There’s a question we often hear: “why don’t you start a political party?” Sometimes this is genuine, and enthusiastic, but often it’s snarky, as in: “why don’t you stop sniping on the sidelines and put your ideas to the masses, who can vote for you if they like them? Then you can implement your proposals. We live in a democracy, after all.”
I thought I’d write an article in response to this, so that I can point to it, rather than having to answer the same question over and over again.
There are four main ways to look at this (let me know which one you subscribe to, and if you think there are more).
1. ‘We live in a democracy.’
Real power is held by the state, who implement the wishes of the majority of the population. Political parties write their manifestos, that members of the public read (OK, that part is pure fantasy). The public chooses between various manifestos (hmmmm…), and decides which party to vote for. The party that gains the most votes forms the government (if you’re lucky). People died so that you could have the vote, and therefore you’re obliged to use it. If there’s a problem at all with this system, it’s that the ‘first-past-the-post’ candidate wins in each constituency – a problem that can be solved if we introduce proportional representation.
2. ‘We don’t live in a democracy, because ultimate power doesn’t lie with the state.’
The state is a puppet, run by the corporate interests represented at Davos, and especially those behind the Great Reset. Our so-called democracy is utterly corrupt – awash with corporate money, corporate lobbyists and corporate jobs for politicians. How can national governments regulate multinational corporations anyway? The world is run by the people at the top of a global network of banks and corporations that are way beyond the control of governments. Governments can only implement a narrow range of policies – and even then, only policies that don’t challenge corporate profits or power.
3. ‘We don’t live in a democracy, because the state has formed a symbiotic relationship with corporations.’
This is a more subtle version of position two. Rather than states being run by corporations, there’s a symbiotic relationship between governments and the corporate sector. This is what politicians get from corporations:
Cushy positions on corporate boards.
Lobbying: corporations hire expensive lobbyists to influence politicians who regulate their sector, asking them for favours, whilst offering them money and jobs.
Legislation: the corporate-funded American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) designs legislation for US states.
Holidays on private yachts, dinner parties, personal friendships.
Shares in the corporations they’re supposed to be regulating.
Threats to take factories and jobs elsewhere to stop legislation they don’t like.
News coverage: most Western media are owned by billionaires, so they support the corporate agenda and can make or break governments.
Funding of university departments to tailor research towards corporate profit rather than the public good.
Equipment, teaching materials and corporate fizzy-drink machines in schools, to get ’em young; in the US, corporate advertising is shown to children during lessons.
[NB: the only difference between a lot of this behaviour and fraud is the law. if you can influence enough politicians to make sure your activity is legal, then it’s not fraud.]
And this is what corporations get from governments:
States allow corporations to avoid tax legally, via tax havens. Small businesses can do the same, but the amounts involved wouldn’t justify the accountants’ fees.
States don’t legislate for transparency to end illegal tax evasion, So Starbucks pay virtually nothing while the independent coffee shop across the road pays the full rate.
If they fall on hard times, then ‘too-big-to-fail’ corporations – notably banks – are bailed out with our money. Not the case with small businesses.
Governments build high-speed rail, motorways and airports that disproportionately benefit national and multinational corporations rather than local businesses.
It’s been shown many times that mixed smallholdings are more productive than large-scale monoculture. But large-scale, industrial agriculture gets all the subsidies.
There are huge subsidies for oil companies to find more fossil fuels; and no tax on aviation fuel or VAT on flights etc.
States always prefer giant corporations when it comes to government contracts.
Spending on corporate weaponry hugely exceeds any ‘defence’ requirements.
And of course there’s the state monopoly on issuing legal tender granted to the banks.
States create barriers to market entry for small businesses, with expensive licensing and regulations that are easily affordable by large corporations.
Embassies have secondees from corporations who pay their wages, and diplomats, ex-diplomats and former ambassadors are now expected to open doors for corporations abroad.
Corporate representatives are invited into government – unelected ministers or members of government committees are regularly drawn from banks and corporations.
Legislation criminalises whistleblowers and journalists who expose corporate wrong-doing – e.g. EU ‘Trade Secrets’ legislation.
[As I write, the UK government is allegedly pushing £100 million of taxpayers’ money towards Nissan – a car manufacturer, in an age when governments are ostensibly prioritising climate change.]
4. ‘It doesn’t matter who forms a government, because the system has its own momentum, that voting won’t change.’
This position is subtler still. No-one is actually in control, because the global economy has its own momentum that individual countries can’t really challenge. The idea of corporate representatives handing over bags of cash to corrupt politicians is too cartoonish to reflect reality. The reality is that if your policies don’t stimulate growth and favour the corporate sector, you’ll cause ‘capital flight’ and your country will fall down the global rankings. Credit rating agencies rate countries based on IMF / World Bank data; if they don’t focus on corporate priorities, they’re downgraded and capital flows out of their country. No-one wants to drop out of the G7 / G20 / GWhatever, in a world where conflict between countries is ultimately resolved with military force.
