"All governments are more or less combinations against the people. . .and as rulers have no more virtue than the ruled. . . the power of government can only be kept within its constituted bounds by the display of a power equal to itself, the collected sentiment of the people."
Benjamin Franklin Bache, in a Phildelphia Aurora editorial 1794
"The people should know when they're conquered." (Quintus) : "Would you, Quintus, would I? (Maximus)"
Over the decades politicians have gradually usurped power from the people to the point where we are now; one where it seems that when considering any aspect of our lives, we are first cajoled, then hectored and, if it becomes necessary, ordered how to lead our lives by politicians; aided and abetted by their sycophant quangos, fake charities and the like. It cannot be denied that the usurpation of power is still ongoing, especially when considering this country's membership of the European Union. Whilst the last successful military invasion of our nation was by the Normans, since when others have tried but none have succeeded, a country does not have to be taken over militarily, it can be done politically - the result, it can be argued, being identical - and in the latter case eventually the people rebel when political rule becomes totalitarian, or authoritarian, in control - as it eventually does
It is not the intention of this post to rehash, in detail, all that is wrong with our present state of democracy as these have been mentioned in my series of 'Constitution' posts. For new readers who have not seen these - and for those that wish to refresh their memories - the posts can be read here, here, here, here and here; and readers may well recall I discussed Indirect and Direct democracy here. Digressing slightly, but relevant, I would direct you to Fausty's blog where she posts a video featuring Andrew Napolitano asking "What if?". Watch it and you will find yourself asking "What if??????" - because that which he asks is happening or has already happened! UKK41 (oh the delightful irony of taking an EU nomenclature for your area as your anti-EU blog title) 'rants' about the shortcomings of our present system of democracy, including the fact that the proposed Bill of Rights present politicians wish to draw up will not be a Bill of Rights, but more a Bill of Responsibilities; that we have too many politicians; and ends by stating that we cannot continue as we are.
For too long bloggers in general have complained about the defects in our system of democracy, yet very few have attempted to offer any alternatives - a statement not intended as criticism, to forestall any 'comeback'. One recent suggestion was posted by 'Earwig' on Max Farquar's site; my initial comment and the later one in response to Max Farquar, should leave no reader in any doubt as to my opinion of Earwig's idea. Another suggestion came from Ian Parker-Joseph, detailing steps he would like taken to solve the problems which beset us. The Grumpologist offers an alternative suggestion for the funding of political parties, one that could be held to be quite sensible were we to continue with our present democratic system.
It will be obvious from my 'Constitution' posts and also, to a lesser extent from the post questioning Indirect or Direct Democracy, that I favour a direct democracy such as that practised by Switzerland - one which places the people in control of their own destinies and reduces the role of politicians to one of being 'enablers'. My one addition to the form of democracy used in Switzerland would encompass the idea of 'bolting on' the idea of "Referism" as proposed by Richard North, EU Referendum, for national budgets - which is not the case in Switzerland. For an idea of how Switzerland's democracy works, see here, here and here. The one fact which immediately comes to one's notice is that the Swiss 'government' comprises just 7 members - contrast that with the United Kingdom with 20 Secretaries of State, plus a Prime Minister and Deputy Prime Minister. In Switzerland the national, or federal, government deals with foreign relations, the army, customs examinations and tariffs, value added taxes and the legislation on currency, measure and weight, railways and communications to the confederation. On the question of immigration, this is handled by the Federal Office for Migration, and whilst the Federal Government sets the relevant criteria. Cantons and communes deal with other matters and we can examine them next.
