A Bottom-Up Solution to the Global Democracy Crisis

Before the “no” vote on Scotland’s independence, The New York Times, carried a post by Neil Irwin in the Upshot making the point that the then upcoming vote “shows a global crisis of the elites.” He argues that the independence drive reflects “. . . a conviction — one not ungrounded in reality — that the British ruling class has blundered through the last couple of decades.” He also thinks that this applies to the Eurozone and the United States to varying degrees, and is “. . . a defining feature of our time.”

Irwin then updated his first post last night, expanding it and recognizing the victory of the “no” votes in the referendum. His new post did not add anything essential to his “global crisis of the elites” diagnosis, so the references and quotations below come solely from his pre-vote post. But the points made apply equally well to his update.

To summarize his argument, for decades now, the elites in major modern, industrial nations have committed leadership blunders and created great discontent among the citizens of their nations, to the point where their polices have contributed to damaging their economies seriously, and the rise of popular resistance embodied in extremist parties and independence movements. Elites have had vast power, but have not lived up to their responsibilities to serve the people of their nations. Discontent with their actions and results is so high that many are questioning the legitimacy of the very governing institutions that claim to serve them, and are exhibiting a greater and greater willingness to do something about these institutions and the policies that they and the elites are generating. Scotland is but one example of that, and his implication is that more examples are in the offing.

It’s significant, some might say even remarkable, that Irwin’s article appeared in The New York Times, since it is a flat out criticism of elite leadership over a number of decades and a warning to elites to improve their performance or deal with the consequences. But I think it still misses the most important question. That question is whether there is a global crisis of elites or a global crisis of democracies? I’m afraid I think that the crisis of elite leadership is only a symptom of the underlying cause of a broader global crisis of democracy.

The Global Crisis of Democracy

Think about it. Irwin is describing a situation in which the elites have been failing their citizens for decades now, following neoliberal economic policies that have resulted in increasing inequality and the renewed appearance of extreme economic instability, and doing this while they continuously mislead the public about their poor performance, using the power of the money that supports them and permeates the mass media.

The ability to easily mislead was on display in the Scotland referendum. The major UK-centered parties conjured up currency difficulties they insisted Scotland would surely encounter if they became independent and needed to leave the pound sterling. They frightened people about what would happen to their pensions. They raised issues of national security related to terrorism. And this propaganda was effective in swinging “yes” votes away from the movement toward Scotland’s independence, ultimately defeating the referendum. But, of course, with 45% of the population voting in favor of independence, the elites’ rear guard power play won’t end widespread support for independence.

None of these issues was real. Scotland was in a position to establish its own sovereign fiat currency and acquire the policy space they need to end unemployment and the austerity regime the UK has been imposing on them. Pensions could have been guaranteed by a Scottish Government with the authority to create that fiat currency in whatever amounts would have been necessary to support the necessary fiscal policies to accomplish this. National security could have been protected through cooperation with other nations, including the UK, since all have an interest in protecting their own nations from terrorism, including doing what can be done to prevent “terrorists” from infiltrating bordering nations.

Whatever their failings in Scotland and in various nations around the world, and however much they mislead most citizens, the same elites still survive. They still remain in control of their nations — especially their political, financial and economic institutions — as well as international institutions and the global financial system.

And the overwhelming popular discontent with both the political elites and political institutions has not yet served to generate movements that are powerful enough to dislodge them at the polls; even though the claimed signal advantage of democracy over other forms of government is the ability of people in democracies to replace political elites who won’t serve the people’s interests with leaders who will — without bloodshed and in an orderly fashion.

The failure of democratic institutions is the reason why we have elites that commit blunder after blunder, but are never replaced by more competent leaders who do respect the popular will. It’s the reason for Irwin’s global elite crisis. There would be no such crisis if badly performing elites could be easily replaced. But they can’t. Top leaders may come and go in modern nations, but slightly lower level officials, advisers, and consultants, still at the commanding heights of power, remain the same.

