What passes for "democracy" in the Western World is nothing more than window-dressing which serves to conceal the stark fact that the many millions of "the people" are constrained to dance to tunes composed and played by a few thousands who have contrived to attain positions of "power". Thus a tiny minority, entrusted with powers far beyond their competence, are able to make mistakes which can result in sorrow and misery for entire populations. Given true democracy, large-scale lunacy like war between nations would not be possible.
If democracy means "government of the people by the people", it must imply individual self-government, i.e. that every mature human being is recognised as an autonomous entity, and that any attempt by one person to govern another constitutes bullying. As I can imagine some readers recoiling in horror from such an "anarchical" idea, let me express it the other way round. If no individual can be trusted with self-government, does that not immediately rule out any possibility of finding any individual who can be trusted to govern anyone else?
I beg you to think carefully about this. Do you genuinely feel that those individuals who constitute your local or national government are really more trustworthy than yourself? If not, please read on in hope that together we may regain sufficient confidence in ourselves to declare personal self-government and reclaim some of the personal liberty of which we have been surreptitiously deprived.
In exercising self-government we have only one object: avoidance of, and resistance to, all forms of bullying. If we steadfastly adhere to this principle, it will save us from getting distracted by sentimental notions about "human rights" or any other smokescreens devised by would-be bullies to blind us to the true facts of human life.
Please note that what I am advocating is personal self-government, not personal independence. We are mutually inter-dependent as an inescapable condition of remaining alive, not merely among ourselves as human beings but in our inter-relationships with everything in our environment which is the Universe. Our self-government must therefore be exercised responsibly so that, in our attempts to improve our own immediate conditions, we do not inadvertently damage the legitimate interests of other creatures. This implies that we must behave modestly, refraining from hasty ill-considered actions on a scale beyond individual comprehension. In other words, self-government is the precise opposite of government by professional politicians, whose main concern seems to be self-aggrandisement on the largest possible scale by means designed to be as incomprehensible as possible.
We experience our inter-dependence most obviously as users of resources, as traders, and as social beings.
All the necessities of life have been freely provided in Nature. All that is required of us is a little exertion if we wish to secure greater comfort, a more varied diet, or any other desirable good. In every part of the world, there is a natural economy which ensures a dynamic balance between supply, demand, exertion, and populations of different species in such a way as to tend to produce the greatest possible variety of life, livelihood, and at least for humans conscious enjoyment of life.
Yet it is obvious that too many of us have perversely chosen to spurn the free gifts of Nature. We live as if every good was scarce; we compete against one another for a greater share; we hoard rather than enjoy; and we bully one another for more of what we already have in plenty. Is it any wonder that the entire economy of the planet is threatened by pollution caused by the ever-accelerating rate of conversion of natural resources into garbage? The real tragedy is that we in the West lack the honesty to face up to the damage we are inflicting on the world and lack the will to change our wasteful ways.
We must surely discipline ourselves to live simply so that other creatures may simply live. Once we see the folly of competing merely to "keep up with the Joneses", we may discern the wisdom of sharing the rich blessings of life with the Joneses and the Smiths and our other neighbours. This happens naturally in times of "hardship", whether caused by natural catastrophes like earthquakes or unnatural ones like war. All such calamities are examples of Nature's wake-up calls, telling us to resume thinking for ourselves and being considerate towards each other instead of tamely submitting to a way of life in which bullying is endemic. Nature's wake-up calls are currently rising to a crescendo.
It is an indisputable fact that different parts of the world differ enormously in climate, in the distribution of "raw" resources, and in the forms of life which have been able to adapt themselves to the resulting conditions. This gives rise to variety in natural life and livelihood. It is natural for intelligent humans to increase their enjoyment of Nature's liberality by exchanging their local surplus of one sort of good for supplies of other goods obtainable only further afield. The "natural" means of doing this is the local market, on which traders converge from far and wide to exhibit their goods and exchange them for other goods or services or for money, which has been invented primarily as a means of facilitating fair exchange. Left to itself, this would give rise to ever-increasing variety in human life and livelihood. The trouble is that markets are no longer left to themselves.
In former times, the itinerant "small trader" was not only the vendor of exotic goods but also the speaker of non-local dialects, the bearer of news, and the teller of tales of a wider world. The local market was therefore not merely a "shopping centre" but a cultural and educational exchange.
