COMMENT POSTED TO AN ARTICLE IN THE GUARDIAN BY OWEN JONES
A mostly accurate assessment, but we need more than the ballot change to gain something which can meaningfully be called democratic government.
Today, in Canada, Stephen Harper’s government, elected with just 39% of the vote, has busied itself with dismantling a good deal of what the world knew as Canada. It has a technical majority, and Mr. Harper is an effective parliamentary dictator whose policies stand against 60% of the electorate’s wishes. That isn’t democracy, by any measure, and I believe the situation in Britain with the unpleasant David Cameron is similar.
We have a terrible democratic deficit all over the so-called democratic world, and it is more than a little ridiculous that our (effectively unelected) leaders take us to bloody, meaningless wars, always blubbering about democracy, or they support the policies of a state in which half the people under its rule have no votes and absolutely no rights, again with blubbering about democracy, this time in the Middle East.
There are two essential reforms to claiming some genuine democratic government in the West. And there is a third which would largely complete the job.
First, as the writer suggests, get rid of “first past the post” voting. It is antiquated and genuinely undemocratic. A ballot listing ordered preferences would result always in a government in which a true majority of voters felt they had some investment. The common feeling of non-voters that “what difference does it make?” would be attenuated, and today in many Western countries half the people do not vote.
Second, and equally important, get the private and lobby money out of elections, entirely, and put severe penalties upon donors and receivers who break the rules in secret.
Create an agency to oversee elections with strict powers for accounting of campaign expenditures and legal powers to investigate.
American elections today, for example and with no exaggeration, are quite literally bought-and-paid-for. The Clintons, for example, have a history of grotesque fund-raising and spending. An American Senator, on average, spends two-thirds of his or her time in office raising funds. It results in government by and for elites. It also results in grotesque distortions of policy in favor of groups able to donate heavily, a major explanation for America’s go-nowhere policies in the Middle East.
In France we had stories of Sarkozy getting millions from an aged heiress and a huge secret donation from Qaddafi.
Mr. Blair was also a good buddy of Qaddafi and never saw a wealthy person he didn’t mark with obsequious treatment.
The last necessary reform for a semblance of democracy is the implementation of a quick-referendum system by computer to over-ride the legislature for all acts or policies involving life and death and especially war. The people who must sacrifice and live with the grim results should always make these decisions, not even an elected body or individual. I guarantee we would have fewer wars, and since overwhelmingly our wars only serve special interests, that would be a very good thing indeed.