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Where is this Democracy they Speak of?

Written By: - Date published: 11:21 am, December 30th, 2013 - 165 comments
Categories: community democracy, democracy under attack, democratic participation, political alternatives, Politics, social democracy, vision - Tags: , ,

How about if I was to have a right to meaningfully engage in processes of  decision making, roughly to the extent  that potential decisions flowing from any deliberations would impact me? And of course, you’d get to exercise the same level of deliberative power for discussions or proposals that would affect you. A simple ‘rule of thumb’ would suffice for determining any individual’s appropriate levels of input, no? So, if something had nothing to do with you (or me) and would not impact on you (or me), then it follows that we would have no right to participate in any deliberations or discussion around that decision.

Pretty simple this democracy malarkey, then -  fairly basic and doesn’t require any fancy or extra-ordinary intellectual prowess ‘to get’ or to put into practice.

But just to labour the point of how simple it all is, here’s some examples of how democracy works.  I get to decide what shoes I wear today…not you…not the guy next door; just me. The people of a community affected or possibly impacted by some proposal for a new building in their locale get to raise any issues they may have concerning its construction and decide on what happens …not some stranger in some far off location… not some bureaucrat mired in a world of rules and regulations; just them. On larger and broader impacts, such as a coal fired power station or a nuclear power plant being built in our environment, then we all get input insofar as such propositions would, if brought to fruition, affect us all in one way or another. ( note -  examples of this last type would be almost unthinkable in a democracy and never see the light of day. But I’ll leave it there.)

Obviously (but I’m going to spell it out anyway), democratic participation can’t be geared along the lines of some appeal to traditional forms of authority. That would be insanely counterproductive in a democracy.

So, based on that, we can state that in a democracy I can have no right to seek to confer on any other, any right to exercise power over you. Likewise, you simply cannot and do not have any right to impose on me any exercise of power by any third party either. None.

If we did assume such a right, then we’d be creating external authorities that’d take advantage of an implicit right to exercise power over people who may have had no say, or only an inconsequential say, in not only who exercises power but on how they exercise power and on how much power they can exercise.

And that brings us back to the present where any ‘rule of thumb’ for determining individual levels of participation in deciding upon matters that affect us has been effectively amputated. As a result, we are subjected to power, as opposed to being the rightful and democratically empowered wielders of power…

Now, if you believe that our social democratic system of governance has any democratic credentials at all, then would you please answer me this –  “Where exactly is the democracy in this ‘social democracy’ that appears to be neither socialist nor democratic?”

That’s not some piece of  bullshit I’m putting out there just to piss you off on the back of a reasonably held assumption that if you’re reading this, then there’s a fair chance that you’re a social democrat. It’s a question that deserves attention.  Just consider the likes of Russell Brand or Jeremy Paxman who, privileged celebrities that they are, echoed  commonly held sentiments when they, each in their own way and to differing extents, decried the state of ‘social democratic’ governance. Stupidly and dangerously though, they – well,  Russel Brand in particular –  shut the door on democracy as a potential basis for future governance.

It was an odd thing to do. See, I know that we and those who preside over us and our society jump up and down and shout about democracy often enough. But we simply don’t have any.

Regardless, neither Brand nor Paxman, nor any number of disenchanted fellow travellers it seems, can perceive that obvious reality and so call for democracy to be rejected – meaning that they can only be advocating for some form of authoritarianism. What they should really be calling for ( and probably would if they engaged their brains for a second) is a rejection of this social democratic governance system that masquerades as democracy as well as insisting that we shift to democratic means of governance.

Like I said at the top of the post, democracy isn’t a difficult concept to grasp and it doesn’t require specialist knowledge or years of education to be practiced – in fact, illiterate and uneducated people can ‘do’ democracy just as well as the most scholarly…it’s a great leveller in that respect.  Which leads me to wonder then, why aren’t people (like you?) who claim to align themselves with democratic ideas and ideals insisting on it at every turn and railing against all the  non-democratic and anti-democratic systems and structures that stand so obviously behind this thin façade called social democracy?

165 comments on “Where is this Democracy they Speak of?”

  1. Sacha 1

    Reading about the difference between participatory democracy and representative democracy might help.

    Many decisons affect not just those in one vicinity or small group, and humans have evolved various ways to represent those broader interests.

    For example in NZ, Councils are legally required to make sure that land use and urban planning decisions reflect the needs of all citizens including future ones, not just current local residents.

    This doesn’t always work so well when Councils (elected members and staff) fail to articulate and live up to that part of their role, and when stakeholder groups have different levels of access to resources and influence. Auckland’s Unitary Plan process has been a great recent example. Pure participatory democracy without significant investment in access isn’t the answer.

    • Bill 1.1

      Reading about the difference between participatory democracy and representative democracy might help

      Alternatively Sasha, acknowledging that representative ‘democracy’ isn’t exactly democratic and is, in fact, fundamentally anti-democratic (ie, routinely and deliberately disempowering people) might help. To be fair, in spite of your attempt to defend or excuse representative forms of governance as being somehow democratic your comment kind of illustrates the non-democratic nature of councils and centralised authority.

      Meanwhile, what do you mean by “significant investment in access”? Are you suggesting that participatory democracy would be detached from the people utilising it or that representative governance offers greater scope for involvement?

      • Sacha 1.1.1

        People are not equally able to particpate in decisions that affect them, whether they want to or not. Unless you acknowledge the implications of that, you can talk about ‘democracy’ all you like but it won’t produce a better world.

        • Bill 1.1.1.1

          True that some are better at articulating concerns or addressing people and so on. But there is no reason not to develop and refine systems that better enable people with difficulties to participate – none.

          Tell me Sasha, seeing as how you are so dismissive of democracy, what form of authoritarianism is your preference?

          • Sacha 1.1.1.1.1

            There are barriers to involvement beyond talent. But I’m over arguing with someone who must have been wagging during high school social studies.

          • Sosoo 1.1.1.1.2

            It doesn’t seem that Sasha was being dismissive of democracy, rather than noting some of its problems.

            Participatory democracy won’t necessarily solve the problems either. Democracy, as logicians have long known, has conceptual problems in that it’s generally impossible to conjure a group preference out of a collection of individual preferences.

            It seems that much of the complaining about the “will of the people” being frustrated in elections has more to do with this than the perfidy of politicians. Part of the problem is that democratic dogma has taken the place of Christian dogma in our society, so we can’t have a reasonable discussion about its deficiencies.

            You are asking democracy to do something it cannot do. Noting the limitations of democratic systems doesn’t make you an authoritarian, just a realist.

      • Tim 1.1.2

        +1
        I’m guilty of misusing the term ‘representative’ democracy routinely. However I do so because of this naive expectation that elected representatives will actually do what they said they would; that they would adhere to certain principles they’ve espoused; AND that they would be held to account – probably through some form of realistic sanction (so they can’t repeat their fuckups) if they breach the contract.
        As we’ve seen with the current junta (and the various trolls and spin doctors that frequent this place – or should I say ‘space’ – just to be trendy), their interpretation of that democracy is nothing but an elected dictatorship and one that they unwittingly are a party to being the best democracy money can buy.

        But actually I’d go further than that. All this terminology (not just representative versus participatory) is part of the anti-language.
        Democracy is participatory …. ELSE it’s not.
        The anti-language just serves to corrupt just as egos the size of buses, over-ambition, blind faith, the demise of a 4th Estate, a Public Servce that is in effect a Corporate Service, etc., etc. does.

        • Tim 1.1.2.1

          Geee willicuzz. I’m in moderation FFS!
          I feel privileged!
          Definitely a sign. Do I buy my ticket to Uttar Pradesh and (eastern environs now) – or should I wait till the likes of Owen Glenn and other ‘philanthropists’ exit – and where an actual democratic ‘process’ is in play?
          Maybe I should wait – 2014 in NZ could be interesting – there’ll be quite a few Masters of the Universe freaking out and taking a pay cut.

          [lprent: Getting dropped into moderation happens automatically. The most common reason are new users - ie a new email address. They have to have one approved comment, and most of the time I have a look to see if it is from and IP range from someone on the banned fool list first. The second most common reason is that the comment triggers either the automatic or manually entered shit list of the things trolls or spambots do. Or it could be simply something that I consider causes stupid flamewars or boring threads. This is known as the fool trap. For instance like using the word "troll" excessively because ultimately it is only the moderators who will make that call - not you. You are the latter case. ]

          • Tim 1.1.2.1.1

            Thx – good to know some of the triggers – I never liked that term foldy roll really anyway ;)
            You fellas do a mag job btw!

  2. karol 2

    I get the importance of full participatory democracy, Bill. But from the examples you give, it looks to me that it would involve a complicated administrated process in practice.

    Who would decide some things should be decided by group x rather than group y? especially when x & y disagree as to who it impacts?

    • Bill 2.1

      Democratic centralism, social democracy and other more overt forms of authoritarianism need over-arching structures of control to maintain imposed order – not democracy. Maybe you could explain why you believe a ‘complicated administrative process’ would appear to be necessary based on the example I threw out in the post?

      Then, what’s with the ‘group x’ and ‘group y’? Such formulations make absolutely no sense whatsoever. If you perceive a possible impact from some proposition, then you involve yourself in discussion. Obviously, your contribution would be based on the impact you perceive. If your concerns are unfounded, then you’d presumably disengage from on-going discussions or failing that, possibly be ignored by those seeing actual impacts.

      • karol 2.1.1

        Well, I’m more cynical than you, Bill.

        I also have become disillusioned with the full anarchism ideal. I have come to the conclusion that there are some who will not willingly participate, and will always work to skew the system in their favour – I would expect some people would not willingly drop out.

        What if some say your choice of shoes is damaging the local footpaths, or includes environmentally damaging production processes – you produce evidence it does not – on and on it goes – possibly for every little decision with some decisions never actually being achieved.

        • Bill 2.1.1.1

          Well, I’m more cynical than you, Bill.

          Bet you’re not! ;-)

          Anyway, as I said in response to redblooded – you can’t superimpose non-democratic stuff from the present into a democratic scenario and expect any sense to result.

          So in relation to your comment. Who’s local footpaths are they and who builds and maintains them? In a democracy, I’ve probably got some level of involvement in that and so a sense of ‘ownership’ (bad word – hang-over and all that). As such, I’m unlikely to engage in any activity that damages them. And if I do, then I’m answerable to the people I live with and work with every day…and most people are wise enough to not piss off those they are in constant contact with and who they have developed deep and wide-ranging relationships with. (Deeper and more wide-ranging than happens in our alienated present)

          But, beyond the footpaths, who runs the factory that produces the shoes? With no profit motive and a democratic workplace, why would production be based on environmentally destructive practices anyway?

          And so it goes on.

          • Polish Pride 2.1.1.1.1

            With no profit motive and a democratic workplace, why would production be based on environmentally destructive practices anyway?

            I like where your going Bill.

            Food for thought though. I think the purpose or goal of any system we have needs to be defined. Doing that will in my view help provide better context and help answer the how does x work under this new system.

            • weka 2.1.1.1.1.1

              “With no profit motive and a democratic workplace, why would production be based on environmentally destructive practices anyway?”

