Daily Archives: February 17, 2021

The Prime Directive

One of the concepts introduced early in the Star Trek franchise was the Prime Directive.  This guiding principle prohibited the Star Fleet alliance from interfering in the social and political customs of societies on the planets they visited.  These societies were supposed to develop naturally without outside ethical and social rules imposed on them.

Of course, every Star Trek captain, beginning with Captain Kirk, violated the Prime Directive every time he (and only once, she) visited a planet that offended the captain’s notion of how things ought to be done.  At least Captain Picard debated the matter with his senior staff. 

Their discussions sounded an awful lot like debates at the European Union or the United Nations.  The EU was founded in hopes that economic integration would prevent future European wars.  The UN was founded in hopes that nations would negotiate their differences rather than going to war. From the beginning, both organizations faced Prime Directive problems. 

When Putin’s Russia repeatedly tried to murder Alexey Navalny and imprisoned him on bogus charges, should the EU and the UN have intervened?  Navalny is fighting for an end to the kleptocratic reign of Putin and the creation of a democracy that works for Russians.  Putin and his enablers argue that Navalny’s treatment is an internal matter for Russia.

When China imprisoned a million Uighers in “re-education camps” where they are tortured and used as slave labor, should Chairman XI and his minions be charged with “crimes against humanity”? China claims the Uighers are Muslim terrorists and besides, it’s an internal matter for China.  

Prime Directive arguments pop up in the U.S., too.  Our federalist system allows states broad scope to enact laws on social and political matters.  But sometimes the federal government overrules what states want to do.  Notable examples include creating Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, and civil rights laws that ended segregation and reduced voter suppression.  These laws were challenged by states who argued that how they treat their citizens is an internal matter.

The Prime Directive debates will flare up over the next year as each state legislature creates a new districting plan for federal and state elections.  Nearly two-thirds of state legislatures are controlled by the Republican Party. In states like Tennessee, the Republican Party has a super majority. 

Already, the Republican-controlled state legislatures have introduced more than 100 bills to restrict voting rights based on the bogus claims of stolen votes.  The proposed laws include purging voter rolls, eliminating early voting, severely restricting mail-in voting, making it more difficult to register to vote, and cutting the number of polling locations in areas that historically haven’t voted for Republican candidates. 

President Biden and his advisors will have many Prime Directive discussions on whether the federal government should intervene in the redistricting and voting law changes taken by state legislatures.  Expect the states to raise the same arguments as in the past. 

The Prime Directive debates could potentially become a lot uglier over the next year. A recent survey conducted by the American Enterprise Institute, a conservative think tank, found that 55% of grassroots Republican Party members believe it is acceptable to use violence to enforce their political vision for America.

About Norma Shirk

My company, Corporate Compliance Risk Advisor, helps employers (with up to 50 employees) to create human resources policies and employee benefit programs that are appropriate to the employer’s size and budget. The goal is to help small companies grow by creating the necessary back office administrative structure while avoiding the dead weight of a bureaucracy.  To read my musings on the wacky world of human resources, see the HR Compliance Jungle (www.hrcompliancejungle.com) which alternates on Wednesday mornings with my history blog, History By Norma, (available at http://www.normashirk.com). To read my musings on a variety of topics, see my posts on Her Savvy (www.hersavvy.com).

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