25 June 2014

Day 261: Democratization - Put your Money where your Mouth is with LIG - Pt2

I ended off the previous blog with the following:

"Within allowing such a representative system of politics, we have created a 'gap' between demos and kratia - between the people and the government - where we can in fact no longer say that it is the people who are ruling, as it is the elected government officials in the executive and legislative branches of government that are ruling - and this excludes most citizens. This gap has allowed for secrecy and rent-seeking. Instead of politics being a one-party system - in the sense that only one party is involved: the people - we are working with a three-party system - there is the people, there is the elected government officials and there is those with the financial means that participate in rent-seeking to influence policy to their own advantage, regardless of public opinion.

In order to bridge the gap between the people and the government, two specific problems require to be addressed:

1. Education
2. Ownership of economic influence

Let's start with discussing the first problem.


In principle, everyone seems to agree that the people should rule together - there is an undeniable sense of moral rightness within this - society should together lay down the laws by which it will organize itself and together give direction to their shared environment through public policy - simply because - we are all, individually yet together, a part of a certain society and there is no acceptable justification to exclude any free citizen from this process. In practice, however, Plato's argument still holds strong. "The people are too easily swayed by emotion"; "the people cannot see the bigger picture"; "the people don't have sufficient knowledge and understanding of politics, economics, ecology, law, you name it". There is of course truth in this argument - however, it is not one that cannot be overcome.

Plato lived in the 4th and 5th century BC - so that's about 25 centuries ago - and still, we have not seriously attempted to overcome this problem in order to uplift our political system to the principle it morally requires to ascribe to. What have we been doing for these 25 centuries? Is it so hard to find a way to empower individuals so that they may be capable of critical thinking that in the last 25 centuries we didn't manage to come up with one? Or is it just that we haven't actually tried and rather gave up before having started because it is more convenient that way, at least for those individuals that currently do have the capacity of influencing decision making.

So - let's create a profile of the 'type' of citizen that would have the intellectual capacity of participating in political life.

We can imagine such a person:
- Having a rich vocabulary that enables him/her to participate in discussions in the political arena; big and difficult words are not seen as big and difficult for this person, they are words with a meaning
- Being relatively emotionally stable in that emotions/feelings do not play a decisive role in this person's decision making process
- Being interested in and informed in terms of current affairs

The points listed above refer to a person having political capital. So - what makes one person have political capital and another person not? How can such capital be developed and how can we facilitate the development of political capital within individuals in order to eradicate the education-problem standing in the way of manifesting a real democracy?

Which is one of the main variables that determines the richness of one's vocabulary?


'SES' is something you'll often see in sociological and psychological scientific research, because it determines almost Everything about a person's development, and place in society. 'SES' stands for socioeconomic status and formally refers to the income, job and education level of the parents. "Fifty years of research has revealed the sad truth that the children of lower-income, less-educated parents typically enter school with poorer language skills than their more privileged counterparts. By some measures, 5-year-old children of lower socioeconomic status score more than two years behind on standardized language development tests by the time they enter school."

Now - which is one of the main variables that determines emotional intelligence?


According to research: "High socioeconomic [students] are found to be more responsible, better able to make intelligent decisions using a healthy balance of emotions and reason, better able to focus on task at hand and pay attention. They have more control over their feelings as compared to low socioeconomic status students."

Starting to see a pattern here...

What makes a person interested in current affairs in such a way that they actually read the news and keep abreast of developments in the region/nation/world?

That question refers back to the first point of vocabulary; one of the main reason why people don't watch the news is because they don't understand the vocabulary involved, which brings us back to SES.
Secondly - many individuals do not understand the importance of watching the news in terms of how it affects them or do not see how them being informed about problems would increase the likelihood for the problem to be solved. This is a cultural point that is largely created through the very representative system of democracy we have today - where individual citizens simply do not see how their voice, how their views would make any difference. It is someone else's responsibility to come up with a solution, so why even bother getting informed? So - this particular problem that is preventing the development of political capital is the very political system in place today and can thus not be seen as a reason or argument for not changing it.

Political capital, like any form of capital, requires investment to grow and develop. Seeing that socioeconomic status is one of the main determining factors of the development of such political capital within individuals - and seeing that this political capital is a necessity to enable people to rule their country in terms of the principle of democracy we all seem to agree is best for everyone - it becomes clear that the 'problem' of education is not insurmountable - it only requires us to do a simple thing: Invest in the people!

And this is exactly what an implementation of a Living Income Guaranteed would do: ensure that each one has a dignified income, in other words - ensuring there are no more individuals with 'low' socioeconomic status in society. In seeing to what extent one's socioeconomic status affects one's abilities, one's opportunities, one's power to affect change, why would we allow anyone to have a 'low' socioeconomic status? We surely wouldn't wish it on ourselves or our own children - instead, we (would) want to give them the best possible nurturing grounds - and so - this courtesy, we should extend to all in society.

Anyone who calls themselves a Democrat but allows a representative system of democracy is a hypocrite, if they do not at the same time support a proposal such as the Living Income Guaranteed that would solve the conundrum of allowing the people to rule directly when currently individuals may not have sufficient political capital to do so. It is not acceptable to make such an assertion and then leave it at that - compromising for centuries on a principle that can be lived for real through a simple correction in how we value Life and substantiate it through real action.

To be continued.



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