On Political Societies and Political Governments

In a recent essay, I discussed how individuals and societies might fit together into a civilization based on a minimal set of rules of convivial conduct, such as peacefulness, honesty and respect for rights. Today, I’ll follow that up, and look in more detail at political societies and political governments.

 

Even working out what the phrase “political society” actually means isn’t easy. At one level, it’s a society that takes part in politics. That is, a society that seeks to gain political power, or to influence the policies of those in power. But the same phrase is more commonly used in a wider sense, to mean a group of people living within particular borders, and ruled over by a political government. This group of people goes by many names; the nation, the country, the people, to name but three. And it seems to me that often, neither the precise membership of this group nor its binding forces are very well defined.

 

The state

 

To begin, I’ll briefly review the essence of the political state. By this, I mean the so called “Westphalian” nation state. This system, introduced in the 17th century, is still the basis of political organization in most countries in the world today.

 

A state differs from all other organizations, in that it claims “sovereignty” over a geographical territory, and over the people in it. Per Webster’s, sovereignty is “supreme power, especially over a body politic.” In some countries, like the USA and Canada, sovereignty may be exercised at two, sometimes conflicting, levels; the federal or national, and the state or province.

 

This idea of sovereignty goes all the way back to a 16th century monarchist Frenchman named Jean Bodin. In Bodin’s scheme, the sovereign – the king or ruling élite – is fundamentally different from, and superior to, the rest of the population in its territory, the “subjects.” In particular, the sovereign has moral privileges; that is, rights to do certain things, which others don’t share. Bodin lists these privileges as: (1) To make laws to bind the subjects. (2) To make war and peace. (3) To appoint the top officials of the state. (4) To be the final court of appeal. (5) To pardon guilty individuals if it so wishes. (6) To issue a currency. (7) To levy taxes and impositions, and to exempt, if it wishes, certain individuals or groups from payment. Furthermore, the sovereign isn’t bound by the laws it makes. And it isn’t responsible for the consequences of what it does (also known as “the king can do no wrong.”)

 

And we’re still using Bodin’s system today. Isn’t that crazy? We don’t use 17th century medicine any more, or 17th century technology, or 17th century transport. And we’ve been through the Enlightenment since then, for goodness’ sake! So why are we still using a political system from the days of the “divine right of kings?” Why are we still suffering a system that lets an élite do to us exactly what it wants, with no accountability or come-back?

 

Surely, we’ve put bags on the side of this system over time. We’ve tried parliaments that are meant to “represent” us. We’ve tried constitutions meant to limit the sovereign’s power. We’ve tried to separate powers between legislative, executive and judiciary. We’ve tried charters and bills of rights. We’ve tried the sham called “democracy.” But none of them have worked.

 

Constitution

 

In my earlier essay, I identified some important characteristics of societies in general. First, virtually all societies have some form of constitution, to say how the society is supposed to operate. This is usually, though not always, written down.

 

Most countries today do have written political constitutions. (The UK is an exception). How well those in power keep within the constitutional limits, though, is often a moot point.

 

Social contract

 

When an individual joins a society, there comes into being a contract between the individual and the society. This contract may be in writing, or by oral agreement.

 

Most people, though, never explicitly join a political society. Immigrants who apply for a new citizenship are the major exception to this. Others are simply deemed to be subjects of such a society, perhaps according to their place of birth or the nationalities of their parents.

 

The fiction that sustains the idea of political society, and so political government, is the so called “social contract.” Here’s the idea behind this fiction. We, the individuals who form the political society, consent to submit to the authority of a government. We give away some of our freedoms, and we take on obligations to other members of the society. In exchange, we – in theory – receive protection of our remaining rights.

 

In the days of city states, many people would have willingly entered into such a contract, if only for the benefit of being defended by the walls. Even in the 17th century, the idea still made some sense. But in today’s world of rapid travel, global economy, Internet and mass migration, selling our souls to the political government of some arbitrary territory makes no sense at all.

 

Furthermore, one would expect that a contract with such wide ranging effects on people’s lives would be a formal one. It would be written down, carefully considered, negotiated, agreed and signed by all parties. And if a government mistreats anyone, or fails to deliver on its side of the bargain, the victims would be able to recover damages from those responsible. No?

 

Yet what actually happens is quite the opposite. All political governments today behave as if those in their territory have tacitly consented to their rule. They claim that, while in the area controlled by a government, an individual consents to submit himself to all laws made by that government. And if those laws are unjust? Tough, if you are “caught” breaking them.

 

Unity

 

As I made clear in my earlier essay, a society is a unity. It makes decisions based on the interests of the society as a whole. If individuals within the society disagree with what the society decides to do, they either have to accept the decision, or leave the society.

