The flaw of representative democracy is well known — the MPs care more about themselves than about the people, hence lobbying, corruption, etc. It surprises me that so far no political party has offered an elegant solution to this problem, despite the high demand in many countries. I do not idealize democracy, and acknowledge that quick transition to direct democracy might cause adverse consequences, as the people’s decisions might be driven by emotions rather than reason. But current situation is even worse — in many countries the people have no control over the parliament’s decisions. The evil is not the lack of democracy as such, but rather the fact that the whole political system is based upon lies and deceit. Although transitional period will be long and difficult, this transition is inevitable in XXI century, as the latest IT developements have simplified the public opinion polls to the utmost. In the long run, I don’t see any alternative to direct democracy in the so-called “democratic” countries.
In this article I will present a concept for a political party of a radically new type (hereafter “Veche” — I have to call it somehow). This party’s aim is transition to direct democracy, however it has no program. Moreover, Veche would try to avoid any decision making on its own, instead all decisions will be made according to the will of the people. This is exactly what any other party claims to do now, but only Veche will provide simple and transparent mechanism for doing so. Unlike all the political parties who claim to be smart (or present the smart programs), Veche would claim to be honest, providing the simple way to verify this claim. It will be its greatest advantage: most countries have too many smart people in politics, but lack the honest. Other advantages — moral superiority and confidence in its eventual victory in the long run. Veche would always support any law giving the people more power — lowing the election threshold, allowing the people to sack an individual MP or dissolve the parliament, etc. After winning the majority, it will immediately change the political system and introduce direct democracy. Veche would encourage every citizen to participate in decision making, there would be no requirement to be a party member.
As you see, the idea is quite simple. Now I will discuss the details of this project’s implementation.
Veche would conduct an opinion poll on its internet site for every issue. Every poll would last certain predefined time, during which everybody will be able to log in and participate. If decision will be approved by majority, all the Veche MPs will support it in parliament. This might vary depending on the issue — some decisions might require simple majority, absolute majority (at least half all the registered voters), or qualified majority. Veche would also allow the people to create their own opinion polls, similar to LiveJournal and other social networks. Veche should never participate in the government — this is extremely important for its success. Instead, it should support or reject the government or individual cabinet members according to the opinion polls.
Problem: Low activity of the voters.
Solution: Even if activity is low, Veche can try to guess the public opinion. For example, if only 25% of registered voters have taken part in the poll, but 90% voted in favor, Veche might conclude that public supports this decision.
Problem: Low activity means the sample is not representative.
Solution: Threshold is required to make a decision, e.g no less than 10% of registered voters should participate. The threshold might vary depending on the issue.
Problem: How you ensure “one man, one vote”?
Solution: People who want to participate should visit the Veche office once per lifetime and present thier ID in order to get nickname and password. Same when a password is forgotten or stolen.
Problem: How you can convince the voters that the poll is not rigged?
Solution: Everybody should be able to check his own vote. After the poll is closed, a list of nicknames (not real names, since the vote is secret) of all the registered voters should be published, along with thier opinions or absence thereof. If my vote is reported incorrectly, I should be able to log in and complain, with my complaint immediately appearing there. Also, the poll results and the number of complaints will be indicated. If the number of complaints is low, it means that irregularities did not influence the poll outcome. And of course, everybody will be able to count opinions and see if results were reported correctly.
Problem: A large group of people will try to discredit the project by submitting false complaints.
Solution: If a man submits more than one false complaints, his account will be blocked for some time, and he will be able to submit his vote only in a written form, thus denying him any futher opportunity to complain.
Problem: How would you deny allegations, that some of the voters are fake?
Solution: The full list of registered voters will be published on the Veche internet site. Their number will correspond to the number of nicknames published in the latest poll. If somebody suggests that a person on the list is fake, that person will be requested to deny the allegation, and his name will be marked on the list correspondingly. If he does not respond, his name will be deleted. Otherwise, if the false allegation was made in public, certain proof of his existance will be published, and the next time nobody will take the same libeller seriously. Prosecuting the libeller is not a good idea (it could harm the Veche image, because Veche might appear to be afraid of allegations), but private suits might follow. Some people would definitely find it harmful to thier reputation when somebody would publicly deny thier existence.
