Has national politics reached the end of the line? Are we so weary of mainstream politics and politicians that we are no longer searching for new personalities or even parties to lead us, but have actually reached the stage where we are looking for new forms of government? More local, more responsible, more relevant? In the UK, this has manifested in the grassroots movements in Scotland during the Referendum campaign, and in the rise of UKIP. In Spain, the groundswell of support for Catalan independence is palpable, and suggests the same weariness. In the USA perpetual gridlock Washington has led many people to think national politics has failed completely. "Washington" is perceived as part of the problem, not part of the solution.
I spoke with author and intelligence expert Chris Thomson to get his views on the path ahead.
Question: Is there such a thing as intelligent national politics?
Thomson: Yes, you only have to look at Norway, Switzerland, Sweden, Denmark and Germany to see that this is possible. These are intelligent cultures, with good education systems, and with a high standard of ethical behavior. Therefore, they produce intelligent politicians (meaning they behave wisely and well) and intelligent political systems. I hardly need add that these countries are the exceptions that prove the rule - the rule being that too many politicians are self-serving and most political systems permit money to buy influence. The USA, UK and Spain are prime examples of such dysfunctional politics. It is no surprise that these three countries have such big problems, whereas the countries I mention at the beginning have so few. There is a high correlation between dysfunctional politics and dysfunctional society. As I argue in my book Full Spectrum Intelligence, the single most important change that needs to happen in the world today is that human beings have to start being intelligent. An intelligent electorate would produce intelligent politics.
Question: Has general disillusionment reached a tipping point? If so, what comes next?
Thomson: Apart from exceptional circumstances, such as the Scottish Independence Referendum, turnout at elections has been low, and declining, for years. People see little point in voting for more of the same. What's changed recently is that "anti-politics" parties are now emerging - UKIP is a prime example. Although these new parties offer a confusing hotchpotch of policies, they are nonetheless popular, because they capture the mood of the times. And that mood does suggest we are at a tipping point.
What comes next? I see the end of the nation state, as we understand it, and the emergence of smaller units of governance, such as Scotland (it will happen, sooner or later) and Catalonia. Once that process is really under way, there will be no stopping it. These are still early days, but I envisage new, accountable forms of world government, which will represent not 200 members, as at present, but possibly 1,000 or more. Given the possibilities of the Internet and telecommunications, this is not as unrealistic as it might seem.
Question: What kinds of intelligence should we look for in politicians?
Thomson: Above all, they should behave wisely and well. In essence, this means two things - they are ethical, and they take problems seriously. If they were ethical, that alone would make a difference. But they also need to take the big problems of our time - notably inequality, climate change and population growth - as if our lives depended on it. With this in mind, it is easy to identify a truly intelligent politician. He or she is altruistic and above corruption. And he or she is taking serious, effective steps right now to reverse inequality, climate change and population growth. To be fair, there are many such politicians in Norway, Switzerland, Sweden, Denmark and Germany, but their good efforts are thwarted on a daily basis by unintelligent politicians in the USA, UK, Spain and elsewhere.