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And are we not confusing the representative role of a Parliamentarian with the technocratic role of senior civil servants?  It is at the very least arguable that the very poor decision making of the past Government had as much to do with the poor quality of the policy advice they received from the civil service as it had with the process by which they were elected.

No, we're confusing democracy with policy with government.

Just because people bothered to vote doesn't mean they're involved in government.

Elections are lost and not won because it's a key feature of Western democracy that governments can only be punished for bad actions after the event.

While peace has been maintained, it's been maintained at the cost of violence and damage to the economy as a whole, and to the lives of almost everyone in the country.

I don't think that counts as a win.

Pressuring governments before they act in ways that disregard the public interest is an option reserved for lobbyists and crony networks. The public isn't allowed to put pressure on policy before it's enacted - at least not without explicit threats of violence, which aren't in anyone's interest.

The challenge for all Western governments is to reinvent democracy as a live and responsive system that makes it difficult for cronies, cranks, and buffoons to use government for whimsical, corrupt, and self-defeating ends.

In a true democracy it would be somewhere between impossible and very difficult for representatives to sell, promote, or make decisions that go against majority public interest.

This might seem like fantasy - but that's just evidence of how necessary it is, and how badly broken the current system is.

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Wed Mar 9th, 2011 at 05:31:32 AM EST
I'm not arguing the current system is ideal, just that it is at least as good as the currently proposed "reforms", and probably a good deal better.  The absence of violence IS a big win.  Of course when disillusion with the Government taking office today sinks in, we're into a whole different ball game.  People will be forced to realise that it wasn't just Fianna Fail cronyism that got us into trouble, but the system as a whole.

But I do think the level of popular engagement is a huge plus for Ireland - ill-advised as much of it currently is.  And people are capable of learning...

Index of Frank's Diaries

by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Wed Mar 9th, 2011 at 06:04:35 AM EST
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Agreed on the need for greater contact and accountability during terms and while policy is being made.  I would not go quite so far as to say that the lobbying structure is reserved entirely for the forces of evil, but a 85/15 split seems about right.

In my vague and ill-informed opinion, the key to fixing democracy is to have most people involved in real decision making, most of the time.  Those not currently involved in decision making should instead be involved in some sort of political party, activist group, movement, or whatever.  This would only work if it was seen as a valuable responsibility and privilege of citizenship, and participation in politics a necessary public service, rather than a burdensome annoyance loved only by a bizarre and fanatical minority.

This sort of system would need some rather serious devolution of power to work, or the breakup of modern nation states into many, many micro-states.  The problems of that are well known, and furthermore there are many problems both prosaic (traffic management and land use) and extraordinary (war) which need organization at a higher level.  Further, business and whatnot works better with fewer distinct sets of laws, not more.  So there's those problems.

But without some sort of mass involvement in politics, on a regular and sustained basis, there simply isn't a counterweight to the loud and greedy rich.  Well, I suppose you could use law to prevent their existence to begin with, but I'm already well into utopian speculation, so . . .

by Zwackus on Sat Mar 12th, 2011 at 07:30:56 PM EST
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There are lots of ways for people to engage in a democratic polity - through Trade Union membership, community associations, advocacy groups, academic think tanks,  mainstream and on-line media - as well as the more traditional political party route. Furthermore, some public processes (e.g. planning decisions) require public consultations and can be subject to judicial review. When allied to having access to your local member of parliament, all of this can ameliorate the sense of powerlessness many people feel between elections - as well as at election time itself.

The problem is that the agenda is currently being driven by a perception of reality which requires an obeisance to the demands of global capitalism, financial markets, too big to fail banks, and Ms Merkel et al who have other fish to fry. But that is a problem of leadership as much as it is one of accountability or participation.

Index of Frank's Diaries

by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Sat Mar 12th, 2011 at 07:54:09 PM EST
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