Deliver the government to one party or another and leadership at the top changes, but the same or people with very similar views are still called upon to staff the government or advise it. They survive government after government. They move to the non-profits. They move to the international organizations. They go into large corporations for awhile. But they are never retired from the elite circles of governance, even when it seems that they appear to be near senility.

And regardless of past failures, they keep getting appointed to serve new governments on grounds that they have valuable experience or have learned lessons from their previous bad experiences. In present day democracies, past failures provide the qualifications they need for future failures. And yesterday’s failed leader is preferred to today’s new leader with new ideas.

So, the inescapable conclusion is that there is something wrong with modern democracies: namely, that their institutions are no longer effective at performing their essential function of replacing “bad or incompetent rulers” bloodlessly, when that needs to be done.

I think that’s the point Irwin misses, because he focuses mainly on elite failures and not on institutional failures, except when he talks about the ill-served people and their increasing discontent with institutions. But, recognizing the issue of institutional failure, we can now focus on what, in modern democracies, seems to have failed. At one point in his post, Neil Irwin says:

But there are always people who have disagreements with the direction of policy in their nation; the whole point of a state is to have an apparatus that channels disparate preferences into one sound set of policy choices.

And that’s what modern democracies no longer have: institutions that can channel disparate preferences into policy choices. Modern democracies are now lacking the aggregation mechanisms to create policies satisfying the needs of most of their populations. Why is that?

Explaining the Crisis

There are many reasons for the crisis including at least these:

— Political parties no longer represent the middle class or the poor, or even the moderately prosperous. Increasingly they seem to represent only the interests of large corporations, wealthy individuals, and, of course their own leaderships and office holders.

— The mass media now seem to be composed of organizations that cover only the news and issues that the rich and large corporations want them to cover. They not only don’t state inconvenient truths, but won’t even debate inconvenient issues.

— Legislators and candidates represent the funders of their campaigns more than they represent their constituents. In fact, it often seems that the only constituents they do recognize are their funders.

— Institutions designed to limit the role of money in politics have failed, and there are no significant limitations on big money buying elections by driving up the cost of mass media advertising, and then funding only those candidates they find acceptable.

— Economic inequality has increased to such a degree that the rich have enormous quantities of excess wealth to spend on political campaigns and to exercise their new freedom to buy elections.

— Legal inequality has increased to such a degree that there are two systems of law. One enforces standards for most people and an entirely different one enforces entirely different standards on the wealthy and/or the powerful. We see this in the failure to prosecute financial frauds, supposedly out of fear that such prosecutions would de-stabilize the financial system. We also see it in the national security area in the US, where officials are not prosecuted, even though they’ve clearly broken laws, violated the fourth amendment and lied to Congress about these actions. And we see it when local police routinely violate and suppress constitutional rights. Our democracies seem to have forgotten “fiat justitia ruat caelum”, even though ignoring it strikes at the very fabric of democracy.

Re-Inventing Democracy: A Bottom-Up solution

So, if we don’t like these trends, what can we do to re-invent democracy? Commentators like Irwin and many others are evoking the spectre of extremist politics, and billionaires such as Nick Hanauer have warned that the pitchforks and perhaps bloodshed are coming. Fuel has been added to the fire by cross-national resistance movements and Thomas Piketty’s recent publication of his Capital in English, as well as those who imply that democracy will only be restored through resistance that carries with it the threat of violence. But is there a way in which our democratic institutions can be once again made effective in replacing failed leaders without bloodshed, by supplementing them with new institutions we can create and develop without having to work through political systems controlled by the failed elites, the corporations, and the very rich?

I think the answer is yes. I know of a global web platform now in development that can be brought online rapidly which, along with its members and participants will generate new voter-controlled institutions capable of countering the factors I’ve named earlier. This platform can empower U.S. voters, for example, across the spectrum, to join forces to replace poorly performing elites with leaders that will represent the people in time for the U.S. presidential and Congressional elections of 2016.

