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Election day — Reflecting on our failures

None are more hopelessly enslaved than those who falsely believe they are free
   —Goethe

Isn't it great to live in a society where the penalty for lying to a congressman can be up to 30 years in jail, but the penalty for a congressman lying to you is another two years in office?
   —Peter Schmuck, a Baltimore sports writer, concerning the indictment of Roger Clemens

Today American voters will delude themselves as they do every two years in early November. Among the leadership class and our compliant media, every other year is almost solely devoted to long, corrupt political campaigns waged to fill cherished seats in Congress. These seats are often coveted by the worst kind of people, men or women who are eager to serve the special interests who paid for their office. This venal merry-go-round assures that The People are not served. Even economist Jeffrey Sachs, himself a consummate politician, has been forced to admit that Congressional "legislating" has become a relentless round of backroom negotiations with special interests.

The Supreme Court's decision earlier this year lifting campaign finance restrictions made an already corrupt system irredeemable. Individuals and often anonymous special interest groups have spent almost $4 billion on this year's political campaigns, shattering the old record for bribery set in 2006 for a mid-year election. Regardless of which party these private groups supported, they will expect to get their money's worth. Once again, we will have the best elected representatives money can buy.

Election Day serves as both a symbol and a concrete reminder of America's failure to look after the Public Interest, but it also affords us an opportunity to reflect on that failure. Perhaps our first thoughts speak to our hopes—is it truly too late to turn this disturbing situation around? Short of a violent revolution in the United States, it is almost impossible to envision a practical solution to our endemic corruption. Certainly no solution can come from within our political system.

Such thoughts occur to only the most discerning among us, the ones who are not "hopelessly enslaved" in Goethe's memorable phrase. For the rest, the ones who willingly swallow the Kool-Aid or have a large vested interest in the status quo, there is no question of changing the rules. The co-opted can be written off, but the enormous mass and momentum of the deluded or the vested creates a huge inertia in the system that can not be moved in a useful direction.

The Empire's political system is far too large, far too entrenched, to allow meaningful change. There will be no revolution. There will be no shift that serves the Public Interest. Those are our historical circumstances as the Empire declines, and nothing is going to change them.

Let us hope that our political circumstances get no worse. Heaven help us if the Empire starts to crack down in earnest on its citizens. The "War On Terrorism" has already let the genie is out of the bottle. The Bill Of Rights is no longer worth the paper it is written on. Government spying on its citizens is now routine and has been sanctioned by all our corrupt institutions.

But our reflections today need not end on such a sour note. It is not in our rulers' best interests to arouse the people of the United States into a state of armed insurrection as long the the current arrangement continues to serve their interests. Faced with this not-so-benign neglect, Americans can try to lead rewarding private lives, however diminished their economic circumstances are.

Let's not fool ourselves. There is a considerable challenge in making the best of a bad situation, for what is required is a serious, wide-reaching revival of American families, communities and old-fashioned Christian charity. Americans will have to take care of each other in the absence of a benevolent government. Those who offer some version of Social Darwinism as a solution to our problems want to perpetuate the same bankrupt philosophy that put us in our current predicament. A deeply flawed, failed society founded on reckless "individualism" and unfettered greed will not be saved by more of the same.

We are living in Hard Times and this situation is bound to get worse. Chronic high underemployment and oil prices, a crippled housing market, crushing public and private debt, an impaired banking system and an uncertain dollar are just a few of the troubles we face down the road. For all these reasons, Americans must now come together to save themselves. By contrast, today's elections are divisive, and will only result in more political paralysis, more finger-pointing, more splitting of the spoils, more catering to special interests and more absurd theatre.

America's corrupt institutions and politicians went a long way toward creating all of our problems, aiding and abetting Rip-off Artists at every step of the way. Surely you don't think we can turn to these same institutions and politicians to solve our problems now. That which our leaders did not appropriate for themselves, they gave away, often for a price.

Election Day makes a mockery of our hopes and dreams. But this charade reminds us that now is as good a time as any to reassess what "the good life" really means, and embark on that private journey which allows us to achieve it.

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