Geyer’s Internet Based System For Direct Democracy

Proposal/Draft resolution plus readers’ comments July 3rd 2011

I&Rgb wrote:

Information from
I&R ~ GB Citizens’ Initiative and Referendum
Campaign for direct democracy in Britain
http://www.iniref.org/

concerning a:

PROPOSAL TO ELECTORAL REFORM SOCIETY (UK)

by David von Geyer

Establishing An Internet Based System For Direct Democracy

Annual General Meeting of The Electoral Reform Society
Draft Resolution Presented by David von Geyer, Vote For Yourself campaign
THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY,
HAVING SEEN:
The parlous state of the coalition government;
With the LibDem elements often supporting unpopular Tory policies that have no mandate;
With no legitimacy to effect much-needed social and economic reforms;
RECALLING:
That the electoral roll is expensive and difficult to maintain;
That too many citizens have lost trust in the established political parties;
CONSIDERING:
That the Internet is an effective and inexpensive communication system that would enable everybody to participate directly in forming, and then voting for, effective policies to rebalance society and the economy;
That there is no logic in persisting with old-fashioned and outdated electoral systems when Internet technology exists to enable direct democracy,
RESOLVES:
1.    To urge the existing government to set up an Internet based system for direct democracy.
2.    To support the apolitical Indivote campaign that aims to provide the British public with 650 independent candidates at the next election committed to setting up an Internet based system.
3.    To support the apolitical Vote For Yourself campaign that is making the case for setting up an Internet based debating and voting system.
4.    To support the apolitical Citizens’ Initiative and Referendum Campaign for direct democracy in Britain that is making the case for direct democracy.

——————————

I&R ~ GB intends to endorse D von Geyer’s proposal to ERS, to be presented in September 2011.

Any comments please to info@iniref.org

=====================
Terry replied:

When will the penny drop that democracy is not an absolute right that extends to the whimsical notion that a perfect society comes a step nearer wnen the agregation of individual votes regulates our daily lives?

Democracy is a principle worth struggling for but not an absolute condition that will free us from the need to distribute responsibility in a free society.

It is part of mature behaviour to accept the disappointment that flows from direct or delegated responsibility.

The notion that electronic voting will free us from the chains of partisan or adverserial  politics is about as sensible as the Mad Hatters tea party.

Here is an adverserial comment which is directed directly at your notion of Direct Democracy. Like it or not the UK is slipping down the league table of global influence. This is not because our voting system is unhinged. It is because, like you, many of leading politicians believe that the true purpose of socety is to engineer equality. Would that the levers of well being be so simply addressed.

There have been times when the genuine protection of democratic values has been so under threat that extreme measures have been necessary.

Perhaps it is getting near the time that we did something about your ‘candy floss’ mentality which is distractive from the fact that we have lost the competitive edge that helped give us the chimera of success.

Thank goodness that we have an existing democratic system which can throw people together to exercise delegated responsibility in full recognition of differences in values.

The arguments that you find so distressing are a genuine sign that all is not lost for a mature and progressive country.

Terry … B Sc (Econ) ….
========================

Mark replied:

Response to proposal by David von Geyer
1. Internet based System for Direct Democracy
Access to the internet is a problem for many people, an undocumented number of people simply have no internet connection because of various financial and technology and infrastructure issues (BT being still in the dark ages) Immediately, a large section of the public would be automatically disenfranchised and excluded from the process.

