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Flawed Materials In Our 3-D Printed Democracy
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I suppose it’s all molecules, but one cannot reasonably call 3-D printed vegan “salmon,” salmon.1 We’ll be grateful to have it in the mines on Titan, though.
Sometime last year we were talking about the 2021 edition of the annual Democracy Index report from The Economist, in which the United States was nestled between Chile and Estonia among the countries designated as “flawed democracies.”
The U.S. made the transition to the ‘flawed’ list in 2016 after making its way to the bottom of the “full democracy” list—comprised of the usual suspects, Finns and such, at the top—during the course of some decades. In 2021 we were 26th overall and fifth among our fellow flaweds, scoring poorly in areas including government functioning and political culture.
In the 2022 report published earlier this year,2 we’ve slipped to 30th overall and sixth among the flaweds, between Israel, which dropped from 23rd to 29th, and Slovenia, which improved from 35th to 31st. Some of the change represents other countries improving their own situations, and some of it is us doing worse in those areas where we were already not so good.
The index includes a civil liberties category in which we do better than in the government and culture ones, but still not as well as our betters and some of our flawed peers. You have to go past Slovakia in the 43rd spot before you stop seeing civil liberties scores equal to or better than our own, although there are a few outliers in the upper reaches of the flawed, such as Israel and Malaysia, which score quite poorly on that measure.
Where we fare best, despite the recent and ongoing erosion of voter protections, is ‘electoral process and pluralism,’ meaning most people here can vote relatively easily for whichever candidate they think will most faithfully represent corporations and the ultra-rich. Unfortunately that’s what most of the other countries in the full or flawed democracy clubs do best too, so our 9.17 out of a possible 10—11 countries scored a 10—only ties us for somewhere around 40th.
This being The Economist, none of the categories are “concentrations of individual wealth and corporate power occluding most semblances of an actual democracy,” because what could be wrong with that, but if it did exist we wouldn’t fare well on it. Or we’d fare really well, depending on one’s frame of reference.
In any event, our relatively trouble-free electoral process does not a democracy make. A 2020 (pre-pandemic) study from social scientist Jarron Bowman concluded that “the affluent have substantial influence over policy making while average Americans have little to no influence.”34
A 2022 Financial Times story, which I may have mentioned once or thrice, described our society and Britain’s (we’re cousins after all) as “poor societies with some very rich people.”5 That’s a broad brushstroke, but not a poorly placed one.
Speaking of broad brushstrokes, America’s preeminent broad brush guy drunk-tweeted from an airport restaurant about how the cost of his burger explained why regular joes think the economy is bad. As almost always happens, some internet sleuths figured out where David Brooks was eating and that his $17 airport restaurant burger was not the culprit behind the $78 tab (80% of it was liquor, the restaurant said), and he got roundly roasted for his numbfuckery, and probably blew the opportunity to expense his buzz.6
David Brooks’s New York Times sinecure is why Americans think our democracy is not democratic.
And finally, two fascists bookend the also-rans in New Hampshire primary polling, with Vivek Ramaswamy running second to Trump (26 points behind), and alleged human Ron DeSantis running fourth to Trump. In between are Nikki Haley and Chris Christie, each objectionable in their own way. DeSantis has lost more than half of his support in the state since his skin suit began to slip.7
Velvet Negroni, “Bulli.”8
That, Comrades, is all I got. Share it if you like it, and consider subscribing if you’ve not already—it’s free unless you want to pay.
Be well, take care.