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Maximum Dose Knowledge: How can the Poland of our dreams look? ”Let’s make a deal on Poland” – Jakub Drozdz

Jakub Dróżdż – co-author of the book “Let’s make a deal on Poland”, Social Contract Incubator Association

Maksymilian Mirecki – third-year student of law and international relations at the University of Warsaw. Journalist at Coopernicus.

MM: Good morning everyone, I am Maksymilian Mirecki, welcome to Maksymalna Dawka Wiedzy (Maximum Dose of Knowledge) Podcast. Today my guest is Jakub Drożdż. A very warm welcome to you.

JD: Good morning, thank you very much for inviting me.

MM: Today we are going to talk about a special book titled “Umówmy się na Polskę”, whose authors assume a very interesting vision of the decentralisation of our country’s political system. Maybe tell us at the outset, where did the idea to write such a book come from in the first place?

JD: Our Social Contract Incubator Association, of which I am a member, was founded in 2018 as a response to the challenges, which Poland is facing, and a diagnosis in which we stated that the current polarisation prevents us from dealing with real challenges, such as demographic collapse, environmental issues and ensuring the security of everyone. The war between the two tribes, the two main camps – liberal-left and right-conservative – makes it impossible to deal with global and national problems. We wanted to find a systemic answer on how to better manage this polarisation. We also found, after diagnosis and doing proper research, gathering the sum of our experience (the association has more than 100 people, we have experts from many fields; businessmen, social workers, journalists, activists, scientists), that our constitution, in its current state, is not sufficient to manage our diverse society well. Certain social groups, political groups were excluded from the constitution-making process in 1997. It is necessary to find a new form of constitutional rules of the game in which all Poles, regardless of their beliefs, would feel comfortable or would agree that these constitutional rules are adequate, and the political struggle would continue, but on fair, equal terms. We can easily compare this to a football match – we play on the same pitch and everyone knows the rules, how many players there are and whose goal post is whose, but not that the pitch is uneven and some people have it easier at first. The idea has been shaping up since 2018. In 2019, after an intensive year of collaboration, consultation, research, preparation, elaboration, we presented our idea, our concept, at a conference at PAN, inviting people from all over Poland, from left to right. We hosted representatives of Prawo i Sprawiedliwość,

representatives of the then, still present opposition, and a lot of scientists. We kept the scientific nature of it all. We proposed a new social contract based on the principle of deep decentralisation of the state while preserving its unitary character, which we will probably still talk about, because it is a very complex and an exciting topic.

MM: Certainly. Allow me to point out that we are talking on the 9th of October, a few days before the parliamentary elections, we have a limited state of knowledge at the moment and we do not know what will happen on the 15th of October. Moving on to the next question: you mentioned that there are more than 100 people working at the Social Contract Incubator. In total, there are 28 authors of the book. How did you manage to coordinate such a diverse community of people with liberal, conservative, progressive, left-wing views, and bring these people together to write a coherent book presenting a new vision for Poland?

JD: Working is too big a word, because we all work pro publico bono. The book is also an expression of this. We have all written the book pro publico bono, and we are also creating the Social Contract Incubator as part of our free time and as part of our mission. In general, it is not an easy task to bring everyone together. Our first idea was to formulate a leitmotif, and we have come up with a slogan: ‘we can agree that we are different’. Based on our knowledge of Poland and the typical expressions: “as many Poles as many opinions, or even twice as many”, we wanted the association to reflect all political options. Thus, for example, the board is made up of people with different political views, from the right to the left, across all spectrums, so that there is no domination of one option over another. Since the beginning, we assume that we all have to agree on the systemic rules of the game. Once we formulate the system well, all further movements will be much simpler to agree on. Not on a political level, of course – we will never create a system or a state where everyone thinks the same way, everyone has the same views on an aspect or accepts it all. But at least we can attempt to create a political system foundation that we feel good about and we know that even if we lose this particular vote, this particular law, or an idea is introduced that we don’t like, we will have a chance to change it, and in some cases we won’t have to refer to it at all, because our idea is that the fight will be mainly kept within the government of one of the 16 voivodeships. Eventually, as the idea would evolve, also in separate metropolitan areas like Warsaw and Krakow, but not throughout the country, where, according to the principle that “the winner takes it all”, the winner in the parliamentary elections takes the State-owned companies, all the ministries, the laws and acts according to the “it’s our time now” principle. In our idea, the battle is fought across 16 or 18 different territorial divisions and the winner doesn’t take it all, because you can always win in another province.

