- Date published:
2:54 pm, August 14th, 2012 - 97 comments
Categories: democracy under attack, democratic participation, political alternatives, political education, Politics -
I find myself on the Standard again defending the principle of Democracy against the same old arguments.
Most of the objections apply to any system which allows the public a say in Government.
As again we have the party in Government telling us, “We won the election. We can do whatever we want. A dictatorship.
My answers to common objections to democracy in italics.
- “On top of that is the very real threat of Tyranny of the Majority.”That is a joke! At the moment we have a tyranny of a very small, wealthy minority.What is worse is Government by minority in the USA, UK and NZ keeps voting for less taxes for the wealthy, putting the economy in deficit, and shutting our society down.
Looking at two BCIR decisions in California is cherry picking unless you look at how it has worked fine elsewhere.
- “Transfer that scenario to NZ and I wonder if the Homosexual Law Reform Bill (1986) would have been passed had it gone to referenda?”Judging by the polling at the time the majority in NZ supported the bill. It was parliament who held it up. A majority are also happy about gay marriage.It is a minority of religious people, supported by Government, who are too scared of them to revisit the issue, who are holding up a sensible abortion reform law.
- “Or the Prostitution Law Reform Bill of 2003?”Maybe, maybe not. I suspect the majority could have been persuaded by sensible argument. But it is not a consideration against democracy that some people do not like the decisions. Many more do not like most of the decisions of our present Government.
- “Heck, women didn’t get the vote in Switzerland until 1971!! Until then, numerous referenda on the issue had been voted down.”Again in NZ it was Parliament that held this up. Indications were that the majority view was women should have equal rights. The decision in Switzerland reflected their society not their political system. The same thing would have happened no matter what form of Government they had.
- “I have a very real fear of lawmaking-by-referenda – especially law that is complex. For example, who can forget Norm Withers’ referendum held in 1999, which asked, “Should there be a reform of our Justice system placing greater emphasis on the needs of victims, providing restitution and compensation for them and imposing minimum sentences and hard labour for all serious violent offences?”?”The Government censored the senior judge who argued against more severe sentencing. Preferring to dog whistle to the ‘Sensible (sic) sentencing trust’ and their fellow loonies.Again this needed a more informed level of public discussion, instead of point scoring politicians.
- “You mean the majority may not agree with you! If you think you have a better way it is up to you to prove it will work.”Who are you to say you can understand complex issues but the public cannot.The majority did oppose section 59. Not I suspect because they wanted to go out and beat their kids, but as I did, because the police already have more powers than the level of maturity and skills of the average police-person can handle.
Given more discussion and less of the disgusting name calling and BS from both extremes we may have got a better law.
Similarly with the FS and SB law a lot more discussion and time was required to make a durable solution which was OK for the majority of both ethnicity.
- “Lawmaking by referenda, to me, is a lazy way to make law. It involves little thinking; very little participation by the public; and only superficual knowledge of issues – usually by media. Complex issues devolved to a simple “Yes” or “No” tick.”Doesn’t work that way in Switzerland. Politicians have to work hard at getting views across, proving that it is good legislation and making legislation work or it will be voted out.Research shows that on the whole BCIR makes better decisions than politicians.
New Zealanders have shown over time that, contrary to your belief, the majority believe in fairness and equality for minorities. How many really oppose fair treaty settlement, for example.
- “It would be like handing over the justice system to internet messageboards/Fora, for a verdict. It would be the ultimate ‘McDonaldisation’ of our political system.”And handing it over to the prettiest politician on TV is not!
- “Would you like fries with that “No” vote to adequately fund criminal rehabilitation programmes?”I suspect given the evidence of increased crime figures, if they are abandoned, the public would quickly vote them back.When people know that they will actually make a difference they will take more interest and demand they are properly informed.
Why would anyone fully consider how they vote in a referendum when they know it will ignored.
Like most people your objections are really. “We cannot have democracy because the decisions may not reflect the ones I would make”.
You can make the same arguments against allowing the public any say at all.
Well. I am happy to test my ideas against the collective intelligence of the public. Are you?
lprent: Reformatted this into points to make the discussion easier.