Oct 10, 2008

The bailout and capitalist worries about the parliamentary democratic form of rule

reposted from previous post Bailout Rejected

After the problems getting Congress to agree to the bailout the ruling class surely must be having some doubts about the viability of parliamentary democracy, at least in handling major, systemic crises. (Domestic counterinsurgency planning and the general movement towards greater state repression, of course, also points to what leading sectors of the bourgeoisie see as the long-term prospects for traditional “liberal democracy” in the US, and is a manifestation of the secular crisis of capitalism.) Since the ‘70s, discussions have periodically emerged in rc circles about the weaknesses of the US state structure, with its “checks and balances,” which constrain the executive branch from taking strong, decisive action. (Think of the old Trilateral Commission report, “The Crisis of Democracy”.) The Iran-Contra episode reflected this growing rc impatience with Congress getting in the way. Now, with a Congress that has been very pliable so far, in areas including warmaking and domestic political repression, something went wrong again. Congressional opposition to the bailout notably included some stalwart conservative Republicans, who usually could be counted on to support the Bush administration on anything.

The near failure of the bailout bill to pass is again stirring up rc questioning of the reliability of Congress. This can be seen in a recent editorial in the Washington Post (Oct 1) by Michael Gerson, a policy expert at the Council on Foreign Relations (long the premier capitalist policy-planning organization in the foreign policy arena) (accessed at the CFR’s web site, http://www.cfr.org/publication/17406/). Gerson:

“America’s economic crisis has become a political crisis – with the second now compounding and exceeding the first.… America is left with one portion of one branch of government that does not seem to work.… [I]t is now clear that American political elites have lost the ability to quickly respond to a national challenge by imposing their collective will. What once seemed like politics as usual now seems more like the crisis of the Articles of Confederation – a weak government populated by small men. And this must be more frightening to a world dependent on American stability than any bank failure.”

If a global regulatory framework has to be established to deal with the financial meltdown, Congress may again prove to be an obstacle to crisis management, and again illustrate the “tension between the political and economic interests of global capital and the national frameworks that field armies, raise taxes, and print money” (d. Hamerquist). (I don’t believe there is a genuinely global ruling class, just yet, but I’m starting to believe there is a tendency in that direction.)

Nick Paretsky