Tag Archives: elections

Deeper democracy down under

Government of the people, by the people, for the people – seems like a good basic principle for “democracy”. Yet many groups of citizens, in different representative democracies around the world, don’t seem too happy with their current versions of “kratos” in the hands of the “demos“.

Be they UK “Brexit” or Remain supporters, or those voting for or against US President-elect Donald Trump, people on both sides of both arguments seem to agree their governments are serially failing to deliver for the large majority of citizens.

It’s a risky situation for humanity. People’s evident frustrations and anger are readily channelled towards minority scapegoats – a dangerous tactic that unscrupulous politicians employ to our collective peril.

Happily – there are alternative political approaches emerging. They offer more hopeful prospects both for greater harmony in our political processes and for building far wider consensus around the decisions eventually taken.

Carson, a director of Australia’s newDemocracy Foundation, explains how work conducted by her organisation since 2009 has been charting just such an alternative path through real political problems. The radical part is how newDemocracy uses random selection, not elections, to choose its representatives of the people from among everyday citizens. The principle is the same as used for selecting criminal juries.

Doing away with political campaigning and the act of voting for decision makers, or at least the people doing the heavy thinking on a chosen political problem, creates a totally different dynamic to the process. Participants aren’t always looking over their shoulders for guidance from a political party or playing to the crowd based on how they think they might get re-elected. The result, repeatedly, has been the emergence of prudent solutions to previously too-tricky-to-solve problems.

What so far has been pretty much Australia’s gain is now becoming a prospect for Europe’s creaking political systems. Carson says her foundation is looking for partners with whom to run further projects, charting the process all the while and fine-tuning their methods as they go.

She was speaking to journalist, author and democracy campaigner Patrick Chalmers at the Council of Europe’s November 2016 World Forum for Democracy in Strasbourg, France.

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Doing democracy differently in Oz

Democracy Talk meets Iain Walker, Executive Director of the Australian charity newDEMOCRACY, which aims to innovate in how we do democracy. Iain goes beyond conventional ideas about why Western representative democracies are suffering a collapse of public trust.

He sees the problem as much deeper than one of money’s outsize influence on elections – it’s the voting itself that’s at fault. Elected officials are in permanent election mode, making thoughtful, long-term decision-making impossible. The solution newDEMOCRACY favours is sortition – randomly selected samples of the public who then ponder a policy question with help from all the evidence they can gather.

This is the first part of a two-part interview.

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The theatre of elections – US or otherwise

I have a lot of time for the work of Dan Gillmor, director of the Knight centre for digital media entrepreneurship at Arizona State University’s Walter Cronkite school of journalism and mass communication. Not least of my likes is his publishing model for his book Mediactive (2010), about how people can be empowered as new media users. It inspired my own approach to publishing Fraudcast News. Where I have reservations, though, is in Dan’s all-too-conventional perspective on the realities of political power, as demonstrated in this opinion piece he wrote for the Guardian’s Comment is free section.

The title, “America’s next president had better believe in restoring liberty”, pretty much encapsulates the problem running through what he presents as the imagined speech of a presidential candidate running in the 2016 election. It suggests any future candidate with a chance of winning under the hijacked electoral system might ever say such a thing and then implement it in the highly unlikely event of victory.

It would be good to get Dan to incorporate some of the analysis and suggestions of Fraudcast News into his own critique of media and government.

I tweeted him my comment and got a response out of him, as shown below, so here’s hoping.
Dantweet
This was my reply to his original piece:

All well and good but this imagined speech and its messages supposes that its audience members accept the legitimacy of the presidential election process itself.

Speaking as a Brit, I am unimpressed with both the US presidential election process and its (rough) equivalent in my own country’s general elections. Both are lame affairs that offer no real choices to their citizens, whatever the razzamatazz of their campaigns and the rhetoric of the candidates.

The crisis in governance – intimately linked to the legitimate questions you raise about liberty Dan – has come about precisely because our political systems have been hijacked by narrow, uber-wealthy elites. The participation of we the people in the related theatre that is elections has almost nothing to do with the political decision making that ensues.

You say, for example:

we’ve chosen to limit liberties in order – we’ve told ourselves – to have more safety or less trouble

Except “we” haven’t really chosen anything at all – it’s been largely foisted on us with little more say so than making some consumer choices that no one ever said were linked to a coordinated global programme of mass surveillance.

None of that is to even touch on the question of why anyone might want to attack the United States or its interests. Howard Zinn anyone?

I like your work Dan, and your book publishing model of free PDFs and paid-for hard copies inspired me to use the same approach in my own critique of journalism and democracy, but I think your reading of all this is way too conventional. No presidential candidate who made a speech such as this would get anywhere near becoming a viable contender under the current rules of the game.

That makes the exercise a bit pointless IMHO.

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