The problems of democracy.

 

I strongly believe democracy is the least bad form of government. I would far rather live in a country where you can express disagreements with government, campaign to change government policies, and vote to change the politicians if all else fails, than live in various types of tyranny or bureaucracy.

Democracy, though, brings tribulations with it. Sometimes the minority is right but unsuccessful in persuading the majority. UK democracy in my lifetime has visited upon us the Exchange Rate Mechanism which did large damage to our economy, with the agreement of all three main parties and most of the UK establishment. Those of us who opposed it were censured and criticised. It brought the big Labour credit bubble, boom and bust. This time various voices including at times the opposition parties highlighted the excessive credit and inflationary dangers, but the majority ignored us at huge cost to the country.

Democracy has also encouraged an activist type of politics, where many politicians think the way to popularity and re election is to spend ever more of their constituents’ money on their behalf.  There is a tendency to overspend inherent in modern democracy, as it produces so many elected officials who think there is a government answer to every problem, and that the answer is usually the spending of more of someone else’s money to fix it.

The same impulse to activism makes of many MPs natural advocates of ever more regulation. Modern democracy is prey to well intentioned lobby groups, who marshall their case using PR and email camapigns. Many MPs think it easier to give in to whatever their demand may be, rather than arguing with them. Rarely do campaign groups campaign for repeal or for less government activity. They usually are completely signed up to the government must do something approach.

As a result pressures to give taxpayers a better deal and to limit the impulse to regulate and control usually comes in the form of an economic and financial crisis. After a period of build up in excess spending and government borrowing, market pressures, the views of the creditors, break through and force the elected government in crisis to take corrective action.  Democracy would work better if the pressures from lobby groups were better balanced between those urging the government to do more, and those urging the government to do less.

This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink. Both comments and trackbacks are currently closed.

115 Comments

  1. alan jutson
    Posted August 2, 2013 at 6:06 am | Permalink

    More Members for the House of Lords for for those who have given donations to a political Party.

    Somewhere along the way we have lost the true meaning of Democracy.

    On a local note I see Royal Berks Hospital have wasted £28 million or more on a new IT system, is anyone being held responsible, has anyone been sacked, other than much needed nurses working at the sharp end.
    Last Time I went to Royal Berks with my wife (this week) all the patient files were still being carted around in giant folders !

    • Roger Farmer
      Posted August 2, 2013 at 3:29 pm | Permalink

      Deja Vu. I have already posted the solution to this problem on this site, and to my MP who said he would discuss it with the Minister concerned. It would seem we still have chaos.
      Solution. Buy sixty million or more eight gigabyte sticks in China and encrypt every individuals health records on one or two per person. One on a necklace like dog tags and one on your car key ring. In case of an accident, even if you are in a coma, everyone who deals with you has all the information they need. For routine visits to health facilities you just plug it into the consultants computer.
      Problem is that the decision makers prefer more complex solutions involving billions in sterling because they think it enhances their importance. In reality it all goes for a bucket of worms at unnecessary expense to you and me. God save us from experts.

      • Roger Farmer
        Posted August 2, 2013 at 3:35 pm | Permalink

        As an addendum, the lady in my local Farmacia thought an injected chip would solve the problem of those that do not have cars and hate necklaces.
        For further thought consult George Orwell.

  2. Mick Anderson
    Posted August 2, 2013 at 6:11 am | Permalink

    Sometimes the minority is right but unsuccessful in persuading the majority

    It seems more that the the minority are far more noisy and persistant than the majority, and that the powers-that-be keep insisting on making daft laws in order to be seen doing “something”. The vast, silent majority probably just wanted everything left alone, but that wouldn’t suit the pertpetual fidgets in Government – they can only justify their existance (and vast salaries) by tampering with the status quo.

    If SW1 wants to do something for the majority, they should start rolling back all the rules, regulations, taxes and spending that have been introduced in the last couple of decades.

  3. Alte Fritz
    Posted August 2, 2013 at 6:19 am | Permalink

    It is hard to imagine freedom without democracy but impossible to have democracy without freedom. That is why “People’s Democratic Republics” are neither free nor democratic.

    Freedom depends on the smallest and least intrusive state which is consistent with a functioning civil society.

  4. margaret brandreth-j
    Posted August 2, 2013 at 6:21 am | Permalink

    Democracy would work better if all those who have an independent vote balanced that freedom with a sense of independent responsibility.
    All I hear from various people and passing conversations is ‘I will be better off if I do this or that’ Lets face it , total selfishness is the flavour of the new competitive world and this isn’t confined to party politics , but to every single transaction and conversation. The hacking for good stories to beat another( regardless whether they are true or not) the putting down of others to try and look ‘good’ , the twisting of the truth to be parasitic of others skills and jobs. The monitoring of certain individuals in and out of politics to get ‘something on them’ when a truth needs to be taken forward which is against an organisation’s interests. The tyrants are many , but the little groups who think that they have a right to act politically and locally for their own interests , hopefully will eventually be swallowed up in fairness ,which should be at the centre of democracy.

  5. Gary
    Posted August 2, 2013 at 6:22 am | Permalink

    Democracy is the tyranny of the majority and only lasts until people work out that they can vote themselves state handouts. A banking parasite grows up around the govt to enable the MPs to grant the voters their wishes. Then democracy collapses and we get totalitarianism.

    Get rid of govt and let the free market reign. A true free market, not the rigged non free market we now have.

    • Nick
      Posted August 2, 2013 at 7:48 am | Permalink

      Just wait until the public find out what John won’t admit to.

      Namely a 6,500 bn pension debt that was Bernie Maddof’ed off the books.

      “That’s not the way it works” to quote Mr Redwood.

      “I’ll publish the numbers once elected”. Still waiting for the official numbers not the estimates.

      Still off the books.

      See sections 1-5 2006 Fraud act for the offence of making misrepresentations and exposing people to risk of loss or actual loss.

      Reply I have supplied estimates and answered this. Any figure for this liability will be an estimate, as it depends on how many people and how much the pension increases are over the years.

    • uanime5
      Posted August 2, 2013 at 3:19 pm | Permalink

      The free market is even worse than what we have. Under the free market everyone would have to work and live like slaves so that the corporate elites could maintain their privileges.

      • Edward2
        Posted August 3, 2013 at 8:03 am | Permalink

        And you have the cheek to call others fantasists.
        A particularly ridiculous comment Uni.
        Care to give us any examples of this either now or on the past?

        • uanime5
          Posted August 3, 2013 at 3:27 pm | Permalink

          You mean other than what like to work in the UK before laws limiting how long people could work, ensuring that working conditions were safe, and preventing discrimination. For past examples I’d recommend Victorian England and early 20th century USA.

          • libertarian
            Posted August 4, 2013 at 11:05 am | Permalink

            Victorian England ? You mean like the Cadbury family and their building of workers free housing at Bourneville or the Lever brothers and their workers housing on the Wirral at Port Sunlight they also both built schools and hospitals.

            Or perhaps you mean Charles Dickens ( yes that one ) who was philanthropy consultant to Angela Burdett-Coutts the owner of Coutts Bank. She funded and paid to run among other things Urania Cottages for homeless women, she funded the Ragged School Union to provide free education to poor children and in who’s honour the statue of charity ( known as Eros) was erected in Picadilly Circus for her pioneering work on ending child labour. She gave away more than £4 million to charitable causes.

            Or how about Metropolitan Association? A charitable organisation founded by Victorian Industrialists who all yearly gave 5% of profits towards the building of homes for the poor.

            I guess you’re not from London the uanime5 so you wont know about George Peabody who built social housing in London and STILL today that great Victorian industrialist free market capitalist makes social housing available in London.

            Or how about John Passmore Ewards who poured money into building free hospitals and libraries, he also funded the Royal Holloway in London and The Mason in Birmingham.

            Victorian England also saw the founded and financing of the following charities NSPCC, RSPCA etc

            A study of 466 wills published in the Daily Telegraph in 1890 showed that people left between 11 and 25 % of their entire estates to charity.