MM: On the one hand, you advocate moving ideological issues to the provincial level, i.e. we are talking about abortion, the relationship between church and state, and education, while on the other hand you propose leaving the seven central ministries at the national level. I feel that one small problem arises here. If we move worldview issues to the provincial level, these disputes will not disappear, they will just descend to a lower level. We will continue to be divided, we will continue to disagree on certain issues. We will not find agreement on abortion. This can be seen, for example, in the United States, where we had Roe v. Wade in the 1970s. Now it has been reversed by a conservative

composition of the Supreme Court and, despite the passage of years, this social division continues. So my question is, how are you going to solve the problem of political polarisation in Poland and isn’t your solution simply descends from the central level to the local government level?

JD: In general, our diagnosis boils down to the fact that political divisions have a very strong territorial overtone. This can be seen above all by analysing parliamentary, local government and presidential elections, that there are conservative provinces, more right-wing or centre-right and liberal or left-wing. Generally it is a north-west versus east-south divide. This has been seen in all elections since the 1990s, that one political option dominates in a given province and this is unlikely to change. We want to manage polarisation better, because it is not going to go away. This is a problem that prevails in many countries, even the majority. The issue is how to manage polarisation so that it does not have negative consequences for the country as a whole. All these issues that you mentioned will be negotiable, how to decentralise them and whether to decentralise them at all. In our idea, we proposed which issues could be decentralised at this point, for example higher education, education, health care. There is no consensus in our association on the issue of, for example, abortion, whether it can be decentralised at all, whether it is worth it. This issue has not been raised, leaving it to politicians and people to decide how it should be done and whether it should be done at all. This is a very divisive issue in society and it is not going to go away. We are not going to hide from the fact that we are not there to cover up the polarisation, to extinguish and to eradicate it so that it doesn’t exist any more. There is no chance of that happening and I don’t think anyone will find a solution to it. On the other hand, it can be better managed so that the state is strong on the international arena, manages to cope with global and local challenges, has an efficient international policy, takes care of defence and internal affairs, leaving at the central level those competences in which it is best able to cope, and in which self-governments are not able to cope on their own. Certain issues can already be safely transferred to local authorities. Local authorities are already doing them, but they are dependent on central funding. This dependence can be removed and these competences transferred to the level of self-government, while the state, understood as the central administration, should focus on foreign policy, defence policy, ensuring access to strategic areas, such as energy, and conduct this more effectively and efficiently than in previous years or now.

MM: Let’s focus on the financial independence of local government units that you mentioned. As we know, the constitution distinguishes three types of local government revenues: own revenues, earmarked grants and general subsidies. The problem is that PIT revenues are also considered own revenues, which are often subject to the decisions of the central authority. In your book you write about the solution to this complication. Could you explain to our audience how you propose to increase the financial independence of local government units?

JD: The diagnosis is that, these days, local government is financially dependent on the central government of Warsaw, which disposes of public money as it pleases, as can be seen, for

example, in the various tax solutions from which local government suddenly suffers. Admittedly, they are universally popular – for example, I also benefited from not having to pay tax until I was 26, which was great for me, but not so great from the perspective of local authorities – they suddenly lost a very large stream of money, which would have been used to finance investments, schools. Let’s remember that local government is mainly funded by PIT and CIT. Our proposal is to transfer these taxes to the provincial level, which means that the provinces themselves would be responsible for the enforcement and collection of this tax, and it would go directly to them. Not through an intermediary, as it is now, on the basis of algorithms, calculations and special equations, but so that they themselves could spend this money directly at home. As we calculated in our idea, the state treasury, i.e. the public finances, would not suffer too much from the transfer of these taxes to the provincial area. We are eliminating this intermediary without too much damage to central finances, because central finances will also be completely different. We have 7 central ministries, there will be fewer public institutions at central level, they will be more professionalised, more efficient. All this money will go a little bit lower. They will be spent closer to the people, because it is the provinces that have the most knowledge at the moment, they know the needs of the people best. They can invest this money more and not be afraid that suddenly a good or bad uncle from Warsaw will come and add or subtract depending on his political views. In this case, he will give money from the government programme for a road or a school, while other municipalities or districts will not receive it because of the political option in power. Here we have a direct guarantee of financial independence from the central government.

