In an Age of Space Travel, Why Are We Governed by a System From the Era of the Horse and Carriage?

The Palace of Westminster approaching a state of near collapse with parliament too scared of the electorate to sanction the estimated £3bn cost of repairs is a perfect metaphor for a system of government in terminal decline.

Animosity towards politicians being what it is, the prospect of the Lords, Ladies and Honourables entombed in a catastrophe of their own making might seem a fitting finale for an anachronistic system that's long past its sell-by-date.

Image.jpgLike the Palace of Westminster, where opposing forces sit beyond a swords-length of one another, our political system hails from a time when the only way to have representation in parliament was to put a man on a horse and send him to London. The complexity of the modern world would have been inconceivable when dueling was a commonplace method of resolving disputes between gentlemen, but our political system has hardly changed at all, primarily because it suits the establishment not to change it.

Contrary to what we're led to believe, our political system is not a democracy. It's a mixed system of government comprising elements of monarchy (the supreme legislative power), aristocracy (albeit with the red seats nowadays mostly occupied by political placepersons rather than the descendants of robber barons) and electoral oligarchy (a choice between factions of a political elite).

Elections - ironically the one element of the system that provides the illusion of democracy - make the system hopelessly impractical in the modern world because an elected government lacks the power to confront the tyrannical nature of the forces ranged against it.

Political parties are miniscule interest groups whose reason for existence is to perpetuate their own existence. They are defined by the political system in which they operate, and they operate on a system of patronage, both in the promotion of their members and in the promotion of their aims.

The motives of some donors might be altruistic, such as the Quaker foundations that perpetually fund the Liberal Democrats, but mostly they're buying power and influence. This is what makes the financial services industry virtually untouchable by any authority.

Politicians are no more able to repair the seat of power than reform the global financial system. They can neither increase their own salaries nor curtail the remuneration of bankers. On the one hand, they can't risk provoking the ire of voters in the run up to an election. On the other, they need donations from bankers and hedge fund managers to fund their election campaigns.

The system requires a mandate from the people - no matter how flimsy - for a party to apply its brand of dogma in government. So, if winning an election is the Holy Grail of politics, electioneering is the cornerstone of every policy and, since every policy implies winners and losers, obfuscation becomes the default position of every politician in high office.

There's also the small matter of having a job and an income for the next five years, not to mention a title commensurate with having liveried footmen open doors for you. This is a knotty problem until you've reached the level where you can walk into a position with a merchant bank or make your fortune on the lecture circuit or earn a place on the red benches through unwavering service as a vassal to your liege lords. In short, power corrupts, and a privileged, taxpayer-subsidised, magisterial environment corrupts absolutely.

What sort of person would be more likely to join the most despised of professions? Would it be a specialist with the skill and vision to create an education system that ensures social mobility or with the balls to put an end to corporate tax avoidance and promote greater equality? Or an opportunist with no qualms about duping the electorate to advance their party's aims and therefore further their own interests, someone inured to criticism having excelled in the cut and thrust of their private school debating society?

As membership of political parties declines, so the leadership talent pool becomes smaller and the ladder to high office becomes easier to climb.

The system depends upon a largely uninformed and credulous electorate. The political establishment seeks to marginalise those who choose not to engage with it by describing them as 'apathetic'. But as Russell Brand has shown, there's a groundswell of citizens who smell the coffee. In an age where everyone has the means to publish contradictions to political spin, people have sussed that their representatives don't, in fact, represent them.

The first-past-the-post electoral system is predicated on the notion that strong government is more important than representing the will of the people. It renders abstention a blunt weapon since turnout is unimportant to the legitimacy of the result. Coalitions may become the de facto form of government as voters finally give up on traditional party loyalties, but uneasy alliances are likely to speed up the erosion not stem the tide.

Of course independent candidates are free to fork out £500 to stand but, other than in exceptional circumstances, they have no chance against the party machines, the party-biased rules of the Electoral Commission, the taxpayer-funded salaries of the incumbents and a media that demands a made-for-television, Swingometer-friendly election format.

The system perpetuates itself. It's designed to resist any meaningful change. UKIP might look like it could upset the applecart but it's just another symptom of a failing system, another minority interest group selling snake oil. While the left waits for another Nye Bevan and the right longs for another Margaret Thatcher, our faith in politics is crumbling faster than the Palace of Westminster.

It is hard to see how politicians can ever regain the trust of the electorate. Widespread disengagement with politics clearly represents a long-term existential threat to the political elite but party managers are focused on exploiting cognitive bias to win over floating voters in marginal constituencies.

Faced with the prospect of having to convince a despairing electorate of the need for permanent austerity, dwindling household incomes, the elevation of corporate rights over human rights, increased state surveillance, a perpetual war on terror and runaway climate change - issues that the system itself seems powerless to resolve, politicians are resorting to the age-old strategies of fear-mongering, bribery, scapegoating and buck-passing.

