Conscientious Democracy

How effective is our democracy? How conscientious do you think your elected representatives are?

The question is not as strange as it perhaps may seem. Members of parliament have certainly been pondering their role this past week as they grappled with the decision as to whether or not to vote to trigger the negotiations for the United Kingdom to leave the European Union. Listening to the debates they seem to have been faced with one of four options. Should they:

  1. Follow their party’s whip?
  2. Vote according to the result of the referendum?
  3. Vote according to the wishes of their own constituents?
  4. Vote according to the dictates of their own “conscience” – i.e. according to their own convictions?

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For some of us this dilemma seems ridiculous. After all the same members of parliament voted to have the referendum. They gave the British electorate a binary vote on whether they wanted to leave or not, and the majority chose to leave. It therefore seems obvious that option b) must prevail and they therefore have no choice but to go about implementing that decision. So why the angst?

Well, it seems abundantly clear now that:-

  • No-one ever expected the vote to go the way it did.
  • The whole subject is considerably more complicated than most people realised, and as a result:
    • The question posed was inappropriately simple;
    • There is now considerable second-guessing as to what the people really wanted.
  • For a decision of this magnitude (and complexity?), something more than a simple majority should have been specified.  

All of which indicates that parliament did not get it right the first time. Consequently they may well have good reason to be hesitating. But does this mean that they can now turn around and disregard the voters’ mandate?  Option b) says that they cannot.

But, as well as being “government of the people by the people,” democracy is also “government for the people.” This carries the obligation to look out for the best interests of the people. Thus “government for the people” ought to carry a greater weight and create a greater moral obligation than the other two elements. Unfortunately this aspect of democracy – what you might call the leadership aspect – has never been emphasized enough.

On the contrary, we regard MPs as servants rather than leaders. This is understandable. We have the power to select them to, and remove them from, office so it is an enshrined principle that they are accountable to us.  Most, if not all, MPs recognize this and claim they are “elected to serve.” Fair enough, but does that inevitably mean they are our servants? It demeans democracy to believe that. Yet that seems be the situation we have reached.

Now I am not saying that leaving the EU is the wrong option. For the reasons outlined, however, it is a decision that needs to be more carefully evaluated. Our MPs would therefore do better to show some leadership and do their best to make sure by:

  • Stopping seeing departure from Europe as inevitable;
  • Admitting the shortcoming of the referendum;
  • Using the results of the referendum for bargaining for a more effective Europe
  • Pushing for compromises and endeavouring to ensure Europe agrees to streamline its operations and eliminate its deficiencies, then returning to the voters for a better structured referendum
  • Failing that, to then invoke Article 50 and start the process of leaving.

If parliament does not have the courage to do this, it should at least address the shortcomings in our democratic processes through a new, fit for purpose constitution that ensures we have the leadership capabilities built in, and that we never get into such a situation again. Either way it is incumbent on us to ensure we don’t.   

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I urge you, please, to get hold of my book, The Democracy Delusion: How to Restore True Democracy and Stop Being Duped, and promote discussion and debate around the solutions it offers so that action is taken to restore meaningful democracy and safeguard a better environment for future generations.  

 

Titanic Economic Failures Will Lead to Titanic Catastrophe

One of the most tragic aspects of the infamous Titanic disaster is that it was totally avoidable. It was ultimately due to arrogance, hubris and flawed decision-making. And it seems that history is repeating itself. This time, however, the consequences are likely to be far more catastrophic.

titanic1Last week, like the captain of the Titanic, the Chancellor of the Exchequer issued his “Autumn Statement”: a mini-budget outlining the UK government’s plans for administering the national finances. A semi-annual event, this is a legal requirement intended to improve government efficiency and make it more accountable for how it manages the economy. As with most things, however, frequency brings diminishing returns. All too often it can be a bit of a non-event. But not this year!

