Monday 9th August 2004

Democracy means 'rule by the people'. That's right. It doesn't mean 'rule by 4-yearly crosses on a ballot paper'. It doesn't mean the right to choose between 3 alternative versions of exactly the same thing, or to be powerless in face of your government making decisions without consultation. In other words, we don't live in democracies, we live in some poor imitation of them. And they don't bloody work.

The way society is organised doesn't work. I can prove that beyond all shadow of a doubt with three words: war, famine, global warming. Ok, it was four words. What system of global governance could possibly claim to be in any way successful when war is constant, famine never far from half of the world's population, or when the polar ice is as we speak flooding into the angry swolen sea?

'Ok, clever dick, but there's no other way to organise things.' This may seem to be an appropriate response to noticing the failure of fake democracy, but in actual fact it is a quote from Thomas Eddison's dad, who was referring to ways to organise lighting in houses. 'Better candles, my son, that's what the world needs and that's where the future is. You mark my words.' Eddison invented electricity through a process of trial and error, or, to use the fancy term, empirical science. If this type of experimental process had never been followed, then we would still be living in caves. Why is society different? Why not experiment?

Let me suggest a first try: the Internet and mobile phones have made distributed decision making easy, so why don't we try voting on a few more things? For example, we could elect our politicians on a provisional basis, and recall them if they misbehave. We could take a decision as a country on whether to invade Iraq. We could set MPs' pay based on their performance. We could, in other words, have something a little more like 'rule by the people'.

You may say that this won't work, because people must be led, must be ruled. Ok — but then you should also say that Saddam Hussein was more honest than Tony Blair, as he certainly was clearer about who was in charge and the extent to which anyone had a choice. You should also say that the former 'communist' regimes were also superior.


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