Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Have Computer, Will Vote

I wrote this piece a year ago, but it's definitely still timely - we REALLY need an improvement in our system of democratic governance.

“Democracy is the worst form of government, except all those other forms that have been tried from time to time.”
— Winston Churchill, 1947

Democracy does indeed have its drawbacks and we can identify two broad themes: Failures as a result of the influence of powerful and moneyed interests on elected officials and failures as a result of the fear that choices by elected officials will not be easily explained to an electorate that has little time or attention for nuance. The cure for democracy’s failings, however, is not less democracy, but more direct democracy, empowering individuals through increased knowledge and new technology.

Public financing of all political competitions would go a long way toward fixing the first problem. Publicly financed candidates receive money from a common fund after passing muster as legitimate candidates. For example, candidates in some jurisdictions that have publicly financed elections must collect a required number of signatures or a required number of very small donations. Public financing relieves candidates of the pressure to collect money from the usual sources, such as wealthy individuals, corporations or unions, freeing them from implicit or explicit “strings” that come with such contributions.

Public financing is making slow progress in the United States, with states like Arizona and Maine ahead of the curve. The experience of these states has been very positive and the public financing movement is catching on elsewhere.

Surprisingly, California is far behind the curve, only recently passing into law a very limited public finance pilot program that will kick in by 2014, if it is approved by voters in a ballot initiative in 2010. We can do far better.

Read the rest at Noozhawk.

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