The Stew of Corruption 481

British democracy has lost its meaning. The political and economic system has come to serve the interests of a tiny elite, vastly wealthier than the run of the population, operating through corporate control. The state itself exists to serve the interests of these corporations, guided by a political class largely devoid of ideological belief and preoccupied with building their own careers and securing their own finances.

A bloated state sector is abused and mikled by a new class of massively overpaid public secotr managers in every area of public provision – university, school and hospital administration, all executive branches of local government, housing associations and other arms length bodies. All provide high six figure salaries to those at the top of a bloated bureaucratic establishment. The “left”, insofar as it exists, represents only these state sector vested interests.

These people decide where the cuts fall, and they will not fall where they should – on them. They will fall largely on the services ordinary people need.

Meanwhile we are not all in this together. The Vodafone saga only lifts the lid for the merest peek at the way the corporate sector avoids paying its share, hiding behind Luxembourg or Cayman tax loopholes and conflicts between international jurisdictions – with which our well provided politicians are very happy. The often excellent Sunny Hundal provides a calm analysis of the Vodafone case here:

Let me tell you something else about Vodafone. Vodafone took over Ghana Telecom three years ago. They paid an astonishingly low price for it – 1.2 billion dollars, which is less than the value of just the real estate GT owned. The value of the business was much higher than that, and there was a substantively higher opening bid from France Telecom.

The extraordinary thing was the enormous pressure which the British government put on Ghana to sell this valuable asset to Vodafone so cheaply. High Commissioner Nick Westcott and Deputy High Commissioner Menna Rawlings were both actively involved, with FCO minister Lord Malloch Brown pressurising President Kuffour directly, with all the weight of DFID’s substantial annual subvention to Ghana behind him.

What is the point of DFID giving taxpayer money to Ghana if we are costing the country money through participating in the commercial rape of its national assets?

And why exactly was it a major British interest that Vodafone – whose Board meets in Germany and which pays its meagre taxes in Luxembourg – should get Ghana Telecom, as opposed to France Telecom or another company? Was privatisation at this time the best thing for Ghana at all?

This Vodafone episode offers another little glimpse into the way that corporations like Vodafone twist politicians like Mark Malloch Brown around their little fingers. It mioght be interesting to look at his consultancies and commercial interests now he is out of office.

BAE is of course the example of this par excellence. Massive corruption and paying of bribes in Saudi Arabia, Tanzania end elsewhere, but prosecution was halted by Tony Blair “In the National Interest”. BAE of course was funnelling money straight into New Labour bagmen’s pockets, as well as offering positions to senior civil servants through the revolving door. Doubtless they are now doing the same for the Tories – perhaps even some Lib Dems.

It is therefore unsurprising the BAE were able to write themselves contracts for aircraft carriers which were impossible to cancel and that their New Labour acolytes were prepared to sign such contracts. It is, nonetheless, disgusting. Just as it is disgusting that there is no attempt whatever by the coaliton to query or remedy the situation. There is no contract in the UK which cannot be cancelled by primary legislation.

Meanwhile, bankers’ bonus season is upon us again and these facilitators of trade and manufacture are again set to award themselves tens of billions of pounds to swell the already huge bank accounts of a select few, whose lifestyle and continued employment is being subsidised by every single person in the UK with 8% of their income. This was because the system which rewards those bankers so vastly is fundamentally unsound and largely unnecessary. Money unlinked to trade or manufacture cannot create infinite value; that should have been known since the South Sea Bubble.

Yet even this most extreme example of government being used to serve the interests of the wealthy and powerful at the expense of everyone else, has not been enough to stir any substantial response from a stupoured, x-factored population, dreaming only of easy routes to personal riches, which they have a chance in a million of achieving.

Conventional politics appears to have become irretrievably part pf the malaise rather than offering any hope for a cure. But political activity outwith the mainstream is stifled by a bought media.

I see no hope.

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481 thoughts on “The Stew of Corruption

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  • Larry from St. Louis

    Heh Suhayl – is the reason that you’re a failed doctor that you made horribly stupid calls, like continuing to assert that Roderick Russell does not have a mental issue?