            Theres lots more.

            Trouble with socialists is they aren’t to good with facts and reality

          • Edward2
            Posted August 4, 2013 at 2:52 pm | Permalink

            So Victorian Britain and 20th century USA which both saw the greatest improvement in the standard of living for the working person ever seen are your examples Uni

            Presumably you would say Russia under Stalin gave their workers a much better life.

      • libertarian
        Posted August 3, 2013 at 4:07 pm | Permalink

        Uanime5

        Er in a free market there aren’t any corporate elites. Corporatism is a facet of socialism its how socialism pays the bills

  6. Andyvan
    Posted August 2, 2013 at 6:29 am | Permalink

    Can anyone remember a government program or regulation that actually worked as advertised, without unforeseen consequences and on budget?
    Has anyone ever seen an efficient government service?
    It is a mystery why so many people ignore all the evidence that asking government to fix a problem will either make it worse or create several new problems.
    What we need is a lot more people calling for the government to do a lot less.

    • uanime5
      Posted August 2, 2013 at 3:20 pm | Permalink

      Give how the private sectors keeps failing to resolve problems such as homeless, unemployment, education, healthcare, or infrastructure it’s up to the Government to help people.

      • Edward2
        Posted August 3, 2013 at 8:08 am | Permalink

        Uni, rubbish.
        The private sector have never been given a free hand to solve problems in these areas, which are ones where the dead hand of the State is all pervading

        • uanime5
          Posted August 3, 2013 at 3:29 pm | Permalink

          The private sector had plenty of time before the state got involved, yet they didn’t do anything because it wasn’t profitable. It’s nothing more than wishful thinking to expect altruism from companies that only exist to make a profit.

          • libertarian
            Posted August 4, 2013 at 11:10 am | Permalink

            Total and utter cobblers. Try reading my post above on Victorian England.

            On the creation of the NHS NO NEW hospitals were built they just continued to use the hospitals built by private companies.

            You have a fixation with profit without any understanding of what it is and how it benefits society, typical socialist

          • Edward2
            Posted August 4, 2013 at 2:54 pm | Permalink

            Seeing how well the State is doing in all these areas Uni
            You must be so proud.

  7. Anonymous
    Posted August 2, 2013 at 7:05 am | Permalink

    The issue appears to be those shouting loudest getting the best of democracy and at least equal airtime and debating platform despite them being minorities. This gives the impression of the debated being 50/50. One wouldn’t mind if they were right in what they were saying.

    Also those who have committed violent protest – or threatened it. They have achieved significant changes in policy to the detriment of the peaceful majority through unlawful and undemocratic means.

    Democracy in Britain isn’t simply driven by populism – spending to gerrymander votes – but by a total withdrawal of policies which are unacceptable to the Left and the near complete emasculation of the Conservative party.

    This isn’t a case of democracy being a bit flawed. Your party has been totally outclassed and outmaneuvered by the New Labour movement.

    • Anonymous
      Posted August 2, 2013 at 7:51 pm | Permalink

      Further to democracy being ‘a bit flawed’ as you seem to suggest.

      New Labour went on and changed the national demographic quite clearly against the national will and they did so by stealth.

      They did so to – among other things – make it untenable and (no exaggeration here) illegal to be conservative in this country.

      So what future a back-bench Conservative party where conservatism has been outlawed ?

  8. Brian Tomkinson
    Posted August 2, 2013 at 7:24 am | Permalink

    JR: “Democracy would work better if the pressures from lobby groups were better balanced between those urging the government to do more, and those urging the government to do less.”
    There was a time when we were told the Conservative was the party of small government – not much evidence of that today.
    Democracy would work better if politicians did not renege on their election promises or introduce legislation which was not in their manifestos and did not transfer the powers with which they have been entrusted to an anti-democratic foreign organisation called the EU.

    • lifelogic
      Posted August 2, 2013 at 8:19 am | Permalink

      Indeed Cameron is the very embodiment of big government, to the tips of his finger nails, with his fake green, fake equality, big state, ever more regulation and laws and pro EU agenda.

      What sort of half witted fool would bring in a gender equality insurance law, when clearly the genders have very different risks? Or a no retirement law?

      • Bob
        Posted August 2, 2013 at 1:11 pm | Permalink

        I’m currently seeking warehouse staff, but apparently I’m not allowed to check an applicant re criminal convictions. I’m not even allowed to ask if they’re colour blind, although it would be a show stopper as far as the job is concerned.

        The inmates are now running the asylum.

        • Lifelogic
          Posted August 2, 2013 at 1:33 pm | Permalink

          Indeed nor will it be easy to sack them if they cannot do the job due to some such condition.

        • Bazman
          Posted August 2, 2013 at 7:59 pm | Permalink

          I doubt very much you cannot ask if they are colour blind or ask about criminal convictions. Provide evidence.

        • libertarian
          Posted August 6, 2013 at 7:18 pm | Permalink

          Bob

          Not sure who told you that nonsense but theyre wrong. In fact in many jobs a criminal record check is mandatory. Ex offenders are encouraged to disclose their past record when job seeking too.

          Colour blindness is an impediment that will make some jobs difficult or dangerous to do.

          • Bazman
            Posted August 11, 2013 at 11:47 am | Permalink

            No bob and no evidence. He could not get anyone to work for bob’s bob-a-job scheme it seems.

  9. Javelin
    Posted August 2, 2013 at 7:40 am | Permalink

    Very good point – but how?

    There are few organisations that want the government to spend/tax less.

    Most see it as a free lunch.

    What about a charity campaigning for the cure for a fatal disease – is that spending too much.

    It appears to me the answer to your question is your first point – democracy.

    So what is needed is full transparency of the meetings minutes and what was discussed. There are very easy to use and free websites that could be used to publish minutes. I think minutes should be treated like expenses.

  10. Nick
    Posted August 2, 2013 at 7:44 am | Permalink

    850 bn a year on debt – pensions included.

    8,000 bn of debt – pensions included.

    Unless MPs are truthful, we do not have a democracy.

    For example, if we take the Lords. The Clerk of Parliament has made it a state secret the attendence of Peers, because they have been claiming expenses for days they didn’t attend.

    Can we challenge that? No. He, a civil servant can dictate what we know, and we cannot challenge it, because he has made his involvement a secret.

    There is no democracy until we have a vote on issues.

  11. Horatio McSherry
    Posted August 2, 2013 at 7:51 am | Permalink

    John, in this age of t’interweb, at home, on phones, it makes finding the right people for whatever you need literally a click away. Do we need a “social” government anymore? I think a minimal government for health, security, overseas diplomacy (which would include helping businesses abroad also), is there much more we really need national government for? (And before someone asks, yes I have been unemployed, twice, and recieved minimum benefits which was far lass than I could have saved on my own terms).

  12. lifelogic
    Posted August 2, 2013 at 8:01 am | Permalink

    “better balanced between those urging the government to do more, and those urging the government to do less” indeed and who is the biggest caller for ever more government but the bloated, overpaid, state funded BBC and who did Cameron appoint to oversee it but the Lord Patten.

    Perhaps the three main problems or representative democracy are that the politicians and state sector workers who are corrupt can respond not to voters interests, but to those of their backers, consultant providers, their families, their friends and people with brown envelopes. They also give cast iron promises on the EU, inheritance tax, university fees and the like then patently rat on them after they are have served their purpose.

    Secondly there is always the danger that politicians with promise gullible voters (using endless appeals to envy of others/equality/discrimination) a land of milk and honey, using other people money in order to get elected. One lot of the feckless voters can thus gang up to rob the hard working successful and thus destroying the very incentives to work hard and success.

    Thirdly in the UK politicians have be able, without reference to the voters, to give (or even sell for personal gain) the UK democracy belonging to voter. This by giving powers, that were not ever theirs to give, to the totally undemocratic EU. Consistently done and with endless lies from three parties for over thirty odd years.