              Because humans like doing Big Shit sometimes just for the hell of it. Some like doing risky shit. Some don’t even perceive nature as real etc.

              So how does the process work if you have some people wanting to pollute the local river because they found this fun thing to do and consider that more important, and others wanting that not to happen? (the river polluting).

              • Bill

                The river is the commons. And you don’t fuck with the commons if you want to have any kind of life. You’re aware of that bullshit about the so-called ‘tragedy of the commons’? The idea that some guy just saunters in and fucks it all up and no-body says anything to him and no-body kills his livestock that is over exploiting the commons and no-body even ever thinks about burning down his house or just taking him out? That’s not how it works. There is a steady escalation of consequences, democratically arrived at and imposed by his society.

                As for a more separate ‘group’ of people fucking things up, then they’ll do really well when they are cut loose from the inevitable webs of interconnectivity that binds democracies, won’t they…probably as well as the individual facing social ostracisation.

                • weka

                  Unless they happen to be most of the society, or even just a sizeable chunk, in which case cutting loose probably won’t be much of a disincentive.

                  “And you don’t fuck with the commons if you want to have any kind of life”

                  Every human culture on the planet (that I can think of) has fucked with the commons. So are we talking about a social system that has no precedent?

                  • Bill

                    A lot of the ‘fucking with the commons’ can be directly traced to the undemocratic effects of market economics allowing people to be cleared from the land (enclosure, clearances etc) – elevating the acquisition of money and promoting the profit motive while externalising associated costs such as environmental degradation. Not that I’m excusing command economies (also undemocratic economies) that elevated industrial progress over environmental integrity.

                  • Draco T Bastard

                    Every human culture on the planet (that I can think of) has fucked with the commons.

                    Actually, it hasn’t. Throughout history the commons has been well looked after by rules, regulations and culture of care. The only societies where that didn’t happen was societies where the commons was privatised which resulted in the removal of those rules, regulations and culture of care, i.e, capitalism/feudalism.

                    • Colonial Viper

                      Correct. If you look at the American Indians, the Inuit, the Aborigines, they took from the land what they needed to survive and nothing more, and did so with a sense of gratitude and relationship with the land that has long since been lost.

                    • weka

                      Depends on what you mean by fucked with I suppose (and commons for that matter), but care to name 3 societies and I’ll point how where the commons were messed with.

                    • weka

                      “Correct. If you look at the American Indians, the Inuit, the Aborigines, they took from the land what they needed to survive and nothing more, and did so with a sense of gratitude and relationship with the land that has long since been lost.”

                      Not sure about Inuit, but both North American and Australian native peoples caused extinctions of mammals. That fits my definition of fucking with the commons. I agree that relative to say Europeans, native peoples generally have better systems of caring for the commons, but that doesn’t mean they always got it right. It’s also hard to tell to what extent protection of the commons was due to lack of development of civilisations (and good on those people for resisting the urge). Don’t get me wrong, I think there is much that is admirable in those cultures and I think there is a huge amount for westerners to learn about management systems from them, I just don’t agree that they never messed with the collective spaces they were dependent on.

                    • Colonial Viper

                      Those cultures lived in a way which wouldn’t cause their own extinction. That’s the most important distinction between them and us, in my mind.

                      Did they cause the extinction of a few hunted species over their centuries of living on the land? OK, if they did to be blunt, so what? Species extinction is a completely normal process. Has been happening since day dot.

                      The difference of course is that our modern civilisation is causing thousands of species to go extinct per month. And we are now in the midst of an epic, historical species die off.

                    • Sacha

                      “Those cultures lived in a way which wouldn’t cause their own extinction. That’s the most important distinction between them and us, in my mind.”

                      Yes. And we know more now about extinction of fauna and flora and ecosystems. Not so many excuses..

                    • weka

                      None of that really matters in this context CV. The point was that I said that all human cultures have messed with the commons, and others said that’s not true. You can say it doesn’t matter that some peoples caused lots of extinctions, but nevertheless that is messing with the commons.

                      Bill is contending that fucking with the commons is primarily and overwhelmingly a result of undemocratic processes and market economies. I’m saying that I think it’s probably inherent in humans to live beyond the resource base they occupy (I would posit it’s the result of an evolutionary adaptation around being able to use available resources very effectively, that’s proved problematic as our brains got so big). Some cultures learn the limits and adjust, others don’t. I think if we ignore this, then were we to remove the current systems we would risk making serious mistakes. Can we establish systems were the commons are protected and maintained sustainably? Probably. But not by being blind to how humans have done things historically.

                    • Colonial Viper

                      Which is exactly why I referred to those traditional cultures. I feel that Bill is saying that capitalist and consumerist values have driven out traditional values of thrift – even those common in the west after the Great Depression, let alone those of native cultures.

                      Look, a village of 500 people is going to leave an ecological footprint. A total global human population of 10M people is going to leave an ecological footprint.

                      Of course, what we have now is massively huger than that.

                      Yes, human beings in history often did end up living beyond the resource base that was immediately available.

                      Famines and plagues usually sorted that out. Cycles of population growth and decline (i.e. births and deaths) based on the quality of the harvest are things that we have simply mostly forgotten about as part of the top 10%.

                    • Draco T Bastard

                      Not sure about Inuit, but both North American and Australian native peoples caused extinctions of mammals. That fits my definition of fucking with the commons.

                      Far too narrow a definition. As CV says, species go extinct all the time so that’s not really a problem. The problem comes when the rate of extinction is pushed into what is an industrial level of elimination due to the society.

                      It’s also hard to tell to what extent protection of the commons was due to lack of development of civilisations (and good on those people for resisting the urge).

                      They were civilised. They may not have been industrial civilisations but they were still civilisations.

                      I just don’t agree that they never messed with the collective spaces they were dependent on.

                      Of course they altered the natural state of the environment around them. That happens with all life but they also worked to fit within as well.

                      The Tragedy of the Commons states that a common field will be over grazed resulting in tragedy (the collapse of the field, the death of the animals and then the death of the people) but that’s is not what happens. I recall reading of a Scandinavian culture that used common fields for its herds. There are strict rules about grazing and moving the herds through different fields so that the fields and the animals are kept in good condition. Those rules were enforced by the villagers and not through a police force or government.

                      Then there’s the reality that we see with private ownership where over grazing is common, herds kept in such condition as to require that a large percentage of the herds have to be put down they’re so sick. Where streams become so polluted that they can no longer be drunk out of or swam in. This is the private ownership that is supposed to prevent these things from happening but, like most of economic theory, it was just pulled out of someone’s arse to justify private ownership and not actually based upon reality.

                      The other problem that most people don’t want to talk about is over population. We cannot live within the natural environmental limits if we keep expanding the population no matter how well we look after the environment.

                    • weka

                      You both seem to be saying that the commons can be messed with so long as it doesn’t get to the point of interferring with human society. I disagree (nature has inherent value), but I also note that the cultures you held up as examples generally don’t experience themselves in that top of the food chain, God given right kind of way.

                      I agree about population.

                      “They were civilised. They may not have been industrial civilisations but they were still civilisations.”

                      I’m using the term as used by the anti-civ crowd, who draw distinctions between societies (with civilised people in them) that are tribal and generally live within their limits, and societies that just keep growing and eventually collapse.

                      CV, I don’t think thrift is the key defining quality of those cultures’ relationship with the commons. It’s that they had/have a relationship with the commons where they are part of it. There is a distinct difference between that and say Eurocentric cultures that see the natural world as a storage of resources to be used. Saying that extinctions don’t matter is part of that, because it makes us blind to the incredible complexity of interrelationships that make up ecosystems of which we are a part.

                      Leaving an ecological footprint is a modern idea from peoples who see themselves as separate from nature. It’s a useful idea in that it helps us see where we are fucking up, but it’s not a good basis for sustainability in the long term.

                • red blooded

                  So, you don’t fuck with the commons, but do endorse vigilante “justice”.

                  Who decided on this series of outcomes, Bill? How were they decided upon? Were they consistent with outcomes for others in the past (or in the next village)? And what if the person arguing passionately that this guy’s house should be burnt down has another motive (maybe (s)he wants access to the land, or just a better view from her/his house). Is this OK?

                  Who does the burning? Do people volunteer? Or maybe they group together and pump up their sense of righteousness by mob energy.

                  (Besides, I thought you were arguing in another answer that there would be no more private property under your model. If that’s the case, how did this guy get his own house, stock etc? And if they’re not his own, what does he care what your mob does to them?)

                  • Bill

                    Cute how you jump to the top end of gradually escalating consequences democratically decided upon by a community of affected people to make a half arsed point about vigilantism ;-)

                    And it’s obvious my comment was in relation to the myth peddled about the ‘tragedy of the commons’…

                    Anyway, your comment is just too badly confused, sunk in authoritarian mentality and generally misanthropic for me to be bothered with.

              • Polish Pride

                I’m sure you will have other examples and feel free to throw them into the mix.
                In my view the starting point comes down to do no harm to others (common law etc.)
                Pollution of rivers is not something that is acceptable now in my view. In such a society the goal would be to find alternative technological solutions or finding alternative ways of doing things so there is no need to pollute as there is today.
                Remove money from the equation and you remove the biggest barrier to finding such solutions in my view.

                Polluting a river for shits and giggles impacts on other users enjoyment of the river and therefore would be a no go …..unless perhaps those same ones wanting to pollute have a way to also clean up the mess. Alternately (and this is getting a little bit out there) if there was demand for polluting the river then society might need to designate areas of the river for this and put in place a technological solution to return the river to its original state so as not to impact other river users.

                • weka

                  “Polluting a river for shits and giggles impacts on other users enjoyment of the river and therefore would be a no go”

                  Yes, but the point being argued is how you ensure that without an authoritarian system backed by force.

                  “Alternately (and this is getting a little bit out there) if there was demand for polluting the river then society might need to designate areas of the river for this and put in place a technological solution to return the river to its original state so as not to impact other river users.”

                  Far from being out there, I think this is more akin to what many in NZ already think, sans the tech solution, which we like in theory but seem unable to put into practice in the short and medium terms. On the otherhand there is a sizeable minority, myself included, who would never agree to designating some rivers as ripe for polluting. So again, how to reconcile this in the system Bill is proposing?

                  • Bill

                    If you can no longer externalise costs via market mechanisms and if you are no longer driven by the profit motive above all others….then what is compelling people to set up needless envionmentally damaging industry?

                    What industry do you think a society would reasonably require that would be environmentally damaging and that people would engage in when there is no compulsion to earn money to extract basic and necessary goods from the market economy?

          • Tim 2.1.1.1.2

            I’m more cynical than the both of you put together! No you’re NOT! YES I AM so!
            Am too Am too! :p

      • weka 2.1.2

        If I might suggest, some of the things you are writing about probably seem self-evident to you Bill, but not to others. Some further explanation might be needed.

        Karol’s example makes sense to me, so let’s tease this out. It came up yesterday: who gets to decide if someone is not able to work or if someone is shirking? Where conflict might arise is where someone who pays taxes feels they get to have a say in whether someone else receives welfare.