  • somebody

    It would be good to have Craig’s comment on what was announced today by the florid Mr Kenneth Clarke (with Grieve sitting looking enigmatic behind him) in the HoC, the mother of parliaments!

    Miliband and Straw had the nerve to add their tuppenceworths and the reply was given by Sadiq Khan, Shadow Justice Minister!!! They should all have crept back into the dark holes they inhabit.

    Clarke had a busy day. He was giving evidence to the Joint Committee on Human Rights.

  • Suhayl Saadi

    1981: The Royal Wedding and Lady Di, a big distraction from the worst assault on jobs and public services since the Great Depression.

    Fast-forward 30 years…

    2011: The Royal Wedding and the Ghost of Lady Di, a big distraction from the worst assault on jobs and public services since 1981.

    Watch out! David Dimbleby is coming! Plus ca change…

  • Mark Golding - Children of Iraq


    With torture pushed into a corner today by ‘other’ news perhaps a shrewd journalist will interview Mr Binyam Mohamed and others before the payout. The transcripts would serve as material for a best selling book – ‘Britain engaged in torture’ might be appropriate.

    “In February, a British court released secret evidence that Mohamed, an Ethiopian-born resident of Britain, had been subjected to “cruel, inhuman and degrading” treatment during questioning by US agents.

    The information was made public in defiance of ministers’ warnings that such disclosures could harm Britain’s intelligence-sharing relationship with Washington.

    British citizens and residents who were held at the US detention camp at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba will be among those receiving compensation, reports said, as well as others who claim British agents colluded in their ill-treatment while held as part of the so-called “war on terror”.”

  • Mark Golding - Children of Iraq

    Press Release from Scotland Against Criminalising

    10am Tuesday 16 November

    For immediate release

    Government pressure on Guantanamo men despicable, says human rights group

    Human rights group Scotland Against Criminalising Communities (SACC) welcomes reports, expected to be confirmed by a ministerial statement later today, that former Guantanamo prisoners from Britain are to receive compensation from the Government without having to continue battling their way through the courts.

    But we deplore the fact that the halting of the former prisoners’ civil case against the Government puts an end to the only process currently in sight that might get close to the truth about the British Government’s involvement in rendition, illegal detention and torture. The forthcoming inquiry into these matters, to be chaired by Sir Peter Gibson, the current commissioner for the intelligence services, is clearly going to be a whitewash and will clearly not consider, let alone publish, the sort of evidence that would have been presented in the civil case.

    It is despicable that the Government has forced these traumatised and vulnerable men to choose between getting the compensation they deserve, and having to fight their way endlessly through the courts knowing that the Government will use every trick at its disposal to derail the proceedings.

    The Government says that it is in the national interest to keep these cases out of court. That’s nonsense. It can’t possibly be in the national interest, or in the interest of anything else decent, to lie and to cover up and to evade responsibility for grave crimes under international law.

    The Government’s evasion means that we are all at risk of illegal treatment and torture at the hands of people working for or with the British Government. It means that the whole world can see that the British Government believes illegality to be a central part of its war on terror.

    Britain will not be able to move on until we know the whole truth about this shameful – and probably ongoing – episode in our history, until those responsible have been held to account through the criminal justice system, and until safeguards have been put in place to prevent any such thing happening again.

    The Government has, possibly, got a few traumatised and vulnerable men off its back. Now it has to reckon with the rest of us.

    For more information contact:

    Richard Haley

    [email protected] 07936432519

  • Larry from St. Louis

    So Suhayl, what you’re saying is that we’re currently in a three or four year block of time in which one of the two brothers should not get married, lest conspiraloons like you conclude that it’s a conspiracy of distraction.

    Does Suhayl rhyme with Fail?

  • somebody

    The Morning Star leader agrees with us.

    Caught Bang To Rights

    Tuesday 16 November 2010 Printable Email No-one should be conned into believing the weasel words of ministers in this government that compensation is being paid to Guantanamo Bay detainees solely to prevent even more costly litigation.