    On corruption I not that Party leaders are accused of polluting Parliament by giving peerages to their biggest donors. Surely not, surely it is mere coincidence like throwing 10 sixes in a row at dice (probability 1 in 60,466,176), still people have been convicted of murder on far less convincing odds, but I am sure it is just coincidence. Les us give them the benefit of the doubt shall we.

    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/politics/10216323/Party-leaders-polluting-Parliament-by-giving-peerages-to-biggest-donors.html

    I note

    • uanime5
      Posted August 3, 2013 at 3:33 pm | Permalink

      Perhaps if the “hard working successful” people actually created jobs that paid a living wage people might be more inclined to work. You can’t expect welfare costs to remain the same when salaries are rising much slower than inflation.

      • lifelogic
        Posted August 4, 2013 at 1:52 pm | Permalink

        Well given the bloated state they have to support and the absurd taxes and regulation they often cannot pay any more, but as jobs are created (if this is rolled back) competition would clearly force wages up.

      • Edward2
        Posted August 4, 2013 at 2:59 pm | Permalink

        It would be helpful if welfare rates followed industry wage levels rather than RPI
        Those of us working and paying tax in the competitive private sector would have liked a 5% rise as given to welfare claimants recently.

  13. David Hope
    Posted August 2, 2013 at 8:14 am | Permalink

    Democracy in its current form is very crude. It doesn’t even guarantee any freedoms. There can be the oppressive majority which is often seen in countries ethnically divided.Free press, fair, independent and cheap justice are also required and much else to make a place work.

    All democracy provides is a check on any government becoming too corrupt or doing anything too unpopular

    We are lazy in the way we think that having one vote every 5 years for one of 2 (or 4) parties is the pinnacle of human progress. It was a necessity to have this representative democracy 100 years ago.

    It is time for far more direct democracy I think and technology can make it simple. Included in this should be public decisions on tax and spending. All spending increases would legally require a spending increase. All tax increases should require a vote on it – this would limit big government more than anything!

    I also think that if we had more direct votes we could ensure that only those affected voted. For example, votes on tax could not include votes by people who pay no tax. No oppressing one group to buy another’s votes.

    Giving people clear decisions on major issues could I believe result in much more mature government, where voters don’t act like children going for whoever promises them everything.

    • Dan H.
      Posted August 2, 2013 at 2:47 pm | Permalink

      The problem with direct democracy like this is that it assumes that the people taking these decisions are intelligent, motivated and prepared to make a clear and cool assessment of the facts and decide accordingly. Unfortunately this is an assumption which cannot be made; quite a large proportion of the electorate are, to put it crudely, bloody thick.

      As the saying goes, the empty can rattles the most and accordingly whilst the likes of myself, trained to a fairly high level in scientific methods, tend to keep quiet for fear of being wrong, the Great Unclued are prepared to burble on loudly and at length on topic they know nothing about and which they have not even tried to research.

      A useful example here is the current furore regarding bovine tuberculosis. bTB isn’t species-specific (as the name unhelpfully suggests), and has a number of other unhelpful little quirks and foibles of which the Great Unclued are blissfully ignorant. For a start, it hides from immune systems and unless the infected animal can modify its immune response from the standard anti-bacterial one to an inflammatory response, stimulating an immune system with a vaccine is fairly pointless (or even downright damaging).

      So we now have a situation whereby a tiny problem fifteen years ago has become, by neglect, an enormous epizootic with huge economic implications which can only be solved by getting rid of the disease-carrying reservoir hosts. As these are badgers and look cute, the public generally don’t want to see these animals culled and are going to great lengths to try to prevent this necessary action taking place.

      Similar arguments apply to power generation; quite a few people really are stupid enough to object to coal-fired power on the grounds of climate change, gas-fired for similar reasons, nuclear on safety grounds and wind on aesthetic grounds. That leaves you with no way to generate power at all.

      This is the problem with direct democracy; you’re asking idiots to decide important stuff. If anything, a pure totalitarian dictatorship actually out-performs direct democracy of this sort, unless whoever is running the direct democracy is very careful to ask only loaded questions, or to simply rig the ballot.

      • lifelogic
        Posted August 4, 2013 at 1:56 pm | Permalink

        “The problem with direct democracy; you’re asking idiots to decide important stuff.”

        Well to a degree but at least they are not corrupts or self interested career politicians. In general the voters have been more right than politicians. Idiots tend to cancel each other out very often. Crowds can be quite wise on balance.

    • uanime5
      Posted August 2, 2013 at 3:28 pm | Permalink

      So by your logic when the Government wants to cut a service only those who use this service should be allowed to vote on whether it should be cut. After all if people are denied their vote because they don’t pay a tax why shouldn’t they also be denied their vote if they don’t use a service. This would prevent one group buying another’s votes by bribing them with lower taxes.

    • wab
      Posted August 2, 2013 at 7:28 pm | Permalink

      “I also think that if we had more direct votes we could ensure that only those affected voted. For example, votes on tax could not include votes by people who pay no tax. No oppressing one group to buy another’s votes.”

      Everybody pays taxes, e.g. VAT. Presumably you mean income tax, but income tax is only one tax out of many, so why that should determine who gets a vote is a mystery. And if you want to be consistent with your world view then presumably you think most pensioners should not get a vote.

      Further, it should be trivially obvious to anyone that many people are affected by reductions in spending in the same way that many people are affected by increases in tax.

      And if you earn enough money to pay a lot of income tax then you are not being “oppressed”, you should consider yourself lucky to be rich. Oh, I forgot, what has the government (or the Romans) ever done for you, eh.

      • sm
        Posted August 3, 2013 at 3:49 pm | Permalink

        Control of fiat money is a method of control and a tax? How should that be democratically controlled?

        We are all compelled to use this fiat and hence money is a public society construct, voting should include all users of the fiat- particularly those who are most exposed by the predations of the tptb.

  14. peter davies
    Posted August 2, 2013 at 8:24 am | Permalink

    “Sometimes the minority is right but unsuccessful in persuading the majority”

    You can a huge list of things what you mention as its a bit more than sometimes;

    The Iraq war was voted through the commons, with opponents sidelined

    More recently the majority of MPs did not vote to support an EU referendum implying that they are against it (even though they did not have the courage to come out and vote this way) yet they were more than happy to vote on something (in my opinion) of far less importance – Gay Marriage; even Scottish MPs whose constituencies it did not affect

    There seems to be little opposition to HS2 when evidence produced and presented to transport committees clearly does not support it

    The approach to climate change (windmills etc) and the insane approach to energy production does not seem to have a lot of opposition in parliament when A. The science of climate change is not even agreed in the scientific community and B. The solution of wind turbines and burning wood imported from the USA won’t make a jot of difference

    Examples like above lead me to believe that the wrong types of people often get drawn to politics or there must be something seriously broken in the system when you vote for an MP who simply follows majority consensus on the major issues –

    Little wonder Mr Farage says “you cannot put a fag paper between the main parties when it comes to major issues” – despite their approaches often being wrong.

    Something needs to happen to bring back some common sense in politics.

    • uanime5
      Posted August 2, 2013 at 3:30 pm | Permalink

      In reality climate change is caused by man made CO2, something that is supported by almost the entire scientific community. Your attempts to deny this because it conflicts with your personal ideology will not change this.

      • Denis Cooper
        Posted August 3, 2013 at 7:55 am | Permalink

        Indeed, it has always been the case that climate change is caused by man made CO2, even back when there were no men to make CO2 …

        • uanime5
          Posted August 3, 2013 at 3:40 pm | Permalink

          I noticed that you failed to provide any reason as to why there’s currently climate change or what’s causing it.

          • Denis Cooper
            Posted August 4, 2013 at 12:19 pm | Permalink

            That’s because I don’t know, and as BSc ARCS DPhil plus many years of scientific research – including in areas which happen to touch upon central issues in climatological theory – precise measurements of temperature, and near infra-red spectrophotometry, and computer modelling of complex systems – and alert to the growing problem of scientific fraud and the falsification of data for personal and political reasons, I know that I don’t even know whether there’s currently any climate change which could be regarded as clearly abnormal on a longer time scale, let alone know the reasons for any such claimed but still unproven abnormal climate change.

