Saturday, October 15, 2011

Towards a new democratic model for Europe: lessons learned from Belgian politics

This blog post is to encourage a new model for politics and democracy. I am writing this down during lunch break so these are some quick thoughts that need more work to refine, but I think the idea is clear enough...

Some recent history that lead me to writing this: 3 years ago, Belgium sold its Fortis bank to France, for less than the intrinsic value (i.e., for less than the bank had money in its accounts). Today, in an attempt to save Dexia (a Belgian/French bank) our government has agreed to cover most of the risk for a bad bank construction. This is way less than France could/should have done, so once again our politicians have been ripped off by the French.

Because of this, we are now amongst the worst positioned countries in Europe should it ever come to a Greek bankruptcy. I am personally (as a citizen) supposed to warrant 5000 euro for this bad bank construction, along with every other Belgian. This is unacceptable to me: as an entrepreneur, my bank always used to ask hard guarantees and payback plans whenever my company asked for a loan. It turns out those same banks neglected to do so for others, or there would never have been those bad bank constructions in the first place. And our government is making it _our_ problem now.

This and many similar mistakes could have been avoided IMHO - if only we had a better democracy. The current system of elected politicians (mostly without any real life experience at all) is outdated. New media like Twitter and the Internet make information and interaction possible across a distance, instantly. Just look at the Twitter hashtag #dexia for the voice of the people in this. Among those people are many renowned economists, who had warned us for the mistakes that would be made.

So what would be a better democracy? One that takes those people's insights into account. Instead of politicians getting ripped off in their ivory tower, they could have formed an expert committee with knowledgeable people from industry who have dedicated their lives to their specialties. These people are easy to reach, just try Twitter for instance. I am sure they would all be willing to contribute, since they already do (without being heard it seems).

Perhaps the best way to explain is by referring to House, MD (the TV show). House is in charge, but he is continuously challenged by his team of experts. Together, they come to find solutions where others have failed. Our politicians should assume the role of House, taking responsibility for the final decisions. Unlike now, they should consult several domain experts to reach that decision. Now that would be an improvement... Remember: we are smarter than me!

So on to the House democracy, I hope.