Even if you win an election with an agenda focusing on challenging corporate power (unlikely in a world where the mainstream media is corporate), your hands will be tied. If your policies don’t stimulate growth and attract international corporate investors, you’ll start to lose in the global competition between countries, jobs will disappear and you’ll be guaranteed to lose the next election.
Politicians, corporate CEOs & majority shareholders and senior civil servants have been exposed to mild cultural propaganda pretty much constantly, through schools and universities to media and career progression, so that the corporate agenda is seen as ‘common sense’ and any alternative views seen as ‘extremist’.
Personally, I’m a number four, with a dash of number three; but it’s only position 1 that I find naïve and unrealistic. And yet it takes so much of the time and energy of good people, who could instead be helping to build a new kind of economy that can’t be controlled from the centre. We’ll continue working to help people re-skill, to build and consume from a new kind of economy, built around a mutual credit core, rather than expecting elections to make anything but a very superficial difference.
The views expressed in our blog are those of the author and not necessarily lowimpact.org's
1Trevor Davies August 8th, 2021
I’m with you – Number 4 with a smattering of 2 and 3. I recommend this book
Scale: The Universal Laws of Growth, Innovation, Sustainability, and the Pace of Life in Organisms, Cities, Economies, and Companies
published last year as a more granular approach to our present dilemmas thab I’ve frun across elsewhere. It also jives well with ‘A Small Farm Future’ in some strange way.
2Dave Darby August 8th, 2021
Just got recommended that by someone else. It’s a sign I need to get it.
3annbeirneanimalwhisperert August 8th, 2021
Please do not ever become a political party time has proven that political parties rarely if ever keep to thier election promises once they get into power only the power of the people and the people alone can change what is happening on this planet. Politics and the economy in moribund and has been for many years.
4Mike Eaton August 8th, 2021
Dave I;m with you on this one – certainly number 4 together with a small (?) proportion of bribes, (is “Dash” actually number 5? – Dash a West African Term for “back handed payoffs – bribery”) or has somebody mentioned that all ready? Numbers 1 and 2 don’t even get a look in – talk about “pie in the sky!”
As for “Low Impact” becoming a Political Party, that is laughable – Low Impact actually to my mind does more than any Political Party would ever do without compromising itself – At least people read most things you put out and generally have reasonable discussions based on the content of your articles – OK we may not always agree with you (as a corporation rather than an individual) and thus you put ideas into peoples heads, which once there have a chance of growing. As a Political Party – if you do not wear the colours of the party I support you would probably just get ignored, which of course is why a lot of the larger corporations get away with a lot of stuff they shouldn’t! Keep ’em in the dark, don’t tell them why we are really doing these things and it will be a law before anybody has figured out what is going on and then . . . . .
No Dave certainly NOT a Political Party, just keep doing what you do so well and we will get there – albeit slowly but at least slow grinds small so everybody gets some of the good stuff!
5Marc Pell August 9th, 2021
Whether it’s in the context of political parties or not, whenever an individual gives over their power to an external authority it is a denial of intelligence. It has undermining consequences on the intelligence of the individual and also the intelligence that can operate collectively. Most of the human race operates on these principles and now it is plain to see that thousands of years of very unintelligent behaviour is wrecking havoc on the planet to the point of creating a severe existential crisis. Generally speaking, the suggestion of ‘if you don’t like things then form your own party’ has an assumption that the purpose of political parties is to dominate and control others. The whole dynamic is incredibly undermining on so many levels.
6Dave Darby August 9th, 2021
Marc – exactly. I think (and hope) that there’s a groundswell of opinion that we have to build things ourselves, rather than ask states to do things (and that states usually do the wrong things). I think improvements in community, democracy and ecology will come in spite of states, not because of them.
7Mike Eaton August 9th, 2021
Dave, Marc agree there – as has often been shown small communities that do things together – i.e the concept, the planning and the actual execution of the activity – tend to do a better job for the community concerned rather than let some unelected (and sometimes even elected) bodies do the job for them. It comes back to the old saying “If you want something done properly do it yourself (or selves)”. Call it what you will but to my mind that comprises a vested interest in that activity that others from further away do not have – why should they?
86degrees August 9th, 2021
Number 4. Today’s world is garlic not onions. Instead of one problem that is at the core of all the others many different “cloves” are put together. Corporations aren’t the bad guys. They also are doing what they have too. Imagine if Facebook went “we’ll make public all of our data, become a co-op, give our software as open source and not censor anything” They would go quickly out of business. Trying to stop the current system is naïve if not downright foolish. Building a new one on the other hand….