            You, on the other hand, in your ignorance, and with your political prejudice, claim that you do know when you don’t; while some other more prominent characters who actually have a scientific background know very well that they also don’t know, but having publicly committed themselves to a particular theory, for both scientific and non-scientific reasons, now lack the scientific integrity to admit their error and so persist in pretending that they do know even though it has become increasingly obvious that they don’t know.

          • Neil Craig
            Posted August 4, 2013 at 2:34 pm | Permalink

            There isn’t.
            There has been no warming since 1995. This is described by alarmists as “paradoxical” but they do not consider mere evidence to affect their totalitarian scare story.

        • lifelogic
          Posted August 4, 2013 at 2:00 pm | Permalink

          Clearly it was the monkeys before mankind arrived, and before that the dinosaurs with their 4X4 dinosaurmobiles and extensive use of jet-skis.

      • Lindsay McDougall
        Posted August 3, 2013 at 7:59 am | Permalink

        How can you bang on about climate change and CO2 emissions without recommending the only thing that would really work, zero world population growth? Oops, I forgot. That would offend and constrain the Church of Rome, which lies at the heart of the European Union that you love so much.

        • uanime5
          Posted August 3, 2013 at 3:41 pm | Permalink

          What does the Catholic Church have to do with the EU? Also given that there’s a declining birth rate in most EU countries it seems that they’re already working towards zero population growth.

          • Lindsay McDougall
            Posted August 4, 2013 at 12:38 pm | Permalink

            The Church of Rome doesn’t just operate and preach in the EU. Haven’t you read about the new Pope preaching to the faithful in South America at mass rallies? And earlier in the Philippines? The Church of Rome has not withdrawn its teaching on birth control and abortion. It has only recently conceded that women who have been raped might, just might, be entitled to an abortion.

            That Church operates at the heart of Europe and is protected by it. Do you really think that the existence of the Vatican State is compatible with modernity? Do you think that UK taxpayers should have forked out £12 million to pay for a papal visit? Do you think that the Church should influence working practices at weekends?

          • sjb
            Posted August 6, 2013 at 7:52 am | Permalink

            Lindsay McDougall wrote: Do you really think that the existence of the Vatican State is compatible with modernity?
            How the Catholic Church Built Western Civilization

      • peter davies
        Posted August 4, 2013 at 9:21 am | Permalink

        In reality climate change is caused by man made CO2

        @Uni Yet again you show how naive you really are – you don’t know that anymore than I do – try watching Secrets of the Sun aired on BBC recently which talks about the Sun cycles affect on global temperatures.

        We had a mini ice age 350 years ago way before the industrial revolution which coincided with sun spots disappearing and we will have variations over again indeed they think we may be heading into a cool period now.

        Even if it is true that CO2 is the cause of warming – my point is that the solutions we have will make no difference whatsoever – not ideology FACT.

        What you must accept is we will always have climate change due largely to whats going on in outer space. This is not ideology – I don’t do ideology I do the FACTS as I see them

  15. Sean O'Hare
    Posted August 2, 2013 at 8:46 am | Permalink

    Our political system, the so called representative democracy which formulates policy based on agreement between politicians and the establishment is not a democracy at all. A real democracy as the name implies requires much greater involvement by the people than simply voting for an MP every 5 years.

    The Harrogate Agenda would seem to offer the prospects of real democracy.

    http://harrogateagenda.org.uk/blogview.aspx?blogno=83947

    JR, I would be very interested in your reaction to the demands.

    Reply: I do not detect enthusiaism for such a radical change in our constitution. As you say, voters would have to do much more in this system.

    • cornishstu
      Posted August 2, 2013 at 5:50 pm | Permalink

      I suspect that the majority of the British public are not even aware of the the Harrogate agenda at this time, maybe government should ask whether we would prefer a system along those proposed.

    • Sue
      Posted August 2, 2013 at 6:34 pm | Permalink

      I think you’re confusing voter apathy with what we have now. Its not that voters aren’t interested in participating, indeed at a local level, they certainly get involved. They have just realised that the form of representative democracy that seems to have evolved, completely ignores them!

      The last election was a complete shambles. All three parties seem to have agreed to run with the same goals in mind. As many people commented at the time, “there was not a fag paper between them”. Even manifesto’s have become fairy tales to ensnare the voters and then bit by bit, are rapidly abandoned.

      True democracy can only function at local levels (like Switzerland) with the main body of government, only responsible for certain areas like the armed forces and foreign affairs. It makes sense to do it the “Harrogate” way. Each town or city is different. Each one has different needs and giving the people the power to control their local authorities completely, would be true democracy.

      The EU is without doubt, not democratic and I refuse to call myself European, I am not, I was not consulted on the change in my citizenship nor was my consent gained for this expensive dictatorship.

      If we had somebody with enough courage to get us our independence, you would begin to see the change in people as it becomes apparent that we have the power to change things for ourselves once again.

  16. Mike Wilson
    Posted August 2, 2013 at 9:16 am | Permalink

    The ‘problems with democracy’. Where to start? All over the world democracies seem to be dominated by two or three political parties. Okay, this is better than being dominated by one political party. But, just because it is better, does not mean it can’t be improved.

    I despair of the undemocratic democracy n this country. Look at the recent appointments to the House of Lords. Party donors for heaven’s sake! This shows the utter contempt with which the members of our main parties treat the rest of us. The expenses scandal gave rise to all sorts of protestations about ‘transparency’ and ‘accountability’ and ‘democracy’ etc. Yet, here we are a couple of years later and it is business as usual. It is utterly disgusting (if people can give a large donation to a party and then become a Lord ed). And £300 a day! Do they get that every day, regardless of whether they attend? And no tax on it – so I heard on the radio this morning! Yes, we are all in this together!
    (no, they have to attend ed)

    Why do people vote for Lib Lab or Con? I believe most people vote on the basis of who they don’t want rather than who they do want. Which gives rise to our present system of political parties packed with people who are not actually much use to man nor beast.

    And no-one is willing to tackle electoral reform. Our democracy is far from perfect but no-one will make any attempt to make it fairer. Once in power, parties leave things as they are – or change them to favour themselves. Many people in this country are effectively disenfranchised due to living in ‘safe’ seats. No seat should be safe – but the Tory and Labour parties are happy with it.

    I really hope UKIP get 25% of the vote next time – if for no other reason than to break the mould of our political system and, hopefully, to build a better, more representative and democratic system.

    At the very least we clearly need legal restrictions on the amount of money governments can borrow. We must never allow ourselves to get into the same predicament we are now in.

    The Tories have been in power more than Labour since the 2nd World War. So, they are just as much to blame for our current predicament. The nature of our democracy is based very much on the notion that if you give government an inch, it will take a yard. New Labour terrified me, they wanted to run everything and poke their nose into everything. Even to the point where we couldn’t take cakes in to sell at our sons’ schools jumble sales. ‘Elf and safety innit.’ Yes, government had intruded right down to that level of our communities.

    The trouble with democracy is that if the two or three main parties that dominate it are next to useless, you seem to be stuck with them as it is not easy for anyone else to break into the system.

  17. Leslie Singleton
    Posted August 2, 2013 at 9:46 am | Permalink

    As stated before I do not believe we need the very concept of MP’s any more. If for some reason we are to be forbidden individual consultation which is the obvious Way To Go and is now easy enough given all this wonderful modern communications technology, I should like to be governed by the most intelligent experts we have rather than MP’s who (sort of) are merely popular or in some cases good looking. I particularly have in mind a few pronouncements from various committees of MP’s recently. Each time I thought to myself, what on earth do they know about it?

