13 comments

  • >Referendum could be called temporary forms of direct democracy. These can be beneficial in many situations.Complete direct democracy has never existed before because it implies the existence of no political leaders. I didn't think I really needed to argue that this state of anarcho-democracy would be a bad thing. But apparently Sean disagrees…

  • >Rob, you, as a former student of political science, have a massive political bias which i find disconcerting. You are basically denying with contempt the progression of democracy towards its pinnacle. Surely they taught you the quote from JFK "There are those that look at things the way they are, and ask why? I dream of things that never were, and ask why not?".Governemnt institutions and civil servants enact the wishes of the population (as currently represented via 'political leaders').If the wishes of the population on each of the major issues are made known through referendums, then there is no need for 'political leaders' to speak on our behalf.The decisions of the people are displayed factually and the government institutions and civil servants enact these decisions as they would any other.Your attempt to label this system as anarchic is hyperbolic and completely wrong.

  • >And I dream that all women had to walk around in bikinis but let's face it: it's not going to happen and it wouldn't end well. Many clothes shops would go bust. Some women would die of pneumonia. Some people would mentally scar us for life. But ok for the sake of argument. You think everything can be done by referendum? How many decisions do you think have to be taken every day? Do you want:A)No one working, and for your dream society to fall apart in economic ruin, hundreds of thousands of people starving to death, dying of thirst, dying from cold and civil war within a week. Actually this is a slight exageration. No-one would be working in the water works either so we'd be dead before a week.Or B) Non-compulsory voting so that a few thousand people can push through whatever they want if they're motivated enough to vote?

  • >"How many decisions do you think have to be taken every day?"You're the political science graduate, you tell me.It could be simply a matter of Bills being voted on by the general public (via electronic means) before they pass into Acts.This way the final Act will have the majority of votes. In NZ, for example, there were exactly 52 pieces of govt legislation passed in 2009 (and 1 at local government level).http://www.legislation.govt.nz/bill/results.aspx?search=ty_bill_bc%40bgov%40bloc_bena_2009__y&p=1This would mean that once a week people who have an interest (voting is not compulsory) can record their desire by electronic vote.Does this sound too arduous Rob?Maybe on average people only vote on 10 bills per year each. But what a brilliant way to connect people with what is happening in their govt.Looking at the list i sourced above, how many people do you think would have known about more than 2 of those bills?With mandated braodcast ratios similar to the NZ law that requires radio stations to play 10% of NZ music, the govt could require 10% of each news hour to be devoted to the current bills being proposed, thus infomring the citizenry of the situation.Where is the hardship in this Robert?And as a sign of goodwill I will be seconding your motion that all women must walk around in bikinis.

  • >'How many decisions have to be taken every day?' Lots!Voting on a bill is a very small part of government's work. If you are proposing that people only have involvement in voting on the final bill then you're not proposing a direct democracy. Besides, it would still be too much. If 52 pieces of legislation passed that means a huge amount did not i.e. more than one vote per week. Next what about research? Do you expect people to make decisions blind without any knowledge of the things they vote on? Then what about revisions of policy proposals? If the people say no would they have the option of saying 'not in this form but perhaps in another'? And what about non-policy actions e.g. foreign representation, decisions to go to war, budget decisions, responses to individual circumstances etc? Then what about the fact that some people have a psychological desire for guidance? Many people like knowing that they have a more knowledgable and experienced leader who can at least offer advice even if nothing else.Next there's your quote "maybe on average people only vote on 10 bills per year each. But what a brilliant way to connect people with what is happening in their govt." You assume that everyone is like you. Not many people want to vote, as can be evidenced by the increasingly low turnout every year, and the fact that whenever you enter a political discussion with someone on a day to day basis they seem disinterested. People would not vote on 10 bills a year unless it was compulsory to do so. And people would definitely realise the stupidity of this. Can you imagine being forced to vote on a detailed agricultural matter if you knew nothing about agriculture? It's ludicrous! As you quite rightly point out few people know about the bills in the first place. Being forced to take responsibility for millions of people on a subject you have never heard of is not clever! Requiring 10% of the news to cover legislation may be a good idea for increasing the information flow to people but I'm afraid it wouldn't mean everyone knew or wanted to know about every single subject. Even politicians take a step back from subject areas they know nothing about, and public legislation is their career!But I'm glad the bikini bill passed. How shall we enforce it? I'm sure the police would agree right?

