AIMS OF DEMOCRACY
Democracy is the framework our society in the West is supposedly based on. The reason for including Democracy, being that this is a non-political site, is that our governments are the main regulators and enforcers of health, environmental and social standards. It is therefore important to be aware of how good they are at being independent of those they should be regulating, whose interests might be harmed by proper health, environmental and social legislation; how transparent they are with information and the reasons for their decisions; lastly, we also need to know whether they are competent to react properly to the information available, whether it is sufficient and itself independent.
One of the underlying principles in a democracy in addition to personal freedoms, is that the government and regulatory bodies act in the interest of the people.
There are 3 key areas; INDEPENDENCE, TRANSPARENCY and COMPETENCE. For effective decision making these need to be followed by the ability to put things in CONTEXT and for action to be PROPORTIONATE.
INDEPENDENCE – Those involved in decision making must be independent of those subject to regulation, mainly businesses, but also other powerful interests. This should include conflicts of interest, both business and personal. It is only then that we can ensure the objectivity of the decision making, subject to the competence of those deciding.
TRANSPARENCY – So that we can understand and trust the reasons for the decision making both the information and the underlying reasons should be easily accessible. This also supports accountability.
COMPETENCE – The other pillar is that those deciding and advising are sufficiently competent. This can at times be somewhat subjective, but requires amongst other things knowledge and understanding. It also means that the issue has to be put into CONTEXT, so that its effects on other areas are also taken into account. Last but not least, action should be PROPORTIONATE.
EQUAL INFLUENCE – One of the biggest challenges in democracies comes from those with power (often financial) and influence. Normally they have far far more influence than they should have, which goes against one of the underlying principles of democracy. In most cases they can push through or block legislation and regulatory requirements, depending on what suits them.
1. Supra-National (global) Companies and Organisations (see below)
3. Non-Elected Organisations (e.g. Trilateral Commission, WHO, UN etc)
Supranational companies, billionaires and non-elected organisations, in many cases, have more influence than governments. They are truly global, whilst countries are principally national. In addition, when it comes to key issues such as health, the environment and social wellbeing that are difficult to measure, these come a long way behind profit and power. This is compounded by the fact that a company’s board is principally motivated by their remuneration package (salary, bonus and shares). If one thinks about it, most companies are similar to dictatorships, all be it operating within a legal and regulatory framework. One of the major issues is the influence these global businesses, organisations and individuals have in shaping the rules that govern them.
DISTORTION OF INFORMATION FLOWS
We have now entered an era where some of the global tech companies such as Twitter, Facebook, Google (and YouTube) have implemented censorship, based on what they think is acceptable. So gone is the ability to discuss and debate certain issues online, all of course in the name of banning fake news. There is fake news and always has been, which is what used to be called propaganda, just taken up a good few levels and not always as obvious. However, it is not up to companies in a democracy to determine what is and what isn’t. It is up to the reader/viewer to decide. Nor should we forget that lots of well-known newspapers and tv stations are not truly objective and independent, but, as has always been the case, follow the direction set by their owners. Lastly, we all know that governments and others can be selective about what news they put out and don’t and the emphasis they give it. This is particularly true in election campaigns and referendums.
Of course, this is only possible because governments fail when it comes to using independence, transparency and competence in the way they govern and in how the laws are structured. Whilst they should be governing for the benefit of those who elected them, often their main interest is staying in power and for that they need the help of the large businesses and organisations and individuals they should be controlling. Therein lies part of the dilemma.
ONE WORLD ORDER
There is one more hugely ominous step that to-date has not materialised and that is the move towards a form of one-world power. It very nearly did in the form of the TPP (Trans-Pacific Partnership), supposedly to help free trade between countries. The TPP would have appointed external courts to adjudicate on what was allowable under free trade. This included what could be included in foods and many other products, what was environmentally acceptable and more. So, taking the well know example of chlorinated chicken, if it were allowed in one member country, it would have to be allowed in all the others, irrespective of certain countries banning it! This would have meant governments in those countries that joined, would have been powerless, as everyone would have to abide by the decisions of these international courts. It would be more likely than not that those making the decision in these courts would be past or present employees of global companies, or from countries where the government has little interest in health or the environment. It would be almost certain that concerns about the important topics of health, the environment, sustainability and social issues would be ignored.
The aim of democracy, we think, is to enable people to live happy and healthy lives and make this sustainable for the benefit of future generations. Safeguarding health, the environment, equal opportunity and personal freedoms are amongst the most important tasks government needs to manage. To do this there need to be appropriate policies and infrastructure in place that protect individuals from powerful businesses and organisations that focus mainly on profit and control. Naturally there will be a range of views on exactly how to achieve this, but whatever politicians and political parties’ leanings (left, centre or right), they should all support the basic principles of democracy.
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