2.4 Problematic Political Institutions revised 12/2017

2.4.0 Summary
2.4.1 Problem of anonymity
2.4.2 Problems of self-governing and adversarial legal systems
2.4.3 Deceptions of voters and representatives, broad conflicts of interests and lack of ethics in politics
2.4.4 The problem of ‘freedoms,’ ‘rights’ and ‘justice’
2.4.0 Summary
Modern democratic political systems have severe shortcomings. Anonymity in large political units leads to us-versus-them thinking: people care little about the “others”; thus large societies should be built of small, interacting political units.
Self-governance is problematic because local people hardly recognize severe deficiencies of their culture, including ingrained sexism and cruel practices. Local people in governments always have conflicts of interests since they are part of groups within the area they are responsible for; groups include religious and professional affiliations, neighborhoods and extended families all having special goals and interests. Outsiders are needed for better governance, at least for ethical oversight.
Since virtually all adults can vote, biased people and people who do not study issues are usually a majority. Wealthy interest groups spend much to mislead voters as well as politicians. Wealthy people usually get their way and are able to maintain a status quo that treats the majority of people unfairly.
Since politicians are usually elected for a few years, their priorities tend to shift, shortly after election, to reaching some popular short-term goals and to shore up their donor and constituent base. Long-term goals are usually discussed but not acted on. When there is a two-party system, primary elections typically select rather extreme candidates and the system tends to swing back and forth between short-term goals of one and the other party. The judiciary branch of government is supposed to be impartial, but many judges are nominated that are obviously biased, making the judiciary an extension of polarized politics.
The government is expected to provide freedoms, rights and justice. These are essentially meaningless terms. One person’s freedoms and rights are an others’ constraint, and freedom from perpetrators’ aggression is meaningless when a government focuses on freedoms of mentally unstable persons, predators who are at the time not jailed, etc. Justice has only limited meaning in a negative way: unfair treatment with erratically applied laws may be considered unjust but laws cannot provide justice. Nature is unjust; there are no two people who are identical and deserve identical treatment; no political or legal system can compensate for individuals’ unfair destinies.

2.4.1 Problem of anonymity

The principles of modern democratic institutions are inherently problematic in many ways. Democratic processes barely improve the lot of the poor majority and typically maintain the status quo over decades, even if there are huge and obvious problems. The anonymity of large societies poses formidable problems that are inadequately addressed in modern democracies.
Modern societal, economic, and political institutions do not properly consider social instincts in humans. Primates, like many mammals, are very social and need the psychosocial support within a relatively small group of individuals. People of indigenous cultures, as social animals, generally behave caringly towards their clan or group members but tend to be callous, even cruel and murderous, towards others (inherent us-versus-them thinking). It is not surprising that, if societies become large and anonymous, social instincts and natural ethical inclinations fail, even if there are efforts to make people feel loyal towards members of an organization, a large church or a country. The instinctive ambition to rise in rank becomes dangerous: this drive has no natural point of satiation; in the anonymity of large sociopolitical structures, leaders continue to crave more power and hardly care about individuals’ deprivations and suffering.
Large societies should be built of strong small communities, groups of small settlements, town or neighborhoods, with effective institutions to govern interactions between small, mid-sized, and large political units. Within semi-anonymous units of maybe 1,000 people, members of overlapping smaller groups of up to 140 people may feel personally known.

2.4.2 Problems of self-governing and adversarial legal systems
Democratic self-governments and their legal systems address what the dominant culture disapproves but ignore some of the worst culturally ingrained harmful traditions and human rights violations. (Human rights may need to be reviewed considering globally accepted principles of global or natural, science-based ethics.)
When central governments or international treaties outlaw traditional forms of human rights violations, local officials rarely enforce the laws. Progressive laws may not work if the legal system is adversarial, because:
1. People reject the punishment of respected citizens who commit culturally sanctioned human rights’ violations: courts may suppress evidence and testimonies, and witnesses often are, for many reasons, unwilling to testify.
2. Breaking traditions and taboos by cooperating with modern courts hurts the reputation of the clans, extended families, and local politicians; the sense of having an autonomous culture may be threatened.
3. Nuclear families do not want to expose perpetrators of domestic violence, incest, “honor killings,” mutilating practices, etc. because of shame, guilt, a sense of betrayal and/or ambivalence about the laws validity.
4. The work and income of known and/or apprehended perpetrators are valuable and often needed. Jailing perpetrators punishes their families and village communities.
5. Corruptive practices in local legal systems are often ingrained. When most disagree with laws that are imposed by ‘outsiders,’ corruptive practices are reinforced.
Self-governance always leads to conflicts of interest since elected officials are parts of groups within the realm they are to govern and administer. Groups may be defined by religion, district and area, profession, clan, etc. Rarely are representatives truly committed to consider all citizens of the area they represent and even less the interests of their country and the world as a whole.
Since the model of “self-government” is problematic, outsiders may be needed for good, progressive governance and the advancement of human rights. Local leaders may not even acknowledge problems such as culturally ingrained human rights’ violations. Culturally sensitive education, particularly education utilizing discussions with local teachers and counterparts from different cultures of similar socioeconomic condition, is more important than adversarial legal systems that outlaw traditional abuses.

