Cost of preserving democracy: $6 million

29 Jun

I like to keep things light in these here parts, but that’s tough to do today given what’s been going on in Toronto. The events of this weekend have me in a rather dour mood, so it might be tough over the next few days to write my normally glib posts about the often-amusing worlds of porn and food.

What I hope doesn’t get lost in all of the G20 analysis and commentary is the fact that none of the weekend’s ridiculousness was necessary. Our government invited the G20 in knowing full well the mayhem that always ensues. All our leaders had to do was watch footage from any previous G20 summit, because it’s the same thing every time. No amount of security spending is going to change or prevent it.

What would change or prevent it would be following one mind-numbingly simple suggestion: video conferencing. There’s little that couldn’t be accomplished by simply connecting the world’s leaders on Skype. It even does video now, golly gosh. And hey, if they really wanted to go high end, they could splurge on Cisco Telepresence. One estimate pegs the price at $300,000 (U.S.) per side of the conference, which means you could wire all of the G20 leaders for $6 million.

That would save some of that billion dollars we spent on security – never mind the costs of getting the leaders here and housing them, or the clean-up and repair costs afterward – for more important things like, oh I don’t know, solving some of the problems the G20 leaders are supposed to solve during their meetings. Like, ironically, poverty.

But politicians being politicians, it’s a safe bet that the most logical (and cheapest) suggestion will never be taken. Instead, citizens in the cities of upcoming G20 summits will have little recourse other than to gird for the inevitable idiocy, destruction and violation of civil rights. Either that, or they could simply vote out any government that wants to continue holding these regular Moron-a-paloozas. But regular citizens being regular citizens, with watching the latest episode of True Blood or catching up on the latest Justin Bieber gossip being more important than civic duty, that’s not likely to happen either.

So, given our inevitable descent into authoritarianism, here’s a glimpse of what lays in store for us. China has banned all 2.3 million members of its armed forces from blogging or creating websites. According to AFP, Chinese officials say “soldiers cannot open blogs on the internet no matter (whether) he or she does it in the capacity of a soldier or not… The internet is complicated and we should guard against online traps.”

That’s in stark contrast to the U.S. military’s “open door” policy on personnel using social media such as blogs, Facebook and Twitter. As I mentioned back in March, the Pentagon actually wants soldiers to interact with people online – within limits – to put a human face on the U.S. military and its efforts.

I tell ya, to my newly jaded Canadian eyes, the U.S. is looking more and more like the bastion of freedom and democracy it has always touted itself as. Many of us Canadians used to mock the U.S. for its weirdo two-party political system that, for ages, only gave its citizens a choice of Coke or Pepsi for president. But, after eight years of tyranny, Americans gave George W. and everything he stood for a thorough drubbing with record voter turnout and a solid landslide for Obama.

Meanwhile, in just about every other English-speaking democracy (e.g. Canada, the UK and New Zealand, where we have multiple parties), we have either minority governments or record-low voter turnouts, or both. Here in Canada at least, there’s little reason to believe that’s going to improve any time soon. Nicely done, English-speaking democracies.

Americans may only have two choices, but it sure looks like that system is working better than ours. Perhaps we can also get some leadership from them in ending the wasteful, shameful and demoralizing event that is the G20.

1 Comment

Posted by on June 29, 2010 in army, china, internet, telecommunications


One response to “Cost of preserving democracy: $6 million

  1. Russell McOrmond

    June 29, 2010 at 1:34 pm

    I was with you right up until near the end.

    I don’t think the USA’s 1.2 party system is working better than ours, and I don’t think we can take a momentary snapshot in time and only one narrow policy issue as an indicator.

    I would like a democratic system that doesn’t leave good governance to random chance, but to be baked into the system.

    Note: I don’t say this only because I’ve spent most of the last decade fighting Clinton/Gore “Copyright” policy, or because I’m upset that Obama has been pushing to make things worse with ACTA. I say this as a relatively long term observer of international politics, across a wide variety of policies.

    P.P.S: Allowing people in the military to blog, but making the ISPs hosting those blogs liable for any infringing/etc content, doesn’t make the USA a bastion of freedom and democracy. Directly barring people from participating is far more up-front.

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