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Let's talk about 'credit'. One of the many things that completely transformed our world from the world of 300 years ago is credit, but do we really understand it? It's (correctly) most commonly understood as something from the world of finance, but it's part of politics too. 1/
Credit is the mechanism by which resources could be mobilised on a massive, industrial scale as never before, starting in the banks of Florence, and ripping through the world from the renaissance to the Enlightenment. 2/
A person or institution could obtain debt or financing on the basis that they were credited by the person advancing the money that they would receive it back with the proper return. This concept also transformed political thinking.
In the 18th century, looking back at historical examples, Montesquieu believed that democracy or anything like it was impossible in large states, thinking it could only be on a small scale in city-states, and moreover that it was moribund where it did exist. 3/
But within a few years of his writing, America, France and Britain were all experimenting in a new form of representative democracy unheard of in the ancient and mediaeval world. It is the foundation of our government by consent.
A modern society does not expect its citizens to be Cincinnatus: all performing simultaneously all the different functions of the state. We accept the division of labour - and therefore specialisation. We diversify and mutually support one another with our different talents.
Politics is no exception: we appoint representatives to undertake the tasks related to being free citizens on our behalf. Of course, this outsourcing of political decision-making must needs be limited.
After all, if you alienate ALL your political freedom, you become a slave (hence the word "inalienable" in the opening line of the Declaration of Independence). If our representatives were unrestrained in their assumption of power on our behalf, they would abuse it.
So how do we remain free and sovereign citizens of a democracy, rather than subjects of a tyranny in a system where we are forced to entrust others to exercise political authority on our behalf? We extend them a limited line of political credit.
We reinforce citizenry by insisting on safeguards like term-limitation, bribery and corruption controls, free and fair elections (notably interfered with on an unprecedented scale in the Brexit vote). We rely on a free press to hold them to account and inform our voting.
So what happens when the whole system progressively lose credit with the citizenry? What happens when the press, instead of holding power to account, obsesses over trivia, colludes with corruption for access and abuses its role so much, a public inquiry is called?
What happens when we become so cynical about politics that we cannot tell the good politician from the bad, and thus cease to bother trying, so much so that a politician can be murdered on the streets and imperfection indistinguishable from evil?
What happens when politicians are revealed as so remote from the people they represent that dynasties are formed within the left-wing party without complaint, and the entire system is subject to a scandal of funding like the expenses scandal?
The British system is designed with credit in mind: the executive serves whilst it has the confidence (credit) of the Commons, which in turn renews its line of credit from the people at elections. But the system itself must retain credit also, not just the players within it.
And that is what has happened. Most notably, the introduction of a referendum as a spurious method of a 'purer', more direct democracy, a way of bypassing the normal channels by a corrupt and mendacious Prime Minister has broken it. We are living in the ruins.
The solutions are not simple. The referendum was just the straw that broke the camels back, and the problems are not all the fault of corruption - the new way people receive and understand information in the internet age are just as much factors.
But in order to restore democracy - and democracy under the rule of law must be restored if we are to be free - we must rebuild credit in democracy, and that means renewing our politics. That's why I'm part of @RenewParty /ends
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