Why we need to reform democracy

The «discussion» about the debt ceiling is the obvious proof that democracy as we know it has turned dysfunctional. A whole nation – if not the whole world – are being held hostage by a few representatives. Representative democracy gives too much power in the hands of too few people. This worked as long as there were representatives that did at least balance the good for all with the assumed special interests of their own constituencies and the outspoken interests of their lobbying groups. And it was the only way to organise a society in times when stage coaches were the only way to communicate.

Both conditions have changed: Representatives no longer really care for the good for all. Unashamedly they are standard bearer of special interest groups. It does not look like this would fundamentally change back in the future – au contraire. On the other side we now have tools at our disposal that would allow reforming our democratic processes. The world is flat and we all are living in a global village. Why can’t we re-organise democracy in this context? Why should everything else change – from the way we book flights, we sell used cars, we cultivate friendships, we network for business, we inform about news, we listen to music, we apply for jobs, we find partners – but the way democracy works stays the same since more than 200 years.

We should think through how we would organise democracy nowadays if it would not exist. Our dysfunctional democracy is not a matter of the wrong people; it is the result of the wrong system that ultimately leads to this behaviour. The rules of the game prohibit «normal people» from taking part in political decision processes – and it rewards politicking devoid of meaning. We have seen other ways of organising societies collapse in bad and worse ways. We will always see that it is only a matter of time until the rule of elites will turn into corruption and wrong decisions. Therefore we have to think how to «crowd-source» the political decision processes – the very meaning of democracy – before the call for a strong man seems to be the only solution. This is not to say that crowds always are right. But it is not crowds versus elites. It is to think crowds together with elites. But crowds taking the ultimate decision, eventually following the advice from whatever specialist they see fit.

Autocracy worked as long as the society and the land as a whole belonged to the ruling family. It was like a family business handing over the precious treasure from generation to generation. But now we have managers that do not care – and are not incentivised – to increase or even to preserve the value for the next generation. They are optimising the now and here. Therefore the only way is to re-invent democracy for the 21st century.


One comment

  1. hermannarnold · August 22, 2011

    As if we would need an additional proof:
    ‘Supercommittee’ members get plenty of funds from lobbyists
    Debt cutters got contributions in July


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