It can empower voters around the world to re-invent democracy in their countries by creating online voting blocs and electoral coalitions around common agendas set by bloc members after thorough discussion, debate and internal votes. These blocs can merge and create online coalitions, while reaching out continuously to increase their electoral strength by inviting new voters to join their online agenda setting, organizing and consensus building efforts, and participate actively in bloc and coalition decisions to run and elect common slates of candidates.

This platform provides voters who are revolting against the serial failures of their elites, an opportunity to informally but effectively re-structure governing institutions from the inside out – especially electoral institutions — without having to change their constitutions or re-write their electoral laws. It will be no more, but also no less, than a bottom-up re-invention of democracy. It will be led by voters whose vital interests may have been ignored by their governing elites for decades, but have now found a way to peacefully usher them out of office and replace them with their own democratically elected and accountable representatives.

If it had been in operation in the run up to the Scottish independence vote, there’s a very good chance that pro-independence voters could have reached out to undecided voters, and even certain segments of decided “no” voters far in advance of the independence vote to work through the issues that were preventing reluctant Scots from joining the “yes” movement. So, wavering and undecided voters would have been able to resist the propaganda of UK elites, political parties, media and celebrities, because they would have already organized themselves into an online voting bloc, whose members would have continuously shared their knowledge about the fallacies in the propaganda they were subject to from the UK elites and their allies.

They would have pooled their collective intelligence and figured out, for example, that the currency issue was a no brainer for them because an independent Scottish government could have created its own non-convertible fiat currency, with a floating exchange rate. They would have learned that the pension issue was also a false one, because nations with non-convertible fiat currencies with floating exchange rates can always fund pensions and provide enough money for the recipients to buy whatever was for sale in Scotland. They would have learned that the national security/terrorism objection to a “yes” vote was also just another scare tactic.

If you want to learn more about the project to bring this web platform for re-inventing democracy to fruition, and how it can restore the ability of democracies to change their leaders, then please go to reinventdemocracy.net, and reinventdemocracyfoundation.net for more information.

24 responses to “A Bottom-Up Solution to the Global Democracy Crisis

  1. Democracy in America? Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha! When did YOU get to practice real democracy here? Did you get to practice democracy in school – did your voice count for anything, change any policy there? How about at church – is that a democratic environment in which each of the participants decide the important issues, or any of them? And at work, how much democracy gets practiced there, do you get to decide on issues like wages, work hours, health care, profit sharing, and whether your company moves your job overseas or not, or on any other important issue? And with your government – do you get to choose whether you want, NAFTA, DOMA, Citizens United, the NSA, the IRS, the wars we fight, the corporate welfare, the Federal Reserve’s fiat debt system? How about the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, did you get a say in that? Were you asked to sign them, or if you agree with them? So, where is the democracy in this country? My candidate for President at the last election was Jill Stein of the Green Party. She was not allowed to debate at any of the major events and was actually kidnapped by the police and handcuffed to a chair for 8 hours when she arrived and tried to participate. She was speaking for me – or shall we say; armed, violent men prevented her from speaking for me. So, where is the democracy we fight to defend?

    • I’ve wondered the same things myself. That’s why I’m writing about and supporting the IVCS development. That’s why I want that democracy! And, for the record, I like Jill Stein too, and the whole Green Shadow Cabinet. So much better than the bozos the candidatesof either of the major parties will appoint when they get elected.

    • Trish, I certainly understand your frustration, and agree with most everything you write. My son taught me an important lesson when he helped me fight the banksters–they may be big bullies, but sometimes you just gotta PUSH BACK–and sometimes you win! The same goes for government. The powerful get to thinking they can do anything. Well, they can, unless someone PUSHES BACK. We are a democratic republic–and our voice lies in the right to vote for the representative of our choice. A true democracy, however, would always be able to step on the rights of a minority: as the old saying goes, a “democracy” is two wolves and a sheep voting on what’s for supper.

