Political Tectonics and Consensus

My mental model of earthquakes involves the buildup of forces between tectonic plates. One plate moves in direction A. Another plate moves in direction B. Along the contact area between them, friction means that no movement is possible. Forces build until friction is overcome, at which point dramatic and violent movement occurs.

This is what I think of when I read a fine post at Autonomous Mind.

Where security experts are stating this week that there is a rise of the ‘far right’ in Europe, perhaps they do not realise we might be looking at nothing more than the an increasingly extreme form of rejection of socialist political control and the creeping internationalism that sees the political class seeking to transform European nations while doing everything possible to avoid asking the electorates for their permission to do so.

(It's long, but read the whole thing...)

To sum up, Breivik may be a symptom of electoral systems which don't represent certain points of view.

Here's a little test on political diversity. How do you vote to express:

  • Dissent on the failure of the EU to pass its accounts?
  • Dissent on the Barnett formula in the UK?
  • Dissent on the issue of Carbon taxing in the UK?
  • Dissent on the energy bill levies to support uncompetitive renewable generation?
  • Dissent on the fiction of "cuts" in the UK budget?
  • Dissent on the ring-fencing of the International Development budget in the UK?
  • Dissent on the additional contribution to the IMF (which exceeded the total of the "cuts")?
  • Dissent on the issue of super-injunctions?
  • Dissent on the failure of the political class to deliver a referendum on the Lisbon treaty despite manifesto commitments?
  • Dissent on the wisdom of bailing out insolvent banks?
  • Dissent on the wisdom of current immigration policies?
I choose the word "dissent" following Richard North's perceptive post which points out that the more informed people are, the more they disagree with the political consensus.

It seems to me that Sir Humphrey's definitions of political "bravery" and "courage", suggested first as farce, today have implication of tragedy. On almost all significant issues today, a consensus seems to reign. A consensus is not a good thing in politics, except on non-political issues. The tragic element comes from the fact that often, the political class either do not have the ability to fix a problem (see: immigration), or the courage to grasp a nettle (see Barnett or EU treaties). Where consensus reigns, the political system cannot tap the buildup of forces between the political "tectonic plates" of opposing ideas. I find it significant that Breivik was a lapsed party member of a mainstream political party. He gave the system a chance.

Anywhere there is a political "consensus" where opinion polls show a significant minority opinion, the political system is failing. Forces are potentially building. Mr. Breivik (if interpreted as other than a lunatic) shows the potential consequences. The term "political earthquake" is used more than it should, but the Oslo tragedy is truly a political earthquake.

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