Democracy of the 20th century got stuck in a perceived dualism of ‘left’ and ‘right’, with each side claiming the other was against freedom. In practice the politicians of both sides have mostly been against freedom and for different forms of authoritarian control, whilst the majority of voters mostly vote against the party that inhibits their personal freedom the most, choosing the lesser of two evils.
This dualism is starting to break down, particularly in democracies that have abandoned the out dated and unrepresentative ‘first past the post’ system that gives a huge advantage to the biggest two established parties and unfairly disadvantages smaller parties. Most modern democracies (as opposed to the older pre-modern democracies like the USA and UK) have, for all the failings they still have, at least adopted proportionally representative electoral systems of one kind or another and this allows voters to more accurately match their views to what they vote for. This gives greater opportunity for new parties to emerge and whilst this means populist parties with extreme authoritarian viewpoints that make the current governments look reasonable, it also allows for the emergence for new parties that actually challenge the top down authoritarian model in various ways.
The various Green Parties tend to be amongst, if not the least authoritarian of parties in countries where they exist. Australia recently saw the launch of the Australian Sex Party, campaigning against their countries introduction of internet censorship and with a platform very much against sexual censorship and decriminalising all drugs for personal use. Another new development has been that of the Pirate Parties International the various national Pirate Parties under its umbrella. These mainly seem to be about guaranteeing internet freedoms and preventing/opposing/reversing the criminalisation of copyright violation, although with the increasingly authoritarian stance of the failing music industry corporations and the pressure they put on governments through their lobbying efforts, this is also a much needed debate that will take much longer to happen in first past the post democracies than it is impact on proportionally representative ones. In fact the party has already achieved council members in local governments in the Czech Republic, Germany, Spain and Switzerland. This follows the success of the Pirate Party in Sweden which elected two Pirate Party MEPs to the European Parliament.
Rather than getting stuck in the trap of dualism found in the traditional view of the competing economic ideologies of capitalism verses socialism, these new emergent parties are challenging the increasingly authoritarian laws and policies that traditional parties of both the left and the right have been imposing on us.
Of course whilst I value the ability to vote and and take part in party political democracy, I still only see it as a stepping stone from our shared past of totalitarian governments to our potential future as a free collective of mutually respecting sovereign individuals. In other words I value current democracies only because they’re slightly better than the dictatorships they’ve replaced, not because I think its the best form of society humanity can achieve. In other words on a scale of 1 to 10, where 1 is dictatorship and 10 is the best we can achieve, I’d say FTPT democracies score 2 and PR democracies score 3. Both better than 1, but still a fail score in most exams. “3/10 Could do better. See me after class.”
In part two of this series I will examine why I think the left/right duality is an illusion and explore different ways in which we might attempt to map different political view points.