Devolution is a realpolitik distraction that equates to shifting the deckchairs on the Titanic. The devolved national authorities are essentially based on the same system as Westminster, although without the same checks and balances since they were specifically designed to be subservient to central government. They also have electoral systems intended to preserve the primacy of political parties, although half the electorate (two thirds in Wales) are not sufficiently impressed with their devolved powers to vote.

The rich got rid of their carriages once the motorcar was invented. The rest of us stopped walking to work once the bus came along. The world has progressed to the point where access to motorised transport is essential to modern life, yet we continue to be governed by a system from the carriage era.

Churchill's off-the-cuff remark that 'democracy is the worst form of government, except for all those other forms that have been tried from time to time' is a maxim that depends upon the definition of the word 'democracy'. If we can come up with artificial intelligence and send people into space, it's not beyond the wit of humankind to come up with a more intelligent, more democratic system for governing human affairs.

The problem is not unique to Britain. Representative democracy is failing everywhere in the West, including the so-called 'transition' countries in North Africa and Eastern Europe where people have quickly discovered that elections are not a panacea to free themselves from an overbearing ruling elite.

The status quo is not sacrosanct. The rules by which we are governed are not set in stone. The world needs a new, 'democratic' model of democracy. But there's clearly no point in expecting career politicians to propose one.

It's not at all desirable to resort to violent revolution. Revolutions invariably result in misery and, ultimately, in tyranny by any other name. Neither is it a good idea to try to reduce everyone to the lowest common denominator.

The existential issues presented by a globalised world can only be resolved through political collectivism. A new model of democracy needs to ensure equal opportunity of direct political participation rather than an equal vote. It also needs to ensure real equality under the law. It needs to separate capital from politics and for the state to be redefined as an extension of civil society. Once we're governed by such a system, we'll be able to embrace the opportunities of a globalised world rather than be oppressed by its disadvantages.

Electoral legitimacy is the weak spot in the Palace of Westminster. Once a new system is defined, that will be the place to pile the barrels of gunpowder. The building itself should become a nice little earner for the National Trust.

 

by Martin Wilding, an 'ordinary person' writing for the Huffington Post

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  • commented 2015-01-18 11:56:40 +0000
    NON-PROFIT ORGANIZATION
    CHARITY FUND
    PIONEER

    ONLY RELIABLE STRATEGIC DEVELOPMENT and REAL INNOVATIONS are CAPABLE
    To DEVELOP ECONOMY of ALL COUNTRIES of the WORLD, to LEAD THEM TO PROSPERITY, to MAKE the WORLD COMFORTABLE, ABSOLUTELY STABLE and SECURE.
    THE FUTURE В ЧИСТОМ GLOBAL WORLD!
    Alexey PAVLOV
    690090 ПК, г. Владивосток, а/я 90-360.
    +79242656383; +7(423) 274-67-32. 16.09.2014

    H.E. Ban Ki-Moon
    Secretary-General
    United Nations
    New York, NY 10017
    USA
    Dear Mr. Secretary General, Dear Partners and Friends!

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    WE CAN ORGANIZE ANY INDIVIDUAL AND GROUP TRIPS ON ALL TERRITORY OF RUSSIA, WITH STOPS IN INTERESTING REGIONS, HOLDING NECESSARY MEETINGS AND ACTIONS INCLUDING LAKE BAIKAL, AND ALSO WE WILL HELP TO OPEN OFFICE IN RUSSIA.
    MAINTENANCE AND SAFETY IS CARRIED OUT ACCORDING TO THE INTERNATIONAL NORMS AND LAWS.
    PIONEER charity foundation these are 15 years of the modern, timely, advanced decisions in questions of public, legal, political and other character. We are always open for new offers, cooperation and global partnership.
    Ministry of Justice of the Russian Federation the certificate No. 2495 of November 17, 1999.

    Bank details for a transfer in Russia.
    ООО компания «Восток Гарант», ИНН 2507229970, КПП 250701001, ОГРН 1092507000145

    Банк получателя: «АЗИАТСКО-ТИХООКЕАНСКИЙ БАНК» (ОАО) в г. Благовещенск

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    Details on the Internet on demand: “We will make the Childhood Comfortable!” – in Russian: «Сделаем детство комфортным!» or on our website, if it isn’t blocked by special services of Russia!
    Sincerely yours, President of
    PIONEER Charity foundation
    Alexey Gennadevich PAVLOV

    The perspective project and the offer are in the attached file.

    NON-GOVERNMENTAL ORGANIZATION
    CHARITY FUND
    PIONEER
    Russian Federation, 690090, Vladivostok, p.o. box 90-360. +79242656383;
    Web site: http://pioner.dv-baza.ru/ http://vk.com/fundpioneer https://twitter.com/FundPioneer
    E-mail: specpioneer@gmail.com

    WELCOME TO RUSSIA !
    Public relations, mass media, legislative and executive power of the Russian Federation.
    International activity.
    Ecology, sports, tourism.
    RALLY RAIDS
    Diversification and development.
    Organization of mass actions.
    CARRYING OUT ELECTION CAMPAIGNS.
    Advertizing DEVELOPMENT.
    State registration.
    Carrying out lotteries and auctions.
    Social and economic INNOVATIONS.
    Design and design decisions.
    Legal support.
    PR – ADVANCE.
    Consulting researches.
    CRISIS MANAGEMENT.

