Monday, March 29, 2010

The Need for Continued Reform

It was 1517 when Martin Luther caused a rumpus that would lead to the end of the Holy Roman Empire, that saw the end of the Inquisition in northern Europe, that gave birth in many ways to the modern nation state, with the consciousness that shared language and traditions bring to a people, especially a people who can express their religious beliefs in their own language rather than in a long dead tongue. The Reformation can been seen as both a religious struggle but also a political one, one where the forces of progress prevailed over the forces of reactionary conservatism. One of the mottos, or slogans if you like, of the Reformation was that the church should always be reforming itself, or to use the Latin, ecclesia semper reformanda. Now, don't worry, this post isn't about religion, it is about politics and the failure of the right, across the globe, to continue the process of reformation, prefering instead to lament a mythical golden age and misunderstand that conservatism is not about keeping things as they have always been, but rather about holding on to what works in a society and reforming what does not.

In a way, the political world should take to heart the idea of ecclesia semper reformanda, simply because human beings are flawed and society needs to be in a constant process of improvement and development in order to create a world where, to Anglicise the French, equality, liberty and fraternity flourish. The problem for many on the reactionary right is that they are adverse to paying the costs of equality, liberty and fraternity, whether financial or otherwise, and of course they often seek to deny equality, liberty and fraternity to those whose opinions they disagree with. It is a continual shame to modern society that hypocrisy is the modus operandi of many in the political sphere. Too many ignore Voltaire, allegedly, when he said that "I may not agree with what you say, but I will fight to the death for your right to say it".

One thing I would reform in every nation state across the globe is to bring an end to political careerism and a return to the idea that representing your peers in parliament is an act of service rather than an act of enrichment. At present, Members of Parliament in the United Kingdom earn a basic salary of £64,766 (approx. $93,000) per annum, rising to £197,689 (approx $300,000) for the Prime Minister, while the average salary of the Britons they represent is £22,202 (approx $33,000). In the US context, a Senator earns $174,000 per annum, and the President earns $193,400, and the people they represent earn a median of $27590 a year. It certainly makes you wonder who these politicians are representing when their incomes to so astronomically beyond the imagination of the average person. Of course, there used to be politicians who refused to take more than the average workers salary, but sadly they are in a minority these days, and thus we end up with a political class living in ivory towers, far removed from the concerns of the people they represent.

This brings me to my second reform for the political world, an end to having a "lifetime of service" by limiting the number of terms a person can serve in a given political office, one way of achieving this could be done by enforcing political retirement at 65, which would also have the added benefit of the political system becoming less dominated by old men, which is never a bad thing really.

Hmmm, this post has kind of wandered off track, so I will stop and smell the roses for a while.....