Democracy Sucks!

Chapter Introductions

Chapter 1: Why Does Democracy Suck?
Something stinks in the state of politics: "How do you know a politician is lying? His lips are moving." Big deal... "Stop the presses!" Corrupt and inept political leaders are another of life's cruel realities that we just have to put up with...right? "Render unto Ceasar that which is Ceasar's" said Jesus Christ - It seems the general public has taken this advice to heart: we show up at the election polling station to dutifully put our X beside the candidate who (it seems) represents the lesser of evils, and then we can just ignore all of the political nonsense for another four years. As Frankie Boyle's hilarious description of the current democratic system illustrates, we have gone way beyond taking this diabolically undemocratic process seriously anymore. What I hope to show with this book (or should I dare call it a manifesto?) is that citizens of "advanced" western democracies now understand that the fundamental flaw in modern politics is that the party system has hijacked control our elected representatives. This problem is not something that can only be solved generations in the future after years of incremental changes to electoral laws - it is something that could be solved within a few election cycles without the passage of any new legislation!

Chapter 2: The Limits of Voter Apathy. (Take This Tax And Shove It!)
We hear in the media that we citizens are mostly apathetic and would rather be watching the hockey game or shopping for new shoes than have to trouble our poor little minds with any consideration of issues being debated by governments. We are told we elect "leaders to govern". Sadly, there seems to be much less emphasis on the notion that we are electing "representatives to represent us". The distinction is important: Is it the job of an elected politician to be like your boss? Isn't he or she supposed to be more like your lawyer? My assertion is that voter apathy is intentionally overstated by the media and that given the chance, we "tax payers" (who were once called "citizens") really do want some meaningful participation in the decisions that will effect our lives. I can think of no better evidence for this than the tax revolt which occurred in the Canadian province of British Columbia just a few years ago: Shortly after their election, the liberal government introduced a new sales tax which they had clearly stated during the campaign was "not even on the radar". I think it will be valuable here to look at the public response to this sneak attack: I had the benefit of seeing the grass roots opposition movement up close - and all of the countless hours that the volunteers devoted to "sending a message" to a government which was so out of touch with citizens has shown me the true function of the "voter apathy" myth...

Chapter 3: What Happened to Representative Democracy?
I think most recognize that once the politician has won their seat in the legislature, congress, senate or parliament, they are strictly beholden to the political party which provided the financing and campaign machinery required to achieve a successful election result. While in office, they are instructed by their party how to vote on all legislation (with the exception of a few token cases which are not interpreted to be "votes of confidence"). So we end up with a situation where neither the constituents (regular voting public) nor the elected politicians have any real influence in the legislative assemblies. We watch, powerless, as our "people's representatives" become mere cheerleaders for the ruling party's political agendas. Practically speaking, we are not really voting for individual representatives anymore, just choosing from a selection of prefab ideologies, each of which attach to a particular party and color scheme. In The U.S.A, the party colors are limited to red and blue, while in Canada we have the veritable buffet of red, blue, orange and green. Oddly, our liberals are designated as the red team and the conservatives get the blue jerseys (whereas in the United States the conservatives (Republicans) are the red team). We get from two to four pre-cooked and reheated political ideologies to choose from and once a given party has achieved that critical mass of support they are given control of all the decision making for a period of four to five years until the next election...

Chapter 4: Governed by Psychopathic Corporations
Increasingly, it appears that the politician's real constituents are corporations (the non flesh-and-blood "legal persons" who also happen to have billions of dollars at their disposal). Do corporations choose each election's winners and losers based on what will most benefit "the bottom line"? This would be disastrous because corporations are not legally permitted to make moral decisions that would jeopardize shareholder profits. Corporations - by design - are cannibalistic psychopaths. If government priorities were hatched in corporate boardrooms, what might we expect in terms of legislative agendas? How about legislation which aims to preserve the established mode of global economics based on mass manufacture and distribution of goods? Yep, that seems about right! The "global economy" has become the sacred cow of the western industrialized world. (Or perhaps it might more accurately be described as the "sacred bull in the china shop"). We must gather reverently around the sick bed of this delicate and ever-more fragile "global economy" as it is nursed back to a state of health. But many believe the gravy days of the global economy can never return. The most obvious case-in-point: Every year the evidence for climate change becomes more compelling. Every year there are more devastating natural disasters due to increasingly chaotic weather systems. Few "climate change deniers" have any credibility left. Yet, even though we know the industrialized mass market economy is destroying the planet, we are informed by governments that no significant legislative action to prevent climate change can be taken: The economy is "too fragile" they say. Even the basic life support systems of planet earth itself must be sacrificed on the altar of the global economy...

