For years I’ve been saying that democracy is dead! The smoking gun is held by political parties! My issue though, is that I struggle to find an alternative to democracy. And a life pillar of mine is that if you don’t have a solution – don’t knock what’s in place.
I’ve looked at socialism; communism and all of the “ism’s” … none create momentum. Most stifle an entrepreneurial spirit. I was lucky enough to be invited to Dresden and Leipzig just as Communism fell – What I saw showed me quickly that Communism didn’t work and creates complacency. There has to be an unequal system whereby hard work and striving is rewarded. The entrepreneurial spirit is a precious thing. A free market democracy could work, but it would destroy any social conscience. That’s why we have things like trade agreements; tariffs; quotas and govt. support, we like to think it’s a free market economy – but it’s not. Covid (thankfully), has proved that govt intervention (financially) rather than zero intervention does help. In a true free economy, Govt. wouldn’t step in and support. Only the strongest; fittest (or biggest) would survive.
So I’m going to (initially) discuss the problem, and in a follow up, a possible alternative. If we don’t discuss alternatives to everything, how can we improve or advance anything! It would be great to get other alternative views. Nothing here is caste in stone, it is my opinion following years of research. I’ve tried to keep it simple otherwise the topic becomes far to broad. It’s long enough already. I apologise in advance for digressing in parts.
However I feel Covid 19 has proved me (unfortunately) right. Govt. has killed the effective democratic process! Govt. is so hell bent on power retention and not being seen to be wrong, it’s neglected it’s primary purpose – For the people! To keep the people safe. And yes, like everything, exceptions do exist.
But the democratic concept started out as a simple affair whereby a local area elected an official to represent them in Parliament because travelling to your capital was not feasible in (say) the 1800’s. And for me – that worked. In the 1700’s and 1800’s and even early 1900’s, travel was difficult and therefore getting (for example) from Oxford to Westminster or Atlanta to Washington took days if not weeks. So the idea of sending a representative to speak on behalf of a region of people made sense. What was the alternative?
But today we have an internet and phone system that would allow us to click or push a button and answer (vote) immediately and directly on the issues. So why do we still send elected officials? Any issue needing a vote in Govt. could be dealt with by the people … the general population could literally operate via a referendum type one person one vote process and give an honest non-party aligned, PERSONAL response. The voting could be done nationally and / or regionally depending on the issue.
For example – should London Heathrow airport build a 5th runway. People in Scotland, Wales or Ireland would not need to vote because the cost would be in the budget (or not) for that region and therefore the decision wouldn’t affect the distribution of State expenditure nationally. However if the spend did affect the national budget; or impact on climate control etc. Then the vote could be opened up Nationally.
And yet we don’t opt for this direct representation, we opt for an outdated clumsy proportional process that is frankly ineffective. We still send individuals to parliament to represent us. And all they do is push the same button we could push. I’ve always believed in reducing layers of control and management, not adding to it.
Modern technology allows us to represent ourselves, literally from our homes. Security measures could easily be created to protect the one person one vote process so we cannot vote more than once. Some may say that one member of a family could steal or take the vote for another member of family … but this happens anyway. My grandmother asked my grandfather who he was voting for, and copied him. She couldn’t care less because she didn’t follow politics and didn’t trust politicians, but believed it was important to vote. So what’s the difference whether she walks into a polling booth and physically votes parallel to my grandfather, or gives her vote to a family member via an online process? It really is quite a simple system and process. We could use retina or fingerprints to achieve the security, or if that’s invasive, something simpler. And it’s harder to hack millions of voters than one centralised voting system. Printing millions of ballot papers isn’t good for the environment either. Not to mention voter fraud or voting glitches. Who can forget the chad/chit debacle of Bush v Gore in 2000. None of this could occur.
So why do we retain the old system? Simply, because Govt do not think we are capable of understanding or dealing with the issues. We are considered intelligent enough to pick the representatives but not to understand the issues and complexities of governance! Go figure.
They don’t want to IMPROVE democracy- they want to CONTROL it. They will say – The issues are complex … we can’t / won’t understand. We need it explained – like Brexit was explained … we were so well informed , that we could all make an educated decision and vote (NOT). It had nothing to do with the Govt of the day fudging the facts and spinning the stories to suit a need (not) !!
