The Rise of American Czarism
The San Francisco Chronicle asked me to write a piece for its pre-inauguration Sunday Insight section, and I decided to examine the trend towards authoritarianism that seems to be overtaking our politics in these troubled times. You can read the piece here.
American Czarism, as I call it, is nothing new in the modern era. Despite the Founders' efforts to prevent the centralization of power in the executive branch, our contemporary governing ideology is one that worships the president of the United States as a singular all-powerful deity. In the past, that's been a product of presidentialism - ie. our celebrity-obsessed culture and our desire for a superhero-like savior to rescue us from imminent emergencies. But now, the push for American Czarism has an added boost - the desire to compete with foreign autocratic forces by emulating autocracy.
So, for example, our government empowers all-powerful czars for homeland security, intelligence and counter-terrorism so as to make sure the normal democratic processes (hearings, deliberations, etc.) do not slow-down our efforts to fight terrorists, who aren't inhibited by such processes. We hand over $700 billion to one man - the Treasury Secretary - so that he can help America economically compete with actors like China, Saudi Arabia and transnational corporations who don't have to engage in any kind of democracy before moving money across the globe. And now, the incoming Obama administration is considering empowering one of Wall Street's most vicious corporate raiders as the so-called "car czar" - a Gordon Gekko-style appointment that could be fantastic for wealthy auto execs, but could be a nightmare for rank-and-file autoworkers.
The Rise of American Czarism | RETROGRESSING