The Case For Direct Democracy


[2B] Ravi - Direct Democracy i-governdotorgArticle: Ravinesh Sakaran – Contributor

Andrew Coyne, a political columnist recently posted an article in the Walrus scrutinizing Members of Parliament (MPs) in the House of Commons(HOC), accusing them of acting as trained seals, adhering to every decision by the party leadership.

Based on an exit interview with the MPs, Coyne went on to lambast the delusional MPs as they could not agree on the basic notion of “what they were elected to accomplish, or what the essential purpose of their role was intended to be.” Some said it was to represent the views of the people in their ridings. For others, it was to advance the interests of their party. A third group insisted it was to provide services to their constituents. Few thought it was to hold the government to account, the foremost responsibility of the legislature in a parliamentary system.

Coyne also pointed out that the most realistic definition of what an MP’s role has become, at least on the government benches, was by Calgary Centre MP Joan Crockatt, shortly before the by-election that sent her to Ottawa.

“To me,” she said, “the job is to support the prime minister in whatever way that he thinks.”

Coyne hammers the MP’s on their inability to debate and propose their own bills to parliament, emanating from the crutches provided by their party leadership to have any original meaningful thought to the parliament. He articulates that there is hardly any debate in the HOC, not to mention the sparse attendance of MPs. The party discipline is so strict that when it comes to a vote, MPs have little or almost no leeway to vote with their conscience. Coyne showed that only a small number of private members’ bills pass into law, although now under the Tories, a few more than the usual have passed because they have been used as surrogates for government legislation, infringing on yet another MP’s liberty. Coyne also reminds us that last spring, MPs couldn’t ask questions in the House, or even make routine members’ statements, without the permission of the party whips. Even then they are confined to reading lines written for them by party communications staff.  Coyne eloquently characterized this as being the institutional decline of individual devaluation.

Coyne calls for reform by enabling more freedom for MPs to decrease the size of the cabinet and to make parliament more democratic.

I don’t disagree with Coyne’s call for reform, however I believe that his call for reform as it is fair, isn’t radical enough.

We need revolutionary ideas to make this country and world a better place, and in this buzzing age of high speed internet and technology, why limit ourselves to be governed by an aristocratic-like elite who control the law-making process? Representative democracy has lost its place in modern times.

Thus, I believe we the citizens of the world should examine and redirect ourselves to the origins of democracy, the true form of democracy that is none other than direct democracy—a method of democracy based on none other than the ancient Athenians, but of course with all citizens involved.

This form of democracy is archaic and irrelevant to the public, but this form of democracy is the best way for us to move forward in these increasing progressive times.

Switzerland has been practicing democracy since its conception, and they have prospered immensely, free of military intervention and they posses an economy that is the envy of the world. How can anyone discredit the idea of direct democracy? Every single citizen is involved in the law-making process: they can all vote on any bill that pertains to their livelihood.

I would also like to bring your attention to Iceland, who has rebuilt its entire economy from scratch, after barely surviving the horrific 2008 financial crisis. The three major financial institutions that triggered the crisis through a host of dangerous financial practices were not bailed out by the government as the Icelanders took it to the streets, refusing to pay for the for the greedy bankers’ colossal mishaps, and let their banks fail.

The then Icelandic government was forced to resign and the new government wrote off 60 billion euros worth of debt and initiated major reforms that now allow its citizens to participate in the lawmaking process by redrafting their constitution through crowd sourcing.

This crowd sourced national constitution is a process by which Icelanders submit ideas and contribute through social media websites directly to an elected committee drafting the document.

There has also been another web-based open government reform in the capital city of Reykjavik: the city council passed a law forcing it to consider 16 citizen-initiated proposals made each month through a web site called “Betri Reykjavík” (Better Reykjavik), marking the beginning of a gradual movement toward direct democracy.

Many might argue that Switzerland and Iceland are countries with small populations and this cannot be implemented everywhere, however I disagree, because we are underestimating the human potential of synchronizing information, technology, and democracy. If Google is capable of forming a search engine that knows you better than your own mom, then we are definitely selling ourselves short of creating a platform for direct democracy through high tech innovation.

A true functioning democracy must have an informed electorate. With the current state of interest on national policy and politics seeming to be minimal or even negligible among the general population, by implementing direct democracy, citizens would be much more engrossed in the workings of national politics. This would also enable them to decide with better clarity on their own future. Let’s give more power to the people and not to the select few in the upper class

All citizens should and must be engaged with the current political affairs of their own nation, in ancient Athens if one did not engage in politics, one was called “idiots.” I do not want to be associated with that word: I am  sure you do no want to be either.

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