      If you are the two wolves, you have to convince the sheep that he lives in a “democracy” and he should submit to the will of the majority, or perhaps you will just disenfranchise the sheep, telling him he can’t vote so it really doesn’t matter what he thinks, anyway. This can be done in various ways: you can make more and more petty crimes into felonies thereby precluding the sheep’s right to vote (ah, I say old boy, I think you entered the wrong pasture–that ain’t your grass); you can gerrymander pastures such that other sheep cannot be included, and thus cannot vote; you can demand that the sheep show an ID issued by the wolves and you can always dress a wolf up in sheep’s clothing so that he can make speeches to the other sheep about why it is in their best interest to follow the edicts that the wolves lay down. He will explain on his radio show (or TV program) that not to follow his advice would expose the whole herd to unknown dangers. At least this way, a few at the time can be picked off and the herd as a whole will consider itself “safe.”

      Here is one wolf (Paul Wwyrich ) being completely honest:

      Why do you think they pass so many laws making petty theft a felony, yet banksters can rob millions and cheat them out of house and home, and get rewarded for their efforts?

      Why are the two parties allowed to gerrymander voters out of their right to representation?
      Why do they convince people that tort reform is a good thing and you don’t need access to a jury–even though they take every advantage of the legal system to further their own agenda? Why do they keep putting obstacles up to the common man’s access to court and justice?

      Why do they propagandize us by paying radio and TV pundits millions of dollars to indoctrinate us to vote and act against our own interest? Why do they make sure that five media giants own most of the press? Why? Because WHAT YOU THINK STILL MATTERS. Right now, it behooves the elite to manipulate our thinking because they are afraid to use total brute force. But they are working on doing away with that nicety. And they will succeed unless we PUSH BACK. They know that there are still some honest judges; and they know that juries have a right to nullify any unjust law–so yes, they are still worried. And they all know that there are a lot more of the sheep than the ruling elite. And they know we still have some avenues left to defeat them, so they must work to keep us from even knowing that the avenues exist, and they work even harder to keep us from taking them.

      As for the Constitution or the Magna Carta or the Declaration of Independence–no I didn’t consent to them, but I am glad they exist-they show us that our forefathers have constantly and everywhere had to PUSH BACK against those who would use arbitrary power against us to abuse us of our God-give or natural rights as human beings. As Benjamin Franklin replied when asked by a lady about the form of government we were being given. he said: “a Republic, Madam, if you can keep it.” He was telling her: you gotta PUSH BACK. Well, we have. Women have PUSHED BACK. Slavery was PUSHED BACK. Some times we push back in non-constructive ways: prohibition, for example. But we were smart enough to do a corrective PUSH BACK.

      Here is an interesting video that might give you another perspective on the “I didn’t consent to the Constitution” argument. I found it interesting.


      Good luck in your PUSH BACK. May we do so wisely.

      • This is one of the best replies I have ever read on any internet site. The links you provide are also excellent. I am going to propagate your message.

  2. We have been in the UK for a bit during this vote period and I heard or read nothing indicating that a new fiat Scottish currency was even considered, only that the options included continuing with the pound, which the rest of the UK said no to, or some other non sovereign currency arrangement. So the point is that the discussion of why a sovereign currency is essential was not even offered as part of the arguments of the Yes side. They spoke as if it doesn’t matter. The No side said it does matter, but explained not why.

    The result was that the Scotts were offered two bad options. So I spite of their legitimate grievances, the solution they were offered was bound for failure because the basics of currency concepts is not grasped. That’s why they lost — because enough people questioned the currency issue, even while not understanding why the were uncomfortable with it.

    • Yes, if you read the post and follow the links. You’ll see that one of them links to an article showing poll results indicating why the indyref lost, and the currency question was one of the major reasons it lost. Others included NHS impacts, pension impacts, and Terrorism. All questions propagandized by the UK parties. Phil Pilkington’s proposal for handling the currency was given to Alex Salmond months ago, according to Phil. Salmond ignored it, when he should have campaigned on it. Had he done so he might have swung the 5% plus of the needed to the indy side.

