Wednesday, 5 September 2018
Few successful companies are even remotely egalitarian and no empire ever was. The organisational structures which have brought the greatest human triumphs have not – including the few instances of individual genius – been collaborative, inclusive collectives but dictatorial, hierarchical and about as far removed from democracy as it is possible to envisage. A few employers exercise a form of benign stewardship of their workers’ welfare but in the main the drive for that concern has to come from above.
Worker’s rights exist not because of the innate goodness in all employers’ hearts but because governments have imposed laws and monitored standards. But wait, from whence do governments get this authority? Traditionally, via hereditary roots, or bloody coups, but in the west, in the main, via the illusion of democracy. True democracy cannot exist beyond small groups of people with aligned interests; a trades union, for instance or what has become the unspeakable evil that is the nuclear family.
Interestingly, the very people who were despotically responsible for the downfall of powerful unions are also the destroyers of traditional families (except, of course, for certain culturally enriching family models whose sovereignty is inviolable). Because democracy is dangerous, as we are finding out at first hand. Direct democracy, when it fails to produce undeniable majorities is divisive, especially when it lays bare the stark differences between those who have benefitted from the current system and those who feel they have lost out.
We call the current system ‘representative democracy’, but who does it represent? It is abundantly clear that the fabled man-in-the-street does not possess the knowledge, the expertise or the interest to make objective decisions, or form valid opinions about almost every likely subject which is the normal concern of government. How is it possible that Josephine Bloggski could have a hand in shaping, say, foreign policy? How can a semi-literate be allowed to contribute to the education debate? And of course, how dared the former Prime Minister allow a democratic ballot of these unfit participants over EU membership, especially when it returned ‘the wrong result’.
Well, because, in this case, the pressure coming from this same demos forced his hand, but this was a rare event and may have spelled the end of referenda in the west altogether. The ruling classes (for they increasingly come from entitled origins) across the western world have looked on in horror at the Brexit debacle. If the birthplace of representative democracy could suffer this embarrassment, they wonder, could it also befall us? Of course, some quarters have not abandoned pretend direct democracy yet; they are calling for the referendum to end all referendums, because a ‘People’s Vote’ that returns the correct result would be the mighty door that shuts out the format forever.
But who does ‘representative democracy’ actually represent? Not the voters, for certain. This is one reason that proportional representation will never again be considered, at least never by those who gain from first-past-the-post. The referendum outcome is re-enacted every five years in every marginal constituency with the result that whoever charms the larger number of voters then has five years to ignore their slim majorities in favour of whatever Parliament decides.
As long as this system exists, be prepared for huge discrepancies between what governments say is happening and what people see is happening. Just one, simple example of how yawning that gap is this: Ruth Davidson has just said that wearing the burka is no different from wearing a crucifix. How astonishingly naïve is that? And how astonishingly ignorant of the fears and concerns of those who put her in post. Brexit, Trump and the so-called ‘rise of the right’ are all democratic reactions to the increasingly undemocratic way our world is ordered. Can’t you feel the strain?