When pressure builds over time, at some point, something breaks. When pressure builds along a fault line, at some point it releases an earthquake. The victims may be wondering “where did that suddenly come from?” Likewise, there are tensions building up in society today. Especially the growing gap between rich and poor. Will these erupt at some point? What are the causes and can we do something? Well, I believe we can.
This article has new idealistic/realistic ideas to get us to Utopia:
- make the central bank electable by tax payers
- give the central bank control over tax spending
- a 100% inheritance tax
These three measures will give people a more equal start in life, will reward people for working hard, will prevent too much wealth concentration in the hands of a few people and will prevent unfair wealth redistribution.
Also, they are only small steps to implement, easily enforceable and seem fair to all involved.
But first, I need to give this some historic context!
A long-term view (some history)
The earliest humans were probably ruled by thug-rule. The strongest and smartest took power and became ‘aristocratic’ families over time.
The ancient Greek had an early form of democracy. Later, the Romans had a voting system as well.
The Romans were technologically far advanced compared to surrounding peoples, like the Franks or Germanic tribes. They were much richer and it was relatively easy for them to win wars.
Then Rome collapsed under the weight of internal problems. Roman technology took a step backwards and aristocracy ruled again in Europe. The ‘dark ages’ started. Probably culminating during the (pest) epidemics of around 1300.
The aristocrats had a relatively good life, enough food and also servants. They were mainly interested in the higher arts, religion and the meaning of life. They directed research into that direction. Science got stuck in religious philosophy, mainly. An example of a famous and influential scientist of the times is Thomas Aquinas.
There was very little technical progress in Europe for over 1000 years. Wealth concentration was rife.
When new (and largely empty) land was discovered in North-America around 1500, many frustrated Europeans fled to it. Groups of them were able to establish small idealistic societies in this new, free world. Sometimes, they tried overly religious rules, sometimes they experimented with more equality.
After a lot of trouble, democracy was finally enshrined in the constitution of 1789. Modern democracy really had to wait until just before 1800. When ‘the people’ took back power through democracy, science automatically also received a new goal from the new rulers: improving life for the voters.
A new form of science thus developed. This new form was far more practical, trial-and-error based and geared towards developing tools. This new form could be called ‘engineering’ and it led to the industrial revolution. An era of enormous technological development and incomparable prosperity. When the relationship between democracy and prosperity became clear, democracy became unstoppable.
It blew back to Europe and other parts of the world about 50 years later, mainly through a series of revolutions, sometimes violent.
The irony is that the development of new tools also sped up the exploration of the fundamentals of nature. Discovered only recently in the last few hundred years are: many physical constants, laws of mechanics, electromagnetic waves, molecules, atoms, quarks, the universe, bacteria, DNA, evolution etc. etc. etc. etc. etc. etc. etc. etc.
Nowadays, we understand the physical world better than we ever did. Even though it was always there and presumably never changed. (Note by the way, that even today we have not NEARLY discovered everything, yet!)
The have’s and have-not’s. Rising tensions.
OK, back to history…
There are many examples from the past where a working democracy succumbed to dictatorial rule. Sometimes over the course of hundreds of years (ancient Rome) sometimes quickly by dictators. The dictators often thrived in more difficult times when tensions had been building up over many years.
Many people feel there are rising tensions today. Even though it does not seem easy to pinpoint what exactly the problem is. In recent years, there have been increasing protests. Usually these start with an issue. In some cases the issue was resolved by the democratic leaders. The protests continued nonetheless. Why?
Recent thought puts at least some of the blame on the undercurrent of wealth concentration. The democratic forces do not seem to be able to reign this in, especially over the long term. The reason may be because it would be too unfair to actually take a lot of money from a productive and honest group of people and give it to lazier and honest people. Doing this would also be demotivating to individuals and probably lead to a lot of innovative people not giving their best. This would be very detrimental to society.
Still, by giving voting power over tax and spending to people that are not actually paying into the public funds, will lead to growing redistribution. This adds to tensions in society.
The emerging purpose
A person may have their own goals. These goals probably stem from feelings and may be inborn to this person. Maybe even largely based on genetics. If there are inborn differences between persons, there are innate different political preferences between individual people. Trying to convince another person of your political views may be impossible as the other person may have genetically different feelings.