 

With a political society, however, no-one can leave without physically uprooting themselves. And since there is no liveable place on the planet not claimed by some political state, they will have to find another political society to live in. So, political societies are fundamentally different from others, in that you cannot leave without suffering a significant, maybe a crippling, penalty.

 

Thus those in a political society, who are unable or unwilling to pay the price and leave, are forced to accept whatever decisions and policies are made by those in power. This would be bad, even if the members of the society were few and culturally homogeneous. But in a “society” of many millions of people, that includes diverse races, religions, cultures, ideologies and interest groups, it’s a disaster.

 

When you think hard about it, the idea that a population of tens or hundreds of millions of people – or even, as in China or India, more than a billion – all have enough in common to constitute a society, comes to seem ridiculous. Indeed, it raises a deeper question: can a political “society” be rightly said to be a society at all?

 

Moreover, today’s political societies are far too large for any kind of consensus to be practical. So, inevitably, they will end up as oligarchies (or even, as in North Korea, autocracies). Leading, as I said in my earlier essay, to a three class society: rulers, cronies and nobodies.

 

Democracy

 

Ah, you may say, but in the West at least, we have democracy! Isn’t that the best political system possible? Doesn’t it enable us to elect representatives to defend our interests? Doesn’t it give each of us our fair say in every decision? Doesn’t it give us, in John Adams’ words, “government of laws, not of men?”

 

In one word, I answer: No.

 

At first sight, a democracy looks much like a normal society. The members elect a committee, and the committee rules until the next general meeting (election). What’s not to like?

 

But here’s the reality of “democracy” today. Each of us gets a chance to vote every so often. But the only alternatives offered to us are political parties; lying, thieving criminal gangs, none of which show even the slightest concern for us human beings. And whichever of these criminal gangs wins the election will be granted all but absolute power over us for the next few years.

 

Has democracy brought us the freedom, justice and peace we deserve? No. Arguably, it has made things worse. For it brings opportunities for power to those that want power; that is, to exactly those least suited to be allowed power. It pollutes the mental atmosphere with lies, spin and empty promises. And the voting ritual gives the whole charade a veneer of false legitimacy. It enables those in power to claim that they have a “mandate” to implement their agendas. Thus they can “lawfully” harass, or impoverish, or violate the rights of, innocent people. And they can rob Peter to buy Paul’s vote, and favour their supporters at the expense of everyone else.

 

Worse yet; democracy divides people from each other. The victims of unjust policies feel harshly treated, and become disaffected. They come to view politics and politicians with contempt and loathing. And gradually, they lose all sense of belonging, and of fellow feeling for those around them. Thus, democracy breaks apart the very sense of “we” that gave it legitimacy in the first place. It destroys the social cohesion, the glue which ought to keep the political society together.

 

In recent times, proposals have been made for tiered or multi-level voting systems. These aim to bring politics closer to home, and to make those who acquire power a bit more “representative” of the people. While these are certainly worth looking at as a means of running large societies, and might have some positive effects, I don’t think they address the real problem. That problem is a 17th century political system, that allows the worst, the most callous, dishonest, devious and psychopathic, to rule over everyone else with near impunity. Simply put: the state is out of date.

 

EU and UN

 

And then we have the superstates; the European Union (which some of my right wing friends call the EUSSR) and the United Nations. Both are remote, bureaucratic organizations, even less accountable than the local élites. Both seek to impose on all of us policies – drab, corrupt socialism in one case, deep green environmentalism in the other – that are anathema to honest, independent human beings. Both are bad news for us all.

 

My solution

 

But there’s some good news too. I think I have a potential solution to the political problems we face today. It’s radical; but extreme conditions call for extreme responses!

 

The first step, I think, must be to understand what the valid functions of government actually are. I see three, and only three, such functions. The first is to maintain peace. The second is to deliver justice. Justice, as I put forward in an earlier essay, is the condition in which each individual, over the long term and in the round, is treated as he or she treats others. This function includes the just resolution of disputes. The third valid function of government is defence of the rights of those who respect others’ rights. Those rights, as I discussed in another earlier essay, include fundamental rights like life, property and privacy; and rights of non-impedance, such as freedom of speech, religion and association.

 

The second step in my suggestion is to move these three valid functions of government up a level. That is, from political societies to a peaceful, honest, rights respecting framework like Frank van Dun’s convivial order; on which I have elaborated in previous essays.

 

In two words: de-politicize government. Said more fully: Get rid of the out of date Westphalian state. Get rid of politics. Replace them by a framework which is peaceful, honest and respects the rights of all human beings.

 

And in the process, we will recycle the former nation states into societies which promote national cultures, and do no more. Thus, those who abhor politics will no longer be forced to have anything to do with it, or with anyone that has ever taken part in it. This will also have the side benefit of getting rid of the arbitrary political borders that plague our world today.

