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19-08-2016, 10:09 AM #1
- Join Date
- Nov 2012
Democratic Deficit & My Solution (Warning: Politics rant)
I've been mulling this over for a few years, and the more time passes, the more it seems to make sense.
Representation doesn't equate democracy. Institutions upon which the people are dependent on representation doesn't enhance democracy, it dilutes it. Offering another layer upon which the opportunity for the risk of misrepresentation occurs (chinese whispers?), is by definition undemocratic.
Allow me to expose the best example...
The Iraq and Afghanistan wars had relatively little cohesive popular support. Had there been a mechanism for people to contribute to the parliamentary process, we could have avoided the murdering hundreds of thousands of people, as well as all the other inherent shenanigans; stoking terrorism, wasting enormous quantities of public resource, contributing to the 2008 collapse, and generally diverting civilisation away from socio-economic progression, and into more macro-political colonialism that did the world so much harm during the Cold War.
Regarding the EU, it is less representative and conventionally less democratic than our domestic system, so if our domestic system is capable of such damage, it is naive to assume that the EU is somehow exempt from the risk of becoming the same, or worse. This has been the pattern over literally millennia with successive efforts to consolidate governments and power, why are we now forgetting how stupidly susceptible we are in trusting enormous institutions over which we have little or no control, which then soon enough cause catastrophic harm. We have tried since classical antiquity to devise a sustainable system. We have had undemocratic regimes before, and they've all failed. TTIP is a valid centrefold here. Toxic, wouldn't you say?
Nowadays, perhaps since Blair, separation of rhetoric from the debate is crucial in order to understand it from a neutral and rational perspective. The EU referendum for instance, despite the fact that Cameron claims it was called in order to allow the public to settle a crucial issue, it was, in reality, an exercise in electioneering. By nullifying rhetoric, we're better able to logically and reasonably scrutinise or justify the components of the debate without any dependency on politicians, institutions, or the press with vested interests. Or indeed worry about factoring their vested interests, which can be a consuming task in it own right, depriving people of precious time and energy for the debate itself, by riddling it with doubt, scepticism and worsening the problem by causing disengagement.
It is still disappointing that propaganda still ensues so highly in the political process, if you take history into perspective, it is overwhelmingly unsurprising that it continues, unchecked. Little should be expected from our representatives in an era where they've further proven to be misrepresenting us.
Pointing fingers, and scrutiny by way of selection achieves relatively little. We've gotten to the point where the system is unable to supply representatives because it was designed for a time where the world was significantly less complex, less sophisticated, less diverse, less problematic, less dynamic, less connected, less intellectual. Parties are unrepresentative, because many people believe in principles and policies from a multitude of them, not just from a selection of two, which used to be the case until around the 50's. Parliamentary reform is in dire need, as the conduct within is frequently unprofessional. Electoral reform is needed in the form of Proportional Representation. Constitutional reform is needed to make the upper chamber and head of state relevant, as it once used to be. Democratic reform is needed because citizens have enjoyed the ICT and digital revolution, and they're able to inform themselves in seconds, for something that would take days to do in a library. Yet technology remains totally estranged to politics.
Aspiring to reverse the reliance on representation which continues to inflict so much harm, isn't a leap of faith. The answer is a more direct democracy. I underline "more", because some people are sometimes immediately terrorised by the notion of 'direct' democracy. Yet, like many other political notions, it's relative. Don't be alarmed, I will make a proposal for a solution that doesn't involve delegating every single decision to citizens exclusively, as is often the horror story depicted that instantly turns people off.
On direct democracy
A more direct democracy will encourage greater participation, and in turn a greater pool of candidates from which we can choose representatives. If people are more able to contribute to politics, they'll more likely do so. If they're more like to do so, they're going to have higher expectations. If they have higher expectations they'll either demand, influence, or become a better representative. This will probably happen over a generation or two, but the obstacles are going to be institutions which are undemocratic, and therefore resistant by definition to such change. The EU, for arguments sake, in its current form, is one of these institutions. It is an a democratically overriding obstacle. More so with time.
The solution: Two. Simple. Changes.
1) Popular parliamentary interventions, by way of simply allowing people to vote electronically (or by post) for bills / white papers / motions, etc, should they wish to do so. Votes cast by citizens will dilute the parliamentary vote in proportion with the number of citizens that voted. This gives an opportunity for people who wish to contribute, a direct way of doing so. For major issues like the Iraq War, 50% of the public may have cast their vote, thus potentially changing the outcome of the decision because the parliamentary vote would have been diluted to 50%. Some other, relatively minor topics, may only attract 5% of the interest of citizens, in which case, this would dilute the parliamentary vote to 95%. Many people are still happy or reliant on representation, so they will not bother voting for the sake of voting, and risk spoiling the quality of the vote. Keeping up to date with the complex workings of some policies isn't something most people have time or inclination for, because, after work, people need to cook, eat, rest, sleep, spend time with family, do personal admin, work on house, tidy the house, tend to hobbies, do exercise, etc.
