on their own account.

    To effect a repeal would require an overwhelming national outrage which the politicians would fear to ignore, but this is unlikely, and in practice the public is insufficiently organised to accomplish anything useful.

    People can (and do) protest in the streets, but to no avail. Look at the massive "Occupy Wall Street" protests in the US, and similar violent protests in the UK.

    The governments and local police soon forcibly dispersed the demonstrators, arresting the leaders, and the movement died.

  • In Western Democracies, Elected Officials are Immune

  • Except for serious criminal acts, elected officials are in practice personally immune from judgment or sanction. The population at large has no legislative or other authority over those they elected.

    Countless politicians in various democracies have been unqualified to deal with their nations' economies and instituted policies that caused high unemployment, financial losses, real estate crashes, and other calamities for the population. None of those people were punished or made to answer in any way for their actions.

    When one ignorant and unqualified elected official decided to save money by cutting costs in a health care system, ceasing his ill-advised efforts only when too many people were needlessly dying, in what way was he held accountable? Was he charged with murder, with reckless endangerment, with callous disregard for human life?

    Not at all - and this is a live example, by the way. He simply stopped cutting and backed off, privately admitting that maybe he went "a bit too far". That's all. There was no accounting, not to the people, not to anyone. But many people died.

    In every so-called democracy, the elected politicians lie, mislead, bankrupt the people, trash the economy, engage in unjustified wars for their own ego, cancel social security benefits, and give huge tax breaks to the rich while bleeding the middle class.

    They violate rights, spy on their public, and perpetrate every kind of dark deed while enriching themselves from their corporate sponsors. It is not for nothing that George Bush Sr. said, "If the people knew what we were doing, they would hang us in the streets."

    And We, The People, having lost our jobs, our homes, our investments, our sons in the wars, can do no more than look miffed and say, "Well! I sure won't vote for you next time."

    What a stunning tribute to the power of propaganda and brainwashing that "We, The People" so firmly believe we are in charge.

  • What Does it Mean, To Be "Accountable"?

  • There is seldom such a thing as being generally accountable.

    Accountability means accepting personal responsibility for your actions or inaction. It means answering to your peers or superiors for serious mistakes, for incompetence, for acting in bad faith, for malfeasance or corruption.

    There is no personal responsibility in any Western democracy and, without personal responsibility, there is no accountability.

    To elect a different person the next time, is NOT the same as holding a government official personally accountable for creating a financial or human disaster through incompetence or ignorance.

    Replacing the party in power for one term is NOT the same thing as holding each member of the previous party personally accountable for their mismanagement.

    These do not, in any sense, constitute accountability to the people. Nor to anyone. In Western democracies, elected representatives are accountable to no one.

    By contrast, in China, any screw-ups answer to their peers - who actually ARE competent to evaluate and judge.

  • "Accountability" in the Real World

  • You hire an accounting manager for your manufacturing firm, then later discover you have lost some important customers due to his inexcusable and belligerent collection attitudes. You further discover $150,000 is missing from the accounts.

    You fire this man, file a statement of claim for the missing money and your commercial losses, place liens on all his assets, and you call in the police to charge him with theft, and nod approvingly when he receives a 3-year prison sentence and the Accounting Institute cancels his certification so he can no longer obtain employment in that field.

    That's accountability.

    But in the politics of a democracy, your one and only response can be to say, "I'll hire someone else next time." That's NOT accountability. It's nothing.

  • What Would Political Accountability Look Like?

  • Accountability is George Bush, Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld being tried and hung as war criminals. "Passing judgment" is their sentencing and hanging.

    Accountability is Congressmen and Senators being forced to individually justify their failure to stop the unconscionable Iraq war when the lies became obvious.

    It would mean criminal indictments and a lifetime prohibition from government for all members of the US Congress who participated in, or didn't act to stop, Guantanamo Bay and all the other US torture prisons around the world.

    Accountability is Congressmen and Senators being forced to individually justify to "The People" their removal of the banking regulations that permitted the devastation of the US economy that destroyed millions of families.

    Accountability is jail terms, huge fines, and a lifetime prohibition from government for these "politicians".

    Accountability would be the nationalisation of all the banks responsible for the malfeasance of the US housing disaster, the seizure of all banking bonuses, and billions of dollars in fines and life sentences in prison for the perpetrators of it.

    It would mean a psychiatric evaluation for the White House and senators who chose to bail out the banks instead of the people.

    Accountability would mean the dissolution and banning of the US Republican Party for supporting and engaging in an unjustified war based entirely on lies that resulted in the deaths of perhaps 1 million Iraqi civilians - 2/3 of whom were women and children.

    But in Western political systems, virtually all responsibility is collective and shared, and a party is blamed rather than the individual elected member. And without personal responsibility, there is no responsibility at all.

  • Absence of a Social Contract = Absence of Accountability

  • Our philosophers would tell us that self-serving and incompetent leaders have broken their social contract with the electorate, but that isn't true.

    The social contract was never about competence or freedom from corruption; in fact, there was never a social contract at all, except in the minds of the naive and simple-minded. The only contract that existed was the sports-related one - a commitment to try to win the game.

  • How Can I Sanction you for Incompetence, When I Hired You?

  • YOU are the one who voted for that incompetent and self-serving used-car salesman. YOU chose him. YOU hired him. If anyone should be held "accountable", it should be you. It is 100% your fault that an incompetent person was placed in that position of responsibility and created a disaster. It's YOU who should be hung, not him.

    Since no credentials are required for candidacy or election in a democracy, since there are no prerequisites of education, knowledge or experience for even the highest government positions, on what basis can voters presume to punish incompetence?