I could elaborate, but you get the picture. Subconsciously we all know politicians are mostly unreliable and operate on a personal or party agenda! So why do we concede power (our vote) to them when it’s no longer necessary. And we all know that media and specialist spokespeople / studio guests usually give better answers and clarity to our questions then politicians anyway. These days it’s impossible to get a politician to actually answer the question!
There are many reasons that suit politicians to keep the status quo though – a fat salary to sit in Parliament; a second home; privileges; extra income; and the biggie … the more time they can spend arguing ‘much ado about nothing’ in Parliament … the less time they have to spend meeting voters and doing real work in the constituency that voted for them. Politicians and by definition Govt. and by definition DEMOCRACY is ineffectual and getting worse by the year. I’ve been to Westminster – it’s a glorified ‘club’. Media can get them “u” turning in seconds anyway. Why is that?
In the U.K. almost every institution is broken. The USA is not much different. Most of the decent infrastructure is Victorian.
Lets consider some of the negatives of a centralised Parliament:
- You don’t meet voters everyday, you spend most of your time with party members. This creates a herd mentality and is easy for the political party in power to control the elected members of Parliament or Congress. So voters become secondary and party becomes primary – everything;
- Following on from point 1 … you begin to vote on party lines and forgo the constituents who put you there;
- Using my idea for a public referendum type voting process – party WHIPS become unnecessary. You cannot whip the public to vote in a particular direction – after all that’s not democratic. See where I’m going with this. The very concept of a Whipped vote is undemocratic. If I had the resources I would take the concept of whipping elected parliament members to the highest courts in the land for determination. It cannot be constitutional or democratic to force someone to vote in a particular way. It would be illegal if it was seen to be done on individual public voters – so how can it be legal on elected representatives! If someone stood at a polling booth and did this to individual voters, it would be a crime, it would be illegal!! However in Govt. my democratic right, that I’ve placed in the hands of an elected representative who is chosen to vote on my behalf, is suspended for the benefit of the party and it’s made legal!! – how is this either correct or Democratic;
- You spend little time in your constituency. Have you ever tried to meet your member of Parliament or Congressman. It’s impossible. They don’t offer a telephone number or contact detail … they supposedly are paid to represent YOU, but don’t want to talk to you. They don’t want to be bothered by constituents – they’re too busy doing god knows what. But come election time, then they are prepared to press flesh in the streets and ring your doorbell. They tell you they do ‘surgeries’ on such and such a day … what bollocks! It’s ineffectual and controlled by staff who block constituents with tough issues. Most members of Parliament consider the job done when they’ve dispatched a letter. I wrote to so and so on your behalf … job done. Actually, the job is NOT done. You’ve just shifted responsibility;
- Running Congress or the Senate or Westminster costs an absolute fortune. Not just the cost of infrastructure etc. But security; remodelling; health and safety; food requirements; building upkeep; etc. A minister could work from home or a small office in his constituency quite easily, reduce salary and where security is required, have a security detail. Every ex- PM or ex- President currently has a security and administrative detail. It’s low key and it works. It would be much cheaper. They are refurbishing and upgrading Westminster … at a cost of billions of pounds … for the benefit of politicians and we already know the budget will be blown out of the water. If politicians are involved – double that budget. That building could become a profit centre rather than a cost centre by opening it up for so many excellent uses;
- Environmental footprint of travelling from home to Washington or London every Friday (home) or Monday (to work) and needing more than one home would be eradicated;
- When tough decisions are made, they do referendums anyway – Brexit; abortion; death penalty etc. So why not do it all the time.