This most recent statement was considerably more significant than usual. For, while government refuses to admit an about-face, they effectively reversed fiscal policy of the past 8 years. The post financial crisis “austerity” programme, aimed at reducing expenditure and reducing or repaying borrowing, has been binned. Instead government is planning to borrow £122 billion, justified – at least in part – by Brexit. Yet, Brexit or not, such back-tracking now effectively invalidates all earlier efforts. It begs the question, “Why did government adopt that course to begin with?”

There is a natural limit to borrowing. The time comes when you have to repay loans. And repayment comes out of income, meaning there is less to spend on your day-to-day expenses. It happens in all walks of life and is never convenient or nice. Thinking people understood this and were prepared to go along with it, uncomfortable though it was.

Similarly, everyone knows that less money means you have fewer purchasing options and, consequently, fewer resources. For any government department, fewer resources inevitably means a declining standard of service. So you have to ask, “Have services declined to the extent that this change in policy is merited?” And, if the answer is yes, then, “Why did the government ever adopt such a policy in the first place?”

As any housewife will tell you, balancing income and expenditure is not easy. They will also tell you that trying to make up lost ground is extremely difficult, if not impossible. So is trying to maintain or restore fallen standards. You would therefore expect any government to avoid such a state of affairs. Thus, you have to question whether the results of the UK government’s action have not resulted in the worst of both worlds. This makes it a failure of Titanic proportions.    

Titanic sinkingWhat you have here is a classic example of the kind of situation Einstein was describing when he said, “You cannot solve a problem from the same level of consciousness that created it.” The fact is the system that got us into this mess in the first place has failed. And repairing a failed system is pointless: you have to change it or create a new one. Unfortunately there is no evidence of that happening. Instead we simply shift the deck chairs on the Titanic, resorting to old ideological frameworks that will see us bagatelle back and forth between fiscal and economic policies that continue to fail.  It is a disaster of epic proportions that will leave us all considerably worse off than we need to be.

Never before has there been such a pressing need for change. Now is the time to act. It is up to us.  

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I urge you, please, to get hold of my book, The Democracy Delusion: How to Restore True Democracy and Stop Being Duped, and promote discussion and debate around the solutions it offers so that action is taken to address these problems, restore meaningful democracy and safeguard a better environment for future generations.  

Is the Party Over for Political Parties?

Are both Brexit and Trump’s election signalling the demise of the party political system? There are certainly good reasons to think so.

the deathOpponents of Brexit are adamant that the reason David Cameron called the referendum was to silence the rebels in the Conservative party. While there may be some justification to claim this, such cries are pretty disingenuous. People from all parties and walks of life voted to leave and votes were very far removed from party political lines. In fact the disillusion with the EU was a primary factor in the growth of UKIP and the large number of so-called “left-wing” Labour Party supporters voting for a “right-wing” party.Similarly with the US elections, where you had fundamental Christians, anti-abortionists and pro-lifers all voting for Donald Trump.

The fact is that the variety of issues and the positions people adopt on them, make traditional party lines seem achronistic. It is no longer feasible to satisfy such diverse concerns under the umbrella of a single party. Perhaps political parties have reached their sell-by date and the time has come to devise a better alternative. Failure to do so is only likely to result in further frustration and dissatisfaction. In fact, you could argue that the declining voter turnout is an indicator that the attempt to do so results in aligning with particular issues that voters find abhorrent and thus not voting. The election of Trump with only 27% of the eligible vote suggest this. Continuing along this road with the division, intransigence and vitriol manifested in this most recent might ensure the ultimate demise of democracy itself, and not just political parties as part of the system.

What do you think? Do you have any ideas as to how we can improve things? It appears that there is no better time than now to start and make a new beginning.

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I urge you, please, to get hold of my book, The Democracy Delusion: How to Restore True Democracy and Stop Being Duped, and promote discussion and debate around the solutions it offers so that action is taken to address

Campaign for Real Change and a New Beginning

The call for change! First Brexit and now Trump. If you doubted it before, you have to believe it now: people are fed up and demanding change! Both results, however, illustrate the problem with protest votes. They also highlight a significant structural flaw with democracy: the rigidity of the process and inability to change.

