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Market democracy –  Why our Democracy Needs to Evolve

Market democracy – Why our Democracy Needs to Evolve

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Not too long ago I remember being confronted with an idea which at the time was presented as a joke. A friend asked me to contemplate a Tinder-like platform for political policies in which citizens would approve policies by choosing them on their phone; a future where the entire democratic process was gutted and handed straight to the people through a convenient pocket-sized platform. We laughed about it then, but a day later, after having moved on from the conversation, I returned to this seemingly absurd idea with a more serious approach, wondering why I found this seemingly silly concept so compelling. Putting to one side the glaring technical issues (such as keeping this technology secure, figuring out who would propose bills and how to deal with more local issues that could not be condensed into the form of a bill) I took a more theoretical approach- if we could overcome these obstacles, why shouldn’t we implement such a system? What made me instantly reject such a fundamental change to the modus operandi of modern democracy? The immediacy of my negative reaction could only be explained by the predetermined idea I had of democracy – one enacted through elected representatives within a recognised, legitimate state.

What if we likened democracy to the market? The radical changes that our handling of the global economy underwent between the seventeenth and twentieth centuries are testaments to the fact that social preconceptions can be altered fundamentally. Today, we know that the best way of providing lasting growth, constant innovation and the opportunity of a good income for all is by letting the invisible hand of the market loose, a symbolic way of saying that it is the great mass of the people, creators and consumers alike, who forge the best path. In the same spirit, we must recognise that the nation’s body politic, our democracy’s “invisible hand”, should equally be let loose. Now, what does all this mean? It means that when we seek to reform the democratic process, we should veer onto an entirely new track. Our focus should no longer be about making the process as it is more transparent or ironing out its wrinkles; that would be like telling Gorbachev just to ‘reform’ the Soviet system of central planning for the production of goods. Instead, it should be about giving control directly to the people. They know what decisions are right for them and what course of action is best for the country. After all, the people are the country. The legitimacy of the government is founded on its people!

Now, this is where I fell back to earth. I had been reasoning on some sort of Elysian plain, where logistics and disinterest were no match for my idealism. I soon realised my error: people make the right decision when they change something they want to change, something they care about. If I walked up to a stranger and asked if we should move into a Utopian technology-driven direct democracy I would be ignored, but if I asked whether we should make government more efficient, I would have instant support. We should start small, with transparency and clarity. These must be the main aims of government reform, because forcing government to be candid empowers those who are apathetic towards democracy. We should also try out digital gimmicks and embrace new technologies, because the best way of moving a new generation to be active in a democratic system is by giving them the tools to make it easier and more fun. Involve the people more in democracy, because when we understand the ramifications of our choices we not only improve society, but become better people ourselves. Encourage debate and participation on a local level, because if the scale of the population is an issue, we should start where everyone can relate to the issues and where meaningful debate is achievable.

The fact is: the great mass of the people is always right. For centuries, whenever people have been involved in choosing their own future, it is they who made the right call. Those societies where citizens are most frequently involved in the democratic process are those with the least toxic debates; the countries with the most transparent systems of government are the least politically apathetic. We should move towards a market democracy, where the people shouldn’t have to wait until a general election to have a voice.

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Sir Richard Ottaway discusses Brexit, the future of the Conservative Party, and his time as a whip

Sir Richard Ottaway discusses Brexit, the future of the Conservative Party, and his time as a whip