I could go on. It’s a long list of negatives. And the reason it’s not done is because politicians are on a gravy train at taxpayers expense. Central Govt used to be necessary … it simply no longer is. Everything could be handled from our homes. Whether via sms or online. The process could take the vote away from the representative (elected) and give it directly to the people, what’s more democratic?? True one person one vote representation. No interference or “misinterpretations”
Govt. subverts information on the basis of national security. We know less and less about what is affecting our country / our homes, yet Govt. want to know more and more about us. It’s not that we are unable to grasp the complexities, it’s rather that the facts are subverted for political gains so we cannot make informed decisions. It allows govt. to hide mistakes and that’s simply nonsensical. I want to know everything about my Government. Surely it runs both ways. If it had been one person one vote on Bush number 2 taking the USA (and it’s allies) to war because of the threat of weapons of mass destruction, and he had to convince the people, not government/Congress/Senate I doubt he would have had the USA’s backing.
I accept that holding back certain sensitive information has a place due to national security – but as the Trump impeachment situation proved … information is being suppressed to protect an individual and a party. Or to promote an ideology or view, not the protection of a country. I don’t particularly care if Trump is innocent or guilty – I do care that the full facts were subverted to protect a political party! That it became a numbers decision (we have more senate members than them so we automatically win the right to suppress evidence), rather than a knowledge decision.
I want to touch on one further issue. Govt will say people will get tired of voting; tired of trying to keep up to speed; or bored with voting. My response – I disagree. It will engage the public more. And if the voter doesn’t take time to vote, or to educate themselves – that’s his right. But it cannot be worse than an 18% voter turn out in a local election or perhaps worse, a 55% voter turnout for the USA presidential election of 2012! 55% … to elect a President, that’s shocking. In fact I question if it’s democratic. And when winning an election is about having the required funds to be able to afford a campaign, or the ability to mobilise fundraising, you’ve got to ask yourself – How is this democratic??
But voting could be linked to benefits. Or tax. If you don’t vote your tax increases by 4% per annum. Or you are not entitled to free NHS. Or you can’t hold a drivers license. It is after all a huge deal! HUGE!! It’s both a duty and a right to vote! There are countries that make voting a requirement of citizenship or make it illegal NOT to vote. I couldn’t agree more.
But my real issue with democracy is that primarily two (or very few) real parties can afford to contest an election per country. Democracy cannot be financially motivated. Campaigning MUST include a low ceiling budget. It doesn’t cost huge money to get your point across. It does cost money to stage a smear campaign and keep it in the news! What a waste of money. And why do members of the public or corporations part with these huge sums of money and donate to campaigns – benevolence my ass! It’s for favour. It’s illegal.
Elected officials are required to operate for the benefit of the constituency they are elected to. But they also have to vote en masse (whip) for the political party whose banner they represent at any given election. And that latter requirement is becoming a bigger force of evil than anything imaginable.
It is why youth are not engaged in the political process. Youth see through the lies; they notice that government is not honest or authentic and they see how voting is about arm twisting; big business; party politics; special interest groups; big money and lobbyists. The voter is never the priority any more. Youth understand ‘spin’ (authenticity) better than any other current generational group. They purchase based on authenticity; providence is more important to them than any previous generational group. They’re changing how big business sell product or services or how it presents itself or markets it’s brand. They’ve seen the lies perpetrated by big business. They see the illness of the planet. Smoking; unhealthy processed foods; sugar; climate impact … yes, … that list. A 21 year old looks at his cancerous, obese, unhealthy parent and cannot be whitewashed by the lie anymore. They are savvy! They read the ingredient declaration! They don’t trust the institutions that define us. Government; democracy; banking; United Nations; World Health Organisation … etc. I can’t say I blame them.
Hasn’t Covid opened up the wound of just how unprepared and useless our Govt. really is. In practically every arena of Govt. the response has been unclear; chaotic and simply wrong. The British Govt is refusing to release the findings of a pandemic exercise code named “Operation Cygnus” because if they don’t suppress it, it will prove just how incompetent and unprepared the Govt. was. Is that in the national interest? Does that fall under national security? Or how about the USA’s “operation “crimson contagion” – same thing. Imagine if Covid wasn’t a virus attacking your country but another countries ACTUAL military army … would our Govt be so incompetent then. I fear not. Because that could potentially take away the govt’s real power … a virus only kills the population … they still remain in power. (I’m being flippant to make a point – obviously every death or infected human matters).
These operations were undertaken before Covid -19 (at huge expense) to assess readiness, and the findings were so shocking they were hidden from the public! Democracy at its best – I think not!
