Trying to buy legitimacy

One of many indicators of how Uncle Sam and government at all levels in  America is losing legitimacy is the voter turnout rate.  There have always been people too apathetic to care enough to participate in civil society (which involves more than just pulling levers in a voting booth, anyway).  But what we are seeing in recent years is a growing number of citizens who, while informed and concerned, are concluding that the effort just doesn’t make a difference.  Evidence is growing they are increasingly correct.

A low voter turnout worries our would-be masters, however, as it lessens the useful illusion they are governing with a mandate from the people.  So what to do?  Why, what government always does when it sees an issue: throw money at it!

Alarmed that fewer than one-fourth of voters are showing up for municipal elections, the Los Angeles Ethics Commission voted Thursday to recommend that the City Council look at using cash prizes to lure a greater number of people to the polls…

Depending on the source of city funds, the idea could require a ballot measure. Commissioners said they were unsure how big the prizes should be or how many should be offered, saying a pilot program should first be used to test the concept.

“Maybe it’s $25,000 maybe it’s $50,000,” said Commission President Nathan Hochman. “That’s where the pilot program comes in — to figure out what … number and amount of prizes would actually get people to the voting box.”

That such a concept would even be discussed should show that participative, representative government is more fiction than fact in the American Empire, circa 2014.  We have entered a self-reinforcing cycle, where citizens increasingly are disconnecting from a government that is then less constrained by their wishes, which then further drives people from the process in disgust and despair.

Hundreds of thousands of Americans have died in previous generations, allegedly to defend a system that confers the ability to vote and have a voice.  Now we’re at the stage of considering using public money to create the appearance of civic virtue that demonstrably no longer exists.  Should that not be a wake up call?

The real challenge, of course, is how to break the cycle: is it still possible, through concerted citizen efforts in the electoral process, to get government more responsive to what people actually want on the issues of the day?  Or have the various powers that be so skewed the process that the people now have to decide at what point they can take no more, and choose to fight?  These would seem to be the defining questions of our generation.

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One thought on “Trying to buy legitimacy

  1. Pingback: Rolling over the odometer | A True Progressive

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