There is no reliable or credible system of two way communication in existence other than through agencies authorised by Government like, Inland Revenue, Customs & Excise, National Health Service, Work & Pensions, etc

The databases upon which these well established agencies depend are up to date and the way communication currently adheres by law to a strict calendar, delivering automated postal targets, makes for an ideal area for exploration by Direct Democracy advocates

For example:
Each year every citizen is required by law to fill in a Self Assessment Form which is a public service to ensure everyone makes the right contribution towards the upkeep of the State. With such a system already in place it would not require Einstein to merge the system of tax collection with a sytem of voting that would not interfere with the flow of tax income.
Add to the SA a checklist on how you want your tax distributed across the various departments Health, Education, Social Care, Military, Transport etc the Government could gauge a consensus view on priorities and perhaps instruct Parliament to arrange a public debate on the consensus followed by a compulsory vote at the end of it.
Such an addition would mean adding an extra module to the database serving the internal secure networks, asssuming it has been designed to be easily adapted, that could be integrated with a site like data.gov.uk giving real time information in graphic or numeral form ready for broadcasting by the BBC as an appendage to the daily news broadcast

In this way both Government and the Public at large would be locked into a consciousness of a dialogue that can only be ignored at the Government’s peril.

Such a system would need to be ratified by law and entered into Statute with Royal Consent – anyhting short of this would be a complete waste of time and money.

====================

Jim replied:

This overlooks the fact that very many people do not have access to
the internet, and many of them would not know how to use such a
system. Some simply do not want it while many others cannot afford it
(and that number wil increase significantly as the government’s cuts
to welfare bite harder). All such people would be disenfranchised by
any internet-only system.

Jim ……

======================
Mark E. replied:

can you clarify for me what you mean by direct democracy?

======================

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3 Responses to “Geyer’s Internet Based System For Direct Democracy”

  1. David von Geyer Says:

    Hi chaps

    I can assure you that I have debated these same arguments (and many others too) several times with a variety of sensible people. I agree that direct democracy via the Internet is not a panacea for all our ills. However, if I take each point and do my best to answer it perhaps I can persuade you that there is still some merit in pursuing this method of enabling direct democracy.

    Talking about pennies dropping, after many years of increasing apathy, the plight many people are experiencing has resulted in an increased awareness. I do not expect people who have lived in a bubble to suddenly gain the 35 years of political education that I have received (35 years of almost constant disappointment that has been character-building). However, I am not telling people what to think, merely suggesting that anyone who feels that their views are not represented by established political parties, but who still feels that their experience would be of value when striving for consensus, should have a means to express it.

    Currently there are 6.8 million voters who found the LibDems manifesto most appealing. We all know what happened, the LibDems didn’t see that vote reflected in the number of seats that a PR electoral system would have delivered. Regardless of the merits of their decision to support the Conservatives to deliver a diffferent manifesto, which was supported by 10.7 million voters, their opposition to certain elements of these policies has resulted in a stalled government.

    The public no longer trust the main parties sufficiently for any of them to ever receive enough support to form a government with an overall majority. If this means that we continue with coalitions, or weak governments, then that inertia is not in the national interest.

    From a purely practical viewpoint, the cost of collecting votes using the current paper-based method at polling stations is insensible when alternative technology exists. I have compared this in the past with moving from steam to electricity.

    I agree that there are many people in society who do not have internet access, might not find it affordable if they wanted it and many would not know what to do with it if they had it.

    I have worked in most areas of the IT industry for about 15 years and worked in Hong Kong in 95-96 which then had far better IT infrastructure than the UK has today. The fact that UK plc does not have the same IT infrastructure as several other countries actually puts us at a competitive disadvantage therefore it would be desirable to increase investment in this area.

    I do not envisage V4Y occurring overnight. My approach is to work with organisations that have objectives that are a good fit for V4Y. To that end, I also have a relationship with http://www.indivote.co.uk who want to stand 650 independent candidates at the next election. I would prefer it if the candidates were put forward by people in their communities rather than wannabes, no matter how well-intentioned, who volunteer their services, but I am effectively outsourcing this aspect of my campaign and I do not think that it will matter too much at the next election who the candidate is provided that they are educated and know the area well.