Firstly, please absorb the following graphs:
Secondly, please suggest how the Proportional Representation seat allocation would have been detrimental to the UK. I am struggling to do that myself.
Expecting the post EU referendum popular vibe to produce better representatives is unrealistic. Expecting politicians to start acting responsibly if we demand it, is unrealistic.
Our generation needs to spend more time using the technology it already has, to 'popularise' politics. It mustn't be regarded a taboo or nerd subject between friends and family. Including it into the sphere of what constitutes 'socialising' will lead to ideas being generated. People may conclude that the failings of representation are mitigated by direct democracy.
The generation after ours will find my two ideas common-knowledge enough to form strong consensus that it is the only real way forward. This consensus will be strong enough to produce new representatives that, crucially, already recognise the notion at the forefront of their agenda.
19-08-2016, 10:49 AM #2
I like the idea of proportional representation, but UKIP would have more seats and fuck that noise.
19-08-2016, 11:08 AM #3
- Join Date
- Nov 2012
You like the idea of proportional representation, but you don't like the idea of representation being proportional?
19-08-2016, 11:11 AM #4
I don't like the people who would be proportionally represented. Extremists, bigots, fringe groups.
19-08-2016, 11:30 AM #5
- Join Date
- Nov 2012
1. You don't like democracy?
2. These people would be insignificant in number, because "extremists and bigots" form an insignificant part of UKIP voters. Not only that, UKIP have accomplished their mission in large part, so expect to see a decline in voters, especially without Farage.
3, Which "fringe" groups don't you want to be represented, and how significant do you think they are in number, from an electoral basis, let alone a parliamentary basis. This concern of yours in unfounded.
Last edited by derf; 19-08-2016 at 11:34 AM.
19-08-2016, 01:44 PM #6
I'm across the pond, so I don't know exactly what's going on there, but I got the impression that the entire argument for Brexit was "let's do away with those filthy foreigners." UKIP looks like the Tea Party in the US, which pretty much exists only because we managed to elect a black president, and that galvanized the racists in to forming a political party.
19-08-2016, 01:50 PM #7
It might be worth reading Federalist #10, which is a seminal work in the self-understanding of American democracy. It explicitly lays out the case for representative democracy over against direct democracy. The Federalist articles were written as a series of editorials during the time the American Constitution was being drafted. They were written pseudonymously, but we know that Hamilton, Madison and John Jay were the authors. Federalist 10 was written by Madison in response to Hamilton's #9 about the dangers of plurality faction. Here's Madison:
[A] pure democracy, by which I mean a society consisting of a small number of citizens, who assemble and administer the government in person, can admit of no cure for the mischiefs of faction. A common passion or interest will, in almost every case, be felt by a majority of the whole; a communication and concert result from the form of government itself; and there is nothing to check the inducements to sacrifice the weaker party or an obnoxious individual. Hence it is that such democracies have ever been spectacles of turbulence and contention; have ever been found incompatible with personal security or the rights of property; and have in general been as short in their lives as they have been violent in their deaths.
19-08-2016, 02:01 PM #8
Allowing popular votes on a range of issues assumes that the populace is significantly educated on an issue to make an informed choice.
I don't think that is the case.
I'm all for a system of PR and have campaigned and paid money to campaigns to support this. If people do have fringe beliefs on both sides of the political spectrum then I'd rather they were engaged as part of politics than festering in a corner. How can we challenge these views if there is no debate? And further if people think that way how can we change their minds?
the commons would be a PR system of, say 500 MPs whose sole job is being an MP and are paid say £100,000 a year. PM say £250k, cabinet & front bench £200k?
second appointed house, for 10 years service?
19-08-2016, 02:42 PM #9
- Join Date
- Dec 2012
Those people exist and won't go away. Giving them a voice only makes everyone see who they really are.
19-08-2016, 04:55 PM #10contributing to the 2008 collapse
but the obstacles are going to be institutions which are undemocratic, and therefore resistant by definition to such change. The EU, for arguments sake, in its current form, is one of these institutions.
Those people exist and won't go away. Giving them a voice only makes everyone see who they really are.
19-08-2016, 07:16 PM #11
It really would be great if they went away.
