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Been There, Done That (Dec. 9, 1998)

Most Americans, the ones who pay attention to what’s going on in the real world anyway, agree that this country is in a bad way. The government is controlled by corporations, the disparity between rich and poor has widened to ludicrous proportions, and the environment is totally ruined.

Ordinary people — the ones who do the work and pay the taxes and die in the wars — have no access to their elected officials. Our virtual democracy offers an absurd “choice” between two nearly identical ideologies — moderate-conservative Democrats and moderate-conservative Republicans. The system doesn’t work, and few act as though they would miss it if it went away.

As the simple-minded saying goes, though, you shouldn’t simply advocate abolishing a system without offering a clear alternative. So what alternatives could be considered by Americans looking to replace their ersatz republican democracy? What follows is an overview of other systems of government I found lying around not doing anything.

SOCIALISM — Ever since Lenin’s 1,800 barely armed guys bluffed their way into the Kremlin, Marxism has always stood as the most obvious alternative to capitalistic democracy. It’s hard to top an ideology based on the idea that as all people are equal, so should everyone’s pay be equal; and that powerful notion drove countless revolutions from 1848 until the 80s. Nonetheless, there’s no way such egalitarianism could ever catch on in the United States. Conditioned by two centuries of anti-Communist propaganda, founded by Puritan fanatics and fiercely individualist, America is a nation under which poor people want to lower the capital gains tax to prepare for the day when they’ll win the lottery.

PARLIAMENTARY DEMOCRACY — This form of government is dominant throughout Europe and elsewhere, yet is scorned by Americans accustomed to their two-party system. The press often points to frequently shifting parliamentary alliances in Italy as proof that it doesn’t work. What it really proves is that having 28 parties spanning the political spectrum is simply too complicated for the average American to comprehend. The very same people who would howl in derision at a supermarket that didn’t carry clear dish washing liquid prefer their choices short and sweet. Still, it would address the biggest weakness in our Republicrat Party — a lack of representation for the vast majority of voters.

FASCISM — Although goose-stepping went out with Franco, all those uniforms still hold the imagination of many Americans depressed by our atrocious national anthem and lame-ass flag. We could go for the pageantry, the fanfare, the excitement of right-wing totalitarianism, but only for a short time. Eventually we’d kill off all of the scapegoats, and besides, Americans don’t like to be told overtly what to do: They’d rather absorb the party line by osmosis, through entertainment media. Fascism wouldn’t last five years here, and would leave a lot of people — like me — dead.

ANARCHY — Basically, this means everyone runs around aimlessly, shouting and setting off car alarms, playing Def Leppard at 4am, breeding iguanas because they can, dropping bricks off the freeway overpass — in short, doing whatever they want. Who would pick up the trash? Who would issue dog licenses? Who would declare war against Third World dictators we once armed? No, for all the talk of antigovernment sentiment, Americans like to have someone run things. That’s why they don’t mind taking care of stuff like potholes and wars on drugs. If we had to go around doing everything for ourselves, when would we have time to watch TV? It’d never work.

MONARCHY — Been there, done that.

MILITARY JUNTA — Now here’s a form of government we could all get behind, if Colin Powell’s bipartisan poll numbers are any measure. American citizens love a man in uniform — check out what cool threads did for such wanky leaders as Grant and Ike, not to mention the popularity of Evita! With a junta, you get not one but several military strongmen! They promise to restore traditional values, scoff at bureaucracy, and do what needs to be done! And it eliminates the time and effort spent on voting! The only inconvenience: Junta dudes like to interrupt regularly scheduled TV programs.

As we’ve demonstrated above, good old-fashioned American republican democracy, with low voter turnout — don’t forget that low voter turnout! — is still the preferred political system of choice here, especially for Gen-X/20-something/Baby-Buster types. Certainly republican democracy is easily corrupted by various powers that be, and nothing much ever gets done, but it does permit people to print zines and post websites and start bands with 13 songs that are all about Abraham Lincoln.

Democracy doesn’t do anything for you, but its inefficiency is also its great advantage: It doesn’t do anything to you, either. 

2 Comments

  1. John January 28, 2021

    Anarchy doesn’t work in most homes. If I were in charge, I’d abdicate. That would leave my wife in charge. I can live with that. Others just want to be left alone. I can live with that, but what if everyone enjoyed free healthcare, free education, subsistence food and housing paid for by the government by taxing the rich? I can not only live with that, I’d celebrate it. I’d like to hear from communards who settled Albion and elsewhere. Are there communes still out there? I wonder what was learned and what lost in the experience.

  2. Rick Weddle January 28, 2021

    re: Anarchy
    Seems to me that those who have never tried any anarchy would not know at all that it ‘would never work.’ People frequently call rampant lawlessness and off-the-rails behaviors by the label, ‘anarchy,’ incorrectly. That kind of PR, anarchy don’t get many calls, these days… There have been many versions, over many hundreds of years, of Human cultures getting along quite nicely without much sign of any -archy at all. In fact, name the Six Worst Problems now being imposed upon our Only Planet and all Her contents, and you’ll notice they come from yer ‘archies, each and all… Makes us all look like Slow Learners, these -archies…

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