Good news here from my Party Leader: https://twitter.com/#!/CarolineLucas
She asked the question. Unfortunately Hague was non-commital in reply. But he said he would like to work with other countries to achieve this. In other words: maybe several Arab / EU countries at once might shut down Syrian embassies? 🙂
And this is quite the right thing to do. After all, Assad doesn’t actually govern Syria any more. He merely terrorises parts of it.
Transcript of Rupert Read’s talk on ‘Guardians for Future Generations’, at Parliament, at the report launch, 10 Jan. 2012
Rupert Read: Let me start by offering thanks to everyone who has made today possible, including, of course, my colleagues in Green House and in the Alliance of Future Generations.
So, now I’m going to provide a fairly brief introduction to the report that I’ve written. We’ll then have a chance to discuss it. I really want to just situate the report in relation to the reasons for it, primarily, and give you an idea of my thinking processes that led to it, and then I think you’ll exactly see why I came up with the proposals that I did.
So: what is the problem that this proposal is designed to address? Well, the first and simplest way of putting it is that we have to find some way of addressing the chronic short-termism of our political culture and of our economics. When we’re thinking about things like the electoral cycle, let alone the news cycle, the economic cycle, quarterly reports: these are all things that incline people to incredibly short time horizons. So the idea in my report that we are launching today is an idea proposed to completely counterbalance those pressures for short-termism.
But there is another basis on which one can think about the basis for this report, for this proposal, that’s equally important: and that’s in the concept of democracyand that’s actually where I start out. One of the main things that I’m really wanting to do is to try to get people to reflect a little more on what we mean by democracy. What is ‘democracy’? And for me the place to start with that question is etymology, with the origins of the word, and ‘democracy’ means, or is supposed to mean, ‘the rule of the people’ or ‘the people governing’.
So: the question we ought to ask ourselves is, “do the people govern in
How would we do that? So: you’ve got to think about how you would have some kind of equivalent of allowing future people to be able to vote. Clearly, future people actually voting is no more possible than dogs voting. It’s in fact even less possible, because you could give a dog a choice of food sources and count them as ‘voting’ by which they chose or some such [[Laughter]] well, you get the idea. So: we have to give (future) people some kind of proxy equivalent of a vote. And by the way, think about this this way, I would urge you: as long as we don’t do completely the wrong thing by future people and prevent them from existing at all, there will over time be a very great many more of them than there are of us. In other words, they would out-vote us every time. So this equivalent of a proxy vote, I suggest, ought to be put in the form of a proxy veto. If they (future people) got together they would be able to out-vote us every time. So: a proxy veto to ensure the basic needs of future people. That’s how I’ve got to this concept.
How are you going to instantiate that? Well, you need to have some group of people, which are able to represent the needs, the basic interests, of future people and exercise that proxy veto. How are you going to select those people? Well, of course, you could elect them but that would get into competition with our existing democratic institutions. And there’s no particular reason to think that an election is a good idea with regard to these representatives, because election is a way in which we, the present people, reflect our interests, desires, values etc., and it’s not a way in which future people are naturally, as it were, getting represented or having their views, basic needs, etc., expressed. We need to have some group of people who are designated as a group of people who suitable for exercising this proxy veto. And so my suggestion is that the only sane way to pick those people, rather than by election, is by random selectionby the same principle that animates the jury system. That is, of course, an intimate part of our democracy as we have it at the present time in so far as we do have it.
So, that’s the proposal: a super jury to reflect the basic needs and interests of future people; to be able to exercise a proxy veto on their behalf over legislation; to provide a test to ensure that whatever we do, whatever major steps we take in an institution such as this at
So that’s really it, that’s my proposal: a super-jury to represent the fundamental interests of future people selected at random from any of us, so that nobody can say, “oh, it’s just those posh people” or “it’s just those people who have been appointed by the government” or “it’s just those people who are rich or well-connected enough to be elected” or “it’s just those pesky g/Greens” or anything like that. All of us, any of us: whether we’re young, whether we’re old, whether we’re educated, whether we’re not, are equally qualified and equally ill-qualified to be in this position of having to try to connect with what future people really need and start to put it in to action. These people, ‘the super-jurors’ would have a period of training, they would access to the very best of expertise to support themeverybody: scientists, philosophers, activists, etc., would want to try to advise and assist this super jury consisting of the ‘guardians’ of future generations.
