The credit crunch of 2007-8 should be viewed by government as a watershed in the status of the citizen on a par with the aftermath of the World Wars. The hundreds of £ billions of bailout money to the banks and quantitative easing injected into the economy is taxpayers’ sweat equity. We were volunteered by our government to increase national debt in order to prevent the collapse of the global financial system. As a consequence of this our children’s and grandchildren’s future incomes have been mortgaged to preserve the wealth of speculators and multi-national banks that owe no loyalty to any country. I hope we asked for a receipt.
The survivors of the First World War were rewarded with universal suffrage for men aged twenty-one and over and women over thirty (equalised in 1928) in return for their blood and sweat equity earned in the trenches and factories. Similarly, the Welfare State and the 1944 Education Act was the prize for surviving World War Two. Both times, the country was effectively bankrupt, yet the politicians realised that in order to keep power they would have to share some with the people.
What have we gained from the credit crunch? To help balance the books taxes have increased and government, both central and local, is cutting spending on services that we appreciate such as libraries and care of the elderly, in order to preserve or increase expenditure in areas favoured by politicians. How can £9,000 per year university fees be justified? How many people outside of the Westminster and charity bubble want international aid increased by nearly a half? To make up the shortfall in services, the big idea is the Big Society, i.e., do it yourself. Gee, thanks, that’s worth 20% VAT.
If our politicians deigned to listen to us instead of telling us what they think we want (on the basis of what most people grudgingly accept as the least worst on offer – it’s called policy triangulation), then the mechanics of politics and government would be updated to account for our changed society. What was tolerable in the still deferential 1920s and less so after in the forties and fifties after another masterclass in muddling through by our politicians and generals, is absolutely not acceptable in the twenty-first century. We are, despite the ravages of modular coursework and X-Factor, better educated and more aware of the world than previous generations. We can think for ourselves yet we are not trusted by the politicians or the judges to do so. Our opinions are derided as populist if they contradict the BBC/Guardian Weltanschauung. Consequently, there is no debate on capital punishment, the justice system, immigration, multiculturalism, defence outside of narrow bounds set by the Establishment. Possession of non-standard views without statutory victim status causes one to be labelled an “-Ist” and ignored.
What is needed in this changed society of changed citizens is a new democratic tool. The present system of parties, and quinquennial elective dictatorships is as “unfit for purpose” as the rotten boroughs and public ballots of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. The tool that appears most useful is Referism, by which we the voters will have the casting vote on the Supply Process which authorises annual government spending. It includes other neo-Chartist proposals such as annual elections of proportion of parliamentary seats. It’s a great start for reforming the system and googling Referism will enable you to discover more about it (and increase google rankings).
I consider that our sweat equity has earned us a bigger say in running our country. As Tony Benn said in 2001:
“If one meets a powerful person–Adolf Hitler, Joe Stalin or Bill Gates–ask them five questions: “What power have you got? Where did you get it from? In whose interests do you exercise it? To whom are you accountable? And how can we get rid of you?” If you cannot get rid of the people who govern you, you do not live in a democratic system.”
So we mush demand that we elect judges and police commissioners, as the United States has done fairly successfully for a couple of centuries (so it’s not radical or untried). And we must push open the doors and windows of power to let in sunlight and make the occupants relearn that they are there to serve us not the other way around. The balance of power will inevitably be changed. It is the choice of those presently holding the reins whether it will be peaceful or violent . Whichever, this century will be the century of the Individual.