Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Democracy. Is it working?

OK here is a hard hat post for sure, and I welcome any reasonable comment even ones that disagree, because I am not sure if I am right or being sensible and I am, as anyone who reads my stuff would guess, an Ardent (cool word) believer in democracy.

How often did you see or read about something stupid and think or read something like: “And these people get to vote?”

Several Bloggers have raised the fact that democracy does not seem to be working like it should so much any more. Especially a comment by Suboptimal Planet on the post above.

It was about a poll of UK voters and how absolutely badly informed they were, but it could be about most any voters. I should also give a wave to Nourishing Obscurity and Critical Faculty Dojo here for stuff that made me think.

"The poll asked whether the coalition (UK Government) would be keeping the (UK) national debt the same over the next four years, increasing it by £350bn or cutting it by £350bn. Just nine per cent got it right – 21 per cent thought it would be staying the same and an astonishing 70 per cent thought the national debt would be cut by £350bn."

Critical Faculty Dojo actually has a UK debt clock always climbing in the side bar, I guess they don't read that.

So some problems with the system:

Anyone too dumb, or too ignorant of facts just can not make a sensible decision about anything even slightly complicated. And life these days is complicated.

Anyone with too little experience of life is basically less likely to think long term and have experience to base their decisions on. Like you can’t believe politician’s promises for a start.

Lots of people are disengaged from politics, because they feel their votes don’t count, or because they are focussed on “single issue” stuff., or not committed to the society they live in.

Now like I said, I am an ardent ^_^ believer in democracy and I am very opposed to disenfranchising (another cool word) anyone because they are female or not wealthy, or not as sharp as others or some such thing.

So how can we fix some of those things?

Well first of all maybe 18 is a bit too young to have enough experience? Maybe 21 would be better?. I am not being mean about under 21s or anything and I would literally violently oppose going back to a system that didn’t allow the vote to women.

Safe driving might be a measure of a person’s judgement and insurance actuaries definitely pay attention to ages like 21 and 25 when they set premiums.

And thinking about driving people really value their driving licences, so maybe it would be an idea if a person needed to pass a test and get a licence before they could vote? The licence should cost only a token amount to pay for materials, maybe the cost of a couple of pints of beer.

Say 18 year olds could apply for a student voter licence and be able to vote but their vote would only count for a 25% share of a vote.

A person could pass a basic test about economics and such to be able to apply for a full licence, and if they did at 21 their vote might count for half, then at 25 their vote would count for 75% and at 30 it would count as a full vote.

Maybe give anyone in the armed forces a full licence automatically with at least a 75% vote and a special 50% bonus because they are willing to put their lives on the line for their society. Maybe include emergency services at 50% vote?

Maybe a special bonus for being a tax payer or property owner where whatever your vote was, was increased by 50% or maybe doubled.

Maybe cut the percentage vote of government workers in half.

Also maybe if someone never voted their licence would lapse. And need to get a new licence.

Jailbirds would have their licence confiscated and have to take the test and reapply when they got out.

I do think having a person vote for a person who represents them and where they live is important.

I also think it would be good to have more referenda on single issues. Maybe have a department specially looking into issues to decide on for the public to vote on and frame laws based on that, maybe have high number petitions trigger them as well. It might even include the removal of politicians, presidents, prime ministers, and governments.

Nothing would pass if it didn’t get a good turn out and more than 60% of the vote.

If we can have a weekly vote on dancing with the stars/strictly and electronically access our bank accounts then how difficult would it be to have a few referenda say once every 4 months.

Here are some quotes about voting I figured make some important points:

"Anything important is never left to the vote of the people. We only get to vote on some man; we never get to vote on what he is to do.” - Will Rogers

"Perhaps the fact that we have seen millions voting themselves into complete dependence on a tyrant has made our generation understand that to choose one's government is not necessarily to secure freedom” - Friedrich August Hayek

“If you have been voting for politicians who promise to give you goodies at someone else's expense, then you have no right to complain when they take your money and give it to someone else, including themselves” - Thomas Sowell

"Vote: the instrument and symbol of a freeman's power to make a fool of himself and a wreck of his country.” - Ambrose Bierce

“Anarchists know that a long period of education must precede any great fundamental change in society, hence they do not believe in vote begging, nor political campaigns, but rather in the development of self-thinking individuals.” - lunaleelee Lucy Parsons

“Bad officials are elected by good citizens who do not vote.” - George Jean Nathan

That ought to set some cats amongst all the pigeons.. I do hope ^_^


Tom Paine said...

