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Go Democracy Go!

Written By: - Date published: 8:19 am, December 26th, 2018 - 68 comments
Categories: australian politics, Deep stuff, democratic participation, elections, Europe, International, uk politics, us politics - Tags:

It’s going to be a strong year for democratic politics.

Labor will be back in style in Australia.

Indonesia will keep a President who is rational, non-extremist and competent. Jokowi you are pretty good.

The largest elections in history – India – will probably shunt Modi. If not, India’s people will will remain too wildly diverse to be dominated.

Thailand will be released military dictatorship, finally. Yay voting!

Putin could not even get moderate pension reform through and less than half of voters back him now.

Trump is going down. Down down down. Enjoy it people.

May is destroying the British Conservative Party. Maybe a split. Weeping now.

Britain will be the supreme campaign advertisement for multiple European elections coming up. For extreme nationalists, failure is an option.

New Zealand has local elections that will enable political alignment with the ruling coalition. Who have lots of money. Rise up regional left and let’s go shopping 😊

The last few years have been dismal for democracy. But all its inbuilt institutional constraints – together with good old entropy – are revealing excellent highlights to come.

68 comments on “Go Democracy Go! ”

  1. KJT 1

    “rational, non-extremist and competent. Jokowi you are pretty good”.

    Having his troops massacre a few West Papuans, is fine?

    • Ad 1.1

      Democracy absolves very little.

      But as in Thailand, Indonesian democracy is rare and recent.

      In an era of full democratic reversal, bits of functioning democracy are worth noting.

  2. KJT 2

    As Ghandi said when asked about Western civilisation, “It would be a good idea.

    Democracy?

    Even our own Labour party went ahead with the TPPA, against majority opposition.
    The NZ “left” is just as contemptuous of Democracy, as the “right”.

    • SHG 2.1

      The Australian Labor party just voted for Big Brother eavesdropping and crypto-breaking legislation that makes the Clark & Thompson spying look benevolent by comparison. The legislation passed because of Labor’s support.

  3. One Two 3

    Ad,

    Do you understand what had been happening in Thailand for well over a decade before the military intervened…?

    Do you understand why it was happening?

    Do you understand there is a high probability the same actors along with recent arrivals begin the exact same atrocities / activities post elections, which lead to military intervention…

    Context Ad…it’s not a one sentence throw away comment, such as you made in each instance…

    “Yay voting” …that is not democracy…

    • Ad 3.1

      Yes. Aware.

      Democracy in the Thai context is recent and rare.

      Democracy doesn’t form left governments.
      It allows humans to express and have that expression rearrange power. Pretty good for a monarchic military junta.

    • Bruce 3.2

      thaipoliticalprisoners.wordpress.com/2018/12/22/the-nonsensical-notion-of-a-free-and-fair-election/

      Voting perhaps, democracy never

      • One Two 3.2.1

        Bruce, if that site and the links which come from it are where you get your ‘information’ from…it no surprise why your previous comments regarding Thailand are so… misinformed!

        Thaksin Shinawatra is listed as a political prisoner…says all one needs to know about the agenda behind the PTP / TPP sites…

        Shinawatra is a convicted criminal living in exile still exerting influence over Thai politics…his and the PTP defrauding of Thailand are well documented and mainstream.
        .that’s not including the destruction of the primary rice export industry…

        Should convited criminals sponsored by foreign interests be involved in politics…Bruce…maybe another relative…

        • Bruce 3.2.1.1

          I get information from many places and know enough to know convictions or not in no way describe criminality in Thailand. It is truly a system that is unfathomable perceived from a western perspective of right and wrong. The rubber industry is in the same dire strait albeit wearing a different coloured shirt.
          Murderers and thieves walk free while innocent victims are under very watchful eye. Workers and poor struggle while their taxes fly circles in the sky, but life goes on free from the headaches that plauge those that think to much.
          Imagine

          • One Two 3.2.1.1.1

            Yet you’ve chosen to link to a blatant propaganda website, which indicates your reading breadth is too narrow…

            I’ll repeat myself…Shinawatra is a convicted criminal, in as mainstream definition/interpretation of the meaning as possible…

            He, nor his sister are political prisoners….stating as much reeks of an agenda to make such a claim…yet that is precisely what TPP/PTP sites do claim… hence it calls into question every name listed on that site claimed as a political prisoner…you follow ?