    • margaret brandreth-j
      Posted August 2, 2013 at 4:41 pm | Permalink

      Do you mean the most intelligent or those who have been through the paid system and can pass exams by memory of the things required to be in that system .God help us if we were ruled by some of the buffoons accredited with 1sts in degrees and have only got to that position by sway .I have met many such and am constantly upset by the level of selfishness and ignorance they display. E.g. I have been to Oxford and will get my own way anyway!

      • Leslie Singleton
        Posted August 3, 2013 at 10:26 am | Permalink

        Margaret–Well, if according to you we cannot rely on intelligent experts on any particular subject, God help us. Perfection spells paralysis and you do what you can do. At least such people would not continually and seemingly intrinsically make my gorge rise as, present company excepted (and I mean that), most MP’s do. Reading about that greasy (individual) Cameron’s failure to stand up straight and apologise like a man to Mr Cruddas disgusted me, and the same goes for his (word left out ed) chairman chappie whose name I still cannot remember never mind spell. Apart from all else didn’t want to upset the Sunday Times I suppose.

        • margaret brandreth-j
          Posted August 3, 2013 at 11:17 am | Permalink

          Is it the case then you are saying that all intelligent experts are from Oxford with firsts? because I didn’t say this , I simply said that interpretation of intelligence should not be assessed by memory for the passing of exams. I have met many who worked well at UNI and then a few years later ask them anything about their core subject and they simply don’t remember when they are out out of the same circle.

          • Leslie Singleton
            Posted August 3, 2013 at 5:47 pm | Permalink

            Margaret–It was you not I that mentioned Oxford with Firsts though I have to say that one can do worse than that particular section of the population.

          • margaret brandreth-j
            Posted August 4, 2013 at 12:37 pm | Permalink

            I mentioned it and you continued with your view from that premise, putting your own slant on it .

  18. Atlas
    Posted August 2, 2013 at 9:46 am | Permalink

    Aaah, John, you raise the eternal problem. I thought these bright chaps who went to Oxford to read PPE were meant to understand it – from the evidence of the present Government I fear not. Still, Machiavelli’s book, ‘The Prince’, seems to cover everything… some things seem not to have changed over the intervening centuries, as a historian like yourself already knows.

  19. oldtimer
    Posted August 2, 2013 at 9:59 am | Permalink

    In 1976 Lord Hailsham warned of the dangers of the “elective dictatorship” – and that was before so many powers had been surrendered to the EU by successive UK governments. The situation today is infinitely worse. We might have the form and trappings of democracy but the reality is very different. There is evidence that governments and the EU have paid pressure groups to advocate policies which those institutions seek to impose – a form of taxpayer funded brainwashing of which most taxpayers are completely unaware. These policies usually seek to extend the power of the state or the super state over the lives and behaviour of it inhabitants. The main UK political parties seem to be united in their belief that this state of affairs is acceptable, apart from relatively minor differences. It is easy to see why. Such groupthink keeps the elective dictatorship alive and well for the participants until the next election determines if it is now Buggins turn to take the reins.

    • uanime5
      Posted August 2, 2013 at 3:33 pm | Permalink

      I’d say the UK Government is more of an elective dictatorship then the EU. The UK Prime Minister and a few aids now sets all policies, while the rest of their MPs just vote for them.

      • Edward2
        Posted August 3, 2013 at 1:49 pm | Permalink

        Uni,
        Funny, I thought each Party put forward a manifesto which people voted on.
        I presume you haven’t noticed there is a Coalition Government with MP’s from two parties in a Cabinet having to put forward policies which will be supported by a majority in the House of Commons.

        • uanime5
          Posted August 3, 2013 at 3:45 pm | Permalink

          I seem to recall that manifesto promises can be ignored with impunity.

          Also having the leaders of two parties and their aids forming all the policies, then telling their MPs to vote for it isn’t much better.

          • Lindsay McDougall
            Posted August 6, 2013 at 1:00 am | Permalink

            The man who made U-turns on just about every promise he made in the 1970 manifesto was one Edward Heath.
            – ‘Our sole commitment is to negotiate, nothing more’ – then we joined the EEC on ruinous terms.
            – ‘We will not support lame ducks’ – then came a massive bung to Upper Clyde Shipbuilders.
            – ‘We will not seek State control of prices and incomes’ – then came the Counter Inflation Act.

        • libertarian
          Posted August 3, 2013 at 4:12 pm | Permalink

          Actually Edward no we don’t vote on a manifesto and we dont elect a government and never have.

          We get to vote on picking a representative for an arbitrarily defined geographic area. The monarch picks our government. Then the ruling parties pick their donors, big supporters and school friends and appoint them to the second chamber.

          I’m all in favour of democracy and wonder when it will eventually come to the UK, as so far we don’t have it

      • Longinus
        Posted August 4, 2013 at 9:45 am | Permalink

        Surprised that you intelligent folk don’t know we’ve been in a post-democratic system for a number of years. This was always the plan, wise up.

  20. JimS
    Posted August 2, 2013 at 10:02 am | Permalink

    Lobby groups don’t have a vote and don’t pay taxes so why do MPs listen to them?

    • Lifelogic
      Posted August 2, 2013 at 1:34 pm | Permalink

      They pay “consultancy” fees and make part donations perhaps?

    • uanime5
      Posted August 2, 2013 at 3:31 pm | Permalink

      Donations to party coffers.

  21. Jerry
    Posted August 2, 2013 at 10:03 am | Permalink

    It [the ERM] brought the big Labour credit bubble, boom and bust.

    I also seem to recall a few Tory credit bubbles, booms and busts, and something that wasn’t so common under the last Labour government, people having their homes repossessed…

  22. Acorn
    Posted August 2, 2013 at 10:19 am | Permalink

    In “The Challenge of Democracy (6th edition)”, by Kenneth Janda, Jeffrey Berry, and Jerry Goldman, they say:- “Liberals favor government action to promote equality, whereas conservatives favor government action to promote order. Libertarians favor freedom and oppose government action to promote either equality or order.”

    MICHAEL LIND at SALON wrote:_ “Libertarianism is a vision of how people should be able to live their lives-as individuals, striving to realize the best they have within them; together, cooperating for the common good without compulsion. It is a vision of how people may endow their lives with meaning-living according to their deepest beliefs and taking responsibility for the consequences of their actions.

    It’s a seductive vision—enjoying the same quality of life that today’s heavily-governed rich nations enjoy, with lower taxes and less regulation. The vision is so seductive, in fact, that we are forced to return to the question with which we began: if libertarianism is not only appealing but plausible, why hasn’t any country anywhere in the world ever tried it?”

    • libertarian
      Posted August 3, 2013 at 4:14 pm | Permalink

      Acorn

      For the simple reason that in order to do so the ruling elite has to surrender power and nowhere in history has that ever occurred willingly either

  23. stred
    Posted August 2, 2013 at 10:23 am | Permalink

    Here is an example of democracy in action.

    Charity pressure groups campaign about action on shared houses, such as fire and sanitary precautions. Government commissions a survey of fire risks, showing that there is no excess risk in small shared houses. Over a few years this is forgotten and small houses are classified as HMOs in reducing numbers for sharers down to 2 or more unrelated persons.

    Student numbers increase and the number of shared houses increases. A campaign starts to license these as a minority of students cause problems with noise and refuse disposal. The local authorities are empowered to set up licensing departments and charge for this. They do so, including most of central areas in university towns. They start to require fire precautions and space standards which are expensive. Rents increase to cover costs and some houses are withdrawn from the market.

    The local authorities do not attend to noisy parties and do not pick up black refuse bags left by students at the end of term. Residents action groups start to report student houses and some student houses are vandalised.

    All of this action is because of a minority problem which would not exist if councils would deal with the miority in the first place. 20 years ago the police would deal with noisy late night parties and the council would deal with the rubbish. Now we have whole licensing departments putting the responsibility onto landlords, who are unable to control the behaviour of tenants by law. And the problems continue.

    • Nina Andreeva
      Posted August 2, 2013 at 6:37 pm | Permalink

      Stred its not minorities per se its just that the powers that be just could not give a toss about those of us who work for a living, pay our taxes and obey the law whatever our race, class or religion.

