Daily Paradox - Written by John Bittleston on Monday, April 16, 2012 22:03 - 4 Comments
The Senate and Consultation Papers
Every government governs by permission of the people – those who voted for it and those who did not. Enlightened managers have been engaging with their employees in the same way for years. Not so enlightened ones are starting to realise that they need to do so, or lose their best employees. Whatever other era we are in, the age of collegiality has certainly arrived.
Governments have agendas. Those agendas must have the interests of the governed at heart. If they do not – or if they appear not to – the governed will at some point rebel. Rebellion comes earlier today than previously because it spreads faster through the social media than by any other means. A government’s agenda has to deal with both the short term – they want to get re-elected – and the longer term, since they will be investing money that should bear fruit long after they have left office.
Every government and every organisation is torn between the daily round of crises that emerge and planning for the longer term. When there is a conflict the former wins. That is why strategic planning is often so poor at every level of management, not just political. And yet, the resource for a longer view is there, waiting to be asked, willing to devote time and experience to looking further ahead than the next AGM or election.
The concept of a Senate is that it can work without immediate electoral consequences. If its view is not immediately popular but has longer-term benefits it can say so. It must not, therefore, be an elected assembly. By the same token it must not have any executive say over the day to day running of the country. It must derive its influence from the obvious wisdom of what it says about the future. Its power is persuasive, not coercive.
For the same reason it must be made up of people willing to abandon dogmatic ideological views for realistic but far-sighted aspirations. The interest of Senate members must be for their grandchildren and great-grandchildren, not for themselves. Appointing such a body presents difficulties. Not elected it has to be chosen but who can choose the wise? Often we only know people were wise after the event. And politics do not stop at parliament’s door.
Although non-elected it is unrealistic today not to take account of popular opinion. The social media give us every opportunity to assess what the majority thinks and what comments the average citizen (do let’s stop calling them “grass roots”) has to make on any topic. So my suggestion is that each candidate for the Senate should be asked to write five pieces on subjects of long-term interest where investments will take some years to mature and benefits will accrue to later generations. Citizens who are interested should then be invited to express a view on these five pieces.
Existing Senators will make a selection of who is to join the Senate, taking into account the views of the citizens but not being tied to appoint the popular candidates.
Not perfect but a heap better than the muddled systems used at present, it might just give us the basis for thinking beyond the next meal – and the next vote.
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