4 June 2007

Localism

An issue closely related to transparency is that of democratic participation. It has often been argued that voters need to become more involved in deciding issues which matter to them. This philosophy is behind the recent trend for more consultations.

There is also a movement to make democracy more devolved, and allow for more voting about local issues at a local level, which is currently receiving exposure in the Daily Telegraph. As with transparency, however, is it necessarily helpful to the effectiveness of democracy to have more participation? Or is there a risk that, by trying to make people be more involved, the effect is to favour the interests of more politically-minded voters?

This comment from US citizen Ron Craig may give food for thought:

"The idea of public referenda doesn’t actually work in practice. Take the experience here in California. With each and every election we are bombarded with countless ‘propositions’ to vote on. What on the face of it looks like the ultimate democratic action ends up being taken over by vested interests and their apologists, who fill the airwaves with, dare I say it, lies to support their ‘for’ and ‘against’ cases. The end result is that the average voter probably makes their decision based on which commercials they watch."

Other articles
Ben Fenton on freedom of information
Adam Smith Institute on direct democracy
Zac Goldsmith on local referenda
Tim Worstall on Zac Goldsmith
Antony Jay on localisation
Bruno Kaufmann on direct democracy in Switzerland
Stumbling & Mumbling on demand-revealing referenda

5 comments:

John said...

Hi, Im from Melbourne Australia.
Please check out these related references on the politics & culture of localism and cooperative community.
1. www.dabase.org/coopcomm.htm
2. www.dabase.org/radicpol.htm
3. www.coteda.com

Heraklites said...

Thank you for those links. I take it you are in favour of localism.

I wonder whether, even if everyone behaved ideally in the way Coteda advocates, it would be possible to run a country in any more devolved a way than is done at present.

james higham said...

...As with transparency, however, is it necessarily helpful to the effectiveness of democracy to have more participation? Or is there a risk that, by trying to make people be more involved, the effect is to favour the interests of more politically-minded voters?...

I agree with the sentiment that greater participarion is not necessarily the way to go. It's the old story - we want the right to do something, even if we don't utilize it.

The big thing is to ensure that our elected representatives don't get above themselves and start assuming they are the elite and we the sheep. Russia and some American states have a recall system/

I feel this is admirable.

Heraklites said...

Ah yes, recall. Not used much, though a quick look at Wikipedia reminds me that Schwarzenegger became Governor of California as a result of a recall election.

But I wonder whether this type of facility likewise carries the risk that it increases the potential for pointless agitation rather than enhancing democratic representativeness.

When people demand more powers to investigate, prosecute, impeach etc. their leaders, does this always reflect a desire for more sensible leadership, or perhaps sometimes just the plain desire to make life difficult for them?

james higham said...

Clearly it would have to operate on referenda type percentages to get it off the ground and a series of filters but having the power in reserve would be handy.