Global Democracy

In a Democracy it is important that the decision on any public issue, be made by a community at the appropriate level. For example; local, regional, national, continental or global. It is imperative that at each level decision on a particular matter should be decided on the specific considerations that are relevant to each, not on the basis of power games.

The all-embracing range of nation-states is a very undesirable concentration of power. The concerns of each nation-state are all framed and public policy is evaluated in terms of their community, with only the slightest concern for other communities. In an era where almost all our most urgent problems can be understood and resolved only on a global scale, we have to look to decision making bodies on each matter in terms of its own nature. Some of those urgent problems are international but most of them are not a matter that is of national communities, but must be approached on a global perspective – global change, overpopulation, the world ecology, and many other matters effect us not as citizens of the state, but as citizens of the world. Nation states used to be self-sufficient and nobody worried about the earth as global. That is no longer the case.

It would be very dangerous to think we can treat this new situation simply on the federal model in which states hand over some matters to a superior body that met their common needs, by concentrating all the power for dealing with those problems in a single government. Federal powers are inevitably repressive of their constituents in many respects. People rightly fear the likely effects on a world state.

An alternative model – a central departure – from current assumptions, is to abandon the idea that everybody in a community should have an equal say on every matter of public concern. Certainly there are many matters in which there is solid ground for strict equality, but what is more often the case is that some important matters can be dealt with best by the those who are most affected either favourably or unfavourably by the activity in question.

We are all likely to fall victims to simplistic ideas where we have no serious interest in, or experience of a certain field that needs regulation. We live in a very complex and rapidly changing world. Inevitably on many matters we have to rely on others to make good decisions. We need to maximise the good decisions rather than insist on having a say in everything. There is no substitute for real interest and experience, to decide on the basis of realistic and comprehensive inquiry.

I have always advocated that the inquiries that make the crucial decisions on a particular matter should be made by volunteers who are prepared to do the hard work of assessing the relevant evidence, not to endorse what the media claim to be popular opinion.

I do believe that in a polity where people generally are inclined to serious moral conversation, there will be a strong pressure on those selected by lot from volunteers, to attempt to give due weight to all the relevant considerations in the particular circumstances and that the public overall will accept such a decision as their best hope.

As I said in my “confessions” post, I believe that people have come to be much more realistically moral, and that they will endorse the best decision rather than just pushing their own views. Such a decision should be enforced by shame without any need for punishment, such as fines or imprisonment. In some cases it may be appropriate for other institutions to boycott the recalcitrant.

People should regard the proposal they support, not as uniquely correct or desirable but as an experiment that will teach us all, even if it fails.

3 Responses

  1. I do believe that in a polity where people generally are inclined to serious moral conversation, there will be a strong pressure on those selected by lot from volunteers, to attempt to give due weight to all the relevant considerations in the particular circumstances and that the public overall will accept such a decision as their best hope.

    John, I do admire your optimism, but I don’t know where you would find a polity where people are so inclined.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. As an indication of why I’m sceptical, last week’s Swiss referendum saw citizens reject their government’s plan to halve carbon emissions by 2030 using a combination of renewables and carbon taxes. This has been described as a “shock” result as the majority of politicians, media and civil society organisations backed the plans. This is the BBC verdict:

    Many voters appear to have worried about the impact on the economy as the country tries to recover from Covid-19. Opponents also pointed out that Switzerland is responsible for only 0.1% of global emissions, and expressed doubts that such policies would help the environment.

    In other words, voters’ principal concern was self- and national interests. So is it plausible that they should abjure their long-standing democratic rights in favour of randomly-selected volunteers?

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  3. Here’s John’s response (sent to me by email):

    Keith,

    You are quite right about the inevitable tendency of people who are just looking at a problem from the point of view of the nation. The ultimate remedy is that people see things as members of the relevant committee at the appropriate level. They have to see themselves as citizens of the world. It’s hard. Brexit was inevitable for a people who were not aware of themselves as Europeans. In federal countries there is a lot of state chauvinism.

    Also, I deplore my fellow oldies who even when aware of the need for change, say “Not just now”. The breaking down of the approach to every issue from a national point of view is extremely difficult as long as the unquestioned context of the state is war and the emotion attached to it.

    However, I think that there is some hope. We must keep the issues independent of each other. If these issues are presented strictly in terms of what is relevant to the problem rather than tying it to ideologies or “the big picture”, people may accept an appropriate solution because it doesn’t seem threatening.

    Morality does not demand high ideals, merely supporting decisions that others can be expected to adopt.

    My response is scepticism over political proposals that use words like like “have to”, “must”, “should” etc. I prefer realists like Madison or the Kant of the Crooked Timber of Humanity rather than The Perpetual Peace.

    >Morality does not demand high ideals, merely supporting decisions that others can be expected to adopt.

    Fair enough, but the Prisoner’s Dilemma and other game theory arguments would suggest that this is unlikely and this has been confirmed by the Swiss referendum results.

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