Monday, 17 September 2007

Voting for Policies or Politicians?

Would you like to vote on issues?
Would you cast your vote on a smoking ban, war in Iraq, fox hunting, speed cameras? Or would you prefer that the politicians decide?
The central idea behind Interactive Democracy is that modern technology can allow voters to decide these issues directly, referendum style, without exhorbitant cost or fraudulent votes. It would then be the elected governments responsibility to implement the will of the people.


Anonymous said...

This comment is based on the first blog entry which asked if it would be a good idea to enable people to vote on policies rather than parties. This idea does have atractive points in its favour. We would all like to see a country whose citizens care enough about a wide variety of issues to inform themselves diserningly and are able to offer not only a vote but valuable input into the decision making process. Unfortunatly we do not seem, at present, to be living in such a country. This does not, of course, mean that voting on individual policies is in principle wrong and there may indeed be policies well suited to this kind of aproach, however I do struggle to come up with such a policy.
We always hear on the news about elections in far flung countries that were not "free and fair." When postal voting was brought in as a result of political promting in northern England, election results were challenged in the high court. So we would need to be very sure that the system if introduced would produce a free and fair result that would command the respect of the majority of voters.
Another objection would be that special interest groups would be able to force governments to make policy changes based purely on the numbers of votes they could generate on a given subject. This would seem on the face of it to be a positive thing but we would need to remember that the adgenda of those promting a particular vote may be completely unknown to the person being prompted to caste a vote, and vice versa. I supose one can think in terms of the BNP who undoubtedly want to re-shape Britain along racial lines but campaign on local issues, and the BNP voter who is not a rasist but whants to register his displeasure with the Government (though how it can be argued that voting for a rasist party is not a rasist act I don't know?)
I also worry that people will, quite naturally, vote in line with their predudices. It is said that if there were to be a referendum on capital punishement it would be once again be on the statute book; or if there were a referendum on our membership of the European Union we would quite simply have to leave. This does beg the question what in this world would the political class be for? In a world of truly universal e democracy the political class would quickly become framers of questions to best advantage for their favorite policy. Our already disingenous political class will need to become even more disrespectful of evidence in the formation of its arguements.
And finally because I've gone on to long already I'll ask the question where in this brave new world will there be room for leadership and vision?

About Interactive Democracy said...

Good challenges to this idea.
Interactive Democracy would get in the way of international negotiations and situations where the key information must be held secret by the government eg national security. Social issues are less problematic eg the fox hunting ban or smoking in pubs.
The security and accuracy of the voting system is crucial. I favour an online system run along similar lines to online banks.
It could be argued that each political party is a special interest group. I would hope that other special interest groups with detailed knowledge of a particular issue (eg teachers and parents on issues of schooling, medical professionals on issues of healthcare) would contribute. They may have far better knowledge and insight than the politicians. However, I think we still need a Parliament and a Government (both held to account by voters).
I would expect that leadership would come from politicians, religious leaders, scientists and activists in any area. The media would be encouraged to debate each issue and the interactive democracy web site would be designed to list all sides of the arguments, with the objective of enhancing the debate. This, I hope, would help to counter our initial predjudices.
I think that other important aspects would be legal mechanisms to improve the truthfulness of politicians and journalists and an independent scientific community operating without bias or political influence.