Tuesday 5 July 2016

Questions for the future

There is always going to be a disconnect between what politicians do and what people want. Mainly because people want some pretty dumb stuff. If you doubt me just look at the petitions floating around at the moment. And sometimes, even very popular ideas are still dumb. Not least this Article 50 nonsense. So it looks like we are always going to have a conflict between the public and the political class.

Populists pander to what the people want because they know they will never be tasked with implementing it. And that's dangerous because they popularise bad ideas - not least this ridiculous mantra about an "Australian points based system". This is why I am going to miss David Cameron who rightly dismissed such notions as complete nonsense. It is also why I think Theresa May is the right choice for PM because she has a solid grasp of the basics where immigration is concerned. She won't put up with any nonsense.

But the real problem we have is how are politicians supposed to know the difference between a genuine demand and a fanciful notion? This is where I think direct democracy comes into play. Not because the public will necessarily make better decisions but rather because they will make some especially shitty decisions and have to live with the consequences.

We will then get in the abit of putting more thought into them and exploring the consequences more. The short of it is, Brits don't really get referendums and the media doesn't know how to do them either, as was made clear just recently. This is not an argument for not having them. This is an argument for having more of them, not least as a safety valve. Brits are not acclimatised to democracy having had so little of it, so we will have to go for more public consultations - especially when it comes to military interventions. The crowd tends to be wiser in such eventualities.

But then there is the matter of who asks the question and who phrases them and who funds the campaigns. We are told this is why deliberative consensus of representative democracy is better, but this is prone to the bubble effect which leads to persistently distorted decisions which in no way reflect the will of the people.

And then we must ask how much we want to leave to the technocrats and what we want control over. We do not need to be having lengthy debates over the minimum sugar levels in jam for export. But then sometimes these decisions do have a profound impact. Where is the safety mechanism?

As government grows ever more complex people want ever more simplistic and less confusing solutions. They want things to be simple but things are not simple and never will be again. We demand our politicians do right by us but at the same time demand they do what we want which is not always sane. Sometimes when they contradict the people we call it leadership, at other times we call it a betrayal by our political class.

So do we need to reappraise our own cynical attitudes to politics? I don't know. I am certainly not innocent of using florid language in regard to MPs whose uniform stupidity I despise, but that is actually representative stupidity. They are as dumb as the rest of us. So do we want smart and clever people as MPs or do we want very ordinary fuckwits?

They keep saying we need a new politics but one never materialises because we are not asking the right questions. What do we want politics to look like? How much involvement do we really want in decision making. As it happens there is another disconnect between what people say they want and what they actually want. There is a huge gulf between what people say and what people do. They say they want to be better informed but uniformly still go for prestige titles to be spoonfed what they already think. Almost all of you are guilty of that.

Could it be that the messy muddle we have is about as good as we can realistically expect or is there a better way? Is it that we need more honest politicians or do we need to be more honest with ourselves? How can we expect honest politicians if we are not honest with them? Do we even need politicians?

And what do we get instead of debate about real reform? The same tired questions about proportional representation, boundary changes and MP recall. This is a system completely out of ideas so it's really down to citizens to start presenting these ideas and asking those questions of themselves.

How much democracy is too much democracy? How much of our lives are we willing to give over to making decisions? We know that the Eu is the price we pay for tuning out completely but nothing at all will get done if we have to be consulted on everything - and what worse way of concluding matters can you get than to have matters decided by a self-selecting minority?

Fucked if I know to be honest. The Swiss model looks superficially appealing but it seems they have a constitutional crisis more often than not because of the complex contradictions in modern governance. I can't see that lasting forever.

And what role is there for experts now. I grant you many have squandered their reputations during the referendum and our academic institutions will rightly never be trusted again but we are now entering a time of complex negotiations where we will need those same experts. How do we hold them to account?

You can really see why poliicians have been so keen on a technocratic dictatorship all these years can't you. Many questions with no satisfactory answers, with populists lambasting them while at the same time providing no answers of their own.

Now that we are leaving the EU we are going to be free sooner or later to address these questions. We cannot expect fresh ideas from the think tanks or from our political class, so it is we who shall have provide them. That starts today. It starts with you.

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