A Better Form of Government

Nothing serves us better to demonstrate the inadequacies of our capitalist democracies than the election of Donald Trump to the highest office in the most powerful nation on Earth. His unsuitability for the job, any job above that of an unskilled laborer, is abundantly clear from what he says and how he says it, yet he was elected in a free and fair process.

Nothing serves us better to demonstrate the inadequacies of our capitalist democracies than the corralling of 90% of a nation’s money into the coffers of 1% of the population. The function of currency is to facilitate trade in goods and services yet it is openly used to distort the media services, and corrupt politicians, judges and law enforcement agencies.

The fact these two failings of democracy were foretold by the Greek philosophers 2,500 years ago has done nothing to prevent the bloody evolution of nations under the rule of monarchs, dictators, and religious leaders of various hues, from becoming our history. We have reached this point with first, second, and third world nations administered variously by democracies and dictatorships only to find the most advanced in terms of military might and highest living standards has, at its masthead, an incompetent who abjures science and holds his electorate in complete disregard.

The temptation to look back to see what went wrong, is strong, but let’s resist. Let’s look forward; let’s see how we can put the obviously wrong to rights and make the world a better place. Two words come to mind: sortition and assets. The first, sortition, to prevent misrule; the second, assets, to prevent misappropriations.

Sortition

Simply defined sortition is the choosing of officials by lot. Rather than have our officials elected through the ballot box, engendering the circus that is the media feast in which false promises and corrupt practices thrive, we draw straws. Using a process similar to that of the British and American jury selection, a diverse group of people are notified of their impending duty to serve in the administration of the nation. The larger the group the greater the diversity; the greater the diversity, it has been established, the greater the intelligence. In her paper “Democratic Reason: the Mechanisms of Collective Intelligence in Politics,” Hélène Landemore, Assistant Professor at Yale, pulls together a collection of works on the subject of democracy and the benefits of collective reason. Following the arguments presented by other worthies from Aristotle’s Rhetoric, to Scot Page’s How the Power of Diversity Creates Better Groups, Firms, Schools, and Societies, it appears that Intelligent Diversity has proved to be a far better way to solve problems than the collective intelligence of experts. Collectively experts bring little value over that of the one because experts are similar – they are similarly educated and similarly experienced and are, in effect, more of the same. A group drawn by lot on the other hand can be as dissimilar as sheep shearers to cardinals. Each member brings a differing perspective thus collectively forming a wider view. It is this wide view – this diverse intelligence – that best serves to make the wisest decisions.

Assets

A nation’s assets are in the land it encompasses and the people who live there. The value of the land increases with infrastructure, water management, and the extraction of minerals, while the value of the people increases with education and the maintenance of good health. Its currency is used to facilitate the exchange of goods and services the products of which, along with foreign reserves, add to the nation’s wealth.

Should any of a nation’s assets fall into disuse it becomes a poorer place. For this reason we must keep our roads and ports, and our health and education, in good repair. Failure to repair our roads results in potholes, slowing the traffic, allowing other nations to overtake us. Failure to maintain good health and improving education slows our mobility of labour, allowing other nations to take over the markets. Money, too, must remain in good use to lubricate the processes upon which the nation thrives. Should the money seep away from general circulation the machine slows, much as an engine overheats and slows when there’s an oil leak, and keeps slowing while the money decreases until it seizes solid, making it very difficult to restart. Recent austerity policies adopted by some administration to limit the loss of oil merely overheats the little that remains. Engines, like national economies, require a very precise level of lubricant: too much it spills into the wrong places; too little it dries the bearings and slows the wheels.

The management of currency then is vital to the health of the nation. It has to be circulating. It serves no purpose locked in empty buildings or unused land or vaults or under mattresses. Money has to be out there, working, or it is of no value to the nation. It perhaps needs to be remembered that money belongs to the nation that created it. It is not for the sole use of an individual or an institution or a company that accumulated it: it belongs to the nation to be used by that nation. Money not in use must therefore be brought back into use to prevent overheating.

