It seems that technological development has made its mark on all sectors of daily life. Why not the democratic process?
The arguments seem reasonable.
The city of Honolulu, Hawaii implemented an “all digital” election in recent local elections, i.e. the ballots were cast either on the Internet, or by phone. This experiment hasn’t made a statement either way for other levels of government. But what would it mean, if millions of people voted from the comfort of their own home — how much hassle and money, in terms of state and federal spending, could be saved if we employed a “digital democracy?”
There are more than 500 million units of fixed-line and mobile telephones in a country of about 305 million. And some 223 million Americans enjoy internet access, the majority of which is broadband.
It may seem like overkill to write a multi-part book review, but historian Thomas F. Madden’s new Empires of Trust: How Rome Built–and America Is Building–a New World explores a thesis I’ve been interested in for some time, which has significant implications for our country’s foreign policy and the wider question of what our country is and what its place in the world ought to be.
The US has been often accused, of late, of being an empire. Madden effectively accepts that this is the case, but argues that this is not necessarily a bad thing at all. Among his first projects is to lay out three different types of empire: empires of conquest, empires of commerce, and empires of trust.
An empire of conquest is one spread by military power, in which the conquering power rules over and extracts tribute from the conquered. Classic examples would include the empires of the Assyrians, Persians, Mongols, Turks, Alexander’s Hellenistic empire, Napoleon’s empire and to an extent the Third Reich, Imperial Japan and Soviet Union. Empires of conquest are spread by war, and conquered territory is ruled either by local puppet rulers or by a transplanted military elite from the conquering power.
An empire of commerce is interested only in securing enough of a political foothold in its dominions to carry on trade, and is less concerned over political control or tribute. Examples would include the British and Dutch empires; in the ancient world the Pheonicians and Athenians; and later, medieval Venice. Empires of conquest are typified by a network of far-flung colonies directly controlled by the home country, at locations which are strategic for exploiting natural resources or trading with regional powers. They are less focused on conquering large swathes of territority than with controlling enough of a foothold (and enforcing enough stability in the surrounding area) to carry on their commerce.
The book, however, is primarily concerned with a third type of empire, the empire of trust, of which Madden gives only two examples: Rome and the United States. The term “empire of trust” itself requires some unpacking.
UCLA professor Peter Baldwin pens an interesting priece for the UK’s Prospect in which he argues that the differences between the US and Europe are not as great as is often claimed. Baldwin’s point of view strikes me as left of center, but his argument (mainly a comparison of statistics to see how the US really measures up to various EU countries on questions like poverty, education, environmentalism, etc.) is fairly non-ideological and the overall result is interesting.
Left open ended (though he provides a few thoughts on the matter) is the question of why both Americans and Europeans like to perceive such strong differences between themselves, and what exactly that means about the two cultures.
According to a recent study, the percentage of Americans who profess no religion has been increasing over the last 20 years:
The Catholic population of the United States has shifted away from the Northeast and towards the Southwest, while secularity continues to grow in strength in all regions of the country, according to a new study by the Program on Public Values at Trinity College. “The decline of Catholicism in the Northeast is nothing short of stunning,” said Barry Kosmin, a principal investigator for the American Religious Identification Survey (ARIS). “Thanks to immigration and natural increase among Latinos, California now has a higher proportion of Catholics than New England.”
In broad terms, ARIS 2008 found a consolidation and strengthening of shifts signaled in the 2001 survey. The percentage of Americans claiming no religion, which jumped from 8.2 in 1990 to 14.2 in 2001, has now increased to 15 percent. Given the estimated growth of the American adult population since the last census from 207 million to 228 million, that reflects an additional 4.7 million “Nones.” Northern New England has now taken over from the Pacific Northwest as the least religious section of the country, with Vermont, at 34 percent “Nones,” leading all other states by a full 9 points.
In Matthew 25, Jesus paints an image of His return in glory. On the Day of Judgment, Christ will separate His sheep from the goats. The sheep are those that cared for “the least” of Jesus’ brothers: the hungry, the thirsty, the naked, the stranger, those sick, and those in prison. The goats didn’t remember “the least” among them and as Christ foretold, “in all truth,” they have “received their reward,” in this life and will not in the next. Jesus’ teaching is unavoidable.
This message is especially relevant to the injustice of the American healthcare system. To call American healthcare—as a system—immoral makes no judgment on healthcare professionals or hospitals, but rather on the design itself. Many have advocated for universal healthcare in our country and have been rejected for proposing so-called “socialized medicine.” I am personally a proponent of a universal healthcare system. We have the medical care, the financial resources, but we seem to lack the moral will to acknowledge that we are our brother’s keeper.
Okay, maybe not.
But one of his characters was more intellectually- and existentially-consistent that many (or even most) Americans of any religious affiliation, including Catholics. I’m talking about the hitman Vincent in the 2004 film Collateral, starring Cruise and Jamie Foxx and directed by Michael Mann.
“From the dawn of the Republic, America’s quest for freedom has been guided by the conviction that the principles governing political and social life are intimately linked to a moral order based on the dominion of God the Creator. The framers of this nation’s founding documents drew upon this conviction when they proclaimed the “self-evident truth” that all men are created equal and endowed with inalienable rights grounded in the laws of nature and of nature’s God. The course of American history demonstrates the difficulties, the struggles, and the great intellectual and moral resolve which were demanded to shape a society which faithfully embodied these noble principles. In that process, which forged the soul of the nation, religious beliefs were a constant inspiration and driving force, as for example in the struggle against slavery and in the civil rights movement. In our time too, particularly in moments of crisis, Americans continue to find their strength in a commitment to this patrimony of shared ideals and aspirations.
I live in a small town, Dwight, Illinois, about 35 miles southwest of Joliet. It is a lovely place, about 4400 people, set in the midst of a sea of corn and soybeans. My wife and I moved here in 1985 and have been very happy. Soon after we moved to Dwight I joined the local Rotary Club. There I met Jim Oughton and his brother Richard Oughton. Both had served in WW2, Jim as a naval officer, and Dick as a marine fighter pilot. They were also the two richest men in town, the scions of a family that had been the wealthiest family in town for well over a century.
We are twelve Christians who love our Catholic faith looking to engage the world through our writings to better express the teachings of Jesus for the betterment of the common good. American Catholic is the outward expression of this engagement with the world.