Editorial note: If you have not yet read our mission statement above, please do so in order that you can put our blogs in context.
5 January 2013
“Power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely.”
Comment by Lord Acton (John Emerich Edward Dahlberg, 1st Baron Acton), 1834-1902, in a letter to Bishop Mandell Creighton dated 3 April 1887. Regius Professor of Modern History at the University of Cambridge, he lectured on the French Revolution. An honorary fellow of All Souls College, Oxford, and of Trinity College, Cambridge, he wrote articles and reviews but never completed a book. A Liberal and a Roman Catholic, he defended the whiggish belief in progress. A descendant of Sir John Acton (1736-1811), who was Prime Minister of the Kingdom of Naples under Ferdinand IV, Lord Acton was born in that city.
The following remark is also attributed to Lord Acton:
“Great men are almost always bad men.”
This is why the permanent accountability to the people of those holding political office is so important.
In the case of representative government, elected parliamentarians and members of the executive should be required to stand for re-election at any time during their tenure of office at the demand of a specific limited proportion of the electorate. This proportion would have to be determined by the people, of course. We would suggest 5 per cent.
In addition to which, wherever possible, the electorate should be allowed to vote by referendum on major issues (eg a decision to go to war) and lesser matters (eg a decision to approve a bilateral trade agreement). In other words, decisions would be taken in general by the people instead of by politicians.
The ideal, of course, would be for representative government to wither away altogether and be replaced by recurring local and national referenda. With the advent of the internet, of course, this is already feasible.
Naturally, those currently enjoying the salaries and prestige of office do not want to hear of this. Just as turkeys do not want to hear talk of Christmas.
It will be objected that participative democracy is both expensive and time-consuming. To that we answer: what price democracy? Is it not worth a bob or two and a bit of an effort?
The most efficient polity known to man is merciless military dictatorship.
Is that what we would prefer?
You might perhaps care to view some of our earlier posts. For instance:
1. Why? or How? That is the question (3 Jan 2012)
2. Partitocracy v. Democracy (20 July 2012)
3. The shoddiest possible goods at the highest possible prices (2 Feb 2012)
4. Capitalism in practice (4 July 2012)
5.Ladder (21 June 2012)
6. A tale of two cities (1) (6 June 2012)
7. A tale of two cities (2) (7 June 2012)
8. Where’s the beef? Ontology and tinned meat (31 Jan 2012)
Every so often we shall change this sample of previously published posts.