It was in New York City, around the first of June this year 2011, I was speaking with a group of friends about democracy in Spain. The conclusion was: Internet permits us a lot of access to information, why not use the Net like this very blog to try to share knowledge between people and let people propose original, creative and fresh ideas by themselves and in an official way?
The technology exists, as I said in 6 months a company like Indra can develop a reliable system to execute any kind of referendum via Web on real time. If we don’t do, it is because we don’t want. It’s time to do it…
And in the middle of that conversation the following issue arise: If in a democratic plebiscite in a country such as Spain one gives his or her support to a political party, you are selling yourself to the devil; maybe you chose that party due to a brilliant idea, let’s say “a clear effort to develop an energetic system based in Hydrogen” but this political party can be fickle and change its idea or even worse: there could be a terrible idea in the subsequent project of that party, such us “let’s kill the babies to reduce overpopulation!”, whether you know it or not, with your vote, you are supporting both initiatives!
The idea is very obvious, very simple, but it reflects a terrible reality: democracy doesn’t exist. In the past because it was expensive and difficult maybe, but nowadays, just because We Don’t Want (as I said)
Democracy is difficult anyway, as a great friend tells me: “This is like a company, you have to delegate the work to a group of people, because managing a country takes a lot of effort and people have to work and live in a day-to-day basis” yeah, he’s right, and modern companies are a good example of good governance but also of terrible disasters and greed, such as the case of Enrom or Lehman Brothers. When We created the Power System, We made constitutions to try to control the exercise of power, It was a huge advance after the Middle Ages, but obviously that’s not enough. People are not apart of Power, People Are the Power, and yeah we must delegate in a group, correct, but with extreme control and transparency, and People can’t be alienated from political decisions, We have to be active on that and We all have a responsibility, whatever happens to our country or to Earth is our fault by action or by inaction.
After that conversation I promised to write an article about what could we do to end forever with this so-called “democracy” which is Parliamentary democracy. In Spain, we are now hearing voices that speak about let’s vote for people and not for parties, many people say that, and it was just the beginning of my conversation in New York City, because a political party can have better and worse people and one wants the good people in power, but….. What the hell! This was more of the same, We want the whole package, We want to vote ideas!!, We want to support the political party of the example that I stated before with its idea of the energy, but never the idea of killing the babies! … and at the same time we want to support other great idea of another minoritary party that proposes a law for sustainable fishing of the Red Tuna to prevent Tuna from extinction (which means no longer eat that excellent food), and that small party must have enough support to push its initiative to force.
And you, you pay attention to this, this claim is not only a privilege, yeah We share the power, so I’m powerful, but We also Share a huge responsibility. It’s not time to rest while others do, It’s no longer the fault of Mr. Obama or Mr. Zapatero or whoever elected professional politician. Now, It’s your fault, my fault, you have in your hands the lives of millions of people. Remember that, the power implies responsibilities, and today We have to Share the Power and the responsibilities. It’s not always an easy step, “to think less about my rights and my good life and a little more about my duties and What the hell could I do for others or even better, How could I collaborate with others to make a better world but beginning to be better myself”
After coming back to Spain, I wrote that article… in June! I promise, I could send it to anybody interested…
It was an interesting article speaking historically about the evolution of the distribution of the power, and explaining how in the past the power was in a few hands, who made the majority of the inhabitants of the world mere slaves due to the ignorance, Information was (and is) power. I explained the process in which Mr. Guttenberg changed the world by permitting the share of the knowledge and in less than 200 years the fruit was the Illustration in which people such as Jean-Jacques Rousseau spread an illustrated thinking which in the Social Contract establishes clearly that “We all are the owners of the Earth and some people more prepared will have the power by contract with the rest of Society”
The illustrated movement lead to the birth of the United States of America, and to the French revolution in what meant a lose of power of a few to really share the power between everyone. But the process is slow and is still taking place in the very heart of Europe…
I stated how the Internet has a today’s Guttemberg effect by spreading the knowledge and the information like never in History has been seen before having in Wikilieaks its climax until now… as I stated in other posts, this is leading to a natural fall of several regimes (Egypt, Libia, …) when people gain the knowledge the lies of the corrupt governors to its citizens become unsustainable, and you can contain people with information by fear only until they lose the fear (which I called the Wikileaks effect “hey guys governors are lost, propaganda is a lie, let’s claim what’s ours”)
Well, in my article I stated that in the future this will permit a natural process by which We can support actively ideas more that parties and I proposed the use of Internet to easily make referendums over any kind of proposal of the parties in power.