  • >"Besides ….. If 52 pieces of legislation passed that means a huge amount did not."Once again Rob you are big on hyperbole but back it up with no fact or figure. How many is "huge amount" in your guesstimate and where do you get this figure from?"Voting on a bill is a very small part of government's work". I'm not asking the public to do the administrative work of government and become civil servants. That is the job of uhm, civil servants. I am proposing the 'decisions' on which laws get passed be decided by the public.To quote your provided definition of Direct democracy, "… a form of democracy in which the people as a whole make direct decisions", this is exactly what I am proposing."Next what about research?". Again, that's administrative work done by civil servants."Do you expect people to make decisions blind without any knowledge of the things they vote on?" No Rob, that's why I proposed the mandate that 10% of each news hour be devoted to providing this information."If the people say no would they have the option of saying 'not in this form but perhaps in another'?". Sounds like a feasible idea to me (good to see you're getting on board and starting to see the possibilities Rob)."what about non-policy actions e.g. foreign representation, decisions to go to war, budget decisions". Foreign representation, again administrative function. Decision to go to war, absolutely definitely to be voted on by the people.Budget decisions, a difficult one here that may require the budget to be presented in parcelled drafts so that each section can be voted on, rather than the entire proposal at once."Then what about the fact that some people have a psychological desire for guidance?". Guidance as to the issues and options is exactly what the 10% news hour requirement is aimed at. In the end though, those people are going to have to man up and vote for themselves."You assume that everyone is like you". Where did I assume that? I never stipulated that I would vote on 10 bills a year. Maybe I would do 40 or maybe i would do 1. Probably depends on the year."Not many people want to vote, as can be evidenced by the increasingly low turnout every year." You've assumed people don't vote because they dislike the act of voting. Quite a phenomenal lack of understanding by a political science graduate i think. There are probably various reasons why turnout is low, peoples feelings of uselessness at being able to influence anything, peoples dissapointment at the lack of voting options (i.e. the old 2 horse race), etc,.Therefore your assumption that people would not vote unless it is compulsory is wrong.Of the 30 member states of the OECD, 10 have forms of compulsory voting. The OECD median for voter turnout is 74 per cent for recent elections,(http://www.socialreport.msd.govt.nz/civil-political-rights/voter-turnout.html)So Rob, it is dramatic (and hyperbolic, again) for you to say that no-one will vote in a direct democracy, and that the rate will drop of from 74% to 0%.Finally, since voting is optional, it would be likely that only people affected by Agriculture matters (as you proposed) would vote on agricultural matters. If you wanted to get an indication of what level of voter turnout this would mean, you could guess by looking at the amount of people involved in that sector (8.9% of a national labour force of 2.1 million),http://www.nationmaster.com/country/nz-new-zealand/agr-agricultureThis would give you 186,900 votes not including other sectors and groups who may be affected by the legislation, plus those who just like having their say.So Rob, your illogical fear of handing more power to the people stands on shaky ground again, and i still see no valid reason why this system cannot be implemented to allow a much more effective society to take place.

  • >You want statistics? I didn't give them because I didn't need to but very well. Searching for bills with "bill" in their title on http://www.govtrack.us I found 7172 bills considered during 2009. And that is not all of them!And as for Civil Servants what the hell do you think they are? They're part of the government. A direct democracy gives all decisions into the hands of all the people. It does not allow for appointees or representatives.""If the people say no would they have the option of saying 'not in this form but perhaps in another'?". Sounds like a feasible idea to me (good to see you're getting on board and starting to see the possibilities Rob)." So you'd appoint or elect people to reword the legislation then?I did not 'assume' people don't like the act of voting. I know that people do not like voting. There is a difference between the act of posting a ballot and actually learning everything about what you're supposed to do and then making a responsible decision. The second is what voting is. Voting turnout has been declining from rates of 70-80% afew decades ago to rates of less than 10% today around the world. And although I cannot speak for people around the world in their reasons for this, I can speak for the UK. And democratic passion is low. Maybe if the country was made more democratic this situation would improve. I am all for more democracy. But complete democracy is only ever mentioned as a joke by university professors and people with phds, and that is not an exageration.Is this paragraph a joke? "Of the 30 member states of the OECD, 10 have forms of compulsory voting. The OECD median for voter turnout is 74 per cent for recent elections." You're not just trying to mess with me here are you? If 1/3rd of your sample data was from compulsary voting countries then that figure is wrong. From memory the average turnout is actually about 45-75% in the developed world, with older generations voting in significantly higher numbers and 18-24 year olds in significantly lower numbers. In regional and local elections this figure is lower. For example the 2009 turnout for the EU elections was as low as 5% in some areas of Britain, with (I think) about 35% over all voting.Next point (stop writing so much, lol). You assume that only those affected by an area will vote on that legislation. What you should have said is people with an agenda/ something to gain would vote. For example if some farmers were unable to vote for some reason, but BNP and UKIP managed to get all their supporters out then Britain ould cease all international agricultural trade. Even if you think that would be a good thing I'm sure you can see where I'm going.

