Fixing Politics Means Updating Our Democratic System

6 min read

At one point or another, we’ve all complained about our politicians. We’re all familiar with their patterns of behavior. What I find interesting is that we often dismiss irritating behaviors from politicians, thinking this is just normal behavior and there is little to be done about it.

For example, many politicians work on unpopular yet necessary legislation near the end of their political careers. That’s when they know the reactions to the bill will not impact their own personal lives. They can’t get re-elected for another term, so they get those laws in play only then. As a result, the population often must wait, and perhaps suffer, for several years before a law becomes active, even though it could technically have been legislated much sooner. Similarly, popular bills that everyone agrees on are often put to a vote when it is convenient for political careers. Whether these popular pieces of legislation are important to the survival of some citizens or not doesn’t matter much. Politicians act in such a way to protect their livelihood. Would we do differently in their position?

Bottom line, we know this behavior is one of self-preservation. Politicians are people with families to feed, just like any other person. However, politicians are public servants whose job is to do what is best for us, not for them, and herein lies the conundrum.

I don’t blame politicians for being human and to make their living this way. Playing politics is hard. Many enter politics out of passion to affect change. I know many people who are passionate about doing the right thing and work hard to get laws passed that will benefit the people they serve, us. But despite all the good intentions, to affect change, politicians need to stay in the game, which means getting elected. And to be elected, politicians need to be popular, liked and appear competent.

This is where things go wrong. Realistically, to pass amazing progressive laws that benefit a people, one need not be popular or liked. One must be competent. To serve the people best, lawmakers should be the best of us.

The best among us our politicians are not.

No sane person says democracy is perfect. So how do we change the system so that politicians can behave like humans while the population still gets legislation made that serves it best?

Trusted Expert Politicians Needed

One aspect I discuss in my writings and my book is we need to have a system that elects leaders in their respective fields. A politicians’ job can vary depending on its duties. Some lawmakers focus on housing, some on education, budget, fisheries and so on. We citizens demand best results from these people, but we elected them from campaigns that feel more like popularity contests from high school than serious debates. We want our lives improved upon and our taxes spent wisely. We want to enjoy support programs that help keep us active in our communities and take care of us when we’re down on our luck. If we knew our elected officials were the best of the best, in their area of legislative responsibility, perhaps we’d trust them to do the best job possible without blinking.

Do we constantly doubt our dentist when we get a checkup? Do we doubt our accountant after he or she filed our taxes? Not so much.

If we could have the best lawmakers serving us, paid by our tax dollars, we should have the same level of confidence. But how?

Outdated System

First, do we still need a representative for each geographical area in this age of hyper-connectivity? The principle that we need to elect one of us to represent a whole group of people to speak on our behalf in the age of social media is laughable. We can speak for ourselves. Too much information and feedback from a region’s population to sift through by staffers? No problem, artificial intelligence is there to analyze and extract valid information about every house, every street, all demographics for each area of the nation in a heartbeat, summarized in a daily/weekly/monthly report for ministries at all levels of government to digest and act upon.

Why would we be content with assuming a single person in an area would know us and what we need more than what we can write, dictate and record through text, video or voice messages online? Local representation is an outdated tradition.

We can do so much better using simple established technology.

Aside from local representatives, our democratic political system is outdated in other ways. In North America, the winning candidate in an election is most often the candidate that has raised. The most popular candidate wins because he or she had more money to spend on advertising and cross-country travel. Since these politicians have our lives in their hands once they get into office, so we want to get a good feel for them. On the other hand, it bothers you too that the amount of donor money wins the race. One wonders what the politician will owe donors once they win the race. We must also take money out of the equation. No campaigning. We want the best of the best, not the most marketable or worse, the most sellable candidate.

If there is no campaigning and no fundraising, how will we choose the candidates?

Honestly, each one of us knows some of the best candidates to lead the charge on legislating in different fields of interests. If you are a farmer, you probably know a lawmaker that specializes in rural areas or farming. If not, you know where to find this person. If you are a doctor, you know who the best-qualified person may be to legislate or consult on healthcare reform. That’s because they are in your fields of interest. These expert individuals may not desire a political career, but if many in an industry agree who the best of them is, how can the rest of the nation, occupying other unrelated jobs know. Those who know the best politicians are most often other politicians or staff working alongside them.

