On Freedom: and a Short and a Long term government

Our biggest problem is that people, or humanity, do not observe or respect boundaries , to anything, and when facing them, they also want to constantly push those boundaries. And when starting to talk about boundaries, it quickly becomes a discussion about the freedom to choose for oneself.

During Corona, this discussion was quite intense; the freedom of the people. Yes, there is something to be said for that. But what is freedom then? The book “The Beginning of Everything” [1] extensively explores this, and also how it has been practiced in various cultures over time. In fact, according to these authors and the societies they examined, there are three essential elements for (real) freedom: 1. the freedom to leave and settle elsewhere (the world belongs to everyone), 2. the freedom to ignore orders from others, and 3. the freedom to create a completely new social reality.

This is interesting, and it seems to have worked that way in many indigenous communities, such as some Central American cultures. There were no laws and no coercion. There were (group) decisions, but no one could force you to abide by them. However, almost everyone did, because it simply worked better in a community. Or they sometimes left and settled somewhere else. The idea of settling somewhere else is today more or less regulated within the EU (although it is strange in this context that we have to legislate it). The second condition is more challenging here and now, although it worked about 50 years ago and further back for a large part of society: social control was significant, and people stayed within the often unwritten laws of the community (and the church). We have now ended up in a much more regulated society, where everything is arranged and documented, what is allowed and what is not. Why do we regulate so much, in laws? I’m not a social scientist, but probably because ‘social control; has disappeared? Because everything is more privatized, individualized? Its for another time to explore and write about that. But it’s getting out of hand; in Australia, I discovered already years ago that children on tricycles were required to wear helmets… How far are we going in this?


Of course, in our current society, not everything can work with ‘freedoms’: as I also pointed out in a discussion during corona: we have agreed, and even legally established, that it is mandatory to drive on the right. In some way you could consider it as ‘deprivation of freedom’ because why should I drive on the right, I want to drive on the left. However the chaos would be unimaginable, of course. Now everyone could voluntarily comply, but it seems better to legislate it, otherwise, occasional endless discussions or accidents will occur. And think about children too… if you don’t set clear boundaries, it becomes chaos, as many parents have experienced. Although you don’t have to establish that legally, you learn that quickly as a parent.

What is missing in that list of freedoms is that there is also an un-freedom that has nothing to do with what people agree on among themselves but is a physical given: there are limits to what the earth can provide. There is no debate about that: it is and remains an island, nothing more will be added in terms of ‘material’ things. So, there are limits to what everyone can ‘appropriate’ in freedom! Or rather: what everyone has available at most, so that we stay within the potential of the system, without depleting it (at the expense of others). And that is precisely what is not regulated in our over-regulated society!

A Short-term government and a Long-term government.

There are enough climate and environmental problems, with hard set limits, but why don’t governments solve them? They postpone everything, or hope that the market will solve it? They don’t dare to choose, don’t dare to set boundaries, don’t make decisions. A big part of the problem, it seems to me, is that they have no long-term vision, partly because they are only chosen for the short term, and then want to be chosen again. (Or aspire to a job in that free short-term trade after their political activities.) So, it will never work to create a long-term policy, certainly not as long as we don’t have a party with an absolute majority. So, we have to solve that. I already suggested earlier to establish a 4th power alongside the trias Politica, the ‘restricting power’, a Tetra Politica. [2] But yes, restricting directly will provoke resistance, even though that restriction is directly related to boundaries, to hard limits. You can ignore the people, but then you invite trouble. It’s as clear as wanting to drive on the left. (at least here…).

But what then: we have to somehow create and guarantee long-term policy, so that un-freedom also takes shape. Well, there may be another more feasible solution. And I don’t mean the freedom of activism like extinction rebellion, although that may be necessary to set something in motion, but the path to a different form of government. One that might not even be unattainable (I am optimistic). And that is, let’s call it democracy 2.0: the proposal is to work with 2 (elected!) governments instead of 1! A first government for the short term, let’s say the current functioning of democracy. But we add a second government to it, one that exclusively deals with the long term: that makes plans for, let’s say, 10-100 years ahead. And that is to be considered as input for the short-term government, to take that into account, to operate within those limits. The LT government may not decide anything for today, may only indicate the end goals for 10, 20, or 50 years. And legislate that.

For example, the LT government creates a plan for a sustainable land layout far into the future, and the ST government makes an annual land budget to gradually realize that and keep it on course. (so planning in land use for the long term, without fossil fuels, in stead of in money! That’s by the way what my new book is about… [3] -in Dutch, It will be translated this year)

But some may think, those are the same people or parties in those two governments, that will lead to compromises that don’t really solve anything. But pay attention: you get only 1 vote, so you can only choose to vote for one of the two. Moreover, we make a distinction by age who can choose which government: It is obvious to let the youth choose the Long-term government: say up to 30 years you only have voting rights for the LT government, for your future and that of your children. And after your thirties, you can choose which of the two you go for, choose the short or long-term government.

It might even be quite easy to realize ( in NL): we already have a Senate, which we often wonder if it is necessary or relevant. It’s twice the same and not even directly elected. If we now transform that Senate into the LT government: in the sense that they will henceforth be directly elected and exclusively focus on setting those long-term goals…

Whether it works, I don’t know, but it is at least my commitment to that third freedom, the right to try to create a social revolution.…

[1] The Dawn of Everything A New History of Humanity, David Graeber , 2021, ISBN 9780141991061

[2] 4th power: https://www.ronaldrovers.com/climate-case-shows-a-4th-power-is-needed-a-tetra-politica/

[3] Available to view and order Dutch version here: https://www.ribuilt.eu/product/post-fossiel-leven/

Author: ronald rovers