That word “referendum” was the death of my unpublished article and the beginning of this new one:
As I was gathering some references for my article I saw that there’s a huge push in the world to give people the option to actively participate in the creation of laws and initiatives. It was not something for the future, as I was betting, but from the past. And there was a country, Switzerland, where a self governance prehistoric system based in referendums has been working for the past 150 years and with extremely good yields (yeah Switzerland is a tiny country, but the system has worked very good)
During July and August I have been reading a great book about what they call “Direct Democracy”, focused in the Swiss example but examining the State of the Art of democracy throughout the World, with similar cases such us California. It is not an opinion book, It is more close to Science. In this following link I’m sharing it with all of you: http://www.iri-europe.org/en/publications/guidebooks/2010-edition/ and I strongly suggest you to read it. It’s for free, written in several languages and signed by the Government of Switzerland. Yeah, Switzerland has a Government that governs, but people are over the government, and if they pass a polemic law, and 1000 people (not so much) go against the law, the law is stopped and automatically a referendum is hold on that issue, people discuss it, Government explains the pros and cons and in the end people vote it. Not only that, People can propose ideas to the government and even propose initiatives that, if backed by enough number of citizens, the Government will have to study the initiative with its pros and cons in a transparent way and later hold a referendum legally bound.
Read back the last paragraph, legally bound…. It is not just a referendum to back an idea of the party in power that typically will have only shown the pros and never the cons (Venezuela’s way) It is a whole idea pushed by people and the government is working for the people, not over the people, and if in the end the referendum says yes, it is legally bound.
This enormous book is published by the Institute for Referendum an Initiative http://www.iri-europe.org/ I was very surprised when I read it and I have learn a lot of the 150 years of experience of Switzerland, at the same time I could see that this is not the future of Europe, but the past, as this European Regulation has been launched in February 2011: http://eur-lex.europa.eu/LexUriServ/LexUriServ.do?uri=OJ:L:2011:065:0001:0022:EN:PDF
The European Regulation in some things is ever stronger that the Swiss System as it focuses a lot in the use of New Technologies, to make it easier, while Switzerland is still using traditional and expensive methods to hold the referendums. The regulation starts as follows:
The Treaty on European Union (TEU) reinforces citizenship of the Union and enhances further the democratic functioning of the Union by providing, inter alia, that every citizen is to have the right to participate in the democratic life of the Union by way of a European citizens’ initiative. That procedure affords citizens the possibility of directly approaching the Commission with a request inviting it to submit a proposal for a legal act of the Union for the purpose of implementing the Treaties similar to the right conferred on the European Parliament under Article 225 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU) and on the Council under Article 241.
Clearly there’s a will to implement Citizens initiative but in a very weak way: there’s a need of too much people: 1.000.000 signatures coming from at least a fourth of the European Countries. Too much to give an incentive to people to try to share their ideas an initiatives with the rest of the people. Let’s say it’s still too expensive to collaborate, and It must be easier.
Before offering any conclusion I want to speak a little about some points of the book:
- Popular initiatives are long-term process, not just “We have this great idea, let’s vote it” but “We have this idea, let’s go deep down on it, analyzing pros, cons and consequences, for later vote it, and if the idea lose, we can modulate it to correct the failures or radicalism’s
- When people have all the information tend to make rational decisions (not electoralists or partidist). We all tend to think that people in general are not enough prepared to make rational decisions, the typical said that We’ll prefer the cook who gives us a cake that the doctor who takes out the cake. But the empirical information of 150 years shows that knowing the pros and cons people will clearly decide to chose the doctor and be healthy knowing all the details of the effects of cakes and not only the animal instinct of that cakes are delicious.That’s why I’ll defend that transparency and education are the basis of democracy, even more important than democracy itself because if people would tend to vote for the cook instead of the doctor it’d better not to have any democracy at all for the health of the people. All this idea is called: “The myth of the incompetent citizen”
- Violence and strong minority conflicts can be peacefully solved by direct democracy mechanisms
- Citizens are able to decide for long-term benefits by short-term costs, again when they have the whole information and the system is well designed for the information to flow.
