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If American's are disappointed with the actions of their government why are we so politically apathetic?

The U.S. is arguably the one of the most free nations in the world yet only about half of the U.S. votes. This is a curious statistic to one who considers that the civic processes of the U.S. are supposed to be contingent "for the people, by the people." We have the power to affect positive change... so why don't we? We elect our Congressional representation and we are adequately able to monitor their votes. We are able to assemble and speak freely our mind concerning policy. So why so much stagnation on Capitol Hill? And why blame anyone but ourselves?

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    Jan 3 2012: QUOTE: "The tyranny of a prince in an oligarchy is not so dangerous to the public welfare as the apathy of a citizen in a democracy." (Montesquieu).
    Good question, Jason. Unfortunately it is like pushing a rope to get apathetic people to answer.
    Thanks, and good luck.
  • Jan 3 2012: Many Americans seem to see that our system is so badly broke they cannot see a way to fix it. They are bombarded with really horrible and irresponsible "news" so they don't have anyone they believe or trust any more. There are two things about this: One is that we have a system that IS fixable. The basic values embedded in our constitution are still sound and if we do not fix this mess soon there will be violent change which will most likely cost us the best parts of our system. The second is that demanding that the laws we ALREADY HAVE be upheld is one of the most basic methods of getting it all back on track. We have laws and regulations against fraud, lying under oath, and monopoles and racketeering.

    People are overwhelmed by problems they cannot grasp because they feel too big. Those of us who know that action is the only solution need to help them see straightforward concrete means of starting on a path toward a newly representative republic.

    Start with re-instating laws that say shows which are listed as "news" must be factual and true. (This was lost in 2003 in Florida)
    Get very serious about campaign finance reform. I have some clear ideas here about how this can be done.
    End corporate personhood.
    Give no new regulations but give the SEC and other regulatory bodies the ability t actually uphold the regulations they have.

    See four issues, four bedrock ideas to start. People would get involved if they knew what to do other than vote in a system that is this corrupt.
    • Jan 3 2012: I agree that people feel overwhelmed and partially because of a biased money grubbing corporate media. There is no journalistic integrity anymore within the main stream media (minus news like the AP). Its all about the ratings and the capitol made by the hype, fact or fiction.
      • Jan 3 2012: Biased and money grubbing was still reined in by the FCC. But, it was defanged when the courts decided that telling news organizations they could not lie infringed on their freedom of speech in 2003. One case, one decision, relatively easy to undo.

        Focus on the pivot points. Throw that in with reversal of corporate personhood: ie corporations do not have freedom of speech.

        Or you could do it by over extending their rights: if they are persons and are owned shouldn't they be freed? If two corporations merge is that a same sex marriage or a murder? You get the idea.
  • Jan 4 2012: Generally, these days, politicians are mendacious, evasive or both. Having said that, I must say, in a representative democracy, the public gets the quality of government that they deserve i.e.if they don't demand much of their Reps, don't expect much.
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    Jan 3 2012: because they don't know what the right choices are.
    • Jan 3 2012: How so?
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        Jan 3 2012: example. americans might be disappointed with the situation in afganistan, iraq. okay. but how to deal with terrorism effectively? it is easy to see the failure of a policy, but what is the right policy?
        • Jan 3 2012: Precisely the reason that we elect government officials who (in a perfect world) we have sought the policy ideology of and stand behind to one degree or the next. Now given the right amount of political engagement it is hypothesized that such officials will be more apt to coincide politically with the virtue of the platform in which they ran. Very valid question to pose those...
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          Jan 3 2012: Any one who is paying attention knows that, although terrorism remains a real threat, we are in large measure dealing with it effectively. Not perfectly, but progress is being made.
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        Jan 3 2012: but jason, you can't elect a government if you have no idea how to fix things. it becomes a wild guesswork. presidents, senates, congresses fail one after another, and people become increasingly pessimistic.

        in order for democracy to work, people should have at least a rough idea which way to go. and then politicians can worry about the details. but if people has zero idea what to do, they can't choose from candidates either.

