Wednesday, 16 November 2011

Democracy is not the periodic right to make a cross on a ballot paper

So spoke Daniel Hannan in a debate on 17th May 2011, a debate entitled "Germany no longer needs Europe, the dream is over". Yet that is precisely what our present form of democrcy in this country permits us - no more, no less - and one with which Hannan, with his cohort Carswell, would wish us to continue with their ideas set out in 'The Plan'. Even Ukip, a party that believes and has in its name the word 'Independence' is party to the continuance of the premise the people should be governed, albeit allowing referendums

Regular readers will know that of late I have been 'banging-on' about what I call a participatory form of democracy and this is a subject I first raised on 18th May 2010, following the formation of the Coalition. Unfortunately at the time it attracted no comments. From that post a few extracts:

"Initially, let us consider the form of democracy under which we now live - what may be called 'representative' or indirect, democracy. It works like this: every four or five years political parties present to their electorate a complicated list of proposals, called a manifesto. This document contains some items we like and also some we don't like - and those proposals are worded in such a loose 'form' as to be virtually worthless - yet we are forced to choose one party over others........

The present British Parliament is an odd body in that it claims 'legislative surpremacy' when it suits it, yet is supposed to be subservient to the people. In fact the only time Parliament accepts subordination to the people is when it comes to the people for the people to exercise their periodic right to choose a new parliament. In the intervening periods it practices what I have in the past termed 'democratised dictatorship', in that Parliament decides what laws will be passed, often bearing no relation to those proposed in the governing party's manifesto including some laws that were not even mentioned........

'Representative' democracy, it can be argued, is bad both for the elected representatives and their electorate. Elected representatives only too often conceal from the electorate what they are doing with their power and become corrupted by that power - witness the last New Labour government 'gerrymandering' by allowing in unlimited immigration on the assumption that most immigrants will vote for them; and the new Liberal Conservative government attempting to change the rules by which Parliament can be dissolved, neither of which two 'ploys' were contained in their respective manifestos. Witness also the corruption of those Members of Parliament who 'twisted' and 'bent' the rules governing their expenses and in so doing made capital gains in the property markets by means of what is generally accepted as 'misuse of taxpayer's money'. For the electorate, it means they become 'divorced' from democracy with no means of questioning and correcting their elected representatives behaviour and decisions. Because Parliament only subordinates itself to the will of the electorate every four or five years, in between times the electorate grows increasing cynical and disinterested in politics.

So what is the alternative to 'representative', or indirect, democracy? The answer, quite simply, is to take the 'in' out and consider 'direct' democracy. Direct democracy uses referendum and 'initiatives' to supply direct democracy. A true referendum or initiative is one which is put to the voters whether the government of the day wants it or not and it is through this means that the people control the government and negates the situation, as at present, whereby the government controls the people. The big difference between indirect and direct democracy is that the voters do not merely vote every few years to elect a Prime Minister and government and then leave it to them to decide their future, until they have the next opportunity. Under direct democracy there is still a Prime Minister and government, however at any given moment voters who have collected the requisite support can insist that a law proposed by the government, or elected representatives, be submitted to the electorate for judgement in a referendum. By utilising the 'initiative' aspect of direct democracy it is even possible for the electorate to submit proposals for a new law, one that may not appeal to the government or even appear in their manifesto. By both referendum and initiative the electorate stay in command of politics between elections and not just on a once-every-x-years basis. Direct democracy also encourages participation in politics by the electorate and thereby negates the apathy all to prevalent today.

To those sceptics that say direct democracy would never work and that people don't want it, one has to ask how the sceptics know that. It has never been put to the electorate; it is debatable whether the electorate even know another method of democracy exists....
Let us consider three basic facts on which democracy is based.

1. Political authority is derived from the people - government only exists with the consent of the people.

2. 'Rights' are not granted to the people by government - 'Rights' already belong to the people from the moment of their birth.

3. The people have the sole and exclusive right and power to govern themselves in any area not delegated to their government. (Note the words 'not delegated to their government')

Both Thomas Jefferson and James Madison warned that if governments ever became the sole and exclusive arbiter of the extent of its own power then that power would continuously grow - regardless of elections or separation of power.

Decade after decade, we the people have been voting one lot of politicians out in the hope that a new lot will be different and yet decade after decade government's powers continue to grow and the people's liberties continue to diminish. It doesn't matter who has been Prime Minister or what political party has been in government the growth of powers assumed by government has continued.

Here's a thought, perhaps we, the people, should write a manifesto for the country and then see which of the political parties were prepared to honour and enact it in full. Those parties that did not feel able to meet the required criteria then need not put up a candidate, thus saving themselves one shed load of money - and us the problem of listening to a load of meaningless crap! Consider this - when was the last time any Member of Parliament, or Prospective Parliamentary Candidate, actually asked you, as one of their constituents, what you wished to see in their manifesto? No? I thought not - they are too busy telling us what their party will decide we will be allowed to do.
And therein, dear reader, lies all the arguments why a change is required to our system of democracy; why the Albion Alliance is undertaking the initiative that it is; why membership of the European Union is not in this country's best interests; and why we presently live under a form of 'periodically renewed' dictatorship - albeit one supposedly democratised.


