Today, The Guardian published an article from writer and activist George Monbiot seeking to demystify and critique neoliberalism, the prevailing economic doctrine of the last 50 years.
You can read it here. It’s a very good piece. My only small gripe is that it doesn’t fully explore one very important fact: that the system of government that ultimately prevails under neoliberalism will inevitably be oligarchy masquerading as democracy, and any electoral system underpinning such a system of government will inevitably become nothing more than a facilitator of oligarchy that actively prevents actual democracy occurring.
This is one of the most urgent problems we face as a species, not just in the UK and the US but around the world. Monbiot correctly states in his piece: “It’s not enough to oppose a broken system. A coherent alternative has to be proposed.” This is no more true than when applied to our broken electoral system and system of government (broken if one accepts that the goal of each is, and always should be, actual democracy).
And yet, last time I checked, George remains one of the ‘you must go out and vote‘ crowd at general election time, even though, as acknowledged in his piece, people who don’t engage at the ballot box “feel, often correctly, they have no voice or role to play in the political establishment”.
How could you not feel that way, when you understand that the system is set up so as to ensure that only one of two establishment parties can ever form a government or call the shots in coalition, and each will always be answerable to the oligarchs, regardless of how progressive and well intentioned the new man or woman at the helm may personally feel inclined to be?
The reality is that as well as having an alternative to a broken system for when it dies, you also have to be actively trying to either put that system out of its misery or fix what is broken about it so that it becomes fit for purpose. If you simply engage with that system as it is and expect it to reform itself, you’re going to be disappointed. Unfortunately, that is all that putting one’s faith in the likes of Jeremy Corbyn or Bernie Sanders when they snap in to focus amounts to as things stand.
Most proposed reforms of our electoral systems either do little to address this problem or are completely unachievable all the while the only parties calling the shots have nothing at all to gain from implementing them. Proportional Representation in the UK for example. PR is not seen as a democratic pre-requisite but as an arguable democratic improvement. As such, calls for it can always be paid lip service to then roundly ignored by those who have the power to make it happen but nothing to gain from doing so. Why on earth would they do anything else?
Until such time as it is possible to formally reject all that is on offer at the ballot box in a binding manner, thus finally giving a voice to the disaffected silent majority who currently either don’t vote at all or begrudgingly vote tactically for the lesser of several evils at elections, nothing is likely to change.
A formal, binding #NoneOfTheAbove option on ballot papers remains the logical, systemic starting point for democratising any corrupt system of government. Mainly, because it is achievable. It must be possible, in a supposedly democratic system built upon the idea of people consenting to be governed (by voting – a formal act), for people to withhold that consent formally if they so choose, and in a way that can affect the outcome if the majority do so. Ballot spoiling and abstaining are informal acts that in no way equate to this. #NOTA is the only thing that does. It can therefore be shown that NOTA is 100% essential in any system claiming to be truly democratic.
If enough people understood this and were calling for it, NOTA would eventually become an inevitable government concession to keep the peace, just as votes for women and all manner of democratic advancements have before it. Then, and only then, with the prospect of mass public rejection and the power that comes with that, will it be possible for progressive politicians and parties to truly put the general population and society as a whole first, ahead of their corporate puppet masters. And only then will it be possible to put forward any meaningful opposition or alternative to the cult of neoliberalism.
The bottom line is this: Corbyn/Sanders or no Corbyn/Sanders – NOTA remains the leverage point at which we will start to truly turn things around. I look forward to George and others one day finally concurring with me on this and joining the movement.
You can find out more and get involved here.