As the differences between people are innate, society should not try to force choices on people. One person cannot predict the feelings or goals of another. Society should give people as much freedom as possible to make their own choices.
BUT democracy gives a community its goals. Citizens vote on candidates, candidates represent groups of people and societal goals emerge. Nobody sets these goals like the aristocrats did in the middle ages. Sometimes the people seem to even want to go back to a feudal system, like in the outcome of the vote in Egypt in 2012.
However, in the majority of cases, it seems the goal that emerges is to enhance the lives of the voters. This can mean many things, but an important part of that seems best accomplished through technological development. Technological development makes society richer. The engineering methodology also seems to be the fastest way of doing fundamental research. Even the aristocrats should be happy.
Foundation of democracy – the constitution
Democracy seems the best way of setting overall goals, leads to quickest development and theoretically makes most people happiest. At least compared to other systems and in the early days of its establishment. However, it has failed on numerous occasions in the past, especially as a democracy ages.
How to ensure long-term democracy, then?
This can only be done if most people remain happy over the longer term. The slowly rising tensions appear to sprout from too much wealth concentration and unfair wealth redistribution. We may need to consider democracy from the foundation to address these issues.
That is, we need to go back to the constitution. The constitution is what establishes democracy. It sets the ground-rules for the system itself. Nothing more, nothing less. It should establish a long-term, stable democracy.
Laws follow from the constitution.
Separation of powers
Separation of powers in society is an important part of existing constitutions. Because too much power concentrated in one hand has, in the past, led to abuse. Once it was seen to be the solution to this abuse of power. From experience we know the separation of powers should be enshrined in the constitution.
A fairly well known way of separating powers is the trias politica or tripartite system. In this line of thought, executive power is divided between three institutions.Using my home country of the Netherlands as an example, there appears to be a fairly good separation of powers. Even though some improvements could be made (in my opinion):
- Legislative power: parliament(No need for two chambers. Could have more staff to be able to write new laws.)
- Executive power: government(Should not write laws. Could be directly elected. Should not have any judicial powers.)
- Judicial power: test for compliance with laws in individual cases(Could be funded by users of the legal system, not government – for example through insurance.)
Each of the three institutions should have as little power as possible over the other institutions. Not by appointing people or allocating money. Not by spontaneously judging over any member of any other institution. Etc.
Trias politica (or other separation of powers) improved democracy and worked for a while, but does not address the above mentioned problems of wealth concentration or unfair wealth redistribution. The undercurrent of rising tensions was not stopped.
A fairer way that does not have the disadvantages mentioned above could be to institute a 100% wealth recycling in the constitution. That is, when a person dies, all their possession return to the state.
At the same time, the distribution of public monies should be more fair. Where the public money goes, should be decided only by citizens that actually contribute to these monies. Otherwise, there will always be a tendency to increase unfair redistribution.
For this reason, I would (humbly) propose a fourth power as a practical way forward: budgeting
The budgeting authority would set public spending on a yearly basis. The authority would be publicly elected, but by tax-payers only.
As with the other institutions, the goal of public budgeting will democratically emerge.
Creating the new budgeting institution could practically be fairly straightforward:
- make the existing central bank the budgeting authority
- select the board based on national elections (under tax-payers only) and make it democratic.
Monetary policy could remain with the budgeting authority, making it possible to align public spending and monetary policy closer. The budgeting authority can also set its own inflation target, if it wants to. It may also set itself a completely different goal. The goal is not in the constitution, but will emerge from the democratic process.
Putting it all together, a new, improved democratic constitution should:
- Define its citizens, equality between them and their basic rights and duties
(as few as possible, more will emerge in law from the democratic process)
- Define the four basic institutions and their purpose
- Define the mechanics of the democratic system:
- Mechanics of changing the constitution (only under broad consensus)
- Mechanics of elections (to make them fair, they should all be at the same time)
- Mechanics of law creation and enforcement
- Institute 100% wealth recycling
The constitution is not a law. It provides the foundation for democracy. The law sprouts from it.