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National Debate in an Echo of the French Revolution

A spirit of revolution appears to be in the air in France where uprisings have been occurring for now two months with 80% support from French citizens according to polls.

“Abolish the privileges of the elite,” one banner read. “We have to give power back to the people and not a minority that serves its own interests,” a yellow vests protester said.

Their grievances many, regressive taxation being just one example. Some $200 billion in taxes are raised from VAT in France, half of all taxes. That’s a tax applied to all goods, sometime even food and other necessities. Property taxes, on the other hand, bring in only $11 billion.

In addition, global corporations like Google send billions to tax heavens. Billionaires like Bezos pay less in taxes than sweatshop workers. The political elite remains unresponsive.

It is that last part which gave a certain spirit to these protests. It may have been a tax hike on fuel that broke the camel’s back, but really it may be an outburst following scandal after scandal – from surveillance to the panama papers – which has now made it quite clear that the system needs peaceful reforms.

“Faced with record low popularity ratings, Macron is expected to pen a letter soon to the nation setting out his plans for the coming months. These include a nationwide debate with citizens on ecological, fiscal and institutional questions, the results of which he says will feed into the policy-making process,” so says Reuters.

That easily brings to mind the calling of the the Estates-General (pictured above) in 1789, which was organized into three estates: the clergy, the nobility, and the rest of France. It had last met more than a century ago in 1614.

That’s particularly so because the national debate is to discuss “institutional questions.” The yellow vests have called for a people’s parliament, a jury style random selection of 500 people who serve for four years with it sitting alongside the other lawmaking houses.

They would have the same privileges as the elected parliamentarians, with immunity from defamation lawsuits while sitting in the house and so on.

The set-up may provide a better and fairer system of checks and balances because a sample of ordinary citizens would have direct say and direct input into the law making process.

Something necessary because the system of elections on their own has failed and quite often. Tony Blair being re-elected in 2005 after millions protested against the Iraq war is a good example. He was elected because there was no real alternative. The billionaires had put forward no real option.

The current disapproval of Congress by an incredible 80% of the American people, yet the constant return of the same congressmen and women for decades, is another example that shows the system of elections has limits.

Those limits are considerable because the elected have failed to keep in check the astonishing growth in inequality that now stands at the highest levels for more than a century. They have failed to do so partly because they are all mostly rich millionaires, rather than 9-5 wage workers on $20,000 a year. Putin, for example, is apparently worth $70 billion.

This lack of representation has given us things like revolving doors, sophisticated corruption, mass surveillance, two decades of war, a banking collapse with nothing learned from it, and much more.

With the grievances being so many, it is obvious one can’t put forward a list of demands, although perhaps the French citizens will be able to do so during this national debate.

The peaceful and incremental solution, instead, is constant input from a random sample of citizens who have law making powers alongside the other houses.

A mesh of policemen and farmers, businessmen and scientists, artists or engineers, the “stupid” ones and the “smart” ones with all debating their own interests and all raising their own issues.

Even as just a talking shop this would be incredibly valuable for it would give the ordinary people a podium, outside of the scripted media that more and more looks like Pravada.

It would give all a means of having a direct input on matters that affect them. And as they all would go back and live in their $20,000 9-5 job with the consequences of their own laws, it would focus their minds.

In this space, for example, a debate on the investment prohibitions of the Securities Act 1933 and its exception, as well as how it can be improved with a vote then at the end, would be very interesting from this jury house.

While from Congress only the end result would be interesting because it would probably be far too tedious to listen to scripted politicians with one eye towards their “donors” and another towards looking cartoonishly spotless when it comes to elections.

Nor does Congress have time for such “low” things as they’re far too busy with political scoring and with achieving nothing for years on end while century old laws still stand to our detriment.

Meaning what’s happening in France might not be directly related to this space, but depending on its outcome, it may well be one of the most important thing to have happened this year for law permeates all things.

Considering the lack of accountability and the absurdity of cryptos being considered a commodity (not consumable), a currency (not widely accepted) and a security (decentralized), depending on what agency you ask, and considering what looks like complete powerlessness on our part to change any of these diktats, then a people’s parliament may well be the only option for some rationality on the way we organize.

A woman yellow vest protester kicks a smoke bomb, January 2019.

They say of Luther many things, but soon after, there was the beginning of a golden age. Renaissance, Enlightenment, ever growing prosperity for more than half a millennium.

The invention of the internet is the then printing press on steroids. The rulers thus hopefully have learned the lessons from history. The main one being that when the wind of change is in the air, the options are giving it peacefully or having it taken.

The results of the latter we all know, yet France did serve as an inspiration for the American founding fathers. They both now prosper. Without those necessary changes, it may have been quite otherwise.

The prime example being Germany, which more than a century after the monarchy was abolished in France, still was ruled by an absolutist monarchy. The mistakes of that German monarch are well known, as are the consequences of the two world wars.

The other example is Britain and its Glorious Revolution. The island of the free could more peacefully respond to the changing wind.

Those are examples not just for the 1337, but also for everyone else. In such complex matters, change must be slow and gradual. But there must be change, there must be peaceful reforms for man has to evolve if we are to handle the ever growing complexities.

What do you think?

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Written by Lewis

Lewis is a freelance journalist, digital nomad, and crypto enthusiast based out of US. As an avid observer of the rapidly evolving blockchain ecosystem he specializes in the FinTech sector, and when not writing explores the technological landscape of US.

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