William Greider is an award-winning author and reporter who has covered politics from the nation's capitol for more than 30 years. His best-selling books include "Secrets of the Temple" -- on the inner workings of the Federal Reserve -- and "Who Will Tell The People: The Betrayal of American Democracy," an eye-opening and tough-minded account of how accountability and responsibility have decayed in the American political system.
This month, his new book, "One World, Ready Or Not: The Manic Logic of Global Capitalism" was published by Simon and Schuster. Examining the global system, from peasants entering the industrial world for the first time to the most sophisticated levels of global finance and government, he delivers a compelling analysis of the great changes that are now sweeping over the affairs of government and destabilizing established political orders.
GT: In your earlier book, "Who Will Tell The People," you make the statement, "The reality is that information-driven politics, by its nature, cannot produce a satisfying democracy because it inevitably fosters its own hierarchy of influence based on class and money." Can you explain why you believe this is the case?
Greider: Well, I've watched this happen at the national level for a number of years, but I know that it also occurs in state and local governments, perhaps with either conscientious officials unaware of it or unable to do anything about it. The key is that as political questions get resolved through various processes of expertise -- whether it is science or economics or various modes of management -- you've created a language which most citizens can't speak. They don't understand either the terminology of the expertise or its latent content, which is really social-political judgments and assumptions. And so they find themselves always out-gunned in the public arena.
I suppose the easy answer is, well, they should get educated. But that is not a very practical solution. Everybody can't become economists or lawyers or whatever. So then you would say, they need to mobilize their experts. And that gets to a pretty obvious question of resources. Who has the resources to mobilize a team of scientists or lawyers or other expert testimony on behalf of an issue? Then too, large sections of the population -- certainly the majority -- don't have either the incentive or the wherewithal to participate in this debate. I say this with considerable sympathy for the people who manage government, because we want them to make "rational" decisions that are broadly in the public interest. But I think they need to step back from those procedures by which these decisions are made and ask themselves, "Are the people really present in this process?" A lot of people speaking have a lot of knowledge and opinions, but where is the public in the debate?
GT: You've also written that the rehabilitation of American democracy requires much more than reforming government, that in a very real sense, citizens-at-large must also reinvent themselves, and that the political culture that has fractured governing authority has done the same thing to citizenry. It is clear that a great many people in this country don't participate at all in the political process, but does it go deeper than this?
Greider: I think you have to recognize the causes underneath this reality. We saw the reality once again in this recent national election, something like 48 or 49 percent of the presumably eligible adults bothered to vote. That is a stunning fact about our democracy. And it reflects a long-term decline over the last 30 years. 1992 was a brief turn-around, and I think it was partly that people were excited by Clinton, the three-way race and lots of other things. But if you take that declining vote as a symptom of something deeper and ask why it happened, there are probably a hundred explanations. The big