Disclaimer: Articles on this website are written from the perspectives of various Localists, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Local Matters. Our contributors come from a wide array of varying political backgrounds, and we believe that cooperation across the political spectrum is essential.
The primary goal of any elected government is to be re-elected. This gives them a time window of 5 years, preventing the emergence of radical ideas and grand projects in favour of selling cheap policies to the electorate and maintaining the status quo. This has urged the rule of individualism in which no one looks to our collective future.
In England, political apathy is a way of life; we live and breathe it, humorously embodying this as part of our national identity. Apathy en masse should be regarded as a sickness within a system that requires participation. This is to be expected in our crowded nation, as one share of our democracy is 1/66,000,000. The citizens of Liechtenstein enjoy a share of 1/38,000 of their Democracy. How can any one person feel like their vote has any political influence when it accounts for 0.00000166% of the total?
The Brexit vote, the largest democratic exercise in modern British history (46,501,241, 72.2% turnout) has shown how difficult it is to determine the will of the people (Leave 51.9%, Remain 48.1%). Despots will use this to claim that referenda are not fit for purpose. However, all this shows is that democracy within the overpopulated nation-state fails. While the nation was and still continues to be divided, villages and towns often remain united in their views, whichever side of the vote they are on. We are not isolatory by nature and the community we belong to will determine our views through the needs and desires of the community at large.
As our population is ever increasing we seem to be divided among differing policies – the larger the body of people, the more likely there is to be a split in the middle, generating a group of people that will win or lose an election on any given side. With the first past the post system, we can clearly see this unfold every five years, as the elected government seldom has the majority of votes. This goes against the principle of ‘the will of the people’ and ceases to be democratic. It only serves as a tool to officially legitimise the elected candidates.
In the Mid 18th century Rousseau stated “The more the state is enlarged, the more freedom is diminished”. Papworth rightly observed “Rousseau was juggling with numbers in terms of thousands. Today’s mass societies presume to operate in democratic terms when their numbers run into millions, and even billions, and there still is an owlish disposition to assume that these swollen numbers have no effect on the basic democratic premise that the voice of the individual citizen is sovereign”. The phrase ‘Too many cooks…’ comes to mind.
The Ancient Greek city-states viewed liberty as intrinsically linked to Democracy. The right to participation in the political process was, therefore, the responsibility of the citizenry. Athenian Population in the 4th century BC was 40,000, so the emergence of democracy first came at a time where the population was far smaller than it is at present. It would be safe to assume that it was not intended for the millions to all share at once. England must have a return to this smaller way of thinking; to regional states where the few may dictate the future for themselves. After all, there is very little in common between the Scouse dock worker and the Suffolk farmer. Westminster has shown incapable of mediating between our regional differences, nor does it represent any of them accurately. Organic direct democracy in smaller and more local regions will give the everyman a higher value share in their future.