        Another example: you want to buy shoes at the local importers. Your neighbour objects because the shoes are made with slave labour. Is the neighbour excluded from the process because your buying shoes has no direct impact on them? Where is the line?

        A third example: currently councils enforce the building code, set by central govt. If that is disestablished, who gets to have a say in how a building gets built? What if no-one cares to turn up and later the building falls down and kills someone who wasn’t even around at the time of construction (eg a child born later)?

        Maybe I’m missing something, but I am curious to see how this pans out. I do agree with some of the principle you put forth, re direct participation in what affects us, but I also think that it is more complex when you look at the pragmatics.

        • Polish Pride 2.1.2.1

          “Where conflict might arise is where someone who pays taxes feels they get to have a say in whether someone else receives welfare.”

          This is a very common theme for many posters on Whaleoil.

        • Bill 2.1.2.2

          How can you possibly have slave labour in a democracy? At what point did we extract our brains in order that we couldn’t construct decent buildings any more? As for taxes and welfare…you’re assuming everyone is still locked into the job demands of a market economy? Shirking? If individuals ‘take advantage’ of their peers (their community/society) or don’t make a recognisable contribution (and that is not necessarily work btw) then experience informs me that their peers will utlise a fair armoury of tactics/methods to pull them into line. Last resort is social ostracisation. And that is no little thing to be treated lightly.

          • weka 2.1.2.2.1

            “How can you possibly have slave labour in a democracy?”

            Imports.

            “At what point did we extract our brains in order that we couldn’t construct decent buildings any more?”

            Building safety isn’t an absolute, it’s a compromise between many things (cost, material availability, geography/climate, design, time etc). Humans have always built buildings that fail at some point. You have evaded my question: what happens when someone not involved at the time decisions were made/not made gets hurt. Also, at the time the decision is made, what happens where you have disagreement about how the building should be constructed? Not saying the current system is better by any means, but my point is not irrelevant.

            “As for taxes and welfare…you’re assuming everyone is still locked into the job demands of a market economy?”

            No, I’m not, at all. I’m assuming that there is still a degree of collective responsibiltiy for some things and that taxes (hang-over word, would be happy with a substitute) is one way of managing that.

            “Shirking? If individuals ‘take advantage’ of their peers (their community/society) or don’t make a recognisable contribution (and that is not necessarily work btw) then experience informs me that their peers will utlise a fair armoury of tactics/methods to pull them into line. Last resort is social ostracisation. And that is no little thing to be treated lightly.”

            I’m not talking about someone who is shirking. I’m asking who gets to decide what shirking is? How does that work in the democratic process?

            • Bill 2.1.2.2.1.1

              Imports from a non-democratic (market?) economy? That’s the same as inserting non-democratic stuff from the present into the scenario (incidentally, instantly making it a non-democratic scenario) and then trying to figure out how a democracy would deal with it…makes no sense in terms of gaining insight/understanding.

              Moving on….as you say, things have been going wrong after the fact since for-ever. Don’t quite know why the bar should suddenly be raised so impossibly high. As for disagreements over construction methods/materials etc – they get resolved at the point where everyone involved agrees that they can (at least) ‘live with it’ or where a synthesis of best possible solutions is formed.

              Contribution is difficult to define. I can only relay from personal experience from time spent living in a workers/housing collective, that a persons contribution was based on a sense from everyone else that they were contributing. Maybe worth mentioning that when the division between work and leisure is diminished, it’s pretty fucking difficult to not contribute.

              • weka

                “As for disagreements over construction methods/materials etc – they get resolved at the point where everyone involved agrees that they can (at least) ‘live with it’ or where a synthesis of best possible solutions is formed.”

                Well, yes. So I am asking how that works in the democratic process.

                “Contribution is difficult to define. I can only relay from personal experience from time spent living in a workers/housing collective, that a persons contribution was based on a sense from everyone else that they were contributing. Maybe worth mentioning that when the division between work and leisure is diminished, it’s pretty fucking difficult to not contribute.”

                Might I suggest that the collective you were in were a relatively like minded lot when it came to democracy and concepts of contribution? I’m thinking more of communities that have a more diverse range of philosophies.

                I still have the feeling that you are evading teh core questions, and are instead putting up reasons why those questions are irrelevant. I’m not disagreeing with your basic premise (haven’t got a point of agree/disagree), I’m still just trying to see how it would work. Disagreement is a pretty basic human experience and I’d like to see how that might be managed within the system you are proposing.

                • Bill

                  The community I was a part of was actually a fairly eclectic mix of people with no common philosophy or shared political ideal.

                  Decision making and overcoming or seeing past disagreements has no blue print per se. It’s practice. Over time systems and techniques get developed and honed. I know that consensus doesn’t work and tends towards minority rule if it’s used all of the time. But then, some decisions demand consensus because of their impact. Other decisions simply need enough people to be in agreement and to possess the necessary skills or energy to bring to fruition. Yet other decisions need no consultation whatsoever. And between those three scenarios lie a plethora of other situations that require subtly altered decision making processes to be brought to bear.

                  The bottom line is that anyone affected has meaningful/effective input into processes. There are various ways to do that and no book that lays it all out in nice neat steps.

                  • karol

                    Yes, I can see that working reasonably well in a housing collective. But that existed within a fairly organised wider system.

                    I still don’t see how it can exist in the near to medium term future, in a complex and diverse society.

                    Your prior condition seems to be a totally different society than the one we are living in – but changing it to the kind of one you favour, is in the realm of highly speculative, and not something I can see happening soon.

                    I have in mind some of my wider whanau that would not even consider working towards that sort of society – they’d do the equivalent of Key sneering at Russel Norman re printing money. And those rellies are fairly centrist – centre right liberals, and not the sort that would actively work to ensure that your ideal society is brought about.

                    Myself, I be happy with a more collectively organised society, with more processes that are democratic, while also having various checks and balances.

                    • Bill

                      You seem to be suggesting that order was only possible because some counter and pre-existing order existed. I’m confused as to why an antagonistic wider order is preferable to one that is an extension of, or in tune with order predicated on democratic practices…or why you think order based on democratic principles can’t flourish and spread and serve as inspiration for others to quit presently constrained conditions.

                  • weka

                    “The community I was a part of was actually a fairly eclectic mix of people with no common philosophy or shared political ideal.”

                    So there was no shared committment to community? Or certain kinds of decision making processes?

            • Polish Pride 2.1.2.2.1.2

              As far as contribution goes this is where perhaps society should have a say in what activities equal contribution. E.g. Arts yes sure (and thats a pretty wide scope). Quality checking TV programmes from the comfort of your sofa? probably not. But examples are good. Again though a lot of it will come back to what the accepted goal of the system is or should be.
              In such a system though it is possible to have a key goal of the system to be to free people from having to work. In this instance you may very quickly reach a point where the numbers willing to contribute outstrips the jobs required, even with reduced hours or days of work.

              • karol

                Well, I think a fully participatory democratic society would mean most of one’s time would be taken up with the decision making processes for the society – understanding each possible initiative, researching it, etc. little time left for one’s own endeavours & interests.

                Myself, I’d rather delegate some of the decision making processes, have a high degree of transparency of processes, delegates that are accessible to questions, critiques & consultation, a community-based media with knowledgeable people critiquing various areas of endeavour, etc.

                • Bill

                  Well, I think a fully participatory democratic society would mean most of one’s time would be taken up with the decision making processes for the society…

                  You might think so, but it doesn’t actually work out that way in reality. What happens is that you involve yourself with issues that concern you – not everything that’s underway. And sure, there’s an onus to inform people who you think might be affected by something your planning.

                  There’s also the fact that many issues unfold as discussions that are no more draining (quite the opposite in fact) than everyday discussions about the latest soap.

  3. red blooded 3

    Bill, I think we have to recognise that there are/have been various forms of authoritarianism and power imbalances in all social structures that we as humans have managed to come up with so far. Yes, we should look critically at our social and political systems and yes, we should continuously strive to improve them, but we need to talk about concrete ideas and suggestions, not just rhetoric. That’s where Russell Brand opts out and to be honest I think that’s where your post opts out somewhat, too. It’s fine to say what you want to change FROM and why, but what do you want to change TO, and how?

    Plus, some statements need reevaluation:
    “So, based on that, we can state that in a democracy I can have no right to seek to confer on any other, any right to exercise power over you. Likewise, you simply cannot and do not have any right to impose on me any exercise of power by any third party either. None.”

    Does this mean we say goodbye to any rule of law? I wish I was still idealistic enough to believe in the purity of the anarchist ideal, but I don’t.

    • Bill 3.1

      I thought I gave a fairly succinct basis for what I’d prefer in terms of governance. If you want real life accounts of how it works, then I could take up many, many inch columns with first hand examples. That would be kind of tedious though. I’m sure you have the mental capacity to walk yourself through possible scenarios in a world that has embraced basic fundamentals of democratic governance. It will only wind up as a confusing mess if you project or extrapolate non-democratic dynamics from the present and attempt to have them lay out in a democratic future. So, for example, the house build example I gave is simple. But if you overlook the fact that the economy would also be democratic in a democracy and therefore private land ownership and speculative building projects a thing of the past, then you’ll struggle to square impossible circles.

      And no, the denial of third party authority doesn’t mean an end to any ‘rule of law’ – it obviously just means an end to the admin or execution of law being placed in the hands of external, over-arching authority.

      • weka 3.1.1

        I know you think you are being clear, so let’s assume that there are some real dummies here, myself included. I don’t get it, not all of it at least. Why would private ownership of land not exist? eg if everyone in my area decided they wanted private ownership.

        If there is no private ownership of land, then is there no private ownership of other things?

        • Bill 3.1.1.1

          Private ownership is predicated on the existence of a market economy. No other economy is coming to mind right now that would allow for or encourage private ownership. I can’t see how it would be possible for people to re-establish private ownership as any type of norm in a democratic economy. Of course, people would still have ‘things’…I assume that even most non-market tribal societies are full of people with various possessions.

          • weka 3.1.1.1.1

            “Private ownership is predicated on the existence of a market economy”

            Sorry, but I don’t even know what that means in the context of this conversation*. If true democracy is a thought experiment, and we are being asked to use our imaginations to conceive of how that might work, then why can I not imagine a situation where a group of people democratically decided to have private land ownership?

            Tribal societies… can’t think of any that don’t use authority in some form, so not sure we can look there for examples.

            *when do you date the start of market economies btw, just so I can get a historical reference point when considering other cultures.

            • Bill 3.1.1.1.1.1

              How the hell do individuals raise the necessary means to establish private ownership (of land) in the absence of a market economy? What other trading mechanism will be in play and that establishes a $$$ value for land that can then be bought, traded and speculated on?

              Maybe we could say around 200 years for the ‘modern’ industrialised market economy? You could, I guess, look back further to the enclosures or ‘fencing of the commons’ and people making exclusive claims to land through use of force etc (Kings and nobility…)

              • weka

                Why does private land have to cost alot? Who said it would have to be bought, traded, speculated on? I think you have fallen foul of your own rules here Bill. I’m not suggesting we look at changing private land ownership within the current system to within a democratic one. I’m saying I can’t see any reason why a group of people within a rohe couldn’t decide, democratically, to have private land ownership. I’m quite open to being wrong about this, but haven’t seen a rationale yet for why I am.

