"A human group transforms itself into a crowd when it suddenly responds to a suggestion rather than to reasoning, to an image rather than to an idea, to an affirmation rather than to proof, to the repetition of a phrase rather than to arguments, to prestige rather than to competence." ~ Jean-Francois Revel
The Death of Politics
The UK election has put one more nail in the coffin.
Tony Blair has won an historic third term - the first Labour government ever to do so. And to look at his smile, you'd think he believes the hype - and that he is presiding over some sort of victory. Far from it.
Let's look at the real facts.
Labour won with around 37% of the popular vote. That is 37% of those who bothered to cast votes. From the same UK election, we learn that it represented the second worst turnout in UK voting history, with just 61% of eligible voters bothering to exercise their franchise.
If you do the math, you get a decidedly uninspiring image of a political process - of a democracy - that's supposed to be worth exporting to the world.
So, let's imagine 100 UK residents who are eligible to vote. However, only 61% of them do - just 61 people. Out of these, only 37% vote for Blair and Labour - or 22.57 people.
We now have a stark picture of the reality of the UK political scene. Labour has won its "historic" third term with the grand total of 22.6% of eligible voters. In other words, 77.4% of the voting age residents of the UK did NOT want this result.
If I was Tony Blair, I'd be deeply ashamed to call my win any sort of victory - and in fact would seriously consider resigning forthwith.
What's even more revealing is that only 61% actually voted - meaning that 39 people out of our sample of 100 didn't see the point. My kind of people!
Now, you'd never get this "spin" on things from either the politicians or their media tarts. For remember, the media needs politicians almost as much as the politicians need the media! The last thing they need is to have the true picture exposed - and then openly discussed.
Of course, this poor voter turnout is not exclusive to the UK. No, it's a spreading phenomena - and in particular in the USA, where voter turnout is always low (in the world's "greatest" democracy).
To get a good turnout, you need to be a Saddam Hussein type of politician - who can force everyone to vote, or perhaps an Australian one, who can rely on that country's compulsory voting system to drag recalcitrant voters away from their sports on TV.
You can legally force someone to vote - but with our cherished anonymous voting system, you cannot make them tick the right box. Disgruntled forced-voters are just as likely to write "f*** you!" on the voting paper, as vote for a real person.
It's got so bad that it's quite possible more countries will begin to look at the Australian model. For nothing is more demoralising to politicians, than to have people ignore them!
It's actually a lot worse than just being ignored. A low turnout threatens to seriously undermine the legitimacy of the whole process - as Labour's win with 22.6% popular support clearly illustrates.
This is the name of the new game - voter reluctance, or "apathy" as politicians prefer to call it.
But is it really apathy? Of course not. It's a gradual awakening to the scam of our modern times - the idea that we can vote to make our lives more bearable, interesting, exciting, profitable and healthy - or that we can vote for justice, freedom and a fat paycheque.
There is only so much failure you can endure, before you have to admit there is something wrong with the basic strategy or premise of what you are supporting. And year after year, the democratic political process leads us to believe it can solve all our problems - while demonstrably failing every time.
In fact, nothing the government turns its hand to works - except to choke people with ever more laws, restrictions and taxes.
Those great government projects - education and healthcare - are in complete tatters. More and more money is poured into these bottomless pits, year after year, election after election. And what do we get? Constantly deteriorating standards and services.
Now, if any of this was being run by business, people would be calling for blood. But no, somehow people have bought into the idea that government is "different," and cannot be held to account for its manifest failures.
But that's changing - as witnessed by the ever-shrinking number of people who take the time to vote.
It's not apathy, it's frustration and a deep emotional awareness that nothing changes. No matter what party you vote for, or what policies they promise - it's all huff and puff, and not worth expending half an hour of your time to go out and endorse it with your vote. You'd be just as effective if you wrote your political opinion on a piece of toilet paper and flushed it.
This is the crux of the matter - that point of awakening, when one day you realise that your vote counts for absolutely nothing!
