Thursday, March 29, 2007

Can I hear you calling my name?

There is a theme spreading through our Fifth Estate, and seeming to give the appearance of one of our more popular memes: it is a question, a small question but an important one.

Has democracy failed?

As far as I can make out, Tom Paine kicked it off and, living in Moscow as he does, one can see where the inspiration might have come from.
Something is clearly very wrong with British democracy. Our low election turnouts prove that. Our voters do not face bombs and bullets on their way to the polling station, but they show less enthusiasm to vote than the Iraqis who do. Perhaps we should arrange to stain British voters’ fingers with purple ink and have men armed by Iran take pot-shots at them? I am sure President Ahmadinejad would oblige.

One might expect the constant meddling, the authoritarianism, the sheer bloody priggishness of New Labour to drive people back to the polls. They were elected by a minority and they are imposing the views of part of that minority on the rest of us. Yet British non-voters I speak to are way beyond mere disinterest. They are militantly apathetic. They have enthusiastic contempt for the process.

Do go and read the whole thing; it's well worth it.

Anyway, Jackart then took up the baton, speculating that it is perhaps the sort of people who vote that have led to this sorry state of affairs (albeit with his tongue ever so slightly pressed in his cheek). Perhaps we need to cull the numbers of those who can vote?
Very simply I would recommend civil servants (in return for their jobs for life and state-funded pensions) should be denied the vote (though perhaps they should be able to vote in local elections), as should people who take more in state benefit than they pay in tax. Exceptions would probably include those who are in receipt of benefits through no fault of their own such as the disabled. As this policy would only be fair if the tax and benefit system was clear and transparent, there would be benefits for all through the necessary simplification of the tax system. Should you therefore fall into any of these disenfranchised categories, you simply change jobs or get one in order to qualify for a vote. Taken to its logical conclusion, perhaps any tax-paying entity should get a vote - companies' boards of directors for example.

In short, those who pay the piper should call the tune. Those in the pay of the state should have no say in how it is run.

Actually, if you accept the original premise, there is some merit in this idea, I think. But it doesn't address the problem of apathy.

This morning, at Comment Is Free, our old friend MrPikeBishop (who seems to have become a CiF regular) is discussing the same fraught subject.
The problem with democracy, even the sham democracy entertainingly disembowelled by Adam Curtis's "The Trap", is that any old pillock gets to vote. Have you met the electorate? Charming people, some of them, but yee gods, dim isn't the word. A nice smile, a few choice buzzwords, promises of jam today - or threats of evil paedo muslim tax-raising jam-thieving climate-change deniers tomorrow - and the marching morons check the little boxes and go to sleep for another five years. You can't really blame them, life's too easy. When you had to discern whether a cave held a cave bear, or a foxy cave chick in a fur bikini, you thought hard about your choices, you observed, you cogitated, you weighed balances - or you died. Nowadays, there's no pressure.
...

Nope - the public needs to be cut out of the loop. We add nothing to government, and by alternately whining and whooping we poison every decent mind that might wander towards Westminster. Some might argue that we simply need to trim the electorate down - remove that sector which most readily swallows the cheesy grins and warm words; that means you ladies. And while there's certainly merit in the idea, there are enough halfwits with Y chromosomes too to make even that measure insufficient. The only solution is one man, one vote.

Obviously, I can think of one person who would run this whole thing rather well: me. The trouble is that I am sure that there would be other contenders and, well, physically I'm just not built for a fight.

Perhaps we should adopt DK's old Blogger Cabinet—formed from choice cuts of both the right and left blogosphere—to run the country? It seems a good idea to me: I mixed statist and non-statist and a good many other them decided to abolish their positions anyway. After all, as a minarchist libertarian dictator-for-life, I certainly wouldn't need even a tenth of the number of the present incumbents.

No, much as I love that last idea, I think that our democracy is the best thing that we've got. But these various commentators are correct: something isn't right. Personally, I blame the Welfare State. Once we signed over control and responsibility for our lives to the state, it ceased to matter of which particular political stripe the state was and now it has ceased to matter.

If the Tories get in you might get a couple of quid less a week than Labour might give you but, in the grand scheme of things, the NHS will continue to be someone else's problem, as will the shitty trains, as will you benefits, you income, your loved ones.

The state takes responsibility for all of these things: ultimately the state takes responsibility for your life and all of those around you. No political party will have the courage to substantially change the Welfare State or even the effective level of welfare that you receive. So, who cares what party's in power? And if it doesn't really matter what party's in power, what is the point of voting?

There's your voter apathy right there.

4 comments:

timmyhawk said...

Not so sure about your analysis. Two reasons stand out for me. With the onset of privatisation the government became less important as an employer, hence fewer people became interested in what went on. Seondly, the decline of nationalism. By nationalism I mean the broad historical phenomenon rather than using the word as a substitute for chauvinism. The less people identify with the state, the less they care what happens to it or what it gets up to.
That's my 2c worth anyway.

Dr Dan H. said...

The reason for voter apathy is also the reason why political parties are losing donated funding and are slowly dying as a result, and that reason is that they don't actually represent us any more.

The EU makes most of our laws now, in private, without even oversight by the denizens of modern-day rotten boroughs the MEPs. There is no real way of influencing the rules we get handed down by the EU so effectively, we've got ourselves a dictatorship in all but name.

And there you have it: no use in voting, since those you vote in have next to no influence anymore.

No use donating to political parties; they have no power to do anything anymore so why trouble to bribe them?

None of the mainstream parties will even discuss the notion of leaving the EU so there really is no reason to interact with them any more; all we ever get from politicians is lies, deceits and taxes upon taxes.

Anarcho's Cap said...

Damm right we should restrict the franchise, after all, we do not give nutters (sorry, pejorative term used - I mean mentally less able or some other such rot) the vote because they are clearly unable to use it effectively.

There are clearly other people in this society who cannot use the vote effectively (and they vote for all political parties not just the ones I don't like...), so why should they vote? If they are unable to take effective and responsible decisions about their own lives, should they be allowed to affect the lives of millions of fellow men and women?

The problem as ever is where you draw the line. However, I would suggest that anyone who has ever watched Trisha (excluding students watching it for the postmodern irony) would be a good starter for exclusion.

Tinkerty Tonk

AC

Roger Thornhill said...

I have for some time held the view that those drawing income from the state should be denied the vote. I have been drafting a further posting to my real-time blog as part of a response to the Rowntree Foundation's Power To The People report.

Yes, the Welfare State is a major part of the problem, but to me it is the power of the Executive and the tight grip of the whips.

I'd better get it out quick.