An easy and highly practical solution for the formation of a government structure based on community and relevant to issues and requirements of the 21st century, and the OWS generation.
Democracy does not work, or, put another way, is even worse at working for the 99% now than it has ever been before.
Individuals and communities are simply not represented on the national and international stage; consultation is limited to token door-stepping at the run up to elections or, increasingly, web-based polling.
Our interests are being swept aside by the ambition of those in politics to stay in power for long as possible; by a system in which demands total loyalty to “the Party”, ahead of anything else and enforced, in the UK, by 3-line whips (a term well reflecting the problem here addressed!); policies are formulated with the next election in mind, which means that issues that require a long-term perspective are dealt with in a very short time-frame; and, instead of looking and voting at issues from the perspective of the electorate, the highly skilled and very well funded pressure groups will use every trick in the trade to secure legislation in favouring their particular interests. Little wonder people feel alienated from politics and powerless to help bring about change!
It is not being suggested here that politicians set out to ignore the interests of those who elected them, rather, it is argued that we have in place a rotten, no longer relevant, system of governance that will always favour the few over the many and will compel even the most visionary leader and people’s representatives to legislate to an agenda ultimately not of their choosing. As global and national challenges continue to grow over the period ahead, a period which historically is expected to become known as the ‘Decade of Transition’, there will be even more manifestations of the few attempting to benefit at the expense of the many, as they remain better resourced, have more clout and are well versed at manipulation. Worst of all, the current system prevents our leaders from speaking the truth about the economic, environmental and demographic changes ahead, as to speak the speak the truth under our current system will make any government un-reelectable.
The only way to change within a realistic time-frame is to change our system of governance. This paper argues that it can be achieved relatively easily and within the usual span of office enjoyed by a political party between elections. There are those who would argue that a change in human nature will eventually change the system too. This paper’s author is happy to agree, and indeed sees everywhere signs of emerging consciousness, but the reality is that the evolutionary route will take too long and not put in place the structure that global change is urgently calling for now. Paradoxically, the structure proposed here will help accelerate this expression of growing consciousness and the consequent development of global community.
The concept described here also tackles the problem of bureaucracy – both at central and local government levels, stuffed with people who have opted to go for security and an index-linked pension sometime in the future; wholly risk averse and terrified of change as it may show up what a rotten system they have been defending for so long (and my apologies for including in this terrible generalisation some of those fine minds that have genuinely tried to bring change into this environment, but have had to give up exhausted and defeated by “the system”).
In ancient Greece, the inhabitants of a city-state, the polis, were encouraged to participate in the affairs of the polis, to play an active part in politics, to be political. Those who opted out (in phonetic Greek idi -ot) became ‘idiots’.
This proposal, which has been some time in the making and whose time now has come, invites us all to take back our lives, run our communities as we wish and get rid of the excessive layers that have developed above us and make life an administrative nightmare, rather than a lightly lived experience. It gives us a chance to re-engage.
The EU had a term that we don’t hear much any more, and certainly see little evidence of – the term is “subsidiarity”. A tongue twister no doubt, but a simple concept nevertheless : it means ‘placing responsibility for issues at the lowest practical level’.
Who knows best where the potholes in the street are; where the pavement needs fixing; who is in need of help because elderly or sick; what public facilities a community needs; etc. – the community itself. The proposal is to give the community the means to tackle all local issues. You don’t need to belong to a particular political party for the local community to know who is best suited to do what needs to be done at community level! The community would meet as often as it decided in the Community Council. India already has a system like this in the form of its 265,000 Gram Panchayats operating at village-elder level.
Any community-based group will readily know who in their midst is best suited to argue and defend their interests at a next level up, at Area Level, which in turn will be responsible for a number of issues that extend across a number of communities, which together constitute an Area, e.g. road renewal and building; local planning policies; potentially primary & secondary schooling; school transportation; etc. A given number of communities make up an area, with each community’s representative making up the Area Council.
A grouping of Areas would make up a Region, with Area Council represented on its Regional Council, which would have responsibility for a wider drawn range of issues, including regional planning; greenbelt policy; etc.
Regional Councils would then elect their representation to the National Council, or, if we stick with the current designation, Parliament.
Under this structure, any major legislation Parliament intended to introduce could be passed by the entire nation as only 3 levels would need to be consulted – Regional, Area and Community Councils. In the age of the Internet, Social Media and other almost instantaneous means of communications, this would create a nation of involved citizens, or at least give everybody an opportunity to get involved, to opt in, to no longer being an idi-ot.
Sure there will be issues about which each Council will require informed advice before arriving at an informed decision – voila, suddenly we have a practical role for universities and other places of higher knowledge : each will be given the brief to become a centre of excellence in a given subject and to make this knowledge, potentially coupled with advice, available on demand to any officially registered Council, and to maintain highly informative presences on the Web.
Simplicity of Implementation
The UK’s postal system (and that of many around the world) represents the ready-made answer to the introduction of this community-based system of governance :
Some simple maths -
a. Essentially each postal code group contains around 120 households, each household is presumed to have 2.5 residents. Assume 2 postal codes are grouped into a political unit called ‘community’, with its own Community Council. This will create a community of between 500 to 600 residents as the basic unit of local government. This is a very manageable number and will allow most people to get to know one another both in person, as well as via a community website.
With a UK population of around 62 million, this means that there would be around 103,333 communities in the UK
||= 500-600 voters per community
||= 103,333 Community Councils across the UK
||= 50 Community Councils per area
||= 2,066 Area Councils across the UK
||= 10 Area Council per Region
||= 207 Regional Councils
|National Council / Parliament
||= 2 Regional Councils elect 1 member of the National Council / Parliament
||= 104 representatives PLUS = 104 representatives of every trade, skill, profession in the UK
b. Assuming a grouping of 50 communities constituted an area, and they collectively elected their representative to the Area Council, this would create 2066 Area Councils.
c. 10 Area Councils would elect a representative to the Regional Councils, of which there would be 207.
d. Each two regions would elect a representative to Parliament, which would consist of 104 parliamentarians, who would be augmented by a matching number of representatives from each profession / professional body in the land. Representatives of the people sitting in a circular chamber with representatives of every skill and profession in the land would provide for well-informed and democratic debate. In key instances decisions would be required to be deferred until all the nation’s Community Councils had taken a vote or expressed a view on the proposed legislation.
Could this be any simpler? A new party, the Last Party, could at the next elections, present itself as one that by the end of its term it will have introduced the structure here proposed. The need for politics as currently practiced will have become obsolete, with political parties and massive national elections no longer required and activists free to tell the truth, plan long-term and be immediately accountable to their immediate community. Perhaps the OWS movement is making is possible for us not even to have to wait for a next election!
The details of this plan, of which this is a summary, are pretty spectacular too and will get rid of much of the administrative class we currently know, and generally loath. Cost savings will be considerable.
A system of governance built on the community as basic political unit will make it much harder for overt and hidden interests to drive nations into monolithic blocks, or a politicised One World. It is difficult to imagine a majority of Community Councils voting to take their nation to war!
London / 11-11-2011