- There’s a huge difference between plebiscite and Popular Initiative Procedure and It’s a common and big mistake to call both “referendums”. A Plebiscite is a “top-down” initiative such as “Hugo Chavez wants to back its own decision to give almost free-gas in Venezuela (which is a total fake as only one point of view is stated and people go to vote almost blinded)” or “General elections to select the people in power during 4 years”. A Popular Initiative Procedure is a “down-top” initiative such us “I think it is great for the economy to establish a tax on laptops and I explain this to a hundred thousand people who back me and with 100.000 votes I oblige the government to discuss my idea in the parliament, and in the end after a long process my country will evaluate my idea and if the people with the established procedures decides the idea is good for the country, my idea will be a new law”
- Constitutions are of extreme importance. We suddenly could get mad together and We need something that limits the way we can implement new laws. The first constitution must be the “Human Rights” and then We can add new limitations to what we can do.Excess constitutionalism creates the danger of a State ruled by judges. Insufficient constitutionalism, on the other hand, creates the threat of tyranny of the majority, where minorities and human rights are disregarded
Well, this is something unstoppable. No matter how hard the efforts are against this Sharing of the Power, It’s more probably that the civilization disappear than civilization progressing with the power concentrated and polarized. As long as the Internet makes it easier the Sharing of Information everywhere and every time, people will demand to intervene in social issues and the ones in power will be obliged to satisfy those demands as it’s natural.
I am very respectful with the actual system based on Breton Woods in the socio-economical aspect and based on oil in the energetic aspect. Never civilization knew a fastest development in the modern history and never the humanity has enjoyed better conditions of life. The awakening of the TV, the Radio, the Internet and the possibility of being able to transmit these ideas globally has been possible only due to the level of technology that the current system has made possible.
I listen with a lot of sadness to all those who just want to be outside the system and live in bubbles, because we are all responsible for the system, for our neighbors. That position is egoist “I am OK and I don’t care about what happen with others” I think this is not a matter of being outside the system but of improving the system, by making it more flexible, with sustainable sources of energy, with different ways of living, with markets without money, with extreme use of technologies, but being aware of the virtues of the current system and respecting it thanking the prosperity that gave to us. I agree it’s time to change but time to change wisely, with respect and thinking every step of the way.
A few days ago a book has been published by one of the most known journalists in Spain and director of the main newspaper in Spain. In that book he defend the parliamentary democratic system existing in Spain against the shared democracy system the world is tending to adopt. Even he was backed by the two main political parties in Spain, even the President of Madrid, a Lady I consider extremely competent in the exercise of power backed the book. I openly say they’re all wrong. Maybe they are so used to be in the exercise of power that they cannot conceive a new system in which they’ll no longer have the power, but just will be the representatives to work to manage the country but just under the supervision of the citizens in a continuous way. They not conceive a system in which we will no longer say “I want to be in the power to see what the last government” because everything made by the last government will be transparent and accessible by a single Click in a Browser.
I refuse to think that all those politicians that are so blind to say that there’s no alternative to parliamentary democracy are moved by the thirst o power, I want to believe that it’s because they’re afraid that people won’t be able to manage.
But let’s see the Swiss experiment, let’s think about the idea of “killing the babies”… Sharing is the natural way of Governing, the Swiss 150 years experiment shows that Sharing the Power is the best way of Governing with good results and the Technology now permits what until now has been just utopia.
I want to remark another issue. Imagine a tax that has been decided between all and We all have seen the pros and cons of that tax before enforcing it. Do you think that there’ll be a lot of people wanting to not pay that tax? Of course not.
Anyway Let’s Be careful as Chaos forces always try to destroy order forces, disorder is the natural way and only through work and discipline we can establish order and control within the chaos to be able to thrive through the Darwinian order of Mother Nature.
I mean that this form of Shared Power is possible while there are no bad weeds among the people that try to keep information and control over others, as it usually happens. Then the first thing to apply changes that share the power is to legislate the use of the power taking out the bad weeds as soon as they appear as the Little Prince took out the little baobabs as soon as they appeared and before they’d grow big.
And as I said let’s keep in mind that the sharing of power is a sharing of responsibility. The good news is that under this shared system of power the responsible people will be more benefited which will stimulate the good work an action. Why? Because people know the little micro-economy that surround them and with the expertise they will have to fight to implement ideas that the Whole (the macroeconomics) understand as important and then they’ll be benefited by benefiting the Whole. Do I explain myself? I hope you understand the idea.
Keep the mind open and remember when you’re in the exercise of power that We must respect mother nature as We live and breathe in it. Sustainability is and must be the first priority even in the politics. This article could have been called Sustainable Democracy, but I think that the idea of killing the babies reflects better the deep sense of the article than big and too complex words as sustainability.