America's crisis of legitimacy

Legitimation crisis refers to a decline in the confidence of administrative functions, institutions, or leadership.
- Wikipedia

What gives a government legitimacy?
According to Aristotle, a legitimate state requires justice.
According to Jean-Jacques Rousseau, legitimacy requires universality of law and common interests.

These accounts typically take Condorcet’s jury theorem as a starting point, where democratic procedures are conceived of as a method for discovering the truth about the public interest; they then interpret the general will as a deliberative means of seeking outcomes that satisfy the preferences of individuals and render the authority of the state legitimate...
Rousseau argues that in order for the general will to be truly general it must come from all and apply to all. This thought has both substantive and formal aspects. Formally, Rousseau argues that the law must be general in application and universal in scope. The law cannot name particular individuals and it must apply to everyone within the state.

Whether you use Aristotle's definition or Rousseau's, our government has lost legitimacy.
A government that has lost legitimacy must rely increasingly on brute force to rule, because it no longer has any moral authority.
Brute force is both expensive and has gradually reduced effectiveness over time. Eventually one of two things happen: a) the ruling elite are overthrown and the system is reset, or b) all pretense of popular will and democracy is tossed aside under martial law.

Already the younger generation is losing faith in the entire idea of democracy.

And why should the younger generation have faith in democracy? It's not like we have a real democracy now.

Multivariate analysis indicates that economic elites and organised groups representing business interests have substantial independent impacts on US government policy, while average citizens and mass-based interest groups have little or no independent influence...
Americans do enjoy many features central to democratic governance, such as regular elections, freedom of speech and association and a widespread (if still contested) franchise. But we believe that if policymaking is dominated by powerful business organisations and a small number of affluent Americans, then America's claims to being a democratic society are seriously threatened.

It's not an outrageous statement to say that our elections are a sham.
Confidence in our elections has been falling for decades.
Which makes it extremely amusing to hear our elections referred to as "sacred" by the Russiagate promoters. It's sure sign that you are being punked.

“The smart way to keep people passive and obedient is to strictly limit the spectrum of acceptable opinion, but allow very lively debate within that spectrum....”
― Noam Chomsky


The crisis of legitimacy in our elections is reflected in fewer and fewer people voting.
71% of eligible voters didn’t vote for the Democratic Party candidate. 73% didn’t vote for Donald Trump, and 40% of eligible voters didn't vote at all.
More and more voters are leaving the two major parties, and more and more people don't even vote.
How legitimate is an election in which a majority of it's citizens don't bother to vote?

Only 22 percent of likely voters say the current government has the consent of the governed.

The United States is now officially classified as a "flawed democracy" because of an “erosion of public trust in public institutions”, but I think that is generous.

However, the legitimacy crisis goes far beyond our election system.
As it stands now, trust in our government is hitting all-time lows.

In 1964 over 70 percent of Americans recorded having trust in the institution, according to polls conducted by the Pew Research Center. By November 2015 it had fallen to 19 percent, less than one in five of Americans. A recent Gallup Poll survey reveals only 20 percent trust in the presidency. Low. But not as low as the only six percent who trust Congress.


Government corruption was the #1 fear in America last year, just like it was the year before.
At the heart of this crisis of legitimacy is our two-tiered justice system, a violation of both Aristotle's and Rousseau's idea of a legitimate government.

Af-flu-en-za /n. L. affluentia, see AFFLUENCE + LL. Influens, see INFLUENCE/: an acute and infectious disease caused by greed and favoritism in the judicial system and characterized by preferential treatment and lenient sentences for wealthy offenders.

Following his testimony in the criminal prosecution of Ethan Couch, a Texas teenager who killed four people and injured two others while driving drunk, psychologist G. Dick Miller said, “I wish I hadn’t used that term. Everyone seems to have clipped onto it. We used to call these people spoiled brats.” corruptive as cancer and more lethal than leukemia, affluenza rots the very fabric of our nation’s judicial system. Its victims number in the millions each year while courts, prosecutors and corrections officials help to fuel the festering malady. We have entered into an era that one journalist has called the “total moral surrender” of our criminal justice system, also known as the age of affluenza.

Former Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) attorney James Kidney made a provocative and candid speech at his retirement party in 2014. He said his supervisors were too “tentative and fearful” to hold Wall Street accountable for the financial fiasco in 2008 that led to the Great Recession. He called the SEC “an agency that polices the broken windows on the street level and rarely goes to the penthouse floors.”

Even the most uneducated conservative can understand the unfairness of our two-tiered justice system.
The further you drop down the ladder of wealth the less mercy the system has.
For the bottom half of society, the justice system is a means of oppression and little more.
For the top 1% the justice system is simply an annoying toll booth.
16-year-old Ethan Anthony Couch was just the best example of how the 1% gets treated.
For the bottom 50% the examples are endless.

This goes double for big corporations and Wall Street banks.

