I’ve been looking through old blogs and reports from last time, and thought you’d enjoy this parody that neatly explains how absurd the traditional ‘gentlemen’s agreement’ that allows the US to pick the World Bank president is.
Written by a Brit, so bear with the arcanery of the UK political system, it’s worth it. Useful info: Surrey is a small,rich county – population just over a million; the chancellor of the exchequer is the finance minister; MPs are legislators. Enjoy.
Imagine for a moment what the UK would look like if the written constitution that Gordon Brown thinks we need were based on the structures of the IMF and the World Bank.
Instead of being elected, every prime minister would be personally appointed by the leader of Surrey county council and the chancellor of the exchequer by the heads of London borough councils. Parliament would meet for two days twice a year, and MPs would only read out prepared statements, allowing no time for discussion. MPs’ votes would be weighted according to their constituencies’ incomes, so that rich areas accounting for 15% of the population would have 60% of the votes. The MP for Surrey would alone have twice as many votes as the MPs for Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and Northern England combined – enough to veto any constitutional change.
With no opportunity for debate in parliament, decisions would be taken by a standing committee, with the same unequal voting weights. The MPs representing the five richest constituencies would appoint their own representatives and instruct them how to vote. Other committee members would be selected by groups of MPs, but would have no obligation to take any account of their views or the interests of their constituencies.
The committee would meet in secret, its proceedings would be confidential, and papers relevant to its decisions would be made public only after the decisions had been taken. It would decide its own powers, and changes to voting weights, subject only to a rubber stamp from parliament.
The rich areas might then give themselves, through the standing committee, the right to require any local authority to implement specific policy measures, which would be enforced with financial sanctions. Eventually the rich areas would use this power in relation only to the poor areas. The policies would be designed mainly by people from rich areas, with these areas’ interests in mind. In all probability such policies would be ineffective, or even harmful.
Political institutions would thus be controlled by the rich minority but exercise enormous influence over the poor majority, leading to economic exploitation, extreme inequality, widespread poverty, minimal social provision, serious environmental and health problems, deep social divisions, and high levels of violent crime. The richest and most skilled would flee the poorest areas, leaving the disadvantaged majority trapped in communities in a state of social and economic collapse and violent conflict. Some might even be driven to seek revenge by attacking whatever of the rich areas’ interests they could.
The United Kingdom, in short, would eventually become a microcosm of the world as a whole today after 63 years of the IMF and the World Bank. We would not consider such a system for a moment in the UK. So why do we continue to tolerate it at the global level?
By David Woodward, originally published in the Guardian.