Objections and Observations
I am well aware that the Sirisuk Declaration might be ignored. I am also aware that its optimistic and idealistic nature might annoy many critics and cynics for whom idealism is a waste of time. Yet I believe that its simplicity and its voluntary nature will eventually persuade many that having an ethical electorate, and an ethical political class, is both possible and desirable.
At the heart of the Declaration is the idea that controlling other people’s lives and their environment is a privilege rather than another reward given to those who already have more than enough. Having responsibility for others is undoubtedly stressful, but, equally, it can be rewarding in and of itself.
It is also a pragmatic document in that it specifies a very generous limit to the total income and capital that the signatory may earn and keep. This is not a charter asking politicians to live in poverty.
But its strength is that anyone, politician or not, can sign and therefore register the fact that they believe in certain standards of behaviour for themselves and for their politicians and public servants. It encourages our political class not to buy their way into public life and assume they are worthy of further privilege by virtue of their existing privilege; in other words it is a charter for everyone that sets the tone for whoever we elect to office or pay to run our country, nationally, locally or at the level of a village, school or small institution.
In the following paragraphs, I will outline some possible objections to the Sirisuk Declaration and will respond to them. I’ve divided the objections and answers into three income streams but, clearly, the questions and answers are of interest to all.
For public servants and workers on a low income:
Objection: I’m so poorly paid, I’ll never earn the kinds of sums you’re talking about, this is a joke.
Answer: Signing up will therefore not hurt your life at all, but it will show that you don’t want a load of rich privileged people running the country just because they have money.
Objection: Is this some sort of left-wing communist thing?
Answer: No, it’s voluntary. The state will not be involved at all, it’s not legally binding either.
Objection: If it’s not legally binding, what’s to stop the politicians cheating?
Answer: Nothing, but if they sign and then cheat, and everyone found out, would we trust them again?
Objection: The politicians won’t sign in a million years, it’s a fantasy
Answer: Perhaps not, but if we the public all sign it, how can they not sign? They’ll be admitting that money and power mean more to them than public duty.
Objection: but I might want to make a lot of money one day, supposing I wrote a hit record or won the lottery, what then?
Answer: then your worries will be over, keep the money. Just don’t expect to remain a public servant or become a politician if you have more than the formula allows.
For people who might earn nearly as much (or more) than the formula suggests but are not super-rich:
Objection: This is a ghastly idea, why should I not enjoy the fruits of my hard work and my contributions to the community?
Answer: If your high consumption of money and resources is more important to you than public duty, that’s fine – don’t sign and keep what you have.
Objection: But I’m on a lot of committees, I can’t give up my voluntary work – it’s not fair at all, you’re trying to shame me into giving up my wealth.
Answer: Not at all, you can continue as you are and not sign. But I am trying to shame you into not having a conflict of interest. If you can’t manage to live happily within the Sirisuk budget, how can you manage to make realistic decisions for your committees?
Objection: This is just super-tax in disguise; it’s a disgusting left wing plot.
Answer: it’s not taxation, it’s a way of voluntarily living within very generous but limited means and a way of raising huge amounts of money for charities – it’s left wing in that it is looking at fairness and distribution but it’s right wing and libertarian in that it is voluntary, independent of the state and of state control. It’s a simple choice, be rich or be useful. It used to be called ethics.
Objection: This is surely against the law? What gives you the right to put this propaganda before me?
Answer: It’s perfectly legal and I’m just a citizen who thinks that power and money go to people’s heads. I want the people in charge at every level to be honest brokers of ideas, not self-serving people looking to enhance their own personal wealth and power.
Objection: But surely you’re not saying that wealthy people can’t make good decisions? They must have done something right in order to make so much money and their businesses are the backbone of the country.
Answer: I agree with you, I’m very much in favour of encouraging entrepreneurs and people who can solve problems; they can either not sign and carry on as usual – though I don’t expect them to also take up public office – or they can sign up and limit their personal wealth as per the formulae. Most large companies are limited liability or public companies anyway; you don’t have to personally own a business outright to make it a success. If the liability is limited, so should the reward be limited if one’s involvement is limited. Anyway, if your attention is divided between running a a successful business and the duties of public office, one of those functions will not be receiving enough thought and attention.
For the super-rich and politicians:
Objection: Well it’s a quaint idea but it will never work, life isn’t like that.
Answer: True, life isn’t like it that: if it were I wouldn’t need to suggest it. But it will only work if people do it. Your objection is promoting a self fulfilling prophecy, if you rubbish the idea successfully, of course it won’t work. Why not give it a go?
Objection: Well it’s important to attract the very best individuals into politics and public office, and that means paying them well and rewarding them at the market rate. Otherwise they will take their expertise elsewhere.
Answer: If they can’t manage to live on the Sirisuk Formula, they don’t have the life-skills or management skills for public office, let them go elsewhere and make a mess of things.
Objection: this is the politics of envy, you don’t agree with wealth so you want to bring us all down to your level.
Answer: Not at all, I love wealth; but not at the expense of the most vulnerable people, the viability of the environment and the honesty of the democratic process.
Objection: We don’t want that kind of coercion in a free democracy. This smacks of fascism by the back door.
Answer: No, this is a voluntary scheme. No one has to sign anything and the campaign is purely to do with promoting ethics in our society.
Objection: I suppose you’re a perfect citizen yourself, isn’t this a publicity stunt to further some shady political interest?
Answer: I’m far from perfect and have many faults. One of which is that I would not trust myself with great power, excessive wealth and public office. No one is incorruptible.
Objection: So because you think you’re corruptible you think everyone else is too – we’re not all corrupt you know.
Answer: perhaps there’s some truth in that, but if you’re not corrupt, you won’t mind signing up – you seem like a competent person so you’ll manage on the Sirisuk Formula with no difficulty whatsoever.
For more infomation go to www.sirisuk.org
to Sign the Petition go to: http://www.thepetitionsite.com/1/sirisuk/