Thursday, March 20, 2008

when democracy doesn't work

This is likely to be a continually updated post as I develop an idea so please keep coming back to check what other rubbish I've thrown into this melting pot.

I don't think I am overstating the issue when I say that democracy is the highest principle of government. Without it we are open to manipulation by anyone with sufficient power to buy the services of those who cannot be held to account, whether we are referring to bureaucrats, the police or even the military. However, Churchill was dead right when he opined: "the best argument against democracy is a five minute conversation with the average voter".

Why are we living in a nation in which a government demonstrably guilty of war crimes, misgovernment and outright deception of the public remains in power via the ballot box without any evidence of electoral fraud?

To illustrate my point I will refer to an article Johann penned criticising tax avoidance amongst the mega-rich in this country and calling for a progressive policy and the elimination of loopholes. How likely is this to become policy?

Not. Very.

For it to become policy it would need a political party to champion it. The dirty tories and the sordid nu-labs are both heavily dependent upon private donations to finance their political activities and wouldn't touch this with a barge pole as donations would immediately cease and the parties would become bankrupt- as has nearly happened several times as a result of the decline in political membership in this country. The Lib Dems are capable of adopting moderately innovative policies but otherwise stick to 'me too' gestures. They are probably the greatest hope for any substantial political change, although the few hotbeds of LibDem activity- such as Cornwall and the West Coast of Scotland don't stand out as bastions of progression by any standards. Living fairly close to Cornwall I can tell you that I generally hear nothing but abuse about the LibDems there.

Of course my chosen political party- the Green Party of England and Wales- grows slowly every election but not fast enough to make a difference in my lifetime.

The problem is not solely the political parties' iniquity, rather it is a melange of socio-political flaws in out little nation that act antagonistically to create an insurmountable obstacle to progress in this country. Let me list them:
  • first past the post voting system
  • private funding of political parties
  • voter apathy and disinterest
  • the political power of the media (remember Blair grovelling to Rupert Murdoch for the support of his newspapers over Iraq?)
  • corporate tax avoidance (imagine what you could do to society with £41 billion)
One of these on their own could be challenged and overcome, maybe even two. But all of them? It simply doesn't matter how well you rationalise your argument for developing one of these undemocratic systems into something more representative, the others will obstruct any meaningful progress. The inhibitory effects work their undemocratic effects via the electorate, and here we get to the nub of the issue. Maintaining the passivity of the electorate is the underlying mechanism of all of these processes. For example, there is a concerted campaign for electoral reform by the LibDems- who, as a lesser party, stand to gain from its introdution. Ming Campbell even proposed a coalition government. However the LDs never gained- and likely never will- the necessary clout to enact that change.

Politics in the UK in my lifetime has effectively been at a standstill. Market fundamentalism continues to expand under whichever of the two right-wing main parties is in power. The tabloids continue to direct our attention toward anything but the current spiral into iniquity and effective serfdom, the electorate continue to pride themselves on being ignorant of politics or hold utterly banal allegiances to clearly inaccurate and partisan sources of information such as the Sun (listen to the Now Show from 14-03-08 for some sound bites from C21st UK society).

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