A better way to govern then is to harness the intelligence of cognizant diversity to manage a nations assets to ensure they remain in use. Sortition goes a long way towards achieving diversity by the selection of groups to decide policy. This works only if the groups are informed by experts, much as a jury is presented with information by advocates in the courtroom. A group drawn by lots presented with the pros and cons of various economic policies are less likely to decide to adopt austerity in the face of a shrinking economy than a political party seeking re-election. Similarly a group encompassing a wide range of ages and incomes is more likely to adopt a health program for the common good than that of ministers subjected to the overtures of drug company lobbyists.

The management of money revolves around taxation so policies adopted here have profound effects on all aspects of life within a nation. Modern thinking is moving away from taxing income, which inhibits spending, seeking instead to tax assets, which discourages all forms of hoarding. Thomas Piketty’s Capital in the 21st Century advocates such policies but the chances of a ballot box dependent government adopting such radical changes seem slim. A group drawn by lot on the other hand would have no such inhibitions when presented with all we have learned in 300 years of the ever changing backdrop of our economies.

The actual management of government departments must of course remain in the hands of those best suited to the job. In Donald Trump we have a mind blowing example of the result of poor selection from the ballot box. Democracy, that is government of the people by the people, ought to be better served by the majority vote than it is but, term limits, media manipulation, and money, all distort the process. Let’s by all means choose from volunteers those best suited to administer government but let them be chosen by juries isolated from external influences. Government can then continue, much as it does now, by well informed civil servants, overseen by an executive best suited for the job, doing the daily work but in a manner dictated by policy determined by intelligent diversity.

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Meira III – The Gilgamesh Syndrome

sandLMeira III has become long overdue due, in part, to distractions in world events but more so to the increasingly obvious need for radical change to the capitalist democracies predominate in first world nations. Why should that effect a work fiction? Because Meira is our paragon of common sense unhindered by preconceptions and conformity. From the time Christopher Jordan first realised that the Ancients had good working knowledge of solar energy he knew established historians would never accept his conclusions. Rather than combat the existing order he decided to by-pass it with credible fiction which we centred around an heroine with exceptional powers – Meira.

Unlike the unbelievable sock, bam, pow, of the American superheroes Meira is a work in progress – she grows in skills and wisdom as her adventures carry her ever nearer to her destiny. She grew from the angry young woman in Book I, Looking for Father, to the adventuress harnessing the power of the oceans in Book II, The Seahorse.Tablet_V_of_the_Epic_of_Gligamesh

In Book III, The Gilgamesh Syndrome she progresses to the heiress proper – ultimately fulfilling her role and accepting the huge responsibility descending upon her.

While looking for answers in the ancient city of Aleppo is she caught up in terrorist activity but rescued by agents of her old enemy The Federation of Fossil Fuel Purveyors – FFFP. She returns to Mesopotamia, this time to Damascus, becomes entangled in the war raging there and is whisked away to southern Iran where a hidden city has been revealed by a commercial mining group. It is a staggering find of far greater value than of the city she visited in the Karakorum Mountains in Book I, and harnessing more power than the Sea Horse of Book II.

With her old friends, Ben and Peter, to help her, and her old enemy Commander Conway to protect them, she studies the architecture of the living city and the recorded texts only she can understand.

In Part II of Book III Meira is armed with knowledge of the Ancients stretching back to 100,000 BCE.

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Selling Fear

sandLOnly murder works for crime novels and only fear works for sales. The reason purveyors of Snake Oil, Cure All Nostrums, and Insurance Policies have been around for such a long time is because they rely on fear to carry their sales pitches. We the people appear to have learned little or nothing of their fear mongering or, if we have, we’re not prepared to risk ignoring them.