    Similarly, no-one should believe assertions by former foreign secretary David Miliband that British officials were uninvolved in torture or that Britain did not use information derived from torture.

    Britain has been utterly complicit in the US-masterminded global network of secret torture facilities.

    It has been up to its neck in rendition, illegal detention and torture and has used every trick in the book to cover this up.

    On Miliband’s watch, the Foreign Office went so far as to induce the US State Department to write a letter suggesting that this country’s security would be in jeopardy if details of Binyam Mohamed’s torture at Guantanamo Bay were to be made public.


  • Ruth

    The stew of corruption

    The pay-off of millions to stop the civil case of the Guantanamo men revealing the UK’s role in colluding in their transfer overseas and complicity

    in their torture.

    The trade-off of Megrahi to halt an appeal which would reveal the role of the UK government in sending an innocent foreign national to prison.

    The failure of the UK government to hold an inquest into the death of Dr Kelly which would have most probably revealed the hand of the intelligence services in his death.

    The framing of many to hide the role of the intelligence services in removing taxpayers’ money under the guise of excise and VAT fraud.

    “Secrecy”, John Sawers said, “is not a dirty word. Secrecy is not there as a cover-up.’

  • Roderick Russell

    A REAL STEW OPF CORRUPTION — Larry, November 16, 2010 6:23 PM

    The Larry’s are bottom feeders who are paid to TROLL the INTERNET and SMEAR whistle-blowers like myself. It’s his job, and he smears me almost every time I comment. Readers of this blog will note that every time Larry appears it is to smear somebody. He does nothing else. The story that I think Larry is referring to happened after I left Grosvenor International, a company owned by the Duke of Westminster, where I had been Group Controller.

  • angrysoba

    Mark Golding:

    “This photographic evidence of the blast is crucial to the theory that explosives (military grade) were placed UNDER the carriage involved in the Edgware Road incident.”

    Are you serious? Unless that picture is upside down and was taken of the underside of the train there is no way that shows an upward explosion.

    “I am searching for the source of this jpeg in the hope that a high definition original can be found for more detailed analysis.”

    Because if that image that blatantly shows a downward explosion is enhanced it MAY reveal an upward explosion?

    I’d give it up Mark because the whole theory of an upward explosion only originated from two sources, if I remember correctly, and one of those was immediately retracted by the reporter who made it.

    I’ve spent very little time looking into this one because it seems to be full of the usual red herrings.

  • angrysoba

    “1981: The Royal Wedding and Lady Di, a big distraction from the worst assault on jobs and public services since the Great Depression.”

    Suhayl, I must admit to being surprised that you would post this. I can only imagine this is a joke.

    Everybody knows that the Falklands War was started by Maggie T* to distract everyone from the problems at home and that Lady Di’s wedding was to distract everyone from that. The founding of the Premier League was to distract people from the corrupting influence of the terrible state of family values of the Royals and then the secret service had Lady Di bumped off to distract everyone from her enormous popularity.

    *Like all foreigners, General Galtieri was a misunderstood hapless dupe and his fascist regime was ten times better than the evil Magster, who not coincidentally looks like Davros.

    “2011: The Royal Wedding and the Ghost of Lady Di, a big distraction from the worst assault on jobs and public services since 1981.”

    I think you do the working classes no credit with that remark.

    Besides 1981 wasn’t the peak of unemployment and Maggie T’s “Enemy Within” speech was in 1984.

  • angrysoba

    “20 days ago, Mark told us that within 90 days there would be a revelation in Wikileaks about 9/11. You might recollect some talk of hats being eaten should such a thing eventuate. I’m just being very irritating by reminding him. Bet angrylarry has the date in its diary – expect some haw-hawing around the 26th of January.”

    Ha! I don’t remember that. Did I comment on it? Perhaps my stand-in mislaid her notes again. It’s bloody chaos around the NWO office sometimes. How we ever seized control of the world given our lack of organization I’ll never know.

  • Larry from St. Louis

    angrysoba, once again you messed up – spelling “organization” that way. Remember – your cover is British.