Your ideas might be fine, but in a one man, one vote democracy how can they ever be implemented? You have stimulated a blog post on the subject at my place

Suboptimal Planet said...

As Sean Gabb said in the piece that I linked to from Tom's "congenital idiots" post,

It is one matter to say that too many people have the vote. It is another to suggest an acceptable and workable principle by which voting may be confined to a few.

I think a "licence to vote" would be open to too much abuse. A "basic test about economics", if set by the state, would probably incorporate Keynesian or Monetarist nonsense favoured by our ruling classes.

The idea of raising the age to 21 has some merit, but any such choice is arbitrary.

Vote weighting based on income has some appeal, but we wouldn't want those dependant on the state for their income to vote, and that extends well beyond those directly on benefits or the public sector payroll.

I have sometimes wondered about a system where there are no taxes, and a truly minimal state is funded only by large fees for passports, which would entitle voting as well as international travel rights, but I don't especially like the idea.

I haven't yet found time to read Democracy: The God That Failed, but I expect it's quite interesting.

In the short term, the only solution I can see is benevolent libertarian dictatorship (if that's not too much of a contradiction in terms).

In the long term, the ideal would be a universal franchise much like our own, but with an enlightened electorate that truly believes in libertarian values.

It's very difficult to see how we'll get to there from here.

Suboptimal Planet said...

And though I'm honoured to have at least partially inspired this post, the pedant in me can't resist offence at the misspelled title.

Democrasy isn't working. Democracy isn't either.

jmb said...

Being brought up in Australia where voting is compulsory, I have never really considered the question of the right to vote, apart from being grateful to the suffragettes who ensured that women eventually obtained that right.

What has always amazed me though is, when it is not compulsory, how few exercise that right. I always vote in every election I am entitled to do so but many treat that right very cavalierly.

I agree that the right to vote should be raised to the age of 21 but Miss Moggs, while all your ideas of a licence as well as full and proportional votes are interesting I do not see them producing better results than the present system.

So how do we get people to be interested enough in politics to exercise a thoughtful educated vote? Even if they did would we get a better government?

Politicians are known to say one thing to get elected but not so good on follow through. Besides they do not even have well thought out opinions on half the issues it seems to me.

Watching the Republican candidates in the recent debates leaves one with dropped jaw as they are unable to give decent answers to the very pertinent questions asked of them.

In general how is one to choose amongst political candidates who are obviously ignorant themselves on so many issues? Do we hope they will suddenly get up to speed when they are elected?

It's all very depressing.

Moggsy said...

Wow! Lots of comments to digest. TY all.

The ideal solution would be to somehow magic the electorate so they were all educated to a good level, not so gullible with a strong does of enlightened self interest and taking the longer view. Like that’s going to happen.

Tom, Some of the ideas are not one 'man' one vote. They were my trying to find a way to reflect the way we give different levels of credibility to different people. Like you might not pay much attention to a blow hard you know shots their mouth off without thinking sometimes, but someone who is smart and thinks carefully about stuff you might.

I was trying to think of a way to give experience, maturity and commitment more of a voice.

Suboptimal Planet, I don't so much think too many people have the vote. Just that I am in the boat with a bunch of people too careless to see they are punching holes in the bottom of it and I want them to get real and smell the coffee, before I have to go down with the ship.

I was not thinking votes should be weighted based primarily on income. Just an extra if you pay taxes. I figure if a person pays the piper then that person ought get to have more say in what tune is played.

JMB, I think it is a right and a duty and a privilege to vote. We should think carefully about our choices. Like I mentioned earlier. I thought if more mature people got more of a say in who was elected and they had more of a say if it was their money the state was spending it might get more thought going into choosing who is elected.

Now the Licence idea isn't really so different from voter registration and no more open to abuse than that.

I agree the test idea (SP) could be open to abuse, I just threw it out there. I was thinking of ways of making sure that a voter had some interest in the process and a little real knowledge to base their decisions on. Simple stuff like being able to tell if national debt was going up, down or staying the same. To know that 75% = 3/4, that the government's money isn’t magic from trees but that every tax dollar the government spends comes out of some citizen's pocket, and the government is choosing what to do with it instead of the citizen. I wish the government would remember that sometimes.