THE MOST POWERFUL MAN IN THE WORLD
Forbes Magazine just named China’s President, Hu Jintao, as the most powerful man in the world. Forbes points out to those who would insist it’s Barack Obama that Jintao only has to contend with a nine man Politburo. Obama has to wrestle with a gridlocked US Congress that is increasingly filled with hate and acrimony. While some critics blame Obama for naiveté about Congress, I question why dedicated “public servants” don’t understand that lives are at stake here and politics is trumped by starvation and homelessness. Is our system of democracy grossly outdated for operating in a lightning fast global economy?
Technology has indeed accelerated the pace of change in economies and governments. The internet has opened the world to each other. There is clear recognition in the global theatre that the U.S. is on the ropes. Like so many great powers in the past; Rome and Great Britain, we are being challenged from all sides. What system of government do we really need to stay on top as World leaders fight for power? Can 435 Congressman and 100 senators really compete with the political powers of the world?
Hu Jintao speaks at Yale University
Great Britain’s House of Commons has 650 members, from more than just two political parties. The House of Lords with 738 members, currently possess no governmental power whatsoever except to delay a bill passed by the Commons. The House of Lords is like an appendix, possibly unnecessary but just in case we keep it around until it starts to explode. Unlike the House of Commons, the House of Lords is not attained by popular election; its by inheritance, or selected from senior bishops of the Church of England (Lords Spiritual), or appointed by the Monarch on the advice of the Prime Minister. The full, formal title of the House of Lords is “The Right Honourable the Lords Spiritual and Temporal of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland in Parliament Assembled.” The name alone weighs it down. But like the Queen, Brits will pay handsomely to keep God and their royals in the mix. Despite the overtones of master worship, there may be some value in the monarchy. What would the UK be without a Queen on the world stage? Just another France or Australia.
Germany, home to the third-largest number of international migrants worldwide, has a political system that would require a degree in International Political Science to understand. The Bundestag (Federal Diet) and Bundesrat (Federal Council) weigh in at anywhere between 638 and 691 members. The Bundestag is elected through direct elections, but Bundesrat members come from state cabinets. State governments can yank their envoys at any time. That’s one way to guarantee responsiveness. I can see a dozen uses for that power here in the U.S.
Brazil’s 81 seat Federal Senate and 513 seat Camara dos Deputados seem tame in comparison. And Venezuela has the svelte Asemblea Nacional with 167 seats; filled by popular vote to serve five-year terms. Please note that three seats are reserved for the indigenous peoples of Venezuela. How would that go over in Washington?
Thanks CIA World Factbook
And then there is Cuba that dispenses with costly and messy elections. As someone whose ancestors died for the right to vote I am not a fan of that strategy. We all just have to ignore the fact that Cuba provides universal health care to its citizens, and the number of family doctors guarantees primary health care to 99.1% of the Cuban population. (We are headed for a shortage of primary care docs). If my democracy, in its infinite wisdom, thinks we should be the only developed country that does not have a public medical security system to cover all citizens universally there must be a reason. Yet, there is the possibility that our democracy needs a major tune up.
Perhaps we just need two representatives from each state. Forget redistricting and demographics. Let’s just make the thing efficient, with perspectives from all corners of the country. Nobody rules just on the force of the number of bodies they’ve attracted to their state. Montana has just as much to say as California. Everybody has got to share to make this giant warship maneuver in dangerous waters.
If we can’t opt for elegant simplicity, at least ban all television, radio and direct mail political ads. PLEASE. If I really want to know what you think I will come to your pancake breakfast. At least there you can lie to my face. It may not make the political system more efficient, but it will make it much less annoying.