Questions and Concerns About DD.
Let’s keep in mind that the human brain fluctuates between emotion and reason. Emotional fear of change from the known to the unknown often eclipses rational possibilities of change to anything new.
Let’s also remember that historically social changes like banning child labour, civil rights to abolish racial segregation and to allow women to vote was, at first ignored, then resisted and ridiculed, for decades, before it was successfully adopted.
6.1 – Media Influencing DD
There is a fear that DD, in the context of mass media being owned and operated by for profit businesses, will be co-opted by those with the financial resources to use it as a tool for their own interests.
Matthew Robinson expands on this issue in his book, “Mobocracy: How the Medias’ Obsession with Polling, Twists the News, Alters Elections, and Undermines Democracy.”
The Media influence on democracy is obviously an obstacle which need a solution, but not an invincible wall we can not overcome.
We can choose to believe that we are trapped between a conspiring elite, and a brainless mob, where there is no hope for the evolution of democracy, or we can choose to believe in a “concrete utopia”, as Economist Ingo Schmidt explained, where we don’t abandon our visions in desperation, instead, we participate in the planning of possible solutions.
Two recent examples where media propaganda failed to convince the majority of citizens, come to mind.
One is the 2011 BC GST Referendum where the “NO” advocates, with a significantly lower promotional budget, won 55% of the votes.
Second example: The 2015 Vancouver Transit plebiscite, misnomered referendum, where the opponents of the tax levy, with far less advertising budget than the proponents, managed to win 61% of the vote.
6.2- People Don’t know Better.
The most common objection to DD claims that people do not know what is best for them, and therefore, when ignorant people are given the right to decide, they will shoot themselves on the foot.
The most often cited case is the 1978 Proposition 13 of California. Nearly two-thirds voters agreed to reduce their taxes by 57%. which reflected in the government having to cut school services.
However, what is often missed in this debate, is the remedial Proposition 98, when In 1988 California was required a minimum percentage of the State budget to fund K-12 education.
Also not often mentioned is California ballot proposition 227 passed on June 2,1998, and replaced by Proposition 58 on November 8, 2016, requiring the state government to provide $50 million every year for ten years for English classes.
This examples show that people are conscious and capable of understanding and deciding on their own laws.
6.3 – People Have No Time to Deal with Politics.
Delegating our social responsibility to a few paid political representatives may relieve our busy lives. from civic duties and political decision-making.
However, elected representatives who are supposed to work on our behalf, are busy delegating our international trade authority to transnational business associations, under “Free Trade Agreements”
Professional representatives are also busy delegating our monetary and economic authority to international financial corporations.
This can be clearly demonstrated by the U.S. Federal Reserve Bank, the Bank of Canada and more recently shown by the managers of the “Euro” who are ruled by the IMF and the World Bank.
This dependency on a hierarchical chain of command, where most politicians only play a token role of leadership, is explained by Nick Cowen in his book “Total Recall”. He explains how U.K. politicians have slowly ceded their powers to cabinet ministers, government agencies and the European Union.
6.4 – Who makes those questions ?
Other common concerns about referendums are: the wording of the question, the limited choices, and the context of the question.
When the question is formulated with ambiguous words or convoluted grammar, the result can an unintended one. An example of a convoluted question was the 2011 HST referendum in BC where “Yes” meant to reject HST and “NO” meant to accept HST.
An example of limited choices is the Yes or No question, excluding the possibilities of other alternatives.
Seth Klein, director of the Centre for Canadian Policy Alternatives in BC, explains how important the context of a question is. He noticed that when people are asked: “Do you want to pay more taxes?” people instinctively say “No”, but if the question were to include a context like: “ Do you want to increase your taxes in order to improve your health care services?” most people say yes.
One suggestion about how to articulate the wording and the context of a referendum question, is offered by a pilot project at www.nowpolling.ca, where the formulating of a citizens’ initiatives, are written by the citizens themselves, in their own words, with their own context.
6.5 – Need a term of office to work on projects.
The argument that “Politicians need a term of office to accomplish executive work.” And that, “recall and Referendum” would paralyze government work because politicians would be too busy, always looking over their shoulder, and perpetually campaigning to be re-elected, is a hypothetical argument.
If politicians in government were recalled while controversial projects are being implemented, we should question the government’s decision and the controversial project itself, rather than the citizens right to recall the governors in order to stop the unwanted project.
Entrusting executive administrators with the absolute legal authority to implement any executive decision, regardless of whether the electorate agrees with it or not, during a “term of office,” is in fact, allowing a temporal dictatorship.
The citizen’s right to recall government executives makes politicians accountable to their constituents.
6.6 = Job insecurity for Representatives.
There is a concern that recall and referendum may bring job insecurity to politicians, and consequently we would fail to attract the best educated and capable people to legislate and govern.
This concern assumes the believe that there is a scarcity of intellectual and administrative talent among the population. No logical evidence for this assumption has been proven.
Dismissing public or private employees for their unacceptable performance is a practiced labour standard at all levels. So, recalling politicians should be no different. Politicians deserve equal labour rights treatment available to all public employees.
when we the citizens, become legislators of our own laws, political executives do not need to be extraordinary leaders. Politicians simply need to properly follow the will of the electorate, not as leaders, but as administrators, or executive managers of government.
Ultimately, to make politicians truly accountable to citizens, we must have the right and the ability to recall them.
6.7 –Yes to Forums and Debates, No to Recall.
Many people support the idea of information and debate forums, but are reluctant, or dismiss the people’s right to “recall”; implying that recalling a few politicians will not change the unwanted government’s policies. This is partly true.
Having public forums with factual information and discussion period are an essential first factor of democracy. Also, one of the complementary factor of DD is the voter’s right to recall politicians. One action does not cancel or contradict the other. In fact both are indispensable.
6.8 –Yes to Public Forums, No to Referendum.
Supporting public forums with factual information and discussion period are essential to DD. This fundamental factor does not preclude the voter’s opinion from being counted on a referendum. One action does not cancel or contradict the other. In fact they are complementary and indispensable.
Voting for politicians and voting for policy issues are two sides of the same coin. “Recall” is about the people’s choice of politicians; “Referendum” is the people’s choice of laws, policies, or bylaws; therefore, recalling an elected official and having a referendum on a specific government policy are the same expression of the peoples’ right to choose.
6.9 – Political Parties in Conflict with DD.
Political representatives and political parties are the main obstacles for systemic change. Former politician himself, Gordon Gibson stated in 1996 that DD is detrimental to representatives’ self interests.
Understandably, they want to keep the political power in their own hands, and therefore they are generally not interested in changing the very system which authorizes them to rule on our behalf.
Former Leader of the Liberal Party of BC Gordon Gibson. As he put it, change will not happen easily, because the gate keepers, with the power to make this political change, are the same politicians who would lose their political power if real changes were to be made.