                “Maybe we could say around 200 years for the ‘modern’ industrialised market economy? You could, I guess, look back further to the enclosures or ‘fencing of the commons’ and people making exclusive claims to land through use of force etc (Kings and nobility…)”

                Does that mean there was no private land ownership outside of that time and place?

                In a democracy who gets to decide what land is used how by whom?

                • Bill

                  Beyond a very notional ‘this is mine’ that is agreed to among those concerned, I simply can’t see how anyone would raise the resources to invest in any land ownership scheme…or what their motivation for attempting to would be. Private space is fine (wondering is that more along the lines of what you are meaning when you refer to ‘private ownership’?)

                  As to land use, anyone impacted by any potential land use gets a say in the land use. In practical terms, it’s reverted to being the commons again. Not that that should be mistaken as a ‘free for all’…a banal example… within our community, we’ve decided that *that* piece of land should be used for growing food. Those people interested, involve themselves and come to various decisions around food production. For arguments sake, I’m not involved at all and’Julie’ is tending the cauliflowers and garlic this year. I want a cauliflower? I don’t just pop out and pick one – not until ‘Julie’ has okayed the commencement of harvesting.

                  As for private ownership of land in any given historical period, I’m not knowledgeable enough on what historically constituted any right to private land use to say or when something we might recognise today as private ownership popped up.

                  • weka

                    We obviously have very different ideas about what private land ownership is.

                    Beyond a very notional ‘this is mine’ that is agreed to among those concerned, I simply can’t see how anyone would raise the resources to invest in any land ownership scheme…or what their motivation for attempting to would be. Private space is fine (wondering is that more along the lines of what you are meaning when you refer to ‘private ownership’?)

                    I don’t agree it’s ‘very notional’. How humans have negotiated land use and land care is something that goes back millenia and is integral to all sorts of cultures. It predates any concept of market economies. Like I said, if we aren’t using current society as a frame of reference, I can’t see any reason why a group of people couldn’t collectively and democratically decide to allow private ownership eg this piece of land between river x and river y is now under the control of these 5 people. Nothing to do with raising money to ‘buy’ or sell it.

                    The reason it’s not notional is because most people want and need security. Granted, the current way we manage land entitlement is hugely problematic on lots of levels. I don’t see how that makes all land ownership per se bad.

                    btw, if government no longer exists, isn’t all ownership ‘private’?

                    • Bill

                      I meant – were you suggesting a notional ownership – not…oh, anyway. Security and privacy etc are fine…ownership that comes with some $ given right to do what you want isn’t. And as i keep saying, without a market economy there are no drivers or incentives for private ownership.

                    • karol

                      And yet a market economies, and private ownership arose out of a non-market economy society/ies? The drivers will always be there for some who want to gain an advantage over others.

                    • Bill

                      And the drivers were guns and a commitment to ‘total war’ – ie, elimination or cleansing. And it came from the ‘god given right’ for some men to do as they saw fit in the name of the god they had imagined and that had then created them after his image and granted to them, dominion over ‘his’ creation….(hardly a basis of or for democracy)

                      I mean, it was a nice number if you could pull it off. And it’s pulled off to this day to such a remarkable extent that when it was laid out in 101 terms on this blog, the crucial and rather simple underpinnings appeared to fly over the head of most people.

                  • karol

                    Well, I think the guns and Christian civilising mission of Christian-based colonisation was late to the game of undemocratic, hierarchical, and oppressive societies.

                    The fact that some of us don’t agree with your specific vision of how society can be restructured, doesn’t mean we support such “civilising missions”.

                    More that we disagree on the solutions. I just don’t see your ideal society as being anything that can be achieved in the short to medium term (certainly not this century), given what I’ve seen of the underlying values and approaches of some people in our world.

                    I’ve said it before (and in response to your 101 post): I was very much into collective ways of operating personally and politically in the 60s and 70s – early 80s. I also had the idea that if we started local, and provided a model and core of an egalitairan, collective way of organising, the practice would spread.

                    While many of us were seriously going about such ways of organising, the neocons were already well on the way to developing and implementing their multi-pronged (so called) neoliberal agenda – using their power from above, and permeating the media, education, politics, culture etc.

                    That’s a very powerful MO to counter. Unless we look seriously at the operations of power from above and ways to counter it, as well as from below, the oppressive powers will prevent any grass roots initiative from gaining much of a foothold.

                    You berate us for not taking on board (uncritically accepting) your 101 post underpinnings. I say, you haven’t taken on board my and other responses to that – basically we disagree.

                    From where I’m sitting, some very valid responses to your 101, seem to have “flown over your head”.

                    We do seriously need more democratic political processes. But we also need to be realistic about what can be achieved. Most importantly is keeping in mind the reasons for wanting democratic processes – to end the oppressive domination of powerful groups over others.

      • red blooded 3.1.2

        “If you want real life accounts of how it works, then I could take up many, many inch columns with first hand examples. That would be kind of tedious though.”

        Not half as tedious as spending countless hours per week (day?) investigating whether I want to have a say in the local building code (I have no particular expertise, but hey! I certainly have a great sense of style that others should benefit from!), the parameters of the primary school curriculum and allocation of health funding… And then who evaluates my input, balances it up against the input of others and actually ends up deciding and actioning a decision? And please don’t tell me that there will be consensus – the health example alone should be enough to suggest that sometimes even the most ethical person is going to be influenced by self-interest. I live with a significant health condition and even though I know that there are people living with and dying from worse conditions, I cannot honestly say that I wouldn’t try to funnel research funds and treatment options towards dealing with my problems. Or are you going to tell me that if I wasn’t a product of this society and its values then I would be prepared to sacrifice my self interest and live with limitations that I could in some way angle resources towards alleviating? Because if that is your view it is sweet, idealistic and naive.

        “And no, the denial of third party authority doesn’t mean an end to any ‘rule of law’ – it obviously just means an end to the admin or execution of law being placed in the hands of external, over-arching authority.” – Um… I think you’ll find that this is pretty much what is meant by ‘rule of law’. You may not agree with all of NZ’s laws, the oppositional model of our court system, the Code of Practice of the police… Fine. Nobody here is arguing that our current system can’t be improved. However, if you are basically arguing for a return to “village” (or tribal) law, then I can’t agree with you. All of the allegations that can be made about our current system (institutional racism/sexism, unfairness, unintended consequences, roughness) have some truth to them, but at least with “third party authority” and “the admin or execution of law being placed in the hands of an external, overarching authority” there is some opportunity to investigate, evaluate and hold people and institutions to account. That also allows for informed debate and improvement. If there are no such institutions and every instance of violence or other offence against fellow citizen(s) is decided on a case-by-case basis by those who decide they have an interest, then basically we have mob “justice”. That’s the kind of justice that saw women burnt as witches. (Except even then there was the “authority” of the church at work.)

        I think I’m going to say again, what you are calling “true democracy” is what I used to yearn for in my anarchist youth. I was always a bit unsettled when asked to give an example of a society that functioned (or had functioned) in this way, though.

        An interesting (if somewhat esoteric) discussion.

        • Sacha 3.1.2.1

          “a return to “village” (or tribal) law”

          Exactly – works really well for a small group of people who all know each other. Otherwise our ancestors found out really fast they needed better ways.

          “what you are calling “true democracy” is what I used to yearn for in my anarchist youth”

          And discussing it is proving no more illuminating than arguing with spotty neoliberals.

          • weka 3.1.2.1.1

            I think what Bill is doing with this post is challenging our current notions of what democracy is, and positing what real democracy is and why we don’t work towards it (or recognise or desire it). I agree with Bill that we can’t get there from here if we try and imagine democracy in our current situation.

            So size of population is an issue, but does that not just point to the problem being that we have centralised things too much and this is what prevents democracy?

            “Otherwise our ancestors found out really fast they needed better ways.”

            Such as?

          • Polish Pride 3.1.2.1.2

            true democracy is interesting provided you can find a way to avoid mob rule. The problem in my view is how and where do you draw the lines.
            Example go back 10 years and put gay marriage on the table as a change to law. Lets say on a straight (pardon the pun) 70% are opposed to the idea. The problem is that it doesn’t even effect 90% of them. So how do you avoid the majority being able to tell someone what they can and can’t do through direct democracy when the actions in question have no impact on those same individuals.
            The same would go for those who want to use cannabis right now.

            • Bill 3.1.2.1.2.1

              But your sexuality is none of my business. Therefore I have no legitimate say on your relationships. Also, your overlooking the appeal to (religious?) authority implicit to the idea of marriage.

        • Bill 3.1.2.2

          The local building code? You mean like a code of standards that is overseen and administered by a bureaucracy or some such? Doesn’t exist and cant exist if your seeking to preserve democracy. Scarey for some I know, but those skills and knowledges that people possess (materials, good/bad designs etc) allied with common sense and aesthetics….?

          And you other centrally administered bureaucracies shackled by market demands? Don’t exist. Are there people wanting to dedicate themselves to particular fields of research? Cool. Are they going to be stymied by market allocation of resources etc? Nope. Is there likely to be more people following their desire to be a brain surgeon or some such than at present? Probably. Will the market throw up barriers and road blocks to them pursuing their goals? No.

          So, without the imposition of the market, we’d probably have better and more widespread areas of research being carried out by more highly skilled/trained and motivated people.

          On the law and order front, can I suggest you take into account that the degree of alienation currently experienced by most people these days will have diminished or disappeared altogether and that any ‘breaking of the law’ is likely to be something that directly affects the people you live with and work beside every day. And the peasants in medieval England administered the law just fine on their own. Of course, maybe we’ve degenerated since then.

          As an aside, it wasn’t they who were responsible for witch burnings etc and there’s documentation of the authorities routinely having to pay up to $10 to secure an interrogator/executioner….who was, of course, treated as an out-cast by locals.

          Back to your query on input. Those participating in the discussion evaluate your contribution. And if it’s worthwhile and relevant, then it’ll no doubt have legs and even fly. Not always though. Life is a learning process and mistakes are made and potentially valuable contributions dismissed or overlooked sometimes.

          • weka 3.1.2.2.1

            The reason we have a building code now is because we build buildings that are bigger and potentially more dangerous than in the past, and are certainly more complex and beyond the scope of traditional builders. So if in the democracy we are talking about a return to more simple building methods, then I agree. But if we are going to build x stories high etc, then I don’t see how the locals can do that without agreed to standards.

            • Colonial Viper 3.1.2.2.1.1

              Let’s do an experiment in building standards de-regulation and see how that turns out…

        • Polish Pride 3.1.2.3

          “And then who evaluates my input, balances it up against the input of others and actually ends up deciding and actioning a decision?”

          Trained experts in the field in question. So for the Building code, perhaps a builders council/ forum/panel

          • Bill 3.1.2.3.1

            Nothing wrong in seeking out expertise or specialist knowledge to aid (the plural) you in coming to a decision. But it’s you – not some external agency, that arrives at all decisions and actions all plans. Otherwise your back to be being subjected to power instead of wielding it.

