Revitalizing Government

Gavin Victor, Opinion Columnist

For some reason, we as a country agree that our governmental structures are unequivocally correct — as if created by perfect people. Even if the structure was perfect at the time, it wouldn’t be perfect now. This governmental plan was created from a perspective extremely more limited than our own. Could you imagine taking, say, medical advice from someone in 1787? Their knowledge of how the world worked was entirely inferior to ours.

So why do we see their words as infallible? Why are we so slow to make modifications? I believe a fundamental hindrance to the progression of our governmental structures is caused by our idolization of the founding fathers and their words. I think it is time we realize how different our society is now, and move toward the utilization of the fruits of our progress. We have the ability to transmit ideas instantly… shouldn’t that revolutionize democracy?

Luckily, we do have the ability to make changes to our structure: that’s the beauty of democracy. Built into the structure is the means for aspects to change. I think we are overly hesitant to use those means.

A representative democracy makes sense in a world where people cannot represent themselves on a global stage. When information traveled exclusively on paper and through word of mouth, it makes sense to have someone communicate with a specific area, and then speak for that area on the national stage. That was the most efficient way for ideas to travel, and that is what the government adopted. It made sense to have a representative democracy back when our governmental system was created. There was no better way to convey the opinions of the public to the larger governing bodies. In other words, there was no way to have a national gathering of personal ideas. There are also obvious problems with representative democracy — ranging from contrived political agendas through lobbying to the the simple issue of inefficiency.

But now, there are better ways for ideas to travel. Public discourse happens primarily on Facebook, or at least the internet. This illustrates a fundamental change in how citizens share ideas, and this development should lead to change in how our ideas are received.

There are many ideas as to what these changes could be. One is the idea of “liquid democracy,” where voters either vote directly on matters themselves, or delegate the votes to another trusted voter. This isn’t a direct democracy, but it is an interesting deviation from our idea of what a representative democracy is. It takes into account the fact that nobody can be an expert at everything, allowing specialists, who are directly trusted by the citizens, to make the choices.

If you do an internet search regarding “technology and democracy” you will find a lot of opposing headlines like, “Will technology destroy democracy?” and “Will technology save democracy?” Commentators are aware that the effects of technology have the propensity to cause dramatic change, but have no consensus as to what that might look like.  

One thing I know is that making it our intention to use technology for the better will increase the likelihood of it doing so. Some aspects of our government are obsolete, and it is time to upgrade our governmental “software” to match the times.