Obama’s Failure to Reform NSA Speaks Volumes

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Not about Obama, because the the NSA has been a favorite Executive institution since its inception.

No, it speaks volumes about the practical lack of control of voters over the federal government. The problem is organizational. There are no good means of connecting the people to control over the program, in this case, the NSA.

The costs of producing change in any given institution like the NSA are so huge that significant change driven by the public’s preferences is a near impossibility. For one thing, those preferences are divided to begin with. But the main obstacle is that there are no direct institutional ways to make any preferences felt on any given institution like the NSA. The theory and practice of responsive (or democratic) federal government are two different things. Even local government is typically owned and operated by cliques and political party bosses.

Demonstrations, letter-writing, phone-calls and petitions are not, in my mind, institutional mechanisms that create ongoing feedback on and control over any given government policy, program or institution. They are ad hoc methods that sometimes create some pressures and many times do not. They are hardly signs of a well-functioning institutional and organized means of expressing preferences. Public opinion polls are ad hoc, and there is no direct connection of them to what policy-makers actually do.

It’s no wonder that more and more people do not vote and do not waste their time, money and energy trying to change political outcomes. A system like the federal government is a dinosaur. It’s out of date. It doesn’t accomplish anything of what its supporters’ boasts and teachings claim. The federal government is an albatross hung around the necks of Americans.

1:29 pm on January 22, 2014