            • Colonial Viper 3.1.2.3.1.1

              A lot of people are simply happy to vote the “right person” in and leave them to it mate. Maybe it’s just the patriarchy or whatever, but there is a lot of relief that someone else is going to take charge and sort out the mess. And, if they fuck up you can always sledge them.

              • Bill

                If people don’t want to participate in certain, or even most decisions then that’s up to them. But they can’t then expect to turn around and say that *this guy* represents us all and is the sum total of our ceded decision making rights. No group with half a brain would accept *this guy* and his magnified power as legitimate.

                (cue overwhelming force of arms and fear of god and eternal damnation….patriarchy)

                • Colonial Viper

                  “No group with half a brain would accept *this guy* and his magnified power as legitimate.”

                  Apart from the populations of every western OECD country, you mean. Without being snide, its incredibly difficult to get people to even make a peep when their work or privacy rights are being undermined. You’re speaking of a different cultural system of values and socialising than most people have ever experienced. Does it have democratic benefits? Yes. It also requires people to accept far more responsibility as actual citizens.

                  That requires a kind of socialisation and individual responsibility which the Left does not encourage, and which of course popular culture and the MSM has stamped on.

      • Polish Pride 3.1.3

        Bill bear in mind that many people do not have the time or head space to think some of these concepts through as to how something today might work differently under an improved or new system. Examples as people have them are good.
        I have been thinking about this sort of thing for the past 3 years so am happy to help in this area. Examples from the current system also helped throw up challenges for resolution in a new one.

        (Not saying you need to put them up. I am saying if people have specific examples put them out by all means).

  4. Sacha 4

    Who gets to uphold my “right to meaningfully engage in processes of decision making” in your world, Bill?

    • Bill 4.1

      You and the people you are engaging with Sasha. Again – these are people you live with and work beside every day….people you share common concerns with who are impacted by the same things you’re impacted by – not strangers.

      • Sacha 4.1.1

        A tiny village in other words. Enjoy your idealism.

        • Polish Pride 4.1.1.1

          “A tiny village in other words. Enjoy your idealism.”

          Sacha this isn’t a simple topic. You are talking about potential systemic change. Don’t be so simplistic in your approach. A critical mind in this arena is a good thing. It helps highlight and resolve issues that might arise.

          Who gets to uphold my “right to meaningfully engage in processes of decision making” in your world, Bill?

          In my view this would a constitution to give you the right in the first instance. This would be backed by a senate function whose responsibility it is to ensure that any new law do not contravene the constitution and would veto any that do. As everyone would have the same rights I don’t see where a situation would arise where your right to meaningfully engage in processes of decision making would be questioned. I realise that won’t be an entirely acceptable answer but give me a strawman and I’ll work through it.

        • Bill 4.1.1.2

          Lets notionally say 150 people is an optimum number of people engaged and making day to day decisions that affect them in a given geographical area. Those 150 will have multiple and layered connections to multiple other groups of (say) 150-ish people.

          And if we consider one person, it’s obvious they would belong to many societies that they flit in and out and through depending on what they are engaged in at any given time.

          At their geographical home they are engaged variously with some or all of the other 149 people who live there. When they attend the equivalent of a university or other training institution, they are involved in the societies that comprise that institution.

          Anyway, pretty soon the naturally arising order that’s generated from simple initial conditions gives rise to a dynamic and integrated whole that involves hundreds of thousands of people and many inter-related (sometimes temporary) societies.

          But you prefer dictatorship.

          • Sacha 4.1.1.2.1

            “But you prefer dictatorship”

            When did you stop beating your wife?

          • karol 4.1.1.2.2

            Sorry, Bill, you are into the realms of fantasy.

            While you are busy building such networks (in a society that does not yet exist), there will be others working their butts off to ensure that it cannot become widespread – and also, to ensure that all the little collectives can be taken over to be used (or abused) for the benefit of the anti-democrats.

            I’d rather look at practical ways to ensure a more accountable, consultative transparent system than the one we’ve got, with eyes wide open about the fact there will be many who will never agree to a collectively organised stateless society. one with various checks and balances against domination by the powerful few.

            • Bill 4.1.1.2.2.1

              If you and others were to form a functioning housing collective tomorrow that embraced democratic values, no-one would stop you. And if you also formed as workers collective that embraced democratic values, no-one would stop you. (These things aren’t so uncommon)

              And if the people from one housing/workers collective form bonds with those in others….no-one will stop you.

              And since you would have a deep sense of ‘ownership’ and no shareholders and, if set up intelligently, no wage bill and therefore a potential competitive advantage over capitalist ventures, it’s not as though you’d sell it to some capitalist enterprise at some later date.

              And when the likes of your rellies or whoever realise that your quality of life just doesn’t compare to theirs, then they’ll emulate what you’ve been doing.

              • karol

                Hmmm… you know, Bill. if you put it that way…. I won’t be rushing to join a collective. In fact – I don’t really want to.

                I’m happy living in a rented studio – fairly humble, but serviceable. And I get a lot of uninterrupted time to do the researching, writing, discussions I am interested in, going to the places & events I choose, etc.

                I’ve always chosen to live in (mostly meagre) circumstances most of my rellies would turn their noses up at. I’ve yet to see them rushing to copy my lifestyle.

                I’ve lived in shared rental accommodation when I was younger. These days, I know very few who would be interested in a collective arrangement, especially not in my age group, and/or with a similar enough outlook on life.

                I would be interested in more collective arrangements for the organisation of the community and the wider society – the work place etc. And more consultation, transparency, accountability.

                The thing is. You’ve got a living arrangement that suits you and that you like – that you are committed to. Why do you assume everyone else would choose the same given a free choice? Isn’t that like saying everyone should choose to live the way you do? – kind of a contradiction.

                • Bill

                  Here’s the thing. We already know that living in (notionally) nuclear family arrangements with even a modest western lifestyle is consuming far more in the way of resources and creating far more pollution than the planet can accommodate….not to mention that the extraction and subsequent manufacturing of those resources relies on the almost complete immiseration of billions.

                  But as long as we’re content….

      • greywarbler 4.1.2

        @Bill
        Sometimes strangers can bring in a breath of fresh air, an objectivity, there is an advantage in their lack of connectedness with all the power lines of the society. They are hoped to be not compromised elected people or just community leaders because it is perceived that links need to be broken, because there have been too many little deals, cover ups etc.

        The police sometimes do this – break the bonds of seniority within the organisation so that a new appointee for a top job with experience is brought in.

        It is hard to be hard and fast about ways of providing leaders. I like to see NZs get top jobs here. I get tired of the seeming obssession with looking overseas all the time. And new policy being based on what they are doing overseas, and talk about best practice deciding what law is to control us and set parameters. I see a lack of willingness to study and draw up on our own laws to tackle our own problems. We have our own intelligent and experienced people.
        But we must also be prepared for outsiders to add useful expertise and overview.

        Some strangers, on some occasions, can add a new perspective, line of thinking, and be unencumbered from local lobbyists and power groups who have created road blocks to considering and presenting people with a different vision, different possibilities.

  5. Tracey 5

    What is the different between democracy and politics?

    More and more I find politics to be about the puppeteers and cannot help but think of platos cave

  6. McFlock 6

    I’ve finally figured out my nagging worry about governance by referenda and other participatory democracy issues: The problem with a participatory democracy is that crowds are stupid. Individual people are generally fine, but crowds of shoppers, protestors, fans, or stockbrokers tend towards “boom and bust”, and other cycles of extreme collective behaviour. They need external brakes/dampers.

    call it a byproduct of my days in crowd control, but that’s why I prefer an imperfect representative democracy.

    • Colonial Viper 6.1

      The problem with a participatory democracy is that crowds are stupid. Individual people are generally fine, but crowds of shoppers, protestors, fans, or stockbrokers tend towards “boom and bust”, and other cycles of extreme collective behaviour. They need external brakes/dampers.

      And traditional Tories would agree with you 100%. That’s why you need those who are fit to rule in charge of the thronging, impatient, unwashed masses.

      • Martin 6.1.1

        yes they are stupid. that is the role of TV
        stupid and entertained people won’t cause problems.
        You see if the French had TV, Louis and Marie would have kept their heads
        as would have their fellow aristocrats.

        • Colonial Viper 6.1.1.1

          No, TV is only one factor, and a relatively recent one (i.e. post 1960). However, the transition from a print/text based culture to a more superficial image based one is pervasive and problematic.

          Systematic forms of disinformation, propaganda and “manufacturing consent” were developed for pushing the USA population into WWI, and those same experts then went to work for corporations on Madison Avenue.

          Transforming within just a few years in the 1920s cigarette smoking from a dirty habit that only skanks, abandoned and fallen women did, to an activity that every classy, independent, and strong minded young lady practiced in public is an example of the power (magic) that these experts wield.

          The Left has no idea: getting more and better facts out to people is a laughable and losing strategy.

          • greywarbler 6.1.1.1.1

            Didn’t Labour shoot themselves and us in the foot when they gave up on the idea of a dedicated public service channel. That would have put on political discussions (commercially so unentertaining) for people who cared about our country and wanted to think about its direction and events. And watch its shows and give its creatives a regular venue. But now we have people revelling in ‘reality’ shows. Cartoons are where we get stuff satiristic and informative.

            Labour gave up the tremendous advantages of mass presentation of views and news for information as well as interest. Petty thinkers of the left have left us without this media type and don’t seem to be able to change from the petty mindset so it goes on. All they aspire to is to be hens picking up bits of ideas from the ground, a bit of policy here and there, but not many useful eggs.

            • karol 6.1.1.1.1.1

              gw, I have been pondering on the viability of starting an online morning (and evening?) radio show, that would comment on current events and include some interviews with significant people?

              Any widespread support for this? It shoud be cheap to do in financial terms – but maybe expensive in terms of time commitment.

              • lprent

                I’d find that worth supporting

                • karol

                  Well so would I. I would also be interested in contributing to it as a researcher. It would need the involvement of some people with specific skills. This would include some people with leadership and motivational skills, as well as the people to actually front as hosts of the online radio show & conduct interviews.

                  • just saying

                    Would it be possible for it to be nation-wide, or just localised?
                    I’d support it, but have no particular skills.

                    • karol

                      I would have thought, being online, it’d be possible and best nation wide. That would increase the pool of participants and material covered.

                      It also means that it would require a couple of people who strongly participate in nation-wide networks.

                      i reckon research and fact checking would be useful contributions.

                    • greywarbler

                      Sounds good – there are people who come on TS and who have started their own blogs, and do research AND try hard to be factual who would no doubt be interested.

                      At present I only listen to Radionz and find them pretty good overall, but I pass on occasional criticisms in the hope that they will keep up standards. I think there are many people dedicated to good public radio there.

                      The way that talk back radio manage contentious opinions, perhaps to the operator, is to cut them off. There would have to be some sort of control through a group that has a mission statement to guide them, and can limit a Kyle Chapman, an anti Peter Jackson activist or an anti-union.
                      Maybe there is a way around these problems of access. Limited time etc.