I think it could work. I set out in the report in some detail how and why I think that. I’m also hopingwe’re also hopingto open here a space for debate. This is not the kind of proposal that is going to be brought in tomorrow. Too often it seems to me, it seems to us at Green House, think tanks spend a lot of their time thinking “how can we propose something which will be looked upon by this government or, at most, the next government, as something which could plausibly be instituted right away”. And that stops them too often from thinking visionary thoughts, from really trying to change the agenda, from really trying to open up the debate. That’s very much what we’re trying to do here. If a proposal like this was brought in by this government or the next government, great. But even if it isn’t (and I doubt it will be; I think the march will be longer than that) the thing that we need to do right now, it seems to us, is urgently to open up the terrain of this kind of debate. So: this is intended not just to be a proposal that will be brought in but also a proposal to open people’s minds and to spark the debate. Looking by the pages of the Guardian and the Telegraph it’s already done that, and I hope to have more of it — more, vigorous debate — this evening. Thanks for your time and your attention, and let’s get the debate started
Transcript of my
Jan. 10 2012
Thanks, everyone, for comingit’s a pleasure to be here.
So, my report on ‘guardians for future generations’ been creating a bit of a stir. By the way: If you want to get the report for free it’s now available, for download, from the Greenhouse website, which is easy to find. (If you Google Green House now, we come up first rather than greenhouse adverts, so that’s good…)
One of the stirs has been in the Guardian. The comments closed last night at 325, so there’s clearly a lively and interesting debate there. So: what’s it all about?
Well, I’ve got a proposal to end, or at least to seek to start to end, the chronic culture of short-termism that we have in our politics, in our electoral cycles, and in our business and economicswith business cycles and quarterly reports and even more short-termist things than that. And when one is trying to think on a timescale of hundreds of years or thousands of years or hundreds of thousands of years, for example, which is the timescale for nuclear waste, then those kind of short-term cycles don’t make a lot of sense. So what are we, collectively, going to do about it?
Well, before I say what I am proposing to do about it, here’s one more way of seeing the problem, that I think really helps: the concept of democracy is one of my starting points. What does ‘democracy’ mean? So, etymologically, democracy means ‘the people rule’ or ‘the people govern’. Now I’m sure all those who take themselves as any kind whatsoever of progressive would agree that at the present time it’s pretty inaccurate to say — in any very meaningful, or full, sense — that the people govern in our society. So: we don’t even have AV, let alone PR; we’re still waiting for the upper house to be democratically reformed; beyond those reforms, we need also participatory democracy, many of us would say economic democracy, and a serious re-localisation. There are vast, vast changes in our society which are needed if there is going to be a real democracy here. But even if all those changes occured we would still be in a society which ran the risk of being chronically short-termist. Why? Well, the way I like to put this is that the democratic institutions that we have at the moment, even the laws that would be brought in if we made all those kinds of democratic changes that I’ve mentioned that we would all, I’m sure, like to see, tend to still be focused upon the interests and wishes of present people, people who are alive today. They are the people who voteand whose votes alone would count even in an improved and enhanced democracy.
But a people, I want to suggest to you, is not something that exists as a time-slice; a people is something that exists over time. It begins in the past and goes on indefinitely far into the future.
And while people in the past are hard to harm, because they’ve had their time, people in the future are extremely easy to harm and indeed, in the extreme, to prevent from existing at all. Whereas if we get things right, people in the future could have the chance to have a great existence and to go on indefinitely longer into the future having that existence. So I want to say that we need to find a way of making democracy actually include future people. We need to find a way of representing them in our political system.
So, what would this mean? Can you give future people a vote? Well, obviously, that’s not very feasible. So we need to find some form of, if you like, proxy representation for them. They need to have something like a proxy vote, I’m suggesting.
Well, as I said, if we don’t screw up so badly that we stop them from existing altogether, over time there will be far more future people than there are present people, which would mean in a democracy that they would out-vote us every time, right? They would be the vast majority. So, in order to express their proxy ‘vote’, I suggest that what we need to give them is a proxy veto. Because: If they did vote on masse together, they would, as I say, massively out-vote us, provided we don’t screw things up so badly that we stop them from having the chance of living at all… So I want to suggest that we need proxy representatives for future people empowered in and by our political system to veto things that we might want to do but that they don’t want us to do. And the people who are going to be these proxies I’m calling Guardians for Future Generations, guardians to represent the interests of these future people to us.
