Democracy – Part 1

ONLY PEOPLE WHO hide behind rose-tinted glasses can possibly have any real belief in our version of democracy. It could only ever have been a dream, only a possibility in a totally altruistic world, where corruption didn’t exist and everyone was a potential saint.

Tyranny in any form is anathema to free peoples. Oligarchy formed from a powerful clique of the aristocratic rich and their allies has even less claim to be a workable solution. Power does indeed corrupt, and even men and women who start off with the most benign of intentions will inevitably be driven to using the mailed fist to put down ‘unreasonable’ opposition for the greater good of the people as they interpret it sooner or later.

We are left with democracy – like it or not – but it is becoming increasingly clear we must find a new model that runs on pollution-free fuel, with vastly improved efficiency and environmentally friendly recyclability. There is a need to get back to the much-mocked ‘basics’. We need to ask the questions that must have been asked at the beginning of mankind’s history as a social creature. A basic list of such questions might include:

• What is citizenship and who has a right to it?
• What moral obligations to society (if any) does citizenship demand?
• What limitations on their freedom will freedom-loving people accept?
• What functions must the state retain centrally?
• What functions should be delegated to local control?
• How can state and local government be regulated to stop rogue elements taking control?
• Should organisations with common interests have any say running the state?
• If so, how should such bodies be regulated?

None of these questions is as simple to answer now as it was even a hundred years ago. To take one simple example, there can be no simple definition of the people we are prepared to accept as our fellows within the modern nation state. Adolph Hitler tried that and his solutions were comprehensively rejected by the world. The answer must be a compromise that brings the greatest degree of satisfaction to the largest cross-section of the population. It is not possible to do that by trying to satisfy vocal, but unrepresentative minorities.

The very fact that political factions exist and form themselves into parties in order to gain power should set the alarm bells ringing, even in an ideal world. How can anyone continue to believe that democracy exists when party leaders enforce their policies with a system of ‘whips’? Even Churchill is reported to have said that democracy is only the best of a bad bunch of political systems, all of which have been tried out over the centuries. He of all men was only too aware that modern democracy bears little or no relationship to what was introduced by the ancient Greeks.

Many believe benign dictatorship is the best form of government, perhaps harking back to the King Arthur stories of the middle ages, in which a much-loved king ruled wisely, with the best interests of the common people foremost in his mind, one man with the power and influence to rein in his more predatory peers. Dictators more often than not morph into kings. ‘Royal’ families soon emerge with ideas of entitlement to deference and a degree of luxury in their lives. Even the mighty Republic across the pond doesn’t appear to be entirely proof against such developments.

Recognising that power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely, all British rulers since the reformation must take heed of the views of the people of this country through our developing unwritten constitution. Today, no one with any sense would try to run a PTA without some form of consensus among its members, even when the group recognises the need for a strong chairman, capable of logical, rational persuasion and leadership.

There lies the crux of the matter. Even in a democracy there is a need for strong leadership, albeit a leadership that must listen and learn. Strong leadership requires strong principles, principles that are spelt out and stuck to when acceptance at the ballot box has been tested. Yet even such strong leaders must listen when situations change.

Democracy – Part 2

IN THE ATHENS of the sixth century BC, most of those entitled to vote were people of high intellectual status. They were mostly well educated and understood what responsibility towards those people who relied on them meant. They were in the main already rich and not as open to corruption as the relatively poor artisan, small businessman, lawyer or teacher, especially when proven guilt on such a charge meant, at best, confiscation of estates and exile or, at worst, public execution.

British politics at the time of the change to universal suffrage was very clearly delineated. On the right stood the landowning classes with their close ties to the professions and the wealthy, who were rightly fearful of the revolutionary tendencies of left wing firebrands. The Russian revolution was brewing and the shadow of the French Revolution still haunted the folk memories of the British aristocracy to a far greater extent than it does today. Wishy-washy liberals held the centre ground and the left was the domain (mostly) of armchair ‘champagne’ socialists, whose championing of the cause of the oppressed, working class had very little in common with the lives they lived in reality.

What has changed?

