Governmental honesty is one of the most important factors, if not the most important factor, affecting a nation's quality of life. Further, a country's level of honesty is closely associated with its level of democracy and more moderately associated with its levels of union organization and competitiveness.
This is not to say that democracy, governmental honesty, union density or competitiveness is causally related to the quality of life. However, the correlations do show that high levels of these factors tend to co-exist with high levels of the quality of life and that low levels tend to co-exist with low levels of the quality of life.
Before discussing the relationships between democracy and two quality of life indicators (prosperity and life satisfaction), it is relevant to note how the US is ranked among the thirty two Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) member nations. Table 1 (below) shows that we rank 13th in democracy and 18th in honesty. Our ranking in honesty places us in the second most corrupt group of member nations.
The sources of the ranking data are described in Appendix A of Reversing America's Decline-Jefferson's Remedy (2014). Nation-by-nation rankings are provided in Chapter 7 of Reversing America's Decline.
It does not bode well for either us or the rest of the world that the country which maintains the largest military force in the world is controlled by a corrupt government. It would certainly be well for us to place our quality of life (and the quality of life of other nations) above our emphasis on military dominance. Why not direct our efforts toward becoming a larger version of Sweden rather than continuing to strive for world dominance.
Table 2 (below) suggests some possibilities for investing in our political infrastructure -- rather than in our military establishment. The percentages shown in Table 2 are percentages better than (or worse than) the average OECD ranking. Table 2 also shows how levels of democracy (high, next high, lower and lowest) relate to prosperity and life satisfaction (our indicators for the quality of life). (1)
The above tables suggest an emphasis on improving our democracy -- perhaps, in part, by the adoption of strict term limits for civil officers and the prohibition of any private money in federal elections. They also suggest the desirability of making honesty more attractive to our civil officers -- perhaps, in part, by strengthening the impeachment provisions, providing for their strict enforcement and transferring the power to try impeachments from the Senate to the judiciary.
The reader is no doubt thinking "This is all very well. Of course we would chose to improve our democracy, abandon our imperialism and even reform our government - and adopt Gore's Plan (2) for foreign relations as well - if we could. But the problem is that we have no way to reform our government and it will certainly not reform itself."
As it happens, this is not the case. While it is true that our government will not reform itself, the Framers anticipated our present predicament. (3) They gave us a way to by-pass a corrupt federal government and reform it in spite of itself. This way is now being pursued by our natural allies; the rank-and-file members of the Republican Party and their state legislators. We need only negotiate an agreement to join with their "Convention of States" project. Without our help, it is doubtful that the Republican rank-and-filers will be able to bring about a second constitutional convention. A bi-partisan effort, however, would have an excellent chance to succeed. We Democrats would join in the effort to bring about a convention, of course, only on condition that the convention be truly representative. The state applications (for a convention) to Congress would have to specify that convention delegates either be elected in money-free elections or drawn by lot from among the registered voters of each congressional district.
1. The rankings used for these tables are based on OECD rankings shown in Chapter 7 of Reversing America's Decline. More recent world rankings are available on the websites of the international ranking organizations listed in Appendix A of Reversing America's Decline. This average ranking, since there are 32 OECD member nations in Table 2, is 16.5. Since the maximum average ranking of a Group is 4.5, the highest ranking possible would appear on this Table as 73%.
2. In 1992 then Sen. Gore proposed that we join the other developed nations in a "Global Marshall Plan. Under Gore's plan, we would invest the US resources used to maintain a worldwide military presence in an effort to improve the quality of life in the less developed countries of the world. See pages 106-110 of Reversing America's Decline (2014).
3. Jefferson, while not a Framer, believed in keeping a close watch over our rulers. He believed that twenty years should never pass without a constitutional convention.
(Article changed on August 26, 2014 at 14:35)