MM: Do you foresee any coordination of the financial activities of individual voivodeships. I mean, for example, if individual voivodeships decided to reduce tax rates, and we also know that not every voivodeship has the same development potential and there is a risk that as a result of increasing the independence of self-governments in terms of their own revenues, they will start to pursue tax policies that will make some voivodeships develop faster than others. Do you have any mechanisms to prevent this?

JD: This is the so-called ‘race to the bottom’ phenomenon, where we actually have such radically different tax policies that in poor provinces, for example, there would be a 10 percent CIT and in another there would be a 1 percent CIT. We are very much in favour of healthy competition between provinces, as this speeds up and forces certain practices. We can already see that the voivodeships are competing with each other by means of various taxes, be they local taxes, or subsidies for business, for jobs, or various public policies aimed at economic development, to give a greater economic impulse. In our idea, however, we would like to prevent such dumping, of course, so any reduction in taxes could not entail an increase in expenditure on the part of the voivodeship, so that this balance of income and revenue would be preserved. We would like to create such a mechanism that limits the negative policies of extreme tax cuts, while spending continues at the same level or increases. This leads to budget deficits, further indebtedness. We want to avoid this as much as possible, so certain mechanisms have been proposed to avoid a race to the bottom, but there is nothing to prevent these taxes from being lowered, to pursue development policies that serve the voivodeship in question, and to ensure that this competition takes place, while maintaining budgetary principles and common sense, so that everything remains in balance. We know that politicians can exaggerate, and this is bound to happen in any political system. Politicians are not saints, politicians will always tend to exaggerate, but that is why clear political rules should be put in place to curb this tendency to a large extent.

MM: Let’s go back to this idea of decentralisation and running individual policies at provincial level. We know that there are difficult topics. We have already mentioned abortion, for example, and we know that the provinces are not homogeneous either. There are various social divisions, and they most often take place along the axis of centre-periphery or countryside-large cities. For example, in the eastern wall, for example in Podkarpacie, which is presented in your book as a Christian dream province, but could just as well be a conservative dream province, we have a city like Rzeszów, for example, where the mayor is Konrad Fijołek, who received 56% support in the presidential elections and won in the first round with the support of the entire opposition. On the other hand, if we look at Podkarpacie as a whole, in the 2019 parliamentary elections Law and Justice received 62% of the vote, a clear advantage. Therefore, overall I assume that Podkarpacie would be such a more conservative or Christian Democrat province. On the other hand, the inhabitants of Rzeszów might not agree with this vision, and in such a situation, if they had “from above” regulations imposed on them concerning, for example, abortion, civil partnerships or relations between the state and the church, they might probably leave the Podkarpackie region for other, more progressive regions, such as the Mazovian or Pomeranian Voivodeships. How to prevent these people from actually leaving? What can be done to prevent us from reaching a point where we, as a society, become completely divided into Poland A and Poland B, where the western side is liberal-left and the right side is conservative?

JD: The first point is that we don’t want it to be the case that Podlasie or the Podkarpackie Voivodeship have always been conservative. We just want all political parties to have a level playing field, so that, for example, the left or the liberals can win in such a Podkarpackie region. We don’t have a problem with that because it’s up to the residents and everyone has different 16 or 18 fields to play in which they can win. At the moment we have such a situation where there is one winner, and they claim everything, because we have one playing field. Of course, there are also local elections, but they are specific in that, for example, a conservative in Podlasie is very conservative, and a conservative from Warsaw is a kind of a conservative liberal. What we consider conservatism in Warsaw, for example, for a resident of Podkarpacie or Podlasie is soft conservatism, more like liberalism. When I was in Białystok for a debate promoting our book, I heard that for the inhabitants of Podlasie, a Law and Justice (Prawo i Sprawiedliwość) representative from Warsaw is not much different from a Civic Platform (Platforma Obywatelska) representative in Białystok. These differences at the provincial level are not as we assume at the national level. They have a certain specificity, their shades, their colours. It would not be the case that immediately in Podkarpacie there would be such hard conservative principles, but they would be characterised by their specifics – that is the first thing. The second thing is that of course we want the elections to reflect real

