Further to the simplest and briefest set of replies we’ve had, courtesy of Iwan Williams, today’s ‘Folks for a World that Works’ Q&A correspondent is Ruben Kenig, with a rather sobering set of responses…
OurNet: Thank you for taking part in the #ffawtw interview Ruben, what’s your big passion?
Ruben: Middle aged husband and father, recovering musician, sometime IT project manager and curmudgeon. Not sure about a big passion anymore.
OurNet: What would a ‘world that works’ look like to you?
Ruben: A successfully functioning world would be much more evidence based and much less democratic. Many major decisions seem to be driven by manipulation towards an outcome that a group desires. There is almost no effort to even frame a useful question around the decision. Examples in the UK would be austerity economics and Brexit.
Austerity economics does not increase the wealth and prosperity of the majority of the population, but it is sold as essential to “balance the books” and other fatuous comparisons to a personal budget. Similarly, Brexit doesn’t seem to be a useful answer to many of the concerns of the people who voted for it. It will not lead to Britain having less black and brown people and it will almost certainly not lead to any economic improvement either for the country as a whole or for the majority of the population.
A large problem with our current fetishisation of democracy is that people make poor decisions, largely through ignorance. There is no reason at all that I should have a say in macroeconomic policy. I know very little about the subject. It might be productive for me to have a role in framing a question that macroeconomic policy could answer though. We spend far too much time and energy considering the opinions of people who know naff all.
As Isaac Asimov said, “There is a cult of ignorance in the United States, and there has always been. The strain of anti-intellectualism has been a constant thread winding its way through our political and cultural life, nurtured by the false notion that democracy means that ‘my ignorance is just as good as your knowledge.’”
This is problematic as acknowledging ignorance is painful, and deciding whose knowledge is valid is tricky. The goal should be the accurate framing of questions about what kind of world we should be trying to create.
There seem to me to be two important questions:
1. How should we distribute the resources we have available?
2. How long do we want our society to last?
A successfully functioning world would be able to answer those questions honestly and clearly.
OurNet: What is stopping us from creating a ‘beautiful world we all know in our hearts is possible’?
Ruben: I don’t agree with the question at all. I am deeply doubtful that any beautiful world can be created. There are many things standing in the way, ignorance, greed, self-interest, short-termism and just plain old biology. I don’t believe that there is sufficient will to enact any sustainable, let alone beautiful, solutions.
The optimism of the question is misplaced. It will not be a question of whether we feel believe or hope a beautiful world can be created, but can we summon the will and wit to enact a major change in how humans have behaved for the past three thousand years or so. I would like to be wrong but…
Be one of the ‘Folks for a World that Works’ here