Thursday, July 2, 2009

When Accountability Is A Plague

We have seen the emergence of a new type of "accountability" during the past decade.

We could describe it as stealth accountability, which is being framed and presented as "policy differences".

Instead of political wrongs, crimes, or sources for proper retribution, the worst of governance is accepted simply as bad policy for which impeachment is off the table.

The official story line designed to launder egregious and treaty violating government behaviour is composed of a one liner something like "one administration cannot punish a prior administration for what that prior administration did based on policy differences between the two administrations".

Having declared that premise, the official exercise then becomes one of describing everything the prior administration and everyone in it did as "policy", even to the degree of calling war crimes a policy of government.

When such a position is unleashed and promulgated, each current administration is then relieved of the dirty, hard, and painful work of applying the principles of accountability to any previous administration, and instead, can focus on re-election.

This evaporation of accountability is one of the primary signs of a or the decline of the U.S. Republic.

Most any academician will have a rap for this subject of accountability, which will go something like:
Accountability is the missing conceptual link in the current debate over how best to advance democracy. Democracy affirms the need to justify decisions made by citizens and their representatives: it is a system that connects the values of the individual with the decisions of the collective. The preferences of citizens revealed by fair elections (representation) or organized and definitive discussion (deliberation) are the starting points of democratic legitimacy.
A clearly defined accountability system is crucial to any system of representative democracy because citizens, through their vote, legitimize or give authority to leaders to act.
(The Accountability Ladder, PDF, emphasis added). As it turns out, accountability is an important, required, and essential ingredient for U.S. Democracy.

That essential, which is the DNA of true democracy and constitutional government, is the constitutional foundation of American government.

It is actually the essence of any government by, of, and for the people because in this specific application we speak of here, it applies only to government officials.

The first leg or phase of accountability is a free press.

To the extent the press can be subverted is the extent to which accountability can be subverted, and thus the extent to which U.S. Democracy can be subverted.

In the new administration we have heard a lot of talk about open government, yet open government without accountability is like bragging about doing public wrong.

The rhetoric "hey, look what we are doing, torture, spying on Americans, destroying the economy, see how open we are" rings hollow without accountability, and does not sound at all like the American liberty bell.

The next post in this series is here.

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