Deeper democracy down under
Government of the people, by the people, for the people – seems like a good basic principle for “democracy”. Yet many groups of citizens, in different representative democracies around the world, don’t seem too happy with their current versions of “kratos” in the hands of the “demos“.
Be they UK “Brexit” or Remain supporters, or those voting for or against US President-elect Donald Trump, people on both sides of both arguments seem to agree their governments are serially failing to deliver for the large majority of citizens.
It’s a risky situation for humanity. People’s evident frustrations and anger are readily channelled towards minority scapegoats – a dangerous tactic that unscrupulous politicians employ to our collective peril.
Happily – there are alternative political approaches emerging. They offer more hopeful prospects both for greater harmony in our political processes and for building far wider consensus around the decisions eventually taken.
Carson, a director of Australia’s newDemocracy Foundation, explains how work conducted by her organisation since 2009 has been charting just such an alternative path through real political problems. The radical part is how newDemocracy uses random selection, not elections, to choose its representatives of the people from among everyday citizens. The principle is the same as used for selecting criminal juries.
Doing away with political campaigning and the act of voting for decision makers, or at least the people doing the heavy thinking on a chosen political problem, creates a totally different dynamic to the process. Participants aren’t always looking over their shoulders for guidance from a political party or playing to the crowd based on how they think they might get re-elected. The result, repeatedly, has been the emergence of prudent solutions to previously too-tricky-to-solve problems.
What so far has been pretty much Australia’s gain is now becoming a prospect for Europe’s creaking political systems. Carson says her foundation is looking for partners with whom to run further projects, charting the process all the while and fine-tuning their methods as they go.
She was speaking to journalist, author and democracy campaigner Patrick Chalmers at the Council of Europe’s November 2016 World Forum for Democracy in Strasbourg, France.