A good society depends on trusting people we know and don't know, as well as the institutions that govern us via common resources that foster equity and a sense of community.
The Good Society is an informal network for people who want solutions to address the loss of trust in democratic processes. Our goal is to repair damage done to our social fabric through the excessive use of market models over the past few decades.
We want to develop social policies that revive the trust and social contract that give our democracy legitimacy.
These guidelines come from relevant polls, voting patterns and research results. They identify where the bases of distrust and trust come from. These will help us define effective social policies that can revive the social contract and trust that are core aspects of democratic legitimacy. They indicate how to repair the unfair rifts in our social fabric created by excessive use of market models in the past few decades.
We live in a society, not an economy. We therefore need to revitalise political agendas that include a focus on social wellbeing and fairness, (the social contract) and not just economic growth generating GDP.
We are citizens rather than consumers. We need to reintroduce social policies that legitimise voters' confidence that their representatives recognise their entitlements. These include civic roles of public services, the value of communities, and the need for policies that value equity and diversities contributing to social wellbeing and quality of life. It means includes recognising the value of social goods not just individual needs.
We need those who have been responsible for distrusted changes to prove they are listening to voter views, not just lobbyists and powerful elites. Restoring trust will require moving policy emphases from presumed economic gains to recognition that most voters have other criteria. These include fairness, the common good, communalities
and people having a sense of agency.
Governments need to understand trustworthiness creates social dividends. As people are able to see that those in power ensure they can access the social and community services they need, they increase faith in the validity of democratic governments. These may receive stronger mandates to fix difficult issues, including social inequities, environmental threats and technology-driven transformation of the labour force.
Voters demonstrate a clear preference for vital, non-market public services, rather than privatised options. Public utilities, education and essential care are central public good, and access should not be limited by one’s ability to pay. That is, critical public services should be accessible and fulfil the needs of all, regardless of individual income. Many surveys indicate voters are willing to pay more tax if it is used for better social programs (AES, Per Capita).
We are a relatively low tax country with many inequitable tax expenditures. We are ranked 28th out of the 35 OECD countries for tax rate compared to GDP (OECD, 2017). We can remove unsustainable tax concessions and refunds for the well off, that reduce government revenue. The recent rejection, by voters, of tax cuts reinforces what polls have made clear in recent years. That is, Australians are prepared to pay more for good public services.
We need to add solutions to the problems identified, if we want to avoid toxic 'free speech' and incivility. The standard and content of public debates at present is creating serious divides and identity antagonisms which create pessimism and tribalises debates where no one listens to each other.