views. People will always go to the places where they feel most comfortable. If in one province people want regulations like this and not like that, if they feel bad, then of course they can either accept it and live there or leave. We are not going to create a system where everything is perfect for everyone. It’s just impossible, that’s how both human nature and all regimes work, but we can make it equal and transparent so that everyone has the opportunity to win. One chapter tells the story of Piotr, a computer scientist from West Pomerania, who didn’t feel so comfortable in West Pomerania and left for Podlasie, where he found that this is where his views are most realised, because there is conservatism there. We are not in a position to prevent the phenomenon of people leaving where they feel most comfortable, it would have to be banned, and that is a road to nowhere. Such processes will happen, they are unstoppable. The third point is that we are giving the opportunity to local governments to co-create provincial policies, because we are creating a kind of two-chamber provincial government. We have a provincial assembly and a provincial senate, which would be made up of municipal governors from each province with a weighted vote, appropriate to the population. I would not be so convinced that such a Rzeszow would not have the power to block or negotiate all these regulations prevailing in Podkarpacie. I have no idea what the population calculations are, but I think that Rzeszow has a very large population in comparison to all the inhabitants of Podkarpacie. Any regulation would also require the agreement of just the local government, so it forces some compromise and cooperation instead of putting the brakes on certain things because that majority has to agree. The metropolises will always have the largest population, but this does not mean that their vote will be an inhibiting, blocking one, because all the other municipalities can also form a coalition to break the impasse. These political games would have more finesse and the mechanisms we are promoting and proposing would force precisely these political compromises across the provinces and make all the political options, which are different in each province, work together more. I think that a conservative from Wielkopolska would also be even more different from a conservative from Podlasie, a certain core would be preserved, but these are certainly different views, adapted to the experience and specifics of a given region. There are completely different rules in local government than the ones we see on TV, we see in the media, and the ones we see every day, because, for example, we live in Warsaw and we see a specific bubble from which it is very difficult for us to break out, because it is very difficult.

MM: Let’s move on to the issue of the federalisation of Poland. Many people listening to our conversation may have the impression that you are proposing the creation of a federal state in Poland. You yourself point out in the book that this boundary between a unitary and a federal state is very subtle, because, for example, the UK and Italy are unitary states and Austria, for example, is a federal state. Many unitary states provide a high degree of decentralisation of power, even comparable to that found in federal states. Could you explain to our viewers how your vision of a new social contract differs from the introduction of a federal state in Poland?

JD: We dissociate ourselves from any attempt to federalise Poland or give autonomy to individual provinces. The issue is that in a federation we share sovereignty. All the units, for example states, cantons or whatever we call them, have their sovereignty, that is, they are also responsible for policies, which in our idea are on the central territory and are independent of each other practically apart from agreeing to a number of central political rules. They have a very high degree of independence. In our case, it is symmetrical decentralisation based on the unitary nature of the state. This means that all provinces have the same rights, none has more or less. This is the problem with some unitary states, because some parts have more rights than others. We have it in the case of Spain, we have it in the case of the UK, where Scotland has its own parliament, more rights than the other constituent parts of the UK. This decentralisation has been asymmetrical. We want the Greater Poland Voivodeship, the Podkarpackie Voivodeship and all the others to have the same set of powers, competences, while the state still retains a unitary character. There is a kind of supervisor over local governments, who intervenes when the rights of residents are violated, when someone seeks secession, when someone simply breaks the law, for example by introducing unconstitutional regulations. In our case, we want to entrust this supervisory role over local self-government to the president, because he has the greatest social mandate to control what is happening in the state, as he receives multi-million support in the general vote, so it is he who should watch over the systemic order of the state. It should also be watching over local government so that it can step in in appropriate situations when someone seeks secession, for example.

MM: I suspect that some Silesians or Kashubians will not be enthusiastic about your vision of symmetrical decentralisation, because they could not push for eventual autonomy. How would there be mechanisms to protect the state from provinces becoming too independent?

