Why did America's Founding Fathers design a system of separate institutions sharing power? Is this system still appropriate in the age of the welfare state and nuclear weapons? What are the advantages and disadvantages of the American constitutional structure as compared to parliamentary government? Which system would you recommend to emerging democracies, such as Iraq?
The American Constitution is a masterpiece in the sense that it manages to balance out the three branches of government in almost equidistant measures. The Executive, the Legislative and the Judiciary balance themselves out so nothing can really be achieved without the other’s co-operation.
Arguably this system is rather compromised when one talks about the welfare state and nuclear weapons. This is due to the fact that more often than not certain important decisions like the decision to go to war is often taken by the President via an executive Order and this bypasses the legislative let alone the judiciary.
When one compares the American system to parliamentary democracy, the former normally comes up trumps. There is also the advantage of having a bill watered down in both houses of Congress and changed accordingly to suit the needs of the country. Parliamentary democracy often gets bogged down in useless debate and tittle tattle which is not always beneficial to the end result of running a country smoothly.
Emerging countries such as Iraq are faced with their own inherent problems which constitute multi-ethnicity and other issues such as intercine strife and a ravaged infrastructure. Initially, the best way forward would be to strengthen the institutions and appoint an interim President with a trusted cabinet of ministers to advise and if necessary implement. This should then progress to some form of parliamentary democracy taking into account the country’s varied customs.
American Public Opinion
Democratic theory presumes that in a democracy people are well informed enough to guide the policies that their government pursues. Yet much Political Science research in the U.S. has uncovered shockingly low levels of public information about politics. Is the American public well informed enough to guide the policies of the U.S. government? Does the lack of public information about issues pose an especially worrisome problem for the conduct of U.S. foreign policy?
The American public is normally very ill informed about their own political system. Normally politicians like to keep ignorance rife amongst the electorate so that they can continue to dominate their hearts and minds. This has happened many a time with some congressmen and senators clinging to their post for decades if not half centuries largely exploiting the ignorance of the American electorate.
Political campaigns are largely brainwashing and most of the time they are ill informed on purpose to attract the electorate to certain controversial issues These are mostly more concerned with what will affect them directly and are usually oblivious of what counts on a national level. Obviously this is a situation which does not do the country any good as more often than not, the people remain insular and focused only on their bread and butter issues.
This obviously has a hugely negative effect on US foreign policy which is often seen as reactionary and unnecessarily bullish. The US only seems to react when its own interests are affected and this is largely due to the populist stance taken by many politicians who tend to paint foreign countries like enemies and aggressors to the US way of life. This is largely due to the ignorance of the US electorate at large on foreign policy issues and which has been a consistent trait for centuries.
Mass Media and Agenda Setting
In his famous book entitled Understanding Media, Marshall McLuhan coined the famous phrase, "The medium is the message." By this, McLuhan meant that the way events are conveyed can be more important than the events themselves. In the U.S., news is conveyed through a media driven by the need to make a profit as opposed to provide a public service. What are some of the consequences of the American media's profit-driven reporting of the news?
The news media in the US is often very much concerned in focusing on capitalist and agenda driven subjects rather than conveying credible and consistent news reporting. This comes from the media companies’ need to make a profit at all costs so most of the time the stories which are served up appeal to the general public and are sensationalist in the extreme with the result that the general public is fed with a diet of news which is not always the best and most accurate. There have been many occasions when personal agendas are given full prominence on prime time networks with the result that the public remains ill informed on the clear picture and is fed just one side of the story. As Mcluhan says, the medium remains the message and this type of policy has a serious detrimental effect on American’s propensity to consume news accordingly.
One can take an example when the war in Iraq was portrayed as something which was bringing freedom when there were several human rights abuses going on which were eventually revealed on the news media at a much later stage. The American public was first fed a gullible diet of bombastic stories about the liberating situation in Iraq and then had to face some graphic portrayals of torture which were hugely unpalatable to say the least. These contrast occur on a daily basis in the US news media.
Obviously a huge question remains whether ethical considerations are followed by the news media in America. More often than not, we are faced with rampant consumerism and stories which consistently beggar belief and are also rather one sided on the sensationalist aspect.
One concludes that the mainstream news media is on a consistent level ready to shock and to awe without any considerations for ethical issues. The more it sells, the better so to speak and this is definitely their maxim at the end of the day.