Democracy is a strait-jacket. Long ago the powers that be learned to manage it to ensure retention of the status quo, so business as usual can destroy nature by creating more crap that we don't need. Progress hasn't come from the left for as long as anyone can remember. Doesn't matter how long the left pretends to be progressive, people know that whenever they get into government we only ever get more of the same. The left is dead in the water. Progress can only come from being neither left nor right, but out in front & advancing!
Labour is made impotent by slavish adherence to a fossil ideology: socialism. They could reinvent it. The need was apparent to me in the early '70s; by the mid'80s the advent of Thatcher & Reagan plus the lack of any positive alternative in response from the left ought to have even made it clear to slow-learners. Instead, political leftists continue to spout banal clichés in media situations as though the public knows what they mean - whereas that implied tacit acceptance of validity is only ever actually shared by those who join a socialist party.
The discrediting of socialism in the public mind has primarily been achieved by the performance of socialists in government: they kept proving that it doesn't work. All we ever got was high taxes and a bloated inefficient bureaucracy. Folks feel alienated from the left & some become victims of the left's use of state power to suppress or exploit people when in government. Leftist governments penalise individual effort (either in business or as high-earning employees). The example of governance they provide is gross irresponsibility and lack of accountability for poor performance. Wrong-doers evade accountability by means of bureaucratic cover-up. Unethical behaviour is institutionalised.
Could this dead political movement come alive again? Only by re-invigorating its spirit. So what is the spirit of socialism? It is embodied in concepts such as equity and the commons. Curiously, in 45 years of observing socialists, I've seen no evidence that any of them are aware of this. If they are, how come they never say so?! Socialism emerged in the early 19th century as the antithesis of capitalism. Since the ideology of capitalism is anchored on self-interest, one would therefore presume that of socialism is anchored on the common interest. Has any theorist of socialism pointed this out to the public? Not to my knowledge! Hegel's perception of a dialectic that produces a social response in antithesis to any thesis, and his suggestion that consequent polarisation of two bodies of opinion can always be resolved by a synthesis of the two, was a profound insight. In the psychodynamics of mass power - that pits an individualist tendency against a collectivist tendency - we can always transcend the dualist frame (state of mind) produced by the polarity if we create a synthesis instead.
Perhaps the socialists failed to do this because they were led astray by the red herring of communism – a sectarian ideology based on a conceptual division of western civilisation by means of a frame called `the class system'. Communists pit the common interests of workers against the common interests of business owners. I believe this to be a strategic error in socialist thought, that led the socialist movement into an historical cul de sac. The success of any collective enterprise is maximised via a common interest design, structure and process that integrates stakeholders by motivating them to work together for the common good. Such an incentive structure is essential for optimal outcomes.
Polarising employees against owners was an idiocy deemed expedient when accepting the private property right of owners to operate business in such a way as to minimise the share of non-owners. Greed thus dictated outcomes. A win/lose zero-sum society became inevitable when everyone shirked the responsibility of designing a win/win scenario that would produce mutual-benefit outcomes. When the positive alternative has been implemented, reality shows that employees work better in situations where the business gives them more of a share, and those businesses become more competitive than those still using the traditional model. The sensible course, therefore, is to charter businesses on the basis of a collective agreement, where the relative shares of investors, management and staff are mutually agreed. For a fairer basis of equity, such charter agreements should include the sharing of risk as well as profit.
The historical failure of the left lies in its failure to even conceive a credible design for collective enterprise, let alone implement it. They have instead tacitly exposed their intellectual inadequacy by adopting the practice of conceding to capitalists the operation of the economy. In compensation for this weakness, they have sought political power by promising to use state power to extract and redistribute the wealth produced by business to those who vote for them. They have learned that this strategy is only successful when they redistribute the tax money on a sufficiently credible equity basis that their antique class agenda is masked. This is done via public services and targeted state support for various groups unable to earn a sufficient wage via employment.
Thus both Labour and National governments adhere to the capitalist system. This traditional collusion of the left and right defines people as consumers of capitalist product and binds them into debt slavery. Folks continue to yearn for freedom from this antiquated bullshit system, yet the left continue to fail to provide a positive alternative! No wonder voters have been deserting them. Pretending to represent the people no longer works: too many can now see through that pretence. The persistent refusal of the left to provide real progress threatens to marginalise them to the point where the effect becomes terminal. Time to get real!
People think they are born free, yet the system prevents them owning anything unless they earn capital, and it is designed to minimise the amount that people can earn. Life becomes a grim struggle for most, made worse by the excessive wealth of those who have more than they need, and the collusion of those who pretend to be helping the struggling majority. A social system based on deceit and exploitation breeds moral corruption and ill health, and the consequences cost everyone. People must be free to choose a positive alternative to the status quo, yet the left still colludes with the right in maintaining the status quo. Wage slaves forever? Not when capitalism is failing to provide the jobs. Home ownership a distant dream? Nobody left from the 1980s still believes in the mythical trickle-down theory of wealth (unless it is the top 1% of owners pissing on everyone else). Yet that scenario is misleading: despite shrinkage of the middle-class, around 20-30% of the populace remains comfortably well-off, while according to recent news reports half the families in our country now receive some form of state support.
David Parker seems that rarest of kiwis, a leftist with genuine intellect - but he will need to prove that he can go where no other leftist with intellectual pretensions has ever gone; to the avante garde. We need to reformulate socialism via a return to basic principles such as equity and the commons. A rationale that derives social theory from metaphysics is still missing on the left. What do Maoris, Greens, and the English peasants of the 17th century share? The tragedy of the commons, of course, and it's just as obvious now as it was 30 years ago. Enough already of fatalistic contemplation or evasion of the problem, which is seemingly the eternal predisposition of leftists. Move on to the solution please! Why be an intellectual wimp forever? Let's make progress instead. Even leftists are potentially capable of being real men and making a positive contribution to society. Actualise that potential!