Both results reflect a yearning for the past. For Brexit this was represented by the desire to “regain sovereignty”, while Trump prevailed with the rallying cry of, “Making America great again.” Whether these represent an idealised perception of the past or not is beside the point: they are calls for real change. The attractiveness of the past is nearly always a sign of dissatisfaction with the present and, all too often, identified as resistance to change. But perhaps too much is made of people being reluctant to move out of their “comfort zone”, and “change resistance” is nothing more than a management term used to justify the inability to “sell” the need for its own vision of change.

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Arguably both results prove that people are willing to change. And, as a species, humankind is naturally curious and thus progressive and up for change.  The desire to go back to old ways is simply the natural choice to return to something familiar in the face of either, or both, unpleasant current circumstances and the failure to envisage a new, viable alternative. This means the current situation is, more than anything, a failure of leadership. And that is the paradox of democracy, because it makes little provision for leadership.

After all, if government (those elected) are doing the will of the people, it means the people are leaders. This is implicit in the ideal that their representatives are accountable to them and can be removed from office whenever the people are dissatisfied. This makes innovation a challenge, as any attempt to introduce new ideas requires popular support beforehand; something that most developed nations have failed to build into their democratic processes.   

As a result the world moves on while our democratic systems remain largely unchanged. Perhaps inevitably, this leads to the kind of disequilibrium we are currently experiencing – where increasingly dissatisfied, disenchanted and disengaged voters feel angry, and express it in the way they vote, or even don’t bother to vote at all.

Unfortunately, this rarely turns out well. In fact, to coin a phrase, it creates situations where you, “vote in haste and repent at leisure.” You are already seeing this after both these recent cases. For example the very narrow winning margins have left those who did not vote the “right” (winning) way unable to accept the results. Thus you end up with anti-Trump protests, (totally understandable when he was elected with only 27% of the eligible vote) and legal efforts to stall Brexit and perhaps even invoke a second referendum. Voters simply do not feel the margins were a large enough mandate to merit the significant changes the results are likely to bring.

This is likely to exacerbate the polarisation already prevailing prior to voting. Yet it is difficult to separate cause and effect. The level of debate on both sides for both campaigns was disgracefully bad and gave voters very little insight or understanding of what their votes would actually mean. Rather arguments sank to the lowest level of negative claim and counter-claim, with nary a whiff of policy or constructive ideas, and – as has subsequently been demonstrated – no clear idea of how to proceed after winning.

Truly, this democratic disconnect has become a chasm. There is, therefore, a desperate need to find solutions to regenerate and restore true democracy before it disappears completely and becomes little more than a footnote in history.  This demands a campaign for real change. It means taking the time to re-evaluate the whole political, social and economic order and – much as the US founding fathers did – developing a fresh system to address the historical shortcomings that have caused the current situation, and, simultaneously, provide the capability for leadership, ongoing evaluation and continuous improvement.   

As Zig Ziglar said, “We cannot start over, but we can begin now and make a new beginning!” Let the campaign begin.

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I urge you, please, to get hold of my book, The Democracy Delusion: How to Restore True Democracy and Stop Being Duped, and promote discussion and debate around the solutions it offers so that action is taken to address these problems, restore meaningful democracy and safeguard a better environment for future generations.  

Desperate Times + Defiance + Democracy = Donald Trump

Donald and Hillary

Donald Trump Triumphant

So, Americans have voted and Donald Trump is now President-Elect. Certainly an historic result. Now the world waits – anxiously – to see whether this is good historic or bad historic.

The great irony, perhaps, is not so much that Trump won, but the continuing failure of the political system (and pundits) to recognize just how angry voters are: how fed up people are with a system of vested interests that persists in ignoring their plight while taking them for granted. And this despite the warning signs of Brexit. Trump himself said that his election would be “Brexit times 10” and the consternation the results have brought suggest, for once, his hyperbole might not have been misplaced.  Persisting with the analogy, however, just as Britain is faced with a “soft Brexit” or a “hard Brexit”, so the world is faced with a “soft Trump” or a “hard Trump”. That ultimately will determine whether this is a good historic or a bad historic.     

