Key conditions for a successful political system:-
(* ‘Good’, (definition) – for known information at that time, the most useful, achievable paths, actions and plans to enable the society as a whole to improve).
(* ‘Effective implementation', almost certainly requires a long-term approach. Almost every aspect of our complex society requires implementation planning over an extended period between 5 and 25 years.)
This doesn’t look to difficult to achieve does it? Yet, below is a simple analysis of current systems, and it seems that none meet these conditions:-
Dictatorship, Benign: (otherwise too extreme to warrant further discussion)
Current example China? It could be argued that this meets conditions (2) & (3) reasonably well accepting 'openness to the results' is not good.
Meets many of the requirements of (2), but clearly not (1), or, historically (3), in most countries that have tried it. Cuba could be cited as an example of a more benign model and it would be argued by many that it has attained (2) & (3) quite effectively.
Where this has been stable for some period (eg Scandinavia?), it does seem that it can be reasonably effective at meeting (2) & (3).
Meets none of the conditions. Its effectiveness comes from very natural but uncontrollable ‘market forces’ along with human abilities that are honed (over thousands of years) to achieve results for themselves and their families. This provides a very narrow view of success for (2) & (3). Historically, it seems that this system concentrates power (& resources), so that over time (1) becomes more extreme and less democratic.
When is 'Democracy' Non-Democratic?
Generally, some of the above are referred to as ‘democratic systems’ but, clearly as none meet (1), this is untrue in overall terms.
Why do we assert this? For both socialism and capitalism within the standard western model of political processes, the inbuilt stop-start process of regular elections, with the emphasis on re-election, inevitably leads to short term decision making and the political and decision making outcome is not therefore representative of the views or indeed needs of the wider population or wealth creation processes.
The non-democratic aspect is also heightened by 'party' factors. Party politics narrows further the actions of any Party grouping. They are forced to follow particular often (illogical?) entrenched views to become both re-elected and to differentiate themselves from the other Parties. Within our current systems, an individual politician whom may have both good experience and well thought through ideas can make almost no impact on general policy. Even if they rise to ministerial level, even then they are held within their Party policy and more importantly the need to become re-elected within a very short timescale. This disembowels are political system to provide effective change.
Lets consider some options for trying to improve on the current systems.
Question: How can a society achieve a distributed power structure, while still effectively providing for (2) & (3)?
New Structure for improving democracy
Consider a ‘selected’ rather than elected system of governance. Decision makers are derived from local people invited join a selection process for a local planning team. The initial invitations can be driven by some level of (life) experience but would cover the whole community. A detailed selection process would review the candidates potential for ‘good decision making’. The ratio of candidates to team members would be enough to ensure a quality team. These selected candidates then undergo significant training in their fields of interest (eg education), and in the decision making processes. Team members are monitored throughout their tenure and the best performing and are invited to seek a position on a central planning group.
This moves away from ‘election’ based choice, where by definition the society ends up with self-selected people whom lean towards political control with its attendant power concentration.
All of these posts would rotate, with an overlap, so that there were always some people with longer experience within the group but none whom out-stayed a tenure that would enable power politics.
Scrutiny of the decision making and planning can be made by the ‘media’ and by an independent public body (within the UK the BBC which has unique abilities here and a model that could be used world-wide), along with commercial bodies who are briefed to review the processes independently.
A Co-ordination group is selected by an elected Presidential figure. Their selection must be from within the central planning groups. The elected President holds responsibility for specific emergency response such as acts of war, major crisis or natural disasters, he/she would be required within a short period to get ratification from the co-ordination group. Any longer term planning or act of war would require ratification by the central planning groups.
Heads of major public institutions (such as police, fire, armed services, Judiciary, BBC etc) would be chosen by the central planning groups and would be scrutinized by the co-ordination group who would have the power to call them to account and if necessary suspend them.
Any reforms that changed the basic nature of the system or of Britain’s basic structure or place in the International community would require a referendum. (For instance membership of the EU or monetary union).
A key challenge to any group of people is to arrive at a decision that is the ‘best’ decision and not just a consensus. These decisions are the key to long term success. The conditions of (3) cannot be met unless this decision making is both long term and as good as we can make it at that point in time. How can we help a group attain this end?
There are a range of well understood and effective tools that can be used here (but which are not normally used by many political decision making).
1) Everyone is asked for their input
2) Each separate issue is noted once
3) Everyone is then asked to rank all resulting issue for importance
Overseeing of this group by an independent small team that is focused on ensuring that the ‘decision making process’ and the individuals are capable of achieving the best decision. If they believe that the overall decisions are being compromised they have a statutory duty to call time on the process until it is fixed.
Meeting condition (3) is far from easy. (This has caused the demise of many well intentioned goals – eg Blair’s drive to improve education within the UK which failed due directly to the lack of detailed planning and inept implementation).
We know that many commercial and public organisations working in the same conditions have hugely different results at achieving this.
So we must start from the position that is it not easy. How can we help ensure effectiveness?
Here, perhaps we can borrow the most effective bit from our capitalist system, where we divide the implementation into competing groups which are ‘rewarded’ by their effectiveness for medium and long term success.
This will be easier for some areas of change than others. For instance in education this is not simple to achieve (but not impossible). For others such as developing new nuclear energy facilities this is easier. Either way it is overall more costly. However this additional cost can be seen as an insurance policy against poor implementation.
The other main issue to attain condition (3) is that of wide, accurate feedback to the society and wealth creation system as a whole. We have within the UK a unique organisation to help achieve this – the BBC.
By statute an independent BBC could be empowered to do this using their renown abilities for creating high quality evaluation in clear, interesting media for all ages and groups within the society.
The statute would allow the BBC to access all political, procedural, planning, implementation information. This would include information from competing organisations undertaking implementaion projects. The BBC would have access to all of their internal information. This would be a necessary understanding within the contractual arrangements for all public contracts.