Wednesday, 29 May 2013

Direct Representative Democracy

Recently I have been considering alternative approaches to democracy, inspired in some part by Dr. Xavier Marquez's Rawlsian elections. One idea that I have often been attracted to is the idea of direct representation: that we do not merely vote for our leaders, our preferences essentially in competition with those of our neighbours, but that instead we designate a single individual to represent us in government.

The current system of regional representation (whether FPP or MMP) can be traced back to post-feudal England, in which the vast majority of individuals lived in smaller close-knit communities from which they would rarely stray. Any issues impacting individuals within the community could be dealt with as community issues, and so it made sense to have the entire community and its interests represented by one individual. The identity of that individual could be decided by vote of the community: those who preferred candidate B over candidate A could at least be assured in the event of A's victory in the polls that A would fairly represent the interests of that community.

However when communities become less concrete and politics becomes larger in scale then this model runs into issues. Do we really believe that Annette King, for example, is capable of representing all members of her constituency from Kilbirnie to Seatoun Heights? And this while simultaneously representing the political party of which she is a member?

I would like to suggest an alternate model. Rather than voting in secrecy to determine one individual representative of the majority of the community, I would like a system of direct representation. Citizens should nominate individual candidates to represent their personal interests, a delegation of their political involvement as it were. Candidates, once they represent a certain threshold of citizens, would become a Member of Parliament and control a portion of the vote equivalent to the percentage of the population they represent. MPs would be aware of all those that they represent and would feel obliged to represent all of their interests. If they fail to do so then those citizens would withdraw their nomination of that candidate.

There are some obvious issues with this model. Advocates of the secret ballot will point out that pressure may be applied to individuals to nominate one candidate or another against their best interests. There is also the possibility (given that MPs representing larger proportions of the population control more votes) that single MPs or small groups could dominate politics excessively, something that could perhaps be curbed by imposing upper limits on portion of the vote controlled. Regardless, this model provides an interesting alternative to consider to our current system of democracy.

No comments:

Post a Comment