      Another irritating thing about students here in Bristol is that they insist on riding their bikes on the pavement. I believe the police can issue them with a spot fine of thirty quid, but as usual Bristol’s finest have other priorities when a pensioner or a mother with a pushchair are sent flying ….

  24. Neil Craig
    Posted August 2, 2013 at 10:25 am | Permalink

    “country where you can express disagreements with government, campaign to change government policies, and vote to change the politicians if all else fails”

    These are different things and parliamentary democracy can exist without disagreements being allowed to be aired – though of the 2 I would go for free speech.

    How do we fit on these tests. I suggest C-

    We are technically allowed free speech but speech alone can reach only a miniscule part of the population. Far and away the most important communications medium is broadcasting and in Britain there is a government owned monopoly (monopoly being defined as 70% plus) which specifically censors anybody unapproved. Moreover it not only censors any dissidents on government approved scare stories it has been proven willing to tell any lie whatsoever on the warming scare and presumably anything else. (more extreme allegation v. BBC deleted ed)
    Until such time as the government owned media is willing to regularly allow genuine formal debate (ie with more than 1 side represented) on the full range of political issues we will not be a country where you can effectively express disagreement with government.

    Over the last couple of decades we have seen that “campaigns to change government policy”, or at least those reported by the BBC & other media, are invariably government funded sock puppets, simply campaigning for more government power, usually using some false scare story. In a manner incompatible with journalistic honesty, the media virtually always conceal the fact that these are simply government fronts. In total these campaigns cost the British taxpayer about £50 bn a year but most people know nothing about it. For example I have yet to find a single global warming alarmist appearing in the comments sections of blogs and papers who can be identified as not being a government funded propagandist.

    On the 3rd point I notice you said turfing the rascals (yourself excluded) out was an “if all else fails” option. It should be a common occurance. The problem here is that we have an openly corrupt electoral system which disenfranchises dissidents and produces results with no more than a nodding acquaintance with how people vote. This system is maintained by the ruling class precisely because they depend on its corruption.

    On each of these Britain falls far short of being a free democracy and consequently of being a competently run country. Taken together …….

    • uanime5
      Posted August 3, 2013 at 4:01 pm | Permalink

      Firstly until the Human Rights Act was introduced free speech was considered a privilege, not a right. As a result it was very easy to sue someone for defamation.

      Secondly a monopoly has never been defined by as 70% plus. You need a minimum of 100% of the market to have a monopoly.

      Thirdly the BBC hasn’t had 70% or more control of broadcasting since ITV was introduced.

      Fourthly there’s no reason to have a debate when one side has no evidence to back up any of their claims. This is why most news channels, not just the BBC, don’t give cranks any airtime.

      Fifthly given that the private sector news channels have more scare stories than the BBC it’s somewhat nonsensical to only blame the BBC for this.

      Sixthly I’ve never found a global warming denier who isn’t connected to the oil industry, which stands to lose huge amounts of money if people switch to alternative fuels.

      • Edward2
        Posted August 4, 2013 at 5:36 pm | Permalink

        I won’t bother to argue your first 5 points Uni, even though they deserve a response being that they are all so wrong, but I will respond to your ridiculous slur in point six.
        I am someone who does not believe your religion on man made global warming now called climate change and I have absolutely no connection nor any financial interest in the oil industry.
        You seem to support Lenin’s idea that a lie if repeated often enough eventually becomes a fact.

      • Denis Cooper
        Posted August 4, 2013 at 6:48 pm | Permalink

        “Firstly until the Human Rights Act was introduced free speech was considered a privilege, not a right. As a result it was very easy to sue someone for defamation.”

        For God’s sake, some of us were around long before 1998 and we know this to be just more of your twaddle.

  25. Handbags
    Posted August 2, 2013 at 11:08 am | Permalink

    You can’t discuss democracy without taking into account the power of the media.

    In my lifetime virtually all government legislation has been in response to media campaigns.

    It’s not difficult to understand why. If you want to be elected then you have to be a good performer in the media – and if you’re up against a better performer than you, you lose.

    This is why most of our politicians have ‘the gift of the gab’ – they’re salesmen, selling themselves to the electorate – they have to be, the media demands it.

    The problem is that when they win power they’re no good at anything else – they talk a good game but actually doing something? I don’t think so (with a few notable exceptions).

    We all know this from working life. The ‘good guys’ come to work and just get on with it, no fuss or bother, no excuses, no noise or histrionics – good, honest, capable people.

    The question is how can we get good, honest, capable people into government? The short answer is we can’t with the media the way it is.

    Enacting the Leveson recommendations is a good start – but raising standards for all media outlets should be a priority and then maybe, just maybe, democracy would stand a better chance of actually reflecting the real wishes of the majority.

    • Kenneth
      Posted August 2, 2013 at 1:17 pm | Permalink

      Leveson is one answer (more regulation). Another possible answer is a more plural media.

      The internet is more plural than traditional media and, amongst the noise and inaccuracies we perhaps arrive at more honest coverage of events.

      • Handbags
        Posted August 2, 2013 at 4:12 pm | Permalink

        I don’t think regulation in itself is a problem – after all we’ve had the Press Complaints Commission for decades – it’s just that, in the main, they couldn’t be bothered with enforcement.

        Doctors are regulated – is that a bad thing? I know regulation can never be perfect, but I think somebody looking over your shoulder certainly helps to keep you on the straight and narrow.

        You’re right about the internet. While it’s correct that the truth is out there somewhere – the problem is the amount of time and trouble it takes to discover it. I’m not convinced that most ‘ordinary’ people would care enough to search.

        Also you only have to read this blog to realise how many people are unhappy with the BBC (I stopped watching after the 9/11 Question Time). I think it’s obvious that a state-funded broadcaster should reflect the views of the majority – but it doesn’t does it?

        Some form of independent arbiter viewing a random sample of publishing/broadcasting output, and giving a judgement on balance, impartiality and truth – to me, could only be a good thing. And, if ordinary Joe Public was involved as well, (a bit like Jury Service) I think it could transform society.

  26. waramess
    Posted August 2, 2013 at 11:14 am | Permalink

    Democracy has largely been subverted by the actions of politicians who seek to have a system unencumbered by an electorate.

    In the search for the centre the right and the left become disenfranchised whilst the centre end up with two similar parties and as a consequence nobody has a real choice. Politicians as a result lose sight of who their actions should benefit and the focus becomes one of who is lobbying the hardest whilst those still wet enough around the ears to believe their voters matter are quickly “whipped” into line.

    Additionaly the conviction goes out of politics and there pervades a Groucho Marx attitude of ” I have principles and if you don’t like them I have others”: an overwhelming need to win the next election by any means.

    The electorate have an importance only to the extent they determine which buggins gets the next term of office or, where a National newspaper uncovers a fraud of such a huge magnitude that the politicians need to do something in order to “preserve” the ” integrity” of parliament.

    This is not democracy; it is a “stitch up” by any definition anad has brought great distrust of and disinterest in politics as evidenced by the low turnout at general elections.

    It should bring far greater shame on politicians than the expenses frauds that largely went unpunished but politicians, of course, see things through quite different eyes.

    .

  27. Robert Taggart
    Posted August 2, 2013 at 11:31 am | Permalink

    Parliament be currently in recess.
    Politicians be meddling less than usual.
    Blighty be going about its business as usual.

    Ergo – what do we need Parliament / Parliamentarians for ?!

  28. Denis Cooper
    Posted August 2, 2013 at 11:42 am | Permalink

    “I strongly believe democracy is the least bad form of government.”

    So do I, and because it is itself only “the least bad form of government” I have to reject the inevitable degradation of our national democracy through EU membership.

    I can accept that my wishes for the government of our country may be over-ridden by the wishes of a majority of my fellow British citizens, because I see us as a “demos”, a people with enough in common to bind us together.

    It isn’t always easy to accept being outvoted by my fellow Britons, but if necessary I will grin and bear it when it happens.

