A Matter of Principle

Essentially we are talking about moral principles here, which are defined as “representing a set of values that orientate and rule the conduct of a society”. These same principles may form the basis of legal principles which “represent a set of values that inspire the written norms that organize the life of a society submitting to the powers of an authority, generally the State”

Moral principles may well evolve over a long period of time, and may be specific to the culture of the people living in any one country. However, many are so widespread that we can take them as being part of the collective wisdom of the general population, and will apply in many countries, if not worldwide.

One such common principle has recently been in the news:- “The polluter pays” That is to say, if a person, or group of people collectively, perform an action that causes damage to the environment, he / they will be held responsible for any actions required to restore the environment to its original condition, (where still possible). I am thinking of the Oil Spill in the Gulf of Mexico, where British Petroleum was required to clean up the mess. This example is not to argue the pro’s and con’s of exactly who was resonsible, and whether they did the clean-up correctly, but to point out that such principles are an important part of our everyday lives.

Principles govern our lives, and enable us to interact with our fellow beings in a rational and acceptable manner. Principles are important. People have died defending their principles, because they hold them to be of great value.

In the normal situation, apart from criminals, and unprincipled rogues, principles convey a certain predictability on the way a population will react to a given set of circumstances. This, shall we say, is for the most part a positive aspect, but under certain conditions it can become negative.

It becomes negative when we have a group of powerful people operating under principles that differ from ours. This fact is hidden from us, but can be inferred from their actions.

Although it is by no means the only example, the recent financial crash of 2008 will serve to illustrate this point.

Our normally accepted principles would say that the banks, having caused the problem in the first place, should be the ones to sort out the mess. The bankers, however, are operating with different principles, and insist on the general public being forced to cover their losses. As a result, for the banks appear to have forced their demands through, many countries are now faced with horrendous austerity budgets which will cause immense hardship to countless millions of people. Meanwhile, the bankers blithely continue to award themselves bonuses in such magnitude that it borders on obscenity.

Only one country so far has stood up to the bankers demands, and said “NO”:- Iceland!

But note that the Icelandic parliament was unwilling to take the responsibility for saying no itself, and relied on a referendum to get this action accepted.

The elite oligarchy that wields effective power cannot do so without the action of elected representatives. The representatives themselves are chosen by the oligarchy, their electoral expenses are paid for by the oligarchy, and they owe allegience to the oligarchy rather than to the people they are supposed to represent. How they are to vote on any given issue is decided by the oligarchy, and the instructions are passed on to the representatives via the lobbyists, who outnumber the representatives themselves by up to 30 to 1. What the public wants is a non-issue. Nobody cares, unless an action would cause a total collapse of the system!

The referendum is extremely important. It is one of the very few defences available in a democracy under siege – for make no mistake, our democracies are under siege – as it nullifies the actions of the lobbyists to a great extent.

Iceland, although not yet fully recovered, is well on the way to rebuilding its financial systems on a much sounder footing than before.

Other countries that find themselves in simliar circumstances, should follow Iceland’s lead, and say “NO”. This applies immediately to Greece, Ireland, Portugal, Spain and Italy, and the UK. Use the power of the referendum to break the hold the banks have over your systems.

If it means that countries will have to leave the Euro, the common unit of currency, then so be it. If it means that countries leave the European Community, then so be it.

The duty of each and every government is to protect its people. This is a matter of principle. Not the banker’s principles, but ours!