JD: No one is defending the idea of, for example, nurturing the Kashubian language or Silesian traditions. On the other hand, if we create exceptions to the rules, we will create a situation in which these internal conflicts become nationwide themes and affect the state as a whole even more. We have, for example, Catalonia, the Basque Country in Spain, and there we have an example of precisely asymmetrical decentralisation, where these problems have been further exacerbated by the fact that there are more privileges in some areas, more rights than in others. The more you have, the more you want and with us this idea has never existed and will never exist, that anyone should have autonomy of any kind. Everyone has the same rights and they can do what they like with those rights because of the will of the voters and residents. They are the ones who give them a voice and politicians, at least that is how it should be, are the executors of the will and preferences of the voters.

MM: You make the bold thesis in the book that widespread access to digital tools will make participatory democracy work better.It makes me wonder if this is not too bold a thesis on the grounds that perhaps often the lack of participation in elections is not at all due to a lack of appropriate tools, but to a lack of education, perhaps some kind of civic

unawareness.My question, therefore, is whether this vision is not too idealistic?I have the impression that providing all citizens with access to digital tools, tablets, smartphones and the introduction of electronic democracy will not solve all our ills. But shouldn’t we start by working at the grassroots and raising public awareness among citizens to push for this real change?

JD: One does not exclude the other.We have such an idea for a portal called, where you could evaluate the authorities.We use different apps like Uber, for example, where we can rate services.Why not rate local government? Why can’t there be an index of public services where someone, if they drop a few places in the ranking, for example, they are not eligible for re-election?It means that it is poor, and that residents can express their support.Today we have access to many public services via a trusted profile.Poland is one of the pioneers and champions of state digitisation.We use, for example, Blik, the trusted profile.Digitisation is really gaining momentum in Poland.Why not give tools?If someone can have a tool, they can feel that they don’t have to leave home, they don’t have to get tired, they can, for example, assess my president, mayor, mayor and hold them accountable for what they do or don’t do.Of course, education is necessary, we need to create the ethos of a citizen involved in public affairs, not only at central level, parliamentary elections, but also in local government, so that they know their rights, know what they want to fight for within local government, take an interest in public affairs.This interest is small, but I think it is increasing, you can look at the interest in the parliamentary elections.Of course, we won’t convince everyone, because there are people who don’t want to.In my opinion, it’s not worth forcing people to vote or to be interested, but it is worth giving those who are interested even more opportunities to influence the surrounding reality, and to show those who don’t want to – look, you’re complaining and you’re not taking part, and here you have all the tools available to you.As part of the association we also ran an educational project for young people about democratic institutions in Poland. We all agree that the problem is in civic education, but this is changing.I think the level of civic engagement is growing and will continue to grow. We need to create such mechanisms so that people have the opportunity to have a greater influence on the surrounding reality, to have access to a referendum, to have this evaluation.I think this is one of the coolest solutions, apart from the whole system.

MM: So it would work on the principle that we can rate the authorities just like an Uber ride and give, for example, 5 stars for a particular act?

JD: A provincial act.Acts are at the central level and the provincial act is at the local level in our proposal.If we introduced an act, it would already be federalisation. In our idea, we would be able to assess our local governor, local institutions, local public services. This is one of the most interesting motives, that if a city, a municipality drops a few stars in the ranking of public services, then the local authority cannot run for re-election, because it has dropped too much in the ranking. This gives such an impulse to listen to the voters and encourages him to work even more for the local community, because we can evaluate him. I don’t think there’s any point in introducing tools at this point, because you can do a lot of

things at once and just give tools that can make us even more engaged, because we have that option. A long time ago we didn’t think that we could evaluate an application, that feedback was a very important tool, a mechanism to show which way we should go. Now it’s the norm.

MM: On the other hand, I think we also know how the internet works. There are all sorts of information bubbles, polarisation, and social media often just try to fuel this polarisation, to dynamise it. Therefore, perhaps there is a risk that the ratings in your application are not always based on factual criteria, but on more emotional ones. And what about in such a case?

JD: Politics is always emotional. On the other hand, a big safeguard is that we make all decisions on the portal from a trusted profile, i.e. with our first and last name. When I give my vote, I sign my name, to myself of course, as Jakub Drożdż. I am not an anonymous troll, a bot who influences some internet poll. I am acting on my own behalf, so this forces me to approach certain decisions a little more thoughtfully, but of course there is always emotion. For this reason, the educational aspect is also important, because the fact that we have a tool is one thing, but who uses it, what kind of citizen, is also a separate issue. However, it is worth developing it in two separate directions, it is worth teaching about the civic ethos. This is also very close to me, because I was involved in politics myself. I believe that everything is politics, politics is also an emotion. There are certain mechanisms that have been in place for centuries that we cannot change, for example, that we make decisions at the last minute, that we play it all by emotions (Brexit is a great example). On the other hand, it is always possible to back out of them. Once introduced, a decision does not doom us, most things can be reversed. The British, for example, are already regretting Brexit and will soon think about returning to the European Union, as it has become clear over time that they cannot cope with many things on their own. We, on the other hand, are adults.

