This contribution is from Qedric James. Qedric James is a musician and IT Consultant with a keen interest in alternative politics & economics. This originally appeared at ScienceMustRule.
A brief critique of modern democracy in most places, but New Zealand in particular, brings to light a few key shortcomings:
- Actual democracy is only applied during elections, and the occasional referendum which is usually non-binding and subsequently ignored
- Much of the resources, energy, and funding for government is consumed during election cycles in the competition to win the next election
- The result of the previous point means that the public are swayed by PR campaigns, rather than being informed and included, and their opinion being gauged
- Opposition draws incentive from the desire to win the next election
- Recourse to the law and access to government is severely restricted
This blog post introduces the idea of creating a new political party: One with no policy base or ideology, just one concept: That every decision on policy, legislation, or internal party structure and management, will be the result of a public collaboration. To achieve this, I suggest Loomio. Disclaimer: I have no association with Loomio, and to be honest, no experience using the platform short of creating an account and having a nose around the website.
The key advantage, and the key to this idea succeeding, is unbiased expertise.
Imagine if each problem our country faced was identified through public submission. Imagine if each problem was publicly communicated, circulated, and open to input from anyone. Imagine if, through social/professional connections & networking, the best people for the job were identified, and each problem was evaluated, prioritised, and addressed by the people best qualified and best placed to do so.
Imagine if the solutions proposed by those people were then socialised and exposed to public peer review. Imagine if the results of this peer review were evaluated by a committee comprised of members who were appointed via the same kind of process. Imagine if the final decision was made on Loomio, and ratified by the party leader or relevant party member (or once in government, minister), whose mandate was to facilitate the decisions taken by this platform.
The very structure and inner workings of such a party could be conceived via these processes.
This would be real direct democracy in practice, the natural evolution of the original Athenian democracy in modern times. In ancient Athens, eligible citizens could attend parliament and cast a vote on matters being discussed – this didn’t mean that everyone would – only those who were stakeholders in the matters being voted on would usually show up. Platforms like Loomio offer many more possibilities, and on a much larger scale, with more inclusion, leveraging all that our technology offers. Our modern Athenian democracy would have the particular advantage of being able to identify the expertise that each issue demands, rather than entrusting decisions to non-technical bureaucrats, or ministers with no personal background or expertise in their portfolio.
How might this system fail? What are its weak points? Would it be better or worse than our current model? What are the chances of such a political party in terms of getting the 5% of party votes needed to enter parliament?
If you have 2 cents to throw at these questions, please do.
The coming months may help shed some light on these questions, particularly if Italy votes no in its referendum, happening as I write this, on the 4th December 2016. With a No vote, it is likely we’ll see a flash election called, and this will be a crucial opportunity for the Five Star Movement to gain power in Italy. The Five Star Movement started out via platforms such as meetup.com, and promotes the idea of direct democracy.
As we closely watch and learn from events unfolding elsewhere, now is the time for us to act in NZ – we must not miss this wave of anti-establishment sweeping the western world. I firmly believe NZ is ready for this: if such a political party were to be established now, it would have a real chance of gaining enough early momentum to stick around.
Evidence that the timing is right can be seen in two recent newcomers – the excellent campaign for Auckland mayor run by Chlöe Swarbrick, who gained impressive support with almost no financial backing, and Gareth Morgan’s new party, ‘The Opportunities Party’ (TOP).
*Edit: Since writing the first draft, John Key has resigned, and the expected flood of speculation has ensued. It’s apparently for personal, non-political reasons, but no doubt stepping down now is very well timed, if only to avoid an election defeat, but also considering the changes sweeping the world – Trump, Brexit, Italy’s referendum mentioned earlier (Italy did vote No, and their PM has also resigned, paving a way for the anti-EU, anti-establishment, pro direct democracy, pro Universal Basic Incomemovement slash political party, the Five Star Movement. To add my own speculation, perhaps John Key’s resignation was also spurred by a clear view of the storm brewing on the horizon in the form of a looming global economic crisis.
Chlöe Swarbrick has gone on to join the Green party, while Gareth Morgan, according to the NZ Herald, is overwhelmed by public support.
This says a lot. While I have no opinion on Gareth Morgan or his party, I do know that so far, it has offered very little in terms of policy, mission statement, or strategy, other than the desire for “a prosperous, fair and equitable society”, environmental sustainability, and the adoption of a written constitution. If that statement alone is enough to attract so much support, surely a party with a real plan, real substance, offering true, direct democracy, would also have a decent chance?
Perhaps Direct Democracy through Loomio is exactly what Gareth Morgan’s party is lacking?
Or perhaps someone reads this blog post and sees the idea as a good enough excuse to start something – as it may be preferable not to have a known personality driving this kind of party.
Perhaps Loomio is not the best platform for this, but alternatives exist, or could be built?
Perhaps Loomio could be used to sanity check this idea? Watch this space, and please let me know if you are interested in being involved.
Whether you’re for or against the current establishment, whether it’s looking after you or not – its days are numbered. Instead of leaving our future up to others, we can use our current political system to launch a new one.
Comments welcome below.
Leftwin seeks to host a discussion on building a new left politics in Aotearoa/New Zealand.
Be part of that discussion.