Any thinking person recognizes that the issues facing the developed countries today revolve around the following inter-connected issues:

  • An aging demographic, with an unprecedented demand for healthcare and social support;
  • Unprecedented debt levels eroding investment and lowering living standards;
  • Climate change and the increasingly urgent need to safeguard the earth in order to ensure any kind of future, also placing unprecedented demands on financial resources;
  • Tax systems which are not fit for purpose, but which penalize the poor and compound government’s inability to raise the revenues to provide reasonable social support and necessary infrastructure investment;
  • Rampant technological and artificial intelligence (AI) development eroding jobs and compounding both the lower living standards and the revenue collecting abilities.   

This is a pretty dangerous combination. They create a sense of foreboding and desperate times that lead to despair. And when there is no sign that these issues are being dealt with people become defiant. Unfortunately, the US election campaign failed to identify or address any of these issues. Consequently we are left with a result that is ultimately a massive act of collective defiance.

While you can undoubtedly take some positives from Trump’s measured victory speech, it contained nothing to suggest that he has any plan to address these issues. It is all very well to talk about looking out for the people, “doubling growth” and “making America great again”, but none of that will be possible without addressing these enormous problems. The extent to which he does get to grips with them will determine whether it is “hard Trump” or “soft Trump.” When we know that we will know whether the result is a meaningful one, or simply a last great act of defiance.

Last great act of  defiance_____________________________________________________________________________ 

I urge you, please, to get hold of my book, The Democracy Delusion: How to Restore True Democracy and Stop Being Duped, and promote discussion and debate around the solutions it offers so that action is taken to address these problems, restore meaningful democracy and safeguard a better environment for future generations.  

 

Democracy’s Achilles’ Heel

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“Money is the root of all evil.” At least that’s the adage that we often fall for. But, the correct proverb is, “The love of money is the root of all evil.” Not the same thing at all, and, when you think about it, much more sense. After all, money is just a medium of exchange. It has no power of its own and, of itself, is neither good nor evil. Remember, the Romans used salt as a form of currency (hence the expression of “being worth one’s salt”) and you could hardly claim that “Salt is the root of all evil!”

Yet, even the statement that “Love of money is the root of all evil” isn’t totally true either. Oh, it is undoubtedly evil, especially when you recognize that love in this context actually means excessive longing or lust. The lust for money undoubtedly has motivated, and continues to motivate, much that is evil in the world. But is it really the root of all evil?

You would have a strong case for arguing that lust for power is just as strong and has done more harm than lust for wealth. Who knows how many people have died as a result of megalomania. History is full of the deeds of tyrants and the dangers they have posed, and even today you only have to look at the devastation in Syria to see the damage that hanging on grimly to power can wreak.  But it isn’t always so blatant. Or the consequences so obvious.    

The absolutely awful 2016 US presidential election is a good example. Here you have two widely despised people whose determination to win the post of “leader of the most powerful nation on earth” seems to have no limits and, in both cases, appears to be the culmination of many years of abuse of principle and ethics. Paradoxically, their histories mean neither can be a true leader, if you believe a leader is someone who inspires trust; or even if you accept the Webster dictionary definition of the verb “lead” as, “to guide or direct in action, thought or opinion; to draw or direct by influence.”  

The great irony, however, is that whoever wins will discover that they haven’t secured power. All they will have achieved is status, with the illusion of power. This is because the vast sums of money raised to secure election makes them obligated to their donors, and, as a result, bound to carry out their wishes. Thus they can only be executors, with their actions shaped by their donors. Even if Donald Trump’s claim that he is paying for his own campaign is true, he will still find himself in that position, because, ultimately, power resides with the system and the people who control the system.  

