Sustainable Government

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Toles-on-Regulatory-Capture

The government exists as the representative of ALL the people they rule.

  • Corporations exist as a representative of a specific active business interest.
  • Unions exist as the representative of a specific active labour group interest.
  • Communities exist as a group of people who share a culture of common goals. Eg, religious, sporting, business, social, craft, lifestyle, etc

In order to have a balanced society that operates overall for everyone’s benefit, then the government must act to balance the interests of these three kinds of groups.  To provide and preserve that framework of mutual benefit and balance, somebody must act as the referee in disputes.  It is essential that the referee is both beyond reproach and does not act purely in the interests of any one of those entities.  That referee is the legal system, which is already kept separate from the operation of government under the doctrine of the separation of powers.  This doctrine could be strengthened to change the way judges are selected from the current system of political appointment.

Here are some principles to guide the interaction of these groups and the roles the play.  This should inform all legislative decisions

The People Come First

If there is a direct conflict between the combination of the interests of society & the global environment and the desires of any one interest group, then the needs of society and the environment must prevail.

  • Long term environmental damage is always to the detriment of society as a whole and must be punished seriously.

o   This is the essence of accepting Environmental Debt onto the accounting sheet of history.[1]

o   Punishments for offences must be extremely harsh and escalate with repeat offences.

  • Any policy that results in the sole benefitting of one group to the active detriment of multiple others must be struck down.

o   This is the Essence of accepting Social Debt onto the accounting sheet of history.

o   Punishments for offences must be extremely harsh and escalate with repeat offences.

Environmental Debt

The fundamental problem with making environmental factors accessible in economic modelling is that this requires a way to convert the natural world into an economic equivalent.  What this has come down to is putting a dollar value on everything so it can be processed with economic models.

Whilst this approach can’t really accommodate the sense of loss we have created in driving species to extinction and destroying pristine environments, it does at least represent a way of driving the right behavior from financial institutions and corporations.  If the environmental inputs to the economic model make the business unprofitable; we all win as it is discarded.

There are already multiple environmental accounting systems, the System of Environmental-Economic Accounting (SEEA) is one widely used and supported globally by many organizations.[2]  It provides a standard data set with agreed rules on its use and application to many aspects of economic modelling.

The compulsory adoption of such a standard to properly analyze all commercial operations is a necessary step towards accepting and paying our environmental debt.  This must be much more than a simple environmental impact statement created at the start of a project or commercial operation; it must be a permanent component of all ongoing account keeping.

Social Debt

As environmental debt tracks the costs to the natural world, social debt tracks the continuing impacts of a commercial activity on society.  Examples would be the provision of meaningful work to a large number of people in a community, or causing the lack thereof.  Combined with environmental debt, this would allow the full costs of a continuing oil leak from a pipe that damages land a village used to use to grow food to be calculated and assigned to the corporation as debt.[3]

Triple Bottom Line Accounting

This would form the detailed basis to enforce ‘triple bottom line’ accounting, the idea that any business balance sheet should include lines for people and the planet before profit can be calculated.[4]  This must be the standard for business accounting in the near future.  In order to provide corporations with reasonable notice time to train their staff to implement the change, this should be introduced over a five year period.  The system should be operational in the third and fourth years to allow corporations to learn how to manage the systems before they are judged by them and face criminal prosecutions for perpetrating social and environmental crimes.

The depth and complexity of this system should vary based on the size and operations of the business.  A corner store should have very light regulatory requirements, a business involved in industrial cleaning should have industry specific requirements and a multinational should have the highest level of legal compliance.  The cost of such compliance is a cost of business and must be borne by the corporation entirely.

The Separation of Church, State and Corporation

Any church that engages in any form of political activity directly supporting, funding or providing assistance to a political group will lose its tax free status immediately and permanently.

Any corporation that engages in any form of political activity supporting, funding or providing public assistance to a political group is subject to progressive fines that begin at 10% of the average annual revenue for the last five years (excluding years the business did not operate) and increase by 10% with each successive offence.

With the active redistribution of wealth to the greater community, direct funding by organizations will no longer be necessary or affordable. Only private individuals should be able to support political groups directly with whatever money they wish.

Further attention needs to be paid to the appointment of judges to supreme, federal and high court roles.  These appointments today are entirely political in nature and this has blurred the boundaries of the Doctrine of the Separation of powers.  Judges cannot be seen to be aligned with any political group and should be appointed by a different process.  This should not be a direct election as this will only result in populist, charismatic applicants lacking the discipline to act as impartial judges of our law.

 

[1] http://environmentaldebt.net/

[2] http://unstats.un.org/unsd/envaccounting/default.asp

[3] http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/ONGC-crude-oil-leak-Jayanthi-Natarajan-visits-affected-villages/articleshow/17113273.cms

[4] http://www.economist.com/node/14301663


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