I’ve recently been reading Al Gore’s book, The Future. It is a wide-ranging book, and Gore moves through his perceptions of the world today, relevant history and current theories on everything from the human genome to education to make his points. But the part that struck me the most (and kept me up at night) is where he flat out says, with no hesitation, that our government is no longer working in the public good or making decisions based on what most people would choose. Neither is it functioning by reasoning out the best possible choices through well-thought out arguments. Rather, it is often siding against the public good, in favor of the big corporations. Our participatory democracy is not functioning. He says, “[N]ot since the 1890s has the U.S. government decision making been as feeble, dysfunctional and servile to corporate and other special interests as it is now. The gravity of the danger posed by this debasement of reason-based analysis to the influence of wealth and power is still not widely understood.” (93). He suggests that this threatens our nation, economically and socially. A nation with wide income disparity is always weakened economically because few have enough to purchase goods. Historically, I can’t think of one example of a nation that had wide-income disparity that did not collapse. But further, Gore suggests that our moral standing in the world, and our ability to lead as a nation is weakened (and maybe our little influence over world peace is weakened) because our policies are clearly not in the public good. Other nations aren’t willing to follow a weak and morally corrupt country.
Though I am very used to hearing this kind of thing from the very left leaning folks in the circles I tend to hang out with, I was shocked that such a moderate liberal was voicing these ideas so clearly. Depressed and shocked. I grew up thinking I lived in a functioning democracy, like many of us did. I suspected for some time that I don’t. This book made me wipe the last bit of sleep from my eyes. If you are still pretending, you might want to read Gore’s book.