Living in an era filled with shocking events, it's not often that I'm stopped dead in my reading through coming across a single shocking or improbable item. However, what I read today in a Bloomberg piece certainly falls into that category.
Not being a close follower of European politics, I was flabbergasted to read an article about Poland which – as an aside – remarked that the twin brother of the president of Poland, Lech Kaczynski was the leader of the main opposition party. While I am not familiar with the breadth of the “political spectrum” in Poland, it would seem improbable that two twins could have diametrically opposing views. Rather, the more likely conclusion is that Poland's political spectrum appears to be very narrow, and giving voters essentially a choice of voting for one twin brother or the other seems to make a hollow mockery of Poland's “democracy”.
Only a little over a year ago, when Hillary Clinton was proclaimed the presumptive nominee of the Democrat Party by virtually all political pundits, I was having similar thoughts about the U.S.'s own mockery of “democracy”. The U.S. presidency had seemed to be on course to have two consecutive decades of being ruled by only two families.
First there was Bush, then there was Clinton. That was followed by son-of-Bush, and (if not for Barrack Obama's surprising victory over Hillary Clinton) then the wife-of-Clinton. Yet, at no point in the U.S.'s political dialogue did I hear any grumblings about the U.S. having such a shallow gene-pool that they couldn't come up with better candidates than successive nominees from the same two families. Such an implied presumption of genetic superiority had not been seen in the Western world since the end of monarchies.
Poland has a multi-party democracy, so (at least in theory) the Kaczynski brothers can claim that they haven't “cornered the market” with respect to control of Poland's government. In the U.S., with a two-party dictatorship, where neither of the two ruling parties can ever be totally removed from power, there is no “3rd party” option to protect U.S. voters from essentially being forced to choose between “two sides of the same coin”.
In the world of U.S. media, where rumblings about Barrack Obama's birth certificate have dragged on for nearly a year, there was not a peep about the prospects of the U.S.'s political system being hijacked by two, ruling families. Is there any reason to believe that the U.S. media would magically find its voice, should two twins end up as leaders of its only two parties?
While Americans labour under the delusion that their two-party dictatorship does provide them with a real choice, the truth is that their own political spectrum boils down to either the tax-and-spend Democrats, or the spend-but-never-tax Republicans. The only difference between the two is that the Republican version of fiscal irresponsibility leads to national bankruptcy a little sooner.
Indeed, in a Western world which generally abandoned the “absolute right to rule” of kings and queens well over a century ago, our “democracies” appear to be regressing rather than progressing in terms of not offering voters either the best-and-brightest members of society as their leaders, and (in some cases) no real choice at all.
Poland and the U.S. are certainly not unique in “recycling” other members of a family, or pair of families, when it comes to political candidates. I would be willing to place a wager that most of these so-called “democracies” had either being ruled by two members of the same family, or at the least had candidates for their presidency who were wives/sons/daughters of previous rulers.
With the rise of feminism, we have also witnessed a very strange phenomenon where the wife of a ruling president/prime minister succeeds him in office. There are two very disturbing elements to this trend – which should even disturb feminists themselves. To start with, without exception none of these wives-of-former-rulers had a resume which would have made them a leading candidate for office, other than the entry “married to former president”.
What makes the status of these recycled wives-of-former-presidents even more disturbing is that these examples tend to show up in political parties which have an historic stranglehold on government. Thus, in many of these political contests, the favored party had such overwhelming support that the former president's pet-dog could probably win an election. The implications in such elections is that the former president remains de facto ruler of these “democracies” by virtue of sharing a bed with the new president.
This was the same attitude of blind, popular worship which allowed monarchies to remain dominant for centuries. In short, a large percentage of us “peasants” truly see ourselves as nothing more than loyal, knee-jerk supporters of whoever is waving a particular particular banner in front of us – completely irrespective of qualifications or personal merits.
With the U.S. being the only major “democracy” with a two-party dictatorship as its model for government, this trend is clearly more of a risk for Americans, than for the peasants of other countries.
Returning to my original comparison between Poland and the U.S., there was a second similarity – this one economic – which also seemed to be a harbinger of the United State's future. Poland is currently running a huge fiscal deficit, which is currently over 6% of GDP, and threatening to rise to over 7%. Even if we trust the fantasy-accounting of the U.S. government (see “California and New York debt riskier than Russia and Turkey”), the U.S.'s fiscal deficit is roughly twice as bad – and if we plug realistic numbers into the equation, that fiscal balance becomes roughly four times as bad.
Poland is being forced to reassure the world of the creditworthiness of its economy by selling off assets to reduce its deficit – at least over the short term. With the U.S. government having a “structural deficit” (i.e. a deficit that persists even during the peak of business cycles) which is as bad as Poland's current “debt crisis”, it is clearly only a matter of time until the U.S.'s multi-trillion dollar creditors start demanding hard assets for their loans instead of more near-worthless IOU's.
In that regard I read an interesting article that points out that it isn't China which currently holds the largest block of U.S. debt but rather the private bankers of the Federal Reserve. Indeed, with the current irreversible pace of increasing U.S. debts, it is only a matter of time before the Fed's private bankers go from running the U.S. economy to owning it.