The argument about the financing of elections is not new. It has become an increasing concern over the years for all those who value and champion democracy. But the problem runs deeper than that. It is no coincidence that more and more wealth is residing in fewer and fewer hands. The system is designed to facilitate that and ultimately these people hold the real power. And, as long as they control the system, they will be able to ensure that things do not change and, thus, entrench their power even more.

This seems to suggest that love of power and love of money are inextricably linked. Maybe or maybe not. It doesn’t really matter. What matters is that economic wealth ultimately constitutes power, and democracy will always find itself susceptible to manipulation by the people who generate the wealth and control the monetary systems. This is natural, and perhaps even acceptable as long as those people’s actions promote the greater good. However, it remains democracy’s Achilles’ Heel and we have reached a stage where that assumption cannot be taken for granted. Our entire democratic system is in jeopardy. We need to wake up, recognize this and take steps to prevent the possibility of democracy’s total demise, before it is too late.   

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I urge you, please, to get hold of my book, The Democracy Delusion: How to Restore True Democracy and Stop Being Duped, and promote discussion and debate around the solutions it offers so that action is taken to restore democracy and safeguard a better environment for future generations.  

Dissatisfaction, Disenchantment, Disillusionment

Dissatisfaction, disenchantment, disillusionment. Three words that depict voter attitudes. So much has been written about voter dissatisfaction, disenchantment and disillusionment that there is clearly a problem. It appears to be widespread and seems to be getting worse, putting democracy in danger as voters feel increasingly disenfranchised.. 

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You can see this in the USA with the unlikely rise of Donald Trump as the Republican Party presidential candidate. By almost any reasonable criterion, he seems manifestly unsuitable for the position. Yet he has succeeded precisely because he has no political credentials whatsoever. Even worse, he has an outside chance of being elected, because his Democrat opponent is the other most unpopular candidate in US history. And the USA is by no means alone.

Here in the UK, we are also experiencing political turmoil. Voters have already voiced their “ferocious dislike of the political establishment, as one former cabinet minister expressed it, with the recent “Brexit” vote to leave the European Union; something which seems to have well and truly thrown the cat amongst the pigeons. This can be considered as a protest vote by virtue of the fact that very few seem to have anticipated its happening – so much so that even the main protagonists were thrown into disarray by the results and shown to have no plan to move forward after the results were announced! Latest indications are that nothing will be done to implement the results for close on two years, with the actions themselves taking a further two years (at least.)

We need to be careful, however, to ensure that we are not misinterpreting and misdiagnosing the situation and seeing scenarios like these as something they are not. Yes, the situation on both sides of the Atlantic is clearly a cause for concern. But the fact that it is happening in two very different political systems, suggests that we are not making that mistake, and that neither problem is a uniquely national crisis, but the common symptom of something more fundamental. So we need to look at the underlying causes that have created – and which are compounding – the situation.

The outcome of the “Brexit” referendum is proof of a divide between voters and their representatives. Remember the simple definition of democracy: “Government of the people, by the people, for the people!” The politicians – the people elected to act for the people – were unable to make their case properly and clearly did not understand what people were wanting, and so were caught unawares and totally unprepared to carry out their wishes. (And are possibly still unwilling?) At best this points to either a massive break in communication. Personally, I would go further and ascribe it to one of the major deficiencies of democracy and our democratic processes: the total lack of an effective communication system.  There has to be something seriously wrong if a government can fail to read the voter mood to an extent where, arguably, their campaign tactics fuelled voter dissatisfaction even more.   

If you are not convinced, ask yourself, “Why did the politicians hold the referendum in the first place?”  You would expect a clear plan of action if you are offering the people a choice. If you don’t have a plan, you don’t offer the people the choice. Either way, it seems abundantly clear that the politicians are (to paraphrase the words of the song), “pretty strong on by but not so hot on for!” This makes the voter dissatisfaction entirely understandable and, arguably, justifiable.

Arguably because, no matter how just a protest vote might be, the outcome, as with most actions taken in anger, is unlikely to be positive or, ultimately, in the voters’ own best interests, and therefore it is very likely to have unfortunate consequences for all. So every effort should be made to avoid such situations arising.