At least we live in a society that values democracy. Most people want their votes to count let’s hope we can make it that way. The most effective way to do this is by making economic success tied to vote. When a leader is elected because of popularity (and not corporate ties) than the economy will prosper.
At the same time there needs to be a mutualist political party ready when the economy really “takes off” Just don’t let Lowimpact become compromised (please.
9Andrew Rollinson August 12th, 2021
No one gets to the crux of these matters with such accessibility and clarity as Dave Darby. I don’t vote, for reasons 2, 3 and 4, but maybe I’d vote for him.
10Mike Eaton August 12th, 2021
Andrew whilst I agree with you on Dave’s abilities in these things and voting for him whilst is a positive point for “Lowimpact” to do so would cancel out the whole idea of “Lowimpact” NOT becoming a Political Party. To continue I can see why you don’t vote but I strongly believe everybody should vote because if you don’t you cannot complain when the so called powers that be make a mess of things again! I’m not saying you should vote for the local popular candidate but chose something more entertaining – Like the Monster Raving Looney Party – they won’t of course get in, but it spilts up the others and tells many that they are not alone in ridiculing the whole system!
11Andrew Rollinson August 13th, 2021
I understand your point. I felt angst when I first stopped voting – people died for my right to vote, etc. But the feeling has lessened over the years. I look at it this way: the whole system is corrupt and dysfunctional, with politicians as my enemy, and whoever gets in will not support the populace at all.
I refuse to give my support to such a system as should any sane person with principles. Maybe if people stopped supporting it then it would die.
Now I ignore elections totally. It is a nice feeling. When one ignores these people they cease to have any importance, for really they are imbecile charicatures who wouldn’t have the capacity to get a job in Tesco if they were not in politics. They only thrive on our giving them attention.The billionaire-owned media is a driver (of course) and stirs up interest in this circus for good reason: power and greed.
By the way, I’d only vote for Dave if he cleared up his position on that the fake news propaganda machine wikipaeda.
12Mike Eaton August 13th, 2021
I can to a certain extent understand where you are coming from and in some ways I do agree with you. However having at one stage in my life signed the “proverbial blank cheque” (in my defence I was very young and impressionable, some would say too young, we all were) to the government at the time and been well and truly “stitched up” for doing it my view is that to a certain extent the present style of government whilst certainly not the best – it worked for the old style “City States” which were little more than villages but for the numbers we have today it does not, however compared to many other systems is could be argued to be the best – so we get rid of this so called democracy and what do we get in return? A dictatorship where we are told what to do (OK some might say we are not far off that now) with no rcourse to complain – in fact complaining would be considered illegal and would bring the death penalty. I would however like to thank you for realising that many had fought and died for your right to both vote or not to as you think fit. I would not try to change your mind on that because that goes against what many did and will continue to do in the future – strange thing patriotism! Mind you that is and was the reason many actually joined up but once they get into combat that idea changes – a lot. So please stand by your principles until a better way is discovered – then we will all join you.
All the best the Walrus
13Dave Darby August 13th, 2021
Mike – our position is not that a new system will be discovered, but that we have to build / support / promote decentralised, mutually-owned institutions (including the institution of self-employment), including the types of organisation found here – https://www.lowimpact.org/economy/. We can all start to do this right away, rather than wait for a saviour or an ideal plan / blueprint / utopia. I think that mutual credit is key to developing this kind of economy, and that instead of looking for a blueprint for a new society, we focus on building, and ultimately transcending (https://www.lowimpact.org/transcender-manifesto-dil-green/) rather than overthrowing or voting.
(Andrew – I’ll never ask for your vote, but thank you. Let’s build instead – and I know that you are).
14Mike Eaton August 13th, 2021
Never say No Dave. who knows what tomorrow may bring? As for building on what we have, or have not – plausable but that strikes me as putting new wheels on an old cart – something will give one day! Why not rebuild new? As for “mutual credit” that is something we or at least I disagree on so to save argument which I doubt either would win – I just don’t like the tools of commerce and would prefer straight battering – which is not practical to my mind. Having said that I do respect the fact that you can get your head around it but please leave me out of it – thank you
15Dave Darby August 13th, 2021
Mike – rebuild new, exactly.
Mutual credit is similar to barter but with a group, on account, not just between two people.
But yes, it’s only a conversation with people who are committed to the idea at the moment – we hope to be building tools for the mainstream that are easy to use, and bring immediate benefits (and don’t require any ‘sacrifice’ or even understanding); but we won’t bring about the required change with the current money system, imo.