 

Please note, I’m not suggesting a world government of any kind. That, like the EU and the UN, would be going in precisely the wrong direction. My ideal government will be de-centralized. It will take account of local cultures and local systems of law. It will defend the rights of everyone who respects others’ rights. It will not harass or impoverish innocent people, or favour a ruling class and their cronies. While at the same time, it will hold everyone objectively responsible for the effects of their actions on others.

 

But most important of all, government in the convivial order won’t have any “will” to do anything beyond its remit. It will have no policy agendas. It will treat all individuals as morally equal; and it will not take sides between one group and another. It will not commit aggressions against innocents. It will consume no more resources than it needs to in order to fulfil its remit. It will charge individuals no more than is commensurate to the benefit it delivers to each of them. And it will be as objective in all its decisions as humanly possible.

 

To sum up

 

In this essay, I’ve discussed some of the problems we face with politics and political societies today. And I’ve made a radical suggestion. That is, that we human beings may be able to solve many of our problems by de-politicizing government. And moving its valid functions, of delivering peace and justice and defending rights, up to the level of the convivial order, in which everyone lives according to basic rules of civilized behaviour.

 

Comments

The Burghal Hidage Added Dec 19, 2017 - 6:31am
Brilliant piece. We should have had a clue about the shortcomings of this model when King Louis uttered the immortal: I am the state. Uttered in it's original French this is rendered " L'etat c'est moi ", or for the francophonically challenged " Lay - ta Say - mwah ". Has that kind of schoolyard taunting rhythm, doesn't it? "Na na na na-na, look at me! Why I'm King Shit of Turd Island!"
 
Decentralization is really the key Neil.  In the wake of the '08 financial crisis there was coined the phrase " too big to fail ". As usual the dipshits who form the conventional wisdom have it all ass backwards. We have become too big to succeed.
 
Another sentiment you hit upon here brings to mind Tolkien's thoughts on these matters :
 
Government is an abstract noun meaning the art and process of governing and it should be an offence to write it with a capital G or so to refer to people … The most improper job of any, even saints (who at any rate were at least unwilling to take it on), is bossing other men. Not one in a million is fit for it, and least of all those who seek the opportunity 
 
opher goodwin Added Dec 19, 2017 - 6:50am
Neil - I think you hit the nail on the head. The thing that needs addressing is accountability. Our politicians should be held accountable for their actions. Presently they are immune and can get away with murder. If they were accountable everything they did would need to be analysed by an objective group and they would be held responsible.
opher goodwin Added Dec 19, 2017 - 6:53am
Neil - love your observations on democracy - thoroughly agree. Political parties were a bad invention. Once money dictates who gets elected we are in trouble.
opher goodwin Added Dec 19, 2017 - 6:55am
Neil - Yes and no on the EU and UN. I agree they are bureaucratic but I think we do need a universal view and regulation to stem the runaway operations of the wealthy and multinationals. The environment and people need protecting from those who would exploit them.
They need overhauling and made democratic and accountable.
opher goodwin Added Dec 19, 2017 - 7:01am
Neil - I don't agree with your restriction of government. I think a good functioning government controls many things - energy, infrastructure, transport, health, education are good examples. These are too important to be left to the private sector, run as business to make money out of people. They need controlling and unifying. We see the excesses in Britain of privatisation of the railways, health, education and energy. Prices soar, CEOs take enormous salaries and the service is poor. Privatisation just puts money in the pockets of the rich.
The challenge is to a. make government function properly (with accountability) and b. to bring in good management practice in state controlled institutes in order to make them efficient.
opher goodwin Added Dec 19, 2017 - 7:04am
Neil - And how would this new arrangement deal with the multinationals? Tax evasion? Exploitation? Globalisation? Pollution? Environmental degradation?
The Burghal Hidage Added Dec 19, 2017 - 7:35am
Opher -  Good morning friend! You always bring something lively to the conversation. The paradox of your logic never ceases to amuse me, at least where it pertains to......well, just about everything, but...:)
 
Seriously though, how does one in one breath embrace the ideal of the abolishment of the "state" as defined while at the same time advocate for "state controlled institutes to make them efficient". State institutes are by nature neither controlled nor efficient. There are those things which the state can and should do well and they are limited as proscribed in Neil's essay. These and NOTHING MORE
The model of self government at a local level where the participants live within arms reach of accountability would really solve a multitude of ills.
The Burghal Hidage Added Dec 19, 2017 - 7:40am
As he did so aptly upon so many subjects Churchill had a brilliant observation about democracy: Democracy is the worst possible form of government. Except for all of the others.
The Burghal Hidage Added Dec 19, 2017 - 7:45am
democracy in it's purest form is of course A) an unmitigated disaster, and B) unattainable and increasingly messy and unsustainable the minute one even gets close to it.
 
