#TrueDemocracy Requires Participation Instead of Mere Representation

Peter B. GiblettStarred Page By Peter B. Giblett, 8th Oct 2015 | Follow this author | RSS Feed | Short URL http://nut.bz/9xo3ee8q/
Posted in Wikinut>News>Politics

For those of us that live in democratic regimes it is easy to recognise the faults in the system, it is much harder to do anything to resolve it. People cry about this failure, yet at the same time do not vote, this failure to vote is a hue and cry for greater democracy - the need for people to make a real difference.

History of Democracy

In every major democratic nation there is a major problem, an increasing percentage of the population are not voting. It is my belief the main reason for this being the lack of any real alternative, listen and you will hear complaints about any government, these complaints are prevalent across society, involving many groups (even some at opposite ends of the spectrum). I favour full representation and participation with an extension of democracy on all fronts and this paper is intended to explore the possibilities. I also agree that dissent is a necessary trait in society, we need to question and challenge more.

The English Capitalist revolution of 1642 to 1651 (otherwise referred to as the civil war) concluded the movements across the country supporting the new system of democratic representation and the supremecy of parliament. In part there was a need for representation for two principle reasons, firstly the distance between the people and their capital city, the centre of decision making, secondly few of the people had the explicit knowledge of how to participate in government. This is the foundation of the system of representation used in much of the world today it has suited world development to date, but now I argue is the time for change.

Consider the fact that voter turnout in most countries at general elections is running at about 65% in the 21st century and according to The Economist "in 2010 just 44% of people aged 18 to 24 voted in Britain" meaning that a large percentage of young people have already become disillusioned before their first opportunity to vote, in truth I recall the time when I left school several decades back and have to say that the majority of the kids in my were also disillusioned about the ability of government to change the conditions in society.

World Getting Smaller

Throughout the 20th century inventions have made the world a smaller and perhaps even smarter, place. Today we can effectively travel thousands of miles in the instant of a second. Of course it is really as big as ever before, but the car, aeroplane, email and the Internet has increased our ability to be anywhere at any time and over the last ten years social media has brought us even closer. Technology gives us command of everything, yet our democracies are the same as when they were created and that failure to adapt is leaving government behind.

Better Educated

Arguably people are better educated today than they were 400 years ago, more people understand more about the world than ever before, yet in truth education is not a requirement for voting, neither is it a requirement for intelligence. This supposition isn't made because there are more people today going through post-secondary education than at any time in history, it recognises that even a person who left school at fifteen, having few formal qualifications is able to read, write and understand what is going on in the world around them, they may not understand the nuances of political/economic critiques by Marx, Keynes, or Freedman, but they do not need to in order to see the real world impact of political policies.

A first time voter today can ask their parents, grandparents, and sometimes great-grandparents for a history of how politics, political parties, and political representatives have behaved through the years they can always see how scandals pepper the political landscape and will question how the process helps them. In truth they would not be the only generation asking such questions, at the last Canadian general election as many as 40 percent of the electorate didn't vote, and the situation is similar in most western countries.

The people have become disenfranchised, not because they are denied the vote, but because the system is incapable of bringing about much needed change, change of the type that impacts everyday people on every day of their lives, improving conditions as demanded by millions facing the struggle for life, and is certainly incapable of dealing with poverty because we have a political system that is driven by profit.

Is there Anyone Worth Voting for?

    "the most depressing explanation is simply that in many places, young people do not feel that there is anyone worth voting for. A long-running European survey found that in 2008, 22% of French 15- to 24-year-olds said they believed society’s problems could be fixed only by revolutionary action" ~ The Economist

The past half century has been pitted with scandals in political life, usually more than for any other profession, in part this is because representatives spend large amounts of time away from their constituency and away from their family, but in part it is because they become corrupted by the system of government - representatives very soon realise that the only time they need to worry about the electorate is when there is an election and that otherwise they are accountable to no-one. Truth is we can all too easily feel that:

    "We'd all like to vote for the best man, but he's never a candidate ~Kin Hubbard

It has also commonly been stated that any person who who wants political office is unfit for it and various people have offered suggestions of how to fix the political system and to improve voter turnout. In truth it is the reason why people don't vote that matters most of all, ultimately this is because there is a widespread belief that the system as it functions today is broken, it is not that people disagree with the principles of democracy, but the failures in its practical application.