  • >No Rob I don't want statistics, I want facts and figures. What you gave me was the third part of the quote "Lies, damn lies, and statistics".If you had spent a little more time at the website you linked (www.govtrack.us) you would see that the 7172 bills accounts for every bill at various stages in the legislative process, i.e. Introduction, reported on by committee, voted on in originating chamber, voted on in both chambers, etc, etc) until it is either passed or not.To qoute the same website you linked,"Introduced bills and resolutions first go to committees that deliberate, investigate, and revise them before they go to general debate. The majority of bills and resolutions never make it out of committee".You can see by using the sort filter "Reported by Committee" that suddenly the number of bills that made it through to the second stage amount to 298.Quite manageable really isn't it.And this is one of the worlds' larger democracies you conveniently chose. I'm surprised to didn't try to construct your case using India.For countries like NZ, Aus, UK, France, Germany, Sweden, etc, it sounds like it would be almost too easy."Voting turnout has been declining from rates of 70-80% a few decades ago to rates of less than 10% today". Any source for that figure Rob?Here's a source,http://www.socialreport.msd.govt.nz/civil-political-rights/voter-turnout.htmlit's the same one I used earlier and it shows in a clear graph that NZ's turnout was at 89% in 1984 and 76% in 2008. Hardly the drop you suggested Rob. "Is this paragraph a joke?………" Again from the same source Rob, "NZ's turnout rate of 79 per cent in 2008 was lower than that of Australia, where voting is compulsory (95 per cent in 2007), but higher than those of Canada (59 per cent in 2008), the United Kingdom (62 per cent in 2005) and the United States (62 per cent in 2008)."From memory the average turnout is actually about 45-75% in the developed world". Rob, your memory is not a valid source i'm afraid."For example the 2009 turnout for the EU elections was as low as 5% in some areas of Britain". Really? Same source as my other facts Rob – "Regional Differences – There are few discernible differences in voter turnout rates between rural and urban voters, although non-voting tends to be lowest in provincial cities""You assume that only those affected by an area will vote on that legislation". No i didn't.What i did was give you a nominal indication of the minimum amount of votes one my expect to see on agricultural legislation in NZ. 8.9% of the labour force. You can then add more people who are in industries related to it, live in communities affected by it, and people who have ideas regarding it.Your last hypothetical is ridiculous. Are all the farmers buggering sheep, or what reason exactly do you think might keep them from voting. Next, why would all BNP and UKIP voters get suddenly interested in agricultural policies? Is it because they don't like the idea of foreigners having their lascivious ways with pure anglo-saxon livestock? And finally, once the BNP did take over agriculture, why do you think such bills can't be repealed under a direct democracy? Does the government close up shop or did the bill include the words "no pagsed back, and no undo's"?"I can speak for the UK". Well that's nice of you Rob.

  • >Ok my bad on the quick reading there. But it still proves my point. If there were 7172 considerations of bills then that is too much for every decision to come from every person.I'm not going to source the next figure. I know that one from memory and I'm sorry I don't have the time to source it. It was some county of the UK in either local or EU elections. I forget which. Normally I would but I have an essay in tomorrow. And why isn't my memory valid? This is an informal debate you know. Do you have trust issues? Why would I lie just to win a debate that I already think I've won?And lastly, you cannot simply undo an enacted piece of legislation. Even if you could what's to stop it happening again?

  • >Yes it's an informal debate, but if I have evidence to support my figures then it's required that either you show my evidence is incorrect or you provide your own evidence to support your statement.Since you did niether I can't see how you can think that this is a debate in which you have already won.This is really where we need other people to add their two cents.For 'direct democracy' I am not saying that every suggestion (introduced bill) needs to be voted on by the entire country at each stage of the process. That would obviously not work as you would have 7172 (in the U.S.) sperate votes in addition to votes on the bills that make it further through the process.Having the nation join the process at the second or third stage does not negate the idea of a direct democracy, although the theoretical definition of one might not be a perfect match.Who says you can't undo an act of legislation? What do the terms 'Repeal', 'Rescind', and 'Annul' mean to you?

  • >Thank you. That's my point, that the theoretical ideal of a direct democracy cannot work unless some part of it is compromised. Instead of debating the way we have been perhaps we should instead think of a solution.I would recommend more democracy than is currently present within the western liberal democracy. However I believe that some leadership is required from people with the big picture. This is where the debate has some real quantity. Why do you believe leadership is not necessary? And to what extent do you believe it isn't necessary? For instance do you believe in a central bank and power invested in the hands of a few educated people handling monetary policy? Or do you think this too should be with the people?

  • >OK, so we're both happy with direct democracy coming into play at the second stage of the legislative process?I believe very little leadership is required. I believe decisions should be made using a bottom up approach. E.g. have the experts debate at introduction, have committees refine at the next stage, then with both sides of the arguments presented have the public vote on their merits. Note that this is an example and not what i am proposing the system to look like.I think the budget should be voted on by the people and the goals of monetary policy should also be agreed on by the poeple, but the management of those goals (.i.e setting of interest rates, etc) should remain as an administrative function.

  • >If you still want to call it that that's fine by me. My point was that it would not be called a direct democracy by the theoretical definition.In principle a bottom-up approach could work for a wide variety of issues. For this to be the case I am in favour of compulsory voting (i.e. everyone affected by the bill would have to vote, if the bill only affected northerners it would not require southerners to vote) to ensure democratic decisions.I agree with the existence of experts at the top to provide guidance and advice. But I think that some of these people need to be elected representatives to ensure a lack of corruption, political accountability, and also because elected representatives can inspire confidence in people and the markets where a pure expert decided on merit alone may have what I call a 'Brown effect' i.e. PM Gordon Brown is a good economist but Brit's lack of faith in him lowers general confidence in the markets and the country as a whole.

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