To wit:  The ill fated Polish parliament from one of those brief episodes of self-government the Poles have enjoyed. The Sejm (pronounced like the english word same) wherein any measure before the body would be vetoed by but a solitary vote in the negative. Not really a workable model, but I digress...
The Burghal Hidage Added Dec 19, 2017 - 7:47am
democracy as expressed through a constitutionally limited representative republic is the correct definition for the US model, as delineated by the constitution if not in actual practice...
The Burghal Hidage Added Dec 19, 2017 - 7:51am
and no it is not perfect. Nothing is. The Scottish historian Alexander Titler observed in discussing Plato's Republic that ( forgive me for paraphrasing) democracy as a form of government is unsustainable because once officeholders discover that they can in effect buy votes with favors from the public treasury this would lead to irresponsible fiscal policy followed by collapse
George N Romey Added Dec 19, 2017 - 7:57am
Society has gotten much more complex therefore government more complex. A Democracy of which we really aren’t is probably the best of the worst absent a benevolent, fair and wise King. Good luck finding that.
 
People always want to claim they know how our forefathers would feel about our government today. In reality they had no clue of an advanced society and could not have made such a judgment. It’s like arguing over whether they would have preferred an Apple product over a Samsung product.
The Burghal Hidage Added Dec 19, 2017 - 8:05am
The authors of our founding were brilliant men in their understanding of human character (or lack thereof). And lest we forget, they were all as subjects of the crown prior to the rebellion, Englishmen first.  The fact that they wanted to limit democratic franchise to white male property owners was, by modern standards anathema, but to be fair this was the order of the day on pretty much the entire planet back then. I'm not saying it was right, but its a fact nonetheless.
Opher I think it is fair to say that your ideas are formed from a school of thought that would be very quick to decry the lamentably patrician nature of those men.  I find this richly ironic in your continued defense of government and all the good it does. Provided, of course, that it is in the hands of the enlightened, who of course only work for the good of the whole. It really is no less elitist in it's desire. Instead of a litmus test to assure purity of race and social status it is a test of the purity of one's ideology
Neil Lock Added Dec 19, 2017 - 8:43am
TBH: Thank you! And yes indeed, the French monarch you refer to was a king shit. That's why he was called Loo-ie! (It would have been better yet if he'd been Loo-ie the Turd...)
The Burghal Hidage Added Dec 19, 2017 - 8:46am
Neil I'm pretty sure the French lines of royalty are all populated by turds :)
The Burghal Hidage Added Dec 19, 2017 - 8:46am
Charlemagne was a Frank, which ironically despite the name made him more of a German
Neil Lock Added Dec 19, 2017 - 8:49am
Opher: thank you too for your kind compliments. I'll be out for the rest of today, so I'll field all the comments in the morning. While the cat's away, the mice will play... but, hopefully, not the cockroaches or the snakes!
opher goodwin Added Dec 19, 2017 - 8:58am
TBH - no Burg - it is making our leaders accountable as well as producing a system of democracy that actually works. We need government. Unfortunately governments are corrupt and inefficient. I take on what Churchill said and apply it to government. They are the worst invented but better than the rest.
We don't chuck it out; we make it work.
As I pointed out - there are big flaws in Neil's excellent and thoughtful proposal. It allows the wealthy and multinationals to exploit and destroy with impunity. Privatisation is just theft. It puts money in the pockets of rich people and exploits everyone else.
No - we have the means to make politicians accountable. I think that is the route to go down.
BTW - I have great respect for the founders of the good ole USA. They were very clever in many respects (though not perfect). They were slave owners and elitists but they were inspired by the French Revolution. They at least did try to keep religion out of schools and parliament (and failed) and have lumbered the USA with the violent legacy of guns. But hey - nobody is perfect.
The Burghal Hidage Added Dec 19, 2017 - 9:03am
Indeed. England is close :) But for that dreadful climate!
The Burghal Hidage Added Dec 19, 2017 - 9:10am
And once again we find that we are not disagreed, are we? I don't say we chuck it all. As mapped our system would work rather well, but it has the shortcoming of all government in that the rule book is really based on little more than an honor system. The political class in this country has been urinating all over the constitution for a century now. The underlying principle of our founding documents is embodied in that chief tenet of Jeffersonian thought: That which governs least governs best
The Burghal Hidage Added Dec 19, 2017 - 9:11am
You envision a more benign role for government
The Burghal Hidage Added Dec 19, 2017 - 9:11am
Though we may agree on the problems I do not share that vision of government. 
The Burghal Hidage Added Dec 19, 2017 - 9:14am
The more authority one bestows upon governments the more governments abuse their authority. If one gives an inch maybe not today, maybe not all at once, but government absorbs this to assume authority over a mile. History is littered with this
Dave Volek Added Dec 19, 2017 - 1:12pm
Neil
Definitely your most provocative piece on WB. Opher and TBH seem to be having an enlightened conversation on this topic. I could spend several hours on this thread, but there's that time and energy problem.
 
