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Stunley Andwin

Can We Improve Democracy?

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You don't need to be a political genius to observe the state of just about every country in The West to realise that democracy has failed. Nearly every country is either near bankruptcy, experiencing social unrest or both. How can we improve democracy?

"A democracy cannot exist as a permanent form of government. It can only exist until the majority discovers it can vote itself largess out of the public treasury." Reputed to be Alexis de Tocqueville

Vote weighting

The vote weighting should not be one person one vote. The vote of people who are net taxpayers should be worth more than that of a career benefit claimant. There may be other weighting factors placed in, I think that the vote of a family man should be worth more than that of a singleton.

Selection of MPs

I think we can agree that the British election system has failed completely by producing a duopoly that is completely unbreakable. The Liberal Democrats have suffered from this in the past, UKIP suffered the most egregiously in 2015 and I think the Independent Group will suffer badly in the next election. I would like to see the current 650 constituencies merged to produce around 100 larger blocks of 6/7 former constituencies. These blocks then return members of parliament proportional to the votes cast. This might see a typical northern area return 3 Labour MPs, 1 independent group, 1 UKIP and 1 Conservative. A typical southern area might return 2 Conservative, 1 UKIP, 1 Lib Dem, 1 independent group and 1 Labour. I consider London to have too great an influence over the whole country, I would like to see the number of MPs from London reduced somewhat.

This would be somewhat similar to the German state-based system. In order to allow the formation of stable governments, the German system has parties winning less than 5% of
the vote being completely unrepresented in parliament. I like the idea but I think that a party winning between 2 and 5% should have 1 representative only.

Censorship.

There has never been an occasion in history where censorship has been used for the betterment of a society. There must always be free speech unless it is an incitement to violence or a demonstrable lie.

Unpopular leaders.

Following the performance of the current government, we need the crime of Treason as has existed in nearly every country throughout all of history to be brought back. Vastly unpopular leaders should face a public vote of execution. The proportion of the vote required to force the execution should be high enough such that it is extremely unlikely to happen but low enough to keep the leader aware of the threat.

Separation of power

Though I consider the idea of a monarchy somewhat silly, I like the idea of there being three centres of power. The army swears loyalty to the monarch, the monarch obeys parliament and parliament can be removed by the army. I cannot see a way to improve this.

The idea of the separation of judiciary, legislative and executive is also ideal.

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We definitely need fewer MPs.

But how can we trust constituency boundary re-allocation? They've fiddled with that before.

London does not represent the overall demographic for the UK. It has too much influence 

For me, I would like to see a devolved parliament and the back of SNP and Plaid Cumrag. 

I am confused by the antithesis of Scottish politics. How can you want to be an independent country but also be part of the EU? Further -- I doubt they've the tax receipts to cover membership. 

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Posted (edited)

Interesting thoughts.. some a bit extreme for me maybe ( executing leaders? ) but some sort of "Big Red Button" the public could press to force a general election might have its benefits. 

Other thoughts..

Some argue for Proportional Representation, which has benefits in terms of better matching the public will and bringing in new voices, but it also create an issue whereby unpopular politicians can stay in power too long if they're high up the party hierarchy ( see Merkel ) The top few dozen of each main party are pretty much guaranteed to stay in power, and only internal party politics can remove them, over which the pubic have no say. The party splits around Brexit have highlighted how messy this can be, and how it can weaken the democratic process.  

It also weakens governments and amplifies the problem of party alliances, whereby politicians compromise on key electoral promises to win support for other policies they consider more important.  The Lib-Dems U-turn on student tuition fees is a prime example. Elected on a clear promise of no increase, and then instrumental in enacting the increase. They were punished at the polls next time of course. ( lumbering half the population with tens of thousands of pounds of debt is a great way to ensure they'll never vote for you again ), but by that time it was too late.

One possibility, available with modern tech, would be a two stage voting process - one to select the party, and one to select the MPs from that party to enter parliament. It would involve a relatively complex ranking system, but it could be implemented online via apps and a  blockchain system be used ensure transparency and eliminate vote fraud, and to ensure only those who vote for a party can chose the MPs.

Taking it further, there could be some system to deal with the multi axis nature of politics. People often hold views that might be considered "left" on the economic spectrum for example, but "right" on the legal / ethical spectrum.  it might be good to implement a system that somehow expresses this.  After all, the question of how governments tax and spend are entirely unrelated to issues of law and order.  Freedom of speech shouldn't mean you have to accept Neo-liberal economics and privatisation of public services. Then again, this could be covered in the MP selection vote, as long as MPs are free to campaign on their own vision of how their party should operate, rather than have everything dictated to them in single party manifesto.