                    • weka

                      “i reckon research and fact checking would be useful contributions.”

                      Finding out what proportion of intended audience have/don’t have adequate/cheap internet to listen would be a good place to start. And where those with access are.

          • Martin 6.1.1.1.2

            True, CV before TV we still had advertising as you mention. Edward Bernays is the culprit for making tobacco acceptable for women.
            prsuming getting more and better facts out was the raison detre in the first place.

      • McFlock 6.1.2

        Look at the stockmarket. That’s 100%, immediate and direct participation in action. Look at any crowd – the flow of people, the eddies and currents they make, and so on.

        An ideal representative democracy isn’t about being in charge of that, it’s about slowing things down so that people can have a considered reaction to the wider focus, rather than just what happens immediately next to them (or in the couple of days previously).

        Basically, you’re trusting the same people who drove themselves off economic and climate cliffs to not make things worse when they’re given more immediate control. Bold move.

    • Bill 6.2

      Referenda are not any expression of participatory democracy. And democracy most certainly does not run on some kind of herd mentality – that’s what our present system does and encourages.

    • KJT 6.3

      I’ve finally figured out my nagging worry about governance by a small group of politicians and other representative democracy issues: The problem with a representative democracy is that politicians are stupid. Politicians can be fine people, but put them in power and they tend to “boom and bust”, group think, capture by interest groups, corruption and arrogance, and other cycles of extreme behavior.

      They need external brakes/dampers.

      Call it a byproduct of my days in leading people and getting the best out of them. That’s why I prefer a real democracy.

      Fixed it for you McFlock!

      • karol 6.3.1

        What kind of external brakes/dampers do you have in mind?

        Wouldn’t taking the private funding out of electioneering be a start?

        • KJT 6.3.1.1

          Definitely.

          My preference would be State funding. An equal amount for any party with more than a minimum number of paid up individual members.

          And Swiss style binding referenda.

          Like you, I think that more democracy is something we should always be working towards.

          However, as we have seen recently, it is easy for a New Zealand Government, with its absolute power, to quickly dismantle any steps towards Democracy.

          • Colonial Viper 6.3.1.1.1

            More powers and roles for local democratic organisations. Like local elected power and water boards. Protect the commons democratically and locally.

          • McFlock 6.3.1.1.2

            I’d do binding referenda on constitutional issues, but not the daily issues of governance.

            I certainly don’t think that the current regime (in all senses of the word) is perfect, but I do think there is a balance between a government that folows the wishes of the people and a government that is micromanaged to death by referenda.

  7. Tracey 7

    If tge masses receive genuinely disseminated information they will make profoundly sensible decisions.

    sadly the educated are some of the most willing to digest and disseminate pr spin propaganda call it what you will. They sit smugly believing themselves intellectually superior yet all the while they are the unpaid dupes of the mega wealthy. Journalists are a good example of this phenomenon

    • Colonial Viper 7.1

      If tge masses receive genuinely disseminated information they will make profoundly sensible decisions.

      Sorta. Bernays however figured out a century ago that falls well short – people are emotional and irrational creatures first and foremost.

      Information/facts has got to be about 1/3 the mix

      Another 1/3 has got to be an emotional and human energy

      Another 1/3 has got to be a vision of what it is we want to achieve, whether it is something in a years time or something in 10 years time.

      sadly the educated are some of the most willing to digest and disseminate pr spin propaganda call it what you will.

      Yes. Some very smart, thoughtful people backed Roger Douglas all the way. They liked the theory of the new economics, they knew that they would do personally very well out of the new economics, and frankly, they were just sick to death of Muldoon’s state run economics.

      This was another one of Bernay’s great breakthroughs – you seduce the intellectual and academic class into your thinking frameworks and social priorities. And McCarthyism got rid of those hard core socialists in schools and universities who didn’t go along with it.

  8. Martin 8

    Democracy?! What!?
    Where!?
    How?

    oh, you mean this kleptomaniac plutocracy.

  9. adam 9

    Come on Bill, totalitarianism means people can have a good moan and not take responsibility for themselves or there actions. It works for many because they can wring there hands and go, silly people. The right don’t give a fuck, as long as they get to keep there power – there happy.

    And that the rib bro – you want people to be empowered and make their own decisions, both individual and collectively- your f*&ed. No seriously, look how fast it dropped to, “people are stupid” “utopian” “in an ideal world” “it ok for everyone else” “vigilant rule!!” “what about shirkers?” Me.me.me…

    Is it me or is this site full of people who really should go vote national? Why, because they think that the Eisenhower era was an economic high point/golden age – and they want that recreated. They are not interested in changing the processes or positions of power – it’s to bloody hard. It hurts to think about it, and maybe they might have to do something. Better to moan and abuse those who even mention real democracy. So Bill in that vain – you traitor to the working class, how dear you ever mention they could have a semblance of power over there own lives.

    • weka 9.1

      ““what about shirkers?””

      You appear to not have comprehended what I actually said (I most definitely didn’t say “what about shirkers?”), which makes me wonder how closely you have read what other people said too.

    • karol 9.2

      So it’s either totalitarianism – selfish and irresponsible, or it’s participatory democracy where everybody gets a say in decision making?

      So on the one hand you want us all be able to (selfishly?) make our own choices within the collective decision-making processes, but when people say their choice wouldn’t be for the same arrangement you choose (for us), they are being selfish and irresponsible? And you go into aggressive attack mode.

      The contradictions are falling over themselves so much, it hurts my head.

      • Sacha 9.2.1

        Stupid often hurts.

      • adam 9.2.2

        I believe we live in a totalitarian society, and that we always have done so in one form or another – this just happens to be a benign version. I also believe, that the days are numbered on it being benign. If we choice to keep going down the same path, then we are looking at a new totalitarianism which will include some sort of serfdom, or outright slavery.

        So am I grumpy – bloody ah – am I completely discouraged by the left/right dived which is solidifying into sold clumps of there own version of dystopia – sure am.

        What I want is simple – people to try it. Just a little – baby steps, try brining participatory democracy into your political lives one little bit at a time.

        Yes weka I picked out that point to rattle your cage, not a nice word is shirker and even nastier when your disabled and are been called one. It’s one term that gets under my skin – and I’ll admit, I tuned out once you used it.

        Oh and Sacha are you a Green by any chance?

        • weka 9.2.2.1

          “Yes weka I picked out that point to rattle your cage, not a nice word is shirker and even nastier when your disabled and are been called one. It’s one term that gets under my skin – and I’ll admit, I tuned out once you used it.”

          If you had read what I actually said you would have seen that I was asking how accusations of shirker could be dealt with, and was speaking from personal experience (of being accused). But by all means go ahead with your holier than thou approach that eliminates the need to communicate effectively and see how far that gets you in creating participatory democracy,

      • Bill 9.2.3

        On the left hand of social democracy, there is state centric totalitarianism. On the right hand there is corporatism. In other words, social democracy preserves the necessary initial conditions for either of those two state of affairs. And it will fall or tend to either the left or to the right again as it has in the past under the pressure of extreme crisis….and fuck knows we have enough of them stacking up. You okay with that or simply in denial?

        • karol 9.2.3.1

          Bill, to me it is you who are in denial. I don’t see your grass roots, organise and hope, collectivisation as ending the dominance of powerful groups. In the short term to medium term, your approach will open the door to far worse forms of domination. You OK with that?

          I would prefer to aim for democratic socialism, rather than social democracy, but social democracy is more achievable in the short term. We need to develop practical and achievable ways of holding the powerful elites and corporate in check, and to dismantle their power – no easy task.

          We don’t live in a totalitarian state yet, though we are getting frighteningly close.

          PS: Is it just me and my Chrome browser, or is it TS that makes commenting here the last couple of days a real struggle – very slow in responding to every key stroke.

          • Bill 9.2.3.1.1

            In the short term to medium term, your approach will open the door to far worse forms of domination.

            Care to explain how nascent but potentially deepening and broadening forms of democratic governance involving ever more people (with presumably, less tolerance or acceptance of undemocratic expressions of governance) opens the door to far worse forms of domination?

    • Bill 9.3

      This traitor to the working class still hasn’t seen a single commenter who would presume to defend this system of governance we have, attempt an answer to either of the two very simple questions I asked in the post…which were (to paraphrase) – where is the democracy in the present set up and (since none will be identified) why aren’t you demanding democracy in the stead of authoritarianism?

      So yeah….lots of mental energy spent on attacking propositions that would seek to deliver democratic governance and no fucking concern at all over our current realities….very much – ‘I’m alright Jack’

      • weka 9.3.1

        That’s unfair. You presented something that wasn’t explained particularly well so of course there is going to be lots of questioning.

        “This traitor to the working class still hasn’t seen a single commenter who would presume to defend this system of governance we have”

        As noted, much of the discussion looks like an attempt at understanding what you actually mean. I still don’t have a clear enough picture to say yea or nay. The people that were outright anti might have responded better with a more complete and clear explanation of what you are proposing.

        Question 1: I ignored the question of where is the democracy currently because if I had said something like an easy comparison with countries that don’t allow women to vote with my right to vote demonstrates a sliver of democracy, I’m pretty sure an ideological and probably largely semantic debate would have broken out that would have gone nowhere and would have substantially detracted from what I thought was the real purpose of the post. The question appeared to be a set up designed to prove the rest of your post, so there didn’t seem to be much point in responding to it.

        Question 2 “why aren’t you demanding democracy in the stead of authoritarianism?”… firstly, I reject the absoluteness of that statement (that people live in either one or the other absolutely), and second, I don’t see democracy as being something that is demanded. Demanded from whom exactly? Thirdly, I think the reasons are so fucking obvious that I didn’t think they needed going into.

        I’m disappointed. I was looking forward to you posting on this at some point. I feel that the comments I made in good faith were largely answered with either ideology (everything is the market economy’s fault), or were just avoided. It was hard to take the conversation anywhere useful, so we just went round and round in circles.

        I’m sure that there are lots of people who would prefer what we have now to even looking at what you are suggesting, but I don’t think that is everyone here on ts and I’m not willing to be lumped in with your idea that everyone is just out for themselves.

        • weka 9.3.1.1

          btw, I think much of the problem in this thread is due to your post being broadly theoretical and people here wanting more detail and pragmatics.

          In the first paragraph you talk about the rule of thumb being easy*. I understood the concept immediately and thus next went to ‘how would this work in reality?’. I don’t think we’ve had a decent discussion about that yet, but it is a valid concern and one that needs looking at for the process to be explored further. Otherwise you are asking us to just take your idea on faith.

          *that people have the right to participate in decisions that directly affect them and no right to participate in decisions that don’t affect them.

        • Bill 9.3.1.2

          Hey Weka. You attempted to query. I was referring to those who have gone to some lengths to dismiss democracy or ideas about democracy (while simultaneously getting all het up about ecan, Brownlie and Christchurch).

          And I can’t see how I (or anyone) can do more than suggest basic ground rules for what has to be satisfied before a system of governance can be considered democratic.