        tell me, if you disagree, which is better: balance the budget with tax increase, balance the budget with reduced spending or don't care about the debt for now? this is a central issue in the US right now, and if you have no idea, or your opinion is arbitrarily chosen, it undermines your enthusiasm. people don't like problems they can't solve. so they just turn their head the other way. this is all natural.
        • Jan 3 2012: There is always a plan- some are just more feasible than others. It is the job of the whole of both public opinion molded with the influence of intellectuals on certain subjects to converge upon a slated policy to address any issue. Now the part that apathy plays into the equation is that people don't wish to invest time into coming to understand the issues fully and objectively- this is why we follow incumbent leaders running on archaic platforms with no real effect on positive change. This is why the system is broken, people being unwilling to use their voice because they rationalize that their small voice will not matter... but, of course, if enough people thought otherwise there would be a cultural revolution in terms of the way people view politics- no longer lacking power or a voice because of a collective political tension which we all know is the mother of all political progress. This is the great thing about democratic freedom (or it should be). A convergence of ideals coming into a melting pot and the best of that coming to the top as the policy that ushers in progress. Kind of like this web site.
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          Jan 3 2012: Krisztian: "tell me, if you disagree, which is better: balance the budget with tax increase, balance the budget with reduced spending or don't care about the debt for now? this is a central issue in the US right now, and if you have no idea, or your opinion is arbitrarily chosen, it undermines your enthusiasm. people don't like problems they can't solve. so they just turn their head the other way. this is all natural."


          In the case of the US budget deficit, I believe the right thing to do to balance the budget is with both spending cuts and tax increases - but the devil is in the details....

          Have you heard of "90/9/1"?
          90% of the population don't care about the big issues, 9% do care but don't take positive action, and 1% take action.

          But more importantly, you reduce the deficit by strengthening the economic engine and an important part of that process is accomplished by the government and business investing in the new economies (technology, energy, and others). Mistakes will be made along the way.

          Here is the thing: the First World economies have been teetering on the edge of meltdown for almost 5 years now. There is no magic elixir. We will work through this. I have faith that the right people will step forward with incremental solutions and prevail over the skeptics and doomsayers.
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        Jan 3 2012: jason, i empathize with people on this. how much time you need to understand economics, ethics, world issues, religions, different people ... you don't even know what to learn. you can't put a time cap on the learning material people would need. and what is the guarantee that they pick the right material? global warming: debated. economics: debated. drug policy: debated. sociology of crime: debated. usefulness of certain things in school curriculum: debated. role of religion: debated.
        • Jan 3 2012: Complexity does not mean its complicated. When people are able to gather a basis for their thoughts its not hard to form semi-educated opinions based off of a limited knowledge base.

          http://www.ted.com/talks/lang/en/eric_berlow_how_complexity_leads_to_simplicity.html

          Secondly, leaders cannot be expected to learn everything in the same manner described above- this is why they have staffers to tell them the summation and overreaching effects of policy. If people could tap into this resource there would be an even playing field of knowledge- and they can. Opencongress.com for example.
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          Jan 4 2012: I pretty much agree with Krisztian on this all the way down... I don't think our issues are too complicated to understand intellectually however, I just think all of the solutions to the problems you mentioned have emotional consequences that this whiny hippie generation of Americans won't tolerate.

          Global warming is debated, up to a point, but no one wants a brown sky... That's not up for debate, so cutting back on the release of certain chemicals in the air, just makes sense, also it's a forward thinking prod for a usually backwards thinking oil industry that refuses to evolve. Also, to believe in a free market, means to not trade with people who don't, so while global warming may not be a problem, our dependence on oil from countries that abuse their citizens and have no free markets, is dangerous. An intelligent investment in sustainable energy, just makes sense.

          Drug policy, legallize, tax, properly label, and force all places where drugs are sold, to display phone numbers, and addresses, of detox centers paid for by those taxes. Make the drug addicts pay for their problems instead of the tax payer.

          Sociology of crime, debated, crime, not so much. Most Americans are pretty accepting of punishing violent criminals, and not punishing non violent criminals. The people have a happy middle ground, the politicians simply do not.

          School curriculum : fair point, but it's devolved into unions vs privatization. The only reason any American tolerates hearing the word privatization in relation to schools, is because it's too big a word for them to understand it. Vouchers are good, privatizing education, means not giving poor people education. Solution : free online, public, internet education, for all citizens... The diet cola of education. No one should respect it as much as a private school, or even a brick an mortar public degree, but it should get you a trainee job, at a company in your industry.

