Note — Mar 24, 2019

Why We Need to Reinvent Democracy for the Long-Term

Roman Krznaric tries to figure out what is not working with democracy and what could be changed to fix it. The three problems he lists are the electoral cycle which makes for short-term limited thinking, special interest groups with too much influence, and representative democracies systematically ignoring the interests of future people. He spends most of the article on the latter and on how we colonize the future, an important notion I agree with. But one thing that I don’t see often enough is respect for the jobs and institutions. Just look at our previous PM in Canada, look at 45, look at May in the UK. Beyond Krznaric’s three points, too many politicians just don’t respect the offices they hold and disregard their responsibilities and the intent of common good beyond the letter of the law. Perhaps if they did, we wouldn’t need to separate out responsibilities to future generations and they could simply be responsible decent leaders?

“If one is mentally out of breath all the time from dealing with the present, there is no energy left for imagining the future,” [Elise Boulding] […]

[I]t is so startlingly clear that our political systems have become a cause of rampant short-termism rather than a cure for it. Many politicians can barely see beyond the next election, and dance to the tune of the latest opinion poll or tweet. Governments typically prefer quick fixes, such as putting more criminals behind bars rather than dealing with the deeper social and economic causes of crime. Nations bicker around international conference tables, focused on their near-term interests, while the planet burns and species disappear. […]

The time has come to face an inconvenient reality: that modern democracy – especially in wealthy countries – has enabled us to colonise the future. We treat the future like a distant colonial outpost devoid of people, where we can freely dump ecological degradation, technological risk, nuclear waste and public debt, and that we feel at liberty to plunder as we please. […]

The future is an “empty time”, an unclaimed territory that is similarly devoid of inhabitants. Like the distant realms of empire, it is ours for the taking.