I quit my post to come to DigitalK!
Last week has proven turbulent for British politics. Theresa May announced surprise elections on June 8th, the first day of DigitalK, resulting in a planning crisis for British citizens and the organization of the conference.
Our team met with Douglas Carswell MP in London for a comment on the European investment environment following Brexit. We spoke about the corruption of capitalism and how it gives technology and globalisation a bad name. During the interview, Douglas decided to quit his position as the Member of Parliament for Clacton.
Jokingly, he commented: “I am quitting so that I can attend DigitalK. It will be a much better use of my time.” In all seriousness, we couldn’t be prouder.
Read the full interview below:
What are the ways in which technology is disrupting the ways, in which politicians do politics? What does this mean for business?
Digital means that the relationship between politicians and the voters is changing. It means that instead of having bland, generic choices, there is a market available in politics for ideas, which are niche, distinctive, particular and local. In the retail sector, digital allows people to buy what they want, whenever they want it, wherever they are. People have rightfully begun to expect the same from politics. Instead of having a choice between two and a half parties, people now want representation with a distinctly local flavour.
Chris Anderson wrote a book, called ‘The Long Tail’, about how the Internet is disrupting business. We see the same ‘long tail’ in politics today. We are now seeing the creation of ‘long tail’ parties. There is a major change in the relationship between the governing and the governed. Before digital, the governed were deferential to the governing. Rather like the invention of the printing press, which changed the relationship between society at large and the elites, digital is leveling society off. It is a fascinating thought to think that 30 years, whoever was in the White House had access to far superior data and information than anyone else. Today, anyone with access to Google has access to pretty much the same level of information to whoever is in the White House or Whitehall. This dispersal of information and the creation of citizen and consumer choice means that there is going to be less deference. This is great news. On one side, there is more room for the creation of libertarian, free-market parties, and on the other – there is an increased demand for them. The future is going to be wonderful.
Now that you have quit your job, will you start a libertarian party?
No, I won’t. I think that political parties, as they are currently constituted, are a big part of the problem. All political parties today, certainly in Britain, have as their leader a single individual, who is elevated to a cult-like status. The unwritten subtext of political campaigns today is that if only this one particular individual were elected, the world would immediately become a better place. In America, Barack Obama was supposed to be the one. Now, people say that Donald Trump is the one to bring about change. In Britain, it was Tony Blair who was meant to be the answer to everything. The world just doesn’t work that way, as it is full of self-organizing systems. We need parties that aren’t controlled by just one group or clique. If Blockchain allows you to create a state-independent currency, maybe one day there will be a blockchain technology, which will allow you to select candidates and decide policy.
How will the digital revolution change economic and social life? What about entrepreneurship?
There is some evidence that the cost of capital is going down and the barriers to starting your own company are reducing. If we live in a world of digital information, it is possible for would-be entrepreneurs to do things, to lease equipment, to hire a plant, to take advantage of the shared economy. This means that they have less obstacles to innovation, compared to founders and startups from previous generations.
Digital also means that you get a flow of ideas, which ultimately lead to inventiveness and innovation. I wonder if the digital economy also means that the model of companies will change. The joint-stock company model has remained unchanged for generations. Perhaps, we might not need to create new legal arrangements to bring together capital, ideas and labour. I expect the digital revolution to lead to new, more transient and ephemeral relationships between business and society.
If you could pass one law today (not related to Brexit) what would it be?
I would give a legal right to every parent in the country to request and receive the share of their child from the local authority budget for education. We spend a vast sum of money on education, yet we are not delivering the outcomes we need to achieve. Why? Every government so far has missed the obvious point that the further away from government control schools are, the better they are. The best schools in the country are independent. Why not allow every parent in the country to have the freedoms that today, only rich people have with private schools? If parents are not happy with the school that their child is in, why not give them the freedom to take their education voucher and move their child to a more suitable educational provider? If we did that, we would start to see the real innovation in the education system, which has been so lacking in this country and the world over.
UKIP has a really bad reputation in Bulgaria and in other countries outside of the UK. Before becoming an independent Member of Parliament, you were UKIP’s only representative. Could you explain why you decided to join the party and before you quit, was there a particular moment when you realised that Nigel Farage is a charlatan?
I am not going to call Nigel Farage a charlatan, because that would be unkind. Your question has it the wrong way around. It is precisely because I knew the weaknesses of UKIP that I joined. I could see a referendum coming and knew as early as 2012 that the biggest hurdle to winning it were the unattractive arguments some Eurosceptics made. I wanted the Leave campaign to be a liberal movement, not an angry, nativist one. Our campaign for Brexit was about taking back control. Before we could win, we had to take back control of Euroscepticism.
If you look at the Brexit referendum results as an outsider, you could be forgiven to think that Vote Leave won because the British are xenophobic. If those were the arguments being made, we would have lost. We won precisely because the argument was about making Britain internationalist, global, open and competitive. Nigel Farage wasn’t the face of the campaign.
You often talk about the end of politics. is it near? Can societies govern themselves and what role would technology play in such a scenario?
What is coming to an end is party politics. The old idea is that once every five years you vote for an elite, who sit in palaces by the river Thames and make decision for you. As a concept, this is going away. People want control, they want to decide things for themselves. This is why the left is in total decline throughout the world. In a time, when people are used to on-demand everything, it is just not credible to claim that you know best. We are starting to see change, there is a huge vacuum in traditional party politics. The Conservatives are extremely popular at the moment, they are about to win a landslide victory, but something is bound to come in opposition to them. I think it will come from the left, but it won’t be anything like what we have seen before. The Labour party is beginning to die and I think we will start to see the emergence of a liberal party, which is anti-establishment, but pro-free-markets. I suspect I won’t be the only MP leaving Parliament this election.