The Age of Consent

Text of lecture given to the Royal Society of Arts, and printed in their magazine

By George Monbiot, June 2004

Without global democracy, national democracy is impossible. If you don’t believe me, take a look at what has happened to Luiz Inacio da Silva. Before he became president of Brazil, Lula promised to transform the way his country was run. The economy would be managed for the sake of society, rather than society for the sake of the economy. Well I think it is fair to say that he has done his best. But Brazil still looks like a neoliberal economy. The reason is obvious: the key economic decisions were not made by him, but by the financial speculators and the International Monetary Fund. Even if our representatives want to change the way our nations are run, they are unable to do so. They become technocrats, managers of the conditions thrust upon them.

The shift of power to the global sphere is the reason why almost every major political party on earth now has the same policies. Their policies are pre-determined by the banks and financial speculators, the corporations and the global institutions. At the national level, there is democracy but no choice. At the global level, there is choice but no democracy. The great question of our age is what the hell we intend to do about it.

Many within our movement have responded to this problem in two related ways. The first is to seek to regain control of politics by dragging it back to the only level at which true democracy could be said to work: the local community. The second is to accept that representative politics has failed, and to ditch it in favour of “participatory