Frequently Asked Questions
This FAQ provides more detailed questions and answers about Simpol. They are divided into four sections:
A. How does supporting Simpol affect my vote and what is its effect on politicians?
B. Is Simpol realistic and can it be effective?
C. How would Simpol be implemented and who decides the policies?
D. Other frequently asked questions
A. How does supporting Simpol affect my vote and what is its impact on politicians?
B. Is Simpol realistic?
Can it work?
C. How would Simpol be implemented?
And who decides the policies?
D. Other frequent questions
1. Does supporting Simpol mean I lose the freedom to vote as I choose?
No. The wording of the Simpol supporter's pledge states:
“I will be voting in future national elections for ANY politician or party – within reason – that has signed the pledge to implement Simpol's range of global problem-solving measures alongside other governments (the Pledge). Or, if I have a party preference, I want my party to sign that pledge.”
The words “within reason” mean that, even if a politician or party has signed the Simpol Pledge, it still remains up to you to decide whether you feel that politician or party is worthy of receiving your vote.
So supporting Simpol in no way compromises your freedom; nor does it disallow you from preferring a particular party. But it does indicate very clearly to politicians that you will be giving very strong preference at future national elections to politicians or parties that support Simpol, to the probable exclusion of those who don't. In that way, politicians who have not yet signed the Simpol Pledge will know what they have to do if they want a chance of gaining your vote and the votes of other Simpol supporters; votes which could make all the difference to them winning or losing their seat.
Far from curtailing your voting freedom, Simpol brings real voting power back to the people! By supporting Simpol, your vote is not only re-empowered at national level, its power is extended to the global level too. Simpol offers you perhaps the first, genuine form of global electoral politics.
2. For politicians, does signing the Simpol Pledge entail any political risk or conflict with party policy?
No. Since Simpol is to be implemented only when all or sufficient nations have signed up to it, and since Simpol's policy content would only be developed once there is sufficient support in principle from politicians around the world, politicians who support it risk nothing. Signing the Simpol Pledge thus involves no risk and no conflict, either for an individual politician or for a political party.
In addition, politicians who sign the Pledge attract the votes of Simpol's growing number of supporters; votes that could make the difference between winning or losing their parliamentary seat. Simpol thus provides politicians who sign the Pledge with a political and an electoral advantage over those who haven't yet signed.
3. How and when can I participate in developing Simpol's policy content?
Processes for developing Simpol’s policy content will only be launched once sufficient support in principle for Simpol is forthcoming from politicians around the world. Simpol's policy content will, when that time comes, be developed by citizens via processes hosted by each national Simpol organisation, and overseen by the International Simultaneous Policy Organisation.
In this way, supporting Simpol not only gives you the right to influence policy when the time comes, it allows you to give a strong and immediate electoral incentive to politicians to sign the Pledge today, so helping to bring the date of Simpol's implementation a step closer.
4. Surely expecting all or sufficient nations to sign the Simpol Pledge is just a dream. Is Simpol realistic?
At first glance, Simpol may seem hard to have faith in. But ask yourself how successful present international attempts at solving global problems are? And how successful are they likely to be in future? Conventional approaches are clearly failing. That's because:
- Existing international treaty-making offers citizens no way to compel their national politicians to cooperate
- Existing international efforts deal with only one issue at a time (eg. carbon emissions reductions). There is consequently no opportunity to offer loser-nations a way to be compensated. Under the existing single-issue approach, there is simply no incentive for nations to cooperate
Simpol, by contrast, solves both these problems. It offers citizens a way to use their votes to drive politicians to cooperate globally, and it offers a multi-issue policy framework which allows nations that may lose on one issue to gain on another.
In this way, Simpol offers a more likely route to solving global problems than existing efforts. What's more, it operates in parallel to existing international efforts and not as an alternative to them. So why not support those efforts and support Simpol too?
5. You can’t trust politicians. They may say they’ll implement Simpol, but what’s to stop them signing the Pledge but then going back on their commitment later?
Firstly, remember that politicians are not required to actually implement Simpol until all or sufficient nations have signed the Pledge, so there is really nothing for them to go back on until the date for implementation actually arrived. Remember, also, that politicians who had signed the Pledge for cynical reasons, only because it offered them extra votes, would be unlikely to back out because that would only lose them the extra votes they sought to gain in the first place! For politicians, then, backing out at any point would not only be illogical, it could lose them vital electoral support and, consequently, their parliamentary seats.
Secondly, bear in mind that by the time support for Simpol becomes so widespread that implementation becomes viable, not only would reneging make no sense for politicians, allowing the world to degenerate into chaos would not be in their - or anyone else's - interests.
