Has The Idea of Democracy Failed?

I was having an interesting conversation here the other day. It started with the recent discussions about Ukraine and Russia's incursion into Crimea. Most of us have seen stories on the news referencing all sorts of Cold War topics and it got me thinking about the discussions that were ongoing at that time about the failure of Communism. I actually studied quite a bit on these sorts of topics in college since my major was political science with a focus on political theory. 

My topic of conversation then shifted to the problems we seem to be having so often over the past decade or so of mistrust. Mistrust of people with their government, with their teachers, with corporations. It just seems like everyone is angry or upset with everyone else, and to some extent there is some legitimacy to that idea. It all sort of came to an exclamation point in my head this evening when I saw this video from this afternoon from 60-Minutes about problems with our the stock market currently operates. It got me thinking that we have gotten to a point now in society that perhaps we can say that "democracy" (really republicanism, but we will say democracy since that is what the media likes to say) and perhaps our notion of capitalism has failed, much the same way communism has. Look at the story for example from the Washington Post where a kindergarten teacher quit their job because it is no longer about teaching.  

Now this is not to say that capitalism has failed when you look at it from a GDP or market perspective. We consistently see data that shows that the US GDP and stock markets are continually rising. At the same time however we see consistent data that wealth in the US is not being distributed evenly and that the problem is worsening. It makes me feel that we sort of should be questioning what exactly should be the measurement of success for our national concepts. It feels like from a policy perspective, when truly trying to look at policies that benefit the nation, we have seen increased evidence that the core ideas of the democracy decision making process. Is the final measurement of success really just the wealth of our nation as a whole? What exactly should be the measurement of that wealth? GDP? Culture? Test Scores? Art?  

Supreme Court Rules Congress Can Re-Copyright Public Domain Works

In all of the fantastic fanfare that occurred yesterday with the SOPA and PIPA blackouts, a fairly important decision from the Supreme Court slipped out with little or no attention and its potential impacts could be just as damaging to the art and music community as the SOPA and PIPA legislation. 

In a 6-2 ruling yesterday the court ruled that works put into the public domain  are not placed into a "territory that they cannot exit". This grants Congress the opportunity to re-grant copyright to works. What isn't made entirely clear though is how the copyright gets reapplied. Is it restricted to the original owner of the copyright, their estate, their family? Can the copyright be transferred by the will of Congress to another party? None of these questions are fully laid out in the decision and probably won't be fully fleshed out until a challenge comes in the future to iron out the wrinkles. 

The fear here though also stems from the issue of creative license for the remixing and copying of work. One of the foundations of creative expression comes from the reuse, recycling and past works. There is also a potentially huge impact that this could put upon the classical musical world as well. With so much of the history of many of these works being hundreds of years olds in some cases, many orchestras or bands often times rely on access to these works for instruction and performance. 

I am more and more finding the attack on the creative and arts field from corporate and personal interests depressing and actually frightening for our county. We are now set in a world where the dissemination of free information should be easier than ever. History has continually shown that the societies in which the arts and sciences flourish freely are the ones that are the most successful. Ancient Egypt, Greeks, Romans, Renaissance Italy, etc. We should be celebrating a epoch of cultural enlightenment, but we instead are finding ourselves caught in a world of fear, isolation, monetary greed and control.