          And I wasn’t attempting to avoid your questions, but when they are along the lines of people doing stuff just for the hell of it (the messing rivers example) then it’s like being asked to consider how democratic governance would deal with a Vogon Constructor Fleet…y’know, things don’t ‘just happen’ out of the blue…there are drivers and incentives and motives…and from my perspective, it’s legitimate and necessary to examine what those motivations, incentives etc are and what might be producing them to determine whether x, y or z would reasonably be expected to happen under different conditions.

          • weka 9.3.1.2.1

            Fair enough, and re the rivers I was vague on the detail because I was thinking of a specfic situation but didn’t want to talk about that. In broad terms it’s someone very wealthy doing something because they want to not because the market forces them to make a living that way. As far as I can tell the incentives are largely personal. I could shorthand it to boys with their toys, but I don’t mean that in a derogatory way (inventiveness is a useful characteristic). I think this is something humans do (do shit for the love of it), and historically there are cultural restrictions to prevent them from getting out of hand. I was curious to see how that would work in what you were proposing. If you wanted something more specific, then just ask.

            But there were many other instances where I raised legitimate issues and had them largely dismissed either ideologically or avoided. The building issue is an obvious one. Again, I think one of the problems here is that you are talking in broad theoretical terms whereas I go straight to the nitty gritty of how it could work. I’m not doing that to diss what you are saying, I’m doing it to explore the potential.

            Re everyone else, I think you have assumed that people know what you are talking about. I don’t think enough people do. And when the conversation gets loaded with jargon terms at the expense of open and inclusive conversation, it’s hard to see how we could get anywhere. Sure you are going to get some people who outright reject what you are proposing. But that wasn’t everyone in this thread, and it’s just plainly inaccurate for you to imply that it was.

            In fact, we could use this very thread as a practice ground for what you are talking about… a decision needs to be made on whether to look at adopting participatory democracy. How can we make that decision (given it affects everyone here)?

      • karol 9.3.2

        So yeah….lots of mental energy spent on attacking propositions that would seek to deliver democratic governance and no fucking concern at all over our current realities….very much – ‘I’m alright Jack’

        Bill that is really unfair, and off target.

        The thing is, I’d rather be looking at ways to deliver more democratic governance, and especially ways to counter the powerful reach of the corporates and powerful elites. And I have posted several times about my concerns about the undemocratic state of our current governance.

        The thing is, to me you have offered an alternative that seems unworkable and achievable in the short to medium term – meanwhile increasing damage is being done to too many people. If you posted directly about the problems with our current state of governance specifically, and asked for people’s solutions, you’d get a different kind of response. And I would love to see how others would change our current system.

        You seem to have a bit of a “either your with me or you’re against” me approach.

        • weka 9.3.2.1

          All fair enough karol, except that I think he was specifically wanting to avoid talking about how to get there from here and instead to focus on the concept. I think it would work better if that was stated upfront, then it would be clearer what the intent of the post was.

          In that sense I think talking about the concept without getting bogged down in how to make the transition is worthy, because we have so few models of alternatives to the current situation. I like your idea of how to make change form what we have now too, but I also think that activists often lack clarity or cohesion on where to head. It makes sense to have a post dedicated to one vision.

          • karol 9.3.2.1.1

            I understand, weka. And while I can see that focusing on the concept and possibilities has value, Bill is also arguing about his vision as being needed to be subscribed to now, or else we are colluding with totalitarianism.

            For myself, I’m more interested in what we can practially do now to counter the elites, the powerful and begin building something more democratic.

            • weka 9.3.2.1.1.1

              I didn’t like the either/or shit either.

              I think what Bill is proposing IS a direct counter to the power-over culture (if I have understood correctly). eg where he talks about how to form work/life collectives. Those are very powerful ways of both undermining the elite controlled culture and building something new. But we need all the good strategies I think and insulting your naturally allies seems not a particularly useful one.

            • Bill 9.3.2.1.1.2

              You really confuse me karol. On the one hand you say you want to build something more democratic (maybe less undemocratic would be a more accurate term insofar as democracy is like pregnancy…it either there or it’s not).

              Regardless, when I state the fact that no-one and nothing currently prevents the formation of workers collectives (democratic workplaces) or housing collectives (democratically controlled housing alternatives) you state straight up that you have no desire for such things and, strangely to my mind, start alluding to some authoritarian bent on my part for writing something about democracy.

              • weka

                There are very real things that prevent worker/housing collectives of the kind you mean from being formed. Otherwise they would be happening.

                • karol

                  Ah weka – you just said much more succinctly, what it took me a long time to state in a much longer comment – yes, exactly.

                • Bill

                  “There are very real things that’…yeah, of course there are (lack of financial resources, opportunity, a lifetime of conditioning etc). I should have been more specific, and said something like there are no legal barriers…

              • karol

                No, you are misinterpreting me, Bill.

                I said I have no desire to join a housing collective (at least at the present). Actually, it may be easy in your part of the world, but in Auckland, it’s hard enough for many people to find reasonably priced housing of any kind near one’s work. I would be open to a unit in some sort of housing collective, rather than private renting if there was suitable accomodation in the vicinity of my work, and people to do it with – not very likely.

                I’m NOT A fan of private home ownership – actually, if I ever need to go into a retiremnt village, I’d prefer one that is collectively organised – not much hope of that on the horizon.

                Practically, the whole idea just seems unworkable for me at this stage, and I am fairly content to be renting.

                I would like a more collective approach in my workplace – but I have little control over that – I could go on at length about that, but that would mean identifying my work, and by extension my offline identity. And at 60+yrs my choices of places to work (and live) are very limited. It does, however, impact on my views on the ways we could work to change the practical arrangements.

                I have worked in a self-managing team (within a fairly hierarchical system) in the past, and that is my preference. There are better more democratic possibilites even within a hierarchical system – though decentralisation of organisations would also help with that. It’s not possible today and it has changed for the worse in my current job – all stuff totally beyond my direct control from the grass roots – it involves top down change as well as grass roots change.

                Well, Bill, it does seem kind of controlling and badgering in the way you berate anyone who won’t accept your approach in its entirety – not so much authoritarian, as counter to your argument for everyone having input towards achieving some kind of negotiated consensus. Your approach seems to be to be to put heavy pressure on me to live the way you have decided I should. It does seem to contradict you idea of participatory democracy – you don’t seem to be that open to other people’s views.

                I don’t think it’s like pregnancy at all – and in that way you are skewing the argument in your terms. I think your vision of everyone joining collectives in all areas of their life now or in the near future, is impractical. It also will not achieve the aim of ending plutocracy. This needs to be attacked in a multi-pronged way – via the media, popular discourse, political discourse and policies, etc – by targeting the top down arrangements as well as through grass roots coollective approaches.

                And I have been pretty consistent in my overall approach in this thread and past discussions.

                I do think there are ways to work towards more democratic arrangements that will more realistically achieve the aims over ending the oppressive dominance of the few over the many.

                I also think complete participatory democracy is just unachievable in the near to medium future, while any change towards more democratic processes will relieve some pressure on the lives of many people.

              • just saying

                I find it strange that you don’t see the contradiction that Weka and Karol are talking about, Bill.

                We’ve had this discussion before (though a while ago now). Like you, I spent a few years living on a commune, but though I wouldn’t have missed the experience for the world, I didn’t come away with such idealism. I’d like to know more about the specific experience that you had because my experience was of power struggles and differentials, beneath a veneer of equality. (Though obviously it was more equal and democratic than the outer society). Also, of a lot of time tied up talking and arguing about matters of mutual interest. Hierarchical systems are shitty but you’ve got to admit, they are usually extremely streamlined by comparison.

                I’m also in a collective now, one with far better systems for democratic decision-making and preventing power imbalances. But what you describe sounds much closer to utopia than the time-consuming, difficult, sometimes infuriating, (or worse, boring) work of a collective, of my experience.

                Also, we are all deeply encultured with hierarchical thinking, even when we are consciously trying to live differently. You seem to think that just enacting the type of system you describe would just wash that away, but with the best will in the world (and most people don’t have any will right now for the sort of radical change you have sketched) it’s just not that simple. Changing decades of conditioning, even knowing how to do that, and recognising it when you aren’t…….much more difficult and complicated. If you’ve had an experience in which it all came naturally I’d genuinely like to know more about it.

                • adam

                  But isn’t the point to try it! Sorry I know the written word comes over as harsh to many, but the point – fundamentally is to try a different approach. And if you start using democratic tools and methodology, then you might just feel empowered.

                  And yes, contradictions are everywhere, but look past the reaction and put into action. Like I said – is it to much to ask? I’m getting more frustrated when people dismiss and take offence and use one word here, or one word there to dismiss the whole thing – so yes back to my original point.

                  If you do nothing and accept this state of affairs your a totalitarian at worst, a enabler of totalitarianism at best. Hence why the either/or and yes you might not like that – but the reality is we are walking eyes wide shut into a period of totalitarianism which seems to getting more brutal, and more repressive. If NZ is number one for freedom in the world, then the world is going to hell in a hand basket.

                  • weka

                    “If you do nothing and accept this state of affairs your a totalitarian at worst, a enabler of totalitarianism at best.”

                    What makes you think that any of us here commenting ‘do nothing and accept this state of affairs’?

                    I’m also curious why you think js was being dismissive. I see them opening up the conversation via gently challenging Bill’s response to myself and karol and via enquiry. Their point about wanting to know more about how the collective Bill was in worked is spot on. It’s perfectly reasonable to want this level of detail.

                    • Bill

                      The post was about peoples’ attitude to authoritarianism and their recognition (or otherwise) of democracy. The workers/housing collective I was a part of was democratic…but so what? The post laid out the most basic of bars of what must be reasonably satisfied if something….anything… lays claim to being democratic.

                      And basic broad examples were thrown in of how decisions get approached in the case where democracy is evident.

                      I thought it was a fairly simple, obvious and not particularly controversial post. Guess I was wrong.

                    • karol

                      Well, the problem for me is that you leap between the macro & the micro and have an absolutist approach to democractic governance happening today.

                      In an individual collective I can understand it operating pretty well.

                      But from there to social democracy and governance of a society is a big leap. So much more complicated.

                      Social democracy tends to have incorporated a fair amount of compromise with existing power structures, based on the realistic perception that a shift to full democratic socialism will not happen over night. It has a gradualist approach, using systems, eg unions, within capitalism to shift things towards more representation of workers, low income people etc, resulting in systems and policies in their interests. The original aim of social democracy was to gradually shift towards more democracy.

                      There is the danger, as has happened in recent decades, that the gradualism gets so watered down that it has been co-opted and nullifed by the corporates.
                      But I see no easy way to full democracy, apart from an ongoing struggle and keeping in mind the goal – a society free from the oppression of one or more groups of people by another.

                      To me, saying there is no democracy other than total participatory democracy, means there is no way forward. It skews the debate in one direction and all then becomes just too hard.

                      I would aim for a fair amount of representation and consultation, with roles delegated to some to represent others at a regional and national level. To me that is not succumbing to authoritarianism, but negotiating what is possible. To me it’s more about “democratic” processes, that enable as much participation by the people/population as possible.

