A Personal Note
I have written this manifesto as a response to the insanity of our political and economic systems, which have locked us into behaviour that threatens our very existence on the planet.
I know that the chances of the ideas within the manifesto gaining any traction are infinitesimally slender.
Flag-waving, grievance-mongering, conflict-loving tribes who promote delusions of exceptionalism are everywhere on the rise, filling the political space with raucous self-righteousness, drowning out everything else.
But, when the handcart delivers us into the ever-more-likely hell of fire, flood, famine and pestilence, and the worshippers of mammon, nation, and other false prophets are clawing at the ashes of their mendacious fantasies, I may find some consolation in the fact that I did, at least, pull myself out of the swamp of apathy and try to paint a picture of a better way.
The Sanity Manifesto
- It’s Systemic
- Reform of Decision-making
- Reform of Finance
- Making It Happen
- Campaign Headlines
If capitalism, socialism, nationalism, liberalism, centrism, and all of the other ‘isms’ that have populated the political landscape in the last 200 years, ever had any practical purpose, they have long since lost it.
Our politics around the globe, and especially in the UK, have descended into a farce of abject tribalism where the primary objective is to grab and hold onto power.
Our so-called leaders use whatever means they can muster to pursue this objective, regardless of ethics or consequences for the people who they pretend to serve.
These individuals and the parties that support them have proven, decade after decade, to be incapable even of fixing the potholes in our roads, never mind the existential problems of the planet.
We vote them in, we vote them out, we vote them in again, but the problems remain unsolved.
Continuing to vote for these people, these parties, and their chronic failure, and expecting a different outcome, is the definition of insanity.
The failure of our politicians to do the things that need to be done is not entirely due to venality and incompetence.
Most people who work in government are decent souls who try their best to do what is right, but they struggle to make headway because they are working within systems of decision-making and finance that are not fit for purpose.
For a start, our system of so-called democracy is profoundly undemocratic.
Elections are won by personalities, presentation, and vague promises.
The party that wins always wins thanks to the votes of a minority of the electorate.
Most of the people who we elect, including those from the winning party, have no power.
All of the power is concentrated in the hands of a tiny group of people at the top of the winning party who demand absolute loyalty from the rest of their gang, and delight in ignoring the opposing gangs.
The absolute power of the handful of people at the top of government is consolidated by their absolute power over public spending.
They typically direct such spending towards things that are supported by the minority who elected them, or the even smaller minority who contributed to the costs of the election.
This means that the distribution of public finance is inherently undemocratic.
Until we change these undemocratic, ineffective systems we have no chance of harnessing the power of our communities to fix the problems that plague us, no chance of securing sustainable prosperity for ourselves and those who come after us.
Electoral arithmetic suggests that there is a large empty space in the political landscape that is waiting to be filled.
Typically, a little less than a third of the registered electorate in the UK votes for the winning party in a general election, and a little more than a third votes for other parties.
This means that a third of the registered electorate typically doesn’t vote, despite having gone to the trouble of registering. This is currently equivalent to around 16 million people.
If we add c.7 million people who are eligible to vote but haven’t registered to do so, we get a total of 23 million non-voters, which is around 42% of the eligible electorate.
Given that less than 2% of the UK population are members of political parties it is safe to assume that some of the 30 million of the eligible electorate who vote, but are not affiliated to any party, would be open to voting instead for a manifesto that will abolish our undemocratic systems of decision-making and finance and replace them with systems that are truly democratic, and make it possible to fix the problems that plague us.
We can use the existing electoral machinery to gain the power that we need to create these new systems.
You and I cannot prosper without a healthy planet and the efforts of hundreds of thousands of other people to do and make all of the things that we need for our security and comfort throughout our lives.
This means that the only rational objective for any of us is universal sustainable prosperity.
The quantity, diversity and complexity of our communities makes it impossible for national governments to deliver this objective via top-down command and control.
What we need is a framework for decision-making and finance that empowers our local communities to decide and do what needs to be done locally, and collaborate with other communities to do the things that need to be done regionally and nationally.
The current multi-layer system of decision-making via parliaments, assemblies, municipal authorities, regional councils, parish councils, community councils, etc. is a conflicted, bloated, over-complicated, undemocratic mess. It is not, has never been, and never will be effective.