That they do arise, however, is due to a fundamental difference between theory and practice. Our definition of democracy makes government the ultimate responsibility “of the people.” All well and good but the practicalities inevitably and unavoidably result in its execution devolving to a representative few. This, equally unavoidably, results in a structural and systemic division between government and electorate. Again this is fine in theory but not so good in practice, for several reasons.

  1. Government becomes powerful and this inevitably corrupts as politicians become more self-serving. (The famous quote by Lord Action that “Power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely” certainly applies.)
  2. The checks on this power – an electorate empowered to hold government accountable and to throw the government out if and when they consider they are not doing a good job – are inherently weak. This weakness is compounded by the party system which narrows the options and is distorted by the need for financing and increasingly influenced by large donors who provide that funding.
  3. There is no empirical means of measuring government performance, which means there is no common basis for dialogue, compounding the communication challenges by making everything subjective.

As a result you end up with an imbalance between government and the electorate, with the former becoming increasingly remote from voters, who, in turn, become more and more disillusioned and disgruntled. It is hardly any wonder we have reached the situation we have and appear to be facing a crisis.  To avert the current crisis, or if it is already too late, at least mitigate its effects and prevent future crises, it is imperative to find a way to rectify these shortcomings and restore that balance. Only then can you create a practical democracy.  

Ultimately democracy is a system of government. As such it is a model for sustaining and safeguarding the well-being of people. Essentially this boils down to sustaining, and ideally enhancing, people’s quality of life. This effectively entails looking out for their economic interests, something clearly and successfully encapsulated in Bill Clinton’s presidential campaign slogan, “It’s the economy, stupid.” And, a closer look at economics indicates that it is economic dissatisfaction is stoking the fires of voter revolt, possibly creating a political time bomb.

Time BombThis may seem surprising in light of the fact that, after the Great Recession both the FTSE and Dow Jones are trading at near historic record highs, GDP’s are positive and unemployment is shrinking or stable. The fact is, however, that these measures are increasingly being questioned as an effective barometer of the economy. David Korten’s article “How to Break the Power of Money” is a good example of this and illustrates how our economic systems are failing the majority of people.  Additionally, there is an awareness that none of the systemic causes of the Great Recession have been addressed, and the behaviours that caused it are, once again, taking hold.   

Furthermore, at least in the UK, there is increasing industrial action by the trade unions, with the threat of even more, amidst calls for greater nationalisation. Again these are understandable in light of their perception of the failure of capitalism, but you have to question how returning to a discredited model, is going to improve matters. Rather it is a perpetuation of the ideological divide of the last century that proved so unproductive.  In a world on the brink of environmental disaster, where more efficient and effective use of resources is vital, we cannot afford to persist with such ideological conflict.

As Korten says, “Life exists—can exist—only in living communities that self-organize to create the conditions essential to life’s existence.” Self-organization is neither capitalism nor socialism and offers a new way forward that can meet the challenges we are facing. The solutions I propose in “The Democracy Delusion” offer a recipe for self-organization that also creates a model for stronger democracy, with improved economic accountability, clearer measures of performance and stronger communication.  All of which will go a long way towards redressing the underlying problems I am describing here.

This is my effort to “speak the truth.” I hope you will recognize it and be encouraged to do the same in order that, together, “we will change the human story.

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I urge you, please, to get hold of my book, The Democracy Delusion: How to Restore True Democracy and Stop Being Duped, read my ideas as to how we could improve our economic systems, and promote discussion and debate around them so that action can be taken to restore democracy and safeguard a better environment for future generations.  

Democracy: Who Really Rules?

Certainly I never thought it was possible: Listening to and largely agreeing with an extreme left wing thinker!  Yet whether you agree with Noam Chomsky or not, the points he raises in this “Who Rules the World” interview, warrant consideration and discussion. Unfortunately, judging from some of the rabidly vitriolic responses, this seem to be a vain hope. If nothing else they highlight the danger to, if not the imminent demise of, democracy as we know it – or at least like to think of it.

