Thursday, 18 December 2008

Shape of things...

The important thing about a political system is not its shape or name. It is that those within it feel ownership and are invested in it - showering their creativity and enthusiasm upon it, and feeling empowered to make choices that they beleive in. Open source offers this kind of satisfaction, and open source politics is the only genuine alternative to those who would have their societies dynamic.
But how can decisions be made open source style? The ONLY legitimate (and I mean this in terms of appearance to those who inhabit societies - because that is ultimately the only legitimacy there is (just as ethics is a communal agreement)) method of arriving at decisions is democracy. 
There are those that will claim nationalism, but any understanding has to incorporate patterns of immigration (past and present) and the magical transformation that occurs as people cross borders. 
Some will look to capitalism, but free markets are unable to elucidate many aspects of human organisation, from criminal justice to child care. They form a lesser part of human societies, but they cannot claim a holistic role. Government is different simply because it makes all the rules.
Religious beleif can operate as a legitimizer, but acolytes of a particular faith ultimately have to reconcile themselves with those who do not beleive as they do, or are indeed sceptical about the whole field.
Democracy offers an alernative to these that CAN operate societywide, that gives legitimacy to a common goal. Such a system energises people by offering them a genuine comprehension of and position from which to 'construct' and claim power. The dissemination of democracy across ALL areas of society provides an accepted format for common agreement, and vitalizes all aspects of political debate....

Tuesday, 18 November 2008

My proposition

What I wish to assert is this: the way in which we organise ourselves is vital not only to our survival, but our ability to prosper. If matters of political and legal power are harnessed to humanity's better instincts; for instance, using structures to create the illusions of benefit for actions that protect the natural environment and resources; we are able to promote and discourage human behaviour to sustain and shape the environments within which we operate. The key to this is a method of collective organisation through which actions are taken that are widely recognised as legitimate and given weight accordingly.
Such a vital position occupied by legitimacy requires the continuous affirmation and understanding of issues addressed by the system. The only two ways to acheive this both operate through the potential participation of all in the allocation and exercise of power. One is acheived by encouraging everyone to wield actual influence and the other is to convince them that they already do so, when they do not. The problem with this latter solution lies in its inherent temporality. All issues are subject to revision, and decisions that do not accurately reflect the affected's appraisal of best policy breed cynicism and disengagement. Consequently, the latter is a chimera for governing elites - an impossible paradox at the heart of representative democracies. Sooner or later disengagement and calcified cynicism riddles a body politic and they fall into disrepute. I will talk more about the importance of wider democracy in this context in my next post.

Thursday, 6 November 2008

Black Swan Theory and human comprehension

Earlier, I read an interesting little BBC discussion on the intransigence of doubt to politicians. It highlights how difficult it is, in practice, to make definite predictions when approaching political matters. This all revolves around the antipathy politicians have to admitting that they don't know about anything. Consequently, when approaches don't work, the public feels betrayed when the fault is really with the indeterminate nature of facts, and the inability of theories to really approximate the real world around us.
An important touchstone for such musings is the work of Nassim Nicholas Taleb. His Black Swan theory asserts the impossibility of a comprehension of the world clear enough to ever predict events. Situations will always occur that confound theories and patterns of explanation. Just as politicians have to manufacture (or fake) certainty around issues, we are all subject to the vagaries of events.
This has important consequences for political organisations. While Taleb is correct to state that it is impossible to predict the future (and he includes the example of the current market crisis as a valuable example), the greater number of minds focused upon a situation, the greater the chance that some individual will comprehend it. It is vital, then, that ultimately as many minds as possible are concerted upon issues. Better political systems are ones that encourage the widespread incorporation of interested individuals as well as common reflection amongst currently uninterested ones, in the hope of capturing as many as possible angles of thought.
This plays into the ideas of John Dryzek when he highlights the segmented nature of current government. The separation of governments into departments splinters goals into particular areas, often contradicting one another (think of transports effects upon climate change etc.). These departmental angles become self defeating. We need a system that can handle, nee encourage, holistic understandings in individuals, sift them, and conglomerate them into eventual outcomes. That way the unpredictibility of the universe is countered by the considered conceptualisations of as many individuals as possible.

New President of the USA...

Congratulations, Barack Obama! I just wanted to say how chuffed I am that America has chosen to elect a very aware and inspiring man to the presidency. I still think that representative democracy is ultimately doomed, but at least it is in a slightly less terrifying cycle, this morning. 
On this note, a number of the more interesting ideas on governance (and related issues) have come from Obama this campaign, from the televisation of government meetings, to net neutrality, to anti-revolving door appointments, to a central ethics database. These wont fix a system that is intrinsically broken, but they will help prevent its worst excesses....

Monday, 29 September 2008

Post - Capitalism, here we come!

This post has brewing for a while. I found it impossible to write both a dissertation and a blog together, as I had hoped, and have now finished the piece. Elements of it will now (hopefully) make their way onto this blog!
OK, that's the preliminaries out of the way. Today's discussion is prompted by the fascinating, if somewhat terrifying, events surrounding the worldwide economy. This has fabulously revealed the fundamental fatuousness of those who claim faith in the 'free market'. Such dogmatic belief, similar to that employed by right-wing Christianist brethren, was in pursuit of an idealistic goal that has finally been revealed as the mythical creature it truly is, like the Loch Ness Monster, or Tinkerbell.
There is no such thing as the free market - only activities allowed (or disallowed) by governments. Similar behaviours are identified, and then allocated collective responses that come to be known as 'Capitalism'. Those behaviours cannot be divorced from  the other behaviours commonly thought of as government (or indeed, anything else humans do).

Sunday, 22 June 2008


One of the unusual approaches to this blog will be its individualist cosmopolitanism. I will assert that groups of people are not real, separate bounded entities. They instead are simply conglomerations of individuals, for one reason or another. This does not mean that the individuals of which a group is composed are self-instituted discrete bodies. Jurgen Habermas's insights will be useful here, to situate such thinking in the discourses through which peoples comprehension of the world are constituted.

For the purposes of this blog, that will mean accepting that nations and other organisations are fictions - long-running and behaviourally important, undoubtedly - but fictions nonetheless. If readers wish to take issue with this idea please do it somewhere else. There may be valuable aspects to national loyalty, for instance, or to behaviours promoted by citizenship, but these will be approached separately and distinctly. Anyone who holds that there is something genetically intrinsic about one particular nation that is somehow transcendent to all others above and beyond cultural discourses is unwelcome. They need to accept their basic racism and head off for more intolerant climes....


This blog will hopefully fulfil 2 purposes - it is a place to get down some of the ideas for my dissertation on this same topic, but more importantly it will serve as a discussion centre for some of the ideas that will be utilised within it. These ideas are primarily:

Representative democracy does not and cannot ever work. Making our own decisions is something intrinsic to our agency as human beings, so to assign them to a representative is fundamentally disenfranchising - even dehumanising.

The system of representation is not just detrimental to the represented - it places expectations upon representatives that cannot ever be satisfied; leading to disillusionment and alienation, and a cynicism about anyone who tries to undertake activity on behalf of collective groups.

A system of direct democracy is not only now possible, or desirable - at some time in the future it is inevitable. It is a necessity that we have a discussion about how that system might operate before it arrives, to prevent any attendant excesses or pitfalls.

:these basic points will form the backbone of my thinking about government and how it will someday be constituted. This blog will be unashamedly normative in it's approach - it is my fervent belief that a direct democratic system is preferable to (in fact solves many of the problems with) our current political template. However, it will not be uncritical or uncontroversial in its positions.

I hope it will serve as a resource for discussions and ideas around the whole topic.