Is democracy dead?

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My time is short, folks. This is the second last Friday I’ll be at this newspaper. Depending on how my last day goes – tying up loose ends, clearing out my desk – this might be the very last Chicken Little Friday post ever. That’s a lot of pressure. In just a short interval of time, this blog has gone from being a strange little nook on the homepage of a small daily newspaper to an idea-shaper cited in publications and on websites across North America and beyond. More than 140,000 people visit this blog every day. I’m flattered and humbled by the patronage of every one of them.

None of that is true, of course, except for the part about this perhaps being the last Friday post. You, the faithful reader, are one of just handful who has stuck with me. One of my posts hit 300 readers or so. Another broke…wait for it…7,000, but that was just because I got is posted to news aggregation site fark.com. Otherwise most puttered along in the 50 to 100 range.

Didn’t matter. This was fun to do. And a ‘conversation’ – granted, a little one-sided – among 50 people is still pretty cool.

In short, thanks.

On to the post.

I’m not going to pretend to know much about Jimmy Carter. I was too young when he was president. I vaguely recall disagreeing with statements he’s made over the years, but this one deserves debate: http://www.salon.com/2013/07/18/jimmy_carter_us_has_no_functioning_democracy_partner/

It’s more sloganeering than substance, at least the coverage given to it in the linked story – what are the details that justify his claim? – but I still think it’s significant a former President would make the claim democracy is dead in the U.S.

For what it’s worth, Carter was a Democrat and a Democrat sits in the White House. No one can cry partisanship.

Do I think he’s right? To some extent, yes, and it sort of applies to Canada, too. I suppose it depends on how lofty your standards are. When it comes to liberty, freedom and the legitimacy of government, my standards are pretty lofty – realpolitickers might dismiss them as naïve – and neither government meets them completely.

One example: In the U.S., a shadow court makes rulings on the extent to which security agencies like the NSA can watch citizens, and any attempt to find out what liberties have been granted to the NSA is met with the claim that security requires withholding details.

Another: That same surveillance apparatus tapped media organizations to try and track down security leaks.

Another: Obama kills who he wants to kill, even American citizens.

What about Canada? The case is weaker here. The examples are more systemic than isolated, horrific incidents. In Canada, government officials hide behind ‘privacy’ to avoid telling us what they’re doing. Parliamentary democracy provides a majority-wielding government all but unfettered power to do whatever they want until the next election. Corruption seems pretty rampant in the political class, the Senate and Quebec mayors being two examples. Protections for private property could be stronger, too.

There are incidents, though: The failure of Ontario’s Liberal government to ensure residents of Caledonia had policing during that community’s occupation by aboriginal protesters. The lack of consequences for police misconduct, as illustrated by the outcome of the death of Robert Dziekanski (three of the four officers involved in the incident remain on duty, despite their utter failure to provide CPR to a man whose heart had stopped because of their zealous use of Tasers).

Do we have democracy? Sure – a creaking, slipshod version of it. I know, my critics would say that is in fact democracy, that the best you can achieve is a “creaking, slipshod” version. I don’t agree: we could do better, and the U.S. could do much better. Americans have accepted a previously unheard of level of intrusion into their personal lives in the name of public safety, while Canadians have grown tired of the unresponsiveness of our political class and bureaucracy.

PS – Two observations that came to me during my lunch hour: 1. Young children shouldn’t drink “Ice Caps”; it’s cold coffee with sugar and cream. 2. I like a large bowie knife, but wearing one with a cowboy hat and boots and a tank top, well, not so much.

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