By now, we all know that we have to make drastic cutbacks to the tune of billions of Euros. The political parties involved come up with all kinds of measures in their election campaigns, and after the elections, we have to reach “consensus,” and the political principles are just given away. F**k the voter. Most of the cutbacks have one thing in common: we will pay more for a lesser product (government). If this is not sufficient, then a few ministries, provinces, or police departments are consolidated. In the meantime, the alleged efficiency benefits are booked as yields and political gains.
Unfortunately, as a simple citizen, I miss real solutions. Let’s start by making big cuts in the foundations of our democratic society, like our costly institutions. Shall we just shut down our regent quangos – remember those 3,000 Dutch institutions that burn up over €150 billion annually? That would be a nice opportunity for creative destruction. And what about our participation in Europe, our spot in the modern world? I had expected much more from all those brilliant minds.
According to a professor in the science of public administration, Roel in ‘t Veld, we need a participating democracy, “a society where citizens are creators of institutions, next to politicians and professionals. This will lead to a say of the parties concerned in the nature and content of collective provisions. The government will limit itself to a coordinating quality assurance.” In ‘t Veld believes in massive argumentation and communication in meticulously constructed Internet dialogues.
Guus Berkhout, a professor at University of Delft, takes it even further in his essay “How Do We Make Democracy More Effective?” He is in favor of establishing a series of small ministries as back offices, to be formed into ad hoc project ministries. These project ministries, consisting of trade officials complemented with external experts, occupy themselves with national themes and operate horizontally outside the current paradigm of compartmentalization. National themes are environmental planning and public infrastructure, defense and national security, housing and care, education and work, industry and innovation, agriculture and foreign aid, and immigration and integration. Before and during elections, citizens influence the political agenda of these project ministries directly.
The line of reasoning among the aforementioned visionaries is clear to me. We convert the self-created shortage of people, means, and time into abundance: Society 3.0. Our government actually has no choice but to directly appeal to its citizens to take responsibility. In this manner, we achieve a higher level of quality, and, at the same time, create public support. This is how the government and politics can achieve a permanent connection with society. The government does not actually have to step down if a policy proposal does not pass through parliament due to lack of support – find more support, or come up with a new proposal. Of course, this transcends party politics. It would eliminate a lot of political tension and involve the electorate directly in issues that really matter.