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Government 2.0

Entry 1094, on 2009-10-03 at 21:19:56 (Rating 2, Politics)

Most (actually, as far as I know all) modern nations don't really have democracy, instead they have representative democracy. In other words people vote for the politicians they want to represent them and those politicians carry out the peoples' wishes indirectly.

But with the internet and other modern technology there is the opportunity for real democracy where everyone can vote on issues using technology like web sites and text messages. Of course there are many potential problems but I wondered whether its even a good idea in principle.

I heard a podcast on the idea recently and it described the idea with terms like "eGovernment" and "Government 2.0" which I thought were quite appropriate because its a similar idea to Web 2.0 where everyone is in control and makes contributions which only experts would have made in the past.

And that's really the great danger. Web 2.0 has had some positive effects and some collaborative projects have been spectacularly successful (Wikipedia being the best example) but there is also the bad side where unsubstantiated opinions proliferate in blogs and inaccurate and misleading information is common.

So should everyone have a say in how a country is managed? It would not be practical for every minor decision to be voted on by everyone and there would always be a place for a government to carry out the mundane management tasks, but there might be a place for the big issues to be voted on by everyone.

The issues would need to be very carefully specified or we would end up with a debacle like the anti-smacking referendum I mentioned in previous blog entries. And there should be good background information easily available for all voters (I realise most wouldn't read it, but at least it should be there). Plus it would be good to have some way to prevent propaganda campaigns funded by pressure groups having excessive influence.

All that aside the question then becomes do people know what's best for them? That's highly debatable but in a democracy the majority should have control even when they are wrong. It seems to me that we could move towards a more "true" democracy by creating an internet based voting system which could be gradually used more as people get used to the idea. It could be a recipe for disaster but I think its an experiment we need to try.

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Comment 1 (2527) by GadgetDon on 2009-10-04 at 03:20:31:

"Plus it would be good to have some way to prevent propaganda campaigns funded by pressure groups having excessive influence." The problem is that one person's "propaganda campaign" is another person's free speech.

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Comment 2 (2528) by OJB on 2009-10-04 at 09:57:52:

Of course, and that is where the debate has arisen here in New Zealand over laws designed to prevent these sorts of campaigns, especially when funded covertly. Any ideas on how to resolve the issue? I've got a few but they are a bit unconventional!

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Comment 3 (2529) by Jim on 2009-10-05 at 11:45:32:

I'm sure we will regret this but what are these unconventional ideas you speak of?

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Comment 4 (2538) by OJB on 2009-10-12 at 10:22:17:

Basically my idea just makes it harder to do "saturation advertising" by doubling the fee for each successive repetition of an ad over a day. The initial ad screening (or display or broadcast) could be cheap (to make it accessible for everyone) but each repetition would cost double the one before. That way more people could get an ad on at least once a day but it would cost a lot more to have one ad repeated over and over. Seems like the perfect solution to me!

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