But you don't need to wait for things to get that bad, you can drive your Member of Parliament or Congressman to sign the Pledge now by becoming a Simpol supporter.
6. But how do we get the USA to support Simpol? Both main U.S. parties are influenced by corporate interests so surely neither party will ever support it?
Simpol’s strategy for gaining support would vary from country to country depending on the electoral system. In "first past the post" systems, such as in the United Kingdom or the USA, the way Simpol works is by bringing existing political parties into stiffer competition with one another.
Competition will be intensified because people's disenchantment with politics means that more and more parliamentary/congressional seats – and even entire elections - will be decided by relatively small numbers of people.
In the USA for example, Simpol might gain Presidential support in the following way: You'll recall that at the election in 2000, the result was hanging on about 3000 votes in Florida. Given a similar knife-edge situation at a future election, Simpol hopes to build a base of supporters in Florida and in other key States that exceeds 5000 or the necessary critical number. With that critical number of supporters pledged to give strong preference to whichever candidate signs the Simpol Pledge, it's not difficult to see that both main candidates would have little choice but to sign - regardless of any corporate funding.
Assuming a similar knife-edge situation as in 2000, ask yourself what you, as the sitting Presidential candidate for either of the major parties, would have to decide? If you failed to sign the Pledge but your opponent did, you just lost yourself the Presidency. But, if you did sign, not only would you have a far greater chance of winning, you wouldn't risk anything because implementation only goes ahead when all or sufficient nations had also signed. If you were either the sitting President or the main opposing candidate, what would you do?
Apart from this, as global problems gradually worsen, the USA or other countries that we today perceive as ‘winners’ in the global economy or as having no interest in cooperating, are increasingly going to become losers in one way or another. Either economically, environmentally or in some other way. As those new circumstances become clear, cooperating with Simpol is likely to become attractive to politicians and businessmen. But we don't need to wait until then. Please support Simpol now.
7. How will non-democratic nations be persuaded to support Simpol?
There are a number of reasons why non-democratic nations can be expected to support the Simpol process.
1. Non-democratic and developing countries are feeling the effects of global problems just as much as democratic nations.
2. Unlike many development loans which today come at high rates of interest for developing countries, Simpol is likely to include measures to redistribute wealth on a debt-free basis. Such funds might, for example, be raised from a global Currency Transactions
3. Simpol is a proposal that comes from citizens globally and not from any nation. It therefore comes from a neutral 'third position' that is untainted by the hidden-hand of national self-interest.
9. Simpol can only be implemented when all, or sufficient, nations have adopted it. But wouldn't governments use Simpol as an excuse for delay or inaction?
Simpol permits policies to be sorted into two different categories.
- Unilateral: This includes all policies which, if implemented unilaterally by a single or group of nations, would be likely to have no negative impact (or even a positive impact) on that nation's competitiveness. These policies can be implemented unilaterally and so would not qualify for inclusion in Simpol. Nations would carry on implementing them as they do today. It is into this category that virtually all policies (eg. relatively modest cuts in carbon emissions) fall today because there is no alternative.
- Simultaneous: This includes the more far-reaching policies which, if implemented unilaterally by a single or group of nations, would likely have a negative impact on competitiveness, employment, capital markets, etc. These policies would consequently qualify for inclusion in Simpol because only simultaneous implementation will make the effects positive for all.
The reason that nations are today delaying or watering down much-needed policies to solve global problems is because they presently lack a cooperative framework such as Simpol. That's why it's so urgent. So please help now by supporting Simpol.
10. Would the policy measures of Simpol all be implemented globally on the same day or would they be implemented simultaneously, but in agreed stages?
Either situation is possible. Although all Simpol policy measures would be implemented by governments simultaneously on the same date, some may be implemented in full immediately; others may be implemented according to a timetable, in a gradual fashion, stage-by-stage. All such details remain to be determined through the process of formulating the policy content of Simpol.
But it won't happen unless we make it happen. So please support Simpol now.
11. But on many single issues, all nations implementing a policy simultaneously doesn't completely eliminate the competitive disadvantage between nations. So how does Simpol overcome this?
Simpol overcomes this because it offers a MULTI-issue policy framework. Today, politicians are attempting to solve problems like global warming, one issue at a time. But even if such treaties were implemented by all nations simultaneously, big-polluting nations, such as the USA, would still lose out to low-polluting nations because big-polluters have more to cut than anyone else. But this is why they don't co-operate. With Simpol, by contrast, it can contain more than one policy, thus allowing nations that may lose on one issue to gain on another.
