Tag Archives: guardian

Glints of light in our governance gloom

Attractive young Greek people used to make a politics article more enticing.  Photograph: Orhan Tsolak/Alamy

Attractive young Greek people used to make a politics article more enticing. Photograph: Orhan Tsolak/Alamy

Paul Mason is one of the few regular journalists I make a point of watching out for. He does a neat summary of the state of alternative politics in Greece and elsewhere in a comment piece featured in today’s Guardian edition.

It’s certainly worth a read, and a comment if you’re so inclined.

Good work, as always, from Paul Mason though he doesn’t take the question far enough in IMHO.The last paragraph is the important one:

“…we will know that a real new left has emerged when we begin to see its thinkers prioritise the redesign of institutions inherited from the 20th century, and the invention of new ones centred on the self, identity and structured to survive incessant change.”

I’m not that interested in terms such as “left” or “right”, they’re too exclusive for a planet of human beings.

I do totally agree that thinkers everywhere need to focus on radically redesigning institutions, not just those of the 20th century but all the way back to the 18th – when James Madison and friends emasculated notions of “democracy” to mean something very different from power in the hands of the people.

Funny that we should be coming full circle back to the Greeks, who invented the term and other governance variants such as oligarchy, aristocracy, monarchy and kleptocracy.

Their city states were undoubtedly bastions of the elite – women, the poor, the slaves and the foreign were not allowed any part in the governance system.

Nevertheless, those same elites had some cracking ideas about the dangers of elections – doomed to favour the rich, the beautiful and the most educated as opposed to the best governors or governance system – and some remedies in the form of lottery/sortition to choose political representatives at random from the eligible populous.

People are working on these ideas today – experimenting with governance systems that go way beyond elections. Syriza and friends are in the vanguard but they are not alone.

This is an all-too-rare place of hope

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Opportunities lost in Guardian/Observer global wealth stories

The Cayman Islands: a favourite haven from the taxman for the global elite. Photograph: David Doubilet/National Geographic/Getty Images

There have been some great stories and columns from the Guardian/Observer news operation over the last few days – on trillions of pounds lost to secrecy jurisdictions, drug money laundering by global banks such as HSBC and the way banks write loans by magicking money out of thin air.

The big shame, for me, is that the newspaper group doesn’t join the dots between them all, or give the deeper context that would help people see their ways through to the fundamental failures of governance underlying all the stories.

Take just the offshore trillions story, there was no reference in the piece to Nicholas Shaxson’s excellent Treasure Islands.

The book blows the lid on tax havens, or secrecy jurisdictions as Shaxson calls them, making clear how the City of London and places such as the US state of Delaware are part of a global spider’s web whose effect is to entrench the divide between a tiny, wealthy super elite and ordinary mortals. This is the essential link between the abstract billions and trillions in the Observer story and real, physical people and places.

Similarly for the drugs cartels story – there are reasons it’s fine to be part of a white-collar corporate criminal entity but not to spill green custard on a London street as part of a protest about corporate sponsors of the London Olympics. Our legal frameworks are totally out of whack.

Failing to join the dots keeps us all stupid – we have to do better. Following stories through from the bare facts to the deeper failures of governance that underpin the stories is a critical part of that – essentially the argument I lay out in Fraudcast News.

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