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Posts Tagged ‘Europe’

It was the Greeks who invented democracy, but their democracy was very different from ours.  In ancient Athens citizens voted directly on the issues, sort of like the traditional New England town meetings in the U.S.  However, as the U.S. developed it became clear that this type of democracy simply could not function in a land as large as ours and a new form of democracy, representational democracy was created.  This is the form of government we have today: we elect our Representatives and Senators, our President and Vice President, and we expect them to perform and make decisions on our behalf.  The problem is that sometimes it doesn’t seem that our representatives remember just what our interests are.  Sometimes our representatives are swayed by inputs from lobbyists.  Sometimes our representatives just don’t seem to have good judgment – at least they don’t make the decisions we would have made.

We are in an interesting position now – actually we have been in this position for ten years or more – we can, if we want to, return to a more “pure” form of democracy, a form of democracy that more closely resembles ancient Greek democracy or New England town hall style democracy. We can vote via the Internet.  This isn’t a new idea, the concept was discussed by Jodi Kantor in a CNN article in 1999, and I imagine others had talked about it before that.  Perhaps many Americans thought we weren’t quite technologically ready for it then. There were concerns about security and fraudulent voting and such.  There were, it seems, also concerns by some elected officials that they might be out of a job if this happened. So it didn’t.

Now, about nine years later, we are no closer to using the Internet to cast our votes than we were then.  The issues about voting security have long been put to bed. After all, if our banks are happy to conduct millions of financial transactions every day over the Internet it ought to be safe enough for secure, private voting too.  Yet, it is surprising that we don’t even talk about this. We don’t even do this on the level of small town voting, and yet it would be so easy and convenient to have virtual town meetings and let everyone vote on issues relevant to any particular town. But we don’t

I guess everyone has heard that we, the USA, have now officially lost the lead in physics research to Europe. You know, the CERN facility in Switzerland and the large hadron super collider that will soon try to create the conditions that existed immediately after the Big Bang.  Well, we haven’t only lost the lead in physics to Europe, we’ve also lost the lead in democracy to Europe (Oooohhh…those “European ideas” the Republicans are so afraid of). In 2007, Estonia (yes, Estonia) conducted their Parliamentary elections using Internet voting.  It went very well, thank you. What did you expect?  So now the good citizens of Europe have shown that they have the technology to transform democracy and lead it into the 21st century, while the U.S. pretends that it can’t be done and just ignores the whole idea.

The thing about Internet voting is that it could allow each of us to vote on issues that we care a lot about, things like: should we go to war with Iran now or wait a year; should we go ahead and actually build the bridge to nowhere; should we make the rich pay their fair share of taxes; should we make the taxpayers bail out the banks; should we have national health care; should public education be free all the way up through college level; and whatever else we think we should do.

So how come no one talks about this? How come no one is interested? It can be done. Estonia (a former member of the Soviet Union) already did it! It’s time for America to awaken from its Bush/Cheney induced narcolepsy.  Those Europeans, with all their scary “European ideas” are leaving us in the dust in technology, education, health care, and now, even democracy.  It would be very simple to start using Internet democracy for small towns; but it could quickly grow and be used on the state and national level. We certainly have the technology readily available.  Perhaps we should listen to Robert F. Kennedy when he quoted George Bernard Shaw who said, “Some men see things as they are and say why – I dream things that never were are say why not?”

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