The freedom of Association and Assembly is firmly embedded in the constitutions of free societies. It is the right of people to associate and govern their society collectively, the system called “democracy”. This is the biggest association possible in any society and serves as its protection against being ruled by grouped “undesirables”, call them “bullies” if you will, pursuing particular interests incompatible with those of the populace at large. Political “Parties” are essentially such bullies taking advantage of the freedom of association to hollow the assembly of the populace. They have become an aberration really because their purpose is to defeat Democracy, the very system that made their genesis feasible.
Parliamentary Democracy is the currently pragmatic form of democracy. A parliament is, or is meant to be, an assembly of all the members of a society, albeit partaking not in person, but by proxy. This may detract a tad from the direct format of Democracy but is the feasible one since the rebirth of democracy after the Dark Ages, necessitated by demographic and geographic realities.
The underlining principle of Democracy is to prevent cliques and factions from becoming “rulers” of the people. Democracy does that by utilizing the freedom of association – “united we stand, divided we fall”. This welds “association” to Democracy for “without the one you cannot have the other”, which is how Frank Sinatra sung it.
The freedom of association, not unlike any other known notions, no matter how noble, can be abused to sinister ends. Quickly after its inception parliament came under attack by special interest people grouped into Parties determined to secure privileges and to control the society. This is an enduring old story – Plato recognized the problem and discussed it; Juvenal popularized it with the adage “who guards the watchdogs? (Quis custodiet Ipsos custodes?). Sadly Parliament cannot any longer guard itself for it is occupied by the Parties and made into a dog-fight arena.
The Parties have become the Homer-ean Scylla and Charibdis who control the portal to what was meant to be the peoples’ parliament. It is as rare as a full rainbow that someone may enter Parliament without having sold his/her soul to a party. This has resulted in a hollow parliament prone to self-deteriorating and highly resistant to healing.
Recently we were treated to a rare pair of tears in the curtain and had a glimpse of what lies behind it. I refer to Jody Wilson-Raybould, Jane Philpott, NSC Lavalin and Justin Trudeau fracas. And, of course, to Darryl Plecas fiasco. Where is hope?
Once, Trudeau (the Father) lectured citizens protesting outside the House to stop doing that and instead to get elected and “blow up the system from inside”. He said it when newly elected and before becoming himself a stalwart of the system. More astute people recognize the futility of dual allegiance and refuse to sell their dignity to a party Whip. Society loses the service of the best and the brightest, and suffers the rule of the “flexible” which is not nice.
Space considerations suggest we move into “debugging” the governance system. Exterminating the Parties appears to be a solution, but it is not. Because this is not easy to do and if done would be “cutting our nose to spite our face”. Then, how can we defeat Partyocracy? Let us do a bit of head scratching.
Dissecting the issue reveals that wrong is not the existence of the Parties per se, the villain is their conduct and I shall explain. Thieves are ok with us for as long as they do not steal – we do not even send them for “therapy”. We live happily with them for as long as they steal naught. But we “blackmail” them with laws and intimidate them with police to help them refrain from stealing. In this we have the solution to the Parties problem. It is to evict them from parliament and force them to stay a distance from it, or else ...
More than that really, we could benefit from Parties being made up from the good people who now join the Parties only to be corrupted into serving those who profit from the system. A party-free, i.e. a Democratic parliament, should operate an “Ideas Bank”, a portal through which citizens would suggest legislation and other action for the consideration of the legislators. They, the MPs, could act on, comment to, or simply ignore submissions, as they deem fit. However, whatever they do, would be in the open, forever in front of the almighty Demo.
Citizens groups, be they called “parties” or something else, would have full access to the Ideas Bank to showcase their contributions to the governance of the society. The difference from the by-then defunct Partyocracy would be that the fate of their ideas would be decided on merit instead of being imposed by mercenaries. Once an idea is showcased in the Ideas Bank, its fate is in the hands of the whole society, for that is what Democracy is all about. No more Party Whips, sensors and secret persuaders inducing public ignorance for personal gain; all for the better, don’t you think?
There is more to be said on this matter and it will be.