We live in a fast era: technology change fast, we rarely have the time to analyze the same input twice, we multitask, we are addicted to novelty and have a idiosyncrasy for anything old.
Our century is arguably faster than any previous one, and our democracies are inherently slow hardcoded from the constitution up to follow the same paradigm that generated them decades or centuries ago.
Our democracy should, and can be faster.
How to go about it?
There are a number of possibilities out there, what is important is that we should adopt an approach more prone to change, even while remaining aware of the high risks of doing so.
The approach was built in the DNA of facebook for example, with their motto “move fast, break things”, and that approach had a scary impact in many countries. Fake news explosion, influence on the 2016 US presidential election, humanitarian crisis in Myanmar are only a few of the problems that observers have somehow linked to facebook and their policies.
That approach is not unique to facebook, for fairness. Their motto is actually quite resounding of a popular catchphrase within the IT world: it is easier to ask for forgiveness than ask for permission.
I am not trying to downplay the risks. However I do believe this is a race for survival, and democracy is a better option than totalitarianism.
Amongst the options available on the table to increase the efficiency of democracy, there are essentially 3 aspects that caught my attention:
- more people can do the same amount of work faster
- less people can take executive decisions faster
- removing hindrances to change makes things happen faster
The first bit relates well with the legislative power, whose job is to create and update laws. However we know that having more people does nothing but increasing the amount of time spent in debates. The idea of splitting the parliament into areas of expertise -similar to what happens to governments and ministers- would allow to process multiple issues in parallel. Each topical parliament would be smaller, more agile, and populated by elected experts in their specific area.
The second point relates well with government, where more centralized power into fewer hands can help speeding up things.
Similarly, electoral methods can be of help, majoritarian being preferred for more agility, proportional preferred for better representativeness.
Naturally the risk already discussed of a more empowered prime minister or president, is that of an authoritarian drift.
In the third part, I was hinting at how lobbies are normally interested in maintaining a privilege, and maintaining something doesn’t go well with the effort to make things happen faster: change is not about maintaining, it is about… well… changing!
Finally… there’s something a whole lot more radical that can and in my opinion eventually will be applied to our democracy, and it is departing to some degree from representative democracy all together, and shifting at least in part towards direct democracy. This in many ways can be compatible with all of the 3 bullet points above, as I don’t believe we will end up completely abandoning the representative principles, but rather follow an hybrid approach to democracy. I am writing a whole new post on hybrid democracy, so stay tuned!!