As a counter to the above thoughts, there is the danger that since most people don't have a particularly deep understanding of all the issues outside their particular area of interest, undue levels of ill-informed populist opinion would dominate, putting governments in the position of trying to implement policies they haven't been given the tools to achieve. ( e.g. cut taxes too much, whilst increasing public services ). When they inevitably fail to achieve the impossible, voters may turn to more extreme parties and politicians to try to force things through.

It's a complex question, and given our political stability over the centuries, we should be vary wary of making radical changes.  

The Media

A simpler, safer reform, that I think would make a real difference, is to address the problems inherent in the media.. The mudslinging, character assassination, identity politics and childish "but you said the opposite back in 2011" nonsense that has infected the discourse.  

We can't do much about the commercial media without restricting free speech and the freedom of the press, but there's no reason the So-Called BBC couldn't be completely reformed so as to raise the level of political debate generally.

The success of long-form, non confrontational YouTube conversations has demonstrated there is appetite for serious discussion of complex issues that can't be "debated" in any seriousness during 10 minute news segments or QT questions. Attack-dog political interviews, where hosts constantly interrupt interviewees before they have a chance to make their point aren't  "holding power to account".. they're "live editing" to distort the message to further the agenda of the broadcaster.

There may be some place for that sort of thing, but when that's all we have, it's highly damaging to the political process.  The So-Called BBC should be focusing on ensuring the public are informed, not trying to mould their opinions using sleight of hand. People are getting wiser to this sort of thing, and it's creating less trust in the system, which can only be destabilising. 

Anyway.. that's a few thoughts.  

Oh and I agree on the benefits of the Monarchy as a kind of safeguard and focus of national loyalty, though some sort of simple written constitution would be useful too. It's been a huge benefit to the Americans and is a further safeguard we don't have, since it protects certain key values, such as freedom of speech and fair trail, that we have seen can be slowly eroded over time if we're not careful.

Edited by MvR

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It’s a big question. Fundamentally for democracy to work, individual voters must be able to believe that their vote matters and has an impact. However, as in the case of PRSTV in RoI, this results in an extremely sensitive electoral system and fosters clientelism amongst the politicians.

Universal sufferage doesn’t work when a large proportion of the electorate are subsisting off the state. Likewise, in a diverse population as we have now, factionalism becomes part of the story with certain blocks of voters being pandered to.

Party lists or other weighted voting systems simply create mini electorates within those parties.

Finally, who would become a politician in this day & age? Although potentially lucrative, it’s a thankless job where you & yours now live in a 24 hour spotlight. No thanks.

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Net taxpayers only would be the game changer.

The continued trend through the last hundred years has been an increasing of the amount taken off the productive and given to the non-productive.

This is because the majority of voters are net recipients rather than net payers; so vote for promises of increased redistribution.

That trend ends in genuine modern slavery where people work full time for less reward than people who don't work at all; to some extent that has already happened.

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2 minutes ago, swiss_democracy_for_all said:

This works quite well. Essentially representative democracy but the people always have the option of forcing issues with referendums if the representatives get too uppity.

https://www.swissinfo.ch/eng/swiss-political-system/29288762

What stops the electorate voting themselves the treasury? 

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14 minutes ago, Horrified Onlooker said:

What stops the electorate voting themselves the treasury? 

Being grown-ups. They had a vote for Universal Direct Income not long ago, it failed. No Boaty Mcboatfaces here. 

You can imagine that in the UK a system like this would cause problems until people grew up and realized you have to live with what you’ve voted for. 

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The political system can’t be fixed for the same reason the So-Called BBC can’t be fixed.

They haven’t changed or broken you just have the frames of reference available to see them for what they are now.

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As Frank said only net tax payers should vote. That would also exclude all workers funded by taxation. 

We need to end political parties and professional politicians 

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Posted (edited)

Triennal Parliaments, minimum age for MPs, abolition Lords, requirement for MPs to have paid taxes for at least 10 years prior to first standing. Abolition of all race, class and gender job quotas and a  return to all Civil Service jobs being by open competition. In fact I would back any reform that limits the creation of a professional  political class

Edited by Virgil Caine

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Posted (edited)

Yep. If you like at Amber Rudd, elected as an MP aged 47, her actual "career" was fifteen years as a director of a family business which eventually failed.

IME being a director means one afternoon meeting a month.

Her cushy pre MP life explains why she comes across as being do it of touch with normal people; it's because she genuinely hasn't a clue what it means to work for a living or worry about your finances.

 

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Amber_Rudd

Edited by Frank Hovis

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A net-taxpayer voting system means someone has to decide what level that is.  On a simple level, it could just be if your wage-slip shows you paid more than you got in credits.  Or credits + benefits. 
Or they could start putting a charge for NHS cover, armed forces protection, streets, railtracks. fire service... and work out who pays more in tax than the services they 'benefit' from.  I guess, on that metric, a single person, no dependents, might need £40K to be 'net' - a pure guess, mind.