• All social status-defining qualifications for candidature have been abolished.
• Women can now vote and stand for Parliament without let or hindrance.
• Financial restraints have been minimised – the size of a candidate’s deposit was reduced post WW2 and has never been reviewed since.
• A more than fair salary for MPs has been introduced
• Secrecy at the ballot box is strictly enforced (most of the time).
• Postal voting has now been liberalised to the point of enabling corrupt practice by ruthless campaigners.
• Devolution has occurred, with more powers being given to the constituent elements of the UK – except for England.
• The voting age has been dropped from 21 to 18, with 16 being actively pursued by unscrupulous demagogues, intent on increasing their popular share of the vote amongst the politically inexperienced and woefully ignorant.

The big ‘buts’ that have not been addressed and which deny any possibility of true democracy still remain:

• Selection of party candidates is left mainly to unelected, peer groups that do not answer to the general public. The general public have no right of access to their decision-making or to question their choice.
• Political parties can and do foist candidates on local party organisations.
• Party funding is wide open to corruption.
• There is no legal requirement for any examination of a candidate’s qualification to represent any party. The room for cronyism and corruption is enormous.
• Constituency boundaries are long overdue for revision to ensure fair representation.
• The size and make-up of the Upper House remains problematical.
• Parliamentary lobbying on behalf of wealthy vested interests is out of control.

Until these hurdles are cleared there can be no question of ever achieving true democracy. The Athenians accepted that the people they deemed worthy to vote came from a relatively small pool of people they all knew (and for the most part respected). Most of them ran successful estates and were prepared to fight for their state and in most cases had already done so with distinction. Even in so small a body politic corruption crept in and men of real leadership quality had to be drafted in to manage affairs when the talking had to stop. There were some things that even the Athenians had to recognise democracy was useless for – principally war.

Democracy – Part 3

A CORROSIVE INFLUENCE is at work in modern society. ‘Nothing is black or white’ is an expression we constantly hear, usually linked with that other excuse of weak-kneed politicians: ‘You can’t put the clock back’. Both of these statements are demonstrably foolish. You can put the clock back – both literally and metaphorically – although it may hurt to do so. Most things are very much black and white, right or wrong, and many sensible people in this country are fed-up with being told otherwise.

Three stout pillars – the Judiciary, the Established Church and the Services – support our Constitutional Monarchy ¬ (The Crown in Parliament) – the protective walls of British society. These are buttressed by the Legal Profession and supported by many other institutions that we should be entitled to look up to as solidly based on high principles of devoted service to the people of this the oldest established democracy in the world.

Today, every one of those supports is under attack. The architecture is crumbling and the underpinnings are sinking into a morass of corruption of the worst kind – the bullying self-righteousness of the wrong-headed official. This attack is fed insidiously by the Fourth Estate – the press and the broadcasting media, which have arrogantly seized upon the right to relay into our homes every piece of often-unsubstantiated dirt they can find about the people running these institutions as their undisputed role in life.

Those in politics must today live their lives in the constant glare of publicity. Everything they do, every gaffe they make and ever have made, is flashed across the airways and is on screen and in print within minutes. The ever-present press or television camera has exposed many of our politicians to an un-asked for and usually undeserved limelight. It has made it impossible for politicians to protect their private lives from the gutter press.

The saying goes: if you’ve nothing to hide, you’ve nothing to worry about. Sadly, the media today is ruled by the only maxim they believe in – money. They are out of control. They consider themselves to be reporter, investigator, judge and jury – all rolled into one. Principles have been cast aside. If it’s bad, it’s news. If it’s good, no one wants to know. Good news doesn’t sell newspapers or increase audience ratings. Why wait for facts when rumour will do? If there is no dirt to be found, make it up, print it, comment on in great detail to your captive audiences and don’t, whatever you do, go back on a word when shown to be in the wrong. Denials are sometimes printed in the seldom-read back pages, after the editorials and before the sport. Retractions are made in the dead time when the original audience is no longer tuned in. The inference is always left in the mind…there is no smoke without fire.

No wonder highly qualified and experienced men and women are not prepared to subject themselves and their families to such treatment.

The slide towards slack discipline, on to no discipline can be seen quite clearly by anyone with half an eye to what has been going on in schools. With that slide has gone even the surface dressing of respect for authority. With that slide has gone every last shred of acceptance of moral duty. This decline has been matched by the steady climb in the demand – not the request – the demand for more and more rights.

Why has this situation been allowed to come about? Why is the press now so vitriolic about everybody in high places? The answer lies in the debilitating disease it has caught – the Ebola of politics – the corruption of uncontrolled and unlimited power.

