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We are witnessing many examples of power and its abuse in the world around us. Every day there appears to be a new example and a new catastrophe. There is a correlation of this misuse of power and the centralization that has happened throughout the world. This centralization has accelerated over the past few decades and is most evident in wealth and its distribution, in governments and their concentration of power, and in business and their consolidations.
Much has been written about the centralization of power in the Canadian government in the hands of prime ministers and their political minions. Donald Savoie, a prominent academic and intellectual has penned a number of books on this subject, from knowledge gained as advisor to several first ministers. He refers to this form of governance as a “court government” and suggests that such governments have a “broken chain of answerability”; in other words, a disconnect from those whom they govern.
History shows that concentration of power is the Achilles heel of any government, business or organization whether they are authoritarian, dictatorial or democratic.
The most significant example in recent times was the collapse of the Soviet Union and its communist system of government. The common belief, proposed by those who are commentators on such issues, is that it was a result of the superiority of the west.
The reality was somewhat different, in that it imploded from within, as power was so centralized that it allowed decisions to be made only by very few; to say that there was a disconnect between the government and the people is an understatement.
Currently the events transpiring in many of the countries in the Middle East demonstrate that their governments too have become redundant; despite their dictatorial nature. Extremely concentrated power and its abusive nature now holds little sway with people so repressed that life has become unbearable.
Even in the United States, polarization of power has taken them to the brink of an economic debacle and bankruptcy. Its government is now under the sway of business and economic interests with an ideology that has little regard for the majority of people; especially those most disadvantaged. This ideology appears to be based on a belief that government has no role whatsoever; it is only markets and finance that should rule.
In Canada we have a control based government embarking on a similar conservative agenda on the premise of a mandate, despite only having a majority based on 25% of the electorate (counting those who refused to vote) and polls which suggest that most of their priorities aren’t supported by the majority.
The unraveling of governments, and subsequently societies, is spreading like a contagion; even in democratic countries. This relates most clearly to this concentration of power, but it is also a result of governments abrogating their responsibilities and power to special interests, private business and finance. It is evident that most have become disconnected from their electorates.
Many such governments, including Canada, advocate privatization of assets, programs and services, putting more wealth in the hands of the few.
Special interest groups and business “tycoons” now hold so much influence that they basically control governments who do their bidding. In Britain, the current media fiasco, demonstrates the resultant destruction of allowing such polarization of power in hands of an individual or business.
It has the potential to destroy the business and topple the government, as well as, leaving a social and economic wasteland behind. In this particular case it will no doubt have long term repercussions for press freedom; which is limited enough by centrally controlled ownership and government legislative limitations.
We are living in a time unlike any before in history. The collapse of power is wide spread and of global significance. Many would suggest it is the progression of globalization and points to the need for more global governments.
On the other hand some prominent thinkers suggest that that globalization is already dead. This would suggest we are now just experiencing the fallout from its collapse.
The reality is that governments are changing dramatically all around us and we will not escape the contagion.
What is very obvious is that the world doesn’t need more centralization, or concentration of wealth and power. The world needs manageable governments with balance and where everyone has a means to input and influence decisions. It needs governments closer to the people not more distant. Is this not the message emanating from the Middle East?
What is certain is that the world is undergoing a dramatic shift in how people are governed, as governments unravel and collapse. Consideration has to be given to new democratic models that are much more participatory and inclusive, despite the suggestion by some, that this is only a dream and can’t happen.
It is evident that we need to restructure democratic governance so that it begins with people, is vested in their communities and provides genuine shared responsibilities and powers with any other necessary levels of governments. The world needs governments who support, facilitate and coordinate; and not just control.
Written by Bill Pardy
July 28, 2011