Thursday, September 27, 2007

Editing Miranda

Greetings, lawmakers.

When was the last time democracy had a makeover? Arguably, there hasn't been a big change to the way Americans govern themselves for 200 years. Well, except maybe allowing black people to vote in 1969 and women in 1920; OK maybe there have been some 20th-century improvements in terms of who can vote. However, in almost every one of today's democracies, the only governmental venue where the electorate at large expresses their views is at the polling station.

The Checkbox Menace

Yes or no questions can distort your position. Don't believe me? Try:

Does your wife know you have a mistress?
Elections so far allow only really coarse-grained opinions to pass from the people to the law. Politicians don't have a monopoly on good policy ideas, ergo there are some great ideas floating around which will never see the light of day as long as votes are the only way to influence laws.

Until now, this restriction of opinions has been necessary to keep procedures streamlined: there's been no way of having an intelligent exchange of opinions with 200 million voters. Until now?

Kiwi Wiki

That's right, the New Zealand government has opened up a wiki site where they let you draft the law. Its power so far is only advisory (I think that's wise, at least for now), but it allows good ideas and intelligent debate to percolate up from the people without the government doing a thing (apart from setting up MediaWiki or some such).

I'll be interested to see what comes of the New Zealand experiment. Does anyone below care to register their predictions as to if this will be fabulous or a flop?

Keep on wikin',



islaverde said...

I predict the New Zealand experiment will be fabulous.

Knaldskalle said...

Don't forget the importance of the 17th amendment to the U.S. Constitution. I think that has had a strong impact on U.S. Democracy, although I'm not sure if it's for the better or the worse...