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Ending Entrenched Power
By Steven Martinovich
It's perhaps beyond debate that millions of Americans are dissatisfied with the institutions that make up the tapestry of their society. In recent decades those institutions that once served as the pillars of the United States -- government, religion and business -- have lost the unquestioning trust they once enjoyed and arguably for good reasons. Can a nation survive, however, when its most important fixtures are in decline? Is this dissatisfaction a sign of a nation's decay?
Retired businessman Curtis L. Harris argues in his compelling Ending Entrenched Power: Spiritual Renewal, Political Change and America's Destiny that the United States -- despite appearances to the contrary -- is a nation in decline. The energetic spirit and vision that marked young America has been replaced with a quest for and holding onto power. America's leaders, particularly those in the political sphere, have created a system of entrenched power.
"Entrenched power in human societies is the underlying cause of failures in religions, governments, commercial institutions and entire societies and civilizations. Entrenched power occurs when one leader, or a set of leaders, begin to serve themselves at the expense of those they lead and are supposed to serve. These leaders, for their own benefit, hold on to power by blocking change and progress in their societies and organizations. When change and progress stop, decay begins, to be followed by eventual failure."
Entrenched power, writes Harris, is contrary to what he refers to as Universal Law, "the complete set of rules under which the universe exists -- stars, planets, moons, space, energy, matter, time, nature and so on." For Harris, Universal Law is God's design, or if you prefer, the design of a force or presence higher than humanity. Change and consequence are two principles of Universal Law, with the ultimate goal that humanity evolve into a higher spiritual state. Entrenched power prevents humanity from reaching this next stage of development.
At this point the reader can be forgiven for thinking that Harris comes bearing a prescription for political change wrapped in the cloak of New Age philosophy. His real message, however, is that the divorce of spirituality from politics -- what we commonly refer to as the separation of church from state -- has created an America that is amoral. This amorality has stripped the United States of its youthful spirit and turned it into a nation of those who thirst only for power and those who hope to benefit from the exercise of that power.
Without a higher purpose, argues Harris, government, religion and commercial institutions become dedicated to power and bureaucracy. Entrenched power has resulted in erosion of Americans' freedoms and blocks progress and positive change, something that the United States was designed by its Founding Fathers not to do. For Harris, that's because they made one key error: expecting America to remain a land of the citizen-politician, they failed to place a check on the number of years someone can serve in Congress.
It's hard to argue that career politicians are less motivated to take chances. The status quo is its own reward; proposals with an uncertain outcome promoted by an ambitious politician can pay few or negative dividends. A politician that is term-limited is able to take risks and fight for measures that special interests oppose. It makes little sense for a special interest to court a politician because they won't be around long enough to be a long-term ally. In short, the value of a politician will be reduced because an investment will be worth more than the payoff.
Introducing term limits, however, is the easy part of Harris' plan given today's hostility towards the injection of religion into public life. The other half of his equation is the reintroduction of spirituality into American life, one that incorporates morality, ethics and natural law. These principles are common across all the world's major religions, he writes, giving the responsibility for this plank in his platform to religious leaders. This broad-based approach to spirituality allows all Americans to be united in their quest for a more moral government.
Although Ending Entrenched Power might strike some as a religious manifesto for government, and it is undeniable that religious principles influence Harris' thinking, the book's appeal shouldn't only be to those of faith. The United States was founded on moral principles and indeed is a moral principle itself. By shearing away its spiritual underpinnings Americans have unintentionally created the situation that they suffer with today, a world marked by corporate malfeasance, remote government and failing religious organizations. Ending Entrenched Power might not solve all of America's problems but adopting its call for renewed morality would hardly make things worse.
Steven Martinovich is a freelance writer in Sudbury, Ontario and the editor in chief of Enter Stage Right.
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