22 February 2011

President forces new referendum on Iceland's debt repayment

Iceland's president has called a referendum on the latest plan to repay the UK and Netherlands the 4bn euros (£3.36bn) they lost when the Icesave bank collapsed. (BBC). However welcome this may be, it has to be noted that Iceland's constitution did not require a mandatory referendum on an issue of such importance. Not many politicians would show so much backbone and interest in giving citizens a say in major decisions such as the planned requirement to repay debts incurred when the British and Dutch subsidiaries of Icelandic banks collapsed.

16 February 2011

How to control Public Sector Pay?

Pay in the Public Sector and for civil servants in general seems to be difficult to control. The reasons are that the people who set pay are often in the same boat as those on the receiving end of pay awards. Therefore the news that Councillors in English Local Government Authorities will be given the veto over the salaries of top civil servants promises not much of an improvement. Only when citizens have a direct say in setting local taxes and spending priorities as well as the setting of pay will the inexorable rise in the number and costs of bureaucrats be checked.

UK Councils vote down public question-and-answer sessions

The furious resistance that established politicians and entrenched bureaucracies will put up against the introduction of proper Democracy can be guessed from the decision of some English councils after they voted against introducing public questions at meetings. Tha even this very tame and timid effort to bring more accountability into local politics has been blocked shows how frightened local politicians are about the threat of having more light shone on their activities.

British MPs defend their perks

It is absurd that Members of Parliament in most countries are able to set the rules that guide their conduct and expenses. Just now the British MPs threaten to rewrite Commons rules on expenses unless their demands for changes to the regulations are met.

Unholy Alliance against Electoral Change

When the leader of the Taxpayer's alliance takes the lead role in the campaign against the introduction of the alternative vote in England one has to wonder when the public discourse in the country will ever be free from short-sighted considerations. The referendum may well cost money - but to object against this (tiny and insufficient) reform of a dysfunctional electoral and democratic system on the basis of what it would cost completely neglects to consider the negative fallout from a continuation of the present arrangements. At a time when the present government tries to win approval for the hollow slogan of a 'Big Society' it would certainly be the best to start giving the citizens a proper say in the running of the government at national, regional and local level. Only the introduction of a comprehensive form of Direct Democracy will move the county in the right direction. One also has to wonder why the No Campaign would not want to disclose the names of their donors? Maybe one would find the names of the same hedge fund oligarchs that pull the strings behind the Conservative Party?

How much would AV referendum in UK cost?

John Redwood ruminates in his blog about the costs of the planned referendum about the introduction of the AV voting system in England. But Dirdem argues that AV alone will not change much. Also irrelevant to ask how much the AV campaign may cost, it is pittance in comparison to total budget. One has to ask what are the costs of a dysfunctional democracy where voters are reduced to box tickers at the discretion of the sitting government or once every five years. The remoteness of government (and it is not much better in most ‘Western’ Democracies) due to this pseudo-democracy can only be ended by a system of Direct Democracy

15 February 2011

An End to the monolithic 'Nation' State

History shows that states are not eternal entities. Borders have changed continuosly and there is no reason to assume that they will not do so in the future. The main movers may no longer be tribe, race, religion, class or language. Maybe the new dynamics that will influence shifting 'borders' will be ideological - but in the positive sense of the word. China's special economic zones or the City States in medieval Europe point us in the new direction. There are also indications of new thinking behind Free-Market Cities in Honduras. The ruling political class will fight these ideas tooth and nail as it would mean that their power-base - a centralised nation state - would be eroded by competing political entities that would give the citizens a true alternative - by quitting a political unit that they do not wish to support any longer.

Civil Resistance less needed in Direct Democracy

The current debate in Austria about ending the national service required by all men has led one leading national newspaper to give the impression that it might have made a call to evade the call to service. In a week when the events on Cairo's Tahrir Square are fresh in our minds this raises the interesting question: is civil disobedience a proper tool to promote one's political aims? We would tend to argue yes as the current democratic systems are at best a pseudo-democratic regime where the will of the people as a whole is regularly subordinated to the wishes of the political class and their acolytes in the lobbies of special interest groups. On the other hand, direct democracy would allow to settle controversial issues quickly as all minds are focused on the particular question and not diluted by the usual political infighting between parties and personalities. Of course, the problem of military (or national) service for men only raises the question why this sort of discrimination should be allowed in the first place. This brings us to the question of where the limits to the will of the people are and what precautions are taken to make sure that basic rights are not subjugated to a dictat of the masses.

