The Informed

In The Year 2015, Why Does The Internet Remain Virtually Unused In The Direct Democratic Process?

How is it that, despite the information and social technologies we now have, we can't simply go on-line and vote for any and every decision our government proposes? Or anything related to our governance for that matter? Yet we can vote for our favourite American Idol contestant in a heartbeat via text or even by touch-tone telephone, and see the votes tally from far and wide on our television screens in real-time in front of our TV-addicted eyes? They'll tell you it's because of security reasons that we can't, at the same time as they complete million-dollar financial transactions on their smartphones.


And despite the existence of e-democracy in all its forms, and in all of the ways it can empower people (if used conscientiously), there have only really been a handful of attempts at on-line voting in the world. There still is no system to allow you to go to the respective government website, learn about the issue at hand, and if and when you feel informed enough on that topic, you could then cast your vote. Better yet, if you feel the issue is too complex and requires specific expertise, you could even delegate your vote to someone of your choosing who you trust to understand the issue and to vote ethically on it on your behalf. A system where you could vote on everything, every single, minute and mundane thing, right on up to the biggest issues, like if public bailout money should be given to wealthy bankers to distribute as huge bonuses. In theory, a system like this could exist one day, and all of this may indeed sound like a great system if put into practice, but the politicians will tell you that it's Utopian fantasy and would never work.

Photo by NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images.



And yet we queue up every four years or so, depending on which particular set of lines and which jurisdiction you live within, and just as some societies have done now for hundreds of years, we cast our vote for the all-powerful chosen one who will make all of our decisions for us henceforth, until we line up next time. Yeah, that's a great system - for nineteen fifteen. But this is 2015, and since it's obvious that the technology to operate society in a much more democratic way clearly not only exists but is also highly sophisticated (look at the sophistication of, say, Facebook - as a system and despite its general content of course), there must be a reason that it's not in use, or not at least being pursued in more than a casual way. Do the powers-that-be not know of the existence of the technology? Nope. Do they not know how it works? Sadly, nope. So why have there been no real steps forward to voting on public issues on-line?

Possibilities:

Maybe they think that no one will use it, since we're all a bunch of apathetic consumers anyway. After all, 132 million people voted on American Idol in 2012, compared to only 122 million for the presidential election. Well if we're apathetic, they must like it this way for some reason. I don't know about you, but if I suddenly had a say in the way I am governed for the first time in my life, I would be all over it. I can barely think of anything more appealing and empowering. Having an actual say in things - without even having to become a snaky politician in order to do it. I have no empirical evidence to support it, but I suspect a great many other people feel the same way, and would use this technology extensively.

The politicians, however, would surely say in dark rooms behind closed doors that the populous is too dumb, to uninformed, to be able to handle their own affairs - hence the existence of these more-equipped, more honest and more caring leaders that we've collectively appointed to handle what we cannot. To that I say, I'd rather delegate David Suzuki to vote for me on environmental affairs that may be beyond my grasp, than Stephen Harper, thank you very much. But I'll let that argument mainly speak for itself.

The Internet Security Argument:

So maybe it's because the Internet isn't yet secure enough to do this. I mean, with all the hackers and hacktivists and crooks out there, surely the fragility of the system is the reason we're not permitted to vote on-line on all the issues that affect our lives. There seems to be a lot of testimonial from security experts on the government payroll leaning that way, after all. 

But I, just like billions of us, go on-line to do my banking as I've done for years and years now, and that seems more-or-less secure, with only the (very) rarest of breaches. And I bet that there's people out there, including those very politicians, that have used that technology this very day for sums of money far, far grander than the paltry sum of my electricity bill. And I bet they didn't bat an eye.

Yes, there are legitimate security concerns with on-line voting, and it is certainly more complex than voting on American Idol, but thete are also many proposed solutions to those problems. Maybe the Internet is secure enough for this, and maybe, just maybe we're being fed some hogwash. In fact, it seems that the current system of voting seems to be riddled with so many so-called security issues, many of which could be eliminated with an on-line system, that perhaps a more refined approach would be a good thing after all. At least something to debate, not just cast aside.

The Real Reason You can't Vote On-line:

Perhaps, then, the reason they don't want to give you access to this type of voting is that they don't want us to be utilizing democracy in that way, that directly of a way. Wouldn't it render them redundant, impotent, useless and out-moded entirely? Surely they need the system to remain as it is. After all, when I line up every four years or so, I don't really feel like I have an actual choice in things anyway. It kind of feels like it's an illusion of choice more than anything. The reason, ultimately, must be the lack of political will to make this type of democracy (an actual democracy, not our current system) a reality.

Well, if that's the case then I call bullshit. BullshitThere is so much vested interest by the establishment in today's world to maintain the status quo that such a forward-thinking and empowering system would in effect topple their regime in light of the fact that things are really, really bad at the present moment, and despite all of the promises of change we've been fed, it's become pretty clear that the corporate and elite interests seem to wield far, far more sway than our votes ever have. And the interests of the public are rarely if ever being served any more by politics. Voting on all issues in the hands of the people would be a disaster for them. These corporate bastards really know how to get shit done. They're like Joe Peschi, but in even more expensive suits, and without baseball bats most of the time.

You see, I know it's almost cliché at this point to say it, but there is so much vested interest by the establishment in today's world to maintain the status quo that such a forward-thinking and empowering system of any kind would in effect topple their regime. The reason that you cannot vote for your elected leaders and for any number of issues on-line is not becase it will be hacked. It's because, if it was allowed to exist, they would be hacked.

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