It was Voltaire who said, “I disagree with every word you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.” It may just be the earth’s increasing revolutions around the sun, but I am (some might say “at last!”) learning the wisdom behind the adage that “There is a reason the Lord gave us two ears and only one mouth!”  That doesn’t mean it is coming any easier but, as I mellow, I find myself thinking more about something my headmaster said.  

Answering his own rhetorical question, he told our class that, “The two most tragic words in the English language are ‘if only!’” (And probably every other language too!) Yet now perhaps they seem more pertinent than ever. And as I reflect on them I realise that if those of the two most tragic words, the two most powerful words have to be “What if?” Just think of the infinite possibilities that they open up!

And not just for new ideas or discoveries. Think what conflicts might have been avoided or how many lives might have been saved if someone had stopped to consider, “What if they are right and I am wrong?” How much conflict or misery could you have saved yourself if you had asked yourself that? No matter how convinced you are, there is always the possibility that you may be wrong.

That is something worth bearing in mind when it comes to political debate. Here, though, there are a couple of further questions that might take the heat out of the discussion and prompt a more fruitful debate and an ultimately better solution. You would do well to ask yourself:

  • Why do they think that?
  • What are they trying to achieve?  

Question mark (blue) 27528362_sI hint at this in “The Democracy Delusion” when I claim that many of today’s problems are the result of policy-based rather than principle-based decision making. I believe that over time policies become entrenched to the point that they get mistaken for principles and thus we get further and further away from the principles. World War I showed us the futility of trench warfare; and our current political situation with entrenched positions is steering us towards a political equivalent with results that might be just as devastating.  So let’s pause to ask ourselves a few what if questions and see if we cannot improve things.

What if …

Constitutions had an expiry date and new ones had to be devised every ten or twenty years? (Something that was originally proposed for the US constitution.)

What if …

We could find a way to balance individual human rights with collective rights?

What if …

We could reconcile ideological differences and find a way to fuse left and right-wing thinking to avoid the causes of so much conflict over the past century or so?

What if …

We were able to find a way for people to participate more in the fruits of the labours?

What if …

We could eliminate the tax avoidance and evasion that subverts morality and distorts efforts to create a just and humane society?

What if …

Government could be more representative, transparent and accountable?

What if …

We did not have political parties?

What if …

Elections (and hence politicians) could be made less susceptible to manipulation by lobbying and vested interest groups?

 

Those are big questions. And there are likely many others that I have missed. But they are questions that we need to address if we are to identify who really rules and move beyond the polarity and polarisation of present day politics. And they are certainly questions that need answers if we are to safeguard the ideal of democracy that most of us hold so dear and which is increasingly being eroded if not actually becoming a delusion.

Yet, while they are big questions and present enormous challenges, they are not unanswerable. They do have answers. We just have to find them and I have endeavoured to play my part in doing so. Apart from renewable constitutions, I have proposed solutions for all the others in my book “The Democracy Delusion.” I believe they provide a very good starting point for discussion, debate and ultimate development.  

Let’s Eschew Party Politics

Political conformity“Our current election process suffocates those of independent thought. It whispers that we have but two unfortunate options from which to choose. … It favours the powerful over the weak. It promotes oligarchy. It allows morally bankrupt syndicates to dictate our political destiny.” These words are from the introduction of a 2015 book the two party system: “Two Tyrants: The Myth of a Two Party Government” by A.G. Roderick; who, according to the biographical information provided is “a freelance writer and former staff writer for a top 10 newspaper who has worked as a legislative analyst and policy advisor in multiple state legislatures and at the municipal level.”

Yet despite the title and referring to “a state of symphonic polarization” and claiming that Republicans and Democrats have achieved “absolute power,” Roderick goes on to say, “The goal of this book is not to decry the evils of political parties.”  Why the hell not?

