Estimadâs és estimats cüncitaxhiêns,
Let me first thank Senator da Schir for his kind words of introduction, and for providing me the opportunity to address you today. Permit me also to congratulate you on the launch of your Sixth Party Congress, a testament to your success in building a constituency for your ideas and also to your commitment to the Talossan project.
I would like to share with you some of my thoughts on the future direction of our country. Specifically, how we can get Talossa working better between elections, without losing the fun and spectacle of party politics.
Talossa has a stable constitutional order, and all things considered a fairly developed body of law (ephemera aside, and S:reu Platschisch will be taking care of those in due course, no doubt!) Our parliamentary institutions function fairly effectively, even at our present low level of enthusiasm. There are many recognised countries that would envy our political stability and civic freedom.
It is at the level of administration, that most essential dimension of nation-building, where in my opinion we fall down.
- On paper we have Civil Service, but it remains a dead letter.
- Our financial affairs are responsibly managed by the Burgermeister, S:reu Perþonest, but he is alone in that task, as far as I know, and has had health issues.
- S:reu Furxheir continues to earn his soubriquet of “Resident Miracle Worker” despite his oft-repeated warnings about a lack of assistance in his vital role(s).
- Language initiatives have also stalled, both due to a lack of supply but also unfortunately to a lack of public demand.
- Our courts maintain a shuffling, fitful existence.
- And I need not remind you of our most recent case of Vanishing Minister, that of S:reu Itravilatx.
Moralising about duty and promising to do the same, only with more intensity, is clearly not an answer. Neither is the problematising of politics, as if there is some great reservoir of labour waiting for a non-partisan government. This is our national conundrum: that a gathering of process-oriented people such as ourselves can’t seem to organise their way out of a paper bag between elections.
My suggestion would be to approach the issue as an economic problem.
Campaign clichés aside, most Talosans who show up are interested in the politics of it. So much so that until recently a considerable number of people were prepared to pay US$40 each year for the privilege of participating in our elections.
This tax on democracy is thankfully now defunct. We don’t really need the money, as the pile of unused dollars in our Treasury attests, and asking for hard cash online clearly discriminated against our younger and more financially marginal citizens.
However knowing the economic value that quite a few of our citizens put on the political process is an opportunity. We can use this understanding to further our country’s prestige and to reach our national goals beyond the political dimension.
My proposal is this: let us replace the flat US dollar party registration fee with a levy proportionate to Cosa seats won, payable in an electronic version of our own national currency.
Each citzen would receive a minimum amount as a right, so that they can elect themselves to the Cosa if they wish. Beyond this, the necessary fees could be collected from one’s fellow citizens, either as donations or as the result of commerce. It could also be earned by working in the unglamorous fields of administration, the law or linguistics.
How would this help solve our national conundrum?
- A functioning “pocket” economy would be a matter of considerable national prestige. It would make Talossa a leader among “nation-like communities”, and would be an additional talking point when trying to attract new immigrants.
- It would provide governments with an opportunity to prioritise among nation-building projects. It would allow them to offer a concrete incentive to people who cooperate in helping them achieve their aims, even if those people are not necessarily in sympathy with that government’s ideology – since they could turn their “pay” into the basis of a political challenge later.
- The old fee was a tax that discriminated against those without cash to spare, or those that didn’t have credit cards or possibly even a bank account. Using our own money, the “wealth” of a participant is based on how much time and effort they are prepared to devote to serving the country, not on their particular life circumstances outside of Talossa. It is not only more just but might actually encourage greater commitment (if nothing else due to a diabolical combination of the money illusion and the sunk cost fallacy!)
To take an example, if you had the competency to lead a foundation class in el ghleþ, (or even successfully complete one as a student) you could get more of the means to fulfil your ambition to get elected, regardless of the political colour of the government that paid you. Of course even if the reason you started it is political, you might even find that you enjoy the “work” you engaged in.
And even if you don’t personally care for politics, you can help your friends or show support to an admired public figure via your donations, helping to cement personal bonds and contributing to a healthy public life. Eventually, it might be possible to spend the money earned on goods or services offered by private enterprise.
There is an extensive literature on what is known as “complementary currency”.The common thread is that these upstart means of payment are all conceived in mainly social and ethical rather than commercial terms. They are used to encourage local, community based mobilisation of resources that are otherwise marginal to the mainstream economy. They are often designed for use by people who are poorly served by the financial system, whether due to a specific economic crisis or long-term social exclusion.
The application in a Talossan context is obvious. We are a small, multicultural country with a widely scattered population, who primarily interact asynchronously. Anything that allows us to build better and deep community links can only be to the good.
The devil is in the detail of course, though I am convinced that there are enough people motivated politically to make such a scheme viable. It may also be there are alternative incentives we can offer either instead of or alongside a complementary currency, such as a more extensive honours system, to encourage socially useful activity. After all, as Napoleon Bonaparte is supposed to have said, “it is by baubles men are led”, and for a tinpot constitutional monarchy we are rather parsimonius on the self-esteem building front.
Whatever the case, I hope in this 50th Cosa campaign, and in the Clarks to follow, you and your counterparts in our other political parties will take inspiration from the spirit, if not necessarily the detail, of these remarks. Please don’t just suggest “cookbooks” or a TalossaFest as the answer to our problems!
Present and future Talossans are counting on you to keep the dream alive, and I personally can’t wait to see what you come up with!