As time goes by, more and more, poorly educated, brainwashed bureaucrats – products of our long-since corrupted public education system – are rising to positions of authority. Fewer and fewer are getting their silly ideas knocked out of their heads by serious experience of life at the grass roots. The age of managers is decreasing as the demand for paper qualifications rises. Men and women of experience find themselves on the scrap-heap of redundancy, unable to find rewarding work and powerless to fight the hydra-headed system around them, a system that has no room for principles of honesty, loyalty and trust, a system that has jettisoned traditional religious – not just Christian – standards of morality and self-reliance.

Democracy – Part 4

BEFORE THE POST-WAR Labour Government instituted the Welfare State, the British were a proud people with a strong work ethic. We would only accept charity as a very last resort; and yet our charitable instincts were highly developed and generous to a fault – as they are to this day.

Things are very different now. Welfare is not just a case of charity anymore. It is a ‘right’ with no compensating duty expected. There is no sense in being self-reliant. We all pay for the Welfare State, therefore we are all entitled to its handouts. The State even pays well-trained social workers, many with foreign language skills, to go amongst the feckless poor to explain to them how to get the most out of the system, publishing reams of ‘helpful’ back-up material in alien tongues as well as our own at a cost of millions we cannot afford. The facts of our economic situation mean we cannot afford this mess of liberal handouts. While all men and women in legal employment contribute to the Welfare State through their taxes and National Insurance, there are millions drawing benefits, who don’t pay a penny towards their benefits, never have done, and have no intention of ever doing so.

This sea change in the character of our nation is almost unbelievable and would be a remarkable achievement if it were not so tragic. Marx and Trotsky would be proud. The contributing factors to the moral corruption of our once proud population are myriad. No one act can be blamed. Much of what has been done cannot – even with the wildest interpretation of conspiracy theories – be said to have started out with evil intent.

The ‘Bleeding Hearts Brigade’ tell us heart-rending tales of youngsters forced into prostitution and beggary as a result of broken homes where violence reigns supreme. Time and again we are bombarded with all too colourful film footage of these homeless inadequates denied shelter because ‘society’ has failed them in some way. The media hacks – men and women who are so easily duped by pressure groups dependent on the charity of the ever-gullible general public for their comfortable salaries – seldom show us the reverse side of the coin. The more common story is seldom drawn to our attention, that of youth refusing to accept parental discipline and succumbing to the irresistible magnet of an exciting life in the slums of the cities. To do so would be judgmental. Half empty hostels with warm beds and simple food are only ever shown on our TV screens to make us feel angry that people can be expected to take shelter in such ‘awful’ places.

To the do-gooders, the slide by this growing army of street vagabonds into a sub-culture of drink and drugs with its heady mix of sexual liberty and anarchy is all part of society’s debt of guilt for trying to enforce conformance to ‘outmoded’ moral conventions on young and old alike. It doesn’t occur to them that this immoral and totally blameworthy life-style is being encouraged by their own misguided activities. It is subsidised by handouts from society and boosted by the charity of deluded souls who cannot refrain from salving their tortured consciences by tossing whatever they can afford into their filthy begging bowls. When not playing to the cameras, many of these creatures admit to making a very good tax-free living that they couldn’t possibly earn if they had to work.

But these are only the spongers at the highly visibility end of the welfare spectrum. There are many others drawing legitimate benefits, any entitlement to which can only be described as questionable. We are assured that there are ‘benefit inspectors’ ready to swoop on those who sponge on the rest of us by making false claims. They even produce figures periodically to reassure us that they are earning their keep.

There are many more beneficiaries in this huge iceberg of state welfare malingering below the surface, a surface so seldom even ruffled by the official guardians of the public purse. For instance, in a society in which physical handicap has been cut by vastly improved healthcare, the numbers claiming disability pensions have risen exponentially in the last twenty years. Those claiming long-term sickness benefit enabling them to retain a claim on a job while drawing a living subsidy from the state add to this vast figure.

In both of these cases many claimants are not conscious of any wrongdoing. They are only claiming the benefit, because their ‘disability’ has been recognised by a doctor, often one who was often too overworked to carry out a proper investigation or – more likely – who feared claims for neglect in case of a faulty diagnosis resulting from insufficient clinical evidence. The litigious society is a dangerous symptom of a sick society, encouraged by a legal profession that has adopted the ‘bottom-line’ – profitability – as its guideline, instead of justice and honesty.

