I was recently chatting to my sister about how frustrating it was to follow anything political in the news. Whether you agree or disagree with a topic, the back-and-forward arguments of democracy makes it so long for any meaningful change to happen.
Denise, a retired teacher who still keeps plenty of teacherly habits, couldn’t resist putting forward a little thought experiment:
“Let’s say you could do away with all that,” said Denise. “No democracy. You’re in charge of the country for a day. You can pass any law you’d like instantly. What would it be?”
It caught me completely off-guard. I had to admit I had no idea. But the question stuck with me in the days afterward. I kept thinking about what I would change, and why. And I have only just now come to terms with my own feelings on the idea.
My answer is not something everybody would agree with, and would never be passed in reality – at least not in today’s climate. But I feel this is all the more reason to give it a try:
If I were in charge for a day, I would guarantee a basic living wage for every Australian. Everyone. Unconditionally. No questions asked.
It’s not so far fetched. Finland will soon be trialling the idea, and it has plenty of very rational supporters outside the “socialist” circles you would expect.
Nor is it as expensive as one might assume.
Think about the myriad systems and support networks – running at a cost to taxpayers – that would become almost obsolete overnight. Suddenly, it won’t be such a burden to support the unemployed or impoverished. Basic survival will no longer be a problem for the most vulnerable people in our society.
Welfare fraud and “dole bludging” would stop being an issue. Sure, there will always be some who will take advantage of the system, or use the money to fuel existing habits. But research suggests that most living below the poverty line would use this opportunity to break out of these destructive cycles of poverty and addiction.
If working is no longer necessary for survival, people will aim higher; find work that fulfils their true potential. Think about the incredible boost to morale; the enormous long-term benefit the economy could see from a happy country; a land full of people with a sense of purpose.
And then, of course, there’s the benefit to pensioners. With basic needs taken care of, our pensions and superannuation can be put towards improving the quality of life, not just scraping by.
There are certainly arguments against this idea as well. Perhaps the logistics, in the end, simply won’t work out. Maybe Finland’s trial will go nowhere. Maybe ideas like this will be kept out of our system for a firm, practical reason.
But what more nobler thing could we strive for than to give everybody a “fair go”? If I were in charge of the country for a day: oh, how I would love to try.
If you were in charge of the country for a day, what would you change?