            From your comments you have direct experience in SE Asia…that’s well and good…but given your links and comments regarding Thailand I would question what your experiences and bias are which lead you to advocate the TPP/PTP web sites…

            • Bruce 3.2.1.1.1.1

              Unfortunately my reading and being able to link is curtailed by a man who illegally took control of a country and restricts the information I have access to. He has since changed the law to make it legal. Such are laws.
              Yes Taksin is a convicted criminal, but I think there are some in NZ convicted of the crime of sodomy, but I don’t consider them criminal. And the govt of the day convicted some Maori of crimes as a way of stifling descent. So l dont put alot of creedence to convictions from the courts.
              I am no fan of Thaksin he carrys the blood of thousands from his war on drugs and for that i condemn him althoug no court has. His sister however I think truly tried to make a better place for her people however she was on her own and perhaps a little betrayed.
              I like the TPP and their message is often similar to some other commentators I read so I give it value.
              Do you think the man from red bull will ever face conviction, or the man with panther penis in his pot will spend a day in jail, these are the some of the occurrences that colour my bias, but I am only an observer and my thoughts are my own and will have no impact, its just information, you may call it propaganda.
              I hope you enjoyed the you tube clip.

        • Bruce 3.2.1.2

          I should just let the kids whose lives are most affected reply,

        • Roy Edwards 3.2.1.3

          I am not sure you have lived in Thailand. Whointroduced afforable healthcare to his people. Wildly popular in the rural sector. Hated by the Elites. Criminal. Main stream media….Yep dont think you have a handle on things. You of course would now both be and his sister were PM. Your piece seems to merve them in to one????.

  4. OnceWasTim 4

    “The largest elections in history – India – will probably shunt Modi. If not, India’s people will will remain too wildly diverse to be dominated.”
    Well that’s kind of touch and go, but they probably needed a stint with a shameless, divisive, self-promoter just to remind them what the politics of the right bring, and to give those on the left a bit of time to clean themselves up.

  5. Draco T Bastard 5

    It’s going to be a strong year for democratic politics.

    Governments are going to start listening to their people?

    Just because we’re seeing many left leaning parties being voted into power doesn’t mean that we’re going to get any more democracy.

    The last few years have been dismal for democracy.

    Because the right-wing got voted into power?
    That’s still just the result of the limited form of democracy that we have which, no matter which side is in power, has a habit of ignoring the wishes of the people.

    • Ad 5.1

      No democratic gvernment would ever satisfy you.

      It’s been dismal for democracy since extremism of all kinds has eroded it.

      • KJT 5.1.1

        “Government”?

        Democracy means the people, Govern. Not Parliament!

        That is why, Ad, you cannot comprehend Democracy.

        “Representation” has morphed into administration. Where the administrative class think they are superior, to the people they are supposed to be working for.

        • Ad 5.1.1.1

          You don’t get a state without administration.

          But state theory is separate from democracy practice.

          • KJT 5.1.1.1.1

            Democracy, is more than the right to vote for one of two parties, with similar policies.

            • Draco T Bastard 5.1.1.1.1.1

              Democracy is about the people governing themselves. Deciding the policies and direction of the country themselves.

              Representative Democracy is about taking that power of the people away from them and putting it in the hands of a small clique.

              To some degree we need parliament. We do need the administration side.

              But parliament should not be government.

      • Draco T Bastard 5.1.2

        That’s the problem though isn’t it?

        We don’t actually have a democracy. We have an elected dictatorship.

        • e-clectic 5.1.2.1

          Precisely! A dictatorship elected by popularity poll.
          The new face of democracy is a reflection back to the origins of democracy – citizen assemblies selected at random.
          The word for revitalisation of democracy in 2019 is sortition.
          https://www.sortitionfoundation.org/

      • peterlepaysan 5.1.3

        Why would democracy be useful if there were no extremists?

        To exert power requires military/police force.

        To exert that sort of power requires a considerable sum of money.

        Hello big business spenders! Hello taxpayers!

        the

  6. RedLogix 6

    Yes … democracy is one of the key ingredients. Not because it produces inherently more virtuous governments, but critically because it allows for non-violent self-healing from mistakes. Often quite terrible ones.

    But it has at least two key limitations; one is that it pre-supposes a society in which the conservative and liberal elements of society still trust each other sufficiently to negotiate stable agreements and outcomes.

    The West is stumbling badly on this count. I linked to this a few days back but it’s worth a refresh:

    https://www.news.com.au/world/joe-hildebrand-the-west-is-falling-and-its-all-our-fault/news-story/2f09751d7fc35f507de38c536f97beb0

    The other key limitation is that we have constrained our democratic systems to the nation-state. All the big existential problems we face are global in nature; but we’ve failed to created democratically accountable systems to address them at that scale.

