By GENE H. McINTYRE

Ideally, if democracy in practice is the mainstay of a functioning government, the power must come from and remain with the people.  Elections are held and citizens are able to vote for the candidate they feel will best represent their wants and needs.  The central principle behind a democracy is that of representation. It was the foundation for the U.S. Constitution as that was the character of the nation they intended after a revolution that  freed the people from venal and corrupt British monarchical rule, conditions the founding fathers did not want to re-establish in their new country.

Freedom is a large part of democracy. Freedom of thought, worship, speech and action (assuming action is peaceful and within the limits of established law) are the backbone around which our government is built. Freedoms in the American context have been those by which individuals can grow and develop and pursue their personal dreams and goals.  A democracy seeks to foster growth in the arts, sciences, literature, invention and innovations of all kinds, believing that when people are free to work as they see fit they will have the opportunity to contribute to their community and the society-at-large.

Some of us, including this opinion writer, are inclined to see serious threats to our 200-plus year effort at establishing and sustaining a democracy.  We see that the central and state governments are being pushed and shoved around by the special interests that receive their marching orders from corporations and other special interests and it’s the lobbyists from these and themselves that end up telling our representative what to do and actually writing far too many of our new laws and policies. Reforms in this area of operations are long overdue to preserve what’s left of our threatened U.S. democracy. The worst of these abuses today can be seen in the industries of banking, energy, investment housing, defense and arms contracting, corporation agriculture and high-end real estate dealings.

What some of us see close to dominating all public life in these United States is called kleptocracy.  Essentially, it is a term used to describe a form of government so corrupt and incompetent it’s totally opaque.  Although a pejorative term, kleptocracy denotes a government wherein the common people are burdened with heavy taxation so that those in charge, the rulers and their cronies, can amass more and more enormous amounts of money in their personal accounts.

A kleptocratic regime ends up with a major portion of government funds in the hands of a few corrupt officials with lip service or no service given to the needs of the state and its people.  Creeping authoritarianism is allowed to happen when more and more citizens grant absolute and unquestioning authority and provide obedience to the ruling authority.  Such a regime starts as duly elected but slowly and surely gravitates to all means possible in control of the state and its people. Ultimately, the upshot of all this is that radical groups form to stop the corruption and denial of services to most, including now, as mainly hate groups like White Nationalists, Ku Klux Klan, Neo-Nazis, Breitbart News and others as well as al-Qaeda, Boko Haram, Haqqani, ISIS, Taliban and others overseas that intend to overthrow established order.

When a nation’s elected and appointed leaders continue to hold onto their investments and appreciate huge gains in their private wealth, when the personal-gain financial transactions that people in power carry out go unnoticed and ignored, when money transfers are placed in secret bank accounts overseas, when tax facts are hidden, when subordinates are compromised into silence by payoffs and gifts, when family members of the ruler become the arbiters of power, status and privilege, and those persons in charge, and at the ruler’s strict direction plunder for themselves and their wealthy pals, the nation’s money and resources it spells kleptocracy.  Take a long and hard look around my fellow Americans.

(Gene H. McIntyre lives in Keizer.)