    We will be glad to you to help!
    Sincerely yours, President of
    PIONEER Charity foundation

    Alexey PAVLOV

    OUR JOINT CONTROL AND GLOBAL PARTNERSHIP

    NON-PROFIT ORGANIZATION
    CHARITY FUND
    PIONEER
    Russian Federation, 690090, Vladivostok, p.o. box 90-360. +79242656383;
    Web site: http://pioner.dv-baza.ru/
    http://vk.com/fundpioneer
    https://twitter.com/FundPioneer
    E-mail: specpioneer@gmail.com



    NON-PROFIT ORGANIZATION
    CHARITY FUND
    PIONEER

    ONLY RELIABLE STRATEGIC DEVELOPMENT and REAL INNOVATIONS are CAPABLE
    To DEVELOP ECONOMY of ALL COUNTRIES of the WORLD, to LEAD THEM TO PROSPERITY, to MAKE the WORLD COMFORTABLE, ABSOLUTELY STABLE and SECURE.
    THE FUTURE В ЧИСТОМ GLOBAL WORLD!
    Alexey PAVLOV

    H.E. Ban Ki-Moon
    Secretary-General
    United Nations
    New York, NY 10017
    USA

    Dear Mr. Secretary General, Dear Partners and Friends!
    I suggest you to begin independent control of activity and quality of work of representatives of the SPECIAL SERVICES in Russia and the CIS.

    The PIONEER charity fund is ready assistance in monitoring and quality and control of programs of realized UN AND OTHER INTERNATIONAL ORGANIZATIONS in the Russian Federation and CIS countries, together with you to develop and hold other events and programs which will positively influence World level of your and our global partners.

    Joint development and advance of ecological tourism in especially protected natural territories first of all on Lake Baikal and peninsulas of Crimea by means of the PIONEER charity fund and our partners IN ANY REGIONS in the Russian Federation.

    Whenever possible you’re personal interested participation and representatives your global partners in development and carrying out actions are desirable.

    WE WILL HELP YOU TO OPEN NEW OFFICE IN RUSSIA AND THE CIS.

    WE CAN ORGANIZE in advance ANY INDIVIDUAL AND GROUP TRIPS ON ALL TERRITORY OF RUSSIA AND THE CIS, WITH STOPS IN INTERESTING REGIONS, HOLDING NECESSARY MEETINGS, PHOTO, SHOOTING VIDEO AND ACTIONS.
    MAINTENANCE AND SAFETY IS CARRIED OUT ACCORDING TO THE INTERNATIONAL NORMS AND LAWS.

    PIONEER charity foundation these are 15 years of the modern, timely, advanced decisions in questions of public, legal, political and other character. We are always open for new offers, cooperation and global partnership.

    Ministry of Justice of the Russian Federation the certificate No. 2495 of November 17, 1999.

    Sincerely yours, President of
    PIONEER Charity foundation Alexey Gennadevich PAVLOV

    25.11.2014
    OUR JOINT CONTROL AND GLOBAL PARTNERSHIP

    The perspective project and the offer are in the attached file.

    NON-GOVERNMENTAL OGRANIZATION
    CHARITY FUND
    PIONEER
    Russian Federation, 690090, Vladivostok, p.o. box 90-360. +79242656383;
    Web site: http://pioner.dv-baza.ru/ http://vk.com/fundpioneer https://twitter.com/FundPioneer
    E-mail: specpioneer@gmail.com

    WELCOME TO RUSSIA !
    Public relations, mass media, legislative and executive power of the Russian Federation.
    International activity.
    Ecology, sports, tourism.
    RALLY RAIDS
    Diversification and development.
    Organization of mass actions.
    CARRYING OUT ELECTION CAMPAIGNS.
    Advertizing DEVELOPMENT.
    State registration.
    Carrying out lotteries and auctions.
    Social and economic INNOVATIONS.
    Design and design decisions.
    Legal support.
    PR – ADVANCE.
    Consulting researches.
    CRISIS MANAGEMENT.

    We will be glad to you to help!
    Sincerely yours, President of
    PIONEER Charity foundation

    Alexey PAVLOV

    OUR JOINT CONTROL AND GLOBAL PARTNERSHIP

    NON-PROFIT ORGANIZATION
    CHARITY FUND
    PIONEER
    Russian Federation, 690090, Vladivostok, p.o. box 90-360. +79242656383;
    Web site: http://pioner.dv-baza.ru/
    http://vk.com/fundpioneer
    https://twitter.com/FundPioneer
    E-mail: specpioneer@gmail.com

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