Politicians are snake oil sellers. When they're seeking election, they promise definitive cure-alls. David Cameron instructed us to judge him on two promises; his ability to cut immigration, and his ability to rid the UK of its deficit. Now that neither promise has been fulfilled, like any good snake oil seller, he's asking us to give his miracle cure more time to work. The truth is that immigration cannot be cut without a structural overhaul of the system and of our relationship with the EU. And the deficit isn't going to vanish unless our entire economy is radically transformed - as it currently stands, Britain simply cannot function without ever increasing debt.
Why do we continue to rely on a political system that only ever seems to let us down? A system that gives us the worst result, whichever way we look at it. As citizens we do not have any real say in the running of our country. A cross on a ballot paper every four years is hardly a true expression of our will. As employees or business managers, we constantly have to deal with new laws and changes in red tape for the simple reason that politicians meddle to leave their mark. As patients, we have no say in how our health service is run and cannot stop the current, ever increasing back door privatisation of the NHS. As pensioners we cannot prevent a money hungry Chancellor like Gordon Brown suddenly deciding to tax pension funds. As parents we see teachers at their wits end with constant changes in education policy, and young children stressed by centrally imposed targets and assessments.
In return for so little power we elect a small group of people who often have no expertise in government to run a country. In no other field of endeavour would we allow someone with no experience to take control of something so important. Ministers who take decisions that affect the lives of millions need have absolutely no previous experience of, or interest in, the matters governed by their ministry. Apart from some freelance work for the Daily Telegraph, George Osborne's only job has been working for the Conservative Party. Health Secretary, Jeremy Hunt, previously had a career of varying success as an entrepreneur, but no experience in medicine or running an organisation the size of the NHS.
We give up so much power in return for being told what to do by people whose only qualification for the job is that they like telling people what to do. Seems like a pretty raw deal.
Throw in the fact that this small group of people have their political party bills paid for by wealthy organisations and individuals who have vested interests to protect, and the deal starts to look even rougher. Then add in the fact that in recent years we've seen incontrovertible evidence of the lack of moral calibre among our representatives - many of them were quite happy to pad or outright fiddle their expenses. It truth, it doesn't seem like we're getting much of a deal at all.
Athenian democracy gave every eligible citizen a direct say in every decision that faced the city state. We trust technology with our money, our tax returns, and other important interactions with the government. Why don't we trust it with our votes? Let's do away with the self-serving political class and usher in true democracy by giving ourselves a direct say in the governing of our nation. Despite the efforts of successive governments to neuter it, we still have a highly effective Civil Service that handles the day-to-day running of the country. We do not need a political class interfering with what they do.
We could leave the running of each government department to experts. Rather than seeking to fill the statute books with new legislation, we only change the law when we need to. That need could be driven either by the Civil Service proposing a law, or by any citizen collecting, say, 50,000 digitally certified signatures. When a new law is proposed, an independent panel of experts is tasked with investigating the implications and publishes a report to inform the electorate before the matter is voted on. We trust the wisdom of the crowd to give us the right result.
This may seem like a far-fetched fantasy, but the technology already exists to make it a reality. There may be those who argue that most people don't have the time or inclination to vote on legislation. I would say that society doesn't need so many laws, and I would also say that argument underestimates the interest people have in their own affairs. In the history of political reform, be it the move from a feudal system to nascent democracy, or the long journey to universal suffrage, the incumbent, vested interests have always stoked the fear of what might happen if people were given too much power.
With voter driven legislation already a reality in countries such as Switzerland, New Zealand and certain US States, I believe it is only a matter of time before people around the world take a direct interest in the running of their nations. It may take one hundred years, but at some point we will have the power to directly vote on whether to go to war in Iraq, introduce the Poll Tax, bail out the banks, or leave the EU.
Politicians have, and will continue to, let us down. It seems the old adage is true; when you want a job done properly, you have to do it yourself.