Term Paper: Cass Sustein's Politics

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[. . .] He describes journalism as a continuing course in adult education.

Moyers was one of the journalists to uncover the Iran/contra scandal, and also the Democrats unbridled and illegal fundraising in 1996. He argues that he lost underwriters through his covering of such stories, and describes how he found that he could not propose controversial subjects to underwriters, for fear that they would not cover him. Then he describes how The Mutual of America agreed to support his journalism, so that he could begin to uncover 'tricky' subjects through his writing.

He then moves on to a discussion of his own politics, agreeing with Roosevelt's thoughts, that the central fact of his era was that economic power had become so centralized and dominant that it could chew up democracy and spit it out, saying that, "we have a government run by remote control from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the National Association of Manufacturers, and the American Petroleum Institute. To Hell with everyone else."

He then moves on to look at the role of journalism in all this, saying the First Amendment is first because it is fundamental, as it protects us against the tyranny of the powerful, either political or commercial. He uses a definition of 'real news' as the news that you and I need to keep our freedoms. He then moves on to discuss how other journalists had been discouraged from covering 'real news' as this kind of news may conflict with the financial interests of their advertisers, thus offering the potential for loss of advertising revenue. It seems, therefore, that money rules journalism, as it is also beginning to rule politicians, as shown in Mark Green's essay.

He concludes his essay by saying that despite all the problems for journalists in the U.S., the U.S. is actually a journalist's utopia, as, compared to other countries, where journalists are regularly killed, there is freedom for journalists in the U.S. He quotes Martha Gelhorn, who said that "[in journalism] there are only means. Journalism is a means, and I now think that the act of keeping the record straight is valuable in itself." He says, "Serious, careful, honest journalism is essential...because it is a form of honorable behavior..."

Anthony King's essay, Running Scared argues that often the legislation that politicians pass is designed less to solve problems than to protect the politicians from defeat in election campaigns. He argues that modern America is about elections, and that all Americans are conscious of these elections, even though they taken them for granted. He argues that the permanence of America's electoral campaigns places politicians in a highly vulnerable position, which leads to deleterious consequences for the functioning of the American system. He argues that politicians are so vulnerable in America because they do not have party cover, and because they need to raise money to cover their own election campaigns, leading them to become puppets of big business.

He further argues that the American system is too democratic, what he calls hyperdemocratic, and should be made less so. He then discusses what the word 'democracy' means: one interpretation is the 'division of labor' where there are two classes of people, the governed, and the governers, under which system 'the need for strong leadership' is voiced; the other interpretation is based on the 'agency' view, which argues that those who govern a country should function as no more than agents of the people, reflecting the views of the majority of the people.

He shows that millions of Americans are dissatisfied with the functioning of their political system, and that there is a campaign within America for democracy to 'work better', in terms of involving more citizens in the process, and introducing state-level reforms. The roots of dissatisfaction, according to King are the traditional cases of Watergate and Vietnam, and the argument that contemporary President's are no match for their intellectual forebears, and as such, do not win the respect of the American people.

He then goes on to ask what can be done about this dissatisfaction, saying that lengthening the term of members of the House of Representatives would go some way to helping, and that lengthening the term of Senators would also help, as would strengthening 'the party' as an institution. He concludes by saying that appropriate means need to be found to ensure that representatives are elected who can make a good job of representing the American people, as at the moment, democracy in America is just a "myth," as it needs more 'division of labor' democracy.

Whilst King's arguments are put forward at great length, his main arguments are actually not expanded that eloquently, and the reader remains with more questions to be answered than with questions that have been answered. Some of the points he raises, for example, the need for more transparency, and for longer terms, are perhaps valid, but the converse of these suggestions are not explored within the essay (for example longer terms simply being gained by corrupt politicians who are in the pay of minority groups, and who, therefore, bend democracy according to who pays them the most): this essay, to me, therefore seems rather naive in the construction and execution of its main arguments.

Peter Ford's essay, Why Do They Hate Us? takes its title, and it's theme, from one of Bush's speeches to Congress, following the events of 9/11. He argues that the attack was an attack on the U.S., not on civilization, as retribution for the effects of U.S. policy in the Middle East and beyond. He also says that if the U.S. does not wage war on terrorism in a way that the Muslim and Arab worlds see as just, then the U.S. can expect more such acts of retribution.

He argues that the great majority of people in the Middle East were equally as shocked by the events of 9/11 as were the people of the U.S., but that they could understand the actions of the people who carried out the attacks. He says that they certainly do not share Bush's idea that, "they did what they did because they hate our freedoms." They see that the resentment against the U.S. For its policies has bred hostility towards the U.S., particularly its stance towards Palestine, Iraq and Saudi Arabia.

He moves the essay on to talk about Israel, and how the U.S. allows Israel to get away with murder, so that the U.S. cannot be seen as a fair and unbiased observer of Middle Eastern events, especially in view of the fact that the U.S. gives billions of dollars to the Israeli government each year, which are used to buy arms.

He then traces the case of Atta, a peace-loving preacher who has recently joined Hamas, in an attempt to try to do something about the rising Palestinian death count. He quotes him thus, "[what happened on 9/11] was an awful thing, a tragedy, and since we live a continuous tragedy, we felt like this touched us...we see the tragedy, but we remember that these are the people behind our tragedy."

He quotes other people, saying, "[the U.S.] need to act like any respectable commander or leader. They can't just project an image of contempt for those they wish to lead." Further life histories are presented to reinforce his arguments, saying that Muslims will only begin to trust the U.S. If it begins to give as much weight to Muslim countries as it does to Israel. He says that. "When a President stands up and says an American comes first, he is only preaching hatred. When he refuses to condemn what's happening in Palestine, he is only preaching tyranny."

He continues, "There is only one way for America to be a friend of Islam....that is if they consider our lives to be as precious as their own." He points out that, "when Bush says 'crusade' or that he wants Bin Laden 'dead or alive', that is a fatwa, without any judicial review....it denies all the principles that America is supposed to be." He concludes, "Combating Islamic fundamentalism with bombs and shooting will only exacerbate the problem."

This essay was published in the Christian Science Monitor, and argues from a Christian viewpoint, in terms of arguing for fairness, and an equal treatment for all men, regardless of their religion, color or creed. I would argue that he points made in Peter Ford's essay are extremely relevant and to the point: the current U.S. government are introducing policies, such as pre-emptive strikes (e.g., against Iraq), which are dangerous for world peace, especially in view of the threat of terrorism that rears its head more with every passing day.

All of these essays, whether well-argued or rather rambling, draw attention to the fundamental flaws in the exercise of democracy U.S.-wide and the exercise of U.S. power worldwide. These issues need to be addressed within the U.S. political system, and controlled by bodies more powerful than… [END OF PREVIEW]

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