In 1982, Dr. Fritof Capra wrote a book called "The Turning Point". In this book, he outlines how various scientific and humanistic models have gone through the process of (1) development with lots of opposition, (2) total acceptance, and (3) then rejection for a superior model. For example, the atom goes through: Aristocle's four elements-->the Thomson pudding model for the atom-->the Rutherford model-->the Bohr Model. Capra goes through at least 20 of these cycles. Yet in his final analysis, he more or less leaves western democracy in tact. He cannot move beyond the 18th century American constitution or (in your perspective) Bodin's 16th century model. This notion of western democracy of being irreplaceable is so inculcated in our psyche that even great thinkers like Capra cannot see the light.
 
Has democracy brought us the freedom, justice and peace we deserve? No. Arguably, it has made things worse.
 
I would disagree that western democracy has made things worse. My maternal grandfather went through the Russian Revolution. He saw one band of thugs being replaced for another band of thugs. He left Ukraine for Canada in 1922, vowing to never come back. His former world did not allow the common people to throw out their governors once every few years. Politicians--and their political parties backing them--are indeed being held to account by the people. Those four year elections are indeed a powerful social engineering force.
 
When Opher complains that the politicians are not held accountable, he is only partially right. In a four-term, politicians make a lot of decisions. They can't make all good decisions and no bad decisions. In reality, there is not much unity from the public as to what constitutes a good or bad decision. But at the end of their term of office, if the politicians make too many "bad decisions" that go against what the general public really wants, the politicians get thrown out of office.
 
And I would say that there never was any golden age where we the people really respected our elected leaders. Even the revered Lincoln, Roosevelt, and Churchill navigated with razor-thin majority of public support and political dogs snapping at their heels during their time of office. It is only after their time that we create the myths.
 
One purpose of political parties is keep out much of the competition for power and influence. If a person wants to have more power or influence, he needs only to join a viable political party and work his way up the ranks. If he is successful, then his odds of success at the general election are 50% (for a two-party state) or 33% (for a three party state). The TDG, on the other hand, will open up positions of governance to many more people.  In essence, the party offers an ambitious person an interesting contract: if you join the party and play by our rules and work hard for the party, we will reduce the competition for the position you covet. And in a two-party nation, the two parties know they will be allowed to govern 50% of the time, which is good odds for ambitious people.
 
Your solution: I would say this is, by far, the weakest link in your series of essays so far. It is vague with no vision but some utopia that will not make sense to many readers. And there is no plan of how to go from here to there. Your solution has very little connection with what you have written for us before WB.
 
I have visions of the TDG redrawing various municipal, provincial, and national boundaries--because some of these boundaries are quite silly. It would be economically and culturally sound to move the boundaries around. And it may very well be that we move to more decentralized government (in many cases, we are already there). But this is something for the future TDG builders to figure out.
 
Dave Volek Added Dec 19, 2017 - 1:20pm
TBH
You are mythologizing the founding fathers of the American Constitution. True it was that they were products of their times, but to say that they were wise men who really understood human nature is giving them far too much credit---especially when they couldn't see that slavery was evil, women and poor men did not deserve the vote.
 
In essence, the founding fathers were the CEO's of their times. The farm workers, the household servants, the stevedores, the sailors, the blacksmiths, etc, etc. etc. were not part of the process to write the American Constitution. All the ordinary people of the 13 colonies could not afford the time or money to take part. Only the rich could do this.
 
When 1% of America gets away the Constitution myth and want to take part of building the TDG, there will be no formal or informal restrictions on occupation, wealth, or status. All Americans can take part of rewriting a new contract between the people and its nation.   
Even A Broken Clock Added Dec 19, 2017 - 4:38pm
Neil - earlier this year I read Rousseau's Social Contract and learned a good bit from him. I'm also learning from you in this series of posts and essays. Thanks for putting this into writing.
 