The Swiss welfare system is better than most in that it achieves better results with far less social upheaval than we experience in this country. The rising numbers of unmarried or lone parents has placed great strain on our welfare system and has harmed our society. Obviously some lone parenting is unavoidable, however as I am sure all readers would agree it is a far from ideal way to raise children. In Britain 46% of children are born out of wedlock, whereas in Switzerland the figure is where Britain's was approximately 25 years ago, much lower at 16%. So what happens to a young mother in Switzerland with a baby but no husband or partner and nowhere to live? It is impossible to provide an answer as this problem is not dealt with on a national level, it is not even dealt with on a cantonal level; it is dealt with by the local commune. The lone parent will be visited by officials who will investigate the individuals circumstances. Initially the father will be expected to pay and the mother's family, if it is possible, will be expected to house and pay for the unmarried mother. Finally, as a last resort the local commune will provide assistance - but it should be noted that the people who pay the local commune tax will be paying part of the cost of maintenance. Imagine the embarrassment of meeting people known to the lone parent who are paying for that child - as against the attitude in this country of 'legal rights'. Is it any wonder that unmarried parenting is less common in Switzerland?
For those made redundant, a similar system applies if you need means-tested benefits. Initially those made redundant receive for a while, quite generous unemployment insurance payments from cantonal governments - however once these end the person is again dependent on their local commune. Hence there is little in the way of a black economy, which probably accounts for the fact that the rate of male employment in Switzerland is the second highest in the OECD - whilst Britain's is about 50% worse.
In the UK, our politicians spend untold £millions on maintaining their sacred cow - aka the National Health Service. It is generally acknowledged that Switzerland probably has the most successful system of health care, one based on an insurance system and choice. It is obligatory to have health insurance, but anyone has the right to choose from whom they get it as there is no state monopoly. The provider could be an insurance company connected to your line of work, it could be a trade union-run insurance co-operative, or even a private company. This obviously means that there is competition to provide the best possible health care for the lowest possible price. In turn these insurance companies have some choice over which doctors and hospitals they use, resulting in a further downward pressure on costs as those doctors and hospitals have to compete to offer the best facilities and treatment at the lowest possible price. Those Swiss citizens who are classified as poor receive credits which enable them too to select which insurance provider they wish.
Schools in Switzerland are generally far better than British ones, with control of education being local, unlike the fake control which is prevalent in this country. Primary schools are run by little communes and secondary schools and universities by the cantons - resulting in much less wasteful bureaucracy and much more direct accountability. Where the British system of education is left standing, when compared to that in Switzerland, is in the preparation of young people for work. Blair, Brown and Cameron all spout that a university education is necessary for economic success - something that Switzerland shows to be utter rubbish as only approximately 24% do in Switzerland. Most notably, in comparison to Britain, education is only compulsory until the age of 15 - however the vast majority stay on because schools, colleges and universities are extremely good. The remaining percentage of students progress to vocational training from school - but there's no 'meeja studies' subjects - its one and a half days at college and the remaining three and a half days at work. Through this regime people get the skills and work attitudes which gives a successful career. As a result Switzerland only has a 4.5% youth unemployment, compared to France which has a supposedly economy boosting 50% at university.
Further information about welfare, education, pensions, health insurance and health care can be found here, here, here, here and here.
Law & Order, Judiciary:
The practical arms of law and order, together with the judiciary are, generalizing, situated at cantonal level - although there is a Supreme Court and an Insurance Court, the latter only hearing cases involving public law insurance claims. Further reading on this here and here. The structure of policing in Switzerland is explained here and it is worth noting that the cantonal police forces are not subordinate to federal authorities. Their commanding officers report to the head of the respective cantonal or municipal department of police, who is a member of the cantonal or municipal governing council.
Waste consists of two general types: municipal, and hazardous. Municipal waste is refuse from households and small businesses; hazardous waste includes chemical, infectious or otherwise toxic waste. In general, there are two main ways to dispose of waste: by burning it (incineration) or by placing it in a lined pit (landfill). The type of waste determines how it is disposed of. Municipal waste: Since January 2000 all non-recyclable, combustible waste in Switzerland must be incinerated. In 2004 Switzerland's incineration capacity reached 3.29 million tonnes. It is no longer necessary to dispose of any combustible waste in landfills. Incinerators have undergone vast improvements in recent years and burning municipal waste now produces only minimal amounts of air pollution in Switzerland. Energy from waste incineration plants are also a source of energy: the 28 Swiss facilities generate enough electricity for 250,000 homes. This in turn means that 215,000 tonnes less oil derivatives need to be imported for heating purposes. It is not only the incineration of municipal waste in Switzerland which produces energy. The cement industry burns suitable waste such as used oils and solvents in order to cover a large amount of its energy needs. Further reading from the Green-Alliance can be found here, with a newspaper article from 2008 which reports that Switzerland, although not a member of the EU, is considered a model in waste disposal. More than five million tons of urban refuse was produced in the country in 2006, of which around half was recycled. Most of the rest was incinerated.