    On the other hand even after three hundred years since the Union of the Parliaments, there are still significant numbers of my fellow British citizens in Scotland who refuse to accept that their wishes can be over-ridden by the votes of Westminster representatives elected in England, who still don’t see themselves as part of a common British “demos”, and who don’t want to remain British citizens; and also increasingly some of the British citizens in England no longer want Westminster representatives elected in Scotland to determine the laws of England and control the government of England, even though the great majority at Westminster, 82%, are elected in England.

    And even in Wales, nearly five centuries after its formal annexation to England, there are still those, a few, who do not want to share British citizenship with the English, Scots and Northern Irish, and who are not prepared to accept that their elected representatives can be outvoted by representatives elected in other parts of the United Kingdom.

    What hope, then, that over a few decades the EU can create a pan-EU “demos” which is prepared to accept unwelcome decisions made through pan-EU “democracy”?

    It’s a nonsense: maybe it could evolve over many generations or centuries, but despite all the efforts to artificially force it along the process has been so slow and the lack of growth of any pan-EU spirit among the national populations so evident and so disappointing to the eurocrats that the EU’s own Eurobarometer surveys stopped asking about it.

  29. Iain Gill
    Posted August 2, 2013 at 11:50 am | Permalink

    Democracy in this country really needs the whole candidate selection process sorting out, that the biggest problem.

  30. Kenneth
    Posted August 2, 2013 at 12:27 pm | Permalink

    In my humble opinion democracy in the UK could work well if we had a more balanced media.

    The BBC dominates news media and insists on commentating on the news rather than merely reporting it. It also chooses the running order and prioritization of stories and crucially chooses which guests to invite to speak.

    The resulting bias has devastating consequences on our economy and our well-being.

    For example, on the BBC more spending on the NHS is seen as a good thing. Since any credit requires a debit, the balancing news that taxpayers need to find this money is hardly (if at all) mentioned.

    The last Labour government’s spending spree was therefore greeted generally favourably by the BBC. The damage that was being done had no effective opposition especially as opposing political parties, such as the Conservatives were bound by the same media straightjacket and faced BBC censure – that is VERY public humiliating censure on national television, radio and internet – if they dared to criticize and attempt to represent the taxpayer’s point of view.

    I believe that a free and fair media is vital in our democracy. While the BBC dominates this vital element is missing and the damage to our lives continues.

    • uanime5
      Posted August 2, 2013 at 3:39 pm | Permalink

      Given that the Leveson report didn’t criticise the BBC it’s clear that certain other private sector media companies are far more harmful to the UK.

      • Kenneth
        Posted August 3, 2013 at 10:35 am | Permalink

        The Leveson Inquiry terms of reference was restricted to the press and not broadcast journalism

        • Lindsay McDougall
          Posted August 7, 2013 at 12:42 am | Permalink

          I wonder when someone is going to initiate a major inquiry into the legal profession and its love of generating unnecessary work for itself.

  31. John Eustace
    Posted August 2, 2013 at 12:47 pm | Permalink

    A key advantage of democracy is that it allows a peaceful transition of power.
    It is very difficult for a dictator to give up power and live in retirement without being subject to the vengeance of their enemies. Both they and their subjects are trapped.

    The little experience I have of Egypt tells me that the last straw for the people was the prospect of Mubarak handing over power to his son. They could put up with him, knowing that he could not survive for ever but when faced with the attempt to engineer a dynastic succession they felt at the point where they had to revolt for the sake of future generations.

    Whatever we think of Blair and Brown and others, the fact that they can leave power and carry on with their lives while others take over is critically important. All rulers with too much power go mad eventually so we have to be able to clear them out.

    • Kennth
      Posted August 2, 2013 at 2:06 pm | Permalink

      One thing that makes me proud of my country is where we see one prime minister handing over power to a new incumbent – usually with kind words and a message of good luck.

  32. uanime5
    Posted August 2, 2013 at 3:42 pm | Permalink

    I’d say the main problems with the UK’s democracy is that an MP can be elected with 30% of the votes, approximately 400 of the 650 seats in the Commons are safe seats, and there’s 807 unelected Lords (though only 754 are currently active).

    I’d also say that some campaigns do call for the Government to do less, especially campaigns by big business which want the regulators and HMRC to do much less.

  33. Ken Adams
    Posted August 2, 2013 at 3:55 pm | Permalink

    I do not think any of your examples can be blamed on democracy, more like the lack of democracy and breakdown of representative democracy! It is not democracy when all those standing for election for the main parties are offering basically the same polices, it is not democracy when those we elect are used as cannon fodder by the whips to force through ideas of a minority cross party elite. We do not have democracy in this country something more akin to an elected dictatorship.

  34. Edward2
    Posted August 2, 2013 at 3:55 pm | Permalink

    Democracy needs to start improving at local Council level with the reintroduction of votes for local business owners.
    This vote or votes, should be scaled to take into account the number of staff and the size of the premises and the amount of local tax they are forced to pay.
    Companies could be made to canvas their staff and state how they finally voted.
    In many inner city areas voters, most of whom who pay no taxes themselves, vote for high spending policies of Parties which local businesses then have to pay for, by paying their ever rising business rates.
    At national level we need the changes to the boundaries that should have happened, to be reintroduced and the ending of the farce that is postal voting.
    In Birmingham a judge called the system “akin to a banana republic” and “wide open for fraud and abuse”
    Democracy should mean power to the people, but what we have seen over the last 20 years is a large shift of power to the pressure groups, the growing quangocracy and to the salariat classes both in London and in Europe, leaving the citizen much further away from a say in the decision making process.

    • uanime5
      Posted August 3, 2013 at 4:06 pm | Permalink

      So in other words you want feudalism, where the only the wealthy can vote and the serfs have no control over the Government.

      • Edward2
        Posted August 4, 2013 at 3:03 pm | Permalink

        No Uni don’t be silly
        Just some representation for the payment of taxation where currently there is none.

  35. Lindsay McDougall
    Posted August 2, 2013 at 4:38 pm | Permalink

    “There is a tendency to overspend inherent in modern democracy, as it produces so many elected officials who think there is a government answer to every problem, and that the answer is usually the spending of more of someone else’s money to fix it.”

    Quite so. There is, I believe, a major opportunity open to a leading politician who consistently espouses the opposite principle, that minimal government is good and that spending more of someone else’s money is immoral.

    If John Redwood, for example, decided that every speech he made over (say) the next year and a bit, whether in Parliament or outside it, advocated lower government and EU spending and fewer powers for the State, then he would make quite a name for himself.

  36. Denis Cooper
    Posted August 2, 2013 at 5:42 pm | Permalink

    Here’s an interesting question.

    Once upon a time there was a country called Yugoslavia, with over 20 million inhabitants.

    How many of the inhabitants of Yugoslavia were actually Yugoslavs?

    Answer: not very many, just a few per cent:

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yugoslavs

    And because the rest were not prepared to be governed as Yugoslavs, even in a federal structure, Yugoslavia had to be held together by force rather than natural loyalty, and once force no longer worked Yugoslavia fell to pieces.

  37. Trevor Butler
    Posted August 2, 2013 at 5:56 pm | Permalink

    I have lived in nations where governments are only ‘watchmen on the walls’ and not like the UK government that wants to peer into and interfere in every orifice of society – I know which one I prefer

  38. Anthem
    Posted August 2, 2013 at 9:13 pm | Permalink

    The problem isn’t so much with democracy but on what “society” believes it has the right to vote on.

    Theoretically, in a democracy, 51% of the people can vote to (harm the minority-ed).

    What is required is a complete overhaul of what potential governments can and cannot use funds expropriated for and this means a complete overhaul of what government gets itself involved with.

    Personally, I do not believe that a person has any sort of automatic claim-by-right on the product of another person’s life – no matter how great their need.

    What we have at the moment is a rather horrific case of “how much of this person’s life efforts should we take from him/her and distibute where we see fit?”