What if experts in different fields could nominate the best among them to take certain political positions with specific areas of responsibility (budget, farming, healthcare, housing, etc.). Then among the nominated candidates, the experts in the field altogether could determine who in the short list would do the best job, right? Would you ask an office manager who is the best doctor of the land, or would you ask that question to other doctors? We’d ask doctors to find their best, and the office managers to find the best among them. We can certainly use votes to determine who is the best expert in each field, but only those who have experience in the same fields would vote.

Then, what if the chosen are the best among us, and set to task as our new lead politicians, to legislate for no more than 4 years?

Their peers and the general population would respect the winners of those elections. Most adult citizens would have a vote for one or several candidates depending on their own areas of expertise, but not all.

One Person, One Vote, But Different

While a great idea of fairness, we know for a fact that the one person, one vote democratic idea gives us mediocre results. It helps us prevent terrible disasters, but we always end up with a “not great” leader. We all want to participate and have a say in who will lead our government. It’s a nice sentiment, but we know what results we will get: unqualified individuals that do their best to legislate but will often act for their political self-preservation too.

As described above, we can have a system where people get a say in who gets to lead our government in all its aspects, and if done logically, we could get amazing results.

If we select individuals to serve us with no campaigning, no fundraising and there is a defined static term of office, we could get fantastic results and swiftly get things done for our society, whether the legislation is popular with us. Remember, if we put the true experts in charge, sometimes they’ll put legislation in place that will temporarily hurt part of the population, but it’ll always be for the greater good and the long-term prosperity of the nation and its citizens.

No Parties Needed

Notice also that I did not mention political parties or affiliations so far. That’s because we need none. Electing the best experts among us means we’re electing individuals, not parties. Now each nominated candidate will have a left, centrist or right penchant, but we elect them based on qualifications and need within their specific field. The best for education one cycle may mean a progressive system-changer with 40 years experience creating new curriculum because now is the time to modernize the education system. The best in economics may be a left-leaning socialist because, for the next 4 years, we need more social programs established in the nation to support the poor. We would elect each individual political leader based on competence and ideology.

The, using online platforms we could easily connect with the political experts and provide these individuals with valuable information about what’s going on in our communities and our lives, knowing they are the best candidates are in there to help us out. The candidates have no dues to give back to whoever voted for them, nor do they need to spend half their time fundraising for their next term of office. We would trust them because we know they didn’t ask for the job. We gave them the privilege to serve and the huge responsibility to do what is right. And then, they will be judged by their results after their term is up.

We need to think about remaking our democratic political system as soon as possible. Patching it up and arguing about it makes no sense. We know the system still lives in the early 20th century at most. Time for a modernized way of doing things.

We deserve better and we can make a better, less costly system if we have the courage to change.

Sylvain Rochon Sylvain is an international keynote speaker, futurist, entrepreneur and author of the non-fiction book "Engineering Paradise: Are You Ready?". As an entrepreneur, he supports and runs entertainment technology, digital media and international infrastructure funding businesses with multiple partners from around the world. He has a bachelors degree in biochemistry, chemical engineering and education from the University of Ottawa, Canada, has taught from high school to university for over 20 years and has been public speaking for over 12 years. In addition, he currently is a delegate of the World Future Society, a principle at the Canadian Institute of Mass Communication and is a Certified Master Entrepreneur Facilitator & Coach. His passion is now writing and speaking about how artificial intelligence will completely change our society and our economy through articles, other publications and other media formats like video and podcasts.

2 Replies to “Fixing Politics Means Updating Our Democratic System”

  1. In today’s world: -not all legislative districts will have, within, expertise in every area under consideration
    -we have a two party system that provides the resources to support candidates, thus its
    hard to be non-partisan and neutral to the social/cultural issues
    – experts do not always make the best legislators

  2. I agree with this discussion entirely. For months, mostly due to the shambles this government has made of the Brexit process so far, that political parties are doomed. While you have suggested that experts are selected from within their sphere of expertise to represent the population, be it local or regional, I suggest that we still have some form of election by the constituents but all candidates are deemed independent. They would be encouraged to canvas online, providing information of their preferences for Council/Government interests. They would provide evidence of their chosen spheres of expertise. Election could also be carries out on line, with those not computer literate being able to attend monitored area digital canvassing and polling.
    As you say each candidate selected would have a left, centrist or right penchant, which together with their skill set would provide a suitable committee. The selected members would also elect a member from within their specialization onto the Cabinet. Members of the Cabinet would then elect their leader.
    There would be no political parties or whips.
    With this formation there would always be an upward channel of advise and direction.

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