Friday, April 18, 2014
US and the Rome of Cligula
It was the Roman Poet Juvenal who coined the term "Bread and Circuses" to describe the Roman policy: as long as the population is entertained and has bread on their table, they will leave the policy makers to their own device.
The Roman built the Coliseum; we have McDonald's and Facebook.
While most Americans will vehemently argue that their beloved country is a true democracy, and definitely not the decedent Rome of Caligula, the sinister facts might not support their delusion. A new scientific study from Princeton researchers Martin Gilens and Benjamin I. Page compiled data from about 1,800 different policy initiatives between 1981 and 2002. They compared those policies with the expressed opinion of the United State public, as well as the opinions of major lobbying or business groups. The researchers concluded that the government followed the directives set forth by the the business group much more often than those expressed by the public.
It's beyond alarming Gilens and Page write, "that the preferences of the average American appear to have only a minuscule, near-zero, statistically non-significant impact upon public policy." In other words, their statistics say your opinion does not matter.
Caligula was assassinated in an attempt to restore the Roman Republic. It did not work. On the same day the Praetorian Guard declared Caligula's uncle, Claudius, emperor in his place. Never again was Rome a republic. Will the USA ever turn a democracy again? If it will not, the power of the people will keep diminishing at accelerated rate.
Hard evidence has never won over delusion. Occupy Wall Street has never won the heart of the 99% it tried to represent -- the rest were in the mall. So what makes us believe that without our effort America will be saved from the fate of every other decedent empire?
If we learn from history, the chance of America turning democratic again -- a place that the public voice is heard -- is slim. Will American democracy become a short blip in the history books of the future, or will Americans rise to the challenge, free themselves from the shackles of McDonald's and Facebook, and beat the odds.