I just read an article titled “Why we need to reinvent democracy for the long-term” (1). The piece is part of the BBC Future series on “what really matters in the broader arc of human history and what it means for us and our descendants”. The author of the article is rightly concerned about our growing global ecological crisis and the threat this poses to future generations. His idea of avoiding a catastrophe – his proposed reinvention of democracy – is to create a political office dedicated to representing the needs of the yet unborn.
The author’s concerns are well founded, but I don’t think much of his proposed solution. We are well past the point of only worrying about the future. The ecological crisis is already here, harming us and our children and grandchildren. Yet we keep adding to the problem, and today’s politicians seem powerless to put a stop to it. How likely is it then that the creation of a political office dedicated to the welfare of future generations would make any difference?
The ecological crisis was largely brought on by irresponsible corporate behaviour. Inconvenient scientific findings were dismissed as scaremongering, and industry regulations were fought tooth and nail. The people controlling huge companies are powerful enough to manipulate the governments that are supposed to regulate them.
We do need change, but tinkering with the system –” reinventing democracy” – won’t help. We all need to participate in public affairs. We need to recognize what is important, be able to tell fact from nonsense, and know when we are being manipulated by vested interests. We need to vote, and turf corrupt and incompetent politicians out of office. This is how democracy is supposed to work.
I think that creating an informed and politically engaged citizenry would be the most useful and necessary political “reinvention” for our own sake, and the best legacy we can leave to future generations.