The current system of taxation and public spending is profoundly stupid. It pretends that productive activity is limited by finance, which means public spending is restricted to an arbitrary amount determined by taxation and borrowing.
The real constraint on economic activity is physical – the availability of labour and materials. Ignoring this fundamental truth and pretending that there’s a shortage of money makes it impossible for us to do so many things that desperately need to be done.
When elected, our government will create new systems of decision-making and finance that will allow individuals, businesses, charities, community groups, and public services to flourish in response to the challenge of attaining and maintaining universal sustainable prosperity.
Our government will be a transitional one. It will make itself redundant within five years. As soon as the new framework for decision-making and finance has been established the government will resign and elections will be held under the new system.
Reform of Decision-making
When elected to government we will create a Citizens’ Commission, which will be the operator and guardian of the new democratic decision-making system.
The Citizens’ Commission will be owned by the citizens of the nation and will operate independently from government.
Once established, changes to the structure and operation of the Citizens’ Commission will require support from a super-majority of elected representatives.
The first job of the Citizens’ Commission will be to create the legal, physical and electronic infrastructure to support the new system of democratic decision-making.
The new system will have the following features:
- A single layer of Elected Representatives (ERs) who vote on proposals for all policies, be they local, regional, or national.
- Candidate-defined constituencies with a ceiling on the number of residents who are eligible to vote (e.g. 20,000).
- Candidates must live in their constituency, and have lived in it for at least three consecutive years before they can stand for election.
- Candidates must be nominated by 50 constituents before they can stand for election.
- A strictly-enforced limit to the amount of money that can be spent on electioneering by or for any one candidate (e.g. £1,000).
- All candidates who get more than 5,000 votes are elected to government.
- ERs from the same, overlapping, or adjacent constituencies agree to form a Local Committee with a small, odd number of ERs (e.g. 3 or 5).
- Local Committees are the primary unit of democratic power within the system.
- A formal, standardised, transparent method of communication between constituents and ERs is used to record opinions and suggestions, which inform ERs’ decision-making.
- A standardised Secondary Committee format is used by ERs to manage policy-making and monitor policy delivery beyond the Local Committee level (e.g. regionally and nationally).
- Standardised terms and conditions for the appointment of delegates to Secondary Committees by ERs.
- Standardised terms and conditions for the selection and appointment of executives to deliver the policies that are decided by the Local and Secondary Committees.
- Rigorously-enforced rules prohibiting ERs, delegates and executives from being employed by, or members of, or providing particular advantage to any commercial, charitable, campaigning or lobbying organisation (including political parties).
- Systems, owned and operated by the Citizens’ Commission, that record and publish all interactions within government (ERs, delegates, executives, civil servants) and between government and governed (individuals, businesses, lobbyists, campaigners).
- Strict enforcement of rules by the Citizens’ Commission with unequivocal and punitive sanctions for those who break them.
This new system of democratic decision-making means that every Elected Representative will be a member of the government, contributing to policy proposals and making decisions via majority votes on behalf of their constituents at local, regional and national levels. The insanity of voting for (and paying for) powerless back-bench and opposition members of parliament will be consigned to history.
The system embeds democratic decision-making in the hearts of our communities, ensuring that decisions of purely local relevance are taken locally, and issues that are broader than local are addressed at whatever level is most appropriate.
The removal of party politics from government means that ERs represent only their constituents, and all of their constituents, all of the time. There is no divided loyalty between party and constituents, no whipping of votes, just ERs making decisions based on the communications from their constituents and the evidence presented by committees.
ERs will be supported by delegates who are selected and appointed by ERs to interact with constituents and sit on committees. This will spread the workload of ERs, and allow the introduction of expertise to government that might not be available among ERs and civil servants, which will strengthen the quality of policy proposals and decisions.
Committees will appoint executives to deliver services according to the policy decisions that have been made by the ERs, which means that all executive leadership roles (locally, regionally, nationally) will be done by professionals with relevant experience. The insanity of having unqualified career politicians who are beholden to a minority of the electorate being in direct control of our public services will stop.
