Boxed In By Neoliberalism
Systems that are inflexible and thus incapable of positive change do one of two things. They collapse like Rome or the USSR or have revolutions like Bourbon France or Tsarist Russia.
For a system to reform, there must be viable political alternatives and such options must get an intelligent hearing in the media. The US political system has reduced the political spectrum to a fraction – the centre-right/far-right. All other views are marginalized, have no media access and no hope of gaining seats in Congress. The extra-parliamentary option is also restricted by repression. The time-dishonored tradition is to use the courts to persecute radicals, the secret police to disrupt organizations, and when all else fails, vigilante terror.
While ideologically rooted in reactionary European ideologues like Mises and Hayek, neoliberalism is really an American product. They have exported the US "narrow spectrum democracy" to the rest of the world. Labour and the Conservatives are now political Bobsey Twins. French, Spanish, German Social democracy embraced neoliberal policies, opting for being the "kinder face" of corporatist inhumanity. Here in Canada, there is constant pressure from self-styled pundits that the NDP has to jetison its "old fashioned" relationship with labour and what little remains of its traditional social democracy should be tossed in the ash can.
The parliamentary systems, unlike the US form of government, are not fully closed systems. New parties can gain seats and thus influence policy. Opposition is not considered treason and opposition parties have an important role to play. Nor is the media always so subservient, nor do Europeans and Canadians have to worry about "night riders."
But this does not mean that countries with greater political flexibility are off the hook. As mentioned in my previous article " Restoring Our Social Democratic Past", what has to be changed just to get us back to a 1970's quality of life – let alone something better - is almost impossible to do outside of having a revolution. And this isn't half of it. As before mentioned, I was only referring to the 1970's and not the enormous Triple Crises we now face. Dealing effectively with the global economic crisis, peak oil, and climate change seem way beyond the capacity of any present party or government, or for that matter, any party or government in the foreseeable future.
Such an obvious thing as peak oil, parties and states should be preparing us for a life with a lot less petroleum dependency, but in fact they are doing nothing. They can't, since they are beholden to auto/petroleum/agribusiness interests.
But if Canada and Europe are boxed in by the brutal legacies of neoliberalism and the Triple Crises, all the more so, the USA. The Americans have these problems plus a political system that will allow no attempts at rectification. Will the US go the way of the USSR?