- Is full democratic accountability compatible with good government?
- Won’t low petition thresholds lead to constant recall motions and referendums?
- What other changes might result from the introduction of spontaneous democracy?
1. Is full democratic accountability compatible with good government?
Many people worry that good government would become impossible if the public were able to spontaneously dismiss their representatives. It’s a concern which is as old as democracy itself – every extension of popular power has been resisted in the belief that people are collectively incapable of behaving responsibly – but we believe the history of democracy demonstrates just the opposite. In general, people who are given responsibility learn to behave responsibly.
Where democratic societies have behaved perversely – electing demagogues, for example, or demanding damaging reforms – it has generally been fuelled by a sense of powerlessness. In most democratic countries today, political systems routinely promise far more than they deliver and, in practice, political establishments are widely seen as being more concerned with preserving the power and privilege of their own supporters than with providing good government.
The expressions of democratic rage that we’ve seen in 2016 have to be understood in that context; all they demonstrate is that a build-up of public frustration will be expressed through the only outlets available. Making it easier for the public to show their dissatisfaction will not make stable government less likely. On the contrary, it will make it more likely because dissatisfaction will be more visible and will have a clear outlet.
2. Won’t low petition thresholds lead to constant recall motions and referendums?
In practice, according to this report from Unlock Democracy, studies suggest that places which currently allow recall of politicians rarely find them burdensome or disruptive and, where there have been problems, they can generally be attributed to a lack of constraints on political spending.
The requirement that the petition be approved by a random sample of the electorate significantly reduces the chances that a lot of ‘sore loser’ or special interest recall motions will be initiated. And, if the initial threshold does lead to problems, the provision for petition-led referendums makes it relatively easy for the threshold to be increased (though any motion to increase the threshold would be expected to meet the newly proposed number of signatures).
3. What other changes might result from the introduction of spontaneous democracy?
A system which effectively separates the dismissal of a government from the choosing of the next one will in fact allow much more flexibility in how officials and representatives are actually selected. But such changes will evolve later – other than ranked voting, the party does not propose any significant reforms in that area.