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Watching WatchersIntelligent people believe that democracy is the best system we can possibly have. Intelligent people support democracy and they attempt to improve it from the inside. Intelligent people believe that democratic flaws are just operational matters. Intelligent people are dismally wrong.

The problem with democracy is not that it is flawed, but that flaws originate in the very concept of democracy. Democratic flaws are not day-to-day issues that can be solved creating a process or setting up systems or ways of working. Democratic flaws originate from the most basic ideas and principles on which democracy is built. Democratic flaws are flaws in the theory of democracy itself, thus they cannot be fixed hard as politicians and people may try. And trying they have been. For the last 200+ years. Unsuccessfully.

Today one such flaw is slapping Czech people on the face. According to Czech law, politicians should submit property statements to the government when they take office. Such submissions should be delivered to a general registry controlled by the Ministry of Justice. However…

Czech non-governmental organizations want the registry to have an independent control (as in Poland) but the deputy Prime Minister believes the proper comptroller should be the Ministries of Interior and Finance.

The problem is a simple one, the answer not so. People deeply distrust politicians. No news here. And so in order to safeguard the public money, people in the Czech Republic are demanding to know which properties politicians have when they start their jobs and which ones they have when they retire (one way or another). The theory being that in so doing discrepancies could easily be spotted and should unfair dealings be discovered, said politicians can be punished. Fair enough. Technically speaking (i.e. accounting-wise) this is indeed possible. But technicalities have never been the issue, chain of command is.

Consider this. Let’s say that the Czech registry is setup to be controlled by the Ministry of Justice. Said ministry assigns accountants to perform forensic analysis of all finances of all politicians leaving their jobs. Let’s also say that said accountants discover something. Do you think that the accountants will initiate legal action? Of course no. It is not in their job description. They will dutifully inform their superiors, which will in turn inform their superiors and so on until the information reaches the Minister of Justice. Now, the job of Minister of Justice has been bestowed to a person by a political authority and as such the minister is in debt with this authority. Do you seriously believe that the minister will act against this authority? Do you seriously believe that even if there is a massive conflict of interest the minister will do “what is required of such high position”? Not a chance. The second the information reaches a political layer it becomes, by definition, political! Thus subject to political considerations such as elections, embarrassment, inconveniences and so on.

Now, this process is not unique to Czechs but it is common to all democracies. Any politically-sensitive problem will always reach political authorities which will make political decisions. Oftentimes such decisions are “immoral”, “unethical” or even “illegal”. Basically, they have the tendency to sweep the problem under the rug.

And so the problem now becomes, who will watch “political authorities” to ensure they don’t do so? Best answer? An independent organization. Fair enough, which one? Well, let’s go overboard and create a brand new one. But who is going to be in charge? How is it going to be funded?

Excellent questions, grasshopper.

The person in charge can only be appointed by political authority because to create dedicated voting processes for such positions is “too complicated” (i.e. too politically sensitive). Even if such processes could be created, in the end people would end up electing a politician! On the other hand, the money can only come from the government budget because such an independent organization produces nothing, thus having no profits, thus not being able to sustain itself.

And there you have it.

An “Independent Oversight Organization” headed by a politically-designated person and funded by the state. Seriously? Yes. This is the best we can expect? Yes.

Do you notice the almost imperceptible conflict of interest? Just kidding. Of course there is a massive conflict of interest!!!

But let’s go a step further. Let’s say that we want yet another organization watching over this one. We have the same choices. If it is government-based, it will have the same problems. If it is purely private and totally disconnected from governments, who is going to fund it? And even if funding can somehow be ensured, they will handlr sensitive information about politicians and this would present a massive temptation from “industry” to “reach an accommodation” with politicians in all kinds of issues. Wink, wink.

See the problem?

No matter how many layers of oversight you add to the issue we always end up with the same problem. This problem has no solution within a democratic system. At the most fundamental level, the question “Who Watches The Watchers” has no answer because there is no way to guarantee that watchers will be honest. If we could guarantee such a thing, then no watchers would be necessary because honest politicians would suffice.

And no. The fact that we have “independent” government organizations such as the Ministry of Justice solves nothing, as we have just shown. If the issue is not political, then such organizations may work… partially and subject to political lobbying. However, when a problem becomes political, they all fail miserably. This problem is infinitely scalable. It does not matter at which level you look at it, it has the same problem.

In Libertarian systems, on the other hand, this problem is solved naturally by getting rid of governments. If governments do not exist then the need for watchers becomes mute. As we all own our properties absolutely, it is entirely up to us to watch them. We will watch them to the degree we wish to watch them and no more. We make this subjective decision based on self-interest because said properties are ours. A paid “watcher” on the other hand, does not operate on self-interest applicable to other peoples’ properties. A paid watcher operates on self-interest on his/her own properties. As such, they are subjected to… let’s be polite and say… a change of operational views based on tangible incentives… ejem!

See the difference? In a Libertarian system, self-interest works for the betterment of everybody’s life. In a democratic system self-interest works against the betterment of peoples’ lives. It all boils down to who’s property are politicians handling, theirs or ours?

Yes, some things are that simple.

A Libertarian system works because everybody is watching everybody else when it comes to their own personal property. No intermediate “authority” necessary.

This is not to say that government oversight organizations do not work. They do. Sometimes. From time to time they do “catch” people and bring them to “justice”. That is not the point. The point is that said organizations cannot be made to act honestly all the time and in all democracies. But perhaps you would like continue trying. Fair enough. That’s your choice. Just one thing, don’t use our taxes! Oh… you will use them anyway? And how do we know you are doing the “right thing”? We will have to watch you…

Note: please see the Glossary if you are unfamiliar with certain words.

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