DISCORD IN DEMOCRACY
WHERE WE HAVE COME FROM
The catalyst for this article is the slow corrosion in living standards and the rising discontent in Germany, France, Greece and Italy highlighted in ongoing press coverage. This information is related to the current malaise in the United States, Britain, Australia and for the French Department of New Caledonia.
Controls on democracy were instigated with the first pictograms invented in ancient Sumer (4500-1500 BC). The written word was to facilitate the enslavement of the population. The French structural anthropologist, Claude Levi Strauss, considers that, within Homo sapiens, immutable deep structures exist which define what we are today. It was only in the 8th Century BC, that Homer’s Illiad & Odyssey were written down in Phoenician script to appear on the public stage: this was a first flowering of literature for the people. A democratic voice was only for landowners and advisors.
The mid-1400s saw the invention of the Caxton and Gutenberg printing press. The Church and State now started to lose control of the population, however the ruling elite maintained brutal power. From the mid-eighteenth century with the coming of the Enlightenment, the industrial revolution and the evolution of political parties round a rebuilt British Houses of Parliament, political debate erupted around a slowly rising living standard. The rising middle class was a new steadying hand on the democratic process. Soon after the commencement of the industrial Revolution, it became clear that the Political Elite and Capital needed each other to stay in power.
Labour is necessary to Capital but as the decades progress greater unrest is seeping into the system. The pay gap within the democratic system is becoming obscene.
A definition: Democracy is a system of Government by the population of a State through elected representatives. (Oxford Dictionary. Until the Industrial Revolution, democracy and politics was a social science where ideology could flourish. Post the Revolution, social science has been replaced by technical science which is beyond the capacity of many politicians. And now, ideological policy is a stumbling block to the democratic process.
Our modern democracy dealt with Tories and Whigs, then Conservatives, and then Conservatives and Labour separated by Minor Parties. This was a tetchy interface that is becoming more polarised now that a restless democratic electorate endures a slow decline in living standards while the transfer of wealth proceeds to the upper quartile.
DEMOCRACY IN THE UNITED STATES
According to Geoffrey Sachs, noted economist, who addressed the Canberra Press Club on the 14th November, a principal opinion was that the United States might become a failing democracy. Initial democracy in America had restrictive similarities to that of early 8th BC Greece. The democratic system is now producing a rising Capital and Ruling Elite and an increasing fractious Middle America. The rising White Supremacy Movement now responsible for 70% of mass shootings, the Me Too Movement and the ongoing African-American situation and America’s place in a changing world, is producing pitched political battles.
The current prosperity is not significantly seeping down. It has more to do with the Federal Reserve, not Trump. Reasons are:
- The Fed cut interest rates.
- Rates were held down for several years.
- Trillions of dollars of quantitative easing were pumped into the economy which over time reduced the purchasing power of the Dollar.
The democratic battle is over falling living standards coupled with grave social issues that should have been identified well before the present period, There were two reasons for Trump’s populist result: first, under Obama, there was growth in the top 1% of households and Middle America wanted change to include them; secondly, Trump’s promise “To make America Great again” resonated in the Rust Belts. It was the Electoral College who elected Trump. despite his knife edge minority. The danger for Trump will be the popping of the asset bubble which will expose the sociological and economic currents below surface. These splinter across the Democrat – Republican divide. (Larry Elliot, 29 April 2018, The Guardian)
DEMOCRACY IN GREAT BRITAIN
Democracy is under siege. The Brexit proposal presented to the electorate was ideological not scientific – uninformed argument provided the very worst for an uninformed electorate. The support that brought Trump to power was similar to that in Great Britain –Rust Belt cancer and a jingoistic cannon, “We want our Sovereignty back”. The Brexit line was about jobs in the North of England. “Give us back Our Sovereignty” is a deep-seated issue harking back to shreds of Empire.
The electorate was entitled to informed financial advice. All it received was misleading ideology; this was a dereliction of duty by elected representatives. With an inconclusive vote (52 Leave to 48 Remain) this was not a clear result, many had not voted. The catalyst to Great Britain’s democratic system in the 18th and 19th centuries, was rising commerce and the living standard of Labour and a rising Middle Class. By the end of the 20th century the democratic system was under strain.
Globalisation has put pressure on democratic systems since both Democracy and Capitalism can both operate best by upward improvement. With globalisation under discussion the concept has been raised that the Five Eyes might consider an Anglo-Saxon trading bloc.
DEMOCRACY IN AUSTRALIA
Australian Democracy is veering towards a republic. Excluding Africa, the precedents established in the Southern Hemisphere by
ex-colonial Hispanic powers is terrifying. For the Australian electorate, the political elite is not respected, ideology not scientific discussion rules debate, the opinion of experts is dismissed. The nation struggles on a bed of long overdue infrastructure. Like the other Anglo-Saxon trading partners, the democratic process has become more fractious as rising standards are not keeping up with expectations. Fast forward from Sumer to Canberra and an article in WEA (24 November 2018), ‘Our Great Trust Crisis Hits Home’, illustrates the failing system of our Western-style democracy. It is a deep malaise.
DEMOCRACY IN NEW CALEDONIA
This process is skewed because 44% (indigenous Kanacks) require independence while 56% (mainly French settlers) want to remain under French protection and financial support. The New Zealand model for a democratic system is not an option where the population divide is Caucasian 74% and Maori 15%. For the foreseeable future democracy will wilt.
Historically, the midnight 21 Gun salute, raising the National Flag and the Anthem, are euphoric moments before the normal daily poverty. The political elite (yesterdays’ freedom fighters) and the new security forces, quickly restrain a ‘loyal opposition’. In many Pacific cultures, “Big Men” are the source of power. In New Caledonia they will plan societal change. In the current political climate, Australia, New Zealand and France will quietly work to retain the status quo.
DEMOCRACY ON A LEE RAIL
The democratic process evolved out of the Enlightenment and the social conditions flowing from the Industrial Revolution. This system worked for some 200 years in a cocoon of rising living standards. There was little resistance to the acceptance of democratic principles in the Anglophile nations. Now, all has changed due in part to declining trust between Government, Industry and the electorate. The deep social divide, due to immigration and dilution of national character, is causing intractable problems beyond the ability of our ‘social’ politicians. Electorates will be better served by technical politicians (managers) who will not use ideology.
The symphony of democracy may not be in tune with Homo sapiens’ early development. There are deep socialogical issues.
A TIMELY CONJUNCTION
A forum, “Towards a Sustainable Australia, (29 November, 2018} was organised by the Royal Society of NSW and the Four Academies. The problems and issues identified were prescient to looming democratic issues. The Forum’s content highlighted core requirements for the survival of a stable democratic system.
JOHN HUGH HILL
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