Monday, November 21, 2011

Top Ten Suggested Changes to Democracy

Everyone who lives in a democracy thinks the system is good in theory; everyone likes having a say in how law is written and money spent by the government. Everyone likes the thought of accountability of the people in charge by way of elections every few years. But, I propose that there is a growing unrest an unease about democracy in practice. The recent "occupy" movements seem to indicate that people are fed up with what is perceived as too cozy a relationship between governments, big business, and banks. All democracies require some rules and regulations around which they are organized (for example: the Westminster System of parliamentary democracy). But, I propose that the following regulations would make democracy better in the sense of being closer to the intention of democracy rather than the usual realities.

1. Make voting mandatory for all adults. 
Whatever the legal age of adulthood (whether 18, 19, or 21), require that all citizens of sound mind vote in each election.

2. Include a "none of the above" option on the ballot. 
No citizen should be made to vote for someone whose policies they disagree with. Given the common likelihood of not finding a candidate for whom you would feel comfortable voting, provide the ability for voters to cast a "protest vote", and report the percentage of votes that went to this option.

3. Make it illegal for any media or person to poll voters during an election campaign, or to publish mass opinions on which candidate is likely to win the election. 
Often, in modern democracies, the outcome of the election is known prior to the voting. This discourages voter participation, and indeed undoubtedly influences election outcomes. This single change would encourage more people to vote with reason rather than voting for the perceived winner.

4. Ban private and corporate sponsorship of or donations to political parties or candidates. 
Everyone accepts that corporations and special interest groups are better represented in governments than individual voters are. By donating millions of dollars to a campaign, special interests (who typically don't have the ability to vote themselves - such as a corporation) can influence policy in their favour and possibly away from the favour of the electorate. The government should serve the electorate, not special interest groups.

5. Limit the ability of elected politicians to accept corporate positions following the end of their term, or board positions during their term. 
Similarly to point 4 above, there is a need for regulations to limit the influence of non-voter special interest groups. Even if corporations are limited from contributing to a campaign, they may significantly influence a politician's actions by "buying" them while in office with a promise of a high-paying corporate position once they leave politics. This is a tricky one because it is a regulation that starts to infringe on an individual's personal freedoms once they leave office. But, by making it clear that politician's have limits on their working positions following retirement from politics, only those truly interested in serving the people would enter politics, and those interested in politics only for future accumulation of wealth would be less common.

6. Make it illegal, during an election campaign, to comment on an opponent's platform or position. 
Election campaigns have become little more than mud-slinging competitions. Voters should really be exposed to the platform and policies of each candidate rather than the interpretation (and purposeful misinterpretation) of an opponent's platform. This might seem like an impractical regulation, but in time it would likely be no more difficult to enforce than something like a plagiarism law.

7. On every single vote in the house of elected members of government (e.g. in the American House of Representatives, the British House of Commons, etc.), publish the question going to vote and the results of the vote, member by member.
Constituents should not have to rely on the inevitable mud-slinging by opponents to report how their elected member of government voted on an issue, or how often they were present for a vote.

8. On every single vote as above in point 7., prior to the vote provide every voter with the opportunity to complete a poll on the issue within their electoral district or riding. 
Every elected member of government should have timely feedback on how their constituents feel on a particular issue.

9. Require that every leader who wants to take their country to war must, prior to the onset of the war, resign their position and join the unit of the armed forces which will most likely be on the front lines. 
Put your money where your mouth is! If a president or prime minister really feels so strongly about going to war, if they really feel like it is the right thing to do, if they really feel terrible each time a soldier is killed, then  let them lead by example.

10. I'm open to suggestions...

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