    The voters are fully aware that those they elect are just the average "man in the street", so how can they possibly demand an accounting or retribution when that person demonstrates a fundamental inablility to perform his duties? They cannot.

    It is only in the corporate sector, or similar, where those applying for senior positions must be highly qualified and have a demonstrated competence to perform that job, that we can demand an accounting for failure. In any Western country with a so-called "democractic government", this isn't even remotely possible.

    And the reason is that business is serious; part of the real world. But "democracy" has different rules because it's just a socio-religious team sport where everybody can play.

  • I Would Hold You to Account, But I'm Ignorant Too

  • But it's actually much worse than this. We cannot hold someone accountable for failing in their job unless we understand that job.

    If a patient dies after a hospital operation, how do you know if that was an unpreventable occurrence or if the physician made a mistake? You cannot. You are not competent to judge because you are not a professional in that field.

    And please don't tell me you can hire a medical specialist for a professional opinion. Sure, you can. But who do you hire in your "democracy", to give you that professional second opinion when your politicians screw up?

    If you aren't competent to evaluate candidates beforehand nor to assess their perfomance after the fact, by what stretch of sanity are you making these selections in the first place?

    If, in a Western democracy, a nation's economy falls badly, creating unemployment, financial losses, home foreclosures, nationwide misery, how do you know if those events were due to international circumstances beyond control or to the Finance Minister's gross incompetence?

    In past decades, many Western Finance Ministers have created precisely those problems due to their incompetence and lack of knowledge and experience, but there was no punishment, no "accounting", because the public are ignorant of the facts.

    You cannot know, because you are not a professional in that field, and therefore you cannot judge. You have no knowledge of your own, and no source of accurate information. And without that, you cannot hold anyone to account.

    The best you can do, in your ignorance, is to vote for someone else the next time, someone who may be even less competent. The fact is that you don't know, not before, and not after.

    The unassailable truth in all this is that every Western democracy consists of the uninformed, unqualified and ignorant voting for the almost equally uninformed, unqualified and ignorant.

    As I've commented elsewhere, if you wanted to design a really stupid system of goverment, you couldn't do better than this.

  • A Few Examples

  • Item: The US Financial Crisis

    The US government, in conjuction with the banks, engaged in the largest financial fraud in US history, bankrupting and rendering homeless tens of millions of Americans, millions of whom are now living in tent cities or sleeping in cardboard boxes under the overpass.

    According to the US government as of early 2012, more than 25% of all American homes have mortgages greater than the resale value, and another 25% are very near this.

    The US Government reports that since 2007, about half of America's Middle Class has fallen into the lower class, and more than half of all American parents believe their children's lives will be worse than their own.

    And how was the accountability handled for such a vast crime? The American banks were given 7.7 trillion in loans to help them through the crisis, since the banks - unlike the people - were "too important to fail".

    There was no accountability, neither for the banks nor for the government. Nothing changed. And in fact the US government even refused to re-implement the banking regulations it cancelled earlier that permitted such a travesty to occur.

    Nobody in government paid any price or lost anything. A few officials may not have been re-elected, but that hardly suggests any kind of serious accountability for what was truly a crime with widespread participation.

    The FED Rides to the Rescue

    Even worse, much of the real estate crash and loss of homes was due to Americans using their homes as ATMs; when values rose, increase the mortgage and spend the money.

    And who was encouraging Americans to do this? Who spoke approvingly of how Americans were intelligently "managing their personal balance sheets" by doing so? Alan Greenspan, of course, the Chairman of the FED.

    Greenspan is not a stupid man; he had to know end result of such behavior, so why encourage it? Where is the accountability? Greenspan should be in prison, along with those who appointed him.

    In fact, everyone escaped, except the people. Hurray for democracy, where elected officials are "accountable to the people".

    Item: The Lies to Invade Iraq

    US President George Bush lied to Americans and to the world about Iraq possessing nuclear and biological weapons and being a threat to the world. None of it was true.

    Every reason presented to justify the unconscionable invasion and destruction of Iraq, was proved to be a lie. Not a mistake, not a misunderstanding; a lie.

    Those lies resulted in war crimes of unprecedented magnitude, secret torture prisons all over the world, about 1 million Iraqis dead - mostly civilian women and children.

    Annd the "accountability"? Americans re-elected George Bush for a second term. The torture prisons are all still open. Nobody was brought to trial for war crimes, nobody was punished for the tortures and deaths. There was no accountability anywhere.

    Where is the "the public will pass judgment on each of them"? There was no judgment passed on anyone. Bush and his staff are gone because their terms were up anyway, and there is no evidence that any individual congressman or senator lost his seat because of the war or the torture. All that happened was that the public mood changed.

    To claim that a handful of officials were not re-elected, and this represents true accountability for such vast crimes, is mindless, delusional, and almost obscene.

    But that's the power of propaganda and the insidious nature of the resultant religion-based jingoism. Americans blindly proclaim the "God-given universal value and human right" of their form of "democracy" where politicians are accountable to the people. Jesus.

    Item: Japan's Nuclear Disaster

    By all accounts, Japan's government was incompetent to deal with the aftermath of the disaster. Moreover, they lied to the Japanese public about the radiation dangers, exposing countless thousands to radiation poisoning and a miserable early death.

    The government lied about the meltdowns, about the extent of radiation leakage, about the reprocessed nuclear weapons fuel being prepared beneath the damaged reactors.

    Where was the accountability? There was none. It's true the Japanese Prime Minister was replaced, but that was for refusing to suckle up to Washington about the disastrous US military base at Futenma, not about the disaster handling.

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