We fight this awareness with all our strength. We don't want to admit that we've been conned. We'd rather believe it could be better - if only people would try harder; if we could get better people into politics; or if people were more honest. We naively believe that "our" party will pull off the blatantly impossible.
But, there comes a day when you will finally realise the folly of it all (if you haven't already). And when that fateful voting day comes, you will find yourself staying at home and joining the ranks of the "apathetic." And you won't be alone. If you're in the UK, you can rest easy, knowing that you are part of the 39% who has woken up - and finally started to act rationally.
What's at stake here is the legitimacy of the whole voting concept. If voter turnout continues to decline, then you will see a rise in the number of countries that employ proportional voting. At present, the UK uses a "first past the post" voting system - which means the person who gets the most votes in any particular electorate wins. This type of system leads to what the UK has experienced - a Labour win, with only 22.6% support.
To disguise this fall from legitimacy, you can expect to hear calls for voting system reform - to change to proportional voting, where a government ends up with seats that more truly reflects the percentage of votes gained.
This type of voting system inevitably ends up with multiple political parties in power - and usually necessitates that one or more of them form a working coalition.
Now, this concept is sold on the basis that it is a more fair voting system - more truly reflecting the will of the people. But in reality, it's a "finger in the dike" strategy to fool voters into thinking they will have more say - and that the resultant government is more representative.
The truth is, proportional voting is simply a way to prolong the voting scam. A UK-type result is a serious threat to the legitimacy of the whole process - so cannot be allowed to repeat indefinitely. By introducing proportional voting, coalition governments are formed - presenting the "appearance" of a result in harmony with the voters' wishes.
All this points to the crisis of our age - the means by which we govern ourselves. We have all grown up with democracy - the idea that the majority is right. Now, we are witnessing the degeneration of that idea to one of "the winner is right." This can only lead to more voter reluctance, leading to more and more desperate measures.
The burning question is this: What do we actually need the state for? If we can create our livelihoods, build our dreams, buy all the consumer goods we want - without government, then what, if anything, are they really doing?
The traditional answer is they keep the order. But do they? Is it not possible that they are a force for disorder? Even those who recognise the limitations of the state, still want to preserve some domain for their activities - like defence and law and order. However, in a world where literally everything of value is created by the market, surely the market can devise solutions such things.
And the beauty of the market is that it is truly democratic. You vote every day - with every dollar you spend. If you don't like a particular service or product, you simply don't buy it - don't "vote" for it. You get instant gratification with your dollar votes - allowing you to exercise ultimate control over all aspects of your life. Is it such a stretch of the imagination to see how this economic voting can equally be applied to matters which we now consider to be the sole domain of the people we elect who form governments?
A company that does not satisfy the wishes and needs of its shareholders and customers is not long in business. And it is this market discipline and competition which engineers our very standard of living. Surely - in matters such as education, health, law and order, and defence - the market is more than capable of far exceeding the performance of government - of bureaucrats.
Why, just yesterday, I read of the launch of a new service called Spotter, which offers rewards to people who text in information about stolen cars (in New Zealand). The stolen cars' registration numbers are listed on Spotter's database - and those who "spot" any of these cars and report them, using the text function of their mobile phone, can earn a monetary reward.
That's just one example of a market response to a law and order issue. And it won't take much to make it superior to the useless service the government police provide in this regard.
The feedback from the insurance industry has been positive - as they can see the value of any strategy that can actually recover stolen vehicles, and thereby reduce their own operating overheads. After all, such companies have a huge incentive to minimise crime - and given a free reign, in an open market, could be counted on to develop, endorse and support a wide variety of market initiatives.
Politics is the mechanism for achieving goals by edict, by force, by voting. The market is the mechanism for achieving goals via the division of labour and voluntary cooperation - tapping into the human character traits of profit seeking, competition, self interest and a proven history of trading - of "making a deal."
As the UK election illustrates, the era of "politics as we know it" is coming to a close. People, especially young people, are waking up and realising the futility of it all. But don't expect politicians (or the vested interests behind them) to go down without a fight!