The free market relies on mutual trust for its continued operation. Once a trader has been found unreliable in some way, or otherwise acquires a reputation for giving poor "value for money", the word gets around and his trade falls off because most people prefer to spend their hard-earned money with people they trust. Thus "the market" is a powerful incentive to ethical conduct by all participants.
As a medium for communication and mutual education, a market enables a sense of monetary value to develop. The market price of any good or service is the mean of the agreed value reached by large numbers of customers in their bargaining with various vendors. Thus, in a market, the customer votes with money for the goods and services he values. She votes every time she spends her money and, if she is not satisfied with the value received, she looks for another supplier. What could be more democratic?
Technological exploitation and political engineering have changed all that. Rapid mass transport and global communications have by-passed the local market and given the bully a previously undreamt-of opportunity to extend his empire through multinational corporations and super-markets too vast and complex to be comprehended by any one individual. By these means a small number of enterprising bullies, who have inveigled themselves into the executive strata of large impersonal (and therefore irresponsible) corporations, exercise power over their employees through wage-slavery and over their customers by establishing monopolies and "fixing" prices among themselves. They conspire with political administrations in mutual manipulation of systems of taxation, and drive the independent trader out of business by ruthless exploitation of financial muscle.
The lure of plentiful cheap food is difficult to resist: but if people could see beyond the freezer cabinet to the damage inflicted upon the Earth and its creatures by mass-production, depletion of natural resources, mass transportation, pesticides, packaging, and promotion, they might begin to realise that more means worse.
The development of technological industries, impersonal services, and large-scale urbanisation have divorced humanity from Nature. Most people now have no idea where and how their food originates. Illusion has replaced reality. Air comes through a filter, water from a tap, electricity from a hole in the wall, petrol from a pump, and money from the government; the universe of stars is blotted out by the glare of twenty-four-hour illumination, and the soft sounds of nature are drowned out by the roar of traffic and the boom-boom of the ghetto-blaster.
Our unthinking greed and lack of concern for our environment has produced a world overloaded with money-grabbing sub-humans governed and organised for exploitation by bullies, condemned by taxation to unremitting uncongenial toil, schooled into unthinking conformity, and wastefully distracted with propaganda and mind-numbing entertainment artificially provided by robotic mass media.
Is this evolution or devolution?
The fundamental building block of any social organisation is co-operation between two individual persons as in the local market. It reaches its most satisfying culmination in friendship, when two people find the utmost pleasure in sharing with one another. When the friends are of opposite (i.e. complementary) sex, their friendship can form the basis of an organic family. They set up a home a place where they can secure privacy and shelter, where they can rest from their labours in the outside world, where they can comfort one another in sickness or adversity, and where they can conceive and rear children.
The home then becomes the principal focus for their concerns. One, or both, of them may have to go to work away from home for short or long periods, but "home is where the heart is". As I try to show elsewhere, it is also the basic educational unit, and Mother is the principal teacher. Hence the home is the next significant stage in the construction of a natural social order.
When the family encounters a problem it can't solve with the resources at its disposal, help must be sought from outside the home. Before urbanisation, the "extended" family of blood-relations was a significant, if informal, factor in society. Grand-parents, cousins, uncles and aunts rallied round in times of trouble and sickness; children, nephews and nieces looked after the aged and infirm, and often benefited from the sage counsel of elders who "had seen it all before". But globalisation and the availability of cheap rapid mass transport have scattered blood-relatives over such wide areas that their usefulness in a crisis has been eroded. So the "caring professions" were invented to fill the gap. And, unlike members of the extended family who rallied round out of love and a sense of kinship, members of the caring professions work for money and a sense of duty to their contractual obligations. It is difficult to escape the conclusion that whilst professional specialisation may in general have led to higher technical and material standards in the care of the sick and disabled, it has resulted also in spiritual impoverishment. Worst of all, it has enabled "social services" to be taken over by politicians and thus opened the door to bureaucratic bullying on a monstrous scale.
The third unit in the social assembly is the neighbourhood of the home, the area in which children play with children from other families, where domestic activities and social habits affect the lives of others in various ways, and where inconsiderate behaviour results in quarrels that may develop into long-running feuds. The neighbourhood therefore provides the next higher stage in child education and ultimately constitutes the final test of adult responsibility.
