How Does Democracy Grow?

Friday 23 May 2008
John S Veitch
Director, Open Future Limited
Christchurch, New Zealand
In response to the e-democracy thread Krzystof Ziarko wrote:

Hello,
this is a good idea. I'm sorry that there is not such group in Poland. But... I'd like to have answer to this question: could we have better system than a democracy.

Someone (I think Churchill) said that democracy is the worst system we have but we haven't anything else. One professor from France (I don't remember the name) said that democracy means we always choose the people we don't like because their opponents are worse. He said that he always must vote on people who aren't good in his opinion.

Come to Poland or another country which was under Soviet Union occupation. You will see all the mistakes of democracy. Maybe democracy must have time to grow or maybe we must wait for political Einstein or another Montesquieu...
0
finds find this discussion interesting
Friday 23 May 2008
John S Veitch
Director, Open Future Limited
Christchurch, New Zealand
Krzystof Ziarko wrote:
"Come to Poland or another country which was under Soviet Union occupation. You will see all the mistakes of democracy. Maybe democracy must have time to grow or maybe we must wait for political Einstein or another Montesquieu..."

You don't need to go to Poland. You can see the mistakes of democracy in the USA, the UK, and here in New Zealand too.

That doesn't make democracy a bad thing. Mostly it means that the form of democracy being practised isn't very well implemented.

If we go back to feudal times, 400 years ago in the UK, but in many places around the world, we are talking about today, the power to rule is held by a king, or a religious leader, or a military general. (Sometimes this person is called a President, and is "elected", but the election is rigged, and real power resides with some small group of people, usually landowners or the warlords.)

If we take the history of the UK, which I know best, the King controlled land rights, and the government, and chose the people who administered the law.

The land owners fought the king for more and more control of the law, the development of a parliament, a justice system, and the separation of the the church from the state. Over time the king lost most of his power to the parliament. In many parts of the world today that battle is still being fought.

The next battle was for real voting power. In the UK there were "rotten boroughs" where an MP could buy a seat in the house. So the electoral law needed to be rewritten. Electorates needed to be fairly distributed. Then of course the demand for "one vote for every MAN". Note that women could not vote unless they owned property. Later the vote for women was hotly contested. In the UK that was just 100 years ago. In some parts of Africa, the pacific and perhaps in some Muslim countries the voting power of women is contentious today.

Here in New Zealand we have recently had a change toward proportional representation in our voting system. That's had the effect of breaking the TWO PARTY monopoly on power, that's so common in countries that are supposedly "democratic". The USA and the UK are like that. In fact real power is held by business interests, and BOTH the main parties are controlled by the need to fund the party organisation with donated money.

So Krzystof, there's a long journey for any society to take from dictatorship to one party rule, to some sort of two party system with voting, to having a genuine multi-party system with fair electoral rules, to giving everyone a vote that means something.

In new Zealand we've tried to do that. Mostly, we've been successful, but not entirely so. We do have several parties in the parliament, and everyone gets TWO votes. The electoral law here in NOT controlled by the political parties directly, so they can't "steal an election" by cheating in the creation of electorates, "fixing" the voting roll, or in counting the votes.

I'd say that in NZ, democracy works very well.
Wednesday 28 May 2008
John James O'Brien
Partner & Director, IRM Strategies
Hong Kong, Honduras
On the other hand, Poland has a breathtaking vision in relation to the development of intellectual capital among its people. There are extremes everywhere, it seems (for example, repression of certain groups juxtaposed against celebration of people in general) but I have been truly impressed with teh scope, mltigenerational vision and efforts to design imlementation of support for developing the capacity of Poland as a nation through its people.

John, do you know whether there are any IC intitiatives at the government level in NZ? I have attended two of the last three IC conferences for Communities and have not seen a NZ rep, to my knowledge. It's a niche interest globally, perhaps, but I think an important one for our time and not just because we work in this area ;-)

To me, governmental structures and the naming of systems aside, a critical issue is our capacity to "see" reality that is made up of intangibles. Is the potential of a nation merely the sum of its identifiable, tangible, consumables and business transactions that extract, sell and consume? This is what many of our measuring systems would have us believe. Surely potential is more than backward looking accounting...it is also about seeing beyond past transactions in relation to tangibles to the intangible: relationships, human capacity, etc.

Governments that value the capacity of people impress me. New Zealand seems to be one, but I am not aware of specifics. Canada, too. Now Poland (though ignorance and repression of the glb community is a stiking false note). Certain countries, and more locally cities, have caught on and are developing knowledge initiatives. Manchester is an example, Monterrey, Mexico. Others?

And back to the question...isn't a capable, informed population key to democracy? The USA is touted as an example...but by what criteria is that country a democracy today? Can a democratic system become something else, despite its democratic structural elements?
Thursday 29 May 2008
John S Veitch
Director, Open Future Limited
Christchurch, New Zealand
Hello John

Welcome to the discussion.

New Zealand followed Canada with a Digital Strategy about 8 years ago, but sadly when their initial plans didn't quite work out they went a bit cold on the idea.

Recently there has been action in terms of a strategy to improve broadband. Money is committed. Then they asked the Internet and business community to make submissions on the elements of the proposal that need to be funded for the best results. That's actually a great initiative. "We don't know how to do this, but together we can do better" is the attitude.

Today they announced "the signing of the establishment rules for the Digital Development Council, which will in turn set up the Digital Development Forum".

The DDC will be the usual committee of ten people appointed by government, but representing special interest groups which have a history of Internet activity. That committee will establish a Public Forum where the work being proposed will be discussed.

So there are some good intentions. Sadly the usual suspects will try to hijack the process for their own benefit. The Forum will be a success if that effort fails.
John
Saturday 31 May 2008
John S Veitch
Director, Open Future Limited
Christchurch, New Zealand
On the topic on making democracies grow, Economist Paul Collier speaks well on TED.

"4 Ways to Impove the Lives of the Bottom Billion".
http://www.ted.com/talks/view/id/270