  • Suhayl Saadi

    1) “Suhayl, I must admit to being surprised that you would post this. I can only imagine this is a joke.” angrysoba

    Uhm, no. But if you found it funny, then I’m pleased I brightened-up your day!

    2) “Everybody knows that the Falklands War was started by Maggie T* to distract everyone from the problems at home and that Lady Di’s wedding was to distract everyone from that. The founding of the Premier League was to distract people from the corrupting influence of the terrible state of family values of the Royals and then the secret service had Lady Di bumped off to distract everyone from her enormous popularity.” angrysoba

    Good irony! I do not subscribe to any of those arguments. The Falklands War did turn Thatcher’s popularity from rock-bottom to stratospheric and she/ they milked that to the full, as one might expect. It also coincided with a sea-change (a reversion) to right-wing ideas, etc. in the UK (and USA). Clearly, she didn’t ‘arrange’ it though.

    3) *Like all foreigners, General Galtieri was a misunderstood hapless dupe and his fascist regime was ten times better than the evil Magster, who not coincidentally looks like Davros.” angrysoba

    No, like Thatcher’s great friend, Pinochet (who helped the UK in the Falklands War), Galtieri was a Fascist military dictator whose regime systematically murdered many people in his own country. He initiated the military occupation of the Falklands in order to distract his people from the failing economy and the oppression at home.

    Anyway, Rupert Murdoch is Davros.

    4) ” ‘2011: The Royal Wedding and the Ghost of Lady Di, a big distraction from the worst assault on jobs and public services since 1981.’

    I think you do the working classes no credit with that remark.” angrysoba

    I do not suggest that people will not see through such pomp and ceremony. I think reverence for the Monarchy now is far less than it was in 1981, esp. wrt marriages. Nonetheless, in an age of celebrity worship, it provides a long-running, glitzy soap opera – ‘circuses’, if you like – to brighten-up the nation’s lives, a nation in fear of losing it’s job and home, its future. However, the fact that many will not be ‘fooled’ does not preclude the possibility that the Government – many of whom seemed to have attended Eton et al – do the working classes no credit; I would suggest that this criticism would best be directed at David Cameron et al, rather than at me. One can ‘fool some of the people, some of the time’ – or so leaders imagine.

    5) “Besides 1981 wasn’t the peak of unemployment and Maggie T’s “Enemy Within” speech was in 1984.”

    Well, matters may have come to a statistical head in 1984 in the ways you suggest. But 1980-82 saw urban riots across the UK, mass lay-offs, etc. as Chancellor Howe’s policies were implemented. I was around then (a student) and I recall a real sense that urban civil ‘war’ might break out, that troops might on the streets anyday soon. That was over by 1984, frankly. The govt had won the ideological battle by then. 1983’s landslide victory set the seal. It was the shock ‘therapy’ period. In 1981-early 1982, the Conservatives were in a precarious position wrt the future 1983 election , saved only by Labour’s split, the voting-in of Michael Foot and the emergence (that’s another arguably Atlanticist story) of the SDP. The whole thing culminated in the Miners’ Strike of 1984-5, but those years were a whole series of confrontations. In 1981, the Govt’s popularity was rock-bottom. Cameron is not (yet) in that position, but 2011 may be a different story – we shall see.

    The Royal Wedding on its own didn’t reverse the Tories’ poll ratings, but it did set a mood that was conducive to the rise in shlock patriotism which really possessed the rest of the decade. I remember lots of people at the time of the Royal Wedding (of Charles and Diana) commenting on how this was a distraction from the socio-economic disaster, the effects of which we still see. It was a commonly-held view at the time. It doesn’t mean it was correct, of course. But views assume their own power, whether one is a monarchist or a republican and that may have been enough.

  • angrysoba

    ” However, the fact that many will not be ‘fooled’ does not preclude the possibility that the Government – many of whom seemed to have attended Eton et al – do the working classes no credit; I would suggest that this criticism would best be directed at David Cameron et al, rather than at me. One can ‘fool some of the people, some of the time’ – or so leaders imagine.”

