Democracy, Voting and the Illusion of Choice

With regard to democracy, Sir Winston Churchill,
former Prime Minister of the United Kingdom once famously said: “Many forms of Government have been tried,
and will be tried in this world of sin and woe. No one pretends that democracy is perfect
or all-wise. Indeed it has been said that democracy is
the worst form of Government except for all those other forms that have been tried from
time to time …” He is referring to the fact that democracy
is the best system that we have come up with thus far, but by no means is saying that democracy
is perfect. However, many elected government officials
act like our current form of government is, and always will be, the best system. Let me explain why our current form of democracy,
at least in Australia, is far from perfect. Voting Many people I have spoken with equate voting
with fairness. That is, if we can vote, then the result of
that vote is fair. I can’t think of anything further from the
truth. The general premise is that the candidate
who gets more than 50% of the vote is elected. However, in reality, very few candidates get
more than half the votes, so politicians in their wisdom introduced a system called preferential
voting. In Australia, we have a lower house – the
House of Representatives, and an upper house – the Senate. All adults must vote and they do so using
some form of preferential voting. The House of Representatives uses full preferential
voting, whereas the senate uses optional preferential voting with proportional representation. Either way, it’s a convoluted mess. Governments are elected that do not have the
support of the majority of the people. For example, the latest federal election held
in July 2016, resulted in a win by the Liberal / National Coalition. Together, they only received 41.8% of first
preference votes (Liberal 28.47%, Liberal National Party 8.52%, and The Nationals 4.61%). That means, 58.2% of Australian voters did
not vote for them. But guess what, regardless of whether we wanted
to vote for them or not, we were forced to! Full preferential voting means we must place
them somewhere in our list of preferences, even if we have no desire to support them
in any way. It’s a joke. I have never voted for the winner in any Australian
election (I have probably voted in about 30 elections – local, state and federal). That means my vote has never counted. I have never had somebody hold office in Australia
that actually represents me. And this is probably true for a significant
proportion of Australians. The fact that 58.2% of Australians this year
did not vote for the Liberal / National Coalition means that the majority of Australians are
disappointed with the result. Is this democracy? I don’t think so. People Every elected official, at least in Australia,
is human. And what’s wrong with humans? Everything! People are corrupt. People are irrational. People can be influenced to make the wrong
decision. It was recently reported on the ABC that foreign
donations from China could be influencing Australian politics. Whose democracy is this anyway? China’s or Australia’s? Obviously people love money, and politicians
are only human, right? And let’s not forget the recent news of
Senator Sam Dastyari accepting donations from a company with links to the Chinese government
who repaid travel debts on his behalf. He has also been known to support China’s
position in the South China Sea dispute, saying that “the South China Sea is China’s own
affair”. It’s wonderful what money can do to a “thriving”
democracy. Party Politics Individual politicians basically have to follow
the party line. We have only a couple of major parties in
Australia: Liberals / Nationals, and Labor. The Greens have a fairly strong following,
but are rarely elected in the lower house due to a voting system that favours the two
big parties. When you see interviews with politicians on
TV, they rarely express their own views. It’s almost always a repetition of the same
old party rhetoric. It’s excruciating to watch. We may as well not vote for individuals and
instead vote for parties instead. That’s basically what the average Australian
voter does anyway. What happens when we allow our democracy to
be controlled by a couple of large parties? Well, they tend to forget that they are there
to serve the people. Instead they opt to help out big business,
international corporations, and reduce public services such as health and education in order
to fund tax cuts for the wealthy. The Media The media are supposed to be there to hold
power accountable, to be watchdogs. But instead they usually support one party
over the other. Whether it’s Fairfax Media, News Limited,
or the ABC, they all have their own political leanings. They all promote the two party system that
convinces us that we must vote one way or the other. The media are basically conspiring to hollow
out our democracy. Anthony Painter, Contributor for Policy Network,
once stated: “The modern state is designed around competing
elites who are insiders in the system. The electoral system maintains this duopoly. Around this elite contest, a media is constructed
and organised, party organisations exist to manufacture majorities to serve it. This system is replicated over time. The state, the party system, the media are
all tied together in an enduring status quo.” Corruption The biggest problem with democracy as we know
it is that it is corruptible. Every part of it is open to corruption. The parties bend to the will of their biggest
donors. Elected officials go along with the party
line in fear of losing their job. Voters are convinced to vote one way or another
by the mass media. It’s not really democracy at all – it’s
just called democracy. We may as well rename ourselves the Democratic
People’s Republic of Australia. It’s not serving the people – it’s serving
the wealthy. And what’s the common factor in all of this
corruption? The answer is simple – people. Whenever their are people involved, there
will be greed, corruption, and dishonesty. To fix democracy, we probably need to take
people out of the equation. Future Democracy The only way to remove corruption is to remove
elected officials. Instead of people voting for a person to hold
office for three or four years, we need to instead have a more participatory democracy
that does not require leaders. Imagine a future system that involves everybody
in the decision making. After a problem has been identified, instead
of elected officials making all the decisions, solutions are proposed by the general public
(probably through the likes of a smartphone app, or similar). A discussion takes place over a pre-determined
period of time and then solutions can be voted on by everybody who wishes to participate. The most popular solution is then carried
out. This would allow the average citizen to have
a direct say in the shaping of their society. Imagine a scenario where your city has a growing
number of potholes in the pavement. People who live in that area will quickly
submit a new issue to the national register. Individuals will then be able to propose solutions,
one of which suggests that an automated fleet of drones should be produced that can fly
around fixing potholes. This turns out to be the most popular solution
as nobody really wants to go outside in the hot sun filling in potholes. Resources are automatically redistributed
in order to get a team of engineers and programmers working on the proposed solution. Within a few weeks, a prototype has been developed
using existing technology as well as a few new ideas to create the Hole-Buster 3000. It drives around with a load of bitumen filling
in holes as it finds them. Over a couple of months, the technology is
refined and then multiple hole-busters are assigned to every city. Quickly, the whole issue of potholes becomes
a thing of the past. Similarly, if it turns out society has produced
too many hole-busters as there are no more potholes, people can submit a suggestion as
to how to fix the problem. Maybe they can be used as mobile advertising
stations as well as road-repair drones? Just as feudalism was slowly replaced by absolute
monarchies, and monarchies were overthrown in favour of republics, so too will democracy
be replaced by a better system. The fact that we live in the digital age would
indicate to me that technology must play a large part in any future system of government. I foresee with the advent of artificial intelligence,
we will no longer need human leaders with all their foibles. Of course, people will still have a part to
play, but our inferior intellects are not designed to handle the complexities of an
advanced, digitally interconnected and automated, future society. Bring on the bots, I say.

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