12 February 2011

Middle Class: the milk cow of dysfunctional democracies

In typically insensitive fashion a British politician has warned the Middle Classes in the UK that they "do not know what is about to hit them." Ken Clarke, the Justice Secretary made it clear that the 'Poor' and the 'Rich' are not willing and or able to make a proportional contribution to put the country's finances in order. It is particularly galling the the Super-rich paymasters of the Conservative Party - many of whom make little or no contribution to the common good as they are adept at evading taxes - are treated so leniently while the rest of the population has to tighten the belt. Ironically the financial games where these donors played a significant role are to a large extent the reason for the precarious state of Britain's finances.

11 February 2011

EU - did anyone ask you for your opinion about these issues?

Duplication of Parliament seats costs Euro 180 Million per year
MEPs not required to disclose details on their allowance of £91,000 a year tax-free expenses
 EU watchdogs find errors in 90% of Brussels budget
Hungarian company paid more than £3200,000 by EU to build new facilities for dogs
 Tyrolian farmers paid £14,000 to "increase their emotional connection with the landscapes they cultivate"
France and Germany spend Euro 400 million a year on Arte TV despite declining viewer numbers
Structural Funds spend Euro 50 billion a year
 Gipsies entitled to share of Euro 17.5 billion of structural funds destined for 'vulnerable' groups
 MEPs to get 736 more 'researchers' at a cost of £16,600 each to deal with External Affairs questions
 £163 million for schooling children of Eurocrats
 EU wants to spend 6 per cent more next year
 24 Million Euro subsidy for Hotel construction in Lanzarote
 European Council members must put interest of the Union above those of their own countries (Lisbon Treaty, Article 9)
 EU prepares expanded sanctions against Iran
 MEP wants tax on carbon-intensive products
 EU wants introduction of body scanners on Airports
US to get access to customer bank accounts
 'Only' 300 new diplomats for EU Embassies
 EU plans green taxes to cut debt
 104 lobby firms go in and out of EU ParliamentGreece gifted Euro 6.3 billion in 2008
8000 bureaucrats for 130 EU embassies
EU wants proceeds of financial transaction tax for itself
 EU permits planting of genetically modified potato
 EU wants to attract more refugees
EU Parliament costs Euro 1.5 Billion annually
EU wants to attract more refugees
EU Parliament costs Euro 1.5 Billion annually
Monster Trucks up to 60 tons may be allowed
 One in three MEPs employs a family member

Spendthrift countries bailed out by taxpayers in thrifty countries
Airlines compelled to use renewable energy
 Unrestrained immigration into Italy
Excise taxes on Tobacco to rise again
 EU wants to store airline passenger data
500 Million Euro for Kosovo
Non-Eu troops stationed in Europe
Ireland to vote again on Lisbon Treaty
'Green' plans could put £300 on prices of new cars
Tobacco-style health warnings on all car advertisements
New passports must include fingerprints from 2009
Air passenger information exchange with USA
 EU control of climate strategy of member states
Free speech outlawed by EU bureaucrats
Fundamental Human Rights Agency opens in Vienna
Model History textbook planned
 EU Officials vote to cut emissions
 Euro-constitution is sneaking in by the back door

9 February 2011

French Prime Minister accepts free gifts

When Francois Fillon admits that he accepted free holiday accomodation and transport it is a poor advertisment for the role that the political elites play in our semi-democratic politcal systems. Career politicians with no or very little experience of working outside government or government-controlled sectors such as education, civil service or the justice departments are dominating the levers of government and pursue an agenda that is less and less reflective of the wishes of the population at large.

6 February 2011

Charter Cities - good idea but not so new

Paul Romer's concept of 'Charter Cities' that operate outside the dysfunctional tangle of a country's existing rules is an idea whose time has come and fits in very well with Dirdem's vision of Direct Democracy. But one must remember that the concept is not that new: the city states in Ancient Greece and the independent City-States in Italy and Germany during the Middle Ages were to all intents and purposes precursors of the Charter City that Romer postulates.