People's proposal to renew democracy
Admiroutes ne connaissait pas jusqu'ici le Dr. Michaël Macpherson, ni le détail des objectifs qu'il poursuit. Nous avons reçu de lui les deux communications ci-dessous, ainsi que le mel personnalisé qui suit. Les propositions semblent intéressantes. Nos correspondants sont invités, s'ils le jugent utile, à les approfondir, le cas échéant directement avec l'auteur. Nous mettrons en ligne leurs observations. Baquiast
Je m'excuse un peu parce que j'envoie un Texte étrange, mais je crois que c'est un sujet important pour nous qui habitons en Europe. Je peux comprendre le français et je vais essayer derouver une lange mutuelle avec mes correspondent(e)s. On peux discuter chez Democr@cy Forum http://www.democracyforum.net ou http://www.peoplesproposal.democracyforum.net/
I want to gather people's opinions and encourage discussion about the chances to improve real participation in public decision making, democracy and governance.
Imagine there would be a people's referendum for the citizen's right to take part in public affairs. This could be a new way to revive democracy, and the debate about it, in Britain (maybe elsewhere, too). "Taking part" means, for instance, being able to put a new law before parliament and the people, to cancel an existing law or to dismiss an M.P. who has represented her or his constituents badly.
Below is a suggestion for the text of a people's referendum (called "Proposal"). If enough citizens want the referendum to go ahead, volunteers will be needed to organise the proceedings and collect the signed ballot papers. The latter could be done both "on paper" and "on-line".
In brief, the suggestion is "Have a referendum for the right to referenda!"
PEOPLE'S PROPOSAL TO RENEW DEMOCRACY (with Rider, below)
We the undersigned propose that a law be passed in parliament which enables and provides finance for the following forms of democracy at all levels of government from local to national, these forms of democracy to be initiated by a fair and reasonable percentage of the population, with decisions being made by an appropriate majority of voters:
1) Initiation of laws to be voted upon by the legislative body be it parliament, assembly or council (Citizens' Initiative).
2) Referendum: The people decide, for instance if the legislative has decided _against_ the citizens' initiatives in 1) or 3).
3) Cancellation or modification of existing laws by citizens' initiative or referendum.
4) Recall of elected public delegates, representatives and officials at any time during the usual period of office: The people decide.
A "green paper" outlining the hereto relevant practices of democracy in other countries and describing different reform options and the reasons for these shall be rapidly published and made freely available (gratis) via wide-area computer networks such as Internet.
By signing the foregoing proposal I mandate my Member of Parliament to help introduce and support an appropriate Bill in Parliament. In future my vote will go ONLY to those candidates for parliamentary office who promise to support the proposal.
End of proposal.
SOME BACKGROUND THOUGHTS AND ARGUMENTS
In an almost purely representative democracy such as the United Kingdom most people can contribute only by voting for an MP once every few years.Recently there have been moves to mitigate this lack of citizens' involvement in their own affairs by introducing consultative procedures such as panels, usually of a dozen or so people from different backgrounds, asked to consider matters such as an aspect of health care. Also, the changes involving proportional election systems, and the whole devolution process appear to be intended to improve the quality of representation of the will of constituents.
There are other, arguably more effective ways to improve representation in public affairs, namely those in which citizens represent themselves directly. Obviously, parliamentary systems, governments and administrations will not become redundant but, using already established methods, citizens can be enabled to intervene when they (that is, a reasonable quorum) so wish. Some of these methods of decision making are known as citizens' (law) initiative, referendum and recall (IRR -- see note below*). Passive procedures, such as when the people of a European country are asked by their government if they want to join or leave the European Community, are _not_ meant here. I am referring to procedures which are _actively_introduced by a large number of constituents, and to legislative proposals in which a majority of them decide.
IRR offer some ways in which tried, effective "checks and balances" can be introduced into public affairs and decision making, involving public administration and parliamentary democracy. My proposal to introduce IRR does not of course suggest that parliament should be abolished or weakened.