Protection of the commons must be constitutionally enshrined by all peoples everywhere to enable the human race to survive and prosper. Make this a priority now! If the right stands for individual rights, the left must stand for collective rights to perform a complementary function. Regenerating the commons must be the imperative of all leftist political movements if they want to serve the public by fulfilling their natural function. Future generations have a right of equity in the environmental commons that must be secured by international law. We all have a right of equity in social wealth produced by collective endeavour provided we contribute equitably to that endeavour. The traditional right to private profit cannot continue to be protected on a morally corrupt basis. The private exploitation of the commons contravenes our right of equity – yet social convention and the law continues to protect such corruption. Businesses ought not to be parasites on the body politic! We need a new state that subordinates the right of private profit to the preservation of the commons and our collective right of equity. This means formulating a public consensus that approves mutual-benefit economic practices. Teamwork, as exemplified by the All Blacks, serves as suitable method and role model for collective enterprise.
Parliament's upper chamber remains empty, unused, dormant: testimony to the lack of political imagination of democrats and other politicos. Why not use it to create a forum for political debate unconstrained by the formal rules of our antique democracy? Why not allow consensus decision-making to replace adversarial grid-lock? Let's empower collective brainstorming in the ambience of the old colonial aristocracy.
We ought to resume operation of an upper house of parliament in an advisory and advocacy role. The social charter of its operation should define the purpose as social improvement via the solution of the most urgent social problems. Membership driven by the ethic of voluntarism, the culture to be meritocracy, providing an alternative forum for the public service ethic. The agenda to be nominated by consensus of concern, with volunteers offering their skills and expertise to teams taking on collective priority tasks. When the chamber is overloaded with process or commitments, these tasks and teams to function autonomously outside parliament until their job is done - whereupon the upper house would be required to address their report and decide subsequent implementation options.
Such a forum would allow folks frustrated by the strait-jacket of democracy to work together for the common good. People keep appealing for a new style of politics as if it hasn't occurred to them that the structure of democracy is designed to prevent any such thing. Use of a rule of consensus decision-making in a non-adversarial context ought to foster an innovative political culture. Expedite the brainstorming of difficult issues via use of `the fishbowl' – a dual holistic structure of audience and activists that the Greens used in the early years to move everyone toward resolution. As Convenor of the Standing Orders Committee of the Green Party I was confronted by a catch-22: early in '91 an activist at a Party meeting explained to me that formal decision-making wasn't happening because the leading activists couldn't agree on the requisite rules for how to make Party decisions. He said getting them to consensus was “like herding cats” - first time I'd heard this expression, which has since become popular! All it took to break the impasse - as it transpired - was use of the fishbowl strategy as catalyst plus the usual judicious redrafting to clarify ambiguities and intent.
Democracy creates conformist pressures within a political party that are inexorable in marginalising and eliminating lateral-thinkers, the very type of human being who normally excels in problem-solving. That's why democrats continually wallow in historical social problems. The lowest-common-denominator design of democracy eliminates the very folk most likely to produce the results that democrats aspire to. Use of an upper house allows us capacity to collectively transcend this flaw in democracy, this paradox, by means of a more intuitive informal decision-making process fostering a culture of meritocracy. If we telecast the forum it will provide the opportunity to role-model the process to non-participants. Younger folk would have their survival prospects enhanced by doing so.
A right of self-determination exists on both the individual and collective levels, thus sovereignty cannot be restricted to the nation state. The right of indigenous peoples and other minority groups to determine their destiny must be recognised and accepted – provided that exercise of that right does not produce harmful effects on others. Where such become evident, minority group rights must be suspended or restricted till the harm is eliminated.
The role of the head of state ought to be constructive and exemplary, and constituted accordingly. Suitable contract clauses that compel performance must be incorporated to secure this result. Currently, MPs must swear allegiance to the Crown, which is an archaic irrelevance. In order to create a true democracy, elected representatives must be made to swear their allegiance to all citizens. The oath of office would then alert them to their responsibility to serve the common interests of the people in accord with their collective aspirations. The people have the right to remove any office-holder that they agree is acting contrary to that oath, so the constitution requires a recall mechanism to replace them.
If the upper house is chartered to make advisory decisions on constitutional changes, then lobbying by experts can allow improvement suggestions to be tested for the general perception of suitability in that forum, amendments to be made, and a prototype bill to be proposed to parliament. In the event of parliament refusing to make the legislative change on any issue, we ought to empower the upper house to launch public referenda, the results of which would be binding on parliament. This mechanism allows voters to progress issues that party politics avoids or fails to achieve consensus on.
I'd also charter the upper house to integrate traditional values & priorities of the left and right, discarding elements of capitalism and socialism that have proven to be contrary to the public interest. Those emotionally attached to the traditional political and philosophical framework of dualism would remain free to use democracy. The psychodynamics of polarity and their adversarial relations they induce in people are addictive. The upper house would be dedicated for the use of those who prove capable of transcending this addiction, so they can provide a positive alternative to those wallowing in the negativity of democracy. Specifically, this would mean a constitutional framework in which individual rights and collective rights are defined separately so their natural complementary relation is apparent to all. The traditional political dialectic of thesis and antithesis would thereby achieve synthesis.