Restoring (Some) Integrity in Politics

Politics as the overwhelming mass of us experience it — worldwide to a very great degree — is deeply and fundamentally broken. We, the people, get to express a vote once every N years, after which politicians lie, cheat and steal, do and say pretty much anything they want in the service of party and getting said party re-elected, with an appalling lack on consequence or accountability. This is fundamentally a systems problem.

The question is: Where can/should we intervene in the functioning of this system to effect rapid, deep and lasting change for the better? — where ‘better’ decreases the reality-gap between elected and electorate.

Here’s a modest proposal:

Ban political parties.

Require all politicians to run for election, participate in parliament, etc. as individuals. That means fund-raising, campaigning… everything. Any hint of collusion between individuals and all involved get banned from politics for life. Yes, demanding the end of the old-slow AIs called Political Parties would necessitate some constitutional changes. So be it.

I believe this would solve a huge range of the problems we see in the discord/disjunct between civil life and our so-called ‘leadership’ caste. I do not believe for an instant that banning political collectives would solve all the problems manifested by representative democracy, but I have a suspicion it would bring about an order-of-magnitude improvement in the expression of civic will in governance.

Political parties tend to become self-feeding behemoths in their own right, and the politicians who serve them are too often required to abandon their own judgement, ethics and beliefs in favour of party collectivised consensus/compulsion in order to retain their own relative power-base/position/influence within the party. Far too much energy/time gets eaten up by party political jockeying rather than expended on the real job of country/polity leadership (service to the electorate).

On the other side, a party is more readily co-opted by external vested interests than a mass of individuals. I don’t claim that individuals are not corruptible/co-optable — silly notion! — but that the relative harm that results from a single, or even several, corrupt/misguided individual politicians is orders of magnitude less, and vastly more easily managed, than the corruption to purposes against the public interest of an entire political party.

I’d imagine it might mean going back to electing politicians on a constituency basis (in places like SA where that has been abandoned) but that’s no bad thing either. It means that people everywhere know who to scrag when governance goes pear-shaped. Or perhaps constituencies are not needed — other systems of electing political leaders can certainly be envisioned, though there lurk deeper questions concerning their practicality and transparency.

But the issue remains: We justifiably desire much, much better performance from our systems of governance. What are the most minimal interventions in that system that might effect positive change? Getting rid of political parties, it seems to me, would be a healthy start, and have the very important property that, even if such change fails to bring about the desired reformation, it seems unlikely to result in any real harm to the Body Politic.