Executives will be answerable to the committees that appoint them, which means that they can be removed by ERs if their performance is inadequate.
Prohibiting ERs, delegates and executives from being part of any external organisation, and making all communication transparent, limits the opportunities for government to be hi-jacked by individuals and organisations seeking unfair advantage.
The power of the Citizens’ Commission to investigate malpractice and apply punitive sanctions reduces the chances of corruption between ERs and those seeking to influence decisions.
Reform of Finance
When elected to government we will create a Citizens’ Bank, which will be the operator and guardian of the currency on behalf of the citizens.
The Citizens’ Bank, and the currency that it controls, will be owned by the citizens and will operate independently from the government.
Once established, changes to the structure and operation of the Citizens’ Bank will require support from a super-majority of Elected Representatives.
The first job of the Citizens’ Bank will be to create the legal, physical and electronic infrastructure that is required to operate the currency and the system of financing public spending.
The Citizens’ Bank will:
- Be the sole creator and destroyer of currency.
- Own and operate the financial transaction system.
- Provide every citizen and organisation with free transactional banking.
- Provide every citizen with a periodic Citizens’ Dividend of sufficient value to cover basic living costs.
- Advise ER committees on the financial implications of proposed policies.
- Create currency to pay for public spending.
- Permanently remove currency from circulation by applying a variable rate of negative interest to every bank account.
- Temporarily remove currency from circulation by operating a variety of fixed-term savings accounts that have more favourable rates of interest (e.g. zero).
- Operate government loan accounts that fund public spending, allowing lenders to avoid negative interest.
- Maintain foreign currency reserves and manage foreign exchange to facilitate international trade.
- Abolish all taxes that discourage productive activity.
- Establish and operate a Sustainability Index and administer a Sustainability Tax on all purchases of goods and services.
- Administer all other taxes that are retained or passed into law by the Elected Representatives.
- Establish and administer a value-for-money index for public spending that is applied to all publicly-financed activities.
- Establish and operate convenient electronic cash alternatives to notes and coins.
- Abolish notes and coins.
The system operated by the Citizens’ Bank recognises that money is a shared resource: it only has value because we all agree that it can be used for buying and selling. This means that we – collectively – own the currency.
The Citizens’ Dividend (a version of universal basic income) represents our individual share of the currency, which is periodically returned to us after we have spent it.
The system recognises that for the economy to work properly money must be universally available and constantly mobile.
Negative interest and the Citizens’ Dividend combine to maintain the availability and mobility of the currency throughout the economy, ensuring that businesses have customers with spending power, businesses have ready access to loans for investment and cash flow, and every citizen has the means to pay their essential bills.
The system recognises that money is created by government spending and is destroyed by taxation.
This allows public spending to be matched with the availability of materials and labour, which means that we can fund whatever we agree needs to be done, so long as we have the people and materials that are needed to do the work, and the ability to remove money from circulation in whatever quantity is required to mitigate the inflationary effects of such spending.
All of the things that are currently constrained from lack of money (e.g. social care, road repairs, affordable housing, energy efficiency) can be funded if we choose to allocate physical resources to them.
The Citizens’ Bank is able to control demand-pull inflation by varying the rate of negative interest and providing opportunities to avoid it (e.g. zero-rated fixed-term savings accounts). This provides far more direct control over the money supply (quantity and velocity) than is possible under the current system.
To avoid negative interest on excess bank balances, people will be keen to lend to business and government at zero interest, which will encourage business development and reduce the quantity of money creation for public spending.
Taxes that inhibit productive activity (e.g. income tax on wages and salaries, national insurance contributions, VAT, corporation tax) will be abolished, which will make it easier to start and develop businesses, and significantly reduce the costs of production.
The only tax that will be built into the system is a universal Sustainability Tax applied to the purchase of all goods and services. This tax will be designed to encourage rapid transition to, and maintenance of, a fully circular economy.
The Citizens’ Dividend will ensure that everyone can afford to live through any cost-of-living turbulence caused by the transition to a fully circular economy.
The complex, parsimonious, punitive, bureaucratic mess of welfare benefits will be abolished. Most recipients will be much better off thanks to the Citizens’ Dividend. Those who have additional needs will be provided for via a new system of self-directed support that is operated at local level.