    Well, if the Royal Wedding is too extravagant maybe it’ll set the tumbrells rollings.

  • Jon

    Suhayl – splendid post at 7:32 AM, thanks. You do get up early!

    Talking of the miners’ strike, have you read “The Enemy Within”? I can’t remember if I’ve recommended it here before, but it’s very good. An interesting and level-headed analysis, unlike some of its contemporaries, which may have been intended as hatchet-jobs to discredit these working-class movements.

  • evgueni

    Ladies and gents,

    strictly on topic – I think there is hope despite the inescapably correct summing up by CM of the situation now. No we do not live in a democratic state. No it was never more democratic in the past though perhaps more equitable for a time (we can speculate why..). Let’s go back to first principles to make this clear. Demos = people, kratos = rule. “People-rule” does not ring true in the UK, US or any other ‘Western democracy’ with one exeption that is notable also by its absence from discussion here. (Job well done, MSM..) The place is Switzerland and what’s different there is that Initiative & Referendum is a right not merely hypothetically available at the federal as well as local government levels but actually practiced regularly because it is accessible. Incidentally I find it telling that the Swiss political system is virtually never discussed in the mainstream UK media (Brian Beedham’s attempt in the Economist notwithstanding). I can recommend Gregory Fossedal’s Direct Democracy in Switzerland as a starting point. Some literature and DVD material are also available free from Swiss Consulates. The Swiss constitution is online in English translation. Lots more through Google. Victor Hugo is attributed a quote along the lines of ‘Switzerland will speak the last word in history’. I think I know what he meant – once the right to amend the constitution is in the hands of the people, it is hard to imagine how this can be reversed by elite interests. Indeed the 150+ years of I&R in Switzerland suggests that it cannot. To be sure, Switzerland is not without its own problems. But then popular sovereignty in true form as in Switzerland and increasingly elsewhere is a necessary but not sufficient condition of true democracy (‘people- rule’ as opposed to merely ‘people-elect’).

    The other necessary condition is information. I think it was Thomas Jefferson who said that he would rather live in a country without elections than in one without newspapers. In extremis this is a patent truism – we cannot speak of a meaningful democracy if there is no information on which to base decisions at the polls. By extention our ability to practice democracy is impaired if we are fed a lot of spin. Though this is probably the lesser problem with our MSM, the more insidious kind of bias being that of omission. Questions that will not be posed such as for example the one we are covering now..

    So where is the hope? I do not think it is with any of the main political parties. It is likely that we have reached the limits of what party politics can do for democracy. Fundamentally, the ultimate interests of political parties and those of the people diverge – this much should be clear by now. The hope for me is represented by the growing awareness worldwide of the I&R rights, the growing awareness of the severe limitations of privately owned for-profit news media, the relatively new possibilities opened up by the internet – long-term effects of which on politics are by no means clear yet. To quote Hugo again – there is nothing so powerful as an idea whose time has come. All kinds of people are starting to talk about direct democracy in the UK – examples include Charter 88, Our Say, English Democrats, UKIP, Respect, Rowntree Foundation…

    Another source of hope is the successful experiments with workplace democracy around the world, e.g. Semco in Brazil, Mondragon in Spain and lots more. People who learn about real democracy at work sooner or later will be asking questions about the political organisation beyond the workplace, perhaps. Perhaps I&R will find its way into UK politics via an enlightened consensus amongst some of the political elites. Maybe economic reality will drive this home – there are strong indications that democratic workplaces and democratic communities are more competitive and resilient economically.

