We have to make politicians in democracies less important than they are at present and make the democratic process more important. Of course the democratic will is just as capable of making errors of judgement as politicians.
The system most countries adopt for democratic government is this: the people vote for individual politicians who campaign on a series of promises directed by their political beliefs. When the votes are counted certain politicians get into office because they have more votes than other candidates and once in office the politicians ignore the will of the people and do more or less as they wish, except where constrained by the law.
The system is distorted by political parties, which frequently confuse the interests of the party with the interest of the country. The system is also greatly distorted by the enoremous patronage that politicians in power can exercise. They can not only ennoble a person (which in itself is worth quite a few pounds to the recipient) but they can also appoint people to positions which carry not only great authority but also great wealth, not always deserved.
I have in mind the appointment of Chris Patten to the governorship of Hong Kong and the appointment of Mr & Mrs Kinnock and Mr Mandelson to the European Union as fairly recent examples of the favours that elected politicians are able to bestow upon their mates. Indeed modern politicians are no different from the medieval monarchs who bestowed honour and wealth upon their mates, their mistresses and even upon their opponents, in order to placate them or to return favours.
It is hard to find an honest man or woman in politics. I do not say that it is impossible, but it is easier to find a diamond in a haystack than it is to find a politician who will act honestly in all respects.
Perhaps the solution is one proposed by one commentator on this blog; we do have the technology to enable a series of cheap and quick referenda to take place. If we limited the power of politicians so that there are certain things that they cannot do without holding an electronic referendum then we can avoid much power in the hands of a few politicians and I hope in doing so avoid the blatant and tacit corruption that grows with power and feeds off it while feeding it.
If the country need a majority in a referendum to do things like go to war, participate in armed conflict (except in cases of self defence) raises or lower taxes above a certain level, give up sovereignty and no doubt we can think of other cases, then we reduce power in individual politicians and allow the people more power than we are allowed at present.
We should also limit the patronage of politicians quite severely: the honours system should be abolished, as should all titles and peerages; we do not need these handles and decorations to distinguish people; those who have done good are distinguished by their deeds, not by titles. As for appointing people to positions of great wealth and power, this should be done by an elected committee of those who are not politicians.
There are thousands of reasons which politicians will put forward to avoid a reduction in their power but their arguments put short amount to this: they say we should trust them. We know that we cannot.