The most glaring evidence of our fraudulent judicial branch is shown in the treatment of Credit Suisse’s admission that it helped up to 22,000 wealthy Americans hide approximately $12 billion in assets from the IRS. Attorney General Eric Holder got everyone worked up into a frenzy when he made a statement that big banks who engaged in criminal activity were “no longer too big to jail.” But that turned out to be false when Credit Suisse, who enabled tax dodging on a massive scale, was allowed to slide back into good graces by paying a $2.6 billion fine, which amounts to 10 percent of its annual $26.2 billion in revenues. That’s a lesser rate than lawful Americans pay in taxes. The penalty assessed by the U.S. Department of Justice is essentially a “cost of doing business.” Disgust over such lax treatment is likely why the U.S.’ top tax enforcer stepped down after negotiating the settlement after originally saying she would favor prosecution of the bank.
When you combine Credit Suisse’s kid-gloves treatment with similar lax settlements for HSBC — who helped launder money for violent Mexican drug cartels — and the pittance of a settlement JPMorgan Chase had to pay for swindling millions of Americans out of their homes in fraudulent foreclosure schemes, the golden rule is clearly the guiding principle for the U.S. Justice Department.

This is how governments lose legitimacy. This is how societies become unstable.
Our ruling elite is so corrupt that they no longer care to even hide it anymore.
The corruption is out in the open, daring the working class to "do something about it".
All that is necessary is a "Rodney King moment", when something happens that triggers a much larger public reaction.
The ruling elite could still avoid a violent reaction. There is still time, but in their arrogance, they don't seem to care.
Much like the aristocracy in 1788 France, they are oblivious to the building anger. Their only encounters with the working class are their employees.

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Bollox Ref's picture

to acknowledge the votes and wants of continuing majorities, over decades, for other priorities than war, it's fast becoming a failed state.

21 users have voted.

from a reasonably stable genius.

@Bollox Ref
know what is coming. That's why they've militarized the police, privatized the prisons, and expanded the surveillance state.
They expect things to get ugly.

But that doesn't always work. Usually it just strings things along before a new ruling elite takes over

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Pricknick's picture

Add this to the ballots and lets see the turnout.

14 users have voted.

Regardless of the path in life I chose, I realize it's always forward, never straight.

Meteor Man's picture

The betrayal of the elites is being unmasked. Democratic party betrayal of their working class/black & brown/progressive base has been written. Trump's betrayal of his Tea Party, rural, working poor, evangelical base (excluding his racist, nationalist supporters) is still an open secret being covered up by the media, but it is leaking out.

The 2018 mid-term will be interesting. The results of the elite tax cut charade will unfold into another episode of the continuing saga of disaster capitalism. Last week's bank deregulation bill means another financial meltdown is inevitable and will probably be worse than the 2006 global economic disaster.

If the Bernie inspired move towards a new American socialism doesn't happen by 2020, with help from Millennials/GenZ voters, civilization and our entire planet is probably doomed.

I hope America's ship of state turns around soon, because I can only maintain my cheery optimism for one or two more years.

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"They'll say we're disturbing the peace, but there is no peace. What really bothers them is that we are disturbing the war." Howard Zinn

snoopydawg's picture

@Meteor Man

Democratic party betrayal of their working class/black & brown/progressive base has been written.

When the blue dog democrats voted for the bank bill, the kos kids gave the party a pass because it wasn't all of them voting for it. Schumer didn't bother to try to get them not to. How people can stay blind to the truth is what I don't understand.

Yep. The next crash is going to be a doozy from what people have been saying about it. Gee, if there was only some way to have stopped it from happening again. Oh wait. A couple of bank CEOs being in prison right now should would have sent a message that it won't be tolerated again.


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Disclaimer: No Russian, living or dead, had anything to do with the posting of this proudly home-grown comment

Good post

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dervish's picture

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"Obama promised transparency, but Assange is the one who brought it."

gulfgal98's picture

I believe that most people still have not completely deciphered the real problem yet. I attended a St. Patrick's Day dinner that a close friend does every year. Nearly all of the people there were professed "liberals." Among the people I sat with while eating, the subject of politics came up, and specifically a very blue dog politician who is running for a state office. I stated I could not vote for this person because of their previous votes on sensitive subjects, particularly regarding the banks and the environment. I was not surprised to hear most of the people around me defended this politician using the lesser of two evils argument, citing that Democrats are better on social issues.

As long as so called liberals continue to buy into this lesser of two evils argument, we will continue to downslide. I am beginning to believe that the most difficult people to reach are the so called liberals in Democratic party.

Most of the people I know are in the college educated and are relatively comfortable, even though not rich. Their ox has not yet been completely gored so they continue to defend the Democratic party even though they know its fatal flaws. I have openly told every one of them that I voted third party in 2016 because I voted my conscience instead of accepting the lesser evil argument. Although none of them has admitted to me, I suspect every one of them voted for Clinton as the lesser evil candidate.

The erosion of the legitimacy of our government has been allowed to happen because we have allowed our two party system to divide us via hot button social issues. In the wake of that division, we have left the doors open to be looted by the corporations and the super wealthy. That looting is continuing at an ever growing pace today and yet most people are celebrating that they received a modest increase in their take home pay. The United States has lost legitimacy not only among its citizens, but worldwide.

10 users have voted.

"I don't want to run the empire, I want to bring it down!" ~Dr. Cornel West

"There is no instance of a nation benefitting from prolonged warfare." Sun Tzu