A Representative who Cares

Let us assume for a moment that you are fortunate enough to have one of those representatives who really cares for those he or she represents and tries to act on their constituent's behalf there are times when the party political system forces them to vote against the needs of the majority of the people they represent because they must obey the party whip.

The assumption that democracy makes is that because people in a geographic area selected John Smith as their representative that everyone in that area supports the policies of Smith's political party, which is almost certainly not the case (even in South Wales where the the majorities are so large that votes are weighed instead of being counted). What is the case when John Smith was elected with a majority of 1 vote (and it has happened), those with the minority voice are ignored. This may sound like a case for proportional representation, but it is not because PR systems also fail to represent minority voices.

Even the most caring representative is incapable of understanding the needs of all of the people all of the time.

The Person who Least Misrepresents us

Our existing democracy means that once every four years the people have the opportunity to vote for the person who misrepresents them the least, that isn't true democracy, it is the reason you hear so many people saying that it doesn't matter which party they vote for because they are either all corrupt or are in it for themselves. Truth is today we have built a societal apparatus that is incapable of listening and responding to the real needs of the people and that is why democracy is failing.

In truth it's the very process of democracy that is undemocratic and leaves a great mass of people living in hopelessness and totally disenfranchised. The youth of France have it partially right in stating that this situation can only be "fixed only by revolutionary action", this writer has long considered that parliamentary representation is hardly democratic, there have been several incidents where the US Presidential election put into office a candidate who had the support of less than 25% of the population - that is not democracy in action - it is minority rule and is a sad state of affairs for the country that claims to have the strongest democratic traditions in the world.

The reason why a lot of people feel both disenfranchised and hopeless is that the parliamentary system is in reality designed to protect the status quo, the existing systems of power, and offers very little for the common man (or woman), who are in fact the majority of the population. There is no revolution when a new political party comes to power, but there should be, there are times when wholesale change is desperately required but it never happens.

The Need for Participation

Every person who wishes to should be involved in the process of change, in part that is because people are needed in order to both envision and execute change themselves, not the civil servants, nor political parties, yet each of these also has a role to play. The system I propose should involve anyone who wishes to be involved and should even pay people for their time, in part participation is required to use civilian experts, thus changes in law around medical policy, for example, MUST involve the very people who are impacted by any decision, the doctors, nurses, and other professionals, and should even involve the needs of patients (e.g. the general public), but again it should also recognise the rights for people who do not agree with application tradition medicine as seek natural/holistic cures on an equal footing.

To be clear I am not talking about a public consultation here, but full participation in the process of change, from end to end and the people should dictate priorities not political parties. One thing can become rapidly clear is that if one proposal for change fails to have the necessary impact then the process of civilian monitoring will ensure that another proposal can be implemented that learns the lessons of that failure without assigning blame, but looks for improvements and greater effectiveness wherever change is needed. Most of this can exist outside the realm of party politics.

Participation can be both at a national and a local level simultaneously and in my belief even where people are paid for their participation the cost of government can be far less than current expenditure. It is even possible for two people having opposite political views to work together to create a practical solution to the general problems faced.

Other items by Peter Giblett

Peter Giblett regularly publishes here on Wikinut and contributes a semi-regular column on 2 Drops of Ink, a site dedicated to the improvement of writing, grammar, and prose and his own blog called GobbledeGoox. Recent works on Wikinut include:

Wikinut is great a place to share some of your own personal wisdom by adding a comment or becoming a writer, join Wikinut and write.