The collective voice of Govt has been a negative, not a positive. Collaboration is non existent. Being together (as a party or in one location as a Govt.) and entering into dialogue with fellow colleagues has achieved nought !! What’s happened to the notion of “Allies” defeating a common enemy – The people want that, they get it … it’s the governments that don’t! Primarily because politicians can no longer step across the political divide and collaborate. Power sharing is not an option even in desperate times. Today – it’s treason! Far better for a Republican to talk to Kim Jung-Un than a Democrat senator!!
Democracy is no longer about the will of the people … it’s about winning elections. Retaining power. It’s about taking up media space but saying as little as possible. It’s about controlling the news cycle – not the content.
Govt. is about control. Democracy is about the people. They are today at loggerheads and we are in short supply of REAL leaders! Politicians say nothing – and actually do less, that way media can’t cut them to ribbons. So why do we need them? And they don’t stand accountable in real failings – You cannot be wrong if you say nothing! Or worse, reveal nothing. It is staggering what govt. suppresses these days. And media pass over the real failings of politicians and govt but focus on a politician who smoked a joint 40 years ago at university! WHY?
You want proof – Boris’ latest speech (Sunday evening 10th May) is artful at the highest level at talking a great deal but saying nothing. Just look at the online comments and jokes surrounding it. I can’t imagine a time when a speech by Churchill would be maligned as this was! Pitiful.
And it’s not entirely his fault. Media will cut him to shreds if he puts one foot wrong. Makes one wrong statement. So he is scared of committing himself in public … some leader! At least Trump is thick skinned enough to offer an opinion, regardless of how stupid it is! I am ambivalent to Trump … but I love that he isn’t afraid of the media. I just wish he would engage his brain before opening his mouth.
So what is the agenda of media then? What benefit is there in pointing at politicians and public figures and saying – “ you got it wrong … so resign”. If centuries of existence has taught the human race anything, it’s that humans make mistakes … repeatedly, yet media expect total perfection. It’s NOT human and it’s NOT possible. If you got drunk as a 20 year old university student, or played with a pig at university, it’s assessed you can’t be relied on as a 55 year old politician. Who made this shit up!! How does that serve the public good or assist the Govt. of the day. How is that good reporting? The quality of our media is at an all time low. I blame 24/7 news! From the moment it started, news spiralled down into the gutter. Reporting on what a politician did at university simply creates exposure for a few media cycles! And yet media “pass” on the real issues – national coverups in the name of national security! They never go back to check on previous reported stories; dig deeper … no, let’s just clog the media cycle with new exciting bullshit! News is here today and gone tomorrow. Politicians know to just sit tight … invariably the storm will quickly pass. How sad! Newsworthy is defined by time not content or fact finding or accountability. News 24/7 is the dumbest concept ever. It has reduced the quality of news to sensationalistic magazine style bullshit. It’s volume over quality and content. Bring back a few news bulletins a day and let’s got on with living!
How much can really change in 1 hour of a “breaking story” – so let’s find filler for the other 59 minutes. Please … let’s NOT! I’m tired of opinion being sold as news because the truth is …. Nothings actually happened in this ‘Breaking’ story!! So let’s hear what a reporter thinks. Seriously!! And we buy into it thinking we are now properly informed. What we are is properly overdosed!
Admittedly the politicians have made a bed for themselves. They should just admit to making mistakes … it will defuse the media’s hold. What can you say if the politician says – Yip, I got that wrong! Spinning a story will never end well. But I digress here. Perhaps a story for another day.
The only two vocations or ‘jobs’ … IN THE WORLD you need zero qualification for, or experience in, are politics and parenting. That cannot be right … surely!
Political parties no longer work. And here is why. In order to lead a political party, you have to set out your position within defined party parameters. Previously, this was easy – we (using the U.K. model as an example …. But it could be any country), voted labour (democrat) or conservative (republican) – and they each stood for something. We had a small middle class and things were relatively simple. So being a conservative was easy – you were usually middle class; landowner; financially stable; a professional – Doctor / lawyer etc; business owner etc. Being labour meant you were working class; less educated; a union member; liked lower taxes and social welfare etc. I’m being simplistic but you get the picture.