MM: Yes, we are, but I recognise that risk because I know how the internet and information bubbles work. I can imagine a situation of coordinated action, where even an excellent city mayor is able to give negative ratings just so that he doesn’t run in the next election.

JD: On the other hand, we have stories where the mayor sits in jail and continues to run the city. We will never figure out human nature, it is perverse. One solution is precisely to use a trusted profile. This already requires some effort, it is not writing from the nick1234 account one comment and from the next nick2345 account quite the opposite. Here we have to be more considerate, like at an election. We also sign that we were and cast anonymous votes. The same would be true on – it requires us to be somewhat responsible, because it requires us to sign our name.

MM: We have a complex diagnosis of various social, political and systemic problems. So now the key question: how do we convince the politicians?

JD: This is the most difficult part. In general, the idea of our association is to introduce a system, a new social contract and then disband. Regardless of who introduces it, as long as they introduce it and we are happy. We are back to playing politics, because each of us has our own particular political views. Although there is no active politician in the composition of our association, each of us has certain views, political preferences and gets involved on one side or the other of the political argument. We do not intend to hide this. We are different, we agree on this issue, but we don’t necessarily agree on other political issues and that’s a beautiful thing. It’s great that we’ve managed to bring it all together, that we’ve agreed to this diagnosis, this model. We are ambassadors for the Social Contract Incubator through our experiences, professions, occupations. We are ambassadors for this idea of a new social contract. We are at all kinds of events, we talk to politicians, we talk to think tanks, we talk to academics so as to generate as much political support as possible for our demands. There are political options that are close to our ideas. There are also people who, for example, cannot boast of this, but who support us because of the political situation. Why did we choose the format of a book at all? Our idea was already announced in 2019, but it was announced a bit in such a way that everyone associated us with decentralisation and not with the introduction of a broad new social contract. It was also a bit too scientific, too much in such language that was in some cases incomprehensible. We wanted to bring together all the work we’ve been doing since 2018 in one place and create a book that communicates in a clear and readable way to everyone what we’re really about. We have fictionalised chapters that deal with specific provinces – conservative, liberal, Christian Democrat, left-wing, progressive – where we show what the implementation of our social contract could look like in practice. We are shown what central government, local government could look like, how it would all tie together, how social inequalities could be patched up, how the treasury’s assets could be divided between local authorities. The book is the culmination of this intellectual output that we have committed since 2018, in order to reach out in the greatest possible way to people who have not yet heard about our idea. And it worked for us because the book was a bestseller. Indeed, we had a huge number of events, whether promoting our book directly or going to different cities. I myself was in Białystok and Wrocław at various debates where we presented our idea. Also on Campus Poland there was a panel about our book, so we are ambassadors, emissaries, I really like this play on words. Anna Wojciuk, the president of our association, was such an emissary as soon as our idea was formed, she travelled to all the voivodeships, where she talked to local authorities, consulting ideas and persuading them to come to our conference, to see what it was all about. And she succeeded, because it was a huge success in 2019, but the publication of the book surpassed it. It really brought our idea to a lot of audiences all over Poland. There was a launch in Warsaw, also a debate on development policies, but in most provinces we had separate debates with local experts, local politicians, activists, community activists. We wanted to involve all political options, all provinces. We created our feature chapters to show what this could look like in practice. We are still talking, of course, convincing the unconvinced. In addition to our human resources,

that is, these hundred and dozens of people, we have also involved people outside our circle who often disagree with us and have had the opportunity to confront all their doubts, all their ideas live in the debates. We also always say: if someone has a better idea, great, we’ll take it. It’s just that we think this is the most comprehensive proposal for systemic reform responding to the diagnosis presented in our book throughout our association and nobody has introduced anything else. You can argue, criticise, evaluate – we encourage you to do so, because this does not have to be the final version, there is always room for improvement. Let’s encourage Poles, let’s encourage politicians to think in terms of how to shape a new model of social contract that we all agree on. This is a proposal, it is available to all political parties, all political options. It is already on the table, give us your input. Show what your proposals are, because if you don’t have yours, take ours. We are absolutely fine with that, take it.

