Most politicians know what needs doing
– they just don’t know how to get re-elected once they’ve done it!
What does it say of us as passive bystanders, listening ad nauseam to politician’s spin and half-truths that lead to political dysfunction? Why do we put up with such stuck-in-our-ways inefficiency in an age of such progress in other areas of life?
Moisés Naím has said:
“In this era of revolutionary change, where almost nothing we do or experience in our daily lives has been left unaffected, one critical area remains surprisingly untouched: the way we govern ourselves, our communities, nations, and the international system.”
Much gets written on inequality, terrorism, the refugee crisis and how to run better education and public health. But little is said about the only thing that is capable of putting them right and is the foundational reason they’re all going wrong in the first place: The inadequacy of our democratic political system.
Real social progress that is just and long term can only be enabled by good policy; society’s governance structure is potentially its most powerful, least partisan and thus its most transformational body. There are huge unexplored possibilities for something better. There is more than one way to build a problem-solving system for our political economy, yet we are saddled with the most dysfunctional and inefficient option imaginable.
Too often we blame ‘capitalism’ or political leaders or greed, but the main question confronting us is not about these things, it is about democracy. We will only be able to start correcting our challenges when get the rules of the game right. As we’ve seen so often in sport, religion, love and war, if rules aren’t right – and properly regulated – they get exploited.
Think of any of the major challenges that face us globally; refugees; climate change; terrorism; inequality. There is nothing inevitable about any of them; it was something that we did to ourselves. They are not the result of inexorable laws of economics or culture or some ineffable force that we have no control over. They result from failed or misguided politics that we can correct. Only better policies will lead to better outcomes.
There are so many ways that our future could be hijacked by any of our challenges. So how do we avoid democratastophe?
Instead of allowing the market, technology or culture dictate our future, good government, at all levels can help create the sort of world that we want and reflect the latest science and the values that we cherish. Political decisions are matters of choice, why don’t we insist they reflect our priorities and commitments?
We need to formulate a new democracy that is not just better than what we’ve got, but one we can all see is worth striving to achieve.
Although efficient government can lead to better decisions being made across all areas of society, the one area it would have the greatest difficulty in transforming is itself. Political players are motivated to maintain the status quo, they won’t agree to inhibit perks, power and prestige. Politicians are thus a minority in our society: they’re the only ones happy keeping things as they are. Hence the force for change has to come from outside the system.
Like any new political movement, it has to involve group action from the ground up.
The good news is that it has already started. It’s happening in the place where the future – both its good and bad aspects – happens first: The U.S.A
Like all social movements, it’s happening in unexpected ways and in unusual places. It’s occurring in struggle street in the thick of record breaking company profits. So it’s not just a rebuttal of the political system but the capitalist system. It’s a form of community wealth building that replaces the corporate structure in favour of employees owning a stake in the company and profits going straight back to the local community.
It’s happening in the cities most dramatically impacted by the nation’s decaying economy. Starting first in Ohio, these social enterprises became known as the Cleveland Model. http://community-wealth.org/content/cleveland-model-how-evergreen-cooperatives-are-building-community-wealth. They include an eco-friendly laundry service, an alternative energy company that installs solar panels and a hydroponic urban greenhouse that provides fresh salad and veg. Down and out cities nationwide began replicating this innovative approach to economic development, green job creation and neighbourhood stabilization.
There are now worker-owned cooperatives where business enterprises are owned and governed by their 11 million employees. There are over 30,000 of them across the U.S. operating in a range of industries including agriculture, utilities and child care. There are now 130 million using credit unions, plus there are 20 state banks and many more city banks. Also many public owned single-payer health systems.
Also community land trusts, which are non-profit organizations that ensure common stewardship of land. They are primarily used to ensure long-term housing affordability.
It mostly goes unremarked in the media but it’s beginning to build serious momentum in the biggest corporate/capitalist and wealthiest society the world has seen. It’s democratizing the ownership of capital and it’s come about simply because common-sense told people something was wrong.
It has a guru: Gar Alperovitz. Click on this: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0pSWNyLZTZc. Above all, hear what he says about debt.
It has a name: social democracy. And Bernie Sanders is the first presidential candidate to use that term positively in 60 years. Most of Europe has it to some degree and the place where it’s working best is the Nordic countries – societies that Sanders has said he would like America to emulate. Senator Joseph McCarthy is turning in his grave.
While the Republican right noisily trumpets itself off the rails, rust bucket America is quietly getting itself organized.
We’re glimpsing the future – and it seems to be working.