At the moment the Coalition has a wee problem with an impending strike which we are informed will cost the country dearly - the response of Francis Maude being one of dictatorial approach, threatening to re-write the rules. (now, where have we heard that familiar mantra that if something is wrong, what is needed is more government and more laws?) Now go read what happens in Switzerland.
Wherever one looks at the Swiss system of direct democracy it is possible to see control of their politicians by means of referenda and initiatives. Politicians have no voice in whether a referendum is held and can do little, if an initiative is presented to them, other than suggest an amendment. The initiative is then put forward to the people with three options: accept the initiative; accept the amendment; or leave things as they stand. British politicians dismiss referenda as 'not British' and the reason for this can only be that they recognise it diminishes their 'power'. From one of the links above:
- referendums will increase parties' willingness to compromise (otherwise a defeated party will call for a referendum)
- referendums favour big coalitions (shared power motivates compromise, exclusion from power motivates obstructive referendums)
- referendums increase stability (as extreme laws will be blocked by referendum, parties are less inclined to radical changes in lawmaking and voters are less inclined to call for fundamental changes in elections)
- The two chambers of parliament meet several times annually to sessions of several weeks and between them to preparing meetings of numerous commissions. Being member of parliament is not a full time job in Switzerland, contrary to most other countries today. This means, that Swiss members of parliament are closer to everyday life of their electorate. (sic)
Note that referenda has been proven to increase stability within the political field and that being a member of Parliament is not a full-time job. In respect of the latter, I showed in Constitution (4) how the number of Members of Parliament could be curtailed, likewise their expenses. With the total devolution of power downwards, MPs would no longer need to hold constituency meetings to solve what are local problems as this would be done by local councillors - it is about time they began earning their keep! Digressing, whilst on the subject of councils, or local authorities, why do we have a county council and then district councils? Why, for example in Oxfordshire, do we pay for 74 county councillors and 47 district councillors in West Oxfordshire - with similar numbers of district councillors in Cherwell and Vale of White Horse? Why are we also paying for an Oxfordshire Rural County Council? Why can we not have one council - equivalent to a Swiss canton - and devolve, even further, certain responsibilities like that for primary schools, down to parish level?
In discussing devolution of power, the following list is some of the decisions taken by the people of Switzerland, whereas, in this country, those decisions were taken by politicians - whether national or by the EU - without any reference to the people, therefore is this not democratised dictatorship?
1985 - Referendum guarantees women legal equality with men within marriage.
1986 - Referendum opposes UN membership by three to one. Immigrant numbers restricted.
1994 - Referendum approves law making racial discrimination and denial of Nazi Holocaust illegal. Laws tightened against drugs traffickers and illegal immigrants.
2001 March - Voters reject moves to open talks on joining the European Union.
2001 June - Swiss vote narrowly in favour of allowing their soldiers to carry weapons during peacekeeping missions abroad.
2001 September - Parliament votes overwhelmingly in favour of United Nations membership, paving the way for a referendum on the issue.
2002 March - A narrow majority of Swiss vote in favour of joining the United Nations in a referendum.
2002 June - Swiss people vote in referendum to decriminalise abortion which will be allowed in first 12 weeks of pregnancy. A proposal which would have tightened the already strict abortion law is rejected in a separate referendum.
