All governments depend on the consent of the governed. That’s what we learned in high school, so it must be true.
We’ll see how that works in the real world of the 21st Century. Does the consent of the governed matter, in the global economy? Or in a world with imaginary national boundaries, do governments depend more on the consent of multinational corporations?
The political and social consequences of the Great Recession are beginning to manifest, but the results are unpredictable. For background, see World Economic Crisis Phase II, Political and Social Upheaval.
In North Africa and the Middle East, massive street protests oppose long-established regimes. It looks to me like mob rule. The mobs appear to have power to topple dictators, but mobs cannot control the establishment of a new order. As the dictators fall, power can be seized by opportunists, regardless of character, ability, or ideology.
In the U.S., Wisconsin and other states are attempting to impose budget austerity and blunt the power of the public-worker unions. It looks like rule by legislative majority. But legislating is a messy business in the U.S. Power in a state is divided between the governor and the legislature, which is itself fractured into two houses.
In the example of Wisconsin, Republicans have control of state government following the 2010 election. The rowdy opposition by Democrats and unions will almost surely prove ineffective. The legislative majority will have its way. But under democracy as it has evolved in the U.S., does the legislative majority represent the people, or do the legislators represent corporations and special interests that bankroll their election campaigns? In a modern democracy, power can be purchased by opportunists.
Today’s national election in Ireland may provide a first reliable reading on the consent of the governed in the 21st Century. You can listen to and read a PBS report here.
Ireland, you may recall, was one of the first European economies to be staggered by the bursting of world financial and housing bubbles. The Irish voters will probably pass judgment on the austerity measures taken in Ireland, and on the bailout efforts by the European Union and the International Monetary Fund.
Irish turnout is reported at 70 percent. The ruling party is expected to be ousted, but it will take about two days to count the votes.
There are so many other economic shoes waiting to drop. The debt problems of Europe, England, America, and Japan remain awesome and unresolved. We still have the possibility of default, or a chain of defaults in Europe, and among states in the U.S.
You want far-out scenarios regarding the consent of the governed? Consider the breakup of one or more major political structures.
If the USSR could break up, it could happen in the European Union, or even in the U.S. The stability of Pakistan is not guaranteed. And speaking of stability, what about Saudi Arabia?
I could muddle on, wondering about the price of gold, or airline tickets, or $5 gas. But I just confuse myself more with every line I write. I must be watching too much Cable TV News.
See also, You Say You Want a Revolution?
— John Hayden