    And perhaps thirdly we will need to get our act together, because the democracies of the world face an emboldened challenge from nations run by totalitarian despots, with and entirely different vision for humanity. Our self-evident weakness over the past decade, our failure to aggregate the nations state democracies into a coherent global mechanism … has created a vacuum into which other darker actors are happily migrating.

    • KJT 6.1

      Because sham democracies’ in the West have turned into unrepresentative oligarchies, where the only way to get any changes, to benefit ordinary people, is to vote for the unthinkable!

      Do you think Trump would have got any traction, if the Democrates had worked for most USA’ians, and not just their corporate backers?

      Note. 67%, of Republican! voters, want single payer health care.

      • RedLogix 6.1.1

        Yes many democracies, especially the USA, fall well short of any ideal…. but compared to what?

        Can you point to any other forms of government anywhere in the world that are more accountable to the people, and better represent their interests? No. But in this I do agree with you; you explain Trump in a sentence.

        But read the Joe Hildebrand essay I linked to above. He places the responsibility for all of this exactly where it lies … with us. Not some faceless oligarchs, or resented ‘1%’, or extremists … but with us ordinary people. We are the centre, we are the glue that for better or worse makes our societies function.

        And we’ve taken our democracy for granted, we’ve neglected to nurture and treasure it. We’ve allowed it to be hi-jacked and sullied for lessor purposes.

        • Draco T Bastard 6.1.1.1

          And we’ve taken our democracy for granted, we’ve neglected to nurture and treasure it. We’ve allowed it to be hi-jacked and sullied for lessor purposes.

          Considering that our ‘democracy’ was designed to prevent democracy I’m not sure that we had the option of allowing anything. The Representative Democracy leaves an unaccountable government in place. Just look at alwyn’s attempts to place blame upon the present government when it’s obvious that the census fuckup was all down to the previous government.

          And we won’t see any MPs fired over it and prevented from running for parliament again despite the fact that we should.

          • Pat 6.1.1.1.1

            we wouldnt do any worse and would likely do somewhat better if we randomly selected 100 or so representatives from the citizens role.

          • RedLogix 6.1.1.1.2

            As Ad says I suspect no democracy would ever satisfy you.

            But here’s a model that blends both our conventional representative model with your ideal of participatory democracy.

            One thing we do know is that politics as most people engage with it, is essentially local. This is the scale at which people can meaningfully engage with the political process, being aware of the issues and having some personal knowledge of the people.

            Pre-supposing we get rid of political parties, we hold annual local govt elections on the basis that you can vote for anyone who lives in the district, and if there are say 12 seats on the local govt council, then the top 12 names get to serve.

            Then also annually each local govt council votes for one representative who then votes at a national level from their pool of delegates for a nationwide council.

            And perhaps at longer intervals we conduct a similar indirect election for a larger global governing body.

            At each electoral cycle what happens is that there will be a degree of turnover, while the most capable, well-recognised people will be retained. You get a constant mix of fresh and experienced people. We mitigate the inherent confrontation built into our existing Westminster system, and blend together both the progressive and conservative voices into common forums where they are required to reach a negotiated agreement.

            It focuses a broad participatory democracy at the local level where it is most effective, while allowing the most capable and experienced people to rise to a wider scope of action and higher levels of responsibility. It also innately links the local, nation-state and global governance into a single coherently accountable structure.

            Before you reflexively dismiss this … step back try to see where I’m coming from. It isn’t going to be perfect, nothing human ever is. But I’d argue it’s comparatively more functional than what we have at the moment.

            • Ad 6.1.1.1.2.1

              Sounds close to the high empowered local government in Denmark.

              Highly reflexive, highly devolved…….. in a very settled, wealthy, MMP state.

              I’ve never seen government like the Danes do it.

              • RedLogix

                Interesting … I’ll go look this up.

                BTW my descriptive model above is not in the slightest bit original, nor indeed hypothetical. 🙂

            • Draco T Bastard 6.1.1.1.2.2

              s Ad says I suspect no democracy would ever satisfy you.

              Nothing wrong with that. In fact, I’d say that being satisfied with an obviously failed model is far worse.

              This is the scale at which people can meaningfully engage with the political process, being aware of the issues and having some personal knowledge of the people.

              WTF?

