A long time ago, a millennium ago in fact, I turned up at the London School of Economics for a lecture. It was cancelled, and although disappointed I wasnít surprised, but while I was there I met an unassuming individual who told me his name was Captain Rainbow, but I could call him George. Unassuming he may have been, but it was his mind that interested me (I used to try that line on women, but it never did me any good). The idea George had was simple: abolish Parliament and make decisions by computer. We collaborated on this issue, a collaboration which he told me was received with some amusement, and then went our separate ways for the most part, although I saw him once or twice after that.
At that time, computers were not particularly powerful and were still expensive for the ordinary person, while the on-line community was a fraction of the size it is today. Now though, things are very different. Is this idea of direct democracy feasible? Very much so, indeed it was without computers. According to the 1993 book THE REFERENDUM Direct Democracy in Switzerland, the referendum was introduced in that country as long ago as 1848! By the end of 1992, it had held no fewer than 398 nationwide referenda. There is also a right of initiative that enables citizens to propose legislation or constitutional amendments. Why do we never hear about this?
Of course, some things - like individual rights - are not suitable to put to a public vote, but one thing every citizen has a vested interest in, is war, or rather the lack of it. The First World War - the Great War, as it was then known - was fought on a tidal wave of jingoism. Young men in Britain rushed to sign up and slaughter the Hun. It didnít take too long for them to realise they had acted not only in undue haste but with crass stupidity. Governments have attempted to sell wars to the gullible like this ever since, but in recent times, only the Falklands War has been met with any enthusiasm in Britain.
We have the power to end this madness now. With widespread computer literacy, major decisions like the initiation or involvement of the country in wars, the use of CCTV, money wasted on foreign aid and bank bailouts, immigration, membership of the European Union, and much more, all these issues can and should be decided not by Parliament but by the people.
This crazy idea of a North London eccentric is now a practicable reality. The big question is, which of our leaders - government or opposition - will grasp the nettle first?
[The above blog was first published October 13, 2012. The original wasnít archived; it was published with a photograph of George Weiss. That photograph didnít save when I save the file for some reason, but it was definitely one of these.]
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