19-08-2016, 07:29 PM #12
I mean this all presumes that Democracy in of itself is a good, so more of it is better. Which is basically a load of shit. You'll end up just re-running brexit and the AV referendum over and over, where vested interests and money can whip up totally idiotic support for stuff. The state America gets into sometimes with having referendums over bits of state law and the insane adverts claiming god knows what will happen if you pass some bit of minor legislation. Or the shit people kick up over guns. Democracy itself only works along side a few other important pillars regarding the rule of law, the distribution of power in society, liberty (in the sense of liberties etc.) and probably rationalism. If the other stuff isn't actually working properly then more democracy won't fix it. I think some of the other bits are pretty fucking broken in society right now but I'm damned if I think direct democracy will doing anything.
PR is a good idea, federalism in the UK is a good idea, land reform is a fucking amazing idea and having a constitution and getting rid of the Queen are worthy ideas I'll never see.
19-08-2016, 08:57 PM #13
The problem with any form of democracy is that stupid, awful things get done because there are a lot of stupid, awful people out there. All you have to do is look at history - segregation in the US and similar laws that made blacks second-class citizens had plenty of popular support at the time.
Democracy only looks good compared to the usual alternatives. The problem with less-democratic governments is that power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. While benevolent dictatorships are possible, in practice someone terrible ends up in the dictator's seat sooner or later. The lesser amount of power we see in congress still leads to corruption. It doesn't help that choosing representatives based on popularity contests gives awful results. At the very least, it selects people primarily for their ability to campaign, not their ethics, intelligence, or ability to do the job.
The closest thing I can think of to a well-selected governing body is the US Supreme Court. Oh, sure, they're judges and not legislators, but the USSC enjoys a much better reputation for being primarily focused on doing the job well than the elected branches. Even with the appointment process, you still end up with people like Scalia, who was a blight on the court for 30 years.
19-08-2016, 09:38 PM #14
To be honest I have slowly felt the same way with the House Of Lords, it seems they are the only ones taking the government to account(obviously when there job is on the line they don't push as much as what happened in one case with the Tories here) which is weird because I as a younger man would be abolishing them as soon as I got the chance..
Maybe a Meritocracy wouldn't be such a bad thing...
20-08-2016, 12:32 PM #15
The US supreme court seems highly broken and politicised to me (looking on from the outside).
The house of lords has issues too, although like Xercies I have found myself appreciating it more as I got older. Like democracy, it might be better than the alternatives.
Having proportional representation puts the deciding vote in the hands of small fringe parties. Not having it casues fringe elements within the main parties. I'm not sure what's better.
Democracy is looking rather shakey recently, but even so I think the old saying about it being better than everything else tends to hold true.
The idea about letting a popular vote outweigh politicians is interesting... better than a full on populist democracy. Not sure exactly how it would work in practice though.
The people deciding opens the country up to massive instability and mood swings as people vote based on emotion, misinformation and knee jerk reaction - elected democracies are meant to avoid that, but are open to corruption, vested interests and being distant from the will of the people.
It'll be interesting to see if technology can be used to make things more open or effective.. but I'm not totally convinced.
20-08-2016, 12:40 PM #16
20-08-2016, 02:04 PM #17
20-08-2016, 03:39 PM #18
Actually, the Supreme Court is rather Meritocratic. Generally speaking, you have to have a substantial track record to get nominated. There's nothing in the rules that says the President can't nominate a clueless crony, as George W. Bush did with Harriet Miers, but that got shot down by his own party. So far, the tradition of only considering highly qualified candidates has stuck. It's a very different ball of wax than congress - or the House of Lords, I presume.
How you'd institute a real meritocratic government is an interesting question, though. Who decides who is qualified? Certainly not a public vote. Public votes have given us people like Sarah Palin. Or in another vein, the Tea Party candidates who didn't seem to comprehend how catastrophic their stand on the debt ceiling was, regardless of ideology.
20-08-2016, 04:49 PM #19
I know this might be making a untested strawman but my problems with a meritocracy would be that they probably would be very distant from what the public wants and maybe in extreme cases they would kill millions to save billions because that would be the "smart" thing to do. But that might be my anti-intellectualism speaking...
20-08-2016, 06:09 PM #20
That has it's own problems as frankly try and find a doddering old judge with the qualifications who isn't kind of right wing or a member of the correct London clubs.
They're both fraught with difficulty, though so is election to a professional kind of position like supreme court etc. So both processes avoid straight meritocracy or straight political appointment. Though I guess they're all open to either incompetent populism or closed shop cronyism.
EDIT: Also I've lost the thread of my point. Probably that these things are all messy compromises of a kind and fuck knows which is actually best.