Is Direct Democracy Within Reach?

With the relentless progress of digital technology, could direct democracy soon be within reach? Would we want it?

Direct democracy is where citizens decide for themselves what they wish to do in terms of making laws. They do not elect representatives to do this on their behalf.

The technology now exists to consider direct democracy as an alternative to our current form of representative democracy.

There are many issues to think about. For example, could direct democracy lead to a rise in the level of populism? Does the electorate have the capacity to undertake this role or do they need elected experts to decide for them or to guide them in the “right” direction?

There are certainly issues with populism and short termism, but these problems arise with the current system of representative democracy anyway.

Direct democracy would require a different way of thinking. It would require a much better-informed electorate. It would require the public to be more actively involved in politics. How many people would be able to spare the time?

There would be security implications to consider but, if millions of financial transactions can be processed securely on a daily basis, then surely it would be possible to process votes in a similar manner.

There would be public participation benefits, but would people understand the responsibilities that this new role would place upon them.

A government does more than just pass laws. It is also responsible for the day to day running of the country, so some form of executive would still be necessary.

There would be initial set-up costs but there may be financial benefits to running a virtual parliament in the longer term.

Direct democracy would require a new mindset from the electorate, but it may be worth considering giving it a trial. Maybe a Yorkshire Parliament would be a good testbed.

2 thoughts on “Is Direct Democracy Within Reach?

  1. The idea of Participative-representive Democracy followed through properly is a much better approach, in my view, to enabling citizens decide for themselves what they wish to do in terms of making laws. The ability to share, discuss ideas, and attempt to change others minds is so important to a healthy democracy. I fail to see how this would work under your proposals, but prepared to keep an open mind and be convinced.

  2. Thanks for your comments Philip. We are talking about direct democracy here. The IT platform simply provides the facilities for each person to cast their vote securely and safely. It also provides facilities for members of the community to share, discuss ideas and attempt to change others minds, should they wish to do so. There is nothing to stop members of the community discussing issues with others outside the system, just as now.

    The only difference is that the people you are speaking to will actually all be able to vote for or against the motion in question. In Participative-representative Democracy you appoint a person to be your proxy by electing them to office. In this scenario it is not clear what happens if nobody standing for office shares your views.

    It would all depend how the system is designed, but it would potentially allow you to see all the “public” discussions recorded. There may be advantages in this in that you would be able to see the diversity of opinion expressed but you would also be able to see the depth of support for each of the options offered. This could sway opinion but takes no account of the opinions of those not involved in the discussions.

    I suppose this form of direct democracy is more open than PRD. You cannot get much more accountable and representative than direct democracy but whether this is an advantage or not remains to be seen.

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