Opinion: Disrupting governance through democracy 2.0

Our founding fathers inked the constitution of India in a totally different era where an implicit assumption was made about the integrity and moral values of the society and the leaders they elect. They were also bound by the technological evolution of humanity at that time.

By Srikanth Peddibhotla  Published on  19 Jan 2021 5:48 AM GMT
Opinion: Disrupting governance through democracy 2.0

Our founding fathers inked the constitution of India in a totally different era where an implicit assumption was made about the integrity and moral values of the society and the leaders they elect. They were also bound by the technological evolution of humanity at that time.

They looked for inspiration in the older democracies of the world and played it safe by copying the best ideas from them. These other democracies were themselves several decades old at that time.

This means we are actually being governed by the principles and frameworks of democracy that are at least a century old.

It is really shocking when one realizes that the systems & mechanisms that govern us and play a major role in our life did not keep up with the dramatic & disruptive changes that have happened in the society, circumstances, and technological evolution of humanity over a century. The Constitution and the public institutions and systems that it enables must continuously evolve with the changes in society otherwise it has the risk of becoming irrelevant, oblivion, and misused, as we see around the world today. So, unless we take a step back and revisit the real purpose of governance and review the current democratic systems, we risk a breakdown of the so-called democratic societies.

Democracy, in its current form, let's call it Democracy 1.0, is the biggest threat to the overall progress of our society. Democracy 1.0, divides people with party lines. Parties themselves divide voters through the lines of religion, electoral regions, language, caste, race, the color of the skin, eating habits, sexual preferences, cultures, jobs, country of birth, etc. A system of governance that divides people can never achieve success in the progress of humanity in the longer term. By progress, I don't just mean technological & economic progress, but also societal, emotional, cultural, philosophical, and intellectual progress. If the ultimate goal of democracies is to eliminate poverty, bring equality, social justice, reduce crime, etc, is dividing the society into pieces really a good way to achieve that goal? Shouldn't it be just the opposite, i.e. to unite everyone towards the same goal?

Party & celebrity based politics is as dangerous as cancer. It destroys the very essence of democracy. Electing a leader for 4-5 years is the same as giving unlimited powers to a dictator or an autocrat, although for a fixed term. It is not really"Governance by the People" in the true sense. Once elected, people lose any power what-so-ever in governance-related decisions and laws. Real democracy can be achieved only when every individual has equal power in the functioning of society all the time. However, in Democracy 1.0 this power is given to the people only once in 4-5 years. Once elected the power unanimously and completely shifts into the hands of the very few powerful men and women who, more often than not, misuse it for their vested & selfish interests. Politicians become celebrities with the help of mainstream media that talks more about the politician than highlighting the real issues in our neighborhood and society.

What's wrong with party-based politics?

Just like no two members of the family think alike, no two party members can have exactly similar ideologies. However, in a party system, party members are forced to be bound by a common "party" ideology and have to toe the line laid out by the party. They lose their freedom to express their opinion or criticize/oppose the opinion of their fellow party members. They cannot even expose or oppose the wrongdoings and crimes committed by their fellow members. On the contrary, they are forced to justify and support the wrong actions of their fellow members, even when their conscience says otherwise. Of course, in India, the idea of a party Ideology itself is a big joke when we see politicians jumping parties every day like a stoned teenager rushing to attend the next rave party. Instead of parties fighting with each other to win an election to get power, we should try to create a system where parties or groups of people work with each other to identify and solve problems. A party-based democracy also gives an excuse to the ruling party to brush aside any opposition by stating "they are playing politics". It's strange that politicians disregard the main job of opposition by citing their job description itself, and still get away with it. Democracy is strong only when it is executed by every individual, not limited by the boundaries of a party name or tag.

Issue-based politics is the future of democracy. Instead of electing a leader every 5 years and delegating our right to make decisions on our behalf, we should create a system where each one of us can take decisions for specific issues or delegate our right of decision to our favorite leaders. For example, a neighborhood can collectively upvote an issue that is of higher priority or impact, rather than spending effort on influencing their elected leaders to prioritize. Money is the real power. Money, or rather the control of money, is one of the primary reasons why one wants to become a politician in India. Otherwise, there is no reason why one would spend crores of rupees to buy out voters in an election. In today's corrupted society, it's hard to believe that people spend crores of their personal wealth to bring a positive change to society rather than to pursue their selfish goals of getting richer. It's a harsh reality that a majority of the politicians take this career to make money through misusing the power given to them to control taxpayer's money. Is it really necessary to be elected in order to bring a change in society? No. There are innumerable examples of non-elected common men and women who have moved mountains and brought in disruptive change to society. All they needed was the motivation and an idea. They were able to mobilize resources through their sheer determination, grit, good intent, and honesty.

The real disruption in a democracy can only happen when both the decisions and money is controlled equally by all the adult citizens of a city, state, or country. For example India's tax revenues for the year 19-20 was estimated to be 20 lakh crores, and assume an adult population of 95 crores (73%). People's democracy in its true sense can only be realized when each adult has the power to decide how approximately Rs 21,000/- portion of his tax money will be spent annually.

This is the fundamental principle behind a Dynamic, Distributed & Direct Democracy, in short Democracy 2.0. Is this possible? Yes it is, and I will gradually reveal the high-level framework of Democracy 2.0 through this miniseries with the intent to brainstorm and bounce ideas with people who can and are willing to open up their minds and hearts to a new mechanism of self-governance backed by digital technology

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