I have thought that the increase in nationalism and populism that has developed is due to the failing of the social contract from providing adequate support to many people across the world. I've wondered what a new social contract would be in the US and whether we could ever come up with one that enough people would accept to form a consensus. Thoughts for another day, perhaps.
The Burghal Hidage Added Dec 19, 2017 - 4:50pm
methinks these thoughts for an eon need have :)
opher goodwin Added Dec 19, 2017 - 6:31pm
TBH - there is surely a first time for everything. Never before have we had a global multinational threat like we now face. Never before have we had capitalism so out of control that it threatens the planet. Never before have we had pollution and environmental destruction at this level.
But we have different means now. Never before have we had instant global communication and the means to hold the bastards to account. We now have the ability to create a system whereby we can create a democratic accountable system that does not descend into a tyranny.
The alternative is death by a thousand lashes.
opher goodwin Added Dec 19, 2017 - 6:33pm
EABC - I like the idea of a new contract - perhaps on a global level?
opher goodwin Added Dec 19, 2017 - 6:34pm
Dave - I agree with you. The Founding Fathers were flawed. Slavery, religion and elitist views were all part of their baggage. Even so there was a lot to admire.
The Burghal Hidage Added Dec 20, 2017 - 2:57am
If one would defeat an enemy one must know it's name. I do not agree that capitalism poses the most imminent threat. Use the proper language. CRONY capitalism as practiced in collision with corrupt state mechanisms ( in other words NOT capitalism at all) is a threat. It is not an existential threat (you may disagree). Big corporation, Big state....it's all bad. Its all too big. We need to be careful lest we trade one tyrant for another. The man who is motivated by profit is something that I can understand. It's clear, it's not hard to figure out. I dont have to like it, but it makes sense. A man ( or woman for that matter) whose chosen vehicle is government is driven by some other motive or motives which are less clear and usually more nefarious
The Burghal Hidage Added Dec 20, 2017 - 2:58am
Dave and Opher -  And who among us is not flawed?
Neil Lock Added Dec 20, 2017 - 7:38am
Dave: I realize that my solution may seem a bit weak at this point. This article is mainly about diagnosing the problems. All I give in terms of solution is the broadest of outlines. The major purpose of this article is to get people into the mood of accepting that we may need to think outside the box in order to solve these problems.
 
I have plans to write in much more detail on all this; not just on how such a system might work, but also on how we might get there. But at this stage I’m still laying the foundation. For example, I haven’t yet written at WB anything about economics!
 
I do think that Western democracy has deteriorated over time, and in the last 40+ years in particular. As I see it, it has gone through up to four phases in each place.
 
(1) Democracy-1, the honeymoon period, in which people believe that they have a real say in what the government does.
 
(2) Democracy-2, in which there are two (or perhaps more) parties with different attitudes, policies and support bases. In the UK this was what we had from about the 1920s to the early 1990s. It tends to divide people along party lines. It looks as if the USA is still in this phase.
 
(3) Democracy-3, in which the main parties align with each other and their cronies, and against the interests of the people. The rhetoric may be different, but the policies are very much the same in effect, and they’re usually negative. For example, until the Brexit referendum happened, the two major UK parties were both pro-EU – and they still are underneath, which is why Brexit is faltering. They both want to raise taxes, stealthily if they can’t get away with doing it openly. They both want to snoop into our lives, photograph us everywhere we go, and monitor and intercept our e-mails and Internet use. And they all support the UN’s deep green agenda. In democracy-3, elections start to become irrelevant, because each time the new king is much the same as the old one.
 
(4) Democracy-4 is what has happened in places like Greece, where a large majority of the population (67 per cent, I’ve heard) either works for, or has become otherwise dependent on, government. This is the tyranny of a parasite majority. I don’t know of any way out of it, short of revolution.
 
As to your TDG, the thought struck me that it might be a viable way of organizing large societies in the future; and not just political ones. As you know, I think that smaller societies are usually better for their members than larger ones. Your TDG (which I’d prefer to call TEG or Tiered Elected Governance) may provide a way of allowing societies to grow, without losing the advantage of having small units at the base. Any society which has local organizations federated into a network – of which current examples might be trade unions or the Rotary Club – might find your system attractive.
Neil Lock Added Dec 20, 2017 - 7:39am
TBH: Yes, Tolkien was right. For years, I’ve avoided dignifying words like government, president, state, church, and pope with capital letters. They don’t deserve them!
 
As to democracy, see what I said to Dave above. I’d have put that bit in the essay, if it wasn’t already too long…
 
The more authority one bestows upon governments the more governments abuse their authority. Spot on.
Neil Lock Added Dec 20, 2017 - 7:39am
George: You’re right; the only top down system of government that could actually work for the people is “a benevolent, fair and wise king.” Such animals are about as common in the real world as unicorns, or honest politicians. Any workable governmental system must, therefore, be built from the bottom up.
Neil Lock Added Dec 20, 2017 - 7:42am
Opher: If politicians were accountable …everything they did would need to be analysed by an objective group and they would be held responsible. Yes, quality control systems are very important. But they are impossible in a state. Imagine some urk called the Quality Manager being able to stop the local god-emperor for the time being (like Blair, or Trump, or May) from making that war, or that tax, or that policy, because it goes against quality standards… Unthinkable, for those still trapped in the statist political box.
 