So, who should these guardians be? How should they be selected? Well it doesn’t make any sense for us to vote for them, because they are proxies for future peoplethey’re there to express the votes that future people would cast if they could cast those votes.
I suggest that actually all of us and none of us are equally well positioned to be these proxy representatives for future people. We could say, Greens are the best place to represent future people, but that would be begging the question: “I’d like you to give me and my friends the power to veto all decisions made in our political system.” Hmmm Not very convincing It would never ever get through: it would be perceived as a cheatit would be perceived, correctly, as utterly undemocratic. We need, plainly, to draw these proxy representatives from across the entire population. I suggest that the only fair, reasonable and democratic way of doing this is through the same principle that animates the jury system: which is random selection. Such that anyone and everyone has an equal chance to be one of the guardians for future people. So what I’m suggesting can be put in this way: that we need a super-jury drawn from any and all of us to represent to us the interests of future people and to represent those/them by having a proxy power that enables them to veto decisions (that would affect future people adversely) that are made in our current political system.
And that line of thinking really gives you exactly what my proposal isI’m proposing guardians for future people, guardians for the fundamental interests — for the basic needs — of future generations, to be selected at random, as jurors are, to form a super-jury, which would sit above our existing political institutions and have the power to veto proposed legislation or to force a review of existing legislation that they (the guardians) adjudged — based on their own deliberations, based on their seeking to uphold the basic interests and needs of future people, and based on the absolute best expert advice and assistance available — would be adversely affecting of those fundamental interests and needs, of future people.
If you like, you could think of this as a third legislative house. You would have the Commons; and hopefully we’re going to get the reformed Upper House, which is also largely democratically elected; and then, sitting above that, the house of the future, the Guardians of Future Generations, able and empowered to act decisively where necessary to stop us from doing things which would adversely affect those who come after us. And that’s it, that’s my proposal in a nutshell. You can read the full details of it and the detailed options for how to proceed, in the full report. There’s all sorts of questions: how long would they sit for, how exactly would they be trained, etc. There’s a load — there’s a million — things we can talk about if you want at the level of detail. Things to settle, a lot of which are already addressed in the report I’ve written. But that’s the idea in a nutshell, and I hope you find it, at the very least, an interesting and provocative one. One of the main things that we at Greenhouse want to do with this is very much to open up the debate, and we seem already to be succeeding in starting that. This is not a proposal that is going to be voted in by any government next week. But we think that too often think tanks base their decision-making in terms of what they’re going to say, partly upon “Well, could the government next week bring this in if they were minded to,” or at the very most, they think something like, “Could the next government bring this in,” and that’s just would they think would be a success: if their proposallock, stock and barrelwas put in to place by this government or the next government. But that means that too often there is a chronic short-termism in the way that think tanks think as well. They don’t think long term, they don’t havethey don’t allow themselves to have –visionary, bold ideas that people may at first attack viciously, as has happened to this idea to some extent in the Guardian comments, and much more so in a wonderfully awful piece in the Telegraph that some of you may have seen, attacking my idea, from one of the charming people (sic.) over at Spiked Think tanks too often don’t want to expose themselves to that kind of attack and do want to do something which is perceived as the kind of reform which could be brought in by this government or, at the very most, by the next government. They think, only, within the box
I’ll be surprisedI’ll be pleasantly surprisedbut I’ll be very surprised if the next government brings in this reform, lock, stock and barrel. What we’re aiming to do is start the debate. So I have put forward a visionary proposal that over time may come to be perceived not as so extreme but as something, eventually, akin to almost common sense. And if we manage to do that, then maybe one day there will be future generations that are grateful to us. Who knows, maybe this day may even be remembered a long time after virtually all of the bits of technocratic tinkering that the large majority of think tanks have as their bread and butter are long forgotten. . .
Compass’s ‘Plan B: A good economy for a good society’ event will take place on March 7th at 6.00pm, at the Unite the Union Building, 39 Thorpe Road, Norwich, NR1 1ES.
The debate will focus on setting out a vision for an alternative economic direction, building upon the Compass report ‘Plan B: A good economy for a good society’. The event will include guest speakers Anna Coote, new economics foundation, Clive Lewis, Labour PPC for Norwich South, Prof Alan Finlayson, UEA, Dr Rupert Read, East of England Green Party Co-ordinator and Howard Reed, Co-editor of Plan B. The meeting will be chaired by Joe Cox (Compass).
This event is open to the public.
What is Plan B? Read the one page summary here> http://www.scribd.com/doc/