              This may be true in villages of 20,000 or less but not in any of our major cities. I suspect that most people don’t even know all the people on their street.

              It is a viable question as to how many people per representative is ideal. I suspect that thirty thousand is a bit too many unless we have better communications system between people and representatives.

              Pre-supposing we get rid of political parties

              Never going to happen unless we change to a system that precludes them. And the only way I can to do that is to remove the representatives and even I don’t see that as possible yet.

              Then also annually each local govt council votes for one representative who then votes at a national level from their pool of delegates for a nationwide council.

              The mayor of the local council should automatically be the national representative. Then there’s the head of state to select or even if we have one.

              Before you reflexively dismiss this … step back try to see where I’m coming from.

              I thought of a similar system years ago. It’s certainly better than what we have but it still leaves us with the elected dictatorship.

              At each electoral cycle what happens is that there will be a degree of turnover, while the most capable, well-recognised people will be retained. You get a constant mix of fresh and experienced people. We mitigate the inherent confrontation built into our existing Westminster system, and blend together both the progressive and conservative voices into common forums where they are required to reach a negotiated agreement.

              How does it do that?

              • RedLogix

                Your first point; fair enough in the interests of conciseness I omitted to specify an optimum scale for the local government, but your numbers seem reasonable and I’ve no quibble with them.

                Secondly, I accept that political parties have served a useful purpose, but they come with some significant costs that as our societies become more complex, and more globally connected, their disadvantages are becoming more costly. I could draw a parallel with burning coal, it served humanity well to help get us out of pre-industrial poverty, but the hidden costs are now becoming more apparent and we will need to transition away from it. I don’t think this will happen in my lifetime, but perhaps in some places this coming century.

                Thirdly the model I’m outlining doesn’t pre-suppose any Mayors, Prime Ministers or Presidents. I’m not overly concerned if we do include such roles, but keep in mind that not every local Mayor will necessarily want to be eligible to become a national Minister.

                All social forms have their tyrannical aspects; the idea that freedom means each person can pursue whatever short-term whim they fancy, is just that … fanciful. However we structure society, there is the requirement that we abide within its rules and norms; whether they’re determined by despotic king, or the mass of people voting on each and every issue on a daily basis. Call that a dictatorship if you want, but it’s the essential nature of humans as an intensely social creature.

                • McFlock

                  I really like the ideal of smaller electoral units for local government and for state-level government, but ISTR the PRC has and the Soviet republics had a similar systemof local representatives electing upper levels of government from their ranks. It encourages patronage and politiking.

                  The elected dictatorship at each level needs to be elected directly by the subjects of that dictatorship.

                  • RedLogix

                    True, but you can explicitly forbid this in such a system; whereas our current model more or less demands parties, patronage and intense, highly personalised campaigning simply in order to function at all.

                    • McFlock

                      Only because we expect our state representatives to represent 30,000 people.

                      Knock that down to 5,000.

                      Personally, I like political parties. They provide separate infrastructure and support to representatives. But smaller electorates will enable more independents to upset local results. So have an 800-seat parliament (to maintain proportionality) running parallel sessions. That will boost the amount of parliamentary hours in the day.

                    • RedLogix

                      Agreed; being someone temperamentally inclined to pragmatic, incremental evolutionary changes myself I’m definitely not suggesting this could happen any time soon at a mass scale. There are many other pre-conditions in our society that would have to be met first.

                      And I’m not innately against political parties; as I said I believe they’ve served an honest and worthwhile purpose. But equally we can see an increasing polarisation, driven solely for political advantage, that is dangerous and deplorable. Their costs are now outweighing their benefits.

                • KJT

                  Why re-invent the wheel?

                  Switzerland already has an effective model.

                  That reflects the wishes and priorities of their own people. Not foreign corporates, or the local oligarchy.

                  • Visubversa

                    Switzerland? Women in Switzerland gained the right to vote in federal elections after a referendum in February 1971. A previous referendum on women’s suffrage was held on 1 February 1959 and was rejected by the majority (67%) of Switzerland’s men.

                    • KJT

                      As I said, it reflects their society.

                      They also have never voted to go to war. Which is probably better for women and children, than having a vote.

                      In New Zealand, women would have got the vote much sooner than the politicians allowed. Though, how much value is “the vote” when you can ” change the party, not the policies”.

                      It is not an argument against Democracy, that you personally, don’t like the results of one instance.