But our middle class has grown and evolved. Now many middle class folk who should vote conservative, think social welfare is important, which is more a labour attraction. So how do they vote – Loyalty to party line or issues based. The lines have blurred. Tony Blair understood this and won – He picked and chose the best of labour and the best of Conservative and combined them. Plus he had a weak opponent as the figurehead for the opposition. A perfect storm.
The older generation generally vote on party lines but that’s altering slowly and youth generally vote on issues or individuals they believe in. One example of many.
In short voting today is becoming more and more issues based not party based. “Millennial forward” people don’t even buy FMCG on the basis of brand loyalty. Political party loyalty is dying! In the past if dad was republican, you would be too. But today that doesn’t apply – what your parents did or didn’t do is less important than ever before. And the issues have become much broader; much more complex and they cross over … green; environment; education; vegetarian; sexual orientation; crime – too soft or too hard on crime; not enough female representation or too much male; colour – no POC or too many POC; climate change etc. The number of issues just grows. Whaling ; fishing rights … its endless. It’s complex.
Given all the options a modern voter might find himself picking conservative for 8 things and labour for 9. Plus then having to chose the party leader that best fits your preferred profile. Example – is he authentic! Choosing on party lines is today literally impossible.
The result is either a weak government with a limited or zero mandate, or a party leader at odds with his party. So Governing means accepting a coalition agreement which in turn means not just compromise, but alienating voters as you are forced to change policy to accommodate the requirements of coalition, and in so doing give up the very thing Joe Public voted for you for … or worse creating a working stalemate! And that’s not democratic by the way.
Govt today is divided 50/50 so often that it can’t get anything done. They vote along party lines and it’s a stalemate. The loser – Democracy! Filibusters win out more often than bills are passed. And Govt by nature means more laws and rules. We’ve got enough laws. I think govt. should be mandated to spend 50% of parliaments time looking to streamline and update old laws. Starting with health and safety. Not just heap new ones on top of a jaded overburdened system. We created more laws in any one 5 year term from 1960 to 1990 than any amount of laws made in any previous 50 year period dating back to the first parliament. Not unlike the 10 commandments I guess. Or the Constitution of the USA. Have you ever wondered why those documents are so simple. So short. Because they’re created by clever people who operated in the society they were leading. They were in touch! Let’s begin to simplify. Let’s get in touch with the people. And with all the law making we have ploughed through … we have not begun to touch AI (artificial intelligence) laws. Go figure.
5 countries hold the United Nations to ransom based on a war won generations ago and the right to be veto members. Germany and India (for example) are excluded. Yet the U.K. and France are allowed. France’s economy isn’t even in the top five. It, along with the U.K. is barely a regional power. India has the second largest population on earth … and it will be the largest. Some say it already is. And it’s excluded from veto power. I wonder how Japan feels?
So the big 5 vote on what’s best for them – … so politically, not based on what’s best for the world. Insects, Bee and ant colonies do better than this. Again, this is not democracy. It’s politicians feathering nests. International Democracy should (like national democracy), be replaced with one nation one vote. Paradoxically this very organisation (UN) saw the fault in apartheid … yet has a blind spot to its own shortcomings and does the very thing apartheid was chastised for. It operates based on privilege and a right that isn’t democratic. It disenfranchises. The idea behind the United Nations is a big deal … voters in every country should make it an election priority to change its Constitution so that representation is fair and equitable. What worked 50-years ago is no longer fit for purpose!lets bring it up to muster because the alternative is what’s happening. It’s losing its voice!
Getting back to countries and democracies. The only option to true democracy is a business style management process with direct one person one vote, first past the post, voting by the public. Don’t get me started on how the electoral college vote is divided up or how the U.K. weights regions and areas over others. The only true test of democracy is one person one vote – PERIOD! Isn’t that the real meaning of the ‘will of the people’. It’s definitely possible. It never used to be possible. But our world and our world systems have evolved. It’s time our governance caught up. It’s without doubt more democratic using the new system.
So in conclusion what could a better system look like.
In part 2, I will offer my take on a solution.