The Democratic Deficit

I’ve been developing these thoughts over a few years, and the more time passes, the more it seems to make sense. This is a long discussion, but very much worth the attention.

Representation doesn’t equate democracy. Institutions upon which the people are dependent for representation doesn’t enhance democracy, it dilutes it. Offering another layer upon which the opportunity for the risk of misrepresentation occurs like ‘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.

Another example…

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 another valid EU centrefold example of toxicity.

Regarding rhetoric, 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.

Regarding representation, 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.

As for 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.
  2. Firstly, please absorb graphs A, B, and C.Secondly, please suggest how the Proportional Representation seat allocation would have been detrimental to the UK. I am struggling to do that myself.

Next steps:

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 existing technology to ‘popularise’ politics. Politics will no longer be regarded as the nerdy taboo subject it currently is. Shamelessly including it into the sphere of what constitutes ‘socialising’ will lead to ideas being generated and shared. People may indeed conclude similarly that the failings of representation are mitigated by a more direct democracy.

The generations after our own will soon think of this subject as common knowledge, and will subsequently form a strong enough consensus to produce new representatives that hold the issue at the forefront of their political agenda.

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