change crisis Key Article legacy parties politics problems society

Floundering on the Rocks of Policy

While it is increasingly obvious that what we are doing isn’t going to work, what to replace it with is an even bigger unknown.


The Heart needs its Soul

The left has lost touch with its soul, and until it finds it again we are all the losers.  From Berlin to The Baltic, from Scotland to San Francisco, the confusion is manifest, and the result is the political failure we witness around us. To the extent that there is any resurgence of left leaning politics, such as in Spain and Greece, those forces hark back to 20th century models and ideals that are unmodernised, and they are doomed to fail, if not electorally, then in office.

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Hominoids only emerged from the Savannah to cover the world after they adopted promises as the basis of their societies. In a material world, where money is used as a replacement, is rediscovering the importance of promises a leap too far for most of us?

There is something that humans before the “economic era” knew and understood, a truth that we find hard to grasp with our economic minds: human society is based on promises, not money. The primary social promise is of mutual safety, given to every member of the society in the form of help and care, available in the event of need, and provided as service. That promise of social safety is not conditional, but it does anticipate that in return each member will make their best personal contribution.

Certainly the humans of a few thousand years ago, and, I would wager, even our great-grandparents, would have unconsciously known that their society was bound together by mutual promises. So basic was this fact that it need not have been consciously examined. That a promise of mutual safety was exchanged for mutual contribution was inherent, instinctive, and bound into the fabric of common understanding, as it has been since the dawn of our species.

If there is one thing that will help you understand our troubled predicament today, it is this: that we are dependent on others, to whom we are bound by promises, not money. If that jars with your sense of reality, you are not alone. If you recognise its absence in the world around you, you are also not alone. Let’s try to understand why.

Democracy regions Scotland

Democracy Mockery : the Smith Commission

SEE_LocalDem_2It’s no wonder nothing fundamental ever changes in this country, it seems that we have completely forgotten how to do it. This year’s referendum in Scotland, and the ensuing Smith Commission mess, has only served to reinforce the image of our political process as a principle-free game for a disconnected elite. That image is well-deserved, and founded on scientific observation.

The Smith Commission highlights the enormous democratic deficit we face: a bunch of politicians get together behind closed doors to negotiate amongst themselves what they think should be devolved from national responsibility to one regional parliament. They are effectively rewriting our constitution in a few hastily arranged secret meetings, and without consultation. What will be offered has not been reviewed by the electorate, let alone selected by them. Any notion that the settlement will have been democratically endorsed will be stretching the truth into dangerous realms of delusion.

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This Crisis

Across the industrialised world we face a set of problems, that are destined to be the problems of all people across the whole world.

The affordability of the social-democratic State is in question, particularly in a low growth and resource constrained world. The inevitable time constraints on resolving this issue means that if it is not solved with progressive ideas, it will be resolved otherwise – most likely with a collapse into chaos, followed by an authoritarian (likely right wing) response.

Demographic and environmental pressures only serve to compress the urgency of this challenge.

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Malaise afoot

There is malaise foot, people sense it, and without sensible alternatives they will increasingly gravitate to the simplest and most self-protective options that are available. This political malaise has a short horizon, even if any one of a dozen potential powder-kegs does not go off to shorten it further (a debt crisis in next 3 years being the most likely).
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Living life, private or public, off debt is an instinctively unstable position, and we are all aware of our deep financial, social, and environmental debt – for which we have no repayment plan. Individuals in this situation commonly, and understandably, abscond, turn criminal, and rage against the system. For individuals in a decent society we have the rule of law to provide a way out of such situations, for whole societies there is no such rail to lean against. This is the story of the evolution of human societies, and the unfit pass into history.

Without the appearance of a practical, credible and safe path forward, today’s advanced societies are pressing into a breach left open by the failure of both centre-left and centre-right politics to apprehend the dire need for such a path.

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A devastating critique

Nearly every facet of modern western civilisation is based on a simple premise: that the individual makes better decisions than a group. What if that is untrue?

The entire neoliberal construct (limited government, free enterprise, and personal freedom) is predicated on the notion of the individual as ascendant to the group. The dominant feature of this philosophy is this distain for the group as a quality. Government should be limited because groups make poorer decisions than individuals, private markets excel because they rely on the decisions of brilliant individuals, and personal freedom is phrased in the format of freeing the individual from limits imposed by the group.

Yet what we know of ourselves, what we can see around us, and what we know about evolution, all attest to this as fallacy. We need our groups, our families, our communities, our markets, for our individual sanity and happiness. We evolved as groups, that is our foundational and inescapable inheritance. We cannot think ourselves into solitary individuality, we know we are individual members of groups.

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Service, not material, is the basis of human groups

Human society, as it is currently configured, is unaffordable.


Because service, not material, is the true basis of human groups.

Membership of a group costs every individual member of the group a little something, an intangible, and not the same thing from every person, but something from everyone.

The group returns something to every individual member, an intangible, a feeling of belonging, and a sense of safety, and a contribution towards their individual happiness.

You cannot pay people to be a member of a group, people agree to be a member of the group knowing that they will make a contribution in return for their membership.

If you pay someone to be a member of the group, you automatically introduce the notion that their intrinsic value is not sufficient for group membership, you instantly degrade the very groupness of that group, and undermine the individual’s worthiness. The group can provide a service, a kindness, without the intrinsic value of the member coming into question.

Think about being asked around to a friend’s house for dinner: if, when you arrive at the front door, your host gives you £20 with a smile on their face, what would run through your mind?

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Crisis of Living Cost

It’s not unreasonable to define the crisis we are in as a ‘cost of living crisis’. It costs too much to live an ordinary life: it costs too much money, it costs too much freedom, and it costs too much planet.

  1. One solution to something costing too much is to earn more to cover those costs. So we could try and pay ourselves more money, grant ourselves more freedom, and find some more planet.
  2. The alternative would be to reduce the cost of living. To make ordinary life cost less money, include more freedom, and take less planet.
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Conscious_Democracy_BOTH-01The survival of BOTH – both our social group and our individual uniqueness are part of the same evolutionary forces that led homo sapiens to this point. We must understand that inescapable inheritance in order to fashion systems and structures for our societies that will give us the best opportunity for sustainable success.

We have published this one page guide to the evolution of human nature and how it can guide us to develop our social safety services and our economy in ways that will be naturally aligned with our origins, and most likely to succeed.

Download the PDF from this link: The Survival of BOTH. Enjoy.