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Posted (edited)

Fuck democracy.  Select MPs by lottery.  You win an all-expenses working sabbatical in London, at £50K or your old salary + 50%, whichever is higher. 

I think that'd be more 'representative' than anything democracy could achieve.

 

Edited by Bricks & Mortar

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Posted (edited)

I think much of the problems facing the UK have less to do with the mechanics of voting and more to do with the how the machinery of government work. Far too much power resides in the hands of unelected officials occupying top jobs in the Civil Service and local government. Too often it is they who actually set the political agenda or control its implementation. They are very rarely held to account and Commons committees have often limited ability to curtail them. Many slide in and out of their roles from large corporations and it is around that nexus that corruption flourishes.The truth is that the average MP in the House of Commons or local Councillor does not have much power to influence eventd. In fact those who are dedicated to serving their constituency ( and there are some) spend a lot of their time battling the machinery of government on behalf of their constituents.

35 minutes ago, Bricks & Mortar said:

Fuck democracy.  Select MPs by lottery.  You win an all-expenses working sabbatical in London, at £50K or your old salary + 50%, whichever is higher. 

I think that'd be more 'representative' than anything democracy could achieve.

 

It worked for the ancient Athenians who chose all their public officers by lot.

Edited by Virgil Caine

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3 hours ago, Frank Hovis said:

Net taxpayers only would be the game changer.

The continued trend through the last hundred years has been an increasing of the amount taken off the productive and given to the non-productive.

This is because the majority of voters are net recipients rather than net payers; so vote for promises of increased redistribution.

That trend ends in genuine modern slavery where people work full time for less reward than people who don't work at all; to some extent that has already happened.

I would extend this idea to one vote per £10k net tax paid.

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26 minutes ago, Frank Hovis said:

Yep. If you like at Amber Rudd, elected as an MP aged 47, her actual "career" was fifteen years as a director of a family business which eventually failed.

IME being a director means one afternoon meeting a month.

Her cushy pre MP life explains why she comes across as being do it of touch with normal people; it's because she genuinely hasn't a clue what it means to work for a living or worry about your finances.

 

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Amber_Rudd

Similar with many MPs.I think they ought to have had a job first.

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Having thought about this a bit more I think the biggest change in public life would be achieved by putting the following as one of the top articles in a new constitution for the UK

 " No employee or official in a publicly funded post shall receive any payment, salary, wage, remuneration or other financial  emolument as a direct or indirect result of that position which is greater than the salary of the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom. "

I actually think that would effect a bigger change than any tinkering with the voting process, length of Parliament, age of MPs etc

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6 minutes ago, MrPin said:

Similar with many MPs.I think they ought to have had a job first.

Somebody told me that Philip Hammond ran a plumbing business and that impressed me; I thought we'd get a chancellor who actually understood business.

I then found out he was wrong and it is actually the good old property rentals which is why he is such an idiot.

9 minutes ago, goldbug9999 said:

I would extend this idea to one vote per £10k net tax paid.

I totally disagree.

The people you want voting are those who are providing the money to the government because they will think it very important that it is not wasted and so vote for a responsible government.

You don't need to even be paying a net £10k in tax to think that; even £1k will do.  It is enough that you recognise that it is your money that the government is spending so you vote for one that will spend it wisely.

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Posted (edited)
5 minutes ago, Frank Hovis said:

You don't need to even be paying a net £10k in tax to think that; even £1k will do.  It is enough that you recognise that it is your money that the government is spending so you vote for one that will spend it wisely.

To clarify:

< 10k = 1 vote

10K -  20k = 2 votes

etc, i.e. all net tax payers get minimum 1 vote. I'm not precious about the band amounts though 1k, 5k whatever, its the principal.

Edited by goldbug9999

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Just now, goldbug9999 said:

To clarify:

< 10k = 1 vote

< 20k = 2 votes

etc, i.e. all net tax payers get minimum 1 vote

What about that Bet365 chief exec who made £300m or whatever last year (and a woman, what glass ceiling?)?

She would get (takes out abacus) 30,000 votes.  If she supported the yellow wellies wearers' alliance the would get in.

It would be too unbalanced.

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6 hours ago, Stunley Andwin said:

"A democracy cannot exist as a permanent form of government. It can only exist until the majority discovers it can vote itself largess out of the public treasury." Reputed to be Alexis de Tocqueville

This isnt a problem with democracy its a problem with modern monetary policy i.e. the ability to create limitless money from thin air. If we had sound currency this would not be a problem.

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