This seems to me to be a craven attempt to pull his punches! After all, how can you decry the parties – or at least what they have allowed to develop – without decrying the political system? I guess you would have to read the book to find out, which, having just come across, I haven’t yet done. Nevertheless, it still appears to be an inherently illogical stance. Especially when you consider there is a similar situation in the UK which has a very different political system.

And the case against the party political system becomes even stronger when proportional representation is promoted as the solution. While the logic appears sound that this is more representative of the people’s wishes in a democracy, whether it actually does deliver that at the end of the day is highly debatable. The inter-party wheeling-and-dealing needed to form a government makes such a system inherently less stable and, arguably, even more susceptible to corruption. You need look no further than post war Italy for an example of this. Let’s not, however, get side-tracked into any arguments about the relative corruption of the two approaches.

The idea that coalition or multi-party government offers better government as a result of the need for consensus or compromise is inherently flawed, for consensus and compromise invariably means it takes longer to reach decisions, without in any way guaranteeing that the best solution is reached. It certainly does not ensure that the final decision is in the best interests of the people being governed. In fact, as the recent Greek crisis showed, there is a strong case for arguing that party politics is irrelevant and that power actually resides in the hands of those who control the finances and economics.

All this means makes it imperative that we re-examine our whole system of government and the democratic principles that underpin it. Eschewing party politics might be a darned good starting point.  

Time to Stop Fighting Old Battles!

Tweedle dum & Tweedle deeOne of the most annoying aspects of both the current UK political scene and the US presidential campaign is the continued rallying around old, discredited ideologies. Politicians and commentators alike persist in portraying issues along socialist or capitalist lines, attacking and vilifying anyone who occupies a different space on the political spectrum. The fear-mongering around the “Brexit” referendum has even invoked the possibility of a renewed Cold War.

Of course this is a very real possibility, as long as we persist in viewing things from the old paradigm.

You have to ask whether the manifest voter disillusionment with politicians might not, in fact, be an instinctive rebellion against the constraints of such conventional thinking? If it is, it is supremely ironic that efforts to escape career politicians have simply resulted in situations like the rise of Donald Trump, and the further entrenchment of ideological dogma. This suggests that it is not politicians but ideology that is at the root of the problem.  

Unfortunately, few seem to be alert to this or to escape from this line of thinking. This article epitomises:

  • The inherent left/right dichotomy in modern politics
  • The iconic status of political parties in our system
  • The rigid thinking that attaches to political parties and their inherent inability to adapt
  • A blind faith that politics is simply a pendulum and that things will ultimately swing back.   

As such it is indicative of the need for a fresh approach and a new paradigm. The collapse of communism is evidence of the fact that pure socialism does not work, while the global economic crisis and the Great Recession brought about the near-collapse of the banking system, along with the increasing divide between the rich and the poor, is evidence of the fact that capitalism does not work either – even when tempered by moderating regulations and requirements. And while stock markets have reached pre-crisis levels, there is nothing to suggest the problem has been fixed.

There are all sorts of stark warnings about future job losses as a result of automation and improved technology. Even if they are grossly over-stated, they point to a future where work will be harder to find and there will be greater unemployment and under-employment, especially with a rapidly growing population. Forget the social costs involved, this will inevitably also result in a shrinking market. Similarly, the capacity to borrow is reaching its limits and there is little scope to pay for increased public services. Consequently, the future looks bleak from both a capitalist and a socialist perspective.    

All this makes a new approach imperative. We have to find a way forward that:

  • Enables business to drive the economic growth that only business can, whilst safeguarding the environment and natural and human resources in the process.
  • Provides for the less fortunate in society while limiting the growth of government
  • Moves beyond the futile fighting that currently prevails.

Surely that can’t be too difficult, if we simply agree that we all want something that works and find a new starting point for getting there.

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Please get hold of my book, The Democracy Delusion: How to Restore True Democracy and Stop Being Duped read my ideas as to how we could change our economic systems and promote discussion and debate around them so that we can restore democracy and safeguard a better future for future generations.