Tags

Better Educated, Change, Democracy, Dont Vote, Faults In The System, Greater Democracy, Not Mere Representation, Participation, Real Change, Treu Democracy, Why

Meet the author

author avatar Peter B. Giblett
Author of "Is your Business Ready? For the Social Media Revolution"

Social media consultant, with C-Level background.

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Comments

author avatar Steve Kinsman
8th Oct 2015 (#)

I think that in America because their are only two political parties who are both virtually owned by corporate interests , people say 'why bother?'

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author avatar Peter B. Giblett
9th Oct 2015 (#)

Precisely the point I am trying to make, not of the western democracies are truly democratic, because they fail to represent the people and voter turnout is so low because people cannot be bothered.

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author avatar Retired
8th Oct 2015 (#)

The thing about proportional representation is that - if the right system is used - you end up with a representative whom most people can tolerate even if they are not the candidate of their first choice. A PR system also encourages more people to stand, thus offering the electorate a greater choice.

It would be very interesting if the the American President was elected via PR - you would certainly more than two "big party" candidates plus a few no-hopers!

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author avatar Peter B. Giblett
9th Oct 2015 (#)

I have never believed that PR offers greater choice, it offers party slates, that is all and little chance for any independent views to be represented.

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author avatar Retired
9th Oct 2015 (#)

That depends on the form of PR that is adopted!

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author avatar Peter B. Giblett
9th Oct 2015 (#)

But John I think you are missing the point, even PR is NOT a true democracy and for that we need the involvement of the people at every level making decisions that change our world for the better.

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author avatar M G Singh
9th Oct 2015 (#)

This is a nice post Peter. However democracy is not a success in bigbstates. It was a good idea in the city states like Athens, but having democracy in a large country like USS or a country like India with 1,25 billion people is an anachronism. This is not democracy, we must give it some other name.

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author avatar Ptrikha
14th Oct 2015 (#)

Still, people are preferring a dysfunctional democracy over authoritarianism.

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author avatar Peter B. Giblett
9th Oct 2015 (#)

Madan it is what I call representative politics and has little to do with democracy. for democracy people must be able to determine their own future, even in a country like India.

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author avatar Peter B. Giblett
14th Oct 2015 (#)

Ptrikha, of course people prefer dysfunctional democracy over any authoritarian regime because they still have some say.

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author avatar Fern Mc Costigan
9th Oct 2015 (#)

We don't vote don't complaint, still this post awakens us of the fact why we vote and for what. its a privilege to have a democracy in America. Nice post Peter!

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author avatar Peter B. Giblett
9th Oct 2015 (#)

Thank you Fern

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author avatar Sivaramakrishnan A
13th Oct 2015 (#)

Most are disillusioned because those elected flatter at the hustings, but prove equally bad as those they replaced or even worse! The common citizens realize they are made a fool time and time again.

I read village folks in India complain few among them are approached and told to tell the rest to vote for them and they never really know who they voted for! Now greater accountability is demanded by the people and realities are changing for the better, I would say, in India. Still hardly half vote with allegations of impersonation around - make the trip to the booth only to find their vote is cast already!

I feel technology can be used to break policy gridlocks and impasse to see that the agenda based on which elections were decided are carried out. Otherwise democracy is a sham with the unelected calling the shots all the time.

Agreed Peter that more participation is the key; there is some meaning in Chinese leaders pointing out to their citizens - "do you want a western type of democracy or the one that delivers results?" Democracy should function and benefit the vast majority - otherwise it becomes a costly ritual serving those who pull the strings from behind whoever is in power - siva

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author avatar Peter B. Giblett
13th Oct 2015 (#)

Siva, I see no evidence that China has any democratic notions - they talk of it that is all, while the majority suffer, hey that seems a familiar phrase. Western politicians talk of democracy but that is all.

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author avatar Ptrikha
14th Oct 2015 (#)

I used to feel that democracy is stronger in US and UK than in India. However, reading your and Steve's articles, it does not looks like so.

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author avatar Peter B. Giblett
14th Oct 2015 (#)

Thank you sir.

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