Few of the state’s welfare officers are thick-skinned enough to tackle benefit fraud, fearing to offend the genuinely deserving sick and handicapped, and terrified of drawing down on themselves the obloquy of the society they serve for mistakenly targeting the weak and defenceless. In a time when claims for wrongful persecution can bring huge compensation from sympathetic tribunals/juries – selected by careful lawyer manipulation from their feckless peers – there is another very good reason why official policy can perhaps be justified for letting the inspectors off the hook. That other army of public officials – social workers – is only too ready to leap to the defence of their flock of ‘dependants’ whose ‘rights’ appear to be coming under scrutiny. We actually pay one force of public employees to negate the work of another, yet few dare to contemplate the madness in this and certainly not our vote-seeking leaders.

Democracy – Part 5

THE ROMANS KNEW a thing or two about the common people. They too suffered from the problem of mass unemployment. They needed a way of stopping the masses from rising in bloody insurrection because they had no way of earning a living. They had done away with the need for free citizens to stoop their backs in manual labour by importing masses of slaves from their growing empire. We have done it by inventing machines and computers that take the drudgery out of life – fine words that ignore the fact that they also deprive ordinary men and women of work opportunities and (for some at least) their self-respect. Not for the Romans the complex benefit systems. Their solution was bread and circuses.

We think we’re cleverer than they were but we haven’t avoided the self-same pitfalls. We have actually made the problem worse. We have created a culture of dependency, where blame for any misfortune never lies at your own door. For us, it’s the fault of whichever politician commands the largest source of compensation funds. The Romans were not that stupid. Unlike them, we haven’t had the good sense to maintain our armed services and keep the draft. Nowadays we make absolutely certain that the most dangerous element of our society – the young, healthy, untutored and idle youth – is right out there on the streets while the testosterone levels are at their highest. Instead, we keep them ‘in education’, which is exactly where they don’t want to be (and, if employers’ complaints are to be believed, they don’t get).

To make matters worse. We’ve made ‘service’ and ‘hard work’ dirty words – on a par with ‘class’ and ‘race’. As a result thousands are left on the dole – sorry, job-seekers’ or disability allowances – who might otherwise have a useful function in life, freeing those with higher level skills not yet overtaken by machines to go out and make money, which in turn would allow them to give employment to others – if they want it.

Nobody – but nobody – will work for zero reward, even if it is only the glow of sainthood. Men and women with even moderately high salaries are so heavily taxed they can’t afford to employ servants, even if there were people around willing to do the work (other than immigrants keen to earn a place in our society). To make matters worse, those who might consider employment as servants (domestic facilitators – call them what you will – mainly immigrants, illegal or otherwise) find themselves earning only a marginal pittance above the levels of unemployment benefit (despite the introduction of the living wage), with all the drawbacks of having to work for a living. Even payment in kind, tips and other ‘perks’ are taken into account when assessing tax levels, so they have no incentive to declare their earnings at all and disappear onto the black economy, preferring to risk the wrath of the law rather than pay their due.

People throughout the developed world have come to expect a certain standard of living as of right. This is an idea fed to us by our daily diet of media mush. We get upset at the sight of the growing numbers in our midst – the people ‘society’ has failed – abandoning them to beggary on the streets of our cities. We are all made to feel guilty that such abject misery could possibly have a place on the streets of civilised societies, mirroring the awful conditions that we know exist (and some of us have witnessed) in the third world. That some of these ‘poor souls’ are deserving of sympathy and charity is true, but it is growing ever clearer that many more are in fact using the media image they deliberately create to exploit the charity of the many who live normal, relatively comfortable lives. Their true condition is not a result of enforced poverty either of means or of opportunity.

While Britain has been fortunate enough to remain reasonably prosperous over the years, the idea of welfare as the unfettered right of every man woman and child living in these islands regardless of their origins and length of residence has taken root. A people that was once relatively homogeneous has changed since the Second World War into a thoroughly mixed society, with most of the races of the once far-flung Empire, as well as the repressed nations of the rest of the world, well represented, living on our increasingly crowded shores, plus the economic migrants of the European Union with their freedom to seek work and domicile wherever they wish, without let or hindrance.