Government is a much misused word these days, largely because we no longer seem to be ‘governed’ as such. We are more ‘managed’ than governed – and by ‘managed’ I really mean conned.
Politics, as we have known it, is over. The only problem is that the politicians don’t yet know it. Or if they do, they’ll wait until absolutely no-one votes before they accept they have no mandate. That might take 30-40 years, but if we keep going in the direction we’re now headed, the day will come.
Of those registered to vote aged 18-24, barely 40% turned out in 2015. Those aged 25-34 shaved in at just above 50% of those eligible. The numbers don’t start to look respectable until you look at the over-50s. Even then, the total turnout in 2015 – across all ages – was 65%. These numbers had changed, but barely, since 2010.
You don’t have to be a genius to guess what’s likely to happen when the baby-boomer generation dies out. Once total turnout dips significantly below 50%, it will be very hard to see how any individual party could credibly claim a mandate and unashamedly present themselves at Buckingham Palace. Maybe 70-year-old King William V won’t even bother sending for them.
Meanwhile, to see them scrabbling after ideological scraps in the centre ground where left collides with right is to witness a fight to the death. George Osborne is no-one’s idea of a great Chancellor. But would you vote to have Ed Balls replace him? (If you would, I’d stop reading now if I were you).
So who will emerge as winners in this mortal combat? Hopefully, we, the people who are, after all, only spectators.
Ideology is dead in the dust. All political theorists of the past 150 years have been exposed as either simply wrong or as charlatans. When everyone comes to their senses, a leader might emerge who sees that what is required is a sensibly regulated form of capitalism.
Capitalism is not an ideology. No-one invented it or wrote it down. It is simply the way people behave when left to their own devices. It has been around for as long as man has traded with man – thousands of years, in other words – and has yet to fail, due to the extremely smart human ability to adapt to an ever-changing world. (That is not to ignore, by the way, the current misery we endure due to corrupt banking and bad governance).
Communism and socialism, on the other hand, are the result of people who thought/think they know better than the rest of us how we should organise our affairs and spend our money. Unfortunately, in every country where their ideology was fully imposed the populace had to be imprisoned, tortured and murdered into acceptance.
And then it failed.
There is no doubt that capitalism fabulously enriches a minority. But in this respect, it is no different to the way the communist hierarchy worked, with their Dachas, chauffeur-driven limos and endless vodka and caviar. Where do we suppose all these fantastically wealthy Russian oligarchs got their billions from?
Arguing along these lines with a young friend recently, he defended communism on the grounds that it was “meant to look after the poor”.
The key word here is “meant”. Yes, communism was meant by its theorists to provide an egalitarian world where everyone was equal and had equal provisions. The distance between theory and reality was 100 million deliberate deaths in 80 years. Nothing in history compares to that. Absolutely nothing.
The irony the left wing has to face is that capitalism has provided more freedom and more wealth for more people than any collectivist theory. Which is why even China is allowing some aspects of it to invade, and why Cuba is loosening the state’s hold over enterprise.
The by-products of capitalism can be rancid. But without it, without the Industrial Revolution, without Empire, without universal education and the flowering of enterprise and ambition that sprouted from all of those things, you and I would still be working in fields, grubbing for food and dependent for our livelihood on some robber baron. Capitalism freed us.
Communism, on the other hand, took the overwhelming majority of its subjects back to medievalism. It got started in a blaze of glory but had clearly failed within 80 years of its inception. Thousands of years after it started, capitalism continues to thrive and evolve.
We who are alive and sentient in the 21st century are fortunate to live in an age where we can identify the corrupt and unstable outer fringes of capitalism while understanding that it is the only system that works for the majority.
This provides us with the opportunity to strip away all ideological thinking and get on with the task of providing a framework in which natural human behaviour can thrive while the weakest in our society are protected.
To do this, we can elect a board of directors and a chairman. (They can keep the titles of cabinet minister and Prime Minister if they want. I don’t really care.) With modern technology as quick and easy as it is, we could have a virtual shareholders’ ‘meeting’ and voting on executive performance each year.
That way, we might be happy to see our affairs being ‘managed’ in a real sense, without fearing that we are, at the same time, being conned.