Rethink the way we do politics

rethink the way we do politics

Historians have estimated the number of people killed in the eleven major wars and revolutions starting with the Battle of the Marne and ending with the bombing of Nagasaki to range from 100 to 150 million people. In the wake of what is humanity’s most murderous generation, the newly formed United Nations adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) in December, 1948.

The then-58 members of the United Nations pledged to promote, respect, and observe universal human rights and fundamental freedoms. The world’s democracies made significant progress in the generation that followed. Canada’s major achievements include the Canada Pension Plan, Medicare, and the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

Commitments to the UDHR began to soften globally with the rise of an economic ideology epitomized by expressions such as ‘there’s no such thing as society’ (Thatcher, 1982) and ‘It’s the economy, stupid’ (Clinton, 1992). The mantra ‘trickle-down economics’ pushed governments to pursue UDHR Article 17 (the right to own, and not be arbitrarily deprived of property) as a preeminent right, all but abandoning the UDHR’s leading principle that human beings ‘should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood’.

This ideology produce ever-growing inequities in wealth and earnings, and with that spawned a politics of radical nationalism. That trend is growing in democracies around the world; the upswing of demagoguery is a global phenomenon. Canada is not an exception. Earlier this year two neighbouring provinces governed by parties holding to compatible political philosophies plunged into a vicious and bitter quarrel, incapable of civilized discussion. The shift of emphasis from respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms to demagoguery is not a democratic failing. The belief that government of, by, and for the people must invariably lead to equality and fairness for all is rather credulous. Democracy is not one single value. Democracy is a way of organizing a plurality of values. A principal democratic value is reflected in philosopher Hannah Arendt’s notion of ‘the right to have rights’.

Some UDHR articles contain a potential for conflict. Does the right to food, clothing, housing and medical care (Art. 25) impose an obligation on the state? Can the state impose the taxation needed to meet that obligation without offending a person’s right not to be arbitrarily deprived of property (Art. 17)? Some UDHR articles have broad implications (Art. 3: Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person) while others are more specific (Art. 22: Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family).

Every one of the UDHR articles depicts a distinct value. It is inevitable that conflicts will arise in the promotion of the values inherent in fundamental rights. How democracy organizes the plurality of UDHR values, how it deals with inevitable conflicts, and how it apportions the burden and benefits depends on how democratic systems are organized and structured. Responding to these conflicts and finding fair and reasonable compromise solutions, is what politics is all about.

We need to rethink the way we do politics. Changing the electoral system is a good start.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Ellis Ross (left), BC Liberal party, celebrated with his wife, Tracey after being named the preliminary winner of the 2020 snap provincial election. (Cameron Ehl photo)
Ross named preliminary winner of snap election

BC Liberals’ Ellis Ross named the re-elected MLA for Skeena riding

Voting has officially closed throughout B.C. for the 2020 snap provincial election. (Clare Rayment)
Map of Skeena polling stations

Watch the updates on the map below as polling stations are counted throughout Skeena riding

NDP headquarters on election night, Oct. 24, 2020. (Katya Slepian/Black Press Media)
ELECTION 2020: Live blog from B.C. party headquarters

BC NDP projected to win majority government – but celebrations will look different this election

B.C. Green Party leader Sonia Furstenau outlines her party's climate action platform at Nanaimo's Vancouver Island Conference Centre earlier this month. (News Bulletin file photo)
Green leader Furstenau declared victor in her home riding on Vancouver Island

Cowichan Valley voters elect freshly minted party leader for her second term

John Horgan has been re-elected the MLA for Langford-Juan de Fuca. (File-Black Press)
Horgan trounces challengers to be re-elected in his Vancouver Island riding

MLA has represented constituency of Langford-Juan de Fuca and its predecessors since 2005

NDP Leader John Horgan celebrates his election win in the British Columbia provincial election in downtown Vancouver, B.C., Saturday, Oct. 24, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Horgan celebrates projected majority NDP government, but no deadline for $1,000 deposit

Premier-elect says majority government will allow him to tackle issues across all of B.C.

FILE – Prime Minister Justin Trudeau greets Premier John Horgan during a press conference at the BC Transit corporate office following an announcement about new investments to improve transit for citizens in the province while in Victoria on Thursday, July 18, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
Trudeau congratulates Horgan on NDP’s election victory in British Columbia

Final count won’t be available for three weeks due to the record number of 525,000 ballots cast by mail

Comedic actor Seth Rogen, right, and business partner Evan Goldberg pose in this undated handout photo. When actor Seth Rogen was growing up and smoking cannabis in Vancouver, he recalls there was a constant cloud of shame around the substance that still lingers. Rogen is determined to change that. (Maarten de Boer ohoto)
Seth Rogen talks about fighting cannabis stigma, why pot should be as accepted as beer

‘I smoke weed all day and every day and have for 20 years’

Provincial Green Party leader Sonia Furstenau speaks at Provincial Green Party headquarters at the Delta Victoria Ocean Pointe in Victoria. (Arnold Lim / Black Press)
VIDEO: Furstenau leads BC Greens to win first riding outside of Vancouver Island

Sonia Furstenau became leader of BC Greens one week before snap election was called

NDP Leader John Horgan elbow bumps NDP candidate Coquitlam-Burke Mountain candidate Fin Donnelly following a seniors round table in Coquitlam, B.C., Tuesday, October 20, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Horgan, NDP head for majority in B.C. election results

Record number of mail-in ballots may shift results

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

The Canadian border is pictured at the Peace Arch Canada/USA border crossing in Surrey, B.C. Friday, March 20, 2020. More than 4.6 million people have arrived in Canada since the border closed last March and fewer than one-quarter of them were ordered to quarantine while the rest were deemed “essential” and exempted from quarantining. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Majority of international travellers since March deemed ‘essential’, avoid quarantine

As of Oct. 20, 3.5 million travellers had been deemed essential, and another 1.1 million were considered non-essential

Canada’s Chief Public Health Officer Theresa Tam responds to a question during a news conference Friday October 23, 2020 in Ottawa. Canada’s top physician says she fears the number of COVID-19 hospitalizations and deaths may increase in the coming weeks as the second wave continues to drive the death toll toward 10,000. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Canada’s top doctor warns severe illness likely to rise, trailing spike in COVID-19 cases

Average daily deaths from virus reached 23 over the past seven days, up from six deaths six weeks ago

Most Read