This is Part I of a series of 6 articles on why our democracy is failing.
ABOUT WEAKNESS AND POVERTY TRUMP
The commotion surrounding the covid virus will undoubtedly go down in history books. And the future will tell whether governments around the world are described as major statesmen in those history books or as
pitiful klutz. Unfortunately, the history books are always written by the victor. And from that perspective, I fear that the chance of falsifying history is quite high.
However, our democracy is epically failing. And not only during the fight against the covid virus, but also before that. Let's see why and get to the basics.
Political parties - their relevance
Every year we see the same ritual when the collective bargaining discussions in the various sectors start.
Bickering between union officials and employers, haggling to the square millimeter. The Dutch state, as the largest employer, cannot escape this either. Directors, say ministers or their emissaries, have to negotiate with trade unions about the money and working conditions of almost 920.000 civil servants (source: BiZa - year 2018). What has surfaced almost year after year is that in The Hague circles people question the representativeness of the trade unions.
Who do they represent and how many members have they not lost in recent years, right?
What do the numbers actually say?
According to Statistics Netherlands, about 2018 million people were members of a trade union in 1,7. That is about 19% of the working population. That seems to me, and you may of course disagree, a representative number.
Let's compare these numbers with political parties.
In January 2019, political parties had a total of 315.019 members (Source: Documentation Center Dutch Political Parties).
According to Statistics Netherlands, there were about 2019 million Dutch citizens eligible to vote in March 13. With 315.000 members, this means that only 2,4% of those entitled to vote are members of a political party.
Trade unions thus represent almost eight times what political parties represent. It is rather presumptuous as a politician to ask questions about the relevance and influence of the trade unions.
Political parties as exclusive supplier
From those 315.000 party members, the parties draw all people to fulfill political functions in the Netherlands.
Whether we are talking about a football club, music club or fishing club, it is the same everywhere. And by that I mean that a small number of members pull the cart, a few still want to do something, but the vast majority sit on the cart for the ride and lean back.
I have no illusions that political parties in this matter are fundamentally different from other associations in our country.
Let's say that, as with other associations, 10% of the members of political parties are indeed active; they sit on the local or regional board (or both), write pamphlets, make proposals to the party leadership and everything that is involved in the management of the association itself. It is fair to say that the number of active political party members will reach 32.000. But not everyone who is active in the party will also be willing to take up a political position.
That number will likely be lower. But I cannot prove that by means of figures.
So let's assume that within political parties some 32.000 people are willing to take up political office. That seems like a lot of 32.000 people.
For the sake of clarity, Mr. Fortuyn, he was very close to the Hague world, was of the opinion that only 20.000 people are prepared to fulfill a political position. (Source: The ruins of eight years of Purple - 2002). In that sense, 32.000 is still very lenient.
What does the political labor market, the market of supply and demand, look like?
According to the Association of Dutch Municipalities, there are 8914 councilors in the Netherlands, about 1144 aldermen and 355 mayors.
In addition, there are 630 commissioners and members of the provincial council. And then 33 members of the cabinet in The Hague, 150 members in the Lower House and 75 in the Upper House. Then there are the water boards. Dike counts, local residents and residents, together 741 functions.
That is a total of 12.042 political positions. And those must be fulfilled by fishing in a pond where only 32.000 fish swim. So there are 2,63 candidates for every political office.
If you assume 20.000 available persons, the number that Mr Fortuyn mentioned, the number of candidates per position is 1,65 per position.
In short, the number of candidates per position is extremely scarce. And of those candidates, ripe and green, you still have to wait and see whether they are even suitable for the political position they end up in.
After all, there is no school or course where you can or must get a diploma that demonstrates your political driving skills, is there?
It is apparently an 'learn by doing' story. Strange, when you consider that to be allowed to drive a moped you already have to pass an exam and to be allowed to cut someone's hair you have to follow a vocational training for two years.
Land on the plush regardless of proven suitability
Now I do not know what you think about this, but an employer who has a vacant position and, in other words, receives 2,6 candidates for an interview, does not really have a wide choice. And someone who applies for the position of accountant with a hairdressing diploma has no chance in advance, right?
So that employer gets at least 2,6 applicants who broadly meet the requirements he set; there is something to choose.
But suppose there are no suitable applicants for the vacancy of accountant. Should he hire an engineer for that position? Or someone from the social sector? No of course not.
