Prisoners of Policy

I read with dismay the refusal of the US and Canada to even discuss an end to the war on drugs and an end to the US embargo on Cuba and acceptance of their participation in the OAS summit. Both Obama and Biden have been quite brittle on the drugs topic, which seems singularly unfortunate since the whole process has been closely following the failure of Prohibition. The Noble Experiment, as it was dubbed, was a boon to organized crime and brought a widespread acceptance of drunkenness in public behavior that did not exist before. There appears to be two factors at play — the allure of the forbidden and the business bounty that comes from being willing to accept the risks and supply the forbidden substances.

But in my dismay there was one other thought that crossed my mind — whole industries have sprung up to facilitate the outsourcing of these policies. This must be an expression of the dark side of public-private partnerships — the businesses and (of course) lobbyists who have made their fortunes facilitating one of these (perhaps) misdirected policies will fight like made to keep the gravy train rolling. So countries like the US and Canada that like to outsource the real work of an unpleasant policy may find themselves prisoners of their own  outsourcing. But then, loss of control is precisely that, loss of control (and of course accountability).

So here we are, decades later, with the failure of multiple policies conspicuous for all to see — but they continue despite all rational thought to the contrary. Guess Rome had the same problems towards their end as well…

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Apathy and the end of Democracy

My Google news extract page had a link to an article in the Ottawa Citizen today about attitudes to the new Federal budget. We have already heard the right-wing press praise it for its boldness and willingness to embrace tough issues. But most Canadians seem apathetic about it — even though its provisions are likely to hurt them.

A similar non-response is happening here in Ontario. We have a new budget that has yet to be passed but opposition seems muted and unfocused. And most folks are just ignoring it.

The question ‘why’ seems reasonable — it doesn’t matter what we think, the government is going to do what they want and agreed to do for their business backers in the shadows. Ontario will continue the wildly unpopular FIT program that is sending power prices soaring, businesses fleeing (save those who profit from FIT) and rural communities devastated by the invasion of wind plants. Meanwhile, roads crumble and hospital services keep getting cut back — the priorities are clear.

And as for the FEDs, no one is really surprised that they lied about the F35s and probably a host of other things. And that the F35, touted as the solution for defense of the borders is not well suited for patrolling Canada but much better for foreign adventuring — like Libya. And the government payroll has been swelling — so much for a cost-effective, open and transparent government. And whatever has been said in the budget will probably not be much of a boundary for what they actually do. And the auditor can continue to rant, no one really listens.

I guess one could trace the root of apathy to the lack of responsiveness of governments at the Provincial and Federal levels. One makes these forced choices (best of a bad lot?) when an election is called, or just ignores it. Other than a conversation while campaigning with the political hopeful there is the assurance that once in office the lines of communication will become amazingly one way. Oh, they will communicate with us — we get a form letter with carefully worded questions to respond to. But other than ticking off the large box anything we say is simply ignored. Why should they care? They get a gold-plated pension after an amazingly short tenure, cannot be removed from office by the voters until THEY call the next election. And feel no obligation to communicate the reasons for anything they do beyond a few sound bites with lines that are worthy of the chicken cannon.

So why should anyone get incensed about the budget? Resigned is more like it. The government is there to service the needs of its corporate supporters while playing at being a parliamentary democracy. But without the electorate being listened to in a meaningful way (and not with sham public consultations) this is just a pretense at being a democracy. and the apathetic citizen, conditioned by being gouged by businesses and ignored by the government, will continue to try and get on with their lives. And hope that big brother doesn’t come for them any time soon.