Nick Reece, Public Policy Fellow at the Centre for Public Policy at Melbourne University, says “From boardrooms to battlefields, from churches to nation states, being in charge just isn’t what it used to be”. He says power is moving from states to non-state actors and from state control to market forces. “In a deregulated economy, politicians haven’t controlled interest rates, the exchange rate, wage levels or prices for decades. Nor do they hold sway over industries like they did when they were protected by tariffs or regulation or even owned by the government”. (The Age 21/12/13)
This decline in government power brings with it, of course, a declining capacity to solve people’s problems. Nick Reece makes the astute observation that the gap between public expectations and the capacity of politicians to meet them leads to “a sharp decline in trust and confidence in political institutions”, and that this is a global phenomenon. He says “almost every advanced democracy in the world has a deeply unpopular government that is unable to deliver on its policy agenda”.
I think the Queensland academic Jane O’Sullivan has identified a key cause of the problem in her work on the burden of infrastructure provision on rapidly growing populations, which I have written and spoken about previously. In cities with population growth of 1% per annum or faster, no Council, State or Federal authorities are able to keep up, and many people cannot get basic problems solved.
Population growth also diminishes democracy, as pointed out by the late Professor Al Bartlett of Boulder Colorado. As towns and cities grow, people are no longer listened to as much as they used to be. They often respond to this powerlessness by disengaging from the political process, or with increasing resentment that can be seen in increasing incivility in our political discourse, or simply increasing incivility in our society full stop.
To stop the gap between the governing and the governed from becoming ever larger, and protect the quality of our democracy, I believe we need to stop the rapid population growth, and that countries should each seek to stabilise their populations. Only in this way can we retain the quality of our democracy and arrest the drift towards powerlessness, apathy and incivility.
Read the rest of this article at: http://kelvinthomson.blogspot.com.au
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