I recently took an opportunity to personally question Richard Haass, the president of the Council on Foreign Relations since 2003.
If the United States is more oligarchy than democracy — or perceived that way by a Princeton study, movements like Occupy, or who knows which voters this season — is the U.S. leadership of the expansion of global governance or regional governance likely to produce difference results than we have here in terms of accountability to average citizens?
Mr. Haass answered…
I guess I’d challenge the preface or assumption. What this election showed, if anything, is that popular will is powerful in this country and elites had it wrong. Quite stunning. And the so-called experts — I still believe in experts, I disagree with Mr. Gov about that — but it showed that the experts had lost touch with some of the society.
Look I think it’s important that institutions don’t get out of touch. One of the reasons the European Union has lost popular support is that it was seen as remote. One of the phrases in the field for a long time was what is called the ‘democratic deficit’, that you had these institutions that had power over your lives but you didn’t seem to have a reciprocal power to really influence them. And that gap between their power and what people felt was the lack of their own created tremendous resentment.
So I don’t think the answer is referendum. I’m not a big fan of that. I think they’re too easily manipulated and caricatured and all that, and too easily hijacked by populace. But I do think that those that do have positions of authority ought to be held accountable, and they have real obligations to explain. And if they fail to do that, they will then, as Mr. Churchill said, they will receive the order of the boot.
My goal was to avoid asking a gotcha question, or highlighting some obscure but important fact of which he could deny knowledge. My goal was to publicly ask a reasonable but biting question of his intellectual framework, of which I am an amateur student. This was my best attempt to steel man the globalist position.
I don’t think he answered my question in any way. But without an opportunity for back-and-forth debate, a non-answer is information too. Perhaps we can design ever better questions together!
- government by the few
- a government in which a small group exercises control especially for corrupt and selfish purposes
Oligarchy is one of numerous English words for a type of rule or government. Some of these words, such as plutocracy, have an exceedingly similar meaning (both may be used to refer to rule by an economic elite, but oligarchy often has the additional connotation of corruption).
My little joke at the beginning was a reference to the first audience question at this book signing. The audience member joked that he usually listens to Richard Haass in his pajamas at home. I was wearing funky pants I made for myself a few days before, because I happen to sew, enjoy, and value my non-conformist freak flag. I felt a need to address my goofy elephant in the room which was half-filled with well-intentioned D.C. suits of all ages.
It would not have been at all polite or constructive to try to escalate debate in that setting. So I just listened to his non-answer, and nodded when he acknowledged a few true things like the “resentment” from the “democratic deficit” of many institutions.
But from my interpretation, his answer seems to presume the election of Donald Trump somehow represented a rejection of the oligarchy which was the premise of my question. Afterwards, I pondered how the election of a billionaire had ended, or signaled an end to, oligarchic run by an economic and corrupt elite.
I was not previously familiar with the term, “democratic deficit”. Given that referendums are perhaps the most directly democratic version of foreign policy-making, it doesn’t seem like his preferred systems of consent to global governance is democratic either.
Oh well, he did not answer my question which I would like to ask of any globalist…
Why would we expect different or better results in global governance than we have experienced as citizens in the “most democratic” or “freest” countries in the world?
Full video from Politics and Prose: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zjwv7ZK6iYY&t=55m08s
The Princeton Study: https://scholar.princeton.edu/sites/default/files/mgilens/files/gilens_and_page_2014_-testing_theories_of_american_politics.doc.pdf
BBC’s Description: http://www.bbc.com/news/blogs-echochambers-27074746
Disclaimer: My grandfather was a member of the Council on Foreign Relations, and while I disagree with the policies it dominates, I do not harbor any blind hate towards its members. Until proven otherwise, I think most people have good intentions, even if they come to different information and group think conclusions.