  3. The “reinvent democracy” idea is nice, but I see some implementation flaws:

    * there is little transparency regarding the people behind the web platform (see answer to “Question: Who is behind the Re-Invent Democracy web technology?” in the http://reinventdemocracy.net/ home page). Who are the “enterpreneurs” mentioned there?

    * the web platform is based on a patented concept. Patents can be sold and, in principle, this patent might come under control of the very elites which are causing the democracy crisis the web platform wants to solve.

    * from the http://reinventdemocracy.net/ home page: “the Re-Invent Democracy team is assembling an international team of developers to build and operate the platform in Switzerland”. This means this is a centralized platform controlled by some people nobody voted for. You have to trust them, and you have no control on their activities.

    * there is no mention of open source or free software on their websites. This means that only the platform developers know how it is implemented. Again, you have to trust them. There is no way for us to look for possible problems or weaknesses in their project.

    A better solution would be building an open source decentralized platform, with no “owner” and under the scrutiny of the community.

    • “A better solution would be building an open source decentralized platform, with no “owner” and under the scrutiny of the community.”

      I think it’s not easy to do this without intelligence operatives joining in the process, and working to develop attacks of the software, so they can bring down the platform in moments, or subvert the processes of voting blocs and electoral coalitions that were organizing to limit the power of the intelligence agencies. I think it’s easier for a small team to develop a secure platform that the intelligence agencies won’t be able to break.

      That said, I well understand the problem, when there’s an owner, there can always be another owner whose purposes will be different than the first owner’s. Still, we can go far in establishing a system supporting re-inventing democracy, even though there will be owners, because the owners may be trustworthy. Then the problem becomes: how do you arrange the succession procedures so people who don’t support the purposes of the platform, can’t get in control of it? We’ve given a lot of thought to that and think we can come up with a procedure that will be very hard to subvert.

      • Open source software is reputed to be more secure because everyone gets to see the software including what some nefarious person tries to put in. In practice, of course, not all pieces of code in an open source system get the scrutiny by experts who can detect security flaws. The recent example of the open source software behind the https secure protocol was found to have a flaw that existed for many years. However, because it was open source, the flaw was eventually discovered. On the other hand, security flaws in closed source programs that are popular are also eventually discovered. Just look at how many security updates you get for any software that you use.

        The other advantage with open source software is that you can get large numbers of people to work on the software more easily than having to raise large sums of money to pay people to write the software. Instead the developers are paying for it by donating their time instead of their money.

        Since the ideas behind this new software are patented, this might present an issue. However, I think that issues like this have been handled before. Perhaps the patented parts can be isolated and not be part of the open source.

      • “I think it’s easier for a small team to develop a secure platform that the intelligence agencies won’t be able to break”

        Apologies if I misunderstood this comment, but it sound like the old security through obscurity argument. An open design means that security flaws can be found and exposed by a wide community of developers, not only by parties which might be interested in using them to attack the system, making more likely that they can be fixed before someone exploits them.

  4. … Simply put -a fool and his money are easily separated!
    You can not reinvent something that has never esisted!
    Government always and everywhere is about MONEY and who gets to have the most! The Monied Elite have always understood that maxim, and made sure the Tax Code and laws are written for their exclusive benefit!
    Changes to the Tax Code since Eisenhower left office have clearly proven America was never a democracy. The Monied Elite are driven by greed, and We The People only exist to feed that Greed.
    True Democracy threatens the source of ALL power, and those in power will not part with the wealth extracted from the common good.

    • I know just how to feel, Jim. That’s why I have racked my brain for more than a decade trying to figure out a way to use web technology to empower ordinary people to re-invent failing and failed democracies.

  5. Hello Carlo,

    Thank you for your thoughtful and detailed comments. I have copied your observations/questions/recommendations below and interleave my responses in brackets:

    The “reinvent democracy” idea is nice, but I see some implementation flaws:

    * there is little transparency regarding the people behind the web platform (see answer to “Question: Who is behind the Re-Invent Democracy web technology?” in the http://reinventdemocracy.net/ home page). Who are the “enterpreneurs” mentioned there?

