At the End of the Day

What’s the point of democracy if the vital votes are bought?

You may have noticed the Pound rising over the last seven days against the euro. On July 31st, I can tell you, a political request went to the Bank of England via the Treasury to strengthen Sterling. The reason? To make British holidaymakers in Europe feel better off.

We can now add this to the Help to Buy scheme, grants for baby-raisers who both work, and all those vomit-inducing tweets from Jeremy *unt. Here we are in August 2013, 21 months away from the next General Election, and already the only thing on the agenda in Camerlot is votes.

Lots of lovely votes. Votes, by the way is an acronym of Voluntary Offering To Extend Sleaze. British elections today are like a sort of gigantic rotten borough in which Party Political Broadcasts are used as the means by which to bribe the most venal and/or stupid people who – as a result of some dreadful misjudgement between 1832 and 1919 – were given the vote.

There is something fundamentally wrong with the existing liberal democracy construct; and while I’m the first to accept that a cultural step-change is the only way to solve it, I sometimes wonder if – in the interim – there might be a case for radical change to the voting system. Changes like these, of course, harbour two massive dangers: once installed, they can (like Income Tax) become permanent, and create an oligarchy; and even worse, they can be gradually extended until what’s left is a bunch of crooks voting for themselves.

However, my argument in the other direction goes like this: as we already have a crooked oligarchy voting for things that benefit their chums while ignoring us the citizens, WTF do we have to lose by experimenting a little?

Suppose we examine a different starting point. Not one in which votes are freely given, but votes that are analysed according to what each voter really sees as the right solution. Imagine a situation in which an objective computer – based abroad with foreign staff if necessary – looks at each of the policies followed by a government, and then writes to advise every voter, based on their stated needs, which way to cast.

And suppose that, on that basis, every vote cast in accordance with the computer recommendation scores 2.0 – but those ignoring the advice score only 1.5.

Yes, alright – I know this smacks of dangerous naivety, and voter self-interest. But it needn’t. If each voter fills in a pre-vote questionnaire about what they think is best for the nation, then both advice and vote become impartial.

As to what happens to those who don’t bother to fill in the questionnaire, well – that’s up to the experts. Personally, I’d disenfranchise them, but that’s just the sort of straightforward élitist compassionate communitarian Nazi I am. Would this create an oligarchy of the intelligent? I think it very probably would. But that would not be, I think, a permanent majority for the status quo. On the contrary, if offered a ‘None of the Above’ voting option (as supported by the Electoral Reform Society) it could become a force for radical yet rational change.

Think about it. First, it would destroy tribalist voting. Second, it would potentially break up the existing Party duopoly. Third – based on current real opinion – it would create a momentum for serious Parliamentary reform. And without displacing the existing clique, none of the real econo-cultural reforms we need would stand a chance.

It’s a desperate idea. But these are desperate times, and anything vaguely sensible is preferable to the robotic denial we have at present.