    It’s a tad irritating to find that a candidate from one of the main parties has been parachuted into your constituency, with no real understanding of the traditions and values of a specific community. Bearing in mind that there are fewer safe constituencies, when an MP is elected with a low percentage of the votes and is supposedly meant to represent everyone in that constituency, it does help when you know from personal experience which schools are considered good, the realities of their catchment areas, the history of accident areas, where a bypass or road improvement is most urgently required, which employers pay the best wages etc. This relevant knowledge cannot be assimilated when most of your time is spent at Westminster.

    So, what I have covered so far in this reply is that coalition government is weak government, there are more people feeling unrepresented by mainstream parties therefore it is a good time to consider a government of independents with local knowledge.

    If this government becomes a reality, the manifesto itself could be decided by members of society using something like http://www.jolitics.com while debates about how best to achieve consensus took place alongside other debates on key policy areas. My own personal view is that careerist politicians do not tackle areas that are considered vote-losers – legalising/regulating drugs is a classic. To an extent this means that each change of government results in the furniture being moved around to give the illusion of change, when nothing new has been added.

    I suppose I ought to explain some of my personal views on the main issues, but as I stated before, I am keeping V4Y apolitical.

    When an idealistic person joins the police force, receives their training and then finds that some of his colleagues are sexist, racist, aggressive and/or corrupt, disillusion soon sets in.

    That often happens to new MPs. They find that they are the new boy or girl at school, that their great ideas, even if they made it as far as an Early Day Motion, may never become law and the beastly prefects (ie Whips) just want to ensure that you’re following the rules of your House. The policies themselves are decided by small groups of ideologically sound party members and driven through by the front bench. This encourages careerism – the slow climb up the ladder to eventually have some real influence means constant compromise, the dilution of idealism and great ideas from original thinkers become rare.

    My favourite quote is: We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them. – Albert Einstein

    While it may seem that this is inevitable, or that it will always be a bit like this, I do not think it is at all beneficial for the nation to have power concentrated in such small groups. An example, if the public could use V4Y tomorrow, I think that the case for maintaining (or even lowering) the retirement age would find support. The money to start paying for these pensions earlier would be diverted from those sums currently being squandered on supporting young people on the dole. As these youngsters got a start in life, many thousands of them could be trained to install solar PV on every suitable roof and these panels could be manufactured in modern factories using the budget allocated for new nuclear power stations, thus negating the need for them.

    Not only would these 2 measures help to rebalance society and boost the economy, they would also help the UK to meet its sustainability targets and avoid the potentially dangerous manipulation of radioactive material.

    I understand that to start with many people would have no interest in taking part in these types of debate, but if several million people argued about such issues, helped form a policy with wide consensus and the bureaucracy enabled it, that would be a lot better than the current situation where an unpopular government is attempting to ram policies down the throats of the majority who never voted for them.

    The trouble with too many politcians is that they have very little real-life experience. They do attempt to gain input from experts, but these are chosen somewhat randomly. With a new government of independents, V4Y would obviously be debated as to what it should be and how best it should be administered, but it would also be a perfect opportunity for lobbyists, specials interest groups, industrial associations, unions and ordinary people to make their input. And Iniref.

    I am not suggesting that we should introduce X Factor style voting, but it’s worth pointing out how popular these awful contrived-reality programmes are – in fact I think the public does like voting, but not when it comes to politics because it doesn’t interest them. I think their interest would increase and, if the current voting system for these programmes was not 100% revenue-earning telephony based, but was also Internet and/or Teletext based, the pennies would keep dropping as the public realised how much easier it would be to vote for their councillor or MP – or a referendum on AV etc.

    The question of Internet security is one that has been raised many times. I apologise for having immense expertise in this area, but the fact is that most of the IT systems, designed by committee, that have been introduced by government have been total disasters. I’ll probably work up a definitive list at some juncture, but if you are not an IT person, you should not be involved in deciding how best to deliver the platform itself.

    When discussing technology with decision makers over the years, I have pointed out that when you switch the kettle on in the morning and put some bread in the toaster, all you want is for it to work. You do not want to know where the electricity is coming from, how the voltage and current are managed and whether some electrons have been produced from renewable sources.

