America like China: Fighting Ill-Democratic Tendencies and the Consolidation of Power
China’s infamous air pollution has had such an averse impact on residents living near industrial centers that an increasing number of lawyers are willing to risk their careers and freedom to sue the Chinese government for failing to take action. The condition of China’s air quality has degenerated so much for so long that clean air is increasingly seen as a major human rights issue in china. In the United States, regulations and the enforcement of those regulations helped save the residents of cities like San Francisco from dirty air. Health and environmental advocates, including States, have even successful used America’s legal system to compel unwilling political leadership to regulate the pollution of industries economically compelled to resist regulation, which was the case under the George W. Bush Administration. China is, however, not the United States. On the other hand, America faces threats that are making the US more like China.
China has a legal system, but it is not a system that promotes the rule of law, i.e. provide equal protection for all. The legal system in China is geared toward ensuring stability and the rule of the Communist Party. Unlike China, the US has, for example, an independent judiciary that has the power to overrule the political leadership. The US also has a Constitution that sets limits on the power of government to act, whether it is acting with or against the will of the People. The legal system in China does not constraint government, but it does constraint the behavior of citizens to suppress dissent. The Chinese legal system is a series of technical hurdle that, at best, Party officials have to navigate in order to give the appearance of justice and establish the legitimacy of government oppressive, which demonstrates why threats to the US judiciary independence represent a real problem.
China’s failure to properly regulate sources of massive population stems from an unwillingness to risk economic growth. Pollution may play a role in a third of all deaths in China and cost the Chinese People in terms of health, quality of life, and health care, but the risk of industrial slowdowns threaten the economic power of the government while the potential for massive job losses represents the potential for great political unrest. Beijing, therefore, allows industry to displace the high cost of pollution onto the Chinese People to avoid making businesses pay the comparatively lower upfront costs of controlling population. To the titans of industry and free market advocates, China might appear to offer a business-friendly economy, but wealth is a form of power and all power in China is controlled solely by the government.
Businesses and wealthy individuals, therefore, enjoy their status at the pleasure of the Communist Party. When and where Beijing does regulate, it does so to put businesses not controlled or favored by the government at an disadvantage. Outside of issues like Donald Trump’s attempt to use political pressure to change the decisions of businesses to favor the US, instead of adopting public policies that incentivize stability and pro-American business practices in all industries, the opposite problem exists. In the US, there are ineffective and inefficient regulations that place an undue burden on some businesses, but there is also a lack of proper regulation and lack of proper enforcement of regulation that offers businesses gains at the cost of the population. Unlike China, a lack of willingness to pursue proper regulation on behalf of the US government leaves the power of wealthy businesses unchecked. The damage done is the same.
The People’s Republic of China and the rise of Communism were a Leftist response to traditional Right-wing Imperialism, which failed to respond to the needs of the People and brutally suppressed dissent. From Right to Left, China’s transition from one form of abusive, unresponsive government to another demonstrates the threat posed by those who seek power from across the political spectrum. Instead of an Emperor, China has a elite power ruling that legitimized its grasp through liberal and communist ideals that placed the focus of government onto the People, consolidated power by demonizing all nongovernmental organizations and individual with have influence, and solidified power by crushing dissent with every means possible.
With that in mind, it is easy to conclude government must be neutered, but government is only one source of power. All powerful governments, whether Left-wing or Right-wing authoritarian regimes, are simply a convenient vehicle for those who seek power and seek to abuse power. The Communists used the weakness of a transitional democratic government to seize and consolidated power then generation of Chinese power elites used that concentrated power to serve their own interests above the interests of their Peoples. There will always be those who seek power and seek to abuse power for their own gains. The only means of combating these individuals is to take a systematic approach that prevents them from amassing unchecked influence. Combating this human tendency requires balanced government, which inhibits the consolidation of power. Responsive government is also needed to ensure the power of government is used to address the interest of the People, which hinges on proper representation.
China’s government is structured at all levels to give the appearance of representation. Chinese leaders are even “elected,” but this superficial attempt at democracy falls short, because those few allowed to seek public office are selected by Party officials based on who can best further the interests and views of the Party. Unfortunately, the manner in which US candidates like Hillary Clinton are selected by a handful of political elites from two parties and the manner in which campaign finances limit who can successful run for public office undermines America’s democracy in a similar manner. American politicians have always been selected by donors, but the choices selected increasingly fail to represent the population. In turn, elected officials more and more often fail to pursue the interests of their constituents while in office. The US is growing more ill-democratic like China.
The United States once sought “to make the world safe for democracy” by exporting American ideals to the rest of the world. Unfortunately, the world is now becoming less like America and America is becoming more like the self-serving, unresponsive governments that have ruled throughout most of history. The United States is the most powerful nation on the planet at this time, so it is a giant magnet for those who seek power. The same is true of the Chinese government. The same is true of all governments. From across the political spectrum and around the world, there are individuals who have made great progress in seizing power, so it is necessary to ensure the system does not allow them to amass more power and solidify their control over the power of government, the economy, and every other source of influence.
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