Capitalism has failed. I don’t mean this in the revolutionary, lets socialize All The Things way - all I mean is something that should really be obvious right away. Much as there has never been a communist nation (insofar as you can refer to a communist society as a “nation”), there really hasn’t ever been a proper anarcho-capitalist state. None of the various forms of revolutionary socialism have ever managed to transition over to anything but famine and opressive dictatorships, to the point where we’re pretty sure that even trying is a horrible idea, and none of the various attempts at removing as much regulation as possible ever go anywhere before the inevitable huge consolidated organizations pop up, go under, and enough people get hurt that thigs are rolled back very quickly (and lets not even talk about the half a dozen failed attempts at swimming libertopias).
So, if communism isn’t the silver bullet, and capitalism doesn’t work either, what does? Well, look around - what do you see? What is the economic philosophy nearly every nation on earth subscribes to? It goes by many names, depending on whatever seemed like a good idea at the time. Roughly, it can be described as “something somewhere in the middle between the two extremist ideas of no-government-at-all anarcho-capitalism and government-runs-everything centralized-socialism”.
It’s obvious that, while that covers just about everythig everyone does, that different nations still do thigs differently. Some nations have socialized medicine, some don’t. Some have huge economic safety nets, some don’t. Some are libertarian enough to make almost anyone who doesn’t post on the bitcointalk.com forums happy, some are still so socialist that socialist academia would rather pretend they somehow aren’t. As it turns out, while it is obvious that “some government - but not too much” is a generally sound principle, how much is “too much” is a matter that isn’t settled and might never be. And that is perfectly fine!
Society is a messy, complex thing, and a moving target. There usually is more than one side to any issue and no solution that is great for everybody, and what was perfectly fine yesterday might need reevaluation today, since the world and the people that live in it constantly change. That is why it is good that there are people who have various oftentimes diametrically opposite points of views about issues, so that these people can then get together and figure out how to solve the problems they have in some way that everyone can live with, after considering all the sides of the issue that there are. That way, whatever happens will usually be better than if any one group had just gone ahead and done whatever. Maybe it is a terrible idea to deregulate banking, maybe it isn’t. Maybe it is a terrible idea to regulate what people can and cannot say, maybe it’s fine to allow people to sue for personal insults. Maybe the state should have a monopoly on the exploitation of natural ressources, or maybe not. The
wrongest possible thing is blindly following your own ideology without first checking if maybe, just maybe, the other guys have the right idea this time.
As long as we are at the neighbourhood association level, it’s perfectly possible for everyone to participate personally in political decision-making. As soon as a significantly greater number of people get involved, this becomes impractical. A good - not perfect, but pretty good - system for this is political parties. They are instruments of political decision-finding - they stand for various different sets of values and positions, and when voting, people delegate the actual process of talking things through thoroughly to them, so that things can get done. There’s obvious problems with that (lack of granularity, long time between elections, …), which can be offset in various ways, but as time goes on, there is one less-obvious problem that has become quite a bit more problematic recently.
To actually figure out what a good way to handle things is, you usually need discussion. If everyone already agrees, that seems great at the time, but when everyone pretty much agrees on everything, that starts leading to short-sighted, sub-optimal decisions.
But that is exactly what is happening right now.
Political parties should not be like a corporation trying to maximize shareholder value, always trying to get the maximum number of votes. A party should, of course, aim to get the greatest number of votes it can - but it should do that by convincing as many people as possible that its ideas are the way forward, not by constantly shifting their core values around until they aren’t considered inelectable by anyone anymore and then going for the “we are the lesser evil!” vote. Parties should not jump at any opportunity to shift closer to their political opponents in an effort to skim off some votes. Parties should not succumb to populism and do a complete one-eighty every time public opinion seems to shift. All this slow, unstoppable slide to the center leaves is parties with no real positions of their own who cannot possibly effectively represent the spectrum of opinions that there is.
But that is exactly what is happening right now.
Every time you hear a politician say “Some Other Party had this idea first, but we saw it was a good idea so we’re doing it as well!”, you should get angry. Every time you see a party abandon yet another long-held position to move further towards the center, you should get angry. You should tell these people “No! Have some fucking backbone! Risk being in the wrong! Debate with the opposition! If you must, compromise, but not right away!”, or, in other words, “Do your fucking job!” - which is the representation of the electorate, and not the conservation of personal political power. However, inevitably, that seems to be where things end up going, if left unchecked.
What can be done about this? Well, I certainly don’t claim to know. There are some ideas that I find neat - systems like the Pirate Parties “Liquid Democracy” tools, where votes can be delegated on a per-issue basis and the delegation can be changed at any time, or election systems that encourage smaller, more diverse parties - but these probably have terrible problems of their own. A good way to figure out what might work would be to get together and talk and maybe disagree about some things so that we can learn from each other. Lets disagree. Lets talk.