A Citizen’s Guide to Greece 2015


August 3, 2014

Do we want our politics to be nimble?

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Written by: Politis

In an article published this past weekend on TechCrunch, Michael Papay and David Timby ask what politics cannot work at the swift pace that contemporary business, aided by developments in information technology, can. In this high political season (the 2014 mid-term elections) “there’s not much constructive debate,” they lament,  “and political gridlock has become the norm… if only politicians could be… nimble and effective.”

They seem not to have an especially deft understanding of politics, but here, nonetheless, is an excerpt from their reply to the dilemma they pose.

“Self-interest and preservation are baked into our political system. There’s not much incentive for elected officials to go out on a limb and propose novel solutions to the most pressing problems. The status quo keeps them employed and simple majorities ensure we don’t stray too far from center.

 The key to solving problems though is this: seek a diversity of options, encourage a free exchange and competition of ideas and use an efficient mechanism/technology platform to narrow the choices until one – the best – remains – then rally around the decision and act cohesively.

All too often, after a vigorous debate and an agreement is reached, half of elected officials and their electorate continue to advocate for their point of view. Perhaps we just need a better mechanism/technology platform for people to engage and participate in the direction of our country. A system that not only helps leaders source the best ideas but also taps into the true sentiment of their constituents … a technology-driven direct democracy.

Forms of direct democracies do exist today. Voters can approve or reject laws passed by elected officials, remove representatives from office and even propose and/or pass laws. California adopted a modern direct democracy in 1911. South Dakota did it in 1898. Utah, Oregon, Montana and Oklahoma are other examples. Are they direct enough, though? Even the “directest” of democracies – California – still needs formal elections to capture the voice of the people. Perhaps that’s why voter engagement is so low? People’s energy around important issues is not timed with their opportunity to participate in doing something about them.

Imagine a real-time technology driven democratic process – similar to town hall meetings – where everyone is invited to participate when the issues are most poignant. Leaders facilitate decisions instead of exerting their influence and the solutions are as diverse as the population that serves them up. Debate is transparent and contributes to knowledge growth. There are no headstrong people who stubbornly lobby for their point of view despite diminishing favor. And once a quorum is reached, everyone aligns around the decision and moves with speed as a cohesive group.”




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