What are we waiting for?
The internet has already provided us with tools that allow citizens to participate in direct democracy. This has been the case for years, and yet here we are, still waiting for meaningful change. The politicians, as in other instances, are refusing to let go of the past, and are thus simply holding back on innovation.
By using the web and open source software, we open up the decision making process, and allow people to participate directly by voting on issues, generating new solutions and ideas, and discussing new ways to solve our problems.
Listening to people
More often than not, one cannot help but feel as though politicians simply aren’t listening. Depending on where you are living in the world, it often seems as though politicians are operating according to their own agenda, one that does not align with the needs of the general citizenry. Again and again, it often feels as though many politicians are standing in the way of progress by sitting on information and data and not sharing it, and by seemingly refusing to listen to new ideas, simply because those ideas do not fit with not their own. It also feels, more often than not, that many politicians are more concerned with being reelected than on solving any pressing, substantive issues.
It seems to me that what we need is a system that accepts new ideas and solutions — one that ensures that voices are actually being heard, and that allows people to work together to come up with new solutions. We can use software to create the tools we need to make this happen.
Do we even need politicians any more? With the disrupting effect of the internet, many sure things in our lives are coming to an end. People are turning off their TVs and watching content on laptops and iPads, and selecting what they want to watch, when they want to watch it. We are throwing way our books made of paper and reading instead with the click of the mouse. There is nothing that says that the same disrupting force does not also apply to politics and government. Politicians are not nearly as important as they would like us to think they are. If they are standing in the way of progress, then perhaps it’s time to change the way we approach politics, too.
Writing a new constitution in total unity
When Iceland decided to start working on a new constitution, the country was lucky enough to do so without any involvement of politicians. 25 people were elected in a national referendum to work together in a special constitutional congress. For 70 years, the political class in Iceland, committee after committee had failed to rewrite our constitution. But in 2011, in the span of a few months, this special congress wrote a new constitution and agreed on every section anonymously, 25 votes against zero. The people who did this showed us that working together as a people, we can reach joint solutions on complicated issues like the ones contained in a national constitution, and at the end all agree on the results. Amazing, right?
Its should also be noted that this special congress used social media and its web site extensively to open up a way to listen to and engage the citizens of Iceland. Social media allowed people to send the constitutional congress their own ideas. The story does not end here. As this is being written, the government majority has been fighting the opposition (the country’s conservatives) to put the new constitution up for a nation referendum that hopefully will be held later this year. The conservatives, unsurprisingly, are opposing the new constitution, even one drafted by a constitutional congress consisting of representatives from all walks of life (not simply politicians), and are doing everything within their power to thwart it from taking effect.
Letting go of the old
Our system of governing — the system used in most of the world — is being disrupted by technology. But this doesn’t have to be a negative thing. If we can cut out the middle man, the politicians who are standing in our way, we can implement new online systems to govern ourselves with little or no help from special interest groups, or the outdated political classes who have captured our governments and held progress hostage.
What are we waiting for?