    [NB: I am the prime mover behind this initiative. There is a section on the home page of reinventdemocracy.net that I wrote entitled “The Re-Invent Democracy Story”. I describe my background in this section and explain how and why I first conceived of the technology. Since that time, I have been joined by several dozen people who have made critical contributions to the initiative in the decade since I began to develop it.]

    * the web platform is based on a patented concept. Patents can be sold and, in principle, this patent might come under control of the very elites which are causing the democracy crisis the web platform wants to solve.

    [NB: I think you will be pleased to know that I and my team have left no stones unturned figuring out ways and means to protect the patents.]

    * from the http://reinventdemocracy.net/ home page: “the Re-Invent Democracy team is assembling an international team of developers to build and operate the platform in Switzerland”. This means this is a centralized platform controlled by some people nobody voted for. You have to trust them, and you have no control on their activities.

    [NB: I have been working on this initiative since 2004. It has been nurtured by many trusting people. I believe that we will continue to find trusting people who share our vision and help us to bring it to fruition. The platform will provide free agenda setting, political organizing and consensus build tools. If people find them useful, they will use them. If they have more effective alternatives to these tools and platform, they can take advantage of these alternatives.]

    * there is no mention of open source or free software on their websites. This means that only the platform developers know how it is implemented. Again, you have to trust them. There is no way for us to look for possible problems or weaknesses in their project.

    [NB: Actually, we have publicized our plan “to develop and test the user-friendliness of prototypes of two open source Linux-based websites and an online game of electoral strategy around our Re-Invent Democracy web technology.”]

    A better solution would be building an open source decentralized platform, with no “owner” and under the scrutiny of the community.

    [NB: You might be interested, Carlo, in the information provided below and on the reinventdemocracyfoundation.net website: E-Democracy Technology Consortium>

    “The Foundation will sponsor an E-Democracy Technology Consortium to connect technology developers to each other, democracy builders around the world, and the Re-Invent Democracy team to identify, analyze, and promote the development and application of existing, emerging and futuristic democracy building technologies.

    “Members of the consortium will be provided a variety of interactive opportunities to enable them to communicate with each other and the Re-Invent Democracy team. One of the Foundation’s goals in creating the consortium is to enable developers and democracy builders to provide feedback and input to the Re-Invent Democracy team regarding opportunities for enhancing the Interactive Voter Choice System tools and services provided on the reinventdemocracy.net website when they become available.

    “As the team enhances and integrates state-of-the-art and emerging technologies into the reinventdemocracy.net platform — especially advanced technologies that protect user privacy, it will work with developers and users to facilitate the creation and utilization of the most advanced encryption technologies available.”

    • Thank you for your answer. Your comment about “prototypes of two open source Linux-based websites” prompted me to search and find your crowdfunding campaign:
      I didn’t find any reference about that in the Reinvent Democracy websites.

      It is not clear to me whether “open source” refers to using open source software for your websites or an open source model of development (accepting contributions for development from anyone willing to work on the project, as opposed to a centralized model and a closed community of developers). However, best of luck for your campaign.

      • Hello again, Carlo,

        Do you have experience in the area of open source development?

        Our team is still debating alternatives for leveraging the benefits of open source development for a complex system like ours, which comprises two interconnected websites, a multi-party online game of electoral strategy, and an interactive multi-media kiosk, all of must have a well tested, user-friendly UX/UI (User Experience/User Interface), manage structured and unstructured databases, and protect the privacy and confidentiality of our users. We are interested in quantum encryption technologies and in building artificial intelligence capabilities into the system, so that users can have access to legislation and policies already on the books as take-off points for designing their own legislative and policy agendas.

        No small tasks here!!! You and others may be prophetic in thinking that a global open source development community may be indispensable to designing, developing and operating what Joe Firestone and his colleagues in systems theory refer to as a “complex adaptive system”. What such a system could do, using our technology, is nothing less than empower ordinary people everywhere to democratically run their governments on a daily basis through highly fluid, popularly responsive voting blocs and electoral coalitions.