    Without question the biggest obstacle to democratic progress is the subservience of UK MSM to elite interests. In this regard I have an embrio of an idea for a project – to create an alternative news medium and legitimise it in the eyes of the majority who currently read/listen/watch MSM and are not aware of what is omitted from the discussion. In my view this is the biggest problem facing alternative news media on the internet – these voices can be credibly dismissed in the mainstream propaganda as fringe and untrustworthy. The way to deal with this is to come up with a model for a news medium that is as democratic as possible. The following attributes I think are necessary:

    – a published constitution that sets out how exactly impartiality is to be enforced

    – an editorial board that is regularly elected by the public to decide on resource allocation and coverage policy

    – extensive workplace democracy within the organisation

    – transparent decision-making by the editorial board with minutes of all meetings published online

    – binding rules on free and impartial coverage allocation to all political parties irrespective of size

    – not-for-profit status accompanied by detailed accounting disclosure online

    Probably public donations would have to constitute a significant part of the income stream. Advertising revenue does not need to be excluded from the funding options but some further thought is required on how to avoid conflicts of interest.

    In conclusion, to paraphrase Mark Twain – apologies for the long post, I didn’t have time to write a short one.


  • Suhayl Saadi

    Wow! Evgueni, that is a brilliant post, if I may say. It’s a great springboard for discussion. Your suggestions and allusions remind me a little of Augusto Boal’s ‘Theatre of the Oppressed’!

  • Suhayl Saadi

    angrysoba, re. rolling tumbrells, one lives in hope…!

    somebody, Jon, thanks. I haven’t read that book (though I had heard of it), actually. I shall though, esp. now you’ve reminded me of it, thanks.

    Jon, re. circadian rhythms, I have found that I am generally a ‘lark’. Since evgueni has set us off in literary vein, I am reminded that John Updike once said that when he wrote first thing in the morning, he felt as though the writing was an extension of his dreams. I have experienced this conjunction on many occasions. However, I can be an ‘owl’ (anytime after 4pm) when necessary or pertinent. Afternoons (2-4pm) are the fallow-time for most of us. Siesta is an excellent idea.

    Returning to our ornithological metaphors, the ultimate aim, of course, is to be a hoopoe (hud-hud).

  • Roderick Russell

    Yes, a really great idea Evgueni!!!!

    But you also hit the cruz of the matter when you said – “I think it was Thomas Jefferson who said that he would rather live in a country without elections than in one without newspapers”. Isn’t that the problem ?” our media are unlikely to debate change since they are too easily censored by the establishment elites who have a vested interest in maintaining the status quo.

  • Jon

    @Evgueni, very interesting idea at the end (and a great post all round). The problem of a better media model is funding, I think, otherwise it might already have happened. I tend towards the socialist view that, if a better quality of media system is developed, the old corporatist systems would attack and ridicule it, much as the BBC is under right-wing attack now (and it should not be taken as read that I regard the BBC well – just less bad than the others).

    Even if funding were available, I am not sure it can survive neocapitalism. Either our current version of capitalism needs to achieve the liberal ideal and achieve sustainable equality between the classes, or capitalism needs to be torn down and replaced with something better. Neither are likely in the short term, though in the long term I am more optimistic.

    A better oversight mechanism would be a good idea for the existing elite media, but how to implement it? It would be like getting turkeys to vote for Christmas. I thought it an April fools joke when notorious bully Paul Dacre [editor of the Daily Mail] was appointed governor of the PCC [Press Complaints Commission] – rather like making Bliar a Peace Envoy to the Middle East. But sadly it was true, and the nutter is still in post to this day.

    It should be borne in mind also that PCC decisions and guidelines are not binding anyway – the industry generally “agrees” to abide by them. But the newspapers can do what they want, in the end.

    What can be done in the short term? Well, I suggest:

    1. support niche media and radical journalists where you can. What that includes is up to you, but it might be a subscription to Z Magazine or Red Pepper, the purchase of books by Pilger or Curtis, or buying the Morning Star.

    2. donate or assist media awareness and lobbying projects, such as Media Lens or the Glasgow Media Group. Some progressive organisations such as Avaaz and 38 Degrees touch on media issues (I recently posted on another thread here about a call-out from 38D on Rupert Murdoch’s attempt to acquire the whole of Sky).

    Other than those things, I am not sure. Getting people in general to care about the state of the world probably requires a better media system, but to get a better media system we need more people to care about the state of the world. Which should come first?