                      The really good thing about democracy, is that democracy can correct mistakes, as California has with tax cuts. And Switzerland, with votes for women, 11 years later.
                      The Neo-liberal fuckup has not been reversed here, despite ample evidence of its failure.

  7. Sacha 7

    “less than half of voters back him now”

    As if that makes any difference to a dictator. Same goes for Chump.

  8. gsays 8

    Hi Ad, where do lobbyists sit in your view of democracy?

    To me they distort democracy.
    E.g., supermarkets and their continued rorting of the public, the increase of truck size on our constantly repaired highways (despite a railway line going up and down these skinny isles)…

    Until lobbyists contact and actions are on a transparent register, democracy here stays distorted.

    • Ad 8.1

      Best lobbyist in NZ by a country mile is Forest and Bird.

      They are far more powerful than Saunders Unsworth, and up there with Fonterra when it comes to tilting national policy.

      And they actively kill hundred-million-dollar projects in court.

      • KJT 8.1.1

        Bullshit.

        The most successful lobbyists are the banks.

        Or. Are they the most successful bribers of politicians?

        Forest and bird cannot offer million dollar directorships, after leaving Parliament.

  9. Mark 9

    ‘Democracy’ in the Western dictated sense of one man one vote is a complete and utter sham and waste of time for developing countries whose people are still or were until quite recently quite scientifically and culturally backward.

    If we mean by ‘democratic’ a government that works for the good of all or most of its citizens, then that is the type of democracy we should endorse. But ‘democracy’ as one man one vote for Indonesians, Thais, Africans, and Filipinos is a complete and utter joke. With democracy these countries are not going to be going very far and remain shitholes forever (or at least take a lot longer to get out of the shithole than they otherwise would) – although occasionally it springs up a good leader here or there – Duterte I have heard is doing a fantastic job of cleaning up Manila.

    Some think, that simply by implementing ‘democracy’ in its Western sense, suddenly the economy will be first world, the infrastructure will be first world, criminality will be at low levels, and a country will have first world science and technology.

    That is simply idiotic. You need a numerically strong, well-educated, middle class that is scientifically literate for Western style democracy to have any hope of working. A sensible well informed yeoman class. Demographics is extremely important. A system that will work well for say Germans and Swedes and Japanese (people with a good deal of self-control, culturally speaking) may not work so well for most Africans and Asians (at least in the current stage of cultural development of the latter group)

    ‘Democracy’ for the latter group is a guarantee for interminable social and economic backwardness. Think about it. If Europeans, say were still burning people at the stake, running round believing in all sorts of idiocy, practicing medicinal cannibalism, etc as they were a few hundred years ago, and suddenly you sprang one man one vote on them, do you think that would result in us all living in the sort of civilized society we have right now in New Zealand? Of course not.

    That is why the West should butt out of the internal affairs of non-Western countries, and let the Gaddaffis, the Saddam Husseins, the Assads, and the Xis of the world do what they have to do to elevate their own respective peoples.

    The West foists democracy onto non-Western peoples as a way to keep them in ignorance and chaos, and in this way they will never be able to challenge Western hegemony.

    • Ad 9.1

      No this post didnt define democracy, but top work for the vacuous straw man argument.

    • Sacha 9.2

      “‘Democracy’ in the Western dictated sense of one man one vote”

      That’s mob rule. Nice try.

      • KJT 9.2.1

        The West has never allowed one person, one vote.

        We may have made the rich pay their fair share, to support a functioning society.

        The CCP in China, and Western Governments, are both equally terrified of Democracy, for the same reasons.

    • KJT 9.3

      Africans and Asians have to be saved from themselves, by ruthless Dictatorship?

      I suppose your attitude is not that far from Ad’s, and the other supporters of the idea, that we have to be saved from ourselves, by more “sensible”, leaders!

      The ones that have led us down the Neo-liberal shithole, despite us, in the mob, knowing it was a rotten idea.

    • Gabby 9.4

      Which coincidentally makes them a much more attractive proposition for ‘investors’ right mork?

    • KJT 9.5

      “were a few hundred years ago, and suddenly you sprang one man one vote on them, do you think that would result in us all living in the sort of civilized society we have right now”

      That is what happened in Switzerland.

      Seems to have worked fine.

    • peterlepaysan 9.6

      ” quite scientifically and culturally backward”

      Do you have any peer reviewed studies to back up that phrase?

      “backward” from what?

  10. Infused 10

    If you think trump and Putin are going anywhere your sadly mistaken. If labour get in the UK that would be a great shitshow to watch unfold

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