Beyond the neighbourhood, people interact in ways too diverse to be subsumed under any liberal political organisation, and the nub of my argument is that once individuals have passed the test of responsible behaviour in their neighbourhoods, they are ready to be self-governing. What is required, therefore, is not more, and more centralised, dictatorial government, but rather successive tiers of administration organised "from the bottom up" to facilitate the provision and delivery of the essential services which the local self-governing people have agreed should be provided in common. Whilst some arbitration will obviously be necessary to reconcile one neighbourhood with another, the basic administrative unit must remain small enough to make it possible for every concerned individual to be aware of all developments within it which may affect the quality of his or her life, and to participate in deciding the way forward.
Culture is what a group of people have in common. It is the language, arts, customs, traditions, manners, and institutions that successive generations have evolved in the interests of friendly enjoyment of life without bullying that constitutes the culture of a community or society. It develops over centuries as successive generations struggle to solve local problems without destroying each other by fighting. Its development is facilitated when all or most of the people concerned share a common religion.
The culture prevailing in Western society during the first half of the twentieth century had developed largely on the basis of Christian morality. "Do as you would be done by" (with its corollary, "Do NOT do to others what you would not have them do to you") was The Golden Rule of conduct. Although it was often flouted under the influence of material greed and lust for power, its benign influence provided a sound basis for a system of liberal laws.
The last fifty years have seen a marked decline in religious conviction, largely as a result of historical research and Biblical scholarship which have together cast doubt on the previously unchallenged literal truth of the Bible. Whilst some correction was doubtless necessary, one regrettable consequence has been that the unassailable fundamental truths implicit in the Bible have been discarded along with the political window-dressing: the baby has been thrown out with the bath water. [See Enjoyment of God]. As a consequence, greed, selfishness, bullying and chicanery are rampant as never before in my lifetime.
Regardless of the current theological status of Jesus, his advice has lost none of its validity. "All things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them; for this is the law and the prophets." (Matthew 3:12). This is a clear, unambiguous statement of the wisdom that may be distilled from every religion worthy of the name. It is a statement of the great truth that no matter how much we may appear to differ as individuals, we all ultimately come from the same Source and carry its imprint at the core of our being. This is the only sure foundation for lasting consent to, and continued observance of, a system of law and order.
In the United Kingdom, the basic administrative unit has traditionally been the Parish, an amalgam of church and state. Although the influence of the church, and of organised religion generally, has declined to the point of marginal significance, human nature still retains an in-built moral sense which immediately recognises the validity of the words of Jesus quoted above. I therefore propose that the Parish be re-instated not only as the smallest unit of administration but also as the first and principal authority for the maintenance of local law and order based on The Golden Rule. This seems to me to be the only practicable way whereby responsible self-governing persons may rid themselves and their neighbourhoods of political and bureaucratic bullying from near and far.
Perhaps the most radical implication of rule by the Parish is that the Parish would have to become the sole authority for raising and expending any funds that might be deemed necessary to pay for the common services its inhabitants might require to be supplied collectively. This would in turn require the election of a Parish Council and the appointment of a small number of executives to conduct day to day business in the administrative equivalent of a local market.
Once the Parish had become the only significant "customer" for common local services, other administrative units would naturally develop to provide and deliver material services common to local groups of parishes such as roads, utilities, and waste disposal over a wider area. I am deliberately omitting education and the care of the old and sick because these are not "material" and I am not at all sure that all parishes would wish to have them provided "in common". [See Education in England and The National "Health" Service] Individuals and families might prefer to make personal provision for such essentially personal matters, and should be able to opt out if they wish. Restoration of a free market mentality would naturally encourage self-governing individuals to start up their own businesses to fill any gaps they discern in the supply of public and personal services.
Because it would also be necessary to provide for the maintenance of law and order between parishes and to ensure that there are no significant "cracks" in the overall polity, the policies of the next tier of administration above the parish would be determined by representatives appointed by Parish Councils or elected in some way by parishioners. [See Devolution in Britain] Some such provision would also have to be made for successively wider tiers of administration culminating in a state legislature. But power would flow "upwards" from the people in the parishes as in a market, not "downwards" from a remote bureaucratised centre as in a dictatorship.