        • “Do you have experience in the area of open source development?”

          Limited experience, but I learned about Linux kernel-style development (open source plus open access to code from whoever is willing to contribute) reading “The Cathedral and the Bazaar”:


          The success of the Linux kernel and other examples mentioned in that book prove that this approach is much more effective than a more traditional approach. You mention quantum cryptography, which requires more than just software, so your case is probably more complex, but it is still true that you will have a larger base of developers and contributors (for documentation, translations, testing…) than you can get with a traditional centralized approach. They will choose to work on the project because they like it and will do it for free (although you might decide to support the best contributors and allow them to work full time on the project). You will need a basic prototype of the system as a starting point.

          I’m sure you can find experienced people who can give you good advice and support on these issues.

  6. sometimes the good ideas win

    example: open source

    its momentum simply trumped big corporation opposition

  7. Great article Joe, and I agree with most of it. As a YES-voting Scot and an MMT-fan who follows the blogs, I have come across this argument you made before, that if only Salmond had pushed for a new fiat currency instead of his obviously wrong ‘use the pound sterling’ choice, things would have been better.

    I don’t think so. You always have to remember that we who have interest in, and some knowledge of, heterodox economics such as MMT, or for that matter any knowledge of economics, are a tiny proportion of the voting public. The vast majority believe what they are told about economics by the mainstream media. Private debt good. Public debt bad. Unions bad. Full employment impossible. Banks good. Inflation very, very, bad – and so on.

    You also have to consider, as you noted, the Main Stream Media (MSM) position. Every single newspaper (well, 36 out of 37, and the odd one out was a weekly one…) sold in Scotland were firmly NO, the BBC was biased for NO in their reporting, the main UK political parties and their financial backers were for NO, The “Royal Bank of Scotland”(!) said they would shift their headquarters, and on and on it goes. The poor punters were terrified of any change after all that. It’s an amazing testament to how disgusted the Scottish public are with the Westminster neo-liberal political parties that we made 45% of the vote.

    If Salmond had said ‘Trust me – throw away that useless sterling stuff that you’re pensions get paid in, we’ll print our own Monopoly paper money – wait, even better, we’ll just keystroke it into existence, maybe even directly into everyone’s bank account on a monthly basis…” there would have been mass movement away from YES. The currency choice was necessary politics. There was never any real intelligent discussion of economics during the Scottish referendum campaign in the MSM, just as there is never any real intelligent discussion of economics in the MSM at any time.

    • Hi Brian, You may be right. But Salmond’s approach didn’t work. He lost for the time being and maybe forever. In any event, you don’t know what would have happened in Salmond had offered a Government Job Guarantee, and greatly increased safety net spending using a non-austerity platform. The Scots are fed up with austerity. But one can’t escape it if one is unwilling to use the increased policy space provided by a sovereign fiat currency. If Salmond had pointed that out and also pointed out that austerity would immediately end, then I think he would have won. I think when people are fed up, which everyone agrees they are, it is then that New Deal approaches win.

  8. Hello Brian,

    It’s great to hear the views of a “YES-voting Scot” on the possibility/impossibility of addressing the currency issue in the context of the independence referendum.

    What I think makes the democracy re-invention platform to which Joe referred something to consider in a retrospective analysis of the defeat of the referendum are the following considerations:

    The glut of misinformation and scare tactics used by the major pro-UK players could have been countered if Scottish voters across the spectrum had been able to generate and control their own channels of information exchange, discussion, debate and internal voting on alternatives.

    This would have been possible if the online democracy re-invention platform had been up and running because any voter could have started an online voting bloc with its own online communication channels. These voter-controlled voting blocs could merge and grow larger by using the platform’s tools, especially the voting utility, to discuss, debate and vote on any component of the bloc/coalition’s position.

    The bloc/coalitions could have also created and managed their own database of information relating to every conceivable topic and enable members to comment and annotate items. This would have provided experts in the currency area opportunities to educate bloc/coalitions members about esoteric subjects, including and especially the whole currency issue and its implications on the health services and other fronts.

