Saturday, May 28, 2005

Going Solo in a Crowded Marketplace

Democracy started somewhere in a marketplace in Ancient Greece. Everybody important to the society had a vote, and decisions concerning society would be made. It seems somewhat easier than it is to understand in modern day Australia.

(Back in Athens,not many people were considered to be important to society - women and slaves were forbidden from voting. These days, in Australia, women and slaves are encouraged to vote! )

But it seems that the key founding principle behind democracy, was to allow people's opinions to be directly solicited on issues that would affect them. Should we do this? Well, let's just ask everyone...

Nowadays, proportional representation means that I simply elect my local member, and never have to think about those things again. But is that really democratic? I'm sure that, while Bob McMullan is a nice guy and all, he and I wouldn't agree on everything. I bet most of the people I know who voted for him wouldn't agree with him on everything either (and there are lots of people didn't vote for him at all). In fact, I don't really know any two people who can really agree on everything.

Okay, so it's a compromise. At some point, the marketplace became too crowded, and we needed to spend less time making decisions, and more time getting on with building society. So, along comes proportional representation. I can elect my guy to go to the marketplace and he can make decisions, while I get on with my business. It's classic supply and demand. I can see how we got there.

But everybody is complaining.

As long as I can remember, grown-ups have been arguing about politics. I assume that partially it's because people just like to complain, but the crux of every political gripe has this at it's core:

"I didn't vote for the incumbent government, so why should I be party to the decisions they make that I didn't want them to make because I knew I wouldn't agree with them?"

And then our political representatives started banding together, as the issues grew more complex, so now we have political parties. Not being privy to what goes on inside a party, I can't say, but I bet that the disagreements within parties (like this one) are substantial, and much more prevalent than the party marketing machine would have you suspect.

So - we have a system where we elect a nominated representative to make decisions, (that a significant number of people don't want to elect), who then band together with a collection of vaguely like-minded other representatives, (who the representative doesn't always agree with, but is bound to stand by the decisions of) who then decide what happens to our society.

Where's my opinion in that diluted mess? It's worse than homoeopathy! No wonder people complain.

Yeah, yeah I hear you.
"It's the way the system works",
"*shrug* - whaddya gonna do?",
"It's the best we could come up with. Bloody politicians" etc.

Okay, if you look at the modern blogosphere, there are over 10 million opinions (like this one) being solicited, published, debated and consumed every day, all with an infrastructure that allows it to happen. It's just like the original marketplace, only ordered.

We could harness this infrastructure to allow people to have their voice back.

Picture the following scenario:

You come home from work and your aggregator has automatically obtained the parliamentary bills for the day. Because you are a registered independent, your single vote needs to be received on each of these issues. Using indexing tools like google or technorati, you can find opinions, listen to debates, argue and learn more about the issues. You register your votes against each bill. Sure, there will be a lot of them. Being a registered independent means that you really care about your society, and you're prepared to work for it. You don't have a nominated representative.

The number of votes in the house of parliament is once again the same as the number of voters.

Okay, so what if you are too lazy? Or you don't care? Or you don't have a computer? Or you can't read? Simple- you delegate your vote to a nominated representative. Registered representatives vote with more weight. They vote with every vote which has been granted to them. If a constituent disagrees with a decision, he or she can remove their vote from that person, and assign it to another representative, or "Go Solo" as a registered independent.

(hey - then we could fire our politicians if they didn't have an RSS Feed...)

Representatives can still belong to parties. They can belong to whatever they want. It's just that you, as an individual, would assign your voting rights to another individual. Never to a party. You're making the decision: "That person is qualified by me to hold my vote."

We have the technology and the infrastructure to go back to the roots of democracy. What would be the ultimate result of such a system? True representation and a society that more accurately represented the wishes of the people within it. Bills would automatically be broken down to the smallest unit that people care about, so as not to "sneak" legislation through by piggybacking other things. Less wheeling and dealing? Better decisions? More room for facts and less for marketing? An army of automated software bots running our society?

*shrug* - whaddya gonna do?

No comments:

Post a Comment