Following my initial post on the subject of direct democracy, which elicited a response from Richard North, EU Referendum, I replied. He has responded thus - and being the good chap that he is, he has saved me the trouble of supplying links to the previous posts in the 'chain'. Kindly acknowledging that my reply to his initial response raised much food for thought, he acknowledges that my reply raised an interesting question as to where democracy lies, adding a requirement to consider the nature of the demos, which supposedly drives decision-making.
We are both agreed that the UK is characterised by being one of the most centralised, top-down systems of government in the world, with local government largely financed by central government, and acting as an agent for it, with no independent status or constitution. Richard then accepts that any new settlement, therefore, must undo the Walker "reforms" of 1974, which created these giant, unresponsive and fundamentally undemocratic administrative units, with the focus on allowing communities to develop their own identities and to control their own destinies. That acceptance must surely underline the point that is made, namely that in any true form of democracy 'invertation' (is that a word?) of 'representative democracy' is an essential element of change, so that the power starts - as it must - at local level, and is controlled from there, rather than centralised, with diktats handed down from the central authority.
Making the point that, as in Bradford, there is no meaningful form of local government nationally, Richard then homes in on the root cause of the problem by raising the question of local tax raising powers. He, justifiably, makes the point that much is made of council tax; that it accounts for less than twenty percent of local government finance; that more than sixty percent comes from central government, handed down according to arcane formulas and political prejudice. Yes, most definitely, locally raised taxation should be sufficient - and no more - to fund the local government functions in the area, without having to go cap-in-hand to central government. Mention is made that perhaps a local income tax should be introduced, although I would personally prefer any local tax to be based on land values - a taxation method favoured by Mark Wadsworth - but, again, I digress.
Richard North and I are, I believe, both agreed that any budget of expenditure - be that national or local - should be presented to the electorate in the form of a quotation, one that requires acceptance or rejection. These 'budget quotations' should have inbuilt a reasonable 'excess' to cater for emergencies - therefore that would negate any necessity for any 'surplus' to be passed upwards to 'central'. The premise that Richard North proposes - that direct democracy needs to start at the bottom, controlling the flow of money – which should move upwards to the centre, by permission, not downwards by fiat; that politicians should always be made acutely aware that they spend our money, and should be required to ask for it each year, is unarguable.
It is worth mentioning one important fact here, one that has an immediate effect on the cost of living for the individual and, ultimately, the economic benefit of the country. As I have previously posted, many times, were local district councils (which is the closest equation to a Swiss Canton) able to set their own local tax revenue rates, we would have a situation never, to my knowledge, ever experienced in this country - namely a downward pressure on taxation. It is also worth remembering that the amount of VAT raised equates almost exactly with the amount central government grants to local authorities, so there should be no increase in overall taxation rates - which could of course be lowered nationally were our country to adopt a 'flat-tax' policy and raise the minimum 'tax-rate' - but again I digress....
Once again, I have to agree with Richard's closing paragraph where he writes that top-down government is not democracy - however I cannot accept, nor fail to see why, the alternative should result in what he terms 'giant administrative units'. Overall, methinks that Richard North and I are not a million miles away from agreement. On that basis, perhaps an 'agreed' form of democracy could be arrived at, one that could be presented to every political party with the suggestion that it be adopted - and if not, why not? Failure to accept direct democracy would indeed illustrate that the present polical class are indeed a dictatorial entity with self-preserving interests based on personal power and venality. Following that the next step, for those that believe direct democracy holds the key to our future, must be to draw up a 'codifying' document, one that draws together the Magna Carta, the Bills of Rights, Common Law and the basic principles of direct democracy into a new 'constitution'. That is the next 'step' and one that I intend undertaking and if there is anyone who would like to be involved, then please contact me.