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Who dares to be honest?

07 Jan 2014 - 09:19
Source: Flickr / Rick Harrison

The truth about the loss of our sovereignty cannot be told, because it would incite people to vote for anti-European parties, that is what one of our former ministers of Foreign Affairs said at a recent forum discussion.1 In other words: voters cannot be trusted with the truth.

Do Europeans trust their politicians?

The other three former ministers of Foreign Affairs that were present did not contradict him. If that is the mood in European governmental circles, is it surprising that according to a poll conducted across France, Britain, Germany, Poland and Spain in 2011, only 9 percent of Europeans thought their politicians acted with honesty and integrity?

According to an other poll, the proportion of the British public who said they trust governments “just about always” or “most of the time” fell from 40 percent in 1986 to just 16 percent in 2009. These poll results are only a few of the uncomfortable truths mentioned in the highly readable report Now for the Long Term.2

Now for the Long Term

This report was published last October by the Oxford Martin Commission for Future Generations, a commission with many famous members, such as Michelle Bachelet, Pascal Lamy, Kishore Mahbubani, Chris Patten and Amartya Sen. The Report starts on a positive note: “Now is the best time in history to be alive. Our world has experienced a sustained period of positive change.

The average person is about eight times richer than a century ago, nearly one billion people have been lifted out of extreme poverty over the past two decades, living standards have soared, life expectancy has risen, the threat of war between great powers has declined .. ” But then it rings the alarm bell: “we could arguably be amongst the last generations able to do anything to stop the long-term devastation of our planet. Soon it may be too late ..”

Problems will not disappear

World population growth, biodiversity loss, climate change and scarcity of raw materials pose us for problems that will not disappear because voters and politicians do not want to hear about them. On the contrary, the longer we postpone taking measures, the more difficult and costly these measures will become.

What will governments and voters do?

If history, and in particular the history of the twentieth century, proves anything, it is that short sighted policies of governments that lacked the courage or the wisdom to do better have brought about horrible disasters. The big question for democracies in 2014 is what governments and voters will do. Will governments hide the truth to please the voters they distrust? And will people reward that by voting for parties that disregard the great challenges of the present time and allow them to bury their heads in the sand?

 

  • 1. See: Besmuikt gegrinnik over Europa, NRC Handelsblad, 13 december 2013, by Juurd Eijsvoogel (in Dutch).
  • 2. See: http://www.oxfordmartin.ox.ac.uk/downloads/commission/Oxford_Martin_Now_for_the_Long_Term.pdf