Is this the holy grail of politics?

This fascinating paper in Nature makes a case that is, I think, instantly persuasive. That the quest for “equality” is hugely problematic, and that humans are more attached to “fairness” as an aspiration.

I’d go further than that. This is something that everyone who is active in electoral politics has known all along. The public don’t completely buy the version of equality that the different political tribes are selling, and, for a politician, success depends on an ability to steer a battle-cruiser through the holes in the version that is promoted by their rivals.

The solution to this also seems obvious to me, to the point at which I wonder of I’m not missing something.

It can’t be this simple, surely?

If a social movement can focus on democratic justice, they will have found the holy grail of politics.

If everyone can be persuaded that, whatever political settlement is arrived at, that their interests have been advanced and defended fairly and that no-one has been able to use wealth or personal connections to lobby lawmakers and governments more effectively than anyone else, then we will arrive at the only version of equality that matters to anyone. Democratic equality.

We aspire to run our system of justice – the application of the law – in a way that ensures that no-one can use wealth, connections or personal charisma to gain an advantage. When we find a way to run our government – parliament and the executive – in the same way, we will be able to achieve democratic justice.

In the same way that the application of the law – the system of justice, as we already know it – will never be perfect, so I’m sure a system of democratic justice will always have its flaws. But we can take a huge step towards it simply by conceptualising our challenge in this way.

Perhaps this is the illusive variety of political centrism that so many people are yearning for?