For example, Simpol could contain both a policy on drastically reduce carbon emissions as well as, say, a global tax on foreign exchange transactions (such as the Tobin Tax). Both could be implemented together by all or sufficient nations simultaneously. Some of the proceeds from the Tobin Tax could then be used to sweeten the pill for those nations badly hit on the emissions part of the agreement. In this way, the global common interest can be much better aligned with national self-interests, so making the chances of global cooperation much higher.
For more information, please go to Policy.
12. But is it actually possible to define policy measures that would be beneficial to all nations?
It may be difficult today to imagine such policies. But we can already see policies based on global simultaneous implementation emerging; the most obvious being the Tobin Tax. Another would be U.S. Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton's legislation introduced into the House of Representatives (HR-2545) calling for the abandonment of U.S. nuclear weapons when all nuclear states do likewise. Policies such as Contraction & Convergence to solve global warming also require simultaneous implementation. As far as any future regulation of transnational corporations or financial markets is concerned, these too will require the Simpol approach.
Implementing policies globally and simultaneously need not mean a ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach. Indeed, Simpol’s measures would include agreed exemptions or compensations for different countries. So, although the policy is implemented globally and simultaneously, its provisions can be designed to affect different countries in different ways, according to their differing needs.
13. How will Simpol's policy measures be formulated and by whom?
Processes for developing Simpol's policy content will only be launched once sufficient support in principle for Simpol is forthcoming from politicians around the world. Simpol's policy content will, when that time comes, be developed by citizens via processes designed and hosted by each national Simpol organisation, and overseen by the International Simultaneous Policy Organisation.
At that point, citizen-supporters will be invited to design, propose, refine, negotiate and ultimately approve Simpol's policies themselves. In this process, they may take advantage of policies already developed by politicians, by non-governmental organisations, or they may choose to take advantage of independent policy experts.
Fundamentally, Simpol will provide a democratic space in which citizens in each democratic country can discuss, develop and approve the policies they wish to see implemented to address global problems. And it provides a way for citizens to use their votes to ensure politicians implement those policies alongside other governments.
14. What organisational structures does Simpol have?
National Simpol Organisations will, as far as possible, be established in every democratic country of the world. They will be incorporated according to local laws as not-for-profit organisations. They are not charities, do not accept funding from for-profit organisations, and so depend wholly on the support of individual citizens.
The organisational structure of each national organisation reflects the twin processes of policy development and political support-building:
- The policy development process, when launched, will be strictly democratic and open to all national supporters in each country where a campaign has been established.
- Political support-building is organised much like any conventional NGO campaign. National Simpol organisations have a Management Board to direct the campaign, supported by the organisation's members as well as by volunteers. A network of Local Simpol Groups in each parliamentary constituency furthers the campaign at local level.
- Non-democratic countries will be invited to join the process when sufficient political support around the world becomes available.
15. How does Simpol relate to global governance and global democracy?
When implemented, Simpol would constitute a form of binding global governance because all or sufficient nations would have simultaneously implemented a commonly agreed set of policies. Global legislative coverage would thus be achieved without the need for a world government. Since Simpol's policies are to be decided by citizens around the world who support the campaign, Simpol would also be essentially democratic, while still respecting the equality and sovereignty of all nations.
Remember that Simpol is to include only policies which nations cannot implement alone due to the fear of competitive disadvantage, so all other policies would have nothing whatever to do with Simpol and can continue to be implemented independently by individual nations. In this way, national sovereignty is maintained while global cooperation is fostered. Simpol thus naturally embodies the principle of subsidiarity and represents a synthesis of global unity and national diversity.
Since Simpol is arguably the only initiative that permits citizens to use their votes in national elections to drive their politicians to solve global problems, Simpol could be described as the first – and perhaps the only – form of global electoral politics. It's the way each citizen can make their vote really count, not just nationally, but globally. Simpol is an emergent, people-centred global governance. Supporting Simpol is your global democratic right as well as your global personal responsibility.
16. How does Simpol differ from conventional international treaty-making?
There are three main differences:
- Firstly, traditional international treaty-making assumes that, once a treaty is agreed, participating nations are free to implement its provisions. In the current competitive environment, however, when
governments return from a Treaty Summit, they run up against the problem of competitiveness. This is why even modest internationally agreed targets are continually being missed. Simpol, by contrast, would break the competitiveness vicious circle, so opening the way to robust global measures being implented in a way that harms no nation's competitiveness.
- Secondly, most international treaties tend to consist of agreements on targets, leaving the means to achieving them open to each participating nation to decide. The underlying fear of uncompetitiveness thus still remains. With Simpol, by contrast, speicific industries, products or taxes could be subject to legislation in each nation with competitive effects having been taken into account and, if necessary, compensated for.
