Recent events in Europe and in America have shown how the majority can influence the political direction of a country. In these cases, now including Italy, the question asked was essentially a ‘Yes’ or ‘No’. Either you supported the proposal or you didn’t.
In the case of Britain, the nay sayers, those who wanted to stay within the European Union, lost. Not only that, but they are unhappy about it. They are quite as unhappy about the situation as the sizeable number of people who voted for Hillary Clinton. Sizeable, but not sufficient. After all, Trump won the day.
We have here a substantial dissatisfaction in both countries.
Now, I doubt if there would have been quite as much uproar had Trump lost and the British remained in the EU – that is a different question. The fact remains that the losers in both cases are not playing fair. They expected to win, and are disappointed that they did not.
Mainly because they had expected to win. In America, some betting shops had already paid out on a Clinton win; the Democratic party and the newspapers had set up the fanfare.
They were setting themselves up for a disappointment in the way the surveyor had done with me. He had expected me to leap at the opportunity to have a new kitchen. He was crestfallen when I refused; to him it was incomprehensible that anybody would refuse a gift of this kind.
But I have to state that I did not disappoint him: he had expected something that was not rightly his to expect. That is to say, the decision did not lie with him, much as he and those above him might have wished. (1)
The Democrats were unhappy with the result, as those who wanted to remain in the EU were.
The Situation In Europe.
I want to turn to Europe now, where the political system is still a little more lively than the British or American who have a form of the ‘First Past The Post’ system. Here in Europe, the distribution of the votes leads directly to the distribution of seats in the parliament. There are minor differences that need not bother us here; the fact remains that if you cast a vote for a party that gets more than 2% of the whole, they will be represented in parliament. This means that in the case of Geert Wilders of the Dutch extremist party PVV, he has had roughly 25% of the vote and a suitable number of seats.
It is important to note that whilst there has been a the rise of the right wing parties in recent years, their being represented in parliament, their policies are shown for what they are. They have to deal with the mundane, day to day issues of governing a nation as well as their own extreme policies. I will give you an example of this: whilst in Germany, we had to set out a new workshop. The law applying to this was from 1936, and had not been repealed. I need not tell you who was in power, but it does go to show that he had to deal with the nitty gritty as well as getting rid of all the Jews.
Even so, he could only achieve what he did by breaking the law. Hitler had no formal majority, indeed, he was not even close to having one! His American paymasters must have been shocked at how hard it is to thwart a rugged democracy like Germany’s.
In the UK, Margaret Thatcher won a memorable victory of over 140 seats… with only 42% of the vote. Such disproportionality does not exist in Europe, much as the Americans might want it to. After all, they know nothing else: the problem is that the system they are so proud of has led them to disappointment.
In the elections held in Germany in 2013, Frau Angela Merkel got 41% of the vote – distributed between her own CDU party and the Bavarian CSU. What with one thing and another, they got 49% of the vote.
It must be stressed that under German law, this is not enough to form a government. With the same proportion of the vote, Thatcher had a massive majority.
Merkel had to go begging, and begging because she was only 1% short of a majority! This is what happened in the aftermath:
Formal talks began in the first week of October when Merkel met SPD leaders on 4 October. She said: “Europe is watching us, the world is watching us. We have the common responsibility to build a stable government.” She also planned to hold talks with the Greens the following week. After five weeks of negotiations that culminated in an all-night session 27–28 November, the CDU/CSU reached agreement with the SPD to form a new coalition government. Issues resolved in the talks included the planned introduction of a minimum hourly wage of €8.50 in 2015 and no new taxes. The deal depended on approval by the SPD rank and file, with a poll set for 6 December. On 14 December, 76% of the SPD’s members voted for the coalition to go ahead.
Thus the left and the right had joined in a coalition parliament. Mainly due to the collapse of the FDP, but that is beyond the scope of this post.
The point is that in Germany, politicians have to talk. They have to deal with ‘opposition’ members – such things do not exist in Europe, they are part of the parliament as much as any other member is – they have to deal with each other and their needs in a practical and meaningful way.
That is to say, they have to engage with each other as equals. This is a structure of government where leadership knows that one day they might have to deal with the other parties in a government.
In the UK and US the matter is largely a matter of one party lording it over the others and telling them what to do. This isn’t good for politics, and it certainly isn’t good for an economy. Both of these countries have serious government deficits (2), and these can be ascribed to the poor negotiating abilities of the politicians in both countries. Poor communication skills are a direct result of poor thinking.
Germany’s 6% government surplus is not a matter of industrial production alone.
Quite as importantly, in past elections in Germany, other parties have seen themselves represented, mainly the FDP. Further to this, it is not uncommon for the government to be defeated and a measure in a different political direction. Nobody is particularly bothered by this, it’s all part of how you rule a country. Especially when you know you might be in government with them next time…
It is also important to note that this leads to a far fairer representation; what it does not lead to is entire swathes of the country smearing the walls with their dirty nappies because they didn’t get what they wanted.
(1) This is from a deeper understanding of Perry Marshall’s “Tactical Triangle.” Economics is but another expression of how humans interact, and the tactical triangle is one expression of human communication. My post “Conversation in Goethe’s Time, And Ours” looks at this same phenomenon from a different angle. (Click here). It is essential to grasp the fact that you cannot expect customers to behave in the way that surveyor did: in expecting, he actively destroys the business he works for. The problem is that he doesn’t know this; nor does Mr Marshall.
(2) Both Britain and America have government deficits that are now outside the danger zone of 4%. Britain’s is considerably more, approaching 7%. Any modest increase in borrowing rates will see this deficit spiral out of control. Now you know why they like zero interest rates! It gives them a few more months of existence.