13 April 2008

A New Era in Politics

Amid all the noise of the last few weeks, one minor story marks, for me, the beginning of the end of the old politics and the start of a new era.

The old politics is marked by belief in democracy. Voters complain about politicians incessantly, and, from time to time, vote against them. Unfortunately this entails voting for other politicians, and so has minimal effect.

In the new era, people see through the machinery of democracy and the abstraction of party, and hold politicians as individuals personally responsible for their misdeeds.

The sign of this new era, is, of course, the campaign to "bar" Alistair Darling from every pub in the country. Forget all the grand theories about Government, Politics, Budget; what has concretely happened is that Alistair Darling has forced various retailers of alcoholic beverages to pay more for their stock. Certain of those retailers have announced that they will decline to do business voluntarily with the man who did this.

It is my belief, alluded to previously, that we have far more influence over government in the course of our ordinary activity than we do as explicit participants in the political process. This is hardly a new idea; leftist revolutionaries have always known it, hence their emphasis on the Trade Union movement, or the mob.

This is only the beginning, though. It challenges one part of the great fallacy of politics: the part that says that the way to influence government is by participating in the political system. Imitating the publicans and ignoring the system is an advance, but they are still caught in the other part of the fallacy: the part that says that what matters are the decisions of a few famous people at the top of the hierarchy. In fact, the system of government (as opposed to the political system) has a position and a momentum of its own (as I discussed last month) and putting even direct pressure on the system's figureheads will have limited effects. The principle which is being applied to Alistair Darling needs to be applied to every functionary of the state who turns up with a badge or a uniform and makes our lives less pleasant.

Now, maybe some of these people are actually helping us. The refuse collector who leaves behind a second bin cannot be deterred without the end result being that the first bin is left behind also. That is one of the great benefits of this approach, that it distinguishes between the concrete complaints about what the state does and the endless whining about what the state doesn't do.

At present, the state employees most at risk of being threatened by the public are those who actively support the most state-dependent: the benefit officers, the social workers, the nurses in A&E on a Saturday night. If it becomes the norm that state workers can be prevented from doing their jobs by direct public opposition, both sides will benefit. The underclass will become more supportive of their servants or else will suffer the consequences, while the victims of the state -- the people with fixed addresses and jobs and bank accounts and something to lose -- will have some measure of protection from the persecution they currently face at the hands of "the system".

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