There is an increasing level of concern about the erosion of democratic standards in the world.
There is less agreement about what is causing this erosion of democratic standards. Some observers blame economics and, in particular, the growth of income and wealth inequalities. Others suggest that we need to rethink the constitutional frameworks under which democracies work.
Getting constitutional discussion going is difficult. The subject appears remote and abstract. Most constitutions deliberately discourage change and make amendment difficult. Power holders under existing arrangements react defensively. In addition, there is no generally agreed starting point.
This blog looks at different alternative starting points for constitutional discussion.
Who trusts China’s government, or the regime in Russia, in global efforts to improve cyber security in financial systems or to respect privacy? Who places any value on their commitments in the area of protecting endangered habitats or species, or to phase out products that damage the ozone layer? Who trusts them to respect intellectual property rights, or to develop AI, or genetic engineering in a socially responsible way?
This blog looks at an approach to building global rules that excludes those governments we cannot trust to share the same fundamental values or to implement the same goals. It does not rely on the top down promulgation of universal rules built on the theatre of grandstanding global conferences, self-serving international bodies and empty international treaties. It maps a different way ahead in an imperfect world.
Backsliding in democracies and the splintering of opinion between left and right is triggering new concerns about ‘fairness’ in democratic societies. If citizens feel that their system of government is stacked against them and their chances in life, then they have no reason to support it. People will turn to non-democratic systems of government.
This blog looks at the different meanings we can give to ‘fairness’ and their links to democratic forms of government.
These different meanings are important. They lead to different diagnoses of what is wrong in modern democracies. They point to different remedies.
We are taught from an early age not to judge by appearances. Yet in politics we often do. This implies that in our engagement with politics we often make mistakes of judgement. We are swayed by emotions rather than by reasoning.
This blog looks at different accounts of political persuasion and the significance of a politician’s facial expressions and appearance.
Corruption is endemic in many parts of the world. Paying a bribe to an official, policeman, judge, or politician is seen as a normal cost of doing business, or simply necessary for living without hassle. The higher up one goes in the system of authority, the larger the payment.
This blog looks at a cautionary tale drawn from mid-19thcentury England found in the novel by Anthony Trollope, ‘The Three Clerks’ (1857). It is about corruption in the British civil service.
The narrative remains relevant today. It looks at the links between ethical standards and practice, and between social sanctioning and the law. It makes clear that there is no silver bullet such as ‘transparency’ that will eradicate corruption.
Businesses in today’s market place, in both the financial and non-financial sectors now have to pay attention to the environmental and social impact of what they do, as well as to respect high standards of corporate governance. The group of standards is commonly referred to as ‘ESG’. ESG is now a mainstream activity. President Trump resists. He is mistaken (again).
This blog sees a need to improve the authentication, oversight and scrutiny of ESG claims, ratings and indexing. Despite the efforts of bodies such as the SASB, (Sustainability Accounting Standards Board) and the Principles for Responsible Investment body (PRI) supported by the UN, there are conflicts of interest that produce a lack of rigor and consistency. The labels are scattered around like sprinkles on a tray of cupcakes.
The idea that we should have an artificial global currency detached from the currency of any single nation, or currency zone, has not figured on the international financial agenda for many years. In particular it did not surface in the response to the 2008 international financial crisis.
There are good reasons for this... and bad. The good reason is that the world is awash with liquidity in the aftermath of quantitative easing by the leading Central Banks of the world. We therefore do not seem to need any fresh source of liquidity that a globally managed currency could potentially provide.
The bad reason is the lack of support in the US, the Eurozone and China because of their own self-interest in relation to their own currencies. They do not have in mind broader global considerations.
The question is now re-emerging in the context of moves towards private, digital currencies for domestic and international use. Facebook’s proposal for the Libra, based on a basket of values, is particularly important. The US Fed, the US treasury and Trump himself have urged caution. This blog suggests we should be open-minded to this development.
President Trump continues to criticise the US Federal Reserve.
A previous blog post discussed how unelected bodies exercising authority in democratic societies should be seen as answerable to more than one source for their legitimacy – to the law, to the standards of their profession, to politicians, to stakeholders and to citizens. Moreover, they are answerable in different ways.
That previous discussion left open whether the positioning of unelected bodies can be summarised in way that further clarifies their relationship to democratic norms.
This blog looks at the three leading ways in which the relationship is sometimes expressed – as agents, as trustees, or as stewards. Each can be misleading.
I went on a tourist trip to Cambodia earlier this year. I passed in one village, at the end of a property, a small shrine made of banana leaves. I was told that something bad had occurred to one or more of the family. The shrine enabled offerings to be made and for the bad to be propitiated. Life for the family could move on.
Cambodian society as a whole has an appalling recent history. Its territory was the target of massive American bombing during the Vietnam War. Under the Pol Pot regime in the 1970s about 1.5-2m are estimated to have died out of a total population then of around 7m.
This blog discusses three ways about how to move on from disastrous happenings and appalling memories: propitiation, expiation and reconciliation. It discusses the uneasy relationship between the way individuals deal with bad memories and their collective handling by societies as a whole.
The weakness of global rule making
We are moving into a world without an established international order. Yet, we would all like to live in a world where there are globally agreed rules that deter bad behaviour by nations and encourage good behaviour. Most nations in our world are small. Rules limit large nations from unrestrainedly throwing their weight around. They protect small nations. They protect people as well as states.
This blog looks at the three main models for getting international agreements on rules of behaviour.
The analysis suggests that the prospects for a fully functioning rule based international order remain distant.