    IMNSHO, the Westminster parties won because they knew much more about these issues, they held the power, and they were able to intimidate people with misinformation because there were so many complicated, intertwined issues that ordinary folks had no way of working through in the run up to the referendum.

    The beauty of the democracy re-invention platform is that it gives full latitude to the members of voter-controlled voting blocs and coalitions to invent their own solutions from the bottom up by involving as many people as they wish in problem solving, consensus building and agenda setting until they have a coherent, inter-connected agenda addressing the inter-connection of complicated issues like currency.

    Going forward, Scotland’s historic move to re-invent its democracy by breaking away from an unsatisfactory UK-dominated governance structure has let the genie out of the bottle. What Scotland did and will continue to do by shaking up the UK’s governing structure serves as an example to dissatisfied constituencies throughout the world. Once we get the democracy re-invention platform up and running, the citizens of Scotland and disaffect constituencies throughout the world will have the tools they need to create the governance structure they prefer.

    • Nancy and I agree with this; but let me amplify it a little. In the context of the IVCS platform voting blocs begin to form, as they form they use the facilities of the platform to create their own cultures and information channels, and their own knowledge bases, both in the form of mental knowledge, and cultural knowledge embedded in artifacts. Contributions to those artifacts which are internal to the IVCS are insulated from the mass media and are not produced by its components, but arise from IVCS participants working out policy problems and communicating with one another about them.

      Mass media perspectives can enter the knowledge base through people expressing these perspectives, but they will not come through in the unfiltered form that mass communications do. They will modified and reinterpreted by IVCS participants who will also be developing their own perspectives from mutual interaction. Over a very short period of time the internal interactions and the IVCS cultural artifacts will easily outweigh the influence of the mass media communications that find their way in. As more and more time passes, the mass media will be less influential in shaping opinions, attitudes, and behavior, simply because mass communications are never trusted as highly as communications delivered in the context of informal groups whose members are people one knows.

      In short, IVCS will have very powerful Knowledge Management and knowledge processing capabilities strengthening the cognitive functioning of participants in the system, and making their cognitive functioning much less subject to cognitive manipulation than before.

  9. I think when these levels of unfairness were reached in the past, there are revolutions. Why not now? Because the overall level of technology is so much higher that even the people on the bottom are not miserable enough to go into the streets with pitchforks.

    Maybe I am wrong, and we will see something. But the fact that we have gone through year after year without mass riots and governments overturned in Greece, Spain, Italy, Portugal was a real surprise to me.

    • “the fact that we have gone through year after year without mass riots and governments overturned in Greece, Spain, Italy, Portugal was a real surprise to me”

      You might find an answer here:


      (incidentally, this is from the person who introduced MMT in Italy). This document has a conspiracy theory flavor but, living in Italy and seeing how the EU and the euro are portrayed in the mainstream media, in spite of the evidence, I can’t help thinking that the author is basically right.

  10. Steve, I think there are explanations. During the period that has been called The Great Moderation, political conflict between political parties was diminished by norms that arose in reaction to the unprecedented violence of the first half of the 20th century, These norms made ideological conflict seen unacceptable and people thought it was gone for good. They were afraid to engage in the dreaded “class war.” In the latter half of the century people believed that class warfare was ended, and the protests and conflicts of the 1960s seemed far, far away.

    So, now we are in a new period, we see that the promise of moderation was a false promise and that the rich and powerful were fighting a class war all the time while shouting at everyone else “class war” “class war”every time they were called out about something. We see that the mask is ripped off; but there is always a lag between the development of consciousness and concerted action. That which has been gone for a long time, always takes a long time to re-emerge. Let’s hope that the necessary time has expired and that the time is now when concerted action will begin again. I don’t think it will be long in coming, but I also think that it will be bloodier and that it may take much longer to get meaningful changes than would be the case if the IVCS is not there to help the forces of real change.