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“A common framework for interpreting populism is known as the ideational approach: this defines populism as an ideology which presents "the people" as a morally good force and contrasts them against "the elite", who are portrayed as corrupt and self-serving.” - Wikipedia
“[a] political program or movement that champions, or claims to champion, the common person, usually by favourable contrast with a real or perceived elite or establishment … In its contemporary understanding, however, populism is most often associated with an authoritarian form of politics.” - Britannica
“The government, siding with Wall Street, broke its contracts with the people. . . . As Senator Plumb [of Kansas] tells us, “Our debts were increased, while the means to pay them [cash] was decreased.” - Mary Elizabeth Lease speaking in 1890 to the Women’s Christian Temperance Union
What’s in a name?
The word populism should mean 'democracy' – the idea that the actions of a country are determined by the people themselves.
Populism has become more … popular … in recent years but it's had a long and chequered career within the political arena. It's become the go to term of abuse for many politicians, lazy commentators and compilers of online encyclopaediae to describe elected governments and leaders whose policies they don't like.
In spite of this - or perhaps because of it - populism is gaining political ground in various parts of Europe – the UK, Sweden, Italy, Hungary and the USA. This is the predictable result of the political elite pushing their impractical agendas too far. The safetyist, woke, covid, climate and other virtue-signalling panics have led to a drop in living standards.
Despite claims to the contrary, the credentialed classes don't believe in democracy - or populism as they term it. Like their 19th century forebears who thought that neither working men nor any women should have the vote, they are keen to exclude the will of the people from the governance of the state.
Here's a passage from a 'scientific' paper published in 2020: “Since the surprising election of Donald Trump as President of the USA and the rise of destructive, hateful, anti-liberal, anti-democratic and partly neo-Nazi developments in liberal democratic societies in Europe and the USA and their – albeit democratically elected – populist or autocratic leaders, there have been increasing attempts to understand this phenomenon under the keyword »populism«.”
The first few words immediately disqualify this article as science writing, which excludes emotive expressions like 'surprising', so we're already on our guard for the rest. The next bit gives away the author's ideological biases and the phrase 'albeit democratically elected' shows that her objection to populism (her term) is grounded in her apparent belief that the electorate are misguided idiots. If anything is 'anti-democratic' it's an attitude like hers.
If anything can be generally agreed then it's that populism connotes the views of ordinary people who believe that there's an elite establishment that puts its own interests first. Rarely do those who assert that populism is an evil bother to determine whether those ordinary people (famously called ‘deplorables’ by Hilary Clinton) have a point. Last time, for example, we talked about money and how those closest to where it's printed or minted get the most benefit. Most people may not understand the details of the corruption in this system but they're smart enough to know they're being taken for a ride.
Panocracy is populist in that it aims to give everyone a voice – as equal a voice as possible.
It differs from populism in several ways:
It has no political bias – it's neither left wing nor right wing.
It doesn't have 'representatives' who claim to be the voice of the people.
It doesn't support demagogues – there is no room for political leaders in a panocracy as there is in a populist ideology.
It can't be accused of being 'destructive' (see above quotation) – quite the opposite. Panocracy is an orderly administrative system where political action within its institutions is explicitly forbidden.
In contrast to at least the Wikipedia take on populism, panocracy doesn't expect citizens to be motivated by 'moral' concerns. Its power lies in capitalising on the plethora of skills and talents of 'ordinary' people that currently go unnoticed and unused (you'll find some of them on substack) - irrespective of certain groups’ views on the morality of others.
It promotes bargaining between different interest groups in its RFC system whereas populism must, like other ideologies that we see in government today, dismiss opposing opinions.
Panocracy is a variation of 'deliberative democracy' a concept introduced by Joseph M. Bessette in The Mild Voice of Reason: Deliberative Democracy and American National Government. (American Politics and Political Economy Series.) Chicago: University of Chicago Press. 1994.) in which relatively small groups of citizens are brought together to inform themselves and provide advice to governments. In the case of panocracy, the advice of such groups would be directed at the population at large.
There are objections that deliberative democracy is 'democratically insufficient', but this argument can easily be made about our current representational system (see Panocracy 2 – Representation) and we have looked at how Panocracy fixes it (in Panocracy 4 and 5).
Perhaps you can agree with me that we can place more trust in a randomly selected group of informed citizens than we can on a group of career politicians subject to a party whip.
If you do agree then I ask you to imagine how much more we can trust tens of millions with interests that range from direct opposition to near concordance. And then imagine testing each and every issue that confronts society against that filter.
Both informed and uninformed citizens will contribute ideas and proposals in the RFC system. Through the processes of debate, reflection, study, negotiation, attrition, logic, deliberation, ... a consensus will be reached that can be put to the people. If ever there was a way to determine the ‘will of the people’ then this is it.
Next time we're going to look into the so-called 'Great Reset' to find out how aptly named it is (but not in the way its authors intended) and how it is the antithesis of panocracy.