    However, I can see that I need to address this, but I’m not suggesting that I ought to be involved in deciding how it’s done. I would point out that the current voting system is not without its problems, postal fraud being a particularly weak area, but I have always thought that using the National Insurance number for a log-in, perhaps with a postcode and then one’s preferred individual PIN would suffice. If an individual found that someone had voted for them already, it would be very simple to annul that fraudulent vote and reset the log-in info. It would also be sensible to have external monitors, an electronic version of exit polls, to make interference more pointless and to work as an additional safeguard.

    The idea that someone or a group would hack into the system, reintroduce hanging, get us out of Europe and ban gay sex without anyone spotting it happening is amusing. Seriously, I do know of people who have been victims of identity theft, I’m quite lucky in that respect as I am the only person on the planet with my name, but unless an organisation (recently Sony) has been criminally negligent, one would have to be personally gullible to divulge one’s information.

    In fact, I also have some thoughts on how best to clean up the Internet and put spammers and scammers out of business, if not in jail too, but that’s not specifically relevant to this subject.

    I can see why bolting this on to an existing system would be attractive, but it’s best to keep this as a standalone platform. Each NI number is unique, the postcode system is well-established and publically available so it would be easy for someone I worked with to know my NI number and address, but even if they somehow found out my PIN and voted on my behalf, as explained above, it would be futile as, once discovered, the PIN could be reset and the vote(s) discarded.

    Surely we should be finding new ways to encourage our fellow citizens to take some interest in how their lives are managed? I’m not suggesting that everyone’s opinion is valuable on everything, I personally know a lot about football for example and while someone who had never played it, and/or didn’t like it, would be perfectly entitled to comment on some aspect of the game, I wouldn’t be too swayed by their views – although I’m sure I could agree with them that the higher echelons of the game are populated by some unpleasant people.

    So, I trust that this response has helped to alleviate some of your concerns. My ultimate objective is to see V4Y systems adopted in every country. I have gadded about the planet sufficiently to understand that we all have far more in common with each other and that our differences should be celebrated rather than being used by cynical politicians to stay in power through divide and rule and other methods to marginalise minorities.

    Capitalism as a system does not appear to be working for most of the planet and the problems of the poorer countries make ours pale into insignificance. £8 – 12 billion of foreign aid, even if some of it was not siphoned off by corrupt leaders, is a band-aid at best. If we truly want to help educate people so that they can address some of their most pressing problems, for example, so that they can control their populations without going down the Chinese route, we need to free them from undemocratic regimes.

    To move to a V4Y system would send a signal to the rest of the world that many would find liberating. If we are going to introduce a more equitable economic and trading system, it will require the support of most nations. Supposedly the meek shall inherit the earth, I’d prefer it sooner rather than later.

  2. Mark Golding Says:

    The current political system is often applauded by journalists as being the best we can expect but it is woefully inadequate. One major concern is that the system is a hybrid of feudalism that over the centuries has enabled privileged minorities to develop a cabalist overlay of power structures that involve personages not documented as public servants. Though obscure, an example of this is picked up when a head of state like George Bush by the slip of the tongue reveals an equilibrium of political power when in 2004? under pressure from aggressive questioning by a persistent journalist over the NSA Iraq Intelligence assessment he lets out in frustration, ‘We’ll have to wait and see what the Prime Minister says about that’. Why should a President, the head of the Armed Forces of the USA, make a deferential reference to another world leader concerning a 92 page CIA intelligence report? This is not the best example but it serves as an illustration of the intimacy between war makers which, as it turned out, was based on a dossier containing fallacious statements that has led to a war sending thousands of innocent citizens in Iraq and Afghanistan to their graves, and which may have led to a less catastrophic outcome if the rubber stamping protocol of both the House of Representatives and the Houses of Parliament, that in effect endorsed their ‘special relationship’, were subject to a higher degree of public scrutiny.
    Direct Democracy is about establishing a more robust system of public scrutiny. It exists yes, like a rabbit hole between Government and Parliament at the present time. (Read the transcripts of Public Enquiries held at Hansard and you’ll sense that Parliamentarians are under some kind of peer pressure, i.e. from lobbyists and friends in high places, so that when it comes to challenging State power there is a discourse je ne sais quois, almost surreal). Representational Democracy is still about feudalism, a system that provides ample opportunity for an elite section of society, the lords, nobles, barons, dukes, princes and oligarchs who possess between them, as well established members of privy councils and obscure intelligence networks, the bulk of Britain’s assets (ref: Who Owns Britain by Kevin Cahill) to operate in a covert way levers for their kith and kin that favour outcomes for a property and landowning elite in commerce and industry.
    IMHO Dr Macpherson is on the right track and contributes to a much needed debate. What I&R lacks is a recruitment, awareness and marketing strategy I think. I don’t know if I&R has a highly motivated executive committe of strategists and activists who can think outside the box and execute plans to a timetable. If not, perhaps Dr Macpherson might consider instigating one.