I suggest that on the contrary the whole system of governance would be strengthened. These reforms would give the voters a way to have more say in their own affairs if and when enough of them want it, without having to wait till the next election in order "to throw the blighters out" (a clumsy way to express creative wishes or discontent, often too late for many problem-issues). With IRR there can be a more refined, developed and focussed discourse of the people with their representatives and delegates.
Further, it has been suggested that politicians and ministers tend to respect the wishes of their constituents more, merely because the possibility of citizen intervention in parliamentary process exists.
Information and Deliberation
It is often asserted that the directer forms of democracy such as IRR do not allow adequate consideration of the issue at stake. Agreed, a rapid process conducted like an opinion survey might gather many unreflected replies. But that is not what is proposed here. There are very good ways to build in plenty of information, discussion, and debating time (summed up as "deliberation") into the processes of citizen-initiated lawmaking. For instance:
The time from launching initiative to decision is several months at least.
The two or three (depending on method) phases of the citizens' initiative are accompanied by dissemination of information and public debate. An agreed percentage of citizen votes must be collected to start the initiative in order to put a law before parliament. If it is rejected, then many more votes must be collected in order to start and carry through a public referendum. Proponents of the initiative must engage the public in debate, or they will not succeed in mobilising enough support to take the process further. Similarly, opponents of the initiative will try to mobilise dissent by disseminating counter arguments, thus creating further debate.
Information about the issue at stake must be freely available to any citizen who wants it.
Public debate and information can nowadays be aided by information and communication technology such as e-mail, WWW, on-line discussion; not forgetting television, radio and print.
Electronic collection of signatures and electronic voting in referenda, for instance using the bank teller system or Internet, would speed up matters. But this not essential.
*Note. The abbreviation IRR refers to Citizens' Law Initiative, Referendum and Recall of elected representatives.
Dr. Michael Macpherson, July 1999.
Distribution: The above People's Proposal to Renew Democracy, with or without the "background thoughts and arguments", may be copied and circulated electronically or in print.
Friends and Colleagues,
Proposal to renew democracy attracts interest. A discussion space for: People's
proposal to renew democracy (request for comments 2)
has been set up in Democr@cy Forum http://www.democracyforum.net
You can read the original text of the proposal by going to our new front page http://www.democracyforum.net and clicking on a button in the top right hand corner, or go directly to http://www.peoplesproposal.democracyforum.net/
Some early responses to People's proposal/rfc2 have already arrived, for instance
"your proposal puts all crucial points into a nutshell. I completely agree with this proposal." Dr. Christian Welzel, The Science Centre, Berlin FRG
"I agree with what you are proposing. (...) The issues are very relevant to my work on nuclear waste where any management solution is now generally agreed only likely to work if it has maximum public support with any local community finding itself chosen, having the right to a referendum to reject that." Jamie Woolley, Lawyer, Great Britain.
"I have copied this response, along with your message to Gordon James, FoE Cymru's Head of Campaigns." Julian Rosser, Friends of the Earth, Wales
- In May 99 I sent a first version of the proposal to a group of people across the world whom I know are interested in democracy. I collected the replies - most of them are to be found in WWW at http://www.snafu.de/~mjm/reform.html (rfc/People's proposal to renew democracy).
- A short version of the proposal has been published in print in Worldwide Direct Democracy Newsletter Vol.1 (No.2) June 1999. Available from Movement for Direct Democracy, P.O.Box 38, 149 00 Prague 415, Czech Republic fax: Czech Republic, 2-791 79 69 mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org or mailto:email@example.com (Volume 1 No 1 is interesting, too.)
Wearing my CITIZEN'S HAT
Michael Macpherson firstname.lastname@example.org
Courrier à Admiroutes
Bonjour Jean-Paul Baquiast.
Merci beaucoup de publier mon texte sur Admiroutes.
I visited admiroutes. Very interesting and creative. The "gestaltung" of
the website resembles another proposal of mine - Open Forum.
Until now I did not find enough local enthusiasm or support to develop the idea, which would require a cooperative team with professional competence.
On peut trouver un essai pertinent en français à http://www.snafu.de/~mjm/CP/cp2fr.html