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"DEMOCRACY: Which model, if any, for the world?"

For the first time. I did not vote in the elections. The whole procedure totally alienated me and many others. The independent candidates, with totally divergent views, spoke intelligently and knowledgeably, but they all lost miserably. The two main candidates were puppets manipulated by their public relations experts, who thought up wisecracks, sound bites, or sound kisses (which had a marked impact on opinion polls), and appeals to special groups. Especially disturbing were the appeals to the Latin American ethnic groups,. most importantly the Mexican Americans.. I followed carefully the comments of the spokesmen of these groups. Notable was one by a Mexican American saying that soon the "Latinos" would be more important than either of the major parties and would control the elections. The stress was entirely on what the Mexican Americans could get out of the elections, including more privileges for illegal immigrants. There was not one word about the welfare of the United States as a whole.

Suddenly the system has collapsed into confusion. Americans transferred their old belief in the inerrancy of the Bible to the inerrancy of the constitution. The Founding Fathers, who convened in secret, were transmuted from ordinary enlightened politicians into superhuman individuals endowed with the god-given qualities once attributed to monarchs. The world, impressed by and envious of the prosperity of the United States, respected the American claims of political superiority. Suddenly all that has changed on account of the electoral college imbroglio. The worldwide impression is that the American system is slightly crazy.

We have gone through this cycle before. In the American boom after World War I, Europeans sent delegations to the United States to study the secrets of prosperity. Then came the Depression, and these same Europeans attributed it to the United States. American economists boast that all we have to do it to finetune the economy, but who knows? The world is looking at other possible models. which seem to work at least as well as the American one.

There is a more serious danger. I lived in Spain from 1931 to 1936 and saw how the rosy dreams of the Republic degenerated into the nightmare of the Civil War. When the Republic came in 1931, there were naive expectations that everything would change. They did not, and the cry went up "We have had our republic, now we want our revolution!" The globalization of the economy is arousing similar feelings around the world, notably in Latin America. Venezuela is undergoing another "Bolivarian" revolution, but really more anti-American than the Bolivar of his latter years. This is not to suggest that this revolution is justified or promising of the improvement of the masses. It simply means that we should be aware of the possible outcome of the present political turmoil of the United States.

Hence the title of one session of the WAIS 2001 conference: "DEMOCRACY: Which model, if any, for the world?"

Ronald Hilton - 11/13/00