Thu 19 Jun 2008
In the neo-democratic institutions of the 21st Century, the inalienable right of the people to opt out of debate and decision-making has created a new social order: decidership. Americans live in a decidership, and it has rather suddenly replaced the republic we have been relinquishing over the past 20 years or so.
The ruling class in a decidership names a decider and holds a sham election to confirm him. George W. Bush will be seen as the first in a line of deciders. We entrust our decider to select from the myriad policy options available to comfort the worried masses in a failing nation.
A decidership is entirely multiple-choice. Unlike dictators, who superimpose personal vision on the nations they rule, deciders have no vision but depend on others to supply it. Deciders resemble dictators only in the sense that they wield absolute power.
Decidership requires no public discussion, and it countenances none. Visionaries representing privileged political patrons present their ideas in private to subordinates of the decider, who edit out the chaff and present what’s left to the decider. The decider then presents his selections to the legislative branch for approval; approval is optional, since the decider is empowered by the sleepy populace to execute his selections with or without it.
There are courts in a decidership, but the decider decides when and in what manner court orders will be honored or enforced. Court orders adversely affecting the decider or his subordinates or patrons are routinely ignored. Standards, rules, and laws are altogether arbitrary in a decidership and can never be allowed to impede the decider or his patrons in any way. “The Constitution is a piece of paper,” said the first decider not long ago.
In a decidership, the people must have enemies, and the decider chooses them for us. They are almost always ruled by cronies of the decider or his patrons, people like Saddam Hussein and Manuel Noriega. Deciders are licensed to kill the chosen enemies, but they usually do it through surrogates, typically decent young men who put on a military uniform every day out of a sense of duty and honor. When the decider’s soldiers kill, they get a pat on the back. When they die, they must be buried in secret. The injured ones are discarded like refuse in a decidership, but who cares?
The who-cares ethic is really at the heart of a decidership. All power flows from the vacuum that informs public morality. In a decidership, the bombing of foreign cities and kindness to animals coexist comfortably. There are warriors for Jesus and vegans with pit bulls. Cognitive dissonance is treated with drugs, mostly by prescription, or with massage or meditation.
Nobody knows how long a decidership can endure. We know that it can overcome a hardy old constitution, 50 state governments and international organizations of every kind, including the one known, anachronistically, as the United Nations. We suspect decidership will survive another election and corrupt the winner irredeemably. The people will be asleep again within a month of the inauguration, if history’s any guide. The big question is whether decidership can withstand the strains of an economy in catastrophic failure and an army in revolt, common hazards for nations that reject the duties of citizenship.