          Religion is free, believe what you want, s'all nonsense.
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        Jan 3 2012: jason, can we put that theory to a test? pick any of the topics i have mentioned, and explain to me the right solution, and also please tell what and where did you study to get the necessary knowledge.

        because i spend like 300-350 hours of learning one school of economics, and there are at least 3 relevant ones. maybe i did it the hard way?
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        Jan 3 2012: @jim: thanks for backing up my position :) you explained just the basics, and we already disagree in almost everything about them. i believe we both consider ourselves and each other educated, thinking and concerned people. so how could that happen?
  • Jan 3 2012: I'll give you one reason of many that I am apathetic. In any election at any level what could I, or any voter, have done to prevent SOPA, PIP, or (going back further) the PATRIOT act? Vote for the candidate that wasn't going to follow the lobbying? Which one is that?

    Here's another. Let's assume that during the last presidential election I had hope for a better future and was certain that the Republican candidate would be just as lousy as his predecessor. At that time should I have voted for the man pictured here http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/cifamerica/2012/jan/02/ndaa-historic-assault-american-liberty ?

    I guess what I'm saying is that I don't see a third option, when it comes to politics I feel like I can choose either apathy or rage, so I take the dramatically healthier option.
    • Jan 3 2012: To be frank, its exactly that kind of attitude that has created the atmosphere of lacking control on the part of the constituency. The availability of societal means by which free thinking citizens may participate is seemingly endless. In short, simply saying you can't does nothing to answer the question posed. I understand your point and maybe this is a Utopian thought but if enough people thought they could and endeavored to do just that, its not outside of the realm of possibility that there would be a sense of transparency, accountability, and a sense that we're no longer picking the lesser of two evils but are picking a true people's candidate.
      • Jan 3 2012: That's true, I didn't directly address the question posed, I merely alluded to it, so let me be clear. I'm apathetic because we're in a representative-based system where 100% of the people on the ballot are lying about one thing or another, but they're doing it so well that I the voter cannot tell which parts are lies. In short, I can't rely on my own ability to evaluate candidates a priori, so how can I responsibly vote?
        • Jan 3 2012: My football coach in high school used to have this saying. "The proof is in the pudding." Somewhat elementary but stay with me a sec. Politicians are famous for a lot of talk about the issues. The unique thing about reality is that there are results for our actions and the same is true for them. Legislation has consequence and absolutely reflects any divergence any given elected official would have from his initial platform that he was elected based upon. Let me introduce you to a site I found that can show you exactly what I'm talking about. Opencongress.com- Have a look. A lot of the material you mentioned in the former post is available along with roll call votes for every representative in both the House and the Senate. My contention is simply. If we do what we have always done we'll get what we have always got. If we strive for excellence and integrity and accountability and transparency now our children wont be having the same discussion one day. If we don't hold them accountable who will?
    • Jan 3 2012: There is someting you can do - contact your representatives and politicians that you voted for and express your approval or disapproval with how they voted.

      Also ask politicians to enact a law that minimizes influence of lobbies.

      If more people put pressure on politicians and politicians will know that people do care they will be more careful trying to please only lobbiests?
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      Jan 6 2012: Take seven minutes and watch Dave Meslin's TED talk titled "The Antidote to Apathy". See if you find some aces you can keep.
      • Jan 6 2012: Done, that was a much much better talk than I was expecting given the context of the recommendation, thanks for sharing it! The one thing I would add to what Meslin was saying is what I was saying above about having no faith in my ability to evaluate candidates, I think that's another huge barrier.
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    Jan 6 2012: Jason, if you haven't watched Dave Meslin's TED Talk titled "The Antidote to Apathy" you should. It's about our neighbors to the North, but is nonetheless informative and persuasive, eh?
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    Jan 4 2012: Also... I would like to believe that half of us look at the two parties and think "I'd rather vote for an actual donkey or elephant, these people are incompetent"
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    Jan 4 2012: Short answer, there are no intellectuals on television anymore... If there ever were. In a complex political environment, you need an educated, engaged, and intellectual media, to sort through the different viewpoints and make them accessible to the common man...

    We've replaced those intellectuals, with... The common man... He doesn't know any better than we do. We don't get intelligent unbiased information anymore, that's why we're so angry. We think we used to...
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    Jan 4 2012: Interesting how apathetic rhymes with pathetic...

    Food for thought in this political discourse...