  • Jon

    Ah, I should have mentioned one other thing in relation to the broader point about getting people involved, and interested, in the bread-and-butter of local and national decision-making. This would be decision-making in the sense of Evgueni’s post – not just taking part in elections, but learning intimately about how a country runs, and having a genuine and real say about how to change things that aren’t working.

    The thing I’d mention is to recommend you look into a proposal from a chap called Michael Albert, who has proposed a new economic model called Participatory Economics (“Parecon”). It has a lot of interesting features, but the most intriguing one for me was Balanced Job Complexes. His theory is that workplace democracy and workers councils don’t work very well, because the views of a confident creative class tend to rise to the top, and the views of an uncertain and unhappy menial class are drowned out. He suggests that by asking the confident classes to take on some menial work, and encouraging rote workers to undertake creative (“empowering”) work, class divisions can be reduced in a sustainable way.

    There’s a substantial article on Wikipedia, if anyone’s interested. I have yet to buy a book on it, but his recent talk in my local area was fascinating and inspiring.

  • Vronsky

    Michael Albert was interviewed by Bella Caledonia here:

    I haven’t had much time to get into parecon, but at the moment it seems a bit vague to me. Still working my way through ‘Limits to Growth’ and ‘The Wealth of Nature’. The revolution will have come and gone before I’ve finished doing the reading for it.

    “For books are not absolutely dead things, but do contain a potency of life in them to be as active as that soul was whose progeny they are; nay, they do preserve as in a vial the purest efficacy and extraction of that living intellect that bred them. I know they are as lively, and as vigorously productive, as those fabulous dragon’s teeth; and being sown up and down, may chance to spring up armed men.”

    – Milton, Areopagitica

  • ingo

    thanks Ruth Suhayl and Evgueni for the great posts.

    Like your media blueprint Evgueni. Have you though about the seasonally re-elected board? could these public votes be ‘jeopardised’ by influences beyond the boards control? companies agenda’s

    i.e.en masse voting, ala vodafone Heathrow, pressure from employers?

    I suppose any system that is complex has, the possibility of mistakes occuring, build into it from the start. Does this mean that small is truly beautifull? Schumacher redeemed again.

  • evgueni

    Thank you Suhayl, Roderick, Jon, Ingo for encouraging words. These thoughts have been brewing in my head for a while..

    I agree there are problems with my idea for a democratic news medium. One problem is securing sufficient funding by means that do not result in conflict of interest. I think it is possible to use advertising as a revenue source if internal decision-making is democratic and transparent. Possibly a bigger potential problem is safeguarding against co-ordinated efforts of pressure groups and SIFs. I can envisage attempts at distorting priorities through the external voting mechanisms. This would damage the perception of impartiality by the public. Still there is only one way to find out if it could work. For sure this idea would come under attack from the establishment but I am less worried about that somehow. I believe the majority are sufficiently wary of the establishment that any criticism originating from it would simply stand or fall on its own merit. It would have to be credible to stick.

    It seems to me that the existing internet based media are doing a great job of providing an alternative to MSM. Trouble is it’s mostly preaching to the converted, a minority of people who already know they won’t find the answers in the usual places and are actively looking elsewhere. I am trying to imagine a way of getting the attention of the majority who are at present put off from any kind of search for truth. This despondency I think is the result of feeling powerless to effect change, ignorance of how our society and our media really function, or both. Many are put off by the overt leftist bias or the radical tone of some alternative internet news media. I think in the eyes of these people a news outlet can only have legitimacy if it emphatically isn’t right-wing, left-wing, green or of any other ideological hue and if they can see that ultimately this impartiality is derived from its democratic way of functioning and ownership.

    Incidentally the kind of society I imagine would result after I&R and news-media-as-a-public-service became reality, is not one in which the people are actively engaged politically on all major issues just because they have access to information and are able to participate in a meaningful way. The Swiss experience points away from that. What actually tends to happen is this – the credible threat of effective action by the people serves as a check on elite interests and the normal structures of representative government. Corruption cannot take hold, the market for lobbyists is greatly diminished. It seems that most people would rather go about their daily business and leave politics to the politicians safe in the knowledge that they have ultimate recourse, should the politicians abuse their trust. That said, the Swiss are better informed on the political issues of the day and turn out at the polls more than other nations where direct democracy is not practiced.