The EU and UN: “need overhauling and made democratic and accountable.” But who can do that? Quis custodet custodes?
 
I think a good functioning government controls many things - energy, infrastructure, transport, health, education are good examples. No. Absolutely disagree. Government should be like a referee in a football match, or an umpire at cricket. Its job is to make sure that everyone plays the game according to the proper rules. It is no part of a government’s function to take any part in the game itself!
 
We see the excesses in Britain of privatisation of the railways, health, education and energy. Prices soar, CEOs take enormous salaries and the service is poor. The railway privatization was, indeed, cocked up. It makes (and made) no sense to have the trains, the track and the maintenance managed by different organizations. But it was government that cocked it up in the first place, and its meddling made things worse.
 
As to health, I think the only way the NHS has survived as long as it has is because it has a lot of very professional people at the sharp end.
 
On education, I’d dispute that the state provides the service better than the private sector can. And I know a little about both sides of this coin (my father spent 50 years as a schoolmaster in private schools, my mother was school secretary in a state school, and I myself was whisked out of the state system at age 8 and sent through private schools on a special scholarship). State controlled education is always liable to become politicized, aimed to achieve the results the establishment want. Particularly if there is a “national curriculum.”
 
As to energy, the soaring prices are caused by bad policies, brought about by a green agenda promoted by the UN, and by pretty much the entire political establishment.
 
Neil - And how would this new arrangement deal with the multinationals? Tax evasion? Exploitation? Globalisation? Pollution? Environmental degradation? Well, I’m still working on some of these. But here are some broad ideas…
 
Multinationals – no differently from any other company. In fact, once states are gone, all companies will be, at least in potential, global. So globalization won’t be an issue.
 
Tax evasion – there won’t be “taxes” like today. Each individual will be expected to pay an amount in proportion to the benefit he or she receives from government. There is a way (I think) in which this payment could be organized without any re-distribution of wealth or bureaucracy, and with little chance of evasion. I’m still working on that one.
 
Exploitation – exploitation of people by political states will disappear! As to exploitation of individuals by other individuals or by societies, that will be a matter for the courts. And there will likely be new societies, which spring up to do things like ensure that no-one is denied access to justice due to lack of resources. Perhaps something like insurance companies, but more honest than the ones today.
 
Pollution and environment – where the activities of some cause harm to others, that too will be a matter for the courts and their scientific advisors. And such matters will be dealt with objectively, not politically.
Dino Manalis Added Dec 20, 2017 - 8:33am
Politics should bring us together as human beings, not tear us apart with hate and divisiveness!
opher goodwin Added Dec 20, 2017 - 10:18am
Neil - I do not think it is impossible to have a quality control body that operates through parliament. Accountability is crucial.
Again, with the EU and UN, it is the people who are the custodians of the group and a democratic system is quite feasible. There needs to be an objective group reporting. We have the means.
I do not see how a profit-making organisation, answerable to its shareholders, operating to create profit for those rich shareholders, can possibly be considered a better option.
The creeping privatisation of schools, universities and the NHS has resulted in the top people's salaries going through the roof - unjustifiably. The privatisation of the railways has seen prices going through the roof and passengers having ticket restrictions. The privatisation of energy has put prices up for all subscribers. That money has gone into the pockets of the shareholders.
How can this be better? They increase the price of the service in order to create profit for rich people.
Schools, health, old people, energy and transport should not be run in order to provide profits for the rich. They should be services for everyone.
The power franchises are classic. The money has been siphoned off into profits. It should have been put back into develop and cheaper prices.
The NHS is totally underfunded. Compared to other countries the percentage GDP is ridiculously low.
As a retired secondary Headteacher of a top performing school I know what a good job State Schools do. But State Schools are performing with an arm tied behind their back. They are underfunded and subjected to all manner of political dogma, unnecessary changes and stupid, wasteful initiatives. Ofsted inspection require a huge, wasteful, time-consuming bureaucracy.
Private schools are not subjected to all this stupidity and constant change. They are better funded and so can afford smaller class sizes, better equipment and facilities, better support and receive a better clientele.
All these things are easily addressed. State schools need stability and proper funding. They need a different developmental type of inspection and less political interference.
Private schools are often very poor - pushing religious dogma or ridiculous agendas (such as creationism), limited curriculum, cramming for exams and poor personal, social, health and spiritual education. They need inspecting too.
I worked with networks of Primary, Secondary and Private Schools in my region.
Progress in Universities is a good guide. Students from Private Schools do less well than students from State Schools.
Dave Volek Added Dec 20, 2017 - 11:13am
Neil
 
I have gone through several names and acronyms for my new system. Your TEG suggestion does have merit, but at this point I have taken the current brand name a little too far down the path to make the change. 
 
