THE BLOG
11/10/2013 08:49 BST | Updated 10/12/2013 05:12 GMT

The University of Warwick vs. the United States of America: a Democratic Showdown.

Initially, there may seem to be few similarities between the University of Warwick and the USA, apart from: a. I've been to both, and b. they're both inexplicably fond of large financial corporations...

Initially, there may seem to be few similarities between the University of Warwick and the USA, apart from: a. I've been to both, and b. they're both inexplicably fond of large financial corporations. If you analyse more vigorously, though, it turns out that these two fine democratic institutions are united by their similarly visionary leaders: two men, who are themselves united by their complete and utter disagreement regarding the nature democracy. On the one hand, in the Oval Office, we have the President of the United States (POTUS, for short), Barack Obama; while on the other hand, at a slightly sticky table in our campus pub sits the Undergraduate Social Sciences Faculty Representative on the Student Staff Liaison Committee (USSFR, for short), Miguel Costa Matos.

Both of these great leaders see a problem, and both dream of a solution. Both see that their respective peoples (the Americans/some students near Coventry) are mired in a political bog of anti-democratic mud and authoritarian dinosaurs. Finally, they both know that the answer is more democracy, transparency, accountability - it's just unfortunate that by "Democracy!" they each mean something entirely different. These two old-testament-style prophets of 'power-to-demos' are each pushing in the opposite directions... Now, this is confusing, but happily this blog is here to help untangle the mess, simply, efficiently and not convolutedly at all...

So let us begin examining the problem from the POTUS's point of view. As some readers may be aware, the USA has shutdown; this sadly not because they've seen the error(s) of their ways and become a nation of anarcho-syndicalists, but because a small club of kamikaze politicians (otherwise known as the Tea Party), who represent all of the most up-standing, right-thinking and insane gentlemen of the Republican party, have decided that they would rather bring the world the very brink of thermo-economic destruction, than give in to Obama on such controversial issues as letting poor people occasionally go to the doctors.

They are able to do this because 200ish years ago the (somewhat naive) Founding Fathers thought it would be really nice to design a political system which would rely on mutual deliberation and cooperation; a system where everyone would just get along and be happy (apart from people who obviously don't count like slaves, women and environmentalists!) So, they gave the Senate (called the 'legislative' in politics-speak) what is essentially the right to veto the President (the executive) when he's trying to run the country's economy. The upshot of all this is that today a small group of small politicians* from the smaller party (who democratically lost the democratic election) are able to shutdown the democratically elected government of the world's most important (democratic) country and, quite possibly, prevent it from paying its debts.

Now let us examine the problem from our USSFR's, Miguel Costa Matos', point of view. At Warwick the problem pervades much deeper than in the US, right to the very heart of democratic student life. According to Miguel, not nearly enough money out of the £7 million controlled by the Student's Union (SU) is used to subsidise the cost of pints at the campus pub. "When were you asked whether you wanted to be ripped off at the Dirty Duck?", sounds Miguel's democratic battle cry.

This issue among others, such as general disinterest in SU politics, is apparently because the executive of the SU is not overseen by the Student Council (the legislative). Our man Miguel, for the sake of accountability and transparency, is campaigning to give the student council a veto over the executive SU budget - coincidentally, much like the current situation in the USA...

So this is the situation: Barack Obama (the POTUS) wishes to, in the name of democracy, take from the US legislative its control over the US executive's budget. At the same time, Miguel Costa Matos (the USSFR) would, in the name of democracy, give to the SU legislative control over the SU executive's budget. Go it? Good, so now the question remains: which prophet of the people's religion are we to follow; Miguel or Barack?

Well, it may surprise the reader to learn this, but I'm not really qualified to give an answer to this question; my only real conclusion is that when someone justifies something to you in the name of democracy, tell them to go away and talk to someone who actually cares... Well, either that or get them to really, really clarify what they mean by the word - make them define it to the most pedantic and finicky degree possible (hopefully this will annoy them and then they'll go away.) In our particular case though, all I can speculate is that if you were to transfer all the citizens of the US into the University of Warwick, keeping the SU system as it is, then they probably still wouldn't all get along. Equally, if you populated North America with all the Warwick Uni students then we'd probably still complain about the price of beer at the pub! The serious point being, of course, that irrespective of how you set up the democratic system, the culture of a society will probably just remain the same. Change must proceed from the people to the state (i.e from the pub to the SU), not the other way around.

*disclaimer: I don't actually know if the tea-partiers really are small or not, whether in stature, mind or anything else. This is not something they teach you in politics class.