    Further info here if by chance I got someone hooked!


  • Bobert

    Democracy? In a pig’s arse. It is just an illusion to keep the populace at large from becoming to revolting just the same as allowing betting, booze, bingo and football.

    The French found a solution in 1789 …

  • evgueni


    sorry for the delay. I was not aware of Bernhard Rappaz’s case. One thing I would say is that the Swiss have a sense of ‘owning’ their laws that is not felt elsewhere. Compliance is very high, possibly because the rule of law is not seen as something that is forced on people from above. Incidentally it has been shown specifically that tax compliance is highest in Swiss cantons where taxation and spending decisions are subject to popular referenda and/or can be challenged by Initiative. In contrast here in the UK the opposite is true. We are truly ruled from above with few opportunities for recourse. I think as a result we sympathise a lot more with those who challenge authority, even criminals sometimes.

    I think in the eyes of a Swiss person, there is an alternative to a confrontational course of action available to anyone with strong views on how society ought to function. If change is widely supported it can be brought about by mobilising for an Initiative. If the Initiative fails, the losers in the main acquiesce because they feel they lost ‘fair and square’. I guess in the eyes of most Swiss people there is no need to pit oneself against society by taking criminal action.

    That said, I do not believe that the Swiss political system is close to perfection. I am convinced that democratic MSM is as essential as true popular sovereignty is. In that regard the Swiss are scarcely more advanced than other nations. The conflicts of interest that are inherent in privately controlled, for-profit MSM are largely unresolved. This could give advantage to established interests aiming to preserve status quo with regard to policies that privilege those interests.

    I would also say that Initiative & Referendum rights combined with democratic MSM still would not give us a society that is in some widely accepted sense ‘perfect’. I guess there will always be groups and individuals with diverging interests wishing for change. The achievement of Initiative & Referendum is that it provides a realistic non-confrontational path for conflict resolution within modern society. There is no question in my mind that the Swiss model of democratic society is preferable to representative systems like the UK or the USA (at federal level). One reason stands out for me above the rest – it precludes the possibility of any wars of aggression (just imagine such a system in the UK!).

    Another reason is that it is the first political system in which popular sovereignty is implemented in practice rather than in theory only, at national (federal) level, making it extremely resilient to external and internal shocks and therefore stable in the long term. Switzerland ‘will have the last word in history’ in the sense that it will provide the blueprint for other nations’ eventual transition from unstable open-loop political systems to self-correcting closed-loop systems. Excuse the engineering jargon, what I mean is this. With the arrival of Initiative the people have won the authoring rights to the basic law of the land – the Constitution. As a form of communicating electorates’ wishes to the representatives this is far superior to elections alone. It is a much stronger and more immediate mechanism for feedback between the governed and the government (hence the analogy of closed-loop versus open-loop systems).

    Furthermore, the only conceivable way to reverse the attainment of I&R right is to convince the electorate to give it up, a decision that would have to be ratified in a referendum. Needless to say this is extremely unlikely. In actual fact the reverse trend has been taking place in Switzerland as I&R has become more accessible. So this is why I say such a system is stable in the long term. The self-correction mechanism arises from the ability of the electorate to check the influence of vested interests on the legislature and to rewrite the Constitution including the details of implementation of I&R rights such as the numbers of signatures required to trigger referenda at various levels, quorums, areas of legislation that are accessible to I&R, delegation of powers from local government to federal government and so on.

    Eventually this could lead society a step closer to ‘perfection’ when ideas of individual sovereignty start to be discussed widely. I found these ideas fascinating when I came across them in the writings of John F Knutsen (he calls these ideas Devolved Popular Sovereignty). At the heart of Bernhard Rappaz’s problem with Swiss society is the apparent conflict between individual liberty and popular sovereignty, resolved nicely by Knutsen’s proposal I think:

    Once again apologies for the length of this..


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