At first glance the death insurers seem the most cynical – ‘Give us your money now and we will see you are buried well later,’ or, ‘Don’t let your death be a burden to your loved ones.’ Better, one would think, to keep the money for those who inherit to decide how you are to be remembered but that only works if you think. A worse example must be the warmongers. These are the folks who buy into the armament business and then goad us into war, or the threat of war, to ensure the products of their investments are in demand. The warmongers are bad all right but the worst of the worst it turns out are the sophists vying for high office. Here we see fear mongering at a new level – at a cynically false level of high promise that can never be realized. How could it? How can those stump pumpers leaning on the lecterns of the presidential candidates debate defeat the radical Muslim Jihadists? They can try with guns and bombs and draconian immigration procedures but we know, those of us who are impervious to the rhetoric of fear mongers, know that being a Muslim isn’t being a soldier or a cleric – it’s an idea. Just as Christianity, Judaism, Buddhism, Hinduism  . . . are all ideas. We also know, we who hold back the reptilian cortex long enough to think, know that defeating an idea requires another idea – a better idea.

Most of the folks on those debate stages this month would claim Christianity, or Judaism, as their ideas and can, by virtue of the wonders their god can be deemed to perform, see that guns and bombs are the answer – which is astounding given the centuries of persecution of the Jews because they are still with us. Not that Christians have always enjoyed lives of milk and honey. European history literally drips in the blood of Baptists, Catholics, Lutherans , Protestants . . . and the British Isles have seen more than its fair share of blood letting from the Shannon Estuary to Scotland’s Scapa Flow.

They’re all still here. These separators of mankind’s ideas are still here. Not one has been defeated by pike or sword, bayonet or bullet, nuclear bombs or gas ovens. If they are all still here why are these reptilian fear mongers cluttering up the debate stages still banging the same drum?

Perhaps because, “I will protect our country,” is an easy sell because it’s packed with fear. Try selling, “I will educate your children so they can see what I see. I will teach them about ideas and ideals and wisdom and the power of truth. I will unlock their minds so they might have lives so much better than yours.” No fear in there and it would require the listener to attend for nearly half a minute. That’s not the American way. The American way is short, not more than five seconds, ‘War on Drugs,’ or ‘From my Cold, Dead, Hand,’ or ‘Electric when You want It, Gas when You need It.’ The latter is a little long but seems not to have hindered Chevy’s sale of the Volt. The point though is the elimination of thought. They are ready-made conclusions right in line with the American education system and they work. They work as the Bible and the Koran work – ready-made easy to understand guides to the entry to heaven. They fall down though when the recipient learns to read – a good reason for not teaching it? A sharp reader quickly sees conflict and controversy in those tomes and is in immediate danger of being lost to the cause – worse, he might spread the word. It was always better to take off his head than risk danger to the system. We saw plenty of that in medieval Europe and see it now in the modern Middle East. Our modern candidates are undeterred – they’re going to stick to tradition. They’re going to shoot down planes, bomb things and people too, but no boots on the ground because we have learned from Vietnam, Afghanistan, Iraq, and Libya – except for few advisers that is. I’m trying to remember now when advisers first went to Vietnam.

There is one exception out there amid the nomination hopefuls in the form of Bernie Sanders. He talks of ideas and, heresy of heresies, education. Can you imagine anyone seriously attempting national candidature talking of education? Who cares? Leave it to the private sector – roll out the original sophists, teachers who taught what they were paid to teach, as was done 2,500 years ago in Sophocles’ Greece. They learned back then that private schools were a bad idea. People came to understand the importance of a genuine broad education and in some parts of the world the the lessons are retained but not in the US. In the US an education has to be bought by the parent who understands exactly what the child is to be taught and the results are clear. Business before people. War is big business.

The same applies to the religions where the child is taken into the fold early to establish a belief template in its formative years. We saw it in Northern Ireland when sixteen year old Protestants debated with their Catholic contemporaries. The polarization in ones so young was horrible to witness. Although the problem still exists in Ireland it has much less traction in those now more informed societies.

Muslim teachings though are falling on the ears of the less informed, and poorly shod, leaving them with no other values. This is where the corrections need take place. This is well within the power of the administrations. No need to stamp on the culture; open the doors to alternatives. Sanders can see it and I suspect many others can see it but the fear of failure overwhelms the others. Selling education on the stump equates to political suicide unless, unless fear is introduced into the equation. How about, ‘Russian Ed Trumps US Ed, Korean Ed trumps Russian Ed.’ Here’s a punchy one: ‘Learn now, or learn later – you decide.’

 

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