Chapter 5: Write a Letter to Your Representative?
We still hear proponents of various social causes urging the public to write a letter (or send an email or tweet) to their representatives. But only when the volume of letters, emails and tweets supporting the same political action or position reaches a critical mass will the politician be even remotely motivated to action. (Even then, the representative is likely to be powerless anyway because any action will have to be approved by his or her political party). Sadly, when the electorate begins to complain that they are not being heard, they are patronized with the reassurance: "You can always vote me out of office in the next election". I was stunned recently by the comment made by the federal Minister of Finance on presentation of the annual budget. His remark was something to the effect of "Well, here is the budget... I hope my constituents agree with me". So that is what we are stuck with? The politicians decide the fate of nations behind closed doors, perhaps hoping that the people may agree with what they are doing? There must be a better way... What is needed is some mechanism whereby an elected representative is compelled to hear the "collective voice" of the constituents and then must act in a way that is consistent with what this "voice" demands. This mechanism will be the single most important functional requirement of the Party Wreckers System...

Chapter 6: A Simple Solution: "Gentlemen, We Have The Technology!"
In the past 20 years all of the major industrialized nations have undergone a massive cultural transformation: Now we are effectively all "wired" (in to The Internet) and communicating on multiple "social networking" platforms. Futurists of the 1980s predicted that information technology would create a world of abundance where the hours spent by workers on the mindless repetitive jobs in factories would be replaced by a surplus of leisure time to use for purposes of self-actualization and philanthropy. They were right in assuming that factory jobs would largely disappear in the most "developed" nations, but the surplus of leisure time somehow did not materialize. The faith that technological developments must always somehow benefit society at large has shown itself to be somewhat naive and simplistic. We would like to think that "benefit to society" is the primary motivating force behind the advancement of information technology, but evidence seems to suggest otherwise. All of the necessary tools to implement a system of true participatory democracy have been around for 10 years or more already. The real problem is that there has never been any motivation on the part of corporations or their (bought-and-paid-for) political parties to implement any new system which would allow citizens to begin to have any real influence...
...It is too premature to get into specifics about technical implementation of the P.R.C. system, but it would be useful here to present a number of examples of common functions from "social networking" platforms that most people will be familiar with...

Chapter 7: System Design - The Party Wreckers System

ACTION ITEM #1: The Party Wreckers (Public Representative Constituency) System Design Project:
There is no real need for any new technical innovation to implement something like the The PRC System: all the technology needed to implement it has been around for at least the last 10 years (possibly even the last 20 years). The real problem is that there never has been (and perhaps never will be) any motivation on the part of corporations or political parties to implement any new system which would allow citizens to begin to have a real influence over the way that governments work. Any advances supporting participatory democracy must come from outside the governing classes, from "the people". The P.R.C. design project will be a collaborative effort seeking feedback and creative input from people from all walks of life. Naturally it will be valuable to get input and advice from specialists in areas like Political Science and Information Technology, but a central feature of this design project is to encourage input from the wide range of people who (it is hoped) will eventually be users of this type of system. The end product of this project will be an open source system design defining how a P.R.C. type system should work.

Chapter 8: The Party Wreckers System Design Workgroup:
A project will be set up on one of the many available online forum/groupware applications and all participants given user accounts. I will begin the project as the moderator (but this could be open for review if there are other participants who are obviously more qualified for the role). The discussion and debate will be as free and open as possible, with a few guiding principles based on the acknowledgement that we are all trying to devise a system which will:
1.) Give political representatives a highly accurate picture of what their constituents want.
2.)Ensure that constituents can verify that their representative speaks and acts in a way that is consistent with their own positions.


Chapter 9: System Rollout - Participatory Democracy Now!

ACTION ITEM #2: The Party Wreckers (P.R.C.) System in Action:
Will the new system be a browser-based web portal, an app for mobiles and tablets, a full desktop-based program or some combination of all of these things? Intuitively, it might seem desirable to have a system which is accessible by the widest range of devices; but without a completed system design and associated Requirements Definition, it is too early to say what any implementation might look like. (For example, some may say there should be integration with applications like Facebook and Twitter - but what are the security risks and other weaknesses associated with something that "open"?). The objective is to permit the P.R.C. System to be implemented in a number of different ways, with the open invitation for constituencies to develop their own solutions using any combination of "off-the-shelf" software and custom-developed apps best suited for their own priorities and initiatives. My hope is to assemble at team to develop a prototype implementation for an electoral riding close to my own home. This would involve persuading a political candidate to adopt the system - a task which will perhaps require some intensive lobbying or campaigning itself. The goal would be to have a PRC-committed candidate running in the next Canadian federal election in late 2015.