The word "democratic" has all sorts of connotations to it. I have had people call me a communist because of my stance on getting rid of political parties. They do not see much democracy in my system at all.
 
Thanks for the suggestions to promote the TDG. Unfortunately, I have gone nearly bankrupt twice in my life trying to promote something or other. I do have a family to manage, which means keeping my day job. I cannot be traveling to various meetings to build up a network to promote a cause like the TDG. And since I only have a bachelor's degree and I am a classic introvert, it is going to take a lot of promoting to get some attention for the TDG in the traditional way. I just can't afford that!
 
BTW, I always thought that when a company becomes truly multi-national, it should pay a small tax to fund the United Nations. This is better than having all the countries pony-up their UN fees.
 
 
 
 
opher goodwin Added Dec 20, 2017 - 11:52am
Dave - I like the idea of multinationals paying a tax to the UN. That makes sense to me.
Dave Volek Added Dec 20, 2017 - 12:41pm
Opher: And they couldn't maneuver money around the globe to find the lowest tax rate. They would pay the tax regardless of where they declared their profits. 
George N Romey Added Dec 21, 2017 - 8:27am
The social contract in the US grew out of our experience from the Great Depression and WW2. In its most simplest terms the very informal contract said do your part and the system will return favors in spades, albeit not for all. Over the past particularly 15 years the social contract in this country faded away and that is what the anger is about. The “lazy class” if you will doesn’t and never has cared about the social contract. They’ve never planne to be part of it anyway.
opher goodwin Added Dec 21, 2017 - 10:40am
Dave - that makes great sense to me. I think people should pay their dues.
Neil Lock Added Dec 22, 2017 - 2:49am
Opher: Any quality control body must be completely independent of the system it reports on. It’s something I’m thinking about.
 
Objective group reporting. ???. Politics and objectivity are just about polar opposites these days.
 
State schools… are underfunded and subjected to all manner of political dogma, unnecessary changes and stupid, wasteful initiatives. Ofsted inspection require a huge, wasteful, time-consuming bureaucracy. Private schools are not subjected to all this stupidity and constant change. You’re making my point for me, Opher; thanks! And even the Grauniad agrees with me about Ofsted: https://www.theguardian.com/teacher-network/2016/feb/18/private-school-inspections-isnt-fear-ofsted.
 
As to “funding,” the only right way to “fund” any service is from its customers. If it meets their expectations, it will make a good profit – nothing wrong with that. That's what profits are for - rewards for success! But if it fails to measure up, the customers can withdraw their support and go somewhere else. The service provider will either reform itself, or fail. As soon as government gets involved in “funding” anything, the customers lose their power to control or even to influence what is provided.
Edward Miessner Added Dec 27, 2017 - 5:29pm
Neil,
 
Interesting post.
 
“When you think hard about it, the idea that a population of tens or hundreds of millions of people – or even, as in China or India, more than a billion – all have enough in common to constitute a society, comes to seem ridiculous. Indeed, it raises a deeper question: can a political ‘society’ be rightly said to be a society at all?”
 
Or how about a society where part of the social contract requires that everyone live in competition with each other, thrown into an endless marathon sprint of hustling, of getting the better of the other guy, of gaming the system? Where people seek salvation either in individual-oriented forms of Christianity or in the newest technical gadgets? In such a society, to quote Maggie Thatcher, there IS no society, only men and women and families! There’s also identity politics: one of its features and not its bugs. This is the sort of society we have in the United States. And it’s getting to the point where we, its subjects, are going to have a collective nervous breakdown.
 
As for your point about the UN promoting a deep green environmentalism, I think they are promoting a pretend deep green environmentalism. In other words, they are play-actors, hypocrites. Case in point was the 2015 COP21 conference in Paris where all the countries of the world pledged to limit global warming to 2 or even 1.5 degrees Celsius and also pledged to enact certain voluntary actions to get there. Well the ink wasn’t even dry on the agreement when it as figured out that the pledged actions missed the 2-degree mark and instead would result in a world 2.7 degrees warmer than it was in the early-to-mid 18th Century.  This 2.7 degree rise has since been re-computed to be 3.5 or even 4 degrees. Celsius, of course.
 
As for a depoliticized government in a convivial order, how do we select those who are to govern over us? And who will watch the watchers?
 
PS My apologies for being late to the party... had a word fight with a certain Nick Schroeder. Then Xmas Eve came and i had to stay away from the 'net.