                      Left wing parliamentary representatives tend to have lost sight of the main goal and have succumbed to the corporate dominance of politics as game, with short term goals and winning at all costs.

                      I would want things like tight caps on election campaign spending, a re-instating of stronger grass roots representation and consultation: e.g. in the structure of Auckland super city and the processes of governance in Christchurch.

                      I would also go for more decentralisation of governance processes, especially in Auckland – this removes access to decsion making too far from the grass roots.

                      But your framing of the debate, didn’t make it easy to put forward what I see as the way forward. It just looked like setting up a series of impossibilities.

                    • Bill

                      I don’t expect democracy today Karol. If it is ever going to happen, it will only be by dint of a process of change….not the 100 odd years that social democracy has taken though. It’s obviously not the way forward.

                      Anyway, strange that where I say this current system is undemocratic (and sure, it goes through spells of being less undemocratic and more undemocratic) in order that we can perceive what needs to be done and what needs to be challenged, you call that self same state of affairs democratic.

                    • weka

                      You know how you said there are no legal impediments to forming work/housing collectives? Doesn’t the current version of ‘democracy’ allow that? So for instance, say the shit is hitting the fan and Key stages a military coup and we now have no form of representative democracy at all. Do you think what you propose would still have no barriers at the legal/state level? This is what I don’t get about your either/or, absolutist approach. It seems much easier to go in the direction you want from within a relatively liberal ‘democracy’ than say a fascist state.

                    • karol

                      Bill, I have frequently stated that there is a lot about our current state of governance that is undemocratic. I am not in the least compalcent about it’s state.

                      And I’m pleased to see you also recognise it won’t happen overnight.

                  • karol

                    Surely js is doing something as part of a collective. Your “either your with us totally, or your against us” approach undermines your whole argument.

                    And you are over stating it to push that for-us-or-against-us line, by saying we live in a totalitarian regime – we live in a plutocracy, that is increasingly becoming less democratic and veering more in the direction of totalitarianism.

                    • Bill

                      Can’t see the ‘with or against’ nonsense. It’s simply that you’re either a democrat or your not. And yes, I’m basing that on the contention…one you disagree with… that you can no more be ‘a bit’ democratic than you can be ‘a bit’ pregnant. If you could, then even the most heinous of modern dictatorships could lay claim to levels of democratic credibility and shut the door to any advances for democracy.

                    • karol

                      Bill: Can’t see the ‘with or against’ nonsense. It’s simply that you’re either a democrat or your not.

                      Bill, your second sentence is exactly doing the with or against thing. You seem to only want me to participate int he discussion on your terms.

                      I say – look at what democracy is trying to achieve. It’s an on-going struggle. You are hanging too much on a word. There is a vast amout of difference between NZ governance, and that of the extreme oppression by the 3rd reich, or Stal1nism.

                      You are shutting the door to advances, in my view, by not accepting that there are ways forward that involve struggling within the currnt system.

                    • karol

                      On reflection, I differ from you, Bill in my interpretation of “democracy”

                      Your interpretation seems to be a bit individualistic – fot you, it all goes back to every individual having a say in every decision that impacts on them.

                      For me, it’s about the diverse groups in society having equal say on issues that impact on them – having an equal voice in the governance.

                      “democracy” comes from the collective “demos” – “the people”. And my working definition of it has always been “of the people, by the people, for the people”: not of each indivdual, for each individual, by each individual.

                      At the moment certain sections of society have more say in its governance than others – especially the corporates, the wealthy, the privileged middle classes – and on certain issues impacting on the benificiaries, the low paid, disabked, women, LGBT people, Maori/Pasifika etc, those groups don’t have enough say.

                      For me a fully representative and consultative system, open to critique by all sections of society, is democratic. And we need a democratic media to enable that, not dominated by corporate interests, etc.

                      We have far less of that than we should – so it’s not just about electing MPs or councillors, it’s about putting policy out for consultation; it’s about all groups having an equal voice in critiquing, protesting, lobbying, debating etc.

                    • Bill

                      So, you want to refer to people only in terms of groups and…hmm, not sure how much of a cynical dismissal and put down of people outside any groupings was intended when you throw the loaded term ‘individualistic’ out there… Anyway, these ‘groups’ or ‘sectors’ or whatever – they’re functionally democratic are they? Or do they adopt the cult of democratic centralism or democratic pluralism implied by your comment?

                  • just saying

                    Adam, were you replying to me?

                    Like I said in my comment – I am doing it.

                    It may have seemed that I was excessively cynical talking about the frustrations and problems, but I assumed the fact that I’m part of a collective, and I spend a lot of time working at the kinds of democratic processes that Bill has partially described, would show that I do believe it is worthwhile. I just feel a bit frustrated when these kinds of things are presented as being easier than I find them to be. I think that kind of sets people up for disappointment, and before long, giving up on them – like those infomercials for exercise equipment that promise super-fitness from just three minutes of exercise a day – the machines end up in the shed within a couple of weeks!

                    If there is an easier way of doing it, I’d like to find out about it.

                    • adam

                      No JS I was not writing in response to you, it was just were I hit reply. And weka, when I write I write not just for those who have written above, but for others who haven’t written above as well.

                      And as I said, try it – just try using it in your endeavorers. You might just be surprised.

                    • weka

                      Again, I ask you, what makes you think people here are not already doing it?

                • karol

                  Yes, my experience of collective organisation is that there is a tendency for some individuals to dominate.

                  There’s an underlying problem of the ways humans operate in groups, and these need to be accoutned for.

                  • KJT

                    That is not always a bad thing. It depends on the motivations and competence of the leaders.

                    And how well the rest of the group keeps them on task.

                    I’ve always liked the idea that some Polynesian cultures had.

                    The leader was picked by the group for a given situation.
                    A navigator at sea, a warrior when at war, a cook for making the feast, a talking Chief/Orater for ceremonial occasions.
                    They had respect, but not necessarily any power, outside the appropriate situation.

                    Unlike our situation where we put the most glib talker, in charge of everything.

                    • Colonial Viper

                      Yep and a chairing system can be very effective as well. The chair doesn’t necessarily have any formal power – but ensures that decision making process is followed, that everyone gets their say, and no individual ‘glib talking bankster’ or other person with formal power, gets to run the table in their way. Or just use the ol’ speaking staff heh.

                • Bill

                  I walked into an established group that possessed an institutional memory with regards good systems and processes. They’d been arrived at through trial and error.

                  De-conditioning was a necessary, ongoing and, for some a difficult process running in parallel to all other systems and processes. Basically – and I’m going to be very basic here – that involved recognising and working through shit attitudes, belief systems etc that had built up over years as received bias from various quarters (eg – the normalisation of sexism, acceptance of patriarchal perspectives etc).

                  People like me found the decision making processes and the various social mechanisms for dealing with potential conflict etc very easy to accept and adapt to….but like I said, I walked into a place with maybe 15 – 20 years worth of institutional memory and practice to call on.

                  New groups comprised of people coming from *here*? Yeah, hard row to hoe even if everyone recognises and accepts they’ve got some pretty serious shit floating around in their heads and commits to dealing with it. The development of effective processes and systems for dealing with various fallouts resulting from any hang-overs from *this* society and its norms and biases takes time. I guess mistakes will inevitably be made and bad systems or processes will need to be re-evaluated, changed or abandoned until good ones are arrived at.

                  • just saying

                    Do you have to be so patronising, Bill?

                    De-conditioning was a necessary, ongoing and, for some a difficult process..

                    Just for some huh?

                    Still none the wiser about those “effective” systems and processes.

                    • Bill

                      Yup. Just for some. I mean, how difficult do you reckon it is/was for children who’d arrived there and who proceeded to assimilate the mores of the dominant culture they were surrounded by on (for those being home schooled) a 24/7 basis? Their real difficulties came later in life if or when they hit the wider world to suddenly discovered they hadn’t been equipped with defenses for a lot of the ‘dog eat dog’ and ‘fuck you’ bullshit they encountered.

                      You seriously want a run down of the mores, systems, processes, legal basis etc? Then get in touch instead of expecting a veritable essay in the comments section of a post that was principally concerned with the fundamental basic conditions that would need to be satisfied by any system of governance before it could be considered as credibly democratic.

    • Polish Pride 9.4

      +1

  10. Tracey 10

    Jaques ellul wrote good stuff on the intelligent sucking up propaganda and spitting it out to anyone who would listen.

    For all those who dont think nats act and conservs are the answer, neither is labour. Anyone who thinks labour is the answer have forgotten the question

    • Colonial Viper 10.1

      Thanks a lot for this lead.

    • KJT 10.2

      Unfortunately, and sadly, way too many on the left, as well as the right, of politics, have arrogant and dictatorial tendencies.

      It puzzles me that we let such flawed individuals have so much power over our lives.

      The enthusiasm, from the rest of us, when any measures are taken to restrict politicians power over us and head towards more democracy, such as MMP, shows that most people are sick of being dictated to, by a bunch of barely competent bullshit artists in Parliament.

  11. Philj 11

    Xox
    Democracy is the fig leaf covering the real deal. Power, greed and the Corporatocracy. Big money rulz NZ! You only think it’s a Democracy. I prefer to use more accurate terms, Demockary, Dumocracy, or my current favorite, Dumocruptcy.

  12. Tim 12

    I’ll have another go at a comment (see initial comments above 1.1.2 etc) because not only do I regularly misuse the term representative democracy – which often isn’t, but I think I also put in participatory when I meant representative in that spiel.

    Surely participation by the electorate should be more of a goal (one that is difficult to meet) by our elected representatives. Instead, it’s something they seem to despise – which is one reason people feel disempowered and cynical towards politicians.
    - Instead of empowering councils for example, they seek to cenralise power and implement ‘commissioners’
    - Instead of encouraging participation in the democratic process, they seek to limit (such as depriving prisoners of voting rights)
    - Instead of encouraging individuals to be politically active within a collective, and attempting to represent the voices of various minority groups, they seek to homogenise, creating ‘un-people’ (such as the poor/beneficiaires/children/etc.) on one hand, whilst elevating non-people (such as the corporation) to person status (limited liability, etc.)
    - Human Rights are routinely suppressed and abused (no worries if legislation breaches our limp HRA or ToW – the State rulz; various ridiculous PCA decisions are left unchallenged allowing creeping totalitarianism by state agencies; we encourage children and youth – and indeed spouses – to be treated as possessions
    - Laws are passed ‘under urgency’ dressed up as expediency and remain in place way past their used by date – select committees are just so damned inconvenient after all.
    -The list goes on and power corrupts until it becomes absolute (which is what we’re seeing under the current elected junta)

    Democracy is messy, unpredictable and inconvenient. It’s MEANT to be!

    Seems to me this debate is not actually making progress because it’s seen in an X versus Y context, whereas one would hope that the elected representatives we empower could remain conscious of those they represent (not just an amorphous mass, but also its various minority interests) in a way that means they embrace various participatory structures (local/regional bodies, select committees, etc.)

  13. Polish Pride 13

    might have to borrow this and expand on it at a later date if thats ok. You have summed up many of the problems very nicely.

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