- Finally, international treaties only deal with one issue at a time (eg. carbon emissions reductions), so offering no means to compensate nations who have more emissions to cut than others. The result is no cooperation and no action. Simpol's mutli-issue policy framework overcomes this, so allowing nations that may lose on one issue to gain on another. Thus, the chances of substantive cooperation are greatly increased. Moreover, Simpol offers citizens a powerful way to use their votes to drive their politicians and governments to cooperate. In other words, with Simpol, civil society has the potential to lead governments, not the other way round.
18. I can see how Simpol would help solve the world's pressing economic and environmental problems, but what effect would it have on the arms trade and the threat of wars?
Perhaps the best way to answer this is to take the development of the European Union (EU) as an example. In past centuries Europe consisted of myriad nations that were regularly at war with one another. Large quantities of arms were produced and consumed in Europe in those wars and millions died.
But as the nations of Europe gradually learned to cooperate economically, and to some extent politically, and have now formed the EU, the thought they might ever go to war with one another has become virtually unthinkable. So although large quantities of weapons are still produced in the EU, they are now only for 'consumption' outside its borders. The market the EU itself represented for the use/consumption of such weapons was thus effectively abolished because it became an essentially cooperative group of nations.
Simpol extends this thinking to the global level since it provides a basis upon which ALL nations can together solve global problems through simultaneous government policies and taxes across national borders with appropriate redistribution and compensation between them. This, if you will, is a form of cooperation similar (though not identical) to what occured in the EU. If cooperation can be extended by Simpol to cover all nations, the entire world would have become largely cooperative rather than competitive. And so, as it was with Europe, the global market for large quantities of weapons - i.e. the need for them - would effectively have been abolished.
That's not to say all war would cease. But the whole global atmosphere would be transformed by Simpol to the point where the chances of large-scale war would have become extremely small and there would be a strong incentive for all nations to ensure things remained that way. The best antidote for war, then, is cooperation! So let's put an end to war by supporting Simpol!
19. There are many excellent local initiatives. And what's more, they're happening NOW! So why do we need Simpol?
Simpol applauds all such initiatives and believes they are absolutely valid and are to be encouraged. Above all, they point the way towards a sustainable future.
But they are not enough. Whilst many people are converting to these new lifestyles, very many billions are not. And those billions are likely to remain in thrall to consumerism and highly dependent on the global economy. Furthermore, it cannot be assumed that small-scale initiatives will gradually replace the existing global economy in a benign and peaceful fashion. As economic, environmental or social dislocations gradually increase and as the global economy starts to dislocate, it is not unlikely that civil disobedience and social unrest could result. In those circumstances small-scale initiatives which have been lovingly and painstakingly built up over many years would be in danger of being over-run and destroyed as people's supermarket shelves became empty and their gas stations ran dry. In this light, there is no substitute for proper legislation and governance. So why not "Act Globally, not just Locally"? Keep going with your local initiative, whatever it may be. But act globally too by supporting Simpol!
20. What about consumer power, corporate responsibility initiatives and the 'triple bottom line'? Surely they are already bringing errant corporations into line, aren't they?
Again, Simpol applauds all peaceful efforts to instill responsible corporate behaviour. But it must be understood that corporations operate in a highly competitive environment. Any corporation acting in a socially and environmentally responsible way which therefore most likely increases its operating costs, puts itself in danger of losing out in the market to its competitors who may not have any such scruples. To a large extent, corporations can only afford to be as responsible as their main competitors allow. So all initiatives to instill good corporate behaviour are to be encouraged - but they are not enough. Again, Simpol takes the view that there is no substitute for properly adequate global regulations. So why not do both? Boycott any corporation that fails to behave responsibly, but support Simpol too.
21. Activists are so focused on their own activities. So how are you going to get them to support Simpol?
Everyone is busy these days. But activists of all kinds are realising that politicians and governments have become increasingly captive to the demands of transnational corporations, the money markets and the necessity of maintaining their nation’s 'competitiveness in the global market'. As such, conventional forms of persuasion such as lobbying, street protest, direct action, media coverage, etc no longer work well.
That's why Simpol offers activists an additional, complementary way to press for their objectives in a new, undiluted and politically effective way which augments and supports their existing campaigns. Simpol offers campaigners a truly global way to drive for their objectives through national electoral processes - but without becoming a political party. Activists can therefore press for unilaterally implementable policies with their usual methods. But for policies needing a simultaneous approach, they can support Simpol!
If you have any further questions about Simpol, please e-mail us at info(at)simpol.org.