Costs of employment will be significantly offset by the Citizens’ Dividend. This will reduce the labour costs of transition to sustainability, and make UK products and services significantly more competitive in international markets.
Reduced employment costs will also make it easier to provide high-quality public services such as social care, education, and healthcare.
Our individual accounts at the Citizens’ Bank will be our Citizen’s ID: the primary repository of our personal data (citizenship, financial, health, education, etc.).
We will have exclusive control our own data, allowing access to information only when we agree that it is appropriate (e.g. for our healthcare). A court order will be required for law enforcement or government to gain access to our data without our permission.
When the Citizens’ Commission and the Citizens’ Bank have established the new systems of decision-making and finance, our government will resign and the first election under the new system will be held. At this point the following elements of the existing system will be automatically abolished:
- the entire UK parliament (commons, lords, etc.).
- the devolved parliament and assemblies (Scotland, Wales, N.Ireland).
- all of the elected manifestations and functions of regional, municipal and local government.
- the electoral roll.
- the Bank of England.
- the ability of commercial banks to create money (i.e. as deposits when issuing loans).
- offshore sterling currency accounts and tax havens.
- all taxes that inhibit productive activity (e.g. income tax, national insurance contributions, VAT, corporation tax).
- all centralised subsistence welfare benefits.
At the time of transition:
- all local, regional and national public services that have been retained will continue to operate until they are reformed by the new government.
- all civil servants whose departments are abolished will be offered work within the new system.
- all contracts of employment in all sectors will be eligible for renegotiation at the request of employee or employer (to take account of the income from the Citizens’ Dividend).
Setting up and transitioning to the new systems of decision-making and finance will take up to five years. During this period our government will operate under existing legislation but we will use it to steer policy towards actions that will help to meet the objective of universal sustainable prosperity.
Public finances will be managed according to the concept of directing the creation of money towards essential services and reforms, and destroying money via taxation of activities that are in direct conflict with the objective. The flawed concept of balancing public spending with revenue and borrowing will be abandoned.
Making It Happen
Ironically, in order to abolish the undemocratic party system, we have to form a party and get it elected into government at Westminster. We could call it Sanity.
We need 650 citizens to stand for election, one for each Westminster seat. Candidates will have to have enough time, money and self-discipline to campaign exclusively on the abolition of the existing systems of government and finance, and the establishment of the Citizens’ Commission and the Citizens’ Bank.
When elected, Sanity will appoint ministers with appropriate experience who will steer the nation in the direction of universal sustainable prosperity while the Citizens’ Commission and the Citizens’ Bank are being established.
Universal sustainable prosperity is the only sane objective for humanity.
Our systems of decision-making and finance prevent us from reaching this objective because they have division, conflict, unsustainability and poverty built into them.
When elected to government we will replace the current systems of decision-making and finance with new ones that allow all of us, and the planet on which we all rely, to prosper.
Multiple layers of bloated, inefficient, ineffective, remote, partisan talking shops will be replaced by a single layer of truly democratic government with its roots embedded in local communities.
A Citizens’ Commission will operate this new system of democratic decision-making, ensuring that everyone is able to contribute and no-one is able to take unfair advantage.
Our idiotic financial system that penalises productive activity and arbitrarily constrains public services will be replaced by one that allows the creative and industrious potential of the entire population to flourish within the physical constraints of the planet.
A Citizens’ Bank will operate the new system of finance, ensuring that every individual, business, charity, and public service has access to the money that they need to do the things that need to be done to secure our sustainable prosperity, while maintaining the value of the currency domestically and internationally.
The Citizens’ Commission and the Citizens’ Bank will be owned by the citizens and will operate independently from government, providing a consistent, solid foundation upon which we can build a democracy that is worthy of the name.
Sanity will make government truly democratic. It will empower you and your community to decide what needs to be done, and get the resources to do it.
Whatever is important to you – be it fixing potholes, or enabling entrepreneurs, or enhancing public services, or eliminating poverty, or mitigating climate change – the new systems of decision-making and finance will make it possible.
Stop the madness. Vote for Sanity.