2002 November - By narrowest of margins, referendum rejects drastic tightening of asylum laws.
2003 May - Nine different issues put to referendum. Swiss vote against abolition of nuclear power, new proposals on rights for the disabled and the introduction of car-free Sundays but in favour of army cuts and changes to civil defence.
2004 September - Voters in a referendum reject moves to relax strict naturalisation laws.
2004 November - Referendum votes in favour of allowing scientific research using stem cells taken from human embryos.
2005 June - Voters in referendum support joining EU Schengen and Dublin agreements and extending rights for same-sex couples.
2005 September - Referendum vote goes in favour of opening job market to workers from the 10 newest European Union countries.
2005 November - Referendum backs five-year ban on use of genetically modified crops.
2006 September - Voters in a national referendum back plans to make their asylum laws among the toughest in the West.
2008 June - Voters reject referendum initiative to limit naturalisation of foreigners by allowing Swiss communes to vote on individual cases.
2009 November - Swiss voters approve referendum initiative banning the construction of minarets.
2010 November - Swiss voters approve referendum initiative on automatically deporting foreigners who have committed serious crimes.
2011 February - Voters in a referendum reject plans for tighter gun control.
Another matter/subject: much is made by politicians in Scotland and England about the break-up of the United Kingdom, so how about a referendum on retaining the status quo incorporating the pooling of natural resources - for example, oil and gas - on a pro-rata basis computed by land area? Follow the Swiss system and devolve everything, bar the agreed national matters, to local authorities and even further - as suggested above. By that means we could 'lose' the Scottish Parliament, the Welsh Assembly and that of Northern Ireland; together with the then unnecessary costs. If the people of Scotland or Wales or Northern Ireland wished to leave the United Kingdom, so be it - but it should be their decision, not that of politicians.
Yet another subject which has taxed politicians, since Blair proposed his half-arsed reformation of the House of Lords, is the final solution in respect of that place. Originally intended as a 'revising chamber' to the House of Commons, it has become the home of political patronage. Under Direct Democracy the people would assume the role of a revising chamber, which poses the question whether the HoL is any longer necessary? Why not sell off Portcullis House and move all the occupants into the HoL, thus saving yet another 'shed-load' of money? Needless to say, another 'shed-load' of money would be saved in staffing, not just for the HoL but also in the HoC. Readers may well disagree, or have alternative suggestions/proposals, no doubt.
As can obviously be seen direct democracy places the people in control of their country, it allows the people to decide what local services they want and the method of implementation, whilst putting them in control of expenditure of those services and consequently also allows them to decide the type of society in which they wish to live. The basic structure - administrative facilities and staff - already exist to implement direct democracy, although the job functions and mindset of those staff require changes to be made. There is a need to route out Common Purpose Graduates and similar 'bad apples' such as Diversity Officers and the like. As with national government, so with local government and the 'constraint' of politicians. Those elected are there to 'enable' the laws, education, health, law & order that the people of an area want. As with the constraint of politicians, so with the bureaucratic staff enabling those services to function and it is not in council officers remit to propose or implement any new regulations or fines.
How can this better way be implemented? It sure as hell will not be proposed, let alone permitted, by the current political class, so perhaps a new political party needs to be formed and campaign on the principles of direct democracy? Perhaps the one existing party who has the word 'Independence' in it's name will take the idea of direct democracy on board - after all, if they believe in real independence for the country they must also believe in real independence for the people? Understandably, if change to our system of democracy is to be made then it will take time - but change it must.
One final word on the purpose of this post - and if I have inadvertently misled those waiting for it, then I can but apologise. It was not the intention of this post to offer a new constitution, we already have one. Neither was it the intention to offer a Bill of Rights, we already have one. Likewise we have the basis for all laws - Common Law. The intention was to bring to people's notice that there is indeed another way in which they can live free of government interference into every aspect of their lives; one whereby the people resume their rightful place as 'master', relegating politicians to their rightful place as 'servant; and to provide examples of how this better way could be operated. If readers have followed all the links provided, then you must be converted to the idea of direct democracy..........
Finally: If ever there was a case made for direct democracy, this must surely be it!