  3. iniref Says:

    G Robinson wrote:
    > An interesting idea but, of course, it would never work. The established political parties are interested in only one thing – keeping it that way.
    >
    > The idea of introducing real democracy, (direct or otherwise), to the man-in-the-street is complete anathema to those in power, and they will do everything possible to prevent it.
    >

    Dear GR,

    Here is a statement by an “ordinary” citizen of Britain, a view of a sort which is widespread,

    “It would be more democratic to have more referenda and opportunities to vote on issues and not just parties. I think people feel more strongly about specific issues rather than parties nowadays anyway.” (1)

    The established parties have for decades been very concerned about falling election turnout, because this puts their “right to rule”, their legitimation to govern into doubt. They also worry about the electorate’s obvious lack of trust in politicians. Presumably this is why recent governments have ostensibly begun to introduce stronger democracy or better governance, for instance the Lords reforms and devolutions under Labour. The “new lot”, Con/Libdem coalitioners, propose to legislate on a wide range of reforms to our democracy, see our analyses (2,3).

    Gordon, you could argue with justification that the reforms offered by the Con/Libdems are only weak democracy, insincere and that by trickery the electorates will continue to be “pulled around by the nose”. But the ruling parties have under pressure felt obliged to “allow” the electorate to formally decide some issues, such as council tax increases (Localism Bill). Taken with other “effectively binding” referenda of the past, the current gov. proposals go some way to acknowledge the principle of electoral — people’s — sovereignty as in democracy, rule by the people.The fortress of “elective dictatorship” (parliamentary, party democracy) built on an enduring base of established, opaque power structures, has begun to show some cracks in its once sturdy walls.

    To begin regaining control over public, our own, affairs, we do need to introduce elements of direct democracy (4,5). At present, parliament formally holds the power to do this, so we must campaign, exercise pressure and in future elect ONLY members of parliament who have agreed in advance to co-sponsor our proposed law and regulation of citizen-led democracy (6).

    1. See this and several related opinions at http://www.iniref.org/poWEr.prelim.html

    2. THE LOCALISM BILL 2010 Over-cautious steps towards democracy by the people Better than no steps at all? http://www.iniref.org/latest.html

    3. Conservative/LibDem coalition programme: Shift of “power to the people”? http://www.iniref.org/latest.html

    4. Memo. to House of Commons Public Bills Committee, published at parl.uk web site http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201011/cmpublic/localism/memo/loc40.htm

    5. Basic direct democracy http://www.iniref.org/steps.html

    6. HELP PERSUADE THE NEW PARLIAMENT TO INTRODUCE (DIRECT) DEMOCRACY http://www.iniref.org/carta.htm

    Sincerely,
    Michael Macpherson

    ————————————————————
    I&R ~ GB Citizens’ Initiative and Referendum
    Campaign for direct democracy in Britain
    http://www.iniref.org/

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