Democracy and human evolution

How natural selection created human democracy: the latest evidence from archaeology.

 

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Democracy’s Golden Age

 

A Victorian woman led a revolution? Yes, with the help of a democratic Parliament.

 

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Soldiers’ democracy

How the ordinary soldiers and troopers won battles by making up their own orders.

We were more democratic then

150 years ago this year, parliament removed the requirement that only men who owned land could vote. So many working men gained the vote that the workers suddenly became a majority, and the 1868 General Election abolished at a stroke the landowners’ domination of government. It was like the end of apartheid.

The new government that was elected in 1868 by newly-enfranchised working men is widely seen as the most effective government ever to hold office. Its record of social reforms has never been matched. It succeeded because the cabinet included many different political parties, and because parliament was still a ‘deliberative assembly’ that made creative compromises between the different interests represented. One of their most creative compromises were Public Health Acts which left the rich landowners  in possession of their vast estates only on condition that they installed proper sanitation in the homes they rented to working people. (That’s Florence Nightingale’s story, told for the first time in my new biography of her on left).

Over the years the political parties have abolished the deliberative, consensus-building, role of parliament. The two main political parties have increased their privileges and now share absolute power alternately between them. This Democracy150.uk website is part of a campaign to persuade voters to cast their votes in a way that will restore a real representative, deliberative House of Commons.  The time is right because parliament’s reputation and performance has fallen to an all-time low. In the late Victorian era, a Member of the House of Commons was respected above all other men. 150 years later there are still MPs who have the respect of their constituents, but among the general population MPs of the leading parties are all tarred with the same brush, as power-spoiled unaccountable ‘politicians’.

How this situation came about is described in the last chapter of my book The Internet of Human Brains, which charts the rise and fall of democracy in two million years of human history.

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