Problem: There are too many laws approved in the parliament now. The public will be unable to read all of them.
Solution: The laws should be clear and simple, then we would not need to adopt piles of laws or change them every day. In many countries the law system is so complicated, that nobody can understand it. Inflation of laws benefits only corrupt lawyers looking for the loop-holes. Besides, even now most MPs are unable to read all the laws they adopt — most laws are prepared by the parliamentary committees and MPs vote according to their party’s recommendations. Veche can do the same thing — delegate the decision making to the special adviser. It could be a group of respected people, NGO or any other entity. It should be done in a transparent way, according to the opinion poll. If adviser’s rating sinks below 50%, he should be immediately dismissed.
Besides, voters should be allowed different (adjustable) profile settings. Everybody should be able to delegate his decision to any entity he trusts (NGO, political party, etc.). If he did not expilicitly participate in a specific poll, his opinion might be counted as:
– did not count at all (for the puposes of threshold calculation);
– voted same as some other person or entity;
– some other option.
There could be other solutions, e.g. Veche MPs vote the same as majority of other MPs in the parliament, etc. Important things are transparency and honesty, not the system itself.
Problem: Somebody’s opinion is always counted as negative, but he is not active anymore (sick, dead, etc.).
Solution: People are required to confirm thier settings periodically, otherwise they will be reset to default (“not counted at all”).
Problem: Hackers will break into the server.
Solution: The system should be as reliable as the one used by the banks, then the hackers will be busy with the banks, since reward would be higher there.
Problem: The ruling elite might confiscate the server on the grounds of some (false) allegations.
Solution: There should be several servers, some of them in the free countries (e.g. Switzerland).
The specific mechanisms might be very different, I have just outlined some of the possible solutions. Such system does not require deep planning, as it is supposed to be self-regulating.
The ruling elites would not be able to organize effective resistance, because it would contradict thier own pseudo-democratic rhetoric. In European countries they might only put up token resistance, e.g. raising election threshold, etc. In corrupt countries they could use the dirtiest methods, including intimidation and phisical violence against the Veche activists, but it will not stop the democratization process, only postpone it. After Veche will pass the election threshold for the first time, other parties will have to implement a similar opinion polls for their members, otherwise they will lose popularity. Competing Veche parties will emerge, and similar parties will appear in other countries.
If Veche MPs will not plunge into corruption during their first term in parliament, the party’s popularity will quickly increase, because the idea of direct democracy is appealing to most people, and they will realize that now it’s possible, for the first time in modern history. Eventual transition to direct democracy will be inevitable. It might bring a lot of problems, because many people are driven by emotions in thier decision making, but many positive developements will take place as well. Might be abolished some of the import taxes, foreign exchange controls, legal tender laws, privileges, license requirements, restrictions and other oppressive legislation. People might even stop the money emission (especially if the law will be put into fine words, e.g.: “Acknowledging that emission contitutes a concealed tax, where the rich pay the least percentage…”). Besides, there will be much less laws that benefit the country in the short run but obviously harm it in the long run. The criminals will never have more rights than thier victims. Lobbying the laws, that curb civil liberties, will be impossible. The very concept of lobbying will disappear.
Transition to direct democracy will probably harm the countries where population fully relies on the government or believes that prosperity is created by the government, rather than by production of goods and services — there will be no more elite who makes decisions instead of them. But if the people are used to make independent decisions and to assume responsibility, the nation will benefit. Despite the common belief, it does not really depend on educational level.
Political agenda described here would perfectly suit the Pirate Parties. They don’t take a stance in the non-core issues anyway, and now they can utilize this to their advantge, inviting the members to vote on every non-core issue and presenting themselves as the only true democratic party. They might even declare transition to direct democracy as thier eventual aim, which actually corresponds to their anti-system image.
It could be also recommended to some monarchies, especially in small countries like Liechtenstein. The king might implement the voting system described here, which would make any referendum very simple, quick and cheap. If majority of the citizens will have participated in a certain opinion poll, its results will be enacted. Otherwise, if turnout will be low, the king will make his own decision. The king will enjoy tremendous popularity, because thus he will never act against the will of majority, and his power will no longer be percieved to be based on coersion. As the parasitic class of politicians will be eliminated, there will be nobody interested in changing the political system any further.