TomTom said...

Lord Hailsham spoke of an "elective dictatorship" before Margaret Thatcher imposed one, even trying to overturn the GLC election results.

Democracy does not work as Mass-Democracy. Once you abolished University Seats, Double-Voting for Business Owners, and Aldermen; you ended up in OMOV and that meant Ochlocracy.

Ochlocracy is what we have with an ignorant, illiterate voting blocs bought and bribed by political machines in decadent cities to deliver pork barrel by installment.

There are too many Free-Riders able to vote on how much to charge Fare-Paying Citizens.

That is the awful truth and the reason Western Democracy has turned into Consumerist Welfare

Stuart said...

It does make me laugh on the Telegraph comments when someone tells us that complex decisions should be made by parliament as we have a parliamentary democracy.The people should not be allowed to influence the outcome because they do not understand. I agree that the people are pretty stupid because they keep voting for the EU dictatorship, but the problem with parliamentary democracy is the ability of representatives to represent other interests other than the people they represent. I believe the veto referendum should be our right at the least along with the right of recall. The people will not assume the mantle of law-makers but can veto law that is sufficiently unpopular. They can also choose when to replace their representative rather than have the schedule dictated to them. The boundaries of our governments' power needs to be written down in a single docuemtn, rather than the situation we currently have with countless laws that can be repealed or ignored. This constitution then needs protection with an amendment clause and popular referendum.

Which brings us back to your constitution thread. I thought you were going for it WFW!

Anonymous said...

If the bastards have gained power through dubious and nefarius means such as making manifesto promises and failing to deliver we, as the real power, should at least be permitted to recall them and in doing so hold them to account.

TomTom said...

we, as the real power, should at least be permitted

If you ask really nicely, on bended knees, those in power might just consider it....

Stuart said...

That is the crux of the matter. They are our masters, we are their servants. The relationship needs to be turned upside down but I am very wary about creating citizen law-making.

WitteringsfromWitney said...

TT:You may well be right regarding the Free Riders and Fare Payers, however I still believe a form of democracy involving referendums whereby a proposed law could be halted or amended and initiatives proposed by the public to enact laws that politicians may not want is worth trying. Lets face it, anything is better than what we have now.

S: Patience, please. It will come shortly.

Anon: Agreed.

TT & S: We may shortly reach the stage where we demand - or else.

Anonymous said...

I think your points numbered 1, 2 and 3 are a bit jumbled. I would like to see a logical progression from assumption to conclusion in a way similar to how a mathematician describes a proof. The mathematician will follow logic up to the target (QED), verifying that no duplications, contradictions or absurdities are met on the way. I wouldn’t myself have the sort of mind that could do this.

Shouldn’t you perhaps actually start with point 2 though? Surely it is the most fundamental. However, the assertion of inborn rights existing, apparently independent of human influence, is a little shaky. I have never really felt wholly comfortable with it even though I am more libertarian than anything else. Just because it is stated in the US constitution or that Lord Tebbit believes in it doesn’t necessarily make it universally acceptable. To my mind it comes dangerously close to ‘an individual’s rights are whatever the individual in question states them to be’, because I struggle to understand how we know about things of this nature which we haven’t invented ourselves, but I could be convinced otherwise.

Here is a tentative target in a line of reasoning: “I would prefer to think that individual rights are granted by society.” This is how a supporting argument might go:

Assume that society does have an interest in ensuring that individuals respect each other’s rights. It follows that society will step in and arbitrate when any conflict occurs and will also apply rules designed to avoid conflict ever arising. That immediately implies that society will attempt to limit what individuals can do. And that in turn can only mean that it is society that in fact grants the rights.

In other words, ‘Everything is permitted except that which is forbidden’ means that society is doing the permitting as well as the forbidding. You could still take the view that your rights are already present at birth, but I think it is hard to maintain that they are God-given. Rights are essentially culture-based. They are part of the culture, not universal, and consequently they will change with changing fashions.

But none of that will stop us demanding government by consent, direct democracy and a reversal of the existing master/servant hierarchy. We know it makes sense.

TomTom said...

Just love this photo


letmethink said...


" . . .Here's a thought, perhaps we, the people, should write a manifesto for the country and then see which of the political parties were prepared to honour and enact it in full . . . "


This is exactly what the tea party does in the US, albeit at the individual representative/senator rather than party level.

The tea party identifies and publishes names of individual candidates who agree with their three core principles of "fiscal responsibility, adherence to the Constitution, and limited government"

If the candidate signs up to this and gets elected, their performance in congress is then monitored

WitteringsfromWitney said...


"Assume that society does have an interest in ensuring that individuals respect each other’s rights. It follows that society will step in and arbitrate when any conflict occurs and will also apply rules designed to avoid conflict ever arising. That immediately implies that society will attempt to limit what individuals can do. And that in turn can only mean that it is society that in fact grants the rights."

Which is basically what happens in Switzerland where local cantons will decide who gets Swiss citizenship for example.

Search my blog for Constitution and ditto (2), (3), (4) and (5)

TT: Speaks volumes.........

lmt: All elected representatives should be monitored annd hauled back to their constituencies to be held to account - Tea party or no Tea party.