How money controls democracy and blocks electoral reform
by Jeff and Diana Jewell
In Canada, we’re told we have democracy. But do we?
Lincoln defined democracy as “government of the people, by the people, for the people.” Ours works more like ‘government of the people, by the political power-brokers, for their wealthy patrons and themselves.’
Here’s how the real world runs: money + power = control.
So how does this reality trump democracy? After all, we do have ‘free’ elections, don’t we? No! Our elections aren’t ‘free,’ they’re very costly. Money controls who runs and especially who wins. Money controls the winners and what they do with their temporary grip on political power.
Does money control politics through simple corruption? Rarely. It’s mostly money sponsoring those who’ve pledged allegiance to money and they always need more money for their next election.
How does money control politicians? Lobbyists are the ‘guns for hire’ who work on behalf of money, often via backroom deals in the leader’s office.
Canada still suffers under its British colonial electoral system called FPTP (first-past-the-post). Citizens have a single vote for a local representative. Because any vote for a losing candidate is ‘wasted,’ FPTP coerces many voters (about one-third) into voting for a ‘lesser of evils,’ trying to block a party they really don’t want.
The people do not elect ‘their’ government. The government is elected by the Assembly of Representatives, based on the number of seats won by each party, always disproportional to their vote-share. Under FPTP, the government is always a distortion of the ‘will of the people.’ FPTP also produces other distortions and gives the winning party an unfair advantage matched by an unfair disadvantage to losing parties.
The two most undemocratic consequences of FPTP are: (1) the ‘two-party’ system (any number of parties can run, but only two have any chance of winning, the others doomed to the role of ‘spoilers’; (2) FPTP distortions routinely produce ‘false-majority’ governments, more than half the seats and total control with much less than half the votes.
Supreme power still resides in the monarch, but the monarch delegates control to a prime minister or premier. That leader appoints a ‘cabinet,’ a committee of representatives chosen to sit as an executive body, each controlling a department of government. So the leader controls the cabinet and decisions of cabinet become the decisions of government, which are presented for the Legislature’s approval, effectively a ‘rubber stamp’ under majority government.
This is the true system of power and control that operates under the guise of democratic process.
Since FPTP always cheats a large majority of voters, candidates and parties, a call for electoral reform periodically arises, usually when a party that was victimized by FPTP wins. But as winners, they’ve become beneficiaries of FPTP distortions, so a promise of electoral reform becomes an inconvenient conflict of interest. Their usual recourse is a fake (made-to-fail) study and/or referendum process.
The political power-brokers know that most people have no interest in electoral systems and can easily be duped by a negative campaign, run by political pros/lobbyists to exploit public apathy and raise anxiety about changes.
It’s never asked: “Who benefits from preserving the status quo?” The political power-brokers under FPTP’s two-party system are obvious beneficiaries, as FPTP enables their shared stranglehold on power. But those players are only short-term employees of a permanent enterprise: the ‘money-power-control’’ conglomerate, owned and operated by the establishment.’
Who are ‘the establishment?’ Formerly called ‘the oligarchy,’ it began with kings and the aristocracy, later adding the landed gentry and the moneyed class. In our day, it’s dominated by leaders of the banking/financial institutions and great corporations. They, not the politicians, control the nations and their economies. They hire the lobbyists who do their backroom deals.
Their perpetual control is facilitated by FPTP with its false-majority governments, but would be impeded by PR under its minority governments.
As to a referendum on proportional representation (PR), the public is oblivious to these realities. But the money-power-control gang(sters) are vitally concerned and determined to protect their interests. So what are the chances that a referendum on PR would somehow be sabotaged?
What are the chances that a YES campaign might be infiltrated by a Trojan horse using an ancient strategy of duplicity? Without dirty tricks, the YES campaign might inconveniently serve up an alternative that the NO campaign could not defeat!
Considering what’s at stake for the money-power-control cabal, can you really expect a PR referendum campaign to be an honest exercise in democracy – or covertly manipulated in the interests of money and power to preserve their control?
Jeff and Diana Jewell are long-time activists, with a special commitment to electoral reform. Jeff is a retired computer systems manager who worked for the City of Burnaby and a former Councillor in the District of Mission. Please send any questions or comments to:
photo montage by Tom Voydh / door photo © Marilyn Barbone