Douglas Carswell: Bad news for the big state … The West's political and social model is in crisis – but emerging internet technology will make it possible to survive without big government … "Until August 1914," wrote the historian AJP Taylor, an "Englishman could pass through life and hardly notice the existence of the state. [Government] left the adult citizen alone." How different it is today. From the moment he gets out of bed in the morning, an Englishman's life is overseen by officialdom. As he switches on a bedside light, the energy comes from a market supervised by the state. As he dresses, he does so in clothes imported according to official trade quotas. Government subsidises the sugar and corn in his cereal bowl. Walking out the front door, there's a good chance he steps out of a house designed to conform to state specifications. Heading off to work, there is a one-in-five chance he is off to work for government. Out of his income, by far the largest bill he must pay is not the mortgage, nor the cost of food or clothes. Rather it is the bill he must pay for government. For every £100 he earns that day, £46 will end up going to pay for officialdom. – UK Telegraph
Dominant Social Theme: The government is here to take care of YOU.
Free-Market Analysis: Is the world finally beginning to catch up to The Daily Bell? And who is Douglas Carswell, the author of this article?
He has a book coming out entitled, The End of Politics and the Birth of iDemocracy, to be published October 1. A bit of research turns up the following about Douglas:
Douglas was first elected to Parliament in 2005 by a slender 920 votes. He was returned as MP for Clacton in 2010 with a 12,000 majority. Co-author of best selling book, The Plan; 12-months to renew Britain, Douglas is an advocate of political reform. In 2009, The Daily Telegraph nominated him a Briton of the Year, and Spectator readers voted him Parliamentarian of the Year.
Douglas co-wrote "Direct Democracy; an agenda for a new model party", which the Spectator magazine described as "One of the founding texts for the new, revitalised Toryism… written by some of the brightest young Conservative thinkers".
We're not all that big on "conservatism" but the idea of the reduction of the modern Leviathan thanks to what we call the Internet Reformation is a concept we discuss regularly. It sounds like Douglas is making some of the same points. Here's more from the article:
Across much of the Western world, government has now grown to a size that would have seemed unthinkable to mainstream politicians just a generation ago. Many supposedly free-market countries now have a larger state sector than those that spent most of the past century following Marx.
Like the Marxist model, the West's big government approach cannot work indefinitely. Indeed, it is bust. The global financial crisis is not a global crisis. It is a Western crisis, one ultimately caused by the fact that Western governments have lived beyond the ability of the rest of us to pay for them.
Like the fantasist who pays for a lifestyle he cannot afford with credit cards, we have funded our big government model by borrowing. So much so that rich Western nations are in danger of growing poor.
In Greece, Spain and Portugal, interest payments on the debt now grow faster than the debt can be paid back. For all the talk of austerity, public debt in Britain under the Coalition will approximately double in just five years. In America, federal government debt is now so large every US citizen faces the equivalent of $11,000 (£6,770) in interest payments each year.
Faced with runaway debts, governments have begun to appropriate ever more wealth to pay for bloated state bureaucracies. The result is relative – and even absolute – economic decline.
In 1990, the West accounted for more than 80 per cent of global GDP. Today it accounts for less than 60 per cent. Within seven or eight years, it is likely to account for less than half.
A stagnating West has been maintaining her living standards by borrowing off the dynamic, productive non-Western world. Within the space of a generation, the West has gone from a position of global economic pre-eminence to bailout beggar.
What went wrong? We are bust financially because we are bankrupt politically. Western democracy once kept government small. Those with the kratos – "power" – were answerable to the demos – the people. And because the demos were expected to pay for the grand ideas and ambitions of those with the kratos, they generally voted to keep government small.
Politicians today might be regarded as expropriators for more government. But the legislatures and parliaments in which they sit came into being in the first place to prevent monarchs and ministers levying taxes without the consent of the people.
We've quoted so much of the article because it makes many good points. The main insight, one we endorse, is that the Internet gives people the opportunity to operate communally and individually.
As government itself falls to pieces, we have often speculated that smaller rather than larger communities might emerge. We are all in favor of this, believing that smaller, flexible social elements are the key to happiness and prosperity.
Even within the contexts of large groups, people would likely find that if they can retain communal relationships, the bigness around them would recede. It is when depersonalized bigness is given the authority of law that trouble really begins.
When people have power over their lives and input into the larger decision-making process, the alienation and destructiveness of modern society is reduced considerably.
It is interesting that though we arrived at these concepts ourselves, such disparate thinkers as Jean-Jacques Rousseau and Henry David Thoreau precede our modest insights. (Of course, we stand on the shoulders of giants and it is no great feat to anticipate that the Internet might usher in a phase of citizen democracy.)
But in fairness to our own theorizing, we've never been much about the liberating aspects of the 'Net from a MECHANICAL standpoint. We've preferred to emphasize the liberating nature of the INFORMATION on the 'Net.
As people begin to internalize how much of the superstructure of their lives has been prefabricated by elite influence, there will come a time when a critical mass of people may begin to think for themselves. They will let go of dominant social themes, perhaps, and begin to seek their own answers.
In such a situation it is certainly possible that the agrarian, even tribal, elements of social organization proposed by Rousseau or even Thomas Jefferson might surge to the fore – especially if central banking itself begins to degrade as a financial solution.
Now, we don't know if this is the type of thing that Carswell is directly suggesting but certainly his article seems to make some of these points.
As for his book, it will be interesting to find out what we he means by "iDemocracy." Best case, a mainstream reevalution of Leviathan shall have begun … and we would find that a hopeful development indeed.