Sunday, February 19, 2006

Is it time to can unrepresentative democracy?

Just been reading a story from Ed Fosters Gripe Log about a proposed new act in the US (H.R. 4127, the Data Accountability and Trust Act) that is intended to override state laws on disclosure of privacy violations (e.g. ChoicePoint, CardSystems, and the newly brewing scandal). The key attribute of the US DATA law:

Rather than emulating California's privacy law, the DATA act would preempt SB 1386 and similar privacy laws enacted in other states. It would also essentially leave it up to the company that suffers the data breach to decide if the risk is great enough to warrant disclosure to the public.

Leave it up to the company. Right... I guess it's fitting that, a year ago today, I wrote about the ChoicePoint scandal. How likely is it that we would have heard anything about that if US DATA had been on the books. How can any responsible person think this is a good idea? I don't think they can. I think the only way this could happen is because government is corrupt and politicians collude with business to further their own political and/or financial ambitions.

In the short-term it is cheaper for companies to bribe lobby those few policians who can bend the laws to their advantage than it is to put their houses in order. And the short term is all most CEO's care about these days. Who cares about the long term?

This is yet another inditement of the system of representative democracy. A system whose heyday is long past and, if it ever was representative, is no longer so today. Indeed I find the very idea of representative democracy ridicuolous. How can one person even attempt to represent thousands of others on a range of issues? And, criticially, why should it be necessary?

I can imagine how in days past, where education was rare and communications slow and unreliable, our system of government may have seemed viable. But I wonder whether representative democracy was seen as the best way forward, or whether those conditions simply made it easier for the better educated, richer, men to grab power and create a system of patronage to keep themselves and their friends wealthy and powerful,

Whatever the true origin people need not be uneducated today and communications have reached the point where nobody should lack for information on any subject. What is required today is discernment, judgement, and a willingness to question.

Yet we continue elect representatives to take part in a corrupt system of government, divesting ourselves of our own power and with it, seemingly, our responsibility for what these people do in our name. Afghanistan? Iraq? Iran? We didn't do it, our politicians did. But we conspire to make them what they are.

This is the terrorists message "There are no innocents." We may not have personally gone to Iraq and shot people but we conspired to make it possible. We just don't learn. "Hey, next time let's time let's vote for the guy on the left!"

I don't know what the answer is. I tend towards the idea that our democracy really should be "one man, one vote." That we should represent ourselves and our own interests. A pessimist might wonder about just how horrible such a world could be: mob rule writ large. But could we really live with it?

Exposure to the consequences of such a system would surely teach us sorely needed wisdom, wouldn't it? If we could survive the first years wouldn't we necessarily learn to take responsibility for our decisions? Wouldn't we gradually become a better and more enlightened people? Isn't this the kind of path we must follow if we are to have a future?

Or would you rather continue to be ruled?

19/02/2006 12:21 by Matt Mower | Permalink | comments: