Thursday, May 07, 2015

Polling day

Winston Churchill famously said that democracy was "the worst form of government, except all the others which have been tried". Did he wonder if it could be improved?

This morning the BBC Radio4 Today programme brought a breath of fresh air. The were no politicians transparently evading the questions of journalists and repeating ad infinitum their manifesto mantras and pouring scorn and blame on their opponents when not exactly impugning theirpatriotism. Neither of the main party leaders was heard denying reality, ignoring the opinion polls and the wisdom of Canute reminding of the inexorable tides, maintaining that an overall majority in the House of Commons was their only goal.    

I fear the respite from 'politics as usual' will be short lived. But I do take courage from the fact that there is more and more questioning of the system of parliamentary democracy as practiced in the United Kingdom.

"...most democracies lack the ability for individuals to express intensity of preference - for example, how much gun ownership matters to gun owners, or the value of Scottish independence or a nuclear deterrent. Just as communism rationed to everyone equally the housing, food and cars they were ‘supposed’ to have, today’s democracies say everyone gets rationed exactly one vote on each issue - with varying intensities of preference factored out."

In the article in The Spectator introduces the concept of Quadratic Voting.

"This approach highlights not only frequency of preferences but also intensity of preferences, by forcing individuals to decide how they will divide their influence across issues, while penalising the single-issue fanatic’s fussiness of putting all one’s weight on a single issue. It encourages individuals to distribute their points in precise proportion to how much each issue matters to them."

I am certain that this is only one of the alternative systems which will demand the most urgent attention in the aftermath of today's voting. 

"Soon, no doubt, there will be pressure to vote online, or by mobile phone or via your Xbox. You will be able to ‘share’ your vote soon after making it, or pose for a selfie with your ballot. The problem with this is that we will have done what humans often do, which is to use technology to make things easier while missing an opportunity to make them significantly better."

Better... is sorely needed.

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