    The population is then asked to vote… 20%? 23%? 25%? 40%? 50%? 90%?

    No. No. NO!

    Where on earth did this absurdity originate from?

    It wouldn’t be half bad if the funds so expropriated actually did go to genuinely worthy causes but billions go to people and projects which are far from “needy” and worthwhile but governments seem to have created for themselves little backdoors whereby funds can go anywhere it sees fit but most of these don’t even make the manifesto and no one can say anything to make me believe that a cross in any particular party’s box come the GE represents a signature on a blank cheque.

    Few, if any, people are voting for EVERYTHING a party does during its time in office.

    The range and scope of government needs to be drastically reduced and then we will simply be voting for the party we believe will be the best able to deliver the kind of service we require.

    Reply A democracy like the UK constrains majority governments from extreme actions – Ministers have to obey the law, so they cannot order harm to people, and if they wish to change the law in ways that can harm the minority the pressure of public opinion/Parliamentary process/the House of Lords and judges can kick in to make it impossible or very difficult.

    • Anthem
      Posted August 4, 2013 at 10:24 am | Permalink

      When people spend their irreplaceable time working on something and then a portion of the proceeds are taken from them (sometimes as much as 40-50%) then that is harming that person.

      That portion of their life is lost to them just as surely as if the government had incarcerated them for a couple of decades of their lives.

      It’s theft given legitimacy due to our “democracy”.

      That this is not thought of as “extreme” shows how far removed we are from a civilised society these days.

  39. dave roderick
    Posted August 2, 2013 at 10:53 pm | Permalink

    we do not have democracy in this country
    we have a dictatorial democracy where we are not asked or listened to
    we should be more like switzerland where the people are asked via a referendum
    we should be demanding that the harrogate agenda be adopted as of now

  40. Trevor Butler
    Posted August 2, 2013 at 10:56 pm | Permalink

    My daughter has just told me that she is closing her successful mail order business because of new EU legislation – got to love the way our government fights for us…

    • Denis Cooper
      Posted August 3, 2013 at 8:04 am | Permalink

      And presumably because your daughter is closing her business she will no longer be eligible to take part in those surveys asking businesses what they think about the EU. Just as “dead men don’t talk” so the innumerable businesses which have been killed off by the EEC/EC/EU over four decades no longer have a voice, and so inevitably there is a strong “survivorship bias” in its favour whenever businesses are asked for their opinion.

  41. Max Dunbar
    Posted August 4, 2013 at 10:37 am | Permalink

    The word ‘democracy’ will soon carry the same baggage as ‘communism’ with a track record of not only failure but repression, hypocrisy and humbug. The meaning of the word ‘democracy’ will change even if its definition remains constant.

  42. Bazman
    Posted August 4, 2013 at 1:47 pm | Permalink

    To quote Admiral General Aladeen Supreme leader of Republic of Wadiya who makes some very valid points that I’m sure many on this site would agree with.
    Why are you guys so anti-dictatorship? Imagine if America was a dictatorship! You could let 1% of the people have all the nations wealth. You could help your rich friends get richer by cutting their taxes and bailing them out when they gamble and lose. You could ignore the needs of the poor for health-care and education. Your media would appear free; but would secretly be controlled by one person and his family. You could wire-tape phones. You could torture foreign prisoners. You could have rigged elections. You could lie about why you go to war. (etc ed) You could use the media to scare the people into supporting policies that are against their interests. I knew this is hard for you Americans to imagine, but please: try!

    Reply: The US has the rule of law, an independent judiciary,a free Senate and House and free elections.

  43. Vanessa
    Posted August 6, 2013 at 9:43 pm | Permalink

    A belated comment. You say, John, that democracy brought in the ERM. You are wrong nobody was asked if we wanted to go in. Time and again we have seen how out of touch and stupid MPs are to take such momentous decisions for the whole country, i.e. The EU.

    I would like to have direct democracy such as Switzerland has and with something like the ERM (which I don’t think was in any manifesto) it should have gone to a referendum for the people. It would (over time) re-engage the public and get people debating in the marketplace over things which matter to us all.

    Reply As one of the few critics and opponents of the ERM at the time I can assure you most people and institutions who lobbied the government then lobbied for the ERM.

  44. theyenguy
    Posted August 7, 2013 at 10:10 am | Permalink

    You write, “I strongly believe democracy is the least bad form of government”.

    I reply, it just got replaced today, Tuesday, August 6, 2013, as the world passed through peak prosperity, and peak stock wealth, as all forms of wealth, Gold, GLD, Silver, SLV, Commodities, DBC, World Stocks, VT, Major World Currencies, DBV, Emerging Market Currencies, CEW, and Credit, AGG, traded lower, as the Interest Rate on the US Ten Year Note, ^TNX, traded higher to 2.64%, on the exhaustion of the world central banks’ monetary authority.

    Thus, an Elliott Wave 5 High was attained the week ending August 2, 2013, in World Stocks, VT, the S&P 500, SPY, the Russell 2000, IWM, Global Producers, FXR, Small Cap Pure Value Stocks, RZV, Dividend Growth, VIG, and a whole host of other ETFs; and an Elliot Wave 2 High was attained in Utility Stocks, XLU, and Global Utilities, DBU.

    What Doug Noland of Prudent Bear terms The Global Government Finance Bubble, has burst. Hyman P. Minsky identified five stages of the Credit Cycle, displacement, boom, euphoria, profit taking and panic; the profit taking stage has been reached, and the panic stage is coming very soon.

    The Business Cycle, specifically the Austrian Business Cycle, and the Kondratieff Cycle, is complete as nation states are no longer sovereign governors of economic and political activity, and are unable to provide seigniorage, that is moneyness, to investor’s choice of investments, currencies and credit, which featured a moral hazard based prosperity.

    The Milton Friedman Free to Choose banker regime is no longer able to support Liberalism’s policy of investment choice, and its credit schemes, such as the debt trade of junk bond investing, JNK, and the currency carry trade of Eurozone investing, EUR/JPY, and the safe haven trade in US Banks, KRE, and the credit responsive US Small Caps, IWM, as the monetary policies of the world central banks, especially those of Ben Bernanke of the US Federal Reserve, have crossed the Rubicon of sound monetary policy, and have turned “money good” investments bad, as evidenced by the failure of Treasury Bonds, BWX, at the hand of bond vigilantes, calling interest rates higher, as well as the failure of currencies, such as the Indian Rupe, ICN, and the Brazilian Real, BZF, in ongoing competitive currency devaluation, at the hands of currency traders, selling currencies short.

    With the failure of all forms of fiat wealth on August 6, 2013, Jesus Christ, acting at the helm of the Economy of God, that is in Dispensation, seen in Ephesians 1:10, has pivoted the world from the paradigm of Liberalism into the paradigm of Authoritarianism.

    The Beast Regime of regional governance and totalitarian collectivism, seen in Revelation 13:1-4, is now rising as the sovereign governor of economic and political activity, and to provide seigniorage, that is moneyness, to nannycrats and their regional statist rule over the factors of production, enforcing Authoritarianism’s policies of diktat, and schemes of debt servitude, establishing austerity over all of mankind.

    • Edward2
      Posted August 7, 2013 at 7:12 pm | Permalink

      (Personal comment re pessimism of last comment-ed).

  • About John Redwood


    John Redwood won a free place at Kent College, Canterbury, and graduated from Magdalen College Oxford. He is a Distinguished fellow of All Souls, Oxford. A businessman by background, he has set up an investment management business, was both executive and non executive chairman of a quoted industrial PLC, and chaired a manufacturing company with factories in Birmingham, Chicago, India and China. He is the MP for Wokingham, first elected in 1987.

  • John’s Books

  • Email Alerts

    You can sign up to receive John's blog posts by e-mail by entering your e-mail address in the box below.

    Enter your email address:

    Delivered by FeedBurner

    The e-mail service is powered by Google's FeedBurner service. Your information is not shared.

  • Map of Visitors

    Locations of visitors to this page