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Mirror, Mirror
Richard Friedlander: Is American-style democracy really a good model for the Arab revolt?

By Richard Friedlander

Boy, this Egypt thing gets you thinking, doesn't it? When the British surrendered at Yorktown, their band played a tune called "The World Turned Upside Down." And now it's turning over again. Nations are being reborn. Kleptocracies that once seemed as eternal as pyramids are vanishing like evil mirages. Autocrats flee to their bank accounts or fight like the cornered rats that they are.

As an economic policy, trickle-down poverty has dried up. The people have spoken -- at least those with mobile phones -- and what they say is 'Long live freedom and democracy! Jobs will rise from the sands like the phoenix!'

This is pretty heady stuff. But it makes you wonder what actually will happen next. Whether their noble experiment will go the way of the oldest continuous democracy in the world -- we, the United States. Where that democracy has been commoditized. Where the financial sector runs the government, the media, and academia. Where the same people who caused the greatest recession in history, and millions of people to lose their jobs, savings, and hope, are still pulling the strings. Where Congress refuses to act in the public interest; where the Supreme Court has made it easier for corporate money to influence elections; and where our a president, a good and honest man, is clearly afraid to antagonize them. Where people can never be sure of the fiduciary integrity of companies in which they invest, but where not investing means losing to inflation; where in their job-slashing pursuit of excessive profits, corporations have reduced the number of consumers necessary to recovery by millions and shipped their jobs overseas. Where people feel helpless to do anything about any of it.

Applauding a euphoric Egypt is fine, but it is a distraction. It's said that "wisdom is before him who has understanding, but a fool's eyes are in the ends of the earth." Ours may be the freest country in the world, but our blind acceptance of corruption as innate seriously taints that freedom.

Our dragon may have many heads instead of just one, but effective, popular outrage at the paralyzed, stagnant state of our democracy is so marginal, self-interested and contained, that it might as well not exist. That should be our food for thought.

With a Perspective, I'm Richard Friedlander.

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