Recognising bureaucratic propensity for introducing as many tiers of administration as possible, it would be necessary to define one highest democratically acceptable level of administrative responsibility. It would still have to be based on geographical, economic and cultural considerations. In this respect, bearing in mind that our objective is the extermination of all forms of bullying, the nation state with clearly defined territorial boundaries seems to me to offer the best possible compromise between extreme parochialism on the one hand and a single world super-administration on the other. Without actual trial, it is difficult to predict how many tiers parochial control of the purse strings would permit, but it would certainly not be many and it is also doubtful if many of the kinds of people who currently seek high office in politics or government service would do so after higher administration had been deprived of bullying power.
Local law and order having been taken care of at Parish level, the main responsibility of the nation state would be to provide a simple framework of national law, and a national common service to defend the realm and provide a secure frontier within which parishes could conduct their affairs without external interference. It is difficult to imagine that any state which was organised and funded purely for defensive purposes would ever acquire the will or accumulate the means to contemplate aggressive action against any other state. A world composed entirely of small, freely-trading nations would eliminate the threat of global warfare presented by a world which includes two or three bullying super-powers (or power blocs) among the minnows.
Given a multiplicity of parishes, the nation would doubtless experience a marked variation in electoral systems, ways of raising money, getting value for money spent, and exercising democratic accountability. As each parish learns from its own and others' errors and successes, one would hope and expect to achieve a marked reduction in the overall level of taxation and a marked improvement in satisfaction with the common services provided.
When all political obfuscation has been discarded, it should be obvious that a market free from all attempts at regulation by vested interests is the most democratic institution conceivable. It is a means whereby two autonomous entities can voluntarily come together and strike a bargain whereby one of them exchanges something which he has for something that he needs or prefers and which the other is willing and able to supply for whatever is offered usually money, because it is infinitely divisible and enables part of the hind leg of a cow to be converted into a ride in a taxi. The parties to a transaction may haggle long and hard; but once a bargain has been struck, no third party has any entitlement to interfere with it or to sit in judgment upon it. This is self-government.
Contrast this with centralised governments which invent all sorts of pretexts on which to compulsorily part the citizen from his cash. Can income tax be morally differentiated from mugging? Can taxes on purchases be morally differentiated from extortion? By what reasoning can governments justify their own monopolies in the supply of health and education services when they condemn all other commercial monopolies out of hand? By what means can it ever be possible to put a fair price on, or estimate value-for-money of, services compulsorily paid for by the tax-payer but "free" at the point of delivery? When all is said and done, does the tax-payer obtain anything for his money but the opportunity once in a long while to put an "X" on a piece of paper against the name of a would-be bully approved by a political party dedicated to nothing but its own preservation as a breeder of bullies? In short, are the many not being exploited for the glorification of the very few super-bullies?
The multinational corporation, whose financial muscle often exceeds that of many nation states, can by that very fact impose its will on nations by negotiating big deals with central governments. Once the parish has become the focus of political power, a few big deals will have to be replaced by a multiplicity of smaller ones, and the multinational will no longer have an over-riding advantage over its small local competitor.
Is it not morally certain that if the Parish became the sole means of funding common services, there would be no more vast sums accumulated in the national exchequer and splashed around with gay abandon in many ways we should assuredly disapprove of if only we knew about them? Individuals would have more money to spend on things they personally valued. It would no longer be necessary for both parents to work to sustain a government as well as a family. Mothers could exercise their natural rôle as primary educators of the young. Families would be more likely to stay together and look after each other in youth, sickness, and old age. A sense of neighbourliness would encourage individuals to take care of each other and of the common environment, thus diminishing vandalism and carelessness in the disposal of litter. Instead of paying exorbitant taxes, youngsters in their early jobs would be able to start saving something wherewith to set up homes and families of their own.
And, of course, parishioners would be unlikely to finance war on any pretext except defence of the realm against foreign invasion. The nation's super-bullies would thus be deprived of the means to impose "regime change" on other nations.
I will not attempt to conceal the fact that my proposals for instituting true democracy here in the UK would amount to revolution. Political parties would disappear, because there would be no need for them. There would be no more "General Elections". Our Monarchy would preserve us from the possibility of a bullying President or other dictator. If the hereditary principle were adhered to, likely future Kings and Queens could be reared and trained for administration at the highest level as well as for performing the ceremonial duties of a Head of State. Other nation states would be left in peace to develop their own solutions.
In case anyone should think the attainment of such a Utopia is impossible, could we not say that anyone who opposes the idea must be a bully?