But that is not a problem at all in politics. At least, it is not thought to be a problem.
When the coalition has been formed, regardless of whether this is at the municipal, provincial or national level, the functions must be filled. You want the right person in the right seat, don't you?
But it is not to be said that the coalition has exactly the right mix of professional knowledge, organizational insight, managerial skills and financial insight to place a competent person in every seat.
That probability is the same as throwing a deck of cards in the air and they fall to the ground in sequence. And make no mistake, these people manage wallets of tens or hundreds of millions of euros in municipalities and provinces or billions like in The Hague.
Nevertheless, the plush is always filled and you never hear that the professional competence of a driver is questioned.
We go back to that employer. Suppose the accountant he had hired suddenly fell ill, would he replace him with a payroll clerk or a legal assistant? No of course not. After all, these are completely different branches of sport.
In that respect too, the signals from politics are not encouraging. Because when there is a gap somewhere in the Municipal Executive, GS or cabinet, the musical chairs are played and a minister ends up straight from post A on post B and someone else effortlessly slides back onto the plush of post A.
A concrete example, look at what happened when Ollongren dropped out in 2019. Dossier knowledge or substantively competent? The entire political caste pretends that this is not a problem and 'has faith in it'.
That's great, that trust, but I like to see that substantiated with facts and achievements from the past.
When you look at the baptismal canvas of many politicians, you will hardly find people who have had a real job, but mostly people who have constantly hobbled in politics and / or hung on the grave of the state.
There is rarely any question of 'with your paws in the mud'. There was plenty of walking corridors and meeting tiger experience, but the way things go on the shop floor of a company that really needs to be started up is literally and figuratively a different world. A world completely unknown to them.
Even when we leave that out, the performance of administrators (and parliament) is cause for concern.
Think for a moment of the stillborn child 'the participation company' of Rutte, the 'difficult neighborhoods' of Vogelaar and the C2000 adventure and the reorganization of the police by Opstelten and companion Teeven.
But the list is endless, isn't it?
What kind of people would really like to be in an eligible position?
Are they the people who like 'the game' or the professionally expert people? Subject matter experts go for the content and also want to manage on the basis of content, facts, figures, substantiation.
These are all matters that hardly seem relevant to our political administrators, but seem to particularly appreciate 'the game'.
Despite the fact that the General Administrative Law Act prescribes that management must be based on the General Principles of Good Governance (ABBB), you do not see that as happening anymore.
The ABBB prescribes, among other things, 'things' such as no power without basis in law or the Constitution, due care in decision-making, factual and comprehensible substantiation of decisions, fair play, legal certainty for the citizen and the fulfillment of commitments made.
I am not going to waste your time with examples that should demonstrate the extent to which politicians fall short in administrative and legislative quality. I refer to the lecture by former vice president of the Council of State Tjeenk Willink entitled 'The neglected state'.
He held it on October 30, 2013 in the Rode Hoed in Amsterdam.
'It is becoming increasingly difficult for the parliament and the legislator to maintain a balance between democracy and the rule of law, between political and social diversity and unity. Citizens often no longer feel politically represented. Politics is "banned". Political legitimacy has weakened. The legislation is mainly used as an administrative instrument and political administrators pay little attention to the demands of the rule of law. '
And he continues a little further:
'Constitutional law was supplanted by administrative law; politics through public administration and business administration. That is a major handicap in guarding the constitutional rules of the game and maintaining the awareness that the CANNOT is about the State as a company, but about the state of law; CANNOT about the state of the administration, but about the State of the citizen.' End of quote
I leave it up to you to draw your own conclusions. My conclusion is simple; there is a dire lack of administrative and legislative quality in the Netherlands, which is the cause of a range of profound social problems.
Problems whose fall out ends up with you, the tax-paying citizen.
The fall out of the series of disastrous Hague decisions from March 2020 to the present will be of unprecedented magnitude and will still affect the children of our children.
I venture into this prediction and history will show me right or wrong.
It remains to be seen which version will appear in the history books.
Keep in mind that the victor writes them. In Spanish history books, the role of William of Orange, the founder of the country, will certainly be portrayed differently than in the Dutch.
After all, in the eyes of King Philip II of Spain, he was only a rebel.
The next section deals with the myth of voter influence.
I wish you all wisdom.