2.4.3 Deceptions of voters and representatives, broad conflicts of interests and lack of ethics in politics
At this point, virtually all adults can vote, no matter how they function emotionally or intellectually, and what understanding they have regarding the issues of a referendum. The many votes that follow short advertisements minimize the influence of votes by informed, educated citizens with high ethical standards. Although elected officials have much power, there are no meaningful educational or other requirements for legislators and executives, and no ongoing relevant education or training is mandatory1. The ethics of political decisions is rarely questioned. Unless elected politicians have the wisdom to seek the advice of highly trained, conscientious scholars, scientific information has a very minor role in improving the quality of life within our civilization.
Candidates for political office often make misleading statements and buy misleading advertisements, with no check by an independent agency that examines what claims can, factually, scientifically and/or ethically, be endorsed. Any interest group with financial means can influence elections and the legislative process by supporting a party or specific candidates, by lobbying and advertising; again, there are no checks on claims made and (mis)information presented by lobbyists and advertisements. The USA’s political system encourages a two-party system in which many voters do not approve either party’s goals and candidates. The problem of majority voters ignoring the wants and needs of minorities is poorly addressed by most governments. Inherent differences between men and women and patriarchal traditions favor males in elections and male ways of problem-solving, even if there are elected women representatives.
An additional problem with two-party systems is that in primary elections, most moderate candidates are unlikely to win. In the final election, there may only be candidates that are approved by the majority of one party but less than half of the whole population. In the USA, where there are small additional parties, the candidate with the most votes is considered the winner even if less than half of the population voted for him/her. The Electoral College is supposed to make an independent decision if the elected candidate appears unfit for office, but that has not happened in 2016 when many politicians and educated people considered a candidate incompetent and dangerous.
Since congress members are elected for a few years, their priorities tend to quickly shift to what enhances the likelihood for them to be re-elected, that is, they focus on short-term results and goals of their core supporters and constituents, and they comply with financial supporters’ lobbyists who frequently deceive politicians, for example industry groups, fundamentalist religious groups, the military-industrial complex and the gun lobby. Long-term goals are usually discussed but not acted on. Often, representatives are elected because the people, against whose interest they work, are divided and/or have no persuasive candidate. The percentage of hard working poor people who vote is, usually, for many reasons low and the elected officials hardly represent the majority of underprivileged people.
The judiciary is supposed to be independent. Judges are supposed to be non-political observers of facts, always considering scientific knowledge. As constitutions and laws leave considerable liberty in judging issues (or simply did not consider what issues may be brought before courts), judges are often nominated to further political agendas; the confirmation process mainly considers nominees’ education, not whether they are known to be biased by religion, obsolete economic theories, etc.

2.4.4 The problem of ‘freedoms,’ ‘rights’ and ‘justice’
The terms “freedom”, “right” and “need” are often misunderstood and misused. “Right” and “freedom” have to be defined as “freedom to do something” (civil and economic rights), and “freedom from adversities” (right to protection, e.g. from violence and arbitrary arrest). Individual rights and freedoms are very relative and have positive and negative aspects: one individual’s freedom often negatively affects other individuals’ freedom. Freedom from violence is meaningless when a government focuses on freedoms of mentally unstable persons and predators who are not jailed at the time, etc. (the safety of patients and of others is jeopardized when laws order to treat patients in the least restrictive way possible, as long as a disturbed person is not imminently dangerous; laws also fail to recognizing the dangers of emotionally unstable angry isolated persons and they fail to understand that ‘criminals’ are psychiatrically disturbed persons).
In the USA people have the right to own coastal land, lake front and river side property and thus exclude others’ access to beaches and other beautiful places; they also have the right to exploit and fully own resources in their private land, and people are assumed to have the right to compete for the benefits of the world’s resources, but have no obligation to share. This is not ethical.
Naturally, people benefit from some freedoms but they need considerable physical and social structure to develop and thrive. Too much freedom interferes with normal, healthy development. The term “human needs” is often used referring to what, in a culture, are considered optimal conditions, and many assumed “needs” are merely cultural standards — sometimes beneficial, sometimes harmful.
Related to the terms ‘freedom’ and ‘rights’ is ‘justice.’ From a scientific perspective, ‘justice’ is meaningless: every individual is different; many have, for genetic and/or environmental reasons, lives that are fairly free or full of severe suffering with more or less times of relative happiness. The term ‘injustice’ has limited meaning when referring to erratic applications of rules and laws or to lack of fairness, refusal of expected or agreed upon reciprocity. However, no political or judicial system can change or compensate for the gross ‘injustices’ in nature. And legal systems do poorly in reducing ‘injustices.’
It appears necessary that we reevaluate what environments are beneficial for humans, biologically, psychologically, and sociologically. In all planning, ethical thinking and relevant research data must be considered, including psychological-psychiatric research, anthropological research, and particularly ethological studies. Recognized human rights must include reasonable access to basic resources and services, avoidance of any culturally sanctioned or prescribed forms of maltreatment, consideration of social needs and humane treatment in any situation.

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1 Educational requirements for government positions was also proposed by Irenäus Eibl-Eibesfeldt, in Wider die Misstrauensgesellschaft, Piper 1995, 97, p.221

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