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This is a thought exercise around the idea of an idealised democracy. I do not pretend that it is likely to be achieved at any point, nor do intend to actively campaign for it. Your thoughts and comments are welcome.
On the whole my country, the United Kingdom, does Democracy pretty well. One only has to look at numerous examples around the globe to know how bad some of the alternatives can be. I just can’t help feel that the entire system is inefficient. We vote by constituency, which is fine for me as a traditionally Lib Dem voter in a constituency that swings about evenly between Lib Dem and Conservative. But what about the Labour voter here, who has pretty much no chance of successfully electing his candidate?
I’m not just arguing in favour of Proportional Representation, though. The MPs that we elect represent us, at least in theory. But how well do they, or even can they? Each constituency has people with so many wide-ranging opinions that one man or woman can’t hope to represent all of them. And then how well does an MP in government represent their constituents compared to an MP in opposition? Doesn’t the Whip system and the concept of “toeing the party line” blur the line between us being represented by an MP and us being represented by that MP’s party? And if we’re being represented by such a huge unwieldy thing as a party, how can we ever hope to agree with everything a party believes in?
What I propose is an open and transparent implementation of the extreme of direct democracy - a weakening of the powers of MPs to vote on our behalf, and a radical expansion of the power of public referendum. I also propose that the government, be it in the form of MPs or merely a body of civil servants, have the following core functions:
- Maintain an open and fair system of staging referendums. Referendums, in which members of the public vote directly on national policy, must be fair and free from corruption. Infrastructure must be in place to allow them to happen regularly. Referendums should take place over media such as the Internet only if they can be independently proven to be unrigged, and so long as other means are also provided so that no-one is left out. Results of the votes much be published accurately and in a timely manner using an open format and an open licence. There must be traceability between a referendum and the policy change it causes.
- Provide an unbiased source of information. If the public are expected to vote directly on matters of policy, they must have the information to make an informed decision. Raw facts and unbiased analysis must be provided in formats that are accessible to all. Be it the BBC or some other institution, it must be regularly and rigorously checked to ensure it is bias-free.
- Maintain the economy. Ensure that the public cannot vote to do irreparable damage the the economy. Maintain the free market where at all possible, and if services should remain nationalised, such as the NHS, they must be rigorously examined for inefficiencies to avoid wasting public money.
- Maintain the welfare state. Ensure that the public cannot vote to further disadvantage those already poor and disadvantaged. Social security benefits must be maintained and improved upon to ensure that poverty is eliminated and quality of life improves.
- Maintain diplomatic relations. Represent the country internationally. Ensure that the will of the people is accurately reflected in our dealings with other nations and international bodies.