3 ways to upgrade democracy for the 21st century
I want to talk to you today about democracy about the struggles that it's experiencing and the fact that all of us together in this room might be the solution but before i get onto. That owns. Take a little detour into the past. Place called the penick's which is where about two and a half thousand years ago. The ancient greeks ancient athenians gathered to take all the major political decisions together. I say the ancient athenians that was only the men actually was only free resident property ending men but with all those failings it was still a revolutionary idea that ordinary people were capable of dealing with the biggest issues of the time and didn't need to rely on a single supposedly superior ruler. It was you know it was a way of doing things. It was a political system. Was you could say democratic technology appropriate to the time fast forward to the nineteen th century when democracy was having another flourishing moment and the democratic technology that though using then was representative democracy the idea that you have to elect a bunch of people to look after your best interests and if you think about the conditions of the time the fact that it was impossible together everybody together physically and of course it didn't have the means to gather everyone to give virtually it was again a kind of democratic technology appropriate to the time fast forward again to the twentieth century. And we're living through what's internationally known as the crisis of democracy what i would call the crisis of representative democracy. The sense that people falling out of love with this as a way of getting things done that. It's not fundamentally working and we see this crisis take many forms in many different countries so in the uk. You see a country that now at times looks almost ungovernable in places like hungary and turkey. You see very frighteningly authoritarian leaders being elected in places like new zealand. We see it in the. Nearly one million people could voted at the last general election but who chose not to now these kinds of struggles these sort of crises of democracy many roots of course but for me one of the biggest ones is that we haven't upgraded democratic technology. We still far too. Reliant on the systems that we inherited from the nineteenth and from the twentieth century and we know this because in survey after survey people tell us they say that we're getting fish year of decision making power decisions happen somewhere else. They say we don't think the current systems allow government to genuinely deliver on the common good the interests that we share as citizens they say. We're much less differential than ever before and we expect more than ever before and we want more than ever before to be engaged in the big political decisions that affect us and they know that awesome of democracy have just not kept pace with either the expectations all the potential of the twenty first century. And for me. What that suggests is that. We need a really significant upgrade of our systems of democracy. That doesn't mean we throw out everything this working out the current system because we always need representatives to carry out some of the complex work of running the modern world but it does mean a bit more athens and a list victorian england and it also means a big shift towards what's generally called everyday democracy and it gets us name because it's about finding ways of bringing democracy closer to people giving us more meaningful opportunities to be involved in it giving us a sense not just part of government on one day every few years when we vote. But we're proud of it every other day of the year now that everyday democracy has to key qualities that obscene seen proof. They with time and again in the research that i've done. The first is participation. Because it's only if we as citizens as much as possible get involved in the decisions that affect us. The will actually get the kind of politics that we need. The will actually get our common good served. The second important quality is deliberation. And that's just a fancy way of saying high quality public discussion because over well people participating but it's only when we come together and we listen to each other. We engage with the evidence and reflect on our own views that we genuinely bring to the surface. The wisdom and the idea is to what otherwise remain scattered an isolated amongst us as a group. It's only in the crowd really become smarter than the individual so if we ask what could this abstract idea this everyday democracy actually looked like in practice. The great thing is. We don't even have to use our imaginations because these things are already happening in pockets around the world.