Why Do We Vote For People In Politics?
There’s been a lot of hilarious news around lately detailing every trip and fall of the new government. From the boats to the NBN they can’t seem to get it right and as always everyone is up in arms complaining, reporting and calling each other names (or is that the kids in the playground I can never quite tell ).
One curious thing I’ve always never quite understood is why exactly it is we vote for people in politics. I mean, you’re reading this blog now so obviously you’re either interested in or agree with me on the opinion of paying down the mortgage quickly but that doesn’t mean you agree with me on every other subject matter. I could hate puppies or something (I don’t!) and you could love them, no two people are the same which means no two people will agree on everything. As such, there will NEVER be a person that I can “vote in” that lines up exactly with my own personal opinions on everything. So why do we try and pick “parties” that have all the same opinions as we do? Clearly it’ll never be a perfect match.
Now thinking about it more I wondered if instead we could say, have people vote on ISSUES rather than people. For instance, the NBN could be an issue. Everyone votes for option A or B. Then the carbon tax could be a different issue. Everyone votes for option A or B again and so on. At the end of the main 15 or however many issues there’s also a “Prime Minister” vote and that’s where you chose who leads. In this way you could truly reflect ALL your preferences on ALL the main issues regardless of who’s leading the country. After everything’s tallied up, you’d have the most voted for leader sworn in and they would then be forced to do what everyone voted most on. Did more people vote for option A regarding the NBN? Well then that’s what the new Prime Minister has to do.
This to me would be a VAST improvement over the current system. True it is slightly more complex but with that complexity comes more choice and freedom which is what democracy is really all about isn’t it? Every Australian would be free to have their own individual opinion on each major issue made heard. We could define a major issue to be anything over a certain dollar amount or even have a vote on it (limited number of random public people or government officials say). You wouldn’t want to go TOO far with it – voting on 180 different “issues” – but I think we can all agree having 10-20 issues wouldn’t be too bad.
Then I got to pondering about this new proposal some more (I have lots of time to kill!). What would likely happen if this system was implemented? Well, democracy is for the most part a popularity contest and popularity contests don’t always yield the “best” choice for the people. If there was an issue such as the NBN where a large private company like Telstra or Optus was to suffer/gain from the outcome of the decision they might decide to sway the vote a bit. Marketing is a powerful, powerful thing and heck, both companies might even buddy up against the “big bad fibre to the home” roll out plan. They could run ad campaign after ad campaign making incorrect claims, lying, being sneaking, telling half-truths and so all to try and get everyone to vote against rolling out fibre to the home and thus, protecting their existing assets. The end result is a decision is made by the people, but it isn’t made FOR the people. It’s made for Telstra and Optus. Not good.
Now it’s easy to say “oh but if the people are stupid enough to vote that way then tough!” but being quite honest, there’s a lot of topics and issues that I know nothing about. I’m extremely well versed in the dynamics of the NBN… however all the things happening with illegal boats coming to Australia I have NFI about! Sure, I could do research and become more educated on the matter but I choose not to just like you chose not to be well versed in many other issues that our country faces. Even if we were FORCED to learn about these issues (say you had to pass a quiz to vote and if you failed you got fined) it would still be very difficult to be appropriately knowledgeable in ALL the major issues and fully up to date. And if you don’t know the in’s and out’s then it can be easy for marketing to manipulate your opinion. Just look at where we’re at with the NBN now…
So now I was a bit stumped. A system where you can vote yes/no on specific ISSUES (not “parties”) is to me, obviously much better and allows individuals to make their individual opinions better count but it still doesn’t solve the problem of people not knowing what is “best” to vote for. Now the “best” decision or option isn’t always obvious and as stated everyone’s different. I see things my way and you yours but how do we guarantee that the best outcome is reached for all, regardless of any one persons or businesses vested interests? You simply can’t have any one person with absolute (or even large/moderate) amounts of power in this world. Sure, a few men will be able to resist the temptation to use it for their own gain but eventually things go wrong. People abuse their power, take money they shouldn’t or make a decision they know will cost others money so that they can profit more. How do we stop this?
Currently the best working theory I’ve come up with is to have specific issue related voting restricted to highly educated or certified professionals however this seems a bit unfair in reality. Logically if you have every Telecommunications Engineer (or person who can prove they’ve worked in the Telco industry for 5+ years) vote on how the NBN should be deployed I’d imagine you’d get the “best” answer with very little bias. Whilst the big rich guys could still run ads promoting the “bad NBN fibre roll out” anyone voting would be able to see right through their lies/half-truths and still vote without being compromised. In this way the voting numbers would still be large enough so as to make individual bribery absurd but mass marketing also wouldn’t work. You would (ideally) have a large numbered, extremely well educated (on that issue) voting population and hopefully they’d be able to see through the complexities and arrive at the “best” option. That being said there’s still downfalls to this way. If there was an issue that was going to “cut jobs in the Telco industry” then obviously the voters would be quite biased.
Maybe it’s best to just let every person vote on the top issues regardless of their education. Maybe we should ban advertising related to political issues? What do you think? Got any better solutions to the current “democratic system” we’re in? I feel something needs to change…