MM: Let’s tell our audiences a bit more about these dream province proposals, these feature chapters, because it’s quite unusual for a systemic book. Where did you get the idea for the feature chapters? And could you outline what your conservative dream province looks like as well, since you authored a chapter under that title?

JD: The idea came from not wanting this to be another book that shows in an incomprehensible way how things are supposed to work. We thought it would be useful to show what a dream province would look like under a particular political option. We chose these provinces not by chance, because we did thorough research. In each of the dream provinces we had our own man, who prepared statistics, breakdowns, preferences, interviews for us, and did a great job, for which many thanks are due. They are all listed in our book. We turned our ideas into reality. I wrote, together with Prof. Sylwia Sysko-Romańczuk, a chapter on a conservative dream voivodeship, which would take place in Podlasie. Podlasie is considered to be a conservative region, and this is reflected in statistics, data. That’s why we chose it, and we had all the breakdowns as to what the typical Podlasie resident expects, what their preferences are, what the trends, impulses are. On the basis of what we got, on the basis of national political views, on the basis of ideological declarations, political programmes, we selected areas where a conservative dream province could triumph, could show that conservatism has a very human face and could be a driving force for the development of a region. This could, for example, be education, vocational education, higher education, a focus on renewable energy, on high-tech agriculture, on food exports. Where the conservative dream voivodeship reigns supreme in attracting people from other cultures, for example other nationalities, that it is open to newcomers from Belarus, for example, who, if they learn Polish, if they obey the law, if they observe customs and pay taxes, are welcomed with bread and salt, because there is no problem with them. There is a certain set of rules, you are supposed to obey all of them. This is the conservative model for attracting foreigners. We attract by being attractive to them, but we demand. This should be the model of assimilation and the model of integrating people of a different nationality into society. We have a well-developed vocational education that reigns supreme. We have a strongly developed sector of small and medium-sized enterprises that export food from Podlasie to neighbouring

countries on a massive scale. We also have investments in green technologies, because conservatism may not like it, but it is very attached to the state of the environment that we will leave for future generations. Also investment in renewable energy, in healthy, sustainable development. We also have family protection of course. One of the more interesting measures is large tax exemptions for people with a certain length of marriage to encourage a lack of divorce. One of the other demands that we have introduced, which presents a Christian, right-wing, conservative voice, is to ban the sale of alcohol on Sundays, so that it is a time for family, for friends, but not necessarily spent in this alcoholic way. That is, there is a province-wide ban put in place by the residents. We had a storyline shown in such a way that the husband of the main character resisted it, but the women voted everyone out and in the referendum it just came out that this was to be introduced. We showed all the mechanisms, but also that it’s worth getting involved because you can introduce something you don’t want, but the majority wanted it. In all these chapters we showed how it could all work. The chapters are different from each other, which is why we brought together different authors from our association, but also fiction editors from different dream provinces, because there were writers, editors, journalists involved, who helped us formulate the storyline so that it was as attractive as possible to the reader. So that he or she could respond: this really suits my preferences, this is what it could look like, admittedly I don’t agree here, but the majority actually realise it. So this is what a conservative dream province – Podlasie – could look like, but it could just as well be any other province where the conservative option has won. I also encourage you to read the other chapters, because they are just as interesting.

MM: Yes, we highly recommend the book ‘Let’s agree on Poland’, we really encourage you to read it. There is also a vision of a liberal, left-wing, progressive and Christian Democrat province. Therefore, you can also read each of these chapters and form your own opinion. Finally, a final point. Your constitutional proposals require an amendment to the constitution. As we know, to amend the constitution, according to Article 235, a majority of ⅔, or at least 307 MPs, is required. Even if we look at the current level of political polarisation, regardless of who wins the upcoming elections, the vision of winning 307 seats is practically impossible. Therefore, this would require a broader consensus, which is also unlikely under the current political polarisation. So, what is your timeframe for getting these reforms in place and how are your discussions with politicians progressing? Have you already contacted parties, election committees? Have you possibly received any answers from them? And also what gives you the motivation to act, if you probably often meet a wall when talking to them? Because also, let’s not kid ourselves, which politician is going to want to cede power to the periphery when he is in a much stronger position in the centre and that would involve a reduction in his powers.

JD: Let’s start with the fact that we are just giving more power to politicians. Admittedly we are limiting this to the central level, but we are giving the opportunity to influence local government and to see the results already quite quickly. So it’s an attractive proposition for politicians, even for nationwide political parties, because losing in a national election doesn’t

mean we lose in local elections, we just lose one part. Instead of one election that decides everything, we have 16 + 1 of them.

MM: However, political parties in Poland mainly have a leader model and the main problem is that a strong leader does not want to give up this power.

JD: It’s difficult for me to forecast now because we are a week before the elections. At some point we will run into a political clinch from which it will not be very clear how to break out with the current constitutional mechanisms. That is what we have a proposal for. We do not delude ourselves that this will be introduced by the Sejm in the coming term, because we are realists. We know that politicians like to mix and change, it is the nature of the profession. We don’t think that politicians, or local government officials, or current parliamentarians in the Sejm and Senate are saints. We are just making the assumption that they are not. We are creating these checks and balances where everyone is looking at everyone else’s hands. These are mechanisms for forcing coordination, concessions, compromises, such as with the provincial senate. In this case, we are not idealists. It’s not that we are confident that this will be introduced any minute. This is hard work – persuading, presenting, showing results, which will probably end in 2027. I think that’s the closest possible date to make these changes. Some of them can be introduced now, for example, you can already decentralise health care, education, higher education, but, for example, the president’s supervision over local government will not be introduced. So, of course, some things can already be done, PIT and CIT can already be transferred to the level of self-governments, but a large part of our demands for a coherent and complete model have not yet been fulfilled. A solution in which we introduce selected elements, for example we transfer more competences to self-governments, but this is not followed by financial mechanisms, will make the problem even worse. So this proposal assumes a basic level, which can be introduced immediately, but the full level can only be achieved in the long term. That is why we have published a book, to instil this idea in people, to reflect, to awaken this spirit of innovation, because Poles have always been masters of systemic innovation. We have the examples of the 3rd of May Constitution, the Union of Lublin, and many others, where we really went a long way towards getting along, creating something unique on a European and world scale. Why should this not be the case now? We know what the problems are, how much polarisation bothers everyone and harms our country. Let’s think about how we can make a deal about our country. And this is a contribution to the wider debate. One of the most comprehensive proposals – let’s create something of our own. Why shouldn’t Poland be the great incubator of the social contract?

MM: Jakub Drożdż was both mine and your guest. Thank you very much for the conversation and I encourage you once again to read the book “Umówmy się na Polskę” to form your own opinion, or alternatively to discuss it in the comments. We will be happy to answer your questions, because this is also about talking about Poland, about the future of our homeland. I am really pleased that even though we often differ in our views, we are able to discuss and debate the future of Poland for our common wellbeing. Thank you very much!

The podcast script was prepared by Aleksandra Fijalek. Article authorized by a guest of the program.

Aleksandra Fijałek
Jestem studentką prawa na Uniwersytecie Jagiellońskim, pasjonatką historii (szczególnie średniowiecznej), filozofii i stosunków międzynarodowych. Moje zaangażowanie społeczne dotyczy głównie tematów edukacji i budowania świadomości obywatelskiej. Obecnie działam w zarządzie Stowarzyszenia Twój Wybór, w którym koordynowałam projekt „Moot Court Kraków 2022”, dający osobom uczęszczającym do szkół ponadpodstawowych okazję do poszerzania wiedzy prawnej. Mam doświadczenie w organizacji międzynarodowej konferencji Vistula Model United Nations, prowadzenia przygotowań do konkursów z języka angielskiego dla dzieci z całej Polski oraz organizowaniu akcji charytatywnych służących wsparciu obywateli i obywatelek Ukrainy czy osób uchodźczych na granicy polsko-białoruskiej.
Maksymilian Mirecki
I am a journalist and editor in Coopernicus. I study law and international relations at University of Warsaw. I am also a host of the podcast "Maximum Dose of Knowledge".
Written by:

Aleksandra Fijalek, Maksymilian Mirecki

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